Ok, so it’s only a 3 game winning streak. Maybe nothing to get too excited about yet. But I feel that in the last few games the Cardinals are playing with a tad more hunger. Granted, their first win against the Padres was the result of Shane Robinson’s arm / questionable call combo that had me climbing the walls. But, at least the hitting seems to be getting more on track. Adams is starting to contribute in big situations again and Taveras even had a nice little pinch hit tonight.
But still it’s only a 3 game winning streak. As nice as it is, until I see a 7 or 8 game winning streak, or heck….even just going 7-3, or 8-2 in the next 10 games would be nice. Because here’s the problem. The Cardinals are 13-12 since the All-Star Break. If they should lose tomorrow, they will be right back at .500 ball. They have been at .500 ball for awhile now. It’s just not so noticable because most of the teams around them are in the same boat. In fact, the next two teams after them in the division (Pirates and Reds) are 5-5 in their last 10. .500 ball is not going to win the division and it’s certainly not going to be enough to sustain them in postseason play.
We all know that it’s not always the best team in baseball that celebrates in October. It’s the team that gets the hottest at the right time. And that’s what I’m hoping to see from the Cardinals. A little spark, something that says they are on the verge of getting hot and ready to compete in October. What’s scary is that the Brewers are starting to look like that “hot” team more and more. They’re that team that battles back and even if they’re done, you feel they’re going to come back and take it, just like that did tonight vs. a good LA team.
So it’s only a 3 game winning streak. But here’s hoping it’s that spark.
Time to get hot,
The offense has been so hot lately that when it finally cooled down, I expected it to happen gradually. Instead, it went from red hot to freezing in about 30 seconds. After at least a dozen hits in the last several games, today they only mustered a total of 4.
The sad part was this was my prediction once I realized it was Carp’s turn in the rotation. The Cardinals have notoriously given Carp little to no run support in many of his starts. Yes, he got clobbered earlier this year, but for the most part he turns in very solid performances and even sometimes bordering on great.
He kept the Cardinals with the Dodgers all game long, matching Chad Billingsley 0 for 0. Finally, in the 9th inning, the Cardinals broke through. Matt Holliday’s 3rd hit (yes, that’s right, he’s hitting .441!!!) led to a run giving the Cardinals a 1-0 lead.
After Trevor Miller failed to get the leadoff guy out, the Cardinals made a couple of bad moves.
Bad move #1 – LaRussa calls in Ryan Franklin, who has been very unsuccessful so far
this year in closing games.
Bad move #2 – Franklin is allowed to pitch to Matt Kemp.
Kemp has one previous at-bat against Franklin, also a home run. I understand LaRussa wanting to stand up for his players and that every guy is going to have bad games, but how many games does Franklin have to blow before he doesn’t have a job anymore? At least Minnesota closer Joe Nathan had the guts to go to his manager and ask for a different assignment until he got his control back.
This is not just one bad day or luck. Franklin is not getting beat on good pitches or lucky fall-in hits. He’s leaving the ball up in the zone and watching it get knocked out of the park. Only 1 converted save in 5 chances and an ERA above 11.00 is ridiculous. I dread to think how many more he would have blown if we hadn’t won our games by such huge margins.
Overall, I am ecstatic about this road trip. I expected 4-6, hoping for 5-5 and got 6-4. I don’t believe the Cardinals home record will be anywhere near as bad as it was to open the season and playing above .500 ball on the road is awesome.
The Cardinals missed an opportunity to gain a game on the Reds with their loss, but actually gained passed up the Brewers since they lost both games of their doubleheader today. So I guess it’s a good day when you can lose a game and still gain in the standings.
One team left to pass,
While Dodger starter Clayton Kershaw has struck out 5 Redbirds, he has made the even more devastating mistake of walking 5 Redbirds. As it turns out, the Cardinals have learned how to make the opposing pitcher pay for these types of mistakes.
Even without our hottest hitter, Lance Berkman, in the lineup, the Cardinals are still hitting. After the latest walk, his replacement Allen Craig hit a 3 run homer to widen the 2-1 Cardinal lead to a much more breathable distance.
