Where exactly do you lay the most blame for last night's loss? Kyle Lohse didn't have a good start, which put the Cards in a hole early. Two home runs allowed, five runs total in five innings. There aren't many nights where that is going to win a ball game and Lohse was lucky not to factor into the decision.
What may be the most frustrating thing about that outing was that he could have easily kept it at three runs (which, granted, was bad enough as they all came in the first) when he got a double play in the third that left no one on and two outs. Then single-double-walk-single and the Braves have two more. The Cards have been bad this year about not closing out innings and it almost always comes back to haunt them.
Jason Motte? The closer came into a one-run Atlanta game just trying to keep it close for his team to have at least a shot in the ninth. Three walks (one intentional), a sac fly and a single later, the Braves are back up to their three run lead and, with Craig Kimbrel coming into the game and the Cardinal lineup looking like it should be in Memphis, the game was effectively over.
Yet neither of these guys get the Goat. I think that "honor" has to go to Marc Rzepczynski. This game was very similar to the game against the Phillies last week. The Cardinals get in a big hole early, battle back to tie it up, then immediately the bullpen allows the tiebreaking runs. All momentum is lost and, while the Cards continue to battle, they can't get back over the hump.
Scrabble had actually been getting back into form. In his last three outings he'd allowed only one hit and had lowered his ERA (which, obviously, is never a great measure for a reliever) to 3.44. Last night, though, nothing went right for him. Jack Wilson got a double, which is always a telling sign that your night is in the trash. He threw a wild pitch and Yadier Molina had a passed ball. Brian McCann, who Rzep should have been most effective against, got a two-run single. (Granted, McCann beat the exaggerated shift, so some of that has to go to Mike Matheny, but he could have easily gotten out of the inning before that.) Some days you just wish the phone never rang.
There were positives, of course. I'll give the Hero to Matt Holliday for his two hits and two RBI. Rafael Furcal also had two hits and Tyler Greene had a big single in that four-run sixth as the Cards pushed to tie it up. Mitchell Boggs also was the only effective pitcher of the night, pitching a clean seventh inning.
(By the way, it took Freddie Freeman like a week to get those new prescription goggles. They couldn't have been delayed one more day? Three for five with a home run. Apparently seeing is the most important thing.)
You give credit to the Cardinals for not giving up--a lineup that had Greene, Skip Schumaker, Daniel Descalso and Shane Robinson in it all at the same time isn't necessarily the juggernaut we've gotten used to, but they put together a rally--but at the same time, they've got to figure out a way to stop the bleeding.
That means on AND off the field. Not only did they stumble their way to the end of the month, they did so with new injury concerns. Jon Jay is returning for a second opinion on his shoulder, which is not a positive development at all. Jay is eligible to return from the DL, so having him still in pain and discomfort isn't a good sign. I think Jay's been a huge loss for the Cards, because having his bat in the two hole and him playing center field seems to help set everything else for the club. Obviously the offense is still running without him, but it could be better. I really miss him out in center field, though.
Then you have Jaime Garcia who went for an MRI yesterday on his throwing elbow. While the official word is that everything looked fine and that Garcia will only miss one start, it's still a troubling thing. Will this be a recurring problem? Will it really only be one start? If it's more than that, what happens then? It looks like the off-day helps and it means everyone just moves up a slot. If Garcia's out for any length of time, though, does the Shelby Miller watch begin? Or do they go with Joe Kelly who is having a better season in Memphis? Hopefully these are moot questions, but the way this month has gone for the Cardinals, you have to be prepared. (That also is a bummer for me, because I was going to see Lance Lynn when I was at Busch next week. Now, it looks like Jake Westbrook. THAT should be fun.)
Finally, Schumaker left last night's game with a hamstring injury, most likely causing him to return to the disabled list. Allen Craig is supposed to be returning, so they'll likely swap places and not have to raid Memphis again, but it's still not helping the Cards put out the optimal team. Does mean that Adron Chambers gets a little longer in the bigs, though.
Plus you have the nagging injuries of David Freese and Carlos Beltran. Freese was able to come into last night's game when Schumaker left and get a couple of at-bats, but that wasn't the optimal situation for the Redbirds. An off day today, though, and hopefully he's good to go for Friday. Beltran's knee was again barking at him, limiting him to pinch-hitting in the eighth instead of starting. It sounds like that was more precautionary and he'll be ready to go Friday as well, but I don't think any of us will be surprised if his leg actually detaches on the flight to New York.
I'm likely not to blog tomorrow for various reasons, so let's take a look at Friday's matchup. Adam Wainwright gets to return to New York, site of one of the highlights of his career (though now in a different park), and take on a Mets team that sits just 1.5 games out of first and is a game better than the Cards record-wise. Waino's not seen a lot of the Mets, but he's done well against them when he has faced them.
Not much there and we'll have to see what holds--past history or David Wright's hot start to the season.
It's a matchup of aces coming off of injury as the Mets will throw Johan Santana. Like Wainwright, he's had his ups and down this year and, like Wainwright, he's thrown a shutout against San Diego, doing that last time out.
In retrospect, when you see stories like, "Jake Westbrook gets to sleep in his own bed, maybe that'll make a difference in his pitching outing," you catch a little whiff of desperation there. It's not exactly sound sabermetric reasoning, at least. As it turns out, it wasn't accurate reasoning at all.
