So, I mentioned in previous post (here) that it makes you wonder “what if” Roy Oswalt was a St. Louis Cardinal instead of a Philadelphia Phillie. Now, today, i read a story on MLB.com, that makes you wonder that same “what if” about Scott Rolen.
Now, I am a little more biased here. If you read my blog back in the day (like, say in 2006), you would know that as a Cardinal, Scott Rolen was my favorite player. Still, this MLB.com article backs up something that does not surprise me in the least.
The young, upstart Reds are .608 when their veteran, Scott Rolen, is in the lineup. When he’s not? They’re not even playing .500 ball. That is HUGE. It’s no secret that 3rd base has been a struggle for the Redbirds this year. At the beginning of the year we looked to have a great 3rd baseman in Rookie of the Year candidate, David Frese. Then we turned the position over to Tyler Greene. Then he got hurt. Then we suffered and screamed and yelled, as we saw guys who didn’t belong there flub play after play at the position. Yeah, I’m looking at you Felipe Lopez.
At least now we have an adequate player there in Pedro Feliz. He makes the routine plays. He’s good. But he’s no Scott Rolen. Rolen was literally a human vacuum cleaner at 3rd. He ate up everything that was hit to him and some things that weren’t. He was a big man, but he could dive for a ball on the line and jump up to throw him out faster than anybody. His arm was a cannon.
To have someone in that spot like Scott Rolen? It would be incredible. That says nothing about his bat. There have been some offense struggles this year. And I have no doubt that when Pujols or Holliday have struggled, Rolen would have been there to pick up the slack. Instead of Pujols, Edmonds & Rolen of ’06, we could have Pujols, Holliday & Rolen in ’10. But that never would have happened. It’s no secret that Rolen and LaRussa did not like each other very much. And now there’s the same sort of thing being said of LaRussa and Rasmus. Personally, I’m not much of a LaRussa fan and I wouldn’t be sad to see him leave after this year. But that’s for another blog.
In the end, I am sad. I am sad that we do not have Rolen on this team. We could use another veteran force. Yes, he’s a quiet guy, but that strong, silent type might be exactly what was needed to kick the Cardinal’s butts into gear. Rolen would never sluff off. He’s in it to play hard and to win. He hits a home run, puts his head down and runs the bases. That’s what I wish these young Cardinal guys had to look up to this year.
Another what if day,
Pieces of the St. Louis Cardinals puzzle are starting to come together. We’re seeing more offense from people other than Pujols. Holliday has been very clutch the last couple of games, which is something we have to have from him, especially if there’s a week Pujols is scuffling. We’ve seen Yadier Molina and Pedro Feliz have big-time hits in key at-bats.
The front end pitching has been good, enough to keep us in games. The back end, which has been a season long strength tried to give away our last game against the Brewers. Ryan Franklin produced heart attacks all around the midwest (a tribute to Jason Isringhausen, perhaps???) but eventually got the job done.
Indeed, things are looking up.
We have taken 2 of 3 from the Reds and now came with avengeance against the Brewers. Yes, the fight is still an uphill battle. And will be so the rest of the season. But at least we are in the battle and what more could we ask for after basically trying to give the division away? We need other teams to defeat the pesky Reds because they are in every game they play and they don’t quit until all 9 innings have been played. The Rockies came to our aid this time as they beat the Reds in a well-fought match. Once they walked Ubaldo Jimenez to lead off the inning, I felt that the Rockies had a good chance to get something going. Of course, there’s always the wild card, but I want the division. It’s one team to climb over instead of two.
In the Brewers game, we saw glimpses of what the Cardinal offense can do, but we have yet to see the entire team clicking on all cylinders. Doing that and getting hot at just the right time will be the only chance we have at all in winning the division. We need big games out of every guy in a Cardinal uniform. Pitching, hitting and defense all have to step up huge, creating a perfect storm of Cardinal domination.
