Tagged: Lance Berkman

Berkman vs. ‘Stros

No matter how well the Cardinals are doing, they do not get a lot of media attention.  So unless they are winning a World Series or one of their guys throws a no-no, you rarely seem them on the front page of mlb.com, which is saying something considering they have a couple of the most feared hitters in the game.

But today they have something that is news.  The Cardinals are opening up a series at Houston.  Big deal, right?  Nobody cares about a couple of NL Central teams duking it out.  Except that this means that former ‘Stro Lance Berkman is returning to the place he became a star.  Berkman played 12 years with the Astros before getting traded to the Yankees late last season.  The Yankee-experiment flopped, which means that he was looking for a new home for the first time since his career began in 1999.  And he found it with the Cardinals.

Personally, I was excited about the Berkman acquisition.  I know he’s getting older and has some health issues.  And some thought his power numbers were declining, but I thought it was worth a shot.  If he could be even half as good as he has shown he can be, it could really boost the Cardinals lineup.  And you can’t argue with the veteran presence.

Every Cardinal fan knew what it meant to fear the bat of Berkman.  Whether the Astros were in postseason contention or bringing up the cellar, they had a way of always coming back and stinging the Cardinals.  And sometimes Berkman did it singlehandedly.  I used to dread him coming up to the plate from the left side, slightly hunched over stance and watch him unload on our pitchers, making those Crawford boxes the most evil things I knew.  I knew if we could harness his power for good…..ok, a bit much there.  But you know what I’m saying.

As it turns out, he has been twice the Berkman we thought we were getting.  Not that anyone expects him to keep up this torrid pace, but for now, I’ll take it.

He’s hitting .377 / .449 / .725, significantly over his career line of .297 / .409 / .725.  He continues to tee off of opposing pitchers, already at 6 home runs on the season, with 15 RBI.  The really good news is that when players return to their old ballparks to face old teams, they tend to do really well.  I’m hoping this will be no different for Berkman.

So the question of the day is a two parter:
          1) How many extra-base hits with Berkman get this series?
          2) How many times will he reach the Crawford boxes?

Berkman looks good in red,
Tiffany
 

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Back where we belong

 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,
Tiffany

Season series? 1-0 good guys

Last night’s game was about as intense of a playoff like contest that you’re going to have in April.  If that same game was played in late September, it would have been crazy in that stadium.  Luckily for us Cardinal fans, the victory came down on our side.  But I had my doubts all the way through that we were going to maintain that slim lead.

The gamemanship started before even the first pitch was thrown.  LaRussa made a last minute switch to put in a bullpen guy to start in case the rain caused a delay.  With the same expert-like calling of a pitchout when you just know that other guy is running, he was 100% dead on for this one.  Normally, LaRussa drives me crazy with his constant lineup tinkering, but for once I was happy about it and it paid off.  He was able to bring McClellan in for “relief” after the delay, essentially giving him the start, while Dusty Baker had to dip into his bullpen after one batter.

McClellan continued the awesomeness that has been the Cardinal pitching (minus Westbrook) and good things happened all the way around.  Not to say this game didn’t make me nervous.  In the first inning, the Cardinals should have put up a few runs.  Ramsus not advancing on a ball in the dirt and putting himself in scoring position for the next basehit resulted in only 1 run.  As it turns out, the runs they did get were enough.

I hate to say it this early, but this team and especially this game is awfully reminiscent of the 2006 Redbirds.  That team was never overpowering, but they always had enough to get the job done.  And when it looked like they wouldn’t win, they always did.  It always just seemed to happen.  It’s not just because they’re winning, although that helps.  Just their attitude and everything about the way they are playing is different.  They have an intensity that was not there last season and wasn’t really there in the first week of this season.  I don’t know if it’s chemistry, Berkman’s influence or what, but I’m liking what I’m seeing.

The bullpen was great finishing out a close game and Boggs getting his second save since Franklin was demoted.  And of course Yadier Molina continued in his defensive prowess.  I never get tired watching him pick guys off of 1st base.  It’s hands down my favorite play of the Cardinals.  Especially when he does it to end an inning.  Or like last night, when he does it to end an inning in a 2 run ballgame with runners on 1st and 2nd.  Beautiful.

So far today the Redbirds are up 2-0 on the Reds.  Could Carp get his first win of the season??  Say it ain’t so.

1st place Cardinals,
Tiffany

Our right fielders can hit

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,
Tiffany

Early Season Heroes

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:

Theriot
Ramsus
Pujols
Holliday
Berkman 
Freese

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,
Tiffany

En Fuego

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,
Tiffany

The boys are back

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,
Tiffany