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April 2008

Rebounding

Posted on April 30, 2008 at 9:34 AM
If there's one thing the Cards have figured out how to do this year, it's to come back from a loss and get a win.  There have been six three-game series this month (counting the current one with the Reds) and three times they've lost the first game, only to come back and win the series.  They are in position to do that for a fourth time with a win today after last night's big win.

When I first heard that Joel Pineiro through seven innings of one-hit ball, I didn't figure there was any way he wouldn't be the Hero of the Game.  I'm still going to go that way, but a 4/3 K ratio isn't necessarily great.  Then again, he wasn't looking for the strikeouts with a 7-0 lead.  There were numerous others that could have been considered as well, including Skip Schumaker for his 4-5 and Rick Ankiel for his 3-5, 2 RBI day.  Of course, you could also give a special Hero award to Cincinnati's base running and fielding, as well!

There are really only two considerations for Goat.  Anthony Reyes gave up the two-run homer in the ninth, ruining the shutout.  But, on a night when the team piled up 15 hits, only one starter went 0-4.  It's a rare one, but we'll give the Goat to Albert Pujols.  Glad to see he got his walk, though, and extended his on-base streak.

Reyes continues to be as frustrating as ever, though.  Just when you think he is turning a corner, he blows up again.  14 hits and 8 earned runs in 11.2 innings is not what the Cardinals want to see.  Then again, it's not like he's getting regular work.

The Cardinals get their work in early today with a 12:15 businessman's special.  On paper, the pitching matchup isi pretty heavily tilted toward the Reds, as Aaron Harang takes on Braden Looper.

Since Harang's been an NL Central pitcher for some time now, he's faced all the Cardinals and had pretty good success against them.  Pujols has done well against him, including a home run, but other than that, not much at all.  Cesar Izturis is a nice 0-17 against him, which would tend to indicate Brendan Ryan should be playing shortstop today, especially since he's got a 1-2 mark against the Reds hurler.

Thankfully, the Reds haven't done much better against Looper.  In fact, he's probably been harder on them than Harang has been on the Redbirds.  Adam Dunn's two hits off of him are home runs, but he sports a .154 average.  Not a lot of plate appearances against Looper by the Red hitters, but it's encouraging.

If Looper pitches like he did last time versus Houston, the Cards have a great chance.  If he pitches like he did the time before against the Giants, they are sunk.  Removing that Giants game, though, he has a 1.90 ERA, so it does look so far like that game was a hiccup.

Wasting Opportunities

Posted on April 29, 2008 at 9:30 AM
The Cardinals seem to be unable to get into a winning groove like they did the first week of the season.  Every time they get a winning streak started, they seem to snap it quickly.

Mike on the Cards (note the new site, BTW) mentioned the Cardinals leaving runners on base.  Seemed like a reasonable symptom of a struggling offense, not able to get the big hit.  So I did some rough research and compared LOB for wins vs. LOB for losses.

What I found was a little surprising.  In the Cardinals' 16 wins so far this season, they've stranded 133 batters, which works out to 8.3 batters per win.  In their 11 losses, they've stranded 98, or 8.9 batters per loss.  That's a little skewed by the 16 they left in the 12 inning loss to Milwaukee, so removing that would put the two categories just about even.

More recently, they are 4-4 in their last 8 games.  In the wins, they strand 8.75.  In the losses, 11.25.  That counts that 16 LOB game as well, but the last few losses have been more frustrating in this regard than earlier ones.

Of course, not all LOB are created equal.  Walking the seventh guy to load the bases for the pitcher leaves 3 on base if he strikes out, but we don't expect much in that situation.  Runners on second and third, one out and no one scores, that's a different story.  But right now I don't have time to go through the play-by-play data and figure out a weighting method.

Suffice it to say, the Cards haven't been all that efficient in scoring their baserunners, whether it's been a win or a loss.  It might be interesting, though, to see if that's a product of most good offenses.  Because more hits, more chances to leave runners on.  For example, Houston only left 3 runners on in their 3-2 win over St. Louis on Friday, but that's because they went through a stretch where 16 batters were retired in a row.  Can't leave 'em on if they don't get on in the first place.

Anyway, to the game.  I wasn't able to see much of it.  Sounds like if Wellemeyer had been able to get loose early, the results might have been different.   That's the way it goes, of course.  Some nights it takes longer than others.

The Hero award looks like it should go to Rick Ankiel, who got off of his homerless slide, plus had a double and was responsible for two of the Cardinals three runs.  If he's going to be a streaky hitter, it looks like he might be going on another binge.