They will aim to do just that tonight against the Brew Crew once again, although I have my doubts about sending Kyle Loshe to the mound. How much I wish he was not pitching. But if the offense can score him about 15 runs, we might be ok. And of course, here’s hoping that the Rockies pull off another great win as well.
September collapse for the Reds,
This was a highly disappointing 13th inning game of many things that went right and many things that went very, very wrong. The unfortunate part is that more went wrong than right. So let’s look at both.
What Went Right
- As I stated in my last post, Albert hit his 400th career home run. Quite an accomplishment for someone just over 30.
- Pedro Feliz continues to impress. He has a hit for every game as a Cardinal (7 game hitting streak), which means he’s hitting .367 as a Redbird and playing solid defense at 3rd.
- Brendan Ryan made an incredible diving catch, on the right side of the 2nd base bag, to stop the Nationals from winning much earlier in the game.
- Aaron Miles continues to deliver off the bench. I don’t care what anybody says. I feel comfortable with him stepping in as a pinch hitter in a clutch situation.
- The Cardinals rallied for 4 innings in the 9th, whereas in the past couple of weeks, their last minute rallies had fallen just short.
What Went Wrong
- The two biggest superstars on the team hurt themselves. Matt Holliday was hit in the wrist by a pitch and Albert Pujols rolled his ankle. Supposedly, they’re both ok though.
- Felipe Lopez showed he should be nowhere but a pinch hitter or possibly 2nd base. He does not belong on the left side of the infield. His plays cost us the game more than any other play.
- Though Carp was good, because of poor defense, could not be as sharp as he normally is.
- Ryan Franklin, flawless in the 8th inning, gave up the tying home run in the 9th.
- Ultimately, the biggest thing, is that we dropped yet another game to a very weak team and in not putting the game away early, almost lost our two biggest components to get us to the postseason.
Jaime Garcia goes tonight or, “The Mexecutioner,” as stl_cardinals_fan73 affectionally called him on a previous post. But it’s hard to get up for the game. How many times can the Redbirds squander these opportunities before they take themselves out of the race completely? The wild card is absolutely there for the taking, even if we don’t play well enough to get the central. Regardless, I’m a Cardinal fan to the bitter end. Come on Cardinals….let’s get it going!
Rooting for the wild card,
How do you follow what Chris Carpenter did on Saturday night? Rookie of the Year candidate Jaime Garcia only needed 89 pitches to show you exactly how.
Sunday afternoon’s game promised to be a matchup of two southpaws who both at times have been very dominant. But in the rubber match game vs. the Giants, Jaime Garcia looked like the veteran against the floundering Barry Zito. It’s hard to believe how far Zito has fallen. He was once as good as anybody in the league when back when he pitched for the A’s and before he landed one of the biggest contracts ever forked over for a pitcher. (Lesson learned: big name pitchers earning big money usually disappoint, even if they are lefties….ahem, Mark Mulder.)
On the other side, Jaime Garcia is a rookie still carving out a name for himself. But after today, I don’t think many Giants players will forget him. After 8 2/3 innings, he had only faced the minimum, thanks to two double plays by his defense. That was spoiled one at-bat later thanks to a single by Nate Schierholtz. But Garcia composed himself and got leadoff man, Aaron Rowand, to end the game on a groundball to shortstop, Brendan Ryan. That groundball was his bread and butter, as the Giants pounded that ball at him, Ryan and newcomer Pedro Feliz. But the defense looked good backing up Garcia’s dominant performance. In the end, he 3 hit the Giants, for his first career complete game and his first career shutout. In the process, he walked none, while striking out 6.
