What a roller coaster series. Taking the first game against the Reds was awesome. But the celebration couldn’t last too long because the next thing you know, the Cardinals bullpen is completely imploding in the 8th inning. A loss is never fun, but this one was a total group effort.
Quick: How many Cardinal pitchers does it take to blow a game?
And now the rubber match. And of course it was on national TV, so instead of enjoying a nice 1:05 start time, we had to wait until 7:15. I was still hanging out with my family for the holiday, so we turned the game on. And the next thing I know, Westbrook is neck deep in a pitchers duel. Being that Westbrook has a track record of pitching good for 3 innings or so before falling apart, I kept waiting for the bottom to drop out. But despite 3 walks, Westbrook managed to throw 6 scoreless innings. I’ll take it.
The real problem was that Reds starter, Edinson Volquez was matching Westbrook inning for inning. That is….until the bottom of the 6th. It was a small rally and short lived, but it would be more than enough against the non-producing offense of the Reds today. It started with a 1 out Matt Holliday double down the line, followed by the intentional pass to the red-hot Lance Berkman. And can you blame them? Berkman ended up 2 for 3 and continues to have multi-hit game after multi-hit game. Daniel Descalso popped up for the 2nd out and it looked like the Reds just might wiggle out of the jam. Then Yadier Molina stepped to the plate and cranked a 3 run shot for his first long ball of the season. And what a time to debut it. Yadi isn’t known for his immense power, but he is known for his great timing. He has a history of hitting well-timed home runs.
Funny how Phillips and Molina, the two guys who started the scuffle with each other last year have seemed to hit the other team well. Maybe their adrenaline gets up for these kind of series? Who knows? But on this one Yadi got the last word loud and clear. So Phillips can go back to playing around on Twitter. He seems to be more interested in hearing himself talk than playing baseball and that’s fine by me.
The bullpen pitched an uneventful 7th and 8th inning, including Eduardo Sanchez who continues to impress. We’ll see if he ends up being as great as he appears to be, but for now I can’t get enough of this guy. His scoreless inning today makes 6 innings over 4 games that he has pitched without a single run and only 2 hits. And the really ridiculous part? 10 strikeouts. Yup, 10 Ks over 6 innings. That’s a quality I like in a relief pitcher. No drama, no fuss, no mess.
The 9th inning came and Votto hit a 1 out double. Uh-oh. This sounds familiar. Luckily, the Reds don’t have the kind of protection that Votto deserves, so no free passes for the Reds team. With a runner on 2nd and one out….time to bring in Franklin! Oh wait. No just kidding. Boggs settled down and struck out two for the save. That’s how you do it!
Cool fact: The Cardinals were able to give the Reds their first shutout of the season!
Back to 1st place,
Man, today was the kind of game that is absolutely heartbreaking when you lose, but so fun when you’re on the winning side. Sadly for me, the Cardinals were not on the winning side of this (mostly) well played game.
Carpenter was extremely sharp, save one minor hiccup, where he allowed the game to be tied up at 2 runs a piece with a walk and a home run by the reigning MVP, Joey Votto. For all those that thought he had a lucky year last year, let me tell you right now that he’s here to stay. He’s no Albert Pujols (who is???) but he definitely has what it takes to be in the thick of the competition.
Now I have begun to dread games started by our ace because he normally gets no run support. The one game he did get run support he was not good at all. And if it’s neither of these things, the bullpen will probably blow it for him, as was the case today.
He left, still in line for the win, because of Albert’s solo home run. So 3-2, he hands the ball off to the bullpen, where the implosion happens. First, an error by David Freese. Normally a top tier defender, it’s possible he was dealing with a slick ball from the wet conditions. Or maybe he just made a bad play. Whatever, the case, he flung the ball far out of reach of Albert, letting the tying run get onto 2nd. At this case, Votto is intentionally passed and I agree that’s what you gotta do here. You make the guys behind beat you and not the most dangerous hitter on their team.