The Goat, in my mind, will go to Chris Duncan.  I know he went two for five, which is good.  But he cost the Cards what turned out to be the game-deciding run by losing a fly ball and then, with the tying run on first and two outs in the ninth, swung at the first pitch instead of having a little patience.  Maybe he was expecting Cordero to challenge him, being that is what closers do, but he'd have had to get an extra-base hit to get Pujols around to score.  Glaus was up behind him, so it's not like he was the last chance.  Maybe it wasn't a bad play, but in my mind it seemed he should have been a little more patient.

And apparently TLR's selection of Ludwick as the leadoff man wasn't that inspired, since he went 0-5 with 4 K.  Whether it was just a bad night or being in a different spot in the lineup, I don't know.  Theoretically, where you bat shouldn't have that much of an impact on you, but it apparently does for some players.

Today, the Cards take on the rookie Johnny Cueto and they counter with Joel Pineiro.  Obviously, the Cardinals have no history against Cueto, which can cause problems.  One of my pet theories is TLR prepares the team so well statistically that when they don't have a baseline against a pitcher, they have trouble adjusting.  Hopefully that'll be proven wrong tonight.

Cueto had an amazing debut, allowing one hit and striking out 10 in seven innings.  Since then, though, he's been a little more hittable.  In fact, twice in his last three outings he's allowed five runs and his road ERA is 5.11.  If LaRussa looks at the stats, he may not put all his lefties out there, as Cueto has been limiting them to a .184 average.

Being that he spent most of his career in the American League, the Reds haven't seen much of Pineiro.  What they have seen, though, they've liked.  A team .357 average against him, though the player with the most AB, Scott Hatteburg, is only hitting .241 and only Corey Patterson has a home run against him.

Could be a low scoring affair tonight if both pitchers live up to their potential.

Also note that it has been one year since the tragic death of Josh Hancock.  Derrick Goold takes a look at that and the changes that resulted from it.  It was interesting to note that the Cards have basically designated 32 as "temporarily retired" for a few years.

Site note: I've added a new blog, THEblindhomer Sees, to the blogroll. 

Lineup Creativity

Posted on April 28, 2008 at 5:23 PM
I don't think very many people have accused Tony LaRussa of not being creative and open to new ideas.  I mean, we've got the pitcher batting eighth, redefining the way relief pitchers are used, stuff like that.  And now, he's showing that he's not bound by convention with his leadoff man.  Tonight's lineup, via Bernie:

Ludwick 9
Ankiel 8
Pujols 3
Duncan 9
Glaus 5
Molina 2
Kennedy 4
Wellemeyer 1
Izturis 6

Now, when I think of Ryan Ludwick, "leadoff" is not exactly what comes to mind.  Like I pointed out in my main post today, he's got good numbers against Arroyo so I figured he'd be in the lineup, but wow.  I'd almost have thought TLR would have sat Ankiel and let Skip lead off, but Rick has shown a little life lately with a hit on Saturday and two walks yesterday.

And apparently Glaus is going to wear some special glasses tonight.  Hopefully they'll work, but if not, don't be surprised if he comes out after an at-bat or two and Ryan replaces him.

Just when you think you've got it all figured out, surprises can still come your way.  Let's see if this revamped lineup can get some runs on the board early.

Bad Blood Weekend

Posted on April 28, 2008 at 9:20 AM
I figured that both the Cardinals and the Astros hadn't forgotten about the Pujols/Towles-Backe issue but I wasn't expected a couple of bench clearings this weekend.  Playing Houston another 12 times or so could enliven the summer, especially if the team slides out of contention.

That's not the case right now, though, as the Cardinals take the series from Houston.  And, with regular results, would have swept their way into first place.

Friday night, the loss all comes down to Jason Isringhausen, the Goat of the Day.  Giving up three runs in the ninth, with only one coming on a home run, is unacceptable for a closer that's getting paid as much as Izzy is.  Of course, these things happen, but lately they've been happening with much more regularity with Izzy, bringing back memories of his disastrous 2006 campaign.  He doesn't seem to be hurt now, but that 6.55 ERA is going to have the phone in Memphis ringing for Chris Perez pretty soon if he doesn't straighten it out.

The Hero of Friday night had to be Braden Looper, who saw possibly his best ever start go up in smoke in the ninth.  But seven innings of two-hit ball is pretty impressive, even if you don't have the W beside your name afterwards.

