Hero: Kyle Lohse just keeps going out and putting up zeros. He allowed a run in the seventh, but otherwise handcuffed the Astros. Granted, Houston's not the strongest team out there, but the more Lohse does that, the better Cardinal fans feel.
Goat: A bit of a tough one, because everyone did just enough to possibly be out of the running. Matt Holliday only saw one pitch before leaving with a quad injury--a guy that sees one pitch can't be the goat, right? Lance Berkman also went 0-1 before leaving hurt. Can't be him. Allen Craig went 0-3, but he walked and drove in a run, so I guess we'll go with him even in spite of the RBI.
Notes: Pete Kozmawas called up before this game when Nick Punto was placed on the disabled list. It wasn't necessarily a merit-based promotion--Kozma has had a tendency to be moved up no matter what his results at the current level are and was hitting under .250 at Memphis--but more to the point he was the only middle infielder left on the 40-man roster. Of course, since he was a shortstop all through the minor leagues, he made his first big league appearance at....second base. He also has played third base since he's been up. Not sure that he's actually play short yet, though. (In-game edit: noted that's where he played Sunday.)
Yadier Molinawent three for four and is having a career year with the bat. A lot of people seemed to write his offensive production possibilities off after his weak first half in 2010, but it's pretty clear that either Molina has learned something or Albert Pujols has loaned him whatever hitting mojo he has. If the latter is the case, I think it's time for AP to get that back now.
Hero: Allen Craig. Maybe that'll make up for the Goat tag. Craig went 3-4 with a big home run to give the Cardinals a bit of cushion.
Goat: Tyler Greene. 0-4 with two strikeouts, edging out Jon Jay (0-4 with 1 K) and Pujols (0-3).
Notes: Another good outing for Kyle McClellan, who got through the 8th using only 90 pitches. So far there's crow to be eaten in regards to McClellan, whose only test left is the length of the season. Can he still be effective in August and September? So far, he's not given many reasons to doubt that he can.
Hero: Jon Jay. Jay went 2-4, the only Cardinal with multiple hits, as no Redbird dented the plate.
Goat: Tyler Greene. Colby Rasmus had one more hitless at-bat than Greene, but Greene hit into one of those pervasive double plays (with the bases loaded, of course) plus went 0-2 with runners in scoring position. A lot of very smart people like Greene and think he'd be fine if just left alone to play. Perhaps so, but he's not really showing any of that in his extended trial.
Notes: Chris Carpenter was cruising along until the seventh when it all came unraveled for him. Ironically when compared to Sunday's game, it was Carpenter who was left in too long. Perhaps a shorter leash might be needed for him? Carp seems to be showing his age a bit this season, with more problems and blowups than in the past.
With all that, though (and, for once, some helpful work out of Trever Miller, who did still walk the first guy he faced), he gave up three runs and if the offense had been running like it normally was, he'd have possibly gotten a win.
Also should note that Ryan Franklin pitched a scoreless inning in relief after sitting for about a week. Good to see him have a successful outing.
Hero: Jake Westbrook. The change in Westbrook's results in the last few starts has been stark and very welcome. Eight scoreless innings, allowing only four hits and three walks, is acceptable any time out. Westbrook still hits a bump here and there, which is not surprising for a guy that needs command and a good infield behind him, but he's not the weak link he was back in April.
Goat: Colby Rasmus. 0-4 with two strikeouts. Even though the Cards didn't put up a lot of runs, most everyone did get a hit.
Notes: Big home run by Matt Holliday to put the Cards on the board. Nice to see him back in the lineup, though it didn't last very long. A solid inning of work for Fernando Salas as well, as he locked down the save.
Hero: Yadier Molina. 4-5 with a double and a triple, plus an infield hit. Yadi can do it all!
