Found May 03, 2012 on
Fox Sports Midwest:
Los Angeles Angels
St. Louis Cardinals
San Francisco Giants
Los Angeles Dodgers
San Diego Padres
ST. LOUIS They could get used to this. Their season is just a month old certainly not enough time to peek past the summer and consider the fall but the St. Louis Cardinals' place atop the National League Central could become comfortable.
Through 25 games, the defending World Series champions have shown little has changed since red-and-white confetti was swept from Busch Stadium on a chilled night last October. Despite a 6-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday, they own a 16-9 record, one of the best in baseball. They have won seven of eight series. They hold a 3 12-game lead in the NL Central before starting a six-game road-trip against the Houston Astros and Arizona Diamondbacks.
Sure, it's early, and that must be considered before all else. The Cardinals' 14-8 record in April was a surprise after so many unknowns How would they look with first-year manager Mike Matheny? (Strong.) How would Albert Pujols' departure affect the lineup? (Not much.) but the answers reveal a rising favorite within a floundering division.
And they're only getting started. For St. Louis, May could mean more opportunity to create separation.
"There's always room to grow, man," Cardinals outfielder Carlos Beltran told FOXSports.com. "We're just starting the season, and we're playing good baseball. Sometimes as a team you go through ups and downs. Right now, we're playing at a very high level."
Yes, they are. Beltran said those words the morning after his career-high seven RBI, four-hit and two home-run night on Wednesday clinched another series victory over a division opponent. By taking two of three games against the Pirates this week, the Cardinals hold a 15-9 record against the NL Central.
Their view from the top was pleasing before play Thursday. They were the only team in the division that didn't own a record below .500. They did it with steady play both at home (8-3) and on the road (8-5). They did it with key names such as ace Chris Carpenter (shoulder), first baseman Lance Berkman (calf) and outfielder Allen Craig (knee) missing significant time.
Certainly, the Cardinals will struggle. The season is young, and slumps happen during a grueling 162-game schedule.
But for now, with their identity still very much under development, they have reason to be confident with where they stand.
"Berkman's on his way back. We've got Craig back now," Cardinals pitcher Lance Lynn said. "We're starting to get all the pieces of the puzzle back together. We're still winning ballgames with certain guys out. It shows you we've got depth when we need it. We've got some good guys coming back, and we're looking forward to it."
How have they done it? A quick glance at statistics through 24 games shows why: They led all of baseball in RBI (131), batting average (.290) and on-base percentage (.821). Meanwhile, they were second in runs (135), hits (243) and team ERA (2.81).
Numbers only tell part of the story, though. The Cardinals jumped to an early NL Central lead because little has changed with their approach to business. There might be a new style of leadership in the manager's office. There might be some new faces in the clubhouse as well as some notable absences. But the attitude and expectations that drove the franchise to its 11th World Series crown last fall remain.
Matheny has made his tunnel vision clear. Before the loss Thursday, he spoke about how he approaches the season's challenges day-by-day "I don't have monthly goals," he said. "I don't have season goals. We just have daily ones." The series victories are a sign that the Cardinals are growing under his guidance. But like his predecessor, he seems driven by results of the moment, and that outlook is shared in the clubhouse.
"I don't think there are very many surprises," Cardinals infielder Daniel Descalso said. "I think we expected to come out. I think we expected to play like this. I know a lot of people in the media or outside this clubhouse didn't give us that kind of chance. But I think everybody in this clubhouse knew what kind of team we had, and this is what we expected to do."
To think, the Cardinals' lead in the NL Central could be even larger. The bullpen squandered leads against the Chicago Cubs on April 23 and 24. A loss to the Milwaukee Brewers on April 29 could have gone the other way if St. Louis hadn't batted 2-for-14 with runners in scoring position.
Much is yet to be learned about this team, of course, but May will teach us more. The Cardinals will see the Astros and Cubs again. The rest of the month's schedule includes first looks against the Diamondbacks, Atlanta Braves, San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres and Philadelphia Phillies.
The prevailing thought in the Cardinals clubhouse was that their April was good but had the potential to be great. They had a chance to finish 16-6 even 17-5 wasn't out of the question.
Now, they have entered May trying to maintain the focus that made them successful last month. If they do, the rest of the NL Central could struggle to keep pace.
"We've been very clear that we're not thinking any further than today," Matheny said. "Being able to look back and realizing that guys have played well and have the advantage to play well against the (NL) Central that's a nice start. Those kind of things can go away real fast. You have to be careful with how you go about it."
