(Baseball StL) -- In golf, they refer to the third round of tournament play as “moving day,” meaning that’s when some golfers rise to challenge and exert their will and others fade like sickly school children.
For the St. Louis Cardinals, dawn is breaking on moving day.
The next 30+ days will tell us whether we’ll be raking the yard in October or watching baseball at Busch Stadium.
After the Padres and Phillies leave town, the Cards travel to division-leading Atlanta for three, then to Pittsburgh for a monstrous five-game series followed by three more in Cincinnati.
Five games in someone else park is Dante’s ninth circle of hell. What you fear most as a manager is a hitting slump that doesn’t allow you to get into a position to compete in the late innings. Kind of like the National League in the All-Star snooze.
The Pirates don’t hit well so playing them is like being nibbled to death by a duck. But they are fundamentally sound with an excellent bullpen which means low scoring games and thus the need for situational execution, like hitting cut-off men, successful sacrifices, moving runners and no loss of concentration in the field. That is demanding and exhausting and their reward for completing the five-game gauntlet is an all-expense paid trip to Cincinnati to face the increasingly desperate Reds who will be watching with glee the outcome of all five games.
The return to Busch on August 5 is not a day at the beach either, as the surging Dodgers come in for four, followed by the pesky Cubs who don’t realize how inferior they are to the Cardinals and thus play better than they are capable.
The home stand ends with three more against the Pirates, making eight games with them in three weeks. In fact, the Cards still have 14 games left with the Pirates, eight of those in Pittsburgh, and 10 with the Reds, seven at Great America Ballpark. The Cardinals demonstrated ability to play very well on the road will but put to the test.
Before we even get to Pittsburgh though, the Cards have to make the most of the six games left in this home stand. The Reds and the Pirates play three in Cincinnati while we’re playing the struggling Padres and a chance for a little distance between us and one of them. But then the cheese gets a little more binding because unless the Phillies dump their aces and surrender before next Tuesday, the Birds have to wade through a couple of the toughest pitchers in the game.
In baseball they say it doesn’t matter who you play, only when you play them. All teams have stretches when they are playing exceptionally well and some when they’re not.
The thought of playing the Pirates eight times when you’re not playing well and they are is one of the reasons managers don’t sleep at night.