Another day, another win.
And a different feel.
Instead of looking like a team who found a stroke of luck, Tuesday night in Kansas City the St. Louis Cardinals looked like a solid fundamental team with potential.
Not just solid, but good.
For a team that has been struggling in clutch situations, the fourth inning almost seemed like a test. The Cardinals took the lead off of a Yadier Molina solo home run, but it was short lived. The Royals took the lead 3-1 on a 2 RBI double to left field by Cheslor Cuthbert.
Uh-oh, was my immediate thought.
But the Cardinals came back out swinging to start the fifth inning with a 1-0 solo home run from right fielder Randal Grichuk. Then, like the two nights prior, the runs just kept coming. The entire starting lineup managed at least a hit before the night was over.
To keep this train rolling, there are a few things that need to happen.
The offense needs to keep taking pitches. Tuesday night, the Cardinals earned seven walks. That’s 20 walks in three games — more than the previous six games combined. While walks haven’t been a major issue, strikeouts have been a recurring theme throughout the season. Just keep getting on base.
Speaking of getting runners on the base paths, keep Matt Carpenter at the top of the lineup. I repeat, keep Matt Carpenter at the top of the lineup. Carpenter is a lead off hitter by trade. He is not a number three hitter. Batting lead off, he gets on base and if Carpenter hits, the Cardinals generally win.
To be exact, the Cardinals have won only three games in which Carpenter did not get a hit since July 1. Throw him wherever on the field, he’s pretty versatile, but keep his name at the top of the card. As far as the lineup goes, leave it alone. Tuesday’s lineup makes the best use of the offensive tools the Cardinals have at their disposal and it’s working.
I’m not saying they’ll hold this push together for the rest of the season — or even the rest of the week — but there’s definitely a reason for optimism.
With five home games coming up against Kansas City and the Atlanta Braves, this stretch is super important for the Cardinals. If you want to be able to afford a couple losses on the road next week against a white hot Boston Red Sox squad or at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, then getting a few wins at home is a necessity.
They’ll be playing a lot of beatable teams over the next week or so. If they keep playing the kind of ball they have been, there’s no reason they couldn’t be looking at the standings from a better view in the near future.
But for that to happen, they’ve got to let what’s working now keep working.
Corey Noles has covered the Cardinals and MLB for a variety of publications and outlets since 2011. Find him on Twitter @coreynoles, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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