As outstanding as it was to finally see the Cardinals
able to seal the deal against the Pirates
and finish off the sweep, it's far too early to relax. Even after dropping two of three to the Rockies, the Cubs are still surging, and the Cards are going to need to keep winning games if they want to stay ahead.
Tonight, the Cardinals open a three game series against Cincinnati, and in the very first game, we get one of the most intriguing subplots for the rest of the season. Kyle Lohse
, after struggling badly in his last start,
will be trying to bounce back and reclaim his spot in the good graces of fans, as well as his standing in the rotation.
It's been a trying season for Kyle Lohse, after signing a brand new 4 year, $40 million deal over the offseason. He started off like a house on fire in April
, posting a 1.97 ERA in five starts, then got blown up in May. His ERA in four May starts was 6.85, odd enough for a pitcher who had been so consistent since coming to the Cardinals, but that was just the beginning of the weirdness for Kyle.
A run of really odd injuries culminated in Lohse making the first trip to the disabled list of his career after he was hit by a pitch on the forearm, and the resulting injury made it impossible for him to properly grip and throw a baseball. He threw only two innings in one abortive June start before returning in mid-July. Since then, Lohse has been wildly inconsistent, alternating good starts and bad ones. (And really, I say good, but I mean adequate.)
The thing is, Kyle Lohse is probably one of the most important members of this Cardinal team as we all head into the stretch. Given the abundance of off-days, the Cards can mostly go to a four man rotation and simply avoid the pitfalls of letting Todd Wellemeyer take the ball entirely. (And yes, I know he's pitching tomorrow night, but I'm trying to just ignore that for now. I'll rant about it properly tomorrow, but for now, there's really no point in getting all worked up about it and forgetting what I'm talking about today.) But even if the Cards do manage to avoid any more trouncings on Colonel days, they simply can't avoid Kyle Lohse.
We've seen what a huge difference the new acquisitions have made to this offense already. This is now a powerhouse team, at least at the plate. The problem, of course, is whereas earlier in the season the rotation was doing some truly remarkable things to keep the team afloat, the pitching is now starting to look more and more like a real concern. Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright have both been tremendous, with Wainwright actually being a little more impressive, truth be told. Joel Pineiro has, of course, given us all reason to believe that pretty much anyone can turn into a Cy Young candidate in three easy steps, but two shaky outings in a row should, perhaps, give us all pause. I don't expect Pineiro to implode or anything, but let's face it: I don't think it was in any way realistic to think Joel Pineiro was going to finish the season with an ERA in the mid-2s.