It wasn't some wildling that provided the title for this post, though, but some Pirates. When you look at Adam Wainwright's history against them, you can see that this team hasn't been what you'd expect for one of the aces of the staff.
Those are just the last five before last night. There are others that are rough as well, like six runs in four innings on 9/13/08 or 6/2/08, when he was cruising along until he gave up a game-tying grand slam to Jason Michaels. For whatever reason, whether it's the eye patch or all the strange talk, the Pirates so often make Waino walk the plank.
Last night turned out to be more of the same. After Wainwright--who, if you can't tell, gets the Goat last night even though the relievers didn't look much better--allowed two in the first, he seemed to settle down and the Cards put some runs on the board for him. The Hero tag has to go to Allen Craig, who cranked a three-run shot to put St. Louis ahead 5-2. Things looked like they were going to go well for the home team.
By the way, congrats to Carlos Beltran for getting his 2,000th career hit. That was a pretty strong ovation he received and that and Craig's homer were about all the home fans had to cheer for!
Instead, the Pirates were just getting started as Waino gave the lead back after a scoreless fourth, then put the Pirates ahead when he allowed back-to-back home runs. (BTW, explain Pedro Alvarez, will ya? 9-26--.346--against St. Louis with six runs, two home runs, and 11 RBI. Against the rest of the league? 43-2-6--.208--with 27 runs, ten home runs and 29 RBI. What makes him a world beater against the boys in red?)
Of course, though we have tagged Waino with the Goat because he coughed up a lead he should have kept, the relievers came into a fiery situation and got out their gas cans. Eduardo Sanchez gave up a two-run homer after he came into the game in the sixth. Sam Freeman came in with the bases loaded in the eighth and allowed a hit and a walk. He did get out without more damage, which is faint praise, I know, but it's something.
Then Marc Rzepczynski--what can the team do there? Scrabble was so effective last season, but this year, those good outings are few and far between. Andrew McCutchen is very good, there's no doubt, but it'd been nice if Rzep could have kept those in front of him from reaching.
So all in all, the Pirates score 14 runs and the Cards have to turn around and play again today when the temps are over 100. Yeah, this is a great weekend for them.
After the bullpen usage of last night (and, probably, the results from these guys recently), St. Louis sent Sanchez and Freeman back to Memphis and recalled Maikel Cleto and Barret Browning, who will be making his major league debut whenever he gets onto the field. He's been strong at Memphis but I've not heard much about him. We'll see if he's able to carry those AAA outings into the bigs. That's been an issue this year.
I'm late getting this up, so it's almost game time. Still, you want to be prepared, right? I know I don't often do this for weekend games, so count it as a bonus. Lance Lynn goes for the Cards and has struggled in his last two outings. If he has another rough one this time out, it could influence John Mozeliak's thinking on starter vs. reliever at the trade deadline.
At least Lynn has had some success in the past against them. Then again, Pittsburgh is apparently warming up with the weather, overall season standings in offensive categories notwithstanding, and he's going to have to figure out how to manage the heat and focus his stuff today.
Jeff Karstens takes the mound for Pittsburgh. His career numbers aren't quite as stellar.
I was surprised Skip Schumaker didn't play last night, but I expect he's starting today. (Wait, I realize now I've seen the lineup....yep, he's leading off.) With Skip and Jon Jay 1-2 and Matt Holliday on a tear, hopefully the Cards can take an early lead and Lynn can hold it. Going to be another hot one--glad I can watch it from the air conditioning!
Before we get into looking at today's game and other issues around the Cards, I guess we should really take a gander at Wednesday's loss to the Marlins, huh? Have to be complete and all that, but it was a bit of a tough loss to swallow, only made palatable by the fact that the Cards had won five games before it.
I'm giving the Hero tag to Tony Cruz, mainly for his tie-breaking home run in the seventh that looked, for a very short time, to be a decisive one. Cruz also had a single in the game, making it a little more palatable that Yadier Molina was taking the night off. Having Cruz be a viable candidate back there is big, because as much as we love Molina and as awesome as his year has been so far (seriously, Molina has to be in the MVP discussion if he keeps this up, doesn't he?), you gotta have him rest sometimes and the team's going to be more willing to rest him if Cruz can take up the slack.
Lots of credit has to be given to Joe Kelly as well. He looked very sharp, at least at times, and was able to get through six innings with just two runs allowed. Again, I don't think that he's the definitive solution for our rotation issues, but he's filling in just fine and getting some great big league experience which will suit him in the future, either with the Cards or, perhaps, as a trade piece. Whatever the case, so far he's kept the team in the game every time out, and that's about as much as you can ask from him.
David Freese and Matt Carpenter both got two hits, though Freese was thrown out at home when Jose Oquendo got a bit too aggressive and sent him after Carpenter's first hit. Freese was out by a significant amount. I know I'd be too conservative as a third base coach and you should try to make the outfielders make a play, but when they are about to throw and your runner is just getting to third, especially one with ankle issues, maybe holding him up is the best option. Again, though, I don't think Oquendo gets burned on that any more than any other third base coach, he's just the one we see the most.
