On a night where the St. Louis Cardinals were hit by pitches, line drives, and each other, they managed to land the biggest shots on the Los Angeles Dodgers in route to a 5-2 victory that placed them just 2.5 games behind the Chicago Cubs for first place in the National League Central Division.
A lot has changed in St. Louis since I was pumping out the five takeaway articles on the regular, but I am not complaining. This is similar to not showing up at the ballpark due to a vicious losing streak, because I want to talk about this team that is currently 16-4 in August and winners of eight consecutive series.
Take five begins now.
5) The win wasn't taken without some heavy bruising. On two separate fly balls, rightfielder Tyler O'Neill tried taking out Harrison Bader and Kolten Wong in the early going, which would have resulted in hospital visits for the latter gentlemen. O'Neill was then hit high on the shoulder later in the game, and Bader was also plunked. Carlos Martinez returned from the disabled list, making his first relief appearance in 37 months, and was hit in the center of the chest with a line drive. The Cards got the out, Carlos got up, and all was well. Just keep the ice close by over the next 24 hours.
4) Marcell Ozuna may not be what Cardinals fans ordered, but he's still having a fine season in left field for the Birds. He hit his 16th home run, driving in his 68th and 69th runners, and finishing the night with two hits and a .275 batting average. He should reach 20 home runs and has an outside shot at an .800 OPS and 100 RBI. All this means that there are worse cleanup guys in the Major Leagues.
I'd like a slugging percentage higher than .402 (Ozuna's mark heading into Tuesday's game), but overall for $9 million, Ozuna has been good. Here's the thing: Ozuna has at least recorded a single hit in 86 of 123 games this season. He's doing well, even if the order called for a ribeye and a sirloin steak was delivered instead.
3) Yadier Molina continues to amaze. The 16 home runs are nice, but it's the way he handles the young pitchers on this staff that stands out the most. He's been a horse in this amazing stretch of play, and we almost forget the man took a Jordan Hicks 102 mph fastball off his private sector in May. He's still a master when it comes to framing and keeping the game and these rookies in check.
2) Kolten Wong should receive the Gold Glove from Major League baseball tomorrow. Just get it over with. The man's defense has been 2018's brightest surprise, and it wasn't like the guy went from rust to shine in a single season. Wong has always been capable at the position, but he flipped a switch this season, turning himself into a run-saving machine. He made a play on the shortstop side of the bag in the ninth that may have starved off a possible Dodger rally. Just saying.
1) Daniel Poncedeleon really came into his own as a Cardinal last night. He only went four innings, but he struck out eight batters and kept the game in check. He showed some fire too, as the home plate umpire used Google maps to help call strikes and balls. Normally a stoic mound presence on the mound, "Ponce" showed some Chris Carpenter-type emotion on the mound. He has a bright future as a swing guy in the rotation and bullpen.
A few more things. Harrison Bader is human, because he got thrown out stealing. Miles Mikolas pinch-hit for Carlos Martinez in the ninth. Matt Carpenter made a late appearance at first base, and struck out at the plate, remaining at 34 home runs on the season. It's a treat to watch him hit.
The Cardinals were 47-46 on July 14, and stand at 70-57 this morning. NO ONE saw this coming, not even John Mozeliak.
Thanks for reading, and please tip your reader by sharing this article.