With an 0-2 count on Gomes, I was pretty confident we were going to escape the innning without damage. And then Batista plunks him. At that moment, all of my hopes sank. The bases are loaded and I just had one of those feelings that this was not going to end well. Indeed Trevor Miller comes in and walks the next batter tying the game. I was still nervous, but as long as we could escape tied up, there was still a chance. And then they bring in Franklin. Not one person in Cardinal Nation has hope in Ryan Franklin right now. And because of his comments to the media nobody really is crazy about the guy either. But the fans didn’t boo, as they have before. That’s the thing. They were going to give him a chance. Ok, Franklin, you say you’re so misunderstood, that it’s been “one bad outing,” let’s see. Show us that closer like mentality and get the out. The bases are loaded but you only need one out. Let’s see you do it.
Instead, he proceeds to give yet another game-winning hit, a single by Miguel Cairo, that would drive in two Cincinnati runs. And that, Ryan Franklin, is why you should only pitch with no runners on base. The ironic part is that Batista gets the loss because that error was made while he was on the mound, so Franklin’s ERA actually GOES DOWN despite his incompetent pitching.
Winning this game would have guaranteed yet another series win at worst and in line for another sweep at best and put us a very nice 2 games up on the Reds. As it stands we are back to being tied with them, but hopefully can still pull out the series win in the rubber match.
Tomorrow is Easter, which I will be spending with my family. Luckily, they are all die hard Cardinal fans so the TV being turned to Cardinal baseball is pretty much a must at any get-together we have. I hope you have a wonderful Easter whatever your plans are for the holiday and let’s hope the Redbirds get back to having 1st place all to themselves again soon.
Needing another series win,
In a disappointing season that is quickly coming to a disappointing end, the Cardinals reached down deep and pummel the Pittsburgh Pirates today, in honor of my birthday. The Redbirds knocked out 9 runs on 15 hits including, including a rousing 7 for 11 from today’s 3-4-5.
Maybe it’s the youngsters energizing the clubhouse. Maybe it’s sending the Lopez away that’s lit a fire under the Cardinals. Maybe it’s just because we’re playing the Pirates and we’ll again get swept by Chicago.
However, you slice it, it was fun watching the Cardinals do their thing.
Don’t hand that MVP to Votto just yet. Pujols let voters know he’s not backing down by going 3 for 4 today with 2 home runs, 3 RBIs and 3 runs scored. Pujols leads the league in homers, RBIs and runs scored. The only category he’s lower in his average and today he raised it .03 points to become 5th best in the league.
He is also only one of two players with over 25 home runs and less than 80 strikeouts. (Any guesses on the other guy? Don’t look it up….that’s cheating!) Votto has 116 Ks. Gonzalez? 126. Pujols once again shows power and precision.
I’m not saying it’s 100% his yet, but I am saying it’s up for grabs. Let’s see where the numbers fall after 162 games.
Loved my birthday present from the Cardinals,
Since the chance of October for our Redbirds is slowly disappearing before our eyes, I have turned my attention to rooting for the individual awards. The Cardinals have a very legitimate chance of bring home the 3 biggest pieces of individual hardware this year. The Cardinals competing for these awards are:
- Albert Pujols for MVP
- Adam Wainwright for Cy Young
- Jaime Garcia for Rookie of the Year
Two things to note before I talk about each of these guys. One, I would give up each of these awards for another World Series ring. And by their comments, I know each of them feel the same way. Two, even though I would like to see the Cardinals win, I try not to be biased. So that’s why I’m going to compare the number and look at who I think, legitimately, should be the winner in each of these categories. But, of course, as always, you can feel free to agree, disagree or tell me I’m crazy. On to the awards!
Albert is a candidate every year for this award. The awesome thing about Pujols is that even when everyone says he’s having a “down year,” his numbers are still through the charts. Most players would kill to put up half the numbers he does in a season. The same thing happens whenever people say he’s “slumping.” Or most recently, they said he wouldn’t be able to hit as well because of his left elbow. Then, he promptly went out and hit 2 home runs in the same game. That is Albert Pujols in a nutshell.
The last time I argued for Pujols as MVP (here, if you’d like to read it), I felt his only major competition was Joey Votto. Since that time, however, Carlos Gonzaelez, has definitely wiggled his way into the conversation. And this late in September, I feel very confident asserting that the MVP will go to one of those 3. So, if the season ended today, who gets it the award? Let’s break it down.