It's basically a coin flip to see who gets the Goat of the game, because none of the relievers that came in to relieve Kelly really did their job. Fernando Salas got an out and gave up a home run. Victor Marte pitched an inning and a third, but gave up a run as well.
Sadly (because I'm rooting for him), though, I think you give the Goat to Sam Freeman. Freeman's line looks almost identical to Salas's, but the home run he gave up gave the Marlins the lead that they never relinquished.
This weekend, we flip the calendars and stare July right in the face, which means that it's time to really start thinking about trades and moves that the team should do to make a push at the postseason. The Cards right now are just 1.5 games out of first and, though they sit in third, would take over second with a series win against Pittsburgh this weekend. (Yes, Pittsburgh is in second. They were strong last year as well, remember, until fading in August. Not saying that they are going to do that again this year--my preseason pick of having them finish ahead of Milwaukee looks pretty good right now--but more like it may be about time for us to stop with the wonderment of the Pirates playing good baseball.) So what do they do?
A lot of focus is on the pitching staff, which makes sense. The Cards are deep enough that they don't need a bench bat and the only position on the field that you could upgrade would be second base, and the team already has three guys that can play that. Unless a top second baseman just lands in their laps, I don't think they'll go that direction.
So, do you take a starting pitcher, assuming that Chris Carpenter and Jaime Garcia aren't going to be much use to you this season, or do you focus on the bullpen? Or do you take a starter so you can move someone like Lance Lynn to the bullpen, helping out one by doing the other?
Trading for relievers isn't necessarily the most exciting of moves, but it's likely what John Mozeliak will be looking at. While there are a lot of intriguing arms in the pen, arms that have produced before, but they aren't reliable so far this season. I expect that he'll look to bring in some middle relievers, guys that won't necessarily cost a lot in talent but will be a shot in the arm.
If, however, he decides to go with a starting pitcher--and, if Lynn continues his recent skid, he might--there are a couple of names that I was thinking about. I've checked in with a blogger for each of these guys and used what they've told me as a basis for this comparison. This is getting long, so let's take the rest of this entry after the jump.
In an alternate universe, the post in this space is lamenting numerous scoring opportunities and crediting Carlos Zambrano for bending but not breaking last night. Instead, we're talking about a five-game winning streak for the Cardinals, a game that never really got to edge-of-your-seat territory.
With one out and one on, Matt Holliday hit the ball right back to Zambrano for a tailor-made inning-ending double play. Problem is, Zambrano's not much of a tailor. He threw the ball between Jose Reyes and Omar Infante, putting runners on the corners and giving the Cards some life in the inning. They took advantage with a couple of runs before Yadier Molina continued his amazing season with a three-run homer, giving the Cards a five run cushion.
That was more than enough for Hero Kyle Lohse. Lohse will be a free agent at the end of the season and it'll be interesting to see if he considers Miami as a destination, because he seems to really like the new park. 2-0 in the place now and both times he's gone into the eighth comfortably. If it hadn't been for Giancarlo Stanton, he'd have been even more dominant. Stanton hit a home run in the first and doubled and scored in the fourth, accounting for both of the Marlins' runs.
You have to give some credit to Rafael Furcal as well. Furcal only had his leadoff single (which he scored on) and a walk offensively, but he turned in a dazzling double play that kept the game at 5-2 and didn't allow the Marlins to put together a serious threat. As Reyes proved on Allen Craig's ball in the first, it's not necessarily easy to corral shots like that.
Other contributors included Jon Jay, who chipped in two hits, and Carlos Beltran, who drove in the game's first run. The Goat has to be Daniel Descalso, who had no hits but one walk. (Holliday had no hits but two walks plus a run, so he edges out Dirty Dan to stay out of the Goat realm.)
Chris Carpenter said his shoulder felt better yesterday and getting back to throwing this weekend would be a possibility if it continued to improve. I'm not sure any of us are holding our breath on that one. We are just about a month away from the trading deadline and you wonder if having John Mozeliak pull the trigger on a deal sooner rather than later might be a good thing. The Cards face the Reds right out of the gate after the All-Star Game and having a new arm there could be advantageous. I don't expect he will but it's at least a consideration.
Cards look for the sweep tonight. With an off-day tomorrow you'd think we'd see the regular lineup out there backing Joe Kelly. Kelly is an unknown quantity for the Marlins on the mound, though they've already seen his bat work and foot speed, of course.
Marlins counter with Anibal Sanchez. Sanchez is having a solid season, but much like Zambrano has struggled recently. Twice this month he's given up six or more runs in an outing and has an 8.06 ERA for June. For the most part, the Cards have done pretty well against him.
Obviously not the biggest of samples but Holliday and Beltran both have some pretty good numbers in the past against Sanchez. Molina does have a home run against him, but I can't imagine the odds of Yadi going yard for four straight games. I'd love to see it, though!
