We’ve talked about how close the NL Central race is, but it’s getting even closer between the three top dogs. The St. Louis Cardinals are tied with the Milwaukee Brewers and just two games behind the division-leading Chicago Cubs. Unfortunately, the Cardinals couldn’t make any major last minute trade deals happen to give them a boost in the fall, but that’s not going to stop them from trying to overtake the rest of their division before October comes around.
Their comeback win against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday was a little too exciting for some fans. After Pirates broadcasters predicted a strikeout, Lane Thomas hit a grand slam in the seventh inning to help the Cards take the lead over their division opponents. And while the Pirates might’ve fallen just out of reach of the top NL Central spot (although anything could happen), the Brewers, Cubs, and Cardinals are all still fighting it out to keep their playoff dreams alive.
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Cardinals Trade Rumors That Didn’t Pan Out
The Cardinals were seeking a starting pitcher for the top of the rotation or maybe a left-hander to help out on the mound. There were a lot of ideas on the table for the Cardinals back in late July, but none of them came to fruition. They were rumored to be looking at the D-Back’s star pitcher Zack Greinke (Astros snagged him) or left-hander Robbie Ray (he didn’t move) or perhaps the Mets’ Zach Wheeler (neither did he) or maybe the Rangers’ Mike Minor (nope, still in Texas).
Word is that the Cards could’ve put together a package that included infielder Jedd Gyorko, or perhaps Harrison Bader and Tyler O’Neill, or maybe some minor league prospects to get one of those guys. But it didn’t happen…
Instead, the Cards ended up trading the is-he-injured-or-is-he-not infielder Gyorko to the Dodgers along with some cash in exchange for left-handed reliever Tony Cingrani (who’s out for the rest of the season) and minor league pitcher Jeffrey Abreu. Needless to say, fans were outraged and, most of all, disappointed. Management wasn’t able to get the deal they wanted so they weren’t able to address any of the team’s major weaknesses going into the stretch.
Instead they’ll have to rely on basically the same team that’s gotten them this far. As for starting pitchers, that means like Miles Mikolas, Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Dakota Hudson, and Jack Flaherty, who’s probably their closest thing to an ace… or at least he’s been looking that way lately.
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Any Silver Linings for the Cardinals?
Yes. Despite all that whining about the Cardinals’ pitching needs, Flaherty is on an absolute hot streak lately. He threw seven scoreless innings against the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday, which extends his streak of scoreless innings to 23. Whoa. That’s a career high for Flaherty and second-longest streak of any pitcher in the league this season. Looks like the 23-year-old is stepping up when his team needs it the most.
More good news: Outfielder and slugger Marcell Ozuna has returned to the lineup, now fully recovered from a few finger fractures. After a couple of game-day struggles, he began hitting home runs again last week and had a productive day at the plate in Saturday’s game against the Pirates, knocking in a two-run homer to help the Cards defeat the Pirates 6-2.
Catcher Yadier Molina has also rejoined the team after over a month off the field with an injured right thumb. After missing 28 games, Yadi is back in the starting lineup and says he’s pain-free (even if his batting needs a little work).
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There’s a little more bad news though. Right fielder Jose Martinez is now on the injured list after knocking his shoulder into the wall while making a catch in Sunday’s game. Can’t catch a break, can they?! The silver lining here is that they’ve called up Randy Arozarena from the minor league Redbirds team to take his place. Arozarena hits the big leagues for the first time riding a 37-game on-base streak and batting .371 (that’s 13 for 35). Despite a surplus of outfielders on this Cardinals team and the uncertainty about how Arozarena will fit in, it sounds like they’ve picked him over Harrison Bader to replace Martinez – with hopes that he’ll pump up the offense!
The Cardinals begin a four-game series against division opponents, the Reds, this Friday in Cincinnati. The Reds are only six games behind St. Louis at the moment, so you can bet they’ll be fighting hard. Next week, the pressure gets even higher when the Cardinals take on the Brewers in three back-to-back games at home in Busch Stadium!
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