After getting quite excited about the Oswalt/Wainwright matchup, my Saturday got eaten up and I wasn't able to see any of the game.  While it wasn't quite as great as the 1-0 Mulder/Clemens matchup of three years ago, it didn't disappoint by much, with the Cardinals pulling it out in the bottom of the ninth.

The big number that jumps out at that game is 126.  That's how many pitches Adam Wainwright threw.  I understand that, especially on the heels of Isringhausen's Friday, LaRussa may not trust the bullpen as much, but that's pushing it, I think.  The last thing this team needs is for the Wagonmaker to blow out his arm.  I'd hope that next game TLR thinks about removing Wainwright around the 90 pitch mark.  It probably also helps that there is a day off in this run through the rotation, which means that he'll get an extra day of rest before taking the mound again.  Still, for his effectiveness and durability, you've got to give him the Hero award, though Pujols with his two RBI would come close.

Saturday's Goat would probably be LaRussa for leaving Wainwright in so long, but I'm trying to limit it to the players.  Most everyone had a similar batting line, with nobody having more than one hit.  Even Troy Glaus, who went 0-3, drove in a run.  So, just because his season has been so bad and he didn't do anything to redeem in, the award goes to Jason LaRue for his 0-1, plus forcing TLR to pinch hit for him in the ninth.

Oh, and there's no doubt that Wainwright was trying to send a message to Ausmus without causing any damage.  After a couple of your players get thrown at, you want to make sure you stand up for them.  There wasn't any chance Ausmus would get hurt, at least it didn't look like it from the replays.  I've got no problem with that at all, as long as you aren't throwing at the head.  At least to some, that was the play of the game.

Sunday, you just knew something was going to happen with Brandon Backe on the mound.  He stymied the Cardinals for a while, but after Ludwick's double to break the scoring seal for the Cards and then Hero Troy Glaus going yard for the first time this year, he seemed to come a little unglued, as we saw in his confrontation with Molina.

And, boy, was Yadi steamed about the whole thing.  He was still talking after Backe was out of the game.  If you see a fastball in your face, I'm sure it does tend to rile you up.  Like I said early, I doubt this is completely over. Mark your calendars for May 27-29!

I gave Glaus the Hero because he finally got the home run, which put the game out of reach, but there were a number of players you could have chosen.  Kyle Lohse pitched a great game.  Kyle McClellan got his first save by going three strong innings.  Pujols hit a home run.

The Goat is a little harder because most everyone did play a solid game.  For one of the rare times he's not had a good game in the leadoff role, though, the Goat goes to Skip Schumaker for his 0-4 day.  You don't often see 0 in the hit column for Skip lately.

The Cards start this series with Cincinnati just a 1/2 game behind the Cubs, making that loss on Friday (after the Cubs had already lost as well) very costly.  Tonight, Brandon Arroyo and Todd Wellemeyer meet up as the other two contenders in the NL Central, the Cubs and Brewers, clash.  A win tonight could move the Cards back into the penthouse.

Some mixed results for the Cardinals against Arroyo.  For instance, Pujols has a .233 average against him, but does have two home runs.  Chris Duncan should be in the lineup tonight, since he's hitting .316 with a long ball against Arroyo.  Izturis and Ludwick both have good numbers in limited action against the pitcher, so expect Izturis to return from his injury tonight.

The Reds haven't done well against Wellemeyer, though only Adam Dunn has more than 10 plate appearances against him.  Scott Hatteburg and Edwin Encarnacion combine for five of the nine hits the Reds have managed against the Cardinal hurler.

Programming note: There's been a change in the lineup of the UCB Game Blogging Project.  CardinalsGM is going to take the fourth instead of this blog.  Instead, I'm going to have the pre-game and post-game post.  Tom's done a lot of the UCB activities in the past and it's great to have him on board for this one as well.

The CardsClubhouse preview will be up later today, and there's still time to get into the Reds YNOT.

Splitting

Posted on April 25, 2008 at 10:29 AM
The Cards have been doing a lot of .500 ball playing lately.  They are 5-5 in their last 10, with a pattern of win two, lose one, win one, lose two, win one, lose two, win one.  It's a roller-coaster ride after the smooth winning pattern of the first couple of weeks.

They got back on the horse last night with patience and strong pitching.  While I wanted to go Hero-wise with Brian Barton, who was 2-4 with a walk and got the scoring started with a two-run double (on the first hit of the game), it's tough to argue with the numbers Joel Pineiro put up last night.  Seven innings of one-run ball, four hits, six strikeouts and bonus points for the kick-save out that will on highlight reels for years to come.  I think that's the second time this year that Pineiro has done a kick move like that, but the first time it's actually worked.  Besides Barton, honorable mention goes to Yadier Molina for three hits, including two doubles, and Albert Pujols for reaching base five times (though once was when he was thrown out going for a double).

