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The Upper and Lower Range of a Weekend

Posted on May 13, 2013 at 6:45 AM
The Cardinals threw two of the best games we've seen in a long time Friday and Saturday.  Even with that, though, the weekend was just bittersweet instead of wonderfully triumphant after Sunday's outing.  Can't have it all, I guess.

We've already discussed Shelby Miller and his incredible outing on Friday night, but then Saturday Adam Wainwright just about went out and said, "Hey, rook, nice but this is how it's done."  Waino, looking incredibly sharp, waited until the 13th batter of the game to walk someone, meaning the Rockies went 40 batters between baserunners.  It was 10 more batters before they actually got a hit, breaking up the attempt at history with one out in the eighth.

Watching Wainwright work, I really thought he was going to get the no-hitter.  He was dominant and with his focus on each pitch (and with Yadier Molina apparently in the zone when it came to calling pitches) it would not have been a surprise to see him finish it off.  He wasn't able to, but was the Hero all the same.

It was good that Wainwright was on his game, because again the offense didn't give him just a ton to work with.  They were able to put together 13 hits, but twice left the bases loaded and one out when the bottom of the lineup couldn't do any damage.  The Goat of the day had to be Pete Kozma, who was a big part of both of those fizzled rallies, striking out both times with one out and bases loaded.  It's not surprising that Wainwright, who followed him, couldn't come through but even a fly ball by Kozma would have been nice.

Three runs out of the top five of the lineup each having two hits, including Allen Craig having three, just doesn't seem possible.  Yet, amazingly, they were able to do just that.  The offense this weekend got buried in the great pitching performances, but it's still a cause for concern.

As we saw on Sunday.  A team that had spent the weekend keeping an offense down found itself in the same position, as the Cardinals didn't get their first hit until two were out in the seventh.  While they were able to eventually tally two runs and six hits, all was done when the game was out of reach and the day belonged to Colorado.  Jorge De La Rosa shut them down as a lefty is wont to do against this lineup and made sure the Cardinals didn't sweep the series and go into playing the Mets with a lot of momentum.

The reason that those runs didn't matter was due in large part to our Goat of the game, Jaime Garcia.  Garcia was in an untenable position.  How do you follow a one-hit almost perfecto and a deep no-hit bid?  In this case, Garcia did so by allowing a double in the first inning, letting the Rockies tie their total bases for the weekend in one swing, then by being unable to finish off innings.  Garcia had two outs and nobody on in the third before back-to-back singles preceded a Troy Tulowitzki home run.  In the sixth, he allowed a one-out single, got the second out, then gave up Charlie Blackmon's first home run--of the season, not of his career like was announced at the stadium.  (Though it did give another piece of evidence to the "best fans" pile that they cheered him believing it was, something Blackmon commented on.)

Carlos Martinez had his first struggles at the big league level, following Garcia's lead.  He struck out the first two batters of the eighth before allowing a walk and three hits (and three runs) and having to be replaced by Fernando Salas.  We've not seen the young guns struggle much since they've come in, but it's inevitable that it's going to happen.  You don't just walk into the bigs and start dominating, or at least you don't do that forever.  Hitters adjust, unfortunately.  Martinez also had a bit of a layoff (like everyone in the pen) which may have played a factor.

We'll give the Hero award to Matt Carpenter, who drew two walks along with one of the rare hits for the Cardinals.  Can't ask for a lead-off guy to do much more than that, can you?  It was also nice to see David Freese break up the no-hit attempt, since he's been scuffling so much lately.  Plus we saw actual signs of life from Ty Wigginton!  Dennis will be so pleased.

So, amazingly, the Cardinals and Rockies both scored eight runs this weekend, just the Rockies spotted the Cards two games to do it in.  Those pitching performances were masterful by the Cardinals, but obviously you can't have those every day.  Hopefully the offense will start reverting to their regular levels soon.

With all the pitching that was talked about this weekend, it's not surprising that another starter made some news as well.  Jake Westbrook has some inflammation in his elbow, meaning he's got a DL stint and John Gast is coming up from Memphis.  With everyone saying that the inflammation isn't that bad, you wonder if they were just looking for an opportunity to promote Gast, who has been dominant in Memphis, and they ran with the first one available.  Not that inflammation doesn't need rest or anything, but if the Cards were short on pitching, you wonder if they'd kept Westbrook active and tried to juggle his starts or something.  With all this help on the farm, they had the luxury of DLing him quickly.

Oscar Taveras scared pretty much everyone in Cardinal Nation yesterday by leaving a game with an ankle injury spawned when he stole second base.  X-rays proved negative, though, and he'll probably just sit a few days while that sprain heals up.  Taveras had been on a tear in Memphis and hopefully this won't affect his hitting in any way.

Speaking of Memphis, Mitchell Boggs is cruising down there.  If he's actually gotten his head on straight (and it's not just the fact that he's facing lesser competition) he could be back relatively quickly, which might mean Martinez goes down to be a starter again.

The Mets come to town for their only appearance at Busch this season.  The Cardinals will miss Matt Harvey, who pitched yesterday against the Pirates, but will face every other pitcher in the New York rotation, starting with Jeremy Hefner.  Hefner is an unknown quantity for St. Louis, as he's only faced Wigginton before (and Ty is 2-4 against him, which hopefully won't garner him a start, but you never know.)  Hefner is 0-4 with a 4.63 ERA this season and doesn't seem to be an overpowering pitcher, striking out well less than a batter per inning.

Lance Lynn, fresh off losing his perfect record in a tough loss in Chicago, takes the hill for the Cards.  New York hasn't seen him much, but they've not liked what they have seen.

Daniel Murphy 5 5 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .200 .200 .200 .400 0 0 0 0
Lucas Duda 4 3 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .250 .000 .250 0 0 0 0
David Wright 4 3 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 .333 .500 .667 1.167 0 0 0 0
Marlon Byrd 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0
Ike Davis 3 2 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 .500 .667 .500 1.167 0 0 0 0
Mike Baxter 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 .000 0 1 0 0
John Buck 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0
Justin Turner 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0
Total 22 17 3 1 0 0 1 3 2 .176 .286 .235 .521 1 1 0 0
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/13/2013.

Lynn's been able to corral most everyone in the small sample size.  Hopefully the results stay the same as the size gets larger tonight.

Speaking of this evening, if you don't hear me enough on the weekly Gateway To Baseball Heaven, you might have noticed that Episode 33 of Conversations With C70 is now out, talking with JD Norton of Bleed Cardinal Red With Me.  Check that out if you've not yet.  Also tonight, I'll be talking with AC Wayne on his Mets show, Mets Public Record, at around 9 PM this evening.  You'll find it over at Blog Talk Radio, so check it out because I always enjoy being on with AC.

Let's see if the offense can get it going this week against the Mets and the Brewers while the pitching stays as good as it has been.  That'd be a pretty good week, don't you think?

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Milling the Rockies

Posted on May 11, 2013 at 11:01 AM
As outstanding as Shelby Miller was last night, it was almost overdue.  We shouldn't have been terribly surprised.

This is a guy that took a no-hitter into the sixth in his very first major league start.  Who almost every start seems to have a stretch of 10, 12, 15 batters retired in a row.  While you hardly expect a guy to throw a perfect game (which is what he did after that leadoff hit), Miller's dominance in the league has been all that we have hoped for during those years when all we got were dispatches from the farm, dreaming about what we'd see out of him in a Cardinal uniform.

