It’s an understatement to say that the Cardinals play hot in September baseball. Those who have watched the Cardinals for years just know that’s the way it is. That’s why when you’re predicting who’s going to make the postseason, it’s rather hard to bet against the Cardinals, even when they’re a few games down. Something about this club just turns an extra cylinder with the calendar turns to the last month of the season.
It’s the same reason (only in reverse) why you see clubs like the Brewers, Reds and Pirates in a slide during September baseball. Although, the Brewers aren’t in a slide, so much as a complete freefall. I would be so frustrated if I were a Brewers fan.
The Cardinals are currently 6-1 in September this year and have gone 58-29 in September since 2011. The Cardinals know how to crank it up in September and luckily, for us Cards fan, this year has been no different.
We all know that winning in the postseason is about getting hot at the right time. The Cardinals are getting hot. The question now will be if they are able to keep that pace going up through the rest of September and into October. All I know is that this team has been fun to watch lately. It seems that every piece of the puzzle is starting to finally click together.
There are 19 games left and the Cardinals have a 4 1/2 game lead in the central. I like those numbers.
Here’s an article that sums up exactly how good the Cardinals are year after year, even when they haven’t necessarily been all that good this season.
Finally in 1st,
Ok, so it’s only a 3 game winning streak. Maybe nothing to get too excited about yet. But I feel that in the last few games the Cardinals are playing with a tad more hunger. Granted, their first win against the Padres was the result of Shane Robinson’s arm / questionable call combo that had me climbing the walls. But, at least the hitting seems to be getting more on track. Adams is starting to contribute in big situations again and Taveras even had a nice little pinch hit tonight.
But still it’s only a 3 game winning streak. As nice as it is, until I see a 7 or 8 game winning streak, or heck….even just going 7-3, or 8-2 in the next 10 games would be nice. Because here’s the problem. The Cardinals are 13-12 since the All-Star Break. If they should lose tomorrow, they will be right back at .500 ball. They have been at .500 ball for awhile now. It’s just not so noticable because most of the teams around them are in the same boat. In fact, the next two teams after them in the division (Pirates and Reds) are 5-5 in their last 10. .500 ball is not going to win the division and it’s certainly not going to be enough to sustain them in postseason play.
We all know that it’s not always the best team in baseball that celebrates in October. It’s the team that gets the hottest at the right time. And that’s what I’m hoping to see from the Cardinals. A little spark, something that says they are on the verge of getting hot and ready to compete in October. What’s scary is that the Brewers are starting to look like that “hot” team more and more. They’re that team that battles back and even if they’re done, you feel they’re going to come back and take it, just like that did tonight vs. a good LA team.
So it’s only a 3 game winning streak. But here’s hoping it’s that spark.
Time to get hot,
After an off day, it’s back to work for the boys in Red. And no better team to compete against than the Chicago Cubs. It’s usually a pretty good series with a lot of intensity. It doesn’t matter that the Cubs are playing under .500 and completely irrelevant this year. It’s ALWAYS fun to beat the Cubs.
I think Brandon Phillips was jealous of the rivalry we’ve had with
most of the division besides the Reds, which is probably why he’s always
trying to start crap. He’ll soon realize that the Reds are not here to
stay and will fade away just as quickly as they came on the scene.
A Votto-less Reds team beat the the Astros yesterday, meaning they were able to pull up a half game on the idle Redbirds. So it’s time to turn the engines on full force. You don’t want the Reds pulling even and thinking they have a chance.
And it starts today with sweeping or at least getting a series win against the Cubbies. Let’s go Cardinals!
First pitch in an hour,
So after taking 2 of 3 from Houston, it was time to see if the Cardinals could take their recent success to Atlanta, and beat a tougher team and a tougher pitcher in Tim Hudson. The Cards sent their ace, Chris Carpenter, to the mound to do the job.
