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.
Steamrolled. That’s how the Cardinals had to feel after today’s contest against the Padres.
What was a 3-3 game in the 4th suddenly spun out of control real quick. The big culprit today was the pitching. St. Louis pitching combined for 8 walks, including a couple with the basis loaded. That simply cannot happen.
And today’s game showed even more strongly the painful loss that yesterday was. Games like today are going to happen. There will be games that we will lose and lose badly. There will also be games that we win easily. (Pittsburgh anyone?) It’s those in between games that could go either way that become even more important.
You have to win games like yesterday because sooner or later you will have games like today. Instead we dropped both and are now 0-2. Far from the end of the world, but disappointing to say the least.
To add insult to injury, Holliday is out now after having an emergency appendectomy. Seriously? That couldn’t have happened a month or two ago? Of course not. It has not happen now as we are already down players. I have to say though how pleased I am with Allen Craig. It was a mistake to play him at 3rd last year. He couldn’t handle the hot corner and I think that’s why he struggled at the plate. But now he seems to be more comfortable and he looks so much better at the plate, both in Spring Training and now during actual games.
All I know is the Cardinals better get there act together and quick. A big test will come in Jaime Garcia, to see if he is the Garcia of old. We will find out soon.
The Cardinals opener left a lot to be desired. Yes, they were playing the always difficult Padres, but throwing Chris Carpenter on the mound gave me confidence that they could walk away with the W. Carp did his part, but shoddy defense and a faulty closer led to a devastating 11th inning loss.
If you’re on the Padres side, it’s the stuff that dreams are made of. Your team is down to their last out and of your guys jacks a home run to tie the game up and you go on to win in extras. But as a Cardinal fan, it was more than heartbreaking.
Normally, I hate the 2nd day off day right after Opening Day. You gear up for baseball and then you have to wait. But in this case, I think it’s probably the best thing for the team. Gives them an extra day to forget this mess, forget the errors, forget giving up the game tying and winning home runs. It’s a fresh start. Almost like a second opening day.
But in order for there to be a better outcome, these are the things that will need to happen:
- Better defense
ESPECIALLY the middle infield. Yes, errors happen. But to have two routine plays bobbled that lead to runs is unacceptable. The up the middle guys have got to get their timing down, both individually and working with each other. Theriot’s miscue was especially bad, since it was just pretty much taking the ball from his glove. Come on. I know we didn’t trade Brendan to see that happen.
- More running
Or about just running in general, since it’s basically been non-existent in St. Louis since the 80’s. The Cardinals hit into four double plays in their last game. Granted, three of them were by Pujols, which is a rare thing that is not likely to reoccur. Nevetheless, double plays are a part of the game. Something that would be eliminated somewhat by the running game. With guys like Theriot, Rasmus, Schumaker, etc in the lineup, there’s no reason we can’t run more. Heck, even Holliday and Pujols have the ability to steal bases in the right situation. LaRussa has never been a big base stealing manager and I don’t understand why not. This team is equipped for speed in certain places and we need to see that happen.
Here’s a breakdown of Pujols’ 3 double plays
- 1st – Theriot on 2nd and Rasmus on 1st
- 2nd – Rasmus on 1st
- 3rd – Rasmus on 1st
In any of these situations, if the run was on, at least the double play would have been avoided and who knows what that leads to. You score one more run and the Padres don’t tie it up in the 9th. If LaRussa refuses to run with these guys this year, it will be completely ridiculous.
- Franklin to show he is capable of closing
A lot of people have been down on Franklin. I have not been one of those people. Unless you have a guy like Mariano Rivera closing your games, people tend to think that a closer is lousy unless he is closing at 100%. Still, Franklin is not the easiest guy to watch in the 9th. He will often make it more interesting than I would care for. Bottom line is you want the kind of guy closing your games that you don’t question it. He comes in, he closes the game, end of story. I hope Franklin is able to be that kind of guy in ’11. If this is just one hiccup in a great year of closing games, fine. This game will soon be forgotten. But if this is just a prequel of what’s to come, it’s time we start looking elsewhere for someone to lock it down in the 9th.
Being .500 to start the season isn’t so bad. Now being down 0-2 is pretty cringe worthy. Especially since the Reds are enjoying the walk off kind of wins. It’s time to prove to everyone that St. Louis is in it to win it in 2011.
11 in ’11,
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.
The Reds lose 3 of 4 to Houston to drop them to 7-11 in the month of September. And the Cardinals continue to befuddle us all by taking 3 of 4 from the Padres. Oh, Cardinals, had you not lost to the Astros. And the Pirates. And the Nationals. And the Brewers. And the Cubs. TWICE. It might be a different situation right now.
As it stands, we can only look to the future. What’s done is done. The Cardinals are 6 games back from the Reds, but actually only 5 back in the loss column. Not that this makes me feel a ton better. All it means is that at least two of our games, the Reds can’t do anything about. But we need their help for the other 5 games. Or rather, the help of the Brewers, the Padres and the Astros.
I’m so glad that the Reds are playing the Astros again this year because once again, the ‘Stros are smoking hot, playing ridiculous 2nd half baseball. If they ever get their act together in April and May, look out….that team will be a contender.
Wainwright looked sharp on the mound today, which he attributes to refocusing himself. Hopefully, that’s something he will strive to do all the time because he only gave up 1 run in 8 innings, tying a career best of 19 wins on the season. 20 just eluded him last year, but I think he’s up for the challenge this year. I think he has to finish ahead of Halladay in wins and ERA to have a chance at the Cy Young because Halladay will probably finish ahead of him in Ks, plus probably have more innings, complete games and shutouts.
Holliday continues his hot September, while driving in his 99th run of the year. Having two guys at the century mark should make for a decent team, but it shows you how important support is. Colby Rasmus is providing that now, but for a while there was nobody.
At least the season is getting exciting to watch again. But we have to keep winning and hope that the Reds opponents are up for the role of playing spoiler. Let’s go, Brew Crew….we really need you now!
Do you remember right after the Ludwick trade that I said if Ludwick came back to beat us in a big game that suddenly this trade wouldn’t look so hot? It was one of those “intangibles” that you just can’t predict when you trade a guy.
Well, here’s the situation.
4-4 game in the top of the 9th inning. Runner on 2nd. The Cardinals intentionally walk Adrien Gonzalez to get to Ryan Ludwick. What. Seriously? It’s not secret that old Cardinals traditionally do a great job of beating up on the former team. (Scott Rolen, anybody??) I saw that 3 home run coming a mile away.
The Padres ended up tacking on 1 more run, making it 8-4. Ahhhhh. Come on.
Only 3 more outs to try and come back. Holliday, Rasmus and Molina. Time to show some fight.