Westbrook seems to not be able to get his pitches down, which was notable from the first batter when Michael Bourn took him deep. Save for that and the three-run shot given up to Dan Uggla, it was probably a tolerable outing, but unfortunately those runs count in the box score as well.
After a stellar April, Westbrook is 1-3, 5.67 ERA in May. He's given up five home runs in 33.1 innings and gone from a .210 BAA against in the opening month to a .314 mark now. There's no doubt about it, Westbrook is struggling. All those numbers include his one good outing in the month, seven scoreless innings at Arizona. Take that out and the ERA climbs to 7.18.
So, what to do? There's really nothing TO do at the moment. For all of his May woes, he did have a very good spring and very good April, so if he could rediscover how to get his sinker across low in the zone instead of in the "hit me" range, he could become effective again. It's not like the Cards have a pressing need for a rotation slot anyway at the moment. Shelby Miller still needs some AAA work and Chris Carpenter doesn't come back until July or August, at best. Even the possible free agent route got closed off, as Roy Oswalt agreed with the Rangers yesterday.
The Cards don't really have any choice but to keep working with Westbrook and hope that he can rediscover his form. Even if there was a pitcher to take his slot, do you move Westbrook to the bullpen? You couldn't trade him even if you wanted to, due to his no-trade clause. However, the farther along in the season we get, the less financial pain it is to cut him outright. I think we are a long way from that, but it's something to keep in the back of your mind.
On the positive side of things, Yadier Molina had another outstanding night at the plate, going 4-4 with his eighth home run. Before last year, eight was his career high in the long ball department, coming in his first full season (2005). He's done that in less than a third of a season this year and last year's career high of 14 is well within reach at this pace.
A number of us (and you could probably toss me into that category) weren't all that excited about Molina's contract extension. Not the fact that he got one, of course, but the money involved with it. It seemed like John Mozeliak may have paid market price after Molina's best season, dooming him to disappointment the rest of the way.
There's a reason we have the slogan "In Mo We Trust." So far most everything Mozeliak has done has either worked out or been negligible. (I mean, we can't say Pedro Feliz's time in St. Louis was a huge win, but the cost wasn't that expensive either.) It seems reasonable to assume that the internal metrics indicated Molina's season wasn't a one-off, that even if it was a career year he'd be able to approach it for the next few year. So far, so good.
Someone who didn't play yesterday was David Freese, who is still out with his wrist injury. While he'll probably not play today and, with the off day, not be back until Friday, it doesn't sound like he'll trade places with either Jon Jay or Allen Craig when they return from their stint on the DL. Which is great, if slightly out of place in this season of injury.
In that same link, something to excite some of my good friends in the blogging community. Mike Matheny doesn't rule out hitting the pitcher eighth at some point and time during the season. It worked for the Braves last night, didn't it? I can't believe it's a coincidence that they have a losing streak, but as soon as the pitcher gets out of hitting last, they take a big win. Matheny's got to keep an eye on things like that.
A little bit of super-prospect news, as Carlos Martinez, who came in at number 2 on my Top 7 prospects list last year, gets the call to Springfield and AA ball. Martinez is injured right now, but the Cards decided it was time for him to get adjusted to that area and he could do that without having to worry about pitching as well. I won't be able to see the Springfield team when they come through Little Rock in June, but hopefully I can see him pitch when they return at the beginning of August.
Cards look to take the rubber game tonight. Kyle Lohse goes to the mound for St. Louis, having thrown acceptably well his last couple of times out, though not getting any wins to show for it. While he's not pitching the way he was in April, save for the one bad start against the Cubs he's keeping the team in the game. Hopefully, with Atlanta's offensive woes, he can do that again tonight. Though these guys have had some success against him:
Cards haven't done too badly against him, which is a bit of a surprise. Looks like he's never solved Carlos Beltran, which is a good thing. If everyone lives up to what they've done in the past, the offense could really be clicking tonight.
A reminder that if you've not voted on my wardrobe choice, the polls are still open. You'll also note that I've added a guest poster to the list. Matt Rath isn't a blogger but he wanted to see what the life was like, so he'll make his debut on the Saturday I'm gone, so be sure to check that out.
Every year, round about this time, we in the United Cardinal Bloggers do a little thing we call a progressive game blog. If you've been around here much you know what I'm talking about, if not, it's explained in the release below. This year, we have an "alternate channel" planned as well, with some New York Mets bloggers joining in on the fun. It should be a wonderful thing and a great way to take a look at this Saturday's game. So plan to check out all the blogs listed!
UNITED CARDINAL BLOGGERS PLAN ANNUAL PROGRESSIVE GAME BLOG
June 2 Game To Be Covered By Away And Home Bloggers
For the fifth consecutive year, the United Cardinal Bloggers, one of the premier organized blogging communities in all of baseball, will be conducting one of their signature projects, the progressive game blog. This year, the organization has selected the June 2 game against the Mets in New York for their focus.
As is the case every year, each blogger is assigned a portion (usually an inning) of the game. The blogger will not only describe the action but will use what happens in that portion as a jumping-off point for other ideas and topics. Each blogger will link to the previous portion and the next portion of the game, forming a circular chain that will allow people to see the game through various eyes.