Triple crown categories
Pujols .308 .AVG (6th), 39 HR (1st), 104 RBI (1st)
Votto .321 .AVG (3rd), 34 HR (2nd), 103 RBI (2nd)
Gonzalez .337 .AVG (1st), 32 HR (4th), 101 RBI (3rd)
Pujols 85 walks (2nd), 69 Ks, .401 OBP (3rd), .595 .SLG (2nd)
Votto 83 walks (3rd), 112 Ks, .423 OBP (1st), .594 .SLG (3rd)
Gonzalez 77 walks (4th), 103 Ks, .374 OBP (14th), .610 .SLG (1st)
Pujols RISP .341/.508/.651, RISP & 2 outs .348/.595/.652, Bases loaded .125/.200/.250
Votto RISP .381/.503/.678, RISP & 2 outs .326/.475/.674, Bases loaded . 300/.364/.600
Gonz. RISP .317/.359/.561, RISP & 2 outs .263/.344/.456, Bases loaded .250/.286/.500
Even though the numbers should be based on 2010 alone, some voters will not be able to help but look at Pujols’ body of work. He’s been consistently great for 10 seasons. They might see this as a lucky year for Votto. However, that could work for Votto. Some voters will be tired of seeing the same guys get it year after year and want to go with someone new like Votto or Gonzalez. There is also the factor of getting your team to the postseason. It shouldn’t be a factor, but it is for some. If the Cardinals are out, but the Reds and Rockies make it, that could make a difference.
Still too close to call. One day it looks like Pujols is the winner and the next day Votto will put up good numbers and take the lead. So this is a race that I think will not be able to be determined until the last day of the season. After all 162 games have been played, the winner will be determined and even then there will likely be disagreement. It’s not a “shoo-in” year for anybody.
So that’s my analysis of the MVP award this year. I will be excited to properly debate it once the season is over and we have the final numbers to look at.
I will look at the Cy Young and the Rookie of the Year in a future post. Wainwright’s performance (or lack thereof, so far) tonight will change his numbers and how he stacks up in that competition.
Bring home the hardware,
First, a comment: I want to say a HUGE thank-you to all those of you who read my blog, especially
those who come back on a regular basis. I know from my stats there are a
lot more that read than comment, so I would invite you to leave your
two cents on any post. I respond to every comment and would love to
discuss the Cardinals with you. In any case, in my first month back to
blogging, I already made the top 50 at number 47 of all blogs on
MLBlogs. I would love to climb the standings each month, so come back
often and comment! K, on to your regularly scheduled post!
I’m a bandwagon football fan. While I will always say the Rams are my favorite team, I tend to only follow them closely when they’re doing well. And yes, that means I have only casually followed the Rams since they last were decent about 10 years ago.
It’s not like that with baseball. I am a Cardinal fan always. Good, bad or indifferent. That means I will be following my Redbirds to the bitter end. But that doesn’t always mean it’s easy. The scuffling ‘Birds have gone 5-13 since sweeping the Reds in early August. Never in a million years would I have dreamt that would be the case.
We have dropped series after series against awful and last-place teams, practically giving away the division title to the Reds. The wild card has been there for the taking, but it’s slowing slipping out of our grasp as well. But I still think that’s our best chance of post season play. Yes, it’s two teams to overtake instead of one, but right now, Cincinnati is playing high-caliber post-season baseball. And we are not.
It will be interesting to see how we do against them in the upcoming series. Brandon Phillips, maybe we need you to run your mouth again. That seemed to spark something in the Cardinals, the last time these two teams met up.
As the chance to be central champs gets further and further away, so does the bid for Albert and Adam to win MVP and Cy Young. Right now Pujols is neck and neck with Votto. That vote will probably come down to the end of the season. And if they are still dead even at that point, it will probably go to the guy whose team is playing in October. And if the season ended today, the Cy Young has to go to Halladay, no questions asked. Wainwright will have to pitch a few incredible games to once again take the lead in that race.
But honestly I don’t care about any of that. I care about getting to October. I care about playing in another World Series. I care about not seeing my team playing like a bunch of bums. This is their last off day for awhile, so I hope they take full advantage of figuring out what has been going horribly wrong.
Wanting to party like it’s 1982 (or 2006),
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,
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,