There's been a lot said about Ballpark Village in the last decade and a half, roughly. If you are new to the discussion, a short recap can be found here at Wikipedia. For whatever reason, and the reasons differ depending on who you talk to and how much credit they want to give this ownership group, there is still no Village next to the new Busch Stadium.
Recent events seem to indicate some forward momentum for the project, though, and today the next step was made. Anheuser-Busch, who of course has a long history with the organization, has agreed to be one of the main anchors for the project. It'll be interesting to see if this helps push it out of the inertia that has been surrounding the Village and into an actual construction project. We can hope!
ANHEUSER-BUSCH JOINS FIRST PHASE OF BALLPARK VILLAGE
Development to showcase brewer's history in St. Louis and its global reach
ST. LOUIS (June 26, 2012) - The St. Louis Cardinals and the Cordish Companies announced today that they have reached a licensing and sponsorship agreement with Anheuser-Busch to participate in the $100 million first phase of Ballpark Village. The new venue will join Cardinals Nation and the St. Louis Live! Entertainment Plaza as one of the first three anchors of Ballpark Village phase 1, providing the world's largest brewer the opportunity to showcase its local history as well as the global reach of its brands.
"Our investment in Ballpark Village is the next chapter in a long and storied history between Anheuser-Busch, the Cardinals, and the city of St. Louis," said Luiz Edmond, North American President, Anheuser-Busch InBev. "Not only will Ballpark Village enhance the way St. Louisans enjoy their city, but it will be the first impression many visitors get of downtown. We're proud to help bring this vision to life."
The venue will include a restaurant that will feature authentic German-inspired cuisine, more than 100 national and international beers on tap and live music on a nightly basis, a lush outdoor beer garden and a stunning rooftop deck with prime views into Busch Stadium.
"We are excited to have Anheuser-Busch join the Cardinals and the Cordish Companies as an anchor partner in the first phase of Ballpark Village," said Bill DeWitt III, President of the Cardinals. "Anheuser-Busch has always been a great partner of the Cardinals and their commitment to this project will strengthen an already-great corporate relationship.
The first phase of Ballpark Village will also be anchored by a first-of-its-kind Cardinals venue to be called "Cardinals Nation," an area totaling more than 30,000 square feet and spanning three levels to include a two-story restaurant, a Cardinals Hall of Fame and Museum, and a 300-plus seat rooftop deck with spectacular views of the game across Clark Street.
· The Cardinals Nation restaurant will feature a high-energy, memorabilia-infused space designed by the internationally acclaimed Jeffrey Beers International. Featuring three separate patios, two large bars and unparalleled sports viewing with large flat screen TVs and other multimedia features, Cardinals Nation will set a new standard for sports-inspired restaurants. Open year-round, Cardinals Nation will allow fans to stay connected to the team well beyond the regular season.
· Cardinals Nation will also feature the long-awaited new Cardinals Museum, which will showcase one of the largest collections of artifacts in all of Major League Baseball, The Museum will occupying approximately 8,000 square feet within Cardinals Nation.
· In addition to the museum, the Cardinals will debut a first ever Cardinals Hall of Fame, providing a permanent home for the official plaques recognizing the greatest Cardinals in the history of the franchise.
· The Cardinals Nation rooftop seating deck will feature ticketed seats looking into Busch Stadium and will include amenities such as all-inclusive food and beverage, Busch Stadium audio/visual feeds and access to other areas within Ballpark Village.
At the heart of Ballpark Village will be a central gathering place and plaza known as the St. Louis Live! Entertainment Plaza. St. Louis Live! will feature a world class audio-video presentation including a 40-foot diagonal LED screen above a stage, providing St. Louis sports fans with on one of the best sports viewing experiences in the country.
With several Live! locations across the country from Los Angeles to Philadelphia, these Cordish-developed districts host more than 150 events per year on average and attract between 4.5 and 9 million visitors annually to the cities in which they operate.
"Anheuser-Busch and the Cardinals are not only two of the most recognizable brands in the world, they are also both St. Louis institutions," said David S. Cordish, Chairman of the Cordish Companies. "Their involvement makes Ballpark Village one of the most exciting projects in the country, while also ensuring that it is built on a successful foundation that is uniquely St. Louis."
The construction of the approximately $100 million first phase of Ballpark Village is expected to get under way later this year following a public approval process and will include the development of more than 100,000 square feet of retail and entertainment space on two plus blocks along Clark Street just north of Busch Stadium.
The first phase will also include improvements to the streets, sidewalks, utilities and infrastructure on the entire ten-acre site to support the future phases of the project and will create more than 1,000 construction jobs and more than 500 permanent jobs.
The construction of Ballpark Village represents the culmination the Cardinals vision for their investment in downtown St. Louis that began with the opening of the new, privately financed $411 Busch Stadium in 2006. Ballpark Village is an approximately $550 million mixed-use retail, entertainment, office and residential district being developed in partnership by the St. Louis Cardinals and the Cordish Companies. Spanning seven city blocks on the 10-acre site just north of Busch Stadium, Ballpark Village will be the country's first fully integrated mixed-use development designed to deliver the excitement and energy of the game day experience to a new neighborhood outside the stadium walls.
