Looks like Theriot is out of the lineup again tonight as he was a late scratch from last night’s lineup. It scares me when our guys are breaking down and it’s only April. But Pujols is back in, so perhaps, some of these “injuries” are not as bad as they first appear.
This does mean another lineup shakeup though, especially because Rasmus is sitting tonight as well. Theriot and Rasmus have consistently been the 1-2 punch all year. There’s no word on him being injured, so I’m guessing it’s just a preventative day for him. I’m sure LaRussa loves to have an excuse to shuffle his lineup because even when he’s got all of his regulars starting, he’s known for shuffling his lineup more times than a blackjack dealer in Vegas.
So today Punto (still filling in for the injured Schumaker) is our leadoff guy and Freese sits in the 2 hole. 3-4-5 look standard. Other notable changes are Jay is batting 8th and playing CF and Greene is batting 7th, playing shortstop. I truly believe our lineup is the best thing we have going for us and very deep, so even with a few key guys down, I still think we have the pop to get it done.
And we sure need this win after yesterday’s ugly loss. Every team is going to have those games that are in your reach, but you end up losing, but what you do after it is what’s important. If we can come back now and take 2 of 3 and still win the series, I can live with an ugly loss here or there. (Though I still don’t have to like it.)
It will be interesting to see who gets the 9th inning if a save situation presents itself. Who would you give it to if you were LaRussa? Franklin? Bogss? Someone else? And remember, Miles is not an option anymore. 🙂
Glad Pujols is back,
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?
Last night’s game was about as intense of a playoff like contest that you’re going to have in April. If that same game was played in late September, it would have been crazy in that stadium. Luckily for us Cardinal fans, the victory came down on our side. But I had my doubts all the way through that we were going to maintain that slim lead.
The gamemanship started before even the first pitch was thrown. LaRussa made a last minute switch to put in a bullpen guy to start in case the rain caused a delay. With the same expert-like calling of a pitchout when you just know that other guy is running, he was 100% dead on for this one. Normally, LaRussa drives me crazy with his constant lineup tinkering, but for once I was happy about it and it paid off. He was able to bring McClellan in for “relief” after the delay, essentially giving him the start, while Dusty Baker had to dip into his bullpen after one batter.
McClellan continued the awesomeness that has been the Cardinal pitching (minus Westbrook) and good things happened all the way around. Not to say this game didn’t make me nervous. In the first inning, the Cardinals should have put up a few runs. Ramsus not advancing on a ball in the dirt and putting himself in scoring position for the next basehit resulted in only 1 run. As it turns out, the runs they did get were enough.
I hate to say it this early, but this team and especially this game is awfully reminiscent of the 2006 Redbirds. That team was never overpowering, but they always had enough to get the job done. And when it looked like they wouldn’t win, they always did. It always just seemed to happen. It’s not just because they’re winning, although that helps. Just their attitude and everything about the way they are playing is different. They have an intensity that was not there last season and wasn’t really there in the first week of this season. I don’t know if it’s chemistry, Berkman’s influence or what, but I’m liking what I’m seeing.
The bullpen was great finishing out a close game and Boggs getting his second save since Franklin was demoted. And of course Yadier Molina continued in his defensive prowess. I never get tired watching him pick guys off of 1st base. It’s hands down my favorite play of the Cardinals. Especially when he does it to end an inning. Or like last night, when he does it to end an inning in a 2 run ballgame with runners on 1st and 2nd. Beautiful.
So far today the Redbirds are up 2-0 on the Reds. Could Carp get his first win of the season?? Say it ain’t so.
1st place Cardinals,
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,
Simply put, the Cardinals are playing good baseball right now. No doubt you have heard either on last night’s broadcast or by reading it today, that the Cardinals 5th game in a row with 14 or more hits is something they have not done since the 1930s. While that’s an excellent accomplishment, it has nothing to do with the assessment that they are playing good baseball at the moment.
Anyone who follows this team is able to see that there is something very different about this year’s team than last year’s. There is a spark that is happening, a chemistry with guys feeding off of one another. There was not a shortage of hits last year. But there was a shortage of hits at the right time. I have yet to go back to look at the exact numbers, but the Cardinals have been getting an extraordinary amount of 2 out hits, something they couldn’t must in 2010. Not only that, but in the last week they have been getting runners in when they are in scoring position. My biggest complaint last year was when they were within a run or two ahead or behind the other team, they could never get the “big hit” to blow the game open. It might be 5-4 with bases loaded, they would strand those runners and blow the game in the 8th or 9th. And that’s what we were seeing in the beginning of this season. But these days they are getting that big hit and then some. And it sure is fun to watch.
