Health is always a concern for every MLB team, as it is something that you can’t control, but is vital for a team to be successful. At times when a player goes down you might have a younger, expected player to step up, but that is something that can’t be counted on. Overall, you need a healthy team to be competitive into October.
The Cardinals haven’t been healthy for even a week.
The injury bug has always plagued the Redbirds, as well as every other team, leaving you saying, “what if” into the season. What if Carpenter hadn’t been hurt in October of 2006? What if Mark Mulder hadn’t been a huge disappointment injury-wise? What if we hadn’t wasted a year on Brad Penny to simply be hurt the whole time?
Before Spring Training even started, there were already a number of injury concern.
– Would Lance Berkman be healthy enough to play outfield?
– Can Yadier Molina hold out another year playing so many games behind the plate?
– Would David Freese be healthy all season?
– Would Kyle Loshe have a fully healthy year?
And on and on it goes. While not having answers to these questions, we have learned of some very serious injuries already within the Cardinal team. The biggest of this, of course, is Adam Wainwright. Wainwright underwent Tommy John surgery and while it was successful, he will be out for at least this season and even possibly into next. Nick Punto, although a smaller piece in the puzzle, is still an injured piece nonetheless.
And now, today, Carpenter and Boggs were taken out of today’s contest. Supposedly, these are minor things and would certainly seem so compared to Wainwright’s devastating injury. And if they were the only sources of possibly injury, it wouldn’t seem so bad. But on top of the ever-increasing pile of injuries that we have going, anything more seems like it would fall in the “straw that broke the camel’s back” category.
Carpenter would be at the top of the list of guys that absolutely cannot get hurt, with our other ace sidelined. We are lucky in the fact that we essentially have two aces, but Carp is going to have to stay healthy if we are going to be competitive at all. Hopefully, they are just being cautious and removed him before he could do serious damage. Hopefully, it is as minor as they are saying. Our offense needs to be healthy and strong to support some of our less than star caliber pitchers as well. Pujols, Holliday and Berkman all can make some serious noise if healthy, but David Freese will be a big piece there. A healthy Freese means that Yadi can man the plate and do what he does best and anything offensive would just be a bonus. It will also take some of the pressure of of Rasmus, who tends to play better the less pressure he has on his shoulders to perform.
You can’t write off the season before it starts, but the injuries have got to stop for sure!
Injury bug, go away, go away,
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,
Chris Carpenter – The once obvious clear ace in the Cardinals rotation, though some would now perhaps give that distinction to Wainwright, he is still a part of one of the better 1-2 punches in baseball (Philadelphia beastly rotation aside). Carp has always been a no-nosense type of guy with the media, fellow players, in pitching and it’s one of the things I love about him. He is going to have a lot to prove this year, namely that at 35 years old, he can still deliver the good stuff. Otherwise, it’s very conceivable that it may be his last year in a Cardinal uniform. And even if he does, that could still well be the case. The Cards have an option on him for 2012, but a lot of his future could depend on the Pujols situation. If they can’t sign Pujols and Carp is still healthy, I’m sure they pick up his option. If they do sign Pujols, Carpenter could be a guy that they buy out. They’ll have to save money somewhere and an aging pitcher, however, good, seems the first place to do that.
Adam Wainwright – Maybe Wainwright hasn’t been “the face of the franchise” in so much the same way Carpenter has been over the last few years, but he’s getting there. As I said above, many seem him as overtaking Carp in that ‘ace’ role. For my money, as soon as he K’ed the mighty Beltran to end the NLCS, I was a Wainwright fan for life. I love listening to Adam give interviews. Still a southern boy through and through (though not as much as Colby), he just seems to enjoy talking baseball and pitching. Nothing fancy about him, he just does his job. I fully expect to see him make another run at a possible Cy Young. And perhaps one of these years, the other pitchers will actually let him reach it.
Jake Wesbrook – Now this guy will be interesting to watch. He was a Cardinals for only a little while last year, but now has been signed for two additional seasons. He didn’t do anything spectacular last year, but he was also brought over only in time to try and save an already sinking Cardinal team. What will he be like sitting under Dave Duncan for an entire season? Will he crash and burn a la Brad Penny? Or will he be the latest Duncan testimony a la Jeff Weaver? Time will tell.
Jaime Garcia – Jaime is the player I am most excited to watch in 2011. He had a totally unexpected and awesome breakout season last year. The question on everyone’s minds will be whether or not it was a fluke thing or if he can step up again this year. The Cardinals need him to be as good as he was last year if they’re going to think about getting to October.
Kyle Loshe – The guy that the Cardinals for some reason badly want to be their 5th starter. I have no idea why. This guy is completely maddening to watch pitch. Maybe they feel they have invested too much into him, but at some point you have let him go. Even at his best, this guy’s not a front of the rotation type of guy.
Ryan Franklin – The solid closer. I trust him in a ballgame and he’s cheap for the Cardinals, considering the money they’re pouring in to a lot of other places. But the problem again is that this is his last year before free agency. The plus is that hopefully he’ll want to make a good impression, but the negative is that it serves as a distraction.