Based in St. Louis, Anheuser-Busch is the leading American brewer, holding a 47.7 percent share of U.S. beer sales to retailers. The company brews Budweiser and Bud Light, two of the world's largest-selling beers. Anheuser-Busch also owns a 50 percent share in Grupo Modelo, Mexico's leading brewer. Anheuser-Busch is a major manufacturer of aluminum cans and has been a leading aluminum recycler for more than 30 years. The company is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Anheuser-Busch InBev, the leading global brewer, and continues to operate under the Anheuser-Busch name and logo. For more information, visit www.anheuser-busch.com.
The Cordish Companies
For generations, the Cordish family has grown The Cordish Companies into one of the world's leading real estate development companies and a diverse group of successful entertainment-operating businesses. Cordish Companies' entertainment and mixed use projects include the Kansas City Power & Light District, Louisville Fourth Street Live, and The Power Plant & Pier IV in Baltimore.
By their own admission, beat writers aren't necessarily fans of the team. There has to be some emotional distance between them and the ones that they cover. So while the pure fan can fully enjoy games like last night's dramatic comeback, the poor writer is scrambling, tossing out almost fully-written stories to make room for the new narrative. (Thankfully we have professionals such as Derrick Goold, so everything is so smooth you can't tell they had to start over on deadline. Jenifer Langosch goes in there as well, but she wasn't covering last night's game for MLB.com.) I know I had already started mentally preparing for this post and had to backtrack, and I didn't have to churn out something people would read in a short amount of time. So hats off to those that do it.
As for the game, it had just about everything. For eight innings, it looked like the offensive resurgence that we saw in Kansas City had more to do with the pitching of the Royals than the bats of the Cardinals. Ricky Nolasco is obviously a very good pitcher when he is on and the results seemed to indicate he was on last night. No earned runs in 6.2 innings as he kept the Cardinals at bay.
Jake Westbrook just about matched him. Westbrook gave up just two runs in six innings, numbers that should have been good enough for a win on most nights. Westbrook didn't strike anyone out, which is a bit of a problem, and gave up six hits, but all in all that was a winnable start for him.
The problem came, for both teams, in the bullpen. You have to give last night's Goat to Eduardo Sanchez, because when he has control problems, he doesn't mess around. There's the argument given that, if you are going to make a pitching change anyway, you let the new guy come in and throw the intentional walk because that gives him a couple more pitches to get ready. Mike Matheny did that last night, but that may have backfired because then Sanchez walked two more guys and, since the bases were loaded due to a double and a walk from Fernando Salas, that turned out to be a problem. Marc Rzepczynski came in and allowed a couple more runs to score on a groundout and a single and it looked like a game that was winnable was now firmly out of reach.
While the Hero of the piece has to be Yadier Molina for his two-out, two-run home run that tied the game up, there was a lot of that 2011 "no giving up" mentality out there in the ninth last night. A walk to Rafael Furcal, a double by the hot-hitting Matt Holliday, a single by Carlos Beltran and a sac fly by Allen Craig. It was a wild and fun inning and that was only the half of it, given the confusion in the bottom half of the ninth.
It seems to be almost fitting, since Craig had to be removed due to incompetence, either by Mike Matheny, Ozzie Guillen or (most likely, given his reputation) Bob Davidson, that when the bases were loaded in extras and Craig's slot was due up that it produced the insurance (and eventual game-winning) run. Joe Kelly shouldn't have been in that situation and, honestly, after the first two swings I didn't expect him to do anything. Neither did the Marlins, apparently, because he was able to beat out an infield single and put another run on the board. Major kudos go out to Kelly as well.
I'm not sure Matheny would put this one up on the wall of his greatest managerial days. I'm assuming it was Jon Jay's idea to try to bunt his way on in the first inning, so we'll not blame him for that. However, I'm not sure I understand the logic of pinch-hitting Shane Robinson for Jon Jay late in the game. I know it was a lefty-lefty thing but Jay's hit .250 against them (in limited time) this year. In a little bit more time, Robinson's hit .224 against the portsiders. Given no significant upgrade on defense there, I'm not sure I'd have gone that route. Between that and the double switch snafu, the Cards ran out of players and that's why we saw Kelly in the 10th. All in all, it worked out for Matheny, but like Lou Brown says in Major League: "Great catch, Hayes. Don't ever do it again."
What I've not figured out about the double switch is why, if the Marlins and the umpires agreed that Craig had to be removed, why David Freese left as well. Why couldn't he return because he'd not been correctly removed from the game? Was it because he'd left the field of play? If so, how could the umpire not know that the pitcher was supposed to go there? It seems like the Cards got the negative side of both moves with the positive side of only one. As an accountant, having something out of balance like that bugs me.
