I can't say this too loudly in the company of Cubs sympathizers Behrens and Evans, but the Cardinals have become one of my favorite clubs to watch over the last few years. Busch Stadium is a fantastic atmosphere for a ballgame, the uniforms are timeless, the fans are knowledgeable – and getting a little fantasy kickback at the end isn't such a bad thing, either.
The AL-to-NL gravy train isn't limited to pitchers; stay in St. Louis for a minute and consider what's happened to Matt Holliday(notes) and Julio Lugo(notes) in the second half. Holliday has basically torn up the Senior Circuit since he touched down six weeks ago (.386/.444/.714, 10 homers, 37 RBIs) – hitting behind Albert Pujols(notes) isn't a bad gig. And Lugo looks like a completely different player through one month in Cardinals double-knits (.322/.386/.544, two homers, two steals, 10 walks). Holliday and Lugo combined for six hits and two homers Thursday against Milwaukee, albeit it wasn't enough to beat Manny Parra(notes) and the Brewers.
The Holliday success isn't a surprise to anyone of course, but the Lugo run reinforces this organization's reputation as the ultimate recyclers. Joel Pineiro(notes) and Ryan Franklin(notes) have come out of nowhere to be fantasy stars this year. Felipe Lopez(notes) turned his career around at the end of 2008 when the Redbirds gave him a shot and let's not forget Kyle Lohse's(notes) run last summer. I don't know what's in the water in St. Louis but they're doing something right; everyone knows Tony LaRussa is one of the sharpest managers in the business and Dave Duncan is a first-rate pitching coach.
We should probably add John Smoltz(notes) to the comeback thread as well; although the Brewers knocked him around a bit Thursday the final line wasn't so bad (6 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 0 BB, 6 K). It will be interesting to see how he adjusts to the Brewers, and how they adjust to him, when they do the matchup again in Milwaukee next week.
• Huston Street(notes) (biceps) shouldn't be out too long for the Rockies; his MRI came back clean and the playoff-contending Rockies will probably get him back next week. Franklin Morales(notes) picks up the ninth-inning work in the meantime.
• Michael Brantley(notes) is off to an active start with the Indians, picking up four hits and a walk through his first three games. He's also swiped one base and been caught once; keep in mind he was 45-for-50 on the bases at Triple-A. His .348 OBP in the minors this year won't make anyone tingly, but nonetheless this is probably Cleveland's leadoff man of the future, no matter that he's batting in the bottom third of the lineup right now.
• Jarrod Washburn's(notes) sore knee is bad enough that the Tigers will skip him this weekend. A logical move, given that he was supposed to face the Tampa Bay lineup that lit into him Monday. The Tigers also plan to keep Nate Robertson(notes) in the rotation for now, but I'm not fooled by what he did Thursday (six scoreless innings), he won't be getting a chance to sabotage my ERA and WHIP.
• Another day at the office for the scuffling Alfonso Soriano(notes): 0-for-4, three strikeouts. The Cubs are six games out in the NL wild-card race (and behind four other clubs), so it wouldn't be a shock if Soriano gets shut down early at some point later this month.
• The Rays welcome Wade Davis to the rotation Sunday against Detroit and he's worth a scouting eye at minimum; the 24-year-old righty had a 3.40 ERA and 140 strikeouts in 158.2 innings at Triple-A this year.
Streamer's Delight – Saturday: Not a lot to get excited about here, but I'll consider a shot on Kevin Millwood(notes) at Baltimore (Brian Matusz(notes) is another option on the other side), Nelson Figueroa(notes) against the Cubs (last 24 innings: 24 Ks, 2.59 ERA) and maybe Luke French(notes) at Oakland if you're feeling frisky.
Injury Blog: Nate McLouth(notes) (hamstring) went 0-for-2 in his first rehab game and looks on pace to rejoin the Braves on the weekend. … Dexter Fowler(notes) (knee) will take some cuts Friday and doesn't appear to be that far off; we might seem him as soon as Tuesday. … Mariano Rivera(notes) (groin) has a shot to pitch as soon as Friday. … A contact lens problem kept Justin Upton(notes) out of the starting lineup Thursday, though he was able to pinch hit and deliver a double . . . Brett Myers(notes) (hip) will join the Phillies Friday and add some depth to the end of the bullpen, but you know Charlie Manuel – he's not going away from Brad Lidge(notes) (who does look a lot better of late). … Vin Mazzaro(notes) has a balky shoulder and won't start Friday against the Mariners. … B.J. Upton(notes) left Thursday's game with a sprained ankle, courtesy of an outfield collision with Carl Crawford(notes). Let someone else make outs for you this weekend. "I just rolled [the ankle]," Upton said after the game. "It's just day-to-day." … Nick Johnson(notes) (hamstring) got back at it Thursday against Atlanta, going 1-for-2 with a couple of walks. Hanley Ramirez(notes) (hamstring) wasn't able to start for the Fish, though he delivered a key pinch-hit in the sixth inning.
Speed Round: Chris Perez(notes) is simply untouchable right now. He worked two scoreless innings Thursday (with three Ks), upping his string of zeroes to 19.2 innings. … Jon Garland(notes) justified the streaming love in his Dodgers debut, picking up a win over his former Arizona mates (7 IP, 2 R). But I'm not at interested when he rematches them in the desert next week. … No need to worry about Jonathan Broxton(notes) these days, he's dominating again and making the radar gun pop. He grabbed his fourth save in a week Thursday and he's quietly collected 11 straight scoreless appearances, with 20 strikeouts along the way. … Billy Wagner's(notes) tank isn't anywhere close to empty; he's got five scoreless innings and 11 punchouts since coming back. … The Pedro Martinez(notes)-Tim Lincecum duel was one of the best watches on Thursday's slate; in the end the veteran (7 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 9 K) got the win over the kid (7 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 11 K) . . . Clay Buchholz(notes) has put himself back in the circle of trust, collecting six quality starts in his last seven turns. Use him for his Fenway turn against Baltimore next week.
Photo via US Presswire