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June 2008

Always Good To Be Back

Posted on June 30, 2008 at 10:07 AM
Before I do anything, I've got to give major thanks/props/kudos/whatever the kids are saying these days to Mike for filling in for me.  I really appreciate him filling in and keeping things running while I was up in Reds country.  It was great yesterday to get into Arkansas and be able to easily find Mike and John on the radio.  I listened to the last couple of innings and knew I was home again.

I'll catch up the Hero/Goat leaderboard soon with Mike's selections, but let's take a look at the last two wins by the Cardinals, insuring a winning homestand.

Saturday, looks like the hero was Rick Ankiel with a two-run homer.  Mitchell Boggs was in the discussion, though four walks was a little on the high side.  Good to see him get a solid game in, though, especially with the state of the pitching staff.  Goatishly, you'd probably look at Brendon Ryan, who went 0-4 and left four on base.

Sunday, it's a surprise hero in Jason LaRue.  A home run, a triple, and four RBI, plus getting the best of a collision at the plate?  Gotta give him the award (wind-aided), even with an AP two-for-five, HR day.  (Sounds like he would have had two homers on a different day, with the wind holding one up at the track.)  In my mind, the goat has to go to Braden Looper, because when you know the bullpen needs some rest, to go out there and not get through the fourth is a terrible thing.

Last year it was a little busy during my Ohio trip.  Sorting through, it looks like there were a few things that happened the last 10 days as well:

  • Jason Isringhausen looks like he's going on the DL, then doesn't.  Pretty decent outing yesterday against the Royals, save the back-to-back doubles.
  • Yadier Molina returned from his concussion.
  • Cesar Izturis goes on the DL, exposing the weakness of the middle infield.
  • Mark Mulder gets activated and put in the bullpen, but doesn't pitch.  And, apparently, there's not a lot of confidence in him since apparently Brad Thompson is returning because "we need innings."
  • To make room for Thompson, Nick Stavinoha goes back down after being promoted during the week.  Wish I could have seen him play.
  • And, last but not least, El Hombre returns, with Randy Flores going on the DL.  And obviously Pujols didn't forget how to hit in his time off.
The Cards return to Busch today (their road trip just perfectly coincided with mine) and take on the so-far disappointing New York Mets for the first time this year.  The Mets sit a game under .500 and in third place in the NL East, though that's only 3 games out of the top spot.  The Cards continue their run of missing ace pitchers as they won't see Santana in this four game series. 

Kyle Lohse goes for the Redbirds, looking for his tenth win of the season.  There are a couple of Mets that are excited about renewing acquaintances.  Walk Beltran every time up, Kyle.  And as hot as Delgado has been, think about it with him as well.

John Maine goes for the Metropolitians.  The Cards haven't seen a lot of him, though Pujols has liked what he has seen.  (Both of those home runs were in a game in 2006, though.)  Maine's most famous game against St. Louis was probably Game 6 of the 2006 NLCS, where he kept the Mets alive and set the stage for a classic.

This is a big series for the Cards.  Winning this one against a quality (if scuffling) opponent would give them a lot of momentum for the weekend series against the Cubs. 

Another Heartbreaker

Posted on June 27, 2008 at 9:25 AM

For the second day in a row the bullpen couldn't protect a lead.  Albert Pujols capped a superior effort in his first game off the DL with an RBI single in the ninth to give the Cardinals a 2-1 lead; but Ryan Franklin allowed a game-tying HR to Gary Sheffield in the home half of the inning, and Mike Parisi walked in the winning run in the tenth.  3-2 Tigers.

Lots of things to be frustrated about.  Can't hold a late lead.  2-11 with runners in scoring position.  Our #4 and #5 hitters, Glaus and Ludwick, went 0 for 6 and stranded 13 runners (I recognize that's a little misleading; some of those runners are double-counted).  Not to mention that they led the last 2 games in the eighth or later and lost them both.  So, instead of potentially being 5-1 on the road trip headed to KC, they're 3-3.  At least Chicago got blown off the field by Baltimore; the Cardinals remain 4.5 games out of first in the Central.

