So I have decided that the Cardinals are trying to kill me. There is no other explanation for today’s game. And it nearly worked.
They started their first road trip of the season tonight by traveling to San Fran and taking on the reigning World Series champs. The first 8 innings were typical Cardinal baseball of late. Scratch together a hit here or there, plate a runner or two, but fall just short of victory.
And then the 9th inning happened.
In the bottom of the ninth, the first two Redbirds went down quietly to bring Yadier Molina to the plate. And that’s where the fun began. Down to his last strike, Yadi drew a walk. Newcomer Daniel Descalso (who I hope keeps his blog going) somehow magically beat out a dribbler and Jon Jay was just barely grazed by a pitch. Things suddenly had gone from bad to interesting.
It was now the top of the order and the weight of the world had landed on the shoulders of Ryan Theriot. I looked at the TV (as I’ve previously stated, I do talk to players during the game) and said, “Ok Theriot, if you want Cardinal Nation to love you….here’s your opportunity.” He must have heard me because after working the count full and fighting off what seemed like a million foul balls, he hit a single between third and short, plating two Redbirds and giving the Cardinals their first lead of the game.
At that point, I was hoping they’d score a few more because then maybe Franklin wouldn’t be brought in to pitch the 9th if it wasn’t a save situation. No such luck. Rasmus walked and the still cold Pujols flied out to end the inning.
I was at my folks house during the game and my exact words to my mom prior to Franklin starting the 9th were… “You know his MO is to get two quick outs before he walks the bases loaded.” Though that wasn’t 100% accurate, it was pretty darn close. Franklin did get two quick ground outs before the bottom fell out. Aaron Rowand singled, then moved up with a wild pitch by Franklin. He walked Posey and Pablo Sandoval proceeded to tie the game with a base hit.
On to extras.
It was really bad at this point because the Cardinals had no one left on their bench, except for Holliday who hasn’t been cleared to play. This is normally a spot for someone like Adam Wainwright, but he is, of course, out this year. So Kyle Loshe got the nod to pinch hit. Nothing really interesting happened until the bottom of the 11th.
Bryan Augenstein then pitched some of the most nerve wrecking baseball I have ever seen in my life. He gave up a leadoff double to start the inning and it seemed all was lost. If you have a runner in scoring position with no outs, it seems pretty safe to say you will be able to score him. However, he then delivered some of the most important strikes of his career to strike out Freddy Sanchez. Rowand again is trouble when he rips a ball to what looks like will go down the left field line. But the Cardinals are playing with 5 infielders at this point and Allen Craig makes an incredible play to stop the ball and get Rowand into a rundown. He gets tagged out and two batters later we are out of the inning. Major props to Augenstein and Craig for that inning.
In the 12th the Cardinals were sat down 1-2-3. In the Giants half, it was the last Cardinal reliever in Brian Tallet. He struck out the leadoff man to bring up Miguel Tejada who singled to left. A double play would have ended the inning and I thought we had one. It was Pujols to Theriot and back to Pujols. Tejada was out at 2nd, but they called the other runner safe at first. Even with replays I really thought he was out. The inning would have been over with the next batter anyway, except when Tallet tossed the ball to Pujols, he somehow missed it which allowed everyone to be safe.
What happened next I had a bad feeling about as it was happening, although I don’t disagree with LaRussa’s decision. There were runners on 2nd and 3rd, so Tallet intentionally put on Freddy Sanchez to get to Aaron Rowand. With 1st base open it’s pretty much a rule that you put on the next hitter.
The only problem was that from the moment he entered the game, Rowand seemed to have the Cardinals number. He was 2 for 3 and his only out was almost the game winner and would have been if it wasn’t for Craig’s stellar play to the plate. This time he made sure to get the job done, however, as scorched the ball to the warning track.
The Reds are getting killed right now, but it’s the same problem as September of last year. It doesn’t matter how much they lose, if we can’t win and take advantage of it. I do like that the Cardinals did not just roll over and play dead when down to their final strike. But it’s still frustrating that they can’t seem to get that big hit that puts the game away for good.
How do you follow what Chris Carpenter did on Saturday night? Rookie of the Year candidate Jaime Garcia only needed 89 pitches to show you exactly how.
Sunday afternoon’s game promised to be a matchup of two southpaws who both at times have been very dominant. But in the rubber match game vs. the Giants, Jaime Garcia looked like the veteran against the floundering Barry Zito. It’s hard to believe how far Zito has fallen. He was once as good as anybody in the league when back when he pitched for the A’s and before he landed one of the biggest contracts ever forked over for a pitcher. (Lesson learned: big name pitchers earning big money usually disappoint, even if they are lefties….ahem, Mark Mulder.)
On the other side, Jaime Garcia is a rookie still carving out a name for himself. But after today, I don’t think many Giants players will forget him. After 8 2/3 innings, he had only faced the minimum, thanks to two double plays by his defense. That was spoiled one at-bat later thanks to a single by Nate Schierholtz. But Garcia composed himself and got leadoff man, Aaron Rowand, to end the game on a groundball to shortstop, Brendan Ryan. That groundball was his bread and butter, as the Giants pounded that ball at him, Ryan and newcomer Pedro Feliz. But the defense looked good backing up Garcia’s dominant performance. In the end, he 3 hit the Giants, for his first career complete game and his first career shutout. In the process, he walked none, while striking out 6.
The last time Garcia looked this good was vs. the Mets, where he didn’t get the win because he was let down by his offense. That game, you might remember, ended up going an incredible 20 innings before the Cardinals lost 2-1. This time around, the bats would not falter. They hit Zito hard and they hit him early, chasing him after only 3 2/3 inning of work. It was nice to see the offense participating up and down the lineup. The hits, runs and RBI were contributed in some way by all of the starters. And that’s exactly what the Cardinal lineup is capable of when they’re in their groove. And we should be seeing that kind of production on a regular basis. My ONLY complaint today was Matt Holiday. Yes, he did get a hit and drive in one run, but they walked Albert in front of him twice and one of those was intentional. Both times he failed to come through. If we’re going to do anything in the playoffs, Holliday has to make teams pay or else Albert will be walked every at-bat. It wasn’t a big deal in a game like this, but in tight playoff games, every run counts and we need him to produce in those clutch situations.
Other than that, a good day for the Redbirds! it’s just too bad that LA couldn’t take down the Reds. For us, we move on to Pittsburgh. Kyle Loshe is the last man I want on the mound, but if I had to pick a team for him to pitch against, I guess it would be the Pirates.
Thinking someone bought Garcia dinner tonight,