While much of the attention has turned toward selling assets and planning for the future, the second half of this season still remains. Last night was the beginning of a twenty game in twenty day slate to finish the first half. Starting with the series in Philadelphia, the Cardinals have a stretch of winnable games. Without many positives to take away from the early part of the season, the team still has hope in an underperforming division.
Matt Carpenter and Dexter Fowler have turned the corner and are hitting close to career stat lines. Those two were expected to drive this offense and that has begun to happen,just not in the order that was expected. Since returning from his leave of absence, Stephen Piscotty has started to look like the player signed to an extension this Spring. His two run double last night started the scoring in the seven run 11th inning.
The bullpen, which has been a major source of frustration, has seen the improvement of Brett Cecil. Holding the opponent scoreless in five out of his last six starts has given hope that Cecil is returning to a pitcher worthy of a multiyear deal. It’s very easy to say from the outside looking in, but it seems like the bullpen can continue to improve with incremental movement. Some of those from inside and possibly outside of the organization.
Rotation question marks
The starting rotation was the only strength of the team in the first part of the schedule. Regression has set in and put the club in a very difficult situation. The organization has reinforcements ready to plug holes left by underperforming starters. John Gant, a healthy Luke Weaver, and possibly Jack Flaherty have proven ready for big league exposure.
Michael Wacha has begun showing signs of fatigue and possible injury that he has battled in previous seasons. A move seems imminent with Wacha unless these next few starts are nothing short of spectacular.
Mike Matheny and John Mozeliak may have to face their most difficult decision since taking over the organization. Adam Wainwright has struggled his last two starts, allowing well above average hard contact. Wainwrights career in St.Louis has earned him a longer leash, but continued poor results will force the front office’s hand.
Look for Gant, Weaver and Flaherty to earn promotions soon. Marco Gonzales seems destined for the bullpen, which will add another strong left hander to the mix. The pitching staff in general can improve with a spark from the farm system.
The N.L. Central can keep hope alive
The Cardinals are very fortunate to play in the National League Central division. All the central teams seem to stay in neutral. The national opinion is that the Cubs will put it together and run away with things. But, that has yet to happen.
At the close of business on June 20th, the Cardinals stand 4.0 games behind Milwaukee for the top spot in the division. The Cubs are nipping at the Brewers heals but still only remain 3.5 games ahead of St.Louis.
The Wild Card race seems to be over, but expect the N.L. West teams to beat each other up and come back down to the pack. Trailing in the second wild card spot by 11.0 games will be difficult ground to make up, but St.Louis has head to head games remaining with all the teams leading that race.
This Cardinals team hasn’t given many reasons to remain confident. With possible reinforcements in Memphis to spark a stale clubhouse and a few trade chips, this team could build for 2018 and possibly have enough talent to stay relevant for 2017.
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