Goat-wise, I guess you have to go with Ryan Ludwick for his 0-5 night.  He wasn't even able to coax a walk out of Tom Gorzelanny, something that just about everyone was able to do.  I really like the patience that the team is showing so far.  Especially with the weaker hitters.  If they are able to get on base, that just makes the offense that much more potent.

The Cardinals go home and get to match up with the streaking Houston Astros, who have won five in a row.  The Cardinals beat them two out of three in Houston earlier in the year, but the Cards will only face one pitcher they saw in that matchup.

That pitcher is Shawn Chacon, who goes tonight against Braden Looper.  The Cards were able to beat him last time, 5-3, but historically they've had their troubles against him.  Chris Duncan has had success in limited action against him, so you figure to see him out there tonight.  Then again, since it's a right hander on the mound, you figure all the lefties will be in the lineup.  Which is too bad for Brian Barton, after his strong game, but if Ludwick got benched after hitting home runs in three straight games because a righty was on the mound, Barton has little room to argue.

Looper has done all right against the Astros and hopefully will continue that this evening.  He wasn't anything special last time out, allowing three runs in 5.2 innings, but he did get the win.  Which is what counts the most, right?

The biggest key to this series will be getting the guys out in front of Lance Berkman.  Berkman always seems to kill the Cardinals, so the pitchers are going to have to do their best to limit the damage.  To a lesser degree, Carlos Lee and Miguel Tejada are also threats, but I personally will always breath easier when Berkman is retired.

And Saturday's matchup should be a lot of fun, with Adam Wainwright against Roy Oswalt.  If Oswalt's on his game (something that's eluded him a lot in 2008), that could be a pitcher's duel that ranks right up there with another Saturday afternoon game against the 'Stros.

The series preview and the YNOT are up at the Clubhouse, so check those out as well.

UCB: Game Blogging Project Lineup

Posted on April 24, 2008 at 3:10 PM
Here's the backstory, if you are new to the blog.  Last fall, after the season was over and blogging topics were a little harder to come by, I contacted some of my fellow Cardinal bloggers to see if they were interested in some group blogging projects.  Various ideas were tossed around and we've done a few good ones in the intervening span.

For example, in November, we handed out the Cardinal Blogger Awards.  In December, we selected our Top 5 Stories of 2007.  January had us list out our personal Cardinal All-Star teams.  Then March turned into UCB month, what with our predictions, the roundtable, and the Answering the YNOT entry.  So, as you can read, we've been fairly busy.

One of the first ideas I had for these group, though, had to wait until the season started.  Now we are able to bring the Game Blog idea to life.  On Saturday, May 2nd, the Cardinals host the Cubs and the UCB will be recording it.

Each inning will be covered by a different blogger.  They'll bring their own take, biases, digressions, and style to the inning, giving you the feeling of seeing the same game through many different eyes.  As far as I know, this is the first time anything like this has been attempted!

So, with that in mind, let's see who is doing what in this project.  Note that assigned innings may change.

First Inning
: Stan Musial's Stance
Prior UCB Experience: Top 5, All-Star, Roundtable
The Angry Rant isn't always talking Cardinals, but he's always interesting.

Second Inning: The Cardinal Virtue
Prior UCB Experience: None
John is our foreign correspondent, participating all the way from Ireland.

Third Inning: Mike on the Cards
Prior UCB Experience: Roundtable
Mike's a regular poster, full of good links and videos, all Cardinal related.

Fourth Inning: C70 At The Bat

Fifth Inning
: CardinalNationGlobe
Prior UCB Experience: Awards, Top 5, All-Star, 08 Predictions
Deaner was one of the first to sign on to the UCB and one of the most active.

Sixth Inning: Rockin' the Red
Prior UCB Experience: Awards, Top 5, All-Star, Roundtable, YNOT
It wouldn't be a UCB project without Bryan chipping in.

Seventh Inning: Fungoes
Prior UCB Experience: None
Pip and possibly the most sabermetrically-focused Cardinal blog jumps into the fray.

Eighth Inning
: The Redbird Blog
Prior UCB Experience: 08 Predictions, Roundtable
Don stays up to date with the Cardinals and the blogging from the Mountain Time Zone.

Ninth Inning: Redbird Ramblings
Prior UCB Experience: Awards, All-Star, 08 Predictions, Roundtable
Haedar will wrap it up for his fifth UCB appearance.

