So after taking 2 of 3 from Houston, it was time to see if the Cardinals could take their recent success to Atlanta, and beat a tougher team and a tougher pitcher in Tim Hudson. The Cards sent their ace, Chris Carpenter, to the mound to do the job.
Big surprise: once again we did not get Carp a win. Are there any other teams who have sent their #1 guy to the mound 6 times and still haven’t gotten a win for him? He’s pitched well. There was one game where he let it get out of control, giving up 8 runs over 4 innings. But besides that, he has gone deep into games, getting out of jams and deserving a win. But every game either the Cardinal bats or the bullpen have conspired against him.
Last night, it was the bats. For all the talk of bullpen trouble, they actually held their own. Sanchez was again impressive. I could watch that guy pitch all day. There was unnecessary drama in the 9th. The tying run was once again at the plate with a runner on. And he flew out to Matt Holliday who made a pretty decent over the shoulder catch on the warning track, just shy of home run distance. The drama has probably given me ulcers, but I’ve grown to accept that may just be the way it is with the Cardinals. And as long as they win, I probably won’t complain (too loudly) and last night they were able to win. Combine that with the Reds loss and it was a pretty good night. Unfortunately, the Cubs won.
After a night when the big boys ripped the cover off the ball, it was not so big guys making the noise last night. Yadier and Descalso each had an RBI to knot the game at 2-2 and after the Braves homered to make it 3-2, Descalso hit a sac fly to again tie the game at 3-3 in the 9th inning. Then it went to extras where things got interesting. You figure the 10th inning is where they have to make it happen. They have Pujols, Holliday, Berkman coming up that inning. Back to back to back jacks, perhaps? Nope. They go down easy, 3 up, 3 down.
But in the 11th inning, the Cardinals start to make some noise. With 2 runners (via a HBP and walk) and 2 out, Nick Punto steps to the plate. Punto was brought to St. Louis to be an all-around utility guy, because he’s decent with his glove. Not because of his extraordinary bat. In fact, going into this at-bat, he’s already 0-5 on the night, hitting .160 for the season. But on some nights the cards fall just right. (No pun intended.) Normally, Theriot would be leading off and in this spot and not Punto, but he was recovering from rib cage soreness. But the stars aligned and Punto ripped the ball down the right field line for a 2 RBI triple. And that would be the game. 5-3 Redbirds.
I really do feel bad for Carp. I know they always talk about team wins rather than personal wins, blah, blah, blah. But it has to be bad on the morale to go out their game after game and not be able to secure the win. And Carpenter is equally responsible for their win last night because he kept the game close despite a couple bad breaks. One that jumps to mind was the play in the 7th inning. Berkman made a decent throw to try and get the base runner at 3rd and instead hit him in the back. Nothing you can do about that. But it meant runners on 2nd and 3rd with only 1 out. So they walk Chipper to load the bases and face Brian McCann. Carp induces the double play and they get out of that inning that could have been a lot more damaging.
Speaking of that Berkman throw, it would have been nice to see him throw a runner out. The Cardinals have not had one outfield assist this year. Not one. I mentioned before how bad the Cardinal defense is. This is just a team that is more offense than defense, which has not usually been typical of Cardinal clubs. I mean, when Edmonds was in the outfield, he would have had several assists this year, not to mention many runners being scared to go on him. But I do have to give it up for Nick Punto. He did make a nice play last night. And with the lack of quality defense has a whole, it’s nice to see the occasional great play.
I’ve been watching the 76 second Reebok recaps of the games. Sometimes they will include home runs or game winning doubles, but mostly it’s just great defense packed into 76 seconds, which I love. I watched probably a week’s worth last night. And not one Cardinal play was on there. That should tell you something about Cardinal defense.