Big surprise: once again we did not get Carp a win. Are there any other teams who have sent their #1 guy to the mound 6 times and still haven’t gotten a win for him? He’s pitched well. There was one game where he let it get out of control, giving up 8 runs over 4 innings. But besides that, he has gone deep into games, getting out of jams and deserving a win. But every game either the Cardinal bats or the bullpen have conspired against him.
Last night, it was the bats. For all the talk of bullpen trouble, they actually held their own. Sanchez was again impressive. I could watch that guy pitch all day. There was unnecessary drama in the 9th. The tying run was once again at the plate with a runner on. And he flew out to Matt Holliday who made a pretty decent over the shoulder catch on the warning track, just shy of home run distance. The drama has probably given me ulcers, but I’ve grown to accept that may just be the way it is with the Cardinals. And as long as they win, I probably won’t complain (too loudly) and last night they were able to win. Combine that with the Reds loss and it was a pretty good night. Unfortunately, the Cubs won.
After a night when the big boys ripped the cover off the ball, it was not so big guys making the noise last night. Yadier and Descalso each had an RBI to knot the game at 2-2 and after the Braves homered to make it 3-2, Descalso hit a sac fly to again tie the game at 3-3 in the 9th inning. Then it went to extras where things got interesting. You figure the 10th inning is where they have to make it happen. They have Pujols, Holliday, Berkman coming up that inning. Back to back to back jacks, perhaps? Nope. They go down easy, 3 up, 3 down.
But in the 11th inning, the Cardinals start to make some noise. With 2 runners (via a HBP and walk) and 2 out, Nick Punto steps to the plate. Punto was brought to St. Louis to be an all-around utility guy, because he’s decent with his glove. Not because of his extraordinary bat. In fact, going into this at-bat, he’s already 0-5 on the night, hitting .160 for the season. But on some nights the cards fall just right. (No pun intended.) Normally, Theriot would be leading off and in this spot and not Punto, but he was recovering from rib cage soreness. But the stars aligned and Punto ripped the ball down the right field line for a 2 RBI triple. And that would be the game. 5-3 Redbirds.
I really do feel bad for Carp. I know they always talk about team wins rather than personal wins, blah, blah, blah. But it has to be bad on the morale to go out their game after game and not be able to secure the win. And Carpenter is equally responsible for their win last night because he kept the game close despite a couple bad breaks. One that jumps to mind was the play in the 7th inning. Berkman made a decent throw to try and get the base runner at 3rd and instead hit him in the back. Nothing you can do about that. But it meant runners on 2nd and 3rd with only 1 out. So they walk Chipper to load the bases and face Brian McCann. Carp induces the double play and they get out of that inning that could have been a lot more damaging.
Speaking of that Berkman throw, it would have been nice to see him throw a runner out. The Cardinals have not had one outfield assist this year. Not one. I mentioned before how bad the Cardinal defense is. This is just a team that is more offense than defense, which has not usually been typical of Cardinal clubs. I mean, when Edmonds was in the outfield, he would have had several assists this year, not to mention many runners being scared to go on him. But I do have to give it up for Nick Punto. He did make a nice play last night. And with the lack of quality defense has a whole, it’s nice to see the occasional great play.
I’ve been watching the 76 second Reebok recaps of the games. Sometimes they will include home runs or game winning doubles, but mostly it’s just great defense packed into 76 seconds, which I love. I watched probably a week’s worth last night. And not one Cardinal play was on there. That should tell you something about Cardinal defense.
The only other scary moment of the game was when Gerald Laird got hit in the head in the 9th inning with a bat. I mean he got hit hard. So hard that he fell over and looked pretty dazed. Molina was already out of the game, so if Laird had to come out, it would have called for an emergency catcher situation, which the announcers were saying was Daniel Descalso. That would have been interesting to say the least. I had to be the emergency catcher one time on my college softball team. It was a lot of fun, but I also wasn’t catching a 97 MPH Jason Motte fastball.