What was even more impressive to me was that he threw 113 pitches in his complete game.  While that number isn't by itself remarkable, when you factor in that he was able to strike out 13 in that number, it really is.  Usually a high strikeout total means a high pitch total, though I guess when you are wasting pitches on extra batters, you can be efficient with your totals.

It's telling about this rotation that, while this is obviously the best game thrown this season by a Cardinals starter, you've got some games that are pretty close competition.

Adam Wainwright: 9 innings, 0 runs, 4 hits, 12 K, 0 BB vs. Milwaukee
Jake Westbrook: 9 innings, 0 runs, 5 hits, 3 K, 4 BB vs. Cincinnati
Jaime Garcia: 8 innings, 1 run, 8 hits, 3 K, 1 BB vs. Milwaukee
Lance Lynn: 7 innings, 0 runs, 1 hit, 8 K, 3 BB vs. Philadelphia

There are only 12 pitchers in major league baseball that have thrown a shutout this season.  Three of them reside in the same rotation, while no other team has more than one to its credit.  While we keep thinking that this staff is going to come back to earth, this ride that we are on watching quality pitchers every time out is a whole lot of fun.

Miller was incredibly dominant, getting eight called strikeouts and ringing up the last two batters he faced, showing that he wasn't slowing down much.  You've seen the stats running around--just the fourth time in history that a pitcher has allowed a leadoff hit and then retired 27 in a row (wonder if that counts the infamous Babe Ruth/Ernie Shore game?) and that it's only the 13th time since 1921 that a pitcher has had 13 K, thrown a shutout, and given up at most one hit.  That's some pretty exclusive company to be in.  It's harder to do those than to actually throw a perfect game!

Miller gave a lot of credit to Yadier Molina, which probably shows how he's matured in the last couple of years, but as great as Yadi is (and he did deserve a lot of the glory for that outing), he doesn't throw the ball.  Yadi was catching those relievers when they were getting lit up and I don't think he suddenly became a bad catcher then.  It was smart of Miller not to question what Yadi was putting down, but he still had to execute, and that he most certainly did.

As we've seen, though, a wonderful pitching performance can be wasted if the offense doesn't put some runs on the board.  Thankfully last night there weren't many runs that were necessary.  Carlos Beltran smoked one out of the park, Jon Jay and Pete Kozma singled in runs, and that was about it.  Jon Garland pitched well enough to win on some nights.  Just not last night.

So obviously Miller is our Hero.  Who's the Goat?  Every batter got a hit and obviously there's no bullpen to pick on.  Jay left the most men on (a function of striking out with the bases loaded, in part) but he did drive in a run and scored a run, so it can't be him.  I was going with David Freese again, since he left four on (three were the same that Jay left) without the benefit of the run or RBI to get him off the hook.  Freese did get a single, though, plus a walk.  Being that he had the worst average on the night, we'll go with Matt Carpenter.  1-5 isn't bad, but given the rest of the lineup, he draws the short straw.

All of this was about the only thing that could have driven yesterday afternoon's news off the top of the sports page.  Chris Carpenter threw a 75-pitch bullpen at full strength and felt good.  (Sounds like Sam Carpenter's loss of feeling in his hands catching his dad might be the Cardinals' gain!)  Carpenter, who now sports a full, slightly disturbing head of hair rather than his normal shorn look, will throw two more bullpens before the end of the homestand next Sunday and then they'll evaluate from there.

Now, everyone is trying (and really, failing) to be cautious about this.  Remember, we got a lot of this last year.  Carpenter would feel good, start throwing, but before he could get into the rehab starts, the numbness and such would return.  It's positive that he is throwing at full strength and not having these problems, because I think it was when he ramped it up last year that the issues returned, but until he's back on a mound in some sort of game situation, probably even beyond the extended spring training that he'll likely go to if things progress well this week, I'm going to be pretty leery.  Hopeful, but leery.

Another injured pitcher talked to the media yesterday.  When I heard both Carpenter and Jason Motte were addressing the media, I thought perhaps Motte was donating his beard to Carpenter to help him adjust to bullpen life.  While Carpenter did have more hair on his head than we expected, Motte still has the trademark beard billowing from his face.

You have to feel for Caitlin Motte, who now likely feels like she has two kids at home.  Motte admits to not being able to sit still, but is at peace with not only the surgery, but the attempts to avoid it.  Motte will be in the cast a couple more weeks and won't start the rehab process until the middle of July.

Cardinals will again take on the team from Colorado here in about 2.5 hours.  It doesn't get any easier for the Rockies as they get to face Adam Wainwright this afternoon.

Todd Helton 16 16 5 2 0 0 1 0 3 .313 .313 .438 .750 0 0 0 0
Dexter Fowler 10 10 1 0 0 1 1 0 4 .100 .100 .400 .500 0 0 0 0
Yorvit Torrealba 10 10 3 0 0 0 0 0 3 .300 .300 .300 .600 0 0 0 0
Troy Tulowitzki 8 8 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .125 .125 .125 .250 0 0 0 0
Carlos Gonzalez 7 7 3 0 0 0 0 0 2 .429 .429 .429 .857 0 0 0 0
Jon Garland 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0
Michael Cuddyer 3 3 2 0 0 0 1 0 0 .667 .667 .667 1.333 0 0 0 0
Jonathan Herrera 3 3 1 0 1 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 1.000 1.333 0 0 0 0
Jorge De La Rosa 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0
Jeff Francis 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0
Total 64 63 16 2 1 1 3 0 19 .254 .254 .365 .619 1 0 0 0
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/11/2013.

Todd Helton and Carlos Gonzalez, as they've done to a lot of pitchers, have had some success against Waino in the past.  Wainwright only faced the Rockies once last year, going six innings and allowing just one run on July 4.

On the other side, Jhoulys Chacin will be tasked with keeping St. Louis from scoring.  Chacin has some similar numbers to Wainwright this year (3-1, 2.56 ERA) and will be pretty unknown to most of the Cardinal hitters.

Carlos Beltran 10 8 1 0 0 0 0 2 0 .125 .300 .125 .425 0 0 0 0
Jon Jay 5 5 2 0 0 1 2 0 1 .400 .400 1.000 1.400 0 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 5 5 2 0 0 0 2 0 0 .400 .400 .400 .800 0 0 0 0
Allen Craig 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0
Daniel Descalso 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0
Matt Holliday 2 2 1 0 0 1 3 0 1 .500 .500 2.000 2.500 0 0 0 0
Total 27 25 7 0 0 2 7 2 4 .280 .333 .520 .853 0 0 0 0
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/11/2013.

Beltran's seen him the most, but struggled the most. Could this be a day where Allen Craig moves to the outfield and Matt Adams gets into the lineup? Whatever the case, hopefully whatever mojo Shelby had last night is still lingering!

Picking Themselves Up

Posted on May 9, 2013 at 8:43 AM
After their six-game winning streak was snapped, the Cardinals were in the ugly position of possibly getting swept at Wrigley Field by the last place Cubs.  (That's what a short series will do for you.)  Now, anytime you are going to be swept by the Cubs, it's a bad thing, but when they are in last place, it's especially bad.  Well, they often are in last place, so maybe when they aren't in last, it's incrementally not as bad?  Anyway, you get the idea.

