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Cardinals offense roars in Houston

Posted Friday, June 8, 2012, at 9:34 AM


The Cardinals found the offense that was missing in New York this week in Houston. Apparently it took an early flight and arrived while the Cardinals were still facing the Mets.

In three games at Houston this week the team has scored 26 runs. That's more than the New York Mets scored against the Cardinals in the recent four-game series.

Sadly, to score that many runs should have made for an easy sweep, but those things happen. Without the epic Jaime Garcia collapse, it likely would have been.

There are several positive things to be taken from the series at Houston.

* Lance Lynn - I almost gave David Freese top billing today, but I still think without Lynn keeping the Cardinals in the game, it doesn't reach the offensive explosion that happened in the 7th inning. Lynn, with his 11 strikeouts, only pitched six innings, but they were six huge innings for the Cardinals. He struggled early on, but quickly settled in and dominated the Houston lineup. His nine wins tie him with R.A. Dickey for the most wins in all of baseball.

Now I'm going to take a small stretch. Lynn has five starts remaining before the July 9-12 All-Star Break. If he can win three of those starts, he would have 12 wins at the break. That's definitely a realistic number. With 15 or 16 remaining after the break, if he only won half he could feasibly hit 20 wins.

I know it's early to talk about it, but if you look at the numbers, it's not far-fetched. That would even leave room for a small slump and some minor struggling. He has definitely earned an All-Star berth. May not get voted on, but hopefully will be a managerial selection at worst.

* David Freese - Freese had a huge night on Thursday. After starting the night with three strikeouts, he comes back with a grand slam and a two-run homerun. He was responsible for six RBIs and drew a walk as well.

Freese, who struggled throughout May, has had four hitless games in the last 10, but still posts a .286 average over the period. He has now hit safely in five straight games and will hopefully use this as a turn-around point.

If what he did on Thursday night didn't help him, nothing will. It was nice to see him come back to life. To be successful, the Cardinals will need good production from him.

* Offense - The Cardinals offense came back from recess since arriving in Houston. On Thursday night alone, Rafael Furcal, Allen Craig, Matt Holliday, Shane Robinson and Freese all had multi-hit games.

Before you get too excited, it was against Houston. I'm not discrediting them, just saying that there are much more difficult pitching staffs to face around MLB and that we should take the last three games for just what they are-a positive sign for an offense that had a rough weekend.

* Bullpen - The bullpen that has struggled all through the month of May also had an impressive week in Houston. The bullpen in three games threw 12.1 innings, gave up 14 hits (that's the rough part) and surrendered only two earned runs with three walks and 12 strikeouts.

Those are good numbers for any team. Again, without the Garcia collapse on Tuesday, this could easily have been a sweep. Whatever is going on in the bullpen this week, they need to keep it up. I still don't want to make a hasty judgment until we know how they do against Cleveland this weekend.

The team should be glad to wrap up its longest road trip of the season and head home for nine games against American League opponents. They managed to hang at .500 (17-17) on the road trip, but to have Atlanta in the rear view mirror and not face the Mets again until September has to be a load off of their shoulders.

Things seem to be looking up for the Cardinals at the moment. If they can carry that momentum home this team should be fine. Remember, it's a very long season.


To submit a question for the Balls & Strikes Mailbag, either e-mail cnoles@dailystatesman.com, call (573)624-4545, or fill out the form at dailystatesman.com/blogs/coreynoles/

Follow him on Twitter @coreynoles

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Corey Noles, staff writer for The Daily Statesman and Editor of The North Stoddard Countian, is the author of a regular baseball/St. Louis Cardinals column and also uses his blog to sound off on various happenings in sports. He also operates a weekly baseball mailbag column.

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