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September 2009

Cardinals Stumble To Start Final Stretch

Posted on September 30, 2009 at 7:09 AM
It's meaningless baseball, right?  The Cards are going to the playoffs, but without a lot of things going their way, there's not much they can do otherwise.  The odds are long that they'll catch the Dodgers for the best record and, given the way that the Rockies have handled the team, being second might not be all that advantageous either.

That said, and even given the fact that the Dodgers got blasted by the Pirates just a couple of days ago, you never like seeing your #3 postseason starter get lit up by a team that's well under .500, even if that team has been playing much better of late.

Joel Pineiro isn't supposed to have those kind of outings.  He'd only given up seven home runs all year going into this game, then allowed three in six innings.  Granted, he allowed them to good hitters, but Pineiro is supposed to be the master of getting the ground ball, so any ball that goes over the wall isn't in the plans.

Even if the offense had been clicking, it would have been hard for them to overcome seven runs.  It's pretty obvious that the offense isn't clicking.  It's about time to start doing a serious search for it.  They had a chance, down four, bases loaded and Albert Pujols at the plate.  He had a good drive, but it was still feet from going out.  A sacrifice fly is nice, of course, and it broke up the shutout, but Matt Holliday wasn't able to do any more with two on and two out.

As a side note, you hope that Pujols is saving up his power barrage.  After his two homer day against Milwaukee on the 9th of this month, he's been stuck at 47 homers.  Tonight is three weeks since he went deep--which shows how great he was going since he still leads the league in long balls.

Someone on one of the boards said something about Pineiro pitching his way out of the postseason rotation.  Which is fairly ludicrous, since he's been one of the reasons the Cards are where they are today and he's not be Todd Wellemeyer-level bad.  Couple that with the fact that, if you pull Pineiro, you have to go with Kyle Lohse AND John Smoltz in the rotation and I think you see that isn't happening.

That said, Pineiro has a 4.58 ERA since August 1.  Right now, he's scheduled for the Closing Day start against Milwaukee.  If he does make that start--and I would hope that Tony LaRussa will consider skipping him--I expect he'll only go two or three innings, unless he's leading and works quickly, in which case he might go five so he can have a chance at the win.

On the positive side, David Freese hit his first major league home run, adding to his push to make the postseason roster.  I still don't know that he'll make it, but apparently he's under consideration and getting your first longball out of the way couldn't hurt the situation anyway.  Also nice to see Holliday getting two hits in the game.

Troy Glaus got a couple of at-bats last night and seems to feel fine.  However, you have to think that his odds of making the postseason roster are pretty slim as well.  He always seems to be coming up with an injury every time he makes some progress and isn't able to get into a regular playing rhythm.  I agree that the potential of Glaus, with his past power, would be a nice thing off the bench, but I don't think the Cards can count on getting that.

Another person who's doing OK, Adam Wainwright.  He doesn't seem to have too many ill effects from his 130 pitch marathon, though LaRussa is giving him an extra day off and he'll have another extra day between his last regular start and his first playoff start.

A couple of links.  First, More Hardball has their own Hall of Fame called Hardball Heroes.  Today, they've "inducted" former Cardinal catcher Ted Simmons.  Check it out when you have the time.  Also, my monthly piece at Baseball Reflections is up today.  Finally, if you've not heard this prediction from Mike Blowers and the result, you really have to.

UCB Radio Hour tonight, with myself and Mike from Stan Musial's Stance.  We'll also have Joel from Red Reporter on to talk about Cincinnati and their plans for the offseason.  Call in after tonight's game and talk some baseball.

John Smoltz vs. Bronson Arroyo tonight.  Hopefully the bats will break out and get rolling toward October!

Baseball Bloggers Alliance

Posted on September 28, 2009 at 4:09 PM
You may have seen me reference the Baseball Bloggers Alliance from time to time.  You may have noticed that it's been added to the top of the blog as its own page, after expanding so much that the blog roll couldn't handle it anymore.  So, what you might be asking is, what the heck is this thing?

