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,
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:
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,
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,
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,
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!
For the first time in 2011, the Cardinals have won two in a row. And they did so in a big way, finally showing off the power that we have known is in that lineup all along.
Berkman hit his first home run as a Cardinal and deciding that wasn’t enough, went deep again a couple innings later. The base hits were coming quick and coming often, something we haven’t seen at all yet this season.
Every Cardinal starter got in on the action, including starting pitcher Kyle McClellan who went 2 for 3 and got the Cardinals on the board with the first RBI of the game. The TV announcer said,
“I’m trying to think of how many times we have said Yadier Molina scores from first on a 2 out double by Kyle McClellan. I’m thinking this is probably the first time.”
I’m sure he’s right.
But that’s just how the game went yesterday. The Cardinals were getting the long ball, they were getting base hits with 2 outs and they were getting extra base hits. The offense was starting to look alive. Last or nearly last in every major offense category, the Redbirds are slowly climbing out of the cellar in regards to team stats, as they now stand just 2 games under .500.
In pitching they continue to do well as McClellan not only showed off his bat, but pitched a great game too, especially for a 5th starter. If he pitches this good all season, I will be highly impressed at his move into the starting rotation.
Overall, the Cards are at the top in most team categories. They’re posting a low ERA, striking lots of guys out and even have a shutout and a complete game to their credit. They are one of only two games to have that complete game thanks to Jaime Garcia’s fantastic performance. All this and we still have our ace going to tonight, who surprisingly hasn’t recorded a win yet.
As much as things are starting to go right, it stands in deep contrast to the silent bat of our big man, Albert Pujols. Albert went 1 for 5 last night, raising his average to a mighty .150. This is Pujols and 10 seasons of record setting baseball speak for themselves, but he is going to have to get on track if the Cardinals are going to have a shot at winning the thing.
We’ve said since the beginning that it will be an uphill battle. Wainwright is gone, the defense is questionable, the health of prime guys like Berkman and Freese was up in the air. Add in the unknowns like an emergency appendectomy and it’s no doubt the Cardinals have their work cut out for them. So they need every player to contribute and they need their 3-4-5 to stay hot.
Something about Albert’s swing looks off to me. It doesn’t look like that pure swing he had going before. And I can’t help but wonder if his contract is looming large in his mind. It’s a lot of pressure, no matter how great a super start you are.
Hopefully we can gain some ground on the Reds tonight as we go against Armando Galarraga and the D-backs. Galarraga, of course, is not famous (or probably more infamous) for losing out on a perfect game due to a bad call from ump Jim Jocye. He will be a trivia answer for decades to come through no fault of his own. Maybe we can make him famous again tonight: “most runs given up by a starter.” I like the sound of that.
Berkman looking good in Cardinal red,
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,
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,
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,
I have blogged two previous Opening Days here at MLBlogs. In fact, my first blog entry on here was Opening Day of 2006. It was a great opener and that year I picked the Cardinals to win it all that year, because I thought they had the best team on paper. That was before they lost Mulder and Izzy. I would have not picked them if I had known that. But a young kid named Adam Wainwright stepped up to the plate to fill the role of closer. Wainwright would go on to give me the single greatest moment I have ever seen in Cardinal history….the big strikeout of Carlos Beltran with runners on in Game 7 of the NLCS.
It gives me hope about this season. Yes, we are missing Wainwright, who has since transitioned from closer to ace. Yes, we are missing Punto and there are ridiculous number of question marks in guys like Freese and Berkman. But you never know which young kid is going to step up and hit the game winning shot off the bench.
The 2007 Opening Day was my next and final Opening Day blog. I blogged off and on over the next few years, more off than on. And now here we are in 2011. Five years since that incredible year of 2006 and the impossible run of the team that nobody thought had a chance.
It’s time to prove yourselves again, Redbirds!
And with that here are my notes about Opening Day 2011….in no particular order:
- Hitting – The Cardinals hit plenty and got on base. Rasmus got a first inning triple and Holliday came through with 2 outs. Berkman and Freese, two big questions got back to back hits. But they never got that “big hit.” This was the proverbial thorn in the side from last year. Quite the opposite, as they grounded into way too many double plays.
- Beards – Um, what was with all the man scruff? Carpenter, Berkman and Pujols all had decent beards going on while Schumaker looked like Grizzly Adams out there. And Rasmus looked like he was trying.
- Defense – Defense has been a concern with the loss of Brendan Ryan and this ground ball heavy staff. And the worries proved accurate. Freese made a tremendous play up the line, but the middle infield guys made a couple of huge mistakes. Skip muffed a ball that should have been an easy strike ’em out, throw ’em out double play and instead turned into a run. And Theriot made an 11th inning error that led to the game winning run.
- Pujols – The guy who has 3 opening day home runs to his credit, couldn’t get the job done today. He would end up 0 for 5 and hit in 3 double plays. Pujols wasn’t worried and neither am I. All I got to say is tomorrow’s pitcher better look out because when he breaks out he will break out BIG.
- Bullpen – Franklin looked very uncloser-esque today. I hope this will be the exception and not the rule. The game winning run was given up by Augenstein. This is significant because he was the last guy to get a spot on the Cardinal roster, even beating out Salas who played in the bigs last year.
Overall, it wasn’t a horrible game. But it sure felt like 90% of our games from last year. Decent hitting, decent fielding and good pitching. But….they found a way to lose a game that should have easily been won. So much different than the champion Cardinals who always seemed to find a way to win. It is just the first game of the season so I am willing to cut them quite a bit of slack. I just hope I’m not still saying this at All-Star Break.