The Cardinals got killed in the first two games this series and finally came back and took the last one. All of that you know, so no need to go into all of that. But I do a have a few random thoughts about this series. So, in no particular order, here we go…
1) 3 starters aren’t enough
Part of the reason we got killed the first two games, besides the O’s being super hot right now, is that we had shaky starting pitching. They have their moments, but overall, Wainwright, Lynn and Miller and reliable. In a short series, that’s fine. But in a 7 game series, you need one more guy. Right now, we have the possibilities of Lackey, Masterson and Wacha. Each of these 3 have question marks for different reasons. This needs to get straightened out ASAP.
2) We have to get better off the bench
A lot of these guys will do okay when you plug them into the starting lineup, but when they come in off the bench, not so much. In their defense, there is nothing harder than sitting cold on the bench for 2 hours and then have to come in and swing at a 95 MPH fastball off the other team’s best reliever. Nevertheless, that’s exactly what they’re getting made millions to do and they need to get it figured out.
3) Yadi has to get well pronto
Most of Yadi’s worth is not measured by his offensive number or the number of runners he throws out, as good as both of those things are. It’s measured on all the guys who didn’t dare run on Yadi’s arm who have no problem going now. It’s measured by how he handles his staff, the pitches he calls and the leader he is on the diamond. Cruz and Pierzynski are doing fine in the offensive category. But they don’t strike the same fear in the hearts of runners. And you have to wonder that if Molina is behind the plate, do the Cardinals get blown out like that? Maybe. But there’s simply no way to know.
4) The Cardinals have to start playing like a playoff team
There’s this stigma that AL teams are better than NL teams. Of course, that’s not always the case. But in this series, it really seemed like a bunch of rookies trying to play with the big boys. The Cardinals looked outmatched in every way until this final game. What was the difference this last game? Look no further than the team RISP. The Cardinals have not been scoring a lot of runs this year. And the first two games, every time the Orioles, threatened, they delivered. In this game, Lynn kept them at bay.
Cardinals team RISP = 7 for 16 Orioles team RiSP = 2 for 13
5) Instant replay
This is more funny to be than anything. Buck Showalter motioned several times that he wanted the headset to talk to the guys who reversed the out call at 2nd base. Matheny said something similar about a week ago. “If they’re not going to give me the headset to yell at that guy, then it’s going to be someone on the field.” I’ll be honest, you need a good manager / umpire fight every now and again. As long as it doesn’t get carried away, it’s part of the game.
Conclusion: Everyone takes it for granted that the Cardinals are going to make it to the postseason every year. And my money is on them making it rather than not. I think until they show differently, the division is always theirs to lose. But they also need to get on a roll. It’s a little scary to still be 2 games out with just a little over a month to play. I don’t want to win the wild card; they need to win the division. One game for everything is too stressful.
Hope to see better results in Miami,
Because of my sadness over my Redbirds in September, there is something that is overdue. And that is my congratulations to the Minnesota Twins for being the first team to clinch a playoff spot. The Twins have been my favorite AL team for many years. I went to college in Minneapolis and got the opportunity to go to a lot of Twins games for about 5 bucks. The Twins weren’t any good then, so I would pay the $5 and then walk down to the lowest level of the stadium and enjoy the game. It also afforded me to say a lot of great teams come to town that I had never seen live, going to Busch Stadium. I even got to be there the day that Cal Ripken Jr. knocked his 3,000th hit. I’ll never forget it.
Even though I’ve been gone from Minnesota for quite awhile, I still love the Twins. I even drove up there earlier this year, just to see the new Target Field. It was the day Thome tied Harmon Killebrew’s HR mark, but unfortunately the Twinkies lost the game.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Although, I do consider myself a Twins fan, it is not at the same level as my St. Louis Cardinals. I would love to see both of these teams meet for a World Series, but should that happen, I would quickly be saying, “Twins who?” I am always a Cardinal fan first.
Nevertheless, with my ‘Birds sitting at an elimination number of 3, I will root for the Twins to go all the way. I know nobody thought they would be the first to clinch. Many experts predicted a repeat of game #163. Way to go to prove them wrong, guys! Hopefully, that extra rest will do them good and they’ll bring home a championship.
