That was satisfying, no?
The team that took the field yesterday sure looked to me to be a vintage Cardinals team, and not the guys that we've carted out there all season. It wasn't thse guys that have been playing forced, inconistent baseball--they looked like The St. Louis Cardinals. It was good to see that, if only for one game. At least we finally got a chance to see what the team would look like when taken off of the DL and put onto a baseball field.
But it was only one game, and, after all, Carpenter was on the mound. If they're going to keep going in the postseason, however, here are a few of the things that they're going to have to keep on doing:
Continue getting production from Edmonds and/or Rolen: Albert needs some protection, and I'm pretty convinced that a lot of Duncan's effectiveness is due to his batting in front of Albert. If either Jimmy or Scottie get hot, it's going to be a lot harder for opposing pitchers to throw around Albert in order to get to an option that is only 70% or 80% as dangerous. Jimmy has either had very good games or very bad games since he's been back--his 2/4 + RBI performance yesterday is encouraging. Regardless, the Cardinals are going to need a lot of HR power if they are going to go deep into the postseason, and these guys, if they are truly non-injured now, are the most probable and reliable source of that power.
Wainwright needs to continue beng a solid closer: This doesn't suprise anyone, but almost every successful postseason team that I can think of has had a very good closer behind it. Despite not having a scary two-syllable name, AW might just be that guy. Since being promoted to his job as the ninth inning guy on the 27th, Wainwright has thrown 3 1/3 innings and allowed one baserunner, while striking out five. Obviously, this is an absurdly tiny sample size, but it is nonetheless encouraging--if Adam can get us those last few critical outs, then one of the major problems with the regular season club (half-hipped Izzy) is erased.
Continue playing solid defense: The regular season team turned 98 errors, which puts it into a four way tie for tenth fewest in the majors. They were eighth place in number of double plays turned (170). The regular season club was a good, but unspectacular defensive team. With Belliard at 2B, Edmonds back, and Duncan slightly less uncomfortable out in the outfield, they will have to improve on that
Get production out of the starters: Over his last six starts, Jeff Weaver has a 4.15 ERA and about 2 K for every BB. He needs to keep up at least this production if the team is going to have any chance at success. Similarly, Jeff Suppan has a 2.39 ERA and a similar K/BB ratio over the same stretch. If the Cardinals fail to get solid production out of these two guys, they are toast. Weaver's started to give me shades of that emotion that I once called trust, while Suppan has always made me believe in big games.
It might sound weird having someone say this, but thanks to the stabilization of the rotation, the emergence of Wainwright, and the glimmers of life that we've seen from Mister Edmonds, I have a lot more hope for this team now than I did at this time in September--aside from the dominant rotation (instead, we hopefully have one dominant guy plus a couple of guys that'll keep you in the game), this team is beginning to look like it might be a decent postseason team. The Mets have two of their four postseason rotation guys injured, the Pads are trusting a 2,000 year old drunk to get them through game two, the Dodgers also have a million injuries, and a single seven game series can go either way.
Here's to hoping that yesterday was a message that St. Louis was sending to the rest of the league: we may have fallen backward into the postseason, but, dammit, after we fell, we hit the ground running.