Goat: Miguel Batista. Perhaps you blame it somewhat on rust, as Batista hadn't pitched since last Friday, leaving us sadly lacking in poetry. Whatever the reason, he was terrible, turning a 7-3 game into 7-5 very quickly. While the rest of the bullpen didn't necessarily win any awards either, their foibles would have been immaterial without Batista's combustion.
Notes: Lot of different points in this one. First off, Colby Rasmus walked five times in this affair, something that doesn't happen often. Rasmus did drive in the tie-breaking run with a walk in the 10th, which is one way to get an RBI. Good to see the patience from Rasmus and, honestly, it's something that Pujols might want to think about. More about AP in a moment, but in general, he seems to continue to chase bad pitches.
Another nice game for Allen Craig, who went 2-2 with a home run before being pulled when the Cards had the big lead. Which leads to a discussion point, in my mind.
I understand what Tony La Russa says, that the Cards are up by six when Craig comes out and if they can't hold that lead, they don't deserve to win. Very valid point and I agree to some extent.
That said, you've gone into this series with 13 pitchers, which naturally leaves 12 on the offensive side. Nine of those 12, since you are in an AL park, are going to be in the lineup, leaving you a bench of three. You likely aren't going to use Gerald Laird(though TLR did wind up having to with Holliday leaving due to injury and probably regrets that now that Laird wound up breaking a bone, forcing a DL stint) so you have a regular bench of two guys. One of those guys, Ryan Theriot, is sick which is why he wasn't starting, so he's not that available. Do you really think this is the time to start resting players, especially a guy that could use the playing time?
It'd make a bit more sense if it was Pete Kozma coming off the bench rather than Tyler Greene. It's not that Greene hasn't played, he's playing fairly regularly. It's not that Greene is a raw rookie, he's gotten some experience. There's no big pressing reason to get him into that game.
Besides that, you've got two outfielders in Holliday and Lance Berkman that have been injured. Both were able to play in that game, which was surprising on the part of Berkman, but don't you hedge in case you need to take one of them out? Granted, Holliday was in the DH role which meant that Laird could stay in the game after pinch-running for him, but it just doesn't seem to be the best of roster management.
And that's not even getting into the pitching staff. I didn't get to watch much of the game yesterday, but according to Bill during Gateway To Baseball Heaven last night, there was some surprise on Jaime Garcia's part that he was coming in after allowing a home run to Jeff Francoeur to start the sixth.
Looking at Garcia's pitch history this season, it appears that La Russa is trying to baby Garcia a bit. Garcia has thrown 100 pitches four times this season. We're not talking 110-120 or anything, as the high for the year is 103. So right at 100 four times. Three of the four times, including yesterday, the next game out Garcia has thrown less than 85 pitches (82, 84, 84) with the exception being a 91-pitch outing against Houston.
It's true he's struggled a little bit more in those games than others, but he still has a 3.13 ERA in those four contests. There seems little reason to have such a dramatic policy for him, especially in an outing yesterday where he still had a comfortable lead and had started the inning. Pulling him after one batter in the sixth seems strange--either don't let him start the fifth or let him continue. It'd be different if it was a 3-1 game or something after the home run.
The other side of that coin is that, with 13 pitchers you have 8 relievers. You also have a starting staff that tends to go into the seventh or eighth on a fairly regular basis. The starters are good and they are able to be workhorses. That means, however, that the relievers do a lot of sitting around, especially those that aren't in a defined role right now.
Let's look at the usage of the relievers from last Friday (5/13) to yesterday. An X means they pitched, a - that they didn't.
Miguel Batista X--------X
Mitchell Boggs --X-------
Ryan Franklin -X-----X--
Trever Miller X-X----X-X
Jason Motte XX-------X
Fernando Salas X--XX-X-XX
Eduardo Sanchez X--X-X---X
And, of course, Brian Tallet has been injured and pitched yesterday for the first time since he was activated this weekend. Look at that, though. Boggs hasn't been used in a week--can that be good for him? Jason Motte went a lot time between appearances. For the post part, the bullpen is Miller (to face lefties), Salas and Sanchez. I'm not complaining about the use of those last two--I think they should get work. But is there really a demand for 13 pitchers?