Heroes and Goats?  Pretty simple for this game.  Hero is Albert Pujols.  Welcome back, AP, we missed you.  4-4 with a walk; did he really sit for 2 weeks?  I couldn't tell based on how he hit the ball.   He missed a HR in his third at bat by about 15 feet, lining the ball off the wall in left.  Goats are Ron Villone and Mike Parisi, for each walking in a run.  Dishonorable mention goes to the Cardinal offense other than AP, for that 2 for 11 RISP stinker.

So on to KC.  Cardinals announced yesterday that Mitchell Boggs will start Saturday, not Mark Mulder.  This is a good thing, as I mentioned earlier in the week.  Your complete match-ups:  Piniero vs Gil Meche tonight.  Boggs vs Kyle Davies tomorrow.  Looper vs Brian Bannister Sunday, in a rematch of the 18 June game in St Louis; Braden outpitched Bannister, but the Royals won 3-2.  The good news is we miss the Royals best pitcher, in Zach Greinke; however Meche won 15 games last year, and Davies is unbeaten in 3 starts this, so the series won't be a picnic.  Not to mention the Royals are tied with Minnesota for the best interleague record in the Majors (12-3).  Should be fun.

Two closing notes:  Cardinals put Randy Flores on the 15-day DL when they activated AP.  Tendinitis in the right ankle was cited as the reason.  Finally, Dan should be back posting starting on Monday.  I may have one more post this weekend, but that will be it for me.  It's been fun; hopefully you've enjoyed reading what I've written, and will consider stopping by the old homestead in the future.

Cheers, God Bless, and Go Cardinals.

One Slips Away In The Slop

Posted on June 26, 2008 at 10:42 AM

Cardinals endure a 2 hour, 25 min rain delay and eventually lose 8-7 in the ninth to Detroit.  It's tough to lose a close one, but I would think especially tough to lose after having to keep your focus during 145 minutes of downtime, and after having 3 leads (2-0, 6-5, and 7-6) in the game.

As an aside, it's been nice to read Rick Hummel's game summaries again.  I'd forgotten how well-written they were.

Heroes and Goats:  Hero tonight goes to Rick Ankiel.  Two HR, 3 RBI, an outfield assist - yeah, he's the hero.  Goat?  On a rainy night?  Although my instinct is to go with Mother Nature, I'll have to settle for Kyle McClellan; he had a tough outing, allowing the Tigers to tie in the eighth and win in the ninth.  I also found it interesting that 3 of the 4 hitters he faced in the eighth swung at the first pitch.  Scouting report?  Tipping his pitches?  I wonder.

Bernie's article on the bullpen is worth reading.  We all knew the lefties down there were struggling, but I didn't realize Flores was toasted as badly as he seems to be.  Yikes.

To end on a high note - AP should be activated today.

Not Quite "Lonborg and Champagne", but We'll Take It

Posted on June 25, 2008 at 10:11 AM

This blog's title is a reference to the famous Boston Globe headline before Game 7 of the 1967 World Series.  Jim Lonborg had already beaten the Cardinals twice in that series, throwing 2 complete games, allowing a total of 4 hits and a run.  Of course, allowing his opponent, Bob Gibson, to see that headline before the game was probably the worst thing the Red Sox could have done; Gibby dominated, and the Cardinals tasted the bubbly.

I was reminded of that when Mickey Lolich trotted out to throw out the first pitch, especially considering the Cardinals had one only once at Comerica since 2000 (but what a once - Game 1 of the '06 World Series).

The result?  The boys won their third game of the road trip, 8-4 over them Tigers.  The game had chills (Cabrera's home run that wasn't), thrills (Schumaker's pinch hit 2-RBI single in the sixth) and head scratchers (how did Barton get caught off third in the first?).  But what matters is the Redbirds FINALLY picked up a game on the Cubs.  It's been 3 weeks (since June 7, specifically) since they gained ground on Chicago.  Let's hope they don't have to wait another 3 weeks to pick up another game.

