I mentioned a few posts ago that the Cardinals have been stuck around .500 ball and with the loss to the Cubs tonight, this continues. Here’s a breakdown of the Cardinals win / loss record by month.
March / April – 15-14
May – 15-12
June – 14-13
July – 13-11
August – 14-12
While every month the Cardinals have been over .500, no month have they been more than 3 games over the .500 mark. Before tonight’s game, they were 3 games over for August and had a chance to go up to 4 or 5 games over tomorrow. But once again, the Cardinals have failed to get on a roll. They’ll win 3 in a row, but then they’ll promptly lose 3 in a row.
The Cubs seem to always step it up when they play the Cardinals, but .500 against a last place team is not acceptable. The Cardinals desperately needed to win at least 3 of 4 from the Cubbies. Now, that they have dropped the first one, they have the extremely difficult task of trying to take a doubleheader.
I’ll be at the 1st game tomorrow and I’m super excited that my favorite player, Yadier Molina is back and I will be able to watch him play. Watch for me on TV!
Let’s take 2 from the Cubbies tomorrow,
Don’t look now but the Cardinals seem to be actually on a roll. Don’t confuse this with the team getting hot. Yes, they’ve won 3 in a row and 6 of their last 7, but I wouldn’t necessarily call the way the Cardinals have been doing it, “getting hot.” 4 of their last 6 games, including, their last 3, have all been 1 win margins. Most of that has come from wins in the late innings, including the walk-off variety, because they have dug themselves in a hole in the early innings, or blew the save.
Nevertheless, a win is a win and the standings only show the wins, not how it happened. I’m just hoping that these squeaker wins will truly spark the Cardinals into getting themselves going on all cylinders. A lot of the pieces seem to be right there: Adams has begun to heat up again, Descalso is producing off the bench, Yadi has begun to catch again and Wacha’s rehab is going well.
If by September, the Redbirds can get going in the way I know they are capable of, the central division could easily be in reach. Of course, the Brewers will have to help out, as they have been going like a team who is ready to win it all. Hopefully with their 5 game winning streak, they have peaked a little too soon and we’ll see them slip into 2nd before long.
For now I’ll just take the wins, however we can get them.
A win’s a win,
There’s no doubt about it – the Redbirds are struggling right now. Not “it’s time to hit the panic button struggling,” but struggling nonetheless. No matter what they do these days, they seem to fall just a bit short. And it’s frustrating to watch.
Yesterday, they were foiled by good defense and Stanton’s 2 homers to lose by a run. Today, a decent outing by Wainwright is spoiled, as they get shutout. Adams, is slumping big time and struck out to end 2 games in a row. It’s frustrating.
I have to remind myself that back in 2006 the Cardinals did everything they could to not make the postseason before catching fire and winning it all. The main difference this time is not having that big bat that you know is just going to come through. For years it was Albert and even last year Beltran always seemed like a sure thing. Holliday has been on a tear, but he’s such a streaky hitter that you never know how long that will last. Taveraz hasn’t materialized into that big power bat yet either.
Once again, as I mentioned in a previous post, as a normal bench player (Mark Ellis) got the start, he went 2 for 3. But ask him to get a hit of the bench? Impossible. The same as been true for Descalso, Jay, when he was hitting off the bench and so many others.
Bad mangerial move of the day: putting in Adams to pinch-hit for Taveras.
There’s two problems with this. You say you’re giving Adams a “mental and physical break,” by giving him a day off. He got the physical break, but not the mental one. In fact, it was probably made worse. He had already struck out to end the game the day before. So basically unless he homers, you are setting him up to fail again. It doesn’t matter that he had no control of the rest of the game. What he’s going to be thinking about tonight was ending two games in a row via the K.
The second problem is Taveras. Both he and Adams are left hitters. So by subtituting one lefty for another, you are flat out telling Taveras, you don’t have the confidence in him coming through in a big situation. And of course, we don’t, but don’t tell him that! There’s no other explanation for that move unless you think Adams is more likely to get the big hit.
