The Cardinals opener left a lot to be desired. Yes, they were playing the always difficult Padres, but throwing Chris Carpenter on the mound gave me confidence that they could walk away with the W. Carp did his part, but shoddy defense and a faulty closer led to a devastating 11th inning loss.
If you’re on the Padres side, it’s the stuff that dreams are made of. Your team is down to their last out and of your guys jacks a home run to tie the game up and you go on to win in extras. But as a Cardinal fan, it was more than heartbreaking.
Normally, I hate the 2nd day off day right after Opening Day. You gear up for baseball and then you have to wait. But in this case, I think it’s probably the best thing for the team. Gives them an extra day to forget this mess, forget the errors, forget giving up the game tying and winning home runs. It’s a fresh start. Almost like a second opening day.
But in order for there to be a better outcome, these are the things that will need to happen:
- Better defense
ESPECIALLY the middle infield. Yes, errors happen. But to have two routine plays bobbled that lead to runs is unacceptable. The up the middle guys have got to get their timing down, both individually and working with each other. Theriot’s miscue was especially bad, since it was just pretty much taking the ball from his glove. Come on. I know we didn’t trade Brendan to see that happen.
- More running
Or about just running in general, since it’s basically been non-existent in St. Louis since the 80’s. The Cardinals hit into four double plays in their last game. Granted, three of them were by Pujols, which is a rare thing that is not likely to reoccur. Nevetheless, double plays are a part of the game. Something that would be eliminated somewhat by the running game. With guys like Theriot, Rasmus, Schumaker, etc in the lineup, there’s no reason we can’t run more. Heck, even Holliday and Pujols have the ability to steal bases in the right situation. LaRussa has never been a big base stealing manager and I don’t understand why not. This team is equipped for speed in certain places and we need to see that happen.
Here’s a breakdown of Pujols’ 3 double plays
- 1st – Theriot on 2nd and Rasmus on 1st
- 2nd – Rasmus on 1st
- 3rd – Rasmus on 1st
In any of these situations, if the run was on, at least the double play would have been avoided and who knows what that leads to. You score one more run and the Padres don’t tie it up in the 9th. If LaRussa refuses to run with these guys this year, it will be completely ridiculous.
- Franklin to show he is capable of closing
A lot of people have been down on Franklin. I have not been one of those people. Unless you have a guy like Mariano Rivera closing your games, people tend to think that a closer is lousy unless he is closing at 100%. Still, Franklin is not the easiest guy to watch in the 9th. He will often make it more interesting than I would care for. Bottom line is you want the kind of guy closing your games that you don’t question it. He comes in, he closes the game, end of story. I hope Franklin is able to be that kind of guy in ’11. If this is just one hiccup in a great year of closing games, fine. This game will soon be forgotten. But if this is just a prequel of what’s to come, it’s time we start looking elsewhere for someone to lock it down in the 9th.
Being .500 to start the season isn’t so bad. Now being down 0-2 is pretty cringe worthy. Especially since the Reds are enjoying the walk off kind of wins. It’s time to prove to everyone that St. Louis is in it to win it in 2011.
11 in ’11,
I have blogged two previous Opening Days here at MLBlogs. In fact, my first blog entry on here was Opening Day of 2006. It was a great opener and that year I picked the Cardinals to win it all that year, because I thought they had the best team on paper. That was before they lost Mulder and Izzy. I would have not picked them if I had known that. But a young kid named Adam Wainwright stepped up to the plate to fill the role of closer. Wainwright would go on to give me the single greatest moment I have ever seen in Cardinal history….the big strikeout of Carlos Beltran with runners on in Game 7 of the NLCS.
It gives me hope about this season. Yes, we are missing Wainwright, who has since transitioned from closer to ace. Yes, we are missing Punto and there are ridiculous number of question marks in guys like Freese and Berkman. But you never know which young kid is going to step up and hit the game winning shot off the bench.
