Tagged: Colby Rasmus

More lineup shuffling

Looks like Theriot is out of the lineup again tonight as he was a late scratch from last night’s lineup.  It scares me when our guys are breaking down and it’s only April.  But Pujols is back in, so perhaps, some of these “injuries” are not as bad as they first appear.

This does mean another lineup shakeup though, especially because Rasmus is sitting tonight as well.  Theriot and Rasmus  have consistently been the 1-2 punch all year.  There’s no word on him being injured, so I’m guessing it’s just a preventative day for him.  I’m sure LaRussa loves to have an excuse to shuffle his lineup because even when he’s got all of his regulars starting, he’s known for shuffling his lineup more times than a blackjack dealer in Vegas.

So today Punto (still filling in for the injured Schumaker) is our leadoff guy and Freese sits in the 2 hole.  3-4-5 look standard.  Other notable changes are Jay is batting 8th and playing CF and Greene is batting 7th, playing shortstop.  I truly believe our lineup is the best thing we have going for us and very deep, so even with a few key guys down, I still think we have the pop to get it done.

And we sure need this win after yesterday’s ugly loss.  Every team is going to have those games that are in your reach, but you end up losing, but what you do after it is what’s important.  If we can come back now and take 2 of 3 and still win the series, I can live with an ugly loss here or there.  (Though I still don’t have to like it.)

It will be interesting to see who gets the 9th inning if a save situation presents itself.  Who would you give it to if you were LaRussa?  Franklin?  Bogss?  Someone else?  And remember, Miles is not an option anymore. 🙂

Glad Pujols is back,
Tiffany

Season series? 1-0 good guys

Last night’s game was about as intense of a playoff like contest that you’re going to have in April.  If that same game was played in late September, it would have been crazy in that stadium.  Luckily for us Cardinal fans, the victory came down on our side.  But I had my doubts all the way through that we were going to maintain that slim lead.

The gamemanship started before even the first pitch was thrown.  LaRussa made a last minute switch to put in a bullpen guy to start in case the rain caused a delay.  With the same expert-like calling of a pitchout when you just know that other guy is running, he was 100% dead on for this one.  Normally, LaRussa drives me crazy with his constant lineup tinkering, but for once I was happy about it and it paid off.  He was able to bring McClellan in for “relief” after the delay, essentially giving him the start, while Dusty Baker had to dip into his bullpen after one batter.

McClellan continued the awesomeness that has been the Cardinal pitching (minus Westbrook) and good things happened all the way around.  Not to say this game didn’t make me nervous.  In the first inning, the Cardinals should have put up a few runs.  Ramsus not advancing on a ball in the dirt and putting himself in scoring position for the next basehit resulted in only 1 run.  As it turns out, the runs they did get were enough.

I hate to say it this early, but this team and especially this game is awfully reminiscent of the 2006 Redbirds.  That team was never overpowering, but they always had enough to get the job done.  And when it looked like they wouldn’t win, they always did.  It always just seemed to happen.  It’s not just because they’re winning, although that helps.  Just their attitude and everything about the way they are playing is different.  They have an intensity that was not there last season and wasn’t really there in the first week of this season.  I don’t know if it’s chemistry, Berkman’s influence or what, but I’m liking what I’m seeing.

The bullpen was great finishing out a close game and Boggs getting his second save since Franklin was demoted.  And of course Yadier Molina continued in his defensive prowess.  I never get tired watching him pick guys off of 1st base.  It’s hands down my favorite play of the Cardinals.  Especially when he does it to end an inning.  Or like last night, when he does it to end an inning in a 2 run ballgame with runners on 1st and 2nd.  Beautiful.

So far today the Redbirds are up 2-0 on the Reds.  Could Carp get his first win of the season??  Say it ain’t so.

1st place Cardinals,
Tiffany

Early Season Heroes

Simply put, the Cardinals are playing good baseball right now.  No doubt you have heard either on last night’s broadcast or by reading it today, that the Cardinals 5th game in a row with 14 or more hits is something they have not done since the 1930s.  While that’s an excellent accomplishment, it has nothing to do with the assessment that they are playing good baseball at the moment.

Anyone who follows this team is able to see that there is something very different about this year’s team than last year’s.  There is a spark that is happening, a chemistry with guys feeding off of one another.  There was not a shortage of hits last year.  But there was a shortage of hits at the right time.  I have yet to go back to look at the exact numbers, but the Cardinals have been getting an extraordinary amount of 2 out hits, something they couldn’t must in 2010.  Not only that, but in the last week they have been getting runners in when they are in scoring position.  My biggest complaint last year was when they were within a run or two ahead or behind the other team, they could never get the “big hit” to blow the game open.  It might be 5-4 with bases loaded, they would strand those runners and blow the game in the 8th or 9th.  And that’s what we were seeing in the beginning of this season.  But these days they are getting that big hit and then some.  And it sure is fun to watch.

