When Adam Wainwright is dealing, the feeling is well known early on in a game. The ace of the Cardinals pitching staff will run into any trouble he has during the first 2-3 innings. Last night, Waino dismissed the streaking Arizona Diamondbacks(7 wins in their past 11 games and a good road team) early and often. He was dynamic. Wainwright dominated the D-Backs. The same D-Backs team that ripped apart the Los Angeles Dodgers a few days before couldn’t find a pulse against the Cardinals best pitcher. Wainwright was dropping in ankle twisting sliders and knee buckling curveballs. It was almost like he has two baseball in his pockets and a complete game on his mind. Tuesday night saw gave Wainwright his 8th shutout of his career and the 2nd on the season. It was also the first time Wainwright had only allowed 1 hit in a complete game(which he now has 18 of on his career).
It came at an important time. Manager Mike Matheny said before the game that he finally was going to give Trevor Rosenthal a night off, but he really meant that he didn’t want Carlos Martinez and Kevin Siegrist to pitch either. Matheny was indirectly telling Waino to go out there and seal the deal, shut the door, and deliver a game that reminds everyone in the league that when the Cardinals pitching staff cares to be effective, the rest of the rotations will seem insignificant. Since Michael Wacha threw 7 innings on Thursday against the Cubs, the Cards have gotten at least 7 innings from their starters 5 games in a row. Lance Lynn, Shelby Miller and Jaime Garcia followed suit over the weekend against the Braves before Wainwright went all 9 last night. After a 4th inning double to Paul Goldschmidt, Waino retired the last 16 straight to finish the game. On a night where he only needed 1 run to win, The Cards lineup gave him 5 and it was a well balanced attack.
For all the worthless flack about Matt Adams lack of power, people have forgotten about his sweet looking batting average. The big man is hitting .308 and cranked his 3rd home run of the season, which clocked in as only the 4th this month for the entire Cardinals team. That is the kicker. NOBODY on this Cardinals team is showing power, especially the men who are supposed to be hitting for it. At least Adams is spraying doubles and singles around the yard. His two run home run last night kicked off the scoring and gave the Ace all the support he would need.
The Cardinals added single tallies in the 4th and 5th inning on a Matt Holliday single and Jhonny Peralta double. Peralta added a solo blast in the 6th inning to give him 9 home runs on the season. Suddenly the Cardinals had 5 home runs in MAY! Fans were on the verge of being spoiled with the long ball. Of the Cardinals 25 home runs this season, Peralta has 9 of them or around 30 percent. I would say John Mozeliak’s investment in the offseason wasn’t too shabby. Peralta is hitting .252 and producing extra base hits while giving the team adequate defense at shortstop. Mo doensn’t just hand players 52 million dollars because he thinks it may work out. The general manager did his homework and thought Peralta was a missing link to the team’s attack. It turns out he has been one of the only consistent power sources.
In case you were keeping score, Jhonny has 9 home runs and Albert Pujols has 12. We will call this the most unlikely home run race challenge. Then again, that was the reading on the prescription tag on Peralta going into the season. When he is on, the man can give a team a real boost.
Waino and Matheny appreciated the 5 runs of support, and on a warm night at Busch the Cardinals produced a different kind of complete game. The defense was solid. Kolten Wong made a few slick plays across the middle of the infield while the outfield defense was fine as well. Yadi Molina added two hits and is hitting .331. Matt Carpenter struck out for the 39th time but he added a hit and still has an on base percentage of .369 this season. That’s reason enough to keep him in the leadoff spot and continue to let Wong grow into this lineup without too much pressure.
The Cardinals offense is rounding into shape. After all those 1 run miserable nights of production, the Cardinals have scored 5 runs six times in their last eight games. They have also won 6 out of their last 8 games. and starting to play produce the kind of play day in and day out that was expected going into the season. With The Brewers loss to the Atlanta Braves last night, the Cards are only 2.5 games out of first place at 24-21. After a fast start, Milwaukee is slowing down as the Cards speed up and this much doesn’t cram the mind with too much complexity. Soon enough, the NL Central will once again be the toughest division in baseball. Four teams have a realistic shot of closing the gap in September for a division championship. Buckle in because this ride will only get more wild.
Have we seen the worst of the Cardinals? It’s too early to tell. This team may spiral out again later this summer or go into the depths of homerless extra base hit lacking and one run scoring infamy. Baseball is a tough game to predict because so many variables are in play and so many games are played. I can tell you this team is playing a lot better baseball in May than they did in April. As the young guns arrive from Memphis as the weeks fly by, I expect this team to only get better and better. The future looks bright red for this team.
Michael Wacha takes the mound tonight to keep the 7 inning starts going for this robust rotation that has been strong all season long. Wacha ran into trouble last year in his start against Arizona. Remember back before he was amazing in September he was raw in June. Let’s see Wacha get some revenge tonight and continue the Cards streak.