Everyone should have their entry up by Saturday evening or Sunday.  Don't worry, I'll post a reminder next week.  Plan to visit all of these great blogs regularly, but definitely next weekend!

Slipping

Posted on April 24, 2008 at 10:04 AM
When you are faltering, even the teams that you should beat wind up beating you.  Which doesn't really bode well for the future of this team.  Four runs is nice, but you'd like to see more than that when all four score in the first inning.

You knew that Wellemeyer was playing with fire last night.  The first seven outs were in the air, and that's just asking for trouble in a ballpark that's not known to be a pitcher's paradise.  Wellemeyer only got 2 outs on the ground, 11 by fly ball and 5 by strikeout.  That probably means that he was lucky to get away giving up only the one home run.

I don't think it's too much of a debate to anoint Anthony Reyes as the Goat of last night's game.  If he hits Miles with that double-play throw, it's two outs, none on and the .115 hitting Adam LaRoche coming up.  Instead, the winning run is at second with one out.  Allowing two extra runs just put the icing on the cake, unfortunately.

Kudos to Kennedy for not only backing up the play but having the presence of mind to throw it to first to get at least one out on the play.  Ironically, that's something I'd never seen before until my softball game Tuesday night, where the same thing happened (though no throw to first was made).  For that and the 2-4, 2 RBI game, Adam Kennedy is the Hero of the game.

It'd been nice if Albert could have come through in the sixth with a couple of runners on, but he was 2-2 with a HBP at that point.  While another hit wasn't unlikely, it's still tough to get three hits in a game.  And I guess you could say it was about time for Snell to get him out.

If not for Reyes, Chris Duncan might have gotten the goat.  Grounding into a big double play didn't help, but it seemed possible that, if he'd taken a better route to Bay's home run ball, he'd have been able to catch it at the wall.  Maybe not, but that's the way it looked to the untrained eye.

So now the Cardinals have slipped into third place, 2.5 games behind the apparently-never-losing Cubs.  Their 13-9 record, though, would lead the AL Central and West and have them a half game out in the NL East.  That said, four of the last five have gone the wrong way and that's a trend that needs reversing.

It might be a tough chore to do that today.  Tom Gorzelanny takes the mound, and the Cardinals have traditionally had some struggles against left-handers.  Gorzelanny sports a terrible ERA, but it's all based on two games against the Cubs, where he gave up 14 earned runs in 5 innings.  In his other two starts, he has an ERA under three.  Pujols hasn't hit him all that well, but Aaron Miles has.  Most of the other Cardinals haven't faced him much, though it is interesting to see that Ankiel is 3-3 with a HR against him.  Being that Gorzelanny is a lefty, I was going to say Ank sits today, but with those numbers, probably not.

Joel Pineiro goes for the Cards this evening.  The Pirates that have faced him the most were former American Leaguers, though both Xavier Nady and Jason Bay have home runs off of him in limited action.

This could be a tough one for the Cards, but they really need to get a victory before going back home for a key homestand against the Astros, Reds and Cubs.

Speaking of that Cub series, later today I'll release the lineup for the UCB Game Blog project.

The Wildest Times of the World

Posted on April 23, 2008 at 8:59 AM
Lohse blowing a 2-0 lead.  Cards trailing 8-3.  Rallying for four, then scoring the tying run off a missed double play in the ninth.  12 innings.  Albert Pujols playing second.  And then the Brewer who scored the game winning run is traded to Tampa Bay.  (They couldn't do that just a little earlier?)  What's next, cats and dogs, living together?

It was a crazy game, made a little more so because it was a day game and I was following along at the CardsClubhouse game thread.  One of the great things about the internet and the rise of game threads (almost every forum has them now!) is that you can "watch" the game together.  As close as sitting with a bunch of people in the stands as you can get without spending money.

Anyway, it was a very unorthodox game.  Lots of what ifs.  Most people will dwell on the missed call by the umpire on Pujols's slide home.  I didn't see it, but it sure sounded like he was safe.  Obviously, that run plus the fact that it made first and third two outs instead of one out could have made a difference in the game.

The one I want to talk about, however, is one of LaRussa's questionable moves, at least in my mind.  As soon as a right hander came into the game, LaRussa pinch hit Rick Ankiel for Brian Barton.  This seemed a little bit of a knee-jerk reaction.  At the time, the Cards were down by 5, which seemed like a perfect opportunity to see what Barton could do.  I realize that TLR always goes all out for a win and the team did rally, but it didn't have much to do with Mr. Ankiel, who is really slumping right now.  Besides, if he'd kept Ankiel on the bench, he could have used him at a more strategic time.

