I keep telling myself that a win is a win. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter if your team wins 20-0 or clings to a 6-5 victory, it all goes into the win column.
And technically that’s true.
But when your team almost loses in walk-off fashion for the 2nd day in a row against a last place team after being up 6-0 going into the 8th inning? It’s hard not to be concerned. Every team will have these moments here and there and obviously the Cardinals are no exception. But when you follow the team, it just feels like they are having these moments more than anybody.
The bullpen is becoming downright scary. I know it’s easy to say it’s not all their fault because there were a couple of defensive miscues in those last innings. But a good bullpen is supposed to hold the ship, even in despite of miscues. Remember in Game 7 of the NLCS when Scott Rolen made an error and the bases were loaded? Wainwright wiggled out of that jam in a tie game. That’s how good he was. And in a game with a 6 run lead, that should be more than enough wiggle room.
It shows you, though, that every run is valuable and you can never have enough. The two home runs, courtesy of Holliday and and Greene going deep, seemed like it would be enough. But as it turned out, it was important that we tacked on those four runs late in the game. The best part of that was that all of that happened with 2 outs. (And much of it also with 2 strikes.) I’ve said previously and I will continue to say that hitting with 2 outs is a major strength of this club. Hitting with 2 outs and hitting in late innings was something missing from the 2010 Cardinals and I’m glad to see that it’s different this year.
I looked up the stats just to see how much they’re doing this compared to other teams. As it turns out, the Cardinals are 1st in batting average, runs scored and RBIs and 2nd in slugging with RISP and 2 outs. Last year with RISP and 2 outs, they slugged .384 and hit .255. This year they are slugging .492 and hitting .336, a huge improvement. So while shaky defense and a shaky bullpen continues to give us Cardinal fans fits, there is a lot to be happy about.
And while they are hitting well with runners in scoring position and 2 outs, it doesn’t mean they are hitting well all the time. Sure, many of our guys are lighting it up and hitting over .300, but they are still grounding into an awful lot of double plays as a team. In fact, they lead the Majors in this awful stat. Of course a surprising reason for this is Albert Pujols, who accounts for over 25% of the teams GIDP. He leads the National League in that stat and has more than twice as many as any other Cardinal. But since he is tied for the 2nd in the NL in home runs and by the time it’s all said and done, will probably be top 5 in average and RBIs as well, it’s not so bad.
One other great thing I just realized. Matt Holliday finally “officially” leads the league in average. He’s always had the highest average of every day players in the NL, but since losing time to his appendectomy, he’s never had enough at-bats to qualify. He finally got enough at-bats and now with another 3-4 performance last night, is literally blowing everyone else out of the water. He’s hitting .429 and no one else is even close. Berkman who has been on his own tear is third with .385.
So there are definitely some positives for this club hitting-wise. And even with pitching, who thought Kyle Loshe would ever be this good? I thought he had a shot to be decent, but he is pitching incredibly. He’s tied for first in wins in the NL and is 2nd in ERA, with 1 shutout under his belt. That’s Waino territory, minus the strikeouts.
And I continue to be super impressed with Eduardo Sanchez. He gave up a couple of runs last night, his first of the season. But he has some flat out nasty stuff. He’s probably not ready yet, especially because of all the immense speculation that the closer role is drawing in St. Louis, but I hope this is our closer of the future. He doesn’t mess around, but goes right after hitters. They are only hitting .185 against him and he has a mere 1 walks against 14 strikeouts in only 8 innings pitched. And you can see why. The two guys he struck out last night looked like little leaguers against him. Again, it brought me back to the NLCS and the way that Wainwright would throw that big hook and nobody could touch it. I definitely like this guy.
But as a whole the bullpen has to get it together. Because now when we have a lead late in the game against a team, they are starting to think it’s possible. They think if they can just get past our starter, into our ‘pen, they have a chance to come back. You can’t have opposing teams thinking that. They have to look at scoring early or else, they will be shut down in the 7-8-9 innings.
Someone found my blog by googling, “How many times have the Cardinals lost in the 9th inning?” Let me help you out. In 12 save chances in the 9th, as as team, they have blown 7, which is the highest deficit in the NL.
Needing another series win,
If you had told me prior to the season that the Cardinals would net a 5-0 win over the Nationals, I would have said, ‘Sounds about right.’ If you had told me that 4 of those 5 runs would come from a pair of 2 run homers from our big boys, Pujols and Holliday, I would have said, ‘Sounds about right.’ If you had told me that the shutout would be a result of going the distance? That’s where I would have stopped you.
Carp? For sure. Garcia? Yup. But Loshe? I wasn’t a believer. But he is quickly changing my mind. He has been so good this year. And then here against the Nationals….wow. A 9 inning shutout, striking out 6 against two walks. He is making me a Loshe believer for sure and dreams of pennant races and world championships are dancing through my mind.
Loshes’ #1 fan,
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,
I guess you really can’t fault Loshe’s performance, but you can’t credit
him either. If he had pitched like that as our #5, I would have
thought it was fantastic. But as either #3 or #4 (can’t really figure
out yet where Westbrook is going to fall), he needs to be a bit better.
The first two runs were the result of a double to the corner of the
outfield. That happens. But the home run he gave up next was the nail
in the coffin. And it’s that kind of pitching that he needs to avoid.
It’s all about better location. Get the ground ball outs.
All things considered though he looked sharp as he breezed through the
first few innings, even without the offense backing him up. We again
lacked that “big hit” that plagued the Cardinals all last year and seems
to be repeating itself this year. It doesn’t help matters that
Holliday had surgery and Pujols hasn’t caught fire yet. Pujols playing
the Pirates mid-season? That’s money.
