Cards Need to Maintain Focus

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I would love to sit here and pour sweet kettle corn over the Cardinals.  There are times in a baseball season where restraint is required and this is one of them.   The Cards swept the Pittsburgh Pirates over the weekend.  It was great, energized Cardinal Nation and reminded us what the team can do when firing on ALL cylinders.  Things went right this weekend.  Will they continue that way?  There is no telling what will happen tonight but first, let’s look back the glorious weekend that took place at Busch Stadium downtown.

Their starting pitching was stellar, allowing a run in 20 innings.  Joe Kelly was his usual solid self.  Adam Wainwright returned to ace form with a dominating 7 innings on Saturday.  However, the biggest surprise came from rookie Michael Wacha on Sunday as he brought out the brooms in shutting out the Pirates for 7 innings.  The rookie hasn’t allowed a run in 2 starts against the two teams who are currently engaged in a dogfight with his ballclub.

Wacha was filthy on Sunday.  He made veterans like Andrew McCutchen shake his head after striking out.   The Pirates couldn’t do anything with the kid’s overhand delivery.   When he went into his windup, The Bucs saw a 97 mph sledgehammer coming towards them and couldn’t put a clean swing on the ball.   They hit some balls hard and well but everything found a defensive glove.   Wacha doesn’t completely fool hitters but he throws them off with his unfiltered delivery and ability to go from the 97 mph gas to the 80 mph breaking ball.   Like I said, he is downright dirty good on a mound.

The entire team played with a confident flair that has been missing for a long time.  They didn’t score over 10 runs in all three games and demolish the Pirates.  They simply dominated every night and didn’t allow them to breathe for too long.   We got the lead first and kept it due to solid starting, an engaged offense and a tiring if effective bullpen.  This wasn’t the deflated Cards who could only muster single game victories in Pittsburgh or require extra innings and a Starlin Marte drop to win a series at home.  The Cards came into the series down 1.5 games and left it ahead in the division by the same margin.   We flipped the switch.  The question is, can we keep it that way?  Can the Cardinals sustain this loving feeling or will they wilt sooner rather than later?  This 2013 team has shown the ability to pull a 360 from game to game.   They score a dramatic victory and then get beat handily the next day.  How do we react to this epic sweep?

Can David Freese and Pete Kozma continue their sudden September resurgence?  They collected hits over the weekend series that have been missing for months.   Freese got around on inside fastballs.  Kozma didn’t strike out once and drove in 3 runners.  Pete felt a boulder drop off his shoulders on Sunday when he laced an RBI double into left center and didn’t see 1,001 tweets announce him as the most wanted man in Cardinal nation.  Will it last?  If these two lost causes can produce more, the loss of RBI machine Allen Craig won’t feel like an atomic bomb was dropped on Busch Stadium this month.

Waino fixed his tell that allowed The Reds to unload on him.   It felt righteous out there on Saturday as he tossed curves at a deep lineup and saw bodies become anatomical pretzels and minds rewired.   There had to be a reason he was so bad last week.   The team’s standing general, Chris Carpenter, spotted a tell and informed Waino about it.  The ace fixed his methods and got back to collecting zeroes from other teams.

Matt Carpenter deserves consideration for not just the MVP of the Cards but the entire National League.   Carp is a classic talent and as versatile as any.   He has 48 doubles, over 175 hits, 56 multi-hit games, and an on base percentage that makes him highly valuable.   There is no crack in his armor.  He had a rough July but bounced back in August.  He is a long term star for this team.  Home grown.

Remember, stay cautious.   Don’t take this series for an extended celebration.  Drop the date off, kiss it and move on.   There are 19 games left against mostly feeble teams but the division is far from won.   The Cards need to be consistent now that the majority of their games come at Busch and against the Brewers, Mariners, and Cubs.   The only team that can hurt the Cards are themselves.  If we end up in the wildcard game, it was by our own hand.   That game isn’t desirable.  If we get the Pirates, it comes at Pittsburgh.   If it is the Reds, we get them at Busch.   Let’s do this.  Avoid that scenario by winning at least 10 of the remaining 19 games and staying strong.

The 2011 and 2012 teams didn’t slow down until they were finished or simply outplayed.  The 2013 team has enough talent to make it to the World Series because unlike other teams requiring trades and waiver deals to beef up their rosters, the Cards turned to doors within their own organization.  We have guys like Wacha, Carlos Martinez and Tyler Lyons to fix the leak in any rotation problem.  We have Matt Adams to replace Craig.  We have September heroes who are starting to put on their ass kicking boots.

Can the rotation stay up?  What will Lance Lynn do on Wednesday?   What will Shelby Miller do when his innings load increases by 12-18 more innings?  Will Martinez ever get his leash taken off?  The baby oil hasn’t left Baby Carlos yet and it could be an issue if further deficiencies occur.  Mike Matheny is starting to understand what his young guns can do.  He stood by Lynn to give him one more try while general manager John Mozelaik compared the mentally cloudy righthander to Jack Nicholson from One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.  Matheny has to be strict and reactive.

The fan base must be patient and smart.  Don’t get too worked up over 3 wins in a row and don’t freak out if the Brewers and Mariners find a way to beat us this week.   Keep watching.  Keep supporting.   Keep your head up and intact.   The baseball season is entering that final push to the playoffs.   It’s grind time.  Can the Cards maintain the heat?

For more of my thoughts, go to my website, doseofbuffa.com.  Until next time, thanks for reading.

-D. Buffa

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Author: D. Buffa

A regular guy who feels a journalistic hunger to tell the news. I blog because its wired into my brain to write what I think in print. I offer an opinion. A solo tour here. Take regular stories and offer my spin on them. Sports, film, television, music, fatherhood, culture, food, and so on. Commentary on everything. A St. Louis native and Little Rock resident who wants to write just to keep the hands fresh and ready.

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