Many people say that TLR doesn't like the youngsters, that he'll do anything not to play them.  A theory I've come up with in the last week or so is not that he doesn't like the young players.  I mean, look at his use of Kyle McClellan, the way he used the bullpen in 2006, his four ROYs under his watch, stuff like that.  No, I think what TLR's bias relates to is first impressions.

Rick Ankiel made a heck of a first impression as a pitcher and Tony immediately liked him.  Now, he'll go almost out of his way to give Ankiel shots.  Brian Barton started off the spring slow and didn't make the best of first impressions on the field.  That seems to be what LaRussa remembers and possibly part of why he starts on the bench.

It's not really a personality thing--I mean, he probably likes Barton as a person, just like he likes Brendan Ryan--but being that his first impression of Barton as a baseball player was negative, that keeps factoring into his decisions.

It's just a theory, but it seems to fit some of the decisions he's made over the last few years.

Anyway, back to the game.  It's a rare decision, but I think the Hero of the game has to be Aaron Miles, who went 4 for 5 with a run and an RBI while playing two different positions without an error.

The Goat is Jason Isringhausen, who quickly ruined the afternoon by allowing a walk, a stolen base and a hit.  You can't be walking people in the 12th if at all possible, especially when your first baseman is playing second and would have to cover on the steal.  (Though, to be fair, it sounded like Molina's throw was on the wrong side of the bag.)

While Izzy gets his third Goat of the year, it was one of the first and few times where you could actually consider Albert Pujols for the role.  Sure, AP had a nice game (2-6, 2 RBI, a run--should have been 2--scored) but look at his last two at-bats, when the game was on the line.  In the ninth, he impatiently swung at pitches with the game on the line and would have ended the game on a double play if not for Rickie Weeks' bad throw.  Then, in extras, he strikes out.  The Goat is not always about who had the worst game.

Still, I love his attitude about playing second.  (And also like the fact that he lobbied to play shortstop.  Like that was going to happen with his bad elbow, but the man wants to do anything he can to help the team.)  When he was given instructions about not turning a double play and to be careful, he said he would.  But later.....

"What do you think, that I wasn't going to turn a double play?" scoffed Pujols. "I was. I was going to turn a double play. I'd be careful. First of all, I'd make sure I catch the ball and not try to get too fancy and drop it. But I was going to try to turn it."
There's a reason he's the best.

So on to Pittsburgh, a land that has been favorable to the Cardinals in the past.  Last year, they went 12-6 against the Pirates and are 88-41 (.682) against them this century.  The last time the Cardinals had a losing record against the Bucs was 1999, when they went 5-7.

Tonight, Ian Snell tries to shut down the St. Louis machine.  El Hombre is really looking forward to this one.  He has four homers (and a .563 average) in 16 ABs against Snell.  There's a strong likelihood that Pujols will get his third three walk game of the season tonight.  The rest of the lineup looks pretty good against him as well.

Todd Wellemeyer is on the hill for the Cardinals.  Most of the Pirates haven't seen him much, but what they have seen, they've not liked.  Ronny Paulino does have two hits against him, however.

Finally, a couple of small notes.  If you've not heard, Brendan Ryan will be joining the team in Pittsburgh.  Brad Thompson is going down to Memphis for a bit, which is probably good because he's had some struggles in the bullpen in two of his three outings.

We've gotten one more blog to join our May 3rd game blogging project.  The Cardinal Virtue will be taking the second inning.  We still need one more volunteer and then the game will be set. (EDIT: We got it!  Fungoes is going to take an inning as well!)

Also, if for some reason you want these headlines on your site, check out the widget I created at WidgetBox.

Winning It The Hard Way

Posted on April 22, 2008 at 9:18 AM
Adam Wainwright on the mound.  A pitcher the Cardinals beat around last week.  Should be an easy win, right?  With this year's bullpen, never say never.

I'm not advocating that Wainwright should have stayed in the game, mind you.  At 99 pitches, especially after throwing 115 or so last time out, getting him out of there with a lead was the best idea.  I am just not sold on Ryan Franklin being that dominant eighth inning guy that we saw last year.