This progressive dinner version of game blogging will span numerous platforms, writing styles and locations and can be seen as an anthology of Cardinal blogging thought. A pre-game post will set the stage and then the action moves through the other blogs, wrapping up with a post-game recap. (Note that these will be not be live postings, but should be up Saturday evening or early Sunday.)
This year, there is a twist on the standard formula. Along with the complete game being covered from the Cardinal perspective, six New York Mets blogs will provide an "alternate channel" of programming, coming at the game from the perspective of the home team. The Mets bloggers will be available every other inning and will be linked to by the corresponding Cardinal blogger as well.
The order of participating blogs is as follows. The first blog listed is the Cardinal blog, the second the Mets blog.
The Cardinals have actually not fared well in the games selected for the progressive game blog over the years.
May 3, 2008: Cubs 9, Cardinals 3. Kyle Lohse allowed eight runs in six innings. Yadier Molina was the offensive hero, going two for three with a home run.
May 23, 2009: Cardinals 5, Royals 0. Lohse again got the start and fared much better before being hit by a Ron Mahay pitch that significantly affected the rest of that season and 2010 as well. Yadier Molina again went two for three, but the only home run of the game came from Skip Schumaker.
May 29, 2010: Cubs 5, Cardinals 0. Same score as the prior year, different outcome. Adam Ottavino got the start for the Redbirds because (honestly) Lohse had been put on the disabled list earlier that week. Ottavino went into the sixth, but gave up four runs mainly due to six walks. Molina only went one for three this year, with Matt Holliday collecting two of the team's four hits on the day.
May 7, 2011: Milwaukee 4, Cardinals 0. Three shutouts in four years, with St. Louis only on the positive side once. Yovani Gallardo carried a no-hitter into the eighth, completely handcuffing the Cardinal offense. Daniel Descalso was the only thing keeping St. Louis from the record books. Unsurprisingly, it was Lohse on the opposite side, allowing just one run over eight innings.
The United Cardinal Bloggers is a collaboration of roughly 35 blogs that focus on the Cardinals. Members participate in coordinated projects throughout the year. The UCB also hosts a weekly internet radio show on Blog Talk Radio talking about the Cards.
I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday weekend while pausing to reflect on just why we have such a holiday. If you missed it, yesterday I posted the schedule of bloggers that are going to fill in starting next Thursday. Go check that out and vote on the poll that's there as well.
Since we've talked about the games, the Cardinals have been a feast or famine type of team. They went hungry against the Phillies for the most part, then have lived large the last couple of days. Let's recap.
Goat: Jason Motte. Motte pitched a good ninth, but allowed the game-winning two-run homer to Hunter Pence in the tenth. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be a quick way to find the stats, but I believe Motte has had trouble before when he's asked to go another inning. While he's usually only going to have to be good for one frame, being able to get through another would be nice as well.
Notes: Mitchell Boggs pitched well on the whole, but couldn't keep the lead he was entrusted with. Kyle Lohse pitched a very good game and deserved better, especially since one run was unearned. Shane Robinson was the only other hitter with a multi-hit game, which was nice to see out of him. His days are likely numbered with the return to health of some players, so he's got to enjoy these while he can.
Hero: David Freese. Two of the seven Cardinal hits in a game that really didn't have many highlights.
Goat: Matt Holliday. 0-4 and two left on base.
Notes: Nice to see solid work out of Eduardo Sanchez, two scoreless innings. Jaime Garcia pitched fairly well, though buckled in the sixth and allowed three runs, which pretty much put the game out of reach the way that Kyle Kendrick was going about things. Chuckie Fick made his major league debut, having been swapped for Fernando Salas earlier in the day.
Hero: Yadier Molina. His grand slam in the first probably was all the Cardinals needed, even if Roy Halladay had stayed in and settled down.
Goat: Rafael Furcal. 0-3 from the leadoff slot, though he did draw a walk and score a run.
Notes: Great day all the way around for the Cards, snapping the three game skid in effective fashion. Adam Wainwright put together another very good outing, allowing only one run in six innings, pulled a little early likely due to the heat and the score. Marc Rzepczynski threw a clean frame, which was nice to see as well. Two hits from Adams, including his first career home run, Holliday and Skip Schumaker. All in all, a wonderfully fun game for St. Louis fans.
Hero: Lance Lynn. Lots of great offensive performances, but Lynn made them all worthwhile with a performance more like April than what we've seen out of him the last couple of weeks. Only two runs and eight strikeouts in seven innings, meaning that the idea that the league is catching up to Lynn might be a bit premature. (Then again, Atlanta has been struggling offensively, so this might not be the best test of that.)
Goat: Wow, when everyone is getting hits--multiple hits, at that--it makes for a tough call. The only person not to get a hit was Carlos Beltran, so we'll go with him even though he had a couple of walks. He also got picked off at third at a time when it looked like that might be a big play. Turned out not so much, but it still counts.
Notes: Another big game by Matt Adams, driving in three on three hits and finding himself higher in the order since David Freese sat out with a wrist issue. Furcal had three hits as well and Daniel Descalso not only had two hits, but one of those was the game-breaking home run.
With the Reds finally figuring out a way to lose on the same day the Cards win, St. Louis finds itself a half-game back from retaking the divisional lead. With the fact that the team is looking to get healthy, that lead could be short lived. Allen Craig says he'll be back from the disabled list on Friday, his first eligible day, and Jon Jay has been sent to Florida to get ready for his return. Jay is eligible on Wednesday, but it doesn't sound like he'll be quite ready at that time, though it shouldn't be much longer than that.
