We've waited for this all season, ever since those first few games of the year when it looked as if this 2010 team was going to roar through like a 2004 sequel. We've waited to see this bizarre, flawed, untimely team really put it all together and finally get on a roll.
Well, I think we can now safely say we finally know what it looks like when everything is working at the same time for the 2010 Cardinals. And it isn't too bad, is it?
Chris Carpenter looked healthy. Better than healthy, he looked efficient. Eight innings, just 90 pitches. Any time you can run through any lineup, much less one with the firepower boasted by the Phillies (even a half-strength Phillies), in less than twelve pitches per inning you're doing something right.
And really, that goes for the whole team. They're all doing something right at the moment. What's been most remarkable about this run the Cardinals are currently on isn't just that they're winning, it's the fact they're winning big. Not all the wins have been blowouts, of course, but just about all of them have been games which felt firmly in hand most of the way. The come-from-behind against Jonathan Broxton and the Dodgers didn't, of course, but the rest have. Honestly, even when last night's game was close, when it was just 2-0, there was never a moment when I felt like the Cardinals weren't going to win. It could be the massive dose of Ecstasy I've taken to ingesting before ballgames in order to cut the edge off losses, but I don't think so. It just felt like they were going to get it done, and nothing the Phillies could do was going to change that.
This is my message to all of you this morning: remember this feeling. Savour it. Soak it in, because none of us know how long it's going to last. Sure, the Cards have Jaime Garcia on the mound tonight, and he's as good a bet as there is to keep a roll like this going, and they've got Adam Wainwright going Thursday. Nonetheless, this whole thing could go right back in the gutter at any moment.
Still, for now, things look awfully good for our boys in red. Even with David Freese unable to get out of his own way and get back on the field, the Cards look strong. Sure, I cringe every time the ball is hit to Felipe Lopez, but hey, as long as he keeps getting on base the way he is, I can handle it.
The Cards' other rehabbing warrior of the O, Ryan Ludwick, is doing much better than Senor Freeze, as he hit a home run in his first rehab start last night. Of course, that forces us to confront the rather frightening question of just what happens when Ludwick is reactivated and a roster spot has to be found for him. Randy Winn hit a dinger last night, making it two days in a row he's hit a ball over the fence rather than throwing one over. Jon Jay is trying his damnedest to force us media types to dig up those old scouting reports that claimed he would win a batting title one day. And Allen Craig, well, Allen Craig is a bad, bad man, boys and girls. We've seen just the barest hint of how bad he can be. So what happens when Luddy comes back and there suddenly isn't even close to enough room for all these guys to get plate appearances? (Spoiler alert: I'll bet we're not going to like the way it plays out. Just a hunch.)
Kyle Lohse is on the mend, and on the radio, and the television, and guess what? He's all kinds of optimistic. Of course, that and four dollars will get you one of those fancy cups of coffee with the cream on top, but there actually looks to be reason for his optimism. He looks, dare I say it, close to coming back. Not close like the overly touchy sales girl at work who seems way too interested in how you're doing every day, but still fairly close. Like just about ready for a rehab assignment of his own close.
So with all this good news and sunshine pouring out of every hole, what could go wrong? Well, there are plenty of things that could go wrong, but honestly, I just don't have the heart to go over them this morning. I feel too good about this Cardinal team and where they are right now to rain on that parade. After months of waiting for this team to show up, months of frustration, we seem to have our team at last. A team that gives you that feeling, at least part of the time, that it doesn't matter what their opponent does, they'll find a way to win.
It feels pretty good to be a Cardinal fan this morning, doesn't it? I suppose winning streaks in general always do that, but this one feels a little more special than usual. This one feels like a prize long in the waiting and hard-fought for, a prize you sometimes doubted you would ever be able to reel in. Like I said, it could all go south tomorrow, or tonight even, and we shouldn't be surprised if it does. For now, though, it feels pretty good to be able to look at our redbirds and say they're right where they should be, finally.
Now, if we could just get the Reds to lose a fucking game...
The Baron's Playlist for the 21st of July, 2010
"Winning" - Emily Haines and the Soft Skeleton
"Everyone's a Winner" - Meligrove Band
"What's In it For?" - Avi Buffalo
"What's In it For Me?" - The Walkmen
"The Ballad of El Goodo" - Big Star
"You Win Again" - Hank Williams/ Ray Charles (I've never been able to decide which version I like better)