Of course, regular readers to this blog are familiar with the United Cardinal Bloggers, that intrepid group of bloggers who put up with way too many e-mails from me and get together to do various projects, including our weekly radio show.  Hold that thought while I bring something else into the mix.

If you were reading this blog before the season (hey, both of you!), you may remember when I had the preseason Playing Pepper series, where I interviewed a blogger from each team, asking them questions about the upcoming season.

Take those two ideas, mix them together with a little tweak, and you have the Baseball Bloggers Alliance.

The BBA, as you can read from the mission statement in the page linked above, really has a couple of purposes.  One is to get bloggers from every team (and some that cover baseball in general) to connect, to be able to use each other as a reference, to have someone to go to when you want to know if Zach Greinke really has been that good or what to look for in the upcoming Reds/Cardinals series.

The secondary purpose, one that I'm really excited about seeing how it works out, is to vote on our own post-season awards and compare our results to the baseball writers' official selections.

For years, people have complained about the writers and how they cast their votes, if we even know.  Did this guy vote for that player?  Is he voting for him because he has X number of wins or has he looked deeper?  What makes Player Y valuable?

The BBA is taking the same approach to these awards as the writers do.  There will be a maximum of two votes from each team chapter.  (For example, St. Louis has three blogs involved, but only two of us will vote on the Rookie of the Year, to pick one at random.)  The votes will be tallied on the same point system as the writers.  The difference is, the ballots of the BBA will be public.  You'll be able to see who voted for who and, most likely, the blogger will explain why in his or her post.

Right now, the BBA has about 73 blogs.  Stan Musial's Stance, Pitchers Hit Eighth and yours truly make up the St. Louis representation.  Bloggers can post their ballots anytime from the end of the season to the deadline for each award, so you should be seeing some of these start popping up in the next couple of weeks.

We've also gotten a website up and running and many of the member bloggers are reposting their stuff there. So if you want a quick way to keep up with what is happening around MLB, I'd suggest bookmarking that one.

If you are a blogger and are interested in joining the group, you'll find an e-mail at the website that you can use to get involved.  You may or may not be able to get into the voting procedures next time (depending on how many blogs there are for your team) but we'd love to have you in the mix anyway.

Clinching Doesn't Solve Everything

Posted on September 28, 2009 at 10:44 AM
The Cardinals were able to lock up the NL Central this weekend.  They weren't able to lock down worries about the postseason, however.

The clincher was nice and you have to give all credit to Adam Wainwright.  130 pitches and he's still able to strike out batters to keep the St. Louis lead in the eighth.  Chris Carpenter says that locked down the Cy Young for him.  While I'm still fairly sure Tim Lincecum is going to have a say in that still, getting to 19 wins with the supporting numbers he has for a postseason team is going to be a hard resume to overlook.  A game like Saturday's, with everyone in baseball looking at him, may have put him over the top.

I was on Twitter at the end of the game and expressed strong relief after Ryan Ludwick's home run gave the Cards a three-run cushion.  Not only was it a big hit for a team that doesn't seem to be able to get them all that often, but it meant that Ryan Franklin didn't work with just a one-run lead.  That became vital when he allowed a runner to get to third in the ninth before locking everything down.

Give credit to Jason LaRue as well.  Only in there because Yadier Molina had been injured during the game, LaRue cranks the home run that broke the tie and put Wainwright in the driver's seat.  After getting the lead back, there was no way Wainwright wanted to give it up again, which leads to the reasoning behind 130 pitches.

Tough night for Joe Thurston, though, as he was hitless in his two at-bats before being replaced by Mark DeRosa and he made an error that led to one of the runs against Wainwright.

You don't want to say that they took Sunday's game less seriously than others, but the lineup was a little on the wacky side, even for Tony LaRussa.  I'm sure Tyler Greene was a little worried about playing outfield for the first time ever.  It was a way to get him and David Freese into the lineup, though, which is a good thing.