The Cardinals got a couple of other pieces of good injury news since we last spoke. First off, Lance Berkman's knee surgery went well and Berkman turned out to be overly pessimistic. There was no issue with the actual ACL and just the meniscus and cleanup work was done. 8-10 weeks is the time frame, making him likely to return sometime around August 1.
If everything goes right, Berkman's return will be shortly after Chris Carpenter returns to this team. Carp should start a throwing program soon, most likely in the next couple of days, as they work to get him back in late July or early August. Carp still sounds very guarded, which is not surprising given the fact that he wasn't supposed to be here and that he's had issues in the past, but just hearing news is a good thing for Cardinal fans. Hopefully the rehab works well and we'll see him on the mound for the stretch run this season.
Cards tackle the Braves again tonight and we'll see if their anemic offense of the past few days continues when they go up against Jake Westbrook. Westbrook has been hit around some in his last outings and the Braves aren't a team he's dominated in the past.
If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that every year I spend about a week taking my wife and kids up to southeastern Ohio to visit her family and friends. Even though we're in Reds country, it's usually an enjoyable time. No work, no big schedule, just kinda hanging out and taking a breather.
The downside to such a rural setting, of course, is the limited availability of not only wireless internet but also cell signal. Sometimes it takes holding the phone just in the right spot to be able to find out the score of the Cardinal game or, barring that, heading to the next town over the next day to see what happened. In other words, blogging is pretty much right out.
(It's almost always a newsworthy week, too. Last year the Cards lost every single game they played while I was on the other side of the Mississippi. Two years ago, I was out at the end of July and so came back to Ryan Ludwick being a Padres. A few years ago, Rick Ankiel made his debut while I was gone. I don't know what it'll be, but SOMETHING will happen while I'm gone.)
This year, I'm taking a detour, going to Ohio by way of St. Louis. We are going to spend a couple of days seeing the city then cap it off with a Cardinals game against the Cleveland Indians. The kids have yet to be to a major league game, so I'm hoping it's going to be an exciting time for them. I know I'm looking forward to it!
If you are a fairly new reader, you perhaps are wondering, then, what the good news is. "Hey, you may write drivel, but I'm used to coming over here daily. What am I supposed to do while you are gallivanting your way around middle America?" Ah, but I don't leave you unattended while I'm gone. Far from it!
For the third straight year, I've lined up an impressive lineup of guest bloggers to provide you with thought-provoking insights, incredible writing, and basically all the stuff you are unaccustomed to having at this site. When I'm back, you'll send money to ship me off again, I expect.
So let me tell you what you'll find here while I'm out of pocket. I've got bloggers from Cleveland, Chicago (AL) and Kansas City lined up to give you a preview of the series that will happen while I'm gone. I've got bloggers from the other NL Central teams lined up to give you an overview of what their team is looking like, since it's been a little while since the Cards have faced any of them. I've also got some bloggers that will write about whatever they find interesting and intriguing. Some are Cardinal bloggers, most are not, but all are extremely talented and worthy of checking back on this site.
I have so many, in fact, that right now we have at least two posts scheduled for every weekday that I'm gone. Two! There's no grumbling now, I'm thinking. More likely "how soon can you leave?"
Here's the tentative schedule. While some are designated "morning" or "afternoon", it's really up to the individual blogger. Stick around after the list because I have a question I want the readership to weigh in on.
Lots of good stuff there and I know I'm going to be checking the site as often as I can to see what these guys are putting out there. Should be a great week here at CATB!
As I've mentioned before, my wardrobe is heavily weighted toward the red end of the spectrum. Being that I can't really afford jerseys, the shirsey is a prominent part of those Cardinals outfits. The problem with those, of course, is that they tend to become date. I've retired Matt Morris, Rick Ankiel, Scott Rolen, Colby Rasmus and Albert Pujols over the past few years, leaving me with "just" Chris Carpenter, Matt Holliday, and Adam Wainwright of the current crop of Redbirds. This means that I have to buy a new one while I'm in the Gateway City, but who? Here are some options, with pros and cons:
The Cardinals had been living dangerously the last few days. Having never trailed in the division this year, they played their way into just a half-game lead with their stumbles in Los Angeles. Tyler Greene saved them from second place earlier in the week, but with the Reds refusing to lose, it was going to be tough to keep that wire-to-wire dream alive.
If you are looking for a Goat from Thursday's game, it seems reasonable enough to look toward the center of the diamond. However, picking just one does become difficult. After all, only Mitchell Boggs pitched and came away unscathed, giving up just one hit in an inning and a third. You could make a strong case that starter Jake Westbrook should get the award because, after all, it was his disastrous outing that got the Cards in a 6-0 hole to start with. There's a solid case there. Perhaps you note that the home run given up by Victor Marte turned out to be the difference in the game, though Marte did strike out three in his 1.2 innings.
No, I think the best case for the Goat can be made against Fernando Salas. Salas came into the game after two furious rallies had tied the game at 7. Momentum was swinging in the direction of St. Louis and it looked like this was going to be one of those games that we talked about with a glow for the rest of the season, showing how you are never out of it, that this team is a battling team.
All that is still true, of course, but Salas splashed cold water on our fevered imaginings. With one out, he gave up back-to-back singles. After another out, it looked like he could wiggle free, but then again gave up back-to-back singles, which allowed two runs to score. The Cards went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the sixth and Philadelphia was back in control.