Heroes and Goats:  it's tough today.  Since LaRussa pegged Brendan Ryan "the star of the game" I won't disagree with him.  Brendan had a nice multi-hit game, and his two-RBI double in the seventh iced the game.  Goat:  We'll go with Brian Barton (tough call) and Rick Ankiel (not so tough) for getting caught off/picked off, respectively, on the basepaths.

Other news/notes:  Albert Pujols' rehab is going well, and he may return as DH in this series.  Otherwise we'll see him in the KC series this weekend.  LaRussa thinks any infielder can play first, an interesting opinion I don't agree with (there's a lot of footwork required around the bag that most people don't think about), although you can't argue with the results (Kennedy played well last night).  Mark Mulder's next rehab step is uncertain. 

One final thing:  Get out and VOTE for our all-stars.  25 votes per email address and as many as you can fill out at the ballpark.  Ryan Ludwick, Albert, and Yadier should be all-stars this season; don't leave it up to Clint Hurdle to have them added to the roster.

The World Series Reprise Continues

Posted on June 24, 2008 at 9:59 AM

Before we get to the upcoming series with Detroit, lets pause for a moment and remember Sunday's game.  From all accounts, it was a doozy.  Piniero pitched great; Lester was slightly better.  Paplebon was proven human.  There were clutch hits (Kennedy in the ninth off the Sox closer), timely pitching (see McClellan in the 10th and Izzy in the eleventh), and off your seat drama (Duncan cut down at home).  I only wish I could have seen it.

Congrats to Nick Stavinoha, who got his first ML hit on Sunday in the sixth.

I'll award the Hero for this game to 2 folks:  Joel Piniero, who shook off my dire predictions of doom to throw 7+ innings and allow only 2 runs, and Aaron Miles, for his 5-hit effort.  Anytime your name is linked to Don Mattingly's (the last visiting player to have 5 hits in a game at Fenway) that's good.  Goat?  Mike Parisi.  Sorry, Mike.

Although the sting of losing that 2004 world series will always remain (granted, the sting will eventually fade to almost nothing as time passes), the Cardinals have won both regular season series from Boston since (in 2005 and this past weekend).  We haven't been so lucky with the Tigers, getting swept in Detroit last year.  Looper, Reyes, and Thompson were the victims during that May Series at Comerica.  Looper gets another crack at them today, facing Kenny Rogers.  The best pitching matchup of the series, however, is tomorrow, as Kyle Lohse meets rookie wunderkind Armando (don't call me Andres) Galarraga.  Wellemeyer's balky elbow will face hit or miss Nate Robertson in the finale Thursday.

The Cardinals, a team that has not shown much plate discipline lately, would be well served to be deliberate at the plate and run up the pitch counts early.  That would get the starter out and get us to their bullpen; other than Zumaya (who's just back off the DL), it is one of the worst in the AL.

One other item worth discussing today:  Mark Mulder's name has been bandied about for a possible start in Kansas City this weekend.  He was scratched from his rehab tune-up last night.  Despite two surgeries and countless hours rehabbing his shoulder, Mark's never gotten his arm back to the form he displayed as one of the Oakland A's anchors in the first part of this decade; whether it's a loss of velocity due to diminished strength in the arm following the surgeries, or his elusive arm slot issues, he isn't the same pitcher he was in 2004.  Also, as he progresses higher in the minors he's gotten slapped around pretty good by AA/AAA hitters.  I don't see how he's even an option at this point for a spot start with the big club.  Mark deserves all the credit in the world for his determination to get back on the field and resurrect his career.  I just don't think it's going to happen.

Frankly if Mulder's name appears as a better option for a spot start than Anthony Reyes from here on out (once Reyes returns from the DL), there's something seriously wrong with the thinking in the front office.

(PS - There was no Mitchell Boggs on the 1970s A's teams; the guy I was thinking of is Mitchell Page.)