The last time Garcia looked this good was vs. the Mets, where he didn’t get the win because he was let down by his offense. That game, you might remember, ended up going an incredible 20 innings before the Cardinals lost 2-1. This time around, the bats would not falter. They hit Zito hard and they hit him early, chasing him after only 3 2/3 inning of work. It was nice to see the offense participating up and down the lineup. The hits, runs and RBI were contributed in some way by all of the starters. And that’s exactly what the Cardinal lineup is capable of when they’re in their groove. And we should be seeing that kind of production on a regular basis. My ONLY complaint today was Matt Holiday. Yes, he did get a hit and drive in one run, but they walked Albert in front of him twice and one of those was intentional. Both times he failed to come through. If we’re going to do anything in the playoffs, Holliday has to make teams pay or else Albert will be walked every at-bat. It wasn’t a big deal in a game like this, but in tight playoff games, every run counts and we need him to produce in those clutch situations.
Other than that, a good day for the Redbirds! it’s just too bad that LA couldn’t take down the Reds. For us, we move on to Pittsburgh. Kyle Loshe is the last man I want on the mound, but if I had to pick a team for him to pitch against, I guess it would be the Pirates.
Thinking someone bought Garcia dinner tonight,
The pitchers have been adequate in our losses, but the bats had fallen
asleep. But our stopper, Carpenter pitched yesterday and hopefully got
us back on track. So I have no reason to think that Jaime Garcia won’t continue to be good today.
And for some reason, I think this is the day that the offense fully wakes up. There were glimmers of it yesterday, but it’s still not where we all know this Cardinal lineup can be. Sometimes all you need is a good shakeup and that seems to be provided for in the acquisition of Pedro Feliz, who hit an RBI triple yesterday. Additionally, Tony LaRussa has decided to join the ranks of every other manager in baseball by hitting the pitcher 9th. He hasn’t done this for two months or so.
Plus, we have several guys in the lineup who have tore up Giants pitcher, Barry Zito, over the years. Of course, this shouldn’t be a surprise. Any pitcher that has ever been a decent pitcher, we seem to be able to handle fine. (Case in point: yesterday vs. Tim Lincecum.) It’s the no name pitchers that we seem to struggle against.
So, here’s hoping that Zito grooves a couple over, especially to Albert. Wouldn’t it be great to see him get to that 400 mark today? I think so.
Come on, Redbirds….let’s go get this rubber game match!
Looking for offense,
Make no mistake about who the ace of the Cardinals staff is. His name? Chris Carpenter. That is not a sleight to Adam Wainwright. Waino has been awesome for us this year and so far this year, has been the more dominant of the two. He has a better ERA, more wins and more Ks (although to be fair, even in his best years, Carp tends to get the groundball out more than the strikeout), and is the leading favorite right now in the Cy Young vote.
So what makes Carp, “the ace?” Simple. He’s a stopper. Tonight, the Cardinals had their backs against the wall. They just suffered a five game losing streak, dropping them a season high 4 1/2 games behind the division leading Reds. We put hurler after hurler on the mound, most of whom pitched well. Very well, in fact. But a struggling offense was not able to help out. And any runs given up seemed to make it that much harder for the Redbirds to score.
And then Chris Carpenter strolls to the mound. I described him once in this very blog, as cold, methodic and calculating. He’s intense and knows how to pitch. And that’s why, although I might pick Wainwright over Carp, if I had one game to win, there’s nobody in the league I would pick over Carp, if I needed a guy to be a stopper. He’s proven time and time again that he is up to the task. Basically, it’s what I would call “clutch pitching.” If a hitter can constantly get hits when it counts, when runners are on, he gets a lot of attention as being a clutch hitter. Pitching doesn’t get the same notoriety, but I think a pitcher that gets wins at the right time—say when you’re team just had it’s longest losing streak of the season—that’s pretty clutch in my book.
Hopefully, this little debacle is now behind us and the Cardinals start cruising back to 1st place, where they belong. The Reds have already fallen behind LA 7-1. And while I would never count those feisty Reds out until the last pitch is thrown, things are definitely looking promising for us to gain a game in the standings. Beating the Giants, coupled with the Phillies loss to the Nats, means we also made up ground in the wild card race.
