After getting embarrassed by their division rivals over the weekend in Chicago many seemed to think that the Cardinals, just maybe, weren’t really a contender for the NL Central anymore. After a three-game sweep of the Miami Marlins though St. Louis finds themselves just three games back before a weekend trip to Atlanta.
The Cardinals limped into the short three-game homestand with the Marlins, their record had fallen under .500 for the first time in over two months and their record in the month of June was a lowly 2-9.
It wasn’t an easy series for the Cardinals, it included game-winning hits in the eighth inning or later in all three games. Tyler O’Neill lined a go-ahead double off the ball in left field on Monday night, Paul Goldschmidt sent a walk-off home run into the right-center bleachers on Wednesday and Yadier Molina hit a hard ground-ball down the third-base line in the ninth inning Thursday afternoon to conclude the Cardinals sweep Marlins narrative.
Thursday’s win put the Cardinals two games back over .500 and ending a skid of losses in 12-of-14 games. The Cardinals are still in fourth place in the division after sweeping of the Marlins despite both the Brewers and Cubs losing three straight. The Reds, who are in third place, have won six straight, before heading West to play the Padres.
The Cardinals season has been marked by inconsistent pitching and a streaky offense, but they both seemed to find a small groove against the Marlins, but a short series is hardly enough games to really believe that St. Louis has figured it out. Here is a look at three things that changed against Miami.
Cardinals Sweep Marlins | Starting Pitching
All three of the Cardinals starters against Miami finished with a quality start, Kwang Hyun Kim and 23-year-old righty Johan Oviedo both had their longest outings of the season. The 39-year-old Wainwright allowed a pair of runs over six innings.
He has now gone at least six innings in seven starts this season, including three straight outings. Kim, in his return from the injured list, went six innings for the first time this season and was able to overcome five walks by allowing just one run.
Meanwhile, Oviedo looks to have found his command after going seven scoreless innings on Thursday and not allowing a run. In his last three starts, Oviedo only has three walks.
With both Jack Flaherty and Miles Mikolas sidelined until at least the conclusion of the All-Star break the Cardinals are being forced to make due with a makeshift rotation for the time being, but the weekend series can give them some hope that they can rattle off some wins in a long stretch of games against teams that are currently under .500 on the season.
Goldy is Getting Hot
The Cardinals offense far from blew up against the Marlins. St. Luis plated just seven runs in the series, but first baseman Paul Goldschmidt is starting to show some signs of a serious hot streak.
In the month of June, Goldschmidt is supporting a slash line of .286/.352/.531, which is good enough for an .882 OPS. The 33-year-old slugger has three hum runs in his 49 at-bats this month.
On Tuesday, he drove in both of the Cardinals runs. He singled to shallow center in the sixth inning to tie the game at one before hitting his walk-off home run in the ninth, his sixth career walk-off home run.
If the Cardinals are able to get some consistent power production from Goldschmidt, they would be able to have a pretty potent 3-4-5 in the lineup with Nolan Arenado and Tyler O’Neill both being consistent on-base and power threats this season.
With Paul DeJong returning from injury last week, the Cardinals lineup suddenly looks scarier if both he and Goldschmidt are able to produce some offense.
Bullpen is Putting it Together
Don’t look now, but the Cardinals bullpen has started to look better — and deeper — as of late. All season Mike Schildt has been able to trust the likes of Genesis Cabrera, Giovanny Gallegos and closer Alex Reyes, but they are starting to get some help from other arms.
Ryan Helsley retired all four batters he faced on Thursday, but it’s starting to become a trend for the righty. In his last three innings of work over four appearances, he hasn’t allowed a run, walk or even a single hit.
Andrew Miller also seems to have found a role in the middle innings since his return from the injury list. The lefty hasn’t allowed a run in his five outings this month, and his presence has taken the pressure of Cabrera being the only lefty in the bullpen.
The Cardinals started a set of 20-consecutive games against teams with a sub .500 record with a sweep. They get another opportunity this weekend in Atlanta against the Braves. One series sweep doesn’t cover up a laundry list of problems, but the Cardinals slowly looked like they might be getting things turned in the right direction.
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