It might not be as good as 2006 (or 1982), but it might just be the next best thing. So, at least for a moment……
How about that game? I don´t think I could have asked much more than a 12·4 killing of the Brewers. And all while wearing their old school baby blue uniforms. I´m a very superstitious baseball fan, so I´d like them to stick with the uniforms tonight too!
There were a lot of great things about this game. First of all, it was a total team effort Every starter had at least one base hit, as did pinch hitter Aaron Miles. That´s 10 Cardinals getting something done. Next, Eckstein, Pujols, Rolen, Edmonds, Molina and Wells all had mult·hit nights, including 3 hits for Pujols and 4 hits for Edmonds.
This is just a continuation for the incredibly hot streak Edmonds is on. And much like last year, how good the Cardinals are rolling depends on how good the veterans are rolling. You need young kids like Ankiel, Ryan and Ludwick to come up, give some new life and help win a game or two. But it´s that veteran presence day in and day out that will keep the Cardinals winning games. We need consistency out of Rolen and Edmonds. And right now Edmonds is on fire. After a dismal July of hitting a horrible .143, he is now hitting .410 in August. It was his 6th multi·hit game of the month. Now if he can just find his power stroke back.
Another huge positive of this game was the continual barrage of hits. It was essential a game of small ball all the way through for the Redbirds. The Cardinals scored 12 runs, which would normally make you assume that they smacked at least a few dingers out of the park. Not so. The Brewers homered twice for their 4 runs. You know how many times the Cardinals went deep for their 12 runs? None. They also had no triples and just 2 doubles. But there were a whole lot of singles and a whole lot of walks. They went the other way, they poked the ball into holes and just generally played smart baseball.
The Cardinals also played their trademark ¨hard nine¨ all the way through this game. After getting behind early 3·0, they didn´t give up, but fought back and ended up winning this game easily. They also never just laid down and gave away outs. One situation I´m thinking of in particular was in the 5th, when the bases were loaded with 1 out and Kip Wells was batting. He took a couple of swings where he looked absolutely awful. But he didn´t hit into an inning ending double play, nor did he just take a normal strikeout people would expect from a pitcher. Instead he fought off a pitch or two and ended up poking a single down the line for 2 RBI. That is good baseball.
On such a good night, I hate to talk too much about what went wrong, but there was one thing that concerned me. The first was almost failing to capitalize with runners on. The first couple of innings, the Cardinals got guys on with less than 2 out and did squat with it. We are just lucky that the Brewers let us stay in this game. In some games, those might be all the chances you get and you need to take advantage. Overall, the Cards left over a dozen runners stranded on the basepaths.
I could have also dealt with some more hustle from Pujols on one of his infield singles. If Ryan Braun had any kind of heat on that ball he threw across the diamond, Pujols would have been out easy. And you could see on the replay, that he just stood there for a minute in the box, thinking it was going to go foul. Then when it was clear it wasn´t he took off. Pujols is a great player and the best hitter on our team, but I hope he never becomes the guy who doesn´t hustle or run things out. It doesn´t really seem in his character to do that, but sometimes after playing so long, it becomes hard to run everything out. It makes me glad to have players on our team like Eckstein, who takes nothing for granted when running and Rolen, who probably has the best home run trot of anybody in the Majors, with his head down all the way all around the bases.
As for the competition, I am continually impressed with Ryan Braun as an offensive threat. He really is a great hitter. He reminds me a lot of Chris Duncan when he was up last year for his first half·year in the bigs in terms of being power hitters. He hit 22 homers in just 280 at·bats. Braun has now hit 23 in 291 at·bats. Both strike out a lot because they are power hitters. Duncan struck out 69 times in those at·bats last year and Braun has 64. The difference is that Braun is hitting a crazy .354. It just seems like if he makes contact, it´s going to be a base hit. The Brewers have a great player in this guy. If his defensive play improves to match how good he has been offensively, he will be something special, I think.
