And then Albert Pujols shows up and makes them even better.
Two big home runs, including one that was a personal milestone for El Hombre, kept his MVP candidacy along. If Tim Lincecum is out for any period of time, I think we'll get a repeat of 2005 with AP and Chris Carpenter winning the big awards. Hopefully the postseason will go better than '05 did, though.
While there's been a lot of speculation about the grin shared between Julio Lugo and Pujols after his first clout, I'd like to think either AP called it or it was relief that he finally got on the home run board against Jeff Suppan. Suppan was the pitcher he'd had the most ABs against without going deep. That title now goes to Wandy Rodriguez, who has faced Pujols 34 times (28 official ABs) and not let him leave the yard. The Cards have a three game set in Houston in a couple of weeks--maybe he can mark another off the list as well. (After Wandy, there's a few retired guys before Brandon Webb at 23 AB/26 PA.)
You can't overlook Wainwright's day, though. He proved that the hiccup in Pittsburgh was just that, throwing seven more scoreless innings. If he'd just been a little more judicious in how many pitches he'd thrown, the game had been closer, or the lead wasn't 11.5, he might have gone for his first shutout. The rate he's going, though, he'll get one and it won't be that long.
Kudos also go to Colby Rasmus. After Tuesday's game where he pinch-hit, it was thought that he'd sit out yesterday's affair. Instead, he gets two hits, including a triple, drives in a run and scores two. Must have heard me say something about JD Drew and decided to prove he wasn't the next iteration of him.
Rough day, however, for Skip Schumaker, who went 0-5 in the leadoff slot. It happens, of course, but you hate seeing the leadoff guy not getting on base.
Matt Holliday tripped over first base (that so sounds like something I would do) and left the game early yesterday, but all reports seem to indicate he's fine and should be in the starting lineup Friday. I'm sure somebody will harken back to this if he slumps the next few days, but it really does sound like it's nothing terribly serious.
Mark DeRosa is definitely having surgery after the season is over. I thought that was already a given, but apparently that was just an option until recently, when it became clear it was the only option. That should give the Cards an edge in resigning him, as he may not be willing to take his chances on the open market coming off surgery. Hopefully that also means the Cardinals can get a little bit of a discount on bringing him back to hedge against the possibility that the surgery takes longer to heal from than expected, a common occurance among Cardinal players.
I was listening to a little bit of Mike and Mike this morning when they had Tim Kurkjian on. They were talking about the Cardinals and how they are "the team to beat", at least in the National League. One part of me likes hearing that, likes seeing the Cardinals get some recognition and getting an opinion validated by those that aren't as close to the situation (and, in theory, less positively biased).
Another part of me, though, was wary. How often is "the team to beat" beaten in the playoffs? Were the Phillies the team to beat last year? The Cards in '06? The White Sox in '05 or the Red Sox in '04? Seems like those dominant teams can get through the first round, but might have trouble later on. The '04 and '05 Cardinal squads probably were considered the team to beat, though I still think having Carp in the '04 playoffs would have kept the Curse going a while. Still, they didn't win, so seeing that tag on St. Louis causes a little anxiety.
Joe Strauss is having his weekly chat today, so you might look over there for some updates on Holliday and other facets of the Cardinal team.
The magic number is doubly serious. It's another one of those off-days, so we'll take a look at the Atlanta series tomorrow.