I keep telling myself that a win is a win. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter if your team wins 20-0 or clings to a 6-5 victory, it all goes into the win column.
And technically that’s true.
But when your team almost loses in walk-off fashion for the 2nd day in a row against a last place team after being up 6-0 going into the 8th inning? It’s hard not to be concerned. Every team will have these moments here and there and obviously the Cardinals are no exception. But when you follow the team, it just feels like they are having these moments more than anybody.
The bullpen is becoming downright scary. I know it’s easy to say it’s not all their fault because there were a couple of defensive miscues in those last innings. But a good bullpen is supposed to hold the ship, even in despite of miscues. Remember in Game 7 of the NLCS when Scott Rolen made an error and the bases were loaded? Wainwright wiggled out of that jam in a tie game. That’s how good he was. And in a game with a 6 run lead, that should be more than enough wiggle room.
It shows you, though, that every run is valuable and you can never have enough. The two home runs, courtesy of Holliday and and Greene going deep, seemed like it would be enough. But as it turned out, it was important that we tacked on those four runs late in the game. The best part of that was that all of that happened with 2 outs. (And much of it also with 2 strikes.) I’ve said previously and I will continue to say that hitting with 2 outs is a major strength of this club. Hitting with 2 outs and hitting in late innings was something missing from the 2010 Cardinals and I’m glad to see that it’s different this year.
I looked up the stats just to see how much they’re doing this compared to other teams. As it turns out, the Cardinals are 1st in batting average, runs scored and RBIs and 2nd in slugging with RISP and 2 outs. Last year with RISP and 2 outs, they slugged .384 and hit .255. This year they are slugging .492 and hitting .336, a huge improvement. So while shaky defense and a shaky bullpen continues to give us Cardinal fans fits, there is a lot to be happy about.
And while they are hitting well with runners in scoring position and 2 outs, it doesn’t mean they are hitting well all the time. Sure, many of our guys are lighting it up and hitting over .300, but they are still grounding into an awful lot of double plays as a team. In fact, they lead the Majors in this awful stat. Of course a surprising reason for this is Albert Pujols, who accounts for over 25% of the teams GIDP. He leads the National League in that stat and has more than twice as many as any other Cardinal. But since he is tied for the 2nd in the NL in home runs and by the time it’s all said and done, will probably be top 5 in average and RBIs as well, it’s not so bad.
One other great thing I just realized. Matt Holliday finally “officially” leads the league in average. He’s always had the highest average of every day players in the NL, but since losing time to his appendectomy, he’s never had enough at-bats to qualify. He finally got enough at-bats and now with another 3-4 performance last night, is literally blowing everyone else out of the water. He’s hitting .429 and no one else is even close. Berkman who has been on his own tear is third with .385.
So there are definitely some positives for this club hitting-wise. And even with pitching, who thought Kyle Loshe would ever be this good? I thought he had a shot to be decent, but he is pitching incredibly. He’s tied for first in wins in the NL and is 2nd in ERA, with 1 shutout under his belt. That’s Waino territory, minus the strikeouts.
And I continue to be super impressed with Eduardo Sanchez. He gave up a couple of runs last night, his first of the season. But he has some flat out nasty stuff. He’s probably not ready yet, especially because of all the immense speculation that the closer role is drawing in St. Louis, but I hope this is our closer of the future. He doesn’t mess around, but goes right after hitters. They are only hitting .185 against him and he has a mere 1 walks against 14 strikeouts in only 8 innings pitched. And you can see why. The two guys he struck out last night looked like little leaguers against him. Again, it brought me back to the NLCS and the way that Wainwright would throw that big hook and nobody could touch it. I definitely like this guy.
But as a whole the bullpen has to get it together. Because now when we have a lead late in the game against a team, they are starting to think it’s possible. They think if they can just get past our starter, into our ‘pen, they have a chance to come back. You can’t have opposing teams thinking that. They have to look at scoring early or else, they will be shut down in the 7-8-9 innings.