Albert Pujols set an assist record for first basemen and drove in three runs with a bases-loaded double in the third, accounting for all the Cardinal runs.  That gets him the Hero tag, doesn't it?  Normally, it would, but striking out later with the bases loaded (exactly how many times did this team have the bases loaded yesterday?  At least three that I know of, some with less than two outs, and only once could they get runs in) as well as the error on Eric Young's grounder (which was really inexplicable.  It just popped right out of the glove) and the
baserunning at the end of the game takes away from his overall performance.

I understand his reasoning, somewhat, in taking off on contact.  And indeed, if Clint Barmes doesn't make that spectacular play, AP's on third with a tie game and one out.  That said, that ball was almost caught by the outfielder, and Julio Lugo really needed to be tagging up instead of so far off the bag.  I was excited at the time because I was sure that tumbling catch at least allowed Lugo to score, but no such luck.

Anyway, let's give the Hero tag to Kyle Lohse.  It wasn't a dominating performance by any means, though it might have looked a little different without Albert's error, but it was a servicable outing with no major blowups.  Lohse kept a good hitting lineup in check in their own park, which may help in getting him to the #4 slot in the postseason rotation and moving John Smoltz to the pen.  I'd expect they'd want to see him throw one more time, though that would be against the Brewers at home.

On the down side, Ryan Ludwick has to be the Goat.  No hits, three strikeouts, five left on.  If he'd just been able to put that ball a little farther away in the ninth.....

Over the weekend, there was a little more information about Wagner Mateo out there.  Turns out his eyes are weak even with the contacts--without them they are exceptionally bad.  Mateo might get a contract from someone and I hope that he does, but I can see--no pun intended--why the organziation decided to cover itself in this situation.

There's an interesting article about the Molina brothers over at CBS Sports.  Too bad that it appears Bengie won't be making it in this season.  It'd be nice to have them all in the playoff hunt after losing their father.

The Cardinals have an off day today, then spend time in the Queen City before heading home to wrap the season.  Hopefully they can use these out of it teams to get things kick started for the real work yet to come.

Party On Hold

Posted on September 26, 2009 at 9:15 AM
All the Cardinals needed was a win.  A win to head to October.  A win, and Chris Carpenter was on the mound.  It was all set up for a perfectly appropriate ending.

However, someone forgot to either tell the offense or the Rockies, depending on who was more at fault.

It's a problem when the Rockies score in the first and you wonder if that's going to be enough to win the game.  It's a bigger problem when it just about was, if it wasn't for Ryan Ludwick's solo home run in the seventh.  For all the talk about this vaunted offense, it can sputter just about as easily and as often as the cobbled-together May version.

Carpenter wasn't quite as sharp as he normally is, walking three batters, but still did only allow the one run.  It was interesting to hear him talk about the different slope on the playing mound than the bullpen mound.  Wonder if that was intentional by the Rockies ground crew or just a slight different that he happened to notice.

How this will affect his Cy Young candidacy remains to be seen.  On the plus side, he did throw seven innings of one-run ball and he's not getting run support.  On the other, it was another game that his team lost, so some voters may dock him for that.

It wasn't the best of homecomings for Matt Holliday.  He did get one two-out single with no one one, but left five on during the game, not including the double play he hit into in the eighth when the Cardinals had probably their best chance of taking the lead.

Speaking of Holliday, there's no contract talks going on, as John Mozeliak insists they'll wait until the team is done playing.  By now, there's probably not any reason not to do that, especially since you don't want a distracted player in October.

So the Cardinals have yet to beat the Rockies this season, having been swept in a four game series earlier in the year which kick-started Colorado's run to postseason contention.  Adam Wainwright tries to stop that streak tonight.

Wainwright got the loss in his earlier meeting with the team in purple, allowing three runs (two earned) in six innings.  That was before he was Adam Wainwright, though.  It's hard to remember now that he struggled a little in April and May.  If he hadn't, they'd already have his name on the Cy.

Historically, Wainwright's been pretty tough on the Rockies hitters, though.  If he keeps getting ground balls tonight, the Cards should be in pretty good shape.

