Cardinals show signs of life

The St. Louis Cardinals are one of the greatest franchises in modern sports. St. Louis has been to the World Series more than any team not named the New York Yankees, holding 11 titles.

This century, the Cardinals have been to the Fall Classic on two occasions and won in 2006 and 2011, but 2016 did not seem to be fitting into the pattern. At the beginning of the Major League Baseball season, the Cardinals seemed utterly stuck in neutral while the Chicago Cubs were geared up in overdrive. Before long, Chicago had built up a double-digit lead in the National League Central with St. Louis languishing behind both the Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates.

Fast forward to the evening of June 11, and the Cardinals have won four straight games and suddenly have leapfrogged Pittsburgh to climb into second place. If the season ended today – and it won’t end for another three and a half months, so hang tight – St. Louis would be in the NL playoffs, going into the Wild Card team as opposition for the New York Mets.

The Cardinals are no longer the team of stars they were back in the earlier part of the century when men like ALbert Pujols and Jim Edmonds hit in the middle of the order, or when Chris Carpenter highlighted a tremendous rotation with guys such as Jason Marquis and Jeff Suppan holding down the middle of the staff. This group is more about underrated players taking hold like Matt Carpenter and Brandon Moss.

Moss was a mess last year after being traded away by the Oakland Athletics, bouncing between the Cleveland Indians and then the Cardinals after a deadline deal. This campaign has Moss swinging for the fences once more, the reason he was an All-Star in 2014 for Oakland. Moss has a team-high 14 home runs and is giving the middle of the order some teeth alongside Matt Adams and Matt Holliday, who has 10 dingers in his own right.

Still, nobody is more important to the turnaround of St. Louis’ fortunes than longtime ace Adam Wainwright. Coming off a torn Achilles tendon, Wainwright was downright bad throughout April, posting a 7.16 ERA. May was still rough for Wainwright but he improved at the end of the month, notching a 4.62 ERA. So far in June, Wainwright has pitched 13 innings and allowed four earned runs, collecting two quality starts.

The Cardinals are still trailing the streaking Cubs by nine games in the Central, but this team knows well that a postseason berth is all that matters. St. Louis won better than 100 games last year, only to be swept out of the NLDS by Chicago.

Perhaps if the Cardinals can keep getting better throughout the rest of the season, they can return the favor come October.

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