That doesn't mean the offense was completely blameless--Carlos Beltran struck out with the tying run at second and the go-ahead run at first in the eighth--but when they put up 9 runs, it's tough to say that it was their fault the Cards lost this one.
Hero tag has to go to Yadier Molina. Four hits, including a big home run that tied the game in the fifth, three RBI and a run scored. We thought last year was an outlying year for Molina's offense, but he's hitting .314 with six home runs right now, showing that he really has developed into a very solid offensive force.
Other positives were Matt Holliday and David Freese both going yard. Freese had a couple of hits, making it look like he really is coming out of that slump. Beltran had three hits to chip in to the offensive fun, though unfortunately couldn't get a fourth at the end of the game.
You wonder how long the Cardinals can afford to keep running Salas out there. I guess with that almost three innings of scoreless ball against the Braves two weekends ago, he's still got some rope, but even with that he has an 8.22 ERA for the month and has given up 11 hits in 7.2 innings. (Without the Braves outing, the ERA would be 12.60 and it'd be 11 hits in five innings. Very, very ugly.) Apparently Maikel Cleto is pitching well recently in Memphis (he has a 1.38 ERA with 18 strikeouts in 13 innings for the month of May) and swapping those two for a bit might be a wise idea.
Some other people may be heading to Memphis soon as well as there are some positive reports on a few disabled guys. Allen Craig took some ground balls--at second base, of all places, though the club has continually denied since Mike Matheny took over that Craig would be back in the middle of the infield and it's not exactly the safest place for a guy with some leg issues--and hopefully will be ready to come off the DL a week from today. Jon Jay can come off on Wednesday, so if he's going to need a rehab assignment he hopefully will be going out on it soon.
The same story notes that Chris Carpenter is doing better with his shoulder, but he won't start a throwing program for another month. Factor in following that program and a stint in the minors and Carp may not be with the big club until the middle of August. A nice stretch run pickup, I guess. (Let's all say it in unison, shall we? "It's like a big trade without giving up anybody!")
Lance Berkman's surgery got pushed off until today due to a scheduling conflict on the part of the surgeon. Berkman continues to maintain that there's going to be more damage in there than the initial tests indicated, so we'll have to wait and see how good Berkman is at diagnosing himself. (Honestly, I'm expecting he's pretty good, but hopefully his years of watching House haven't paid off.) I'm sure there will be a lot of discussion about it on Twitter today if you are on there, so keep an eye out.
Cards have another battle on their hands tonight. Cliff Lee (a fellow Arkansan, so I can't dislike him too much) takes the mound for the Phillies and, though the Cards were able to get to him in last year's NLDS, doesn't mean it's any easier to have him on the docket. Here are the stats:
Kyle Lohse gets to go up against Mr. Lee. Lohse has not had the same success lately that he did earlier in the season, but he's still not given up more than three runs in a game save once. Of course, he's only finished the sixth once in his last four starts as well, so the bullpen may get an early call this evening. The numbers:
I tend to forget that Lohse actually was a Phillie briefly. I don't think that factors into his preparation at all, though. They've hit him in the past, especially Hunter Pence and Ty Wigginton, so he's going to really have to be on his game tonight.
Remember, tonight's game is Fox Sports Midwest's "This One's For You" as they (and we) honor those that sacrifice for our freedom. As always, my thanks goes out to those actively serving and those that have served in the past. I'm not sitting here playing with this silly little blog without your sacrifice.
Have a great holiday weekend, everyone! I hope to publish the guest posting schedule this weekend, just waiting on one more confirmation. Enjoy!
The Cardinals got to see an old friend last night. Then they showed him why he was an old friend and not a current one.
I think it was key that the Cards were able to bounce back from that three-run deficit in the first to immediately tie it up. Lance Lynn had a very rough first--indeed, though he didn't give up any more runs, he struggled quite a bit all night long--but the Redbirds didn't allow Jeff Suppan to settle in. They got one run before any were out, then two more when they were down to their final out of the inning.
Those two-out runs were huge, in my opinion. We've seen in the past pitchers like Suppan get settled in and become hard to hit. Indeed, the Cards really weren't able to do anything more with Soup until the fifth, when Matt Holliday singled and Carlos Beltran homered. Suppan was eventually forced out of the game then, but it might have been a different story had he gone into that inning with a 3-1 lead.
Hero goes to David Freese, for his RBI single in the first and his home run in the seventh. Great to see Freese actually hitting the ball and hitting it well. He'd been in such a slump that he got a couple of days off to clear his head. Apparently, that was pretty effective, though we'll have to wait and see if he continues to produce or this was just one good game.
I was glad to see Matt Adams getting a couple of hits and he was achingly close to getting his first home run on a couple of occasions. This game is all about making adjustments and apparently Adams noted how people were pitching him the last couple of games and modified his approach quite successfully. I look forward to seeing how he's able to do against some of the better pitching we'll see this weekend.
Every starter got a hit last night and the bullpen did its job as well, so it makes it difficult to pick out a Goat. (By the way, really glad to see Marc Rzepczynski come in and have a fairly clean inning. He's been struggling lately as well and the Cards need him to be strong.) I guess I'll go with Rafael Furcal. He got a hit in his first at-bat, but then went 0-4 afterwards including two strikeouts. Again, it's a tough call.
