The crazy dog days of August
A week ago the Cardinals were in the midst of a big winning streak. I wrote about it. This was season saving stuff, something to enjoy but not something you could count on to last. Well, so far it has. Since, the Cardinals have won five of six against other National League contenders, adding on their seventh and eighth-straight series wins, something the franchise hasn't done since 2009. They are now more likely to make the playoffs than not (although still hovering just over 50 percent), an absurd notion a mere four to five weeks ago.
For the month of August the Cardinals are 17-4. The last two Cardinals teams to make the World Series never had a 21-game stretch like that. It's true. The 2011 squad topped out at 16 wins in 21 games as they were making their mad dash to the playoffs that September. In fact, go back the last ten seasons and only the 2015 and 2009 squads can match these past 21 games.
And then there's this: All four losses this month have been by one run. They've had a few lucky breaks (missing Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw was certainly nice), but they've also been in every single game. And of those one-run losses, only one of them was actually painful - the opener against Miami when Yadier Molina grounded into a double play to kill the rally and end the game. That one hurt. The other three losses weren't really squandered in any fashion that I recall, they were just good, competitive games. And that's why I say with confidence that this is the most pleasing stretch of Cardinals regular season baseball since the end of the 2011 season.
Two weeks ago it was possible that the Cardinals would make the playoffs, now it's very possible, but they're still marching towards "very likely" territory. Win another series this weekend in Colorado (although probably wise to never count on anything at Coors), and then 19 of the remaining 31 games are at Busch Stadium. Again, opportunity is right there.
Wong's dazzling play and highlight truthers
By now you've seen the fantastic play that Kolten Wong made in Los Angeles several nights ago. For good measure, let's watch it again anyway.
Even in this age of advanced defensive shifts, that looked a sure-fire hit off the bat. That's the first thing I love about this play. Second was the way Wong regained his footing just enough to throw a perfect dart across the field and nab Justin Turner. It was a perfect, bang-bang sequence that would have been diminished had Turner been a step faster or (somehow) a step slower.
And on that front, if you so desire, you can find a few rambunctious souls on Twitter downplaying the sheer difficulty of this play because Wong didn't cover a ton of ground to reach the ball (nonsense), because he didn't field the ball cleanly but rather smothered it with his body (eh, who cares), and because it was only made possible by Turner moving up the first base line like a sloth (again, who cares). Every baseball play is composed of several moving parts. Willie Mays's catch in the 1954 World Series doesn't exist if Vic Wertz gets a bit more wood on the ball. Kerry Wood doesn't strike out 20 batters in 1998 if the Astros are collectively having a better day at the plate (and without the generous strike zone). Same thing here. Don't be fooled, this was a great play.
Going forward, I suggest a special court where highlight truthers must first report to and show cause. These people need to be regulated.
Wong at the plate
In mid-June I was running the Birds on the Black Twitter account for a game and made the following observation.
In 157 plate appearances since, Wong is hitting .297/.368/.478, good for a 130 wRC+. Add in his gold glove defense (on that front, this is a good read), and Wong is currently one of the best second basemen in all of baseball.
Matt Holliday returns
The Rockies signed and called up Matt Holliday recently. He saw his first action yesterday and went 0-3. Nevertheless, it's hard to find a better feel-good-story right now than Holliday returning to the team who drafted him 20 years ago and where he first became a household name in the world of baseball. This also means he'll be active for this weekend's series with the Cardinals, of course. And as Craig Edwards noted yesterday at FanGraphs, there's potential for more value here than just some solid nostalgia.
And anyone else want to watch this? Let's watch this.
Recent words written about baseball that are worth reading
Ray Lankford was a bridge to the modern Cardinals by Ben Godar of Viva El Birdos. Ray Lankford (along with Vince Coleman and Harry Brecheen) was inducted into the Cardinals Hall of Fame this past weekend. Read here why he was a vital staple in St. Louis while the organization was battling through one of their mediocre periods.
How Cardinals' Kolten Wong managed to pull off one of the best defensive plays of the MLB season by Dayn Perry of CBS Sports. Okay, so this is a much better breakdown of Wong's play than what you will find above. Much more visually stimulating, too.
Kolten Wong: ‘If I don’t win the Gold Glove, there’s something wrong with it’ by Mark Saxon of the Athletic ($). Give Kolten Wong the Gold Glove or the award will forever be meaningless and/or he will fight you.
That will do it. Have a great weekend, everyone. And go Cardinals.