Some of the differences may be the intangibles. Personalities of teammates, a certain chemistry you can’t really put your finger on. But I think some of it can certainly be traced to the performance of a few individuals.
Lance Berkman – Berkman has been the biggest contributor to the “big hit” that we so desperately needed last year. He has been consistent through Pujols’ early season struggles and seems to have even sparked him to start getting hot. This 3-4-5 is as good as any we have had since the days of Rolen and Edmonds when they were in their prime. It’s nice to have this ex-Cardinal killer finally doing the damage for the good guys.
Colby Rasmus – We had Rasmus on the team last year, but this is a different Rasmus. Last year he was often platooned, not allowed to hit against all pitchers and seemed to be constantly worried about his job. He ran his mouth to the media about a trade and was still working his way from being an inexperienced kid to a star player. Once Ludwick was traded and he was handed over every day duties, we saw him start to excel. This year he seems very comfortable and we knew going into this that his success at the #2 role would be a huge factor in the Cardinal lineup. He has proved himself admirably. Whether he’s bunting his way on and stealing 2nd, hitting a leadoff double or smacking a triple, the guy is a beast this year. Look for him to have his highest run total of his career this year.
David Freese – After he was hurt last year, the Cardinals never really recovered. There was a constant band-aid put on 3rd base, where we had always had star caliber players before. With Holliday’s huge contract and Albert’s looming on the horizon, we didn’t have the funds to go get someone with that kind of bang. So Freese being back this year and healthy thus far has been huge for these Redbirds. A guy would probably would have been a #5 hitter for the Cardinals is an even bigger asset at #6.
Tony LaRussa – Yes, the manager. A guy that is known for always tinkering with the lineup has actually controlled himself in this area. Granted, when Matt Holliday was out of the lineup, some tinkering was necessary. But since that time, as long as the main guys have started, the lineup 1-6 has been:
The only change has been Molina and Schumaker swapping back and forth in the 7 and 8 positions and then the pitcher hitting 9th. This has only changed on days when Freese is sitting or when Molina or Berkman are given a day of rest. This is the ideal lineup and for the first time ever LaRussa seems to be aligning to the mantra, “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”
This ride will inevitably only last so long. They will eventually stop getting 14+ hits a game and they will eventually lose. But as for now, I’ll just be enjoying it for as long as possible.
Enjoying the ride,
So I have decided that the Cardinals are trying to kill me. There is no other explanation for today’s game. And it nearly worked.
They started their first road trip of the season tonight by traveling to San Fran and taking on the reigning World Series champs. The first 8 innings were typical Cardinal baseball of late. Scratch together a hit here or there, plate a runner or two, but fall just short of victory.
And then the 9th inning happened.
In the bottom of the ninth, the first two Redbirds went down quietly to bring Yadier Molina to the plate. And that’s where the fun began. Down to his last strike, Yadi drew a walk. Newcomer Daniel Descalso (who I hope keeps his blog going) somehow magically beat out a dribbler and Jon Jay was just barely grazed by a pitch. Things suddenly had gone from bad to interesting.
It was now the top of the order and the weight of the world had landed on the shoulders of Ryan Theriot. I looked at the TV (as I’ve previously stated, I do talk to players during the game) and said, “Ok Theriot, if you want Cardinal Nation to love you….here’s your opportunity.” He must have heard me because after working the count full and fighting off what seemed like a million foul balls, he hit a single between third and short, plating two Redbirds and giving the Cardinals their first lead of the game.
At that point, I was hoping they’d score a few more because then maybe Franklin wouldn’t be brought in to pitch the 9th if it wasn’t a save situation. No such luck. Rasmus walked and the still cold Pujols flied out to end the inning.
I was at my folks house during the game and my exact words to my mom prior to Franklin starting the 9th were… “You know his MO is to get two quick outs before he walks the bases loaded.” Though that wasn’t 100% accurate, it was pretty darn close. Franklin did get two quick ground outs before the bottom fell out. Aaron Rowand singled, then moved up with a wild pitch by Franklin. He walked Posey and Pablo Sandoval proceeded to tie the game with a base hit.
