At the beginning of last week, we weren’t sure if the Cardinals were going to turn it around. There was plenty of drama within the organization about the Willson Contreras situation. Oli Marmol and John Mozeliak were saying things that drew the ire of every fan.
The Cardinals also were 10-24 and on an eight-game losing streak. They also were 10 games back of first place. But boy have things changed since then. The Cardinals are now playing like we all expected them to at the beginning of the series. The team has secured at least a split against the Dodgers and will go for the series win.
Still, this begs the question; are the Cardinals back? They’re playing a lot better baseball, but still are seven games below the .500 mark. We’ll take a look at what still needs to improve, how it can be fixed, and what the Cardinals have already fixed.
Starting Pitching Needs To Improve
I will say this about the starting pitching, things are looking better and better each day. Miles Mikolas pitched seven innings last night, marking just the second time this season a Cardinals starter has made it through seven.
Adam Wainwright looked a lot better against the Dodgers, and even Steven Matz is looking more like himself. But there are still issues. While Jordan Montgomery has without a doubt been the team’s best pitcher, he seems to have hit a bit of a rough patch. He pitched well in his last start, giving up three earned runs and making it into the sixth inning, but his ERA has taken a bit of a hit, as it now sits at 4.21, though I do believe his 2-6 record is deceptive because often times, the Cardinals haven’t given him much run support.
Jack Flaherty is also a bit of a concern, in my opinion. He’s had just two quality starts this season, though he did pitch very well on Monday against the Brewers. I think we all know what the Cardinals need at this point, and that’s ace-level starting pitching. Only with a top-tier starter or two can the Cardinals truly become a World Series contender again. Middle-of-the-rotation journeymen or pitchers with 6 ERAs won’t suffice this time around. Thankfully, that’s what the trade deadline is for.
The Bats Are ‘A Boomin’
We knew it was only a matter of time before the bats got going. Willson Contreras handled the catcher drama like a pro and has locked in ever since. Nolan Arenado has also woken up and is swinging a hot bat. Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Gorman, Tommy Edman, and Dylan Carlson had been swinging the bat well, but with Arenado back in full force, the Cardinals look like a completely different team, one whose offense can compete with any given pitcher.
While Carlson is out, Oscar Mercado has impressed me so far since being called up. I’m still high on Juan Yepez too. And every time I say that Alec Burleson needs to go down to the minors, he does something big. That may still help him hit more consistently, but he’s a good guy to have around thanks to his versatility.
And when Jordan Walker comes back, the lineup will be at full strength again.
It would be boring if I made this all about the rotation, lineup, and bullpen. I’ve been mostly impressed with the bullpen, but what I’ve really noticed is that the vibes around the team are so much better. Before rallying to win the last game of the series against the Tigers, the team seemed a little downtrodden. But Paul Goldschmidt’s three home runs saved them and gave them a little momentum.
I really started noticing a shift in the morale when the team began their series with the Cubs. Since then, they’ve looked like they’re having more fun, and I also as a fan find myself not getting too worried when they fall behind, knowing that the offense can bust out at any moment and mount a comeback. This proved to be true in the Boston series.
In just over a week, the Cardinals went from being a doormat to going toe-to-toe with the Dodgers, the NL’s best team. They’ve also taken advantage of a weak NL Central and pulled to within five games of first place. So while there’s still significant ground to be made up, I really like what I’m seeing, and I think we could say the Cardinals are back, or at least on their way back.