The St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday finally made a statement about their resolve and their ability to be a playoff team.
For the first time in eight series this season against teams with a winning record, the Redbirds were able to come away with the lion’s share of the victories, taking two of three against the San Francisco Giants.
The win in the rubber game of the San Francisco series left the Birds 10 games back in the National League Central Division race and only three games over .500. But at least it’s a start.
Besides a clunker in the series opener Friday night, the Cardinals played tough against the Giants, coming back late both Saturday and Sunday to notch important victories. Their ability to come back against a deep team with good pitching should give Cardinals fans a reason to be optimistic.
Some reasons St. Louis is finally gaining momentum:
▪ Leadoff man Matt Carpenter has been on fire the last two weeks with a batting average of .405, notching six doubles and two triples in that span.
▪ After a brief lull in his hot hitting, rookie shortstop Aledmys Diaz is perking back up with a .350 average a double and a homer over the past week.
▪ First baseman Matt Adams has reclaimed his starting job from Brandon Moss with a .424 average, two homers and five doubles over the past two weeks.
▪ Left fielder Matt Holliday is hitting .317 with three homers over the past two weeks.
▪ Struggling starting pitchers Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha are starting to show some signs of life.
Wainwright has thrown more than six innings in each of his last three starts, totaling 19 2/3 innings with 19 hits allowed in that time. While he hasn’t been vintage Adam Wainwright yet this season, the ace has reduced his ERA from 6.68 to 5.40 over the past month. Hopefully he’ll bring it down by a similar amount in June.
After three lousy starts in a row, Wacha has looked more formidable his last two appearances. He was dominant early against the Washington Nationals May 29 before suffering one bad inning. On June 4 he was more consistent but allowed four runs over five innings to push his ERA up from 4.99 to 5.06.
The Cardinals head to Cincinnati Tuesday for a series against the 21-36 Reds. There is no excuse for them not to win this series, boosted by slugging infielder Jhonny Peralta’s expected season debut Tuesday after recovering from a thumb injury suffered in spring training.
But they need to push for something more than a 2-1 series win. A sweep would mean a five-game winning streak, the sort of push that would allow the Redbirds to get back into the playoff race in a serious way.