Michael Wacha was hurt Wednesday night in St. Louis but the Cardinals rolled anyway, defeating the Arizona Diamondbacks 3-2 in 12 innings. It was the Cardinals’ fifth win in their last six games as they remain two games behind the Milwaukee Brewers in the loss column. Perhaps it is not a coincidence that it was the Cards’ fifth straight home game after playing 29 of their 41 games this season on the road.
The big story of the evening however was the status of Wacha, the second-year pitcher who along with Adam Wainwright anchors the Cardinals’ starting rotation. Wacha was six innings into a shutout when he was struck on his pitching elbow by a line drive off the bat of teammate Matt Adams while waiting in the dugout in the bottom of the sixth inning. Wacha was diagnosed with a bruise and taken out of the game as a precautionary measure.
Whether it was general manager John Mozeliak and manager Mike Matheny challenging the team last week or the shuffling of the major league roster, the St. Louis Cardinals have a different feel about them in the past seven days. There is an edge to their play and a confidence growing as the National League Champions appear to be settling into their season. It remains to be seen though if the Redbirds are taking advantage of inferior competition and playing at home or if this is the real St. Louis Cardinals, the team that everyone expected them to be?
A case could be made either way. St. Louis took two out of three from the Chicago Cubs and Atlanta Braves and will accomplish at least the same against the Diamondbacks. The Cubs and Diamondbacks have been miserable this season while the Braves have been one of the top five teams in baseball all year until slumping recently.
Conversely, the Cardinals lineup has finally woken up. While not yet at full throttle, Matt Carpenter and Allen Craig have picked up their offense lately. So too has rookie Kolten Wong, who has given the offense a jolt since his return from a brief stint at AAA Memphis. The Cardinals defense and back end of the starting rotation has been sharp too as Peter Bourjos and Shelby Miller have dialed up their play. Perhaps it is a combination of all of the above but whatever the reason, even with Wacha hurt, the St. Louis Cardinals are rolling.
The weakest part of the Cardinals roster for the moment is their bullpen and that unit just got Jason Motte back from Tommy John surgery that caused him to miss the entire 2013 season. Between Motte’s comeback and the return of left-handed starter Jaime Garcia the bullpen and the depth of the entire staff just got a major boost.
Oscar Taveras Gets Hot – Apparently following the cue of his major league teammates, AAA Memphis outfielder Oscar Taveras might be the hottest hitter in entire Cardinals organization at the moment. Taveras is considered to be one of the top five prospects in baseball and has been for a couple seasons now. Big things were expected of Taveras last season but torn ligaments in his ankle and subsequent surgery sidelined him for most of the season and made him tentative through spring training and the early portion of this year as well. Things have changed however for the player Mozeliak called the best hitting prospect in the St. Louis system since Albert Pujols. The left-handed Dominican born outfielder will turn 22-years next month and though the Cardinals do not have many holes in their every day lineup Taveras is the kind of prospect a team makes room for.
Even with Wacha hurt, the St. Louis Cardinals are rolling. From the majors to the minors Mozeliak’s organization is starting to hit on all cylinders this season. With a favorable schedule at the moment, the recent swoon of the Milwaukee Brewers and the revolving door that connects the Cincinnati Reds roster and their disabled list now is the time for the Cardinals to make their move.
Commentary by Mick Varner
Guardian Liberty Voice Sports Writer covering the St. Louis Cardinals