So after a horrendous beginning, the Cardinals now have won 5 series in a row. A win today or tomorrow would give them 6. They aren’t dominating teams and sweeping them, but that’s okay. If you win every series, you have yourself a championship. It’s just one series at a time. And that seems to be the way the Cardinals are handling it. And while you have guys like Schumaker and Craig out, or Freese sitting, you need to see guys like Descalso and Punto deliver. One thing in common of all championship teams is that they don’t just look to their 3-4-5 guys to get it done. Production comes from surprising places at times and it comes from up and down the lineup. For maybe the first time this year, I believe the Cardinals really do have a shot to play in October and to play well. They have this way of rising to the occasion when everyone has doubted them. Hopefully they can keep it going today.
Takin’ down the chop,
Same story, different chapter. Cardinals have game in the bag;
Cardinals lose game. Cardinals have lots of chances; Cardinals blow all
chances. Cardinals have lead in the 9th inning; Cardinals blow lead in
9th inning. It’s becoming draining to watch.
Now obviously it’s
so much easier to be a Monday morning quarterback, then in the heat of
the moment, but I really do not understand LaRussa’s decision making
Sometimes it’s like he wants to be the ultimate chess
player, as he will switch pitchers every two seconds. Brings a guy in
to face one guy and then he’s out of there. A great example of removing
a guy that made little sense to me was in our loss against the Reds.
In the 8th inning, Batista had gotten two outs, including 1 strikeout
and would have had 3 outs except for a throwing error by his 3rd
basemen. So they have him give the free pass to Votto. He gets the
next guy 0-2 and then plunks him. Why take him out? He was obviously
pitching well enough to get that last out. Instead LaRussa brings in
Trevor Miller who walks a guy, takes him out and of all things brings in
Franklin to give up the winning runs.
Then today when Boggs was
pitching the 9th inninng and obviously struggling, he leaves him in
there until he loses the game. Why, why, why, why? Supposedly once
Franklin was removed, it was going to be a wait-and-see approach to the
closing of games. Boggs has been doing well, so I have no problem with
him getting the first crack at it. But once he showed he didn’t have
his stuff tonight, why leave him in there? Because he’s the “closer.”
In the 9th inning, Boggs gives up a base hit,
then makes an error allowing the runners to get to 1st and 3rd. This is
followed by a wild pitch that scores the tying run. He gives up TWO
MORE BASE HITS to load the bases and he is still left in. I cannot
figure out why a guy in the 9th inning, who makes a fielding error,
gives up 3 hits and throws a wild pitch is allowed to finish the game.
As you would expect, he gives up one final hit, ending the game for good
as the Astros come up victorious.
I feel most sorry for Daniel
Descalso. He had a heck of a game going 3 for 3 with a couple extra
base hits and 3 RBIs. It’s hard to enjoy it when your team is loses.
Yadi picked another guy off and as I’ve mentioned before, I can’t get
enough of that.
And as I thought Berkman kept up his great
hitting against his former team, going 2 for 5 including a double. I
still expect him to go deep at least once in this series. It was also
awesome to see the great standing ovation they gave to their former
slugger. That is a great organization right there, that the Cardinals
have had some great rivalries with over the years. Yet, there is still a
great deal of respect between the two teams. It’s too bad the Reds
can’t learn something from the Astros in that area. Maybe it’s because
they’ve bad so horrible all these years, they don’t know how to handle
it when they have some success?
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,
Man, today was the kind of game that is absolutely heartbreaking when you lose, but so fun when you’re on the winning side. Sadly for me, the Cardinals were not on the winning side of this (mostly) well played game.
Carpenter was extremely sharp, save one minor hiccup, where he allowed the game to be tied up at 2 runs a piece with a walk and a home run by the reigning MVP, Joey Votto. For all those that thought he had a lucky year last year, let me tell you right now that he’s here to stay. He’s no Albert Pujols (who is???) but he definitely has what it takes to be in the thick of the competition.
Now I have begun to dread games started by our ace because he normally gets no run support. The one game he did get run support he was not good at all. And if it’s neither of these things, the bullpen will probably blow it for him, as was the case today.