Opposing him is Ubaldo Jimenez.  In the UCB's recent interview with Viva El Birdos founder and Colorado resident Larry Borowsky, Jimenez was tabbed as a key to a postseason matchup with the Birds and the Rox.  So getting a win against him tonight could give some positive feedback toward postseason thoughts.

Jimenez did a pretty good job against the Cards in his one outing against them in 2009, going seven strong and only allowing two runs.  St. Louis hasn't done just a whole heck of a lot against him in his career either, so it could be another close and late game tonight.

Might be a moot point, though, because the Giants and Cubs play this afternoon.  So the Cards may be in the playoffs before they even take the field.  Right now, I'll take it anyway it wants to come!

The Cardinal Fan's Dilemma

Posted on September 24, 2009 at 8:09 AM
Last night's results was about the worst-case scenario for those that want to see the Cards clinch the NL Central on the field.

The Cubs lose, which is usually a great thing.  However, the Cardinals do as well, plus they have an off day today while the Cubs play out at San Francisco tonight.  The magic number stands at one, so the next Cardinal win or Cub loss puts that nice little x beside St. Louis in the standings.

So, as Cardinal fans, what do we root for today?  Do we, as normal, root for the Cubs to lose, thus making the clinching of the division anticlimatic?  I mean, it'll be close to midnight in St. Louis before the Cub game is over, and Tony LaRussa has said that the club won't celebrate Thursday if they clinch, waiting until after the game Friday.

Do we root for the Cubs to win and stay alive one more day, so the Cards can hopefully finish it off on Friday?  The specter of 2006 still lingers a little bit over the team.  There are some that don't want to take the risk, that would rather a passive clinching than risking no clinching at all.

I think I'd like to see the Cubs win today.  Watching the guys rush the field and getting a chance to really celebrate their accomplishment is a big deal and for those guys that have never been there before (a fairly decent slice of the clubhouse), you'd like to see them be able to enjoy it.  Besides, what happens if the Cubs lose tonight, then the Cards lose in Colorado tomorrow?  You think TLR is going to let them party after a loss?  Do you think this team would want to?

Still, it's rooting for the Cubs.  I need a shower.

Of course, if the Cardinals could figure out a way to hit Bud Norris, this all might be a moot point.  The guy has given up 27 earned runs in 39+ innings against the rest of the league, but has kept the Cards scoreless for 13.  It's the second time someone has run up against him and pitched well enough to win, but has gotten absolutely no run support.

John Smoltz probably should get the Hero tag.  He continues to pitch solid games and can now regularly go six innings.  He allowed a couple of leadoff doubles that worked their way back around to score, but other than that did everything right.  I know everyone points to him as a reason the NL is basically this third-world league in comparison to the lofty AL, but that's not the whole answer.  He's walking so many less batters, which would have helped his AL results as well.  I know Nick and Josh talked about this on last night's UCB Radio Hour, but right now I still don't see him being anything but the fourth starter in the playoffs.  I think he can do you more good that way than even the strikeout bullpen arm he was originally slated for.

On the flip side, Mark DeRosa had a tough night, hitless in four at bats and leaving four men on base.  A far cry from his production during the rest of this series.

There was some discussion of the callups on the Post-Dispatch site this morning.  Even with the explanations, I'm not understanding the lack of a callup for Allen Craig.  The talk that "these were for 2009" rings hollow with me.  Are we really to think that David Freese will have a shot at the postseason roster?  Really, in nine games he's going to prove he's worth taking into October?  Tyler Greene is going to beat out someone to take one of those slots?  I have problems believing that.

I understand Matt Pagnozzi and Josh Kinney, because they give you some depth and let you rest players the rest of the way.  With Craig having to be added to the 40-man before the end of the postseason anyway, though, why not give him a shot as well?  Nick and I went over this in the UCB chat room last night and his point was that defensively, Craig's not all that.  Maybe so, though I've not heard horror stories about his defense this year.  A team that suffered through Chris Duncan for quite a while could get this guy into the lineup in the Cincinnati series, I'd think.