Some of the differences may be the intangibles.  Personalities of teammates, a certain chemistry you can’t really put your finger on.  But I think some of it can certainly be traced to the performance of a few individuals.

Lance Berkman – Berkman has been the biggest contributor to the “big hit” that we so desperately needed last year.  He has been consistent through Pujols’ early season struggles and seems to have even sparked him to start getting hot.  This 3-4-5 is as good as any we have had since the days of Rolen and Edmonds when they were in their prime.  It’s nice to have this ex-Cardinal killer finally doing the damage for the good guys.

Colby Rasmus – We had Rasmus on the team last year, but this is a different Rasmus.  Last year he was often platooned, not allowed to hit against all pitchers and seemed to be constantly worried about his job.  He ran his mouth to the media about a trade and was still working his way from being an inexperienced kid to a star player.  Once Ludwick was traded and he was handed over every day duties, we saw him start to excel.  This year he seems very comfortable and we knew going into this that his success at the #2 role would be a huge factor in the Cardinal lineup.  He has proved himself admirably.  Whether he’s bunting his way on and stealing 2nd, hitting a leadoff double or smacking a triple, the guy is a beast this year.  Look for him to have his highest run total of his career this year.

David Freese – After he was hurt last year, the Cardinals never really recovered.  There was a constant band-aid put on 3rd base, where we had always had star caliber players before.  With Holliday’s huge contract and Albert’s looming on the horizon, we didn’t have the funds to go get someone with that kind of bang.  So Freese being back this year and healthy thus far has been huge for these Redbirds.  A guy would probably would have been a #5 hitter for the Cardinals is an even bigger asset at #6.

Tony LaRussa – Yes, the manager.  A guy that is known for always tinkering with the lineup has actually controlled himself in this area.  Granted, when Matt Holliday was out of the lineup, some tinkering was necessary.  But since that time, as long as the main guys have started, the lineup 1-6 has been:

Theriot
Ramsus
Pujols
Holliday
Berkman 
Freese

The only change has been Molina and Schumaker swapping back and forth in the 7 and 8 positions and then the pitcher hitting 9th.  This has only changed on days when Freese is sitting or when Molina or Berkman are given a day of rest.  This is the ideal lineup and for the first time ever LaRussa seems to be aligning to the mantra, “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”

This ride will inevitably only last so long.  They will eventually stop getting 14+ hits a game and they will eventually lose.  But as for now, I’ll just be enjoying it for as long as possible.

Enjoying the ride,
Tiffany

En Fuego

All of the Cardinals bats are on fire.  But seriously, how hot is Lance Berkman right now???  Two home runs in his first two at-bats tonight giving him 6 home runs in the last 5 games.  He is also hitting at a .500 clip during that same period.  It is so good to see him in a Cardinal uniform.

So far tonight Albert has also gone deep, making that two straight games for him, as he’s getting his stroke back.

And of course Holliday is hitting .383 on the season, including his hit tonight and Rasmus’s average is .393, as he has two hits under his belt.

It is looking good….really really good.

Loving Jackie Robinson Day,
Tiffany

Over 3 innings left? Really?

I looked up at the top of the screen to realize that it’s only just now the bottom of the 6th inning.  That seems crazy because this game has been very intense and full of action right from the beginning.  Not something I would have expected with the matchup going tonight: former Cy Young winner vs. near perfect game thrower.

But you never know what to expect in baseball and neither of these guys brought their A-game tonight.

So far the Cardinals have 3 homers by Berkman, Freese and Rasmus.  The problem is they were all solo shots.  Had there been runners on, the Cardinals would easily be in the lead right now.  2 D-backs have gone deep (Jason Upton and Chris Young) for a total of 5 runs.

But the Redbirds haven’t given up; they’ve continued to chip away at Arizona’s lead and have not pulled within one.  But Arizona won’t be caught up to quietly.  So far they’ve put runs on the board in every inning.

This is easily the kind of game I would LOVE to be there for in person.  And the kind of game where I can’t understand why anyone would ever think baseball is boring.

As I type this, Arizona just scored again to continue their scoring in every inning.  So round and round it goes, where it stops nobody knows!

Slugfest,
Tiffany

Fluke or For Real?

The offense looked like something other than sleepwalking in yesterday’s match against the Giants.  The question is was that a one time fluke or was it the outbreak they needed to start consistently pushing runs across the plate?  Today’s game just might tell us as the Redbirds open up a 3 game series versus Arizona.

David Freese especially had a banner day.  He went 3 for 4, smacking in RBIs every chance he got.  And to cap it off, he added a solo shot for his first home run of the year.  All in all, the ‘Birds scored 6 runs in 11 hits, which is drastically more than they have been doing and easily at least what this offense is capable of on a regular basis.

