It seems like a simple concept, bordering on cliche: as Albert Pujols goes, so go the St. Louis Cardinals.
The past week has made this as clear as it has ever been.
Entering the week, Pujols was riding a slump, at one point going 15 straight at-bats without a base hit. After breaking the hitless streak with an opposite way single in Florida against the Marlins, Cardinals' color commentator Al Hrabosky made a prediction that Pujols would get into a hot streak.
Normally, when Hrabosky makes a prediction or gives an opinion, the smart money is on the opposite being true, but alas, Pujols proceeded to hit four home runs in the next three games, each of them appearing to still be going up when they cleared the outfield wall.
The team as a whole has ridden both streaks of Pujols', losing five straight to the Colorado Rockies and Marlins when Pujols could not buy a hit, but also winning three of the last four, taking the final two games in South Florida and splitting a pair in Cleveland.
Overall, the Cardinals went 3-4 this past week, which would have seemed like a blessing last Tuesday.
Just as the team has ridden Pujols' recent streaky play, so to have the bats in the lineup. They say hitting is contagious, and it would appear true looking at Rick Ankiel and Ryan Ludwick.
Ankiel has raised his average over 30 points, up to .254 from .220, since last Monday by batting .360 in the past seven games.
Ludwick has been in an extended slump since coming off the disabled list, but he has finally shown some signs, despite not having the stats to back them up. What was once a pop-up is now a well-hit ball. A sharp liner still counts as an out, but we will have to take what we can get.
The 13-4 victory over the Marlins Wednesday ended an astounding streak for the Redbirds in which they had not won a game giving up more than two runs since May 10. That is truly a testament to the pitching staff, who has been solid overall.
As the Cardinals contend for the NL Central in the second round of interleague play, it is becoming increasingly evident that the Cardinals need one more bat to be considered a complete team, whether that be Ludwick returning to his pre-injury numbers, Colby Rasmus continuing his month-long improvement, or Ankiel finally getting his act together.
Tony La Russa needs to be able to send offensive threats out there both before and after Pujols to make the Cardinals' offensive machine churn, but that machine is just one bat away from running on all cylinders.