He left, still in line for the win, because of Albert’s solo home run. So 3-2, he hands the ball off to the bullpen, where the implosion happens. First, an error by David Freese. Normally a top tier defender, it’s possible he was dealing with a slick ball from the wet conditions. Or maybe he just made a bad play. Whatever, the case, he flung the ball far out of reach of Albert, letting the tying run get onto 2nd. At this case, Votto is intentionally passed and I agree that’s what you gotta do here. You make the guys behind beat you and not the most dangerous hitter on their team.
With an 0-2 count on Gomes, I was pretty confident we were going to escape the innning without damage. And then Batista plunks him. At that moment, all of my hopes sank. The bases are loaded and I just had one of those feelings that this was not going to end well. Indeed Trevor Miller comes in and walks the next batter tying the game. I was still nervous, but as long as we could escape tied up, there was still a chance. And then they bring in Franklin. Not one person in Cardinal Nation has hope in Ryan Franklin right now. And because of his comments to the media nobody really is crazy about the guy either. But the fans didn’t boo, as they have before. That’s the thing. They were going to give him a chance. Ok, Franklin, you say you’re so misunderstood, that it’s been “one bad outing,” let’s see. Show us that closer like mentality and get the out. The bases are loaded but you only need one out. Let’s see you do it.
Instead, he proceeds to give yet another game-winning hit, a single by Miguel Cairo, that would drive in two Cincinnati runs. And that, Ryan Franklin, is why you should only pitch with no runners on base. The ironic part is that Batista gets the loss because that error was made while he was on the mound, so Franklin’s ERA actually GOES DOWN despite his incompetent pitching.
Winning this game would have guaranteed yet another series win at worst and in line for another sweep at best and put us a very nice 2 games up on the Reds. As it stands we are back to being tied with them, but hopefully can still pull out the series win in the rubber match.
Tomorrow is Easter, which I will be spending with my family. Luckily, they are all die hard Cardinal fans so the TV being turned to Cardinal baseball is pretty much a must at any get-together we have. I hope you have a wonderful Easter whatever your plans are for the holiday and let’s hope the Redbirds get back to having 1st place all to themselves again soon.
Needing another series win,
The Reds are coming to town. This is a series most Cardinal / Reds fans have been looking to since the beginning of the season. And now here we are, almost a month into the season and it turns out, the teams are deadlocked at one game over .500, in a first place tie.
The Cards have an eternal rivalry with Chicago and at times with the Astros and the Brewers, but the Reds have sort of been like the Pirates. They simply take up space in the division. Then last year’s young studs helped propel the Reds to success they haven’t seen since the 70’s.
Add to that Brandon Phillips and the fact that he’s an idiot. Most Reds fans around here at least acknowledge that so it’s really surprising to see the number of people on message boards that back him. I’m loyal to my team, but if we had a player continually mouth off to the process and on Twitter, trying to act tough for no reason, I don’t think I could back that.
Of course the really stupid part weren’t his comments. He’s entitled to say whatever he wants. The main issue is coming to tap Yadi’s shinguards like he didn’t say it. If Phillips wants to make comments, fine. Just don’t come to home plate with your bat tap, like you didn’t say it. That of course, is exactly what Yadier said to him, and let to the pushing match between the two and the entire fiasco on the field.
That was last year, a long time ago, but I promise no one has forgotten about it. The question is, will they act like they have forgotten about it? No idea. I expect some booing of Phillips from the Cardinals and am anxious to see if Phillips taps Yadi and if he does, if Yadier responds.
Of course the best revenge is winning and completing a sweep of our division rival would be so gloriously sweet.
Bring on the Reds,
I drove to Kansas City and watched the Royals play the Indians on a very, very chilly night of baseball. Felt like I should’ve been watching the Chiefs, as cold as it was. I rooted for the home team, but they eventually fell in extras thanks to some poor work out of the bullpen. But I got to see my first Major League game of the season. I’ll be going soon to Busch.