The 2007 Opening Day was my next and final Opening Day blog. I blogged off and on over the next few years, more off than on. And now here we are in 2011. Five years since that incredible year of 2006 and the impossible run of the team that nobody thought had a chance.
It’s time to prove yourselves again, Redbirds!
And with that here are my notes about Opening Day 2011….in no particular order:
- Hitting – The Cardinals hit plenty and got on base. Rasmus got a first inning triple and Holliday came through with 2 outs. Berkman and Freese, two big questions got back to back hits. But they never got that “big hit.” This was the proverbial thorn in the side from last year. Quite the opposite, as they grounded into way too many double plays.
- Beards – Um, what was with all the man scruff? Carpenter, Berkman and Pujols all had decent beards going on while Schumaker looked like Grizzly Adams out there. And Rasmus looked like he was trying.
- Defense – Defense has been a concern with the loss of Brendan Ryan and this ground ball heavy staff. And the worries proved accurate. Freese made a tremendous play up the line, but the middle infield guys made a couple of huge mistakes. Skip muffed a ball that should have been an easy strike ’em out, throw ’em out double play and instead turned into a run. And Theriot made an 11th inning error that led to the game winning run.
- Pujols – The guy who has 3 opening day home runs to his credit, couldn’t get the job done today. He would end up 0 for 5 and hit in 3 double plays. Pujols wasn’t worried and neither am I. All I got to say is tomorrow’s pitcher better look out because when he breaks out he will break out BIG.
- Bullpen – Franklin looked very uncloser-esque today. I hope this will be the exception and not the rule. The game winning run was given up by Augenstein. This is significant because he was the last guy to get a spot on the Cardinal roster, even beating out Salas who played in the bigs last year.
Overall, it wasn’t a horrible game. But it sure felt like 90% of our games from last year. Decent hitting, decent fielding and good pitching. But….they found a way to lose a game that should have easily been won. So much different than the champion Cardinals who always seemed to find a way to win. It is just the first game of the season so I am willing to cut them quite a bit of slack. I just hope I’m not still saying this at All-Star Break.
I was gone all weekend. I was in the middle of nowhere, so I didn’t even have phone service. I had no idea what the Cardinals were doing. So, of course, as soon as I was back in civilization, I checked out my Redbirds. I should have stayed gone. Because what I found out is that the Nationals had been killing the Cardinals, even scoring 14 runs in one game. So, I can’t do it. I can’t blog about the horrendous that is the Cardinals right now. So instead, I’m going to make a lighthearted post.
We all know baseball players have weird quirks when they hit. Some have to touch the bat, their jersey or their helmet a certain number of times. Others have to unfasten and refasten their batting gloves. Some wave the bat in front of the plate until the pitcher winds up.
So, my question, for all those who would be willing to answer, is what guy on your team, or in baseball in general, (past or present is fine) do you think has the weirdest quirk as their pre-at-bat ritual?
My answer would be Brendan Ryan. Brendan licks his jersey prior to every at-bat. Yes, I did say LICKS. Before every pitch, he steps out of the box, steps back in and quickly licks his left shoulder.
Ah, to each his own.
Who is your pick? Best answer wins!
Ignoring the Cardinal losses,
This was a highly disappointing 13th inning game of many things that went right and many things that went very, very wrong. The unfortunate part is that more went wrong than right. So let’s look at both.
What Went Right
- As I stated in my last post, Albert hit his 400th career home run. Quite an accomplishment for someone just over 30.
- Pedro Feliz continues to impress. He has a hit for every game as a Cardinal (7 game hitting streak), which means he’s hitting .367 as a Redbird and playing solid defense at 3rd.
- Brendan Ryan made an incredible diving catch, on the right side of the 2nd base bag, to stop the Nationals from winning much earlier in the game.
- Aaron Miles continues to deliver off the bench. I don’t care what anybody says. I feel comfortable with him stepping in as a pinch hitter in a clutch situation.
- The Cardinals rallied for 4 innings in the 9th, whereas in the past couple of weeks, their last minute rallies had fallen just short.