Sometimes, Being Wrong Is OK

Posted on June 22, 2008 at 12:48 AM
Man it's hot.  It's like Africa hot.  Tarzan couldn't take this kind of hot.  Little bit of a heat wave on the west coast.  So naturally I spent my Friday playing in a work softball tournament; 4 games in 6 hours, during the hottest part of the day.  The good news:  We won.  The bad news:  I've spent the last 24 hours re-hydrating (beer is not an adequate hydrant, by the way) and taking 600 mg of Advil every 6 hours.

That, coupled with my belief (reinforced by my wife, a life-long Red Sox fan) that the Cardinals' offensive outage would make for a long weekend, meant I've paid very little attention to the last 2 games.

So what do my wondering eyes discover tonight?  They've won the first two in Fenway. 5-4 Friday, 9-3 today.  Not a bad recovery from that lead balloon they left over Busch after the KC series, eh?  I was wrong, and I'm glad to have been.

Heroes and Goats from these 2 games:

Friday, the hero will be a 2 for 1 special:  Kyle Lohse for winning his ninth game, and Skip Schumaker for his 2 run HR that provided the lead St Louis wouldn't surrender.  Goat:  Randy Flores.  You really don't want to load the bases by walking 2 of the first 3 hitters in this lineup.  No seriously.

Saturday, I'm giving the hero nod to Aaron Miles.  Yes, Troy Glaus and Mitchell Boggs (and wasn't there an Oakland A in the 70s with the same name?) are both deserving, but anytime you hit a completely unexpected 2-R HR to quiet the Fenway Faithful, you get hero status from me.  Goat?  Hard to find one; I'll have to reach and award it to Schumaker for being the only starter without a hit today.  It also means Skip becomes a winner of the highly sought 'Hero today, Goat tomorrow' award; it's like a Golden Sombrero, only cooler.

Tomorrow they will try for the sweep.  John Lester (6-3) has been tough this year, especially at home; he's already no-hit the Royals at Fenway.  Joel Piniero (2-3) has pitched well, better than his record indicates.  He's been especially good since returning from the DL (12 innings pitched, 10K, 2.25 ERA).  Either we'll have a good one, or Piniero's due for a clunker.  Hopefully the former.

You Can't Win If You Don't Score - Cardinal70 Version

Posted on June 20, 2008 at 2:32 AM
Well hello everyone.  Perhaps some of you have perused my blog at one time or another; if not, I'm Mike, and I'll be minding the store while Dan takes some much deserved vacation time over the next week.

Continuing a running thought from over at the Stance, the Cardinals again managed one measly run and got swept out of Busch by the Royals, 4-1.  KC scored as many runs in this game as they allowed St Louis in the series, and that's just not going to get the job done.  Heroes and Goats for this game are pretty simple.  For driving in the lone Cardinal Run, Rick Ankiel gets the nod as Hero; and the Anemic Offense is the Goat.  I suppose I could saddle Brad Thompson or Chris Perez with the goat label, but since Brad came up on short notice and worked 5 solid innings, and since the Cardinals would still have lost 2-1 if Perez hadn't served up that gopher ball to Mark Teahen, it just didn't seem fair.

We all knew the offense would struggle without AP in the #3 slot.  There's no way you can adequately fill the shoes of a future HOF.  But to hit .154 against KC with RISP?  To not get anyone to second today?  Albert would have raised those figures a little bit, but it still points to some major problems surfacing offensively.  The same Post-Dispatch article I linked to above points out the Cardinals aren't taking walks like they were at the beginning of the season. Viva El Birdos took it a step further, showing the Cardinals are a lot less disciplined at the plate since the calendar flipped over into May, a trend that has become worse recently (see lboros post from Thursday; that site is down as I write this at 11:18 PDT, so I don't have a link to it).  You would think that plate discipline and patience would be things they really need to focus on now that the NL's second leading hitter is out of the lineup, as opposed to trying to do too much, which appears to be what they're doing.

One other thing:  Bernie Miklasz suggests the Cardinals should utilize the speed they have on the roster while they struggle to score runs, as a way to generate some offense.  It's a good suggestion.  Brendan Ryan and Brian Barton are two guys worth plugging into the lineup to see what they can create; it's not as if second base has been a font of offensive prowess this season, and the OF has really cooled off recently (witness Ankiel's 2 RBI on the homestand as an example).

