OK, I ranted over the whole Joel Pineiro thing at the trade deadline. Granted, a large part of that rant was quickly rendered moot when they left Anthony Reyes in the rotation, but I still didn’t see the point. In case you’ve ever wondered why I’m not actually in the business of player acquisition, last night might have helped you understand.
I actually got to watch a lot of the game last night, at least through the seventh. Pineiro didn’t look just overly impressive to me, but he made the pitches he needed to make to get good results (something the staff hadn’t been doing much of until this current run of good pitching) and the defense, which has been shoddy at times this year and overall has not been up to Cardinal standards, was pretty golden behind him. Jim Edmonds made a nice catch in the first, then the Rolen-to-Eckstein-to-Miles force at second, then a nice grab by Rolen right after that and a strong throw to get the runner.
And the MV3 reappeared! Edmonds, Rolen and Pujols all hit home runs, Rolen has a four hit game (not letting Edmonds show him up from the night before) and the offense rolled. It’s always nice to see the team clicking on all cylinders, or at least most of them. Even when things could go wrong–a squeeze bunt with Molina at third and a high pitch to Brendan Ryan–they go right–Ryan gets the bunt, well, not down per se, but it did land before anyone could catch it and the run scored. It’s like they saved all their 2007 good luck/karma for the stretch. Which is as good a time as any to use it.
The team seems to have a buzz around it right now. I think the biggest thing, besides the winning, is the quality pitching. Having the offense work is great, but it did that in the McGwire years when the Cards weren’t really competitive and the buzz was more McGwire than team. But when you can get pitching that keeps you in games, that only allows 2-3 runs or so, even when you lose, you are encouraged. Since the San Diego series started, they’ve only lost a couple of close games, a 2-1 game against the Dodgers where it was 0-0 into the eighth and a game against Jake Peavy. Even the 1-5 road trip through Pittsburgh and Washington had glimmers of hope, since they could have easily won those series as well (though there were a couple of blowouts tossed in that they had no chance in).
As long as the pitching keeps up, people are going to stay excited about this team. Especially because this offense seems to have enough to score a few runs a night now, unlike the beginning of the season.
3 1/2 games back, 2 games behind the Cubs, and going for the sweep this afternoon with our de facto ace on the hill. Wainwright has pitched very well since May, compiling a 3.31 ERA in that span. I really had my doubts about Wainwright coming into the season. I was afraid that his pitches were better out of the bullpen than the rotation, even though he had always been a starter in the minors. Apparently I was wrong on that count as well and I’m glad that I was. He goes against David Bush, who was being touted in the offseason as a fantasy baseball sleeper, but who has basically stayed asleep (9-8, 5.07 ERA). Bush was rocked the last couple of times out, so hopefully the Cards can jump out to an early lead and continue the blowout win streak.
In the other game of note, old friend Jason Marquis takes on the Reds and Bobby Livingston. The Reds have won the first two games of the series (something that warms my heart doubly, since I have a big Reds fan for a father-in-law) and it will likely be another high-scoring game today at the Friendly Confines.
Both games will be basically going on at the same time (Cards at 1:05 CDT, Cubs at 1:20 CDT), so hopefully by this afternoon the Cards are one step closer to a divisional lead.