That idea looked much more possible in the fourth, when the Cubs scored three to take a 4-2 lead.  Thankfully, the Cardinals were able to put together some single runs in three innings and the umpires actually made a correct interference call, something we obviously can't take for granted.  The Cardinals escaped with a 5-4 win and gained ground on most of the NL Central, pushing their lead out to three games over the Pirates and the Reds.

Our Hero of the day has to be Seth Maness.  Mr. Double Play came into the game with two on and one out in the sixth.  Two pitches later, everyone was heading for the dugout.  He actually allowed a single to lead off the seventh, but like I said on Twitter, that was just to guarantee he could get another double play.  Sure enough, after the batter interference on the bunt got him one out, Maness coaxed David DeJesus into yet another double play.

Derrick Goold breaks down Maness's amazing and efficient start to his career in the gamer today, but Adam Wainwright's question about whether Maness could get to 100 wins before 100 pitches says it all.  He's got more innings pitched than batters faced.  He has three double plays in three outings.  Of his 18 pitches to get 10 outs, 83% have been strikes.  The man chews doublemint gum, for crying out loud!

So far, Maness has been what we expected Brad Thompson to be, a ground-ball specialist with that uncanny knack of getting the double play.  Obviously Maness is a better, more talented pitcher than Thompson was, but there are some similarities so far in their careers.

You have to give some love to Jon Jay as well.  His sacrifice fly gave the Cards a 2-1 lead and his base hit in the ninth drove in the winning run.  Like Daniel Descalso last year (and what has happened to that progress, I don't know), Jay reworked his swing radically on the fly and, so far, it's working like a charm.  On the road trip, he hit .500 with two home runs, raising his batting average 50 points.  Having Jay clicking is big for this lineup, because he's never going to be the power source, but he can be the guy that scores the runs or gets the hit that keeps the line moving.

Some good work at the top of the lineup yesterday as well.  Matt Carpenter went 2-3 with a couple of walks and Carlos Beltran had three hits, but some baserunning blunders kept the runs to a minimum.  Yadier Molina had a couple of hits as well.

I think the Goat has to go to Jake Westbrook, who wasn't quite on his game yesterday.  He allowed four runs (three earned) in just over five innings, being bailed out by Maness when he left as well as a comebacker double play the inning before.  Westbrook danced with trouble all day long (10 baserunners allowed) and was lucky to be able to keep the score as close as he did to allow for a Cardinal comeback.

Mike Matheny made a curious move as well, but that's pretty much par for the course.  I'm not talking about double-switching out David Freese and bringing in Descalso.  With Freese still not hitting and the game situation, I could understand that one.  What I was surprised with--well, not surprised so much because I know what he was thinking, but I'm not sure it was necessary--was the fact that he brought in Trevor Rosenthal, who struck out Starlin Castro and then walked Luis Valbuena.  That's not the problem part.  

The issue was that instead of sticking with Rosenthal, who even this year has been more effective against lefties than righties, he brings in Randy Choate to face the left-handed Anthony Rizzo.  Could be he was remembering the fact Rizzo took Rosenthal deep last year in Wrigley, I guess.  However, Rosenthal has faced Rizzo two other times and gotten him out.  (Rizzo was 0-1 with a sac fly off of Choate, if you want to deal with small samples.)  Choate then blew the whole hand advantage by allowing a singe to Rizzo, but got Nate Schierholtz--who was the Cub hero this series with his homer on Tuesday and his two-run double earlier in the game--to hit into yet another double play.

Edward Mujica continues to prove that those that thought he'd struggle out of the seventh inning (yes, that's my hand in the air) were wildly incorrect, nailing down his ninth straight save with no drama whatsoever.  Just the way we like it.

Cards get their second off day of the week today, then head home to take on the Rockies in Busch.  The Rockies are off to a solid start, 19-14 and just a half-game out of the divisional lead.  (They'll finish off their series with the Yankees this evening, so that record will be a little different at the start of play.)  Going to the mound for Colorado will be Jon Garland.

Carlos Beltran 49 39 12 3 0 2 5 9 6 .308 .449 .538 .987 0 0 0 1
Ty Wigginton 12 12 2 0 1 0 0 0 2 .167 .167 .333 .500 0 0 0 0
Matt Holliday 11 9 2 0 0 0 1 2 2 .222 .364 .222 .586 0 0 1 0
Yadier Molina 10 9 7 0 0 0 2 1 2 .778 .800 .778 1.578 0 0 0 0
David Freese 5 5 3 0 0 0 0 0 2 .600 .600 .600 1.200 0 0 0 0
Adam Wainwright 5 5 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .200 .200 .200 .400 0 0 0 0
Jon Jay 4 3 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .250 .000 .250 0 0 0 0
Total 96 82 27 3 1 2 8 13 16 .329 .427 .463 .890 0 0 1 1
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/9/2013.

Being that Garland spent most of his career in the American League, it's not a huge surprise that most people on the team haven't seen him.  Molina's destroyed him in his limited sample and Beltran's seen him the most and will be glad to renew acquaintances.

Shelby Miller gets the ball for the Cardinals.  Obviously the rookie is doing quite well so far--four wins and an ERA under 2 into May kind of indicates that--but he's never faced the Purple Mountains Majesty.

Should be a good series!  Come back tomorrow when I'll hopefully have up a review of Out of the Park Baseball 14 as well as iOOTP 13!

UCB Project: 2013 National League West Predictions

Posted on March 28, 2013 at 11:15 AM
After hitting the AL and the other two NL divisions, we finally go out west, where the living is easy, but it surely isn't free.  At least, not if you want to keep up with the Joneses in LA.  Remember, if these don't float your boat, we've got others that will!  Continue Reading

Playing Pepper 2013: Colorado Rockies

Posted on February 28, 2013 at 2:45 PM
For the fifth straight year, Playing Pepper returns to C70 At The Bat.  If you aren't aware, this series helps get a feel for the other 29 teams in baseball by asking those that follow them the closest--their bloggers.  We've got spring training action going, so it's time to play a little pepper.

Colorado Rockies
64-98, fifth in the NL West

It was a tough year all around for Rockies fans last year.  Their star shortstop dealt with injuries all year long, as did good chunks of their pitching rotation and, mainly due to all of that, they were 10 games out before the end of May.  The optimism of spring didn't last long in the Mile High City.

It's a new year, though, and those that were hurt look to be better this year.  While the division is tougher with the World Champion Giants and the revamped Dodgers in it, the NL West always seems to be able to generate a surprise team.

To see if Colorado could be that team this year, I've recruited David Martin for this Playing Pepper entry.  David can be found writing at Rockies Review and Tweeting @RockiesReview.  Stay tuned and see what he thinks about the Colorado offseason and thoughts on a Rockies icon.
  Continue Reading

Four Out Of Five Ain't Good Enough

Posted on August 5, 2012 at 4:34 PM
Apologies for the long gap.  Between work and birthday happenings, I wasn't able to get to writing.  If the Cards lose tonight, I might have to swear it off for a while again because they've played some excellent ball while I've been incommunicado.  Unfortunately, even the one loss cost them in the standings.  Let's look at the last few days before tonight's matchup with the Brewers.

Hero: Allen Craig.  Lots of guys had a good night, but Craig went 3-3 with two walks, two runs, and three RBI.

Goat: Daniel Descalso.  How this team put up 11 runs with the leadoff man going 0-3, I'm not sure.  Descalso did score a run, but he made an error as well.