Mitchell Boggs / Kyle McClellan / Trevor Miller / Jason Motte / Fernando Salas / P.J. Walters
Various members of the Cardinal ‘pen that have pitched from a little to a lot. A lot of arbitration eligible players in this group and also unclear in what they have to offer. There’s a couple of exceptions to that, such as that Motte throws heat. But for the most part, it’s always hard to know what your set-up men and other various bullpen roles are going to do. We’ll see soon enough how this is going to all shake down.
The Cardinals have a returning starting rotation in Carp, Wainwright, Garcia, Westbrook and Loshe. But that is doubtful to be the starting rotation come the end of the season. There’s no guarantee for some of the staff who will be in St. Louis at the beginning of the season and who will have to work their way up there. Spring Training will help get all of that sorted out.
Next up are the newcomers.
One of the best 1-2 combos out there,
I admit it. I thought we didn’t have a chance to win this game. When the Braves scored 3 runs in the first, partly because of 2 errors, I threw up my hands in disgust. 3 runs in the 1st inning? With the kind of offense we’ve been having? Come on. And that third run coming off the bat of Derrek Lee? You had to see that coming. He has changed uniforms, but he’s still a Cardinal killer.
Warning to Cardinal pitchers:
Or have you already forgotten the 4 home runs he belted against us in 3 game against the Cubs, the last time we played them? Walk him. Seriously. Until we have 10 runs, WALK him.
Maybe I’m a horrible Cardinal fan for giving up after 3 runs in the 1st inning, but I don’t think so. This team just doesn’t always instill a lot of confidence. I want to believe. So badly, I want to believe. But when your team goes 4-11 in their last 15 games, they make that difficult. Yet, the Cardinals are still in the hunt. And so I watch. And pray. And yell. And occasionally throw things at my TV. And cheer. And ask Larussa what the heck he is thinking. And many other things because I just can’t give up on this team until all 162 games are played. In the meantime, my heart may give out.
The Reds have done their best to let us back into the hunt after we tried our hardest to give them the division. But the Cardinals playing average baseball right, a step up from the horrible baseball they were playing, have only gained a little ground. We are now five games back. That’s right. FIVE games back. Still a long way from ordering the celebration champagne, but close enough to make me look at the clock every hour hoping that that the 7:15 start time will get here already.
Tonight was one of those nights, where if you didn’t know any better, you would think this was a 1st place team cruising to the playoffs. As my title said, ‘When it rains, it pours.’ When they are clicking, the Cardinals have as intimidating offense as anybody. Even after losing Matt Holliday to ejection, the Redbirds were merciless against the Braves, battering them with hit after hit. In the end they would get into the double digits, putting the Braves away 11-4. Wainwright was solid and effective, going 8 innings and striking out 7, tying the league lead with his 18th win. Production was up and down the lineup, from Skip leading off and going 3-5, Rasmus have a 4 for 4 night with 2 home runs and 3 separate Cardinals going deep. It was a great night to be a Cardinal fan.
It continues to be a long, hard, uphill struggle, but the Cardinals are clinging on to life. Let’s hope they can keep it going against the Braves tomorrow. Carp’s on the hill for us, which means I like our chances.
Just when the Cardinals make you think they’re out of it, they do something like this. Somehow, even though they have looked like little leaguers the last couple weeks losing to teams that have long been out of the postseason hunt, they come up huge against the Reds.
That’s not to say this was an easy win. They didn’t beat the Reds badly like they did when they swept them not like back. They kicked, screamed and clawed their way to this 3-2 win. But hey, it all shows up as a “W” when it’s all over and that’s what counts.
The Cardinals have a long, long way to go to be thinking about October, but they have kept hope alive among Cardinal fans everywhere, even if only for a moment. In order to win, they are going to have to start playing some really good baseball. And they will have to do it against good teams who are also battling for one of those 4 NL postseason spots. And they are going to have to start producing more than 3 runs of offense per game.
But again, how good is Jaime Garcia? To limit the Reds to only to runs was phenomenal. I really hope they at least consider him for Rookie of the Year. I don’t know that he’s well-known enough to get the win, but if it wasn’t for Garcia, the Cardinals would be about 20 games out right now and thinking about golf during the off season.
As it stands, we’re still 7 games out. But it’s better than 9. We have our two best pitchers going the next two days and so a sweep at Busch is not out of the question. That would still put us only at 5, but you have to start somewhere, right? I just want to see the bats come alive again. I’d love to give Carp or Wainwright about 15 runs, so they can just cruise to an easy victory.
In these 1 run games, every time a Red reached base, I was basically having a heart attack. (Yes, I am very dramatic when I watch Cardinals baseball. You should have seen me in 2006.)
