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St. Louis Cardinals: The Turning Tide

Cardinals Celebration

The major league baseball season is a long, volatile, fickle mistress that spends anywhere from eight to nine months eating it’s players, owners, and fans alive. No matter the organization, nearly every day feels like an inescapable grind that is constantly beating it’s supporters and loved ones down even when they desperately need a break. Most of the time during the season, you just hold your breath and look for a turning of the tide and hope it’s waters are strong enough to catapult you through the gloom.

Well,”a break” was exactly what the Cardinals needed entering the weekend. And that is why I think that Sunday was the perfect “Day In The Life” of the organization.

It wasn’t a perfect day exactly, but it was as close to a momentum turn around as you’ll find at the major league level.Now, I’m not trying to gloss over the fact that Brett Cecil was hit once again or that the Cardinals blew a four run lead or that the minor league system went 2-2 on the day. And I certainly haven’t forgotten how tough the week leading up to the weekend was from a health stand point.

However, from the major league level to the minor league level, there was a LOT to be happy about on Sunday. Let’s take a look:

A Major League Debut

There was a lot of argument about the merits of calling up Magneuris Sierra for Sunday’s game over Harrison Bader and Jose Adolis Garcia, some founded and some crazy, but it was still an awesome moment to see the kid field his first flyball and get his first base hit.

He’s 21 and his bat isn’t major league capable YET, Going 1 for 6 in your debut is less than stellar, but to see him chase down THIS FLYBALL was a sight to behold. That flyball had a 35% catch probability and the ease in which Mags caught it has me excited as the dickens. He isn’t polished, but he is promise.

Arise, Like A Phoenix From The Ashes

While a 21 year old OF made his debut, a 29 year old OF was the catalyst for an important extra innings win that gave the Cardinals a chance to end the week in a tie for first at the top of the NL Central.

Tommy Pham struck out nearly 800% of the time last September(That’s not a real stat, I don’t think?) and had the entire fanbase rooting against him this spring as Jose Martinez dominated the Grapefruit League. When he was sent down to Memphis to start the season, it seemed like we would probably never see his name penciled into the major league lineup again, especially with the buffet line of candidates playing the outfield in the minors.

But, after Star Wars day proved that the force isn’t always with the Cardinals, Tommy Pham stepped in for the injured Dexter Fowler and Stephen Piscotty and proved to be the hero on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in Atlanta.

The next man up, a “Forgotten Man”, willed the Cardinals to a Sunday win WITH THIS 2-RUN HR in the 14th, his 2nd of the day and 3rd in 3 games.

Who In The Hell is Sam Casa Gallardo?

Cardinals Nation let out a collective sigh of panic when Sam Tuivailala was recalled from the minors earlier in the week to replace Tyler Lyons. We had already been through this song and dance with Tui for four seasons now, and here we were yet again holding our breaths in the 12th inning as the hard throwing right hander was called upon to extend a game that the Cards couldn’t afford to drop.

Babies cried. Angels fell from the sky. Twitter paniced.

But the 24 year old fire-baller that was once full of promise delivered two impressive innings that gave the Cardinals a chance to win. He even held his own after the defense let him down a bit.

This will be a very understated moment in the career of Sam Tuivailala, but if his career turns successful you’ll be able to point to this moment as the turning point. I’m willing to go all in on that.

Tui opened the season with the big club, but was quickly exiled back to Memphis after a less than stellar showing. Much like with Pham, you would have been in the minority if you would have thought that Tui would have had a chance to make such a positive major league impression for the Cardinals ever again, much less during the early parts of the 2017 season.

But on Sunday, May 7th, 2017, Mr. Tuivailala walks away with a well-deserved “W”.

And he did it with not only the fastball, but an impressive slider. Keep an eye on that.

Rehabbers, Rebirthers, And Re-Wacha

Marco, The Rehabber

On a day that the minor league system went 2-2, there was one individual pitching effort that helped to make Sunday perfect.

After missing all of the 2016 season following Tommy John surgery, Marco Gonzales made his first start since 2015 for Palm Beach in a 6 inning rehab start. The former first rounder struck out 7 and allowed only 2 hits while throwing 52 of his 73 pitches for strikes. Realistically, he is too good to be pitching at Palm Beach, but he’ll be pitching in the Memphis rotation by the end of the week and that’ll give us a better indication of where he is in his quest to regain his prospect status.

Either way, that is a dominant performance, and to throw that many strikes so early on while rehabbing from TJ is a rarity, as was the 70 game score. It’s as good of a first rehab start as you’ll ever see.

As great and as important as it was for the organization, Gonzales’ start wasn’t the only bueno start of the day.

Weaver, The Rebirther

I’ve said it before, but Luke Weaver is the most important pitcher in the organization right now. Without any other viable options on the 40 man available to the Cardinals if a SP went down, Luke Weaver will be the next man up if an injury were to occur. Weaver spent nearly all of April on the DL with back spasm/issues, and his reintroduction to Memphis has gone swimmingly.

That’s why it was perfect to see Weaver go 7 innings today while allowing 4 hits, 4 Ks, and zero’s up and down the rest of his stat line. Weaver has started his season going 15 straight innings without allowing an earned run. His game score of 78 has become ho-hum for him, but it’s a top 6 game score in the organization so far this season. Not bad for it only being his second unimpeded start of the season.

After a tough end to the 2016 season at the major league level, a tough spring training, and tough, injury-interrupted 2 inning season debut at Memphis, Luke Weaver prospect status appears to be birthed-anew.

Wacha, The Re…. Wacha… er

Those two starts were fantastic (as was Austin Gomber‘s stellar start at Springfield that yielded a Game Score of 68), but none were as important as the start from the biggest rotation question mark entering the 2017 season for the Cardinals: Michael Wacha.

Rewind to three months ago and many of us wanted Wacha in the pen with Alex Reyes in the rotation. From there, fast forward one month to a time when Wacha was pitching great but everyone, myself included, was still prepared for the worst from Wacha.

Well, we are one month into the season and Michael Wacha has held up superbly.

His Sunday start was arguable his least effective of his four starts this season, but if you would have told me two months ago that a 6 inning, 2 earned, 1 walk, 6 strike out performance from Wacha was going to be a let down, comparatively, I would have kissed you right on your mouth.

This is the same Michael Wacha that we all have been wanting to see take the mound since the 2015 All-Star break. It’s an awakening. And it couldn’t have come at a better time.

Sunday, Sunday

Then, to put a tasty cherry on top of the day, the Chicago Cubs lost a marathon 18 inning game to the New York Yankees, removing the Cubs from first place while being swept over the weekend.

Sure, it might technically have happened during the wee hours of Monday morning, but when the tide turns you can rearrange the hours in a day (That is actually factually inaccurate. Stop listening to me).

And, behold, your second place Cardinals and Third place Cubs. Now, I guess you focus on the Reds? Huh?

For a sport in which you are considered successful  even when you aren’t perfect, Sunday was as close to perfect as an organization can be from top to bottom. There is still a lot of baseball to play, but the tides certainly seem to be turning in the Cardinals favor, if only for a day.

Thanks For Reading!!

Kyle Reis

@kyler416

 

 

 

 

Kyle Reis
Kyle is a South City St Louis born and raised. He is 30 years old and grew up at old Busch Stadium. His favorite Cardinals player of all time is Ray Lankford. Kyle is an overly simple person who loves countable baseball statistics, following minor league baseball, and friendly discourse. He tends to not take people seriously that refer for the team that they root for as "we" instead of "them".
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