Notes: Matt Holliday continued to tee off on his former team, getting a big home run when the Rockies had cut the gap.  David Freese followed with his own shot and the crisis had passed.  Kyle Lohse struggled late, giving up three in the sixth, but it's hard to know if that was due to Coors Field or something more sinister.

Hero: Holliday.  Not only did he hit two home runs, one of them was a three-run shot after the Cards had fallen behind by two.  That was a game that, way too often, the Cards whimper along and wind up losing.  Holliday wanted no part of that.

Goat: Jake Westbrook.  Westbrook struggled much of the night, allowing nine hits and four walks in his six innings.  The last inning was the worst, as he allowed four runs, but still got the win due to Holliday's heroics.

Notes: Edward Mujica joined the team and put up a scoreless inning, giving some immediate dividends to the deadline trade.  It almost looked like he'd get a save as the rain came down and forced a delay, but the teams took the field again late.  Yadier Molina with three hits as he started his week of "Yadi Does Everything."

Hero: We'll go with Jon Jay.  Not a lot of choices here and we've not called Jay's name lately.  Two of the five Cardinal hits will get you some consideration.

Goat: Fernando Salas.  Salas entered in the bottom of the seventh after the Cards had rallied to take a 2-1 lead.  Four batters, three hits and a sacrifice later, he left with the team trailing 4-2.  While Barret Browning got touched up in the eighth, he did put out the fire in the seventh so he avoids this tag.

Notes: It's been a while since we had a big bullpen blowup, which I guess is a good thing.  Browning has been almost automatic (which, apparently, could be a gun reference) and it was surprising to see him allow a run in the eighth.  He was charged with another run when Brian Fuentes allowed a big fly that allowed the last two runs to score.  My thought is, if we're going to have to have them fail occasionally, let them all fail in the same game to get it out of their system.

Hero: Molina.  Yeah, like it could be anyone else?  Threw out two baserunners stealing and one guy going to third on a bunt.  Stole two bases himself, plus took an extra base each time on an overthrow.  Got three hits.  Plus, after the game, he helped a fan find their car in the parking lot and gave recommendations to a tourist looking for a nice restaurant.

Goat: Rafael Furcal.  0-4 in the leadoff slot, though he did draw a walk and score a run.

Notes: Joe Kelly has had better games in the bigs, but he'll take this one.  He got his second win, though he wasn't able to finish the sixth, and it was in large part to his RBI hit that broke a 3-3 tie.  (Randy Wolf's curveball just hung there--I think even some of the UCB could have hit that pitch.)  The bullpen snapped back into form, with Browning, Mujica, Mitchell Boggs and Marc Rzepczynski closing it out in scoreless fashion.  Nice night for Descalso as well, who went 2-3 and had at least one outstanding defensive play at second base.

Hero: Adam Wainwright.  If Jay can play the ball correctly and make the catch on the first batter of the game, odds are Waino throws the shutout.  Less than 100 pitches for the complete game and was in total control the whole time, plus he got the RBI hit that broke the 1-1 tie, making it two days in a row for the starting pitchers to provide their own breaks.

Goat: Furcal. Another fruitless day for him, again going 0-4.  Could be he's not quite 100% yet after dealing with the back injury.

Notes: Perhaps Jay's offensive life is resurging as well, because he hit his first home run since April in this one.  Carlos Beltran hit his 25th to tie up the game early.

After this run of great baseball, though, the Cardinals actually lost a game to Cincinnati, who refuses to lose.  (Though they did drop the series finale this afternoon against Pittsburgh, meaning the Cards can get to seven games back with a win tonight.)  The wild card looks more and more like the only option for the Redbirds to get into October, but the good news is that they are 2.5 games back there, which is a much more manageable deficit.

Also in this span, Lance Berkman went back on the disabled list and Shane Robinson was called up to take his place.  No timetable on Berkman's return as far as I'm aware, but there's not much chance the Cards will push him with the myriad of options they have for first base.

Jaime Garcia threw at Springfield last night and had some encouraging results.  Four and a third innings, no runs, no walks.  He should get a couple of more starts in the minors, especially since there's not a pressing need for him right now, and then see where he stands.  I would guess Kelly would do what Trevor Rosenthal did, go down to Memphis to start for a little bit and then return on September 1, but we'll have to wait and see.

Cards look to get the sweep tonight, wearing the 1982 powder blue uniforms while they go about it.  I've never quite understood the fascination behind those uniforms.  I'm sure they are a nostalgia thing, but being that I started following the Cards after that time of excitement and disastrous fashion choices, I've never gotten behind bringing them back.  (That said, the '82 whites last night did look pretty nice.)

Kyle Lohse will be the Cardinal on the mound in those baby blues and while that color might disturb his opponents (though, to be fair, they wore it yesterday), the historical numbers won't.

Ryan Braun 36 34 10 3 0 2 7 2 5 .294 .333 .559 .892 0 0 0
Rickie Weeks 34 30 8 1 0 0 2 4 3 .267 .353 .300 .653 0 0 0
Aramis Ramirez 22 20 9 3 0 2 6 1 0 .450 .500 .900 1.400 0 1 0
Corey Hart 20 20 3 2 0 0 1 0 3 .150 .150 .250 .400 0 0 0
Nyjer Morgan 14 11 4 1 0 0 1 0 2 .364 .385 .455 .839 0 1 0
Jonathan Lucroy 10 8 3 1 0 0 0 2 2 .375 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0
Carlos Gomez 9 8 2 1 0 0 0 1 1 .250 .333 .375 .708 0 0 1
Cesar Izturis 7 7 2 2 0 0 0 0 2 .286 .286 .571 .857 0 0 0
Yovani Gallardo 6 6 1 0 0 0 0 0 3 .167 .167 .167 .333 0 0 0
Livan Hernandez 4 4 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .250 .250 .250 .500 0 0 0
Marco Estrada 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Manny Parra 3 3 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 .333 .333 .667 1.000 0 0 0
Randy Wolf 3 3 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .667 1.000 0 0 0
Total 171 156 45 16 0 4 18 10 24 .288 .337 .468 .805 0 2 1
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/5/2012.

Aramis Ramirez, who has been a general Cardinal killer, has done a number on Lohse and Ryan Braun has been the same way.  Nyjer Morgan has also been a pest, but this time actually on the field.  It's not the best of matchups for Lohse if he's trying to get that Colorado start out of his head.

On the flip side, the Brewers send out Marco Estrada.  Estrada seems to have been hit or miss this season and the Cards have done OK against him in a small sample.

Rafael Furcal 12 12 2 1 0 0 1 0 4 .167 .167 .250 .417 0 0 0
Jon Jay 8 6 3 1 0 0 1 2 1 .500 .625 .667 1.292 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 8 8 5 0 0 1 2 0 1 .625 .625 1.000 1.625 0 0 0
Matt Holliday 7 7 3 1 0 0 3 0 1 .429 .429 .571 1.000 0 0 0
Carlos Beltran 6 5 1 0 0 1 2 1 2 .200 .333 .800 1.133 0 0 0
Daniel Descalso 5 5 2 1 0 0 0 0 1 .400 .400 .600 1.000 0 0 0
David Freese 5 5 1 0 0 1 1 0 2 .200 .200 .800 1.000 0 0 0
Skip Schumaker 5 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Matt Carpenter 4 4 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 .250 .250 .500 .750 0 0 1
Kyle Lohse 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .500 .000 .500 0 0 0
Tony Cruz 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Tyler Greene 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Lance Lynn 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Total 65 61 18 5 0 3 10 4 13 .295 .338 .525 .863 0 0 1
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/5/2012.