Every game I think, maybe this is when they break out of their slump. But it just hasn’t been happening. And unless something magical happens, I’m just not having my normal confidence in this team making a long post-season run. At least without Wacha and Molina returning pronto. Their hitting, their pitching has all been mediocre. I’ll give them credit for their defense.
It just feels like the whole team has been in a funk and it’s time for them to snap out of it real fast!
Break the slump,
The Cardinals got killed in the first two games this series and finally came back and took the last one. All of that you know, so no need to go into all of that. But I do a have a few random thoughts about this series. So, in no particular order, here we go…
1) 3 starters aren’t enough
Part of the reason we got killed the first two games, besides the O’s being super hot right now, is that we had shaky starting pitching. They have their moments, but overall, Wainwright, Lynn and Miller and reliable. In a short series, that’s fine. But in a 7 game series, you need one more guy. Right now, we have the possibilities of Lackey, Masterson and Wacha. Each of these 3 have question marks for different reasons. This needs to get straightened out ASAP.
2) We have to get better off the bench
A lot of these guys will do okay when you plug them into the starting lineup, but when they come in off the bench, not so much. In their defense, there is nothing harder than sitting cold on the bench for 2 hours and then have to come in and swing at a 95 MPH fastball off the other team’s best reliever. Nevertheless, that’s exactly what they’re getting made millions to do and they need to get it figured out.
3) Yadi has to get well pronto
Most of Yadi’s worth is not measured by his offensive number or the number of runners he throws out, as good as both of those things are. It’s measured on all the guys who didn’t dare run on Yadi’s arm who have no problem going now. It’s measured by how he handles his staff, the pitches he calls and the leader he is on the diamond. Cruz and Pierzynski are doing fine in the offensive category. But they don’t strike the same fear in the hearts of runners. And you have to wonder that if Molina is behind the plate, do the Cardinals get blown out like that? Maybe. But there’s simply no way to know.
4) The Cardinals have to start playing like a playoff team
There’s this stigma that AL teams are better than NL teams. Of course, that’s not always the case. But in this series, it really seemed like a bunch of rookies trying to play with the big boys. The Cardinals looked outmatched in every way until this final game. What was the difference this last game? Look no further than the team RISP. The Cardinals have not been scoring a lot of runs this year. And the first two games, every time the Orioles, threatened, they delivered. In this game, Lynn kept them at bay.
Cardinals team RISP = 7 for 16 Orioles team RiSP = 2 for 13
5) Instant replay
This is more funny to be than anything. Buck Showalter motioned several times that he wanted the headset to talk to the guys who reversed the out call at 2nd base. Matheny said something similar about a week ago. “If they’re not going to give me the headset to yell at that guy, then it’s going to be someone on the field.” I’ll be honest, you need a good manager / umpire fight every now and again. As long as it doesn’t get carried away, it’s part of the game.
Conclusion: Everyone takes it for granted that the Cardinals are going to make it to the postseason every year. And my money is on them making it rather than not. I think until they show differently, the division is always theirs to lose. But they also need to get on a roll. It’s a little scary to still be 2 games out with just a little over a month to play. I don’t want to win the wild card; they need to win the division. One game for everything is too stressful.
Hope to see better results in Miami,
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,
This is not the first time this season, we have seen the Cardinal offense errupt. Normally, it is over 9 innings and not in one, but nonetheless, when these guys are clicking, it’s clear what they can do. And that’s good because our pitching is shaky at times, especially the relief pitching, as well as our defense.
The defense is actually painful to watch at times. The Cardinals have the fourth highest number of errors in the NL and the only teams that have poor are sub .500 teams. Over the years the Cardinals have been known for outstanding defense. In the 80s you had the Wizard and even more recently, guys like Edmonds and Rolen were just fun to watch. Rolen was a vacuum at 3rd base. Not only did he make the routine plays with ease, but he made the ridiculously hard plays look easy. Edmonds had a flair all his own, laying out to catch fly ball after fly ball or hopping the fence to rob a home run.