Another day, another DL stint. This time it's Matt Carpenter, whose side was more damaged than he thought from yesterday's injury. It's been a rough few days for the Cardinals, having to consistently put players on the disabled list, but hopefully they are through it and they'll still be able to play good baseball. If nothing else, it's given us a chance to see Adams, which is a silver lining. Steven Hill got the callup, so that may free up Tony Cruz to play some first base or outfield if necessary.
Speaking of hurt people, Lance Berkman has his knee surgery today and we'll find out whether it will be just meniscus or if the ACL needs work as well. Berkman's having the surgery in Houston, which Joe Strauss gives a lot of import to since it was originally planned for Colorado. I'm not sure what Strauss is getting at, though. Berkman lives in Houston, so it makes it reasonable that he'd want to do it close to home if possible. Maybe Strauss is implying a rift between Berkman and the organization (which, honestly, wouldn't be the first time a player and the club have had a difference of opinion on a medical procedure--see Scott Rolen) or if Berkman is looking to maybe rejoin the Astros next year as a DH. Or, always a possibility, Strauss is just trying to rile up the fan base.
The first four game series of the year starts tonight in Busch Stadium as the Cardinals welcome in the Philadelphia Phillies. The Phillies have not been the team that we are used to or the team most expected them to be this season. Instead of cruising along in first place, they sit in last in the NL East, though granted just a game under .500. While they hit for a high average, most of the other offensive stats place them in the middle of the National League.
Kinda middling results. Placido Polanco has done some damage, but Polanco's been having a rough year. Keeping Hunter Pence in check might be the biggest key toward winning this ballgame.
Phillies counter with Joe Blanton. Blanton is 4-4 with a nice 3.74 ERA this season and has seemingly traded good starts with bad starts. Which, if the pattern keeps up, doesn't bode well for the Cards since he gave up six runs in 4.1 innings against Boston last time out. The career numbers:
He's one of those pitchers that the Cards have struggled with in the past. Holliday's about the only one that's hit him real hard, so we'll see if that continues tonight. Cards need a win to make sure they stay in first place. Here's hoping they get it!
Right now on this Cardinal team, there's no player I enjoy watching more than Adam Wainwright. It was so disappointing to have him miss last year with Tommy John surgery and, though we've seen some flashes, we've not really had the real Adam Wainwright since the end of 2010 (and, really, he slumped a bit in September then as well).
There's no doubt that the degree of difficulty on last night's outing was a bit lessened. San Diego sits at the bottom of most offensive categories, right down there with Pittsburgh. Their team batting average is .218, they average just over three runs a game, and their team OPS is about 175 points less than St. Louis's. This was not a murderer's row that Wainwright was facing.
Even so, last night was an incredible sight to see. Wainwright had command, walking just one batter. He had crispness to his curveball, which led to the nine strikeouts. He had efficiency, throwing 114 pitches. He's had some of these things during the season, but he's never had all of it come together at one time. At least for last night, we got to remember just how special a Wainwright start can be.
Is this really the return to dominance for Wainwright? If it is, Sunday's matchup with Roy Halladay is going to be a must-see game. We'll have to see, though, because one start does not a season make. Wainwright said some great things after the game, talking about his arm slot and everything, so I would say there's hope that he's turned a corner.
While Wainwright was the deserved focus of the outing, the Cardinals did have to score for him to be a winner. Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran both had a couple of hits and Beltran drove in two runs to give Wainwright the support he needed.
Let's see, who should the Goat be? In a game like that, a lot of performances--good and bad--can be overlooked. I guess we'll have to go with Tyler Greene, due to his 0-4. Greene did get an RBI out of the deal, so it wasn't a total waste of an evening. Matt Adams continues to get adjusted to the league, going 0-2 but drawing two walks.
And, of course, it's not a Cardinal game until somebody loses an eye, or at least leaves with an injury. Matt Carpenter had to leave the game in the first with a strained side, though thankfully he didn't sound too concerned after the game. An MRI is scheduled for today but, with any luck, the results will be negative and he may just have to rest a day or so. Otherwise, we'll wonder about some sort of curse on our corner types!
A little bit of positive injury news. Kyle McClellan got a second opinion and it seems surgery won't be necessary. He got a injection of platelet-rich plasma while visiting Dr. Andrews to help with the healing. (I've actually had something similar--IVIG--and it's pretty effective stuff. Should be, for what it costs.) McClellan is still out for a couple of months, though, but he could be a nice and rested addition to the bullpen for the stretch run.
Tonight, the Cards go for the sweep against an old friend. First all, it seems strange to be saying "sweep" in a positive way after the last few weeks, but perhaps that's what it takes to get the Cards to complete them. They swept Arizona, then were swept by the Braves. Last time out, they were swept by the Dodgers, so maybe they can sweep the Padres. The Redbirds are still clinging to a 1/2 game lead over the Reds, so they need to win to keep that wire-to-wire dream alive.
Jeff Suppan should get a warm reception tonight from the Cardinal fans for what he meant to this club when he wore the birds on the bat. How will he be received by the Cardinal hitters, though?
They aren't exactly shaking in their boots. Holliday especially has had his number in the past, but nobody (save Greene in those couple of at-bats) had looked that bad against him.