Molina, Holliday and Jay have done very well in their limited exposure and with Molina and Holliday, at least, being very hot of late, that could bode well for them and the Cards hopes of making up a game on the Reds.

Game is on ESPN in less than three hours, so hopefully we'll have some good stuff to talk about in the morning!

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Slipping Back Into The Muck

Posted on July 30, 2012 at 7:23 AM
There was a lot of momentum going with the Cardinals into Wrigley Field this weekend.  It looked like the team we'd hoped would be around all year had finally showed up.  Friday seemed to confirm that things were different, but the rest of the weekend was so sadly familiar.  Let's take a look.

Friday (9-6 win)
Hero: Matt Holliday.  He got the power show started with a home run in the first, drove in another run later, and had three hits.  That's what we call a big day.

Goat: Lance Lynn.  It's a good thing the offense was clicking, because Lynn was erratic.  Three-run homer to Anthony Rizzo in the first, another three runs allowed in the third.  So typically baseballish--the worst pitching performance of the weekend is the only one that gets a win.

Notes: Home runs in five straight innings?  That's not bad at all.  You can't even say you wish they'd saved those runs, though, because they needed pretty much all of them.  A good first outing by Brian Fuentes, who relieved some of the worries we had about the signing.  Not all of them, but it did look like he has some good stuff left.  All in all, the bullpen did a mighty fine job on a day when it wasn't that easy to put up zeros.

Saturday (3-2 loss)
Hero: Daniel Descalso.  Two for three and drove in a run with a sacrifice fly.

Goat: Jon Jay. 0-4 and left four men on.

Notes: So tough to lose on a squeeze bunt, especially after all the times we saw Tony La Russa win a game that way.  Fuentes wasn't as sharp in this one, allowing the walk, but the bunt play was a brilliant call there that nobody on the Cards saw coming.  It's hard to assign a lot of blame there, it just was the way baseball should be played.

Saturday did stir up some Twitter controversy, though, and depending on what you believe about tipping points, the first inning could have been where the game was decided.

In the first inning, Jeff Samardzija walks the first three batters of the game.  Not just by a little, either.  He had thrown 12 of his first 16 pitches outside of the strike zone.  Carlos Beltran then comes up and swings at the first pitch, topping one to second that just barely avoided the double play.

There is a line of thought which, ironically given their normal propensity to encourage walks and deep counts, said that was the right play.  Beltran should have been looking for a pitch in a certain area, he thought he got it, could have been the best pitch of the at-bat.  Odds are that the pitcher is likely just going to lay it in there to get ahead in the count and that's a pitch that could be hammered.

There's a lot to that line of reasoning and I've got to say that they were very persuasive.  For my part (and others with me in this mini-Twitter skirmish), the thought is the batter should go up there waiting for the pitcher to throw a strike.  You only help him out by swinging at the first pitch and, indeed, after bases loaded nobody out, the Cards only managed the one off of Beltran's groundout and didn't score again until late in the ballgame.

As wild as Samardzija was, even if he starts you out with a strike, he's likely to come back with something either appetizing to hit or be wild out of the zone again.  If you make him throw a strike, he still has to repeat the outcome again.  Perhaps just getting one strike would gain him confidence, I don't know.  But he has to throw more pitches and you work him a bit more.

Now, obviously, Beltran could have roped a double or hit a home run and kept the momentum going.  In fact, if the pitch had been a "get me over" fastball like Beltran apparently was expecting, he likely would have.  Instead, though, it was a slider that Beltran got on top of and drove into the ground.  With the run that Beltran is on right now (hitting .250 going into that at-bat), the result wasn't all that surprising.  Of course, if he'd been more in tune, he might have recognized it wasn't a fastball and held up, who knows.

Again, I think there's valid arguments on both sides.  I just would have rather seen him take there instead of giving Samardzija a chance to get out of the inning with no further damage.  Too bad there's no way to back up that game and run it again with him taking to see what would have happened!

Hero: Carlos Beltran.  His homer in the eighth gave a little life to the Cardinals and made it believable that they could pull it out.  Sadly, that wasn't the case.

Goat: Trevor Rosenthal.  You hate to give it to the rook, but when you face two batters and neither of them get out, that's going to be hard to avoid the tag.  Give a lot of kudos to Starlin Castro, though.  He hit it against the shift that was on for him--a regular alignment and he's out--and that likely changed how Rosenthal approached Rizzo.

Notes: Lots of patient batters this weekend, but it wasn't doing a lot of good.  Six walks against Samardzija on Saturday, four against Paul Maholm on Sunday, but there weren't enough hits to go with those walks to make them viable.  The bullpen, save Rosenthal, did their job, but made it interesting.  Most especially Marc Rzepczynski, who faced two lefties and walked them both, but got the righty in between out.  That's mind-blowingly frustrating!

Since the Reds have decided never to lose again, apparently, doing their best 2011 Milwaukee Brewers imitation, the Cards now stand 7.5 games behind in the division and 3.5 back in the wild card.  Can something be done before the trade deadline?  I think the question now is, should something be done?

The more I think about it, the more I expect that this deadline is going to pass without any moves by the Cardinals.  They've dug themselves a hole and they have the talent to get out of it, but there doesn't seem to be any reason to throw the Hail Mary and give up some quality talent for a guy that probably won't make enough of a difference anyhow.

The only thing that might happen is a trade for James Shields.  He's been very high on the Cardinals' want list for a long time now and seems to be more available than he ever has been.  Shields could help some this year--though the way the rotation is going, it's hard to see just how--but he's a great economical piece going forward.  He has a $9 million option for 2013 and a $12 million one for 2014 and to be able to get his sort of quality on the open market for those prices is pretty unfathomable.  

For instance, Kyle Lohse is close to $12 million this year and likely will get a raise in the open market.  Now, the Cards could try to do what they did last time with him and come to a contract agreement before the end of the season, but Lohse is two years older than Shields and would come at a higher price.

Shields also is an innings eater, which could be a big thing depending on how Chris Carpenter comes back next season and what the next step in Jaime Garcia's evolution is.  A rotation of Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Shields, Garcia and Lynn would be a very potent one and it would allow Shelby Miller another year at AAA to try to get back to the form we expect out of him.

I'm starting to feel about the idea of a Shields trade the way I felt about a Scott Rolen trade in 2002--that this is what the Cardinals want to do and they are going to do it.  I was all for the Rolen trade, but it seemed so inevitable that I traded for him in my fantasy league a week or two before the actual deal.  It made sense and it seemed like something the Cards really wanted.  My gut feeling is, if Shields is traded at all, he is wearing Cardinal red.  The price may seem steep to us, but I don't think John Mozeliak lets him get to another team.

Cards are off today, but let's take a look at the pitching matchups for Tuesday's game against the Rockies, in case I don't get around to writing tomorrow.

Kyle Lohse has put together a strong run of starts lately and continues to add money to his free agent account.  He'll take that streak into Colorado, which could be a challenge.

