Manager Tony La Russa has waited virtually all season to play the lineup he had envisioned employing this spring. In fact, the eight regulars he expected to have started in the same game only five times in the team's first 92 games.
But now third baseman David Freese (broken left hand) and first baseman Albert Pujols (fractured left wrist) are back. Infielder/outfielder Allen Craig, a valuable reserve through the first two months of the season, soon is expected to return after being out more than a month with a broken right kneecap.
So the offense shouldn't be a problem. But three of the Cardinals' starting pitchers -- right-handers Kyle McClellan, Kyle Lohse and Jake Westbrook -- have only three wins since May 29. McClellan has lost five in a row, Westbrook rarely gets past the sixth inning and Lohse, a year removed from forearm surgery, isn't nearly as sharp or consistent as he was in the first two months of the season. Chris Carpenter has been much better lately, but he still has won only four of his first 19 starts.
The Cardinals' left-handed relief has been woefully ineffective, and there is some question about the right side other than young Fernando Salas, surprisingly strong as a first-year closer. The Cardinals could improve their bullpen by moving McClellan back there, but could they get another starter to replace McClellan in the rotation?
What seems to be a better option is hard-throwing right-handed rookie Lance Lynn, who has had several strong outings, becoming the setup man more often than not.
In short, the Cardinals will score plenty in the final 70 games of the season. The key will be whether a young bullpen and a spotty rotation can keep opponents from scoring plenty.
CF Colby Rasmus has struggled for two months, dropping into the .240s, but manager Tony La Russa said it wouldn't be fair to blame hitting coaches Mark McGwire and Mike Aldrete. La Russa said, "I've heard grumbling about, 'Why isn't Mark doing this?' or 'Why isn't Mike doing that?' They are here giving (Rasmus) work, whatever he needs. Whatever it is, they are here. But the stuff (Rasmus) is working on is coming from someplace else."
It is known that Rasmus
receives instruction from his father, Tony Rasmus, who was his high school coach
3B David Freese, back two weeks after recovering from a broken left hand, hit his first homer since April 17 on Sunday to provide the margin of victory for the Cardinals against Arizona. It was Freese's third homer of the season and just his second extra-base hit since he returned. He was dropped from second to fifth in the order with league home-run leader Lance Berkman resting.
Manager Tony La Russa
re-adjusted the planned rotation for after the All-Star break, moving LHP Jaime Garcia, who gained his ninth win on Sunday, into the series against the
Cincinnati Reds. RHP Jake Westbrook, RHP Chris Carpenter and Garcia will work at
C Tony Cruz, who got the game-winning hit Saturday, had seen time at first base and third base but was surprised to see himself starting in right field on Sunday. "Last time I played there it was probably … I couldn't even tell you, to be honest," Cruz said. "High school. College, maybe." Cruz was 1-for-3 before coming out for defense.
RHP Fernando Salas finished the first half with 16 saves in 18 opportunities. His one-inning stint Sunday followed two scoreless innings by RHP Lance Lynn, the former minor league starter who fast is becoming the new setup man.
BY THE NUMBERS: 2 - Times RHP Jake Westbrook has pitched past the sixth inning in his last seven starts.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "There is nothing bothering me with my hand or I wouldn't put myself out there in that situation to where I can't play. I think I'm a better player than that. I'm not a selfish player. If I feel I can't play, somebody else is going to have to take that spot. If I feel great, I'm going to be out there trying to contribute and help my ballclub."
- 1B Albert Pujols, on his fast return from a fractured left wrist.
LHP Brian Tallet (strained right intercostal muscle) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to July 4. He was injured while sneezing.
RHP Eduardo Sanchez (mild right shoulder strain) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to June 13. He began a rehab assignment with Class AA Springfield on July 7, and he could return to the Cardinals right after the All-Star break.
OF Allen Craig (broken right kneecap) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to June 8. He hopes to go on a rehab assignment after the All-Star break.
RHP Adam Wainwright (Tommy John surgery in February 2011) went on the 60-day disabled list March 25. He will miss the entire 2011 season.
Mon-Thu, July 11-14: All-Star break
VIDEOS FROM FOXSPORTSMIDWEST.COM
Tony TV: Cardinals manager Tony La Russa comments on what Sunday's 4-2 victory against Arizona means for his team.
David Freese and Jaime Garcia share their thoughts on Sunday's victory over the D-backs.