It just doesn't make sense to me.  Maybe Freese and Greene will be on the postseason roster.  I just can't believe right now that that is an option.

The Sporting News named their Player of the Decade.  Tough call there.  What does it say about Albert Pujols that he grabs titles like this even though he didn't play in the year 2000?

Off day today to let you grapple with that existential question posed at the beginning of the entry.  Cards head off to Colorado and get a weekend to really judge where they are at against playoff-caliber competition.  Colorado gets the same opportunity since they'll see Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright!

Launching In Houston

Posted on September 23, 2009 at 8:31 AM
Is there any way the Cardinals can arrange to play October facing Houston?

Whatever the reason, either the ball park or just good timing, the St. Louis bats have woken up on their trip down south.  The 11 runs that the Cards scored last night equals the total runs scored by the Redbirds in their last five home games combined.  You could say that the offense has enjoyed this trip so far.

Joel Pineiro had one of those games that you really wanted to see.  With his struggles of late, you wanted to see if he could return to that dominant form that he had most of 2009.  Because if he can be that kind of pitcher, the Cardinals have a much better chance in October.  It's hard to tell if he was completely back, given the fact that he faced a weaker Houston team who seem a bit dispirited by the firing of Cecil Cooper earlier in the week, but it definitely gave hope to Cardinal Nation.

Plenty of good things to note about the offense as well.  You have to like see Colby Rasmus not only getting three hits and scoring three runs, but also hitting a home run off of a left-hander.  Albert Pujols still didn't hit a home run, but he did get a couple of hits.  Rick Ankiel had two hits, including a triple, and it'd been a long time since Yadier Molina had gone yard.  When this offense really is going, it's a beautiful thing to behold.

When you think about it, the Cards are in good shape to get their offense rolling into October. They've got this Houston series, then they go to Colorado.  While the Rockies are post-season bound as well and are pitching better than they traditionally do, that ballpark is still a good place to hit.  Then they go to Cincinnati, which is a great ballpark to hit in as well.  Finally, they wrap with Milwaukee at home.  Milwaukee has been tough at times on the Cards this year, but depending on the pitching matchups (and the fact that the Brewers will be pretty much ready for the winter) it could be a nice thing for the Cardinal offense as well.

A Goat?  I gotta come up with a goat for this one?  I'd say Julio Lugo for his 0 for 4.  Even then, he scored a run and drove one in, so you can't do that.  I guess we'll go with Trever Miller, who allowed two hits and a run in his third of an inning.  Not a real issue when you are up 10-1, but it's the weakest performance of the night.

Not only will the current roster be visiting Colorado, but the AAA reinforcements finally arrive after Memphis lost in the AAA unification game last night in Oklahoma City.  So now we'll see David Freese, Josh Kinney, Tyler Greene and Matt Pagnozzi.

Not seen on that last is the player that seemed to be the most obvious callup--Allen Craig.  Craig had an outstanding season, one of the main reasons Memphis won the PCL Championship.  He's done everything the organization has asked of him, moving positions, etc.  What more does he have to do to get a call up?

The rationales seem to be that he's not on the 40-man roster and he wasn't going to get a lot of playing time.  However, there is still room on the 40-man.  Right now, there are 38 players, though they'll have to add Matt Pagnozzi (funny, the 40-man wasn't a problem for him...) to it. If the issue is the long-term management of the 40-man, I don't see that as a problem either.  There are players that are going to come off of it this off-season via free agency, if nothing else (players like Ankiel, Pineiro, etc.) and some "prospects" that could be removed from the 40-man and risk their pickup by another organization.  I mean, most people haven't figured out why Matthew Scherer was put on the list at all in the first place!