Todd Helton 28 24 10 4 0 1 4 4 1 .417 .500 .708 1.208 0 0 0
Carlos Gonzalez 13 11 4 1 0 1 2 2 2 .364 .462 .727 1.189 0 0 0
Tyler Colvin 10 10 1 0 0 1 2 0 3 .100 .100 .400 .500 0 0 0
Dexter Fowler 9 9 1 0 0 0 0 0 3 .111 .111 .111 .222 0 0 0
Ramon Hernandez 9 7 2 1 0 0 3 2 2 .286 .444 .429 .873 0 0 0
Eric Young 8 6 1 0 0 0 1 0 2 .167 .143 .167 .310 0 0 0
Michael Cuddyer 4 4 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0
Jordan Pacheco 4 3 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .250 .000 .250 0 0 0
Wilin Rosario 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0
Jeff Francis 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Total 90 79 22 6 0 3 12 9 15 .278 .348 .468 .817 0 0 0
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/30/2012.

Todd Helton isn't what he used to be, so those numbers worry me less than they normally would.  Other than that, Lohse has done all right, but he does carry a career 6.43 ERA and 1.62 WHIP at Coors Field which makes for some anxious thoughts.

Rockies send out Jeff Francis.  Francis contained the Cards earlier in the year, allowing just two runs in five innings.  That wasn't anything out of the ordinary, as shown by these numbers.

Rafael Furcal 32 31 9 2 1 0 3 0 2 .290 .281 .419 .701 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 22 19 2 0 0 0 1 2 1 .105 .190 .105 .296 0 0 1
Carlos Beltran 17 14 3 1 0 0 5 1 2 .214 .235 .286 .521 0 0 0
Lance Berkman 12 10 1 0 0 1 1 2 2 .100 .250 .400 .650 0 0 1
Matt Holliday 8 6 3 0 0 1 2 2 0 .500 .625 1.000 1.625 2 0 0
Tyler Greene 7 7 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 .286 .286 .286 .571 0 0 1
Allen Craig 6 6 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .167 .167 .167 .333 0 0 1
Jon Jay 6 6 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 .667 .667 .667 1.333 0 0 0
Daniel Descalso 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
David Freese 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Joe Kelly 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Kyle Lohse 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0
Adam Wainwright 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Skip Schumaker 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Total 122 111 26 3 1 2 12 7 12 .234 .273 .333 .606 2 0 4
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/30/2012.

Rafael Furcal has seen him the most, but there's no telling whether his stiff back will feel well enough to get out there. Hopefully after sitting two games and an off day, he'll be back in the lineup. Otherwise it might be a long night for the offense.

Enjoy the off day and hopefully the Cardinal bats will have already landed in Colorado!

Winning When They Should

Posted on July 6, 2012 at 12:02 PM
Two games against the Rockies, two wins.  That's what good teams are supposed to do, but it's not always been a given with this Cardinal squad.  Let's look at the last couple of nights.

Wednesday (4-1 win)
Hero: Matt Holliday.  There were a number of ways you could go with this one, but Holliday had another three-hit night and tossed in a home run to boot.  In a game where scoring was at a premium, that was big.

Goat: It was a fairly solidly played game, so it's tough to say, but Allen Craig had another 0-4 day.  Bit of a "slump" for Craig recently, as this was the second of three ofers in a row.

Notes: Very good to see Adam Wainwright bounce back from his outing against the Pirates.  He wasn't extremely efficient--over 100 pitches in just six innings with eight hits allowed--but he did have command and was able to get the strikeout when he needed it.  And as well as the bullpen has been going in the last week, I still was very glad to see David Freese get those two insurance runs in the eighth.  Skip Schumaker also got two hits before losing his spot in a double switch.

Thursday (6-2 win)
Hero: Lance Lynn.  Even though the Rockies' offense isn't the strongest, they still have some pop and you'd expect to win slugfests against them instead of pitching duels.  Lynn looked rough early, but righted the ship and made an adjustment to become more like the All-Star he is.  If that adjustment gets him back to his early-season form, the Cards will be very happy.

Goat: Craig at least got an RBI, so I'll give this goat to Yadier Molina, who also went 0-4.  Though when he's wearing all that catcher gear in 100 degree weather, it doesn't seem fair to criticize him for his production!

Notes: I thought Mike Matheny was a little too itchy on the trigger in the ninth.  Victor Marte had given up a two-run homer to--who else--Tyler Colvin in the eighth, but the Cards still had a four-run lead.  Mitchell Boggs started the ninth and got a strikeout and a ground out before allowing a solid single to Dexter Fowler and a infield hit to Marco Scutaro.  Rafael Furcal just couldn't come up with that play, but it wasn't like Boggs was suddenly going to get beat around.

Now, Carlos Gonzalez was coming up, but he could only make it a one-run game.  Having used Jason Motte in the three-run game the night before, it seemed to me that he should have stuck with Boggs and then, if something bad happened, gone to Motte.  Instead, Matheny made the switch, Gonzalez grounded out, and everyone went home happy.  Except that now Motte has been used two nights in a row and probably isn't available this evening against the Marlins.  We'll see how that works out for everyone.

Nice to see Barret Browning continue his perfect streak.  Since he's come up, the 'pen has looked a lot better.  Marc Rzepczynski has gone well (and was good Wednesday night), Fernando Salas has looked sharper, and until Marte's slipup against Colvin, the bullpen was really rocking.  We'll see if it's a small sample size or if the 'pen is starting to become something we can trust again.  It would make John Mozeliak's work at the trade deadline a lot easier, no doubt.

Of course, the most notable thing that happened last night came before the game, when the lineup card was turned in and Matt Carpenter's name was on it--at second base.  This meant a few things:

1) If you ever wondered, Mike Matheny paid attention when he was a player under Tony La Russa.

2) Tyler Greene is done in St. Louis.  Bob Netherton pointed this out on Twitter last night, but while a left-handed starter would keep Schumaker and Daniel Descalso out of the lineup, it shouldn't have affected Greene if he was in good standing.  Instead, they put out a better bat that had never played the position before.  That'll get your attention.

3) They want to find a spot for Carpenter, but with Lance Berkman about ready to return, there's really going to be limited chances for him to contribute where he's comfortable.  It's learn a new slot or learn a new team, because he might be attractive as part of a trade package.

Cards get to host their spring training co-tenants tonight, seeing the Marlins for the last time this season.  Jake Westbrook is on the mound and looks to continue his nice run.  He allowed four runs to the Pirates last time out, his highest run total since 6/3 against the Mets.  When he faced Miami last week, he allowed only two runs in six innings.  The numbers:

Carlos Lee 45 40 18 4 0 2 8 5 2 .450 .511 .700 1.211 1 0 3
Omar Infante 23 21 7 1 0 0 3 2 4 .333 .391 .381 .772 0 0 1
John Buck 20 17 5 1 0 0 1 3 4 .294 .400 .353 .753 0 0 0
Jose Reyes 13 12 5 2 1 0 2 1 0 .417 .462 .750 1.212 0 0 0
Giancarlo Stanton 12 12 2 0 1 0 1 0 2 .167 .167 .333 .500 0 0 0
Greg Dobbs 9 9 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .111 .111 .111 .222 0 0 0
Logan Morrison 9 7 1 0 0 0 1 2 0 .143 .333 .143 .476 0 0 0
Hanley Ramirez 9 8 3 0 0 1 1 1 1 .375 .444 .750 1.194 0 0 0
Austin Kearns 6 6 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 .167 .167 .167 .333 0 0 0
Josh Johnson 5 5 1 0 0 0 1 0 2 .200 .200 .200 .400 0 0 0
Scott Cousins 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0
Ricky Nolasco 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Anibal Sanchez 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1.000 0 0 0
Total 157 139 45 8 2 3 19 15 16 .324 .390 .475 .864 1 0 4
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/6/2012.

