The St. Louis Cardinals started their last West Coast(-ish) series of the 2011 season the right way by smashing the Colorado Rockies 10-3 behind another decent outing by Jake Westbrook and four no-hit innings from the bullpen.
The Cards banged out 19 hits, led by Colby Rasmus who was 4 for 5 with two triples and three RBI. Every position player in the starting lineup had at least one hit.
But not all was positive in the game for St. Louis. Lefty reliever Brian Tallet left the game with what Tony LaRussa characterized as feeling “something in his forearm” in the middle of a 3-2 count in the eighth. One of the reasons the bullpen struggled the way it did earlier in the season was an injury to Tallet, forcing Trever Miller to shoulder extra load and have other pitchers work in unfamiliar roles. Yadier Molina also came out of the game early after taking a foul tip off his foot while behind the plate. But Molina stayed in the game immediately after the incident, and LaRussa gave no indication it was anything serious.
Does this team have a breaking point?
It really is unbelievable that the Cardinals are 10 games over .500 and enjoy a three and a half game lead in the NL Central considering all the adversity they have already had to overcome this season. Yes, it is still early. But here is a quick list of the bad:
-Adam Wainwright goes down for the season before the season even starts.
-Super Sub Nick Punto missed close to two months of Spring Training and the beginning of the regular season, then goes down again only a few weeks later.
-Ryan Franklin is completely ineffective this year and has not gotten better.
-Matt Holliday required an emergency appendectomy during Opening Week and injures a quadriceps muscle a couple of weeks ago, severely limiting his playing time recently.
-Skip Schumaker spends time on the DL with an injury.
-Tallet goes on the DL with an injury.
-David Freese is once again out and probably won’t be back until after the All Star Break.
-Ryan Theriot is on pace for a career high number of errors.
-Chris Carpenter has only one win in the first two months of the season.
-Gerald Laird goes down with an injury that will keep him out for maybe another month.
-Albert Pujols is off to statistically the worst start of his career and has by far grounded into more double plays that any other player in the Majors.
And the hits just keep on coming. Tallet and Molina will certainly be re-evaluated Saturday. Holliday is only available to swing the bat, and can only speed-walk to first base if he does put the ball in play. But the Cards just keep winning.
At this point, the team has to be thinking about their needs. The obvious one is to get healthy. But there is a lot more to that than simply playing at 100%. Holliday is not likely to go on the DL, so it really is only a matter of days before he returns to the lineup full-time. They do not need a starter, and the everyday lineup seems tight. And imagine when Punto and Freese return; the whole “it’s like making a trade” cliché will certainly apply. Bullpen additions are always welcome, but the current mix has done well overall. Add in the likelihood that Pujols’ and Carpenter’s numbers normalize, and the team should be playing even better than it has been. If they “need” anything, maybe it’s just to be allowed to go out and play their way.
I have to wonder what kind of team the St. Louis Cardinals really are. At the beginning of the year, they appeared average. Then things started rolling. They could be overachieving, or they could just be lucky. But they also could be a team of destiny. Because average teams do not overcome obstacles like this; great ones do. They are almost 1/3 of the way through the season. What reason do we have to think this run will end anytime soon?