The only other scary moment of the game was when Gerald Laird got hit in the head in the 9th inning with a bat. I mean he got hit hard. So hard that he fell over and looked pretty dazed. Molina was already out of the game, so if Laird had to come out, it would have called for an emergency catcher situation, which the announcers were saying was Daniel Descalso. That would have been interesting to say the least. I had to be the emergency catcher one time on my college softball team. It was a lot of fun, but I also wasn’t catching a 97 MPH Jason Motte fastball.
So after a horrendous beginning, the Cardinals now have won 5 series in a row. A win today or tomorrow would give them 6. They aren’t dominating teams and sweeping them, but that’s okay. If you win every series, you have yourself a championship. It’s just one series at a time. And that seems to be the way the Cardinals are handling it. And while you have guys like Schumaker and Craig out, or Freese sitting, you need to see guys like Descalso and Punto deliver. One thing in common of all championship teams is that they don’t just look to their 3-4-5 guys to get it done. Production comes from surprising places at times and it comes from up and down the lineup. For maybe the first time this year, I believe the Cardinals really do have a shot to play in October and to play well. They have this way of rising to the occasion when everyone has doubted them. Hopefully they can keep it going today.
Takin’ down the chop,
This is not the first time this season, we have seen the Cardinal offense errupt. Normally, it is over 9 innings and not in one, but nonetheless, when these guys are clicking, it’s clear what they can do. And that’s good because our pitching is shaky at times, especially the relief pitching, as well as our defense.
The defense is actually painful to watch at times. The Cardinals have the fourth highest number of errors in the NL and the only teams that have poor are sub .500 teams. Over the years the Cardinals have been known for outstanding defense. In the 80s you had the Wizard and even more recently, guys like Edmonds and Rolen were just fun to watch. Rolen was a vacuum at 3rd base. Not only did he make the routine plays with ease, but he made the ridiculously hard plays look easy. Edmonds had a flair all his own, laying out to catch fly ball after fly ball or hopping the fence to rob a home run.
These days the defense is abysmal at best. Only Yadier’s cannon is exempt. With the rest of them, if they make the routine plays I’m happy because that doesn’t always happen. And spectacular plays are certainly few and far between. Most of our outfielders aren’t going to be throwing runners out at the plate and our infield has struggled to catch anything hit sharply.
This combined with a not so strong effort from the bullpen last night again allowed a last place Houston team to feel like they had a shot to win, even as the Cardinals led by 6 runs in the late innings. And indeed they did. For the second day in a row, the ‘Stros had the tying run at the plate. Fortunately, after a wild pitch by Salas, backup catcher Laird dove over home plate as Hunter Pence raced home, just in time to get the inning ending out. If it wasn’t for that, who know what would have happened that inning?
Of course for the Cardinals the big inning was the 6th inning, where they put up 9 runs on 9 hits and 1 walk. Most remarkably, all of the hits, minus Berkman’s home run, were singles. Small ball at its best. In that inning, 4 players (Freese, Pujols, Holliday and Berkman) each had 2 hits.
Overall, the Cardinals scored 11 runs on 15 hits. Lance Berkman had quite the game against his old team, as I mentioned here that he probably would. The only two extra base hits of the game, a double and a home run, belonged to Berkman. He went 4 for 5 with 5 RBIs, heavily contributing to that powerful middle of the order lineup. The 3-4-5 guys went a total of 8 for 14 with 8 RBIs. And that’s what these guys are paid to do. To continue to go after opposing pitchers, unrelenting hit after hit. Many people have questioned the contract of Matt Holliday, but I think he has showed himself worthy of every penny. He hasn’t had the career of Albert, of course, but he has proven himself quite valuable and a much more affordable price. And you can’t say enough about Berkman. He was gambled on, in the offseason and Cardinal fans everywhere are so glad he was. He has continued to rake and has now hopped to 2nd in the NL in average, behind none other than? Matt Holliday.