The Marlins have added Carlos Lee since the last time Westbrook faced them and that could be a problem for him.  Other than that, if Westbrook can keep Jose Reyes off the bases he should be in good shape.

Miami counters with Ricky Nolasco.  Nolasco held the Cards in check last time out, giving up nothing in six and two thirds.  Of course, that was the game the Cards rallied in the ninth and wound up winning, but that had nothing to do with Nolasco.  His career stats:

Carlos Beltran 44 38 13 0 0 1 2 6 9 .342 .432 .421 .853 1 0 0
Matt Holliday 21 21 10 2 1 2 6 0 2 .476 .476 .952 1.429 0 0 0
Rafael Furcal 16 16 6 0 0 1 3 0 0 .375 .375 .563 .938 0 0 0
Skip Schumaker 14 13 5 0 0 0 0 1 0 .385 .429 .385 .813 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 12 11 3 0 0 0 0 0 1 .273 .333 .273 .606 0 1 0
Daniel Descalso 6 5 2 1 0 0 0 1 0 .400 .500 .600 1.100 0 0 0
Jon Jay 6 6 3 1 0 0 1 0 1 .500 .500 .667 1.167 0 0 0
Allen Craig 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Tony Cruz 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
David Freese 3 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 .667 .667 .667 1.333 0 0 0
Kyle Lohse 3 3 1 1 0 0 2 0 2 .333 .333 .667 1.000 0 0 0
Adam Wainwright 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Jake Westbrook 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Total 136 125 45 5 1 4 14 8 19 .360 .403 .512 .915 1 1 0
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/6/2012.

The Cardinals really shouldn't have been shut out by him and, in theory, the law of averages should work out to their advantage tonight. Theories are fine and good, though, until you actually take the field.  We'll see if it holds this evening!

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Losing Twice

Posted on July 4, 2012 at 10:14 AM
Before we get into all the stuff that happened on Tuesday, both on and off the field, let's take a moment to revel in Monday night's win, shall we?

First off, Hero status is given to Allen Craig.  It's not often, even with this powerful lineup, that we see a two-home-run day and that's just what Craig gave, even if the last one wasn't exactly crucial to the effort.  A 2-4, 3 RBI night is a good bit of work, I'd say.

Of course, you could give the tag to Kyle Lohse as well.  Lohse went into the eighth and only allowed two runs (though he did leave with the bases loaded), meaning that while all the run support was nice, it wasn't really vital.  (Then again, the way this offense sputters at times--as we will talk about--it might have been.)  Lohse's only mistake was giving up a long ball to Tyler Colvin, something that will be a recurring theme.

Other positives: Matt Holliday had two hits and a home run, David Freese burnished his Final Vote credentials by tallying three hits, and Mitchell Boggs bailed Lohse out by coaxing a double play to end the eighth.

There wasn't much negative from this game, but there's got to be a Goat.  Daniel Descalso went 0-4 and left four on, so we'll give it to him.

Unfortunately, that means we need to talk about Wednesday.  Let's do the game first.

One inning ruined the game for the Cardinals.  Joe Kelly walked the eighth-place batter, Jonathan Herrera.  That's a bad thing to do at any time, but then Yadier Molina compounded it by trying to get Herrera at second when pitcher Jeff Francis bunted and his throw was off the mark.  The next batter was Colvin, who smashed another home run and gave the Rockies the 3-2 lead that they'd keep the rest of the game.

Not that the Cards didn't have chances.  Craig (who has to get the goat due to his 0-4)  looked like he'd at least tied the game in the bottom of that inning, when with bases loaded and two outs he hit a broken bat shot, but it was right at the third baseman.  Holliday grounded out with two on and two outs in the seventh.  Finally, in the ninth, with two on and one out, Rafael Furcal grounded out and Jon Jay stared at strike three.

For his part, Kelly kept the team in the game. He did load the bases after the Colvin home run, but he got the comebacker to get out of that.  His command was a little shaky (four walks) but he did a serviceable job and deserved a better fate.  I'm still not sure I'm confident in keeping him in the rotation for an extended period of time, but there's a strong chance that's going to happen.

Hero from this game would be Holliday with his two-run homer that scored all the Cardinal runs, but it was good to see another strong outing from Barret Browning and a good one out of Fernando Salas as well.  If the bullpen could get back to the levels we saw last year, the levels we expected for this year, things will look a lot better for the Redbirds.

The game was somewhat overshadowed, though, by the official news that Chris Carpenter was going to undergo surgery and would not return in 2012.  However, it does look like we've not seen the last of Carp.  While he admitted that he thought about retiring, he got assurances from the doctor that he should be able to continue pitching at a high level after this surgery.  It's noted in Jenifer Langosch's article that Kenny Rogers had this type of surgery at about the same age and pitched another seven years afterwards.  If nothing else, I still hope we can get a year of Carp and Adam Wainwright in the same rotation.

What bothers me is the idea espoused by Bernie Miklasz in his blog post that it was "naive" to think Carpenter could pitch again this season.  I'll admit, I thought we'd see Carpenter at some time this year, though as the season drug on that became less and less likely.  All the fans can do, though, is make judgments based on what they read from the reporters.  When people at the Post-Dispatch are reporting that the club expects Carpenter back by August 1 or that he's improving in his throwing program, what are we supposed to think?  If we aren't supposed to use that information in our reasonings, then what good is it?

Don't get me wrong, I know the club will put a positive face on things as much as possible.  That's what (I expect) all the clubs do as a matter of course, so we take timetables and glowing reports with some grain of salt.  Once Carp was throwing, though, and looking good, why wouldn't we think that he was going to make his return?  I think we all kept a relapse in the back of our mind, but it seemed rational to at least project him into the rotation.

I mean, right now the club is saying that Jaime Garcia could be back in the middle of August. While Bernie does express some skepticism in that forecast, he doesn't seem to think it's naive for people to expect him back.  Garcia's got less of an injury history than Carp, so maybe that plays into it, but it comes off as trying to be the smartest man in the room.  Which I don't think Bernie was going for--he and Derrick Goold are the most reasonable and realistic guys over at the Post-Dispatch--but it rubbed me the wrong way when I read it this morning.  Maybe I just need more sleep.

This does make John Mozeliak's job a little more complicated, though.  The loss of Carpenter isn't a huge one for this team--I mean, the club has been doing OK without him and while he'd been a plus, there was no guarantee what you'd get out of him anyway.  So the only way it changes the equation is if Mo had been planning on him being the cavalry and now he's not.  Mo's got to figure if they can keep Lance Lynn and Kelly in the rotation and whether Garcia is returning.  I still think Mo looks for a starter--there's a lot of ifs there--especially if the bullpen starts to shape up.  Interestingly, Kyle McClellan just started throwing and Garcia is supposed to today, so there may be some new data points for Mozeliak's equation very soon.

Our Fourth of July ballgame gets fronted by Wainwright on the mound, looking to bounce back from his rough outing against the Pirates.  

Todd Helton 13 13 5 2 0 0 1 0 2 .385 .385 .538 .923 0 0 1
Dexter Fowler 7 7 1 0 0 1 1 0 2 .143 .143 .571 .714 0 0 0
Tyler Colvin 5 4 2 0 0 0 0 1 1 .500 .600 .500 1.100 0 0 0
Carlos Gonzalez 4 4 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .250 .250 .250 .500 0 0 0
Michael Cuddyer 3 3 2 0 0 0 1 0 0 .667 .667 .667 1.333 0 0 0
Wil Nieves 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Jeff Francis 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Jason Giambi 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Total 36 34 11 2 0 1 3 1 9 .324 .343 .471 .813 0 0 1
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/4/2012.