I'll give him some credit, though--at least part of that inning was out of his control.  I listened to it on the radio and it sounded worse than it was on the highlights.  After the double by Braun, he struck out Fielder, but the ball got away and Braun was able to go to third.  Then what on the radio sounded like a deep drive was a fairly mid-range ball that Ludwick lost in the lights.  If everything goes like it should, Franklin has Braun on second with two outs instead of a runner on third, a run in and only one out.  For that potentially game-losing misplay, you have to give Ryan Ludwick the Goat from last night's game.

Wainwright pitched a good game, but did allow the Brewers to tie it up right after the Cardinals had taken a 2-0 lead.  Troy Glaus got a two-run double, so he's in contention for the Hero selection as well.  Skip Schumaker had the game winning RBI.  But I want to go a little different way.  Brian Barton sits on the bench all night, watches the Brewers tie up the game, and then is the first batter in the ninth against a flamethrower.  Hitting a double in that situation was huge and led to the win.

Afternoon baseball today, as Kyle Lohse and Manny Parra revisit their matchup from last Thursday afternoon.  Lohse was very effective until his last inning, so hopefully with Kyle McClellan especially rested the Cardinal bullpen will be able to bail him out and get the series sweep.

A Giant Fall

Posted on April 21, 2008 at 12:23 PM
You know, if someone had told me that the Cardinals were going to beat up on Matt Cain, I'd have felt pretty good about the rest of the series.  Saturday was not unexpected, because Lincecum can dominate with the best of them, but I didn't expect the shellacking the Cards had on Sunday.  Let's go through the games one at a time so we can establish the Heroes and the Goats, then we'll take a look at tonight's Brewers game.

I didn't get to hear much of the game Friday night, only a little portion as I was traveling between parts of my personal doubleheader (softball and a poker game).  The part I did here, though, was a lot of fun, as it was just after Albert Pujols's three-run home run and in the midst of that 12-batter fourth.  Looking through the box score, it's tough to pick out just one Hero since everyone had their hitting shoes on and both pitchers did very well, but I think I'll give it to Chris Duncan.  A tie-breaking two-run home run plus a double is a pretty good night.  As for the Goat, tough to say, but we'll do a bit of a make-up call and give it to Troy Glaus.  He did get one hit in three trips, but he left three on the bases.  Again, just the worst of a very good night for the Cardinals.

Saturday, again I didn't see much, but what I did was pretty expected.  Tim Lincecum is a tough pitcher to crack.  To some degree you'd want to stay close, hope his pitch count starts climbing and get into that bullpen.  There were some opportunities, though--he walked three and gave up six hits in his seven innings--but was able to negotiate out of them.  The key at-bat may have been in the fourth against Pujols, with two on and none out.  Pujols got up 3-0, but Linecum was able to work it back to 3-2 and then got Pujols's anxiousness working against him by getting him to chase ball 4.  That really took some life out of the team.

I'd still say, though, that the Goat for that game has to be Rick Ankiel, who went 0-3 and left four on base, including striking out after the Pujols at-bat described above. Rick's been in a little slump lately, hitting only .222 in his last seven games.  With him still learning the strike zone, he probably will go through good streaks and bad streaks.

Hero for Saturday would probably have to be Skip Schumaker, who continued to do his leadoff job well, going 2 for 4.  Joel Pineiro pitched much better in this one than he did in his first outing, though was still a little shaky allowing eight hits in just over six innings.

Sunday, well, there's no much good to say about Sunday.  I think it's fairly obvious the Goat should be Braden Looper, who had nothing, allowing 10 hits and 7 runs in three innings.  Anthony Reyes had some trouble in the first inning he came in, allowing runs to score, but settled down after that.  Hero-wise, I think we can give it to Troy Glaus, who went two for three, scored one of the runs and drove in the other.  Some kudos to Ron Villone as well, who pitched three scoreless innings.  I'm sure he wasn't expecting to get that kind of work when he signed on.

The Cardinals are the midst of their first slump of the season, losing three of their last four.  They need to get back on the winning track and tonight they get a chance to do that against the Brewers in a rematch of last Wednesday's game.

Adam Wainwright goes against Carlos Villaneuva tonight up in Milwaukee.  Last time these two got together, Villaneuva didn't make it through the fifth while Wainwright went 7.2 innings and hit a home run to boot.  The Cardinals have to be favored tonight, but it'd be great if some of the bats made it a less-than-stressful evening.  The preview for this series is up at CardsClubhouse, as well as the YNOT.

On the United Cardinal Blogger front, we are just two blogs short of our goal for our new project, so I'm going to detail it here and hope that it will intrigue a couple more blogs to contact me with their willingness to participate.

