GAME 72: Royal Teed
Hey, I remember these guys! This is the team that won the World Series, and dominated baseball in April! Swagger has returned to Cardinal Nation! The Cardinals combined masterful starting pitching with timely hitting as St. Louis beat the Royals 8-2 on a scorching hot afternoon in Kansas City.
THE ROCK: How can you come up with enough superlatives for Adam Wainwright? He simply will not be denied anymore. He has been incredible since a rough April, and his game improves dramatically with every start. In June, Waino has averaged almost seven innings per start. Sadly, he hasn’t enjoyed much run support for his efforts. Today, though, the offense piled on and gave Wainwright plenty of runs, allowing him to coast to a controlled seven inning masterpiece. The wins and the ERA will return to norm over time.
BUSTIN’ LOOSE: It might be safe to say that the offense has returned. The incompetent at-bats have been replaced by count aggressiveness and confidence. Best of all, the lienup appears EAGER to take at-bats, practically bounding up to the plate to take their swings. That is a far cry from the terrified body language they showed in the past month.
PILING ON: Nothing energizes a team more than a lineup stringing together timely hits and earning their runs. It’s infectious. Case in point: the top of the fifth inning today. Five straight singles by Daniel Descalso, Rafael Furcal, Jon Jay, Matt Holliday, and Carlos Beltran generated three well-earned runs. The guys seemed to feed off of each other. It’s the kind of exciting offensive baseball we’ve missed of late.
STILL RUSTY: It’s been great to have Jon Jay back in the game. Already his bat has boosted the offense, and his loose, friendly demeanor seems to be helping the attitude. But Jay is still coming out of his inactivity, and his costly misplay of an Alex Gordon fly ball in the sixth led to two runs. He looked bad on the play, too, coming in and allowing the ball to fly way over his head. It takes some time to iron out the kinks, I guess.
OLD FRIEND: The Cardinals hadn’t homered since last Sunday, a stretch of six games. Allen Craig changed that in a hurry by slashing a line drive into the left field stands in the seventh for a two run homer. This is really significant for Craig, who had been laboring for the last week (.105 avg, no extra base hits). The best part: Craig didn’t need to run on his 90 year-old knees! Craig added another hit and RBI in the eighth – is this guy important or what??
HOT HOLLIDAY: As cold as Matt Holliday was in April/May, he is equally hot right now. A four hit day today boosted his seven-day average to .500. Out of his twelve hits in that span, six of them have been for extra bases. Holliday can look pretty bad when he’s “off,” and is frequently a target of unsatisfied fans when he is. But when he’s “on,” LOOK OUT.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Lots of outstanding performances, but I’ll give it to Craig.
CONCLUSION: What a relief! We just KNEW that the limp, distracted offense of the last month wasn’t what this team could truly accomplish. It appears that the parts are finally clicking together, and this team looks confident again. What a difference!