Someone found my blog by googling, “How many times have the Cardinals lost in the 9th inning?” Let me help you out. In 12 save chances in the 9th, as as team, they have blown 7, which is the highest deficit in the NL.
Needing another series win,
The Cardinals have been so hot lately that I am almost afraid to write a post, lest I do anything that brings them bad luck. But I am confident that our boys will continue their current winning ways and hopefully extend this hot streak to eight games and beyond.
It’s been awhile, so I have a few things to say.
First, I know I promised a post regarding a sort of "midseason report" of the Redbirds. I am not going to dedicate a whole post on this now for two reasons. One, I’m not too worried that anyone was eagerly awaiting this post and therefore nobody will miss it if I don’t write it. Two, I would pretty much be saying the same thing that everybody already knows and if you would a midseason report you can look about 1,000 places on the internet. Every media outlet possible has written one.
So instead it will be combined with this post, which will be more of a "how awesome is this seven game winning streak" post.
As we all know, June did not go well. But, I have every reason to believe that July and the rest of the season will continue to go better. And the two biggest reasons for that are in the bats of Edmonds and Rolen. Pujols is a constant. We know that. And, for the most part Rolen is too. Still, there are times he is good and there are times he is GREAT. Edmonds….well, he’s off and on, but man, when he’s on, he is unbelievable as well. And both of these guys are heading into the unbelievable category without looking back.
Edmonds average for the first 3 months of the season was .213, .271 and .279. He’s hitting .283 so far in July. More importantly, he’s hitting with more power, as evidenced by his slugging percantages, again by month: .427, .329, .443. And in July? .652. Obviously, a huge difference. Not only that, but he’s hitting the long ball more frequently. Edmonds had seven homers all together in the first 3 months of the season. He’s already up to 4 in July alone with half the month left. Same goes for Rolen. He had ten homers in his first 3 months and he’s also up to 4 already this month.
Still the biggest reward for improvement goes to catcher Yadier Molina. No doubt, this guy is a big league starter for his defensive ability, not his offensive. So whatever he does at the plate is icing on the cake. And, he’s been piling it on lately. Molina has gone from a .192 slugging percentage in April to slugging .500 in July.
Clearly, we’re on an upswing. So, for those of you who say we still can’t win 100 games this year, I wouldn’t bet too early. It’s still entirely possible.
The Cardinals have been fun to watch this past week and they look like they’re having more fun too. Who wouldn’t be? They’ve won seven straight, sweeping the Dodgers and almost the Astros in the process. They’re doing everything we’ve come to expect from these guys the past few years. They’re taking great pitchers deep, they’re playing incredible defense, (who else is loving vintage-Jimmy??), they’re pitching quality starts, the bullpen isn’t giving up runs in the late innings. In fact, each game against L.A. showcased a different aspect of this team’s talent.
- Thursday – Hitting the long ball. Cardinals win with Albert’s walk-off homer.
- Friday – Pitching. Carp goes the distance, pitches a 2-hitter and gets the win.
- Saturday – Small ball. Rolen gets the walk-off single.
- Sunday – Everything. Good pitching, even better hitting to beat up on the Dodgers.
The walk-off wins lately, especially, have brought a smile to my face. Thursday, Pujols goes deep to win the game for the Redbirds. So, on Saturday with the game on the line, the Dodgers choose to intentionally pass Pujols. Good call. Except, this time it’s Rolen that brings the walk-off win. If enough of the Cardinals start hitting, the opposition won’t have enough bases to intentionally put them all on. During this series especially, it’s getting harder to put Pujols on, not just because of Rolen, but suprisingly because the guys in front of him. Eckstein, always the scrappy hustler, has been getting on base a ton (every game this series), but so has Duncan in the two spot. This has been great to see. In his earlier appearnces, he showed a lot of power, but not a lot of patience at the plate. But, in his last two starts against L.A. he went 6-8.
