GAME 44: April Form
The Cardinals returned to the kind of play that propelled them through a fairy tale April. Solid starting pitching, excellent relief pitching, solid-to-spectacular defense, and big, booming bats. After a rat-a-tat first inning, the Cardinals (25-19) played their best game in two weeks as they defeated the Padres 6-3 at Busch to complete a sweep.
LEAGUE LEADER LYNN: Lance Lynn wasn’t quite himself, but he battled like a wily veteran for six innings to earn his league-leading seventh victory. Eight hits and three walks in six innings aren’t the kind of numbers we’re used to from the big right-hander, and the three runs surrendered in the first were disconcerting. But Lynn threw some magnificent curves when he really needed them in order to escape several jams. I must admit, though, that Lynn was throwing waist-high fastballs to far too many people. He won’t get away with that forever.
POP A CHERRY: Matt Adams drove in the first run of his career in the first inning with a single. In fact, Adams roped the ball all over the field in this game, just missing his first homer with a clanging double off of the wall. It won’t be long until Grizzly gets a round-tripper.
BIG DEFENSE: After averaging over an error a game for ten days, the Cardinals did an abrupt 180 degree turn in the field, and THANK GOODNESS FOR THAT! It was exhausting to watch them play baseball like a Russian hockey team. Skip Schumaker and Rafael Furcal had spectacular diving plays to prevent runs, and Yadier Molina‘s caught stealing on Cameron Maybin saved at least one run in the Padres’ big first inning. A great night with the gloves!
BIG BAT COUNTRY: Several Cardinals have been enduring funks and slumps over the last two weeks, which led to some panicked, unfocused at-bats. Thankfully, many of them managed to work their way out of it in this game. David Freese, fresh off of a two-day sabbatical, had his first excellent offensive output of May with a 2-4 game with 2 runs scored and 2 RBI with a line drive homer as well. Carlos Beltran added to the barrage with a huge two-run homer into the second deck. And Tyler Greene continued his hot streak (the first of his career) with a nice 1-2 night that also included two walks and a steal of third. We’ve been missing this kind of attack!
VALUABLE REST: It was apparent that Freese wasn’t the only player rejuvenated from some much needed rest. The bullpen, spared the last two night by some powerful starting performances, came out and reasserted themselves. Victor Marte and Marc Rzepczynski both received holds in the seventh and eighth innings, bringing the game to a dominant Jason Motte for the save. One of the best performances by the bullpen this month.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Freese for breaking out in such a fine way. He’s a terrific ballplayer and a very good guy who deserves success, especially the way he conducted himself in bad times.
CONCLUSION: THIS is how I expect the 2012 Cardinals to play! The last ten days have been an embarrassment for a team clearly much better than that. Fortunately, they put together a morale-boosting, complete-team victory that cemented a sweep. They’ll need that momentum as they face off against the Phillies.