Todd Helton's hit him hard in the past, but he's not looked very good in this series. According to the broadcast crew last night, they are tying him up with fastballs that he just can't seem to get to anymore. It's been a rough year for Helton and you have to think the face of the Rockies won't be there much longer. And of course Colvin's hit him well. Because that's just what the Cardinals need.

Facing the Redbirds will be Jeremy Guthrie.  It's been a rough year for Guthrie, with an ERA around six and a half and only a strikeout every two innings.  Should be a lot of contact this evening, in other words.  He's not faced most of the 'Birds, though.

Matt Holliday 5 5 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .200 .200 .200 .400 0 0 0
Carlos Beltran 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Total 8 8 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .125 .125 .125 .250 0 0 0
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/4/2012.

We'll see if the newness of Guthrie overrides the terribleness of his season.  The Cards haven't fallen in that trap as much this year, though, so there could be some fireworks at Busch tonight.

Hope you have a wonderful and safe Fourth of July!

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Salvaging the Weekend

Posted on July 2, 2012 at 6:43 AM
Two games against the Pirates and, well, at least they snapped the losing streak.  To recap:

Saturday (7-3 loss)
Hero: Matt Holliday.  The only Cardinal with more than one hit, Holliday also drew a walk and drove in a run.

Goat: Lance Lynn.  His third rough start in a row will raise some questions in the Cards front office as they start getting into trade discussions.

Notes: It's possible that one pitch made the difference in this game, but not the one you think.  Lynn thought he had a strike on his 2-1 pitch, but it was called a ball.  If it goes 2-2 instead of 3-1, Lynn might have been able to strike him out or at least not have to come right at him.  The bullpen moves paid off right away, with Barret Browning throwing two perfect innings (and inspiring poetry) and Maikel Cleto having a strong inning as well.  Whether that will continue or not remains to be seen.

Sunday (5-4 win)
Hero: Shane Robinson.  Even though he dropped a ball that put the tying run in scoring position in the seventh, his two hits were more than anyone else and he had the big RBI single after Pittsburgh had walked Yadier Molina to get to him.  If that's not Hero-worthy, I'm not sure what is.

Goat: The offense was pretty consistent--most everyone got a hit or, in Tyler Greene's case, a walk before was replaced--so I'll go with Jake Westbrook, even though he did pitch fairly well.  The home run by Michael McKenry hurt, of course, but if Allen Craig has a step more he makes the catch on the double in that inning and that could have made a difference.  Still, giving up four runs in an inning is not something you want to see your starter do.

Notes: Home runs by Molina and Craig in this one, which is becoming pretty standard.  Molina set a career high with 14 home runs last year.  He's got a chance to equal or top that before the All-Star Break this year, as he already has 13.

Speaking of the All-Stars......

First off, the Cards are going to have four go to Kansas City.  Carlos Beltran and Rafael Furcal won fan voting, while Molina and Lynn go as choices by the players.  Former Cardinal manager Tony La Russa is, of course, the manager of the NL squad, but he didn't select any Cardinals to go with him.  (Side note: apparently MLB made it a practice to video all the different managers informing their players who was going to the game.  Which is kinda neat to see, though a little less so when it's a corporate mandate.)

David Freese is on the Final Vote ballot (go here if you want to vote for the final All-Star to make it) but he's up against players like Chipper Jones (his last All-Star chance) and Bryce Harper (current phenom).  Going to be tough for Freese to make it, though it'd be nice if he did.

You'd have thought that, when TLR retired, all the battling with Dusty Baker was done.  As a certain college football commentator says, "Not so fast, my friend."  We get one last blowup between the two for old times sake over the issue of Johnny Cueto and Brandon Phillips.

Many believed that both players should have been on the All-Star roster.  Cueto is 9-4 this season with a 2.26 ERA.  Phillips is hitting .288 with 10 HR.  On the face of it, they both have strong cases for the team.

However, Cueto is pitching Sunday.  Recently there were guidelines put in place that discouraged people from taking pitchers that were going on Sunday, since they so often begged out of the game anyway.  Plus La Russa selected five pitchers with his choices.  Two of them were the only representatives of their team.  The other three were Clayton Kershaw, Cole Hamels and Jonathan Papelbon, all also very deserving of the slot.

Phillips was probably hurt by the fact the fans voting in Dan Uggla, who probably doesn't make the team otherwise.  Houston's only representative had to be Jose Altuve and there wasn't room for a third second baseman on the roster.

None of these logical reasons, though, got through to Dusty Baker or Cueto.  I'm not one necessarily to cast aspersions on people, but going immediately to the press to say that the 2010 brawl (started by Phillips's comments and "highlighted" by Cueto kicking people and ending Jason LaRue's career) was why TLR left them off.

Now, if all things were equal, could that play into things?  Maybe.  However, if those players had been dominant enough, La Russa would have taken them.  You'll notice that he took Jay Bruce over Matt Holliday when he got the choice.  It's really nuts to see people going to the press with this kinda stuff.  It's one thing if commentators bring it up or mention it, because that's what they do.  It seems like TLR has gotten way into Dusty's head.

Moving on from that craziness, there was an article today that reported the Cards have gone over the draft cap for this season and will have to have a smaller cap next year.  This is something the Cards were willing to do, but I still think it's ridiculous to discourage minor league development like this.  Teams would rather spend X amount now than have to go buy players at 2X later.  I've not cared for this idea since I heard about it and seeing it in practice doesn't make it any better.

Cards start a four-game series with the Rockies this evening.  Kyle Lohse, who has been one of the most consistent pitchers this year, gets the nod.  His numbers:

Todd Helton 28 24 10 4 0 1 4 4 1 .417 .500 .708 1.208 0 0 0
Jason Giambi 15 14 2 0 0 1 3 1 3 .143 .200 .357 .557 0 0 0
Marco Scutaro 11 11 2 0 0 0 0 0 2 .182 .182 .182 .364 0 0 2
Dexter Fowler 9 9 1 0 0 0 0 0 3 .111 .111 .111 .222 0 0 0
Carlos Gonzalez 9 8 2 1 0 1 2 1 1 .250 .333 .750 1.083 0 0 0
Tyler Colvin 6 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Eric Young 4 3 0 0 0 0 1 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Jonathan Herrera 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0
Chris Nelson 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Jeff Francis 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Total 90 83 18 5 0 3 10 6 16 .217 .267 .386 .652 0 0 2
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/2/2012.

Todd Helton has hit him well, but who hasn't Todd Helton hit over his career? Other than that, there's not much there to be worried about, though that probably means they'll bite Lohse this time out.

The Rockies, as most people know, are tinkering with their pitching staff.  Right now they are in a six-man rotation with every starter limited to 75 pitches and relievers limited to 50, I believe I read.  Josh Outman is going to be the first pitcher out of the gate tonight, so we'll see how long he lasts.  Beltran is the only Cardinal batter that has faced him, going 0-2 with a walk.

Colorado is 18 games under .500, so if the Cards can't take three of four from them, it's going to cause a lot of angst.  Let's avoid that, shall we?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rick Ankiel 83.9%
Chris Duncan 69.1%

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