What also bugs me is the story that came out yesterday that Chris Carpenterhad a setback in his throwing. While the Cards are downplaying it a bit, this really feels like spring training all over again. Carp seems to be able to get to a point and then not get past it, having to start over again. Perhaps this isn't as bad, but it seems to be the likelihood of a return before August has been significantly downgraded and the chance of missing him all year long has gone up as well. If John Mozeliak wasn't already shopping for starting pitching, he is now.
Nice to see a good winning streak going. I'm not sure how long it's been since the Cards strung together four in a row, but it's been a while. They try to keep it going tonight with Kyle Lohse taking the hill. Lohse was able to keep the bats quiet when he pitched in the season opener down here and overall he's done pretty well against these guys:
Nobody really stands out, though Giancarlo Stanton does have a homer against him and might have had another one or two back in April if things had gone just a little differently. Lohse will need to be careful with him.
The Marlins put old friend Carlos Zambrano on the hill. Zambrano is one of those guys that you just never know which guy is going to show up.
Like Lohse against the Marlins, not much going on here either. It is interesting to see that Molina has struggled so much against him. Maybe he can change that around this evening. Here's to keeping the streak alive!
To paraphrase Mr. Twain, reports of the Cardinals' offensive demise have been greatly exaggerated.
The activation of Jon Jay and Matt Carpenter (or the pitching staff of the Royals) seemed to give this team a spark this weekend. After scoring only seven runs in the entire Detroit series, they had topped that by the second inning Friday night en route to a series sweep when they scored a total of 30 runs. Life was good this weekend, so let's take a look.
Hero: You can kinda take your pick when the offense piles up 17 hits, but I'll go with Carlos Beltran, who "only" had two hits, but drove in four when both of those were two-run doubles.
Goat: This kinda game doesn't lend itself to much of a Goat, so I'll go with Fernando Salas, just because he allowed a run in his only inning. It didn't make a difference in the final score, but everyone else was just so good.
Notes: Joe Kelly got his first major league win basically by not messing anything up. When you are given a 10-1 lead, it's tough to be too bad out there. No home runs in this game, which is pretty noteworthy given that many runs. David Freese and Matt Holliday both had three hits as well.
Hero: Matt Holliday. Four hits, including a double, and two RBI. Holliday had a wonderful weekend and has pushed his season numbers up to a level we expect out of him.
Goat: Tony Cruz. Again, a solid effort by almost everyone makes this tough, but Cruz did go 0-4, even though he scored a run.
Notes: If there was any doubt that Adam Wainwright was back, I think we can eliminate it. This was his third straight game of seven innings and two or fewer runs. It's a wonderful thing to see. Allen Craig went deep, the first home run since the Sunday before for the team. The team's 1-6 hitters all had at least two base knocks.
Hero: You wouldn't think I'd be singling out a middle reliever in a game that the Cards put up 11 runs, but Marc Rzepczynski made sure that there was a win to write about. He came in with the tying run at second base and nobody out and got two quick outs. He'd have gotten out of the inning had Mike Moustakas not hit against an exaggerated shift, as he grounded right to where the shortstop should have been. Great work out of a guy that's been sporadic at times this year.
Goat: Lance Lynn. Staked to 3-0 and 5-2 leads, Lynn couldn't hold them for long. That's two starts in a row that have been problematic for Lynn, seeing his ERA rise almost a full run, and that's not escaped the Cards' attention.
Notes: Craig had another couple of hits, which put his struggles in Detroit further behind him. Beltran only had one hit, but it was a big three-run homer that got the Cards going in the first. Yadier Molina also put one out of the park as well. Along with Scrabble, Eduardo Sanchez got a big out to keep the game in the Cards' favor.
It's probably significant that Daniel Descalso started yesterday versus a left-hander instead of Tyler Greene. In fact, Descalso was left in there against lefty Tim Collins late instead of being pinch-hit for, and he came through with an RBI single. It looks like Nick's hat-eating might be put on pause and Tyler Greene might have run himself out of chances in the organization. Then again, it could be that he'll be back in there if Descalso struggles over the next week or so. I would still think second base is a position John Mozeliak is at least keeping in mind as he works on his trade possibilities.
Chris Perez has come out and said the Cards use stuff to get a grip on the ball. Well, Perez just said that they used substances, while Chris Carpenter and Wainwright explained that it's more rosin and sunscreen to keep a grip on the ball. On the one hand (no pun intended), that makes sense because the last thing you want if you are a batter is the ball leaving Carpenter or Wainwright's hand too early and flying straight at your head. On the other, I'd like to know if this is a fairly unwritten but widespread thing or more localized on the Cardinals. It doesn't sound like cheating, not like pine tar and scuffing the ball is, but I'd feel better about it if it wasn't just a team-specific issue. We'll see if more comes out about this in the coming days, though with Waino and Carp talking so openly about it, it can't be that big of a deal.
