I stated that a returning lineup that includes Albert, Holliday, Rasmus
and a hopefully healthy David Freese should be pretty formidable. Then
throw in the defense and occasional offensive spark of Yadier Molina and
a returning staff that includes Carp, Wainwright, Garcia and Franklin,
the Cardinals should be a force to be reckoned with. Yet, last year
they fell to the the Reds with all of these guys (except, of course, for
So what was missing? It’s hard to say. But with the Reds likely to
contend again and the Brewers making moves to show they want to contend,
the Cardinals better find that missing piece. They are hoping it’s in
one of the new guys they’ve added to the team. So let’s look at this
band of newcomers and see what the potential is there.
Lance Berkman – Arguably, the biggest name added to the Cardinal roster,
this is an interesting move on many levels. It was not long ago that
Lance Berkman struck fear into the hearts of Cardinal fans everywhere.
There are two guys over the years that I would classify as true
“Cardinal killers” and they are Lance Berkman and Carlos Beltran. As a
‘Stro Berkman had a big bat, under a team that always tragically
underperformed. Though he’s a 1st baseman by trade, Pujols has the
position well under lock and key. So they claim that he was brought
over as an outfielder. And outfield he will clearly play in 2011. But
we’re stupid here. He’s also provides a safety net. Should the Redbird
brass not be able to retain Albert’s services past this year, Berkman
could easily slide into that spot, while we look elsewhere for a right
fielder. Smart move, I say, with major upside. Berkman underperformed
with the Yankees, but I still believe he has some sting left in that big
bat of his.
Ryan Theriot – The Cardinals had a perfectly capable defensive shortstop
in Brendan Ryan. However, his offense last year was atrocious.
Moreover, he apparently clashed with LaRussa although they claim that’s
not why he was sent packing. In any case, I’m not in the clubhouse, I
don’t know if the criticism of Ryan was fair or not. I do know that if
getting rid of him and signing Theriot is what it takes for this team to
mesh, then I’m all for it. Though I will miss the socks.
Nick Punto – The utility infielder should be an great asset to the
Cardinals. Although, it was just learned today that he will be out for a
couple of months with a strained groin. So, he should be a great asset
if / when he is healthy. The problem for the Cardinals last year was
that if someone went down (Freese) or needed a day off (Ryan or
Schumaker) all that was left to fill the void was Tyler Greene. Greene
was able to fill that need in some areas, but certainly not in all.
Punto serves a great utility man. There are so many options here
LaRussa’s head will be spinning. Punto can play 3rd, should Freese need a back-up again, he could play 2nd, putting Skip in the outfield if one of the outfielders need a day off, he can fill in at short. And as long as everyone stays healthy I expect to see a lot of mix and match here.
Gerald Laird – I’ll be honest. I know nothing about Laird. The Cardinals have brought in him to be a back-up for Yadi. They would like to spell the often played catcher a little more often than they have in the best. From what I hear, his skill set is similar to Molina’s in the fact that he’s a backstop first, a hitter second. What’s really upsetting about this whole situation though is that we had to go find Laird in the first place. He’s a replacement for last year’s backup catcher, Jason LaRue. LaRue was forced into retirement when he suffered a concussion during an on-field altercation between the Reds and the Cards. The Reds’ Johnny Cueto bicycle-kicked LaRue in the head.
Newcomers + Returners = Solid Team,
This is it. This is Adam Wainwright’s chance to show the world why he deserves the Cy Young award. His offense couldn’t back him up in his last start and so blew his chance at a league leading 18 wins. However, Jimenez also didn’t win his start, so both guys are still stuck at 17. There is no question that Wainwright is better than Jimenez, but some people are obsessed with wins, so Adam really needs to get that extra win to lead the pack by himself.
Not to mention that Roy Halladay is hot on his trail. The guy blazes through innings like it’s nothing. Every game you think he’s going to go the distance and he often does. His ERA is just behind Wainwright’s and he’s sneaking up on wins too. The only thing Halladay has on Wainwright is strikeouts. He leads there by 15. Wainwright should put a dent in that today, but let’s be realistic: he’s not striking out 15……even if it is the Pirates. How fun would that be to watch though?
