Every time I look at standings and see the Cardinals at the top, I’m surprised. Not because the Cardinals are a bad team or the players are unskilled or the management is failing.
I’m surprised because this team has had every conceivable obstacle thrown at them and, yet, they’re still sitting pretty at the top of the National League.
I really shouldn’t be, though. It’s the Cardinals. The we-do-best-with-two-outs Cardinals. The underdogs. The turn-off-the-television-this-game-is-over-just-kidding Cardinals.
Cardinal Nation probably wouldn’t know what to do if it was any other way.
This week’s Sports Illustrated shows the previously formidable five of Wainwright, Miller, Garcia, Lynn, and Westbrook replicating the SI cover of the 1968 team that featured legends McCarver, Gibson, and Shannon among others.
Plot twist: Only three of those five are currently playing and only two of those three have what some would consider ‘enough’ experience.
As this experience level of the starting rotation seems to decrease every day with each new addition to the DL/season-ending surgery announcement, the pressure continues to build for the team to prove themselves. Thankfully, they seem to be up to the challenge.
Saying goodbye to Motte for the season was only the first blow for the team. Hearing similar news about Carp (ultimately only half-true, it seems) brought about even more questions of, ‘So, now what?’ Then Westbrook and Garcia jumped on the DL bandwagon almost simultaneously, Garcia’s fate, as of today, the same as Motte—season-ending. Again, we had to ask, ‘What happens now?’ As if that wasn’t enough, Boggs was about as useful as someone on the DL both pre- and post- demotion. So how is it possible that this team is still preceded by ‘1.’ in the National League?
Sports Illustrated says it best—it’s just the Cardinal Way and it’s something that we’ve seen in the past and, judging by the current Minor League talent, we will continue to see in the future.
Wainwright, the perpetual leader of the pitching staff regardless of how he’s playing, is 6-3 this season with a memorable almost no-hitter under his belt and fairly consistent ‘good’ work. After a contract renewal that everyone hoped for, it seems that the Cardinals would be hard pressed to function without him this season. While they did it in 2011 (and pretty successfully), they had Carpenter to take over that role. Clearly, that’s impossible until Carpenter’s bionic arm rebounds which, of course, he’s convinced will happen. The Cardinals need Waino like Waino admitted to needing them in the press conference following the announcement of his extension and thank God for it.
Lynn, with a 6-1 record, has posted eight+ strikeouts in four different games. A solid starter that’s still somewhat lacking in the consistency department, taken out of three games in the 4th or 5th, but is working in the capacity that the Cards need him in right now. He has yet to throw a complete game but that 29-16 says he doesn’t have to, apparently.
Shelby Miller got his first victory of the season when he won the coveted starter spot over Kelly. Since then, he’s gone 5-3, matching Wainwright’s almost no-hitter shutout with his own shutout, a 1.74 ERA standing boldly next to his name. Miller has already proven himself as more than the 13 inning rookie from 2012, ROY thrown around casually already, premature as it may be.
John Gast, the little rookie that could, is 2-0 since Westbrook left the stage, settling into the Big Leagues in the most Cardinals-like fashion. A 4.76 ERA isn’t a pretty one but the number next to the W is what ultimately matters, right? While you can’t assume the rest of the lineup will clean up with big bats all the time, the idea hasn’t been proven too far wrong this season, batting averages across the board hovering at .300. Gast isn’t Westbrook but maybe he could be.
Tonight’s challenge for Tyler Lyons is to take on that Cardinal challenge and step up to the plate that no one was planning for. Coming up from Memphis, Lyons will be working to fill the shoes of the 5-2 record and 3.58 ERA that Garcia had cultivated early in the season.
How long can we ride on rookies, overlook injuries, hope the bats stay alive, and place all of our trust on Yadi? Looks like we’ll find out.
At this point, I guess we just have to trust the Cardinal way because, really, why not?