GAME 157: Piling On
The Cardinals offense made a rare surprise appearance at Busch Stadium tonight, clubbing the Nationals for nine runs in the first two innings. Seeing that sort of offense from the 2012 Cardinals is like capturing a picture of Bigfoot or picking a four-leaf clover. The early runs were a nice change, allowing Adam Wainwright to coast to his 14th win, as the Cardinals mauled the Nationals 12-2.
FAST BLAST: How great was it to watch the Cards string together some hits, play aggressively, and pile up early runs? Far too often, Cards starters have been left on the mound with no run support for a large portion of their starts, which is frustrating to say the least. But tonight the Cardinals posted five runs in the first, and four in the second, giving Wainwright plenty of breathing room. The offense was certainly helped by some clumsy defense by the National League East champions. The Cards made every error pay, which is an encouraging sign. Is a change in the air?
PROPER USE: I was glad that Matheny pulled Wainwright despite a strong performance. After six innings, Matheny leaned on a solid bullpen combination that included Joe Kelly, Trevor Rosenthal, and Fernando Salas in order to save Waino for the trials to come. For Matheny, any “normal” baseball strategy he uses should be commended.
OUCH: In the sixth, Nationals lefty Zach Duke hit Matt Holliday on the left elbow. Although the elbow isn’t necessarily crucial to the right-handed Holliday’s game, he’s already dealing with inescapable back pain. Such an injury can sideline him for an extended period. While Holliday has been a black hole in the lineup recently, his threat to the opposition remains potent. Hopefully he is alright.
BIG HITS: Yadier Molina crushed his 22nd home run in the second inning, driving in three more runs for an even 75 for the season – who could ever have guessed THAT kind of production out of Yadi? Teensy little pest Shane Robinson also roped a fly ball that entered the upper atmosphere, danced on the jet stream, and eventually landed in the left-center bleachers. As always, the Cardinals are incredibly successful when they hit home runs.
THE DIFFERENCE: Why the huge offense tonight? One reason involves he fact that the top four positions in the lineup went 9-14 for 16 total bases. It underlines how important it is that Jon Jay and the number two hitter (tonight it was Matt Carpenter) get on base consistently. It also helps when Allen Craig goes 4-4 with 2 RBI’s and 2 runs scored. This is the single most important variable facing this team as it enters the playoffs.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Craig. Wow … that guy can flat-out hit.
CONCLUSION: The Cardinals maintained their three game lead over the Dodgers, while also pushing the Brewers out of the race after their loss against Houston. With five games left, the Cardinals look like a shoo-in for that second wild card spot. Then the fun really begins.