The St. Louis Cardinals continue to amaze by finding new ways to win ballgames when it seems that they’re out of gas.
With Matt Carpenter slumping, Kolten Wong benched and half the starting lineup (Jon Jay, Matt Holliday, Matt Adams and Randal Grichuk) on the disabled list, the Redbirds seemed to be in trouble as they went to Arizona to face a suddenly formidable Diamondbacks team.
Yet St. Louis, with its lead in the National League Central division shrunk to 3 1/2 games, found a way to beat the D-Backs convincingly in the first two games of the four-game road series.
In San Diego the Cardinals couldn’t score runs. But, somehow, they’ve managed to rack up 14 tallies in the first two games of the Arizona series while Lance Lynn and and Jaime Garcia helped hold the prolific Diamondbacks offense to four runs.
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I’ve seen a few predictions that claim the Redbirds are in trouble when the playoffs come because the Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cubs are more capable of scoring runs.
Make no mistake that it’s pitching that wins championships. From top to bottom, there is no team that can out-pitch the Cardinals.
But it’s also a mistake to assume that the offense we see on Aug. 25 is the same one we’re going to see when the calendar turns to October.
The Birds are supposed to get Adams back next week and could get Jay back a week or so after that. Holliday and Grichuk are expected to be back in the mix by mid September. If and when that happens, it will be the first time the St. Louis batting order has been completely intact since April.
Not only will the starting lineup be better than it has been in months. But the bench will be the best it has been all season with Mark Reynolds sent back to a utility role and Brandon Moss providing a left-handed power option off the bench.
Jay, a veteran of two World Series and a .300 hitter when healthy, will factor largely because I’m guessing Holliday will be using conservatively because of his recurring leg issues. So Jay could see time in left field or centerfield, moving around in the late innings for defensive purposed.
The Cardinals don’t need to score a bunch of runs to win in the playoffs. They need to continue pitching like they have and score a few runs to make strong starts stand up.