Every team goes through some sort of bump in the road. The key is to see how they react to it, if they are able to minimize the losing. So far, that's a test the Cardinals are passing. Two games, two different locations, but both finish the same way--with an increase in the win column.
Tuesday was a back and forth game that seemed destined to be a frustrating loss. Kyle Lohse started off the game by allowing three runs, but then the Cards got two back immediately and tied it up in the second. After that, it was a heavyweight fight, with one team scoring and the other team immediately answering. No lead lasted past the next half-inning until the final one.
Goat of that game has to be Jason Motte. One of the downsides of the closer role is that, if you do your job, there's no guarantee you get to be a Hero. Don't do it, and it's going to be awful tough for you not to be the Goat. Motte was given a hard-fought 6-5 lead and promptly allowed the first home run of the year to Alfonso Soriano, He got the win, of course, but you typically would rather see your closer not get a decision.
To find your Hero, there's a number of options. It'd be easy to overlook the work that Marc Rzepczynski did in keeping it a close game. He came into a tie game with a runner on second and promptly ended the inning, plus threw another scoreless frame. You have Yadier Molina, who won the game with his only base hit of the day, you have Tyler Greene who went three for three with a double and a triple, you have Allen Craig who had three hits and two RBI. Matt Carpenter deserves a mention as well for his home run that tied up the game at the time.
However, I'm going to go with Matt Holliday. Holliday also had three hits, walked once, drove in a run, and scored three times, including the game winner. That's a pretty good all around day from Mr. Holliday and it should be acknowledged.
Cards then take a Happy Flight out to San Francisco to play in last night's late game. (Well, late for us. That's what the SF natives just call a regular start time.) Jaime Garcia went up against Madison Bumgarner in what turned out to be an outstanding pitcher's duel.
I think the best measure of a Garcia start is pitches thrown. When he's on his game, he's as efficient as they come. Last night he didn't hit the 50 pitch mark until the fifth inning and was just over 80 after seven. He seems to have two extremes, so it was nice to see that he was able to hit his good extreme last night. I know, it was the Giants, who aren't known for their offense, but we'll give him the Hero tag anyway.
(Tangent: I had a discussion on Twitter Tuesday about Freese talking himself into the lineup. As far as I can remember, that's at least the second time a player has done that this year. I wondered if it was a sign that Mike Matheny was giving perhaps too much credence to a player's arguments, that he wasn't necessarily standing firm with his charges. It was pointed out to me that it could just as well be that Matheny knows where they are at and has a strong enough relationship with the players to know whether or not they can play. I'll concede that. It's not necessarily a bad thing, just that it's a criticism that Matheny is open to where Tony La Russa, not being of the generation of the players he was managing, wasn't really.)
Skip Schumaker got the insurance runs in when he pinch-hit in the eighth, driving in two and allowing this blogger to finally turn off the TV and get to bed. Tyler Greene started the night and went 1-3 with a double, plus added in a stolen base. Could it be that Greene is starting to figure something out? I'm not holding my breathe, but it'll be interesting to see if he starts today against Matt Cain.
Hero one day, Goat the next. Matt Holliday went 0-4, but what separated him from the other ofers on the night was the fact that he left four men on base. Lance Berkman was in that discussion as well with his 0-4 night.
Someone who didn't go 0-4 was Carlos Beltran, because he was sitting on the bench. We knew that, with these older players, there was going to have to be some juggling and there would be some health issues. (Wait, did I just say older players? Beltran's a couple of years younger than me. Which makes sense--I'm more rickety than I used to be as well!) What we didn't expect was how often it would flare up, that the bug also would get some of the younger players, and the fact that it was going to be more than one at a time.
Going along with that, Craig left last night's game with a hamstring issue after making a dive for a ball in the seventh. So Beltran is definitely out for center field and possibly out for today. You can't expect that Craig's going to be out there and risk losing him for a longer period of time. (After reading Bernie Miklasz's article on Craig, you could see that losing him could be a really big thing.) Jon Jay's on the disabled list. Suddenly the outfield doesn't look quite as crowded, does it? Probably means Schumaker and Shane Robinson will be playing center and right today in some sort of combination.
Don't have to stay up late tonight as the Giants and Cards will meet again for an afternoon affair. (Mid-afternoon here, but still better than those 9:05 start times.) Adam Wainwright hopes to get back on track facing the less-than-imposing Giant offense. Here are his career numbers against these guys.
Not much there, both because the Cards don't play the Giants much and because there's been a lot of turnover in San Francisco since Wainwright last faced them. If he can continue these trends, it should be a good afternoon for him. (Trivia note: Waino had his first at-bat and hit his first home run--at the same time--out in AT&T Park.)
Cards get to see Matt Cain today. They've had a few good games against Cain in the past, but he's also been able to cool them off as well.
You hope that Beltran can get back into the lineup today when you see those numbers. You also wonder if there were more healthy outfielders to go around whether Holliday might get the day off.
Last night I was on the Lasorda's Lair podcast, talking about the Cardinals and their upcoming series with the Dodgers. If you are so inclined, you can check it out over here. Lot of fun talking with Scott about the team.
Here's hoping to a great afternoon of Cardinal baseball!
The BBA has, as a secondary aim, the goal of producing year-end
awards in a similar fashion to the Baseball Writers of America. These
awards can be found at the official site in October with links back to the voters,
ensuring transparency and, most likely, the onset of some good baseball