The rotation has been great as of late and let’s hope it stays this way. As I said, Carp went the distance in his start and earned player of the week honors, so congratulations to him for that. He also didn’t give up a home run.
If I could pick one category for the Cardinals to improve in, in the second half, it would be for the starters to give up less homers. How many times have we said of a Cardinal starter, "He only made one mistake during the game, but it was a home run." Sometimes that "one mistake" has cost us a win. Other times, it’s been multiple mistakes, but had they not given up the homer, we still would have won.
The Cardinals have collectively given up 107 home runs, which isn’t suprising considering that two Cardinal starters are in the top 5 in the NL for home runs allowed. Marquis tops the list (21) and is joined by Mulder (18). Though it doesn’t factor into the team home runs allowed, Jeff Weaver (who has yet to start for the Cardinals) also has 18 this season during his time in Anaheim. Even young Reyes has gotten into the act. Despite his excellent pitching peformances, he’s given up 7 homers so far this season….exactly equal to the number of games he’s started.
All in all, though, the Cardinals seem to now just be starting on all cylinders and it’s exciting and it sure beats how I felt during our longer losing streak not too long back. Weaver’s start against Atlanta tonight will be pivotal for what’s in store for the Cardinals the rest of the season. With Mulder still out, it would be great to see Weaver really step it up and fill the role during this time. And who knows? If he shows he has something left, maybe we’ll be able to get something for him down the road.
It’s no easy task, however, as their 43-49 (.467) record is misleading. Atlanta has suddenly emerged from the bottom of the NL East heap. They’re riding a 5 game winning streak, including a sweep of the Padres since the Break. Even more impressively, have been their ability to show that they still plan to be competitive for the post season this year. Less than a month ago, they were 13 games under .500 thanks to a 10 game losing streak, in last place in the NL East and had the fourth worst record in the Majors, behind only the Cubs, the Pirates and the Royals. At 9 games back of the Wild Card, they didn’t seem to have a prayer to make the post season. They’re now only 6 games under .500, tied for 2nd in their division and have moved to 5 1/2 games back of the Wild Card. Met’s fans are very confident (and have every reason to be), but there are still nine games to be played between the Mets and the Braves. If the Braves stay hot, it will be an interesting second stretch.
Hopefully we’ll help the Mets out this week by sweeping the reigning NL East. Or at least taking 2 of 3.
On a completely different subject, it’s been very exciting to watch Josh Kinney pitch in a Cardinal uniform. He played college ball in my hometown and it’s always great to see someone like that reach the big leagues. Hope he has a great career in front of him.
Next, I’m going out of the country Wednesday morning and it might be awhile before I get to watch Cardinal baseball again, so I’m going to live blog some of Tuesday’s game. More than likely, I will have to leave for the airpot before it’s all over with, but it will give me something to do as I stay up all night. I would love for anybody who’s around to join in the live blog with comments of their own.
One more thing and then I’m going to end this ridiculously long post. The current score between Pujols and the Cubbies is:
Pujols homers = 31 Cubs wins = 35
Welcoming a Weaver win,
If you keep up with my blog, you will know that I am an American currently living in Madrid, Spain. You would also know that I have been out of the country (meaning Spain) for a little over a week. My job doesn’t require me to travel extensively, but once in awhile, it comes up where I need to.
I am in the communications/video field and we find we are able to film most of our stuff here. We’re pretty low-budget and traveling can get quite expensive. But, this trip was necessary so me and the rest of the crew drove with all of our equipment from Spain, through France, through Belgium and into Holland. I do a little bit of everything, but for the purposes of this trip, I mostly operated our new HD camera, which was a lot of fun. But, as I said, we’re small budget. So, I defintely do a lot of the grunt work too.