Caution is a healthy attribute to have. But moving through the early part of May as the class of the NL Central is nice as well.
BEST OF MAXIM
AROUND THE WEB
In the second inning of Thursday’s St. Louis Cardinals game, the club had two stolen bases. The first bag wasn’t much of a surprise, as it was swiped by Tyler Greene. After all, the infielder led the club in 2011 with 11.
Two batters later, however, both Pittsburgh pitcher Erik Bedard and catcher Mike McKenry had to be stunned with Cardinals hurler Jake Westbrook took second...
ST. LOUIS Slumping outfielder Carlos Beltran walked off the field after batting practice Wednesday and stopped to tell reporters how he felt lost at the plate.
He also had a prediction.
"Sooner or later it will change," Beltran said. "There's nothing to worry about."
About four hours later, Beltran proved himself to be right. The veteran went 4-for-5,...
On Thursday afternoon, the St. Louis Cardinals failed to sweep the Pittsburgh Pirates at Busch Stadium. 17 times during the 6-3 loss, a St. Louis hitter was sat down on strikes. Despite pitching just five innings, Bucs starter Erik Bedard collected 11 of the Ks, including a Pittsburgh-record seven in a row.
The 17 strikeouts is just one off the Cardinals’ worst nine-inning showing...
The St. Louis Cardinals have started taking batting practice early to avoid late-afternoon shadows.
Manager Mike Matheny said Wednesday that players can get a better read on the ball and get comfortable with their swing if the visibility is better. So the team began its hitting drills more than three hours before playing the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Lance Berkman, on the 15-day disabled...
The wife of St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Famer Stan Musial has died at the age of 91.
The team said Lillian Musial passed away on Thursday.
Lillian Labash was one of eight children whose parents owned a grocery store in McKean, Pa. Lillian and Stan Musial were high school sweethearts who married in 1940.
Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. said in a statement that the organization...
ST. LOUIS Lance Lynn may not be Chris Carpenter, but he's pitching about as good as the former Cy Young winner ever has.
Lynn continued a remarkable start to the year Wednesday night, becoming the first National League pitcher to reach five wins with 6 23 strong innings in the Cardinals 12-3 romp of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Moved to the rotation because of a nerve injury to...
Hot News for OF Erik Komatsu
ST. LOUIS She was the woman behind the Man. Many labels fit Lillian Lil Musial, wife of the greatest St. Louis Cardinal of all time: Compassionate, caring, a kind soul who taught others to love and live life.
Above all, though, she was Stan Musials biggest fan. It was a devotion that lasted until her death Thursday night at the age of 91 in her Ladue, Mo., home. Her husband was...
ESPN Stats and Info recently tweeted this. Carlos Beltran with 2 HR and a career-high 7 RBI vs #Pirates … in 1st 3 innings of game. — ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 3, 2012 This significance of this is that Beltran was brought into St. Louis to replace Albert Pujols. That’s currently two more
Quite possibly the most anticipated movie of the year, The Avengers, hits theaters today around the country.
Nick Fury is director of S.H.I.E.L.D, an international peace keeping agency. The agency is a who’s who of Marvel Super Heroes, with Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Hawkeye and Black Widow. When global security is threatened by Loki and...
Brian Walton’s Thursday report from St. Louis Cardinals extended spring training camp in Jupiter, Florida.
Pirates (10-13) at Cardinals (15-8)
8:15 PM EST–Busch Stadium, St. Louis
Here is the MLB.com Gameday
TV: ROOT Sports
The Pirates will need to be a lot better on the mound and in the field if they want to turn this series around and defeat the first-place Cardinals. St. Louis leads the Central and currently holds a 5-game advantage over the Bucs, so it’s crucial for them to at...
I’m not sure if it’s time to panic yet or not. Okay it isn’t. The pitching has gotten rocked as of late but before we bury these guys let’s remember that they have been very good for longer than they have been very bad. Every pitcher has bad outing. It happens. First Pitch: 1:45 PM [...]
The addition of outfielder Carlos Beltran, who leads the St. Louis Cardinals in 2012 with five stolen bases, along with a new approach by manager Mike Matheny, has resulted in the Cardinals swiping more bags at a higher success rate than in past seasons. - Photo courtesy of Getty Images
Former St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa will go down as one of the best manager of...