I finally got to see the Redbirds in person a couple of weeks ago. It was against the Royals and I really didn’t have a good feeling coming in. It wasn’t because of the competition so much. It was mostly because I was staring right into the face of an all-you-can-drink buffet in one of those fancy schmancy club rooms. I was basically like the Cards at that point: just trying to keep my head above water.
Both of us barely did.
We ended up losing not only that game, but every damned game of that series. I wasn’t really surprised or even all that disappointed. This entire season has been like a soap opera where only bad things happen. At that point, staff ace Adam Wainwright had been on the DL for a week or so. Albert Pujols finally succumbed to a calf injury that had been ailing him and also went to the disabled list. It could have been the beginning of the end of this season, but once again, the other fellas didn’t quit.
They went on the road to Boston and took two out of three from a pretty good team. They went to Detroit and played tough but lost two of three. They finished up the trip in KC and took two out of three. All in all, not too terrible, a 5–4 road trip against some pretty decent teams.
It’s really about all you can ask for from a team without it’s two best players.
The biggest surprise in the past few weeks has been rookie starting pitcher Mitchell Boggs. He either took Wainwright or Wellemeyer’s place in the rotation. It gets hard to tell with so many folks going down. He’s 3–0, which is perfect. His ERA is 4.37, not great, but pretty close to league average. He’s only thrown 22 innings in four starts, but that’s something I can live with. The rest of the league may figure him out pretty soon, but either way, he chipped in with some valuable starts in the meantime.
The rest of the staff is hanging tough without Wainwright leading them. Kyle Lohse looks to be one of the best free agent pitching pickups of the off season, even though no one really wanted him at the time. He’s 9–2 with a 3.94 ERA. He’s had a few hiccups games, too. If you take those out of the stats, he’s been one of the best pitchers in either league.
Wellemeyer also appears to be back after some arm difficulties. It’s hard to say he looks like his old self, since his old self sort of sucked until this season, but at least he looks like his new old self again, if anyone can manage to follow that. He’s 7–2 with a stellar ERA of 3.14. We can probably hold off on the Bob Gibson comparisons for the time being, but he looks pretty damned tough every time out.
Braden Looper is still a mystery to me. Every time I see him pitch, it looks like the other team should be knocking the piss out of the ball. Sometimes they do, but more often than not, Mr. Looper manages to escape from trouble. If nothing else, he keeps them in the game and gives them a chance to win. He even showed he could pitch a complete game gem a while back. Some day soon I may be able to admit that he’s a little better than I thought he was.
That day isn’t here yet.
Without any stats to back this up, the bullpen seems to be a little down lately. It’s likely because they’re probably pitching more innings than Dave Duncan would like. It seems as if it’s in constant flux with relievers going up and down from AAA almost daily. If the starters can manage to be a little more resilient, you’ll be surprised how much better the bullpen will become.
Offensively, we’ve got Pujols back and it makes a huge difference. It gives Ryan Ludwick far better pitches to hit and that in turn seems to go up and down the lineup. Brendan Ryan is actually filling in nicely at shortstop and he’s got a little more pop than Izturis, though the defense is a tad worse. Chris Duncan could disappear and it would make me a little more confident, but overall, I think the offense might actually get better.
The Cards still have a long road and a ton of injuries to overcome, but they’ve managed to pass the test so far. The Cubs are still within reach and Milwaukee is beginning to make a run, but they can’t really worry about any of that. The smartest thing to do is continue to take care of their business and see what happens at the end of the year…if we still have enough guys to field a team by then.