In other news, recent acquisition Pedro Feliz has gone 4 for 8 for the Cardinals so far. Obviously, it’s still quite early, but that’s a big plus right now. His defense is certainly not spectacular, but it’s adequate. He can field a routine ground ball, which is more than I can say for the efforts of Allen Craig or Felipe Lopez whenever they manned the hot corner.
Albert upped his hitting streak to 7 games, giving him a batting average of .414 for August. In fact, since July 30th, Albert has only not gotten a hit in one game. Yesterday, he hit his 8th home run this month, sitting just 2 away from the 400 milestone and giving him 1200 career RBI. I’ve heard some say he has “peaked,” but to me, he looks to have no signs of slowing down. I can’t wait to see where he ends up at the end of his career.
Normally, I have no problem having an opinion. Especially when it comes to my Redbirds. But this whole Pedro Feliz thing has thrown me for a loop. If you read my blog, you will note that I have complained about the lack of a 3rd baseman more than anyone. Once a position held by Scott Rolen, not only did it mean we had solid defense up the line, but a power bat as well to combine with Edmonds and Pujols. These days we have big guys Holliday and Pujols and….well, not much else really. Colby has some pop from time to time, but now he’s strained something. Hopefully, he’ll be back to full-time action for this weekend.
In any event, it’s no secret that we lack anything resembling a 3rd baseman or even anybody with a halfway decent ability to play the hot corner for an entire 9 innings. It just so happened that our main two guys, David Freese and Tyler Greene were both sent to the DL. Freese is done, but Greene is supposed to be making his way back here at some point. But how long are we talking about? Will it be too late?
We needed someone and we needed there now. And apparently John Mozeliak heard our cries. His answer? Claiming Houston Astro Pedro Feliz off of wires. This is certainly not a permanent solution….everyone knows that. His contract is this year only, so we’re strictly talking about a rental.
Nevertheless, is this good for us? His defense has to be better than anything we have going on now with Lopez playing way out of his comfort zone and Allen Craig, who looks like he might pee his pants every time he has to hit or field a ball. But from what he showed in Houston, his offense is certainly not top-notch. The best we can hope for is this: that his desire to prove himself to his new team and anybody that might want him this off season combined with actually being on a post season bound club again will make his numbers start to climb upward.
But I have my doubts.
When Walt Jocketty made certain moves, they were often criticized, but I almost always backed his play. He made the impossible possible. In the hands of Dave Duncan, Jeff Weaver is suddenly pitching like he’s Cy Young. He brought us Edmonds and Rolen to have their best years in St. Louis. Of course, he had the bad call from time to time. (Oh, Danny Haren, how we miss you….) But overall, you felt like even when it didn’t make sense it was going to turn out ok.
I do not have that same feeling with John Mozeliak. But I don’t know what else we could do. The situation was (is) bleak. After an inspiring sweep at Cincy, we have spiraled downward as we have lost to very, very sub-par teams. It’s not over yet, not by a long shot, no matter what Reds fans might try to tell you. But 3 games out is not where we want to be. And if we got to 5 games out, I would be worried. We definitely need to be no more than 2-3 games out when the Reds come to play us in September.
In the meantime, I will look forward to seeing our new man suit up and hopefully be one of the missing pieces to this puzzle.
Side note: Apparently, Jason LaRue is done for the season as he is not recovering from his concussion. This is worrisome and hopefully for his sake, this is only a season ender, not a career ender. Bad blood, aside, I sincerely hope Johnny Cueto makes some sort of apology for this. You can blame Molina or Carp all you want, but it is not their, nor even Brandon Phillips fault. Cueto kicked him in the head. Even though it wasn’t on purpose, it’s not acceptable and he might have just ended this guy’s career. Best wishes Jason.
And, here’s hoping Arizona can close the deal tonight.
2 1/2 just looks better than 3 1/2,