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,
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,
Are you kidding me? Are you KIDDING me??? 3 blown saves in 4 chances. No, Franklin did not lose this game by himself. The offense isn’t hitting and I think Colby should have caught that ball, even though it was far from a routine grab. But Franklin deserves quite a bit of blame. You can’t keep putting runners on every game and expect it to not catch up to you. You let guys get on with base hits and walk, it will come back to get you. And that’s all on Ryan Franklin.
I think something might be up with Franklin. Remember how many saves Izzy blew before he finally admitted to arm discomfort? He got it fixed and came back better. If I find out this is the case, I will be pretty ticked off that he didn’t say anything. Not speaking up only hurts yourself and more importantly the team.
People who are saying, ‘Trade him now!’ are just being ridiculous. We already have him under contract, so we might as well use him. Selling low isn’t going to help us. But I’d love to see the hard throwing Motte in that role at some point to see how he fares.
In any event, the Giant series continues the trend of losing by 3 runs or less and was the 4th 1-run differential of the season. What does this tell me? That we are in for a very, very long season if the offense doesn’t snap out of this ridiculous funk.
Can’t wait to get Matt Holliday back tomorrow. Hope he gets Pujols going.
Franklin, Deja Vu
So I have decided that the Cardinals are trying to kill me. There is no other explanation for today’s game. And it nearly worked.
They started their first road trip of the season tonight by traveling to San Fran and taking on the reigning World Series champs. The first 8 innings were typical Cardinal baseball of late. Scratch together a hit here or there, plate a runner or two, but fall just short of victory.
And then the 9th inning happened.
In the bottom of the ninth, the first two Redbirds went down quietly to bring Yadier Molina to the plate. And that’s where the fun began. Down to his last strike, Yadi drew a walk. Newcomer Daniel Descalso (who I hope keeps his blog going) somehow magically beat out a dribbler and Jon Jay was just barely grazed by a pitch. Things suddenly had gone from bad to interesting.
It was now the top of the order and the weight of the world had landed on the shoulders of Ryan Theriot. I looked at the TV (as I’ve previously stated, I do talk to players during the game) and said, “Ok Theriot, if you want Cardinal Nation to love you….here’s your opportunity.” He must have heard me because after working the count full and fighting off what seemed like a million foul balls, he hit a single between third and short, plating two Redbirds and giving the Cardinals their first lead of the game.
At that point, I was hoping they’d score a few more because then maybe Franklin wouldn’t be brought in to pitch the 9th if it wasn’t a save situation. No such luck. Rasmus walked and the still cold Pujols flied out to end the inning.
I was at my folks house during the game and my exact words to my mom prior to Franklin starting the 9th were… “You know his MO is to get two quick outs before he walks the bases loaded.” Though that wasn’t 100% accurate, it was pretty darn close. Franklin did get two quick ground outs before the bottom fell out. Aaron Rowand singled, then moved up with a wild pitch by Franklin. He walked Posey and Pablo Sandoval proceeded to tie the game with a base hit.
On to extras.
It was really bad at this point because the Cardinals had no one left on their bench, except for Holliday who hasn’t been cleared to play. This is normally a spot for someone like Adam Wainwright, but he is, of course, out this year. So Kyle Loshe got the nod to pinch hit. Nothing really interesting happened until the bottom of the 11th.
Bryan Augenstein then pitched some of the most nerve wrecking baseball I have ever seen in my life. He gave up a leadoff double to start the inning and it seemed all was lost. If you have a runner in scoring position with no outs, it seems pretty safe to say you will be able to score him. However, he then delivered some of the most important strikes of his career to strike out Freddy Sanchez. Rowand again is trouble when he rips a ball to what looks like will go down the left field line. But the Cardinals are playing with 5 infielders at this point and Allen Craig makes an incredible play to stop the ball and get Rowand into a rundown. He gets tagged out and two batters later we are out of the inning. Major props to Augenstein and Craig for that inning.
In the 12th the Cardinals were sat down 1-2-3. In the Giants half, it was the last Cardinal reliever in Brian Tallet. He struck out the leadoff man to bring up Miguel Tejada who singled to left. A double play would have ended the inning and I thought we had one. It was Pujols to Theriot and back to Pujols. Tejada was out at 2nd, but they called the other runner safe at first. Even with replays I really thought he was out. The inning would have been over with the next batter anyway, except when Tallet tossed the ball to Pujols, he somehow missed it which allowed everyone to be safe.
What happened next I had a bad feeling about as it was happening, although I don’t disagree with LaRussa’s decision. There were runners on 2nd and 3rd, so Tallet intentionally put on Freddy Sanchez to get to Aaron Rowand. With 1st base open it’s pretty much a rule that you put on the next hitter.