What Went Wrong
- The two biggest superstars on the team hurt themselves. Matt Holliday was hit in the wrist by a pitch and Albert Pujols rolled his ankle. Supposedly, they’re both ok though.
- Felipe Lopez showed he should be nowhere but a pinch hitter or possibly 2nd base. He does not belong on the left side of the infield. His plays cost us the game more than any other play.
- Though Carp was good, because of poor defense, could not be as sharp as he normally is.
- Ryan Franklin, flawless in the 8th inning, gave up the tying home run in the 9th.
- Ultimately, the biggest thing, is that we dropped yet another game to a very weak team and in not putting the game away early, almost lost our two biggest components to get us to the postseason.
Jaime Garcia goes tonight or, “The Mexecutioner,” as stl_cardinals_fan73 affectionally called him on a previous post. But it’s hard to get up for the game. How many times can the Redbirds squander these opportunities before they take themselves out of the race completely? The wild card is absolutely there for the taking, even if we don’t play well enough to get the central. Regardless, I’m a Cardinal fan to the bitter end. Come on Cardinals….let’s get it going!
Rooting for the wild card,
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,
What will happen tonight? I honestly have no clue. The Cardinals have started playing a new game called, “Let’s stress out our fans as much as possible.” Back and forth, they have gone all season with the Reds between 1st and 2nd place. Finally, after slipping back to 2 games and being at the risk of going 5 games back, if they would get swept.
Instead, they do what very few thought was possible. They swept the Reds, once again claiming first place by themselves. Things are looking up! Wait, no, just kidding. False alarm. Now, the Cardinals go 1-4 in the next 5 games, losing 2 of 3 to Chicago and a 2 game sweep by the Brew Crew. Really? To make matters worse, the Reds go on a tear against their opponents (even when Votto wasn’t in the lineup) and we’re back in 2nd place. Not only that, but we’re back by
3 1/2 games, the most games that have separated us and the Reds all season.
Oh, but wait. Something is very different about this year. Most years, we’re contending for and fighting off opponents only for the NL Central. But for the first time in awhile, the Cardinals are actually in striking distance of the wild card as well. In fact, our opponent tonight is only a game ahead of us in that race.
So a lot going on. And I have no idea what’s going to happen. The Cardinals play good, they play poorly, then they rip multiple home runs in the same game, they they are getting shut out by some hack pitcher. Which Cardinal team will show up tonight? Your guess is as good as mine.
Add to the mix, a still fairly new Westbrook, a new guy at 3rd to go along with that ever-revolving door at 2nd base, Rasmus who may or may not be in the lineup, Brendan who still can’t hit, but suddenly looks like the Wizard out there with his defense, and a recent call-up of a backup catcher and it’s too much for me. All we can do is wait and see what will happen between us and the Giants and the Reds and the Dodgers.
All I know is that I don’t enjoy being 3 1/2 games back and I’d like the Cardinals to start playing like they’re capable of. There’s definitely talent on the team, but I’d like to see a little more desire. The will to win. What scares me is not the Reds lineup, their pitching or any of that. It’s the fact that they believe in themselves to win every game, even when they’re behind. Am I crazy or does that remind anybody of the ’06 Cardinals?
Takin’ down San Fran,
A poster, by the name of, “fixisin” recently left comments that he (or she…..no idea without a name) was not pleased about the Cardinals recent two losses, especially the 3-2 loss to the Cubs. After we got the leadoff runner on 2nd, the next 3 Redbirds were Brendan Ryan, Felipe Lopez and Allen Craig. Miles never even got to 3rd. Here’s my take on the game if you would like to read it.
While I was equally disgusted about the loss, he blamed it on Ryan Ludwick being traded to the San Diego Padres. I was sad to see Ludwick go, but I don’t know that this particular trade is to blame here. In fact, this was the first game since Ludwick was traded at the deadline (July 31st) that the Cardinals didn’t score 4 runs.