We had one day off, which I spent in nearby Germany, which as most of you probably know, is where the World Cup is being held. And, believe me, they are well aware of this fact. It’s all over the place. I bought a Coke at McDonalds in the shape of a soccer ball. They had one for six diferent countries. Holland’s main color is orange, so you saw that everywhere. I have some orange in my wardrobe because I’m an Illini basketball fan, so I wore that to support the country we were in. So, it was fun getting a little bit into the soccer spirit, even if I’m not a big fan.
On to the bad news.
While I was gone, I wasn’t able to watch any Cardinals baseball. But, I did check on the scores evey few days. And, the news just got worse and worse. Overall, while I was gone, the Cardinals went 2-6, including losing a series to Chicago. Not to mention the loss of Albert Pujols. Talk about devastating.
You can say the Cubs lost Derrek Lee or that the Yankees lost Matsui. But, this is ALBERT PUJOLS. Even with all the great players the Cardinals have, Albert is not only the best, but he’s the best in the league. He crushes home runs like they’re nothing, but is still a hard guy to strike out because he plays small ball. He’ll get a base hit or take a walk and let Rolen or Edmonds be the hero.
And, of course, being a baseball fan, as well as playing softball in high school and college, I’m extremely superstitous and I’m well aware that the 2-6 record and Albert’s injury is mostly my fault. 🙂
I’d like to think that the Cardinals have enough star power to get them through this (hopefully short) stretch of Albert’s absence. And, while I believe that to be the case, I’m not very optimistic. I’ve been saying all year that the rest of the team needs to pick it up and that it seems we only do great things when Pujols has started it off. And, I said quite recently that I felt the Cardinals were becoming too dependent on a Pujols home run.
Before, I left, I figured up our win ratio when Pujols goes deep. I didn’t have time to write the intended post then, so I’ll share it with you now.
Overall, the Cardinals are 18-4 in games that Pujols has hit a home run. And, they are 16-17 in games he has not. That is extremely significant. Not even playing .500 ball when the opposing team keeps Albert in the park to playing .818 when he goes deep? That’s a huge difference. These stats are through June 3, the last time Pujols played. And, of course, everyone has noticed that we are 1-3 since that time his last game.
We start a series against the Brewers tonight and there’s no time like the present to get this thing turned around before it becomes too out of control. They’re talking July as the "worst case scenario" for Albert’s return and there is absoutely no reason why we can’t still be in contention at that time or even in first place. Getting Albert back should simply be a tremendous bonus, not our sole salvation.
The Brew Crew has slipped considerably after being the talk of the NL Central at the beginning of the year and we should be able to hopefully handle them with no problem. The Reds, who just swept us, begin a series against the Chicago Cubs. I know this is practically blasphemy, considering how anti-Cub I am, but I almost don’t know who to root for. As a Cardinal fan, it’s a hard and fast rule that you NEVER root for the Cubs, under any circumstance. But, then again, the Reds edged their way to a half game lead over us. Chicago is so far buried they don’t have a chance, but the Reds getting swept now wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. So, I guess I will just have to abstain and not root for anybody for that series.
Two more things.
1) Roger Clemens signed with the Astros. Yes, I realize it’s old news, but I was gone, so I’m going to mention it now. I expected him to return and I’m happy he has. I think he’s a great pitcher. I’m sorry it’s with the Astros because they will only be better with him, but I am also sorry because I think the Astros will not be a major contender this year and it would be great for Clemens to play on a top notch team as he drifts towards full retirement.
2) Who do you think will grab the NL 1st base votes for the All-Star game? Lee has been out and with Pujols out, votes will drop considerably for him. Pujols has over a million votes so far and leads his next closer rival Carlos Delgado by a huge margin. But, Pujols will probably not be back by the break. So Delgado is in 2nd, with Lance Berkman not too far behind him. Nomar Garciappara and Ryan Howard round out the top 5. Any guesses who the All-Star 1B will be? My money is that Delgado will widen the gap between him and Berkman and win. Not only is he a good player, but I think the Mets have a big enough following to lift him easily ahead of Berkman.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on that or on the All-Star game in general. And I would love to hear your thoughts on Pujols as well. We survived without Rolen, but we didn’t make it to the World Series. What will happen without Pujols?