Speaking of Carpenter, he faced live hitters Friday and that went very well, so much so that he'll do it again today. If that goes well (and no reason to think it won't), he could be in line to start his minor league rehab starts. The timetable seems to have him back in St. Louis shortly after the All-Star Break. If so, that helps out immensely, as the Cards will have a fresh Carpenter for the home stretch.
Cards just two games out after all their struggles in May and June. If this offensive resurgence sticks and if the pitching continues to go well, the continued health of this club should give them an edge as they push into July and August. Keeping it close is the goal right now and it could be the Reds have had their chance to put this team away and weren't able to close the door.
Remember that one game series in Miami that started this season so many weeks ago? The Cards get a chance to visit the new Marlins park again starting tonight for a regular type of visit. Jake Westbrook is on the mound for the Cards. The numbers:
Some pretty decent historical numbers for Westbrook. Nobody's just tattooed him, though Hanley Ramirez has gone yard off of him. Ramirez isn't having his best season, but he's still showing his power so that's something to be careful of.
We'll quickly find out if this weekend's offensive explosion was due more from the health of the Cardinal players or the weakness of the Royals' staff. First up from the Marlins' stable of arms is Ricky Nolasco. His history against the Redbirds:
The Cards have actually done a lot of damage against him, especially Holliday and Beltran. Perhaps the bats can keep their heat going this evening after all. A strong showing tonight would be a welcome continuation of a trend, as the Cards haven't lost on Monday since the middle of May. (Granted, they had a couple of Mondays off in that stretch, but it still counts.) Look forward to seeing this offense continue!
"I thank you for your patience. We regret to inform you because of a tragedy in the Cardinal family, that the commissioner has canceled the game today. Please be respectful. You will find out eventually what happened, and I ask that you say a prayer for the St. Louis Cardinals' family."--Joe Girardi, June 22, 2002.
There are moments that you just never forget. So many times, they are times of tragedy. Where you were when you heard about September 11 or, for an older generation, when you heard John F. Kennedy had been shot. For me, June 22, 2002 was one of those days. A day no one could see coming. A day no one that lived through will forget.
As this was before Fox Sports Midwest carried each game straight to my living room, I was always ready for the Saturday Game of the Week because, very often, the Cardinals were playing in that game. That was the case that Saturday. I believe I was cleaning the house and got to the game late. When I turned it on, the Boston Red Sox were on my screen playing the Los Angeles Dodgers. I rechecked the time and was puzzling over why the game wasn't on. I believe they had at the bottom of the screen that the Cards/Cubs game was in "a delay", but I went into my computer room to see if I could get online and find out what the delay was.
Before I could find it, I heard Joe Girardi's announcement and I popped my head back around the corner to hear what he had to say. When he talked about a "tragedy in the Cardinal family," I couldn't process it. After all, Jack Buck's death had been earlier in the week and the funeral had been the day before. Was this some sort of post-traumatic disorder and the Cards weren't going to be able to play due to that grief? That seemed strange.
The thought hadn't finished running through my head when Joe Buck appeared on the screen. Joe Buck, who had just days earlier had to break the news of his father's passing to Cardinal Nation, now had to inform the entire country that Darryl Kile, the Cardinal ace, had been found dead in his hotel room.
My jaw dropped. How could that be possible? I spent the rest of the day online talking with other fans, finding out everything that was known about Kile's passing. I read about how Dave Veres' wife was the one that first found out. How the clubhouse had started to worry about him not showing. How he'd never been on the disabled list in his career and was in the prime of his life. How, so painfully ironically, his last start had been the last game Jack heard. Kile didn't get to finish that game, but at least he got one last ovation from the crowd.
I read about his family. Cardinal Nation embraced Flynn Kile like she was part of our family, because she was. I read about his kids, especially Kannon, who we got to know later on during the year as a bat boy and--well, team mascot sounds so impersonal, so condescending. Kannon lost his father, but for those few weeks he gained 24 more.
How does this happen? I'm not sure Matt Morris ever recovered from the loss. He had some more successful seasons but never reached the heights of 2001 and 2002. The team completely sleptwalked through the next night's game, an ESPN Sunday Night Baseball matchup against the Cubs, and no one blamed them. You don't just move on from something so devastating as that.
The Cardinals did, however, eventually move on. They won 57 games the rest of the way, matching Kile's number. They battled to the NLCS before falling to the Giants. If they could have won, they'd have faced the Anaheim Angels in the World Series. The same Angels team that was in town when Jack Buck passed--the same night DK won his last game. Fitting that if the Cards couldn't take the Series that year, the Angels could and did.
It's hard to believe that now I'm older than Kile was when he passed. He seemed so much older, so much wiser than 33. His life made an impact on so many around him, an impact that is obvious when you hear those players continue to talk about him today. It's not everyone that is remembered as warmly and as fondly as DK is. Does a sudden death soften memories? Sure, to some degree. Still, no one has come forward in the ten years to cast any aspersions on the general view of Kile, which says something to me.