On to extras.
It was really bad at this point because the Cardinals had no one left on their bench, except for Holliday who hasn’t been cleared to play. This is normally a spot for someone like Adam Wainwright, but he is, of course, out this year. So Kyle Loshe got the nod to pinch hit. Nothing really interesting happened until the bottom of the 11th.
Bryan Augenstein then pitched some of the most nerve wrecking baseball I have ever seen in my life. He gave up a leadoff double to start the inning and it seemed all was lost. If you have a runner in scoring position with no outs, it seems pretty safe to say you will be able to score him. However, he then delivered some of the most important strikes of his career to strike out Freddy Sanchez. Rowand again is trouble when he rips a ball to what looks like will go down the left field line. But the Cardinals are playing with 5 infielders at this point and Allen Craig makes an incredible play to stop the ball and get Rowand into a rundown. He gets tagged out and two batters later we are out of the inning. Major props to Augenstein and Craig for that inning.
In the 12th the Cardinals were sat down 1-2-3. In the Giants half, it was the last Cardinal reliever in Brian Tallet. He struck out the leadoff man to bring up Miguel Tejada who singled to left. A double play would have ended the inning and I thought we had one. It was Pujols to Theriot and back to Pujols. Tejada was out at 2nd, but they called the other runner safe at first. Even with replays I really thought he was out. The inning would have been over with the next batter anyway, except when Tallet tossed the ball to Pujols, he somehow missed it which allowed everyone to be safe.
What happened next I had a bad feeling about as it was happening, although I don’t disagree with LaRussa’s decision. There were runners on 2nd and 3rd, so Tallet intentionally put on Freddy Sanchez to get to Aaron Rowand. With 1st base open it’s pretty much a rule that you put on the next hitter.
The only problem was that from the moment he entered the game, Rowand seemed to have the Cardinals number. He was 2 for 3 and his only out was almost the game winner and would have been if it wasn’t for Craig’s stellar play to the plate. This time he made sure to get the job done, however, as scorched the ball to the warning track.
The Reds are getting killed right now, but it’s the same problem as September of last year. It doesn’t matter how much they lose, if we can’t win and take advantage of it. I do like that the Cardinals did not just roll over and play dead when down to their final strike. But it’s still frustrating that they can’t seem to get that big hit that puts the game away for good.
Albert Pujols – The most obvious and most talked about returner to the Cardinals lineup. Pujols represents the “no doubter” in the Cardinals lineup. Plays first and bats third. So automatic that even with all of LaRussa’s lineup tinkering, this isn’t likely to change. The only exception to that would be if LaRussa decided to flip flop him with Matt Holliday, if Holliday is slumping. Pujols is also one of the few guarantees in the lineup when it comes to production. Pujols slump lasts long and when he comes out of one, it’s usually with a bang. He’s also never been injury prone in his career. Some minor flare ups here and there, but nothing major. We all know it’s up in the air if Pujols is going to be a Cardinals in 2012 and beyond, so for now, just enjoy him while we got him.
Matt Holliday – This was the guy they shelled all the money into last year as a free agent, in order to form a solid team around Pujols. He serves as protection at the dish and a decent defender in left field. This is an all-star caliber player and when he’s hot, he’s HOT, but like many a Cardinal outfielder before him, he can be prone to a cold streak or two. His consistency in protecting Albert will be huge to the success of 2011 Cardinals.
Yadier Molina – Believe it or not, Yadi is now a griseled veteran with seven years under his belt. His season ended a couple weeks early last year due to injury and what else can you expect? He had already caught way more games than pretty much every other catcher in the league. Yadi’s a gamer, no doubt about it and the pitching staff has expressed their appreciation. They trust Yadi behind the plate and having a guy like that back there makes our pitchers that much better. They don’t pay him for his offense, but I’d like to see him bump it up a touch this year. On a completely other note, I’d also like to see him kick the crap out of Brandon Phillips. 🙂
Colby Rasmus – It’s hard to fully appreciate Colby when a guy like Jimmy Edmonds is retiring. But he’s also still very young and making a name for himself. He’s a good hitter and fielder, but I don’t believe he’s reached his potential yet. He needs to be a tad more patient at the plate and lower his strikeout rate. Part of the problem is probably his lack of focus. Last year, he made headlines for comments about “wanting a trade.” Hopefully, he can learn from a guy like Pujols when it comes to that sort of thing. There’s a time to talk and during the season is not it. Put your head down, shut up and play the game. If he can do that, he has the makings of being a big time player. If he can’t, just call him J.D. Drew and trade him already.