Suppan is matched up against Lance Lynn, who has hit a bit of a speed bump the last couple of times out. Running into San Diego's "offense" should help him some. Lynn's never faced any of these batters, but I'm sure will be picking Wainwright's brain to get some ideas on how to approach them. Should be a fun evening!
There's always someone that gets the brunt of fan ire on the Cardinals. For many years it was J.D. Drew. Chris Duncan took a turn for a while. Most recently, Colby Rasmus was the whipping boy.
This season, it's Tyler Greene. Many fans have called for his benching, if not outright release, because, to paraphrase, "what good is he?" Then there are nights like last night, which shows you just why the Cardinals keep him around.
Greene hit just .200 in April, but after last night is hitting .295 in May. He comes in concentrated doses, it looks like--nine of his 13 hits for the month have come in three games, as well as all of his home runs and RBI--but when you get one of those games, it reminds you why this team has been so patient with him.
Last night, he singled to start the go-ahead seventh inning, then when that lead didn't hold, he hit the game-winning home run in the eighth, raising the spirits of fans who were demoralized after Goat Jason Motte had blown the save and had seemed to set this team on a path to second place.
I'm not sure if Greene can be consistent enough to be a good shortstop at the major league level, but he's definitely earned a longer leash. I don't think you have multiple three-hit games if your talent isn't on par with the big leagues and it's not like there's a reason the Cards can't be patient with him at second. Skip Schumaker and Daniel Descalso don't have his skill set and haven't necessarily been all that overwhelming either.
As great of a night as it was for Greene, he doesn't get the Hero tag. That has to go to Jaime Garcia for his pitching performance last night plus his key single in the seventh that kept the inning alive and allowed the Cardinals to take the lead after a Rafael Furcal single and a Matt Carpenter groundout.
Garcia gave up a leadoff double in the eighth that came around to cost him, but his line of seven innings, two earned runs and seven hits is really impressive, especially when you factor in that without a fluke balk and if Motte had done his job, he wouldn't have allowed any one to score. San Diego doesn't have the strongest of offenses, it's true, but anytime Garcia can be efficient, it's a great thing to see. Hopefully he'll be able to carry that into his next start against the Phillies.
Tough night for the rook. Matt Adams figured out that it wasn't quite as easy as he thought up in the bigs, going 0-4 with two strikeouts. To be fair, that last one was against Andrew Cashner when he was ringing up triple digits on the radar gun. Not sure that there are too many guys throwing 100 at AA ball.
All in all, that was a really big win for the Cardinals and they won't deny that. It kept the idea of a wire-to-wire title alive, as a loss would have slipped them a half-game behind the Reds in the division. It kept a four-game losing streak from becoming five. We'll have to see if it sparks a good run or, as we've seen in the past, the roller coaster continues today.
There was good news on Lance Berkman yesterday, but the first baseman wasn't sure how accurate it was. As of right now, there doesn't appear to be an ACL tear in Berkman's knee, just some torn meniscus. If that's the case, there seems to be a 6-10 week recovery window and Berkman could be back on the field by the end of the year. However, he still feels like there is a problem with the ACL and, since he's had about four knee surgeries, this isn't an uninformed opinion. In fact, when reading his comments as he makes his case, it would seem pretty surprising to me if we don't find out later this week that the ACL is damaged.
At least there's some hope, though. Berkman deserves his last moments as a Cardinal to be better ones than hopping around in pain and being helped off the field. As I said about John Smoltz in his book review, he may not have been here long, but he's always going to be a fond part of Cardinal history and he'll be welcome in St. Louis anytime. I hope that he can get some more at-bats in Cardinal red, but it's very, very iffy.
In other injury news, Scott Linebrink (hey, remember him?) says his shoulder is doing much better. At one time, there didn't seem to be a spot for Linebrink in the bullpen as everyone was doing so well. I think it's safe to say things have changed. It doesn't look like a return is imminent, but it sounds positive and he could be back by the middle or end of next month, I'd think. If nothing else, he'll be a fresh arm out there and give a different look to a pen that is taking on water at the moment.
Cards and Padres go at it again tonight. Adam Wainwright goes for the Cardinals and this is a good matchup for him. The Padres don't have the big boppers that he's going to have to worry about, so he should be able to be aggressive and work on his command. Waino's history with the current Friars:
If he can avoid Will Venable, he should be OK. It's tough to apply past results to the current Wainwright, of course, but a solid game from him and the Cards should be at least in the ballgame.
There's no guarantee it'll be better because San Diego puts Edinson Volquez on the mound. Volquez is well known to the Cards from his time in Cincinnati and he's been both very good and very not-so-good, which is why he's in San Diego now. He's had a good start to the year, but some of that is due to the Petco Park effect--he's posted a 2.76 ERA at home compared to a 4.09 mark on the road. Historically:
Some good numbers there. I wonder if we'll see a night off for Yadier Molina since he's struggled in the past against Volquez.
Hopefully a little more convincing win tonight, though another commercial-free one wouldn't be a bad thing! (How much money did Fox Sports lose last night? I know FSMW, FSSW and FS Arizona all had those issues and perhaps other branches as well. That can't be a good thing for the bottom line!)
I'm sure there was something good about the Cardinals trip to Los Angeles this weekend. However, it might have been limited to hearing Vin Scully on the call because, otherwise, this was like checking into Hotel California--as much as they wanted it to, it seemed like the trip would never end for the Redbirds. Let's look at these three losses, four if you count personnel as well.