The number 57 hasn't been retired officially, not put up on the wall with the all-time greats of the organization. Which is proper--while DK was memorable, he was only in St. Louis for two and a half years. You wouldn't put him up there with people like Ozzie or Dizzy or Stan. Still, honor is paid to him in the bullpen, where his number still resides. I snapped this two weeks ago when I was at the park and remembered what we'd lost.
Ten years. People can come of age in that time. Both of my kids were born in that decade, which makes thinking about the Kile children losing their father so suddenly and so far away even that much more heartbreaking. We've not forgotten so far. Hopefully we never will.
Another day, another frustrating interleague experience.
The Cards have played 12 games now against the American League. In that span, they are 5-7, which is fairly fitting considering that this team has sat around .500 for quite some time. It's not that they've been getting blown out--a number of these games could have easily gone the other way--it's that there's really no offense going on.
Thirty-four runs in those dozen games, which is bad enough as it is (2.83 runs per game), but 10 of those came last Saturday against the Royals. Toss that out and you are looking at 24 over 11, which is 2.18 runs per game. It's a testament to the starting pitching that they've been doing as well as they have. They could have easily gone 2-10 during this span and have fallen completely out of the NL Central race.
Befitting the paragraph above, Thursday's Hero has to be Kyle Lohse. Lohse made one mistake--a hanging pitch that Prince Fielder put into the next county--but otherwise threw a masterful game. Four hits, one run, four strikeouts over seven innings? That should be a winning line score with this theoretical offense. Instead, it's a tough no-decision.
Rafael Furcal got two hits, but it was a missed sign that was his biggest "contribution". Daniel Descalso took off on a hit-and-run but Furcal, who was still showing bunt, never moved the bat. Descalso was out by a country mile and, when the rest of the inning unfolded into one that the Cards pushed across a run, that turned out to be a huge mistake.
Still, the Goat has to go to Victor Marte. It wasn't his fault that he was in that situation and, indeed, he's usually been able to handle it. But after getting one out in the 10th, he gave up two hits and hit a batter to load the bases, then allowed the game-winning single on the first pitch to Quintin Berry. Even the two outs he got in the ninth to keep the game tied were big blasts that might have left other ballparks, at least according to the KMOX broadcast team that I was listening to at the time.
Furcal had two hits and the bottom of the lineup had three, but the middle of the order was completely punchless. Carlos Beltran walked twice, but his small hitting streak came to an end. Matt Holliday drove in the only run on a sacrifice fly. That was it for three through six. On those kinda days, well, odds are you aren't winning unless you have a guy hitting eighth who just goes off.
Right now, nobody's going off. We tend to have these discussions about the home-run centricity of the offense and Bernie Miklasz talks about that today as well as the yucky running stats. Nothing is clicking at all at the moment, which is causing some terrible days and nights at the yard. Can things get better? Surely. However, it's almost like last year, needing that big shakeup to get people focused. What John Mozeliak can do this year for an encore, though, is pretty hard to see.
It's a tough time right now, as those parallels to 2010 just keep getting stronger. At least in '10 the Cards stayed close enough to take the lead back in August for a little while. If they can stay that close again, I like their chances. I'm just not sure how easily they can stay that close.
Second half of the home-and-home series with the Royals opens tomorrow night with Joe Kelly going against Vin Mazzaro. Kelly took on these guys in his last start, so this will be the first team that will be seeing him for the second time. Cards get another whack at Mazzaro, who has the following lines after seeing the Redbirds last weekend as well:
Holliday looks like he should be ready to go and it'll be interesting to see if Tyler Greene gets a start based on these small numbers. Also, while nothing's been officially determined, I'm expecting Matt Carpenter and Jon Jay to be activated sometime this weekend; Carpenter might be available for tomorrow's game.
Hopefully St. Louis can go across the state and put together some wins to finish up interleague play. We can hope, at least!
Tomorrow is the 10th anniversary of the passing of Darryl Kile. I'll have a memorial post up sometime during the day, so please check back for that as well. If you missed it earlier, below is a post about Josh Hancock that I think is worth reading as well. Have a great weekend!
With all of the remembrances of Darryl Kile and Jack Buck, it made me want to check up on another Cardinal that left us too soon. What I found was that this was the fifth anniversary of the passing of Josh Hancock.
This year is, I mean. Hancock's tragedy happened in April, April 29 to be exact. Somehow the notation of that day slipped past us in the excitement of a strong opening month and a World Series defense being started. It's always been that way, though, I think. For one reason or another, Hancock doesn't quite strike the same cord as Kile does, even though they were both active players at the time of their early deaths.
For those that don't remember, Hancock was a part of that bullpen that came out of nowhere in 2006 to be the surprising backbone of a World Series winner. He joined the Cards at the beginning of that season and, while he didn't pitch in the Series, did contribute down the stretch and in October. He returned in 2007 and pitched effectively until his death, throwing three innings in the game before his passing.
There are reasons that Hancock's passing and his number 32 don't reverberate like Kile's passing does. For one, you have the difference between the ace of the staff and a middle reliever. Starters stick with you more, you see them more often. They get the big bucks, the middle relievers get the rest. Relievers come and go, often in the same season, especially if they aren't the closer. We just don't get as attached.