A couple nights ago I watched the Rocket’s game where he struck out 20 for the 2nd time. 20 batters in a game. Wow. That’s more impressive than a no-hitter really. Yeah, for a pitcher to have a no-hitter he’s going to have to have his best stuff working, but come on….not all pitchers who have gotten a no-no really have no-hit stuff most of the time. There’s quite a bit of luck involved too. The right fielder in the right place at the right time. One blooper and it’s done. Not to take away from the accomplishment because it definitely is one. But 20 Ks? That’s all pitching right there. That’s having a slider or curve so nasty that guys aren’t even swinging. That’s having a fastball so blazing fast combined with setting hitters off balance with your changeup. And the fact that you can strike out 20 guys and still not get a no-hitter? Well, that just shows you how awesome and unpredictable baseball is. And why it’s the best game there is.
I’m getting off topic though. I’m supposed to be talking about Wainwright. If a guy was going to get 20 Ks or a no-hitter though, Wainwright would have a chance. I love watching him pitch. As long as I live, I will never forget Carlos Beltran’s knees buckle, as he failed to pull the trigger for the final out in game 7 of the NLCS to leave the bases loaded. Every Cardinal fan knows EXACTLY what I’m talking about and probably could detail where they were and how they felt when that happened.
And now that Wainwright is starting, I still get that feeling when he pitches. That he’s going to be great. Every time. That even if a runner is on 3rd with less than 2 outs, there’s a good chance he may not score. That we’re going to be in the ballgame until the very end, even when the bats are unproductive. And tonight it is set up for Adam to take home win #18. He’s pitching against a struggling Pirates offense where the Cardinals historically have done very well. He’s pitching in a week when the offense has really been clicking on all cylinders, including Albert Pujols. Pujols vs. the Pirates in the month of August? Forget about it. It’s almost not even fair.
Most importantly, the Cardinals are on a roll right now. They got incredible performances from Carp and Garcia and then a decent start out of Loshe. Nobody wants to be the guy to end that. It would also be great to see the Reds lose again. Yeah, they’ve lost a couple recently, but make no mistake; we are still 2 1/2 games behind the Reds. Yeah, it’s better than 5, but the Reds aren’t going to lay down either. At this point, every game matters.
Nothing more beautiful than a Wainwright curve,
These are the kind of games that are heartbreakers. Chris Carpenter vs. the Cubs. Definitely an easy game to get up for. And Chris pitched well. He gave up 3 runs in 6 innings. But it wasn’t enough against Big Z, who was only slightly better than Carp. Zambrano went 5 and 2/3 and gave up 2 runs. They both struck out 3.
Carpenter is a great pitcher and 9 times out of 10, you’re going to right taking your chances with him. He’s rarely going to get beat by giving up lots of hits and walks. But he was one glaring flaw. He tends to give up the long ball. And he did exactly that today…..TWICE. One by Aramis Ramirez and once by (of course) Derrek Lee. I mentioned yesterday that this is a guy who always brings his A game against the Cardinals. This is two games in a row that he has now gone deep against the Cardinal staff. He may not yet be the “Cardinal killer” that Carlos Beltran is, but I still don’t enjoy seeing our staff face the guy.
And the most disheartening part of the whole game? The 9th inning. As the home team, you figure surely you can scratch out a run and at least tie it up, if not go ahead. Especially after Aaron Miles led off with an infield single and scooted on to 2nd on a wild throw by Aramis Ramirez.
So essentially you have a runner on 2nd with nobody out. That HAS to be a run. No excuse. A couple of sac flies, a bunt and a sac fly, a base hit. There are so many options. But instead Brendan Ryan pops out foul to the catcher and Lopez pops up to the third baseman. So now there is 2 outs and Miles still hasn’t moved. All the more maddening was watching Allen Craig swing and miss 3 straight would-be balls to end the game, as Albert Pujols watched from the on deck circle. I really wish John Jay was still at that point in the game. He swings a hot bat and perhaps the outcome would have been different. Those pitches Craig swung at…..they were not even a little close. It makes me sad, but all I can hope for now is that the Reds will lose tonight.
Biggest Marlins fan ever,