Hero: When you hit a home run to tie the ballgame in the ninth inning, especially when it's a pinch-hit version, you get this title. Lance Berkman did his part to keep the Cardinals alive, even if it didn't last more than a half-inning.
Goat: When you walk in the winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning, you get this title. Fernando Salas has continued to struggle this year and he walked three (one intentionally) plus gave up a hit in just one-third of an inning. There's still hope for Salas, of course--he had a very good outing against Atlanta last weekend--but you start to wonder if the consistency is going to come.
Notes: Matt Holliday came up with a big home run, capping a four-run inning and giving the Cards the lead on Ted Lilly, who otherwise shut them down like he always does. Lance Lynn battled, but wasn't able to keep that lead longer than a half-inning. He wound up giving up four in six innings, which kept the team in the game at least. Marc Rzepczynski gave up what looked to be the winning run in the seventh before Berkman's rally. It was a rough weekend for Scrabble.
Hero: Yadier Molina, who went 2-3 in the game. Only Holliday also had more than one hit as Clayton Kershaw dominated the lineup. That's what Cy Young Award winners do and coming into the game everyone knew it would be a tough matchup. How the end of the game worked out added extra depression.
Goat: Any number of 0-for-Saturday batters could fit this bill, but I think I'm going to go with Eduardo Sanchez. The game was likely already out of hand when it was turned over to him, but he finished it off, allowing two runs of his own and his only inherited runner to score, turning a reasonable effort into a rout. Sanchez has electric stuff, but still can't always harness it.
Notes: Jake Westbrook really deserved a better fate. He gave up two runs in the first when Matt Carpenter misplayed a ball at first. He then allowed a home run in the seventh but nothing else. A solid defense behind him and it's possible things would have been different, though facing Kershaw, they well may not have.
The bigger loss came in the bottom of the second, where a routine ground ball to shortstop ended the inning, but also possibly the season and the career of Berkman. While the team and the first baseman await today's MRI to see what exactly the injury is, there are small odds that there is going to be anything positive come out of this. The fear is that he's torn his ACL, which would definitely keep him out the rest of the season. With no real likelihood of coming back to St. Louis after this season, Berkman would have to weigh how much he wanted to keep playing, deciding if he wanted to do all the significant rehab he would have to go through to play at the big league level, especially when he doesn't know where he'd be playing.
If it is the ACL, I'm leaning toward thinking he's done. He's considered retirement before, he's been fairly picky about where he wants to play, and I think he walks away. Now, apparently there's a possibility, however small, that it is just a meniscus tear, which from what I understand would not be as severe and Berkman could be back the latter half of the season.
Hero: Rafael Furcal. Two hits from the leadoff position and drove in two as well.
Goat: Rzepczynski. I think a number of Cardinal fans of a certain age would have been fine with Scott Van Slykegetting his first home run against the team. They remember his dad fondly and it would have been like a family member taking a big step. However, that was only if he hit it in a rout or a game the Cards won. When he hits a three-run shot off Scrabble that winds up winning the game, Cardinal fans are not amused.
Notes: Cardinals had their chances to break this open. Not capitalizing on all of them was not completely their fault--Yadier Molina was safe going first to third on a shallow dunk into center, even though the umpire called him out and I have no idea what he was thinking about doing such a reckless play, save that he'd obviously paid attention to our former first baseman a lot--but some of them were. Two double plays in the first two innings, when there were base runners aplenty, didn't help matters. That was a game that, from all angles, they should have won.
The silver lining to the Allen Craig and Berkman injuries was that the Cardinals had to go to their depth and promote top prospect Matt Adams. Adams doesn't bring the flexibility Craig does--he's limited to first base--but he does bring a big bat and some youth to this team, which hopefully means he'll be more likely to stay healthy. Adams got a solid single in his first at-bat Sunday night and went 2-4 on the evening. I expect he'll get a huge ovation in St. Louis this evening.
Tough night for David Freese as he struck out four times. Freese is 3 for 34 during this ten game rough patch the Cards have had since starting the Atlanta series, with all three hits coming in one game against San Francisco. He's struck out 11 times, grounded into four double plays, and all in all looked pretty lost. While he may want to play his way through this, giving Carpenter a few days at the hot corner and resting Freese might not be the worst idea.
While injuries are a big factor in the recent tailspin, that's not all of it. The pitching has come back to earth, especially in the bullpen, and the defense has been very sloppy. They need to come out and have a few more games like they did in April, but that may be tough for this team right now.
Coming back home may help out their collective spirits, but what would do more for it would be to see Jaime Garcia have a dominant outing this evening. Garcia has been known to be outstanding at home and here's what he's done against these Padre hitters:
Not a lot of sample size there, but what is there is in Garcia's favor. He's been able to shut down some of the bigger threats in the San Diego lineup, which is good. If he comes out and struggles tonight, the malaise may continue.
The Cardinals get to hit against Clayton Richard. That isn't exactly going to get these hitters drooling, though.
Not a lot of success there. When the top averages come from other pitchers, you know there's a problem, especially when they aren't the guys going tonight. There are a lot of walks on there, though, so perhaps the Cards can be patient and wait for their pitches this evening.
Every team goes through a rough patch. Championship teams make sure they don't last too long. What kind of team will this one be?