The St. Louis Cardinals capped off a good series and an excellent week of baseball in general with a never-in-doubt 4-0 victory over the division rival Cincinnati Reds on Sunday night. The win was the Cardinals fourth in the past five games and the eighth of their last ten matchups overall.
Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright continued his run of dominance over the National league with eight shutout innings. Wainwright threw a season-high 117 pitches in the contest but was quite democratic in the process, producing 12 strikeouts, six ground balls, and six fly balls. The diffusion of outs showcased Waino's ability to think his way through a start and pitch to batter's individual weaknesses instead of just pitching to his own strengths.
Second baseman Kolten Wong led the offensive charge with two hits, two RBI, and a pair of stolen bases. Since arriving from a brief hiatus from the Majors at Triple-A Memphis, Wong has been scintillating, hitting safely in all seven games since his return and going 10-for-27 in the process.
So is this the team we've been waiting to see all year? Are the Cardinals finally rising to their mean, or is this just a hot streak that any club may produce over the course of the season at any point? I believe the answer lies somewhere in between, but closer to the former than the latter.
Wong isn't going to bat .370 all year. The pitching staff, while posting excellent numbers, still has some question marks. Mike Matheny is still a mediocre decision maker. However, Wainwright is every bit as good as he's been pitching and there's no reason to think he, Michael Wacha, and Shelby Miller wont be able to continue to produce the results they have been as of late. As bad as the offense has been at times, Allen Craig has risen from the ashes and the power outage the team experienced for the first six weeks or so of the season appears to be over as well.
That doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement.
With the trade deadline two months away, teams are starting to assess their place in the standings and decide weather they will be buyers or sellers in late July. The Cardinals should be buying…hard. The depth the team carries at the minor league level is almost laughable. The entire outfield in Triple-A Memphis right now (Randal Grichuk, Stephen Piscotty, Oscar Taveras) could probably play everyday in the big leagues, and not only play, but have success. They have arms in Memphis that should be in the big leagues, and arms in the big leagues that should be in a rotation. GM John Mozeliak knows he's sitting on a gold mine, but has shown a reluctance to relocate any of the team's big prospects. Unfortunately for Mozeliak, the situation has almost reached a head to the point that there is just too much talent in the pipeline to not cultivate it.
Taveras should get his first look in the bigs when the team travels to Kansas City this weekend and needs the extra bat for a DH, but in order to get any of these guys an extended look, someone has to go. The Cardinals are probably best suited to target a starting pitcher that could compliment Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha. They could also theoretically trade for a second baseman, third baseman, or shortstop, although that would require quite an infield shuffle.
Whatever the Cardinals decide to do, I believe a move will come sooner rather than later, and I suspect the team to heavily pursue starting pitching.
-Yankees come to Busch
The New York Yankees will play in St. Louis for the first time since game 7 of the 1964 World Series. Expect the sea of red who purchased the most expensive regular season tickets the Cardinals will sell this year to embrace the shortstop like he was one of our own.
-Butler TJ surgery
Cardinals reliever Keith Butler will undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery this week. Butler, 25, allowed one run in 10.2 innings of work this year and carries a 2.22 career ERA in 222.2 career minor league innings. While the injury is certainly a wrench in Butler's development, the talented right-hander is still young at 25 and has time to rehab and have a shot to enjoy a decent career.
-Wainwright lowers ERA, continues bid to start All-Star Game
Adam Wainwright now sits at number two in all of baseball in ERA at 1.67 and pulled within five of the league lead in strikeouts with 77 after his 12-strikeout performance last night. If Wainwright continues his current pace he would be a good bet to start this year's All-Star game in Minnesota, especially with manager Mike Matheny making the call.
Stephen Nations is an aspiring sports and Cardinals columnist. He will be contributing his commentary to KSDK.com during the 2014 season. You can follow him on twitter at @Nayshface.