Then, of course, we have to talk about Brandon Phillips. Obviously, everybody knew he was going to get booed. But what was great was that he strikeout swinging for the fences and proceeded to do sqat the rest of the game. Phillips continues to show that he has no ability to back up his big talk and I love it. I saw one play where he fouled a ball off to the stands on the 1st base side and a fan threw his foul ball back on the field. All of that would have been moot with a victory, but winning makes it even sweeter.
A recent poster said that I need only “believe” that the Cardinals can do it. They’ve made that difficult recently, but with last night’s game that glimmer of hope is still there. What do you Cardinal fans think? Had you given up home or do you still believe?
Series win today boys,
This is probably the most important series of the year for the
Cardinals. Getting swept by the Reds would put the Cardinals 11 games
out of the division race and virtually out of the race for good.
Sweeping the Reds would put us 5 games out of the race. Certainly,
still pretty far out, but at least within striking distance, with a
month of games still left to play. So this series is very, very key.
What makes it even more interesting is that less than a month ago we
swept the Reds at the GABP. Can we do the same on our own turf? We’ll
find out this weekend.
In the meantime, I thought I would do a survey about your favorite
moment against the Reds. Now, in order for this to work, you can’t just
READ the blog. You actually have to comment with your vote! 😛
So, here are your choices. Which is the greatest moment against the Reds?
A – Mark Whiten hitting 4 homers in one game on September 7, 1993 in a 15-2 win.
B – Chris Carpenter’s first career grand slam at the GABP on October 1, 2009 in a 13-0 win.
C – Yadi’s homer after Phillips comments incited the brawl on August 10,
2010 in a 8-4 win.
D – Sweeping the series against the Reds on August
11, 2010 in a 7-1 win.
E – Hasn’t happened yet. It will be when we win the division against the Reds in October.
F – None of the above. I’m a Reds fan.
Going with B,
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,
The Phillies lose thanks to some great spoiling action by the Astros. I always knew I liked them. This gives a good chance to gain some ground tonight in the wild card race. And because the Reds don’t play today, a win would pull us within 3 of them. It’s starting to look like all of these races will come down to the wire and 162 games might end up not being enough to sort it all out. But the Cardinals have to start putting together a string of wins and they need to do it soon. Winning 1 and then dropping 2 isn’t going to get us anywhere. The Reds haven’t lost often, so when they do we need to take advantage of every opportunity we can. Come on Redbirds….let’s start the winning streak tonight against the Nats!!
Confident with Carp on the mound,
I didn’t get to see last night’s game against the Pirate and I am not sad about that at all. Losing a series to the worst team in baseball is not how I anticipated this series going. How frustrating to see the Cardinal offense to run hot and cold. A couple games we’re scoring 9+ runs and then we can’t even squeak out more than a few hits. The pitching has been more than adequate, but the offense is simply not producing. We have plenty of guys who can hit, but they actually need to do it. The only good news if we do make it to October is that against good pitching, we seem to do alright.
It’s frustrating, but it’s over. Hopefully, we can put this Pittsburgh series behind us and move on to playing the Nationals. It’s still somewhat worrisome though because this is another sub. 500 last place team, playing spoiler and playing with nothing to lose. But if anybody can get us back us track, it would be once again, Chris Carpenter. He did against the Giants in his last start and let’s hope he has his good stuff again because you just simply never know about the Cardinal offense these days.
We remain 3 1/2 games behind Cincinnati in the central and 1 game behind the Phillies for the wild card. Luckily, Houston has been our friend, beating the Phils in some very tight games. Did you see the extra inning game where Roy Oswalt had to play left field? I love stuff like that. These guys grew up playing baseball; they’re athletes at the professional level. Don’t tell me he doesn’t know how to catch a fly ball. And he got a chance to prove that he indeed can, in the very first batter of the inning. It never should have happened though. He was inserted when Ryan Howard was ejected by the third base umpire. Watch the replay. That guy was itching to throw Howard out. I’ve never seen a more visual display of an ego or a power trip in my life. It was ridiculous.
Both Pujols and Wainwright, serious contenders for the awards of MVP and Cy Young, respectively, are starting to have serious competition. There was a time I was ready to give the award to both of these guys hands down, but for now, I would say in both races, it’s simply too close to call. Pujols and Votto are neck and neck. Pujols leads Votto in home runs and RBI, but not by much, especially after Votto went yard twice last night. Pujols was gaining ground in average, even being as close as .01 point away. But is 0-fer tonight did not help his cause there.
And the same goes for the Cy Young race. At this point, I see it only as a two-horse race between Wainwright and the Phillies, Roy Halladay. Again, Wainwright and Halladay are neck and neck in this race. Wainwright narrowly edges out Halladay in ERA and wins, while Halladay has a pretty comfortable lead in strikeouts.
In both of these races, hands could still change several times the rest of the season. I don’t see any of these four guys letting up, so it looks like it will probably come down to who gets extra-hot this last month of the season. To make matters even more interesting, all three of the clubs these four represent (Reds, Cardinals, Phillies) could theoretically see the postseason.
Moving past Pittsburgh,
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,