There was the fact that Kile's death is so inextricably linked with the passing of Buck. Two deaths that close together are inevitably going to be remembered, especially when one of them is possibly the highest star in the nation's firmament, at least outside of Stan Musial. If Jack Buck had passed away a year or so before Kile, I'm sure that Kile's death would still reverberate, but perhaps not as strongly as it did coming on the heels of Buck's passing.
I think one of the big reasons, though, is the difference in the situations. We saw the Kile family, we felt their pain, we couldn't understand DK falling asleep and not waking up. (I'll talk more about Kile and what that meant tomorrow.) Hancock, though, was a single man, no kids to see, no grieving wife. Added to that was the fact that Hancock's death was avoidable.
The ugly facts are that it was a perfect storm of problems that night. Hancock was legally drunk, he was on his cell phone, he didn't have his seatbelt on, and he was speeding. On some level, while you never want to see such a result, there's a mitigation of sympathy when you have all of those factors. Perhaps that's the biggest reason that Hancock's death has been less remembered.
He's not been completely forgotten, of course. There's still a marker similar to the famous Kile circle in the bullpen, bearing his initials and number. No one has yet worn 32 since he passed and I'm not sure anyone will, making that and 57 effectively retired.
But there are very few that were on the team that April morning that are still there today. Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Yadier Molina, Skip Schumaker. Is that it? Are they the only ones that remember getting that call or having to put that patch on their shoulder? Institutional memory can be long, but the emotions, they can't be passed down.
So as we spend some time thinking about that awful week in June of 2002, let's not forget the third point of loss as well. Hancock's death may have been avoidable, may have been due to his own choices, but that doesn't make it any less tragic.
When your team needs a shot in the arm, a big stand from the mound, it's obvious that you are going to call......Jake Westbrook?
Believe it or not, Westbrook was the one that stood tall last night, throwing a complete game and allowing just one run. A simple look at the box score proves that Westbrook was on his game last night, as he got 15 ground balls, which is key for him. His sinker will eventually sink, but you like to see it on the way to the plate instead of after it's cleared the wall. When Westbrook has command and is getting the ground balls, he can be a very dominant pitcher. Problem is, you never know from start to start whether he'll have the feel for his favorite pitch.
It's interesting to see that Westbrook has better numbers with another day of rest. The old theory on sinkerballers was that you threw them on shorter rest because a tired arm got more sink on the ball. There doesn't seem to be any way to maximize this, though. The team's not going to go to a six-man rotation, not even when Chris Carpenter returns (well, I guess it'd be theoretically possible if Jaime Garcia has returned by then as well, but I don't think any of us are counting on that) and this seems to rule out any of that talk about Westbrook going to the bullpen, as he'd pitch on shorter rest there than he would in the rotation.
Westbrook had to be that good last night because, again, the offense couldn't really help him out. For all the troubles that Rick Porcello has had this year, he was able to keep things in check, even when he put all sorts of base runners on. Every Cardinal had at least one hit last night, but they were spaced enough that they couldn't maximize the damage. Getting three runs out of 12 hits and 2 walks isn't exactly efficient. In fact, by my old formula, it'd go down as a frustration game save the Cards won.
Good night for Carlos Beltran, who went 2-2 with two walks and scored the insurance run in the eighth. Other than that, all the offensive numbers look pretty similar. I'll give the Goat to Skip Schumaker just because he got five at-bats with one hit, more than anyone else. He also left three on base, which factors in.
Probably the best news outside of last night's win was that Carpenter is progressing well in his recovery. Carp threw with full effort yesterday and had no complaints or complications, meaning that he gets to throw batting practice to the guys this weekend in Kansas City. Knowing Carp's competitive nature, it could be the first batting practice on record where no one gets a hit. If nothing else, it could make that day's opponent look that much easier by comparison!
A day game to wrap up this latest trip to Detroit. (As often as the Cards have played the Tigers in the last few years, you'd think Detroit was part of the NL Central.) Kyle Lohse takes the hill, trying to keep his strong June going.
Lohse has some experience against some of these guys, but it's not exactly positive. Miguel Cabrera has dominated him, for instance, so he'll have to be extremely careful facing him, especially with runners on.
Jacob Turner goes for the Tigers. Like fellow rotation mate Max Scherzer, Turner has some St. Louis ties and it will be interesting to see if facing his hometown team will cause any issues for him. He's never faced any of the Cardinals, which doesn't seem to have been as much of a problem back in April has it has been the last few years, but with the offense kinda sputtering, it's a bit of an ominous sign.
Jon Jay had a very good day in Memphis, so I'm thinking his rehab won't be long. Sounds like Matt Adams may go down when Matt Carpenter comes up (conservation of Matts, you know) and I'd guess Adron Chambers gets that news when Jay is ready to play in the bigs. I'd guess there will be some roster turnover as early as this evening or tomorrow morning. Something to keep an eye on!