As for playing time, I think that's a crock as well.  Look, there's 10 games left in the season, 9 by time these guys actually join up with the team.  Exactly how many ABs do you think someone like Pagnozzi is going to get?  Maybe one start?  Middle infield is pretty full now, you think Tyler Greene is going to play in five games?  Even if these guys do get to play and they'd not be able to find a spot for Craig to get some ABs, though, it's still wrong.  This guy deserves to get the call, to be a big leaguer for a few days.  He deserves to sit on the bench and soak up the atmosphere.  He deserves to be at Closing Day at Busch, to enjoy hearing the fans and seeing how things are done at the highest level.  He could definitely pinch-hit and give more of an option than Joe Thurston, for example.  It's pretty obvious Troy Glaus isn't going to play again this year, so he could help out in that regard as well.

All in all, it really appears that this organization has something against Craig and I'm not sure what it is.  I just think it's shameful that he didn't get the call as a reward after his wonderful season.

Apparently Wagner Mateo's eye injury is bad, because the Cardinals went ahead and voided his contract yesterday.  (Which probably gives me the award for Worst Scheduling.  If I'd waited to schedule the UCB Top 7 Prospects to this week, things would have looked a lot different.)  You definitely feel bad for Mateo and hope that he can sign on with some other team and at least get a chance to play, but it really sounds like the physical limitations may be too much.

In hopefully minor news, Albert Pujols jammed his wrist last night.  It doesn't appear serious and he should play tonight, but it may be something to keep an eye on.

Lots of interactive chances today in Cardinal Nation.  Joe Strauss has his weekly chat over at the Post-Dispatch site at 1:00 pm, Fox Sports Midwest is having their weekly live blog tonight during the game (with the best comments and questions again making the broadcast), and the United Cardinal Bloggers Radio Hour will be here at 9:30 tonight, waiting for your calls.  Your hosts tonight are Josh from Pitchers Hit Eighth and Dustin from Whiteyball.

Should be a fun night!  Let's see the Cubs lose quickly so the Cards can win and clinch it on the field!

Cardinals Solve The Mystery

Posted on September 22, 2009 at 1:40 PM
Sorry for the delay in today's post, but the power went out at my house last night and, as far as I know, hasn't returned yet.  Perhaps I need to have Mark DeRosa come by.

You knew it was going to be a good night when the Cards scored three runs off of Wandy Rodriguez in the first inning.  I mean, the Cards had only scored six runs total off of Rodriguez in his four other starts against them, so they were figuring him out early.  Then DeRosa came along and smacked two home runs, reminding people just why the Cards did trade for him.

Even Albert Pujols was able to solve Rodriguez, coming just inches away from his first long ball against him.  You know that he's going to be studying these at-bats this offseason, trying to make sure that he can tag Rodriguez sometime in 2010.  However, AP is still three HR from 50, as he's not gone deep since his two home run game against Milwaukee on the 9th.  He's still been producing since then, of course, but at a .306 BA/.444 SLG rate, not quite up to his norms.  But he's hit three doubles in the last two games, so he's probably just about ready for a hot streak.

You also have to like what you saw out of Kyle Lohse last night.  Yes, he gave up two homers, but it was in Houston, not necessarily known as a pitcher's park.  Plus they were solo shots.  He limited the damage, enjoyed his lead, and came out with a successful appearance.  Obviously, he hasn't earned back his #4 starter role for the playoffs yet, but he did take a big step toward that.  I think that management is going to be really looking for reasons to give him that slot so they can use John Smoltz as a reliever, so if he can have another two starts that are similar to this one, he'll probably get the job.

Looking at last night's game, it's hard to pick a Goat.  Lohse and those that followed him, Jason Motte and Kyle McClellan, pitched well.  Motte continues to make the case that he's turned the corner and can be a bit more trusted than he was in the middle of the season.  Every St. Louis starter had at least one hit, and DeRosa, Pujols, Skip Schumaker, Jason LaRue and Matt Holliday had two or more.

So it's pretty much a make-up call, but I'm going to apply the tag to Ryan Ludwick.  My fellow UCBer from Stan Musial's Stance took issue with him not being the Goat Sunday, with good reason.  So since he just went 1 for 4 in this one, we'll give it to him.

