Are the Cardinals suddenly No. 1 with a bullet?
Why, yes—if by bullet you mean line drives cascading through the gaps of enemy ballparks.
This particular version of the team shouldn’t be confused with the healthy Cardinals rotation of Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright and Jaime Garcia from last season, when the Cardinals spent a lot of time leading the league in ERA.
The Diamondbacks and the Dodgers are major league teams, however, and the Cardinals exposed them. Up and down the lineup, the Redbirds swung hot bats.
The outburst came none too soon for manager Tony La Russa.
Earlier in the season, he stormed out of a media session after being probed with questions about his team’s lack of hitting.
Since then, La Russa has seen his team’s average climb to as high as .294 as of late last week and .296 as of last night.
Ever since slugger Matt Holliday returned, the Redbirds have been beating the daylights out of that sphere called a baseball.
Raking didn’t come easy for the Cardinals last season. They batted around .260 for most of the year in 2010.
This year is a different story.
Holliday’s average has climbed to well over .400 and he appears poised to have his best season so far in St. Louis.
Combined with Pujols, they could have their best season together.
The sky's the limit for this offense if that happens.
Speaking of Pujols—he's starting to heat up like the skies in Texas.
New York and Texas had suspect pitching behind their aces, but they put their bats together to make sure they’d outscore their opponents. It’s a winning philosophy for the regular season and the second round of the playoffs.
The Rangers advanced to play in the World Series after knocking the Yankees out in the second round. The Giants—that is, the Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jon Sanchez and Brian Wilson Giants—won the World Series because they had the best pitching staff in the Majors.
It’s a major change of events from what Cardinals fans became accustomed to since Mark McGwire took over as batting coach last year.
There were questions, mostly unvoiced and unwritten about, concerning the validity of his coaching.
That being said, nobody is questioning him now. McGwire is starting to look like the best hitting coach in the Majors.
He might even regain the nickname “Big Mac,” if he keeps it up.
After all, back when he was slugging 60 home runs per year, that’s what people called him in St. Louis. He even had his own Big Mac Land in Busch Stadium, where he deposited many homers.
More to the point, after slugging many home runs and beating the Dodgers 9-5 on Thursday night in the series opener, the Cardinals took a deep breath.
As hip-hop artist Fabolous said in his hit from a few years back—Breathe—“One and then the two, two and then the three, three and then the four…”
That’s exactly how the hits have been coming for the Cardinals of late.
The addition of Lance Berkman seems to have made a huge difference, too.
After the Cardinals had finished their fourth-straight game of banging out 14 or more hits, in the first game against L.A., 10 different Redbirds hit safely.
Breath in, breath out.
At this rate, the Cardinals will be at or near the top of the National League in hitting once again. They’re reminding me of the “MV3” days with Pujols, Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds.
This year, the Cards may have an “MVP4” in Pujols, Holliday, Berkman and Rasmus.
It’s still early and another collapse could come, but things are looking up for the offense all of a sudden.
However, while the Reds are known for their offense, their pitching is quite suspect. The same goes for the rest of the teams in the National League Central.
Milwaukee has Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum but not much after that.
The NL Central, in fact, could come down to having the best offense win it and the Cardinals appear to be in serious contention.
McGwire’s critics and bashers—including myself—have been forced to take a second look at the offense in St. Louis.
I still believe La Russa’s hiring of McGwire was more smoke and mirrors than substance. In fact, I view it as an image rehabilitation favor.
However, at least now the Cardinals are getting the type of hits that demoralize their opponents, according to Matt Holliday in Quinn’s report.
I just hope the Redbirds’ hitting doesn’t go off on holiday after the All-Star festivities, as it did last year.
For now, that’s the last from me—your friendly neighborhood seasoned writer.
Until next time, good living, loving and hitting.