It’s funny how things can change in the course of a couple of weeks, isn’t it?
The blustery Reds swept the Cardinals in Cincinnati, then publicly flexed their muscles in the Redbirds’ faces after the finale.
Since then, Brandon Phillips and Co. have embarked on a six-game losing streak — including a humiliating sweep at the hands of their cross-state rival, Cleveland — and the Cardinals suddenly find themselves 3 1/2 games ahead in the National League Central standings.
It’s peculiar how the NL Central battle between St. Louis and the Reds over the last two seasons has become a situation of winning the battle but losing the war.
The Cardinals won 12 of 18 meetings between the clubs last year and had an impressive sweep of Cincinnati and a fight at home plate after Phillips badmouthed the Redbirds. But they wilted after that meeting and the Reds eventually won the division title. This season, Cincinnati got the bragging rights from a sweep and then laid an egg.
There’s still a long way to go. But the Brewers have taken advantage of the Cincy stumble to catch the Reds in the standings and make the Central derby a three-horse race.
I am going to go out on a limb and predict, after two months of hitting .266, Albert Pujols is going to start hitting like Albert Pujols again.
Why? Not because of the home run Monday night that broke his 27-game homerless streak, the longest of his career. Actually, because of what happened earlier in the game.
Pujols cranked a ball right back up the middle during his first at bat of the game. He thought he’d hit it out, but it fell short and was caught at the warning track. Pujols was very angry. So much so that he wasn’t watching where he was going and plowed over outfielder Jon Jay as he retreated to first bast after the catch.
First, I think Pujols is coming around because he is starting to hit the ball up the middle instead of trying to pull everything. But, second, Pujols is finally angry about his production. Besides his physical talent, what makes Pujols great is that he has a tremendous amount of pride and a tremendous amount of determination. I have no doubt when Albert gets his mind set on fixing the problems in his at bats, he’ll get the job done. The results are starting to show.
I’m not sure what the Cardinals had in mind by shipping reliever Mitchell Boggs to the minors instead of cutting ties with Ryan Franklin or demoting another player. But I don’t like the idea.
With a record of 0-2 and a 3.66 ERA, Boggs’ numbers don’t offer hints that he was about to be demoted. He’d only allowed 17 hits in 19 2/3 innings and he had struck out 19 while walking only four.
Still, it was obvious he was being held out of games lately. In April, Boggs pitched in 12 contests. He pitched half that many times in May. He hadn’t been used in a week at the time he was sent down.
Ricky Horton said Monday night during the Fox Sports Midwest broadcast that he believes the Cardinals want Boggs to go to the minors to work on his mechanics. But he pointed out that such a move can be devastating to a young pitchers’ confidence and derail his entire career.
I tend to agree. You have a guy who was made the closer three or four weeks ago — the most important guy in the bullpen. And now you tell him he’s the odd man out and he’s headed back to the bus leagues?
If Dave Duncan is supposed to be the most accomplished pitching coach in baseball, specializing in ironing out mechanical flaws, wouldn’t St. Louis be the best place to work out Boggs’ bugs?