Lots of discussion right now about the future of TLR.  Jeff Gordon says that he'd leave one of the best jobs in baseball behind if he did call it quits.  TLR says he's too busy to think about it, though you expect it's crossed his mind a few times.  It's hard to think about anyone else running the ship, but I guess we'll find out at the end of the year whether that's an adjustment we need to make.  Personally, it works either way for me.  He's done a great job here, but losing some of the drama wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing.

If they'd get some help from Milwaukee, the Cards might be able to cut their magic number to one (which would be a tie for the title, something that LaRussa won't acknowledge).  Joel Pineiro takes his turn on the bump against Yorman Bazardo.  Pineiro has struggled with the 'Stros hitters historically and has struggled so far in September as well, so even though he's had a good bit of success against Houston this year, there's no assurance that will continue into tonight's game.

Bazardo hasn't ever faced the Cardinals before and is sporting an 8.50 ERA.  He's given up 24 hits and 13 walks in 18 innings.  If you've followed the Cardinals for any length of time, you know that this is a script for the youngster to throw six scoreless innings at the club.  If they can be patient, they'll be able to figure him out or get runners on.  Patience, however, is not necessarily what they are known for.

Razor Thin Margins

Posted on September 21, 2009 at 9:48 AM
If Ryan Ludwick hits a fly ball, the Cards would have won three straight games against the Cubs in the ninth inning.  What a weekend series, huh?  Let's recap:

Friday (3-2 win)
Hero: Matt Holliday.  Walk-offs in your first game in the Cards/Cubs rivalry will do that.
Goat: Albert Pujols.  Don't expect the only guy that's hitless to be him, but there you have it.
Notes: John Smoltz had his second straight rough beginning to a game, then settled in.  However, when this offense isn't clicking, you really run a risk by putting them in a hole.  They can come back, but there's no guarantee that they will.  Plus, does that bode ill for Smoltz coming out of the pen in the playoffs, if he does?....Nice to see a sharp Kyle McClellan.  Having him on track could be a huge thing, especially if Ryan Franklin continues to stumble.

Saturday (2-1 win)
Hero: Brendan Ryan.  Even if he got an assist on his home run, he still drove in the only two runs of the game with three hits.
Goat: Ryan Franklin.  Before his first pitch, I was really thinking Tony LaRussa needed to leave in Chris Carpenter.  Carp threw 101 pitches and wasn't showing signs of tiring.  I'd have rather had him start the inning, at least, before moving to Franklin.  And for his blown save and ruination of Carp's great day, he gets the win.  Baseball's not always just.  LaRussa's not worried about him yet, but I'm not nearly as confident in him as I was just a month ago.
Notes: Carpenter was dealing.  Getting that win might have bumped him to the front of the Cy Young race, though there's no doubt the outing as a whole helped a lot....when your #2 and #3 hitters don't get a hit, you know it's going to be a low-scoring game.  Ryan Dempster was on almost as much as Carpenter was, which made for a memorable game.

Sunday (6-3 loss in 11)

Hero: Adam Wainwright.  If he'd gotten a better turn on the double play, he might have left the game with it tied.  Just looking at some of the games he has lost this season, with some decent run support in those games, he'd already have 20 locked up.  Another special outing that shows why you can't necessarily name the "ace" of the Cardinal staff.
Goat: Mitchell Boggs.  I hate to give it to him because the game never should have gotten there, but not only does he give up the winning home run, but puts more runners on after that.
Notes: If anyone really should get the Goat, it's Tony LaRussa.  Bunting Mark DeRosa in the ninth inning just didn't make sense on any level.  If he's successful, then they walk Pujols.  Even if he hits into a DP, that means Pujols bats.  Take your chances, see if you can't put another runner on or even put runners on the corners with nobody out.  (They'd have still walked AP, but at least then even a DP--unless it goes home--would score the winning run.)  When you have such a weapon as Pujols, you want to make sure he hits in a situation like that.  Don't give the other team a reason to take the bat out of his hands.