But I appreciate comments (I respond to every one) and I equally love stats, so I thought, hey, let’s look at the numbers and see what they say about the situation. Let me preface my findings though by saying that it’s still way too early to tell if the Ludwick / Westbrook trade is going to be to our advantage or not, but here are what the numbers say so far.
In 14 games with the Padres, Ryan Ludwick has batted .275, slugged .510 and driven in 8.
In that same span, Ludwick’s replacement in RF, Jon Jay, has hit .317, slugged .415 and driven in 4.
Jake Wesbrook, who we got in the deal for Luddy, has started 3 times for the Cardinals. In those 3 games, he has a 1-0 record, pitched 19 innings (average of 6 1/3 innings per game), a 3.32 ERA, walked only 2, while striking out 19.
Looking at all of this, Ludwick has decent numbers. It’s not MVP territory, but good solid numbers for a RF. At the moment, John Jay is outhitting him, (even with having an 0 for 3 yesterday), but as I said, it’s still early. There’s no way to know if Jay will cool off down the stretch run, while Ludwick, as a veteran with the experience, may continue to stay hot from time to time.
Westbrook has proven to be a good performer so far, but 3 games is a very small sample size. What will he be like down the stretch? Can he be that postseason wildcard that Jeff Weaver was for us in 2006?
As always, there are the intangibles that numbers don’t give you. Some in the Cardinal organization feel that Ludwick gone has taken the pressure of Colby Rasmus, now that he knows he will be starting every day instead of being platooned. Whether or not our favorite southern boy, Colby, is feeling more relaxed or not, in the 3 games following Ludwick’s departure west, he went 6 for 12. Ludwick is also known to be a very streaky hitter and the problem with that is there’s no way to tell right now whether that’s good or bad in considering the trade. Will he heat up at just the right time in the playoff push or slump a little bit in the upcoming month?
There’s also the salary considerations. Ryan Ludwick was going to be a free agent at the end of this year and likely to get traded anyway. He would be eligible for arbitration and going to be able to demand quite a bit more money. Something we are pretty tight on at the moment, considering the money we plunked down for Matt Holliday and the money you would HOPE they are ready to plunk down for Pujols, who is approaching the end of his contract, after the club option next year. So you really have to consider his benefit to the club this year and not what he would do next year.
And one of the greatest intangibles of all at this point…..we could potentially see the Padres and Ryan Ludwick in a post season game. If he hits a series winning home run against us, suddenly the trade isn’t looking so good.
So according to the numbers it’s working out for us so far, but my gut still says we should have gotten more for Ludwick. I know it was probably time for him to go since he’d be gone at the end of the season anyway and Westbrook has been solid thus far, but I wish we would have gotten more thrown in besides “cash considerations.” A decent 3rd baseman would have gone a long way to alleviate my concerns about the trade.
The game that started this discussion in the first place showed us that…..what we’re lacking is a quality 3rd baseman not a right fielder. Holliday, Rasmus and Jay are a very solid outfield. But there is not one decent 3rd baseman in the bunch. Felipe Lopez has been ok, but he’s not an ideal big league 3rd baseman by a long shot. Plus, if he slumps (as he has been) or needs a rest, who are his backups? Allen Craig? Aaron Miles? Come on. These are great bench players or for filling in at 2nd, but we need someone with an arm that can hit for average.
With David Freese and Tyler Greene out, a 3rd baseman has been a desperate need for the Cardinals and I don’t know how that’s going to improve. Freese is gone for the season and Greene’s return is unknown. And expanding the rosters in September is not likely to bring in the calvary.
I definitely was sad to see Ludwick go though. He seemed to be a great player and a great person in general. I was able to meet him once in a restaurant in Missouri after he had been signing autographs locally with some other Redbirds and he was really nice.
Thoughts? Are you still missing Ludwick or have you come to terms with the deal? Do you think Westbrook will be the starter we need or do you think we were fine with the Loshe / Suppan / Hawksworth combo?