Get up, baby, get up,
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,
has been retired across all 30 MLB
clubs, so no one will ever be issued
#42 again. But on this day, Jackie is honored by allowing all players, coaches, managers, etc. to wear his number. Here are a few Redbirds participating in last years Jackie Robinson Day.
This is a great tribute to a great man. His courage to stick with what
he knew to be right no matter what it might cost him personally is a
testament to the human spirit. People like this are the people that
make you believe that anything is truly possible with hard work,
determination and courage.
So thank you Jackie for everything you did for baseball and more
importantly for mankind in general. We salute you and your number 42.
Happy Jackie Robinson Day,
After an extended absence of the St. Louis Cardinal bats, when they finally started showing up again, no one wanted to get too excited. Was it permanent? Was it lucky? It was hard to know what to make of the situation. Fluke or For Real? That’s what I asked a week ago. But after a few more games with the same result, I would say it is safe to say that the Cardinal offense has indeed found it’s way back.
Does that mean that we won’t ever have an off game? No. Does it mean that we won’t ever get shutout? No. Does it mean that we couldn’t possibly get no-hit? No.
What it does mean is that the first week or so of games was not indicative of the potential of this Cardinal line-up. Everyone struggled to find their place in the Cardinal line-up, Holliday was out for a bit and it was just plain ugly for awhile. But once they broke out, they broke out in a huge way and they haven’t looked back since.
Not every game will be the 15-5 lashing they gave Arizona two games ago, but I think it shows what the Cardinals are capable of. Tonight’s victim were the Dodgers as they’ve now had 14 or more hits in 4 straight games and are getting production from literally ever part of the lineup, even from guys who had previously been “slumping.”
Although, I think it is safe to say that no one is hotter right now than Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday. These guys are absolutely on fire. Multiple hit games are a regular occurrence as Holliday is hitting .391 and Berkman .311. Berkman also had 4 home runs in 3 games.
One important key this year will be the triple threat of Pujols, Holliday and Berkman. Last year the Cardinals were only a threat when both Pujols and Holiday were hitting. When either got into a mini-slump, it became too easy for a pitcher to pitch around one of them and go after the other. There was no one in that 5 spot consistently for that extra protection. And the guy we did have (Ludwick) got traded away for the just as important need of pitching. This year, as long as 2 of 3 can stay hot, the Cardinals will always be a threat. And if all 3 ever get really going at the same time…..look out.
Garcia wasn’t as sharp as he was his first time out, but was more than good enough to get the job done. And since he’s 2-0 with a sub 2.00 ERA…well I’m not going to complain. Franklin is still the worrisome part of all of this. Coming in with a gigantic lead, he still gives up a home run. What if this had been another 1 run game he was trying to save? Blown again. Hopefully the Cardinals keep the games so far apart that he won’t have the chance to blow too many saves.
Keep the hits coming,
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,
Make no mistake about who the ace of the Cardinals staff is. His name? Chris Carpenter. That is not a sleight to Adam Wainwright. Waino has been awesome for us this year and so far this year, has been the more dominant of the two. He has a better ERA, more wins and more Ks (although to be fair, even in his best years, Carp tends to get the groundball out more than the strikeout), and is the leading favorite right now in the Cy Young vote.
So what makes Carp, “the ace?” Simple. He’s a stopper. Tonight, the Cardinals had their backs against the wall. They just suffered a five game losing streak, dropping them a season high 4 1/2 games behind the division leading Reds. We put hurler after hurler on the mound, most of whom pitched well. Very well, in fact. But a struggling offense was not able to help out. And any runs given up seemed to make it that much harder for the Redbirds to score.
