The Cardinals began the week on top of the National League and ended it one game from the top, thanks in part to a rain out. There aren't a lot of deficiencies right now. Starting pitchers are keeping every game competitive (more or less), the lineup is solid, even beyond Pujols. When used properly, the bullpen has been nothing short of automatic. We know controversy sells, but we ain't got a shipment of disagreements in ages. We're stock full of gloating though! Get it before it spoils.
Game 20 vs. Atl., W 3-2: The Cards defense hasn't been as good as last year. Granted they finished second best last year, but numerous errors by Khalilbot and Pujols(!) have, on occasion, hurt the club. When Joel Pineiro is on the mound, the team needs to be on defensive lockdown. The dude loves the sinker like I love Brooks ketchup. Of the 20 outs he pitched, 13 were ground balls. He's playing Street Fighter and using back+down+B over and over and over again and it's kicking some pixelated butt. At the plate, he walked and scored the go ahead run in the 7th. I knew he'd be good all along (nevermind the archives).
Game 21 vs. Atl., L 1-2: Six innings of shutout pitching by Kyle Lohse wasn't enough to take this game. An early RBI by Yadi was the sole run in the game until the 8th inning when ST.LOUISAN Kyle McClellan walked three and let up two runs. LaRussa had a bullpen full of relievers from which to choose to work the 8th, but he picked the guy who pitched questionably the night before. The bullpen works, you just have to use it right. The game ended with Rocking Mike Gonzalez who is begging everyone to notice his quirky delivery.
Game 22 vs. Atl., W 5-3: Wainwright pitched six ugly innings in a win-is-a-win-situation. He allowed two earned runs, seven hits and walked five. Even though it didn't look like a victory, the bullpen combined for three innings of shutout baseball. The lineup scattered nine hits off of Javier Vasquez (mostly in the 5th inning) to scare up five runs. Every starting infielder (minus Yadi) had a hit and a run or an RBI. Then at the end of the game they all got together for a jumping group high-five. Not really. Teams that do that junk are dumb.
Game 23 vs. Wash., W 9-4: When you start a series with a team like the Nationals, you go in expecting to at least take the series. Southern Gentleman Mitchell Boggs got the start for the first game of the series and pitched pretty well. He let up two runs in the first inning and two in the sixth but in between struck out nine. Taking a 4-4 tie into the ninth inning, Ankiel got an RBI off of Dirty Hatted Julian Tavarez. Tavarez then walked Smokey Joe Thurston and then angered Jason LaRue's mullet with a hit by pitch. Not a Robot Tyler Greene singled past Ryan Zimmerman, and a misplay by Yes He's Still Playing Christian Guzman allowed another run. In total, the Cards collected five runs off of the Nats bullpen, aka the Reds Triple-A bullpen.
Game 24 vs. Wash., W 6-2: Over his last few starts Colonel Wellemeyer has had less than stellar outings. Pitching against the Nationals is a sure way to cure what ails you. Welley pitched seven innings allowing six hits and only two runs off a homer in the seventh. The Nationals future star to be traded for prospects Jordan Zimmermann had impressive stuff overall but was prone to the long ball. Fortunately for the Cardinals, they didn't have trouble ordering long balls from room service. Pujols, Duncan, Ludwick, and Smokey Joe all went daisy for the game.
Game 25 vs. Wash., L 1-6: Pineiro continued his diet of bread, water, and 2-seam sinking fastballs. It worked for seven good innings, save for one key at bat. Pujols was somewhere in the Atlantic towing a stalled ocean liner to the African gold coast so Chris Duncan took over for first base. In the fifth inning on an everyday popup, Duncan did what he normally does with popups and misplayed it. The Ryan Zimmerman at bat continued and he got a single. The next batter Magilla Gorilla Adam Dunn hit a three-run homer. Meanwhile, someone named Shairon Matis pitched a complete game and no hit the Cardinals into the fifth inning. Seriously. If there is a major leaguer who is in the witness protection program, this guy is it and I just blew his cover.
The final game of the sereis was rained out. The Cardinals are in good shape to maintain their good standing. The pitching remains very encouraging. Carpenter began soft-tossing and his return will be nice to have but not necessary to the teams success as they have proven. As I type this, Rick Ankiel has gone mustache first into the outfield wall on a fly ball catch attempt. Initial reports say he is moving his extremities. Given this teams' attitude and organizational depth (especially at outfield), this shouldn't be too much of a set back for the team.