Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

MLB News

No Waino, no problem for determined Cardinals

Off to its best start in modern era, St. Louis proves it's built for success
MLB.com

ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals have their best start in the modern era. And they are doing this without their recognized ace.

The Cards are 19-6, but they are also 8-2 since Adam Wainwright went down for the season with a torn left Achilles tendon.

View Full Game Coverage

ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals have their best start in the modern era. And they are doing this without their recognized ace.

The Cards are 19-6, but they are also 8-2 since Adam Wainwright went down for the season with a torn left Achilles tendon.

View Full Game Coverage

What happened on Monday night at Busch Stadium typified the whole Cardinals deal. They were down, 5-0, to the Cubs before they had a chance to bat. They were down, 8-4, in the middle of the sixth inning. The pitching wasn't up to standards. After three straight extra-inning games over the weekend totaling 35 innings, there wasn't much pitching available for St. Louis anyway.

But the next thing you know, the Cards were 10-9 winners. The bullpen gets crucial outs. The lineup finds a whole series of timely hits. It all adds up to a seventh straight victory.

Video: Mozeliak on Wainwright's successful Achilles surgery

"If any team had the right to maybe shut down after what happened this weekend, this team could have had that," manager Mike Matheny said.

But the opposite happened. The Cardinals kept coming back.

"To me, that's the sign of a tough team, a mentally tough team," Matheny said.

"At the end of the day, this is a game and we love playing it," said first baseman Mark Reynolds, whose first-inning grand slam got the Cards back into this game.

What helps this team more? The remarkable organizational pitching depth, or the collective fortitude that the Cardinals bring with them to the six-month season?

"It's got to be both," Matheny said. "You've got to make sure there isn't this 'woe is me' atmosphere.

"Secondly, people have to step up. There are four other starts there that [Wainwright] wasn't going to be pitching in anyway. Then, can we do something in that fifth start, is there somebody that we can put in there that can pick up the slack? It happens every year. Somebody's got to do it."

The Cards are conducting rolling auditions for that place in the rotation. Tuesday night, in the second of a four-game series against the Cubs, lefty Tyler Lyons will get a start. Nobody will be asking for a performance at Wainwright's level. But competence will be required.

In the meantime, it is impossible not to notice the indomitable quality of yet another St. Louis ballclub.

"I'm beginning to see, and I think everybody else is as well, a certain kind of toughness about this club," Matheny said. "I don't think the circumstances are going to distract us from what we've got to do. It's just business to attend to. The weekend [a three-game sweep of the Pirates] was a nice series, now what's next?"

How do the Cardinals look to an opponent viewing them from a fresh perspective? They look like the National League gold standard.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon rhapsodized regarding the Cards' organizational history on Monday. And he wasn't wrong.

"That's a methodology they've built up and they have a way of doing things that's rooted," Maddon said of the Cardinals. "It goes way back to when Mr. [Branch] Rickey was involved here, way back to the nineteen teens, when the St. Louis Browns were more popular than the St. Louis Cardinals. And then they win their first [World Series] championship in the mid-'20s when Rogers Hornsby was manager of the team, after Mr. Rickey got taken out of that role. Then in the 1930s, they start developing a farm system and a method of training that was well ahead of everybody else. Then they teach the Dodgers how to do that.

"So they've been the trendsetters regarding how to put this method and this process together. Then you layer that with this fanbase, baseball fans who support this team and know the game. So bully for them, they've created this process and this method. We're in the process of trying to do the same thing with the Cubs."

The Cards are the only team in baseball to have reached the League Championship Series in each of the past four seasons. This season, they are not missing a beat, even though they are missing their ace.

There is something special going on, once again, with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com.

St. Louis Cardinals, Tyler Lyons, Mark Reynolds, Adam Wainwright