In today’s game, it would be nice to finally get Chris Carpenter a win. It’s an unfair world where Carp is 0-2 and Kyle McClellan is 4-0. The biggest reason for that, of course, is run support. Carp has only allowed more than 2 runs, in one of 5 starts this season. But his teammates have not returned the favor. He has the worst run support on the Cardinals staff and the 11th worst in the NL. On the other hand McClellan has the 6th best run support in the NL, at a crazy 9.10.
Taking on the Braves,
So I recently read about the latest prominent injury, that of newly
acquired Brewer ace, Zack Greinke. He has a fractured rib and looks to
be out for a couple of weeks and missing about two starts.
A few things about this:
1) Brewer fans are probably livid that he did this playing pick-up basketball.
you’re a Major Leaguer, it’s not that you can’t play any other sports,
but rebounding hard in a friendly game? Probably not worth doing damage
to your $27 million arm, especially when a team pulled out all the
stops to get you. Also not the easiest way to get a fan base in your
Can you imagine if he did something more serious then
just a hairline fracture? The Crew would really be sunk this year. As
it is, a couple of missed starts in April is NOT the worst thing in the
world. Losing ace Adam Wainwright for an entire year? Now that
probably is the worst thing in the world.
2) Isn’t there something in professional contracts about not doing extreme things like skydiving and whatnot?
so, should there be something in there when a player inflicts damage on
himself? Although at least Greinke did this playing a real sport.
Remember Joel Zumaya? He injured a finger on his pitching hand playing
Guitar Hero. That’s right. A video game. And that was during the
ALCS. So horrible timing even though his Tigers did end up moving on to
the World Series that year. So yeah, it’s all perspective. It can
always be worse.
3) Cardinals must take advantage
would never root for an opposing player to be injured. And I do wish
Zack Greinke a quick and speedy recovery, just as I would hope opposing
fans would do for Wainwright. But what’s done is done. He is injured.
He will miss 2-3 starts. The Cardinals must take advantage of this
I know games in April seem to mean less than late
September, but at the end of 162 games when you’re 1 or 2 games out of
contention, suddenly all of those missed chances in April start haunting
you. Greinke will likely be a big winner for the Brewers this year and
be tough to beat. So now, while they’re down a guy is the time for the
Cardinals to start ahead in the standings.
In other news,
Morneau is back for the Twins after missing extensive time with the
Twins because of a concussion. The Twins are my favorite AL team and I
just like Morneau, in general, so I am thrilled to see him back.
Concussions are scary and becoming way too common in baseball and have
ended the careers of far too many players. Most recently was Jason
LaRue who suffered his from a kick to the end during an on-field
skirmish with the Reds and a run-in with Johnny Cueto’s spiked foot.
Edmonds suffered lingering concussion effects after a bad run-in with an
outfield wall. And one of my favorite Cardinals Mike Matheny’s career
ended early as well. Here’s hoping a very productive season for Morneau
and all the Twins!
Greinke out, Morneau in,
So, I mentioned in previous post (here) that it makes you wonder “what if” Roy Oswalt was a St. Louis Cardinal instead of a Philadelphia Phillie. Now, today, i read a story on MLB.com, that makes you wonder that same “what if” about Scott Rolen.
Now, I am a little more biased here. If you read my blog back in the day (like, say in 2006), you would know that as a Cardinal, Scott Rolen was my favorite player. Still, this MLB.com article backs up something that does not surprise me in the least.
The young, upstart Reds are .608 when their veteran, Scott Rolen, is in the lineup. When he’s not? They’re not even playing .500 ball. That is HUGE. It’s no secret that 3rd base has been a struggle for the Redbirds this year. At the beginning of the year we looked to have a great 3rd baseman in Rookie of the Year candidate, David Frese. Then we turned the position over to Tyler Greene. Then he got hurt. Then we suffered and screamed and yelled, as we saw guys who didn’t belong there flub play after play at the position. Yeah, I’m looking at you Felipe Lopez.