As I said earlier I’m not a soccer fan, but I think the World Cup is a lot more fun to follow than just regular games. Plus, I’m loyal to my country and of course, to my current home for the last year. So, go U.S.A. and go Spain. I hope they both do well in the Cup.
And, I really hope the Cardinals crush the Brewers tonight as they make their way back to the top of NL Central.
Badly needing a Cardinal win,
Off day today. That means I am getting major laundry done and I will also probably check in on the early games throughout the evening. Those would include:
- Tigers/Royals – The Tigers go for their 6 straight win, while KC goes for their 13th straight loss. Guess their "players only meeting," didn’t solve any problems.
- Phillies/Mets – The Mets will try to distance themselves even more from the 2nd place Philliess. They’re currently 5 games up from the Phils, who are tied with the Atlanta Braves.
- Nationals/Astros – Houston and the Nats are 6 and 11 games back, respectively, and at this point, just trying to stay afloat until the All-Star break.
Another interesting fact. 4 teams are playing .600 ball right now and the Redbirds are one of them! One team, the Detroit Tigers, are one win away from playing .700 ball. And, they will likely achieve that tonight playing the Royals. Very impressive, even if it is early in the season. I look forward to playing them next month.
.500 ball is currently good enough for first place in the AL West. Last year, 2 games over that was what it took to make an NL West champ (the Padres), but this year a team playing .506 ball would be in last place there. Arizona is tearing up the division.
Hmmmm. Last night’s game against the Giants was awful. We were spoiled, playing the Royals, getting fat off of KC pitching, errors and lack of scoring. Then, we go to San Francisco and get killed.
The worst part of the game, of course, is that we took away about every scoring opportunity we had away from ourselves. After the first few innings, I had a feeling we were not going to be winning this game. Not because the Giants were winning. In fact, we knocked in the first run and we were tied until the 5th. Their big inning didn’t come until the 8th and by that point, we had already removed ourselves from this game.
It started in the first inning. David Eckstein wiggled himself out of an 0-2 count by taking a couple of balls, fouling a couple more off and eventually getting hit by the pitch. The next batter, Larry Bigbie grounded into a double play. Granted, Pujols struck out in the next at-bat. But, Rolen, now leading off the 2nd, hit a double. If the double play hadn’t happened, you would have that double possibly scoring Eckstein from first.
If that only happened once, we’d be fine. But, this kind of play happened again and again, the entire ballgame. We’d get a couple of guys on and then hit a live drive straight at the first baseman. Instant double play.
Bigbie was the culprit again later in the game when he botched a hit and run play. That is not going to help him with LaRussa who seems to consider the hit and run his bread and butter. Eckstein barreled hard into 2nd, but with no contact made, it turned a hit and run play into a strike ’em out, throw ’em out. We all know how great Matheny’s arm is after all.
So, it’s not that we didn’t have opportunities. We just didn’t cash in on any of them. 7 guys were left stranded throughout the night and that doesn’t count the guys who were erased on double plays or botched hit and run plays. We had eight hits, the same amount that the Giants had and were playing pretty even with them for awhile. Then, in the 8th inning, they unloaded on our relief guys, Tyler Johnson and Braden Looper. They strung together walks, hits, a sac fly and eventually a home run to put up 6 runs for the inning.
The Cardinals, on the other hand, couldn’t chase Jamey Wright, until the 9th inning. Wright pitched an incredible game, going 8 strong innings and only giving up 1 run. He only struck out 4, but he induced outs when he needed them, especially ground ball outs and he kept the Cardinals heavy lineup in the park.
