Catching Up With the NL Central
It seems as if the changing of the months actually has no bearing on winning and losing streaks. Wide-eyed and hopeful on June 1st, I watched as the Cardinals were no-hit by Johan Santana. Now, i'm not going to put an asterisk on it despite the clearly fair liner that Carlos Beltran hit in the 6th inning. As much as it pains me, I want to give Johan credit for doing what every other Mets starter in history could not - and against the leading offense in the NL, no less.
Even though we haven't exactly gotten back to our usual winning ways, there are some very positive things happening. David Freese is back, as he proved the other night with a grand slam, a solo shot, and 6 RBIs. Shane Robinson seems to have suddenly remembered how to hit the ball. And Lance Lynn recently became the first Cardinal pitcher with double digit strikeouts since last year.
There are some changes being made in the bullpen, which makes me happy. What is unfortunate is that they had to come with Jaime Garcia's untimely shoulder strain. The rookie Joe Kelly will make his debut on Sunday in Jaime's stead. Linebrink has been released and the Cards have acquired lefty John Gaub from the Rangers, although he's headed for a stint in Memphis first.
Perhaps it will be good to get some new blood flowing in the clubhouse. Although I am realizing more and more that a lack of veteran presence due to injury is probably deeply affecting the group chemistry.
But what I most want to talk about this week is the fact that the Cardinals are now 3rd in the NL Central. The Reds have been on a hot streak and I can only hope it cools down. Joey Votto has certainly taken advantage of Pujols' departure and become the premier first baseman of the NL. And Aroldis Chapman has made an unforeseen splash as their new closer, giving up only one earned run the entire year. The Reds are battling hard for that spot atop the division. But we all expected that...
The big surprises in what most people consider a "weak" division have been the Pirates and the Brewers. I honestly thought this would be a 3-man race, I just guessed the wrong 3rd man. The Brewers have dipped below .500 and it seems that losing Prince Fielder has caught up with them. I find it interesting to do a side by side comparison of the Brew Crew and the Cards because both played in the NLCS last year, both lost a susperstar, and both have suffered a multitude of injuries. And yet, the Cards have remained a potent team while the Brewers have been struggling to stay afloat. At least we have that to be happy about.
The Pirates were a complete shock to me. I started out the season condemning their offense to my boyfriend and Dodger blogger who insisted they were a .500 team. Sure they had pitching, but who would be driving in runs besides McCutchen? While McClutch remains the only Pirate with a batting average above .300, they have managed to score enough support for their strong pitching staff to earn themselves a 2nd place spot. For now...Let's not forget how they led the NL Central at this time last year only to crumble shortly after. After all, I'm not going to forfeit my original prediction that they would not be serious contenders.
But you never know! And that's why I love this game. Here's hoping the Cards can soon catch up and reclaim first place - and here's hoping we start playing more like we deserve it.