After watching Friday night's game it's getting hard even for a glass half empty sort like me not to think of the Cardinals as being "for real."
True, the bullpen still has some pretty deep flaws and the defense sometimes leaves a bit to be desired. But the Cardinals have two qualities that are elusive and very valuable.
First, they don't quit. Ever. Last season they coughed up a lead like they did on Friday night and it was all over but the crying. They seemed like they didn't often come back from a setback. And second, they don't have to win in one particular way. They have won slugfests, they have won pitchers duels. They have one with defense and they have won by manufacturing runs.
I still think the Cardinals are going to need reinforcements. But they have a really good core of talent. It would be nice to add another starter and a reliever or two. And I still wouldn't mind seeing a slugger brought in and some point to hit behind Albert Pujols. And Maybe that guy will be a rehabbed Troy Glaus... But the real test will be when pitchers start to get an idea of how to deal with Joe Thurston and Brian Barden.
Cardinals Star of the Game: Pujols. Albert isn't known for his base stealing... or even his runnings speed. But the guy is the best baserunner in the Central Division and one of the best in the NL. He reads pitchers to get a good jump and picks his spots when it can change the game. He also takes extra bases and steals runs by taking advantage of tentative defenders. Honorable mention goes to Adam Wainwright who pitched his best game of the season and looked like the top of the rotation starter the Cardinals need him to be. Could his success have to do with the warmer temperatures?
Lowlight: Wainwright deserved to get the win but was let down by the defense. Skip Schumaker, who is expected to struggle at second base, dropped an easy ball that hit him in the glove while serving as a defensive replacement in the outfield. That can't happen.