Is there anything better in Cardinal Nation than having Chris Carpenter on the mound and dealing? What, you want an Albert Pujols home run as well? Sure!
How great has it been this year to see Carpenter at the top of his game after so many frustrating years of injury? To pair him up with an equally-as-effective Adam Wainwright at the top of the rotation? Losing streaks are almost guaranteed not to be lengthy with those two able to shut out the opposition at any time.
The lineup split evenly between being effective and ineffective last night. The first five hitters combined to go 10 for 19 with a home run and all five runs scored. The last four hitters (including pinch-hitters) were 0 for 14. If the whole team can get clicking at the same time, this four game lead over the Cubs will grow quickly. Mark DeRosa really looked bad last night, striking out three times and leaving four on base.
Right now, this is really a fun team to watch. As we discussed last night on the UCB Radio Hour, there's no one in the lineup (Rick Ankiel usually excepted) that you really wish wouldn't come up with runners on when the team needs a tally. With Todd Wellemeyer on the disabled list, you expect that just about everyone can give you a good outing on the mound and, if Jason Motte isn't pitching, most everyone in the bullpen can do their job of shutting the opposition down.
This team isn't perfect, obviously, but the gaping holes that existed earlier in the season have shrunk to hole-punch size. Looking at this team, especially comparing the pitching staff to staffs of the past, you can see a Series win within reason. I'm not projecting that, don't get me wrong, but it's not a crazy thought. (BTW, magic number now 45.)
Like I said, though, they aren't perfect. Getting another right-handed guy into the bullpen would seem to be the greatest need, at least if you are listening to Tony LaRussa. I have to say the whole John Smoltz talk was not that interesting in me, really believing that Smoltz was probably washed up. But when you look at his splits and think about him as a middle reliever instead of a starter, it might not be the worst of ideas. It's going to be tough to get a quality guy in here that doesn't involve some risk.
Troy Glaus is going back to rehab, saying that he feels a lot better and even is throwing better now. While I don't necessarily expect to see him in many games in St. Louis, if he could make it up by the end of the month (thereby being eligible for the postseason) and get some good at-bats in September, he could be an interesting option for a power bat off the bench come October. Not that I'm holding my breath on that, of course, because we all know how injuries and the Cardinals work, but it's something interesting to consider.
Shaq and Pujols get it on today, which should be the most interesting thing to come out of the off day unless John Mozeliak gets that reliever. The Padres come to town this weekend, though the Cards may not add a lot to their Central lead since Pittsburgh is visiting Chicago. Could gain a half-game tonight, though, since the Cubbies have to finish up with Philadelphia first.