When you have guys like Pujols, Holliday, Berkman, Rasmus and Freese, you expect to score runs.  Bottom line.  I should also say Kyle Loshe has really been quite good.  Certainly much better than I expected him to be.  Who would have thought pre-season that we would love the pitching and watching a struggling offense?  Not I.

So what do you think?  Will the Cardinals continue to break out and score runs?  Will Pujols figure out how to get above .200 before April is over?  Post below!

Fun to watch your team score runs,
Tiffany

Blown Saves: 3, Cardinal Wins: 2

Are you kidding me?  Are you KIDDING me???  3 blown saves in 4 chances.  No, Franklin did not lose this game by himself.  The offense isn’t hitting and I think Colby should have caught that ball, even though it was far from a routine grab.  But Franklin deserves quite a bit of blame.  You can’t keep putting runners on every game and expect it to not catch up to you.  You let guys get on with base hits and walk, it will come back to get you.  And that’s all on Ryan Franklin.

I think something might be up with Franklin.  Remember how many saves Izzy blew before he finally admitted to arm discomfort?  He got it fixed and came back better.  If I find out this is the case, I will be pretty ticked off that he didn’t say anything.  Not speaking up only hurts yourself and more importantly the team.

People who are saying, ‘Trade him now!’ are just being ridiculous.  We already have him under contract, so we might as well use him.  Selling low isn’t going to help us.  But I’d love to see the hard throwing Motte in that role at some point to see how he fares.

In any event, the Giant series continues the trend of losing by 3 runs or less and was the 4th 1-run differential of the season.  What does this tell me?  That we are in for a very, very long season if the offense doesn’t snap out of this ridiculous funk.

Can’t wait to get Matt Holliday back tomorrow.  Hope he gets Pujols going.

Franklin, Deja Vu

A Near Death Experience

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.
wpid-St-Louis-Cardinals-vs-San-Francisco-Giants2.jpg
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… ryan franklin.jpg“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.

Sooooo close,
Tiffany

Clawing Our Way to Victory

You know the Redbirds have seen better days when they have to scratch, bite and claw their way to a 4-3 win over the Pirates.  But hey, I’ll take it.

It looked bleak at the beginning.  A decent start by McClellan (2 ER over 6 innings) and good pitching by the bullpen looked like it would be wasted by the absence of hitting once again.  The Cardinals were already 2-0 by the time I turned the game on in the bottom of the 1st thanks to another Pirate home run.  This time the culprit was Lyle Overbay.

But slowly and surely the Cardinals fought their way back.  It was one run at a time and every run was hard fought and earned.  No home runs to show for our guys.  The first run was the easiest.  It came by way of a Lance Berkman leadoff double followed by an Allen Craig base hit.  Berkman seems to be running great and I have to say this surprises me.  He’s faster than I thought he’d be.  And Craig just continues to impress.  He’s been driving in runs left and right, hitting .364 on the season with 4 RBI on the young season.  He seems to be who Jon Jay was last year and I like what I’m seeing from him.

In the 5th, the Cardinals manufactured their second run.  Theriot and Rasmus got back to back bases hits putting runners on the corners and Albert came through with a sac fly which tied the game at two runs a piece.

The 7th inning ended up being the decider.  Theriot drew a one out walk and Rasmus moved him into scoring position with a base hit and again it was Pujols with the RBI.  He hit a ‘just enough’ ground ball that was perfectly placed between short and third to score Theriot.

The only moment of worry after that came in….what else?  The 9th.  Franklin got his first two outs easy before giving up a hit to Ryan Doumit.  Flashes of a 2 out Padres comeback went through my mind, but this time he settled down and struck out the final Pirate batter to secure the win as well as his first save of the season.

Now many people might think Albert deserves all the credit for this game, but I would disagree.  Albert was important, but to me the hero was Ryan Theriot, so I was happy to hear him on ‘star of the game’ afterwards.  After all, all Pujols really did was get an out and a lucky base hit.  If Theriot is not on base, those amount to nothing.  Theriot did just what the leadoff guy is supposed to do; get on base however he can.  And he did that tonight by getting on base 3 times.  He hasn’t been particularly productive so far this season (than again, what Cardinal has?) but if he can continue to get on base at a high clip, there is no doubt runs will be scored.  The Cardinals have plenty of guys who don’t strike out and can get the sac flies or the base hits to score those runs if he can get on and get into scoring position.

Nearing .500 ball,
Tiffany

Needing Redemption

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

  1. 1st – Theriot on 2nd and Rasmus on 1st
  2. 2nd – Rasmus on 1st
  3. 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,
Tiffany