Because I'm obligated to disagree with at least one thing in every article/post Bernie writes, sitting Chris Duncan really isn't an option, as he's the first baseman.  The two guys he suggests bringing up to help the offense wouldn't displace Chris at first.

We limp into Boston next.  They have the best home record in the majors (28-7), and will send Wakefield, Dice-K, and Lester to the hill to face our boys.  Might be a loooong weekend; keep your fingers crossed.

Not Part of the Script

Posted on June 19, 2008 at 8:48 AM
Hang on just a minute.  Something's not right.  The Cards lost last night?  They lost the series?  They aren't supposed to do that!  They were supposed to win the next two and keep the pattern going.  Instead, they lost a series for the first time since the Pittsburgh series May 13-15.  They've only lost four series all year, which is pretty impressive for this team as well.  I don't believe what I just saw.

I've never been a huge Braden Looper fan, but after his last couple of outings, you can't do much more than stand up and applaud.  I was afraid that he'd come out a little weaker, a little down after his complete game last time around, but instead he threw up more zeros before allowing a run in the seventh.

Unfortunately, the bullpen did it again.  This time, it was the fairly reliable Kyle McClellan serving up home runs to a non-home run hitting team.  The Cards continued to struggle mustering offense and so, at the end of two games with a last place team, they've scored a total of three runs and have two losses to show for it.

More agonizing, the Cubs have lost the last two nights as well.  The Cards could easily be sitting 1.5 out and knocking on the door.  With Zambrano possibly out, the Cubs could almost have the same problem the Cards did, losing their best player (well, Soriano may not be the best, but he's close) and their top pitcher at the same time.  We will see if the Cards can go crazy while the Big Crazy is out, if he is.

So the Cards have to try to avoid their first sweep of the year this afternoon.  Apparently, though, the pitching injury bug is contagious, with Anthony Reyes being scratched and placed on the DL while Brad Thompson will be activated and get the start.   Thompson in general doesn't necessarily inspire confidence in the fanbase, which makes this quote a little on the scary side:

"Easy call," manager Tony La Russa said. "Never ever risk a pitcher. ... We don't have a lot of innings (available from the bullpen), so we're going to have to get something from Brad."
It is mind-boggling that Reyes was within 24 hours of making his first start and then has to be put on the DL.  It seems a little strange in my mind, when you see what Reyes was saying:

"This is nothing serious," Reyes said. "The velocity has been the same. The command is the same. I wasn't sore after the games.
Apparently the thought was that he might get hurt and they didn't have the bullpen available to back him up.  I guess it's just a coincidence that it is Reyes that this happens to, but boy, is he cursed in St. Louis or what?

Thompson has seen the Royals before and the results have been less than inspiring.  Granted, no one has more than 9 plate appearances against him and nobody's gone yard, but a cumulative .280 average could be a problem today.  Zack Greinke goes for the Royals and the Cards have had success against him in limited appearances.  Greinke's not been the same pitcher he was the last couple of years, though, so it could be a tougher road to hoe.

One thing that didn't get a lot of mention yesterday and something that I honestly hadn't realized was upon us yet until FSN's montage last night, was that yesterday was the sixth anniversary of the death of Jack Buck.  That year of 2002, with his passing and then the shocking death of Darryl Kile just four days later, seems so much more recent than over half a decade past.  That is why I've sprinkled a few of Jack's better known calls in this entry.

That'll do it for me.  Mike takes the reins tomorrow and lifts the blog to new heights for a week.  We'll see you tomorrow night!  (Well, the 30th, but that doesn't have the ring, does it?)

Another Series Opener, Another Loss

Posted on June 18, 2008 at 9:14 AM
Cards lost to the Royals 2-1 last night.  No big deal.  They'll just win the next two.  They've only done that eight times this year.  Why not nine?