And then Chris Carpenter strolls to the mound. I described him once in this very blog, as cold, methodic and calculating. He’s intense and knows how to pitch. And that’s why, although I might pick Wainwright over Carp, if I had one game to win, there’s nobody in the league I would pick over Carp, if I needed a guy to be a stopper. He’s proven time and time again that he is up to the task. Basically, it’s what I would call “clutch pitching.” If a hitter can constantly get hits when it counts, when runners are on, he gets a lot of attention as being a clutch hitter. Pitching doesn’t get the same notoriety, but I think a pitcher that gets wins at the right time—say when you’re team just had it’s longest losing streak of the season—that’s pretty clutch in my book.
Hopefully, this little debacle is now behind us and the Cardinals start cruising back to 1st place, where they belong. The Reds have already fallen behind LA 7-1. And while I would never count those feisty Reds out until the last pitch is thrown, things are definitely looking promising for us to gain a game in the standings. Beating the Giants, coupled with the Phillies loss to the Nats, means we also made up ground in the wild card race.
In other news, recent acquisition Pedro Feliz has gone 4 for 8 for the Cardinals so far. Obviously, it’s still quite early, but that’s a big plus right now. His defense is certainly not spectacular, but it’s adequate. He can field a routine ground ball, which is more than I can say for the efforts of Allen Craig or Felipe Lopez whenever they manned the hot corner.
Albert upped his hitting streak to 7 games, giving him a batting average of .414 for August. In fact, since July 30th, Albert has only not gotten a hit in one game. Yesterday, he hit his 8th home run this month, sitting just 2 away from the 400 milestone and giving him 1200 career RBI. I’ve heard some say he has “peaked,” but to me, he looks to have no signs of slowing down. I can’t wait to see where he ends up at the end of his career.
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,
So clearly I didn´t write anything during the game last night. I was too tired to do anything, but watch the game. (After all, it started at 2am my time.) Plus, the lack of comments doesn´t help. People are reading the blog. They´re returning and clicking through it according to my counter. So, I´d love to hear comments from anybody and everybody. This blog isn´t just a place for my opinion, but for anybody who has one. So, let´s hear anything you might have to say about the Cardinals or anything else going on in baseball. I´ll discuss it.
On to tonight´s game. I got home later, so it was already 5·0 when I turned on the game. I was sad I missed it, but glad it wasn´t the other way around. I´ll have to wait until the game is archived to see what all I missed, but they did mention that Rick Ankiel got things going with a 2·run home run.
Shortly after, I started watching, the Dodgers put together a little offense and got a run of their own. But the Cardinals pitchers stayed strong and the Dodgers would get no more. Looper pitched a good six innings, only allowing 4 hits and that one run. The effort earned him his 10th win of the season. And then 4 Redbird relievers combined to finish out the game, allowing only 1 hit between them.
But the Cardinal offense wasn´t done. Rick Ankiel drove another home run deep to outfield stands and tacked on one more Cardinal run. It also provided his 2nd curtain call since he was called up on Thursday. I think it´s safe to say Cardinal Nation loves Ankiel.
Everything I´ve read from Cardinal fans has been extremely supportive of Ankiel, but unfortunately, I´ve seen a few negative things from other fans. Those who seem to think he´ll choke or not continue to be a great Major League hitter. And that´s too bad. I think this is a guy you have to root for no matter what. His story is an example of the best baseball can be. He also made a heck of a catch in the outfield today.
We would have had two more runs, but Edmonds was robbed of a 2·run home run by an outstanding catch at the wall.
The Brewers and Cubs games tonight will decide if we stay even in the standings or go up, but I´m hoping for the best. One thing is certain: the race is definitely getting very interesting again. But, it´s tough. As a Cardinal fan, I really want the Redbirds to win it all. But, if we can´t, I want the Brewers to do it because the Cubs absolutely can´t win. So while I´m not rooting for them yet, I will if the Cardinals drop completely out of it.
But before I turn on the Brewer game and see what happens, I´m watching the Red Sox game. Beckett appeared to have a complete game shutout in the works, but then he gave up 2 hits and lost the shutout. Next reliever. Another run. Boston has now brought in Papelbon with 2 on and 2 out. And he gets the last out. Too bad.
Alright, time to turn on the Brewer game.