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January 02, 2011


Heading into a big mid-August series with the Reds, the St. Louis Cardinals were sitting two games back of Cincinnati, a team that has been surpassing expectations all season long.  Despite having more star power and far superior starting pitching, the Cardinals have had only brief stints atop the division and have constantly jockeyed back and forth with the relentless Cincinnati ballclub.  But the Cardinals answered the call in a big way recently by sweeping the Reds in Cincinnati, making a clear statement to the rest of the division and league.  After the season concludes, the series could very well be looked at as the turning point for the Cardinals’ season.

As usual with the Cardinals, the series began with their starting pitching.  In the series opener, Chris Carpenter, who is having another monstrous season, went seven innings to give the Cardinals a big 7-3 win.  The victory also improved Carpenter’s record to a very impressive 13-3 in the process.  In the game, Albert Pujols continued his hot streak, smacking a couple hits and a big two-out RBI single to give Carpenter a comfortable lead early on.

Sitting just one game behind the Reds at this point, it wasn’t until game two of the series that the rest of the league took notice.  When Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips tapped Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina’s shin pads, the seemingly innocuous gesture soon erupted into the biggest bench-clearing brawl of the season.  The melee ended with both managers getting tossed from the contest and Reds starting pitcher Johnny Cueto mistaking backup Cardinals catcher Jason Larue for a member of the Cobra Kai.  But while Larue suffered battered ribs and a mild concussion, the Cardinals had the last laugh by taking the game and drawing to a dead tie with the Reds atop the division.

As the intensity between the two rivals heated up, the Cardinals also had the perfect antidote in the form of Adam Wainwright.  With the two teams locked at the top of the N.L. Central, Wainwright pitched yet another gem, going seven shutout innings to procure the series sweep and a full-game lead in the division for the Cardinals.  The outing gave Wainwright his 17th win of the season and plunged his ERA below 2.00.  If, or perhaps when, Wainwright wins the Cy Young, his start on Aug. 11 could very well go down as his banner performance given the importance of the circumstances.  With his growing stature around the league, Wainwright is a guy who is quickly becoming one of the best sellers of <a rel=”nofollow” onclick=”javascript:_gaq.push([‘_trackPageview’, ‘/outgoing/article_exit_link/3137123’]);” href=””>St. Louis Cardinals tickets</a>.

Of course, there is still plenty of baseball to be played and the Reds have proven that they aren’t likely to go away any time soon.  However, the Cardinals have had the more talented club all season long and are finally starting to pull it all together.  After somewhat slumping for a chunk of the season, Pujols is finally starting to swing a red-hot stick and the rest of the lineup has responded.  Batting behind Pujols, Matt Holliday is hitting .382 in the month of August, which should ensure Pujols gets some pitches to hit the rest of the season.  Filling in for the recently traded Ryan Ludwick, Colby Rasmus has also picked it up as of late and hit a towering grand slam to spur the Cardinals on in the final game of the series against the Reds.

If the brawl in Cincinnati was any indicator, though, the division race should continue to be an intense battle right up to the end of the season.  But as long as the Cards can stay away from the right foot of Johnny Cueto, they’ve now put themselves in a great position to win the division and challenge for the National League pennant.




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