Hopefully, the St. Louis Cardinals' late innings comeback Sunday against the Pittsburgh Pirates was a turning point.
So many times this season the Redbirds have seemed to give up when they get behind — or even when the game is tied late — and they've missed opportunities to score. If they're down by the end of the seventh inning, it seems like they're dead. I typically can't stand to watch it when things go sideways quickly like they did in the series opener against the Pirates. But, for some reason, the Cardinals seemed to be playing with confidence on Sunday. I couldn't turn it off — and those of us who didn't were rewarded. Refreshing.
After giving up an early 1-0 lead, allowing the Bucs to score four unanswered runs, St. Louis stormed back and scored five times in the last two innings. The difference was enormous. Not only did the Birds win that particular game, they won the Pirates series 2-1 instead of losing by the same margin to a division rival. They also kept pace with the Milwaukee Brewers, staying four games back instead of five.
For many people, Memorial Day is the time of the year when they start to pay attention to the standings. So, it's a good time for the Cardinals to make a stand and show what they're made of. It wasn't a perfect game. But it showed some spunk. Hopefully, as we grow near to the time that team leader Yadier Molina returns from the disabled list, this team is starting to gain some momentum. Although the starting pitching is the club's strong suit, it also doesn't hurt that Alex Reyes — who absolutely tore up the minor leagues as he battles back from Tommy John surgery — is about to play in a game that matters for the first time since 2016.
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One of the most encouraging things about the victory is that the Cardinals counted on several players — ranging from veteran lead-off man all the way down to its rookie catching crew and its minor league utility infielder to work together to get the job done.
With Pittsburgh handled for the time being, things don't get any easier for the Cardinals. Next they head to Milwaukee and, while it's still early, it's very important they make a good showing against the Brewers — and they've already lost the first game. Five games back is starting to get a little bit uncomfortable. Six or seven just isn't acceptable. It's going to be an interesting clash because while St. Louis' starting hurlers are the club's strong suit, Milwaukee's potent offense is its calling card. The Brewers play in a homer haven, so the Birds are going to have their work cut out for them containing the Brew Crew's scoring. If they can't do that, the Birds might get left in the dust.
It seemed back in December that the Chicago Cubs were the team to worry about this year in the National League Central Division. But the Cubs are in the rear-view mirror at this point. So St. Louis needs to beat the teams ahead of it to keep things that way. I stand by what I said at the start of the Hot Stove League: This club is a third-place hitter and a top of the rotation starter away from being a serious contender. I don't know where they're going to find that bat. But, hopefully, Reyes will turn into that pitcher and things will only get more interesting from here on out.