With the exception of names like Adam Wainwright, Yadier Molina, Dexter Fowler, Marcell Ozuna, Matt Wieters and Matt Carpenter, the team is fairly young and new to the show. This year, in particular, has seen an assortment of Memphis Redbirds getting the call that they have always dreamed about. And that’s something fans need to remember as the 2019 season finishes up.
The 2019 St. Louis Cardinals started out hot. I had the chance to witness the magic in April when they played against the New York Mets. (They won the game 10-2.) Everyone was all in. This team felt right. They swept the Los Angeles Dodgers in a four-game series. And then something changed.
Injuries, weak offense, increased RISP/LOB %, and a struggling starting rotation plagued the Cardinals quick into the season. Heavy veteran hitters turned into golden sombreros. It wasn’t pretty.
I hadn’t personally noticed the change until I headed back to Busch Stadium the next month for a game against my one of my dad’s team, the Atlanta Braves. It was a great game. Probably one of the most memorable games that I’ve been able to witness in person. Unfortunately, the Cardinals fell short on a bases loaded, extra-innings walk in favor of the visiting team. The St. Louis Cardinals used eight pitchers that night, including the flame throwing Jordan Hicks and Giovanny Gallegos, the best kept secret in the National League. While my dad went home ecstatic, my ten year old cousin who had never been to a major league game before was bummed that his favorite team didn’t win in extra-innings.
(This was around the time that I didn’t want to admit it to myself, but the Cardinals were becoming my favorite team again so I went home with mixed emotions. It’s never easy when two teams you love play against each other. )
Against the Los Angeles Angels, the team lost Hicks to a torn UCL — resulting in Tommy John surgery. With the loss of Hicks, the role of closer was given to Carlos Martinez. Some fans weren’t pleased with the decision, afraid that Martinez wouldn’t be able to come in during save situations and keep the score in favor of his own team. At the end of June, the team finished 13-13, snapping a five-game losing streak while in California on that last day of the month — all thanks to the back-up catcher Matt Wieters.
As July loomed, talks of the trade deadline kept everyone on edge. The front office had expectations and so did fans. Paul DeJong became the well deserving All-Star and sole representative of his team in Cleveland. Marcell Ozuna, Matt Carpenter, and Yadier Molina took breathers while being on the IL, giving Tommy Edman, Tyler O’Neill, and Andrew Knizner time to shine and prove themselves amongst the veterans. Harrison Bader failed to produce at the plate and was ultimately sent back down to Memphis in hopes of finding his swing right before the trade deadline. (I’m a firm believer he’s going to come back and do damage.)
I have to admit, July was a fun time to watch the 2019 St. Louis Cardinals. Paul DeJong made history, being the first shortstop to hit three home runs in a single game (post 1900). Tommy Edman hit the first grand slam of the year. Paul Goldschmidt turned into Paul Goldschmidt, hitting home runs in six straight games. They even bamboozled the Chicago Cubs at Busch Stadium. It felt like the team had regained composure until it didn’t.
The beginning of August felt like May with five straight losses during another California road trip against Oakland and Los Angeles (Dodgers). The most heart wrenching moment of the season for me? Watching the Dodgers come back to win with two outs after the Cardinals had held them at 1-0 for the entirety of the game.
First place in the National League went back to the Chicago Cubs and the Cardinals slumped, playing tag with the Milwaukee Brewers for second place. Let me tell you, the NL Central is wild this season.
Despite the losses, the Cardinals came back home and fought hard against the Pittsburgh Pirates. A well deserved Lane Thomas had a chance to play and proved himself during the Sunday game — with a triple, a grand slam, and a strike from center field to Andrew Knizner at home, throwing out Adam Frazier. Sweeping the Pirates, the boys headed to Kansas City with the hopes of regaining first place. A notable moment for Paul DeJong happened in Kansas City, as he is the first shortstop in Cardinals history to have multiple 20+ HR seasons.
There is magic in this team. I know there is. I have witnessed it many times. I have also witnessed heartbreak with this team. They are fighting hard to stay in first place and prove to everyone that they are able to make it into postseason.
As of August 17, 2019 the St. Louis Cardinals are in first place for the National League Central Division.
(Photo credit: Andy Lyons/Getty Images)