The Cards got a critical pre-All Star seven game stretch started off on the right foot last night, as Adam Wainwright pitched shutout ball into the 9th inning, and the Cards got to Yovani Gallardo early to post a 5-0 victory. After pitching out of a bases loaded jam in the second, Wainwright was brilliant in out-dueling Gallardo. With 3 on the road at Milwaukee followed by four at Wrigley this weekend, Wainwright's start was huge in getting this series off to a good start. The win pushed the Cardinal division lead to two games.
Other Cardinal thoughts and observations:
- What the heck was Skip Schumaker thinking last night, trying to tag up from first and advance on a fly ball to medium-deep left field?? Ryan Braun threw to the shortstop who relayed to the second baseman, and they still threw him out by 8 feet. The worst part was that it ended the inning with Albert coming up. The look on LaRussa's face was, however, priceless.
- Colby Rasmus appears to be the real deal. He's on a hot streak right now, homering in 3 straight games, but he definitely has the tools to be an elite player in the majors for a long time. In the past, I have advocated moving him if we could land a premier starting pitcher, but I think I am glad that didn't happen, particularly in light of how little offense we are getting this year from Rick Ankiel and Chris Duncan. Rasmus should definitely be playing every day, and hopefully his recent hot streak will keep him as a constant in the lineup.
- Ryan Franklin has REALLY stepped up this year, and deserves his All-Star bid. After watching the debacle last year as he, Jason Isringhausen and Chris Perez tried hopelessly to close out games on a consistent basis, it has been refreshing to be able to turn 9th inning leads over to Franklin and have him close them out.
- Having an effective closer is one of the biggest differences between the 2008 Birds and the 2009 edition. The other big positive difference is having a healthy Chris Carpenter in the rotation.
- The biggest negative difference from 2008 is the lack of power and offense outside of Albert. Last year, Troy Glaus was productive and Ryan Ludwick was having a career year. Rick Ankiel was also productive and supplied power. This year, Glaus is out, Ludwick has struggled mightily, and Ankiel and Chris Duncan are supplying almost zero productivity and even less power.
- I said four weeks ago that Aramis Ramirez would return this week.....just in time for a series against us. Ramirez is one of the three biggest Cardinal killlers in the NL, in my opinion, along with Lance Berkman and Carlos Beltran
- I still think the Cards have the payroll flexibility to make a significant add or two to the roster before the deadline......but that is a separate blog
- I think Ludwick (if he's not moved before the deadline) will be a key to the second half. The Cardinals simply MUST have a productive hitter behind Albert to be successful. As the pennant race tightens in August and September, there is no way Albert will keep getting balls to hit if we don't have a threat behind him. Whether it is Ludwick or someone else, the cleanup spot remains the key to the season.
Let's hope the Cards keep it going tonight and that Todd Wellemeyer can have a second straight decent performance.