Playing poor teams certainly always feels like it cures all ills, doesn't it? Well, except for when it's the Pittsburgh Pirates, of course, who continue to give our boys in red fits the last two seasons. Unfortunately, the Pirates still play like, well, the Pittsburgh Pirates against the rest of the division, offering the Cardinals no help in gaining ground.
What was really remarkable about the eighteen runs was the fact that it was all done without a single home run hit by the Cardinals. For the most part, it was all with dinks and doinks, supplemented by walks galore. I was trying to research this morning how often a team scores that many runs in a single game without putting a ball over the wall, but it's surprisingly tough to get that exact situation filtered, and I simply don't have the time to find it out this morning. I'm still interested, and I'm going to do some more looking, so I may find the results at some later date.
The offensive output last night was fantastic to watch, but the real story, of course, was the return of Adam Wainwright. Obviously, the Braves aren't exactly a juggernaut right now (though they are better this series than when the Cards last played them due to the return of Chipper and Brian McCann), but anyone who predicted Wainwright would be able to throw six innings that efficiently, giving up only a single tally, would have certainly raised my own personal bullshit alarm. I didn't think there was any way he would be as sharp as he was after such a significant layoff. That had to have put to rest any thoughts of moving Wainwright into the bullpen, didn't it?
With the return of A.D.A.M. going so very swimmingly, you have to feel pretty good about the team this morning as a Cardinal fan. I still don't really like our chances of chasing down either the Cubbies or the bunch from the Good Land, but with Wainwright back out there, at least the Cards have one pitcher they can really point to as The Guy. Even with as good as Kyle Lohse has pitched for most of the year, he's never been just the go-to guy, the one pitcher that you feel totally secure with on the mound. Neither has Todd Wellemeyer. Wainer, though, I would follow to hell and back, so long as he was toeing the rubber.
Adding to the possible reasons for optimism this morning is the improving health of Chris Carpenter. If there is a single scenario that I see in which the Cardinals have a legitimate shot at running down one of the teams in front of them, it has to involve both Carp and Wainwright pitching effectively for the month of September. With the way the off days fall, as has been discussed here and elsewhere, you could almost go with a straight four man rotation. If you can start either Chris Carpenter or Adam Wainwright in exactly half of your games over a given span, you have to like your chances of stringing together some victories.
Of course, what'll probably happen is that Carpenter will come back in a week or two, look pretty good again, and Tony will shift the Wagonmaker down to closing duties and waste their best chance to possibly stay a relevant part of this race, but hey, them's the breaks, right?
In the interest of brevity this morning, I'm just going to present you all with our discussion topic for this Saturday. Assuming that both Carpenter and Wainwright will be able to contribute down the stretch for this club, how would you arrange the whole rotation situation? Would you go with a four man rotation, with C &W taking half of the team's contests the rest of the way? If so, who are the other two pitchers you slot in? Or, do you try to get each of your recovering aces some extra rest, and stay with a full five man rotation? This might not be a bad plan of action, as there is a lot riding on the health of these particular two arms for quite a while in the future. Or, he asks, holding his breath, do you go ahead and shift Adam down to the 'pen, trusting that he'll receive a steady diet of leads to protect and that he will prove to be the best choice to close those games out?
A couple of other quick notes:
Over at Baseball Prospectus, Joe Sheehan recently took a look at the National League MVP race. It is subscription only, but I will tell you that he essentially concludes that a) Albert Pujols is taken for granted to an unbelievable degree, and b) he's pretty easily the most deserving candidate for the award this year. Of course, he's basically preaching to the choir, at least as far as we VEBers are concerned, but it's still nice to hear someone else say it.
John Mozeliak mentioned in a chat recently that Brett 'The Hitman' Walrus (can you imagine the marketing campaign?), the Cards' first round pick this year, will most likely be playing in the Arizona Fall League. It'll be interesting to see how Wallace handles the assignment; not necessarily from a talent standpoint, as I think he's plenty advanced to make a trip to the AFL, but simply from an endurance standpoint. This is Wallace's first year in pro ball; he's never had to deal with a schedule as grueling as this before. To send him to play in an advanced league for an additional month or so at the end of the year, after he's already played more games than ever before in his life, tells you a lot about what the organisation thinks about Wallace. I look at the way they've handled him to this point and I have to believe that the Cardinals really want to see if Wallace is going to be ready to take over third base for Troy Glaus for the 2010 season.
The folks over at Baseball America are doing their annual 'Best Tools' features, in which the managers from each minor league vote for the players they feel are the best at a given skill or talent. Four Cardinal farmhands were recognised: Chris Perez as the best reliever in the Pacific Coast League, Jose Martinez as the Best Defensive Second Baseman in the Texas Legue, Francisco Samuel has the Best Breaking Ball in the Florida State League, and Mitchell Boggs as the best Starting Prospect, also in the PCL.
Perez comes as no real surprise, but I must admit to being somewhat surprised by Boggs. Still, it's incredibly exciting just to have players that are legitimately even in the picture when you're talking about things like this. Martinez? Eh. Good to hear his name in here, but he's been as disappointing as any player in the minors this year after putting his name right at the top of the depth chart with his performance last season and in spring training this year. As for Samuel, he's starting to look just a little bit like another undersized, Venezuelan, hard throwing, right handed reliever named Francisco- the one with Rodriguez on the back of his jersey out in Anaheim.
Alright. Gotta go. Game time is @ three this afternoon. I'll see you all back then.