Post Content Cardinals News
5:39 AM UTC
BOSTON — If the Cardinals go on and somehow wrangle their way out of their worst start in 50 years, rack up a 16th straight winning season and dominate their division a second straight time, undoubtedly, they will point back to their play over the past week as a key turning point.
Beating the arch-rival Cubs two of three times at Wrigley Field and then demolishing the Red Sox in the final game of a three-game series sweep at Fenway Park could go a long way in turning around a Cardinals season that was seemingly headed nowhere fast just a week ago. On the heels of rallying past Boston in the ninth inning in consecutive games, the Cardinals rode home runs from Nolan Arenado, Paul DeJong and Andrew Knizner for a 9-1 victory on Sunday and the franchise’s first-ever sweep of the Red Sox.
“This reminds us that we are a playoff team despite our bad start, the talent is there, and we are a very good baseball team,” said Miles Mikolas, who limited the Red Sox to one run, four hits and two walks over six innings on Sunday. “A good road trip like this helps and coming back late in games and showing that we have what it takes when the game is on the line is huge for us.”
No one was more impressive over the sweep of the previously surging Red Sox than Arenado, the superstar who was 2-for-5 with a home run and four RBIs on Sunday. In the series, Arenado homered three times, had hits in seven of his 14 at-bats and drove in seven runs.
After enduring one of the worst starts to a season of his career, Arenado said he felt almost personally responsible for the Cardinals’ wretched play in April. However, after helping the Cardinals to a sweep of Boston and hitting well in one of his favorite parks because of the enormous target that The Green Monster poses in left field, Arenado believes the team’s play over the past week is more representative of the talent on the roster.
“Obviously we’ve got to take this back home against a division rival in Milwaukee and L.A., who is also playing good ball, but this was a really good road trip for us,” Arenado said. “We needed this and we needed to show that we can play this type of ball. Hopefully we can continue it.”
Despite a start that left them as far back at 10 games off the lead in the National League Central, the Cardinals felt they were never that far away from getting untracked. Bedeviled so often early in the season by shaky starting pitching, spotty hitting and a leaky bullpen, St. Louis seemingly created ways to lose heartbreakers over an extended stretch. The low point, obviously, was the eight-game skid — one that included series sweeps by the Dodgers and Angels — that preceded this rebound where they have suddenly won six of seven games.
“To get back on track and with the way we’ve done it against two good teams and with a style of play that’s been really good, that’s big,” manager Oliver Marmol said. “I know I’ve said it several times, but that clubhouse is trusting one another, and that’s a big part of this whole thing. So, a really positive road trip, for sure.”
St. Louis beat the Red Sox on Friday and Saturday by coming alive late in the game and rallying for three runs in the ninth off closer Kenley Jansen. On Sunday, the Cards left little doubt and didn’t need a rally by hammering out 14 hits and smashing two of their three long balls over The Green Monster. Lars Nootbaar had a three-hit night from the leadoff spot, while DeJong (second-inning home run for an early lead), Alec Burleson (two hits in relief of the injured Dylan Carlson) and Knizner (two hits, including a 432-foot homer that left the bat at 106.8 mph, per Statcast) contributed from the bottom of the lineup.
“Finally, we’re getting some momentum, everybody is playing well, guys are hitting, and our pitching is good,” said Knizner, who will move back into a reserve role on Monday with Willson Contreras returning to a catching role. “This past series is who we are as a team — that’s playing a complete game over nine innings and just attacking every single pitch.”
Back on track, the Cardinals have the feel of a team that can totally dig out of their horrendous start, Mikolas said.
“We’re winning games and we’re happy,” Mikolas said. “We were tired of being sad because no one likes being sad. I think it just got to a point where we got tired of it and tired of losing. You have to get the job done, and that’s what we did.”