The St. Louis Cardinals have an interesting test Friday night to see if they've actually turned the corner on some of the issues that have bothered them in recent seasons — or if their recent hot streak was a fluke.
The Redbirds pasted the sloppy Washington Nationals Thursday thanks to D.C.'s four fielding errors. But tonight the Nats send Cardinals poison (AKA a left-handed starting pitcher) to the mound against St. Louis.
Gio Gonzalez is 2-1 with a 3.94 ERA so far this season and is 72-49 with a 3.66 ERA over his career. He's 1-1 with a 1.13 ERA against the Redbirds in regular season games. But the Cardinals have gotten to him in the past. In the 2012 National League Division Series he walked 7 batters in five innings to help Washington lose Game 1 to the Birds despite the fact that St. Louis only managed three hits over the course of the game. Then, in Game 5, he gave up five hits and four walks in four innings to help the Nats lose the series to St. Louis. That was the game that Washington led 7-0 but couldn't hold the advantage.
The Cardinals on Friday looked like men playing boys. It was a stark difference from the first week of the season when the Redbirds seemed oddly unprepared. They currently rank fifth in the majors with 12 errors. It was worse, they had 13 but one was changed later by the scorekeeper.
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The poor start could be blamed in part on the fact that the Redbirds are trying to break in a new double play combination in free agent shortstop Jhonny Peralta and second sacker Kolten Wong who is in his first full year of play. Last season's second baseman, Matt Carpenter, moved back to his original position at third base. But his defense has been brilliant thus far.
It's up to St. Louis to keep the hot streak going against a better team with good pitching to prove that they're who the critics thought they were and that the shaky start was only a fluke.
Peralta is hitting nearly .500 over the last week since shaking a 2-for-22 slump. And one of the things the Cardinals liked when they signed him away from Detroit was the fact that he hits southpaws pretty well. Righty slugger Matt Holliday has been hot lately. But fellow righty Allen Craig, while he has shown signs of life with a hit here and there, hasn't developed any consistency yet.