Just when the Cardinals’ season was seemingly spinning out of control and the team on the verge of the Phillies sweeping them in four games in St. Louis, the team turned around and displayed its winning formula of strong starting pitching and power hitting. Turns out that all it took was a cupcake of an opposing starting pitcher (hold onto those batteries, Phillie fans — that’s just a joke).
You’re only as good as your next-day’s starting pitcher, as the saying goes, and with all due respect to Roy Halladay, who had an atypically poor showing, the Cardinals enjoyed a quick start to give the Phillie righty an early shower. But the saying is true in reverse, too: Your slump is only as bad as your next-day’s starter. The Cardinals had the resurgent Adam Wainwright on the hill, and even had the offense not returned to its wall-banging ways, the Cardinals would’ve averted the sweep.
Having lost some of its main run producers, as well as its lead in the NL Central, the team is having to “hold through the pain.” To do so, the Cardinals are relying on their Memphis farmhands, the latest of whom to be pressed into service being Matt Adams and Chuckie Fick. The youngsters are holding the fort well enough, and of course it’s easier for Mike Matheny to give them a turn at guard duty when the team is relatively safe from danger, as it did yesterday with leads of 4-0, 7-1 and 8-1. The team staked out an 85.8% win expectancy with Molina’s grand slam in the first inning, their WE never fell below 81.1% and it was 97.9% by the fifth inning. As a result, Matheny turned to his Redbirds and finished the game with six players with four years or less major-league experience.
The game-ending lineup was a shadow of the experience of the group with which the team opened the season. The Cardinals’ opening-day lineup and the game-ending lineup from yesterday, along with their experience in years:
|Po||Opening Day||Years||End of game 5/27||Years|
|P||Kyle Lohse||12||Mitchell Boggs||5|
|C||Yadier Molina||9||Tony Cruz||2|
|1B||Lance Berkman||14||Matt Adams||1|
|2B||Daniel Descalso||3||Tyler Greene||4|
|3B||David Freese||4||Daniel Descalso||3|
|SS||Rafael Furcal||13||Rafael Furcal||13|
|LF||Matt Holliday||9||Adron Chambers||2|
|CF||Jon Jay||3||Shane Robinson||3|
|RF||Carlos Beltran||15||Skip Schumaker||8|
The team these days has a potential for being about half as experienced as the regular bunch — with an average of 4.6 years of experience compared to 9.1. To put that in perspective, that’s about the same level of experience as the Astros feature in their regular lineup, the youngest in the National League. As for the veterans not on the DL, they occasionally need additional pine time, due to not-quite-disabling injuries (David Freese, Carlos Beltran) or simple game-to-game hazards (Molina, dehydration). The young players can backfill, but they’re clearly not the best that the team has, and the more innings they play, the more the Cardinals will be exposed. The idea is to avoid a repeat of 2007, when the team had only one regular appear in more than more than 127 games and had to rely too much on a talented but inferior bench. As PJ O’Rourke wrote, age and guile beat youth, innocence and a bad haircut, and the Cardinals will need their veterans, the contributions from their youthful players notwithstanding.