At least now we have an adequate player there in Pedro Feliz. He makes the routine plays. He’s good. But he’s no Scott Rolen. Rolen was literally a human vacuum cleaner at 3rd. He ate up everything that was hit to him and some things that weren’t. He was a big man, but he could dive for a ball on the line and jump up to throw him out faster than anybody. His arm was a cannon.
To have someone in that spot like Scott Rolen? It would be incredible. That says nothing about his bat. There have been some offense struggles this year. And I have no doubt that when Pujols or Holliday have struggled, Rolen would have been there to pick up the slack. Instead of Pujols, Edmonds & Rolen of ’06, we could have Pujols, Holliday & Rolen in ’10. But that never would have happened. It’s no secret that Rolen and LaRussa did not like each other very much. And now there’s the same sort of thing being said of LaRussa and Rasmus. Personally, I’m not much of a LaRussa fan and I wouldn’t be sad to see him leave after this year. But that’s for another blog.
In the end, I am sad. I am sad that we do not have Rolen on this team. We could use another veteran force. Yes, he’s a quiet guy, but that strong, silent type might be exactly what was needed to kick the Cardinal’s butts into gear. Rolen would never sluff off. He’s in it to play hard and to win. He hits a home run, puts his head down and runs the bases. That’s what I wish these young Cardinal guys had to look up to this year.
Another what if day,
Normally, I have no problem having an opinion. Especially when it comes to my Redbirds. But this whole Pedro Feliz thing has thrown me for a loop. If you read my blog, you will note that I have complained about the lack of a 3rd baseman more than anyone. Once a position held by Scott Rolen, not only did it mean we had solid defense up the line, but a power bat as well to combine with Edmonds and Pujols. These days we have big guys Holliday and Pujols and….well, not much else really. Colby has some pop from time to time, but now he’s strained something. Hopefully, he’ll be back to full-time action for this weekend.
In any event, it’s no secret that we lack anything resembling a 3rd baseman or even anybody with a halfway decent ability to play the hot corner for an entire 9 innings. It just so happened that our main two guys, David Freese and Tyler Greene were both sent to the DL. Freese is done, but Greene is supposed to be making his way back here at some point. But how long are we talking about? Will it be too late?
We needed someone and we needed there now. And apparently John Mozeliak heard our cries. His answer? Claiming Houston Astro Pedro Feliz off of wires. This is certainly not a permanent solution….everyone knows that. His contract is this year only, so we’re strictly talking about a rental.
Nevertheless, is this good for us? His defense has to be better than anything we have going on now with Lopez playing way out of his comfort zone and Allen Craig, who looks like he might pee his pants every time he has to hit or field a ball. But from what he showed in Houston, his offense is certainly not top-notch. The best we can hope for is this: that his desire to prove himself to his new team and anybody that might want him this off season combined with actually being on a post season bound club again will make his numbers start to climb upward.
But I have my doubts.
When Walt Jocketty made certain moves, they were often criticized, but I almost always backed his play. He made the impossible possible. In the hands of Dave Duncan, Jeff Weaver is suddenly pitching like he’s Cy Young. He brought us Edmonds and Rolen to have their best years in St. Louis. Of course, he had the bad call from time to time. (Oh, Danny Haren, how we miss you….) But overall, you felt like even when it didn’t make sense it was going to turn out ok.
I do not have that same feeling with John Mozeliak. But I don’t know what else we could do. The situation was (is) bleak. After an inspiring sweep at Cincy, we have spiraled downward as we have lost to very, very sub-par teams. It’s not over yet, not by a long shot, no matter what Reds fans might try to tell you. But 3 games out is not where we want to be. And if we got to 5 games out, I would be worried. We definitely need to be no more than 2-3 games out when the Reds come to play us in September.
In the meantime, I will look forward to seeing our new man suit up and hopefully be one of the missing pieces to this puzzle.