The last thing I think I will discuss will be Kip Wells. The same Kip Wells, who all of Cardinal Nation was ready to drive out of St. Louis forever or at least tar and feather. In the early months, he dropped 7 straight decisions at one point and was 3·13 going into August. He´s tied for 11th for the most runs given up in the NL and tied for 2nd for the most losses in the NL with 13. Yet, this is his 3rd good start in a row and he definitely is showing some signs of improvement. After getting down 3·0 via 2 long balls by the Brewers, he settled in and allowed only 1 hit in his next 5 innings. That shows great concentration in a tough situation. He easily could have made a bad situation worse, but instead he pitched great and let his team get back into the game to get him the win. That is what we´re going to continue to need out of him and the rest of our staff.
The Cubs also lost, so we are slowly inching our way towards first place. We´re now 3 games back of the Cubs and 4 1/2 games in back of the Brewers. The best we can be after this series with the Brewers is still 2 1/2 games back, but now we can only be 6 1/2 back at the worst. It is imperative that we win at least 1 of the next 2 games. Taking 2 of 3 from the Brewers heading into the Chicago series would not only be a huge boost, but I really see it as a must.
Complete random side note: As I´m typing, I´m watching the Yankees game and Shelley Duncan had hit a 3·run shot with 2 outs to tie the game up 3·3 and send New York and Baltimore to extras. That is Cardinal outfield Chris Duncan´s brother. However, Baltimore scored one run in the 10th already, so hopefully New York can come back again in the bottom of the 10th for the win because right now the Sox are losing in the 9th inning.
Tonight´s matchup for the Cardinals is newest Cardinal pitcher, Joel Piñeiro against Brewer Yovani Gallardo. Gallardo is coming off his worst start of the season when he gave up 11 earned runs, so hopefully he can continue that trend for one more game.
Bring back the baby blues,
So clearly I didn´t write anything during the game last night. I was too tired to do anything, but watch the game. (After all, it started at 2am my time.) Plus, the lack of comments doesn´t help. People are reading the blog. They´re returning and clicking through it according to my counter. So, I´d love to hear comments from anybody and everybody. This blog isn´t just a place for my opinion, but for anybody who has one. So, let´s hear anything you might have to say about the Cardinals or anything else going on in baseball. I´ll discuss it.
On to tonight´s game. I got home later, so it was already 5·0 when I turned on the game. I was sad I missed it, but glad it wasn´t the other way around. I´ll have to wait until the game is archived to see what all I missed, but they did mention that Rick Ankiel got things going with a 2·run home run.
Shortly after, I started watching, the Dodgers put together a little offense and got a run of their own. But the Cardinals pitchers stayed strong and the Dodgers would get no more. Looper pitched a good six innings, only allowing 4 hits and that one run. The effort earned him his 10th win of the season. And then 4 Redbird relievers combined to finish out the game, allowing only 1 hit between them.
But the Cardinal offense wasn´t done. Rick Ankiel drove another home run deep to outfield stands and tacked on one more Cardinal run. It also provided his 2nd curtain call since he was called up on Thursday. I think it´s safe to say Cardinal Nation loves Ankiel.
Everything I´ve read from Cardinal fans has been extremely supportive of Ankiel, but unfortunately, I´ve seen a few negative things from other fans. Those who seem to think he´ll choke or not continue to be a great Major League hitter. And that´s too bad. I think this is a guy you have to root for no matter what. His story is an example of the best baseball can be. He also made a heck of a catch in the outfield today.
We would have had two more runs, but Edmonds was robbed of a 2·run home run by an outstanding catch at the wall.
The Brewers and Cubs games tonight will decide if we stay even in the standings or go up, but I´m hoping for the best. One thing is certain: the race is definitely getting very interesting again. But, it´s tough. As a Cardinal fan, I really want the Redbirds to win it all. But, if we can´t, I want the Brewers to do it because the Cubs absolutely can´t win. So while I´m not rooting for them yet, I will if the Cardinals drop completely out of it.
But before I turn on the Brewer game and see what happens, I´m watching the Red Sox game. Beckett appeared to have a complete game shutout in the works, but then he gave up 2 hits and lost the shutout. Next reliever. Another run. Boston has now brought in Papelbon with 2 on and 2 out. And he gets the last out. Too bad.
Alright, time to turn on the Brewer game.
