It wasn't necessarily a perfect series against the Padres this weekend, but it definitely was a positive one. The Cards never lost any on their division lead and were able to push it out to eight games. They may have lost a pitcher, but they may have gained one (or at least more than they thought) as well. Let's take a look at the last four games.
Thursday (5-1 win)
Hero: Brendan Ryan. You don't need to hand much of a lead over to Joel Pineiro, but Ryan gave him plenty with his first career grand slam.
Goat: Colby Rasmus. Tough night for the rook, with an 0-3 plus an error.
Notes: Another stellar outing for Pineiro. It might not last after this season, and I don't think the Cards should go nuts trying to keep him, but it's very enjoyable while it lasts.....We have a scoreless Jason Motte sighting! Granted, it was just a third of an inning, but it's something, right?
Friday (4-0 loss)
Hero: Talk about a tough one. Nobody stands out in this game, but I guess I'll go with Mark DeRosa, since he went 1-3 and walked, leaving no one on base.
Goat: Hate to give it to a guy that wound up leaving injured, but Kyle Lohse didn't look that sharp even before the injury.
Notes: Really not much going on here. Nobody stood out in good ways or bad ways. I would have liked to seen Blake Hawksworth get stretched out some, but that's a minor point.
Saturday (7-0 win)
Hero: Chris Carpenter. Seven innings, three hits, no runs. Plus he took over the ERA lead from Tim Lincecum as well.
Goat: Albert Pujols. Three strikeouts in a game for AP doesn't happen often. Nine times in his career, in fact, and it'd been over a year since his last one.
Notes: Matt Holliday had another good game, smashing a home run among his two hits. Joe Strauss indicates via Twitter that the Cards could start working on 2010, with the implication that they'll be talking to Scott Boras very soon.
Sunday (5-2 win)
Hero: John Smoltz. I'm not sure what the expectations were for Smoltz going into this game. We'd seen the Boston results and, while there was hope for improvement, I'm pretty sure no one expected him to set any kind of strikeout record.
Goat: Rick Ankiel. 0-5, 3 K, 6 LOB. That's not a pretty line.
Notes: The Jason Motte scoreless appearance streak was pretty short as he gave up (what else) a home run in this game....Ryan Franklin apparently channelled his inner Izzy, making the game way too interesting in the ninth before locking down the save....Apparently Pujols didn't care too much for Will Venable's style of play, criticism that was justified, according to some.
So the Cards enter yet another off day, their fourth of five this month, sitting eight games ahead of the Chicago Cubs and with a magic number of 31. You know John Mozeliak is pretty happy with how things are going and is feeling much better about his public relations than he was this time last year.
It's not a walk to the playoffs, though. The eight-game cushion is nice, but we'll really see what this team has in store over the next series, when Houston throws Wandy Rodriguez, Roy Oswalt and Brian Moehler at the Cards. All of those pitchers have given the team fits before. Having Adam Wainwright and Carpenter going in the series helps, but winning this series should go a long way toward quieting any fears about the long-term viability of this club.
Speaking of the Astros, we'll be having a guest post here from James of Astros County either later today or tomorrow taking a look at the series.
Somehow this weekend I wound up making a spirited defense of Chris Duncan's time in St. Louis. If you want to chime in on either side, feel free to do so. Enjoy the offday!