Side note: Apparently, Jason LaRue is done for the season as he is not recovering from his concussion. This is worrisome and hopefully for his sake, this is only a season ender, not a career ender. Bad blood, aside, I sincerely hope Johnny Cueto makes some sort of apology for this. You can blame Molina or Carp all you want, but it is not their, nor even Brandon Phillips fault. Cueto kicked him in the head. Even though it wasn’t on purpose, it’s not acceptable and he might have just ended this guy’s career. Best wishes Jason.
And, here’s hoping Arizona can close the deal tonight.
2 1/2 just looks better than 3 1/2,
Of course you don’t know who the heck I am, although I have been a part of this thing since the tail end of ’05. And it’s my fault you don’t know who I am. I have not blogged in quite some time. Since 2008 to be exact. And even then it was scattered at best. I blogged a handful of times in 2007 as well, but my last consistent blogging was done in 2006. I blogged the entire season as I witnessed my first Cardinal championship.
(Technically, I was alive in ’82, but too young to remember that also awesome October.)
So, that incredibly long introduction to say that I am back, hopefully for a longer stay this time. I miss making my opinion heard and hearing what others have to say back. I have a lot I could talk about right now, but I promise I won’t give you the whole thing in one entry. 🙂
So I’ll start with the most recent events. The melee between the Cardinals and the Reds. Who knew we even had a rivalry with them??? I guess because we’re competing for the division it was bound to happen. There’s always the life-long Cubs/Cardinals hatred. Even when the Cubs are double digits out of first place, it’s always satisfying to see them get thumped good. Edmonds and Zambrano always seemed to have words for each other. Two cocky, arrogant guys facing each other always meant a good time.
We had brief signs of rivalries with the Astros and even the Brewers when they were in it one season. But I have never had ill-will towards Cincy. Quite the opposite. I’ve impressed by their team this season, whom everyone said would fall by the break. Well, the break is a month behind us and still here they are….our own Achilles Heel. Scott Rolen (my former favorite Redbird) has been a strong presence and Joey Votto is putting up crazy numbers for a guy most people never heard of.
So maybe that’s why Brandon Phillips decided to stir up trouble. To get fans on both sides of the race going. Maybe he did it to stir up his own teammates and light a fire underneath them. The problem is they had been playing great. No fire needed to be lit. What he very much succeeded in doing though was stirring up a hornets nest in that St. Louis clubhouse. And I love the way the Cards handled it. Yadi Molina (my current favorite Redbird) stood up for his team when Brandon clearly tried to incite him with not just one “love tap” of the bat, but two, after Molina clearly wanted no part of it. As Molina said in the post game interview in his great accent, “You are not my friend. Don’t touch me.”
And best of all, not only did he stick up for his team verbally, he stuck up for them with his bat. While Phillips unceremoniously grounded out to lead off the game, in Yadi’s first at-bat, he blasted a home run to shut Phillips and his big mouth up. The Cardinals also thumped the Reds 7-3, for good measure in what would be the first of a sweep. On their home turf, I might add. Brandon, I have no problem with a little cockiness. In fact, I kind of like it. I used to love Jimmy Edmonds home run swagger. But here’s the deal. Do it on the field and keep your mouth shut. And if you’re dumb enough to open your mouth, certainly back it up on the field.
When Jimmy Rollins said the Phils were the “team to beat” back in 2007, he then proceeded to lead his team to a division title by hitting .296, slugging .531, belting 30 home runs, with 94 RBI.
Brandon Phillips, on the other hand, ran his mouth and then proceeded to go 2 for 14 (.143) with 1 RBI for the series. While Phillips preferred to talk than play ball, Yadi went 5 for 12 (.416) with 3 RBI and 2 runs scored. And we have already discussed what the Cardinals did as a team. So bring on the smack talk anytime you want, lest you forget the last time someone had something to say about the Cardinals, they posted it in their locker room and used it as inspiration to propel them to their 10th World Series championship.
So here’s to be back to blogging and my first place Redbirds. If anyone is still around, let me know with a comment, so I know I’m not talking to myself! 🙂