On to Cardinal baseball.
Today was a double header, which the Cards ended up splitting with the Nationals. You always want to win 2 obviously, but I’ll take the split and hopefully tomorrow we will take the series win as well. As the saying goes, if you can win every series, you’re doing pretty good.
It was even better combined with the Cubs splitting their double header and losses by the Reds and Brewers. These four teams are now tied for first atop the central division, all at .500.
Both games with the Nats and the Cards, the teams were two runs apart. In the first game of the doubleheader, Westbrook was far from sharp. But he also didn’t get a lot of help behind him. The problem with the Cardinal defense is that it is simply ‘adequate.’ Sometimes things that aren’t recorded as “errors” is still sub-par defense. A ball that Theriot only knocks down that a better shortstop would record an out on. Tyler Greene making a poor throw to 2nd, allowing them only to get 1 out instead of the double play. And then the obvious errors: the drop balls, the missed catches, etc. We knew from the beginning that the defense would not be the best it’s ever been. And that’s why the pitching and the hitting needs to be as sharp as possible.
Ankiel getting his first plate appearance in the first inning of the first game got a nice round of appreciation applause, which was great to see. Ankiel took out a half page ad in the paper thanking them for their support. Great move, Rick.
In the second game, Jaime Garcia was again plagued by poor defense, but managed to pitch good enough to nail the win, both for himself and the team. Also in the night game was the first save opportunity since LaRussa announced that Ryan Franklin would no longer be his pitcher of choice in save situations. Mitchell Boggs got the nod and locked in the save. And all of Cardinal Nation breathed a sigh of relief.
In both games, the Cardinals continue to rake. Everyone was getting hits, even guys like Punto and Descalso. And the big guys continue to do what they’ve been doing. 23 hits among the two games is certainly not too shabby.
Two for one baseball,
The offense has been so hot lately that when it finally cooled down, I expected it to happen gradually. Instead, it went from red hot to freezing in about 30 seconds. After at least a dozen hits in the last several games, today they only mustered a total of 4.
The sad part was this was my prediction once I realized it was Carp’s turn in the rotation. The Cardinals have notoriously given Carp little to no run support in many of his starts. Yes, he got clobbered earlier this year, but for the most part he turns in very solid performances and even sometimes bordering on great.
He kept the Cardinals with the Dodgers all game long, matching Chad Billingsley 0 for 0. Finally, in the 9th inning, the Cardinals broke through. Matt Holliday’s 3rd hit (yes, that’s right, he’s hitting .441!!!) led to a run giving the Cardinals a 1-0 lead.
After Trevor Miller failed to get the leadoff guy out, the Cardinals made a couple of bad moves.
Bad move #1 – LaRussa calls in Ryan Franklin, who has been very unsuccessful so far
this year in closing games.
Bad move #2 – Franklin is allowed to pitch to Matt Kemp.
Kemp has one previous at-bat against Franklin, also a home run. I understand LaRussa wanting to stand up for his players and that every guy is going to have bad games, but how many games does Franklin have to blow before he doesn’t have a job anymore? At least Minnesota closer Joe Nathan had the guts to go to his manager and ask for a different assignment until he got his control back.
This is not just one bad day or luck. Franklin is not getting beat on good pitches or lucky fall-in hits. He’s leaving the ball up in the zone and watching it get knocked out of the park. Only 1 converted save in 5 chances and an ERA above 11.00 is ridiculous. I dread to think how many more he would have blown if we hadn’t won our games by such huge margins.
Overall, I am ecstatic about this road trip. I expected 4-6, hoping for 5-5 and got 6-4. I don’t believe the Cardinals home record will be anywhere near as bad as it was to open the season and playing above .500 ball on the road is awesome.
The Cardinals missed an opportunity to gain a game on the Reds with their loss, but actually gained passed up the Brewers since they lost both games of their doubleheader today. So I guess it’s a good day when you can lose a game and still gain in the standings.
One team left to pass,