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Five things about the Braves Series

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The Cardinals completed their second series sweep of the season as they outscored the Braves 21-7 over the three games, including a 10-0 curb stomping in the series opener. At 16-14, this is the first time this season the Cardinals have been able to stay above .500 for back-to-back games.

As a result, they find themselves second in the NL Central, half a game behind the Cincinnati Reds and half a game ahead of the Chicago Cubs. The Cardinals have gone 13-5 since returning home on April 17th after getting swept in new York City.

They will head to Miami tonight for a three game set. The Marlins are 13-17 and 3rd place in the NL East. They are a team looking to get back on track as they are 3-10 over their last 13 games.

Insert “Pham-tastic” level cliche here

I’ve already seen at least two since he returned to the big leagues this weekend following the injury to Stephen Piscotty. Tommy Pham was the first guy not on the roster exiting spring training and he had hit well in Memphis to start the season, but that was nothing to the show he put on this weekend.

Pham would hit a double in his first at bat this season and then add a home run in his second. He’d wrap up the series going 6-for-12 with a double, three home runs, and five RBI, including the game winning home run in the 14th inning last night.

It was good to see him hit the ground running in his return to the big leagues. I was hopeful that he’d put together a run like he has the last few times he’s come up, but stopped short of it being a foregone conclusion given how he wrapped up 2016. With Piscotty out of the lineup, Pham is playing for an opportunity to stick once he returns.

With Piscotty and Peralta likely due for return over the next couple weeks, it will be interesting to see how long Pham and Magneuris Sierra stick around. The organization has carried an extra pitcher since Peralta went on the DL, so they could change that. Regardless, Pham has made it clear that he intends to do his part to stay.

Don’t sleep on Grichuk

Randal Grichuk hit .353 with a pair of doubles and a pair of stolen bases in this series against the Braves. He had two hits in each of the three games of the series. He’s been a big part of the Cardinals’ current run. Over the last 18 games since their return from that New York sweep, Grichuk is hitting .299/.365/.448 with 8 extra base hits in those 18 games.

The bullpen is coming around

The Cardinals bullpen may still rank 19th overall in baseball with their 4.42 ERA, but over the past two weeks, they have posted a 2.83 ERA which has been the fourth best in baseball.

It was supported by yet another dominant series by the bullpen as they allowed just 1 earned run (thanks Brett Cecil) over 13 innings of work, that’s a 0.69 ERA on a 1.15 WHIP. Kevin Siegrist and Miguel Socolovich had good appearances in the series, which is a positive step for two guys who have struggled a bit this season.

Reviews not made

Twice in yesterday’s game Mike Matheny chose not to review close plays. The first was when Magneuris Sierra was picked off first base after his first Major League hit and the second was a Randal Grichuk attempted steal of third base. In both cases, at least the radio broadcast crew and Twitter seemed to think there was something worth reviewing there.

The Cardinals had the game seemingly firmly in hand with a 4-0 lead, but it makes me wonder if Matheny would have handled that differently had it been a closer game. If he’s letting off the gas because he’s leading by a few runs, that’s a problem. Hopefully he learned his lesson as that four run lead was erased by the Braves just a few innings later.

Four game winners

Lance Lynn and Mike Leake both picked up a win in the series as they won their fourth game of the season in their sixth start. That is the most wins in baseball among pitchers who have started six games. All four pitchers who have won five games this season have seven starts. Lynn will get his first crack at that fifth win Wednesday night against the Marlins in the series finale.

Beyond wins, Leake has been among the leaders in ERA this season, but thanks to his first home run allowed this season, his ERA jumped to 1.79, which is now only good for fifth in baseball. He was otherwise dominant, allowing just 3 hits and 2 walks in 7 innings of work.

Jon Doble has been writing about the St. Louis Cardinals since 2010. You can follow him on Twitter at @JonDobleRBD, find him as R27 at RedbirdTalk.com and you can hear him co-host The UCB Podcast every fourth Wednesday night of the month. Redbird Dugout is a member of the United Cardinal Bloggers.

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