So when you have guys that aren't pitching, you have to be tempted to let them "get their work in" when the game is apparently in hand. The problem with that is that leads disappear quickly and it always seems to be the case that when you "disrespect the game", as it were, it comes back to bite you. Taking Garcia out just to get others in is a shame.
After that weekend, though, there are a few issues outstanding. First is that Gerald Laird is out for a considerable amount of time, meaning that a backup must be summoned from Memphis. I don't think that it's a big surprise to anyone that Bryan Anderson is again passed over, with Tony Cruz being scheduled to come up and make his major league debut. While Anderson has had some success in the bigs, at least with the bat, he's not hitting much at Memphis now, making it much easier to justify the Cruz callup.
Again, it's obvious that Anderson needs to be dealt to another organization to have much of a chance. The prevailing opinion seems to be that his bat won't be strong enough to offset his glove. Perhaps that's true, I don't know. He's hit in the past and there was at least some talk last year that he'd made strides defensively. However you come down on it, it's pretty obvious the organization doesn't think much of him. The problem now is that they've taken this one-time top prospect and, by being blatant about their thought process, eliminated any trade value for him whatsoever. If he's more than a throw-in for a middling player, I'd be shocked.
The other issue I want to discuss (I know, this is running on, but that's what happens when I have five days worth of pent-up talk to get out) is the big guy at first base. If anything should have woken up Pujols's bat, it was a trip to Kansas City. He thrives there, whether it's because he likes the area or he's got a chip on his shoulder about not being drafted by them, I'm not sure, but he's usually good for a strong series against the Royals.
This time, though, he managed four singles in 12 at-bats, drawing only one walk and none on a day when the team walked 13 times. His homerless streak now has reached 103 at-bats, the longest of his career by a significant margin.
However, I took a look at the numbers last night and I wasn't as encouraged. First off, all the standard caveats that I throw out there when looking at numbers are in force (basically that I'm no sabermetrician and you shouldn't be surprised if there are big logical errors in my discussion), but after the same about of games in 2004, Pujols batting average was already on the way up to .294 and his OPS was over 1.000. He had 14 doubles and 14 home runs and, IIRC, had a 32/9 BB/K ratio, something of that nature.
This year, Pujols is at .269 BA, .750 OPS, has 5 doubles and 7 HR and, most tellingly in my mind, has a 20/19 K/BB ratio. These numbers are easily the worst of his career and, being that he's seven years older than in 2004, gives me a lot of concern for concern.
I'd like to look at AP's line-drive rate and ground-ball rate for the first 48 games of 2004 vs. the first 48 of 2011. Without being able to get to that, I'd guess that he's hitting a lot more ground balls this year and, as we know, grounders don't go over the wall and very rarely do they go for extra-bases.
Can he turn it around? Sure. But every day that goes by when he doesn't makes it more and more likely that he won't.
Of course, even with all these issues, the team is still leading the division by 2.5 games, one game shy of the best record in the National League, and ranked as the top NL team in at least one power ranking this week. Could have bigger problems, I guess!
OK, that's plenty from me. Cards head out to the West Coast (more late night baseball, but for the last time this year) and take on the Padres. If there's another place you don't need 13 pitchers, it's Safeco, because odds are they are going to be low-scoring games that the starter can get deep into. The Cards will take 13 out there anyway.
Here's tonight's starter, Kyle Lohse, historically vs. the Padres:
Looks like our old friend Ryan Ludwick's done well against Lohse in the past in his small sample of work. This could be a test for Lohse, but his healthy season may be able to override many of these numbers.
Dustin Moseley goes again vs. Cardinals. He was on the down side of the Garcia shutout on UCB Weekend, but did a good job of limiting the bats then as well. Pitching at home will help in that regard also, but here's the limited samples:
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