You can argue about that play in the ninth all day, though.  I don't know how much of a comparison you can make to the one in the sixth when the Cubs forced Brendan Ryan to throw the ball away trying to turn two.  (He should have eaten it and not done a double pump.)  I don't know if the Cub runner was as far out as Holliday was in the ninth or not.   After watching Ludwick scramble to the base after Derek Lee missed the tag, though, it was pretty heart-rending to have that kind of call decide the game.  But if it's the rules, it's the rules, and you can't argue, in my mind, terribly much about it.  It was preordained, anyway, since the ESPN guys had just finished talking about how Ludwick had the highest fly ball to ground ball ratio in the bigs.  After that, how could he NOT hit a grounder?

Coming out of the weekend, though, the Cards are still within 4 games of clinching the division.  While it was nice to think, briefly, that it was at 2, winning two out of three against Chicago is a good thing, especially with the solid pitching they faced this weekend.  It's not the ideal result, surely, and it'd been nice to see them score a bit more often, but you can take it and like it.

After working on my Top 7 prospects for Friday and getting them published, the news comes out that Wagner Mateo has some sort of vision problem and it could be to the point that he'll never play for anyone.  You can read the Future Redbirds discussion on this over here, but you have to feel pretty bad for Mateo if it is true and it is a degenerative condition.  Having vision problems at 16?  And having a dream (and a possible fortune) taken away at the same time?  That'd be pretty bad for anyone, especially someone in this situation.

Cardinals head down to Houston tonight, with the chance to clinch while they are down there.  (The Cubs get to go to their home away from home in Milwaukee, but the Brew Crew did just beat them twice last week.)  Kyle Lohse continues to try to show that he can do something for this team.  Lohse has had a season to forget, especially on the injury front, but he still has time to look sharp and take that fourth starter role.  He's had reasonable success in the past against the Houston hitters, but if he's not on the top of his game this one could be out of control fast.

Not only because of Lohse, of course, but because the Cardinals get the rare good fortune of facing Wandy Rodriguez.  On the list of Cardinal killers, Rodriguez is right up there.  After Pujols belted a home run of Jeff Suppan the last time the Cards were in Milwaukee, Rodriguez moved to the active leader in most ABs against AP without El Hombre going yard.  Heck, it was just his last game against Wandy that Pujols finally got an extra-base hit off of the guy.  If Lohse doesn't have it early, this could be a long night.

Magic Time

Posted on September 18, 2009 at 11:16 PM
Couldn't let the momentous occasion go by unnoticed.  I'll discuss the game later, but for know, just know that the magic number is completely serious.

UCB Project: Top 7 Prospects

Posted on September 18, 2009 at 8:30 AM
It's been a little while since the United Cardinal Bloggers have gotten together for one of our famous (in our own minds) projects, but today we tackled the farm system as we list out our top 7 guys that will someday be future Redbirds.  You can find links to all the participating blogs on this post.

Before I get into this year's crop, I wanted to take a look back and see who I ranked last year and where those players may have wound up.  Here's the post from last September, but a quick review:

1) Colby Rasmus--finally got the call and spent all year in the bigs.  Not eligible for 2009.
2) Brett Wallace--traded to Oakland for Matt Holliday.  Not eligible for 2009.
3) Jamie Garcia--had surgery and missed most of the season.  Eligible for 2009.
4) Jess Todd--the PTBNL in the Mark DeRosa deal.  Not eligible for 2009.
5) David Freese--had a chance to make the big club in the spring, but dealt with injuries this season.  Eligible for 2009.
6) Daryl Jones--battled injuries and wound up back in AA for a while.  Eligible for 2009.
7) Bryan Anderson--again, injuries.  Eligible for 2009.

There were actually more guys eligible for 2009 than I thought before looking back over the list.  Still, the Cardinals did quite a bit of housecleaning with promotions and trades this season, moreso than past years.

So let's take a look at this year's crop:
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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)

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%)

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%)

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%

Rick Ankiel 83.9%
Chris Duncan 69.1%

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