You can always be sure that when a division or league is middle class, the St. Louis Cardinals will just rise to the top there. It’s their job.
On a night when Phyllis loses to the Orioles, and a month where the Reds are unable to make hay against the likes of tigers, pirates and cubs, and when the Padres break down, here comes the Cardinals nine-match winning streak. Like a Swiss watch watch, if Swiss watches are made by the mountains.
The cards got here because Tyler O’Neill couldn’t stop the ball from hitting incredibly hard (.901 ops in the second half), and their pitchers stopped people walking and let their plus-defense just play the ball. In the first half of the season, the Cardinals ’pitchers had the worst walking rate in the open length in the National League. Their third is the lowest in the second half. The St. Louis MLB has a third-best defensive efficiency rating, which means they turn the third-most ball out. Stop giving away free runners, and teams will stop getting a lot of runners at all.
Last night They got a sixth straight start from John Lester where he gave up two earned runs or less after having a Molotov cocktail after coming to Missouri. Looking at the statcast, Lester has largely abandoned his fastball, which nowadays can in no way break the wind, and exclusively goes to Rites to set up the other two from his sinking, changing and cutting the plate. It’s like rebelling against a development, as one can go through right now.
But that’s how they work. They both won the World Series with some middle team that was fantastic when no one else bothered to get up and take it. They won the NL Central in 2019 when both the Brewers and the Cubs were bleeding all over their noses. They even went to an NLCS, as the Braves had their own version of “The Leftovers” in the first inning of Game 5.
We can only hope now that it causes a kind of collapse. Sadly, the Reds, Phillies and Padres have already gotten quite a headstart for them.