What we are going to do is a "progressive-dinner" type of game discussion for the Cards/Cub game on May 2nd.  Each blog will take an inning and discuss the game and any tangents that may come out of that inning.  For example, one blog may take a sabermetric approach to TLR's pitching change, one may have their opinions on Duncan playing for Brian Barton if he strikes out with runners on, various things like that.  It should be a way for you to see the whole game, but through nine different prisms, as it were.  The posts will not be live blogs, but will likely be posted on Saturday evening or Sunday.

Signed up so far (with innings requested if they have done so) are Stan Musial's Stance (first), CardinalNationGlobe (fifth), The Redbird Blog (eighth), Redbird Ramblings (ninth), Rockin' the Red and Mike on the Cards, along with myself, of course.  If you want in, e-mail me or drop me a note in the comments.




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Heroes
Carlos Beltran (6)
Yadier Molina (5)
Matt Holliday (4)
Jon Jay (4)
Matt Carpenter (3)
Daniel Descalso (3)
Jaime Garcia (3)
Pete Kozma (3)
Shelby Miller (3)
Adam Wainwright (3)
Allen Craig (2)
Lance Lynn (2)
Tyler Lyons (2)
Edward Mujica (2)
Jake Westbrook (2)
David Freese (1)
Joe Kelly (1)
Seth Maness (1)
Trevor Rosenthal (1)
Michael Wacha (1)
Ty Wigginton (1)

2012 Top Hero: Matt Holliday (17)
2011 Top Hero: Lance Berkman (24)
2010 Top Heroes: Matt Holliday and Albert Pujols (24)
2009 Top Hero: Albert Pujols (28)
2008 Top Hero: Albert Pujols (25)

Goats
Jon Jay (6)
David Freese (5)
Mitchell Boggs (4)
Joe Kelly (4)
Pete Kozma (4)
Matt Carpenter (3)
Allen Craig (3)
Daniel Descalso (3)
Jaime Garcia (3)
Yadier Molina (3)
Matt Adams (2)
Carlos Beltran (2)
Matt Carpenter (2)
Matt Holliday (2)
Lance Lynn (2)
Seth Maness (1)
Shane Robinson (1)
Fernando Salas (1)
Adam Wainwright (1)
Jake Westbrook (1)

2012 Top Goat: Rafael Furcal (11)
2011 Top Goat: Ryan Theriot (12)
2010 Top Goat: Brendan Ryan (14)
2009 Top Goats: Rick Ankiel and Todd Wellemeyer (13)
2008 Top Goat: Troy Glaus (13)

Cardinal Nation Approval Ratings (March 2013)
Yadier Molina 96.2% (up 8.8%)
Chris Carpenter 89.8% (down 0.3%)
Derrick Goold 89.1% (up 6.3%)
Matt Holliday 88.4% (up 0.9%)
Allen Craig 88.3%
Adam Wainwright 88.2% (down 3.7%)
Jose Oquendo 87.1% (up 2.4%)
Jason Motte 86.9%
John Mozeliak 86.5% (up 1.1%)
United Cardinal Bloggers 85.2% (up 6.3%)
Bill DeWitt 85.1% (up 5.3%)
Mike Shannon 85.1% (down 0.2%)
John Rooney 84.5% (up 3.0%)
Mike Matheny 84.4% (up 3.3%)
David Freese 82.9% (down 2.6%)
Jon Jay 81.8% (up 10.7%)
Lance Berkman 80.6% (down 8.0%)
Jenifer Langosch 79.5%
Lance Lynn 79.5%
Dan McLaughlin 76.0% (up 8.0%)
Jim Hayes 73.0% (up 1.1%)
Ricky Horton 65.5% (down 2.0%)
Jaime Garcia 64.1%
Albert Pujols 59.2% (up 4.3%)
Ballpark Village 58.3%
Joe Strauss 54.3% (down 13.4%)

2012
Tony La Russa 88.2% (up 17.4%)
Mark McGwire 82.6% (up 20.1%)
Skip Schumaker 73.3% (up 9.2%)
B.J. Rains 69.5% (down 0.9%)
Kyle Lohse 68.9% (up 13.8%)
Al Hrabosky 66.4% (up 3.2%)
Colby Rasmus 46.5% (down 35.3%)

2011
Dave Duncan 87.9% (up 0.9%)
Matthew Leach 85.5%
Pop Warner 76.7%
Ryan Franklin 72.8% (up 3.1%)
John Vuch 68.9%
Jeff Luhnow 66.4%
Dan Lozano 58.7%

2009
Rick Ankiel 83.9%
Chris Duncan 69.1%


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