Five topics from columnist Ben Frederickson that Cardinals fans should be discussing:
1. Can Cardinals carry the fight to Wrigley?
The Cardinals' completion of a four-game sweep in Cincinnati is nothing to trash. The accomplishment had avoided the Redbirds' broom since 1949.
It can and should come with a bit of context, though.
This Reds are a mess. Just ask them.
"We are (bleeping) 2-12," pitcher Homer Bailey told the Cincinnati Enquirer. "I don't think it's very good at all."
Homer had actually misplaced a loss. The Reds were 2-13 after the Cardinals' win Sunday. Worst start since 1931.
It's a good sign the Cardinals took care of business against an obvious non-contender. That was something they struggled with last season, when they finished 10-9 against the Reds and split 10 games in Cincinnati. Those losses jumped out when the 68-win Reds finished last in the division, and the Cardinals missed the postseason for the second consecutive season.
Maybe this Cardinals team will feast on the filler, like a contending team must to thrive. Like they failed to last season.
But can this Cardinals team take down a contender on the road?
This week's trip to Wrigley Field should offer some evidence. Once again, there is some history to note.
When the Cardinals traveled to Chicago last season, they looked like ... well, they looked like the Reds.
The Cardinals were a miserable 5-14 against the Cubs last season, and a horrid 1-8 at Wrigley Field. They were outscored 43-33 in Chicago. There, the Cubs scored more than three runs seven times. The Cardinals scored fewer than three runs four times.
For this rivalry to feel like one, the Cardinals have to compete in Chicago.
Why not start today?
2. Cubs not exactly crushing it
The word out of Cubs camp this spring was how smooth everything went, and how hungry this team was to hit the ground running. The World Series hangover, also known as an excuse, was said to be cured. Yet the Cubs are off to a .500 start. The new-look rotation has a combined starter's ERA of 5.40, which ranks 28th in the majors. The threatening lineup is averaging an imposing 5.14 runs per game, but it has been shut out three times, most recently by the Braves on Friday. The Cubs have not finished April worse than two games above .500 since manager Joe Maddon arrived in 2015.
3. Wainwright on the road
Monday is a big start for Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright. OK, every start is a big start for Wainwright. He has a bad one and a good one beneath his belt. But both of those came at home, where he tends to thrive. Wainwright (0-2, 5.06 ERA) was welcomed into opponents' venues last season. Through 12 starts outside of Busch Stadium, he posted a 7.32 ERA. Opponents averaged .325 and slugged. 537 against him. His lone start at Wrigley last season was one of his best. He held the Cubs to two earned runs on four hits over 7.2 innings in a 3-2 loss.
4. Prepare for plunkings
The Cubs lead the majors in number of pitches worn.
Their batters have been hit by a pitch a whopping 15 times.
The White Sox (13) is the only other team with 10-plus HBP.
This is even more remarkable when you remember Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who is known for crowding the plate and happily trading a bruise for a base, has played in only six games. Rizzo (back soreness) has been sidelined since April 5.
Kris Bryant has worn five pitches, most in the majors. Rizzo got himself plunked three times in 28 at-bats. Javier Baez and Willson Contreras also have multiple HBPs.
The number of Cardinals who have been hit by multiple pitches so far this season? Zero.
5. Wanted: Cubs Killer
When former Cardinals outfielder Randal Grichuk was traded to Toronto, one thought came to mind.
The Cardinals might not miss him much, but they will when they head to Wrigley Field.
Grichuk, who is off to a dreadful start with the Blue Jays, was guilty of teasing Cardinals fans with signs of a breakthrough that never came. He was also a Cubs killer. In fact, some of his biggest teases came against the North Siders.
Grichuk's career batting line reads .243/.292/.478. Against the Cubs, he's slashed .296/.335/.638. And in 23 games at Wrigley Field he hit .303/.343/.682, with 18 RBIs in 66 at-bats.
Grichuk is slashing .071/.149/.167 to start the season. He has 16 strikeouts and three hits. Ouch.
Meanwhile the Cardinals need a new player to rise to the occasion against their top rival.