15-1. Just awful. At least the Brewers lost as well. Though worse than us losing was the Cubs winning. Now they are tied for first and Cubs fans everywhere are rejoicing. The only thing I can hope is that the Cubs will continue to be the Cubs and at some point the bottom will drop out. Add that to another tough loss today and it’s so frustrating. To take 3 of 4 from the Brewers and now to drop two straight to the Pirates. Cardinals, what are you doing to me?? The Brewers lost again tonight to the Mets and the Cubs are trailing in the 9th inning. What a great spot this would have been to gain some ground.
So two losses are clearly not really something I want to spend a lot of time blogging about. Instead, I will talk about something much more pleasant. And that is the induction of two of the nicest guys ever to play the game into the Baseball Hall of the Fame. Guys with enormous talent and enormous hearts. I never got to see Tony Gwynn play live, which is strange because I rooted for a NL team, but I did get to see Cal Ripken Jr. play.
I went to college in Minnesota and so I adopted the Twins as my favorite AL team and went to a ton of games at the Dome. One evening in April, a friend suggested we all go to the game because the Orioles were coming to town. I was all in favor of that because I’ve always been a fan of Cal, Jr., especially after I watched him break one of the toughest and most impressive streaks in all of baseball; consecutive games played. However, I was skeptical that we’d see any magic that night. He was 3 hits away from the big mark of 3,000 lifetime hits. "Maybe tomorrow night, he’ll do it," I said, but nevertheless, I was pumped to go to the game. Three friends and myself took off for the dome, along with thousands of other fans.
Everyone cheered when Cal stepped up to plate and proceeded to cheer Cal, even as he made an out. He then got a couple of hits and I started thinking, just maybe this would be the night. Only one of those two really stands out to me. It was a high bouncer to the left side of the infield, but they couldn’t make a play on him. Then in the 7th inning, it happened. After a pitching change, Ripken lined the ball up the middle for hit #3000. And the crowd went absolutely crazy. We high fived strangers, yelled until our throats were sore and gave him a standing ovation. It was by far the most exciting non-Cardinal baseball moment that I have ever witnessed in person. And I just happened to be the in the right place at the right time. Had he done it a year earlier when he should have, I would not have seen the feat.
We were all presented certificates when we left that said, "I was there" with a spot to put your ticket stub from the game. It remains a piece of my personal baseball collection.
But the best part came the next time. It was a Sunday and we figured the crowd would be lighter because the heroics had already happened. The Twins were pretty bad back then and could barely muster a crowd. In fact, having 20,000 or so at Cal’s 3,000 hit was a pretty big deal. This was strange for a Cardinal fan that is used to seeing 40,000 on a Wednesday at Busch.
Nevertheless, this day it was quite good for us. We got there early and easily walked down the front row of the dome. They gave Cal the day off and you know what he did with it? He walked over and started signing autographs. My friends and I had brought our ticket stubs from the day before, hoping to get them signed. We waited patiently as Cal made his way from the visiting dugout all the way down to us (about halfway down) and eventually all the way to the foul pole. He got all of our tickets signed, except for one of my friends, so we waited to see if she could still get his autograph. After reaching the foul pole, he proceeded back down the wall and continued signing autographs. He reached us again and this time she got her ticket signed. And since he was there, I figured, what the heck, and gave him my ticket stub for that day as well. Saturday’s ticket was put on my certificate and I gave Sunday’s autographed stub to my mom.
I don’t think a person left the Metrodome that day wanting a Ripken autograph and failing to get one. I remember being completely blown away that this guy would take his day off and use it to make a bunch of strangers in an opposing stadium happy. It’s one thing to do this in Baltimore and an entirely different thing to do this for a bunch of people wearing Twins gear that will likely sell your autograph for profit the first they get the chance. But, that’s just one story of the kind of guy he was.
You saw it in the way he played the game. You learned about it in the way teammates talked about it. And you heard it in his HOF speech. This guy, along with Gwynn are two of the best Cooperstown could hope to have. And I am proud to say I saw him play and reach an important milestone. It’s a game I will certainly never forget.
Congratulations as well to Rick Hummell, long-time Cardinal writer who was also inducted. What a great honor for him. He is a graduate from the same high school I am.