My favorite moment though was Berkman coming up lefty with runners
aboard. I literally laughed out loud as I realized that this was the
exact situation I used to fear Berkman’s bat on when he played for the
‘Stros because he seemed to ALWAYS come through no matter who we had
pitching. As he strode to the plate, I said, “Ok, Lance, I expect you
to do that kind of damage for us now.” (You talk to the players during
the game too, right? No? Just me then? Um….)
But Berkman the ex-Cardinal killer did exactly what he had done against us a million times. He drove in the runner. Beautiful.
Time to see if McClellan deserves the 5th starter spot that was handed to him when we lost Adam Wainwright. All I ask is that he hold it close and let the offense do their thing. Surely, the offense has to start breaking out here at some point. And I feel that one of these games Albert’s going to have to hit 5 home runs or something crazy. It seems the bigger the slump, the bigger the break out game for him. Why not let it be tonight?
I even wore a Cardinal shirt today although I was slightly embarrassed to do so. Hopefully it gets them on a roll. Of course, if it does, I suppose I will have to wear Cardinal shirts until they lose…..
Cardinals 6th starter,
Winning streak, anyone? That’s right, we have the opportunity to have a SEASON HIGH streak of…..wait for it…..2 games. Ok, so I may be being slightly sarcastic here. In any event, two Cardinal wins in a row would be great.
In not so great news, we have Kyle Loshe on the mound. Supposedly, he has the potential to be good if healthy, so this is certainly his chance to prove it. So, let’s see how good you are Loshe.
In better news, we are playing Pittsburgh. We have a history of doing well against the Pirates and Albert has absolutely OWNED them over his career. So I expect this to be the series where we really see his big bat break out.
Without further ado, let’s go Redbirds!
Looking for a good outing by Loshe,
Many people are wondering if the Cardinal lineup will produce the runs it will inevitably need to this year. And while there are some question marks there, I feel confident in the lineup we have to put out there every day. I love Rasmus in the 2 spot. I think Berkman gets his swing back. I think Skip is better than a .200 hitter. I think Theriot finds his way as a leadoff guy.
But the pitching is the big unknown. Every year, every team wants more pitching it seems. And the breakout, unknown pitchers of the season are the ones who end up propelling their teams to the postseason.
Every one was excited about the prospect of trotting out Waino, Carp and Garcia out there every week. And then Wainwright went down. Wainwright was about as good as guaranteed every five days, so this is a tough situation.
The problem with people being excited about our top 3 is that Garcia is far from guaranteed. He had a great rookie campaign last year, no doubt. But now the hitters know him. And there is absolutely no way to know if he can repeat that success again this year. And as our number 3, we really needed him to. But now he’s our number 2. I have full confidence in Carpenter filling Wainwright’s spot. He’s been there and done it before. But Garcia now has to be what Carpenter was going to be. Guys like Loshe and McClellan have a little more slack as our 4 and 5 guys. They need to be decent, but they have some margin for error. Garcia, however, has to be consistently good if we’re going to have any kind of shot at this thing.
He has not shown that potential this spring. With a posted spring ERA of 7.94 ERA, I am tired of seeing title after title of, “Garcia looks to positives despite horrible performance” or some variation thereof. I get that the spring is the time to work out the kinks. I get that it’s about locating pitches more than the end result. But I haven’t always felt like he’s been locating real well. And I get that anything is possible until it starts counting. And that’s why I’m not grabbing my pitchfork yet. I’m willing to wait it out and see how he does come April. But I would be lying if I said Garcia doesn’t make me nervous. Let’s hope he can duplicate last year’s success and help make this a world championship team.
Garcia for the repeat,
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,
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,
Pieces of the St. Louis Cardinals puzzle are starting to come together. We’re seeing more offense from people other than Pujols. Holliday has been very clutch the last couple of games, which is something we have to have from him, especially if there’s a week Pujols is scuffling. We’ve seen Yadier Molina and Pedro Feliz have big-time hits in key at-bats.
The front end pitching has been good, enough to keep us in games. The back end, which has been a season long strength tried to give away our last game against the Brewers. Ryan Franklin produced heart attacks all around the midwest (a tribute to Jason Isringhausen, perhaps???) but eventually got the job done.
Indeed, things are looking up.
We have taken 2 of 3 from the Reds and now came with avengeance against the Brewers. Yes, the fight is still an uphill battle. And will be so the rest of the season. But at least we are in the battle and what more could we ask for after basically trying to give the division away? We need other teams to defeat the pesky Reds because they are in every game they play and they don’t quit until all 9 innings have been played. The Rockies came to our aid this time as they beat the Reds in a well-fought match. Once they walked Ubaldo Jimenez to lead off the inning, I felt that the Rockies had a good chance to get something going. Of course, there’s always the wild card, but I want the division. It’s one team to climb over instead of two.
In the Brewers game, we saw glimpses of what the Cardinal offense can do, but we have yet to see the entire team clicking on all cylinders. Doing that and getting hot at just the right time will be the only chance we have at all in winning the division. We need big games out of every guy in a Cardinal uniform. Pitching, hitting and defense all have to step up huge, creating a perfect storm of Cardinal domination.
They will aim to do just that tonight against the Brew Crew once again, although I have my doubts about sending Kyle Loshe to the mound. How much I wish he was not pitching. But if the offense can score him about 15 runs, we might be ok. And of course, here’s hoping that the Rockies pull off another great win as well.
September collapse for the Reds,
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,