Speaking of which, did you know that Albert Pujols has never homered at AT&T Park? I didn’t know that until I read this article today. If you didn’t already know, I love baseball stats, so of course I immediately had to go find which park Albert has hit the most home runs in. I was pretty sure I already knew because I knew he had hit more home runs in this park than any other visiting player. And, it was the park I was thinking of. Anyone else care to take a guess at it? I’ll let you know tomorrow if you’re right. This is the series that Pujols needs to break that streak. I’d really like to see him go yard at least once during this series.
That’s all the bad news from yesterday. The good news is that Bonds didn’t homer. Inevitably, will he pass Ruth? Of course. But, every day he doesn’t, means it’s less likely that he will pass Aaron, which ultimately is more important to me. It’s pretty obvious that Bonds will not return next year as a positon player. He could barely bend down to try to get a ball that Pujols drilled past him yesterday. But, he could always return as a DH.
Tonight’s game worries me a little on the Bonds home run front. Jason Marquis is going to the hill for us. He and his 5-4 record have already given up 10 homers this year. (Last year, he was tied for ninth for giving up the most homers in the NL.) But, I’m hoping he can keep Bonds this side of the fence. Although, I’ve decided that when he does go to 715, I hope it’s at home and I hope it goes to McCovey cove. I think the scramble for that ball could become quite interesting.
We will be going against Morris tonight, which is definitely sad. Matty was a Cardinal forever and did a lot of great things as a Cardinal. Even though he was struggling at the end of his time with us, I was never excited about trading him. Still, now that he’s a Giant, I have to face the fact that he is definitely a hittable pitcher. Sure, he has a fantastic game now and then, (as he did when he was a Redbird and as he did in his previous start), but, overall, he gives up a lot of runs. And, it’s important that this continues tomorrow. We really need to win the 2nd game to even this series out. We were playing .500 ball away going into the KC Series. We swept them and raised our away average. So, taking 2 of 3 from the Giants would be another step to keep improving that record.
But, I predict a slugfest for one or maybe even both teams tonight. With pitchers as up and down as Jason Marquis and Matt Morris are, the chances of both of them having an "on" night on the same night while facing each other seem rather slim.
Congratulations to the Tigers for being the first team to reach 30 wins. Hopefully, we’ll follow suit tonight.
And, for those of you keeping score at home, the Royals lost again yesterday. So, the score remains:
Pujols homers – 22
Royals wins – 10
No homers for Bonds,
There was an article on MLB.com that talked about Pujols and some of the other MLB sluggers breaking the HR record for most homers in April. It was funny, because I had noticed that Pujols is on McGwire pace from his 1998 season. Yet, when I read the article I realized that McGwire is not the home run leader for the month of April. This just goes to show you that what McGwire did is phenomenal and that it doesn’t take one month of 13 homers to break a single season record. It takes many months of doing the same thing consistently. I don’t think it will happen for Pujols this year, but I will not be surprised if someday he does challenge the record Bonds set when he broke McGwire’s record.
So, here’s a summary of the fun home run facts that I was curious about myself and able to find online. Gotta love the internet.
- Pujols has hit 11 home runs in April so far with 7 games left to play.
- In ’98, when McGwire broke Maris’ record, he hit 10 home runs in April.
- In ’01, when Bonds broke McGwire’s record, he hit 11 homers in April.
- The record for the most homers in the month of April is 13, set by Ken Griffey, Jr. and Luis Gonzalez.
So, speaking of homers, what’s up with Chris Shelton? He had a good start to the season and I kept figuring it would just die down. But, now he’s up to 9. I’m willing to wager that most baseball fans couldn’t identify him last year in a lineup and now he’s all you hear about. There’s not a lot of talk though about his 3 triples, although I’m as equally impressed with that. I don’t know a lot of catchers that have that kind of speed. I know Molina sure doesn’t! 🙂 Granted, I don’t watch a lot of Tigers games, so maybe it’s a lot of luck. After all, it took him over 100 games last year to get 3.
Anybody know the record for triples by a catcher in a single season? I think that Bench holds the RBI record, but don’t know about triples. Maybe I’ll look into that.
Hoping Pujols breaks the April record in homers,