Future Headline: Tough 1st Half Paves Way For NL Central Title

…at least that’s my opinion. The Cardinals finished the unofficial first half of the season with a 49-43 record and in a tie for first in the NL Central. While this might not seem very remarkable to most baseball fans, to those of us who have followed this team since losing to the division to the Reds last October, it is.

In the nearly ten months that have passed so much has taken place. Adam Wainwright finished in the top five of yet another Cy Young vote, while Albert Pujols just missed out on his 4th MVP award. On top of that Jaime Garcia had put up a strong rookie campaign winning 13 games with a sub 3.0 ERA and Matt Holliday put together a great first full season as a Cardinal. Then…

The offseason came. What should have been an exciting few months waiting for Pitchers & Catchers to report turned in to the Pujols contract watch. In addition to that was the annual TLR mulling-over-returning-contract-situation. What joy it was. Finally it was time for the Cardinals to head down to Jupiter and we could get back to baseball. Then… (time elapsed for story purposes)

Adam Wainwright felt a twinge in his elbow, nuff said, Freese broke a bone in his hand, Holliday missed nearly a month of games, Kyle McClellan landed on the DL and Ryan Franklin forgot how to pitch and Pujols had the micro-fracture. Suddenly (or not so suddenly) a season of promise was headed the wrong way. Then…

In the midst of it all Lance Berkman re-discovered his Astro-MYP type form; Lohse & Garcia combine to win 17 games, Holliday, Freese and the rest got healthy, Fernando Salas pitched his way to 16 saves and of course there was Pujols’ super-human recovery. Most importantly the Cardinals kept finding a way to win. Yes it was back and forth, up and down first half full of streaks but the team survived and did more than stay afloat. They sit atop the NL Central as we enjoy the All Star break.

The old saying goes, “what doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger.” This is the case in St. Louis. Tony’s guys did not pack it in or give up any of the numerous times they could have. Without the injuries, Daniel Descalso, Jon Jay, Tony Cruz, etc would not have had the chance to show their value and add depth to a bench that was initially seen as a weakness. Salas, Lance Lynn and others have found important roles as well. The Cards head in to Cincinnati to start the second half with nearly all their pieces intact. Most importantly they can look forward to Carpenter and Pujols both averaging out to their career norms. That means a lot more production from your two most important players.

The Cardinals and TLR have been here before and know how to win. Milwaukee, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh will fade off as the summer heats up…quote me and St. Louis will once again rise up. All NL Central teams be warned the Cardinals are getting healthy and coming back to claim what is rightfully theirs..the NL Central crown.

As usual these are just my thoughts…if you’re smart you’ll most likely agree. If not keep on reading and you’ll get up to speed.

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Author: Derek Pease

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