Skip Schumaker – It’s still unclear what Skip’s going to be in the world of baseball. Infielder? Outfielder? Lifetime utility guy? Journeyman? Whatever it is, I have enjoyed his contributions to the Cardinal team. He always seems to be working hard at whatever role is thrown his way. And when he asked, he turned himself to a pretty good 2nd baseman. He also had a down year at the plate in 2010, hitting well below the .300 mark he had reached in his previous three seasons. With a plethora of utility type players on the lineup, it’s likely that Skip will see some time at a variety of positions and places in the lineup, but you have to think that he’s going to see a lot of time as the leadoff guy. But in LaRussa’s crazy world, nothing is guaranteed.
David Freese – Though he hasn’t spent much time as a Cardinal due to injury, I’m still including him in the returning players, as he was THE 3rd baseman for the first part of last year. The Cardinals are needing much longer from him this year. Reports have been that he is taking it easy during Spring Training so as not to re-injure anything. During his brief stint, however, he did show a lot of promise. He has the potential to be a great contributor this year and years to come, especially as we inevitably lose higher paid players.
Jon Jay / Daniel Descalso / Tyler Greene / Allen Craig – Four guys who saw various amounts of playing time last year at the Major League level. Where they fit this year remains to be determined. Right field that became a platoon on the departure of Ryan Ludwick last year is back to probably a one-man show upon the acquisition of Lance Berkman. It remains to be seen who is in St. Louis and who is elsewhere upon the arrival of Opening Day. At least a couple of these guys will find themselves filling utility roles and backups for starting guys. Greene was used quite a bit last year when Freese went down. And rumor has it that he might even see some time at center. But that shouldn’t be surprising. LaRussa has a tendency to want a team of guys that can play multiple positions to allow for creative lineups and subbing situations. My main hope is that Jay gets another hot streak going like he had last year and is a force off the bench.
On paper, the returning guys are pretty solid. But injuries and down seasons can certainly change things. This team is built around Pujols and Hollliday and I expect both of these guys to deliver what we’re used to seeing. If the other guys like Molina, Freese and Skip can up their game, it looks to be a good year for the Cardinals.
Next up will be the returning pitching staff.
Solid veteran lineup,
I have one piece of advice to the Cardinals: Eat more chicken. Zaxbys chicken to be exact. Rasmus is a Georgia native, born a couple hours south of where the Braves call home and decided to pick up some chicken before the game, giving some to Wainwright to eat as well.
Watch video here.
Wainwright’s took a little bit longer than Rasmus’ to take effect, but in the end, both guys were key components of the Cardinals’ thrashing of the Atlanta Braves. There isn’t an Zaxby’s in Missouri, but I’m willing to have it shipped to the Cards for the rest of the season if that’s what it takes. Who’s in with me?
Though in order for the chicken to work today, LaRussa has to be willing to play Rasmus against a lefty. Something he has been reluctant to do, which irritates the crap out of me, as I expressed in my previous post.
Eating chicken for lunch,
I enjoyed last night’s lineup. I love Skip Schumaker leading off because at this point, I think he’s our best leadoff guy. And this lineup seemed to work as well. Why you feel the need to tinker with the lineup every single day is beyond me. Why you feel the need to tinker with the lineup after a win, especially, is beyond me. Colby had a good day. He’s always hit Atlanta pitching well. Why not give him another shot? Probably because you will want to do something ridiculous with the lineup. I’m old school and I believe that pitchers should hit 9th, but I know that’s too much to ask, so I won’t. All I do ask is for you to find a lineup, let the guys build some chemistry and trust (which is so obviously lacking in this team) with each other and then only do slight tweaks from time to time. No more overmanaging!! Or else you make me want to do this.
I don’t think it’s too much to bat your best guys 1-8, stick the pitcher 9th, and then bring in the other guys from your bench as needed. In 2006, he had no problem sitting the very talented Scott Rolen in favor of the extremely hot hitting Scott Spiezio. In fact, he did this, despite the rift that it caused between him and Rolen. Yet, with this lineup, he feels the need to start guys who have no business starting, unless they’re giving a regular a break every couple months.