Well, that wasn’t what any Cardinals fan hoped to see this weekend.
Of course there are no absolutes in baseball, but there are definitely a few certainties about the 2010 Cards: Adam Wainwright will pitch extremely well. Albert will be Albert. Yadi will throw out any baserunner foolish enough to try to steal second. And the team will remain consistently inconsistent.
After the emotional sweep of the Reds and gaining a one-game lead in the NL Central, of course expectations were high for this weekend’s series against the Cubs. Friday’s game lived up to our hopes: Jake Westbrook finally received his first Cardinals win, Albert Pujols hit his 29th home run of the year in the first inning, and Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina continued hitting and driving in runs like they did in Cincinnati. Ryan Franklin even had a 1-2-3 ninth inning for his 21st save as the Cards won 6-3.
Going into Saturday’s game, it seemed like things should keep rolling along with Chris Carpenter starting. But then things started to look eerily familiar to all those not-so-pleasant games this season. Carp allowed three runs in the first three innings (although he did settle in after that), although it was the lack of timely hitting – and especially the inability to bunt – that cost the Cards the game in the end.
Then there was yesterday. Realistically, it was difficult to know what to expect from Kyle Lohse. Our friend Bob had a great pre-game piece on his Throatwarbler’s Blog
that detailed all Kyle has been through in the last year-plus, since he was hit on the forearm by a Ron Mahay pitch in May 2009. Unfortunately, Lohse had a terrible day and allowed seven earned runs as he pitched into the fourth inning. If the bullpen had been able to keep the Cubs scoreless the rest of the game, things would have been better and the Cards could have actually won. However, both Mike MacDougal and Dennys Reyes allowed a run each. The Cardinals did stage a valiant comeback attempt in the bottom of the ninth, scoring five runs, but it wasn’t quite enough.
So the team that got swept by the Reds last weekend beat the team that just swept the Reds this week, winning two out of three games. The Reds also had another sweep this weekend, beating the Marlins, and now find themselves back on top in the Central by a game. And the frustration is back among Cardinals fans again, that’s for sure. While there are definitely bright spots when you look at the team’s record since the All-Star break, it’s the ups and downs that stand out more than anything. Of course, no team is going to win every game and even great teams are going to lose around 60 games a season. But it’s the now season-long inconsistency that stands out as the hallmark of the 2010 Cardinals.
It’s difficult to know what to expect from this team during the next seven weeks. The optimist in me can easily see them winning the division. With the starting pitching of Carpenter, Wainwright and Jaime Garcia – plus Westbrook – they could do very well in the playoffs also. But then there’s the internal pessimist. I can just as easily see the Cardinals not winning the division, nor the wild card either. September has not been their most productive month in recent years. And look at what happened last year when they did win the division, with Carpenter and Wainwright as Cy Young-worthy starters.
Time will tell us what the 2010 Cardinals really are. And, unfortunately, we have an off day to dwell on what should have been instead of what was throughout the weekend.
- Albert, who hit his 30th home run of the season in the first inning yesterday. With the blast, he now has hit at least 30 homers in each of his first 10 seasons in the majors. He currently has 396 homers, the most ever by a player in his first 10 seasons.
- Steven Hill on hitting his first major league home run to start the Cards’ rally in the bottom of the ninth inning. Steven was on what today are the Quad Cities River Bandits in 2007, when they were the Swing of the Quad Cities. He wasn’t the only former Quad Cities player getting that rally going, as Nick Stavinoha (2005) and Aaron Miles (1997/1998, when they were an Astros farm team) followed Hill by getting base hits. Jon Jay (2006) received a bases-loaded walk a bit later to score Stavinoha. (Personally, it’s nice to see some of the guys I remember seeing in the Quad Cities make contributions to the big league team. At this level, most of the guys I see year after year never make it to the majors.)
More on Rivalries
Obviously the Cardinals’ rivalry with the Reds has intensified this season. Read more in Angela’s post “A Reflection on Rivalries” at i70baseball.com here.