The only problem was that from the moment he entered the game, Rowand seemed to have the Cardinals number. He was 2 for 3 and his only out was almost the game winner and would have been if it wasn’t for Craig’s stellar play to the plate. This time he made sure to get the job done, however, as scorched the ball to the warning track.
The Reds are getting killed right now, but it’s the same problem as September of last year. It doesn’t matter how much they lose, if we can’t win and take advantage of it. I do like that the Cardinals did not just roll over and play dead when down to their final strike. But it’s still frustrating that they can’t seem to get that big hit that puts the game away for good.
This afternoon, the Cardinals start their 10 day road trip to the West. It begins with the defending World Series championship, the San Francisco Giants. It’s kind of annoying to have to be the team that has to sit through their flag raising, their ring ceremony and all the other hoopla, but some team’s gotta to do it.
Now, if we could take 2 of 3 from them, it would certainly take the sting out of it.
Westbrook is going for us in game 1 of the series. While he’s certainly not one of our dominant pitchers, he’s going to be be better than he showed in his last outing, where he got clobbered. But to me the most important thing is that our offense gets going. It has been absolutely abhorrent these first few games. I know it’s only been six games and all that, blah blah blah, but it’s still hard to watch your teams hit so poorly game after game.
To give you an idea of how badly it’s been, in six games:
- We have three guys with any regular at-bats who are hitting over .300. Everyone else is under .200.
- The one guy who had been on fire (hitting .750) has only been able to play one game due to having an emergency appendectomy.
- We are 5th to last in the NL in team average and dead last in slugging, due to only having two guys who have gone deep all season and a mere 8 extra base hits.
- Our 9 time All-Star, 3 time MVP and 2 time gold glover is hitting .182 and slugging .318.
- We are dead last in RBIs with 14. 14!! 3 teams have twice as many as us and the Reds actually have 3x as many.
- We’ve averaged 2.5 runs scored per game, also dead last.
In short, it has not been pretty on the hitting side of things. At some point, it has to change. Hopefully, it will be sooner rather than later. On a positive the World Champs have an identical 2-4 record as us, so this might be the best time to play them, while they’re finding their groove as well.
Looking to be better on the road,
Sounds good to me. Which puts us now 3 games behind the Reds. Hard to be excited about that though when we played poorly at home and now have to start this west coast swing. Here’s hoping we get Holliday back soon and the rest of the offense figures out what those big pieces of lumber are that they are carrying around.
Lovin’ the ‘Stros,
The Cardinals offense has disappeared. A club that is capable of scoring lots of runs every game has averaged 2 1/2 runs per game. And let’s be honest…with our pitching, we are going to need more than 2 1/2 runs per game.
Although almost more sad, is the fact at how close all these games have been. Other than one game against Padres when we got killed by 8 runs, every game has been decided by 1 or 2 runs. I said it last season and I’ve already said it several times this season; the Cardinals are becoming good at being “just short.”
Getting a run here or there is just not cutting it. The Cardinals are going to have to figure out a way to mount rallies. I feel like the big guys are going to start coming through eventually. Pujols and Holliday are going to have the back to back home runs. But unless they play small ball successfully, get runners on, steal, hit and run and get a few rallies going, they are going to continue to fall just short. The pitching has actually been surprisingly good so far this season, which is not necessarily going to be the case all season long.
It also doesn’t help that the Reds are still undefeated. Early or not, this first week sets the precedent for the rest of the season.
There’s an off day tomorrow and that we start our west coast road trip. Hopefully the Cardinals will figure out how to get it done on the road because they certainly aren’t doing the job at home.
Waiting for the offense to wake up,
Starting 0-2 was not the ideal way to start the season. Especially when the Reds are busy sweeping their way to the division lead.
Enter Jaime Garcia.
I’ve said previously that Garcia is a huge key to the Cardinals success this year. He was already an important piece in the Cardinal puzzle, but after Wainwright went out for the year, he became an even bigger piece. He had a very iffy spring, but today he was every bit dominant.
Garcia pitched his second career shutout and struck out a career high 9. And it was not luck. He was 100% in the zone, locating his pitches, changing speeds and basically keeping all of the Padres hitters off balance. It was a thing of beauty.
The Cardinals are still concerning me with not being able to string together a rally, but they are missing Matt Holliday right now. I hope that when this lineup is fully healthy they will be able to dominate any pitcher they face. It was nice to see Theriot get an RBI base hit, as he has been struggling a bit to the start of the season.
We’re only a few days into the season and there is still a lot of baseball left to be played. But Garcia’s performance today gave me a lot of confidence in our ability to compete this year. And also made me think of how unstoppable we would be if we still had Wainwright.