With Davies being so unfamiliar to the Cards (and with no Pujols or Molina) it's not terribly surprising the offense struggled.  Great pitching performance, though, by Hero Joel Pineiro.  Too bad the Goat Ron Villone lost it for him.  Granted, the Cards should have put up more runs, but giving up a HR in a situation like that is unacceptable.

VEB runs down the problems with the left side of the bullpen today.  There's no doubt that something that was such a strength for the Cards just a couple of years ago is now there most glaring weakness.  I mean, does anyone want to see Villone or Randy Flores in a game anytime soon, especially a close one?  I don't think so.  Not sure what the team will do about it, but with an offense that's likely to sputter, the Cards can't afford to give away games with a weak bullpen.

Good to see Jason Isringhausen back, though.  The sooner he is healthy and ready to go mentally and can take the closer slot away from Ryan Franklin, the better in my book. 

Todd Wellemeyer is going to miss his next start, meaning Anthony Reyes will take the mound.  First, does anyone not think Wellemeyer is going to wind up on the DL?  A missed start, a terrible outing, and then another missed start.  Second, I'm excited to see what Reyes can do.  I'd like to see him make the decisions coming up tough.  Third, it is very interesting that Mulder is pitching on the same day at AAA Memphis.  If Reyes flops, Wellemeyer is still hurt and Mulder dominates, I'd expect Mulder to be pitching in Detroit when that rotation spot next comes up.

Chris Carpenter's pain problem isn't really a problem, which is great news.  They may take it a little easier on him for a while, but it's one of the few times where this situation comes out positive instead of more surgery being required.  I personally feel much better about it when Dr. Andrews says it's fine.  Not that we don't trust the Cardinal staff, it's that we don't trust the Cardinal staff.

Mulder on Thursday and Clement on Friday.  Memphis is the place to be at the end of this week!  Plus Carpenter, rematches of the last two Cardinal World Series and another skirmish with the Royals.  I'm sure Mike will have plenty to talk about when he fills in.  (Though you are stuck with me for another day!)

Battle of Missouri

Posted on June 17, 2008 at 7:50 AM
I've already indicated that I'm not a fan of interleague play.  It seems to me like exhibition games that shouldn't impact on the regular season.  And, as most Cardinal fans, I'm a little weary of facing the Royals six times a year.

I'm sure that the New York and Chicago intercity rivalries are still fresh and exciting after ten plus years of seeing each other six times.  Though I will say that I scanned both Loge13 and Depressed Fan on the network and didn't see much about the Yankee/Mets series from a month back.  Sure, it was talked about, but not in depth and with passion.  (Quick skim, though, so don't take my word for it.)  I don't know how much excitement still is in Reds/Indians.  But, at least for me, Cardinals/Royals is, well, eh.

Maybe it'd be different if the Royals were a powerhouse in the AL.  Maybe then we could get excited to see them come into Busch.  But as it stands now, it's just another series.  Sure, the Royals bring in Alex Gordon and Zach Greinke, but every team has a couple of players to watch.  This is what we messed up baseball for?

That said, it's still baseball, which is better than any off day (and Cardinals/Royals beats any football game or NBA finals any day of the week).  The Cardinals send out Joel Pineiro to take on Kansas City tonight.  He's done tolerably well against the Royals in the past, with no one of any sample size really dominating him. 

He's up against Kyle Davies.  Davies has only had three starts this year, but they were against some strong offensive teams in Cleveland, the Yankees, and Texas.  He has thrived, posting a 1.53 ERA during that stretch.   He will be basically a fresh slate for the Cardinals, as they've had a whopping four plate appearances against him.

Word is Yadier Molina is out of the hospital and doing well.  It also sounds like they hope to get him back in a couple of days, since they aren't making a roster move right now.





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2008 Top Hero: Albert Pujols (25)

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Cardinal Nation Approval Ratings (March 2013)
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Tony La Russa 88.2% (up 17.4%)
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Dave Duncan 87.9% (up 0.9%)
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Pop Warner 76.7%
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John Vuch 68.9%
Jeff Luhnow 66.4%
Dan Lozano 58.7%

Rick Ankiel 83.9%
Chris Duncan 69.1%

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