These days the defense is abysmal at best. Only Yadier’s cannon is exempt. With the rest of them, if they make the routine plays I’m happy because that doesn’t always happen. And spectacular plays are certainly few and far between. Most of our outfielders aren’t going to be throwing runners out at the plate and our infield has struggled to catch anything hit sharply.
This combined with a not so strong effort from the bullpen last night again allowed a last place Houston team to feel like they had a shot to win, even as the Cardinals led by 6 runs in the late innings. And indeed they did. For the second day in a row, the ‘Stros had the tying run at the plate. Fortunately, after a wild pitch by Salas, backup catcher Laird dove over home plate as Hunter Pence raced home, just in time to get the inning ending out. If it wasn’t for that, who know what would have happened that inning?
Of course for the Cardinals the big inning was the 6th inning, where they put up 9 runs on 9 hits and 1 walk. Most remarkably, all of the hits, minus Berkman’s home run, were singles. Small ball at its best. In that inning, 4 players (Freese, Pujols, Holliday and Berkman) each had 2 hits.
Overall, the Cardinals scored 11 runs on 15 hits. Lance Berkman had quite the game against his old team, as I mentioned here that he probably would. The only two extra base hits of the game, a double and a home run, belonged to Berkman. He went 4 for 5 with 5 RBIs, heavily contributing to that powerful middle of the order lineup. The 3-4-5 guys went a total of 8 for 14 with 8 RBIs. And that’s what these guys are paid to do. To continue to go after opposing pitchers, unrelenting hit after hit. Many people have questioned the contract of Matt Holliday, but I think he has showed himself worthy of every penny. He hasn’t had the career of Albert, of course, but he has proven himself quite valuable and a much more affordable price. And you can’t say enough about Berkman. He was gambled on, in the offseason and Cardinal fans everywhere are so glad he was. He has continued to rake and has now hopped to 2nd in the NL in average, behind none other than? Matt Holliday.
In today’s game, it would be nice to finally get Chris Carpenter a win. It’s an unfair world where Carp is 0-2 and Kyle McClellan is 4-0. The biggest reason for that, of course, is run support. Carp has only allowed more than 2 runs, in one of 5 starts this season. But his teammates have not returned the favor. He has the worst run support on the Cardinals staff and the 11th worst in the NL. On the other hand McClellan has the 6th best run support in the NL, at a crazy 9.10.
Taking on the Braves,
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,
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,
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,
If you had told me prior to tonight’s game that the Cardinals would back Carp with 8 runs, I would have breathed a sigh of relief. A pitcher that has notoriously been under run-supported would finally be vindicated. His 0-1 record so far this year is terribly unfair for how he has pitched.
And yet? 8 runs would not be enough and Carp would be chased after 4 innings giving up 8 earned runs on 8 hits and 3 walks. It was a very un-Carpenter like performance. Last year, he gave up 6 or more earned runs only twice. And the last time he gave up at least 8 earned runs? I had to go all the way back to September 23rd of 2005. In fact 8 earned runs is a typical months worth of starts for Carp.
Hopefully, this is a fluke and he’s still right and will come back to his normal self next game. And speaking of flukes, Pujols started to show signs of breaking out of his early season slump. He went 3 for 5, although he’s yet to find his power stroke. His swing still looked very awkward on his first hit and it was just as much luck as anything. But as the game progressed, he started looking better at the plate. If that continues, expect him to have a multiple home run game in the near future.
Aside from the Cardinal loss, this was a great game. It had everything. And I really do mean EVERYTHING. 4 Cardinals had home runs, 5 had RBIs, 3 with 2 outs. 3 separate D-backs had home runs as well. Pitcher Bryan Augenstein recorded his first Major League hit immediately after giving up a 4 run inning and then left with a groin injury. We even had a heated ball cap to cap argument between the home plate ump and D-backs manager Kirk Gibson, leading to the ejection of Gibson. The only thing this game was missing was an inning-ending pick-off by Yadi.
It was really a great game, but it’s hard to enjoy when your team still ends up in the loss column. The main positive is that the offense continues to roll. So I have to feel that we will be winning more than we will be losing as long as the pitching staff continues their overall success.
Rubber match is tomorrow,