How is that winning streak tasting, Cardinals fans? After starting the season 3-9 and entering "they are done" territory, the Cardinals have won 15 of 20 and climbed into first place in the National League Central.
The Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds aren't far behind, but nobody is running away with the division this year. Perhaps, a dogfight will indeed break out for ownership of the division after all.
With that being said, let's break into some healthy topical discussion with the Birds at the moment. In order to keep it brisk and get your attention, I'll do six things.
#1-The Mags Allure
The 21-year-old was playing in High-A last week, and finds himself scoring the game-winning run in Miami Tuesday. Sports are cool, right? Magneuris Sierra is only here because the Cardinals lost three outfielders in a week and Harrison Bader isn't on the 40 man roster just yet.
Sierra's bat arrived as an underdeveloped weapon, but has produced five hits in 14 chances thus far, and his speed is disrupting opposing teams. You think about what this Cardinals team is transitioning to (per team officials) and Sierra fits right into that attack. Great defense, speed on the bases, and a bat that can find ways to reach base.
He should play until Dexter Fowler is fully functional and ready, but shouldn't go down to the minors until Stephen Piscotty is ready. Sierra can collect some valuable travel time in the bigs, be a bolt off the bench as a fourth outfielder and help this club. Also, you simply don't mess with a winning streak.
Jose Martinez will need time with the groin, and Bader is playing everyday in Memphis. Sierra is having an impact at the moment, so keep it going. The clock has already started.
How about the long traveled Cardinals outfielder doing some serious damage in this lineup?
Pham won a game nearly single-handedly in Atlanta and has nine hits in 20 at bats since arriving, with six of them producing extra bases. Maybe it was getting left in Memphis on April 2, or maybe Pham is finally feeding off that pressure or enjoying the fruits of being healthy for an extended period of time.
When was the last time Pham was this healthy for this long? Enjoy it while it lasts, because it probably won't.
It's going to be hard to think positively with an Adam Wainwright start this season, because the numbers simply don't support a comeback. A 35-year-old pitcher doesn't just get better unless he has a magic potion or new limb attached. Wainwright can't eat a perfect plate of ribs and be back better than ever. He's a pitcher in decline, and the hill is getting steeper every week.
He looked decent for a bit Tuesday, but started getting hit and allowed four earned runs, which is becoming the Waino special. Four earned runs and less than six innings.
Going to the bullpen seems far-fetched for the veteran, but when Tyler Lyons returns, it may become a discussion worth having. Wainwright isn't throwing batting practice, but he can no longer be good over 4-6 innings.
#4-Cecil in Trouble
First, let me point something out: Brett Cecil should be put on the mound against a lefthanded hitter late in games, because that is his job.
When Atlanta Braves slugger Freddie Freeman hit a ball halfway to Mars over the weekend, a few fans seemed to think Mike Matheny should have ordered the walk with Cecil on the mound. Huh? So you pay a guy $30 million and you have him walk people. That's not how it works in the big leagues.
Cecil is getting burnt to the tune of a .430+ batting average against lefties this year, but that doesn't mean you hide him in the pen or give him looser situations. He has to pitch in order to get better.
He's still a better option than Jonathan Broxton, and I don't care what the numbers say.
#5-Who's not hot? Randal Grichuk
In the month of May, Grichuk is hitting .229 with an OPS under .600. That is a rough patch that started near the end of April and hasn't quit.
Grichuk has more strikeouts (11) than hits (8) this month, and leads the team in the former. The strikeouts with Grichuk are fine as long as the power is there, and it's not showing up consistently in 2017.
He needs to start every day right now, but when Martinez and Piscotty get back with Pham still producing, Grichuk may start to get pushed.
They say competition breeds excellence. For Grichuk, let's hope so. He isn't looking like a "stallion" at the moment.
#6-Matt Carpenter is a Renaissance Man
Remember when a few of us were worried about Carpenter? He's silenced the critics again, and has done so with a versatile assortment of pitcher and baseball abuse.
He's walked 27 times to his 28 strikeouts, which ranks among the top in baseball, and his .932 OPS is also quite mighty. He's only slugging .889 with an OBP of .538 in the month of May, which might get him banned in some countries not labeled "elite". Carpenter hits wherever he's slotted in the lineup, which quells the notion of a lineup shift. Ask my Cardinals scribe colleague Zack Gifford, and all Carpenter needed was a little luck.
@buffa82 I said it then, he was still hitting the ball hard. Just wasn't finding holes— Zach Gifford (@zjgifford) May 10, 2017
If the Cards have a stud, his name is Matt Carpenter.
Matt Adams is listed as an outfielder on the Cardinals website. That's like saying Patrik Berglund can start in goal for the Blues. Scary.
The Cards are riding high, but will they be shot down as May advances? It depends on the competition, because it will increase in difficulty as the weekend arrives. The Cubs come to play at Busch this weekend, and the Boston Red Sox and San Francisco Giants follow. Afterwards, the Los Angeles Dodgers are on tap.
The winning streak is lovely, but if the Birds can't beat good teams, I wouldn't make a down payment on the excitement.
The last two weeks have shown that the Central isn't a done deal, but in order to win it, the inter-division record must be solid and competition above quadruple-A teams must be beat. Can the Cardinals do that? Only time will tell, but I like the way this team is playing.
With a 15-5 record in the last three weeks, who can afford to complain?
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