For the second time this year, the Cards were unable to pull off the sweep of Cincinnati. Again, winning series is the important thing and if the Cards continue to play over .600 ball, they are going to win a lot of games and be in the playoffs, but it can be just a bit frustrating to be that close to a sweep and not see them finish it off.
Again, Adam Wainwrightwasn't the pitcher that we expect him to be. He allowed a home run to Brandon Phillips and then, two batters later, one to Ryan Ludwick in a three-run fourth that put the Cards in a hole. So far this season, 11 of the 14 runs he has allowed have come via the long ball, which at least means if he gets that corrected, he could be back to the dominant Wainwright quicker than expected. (The P-D says 11 of 15, including the inherited runner that Victor Marte allowed in the Milwaukee game. However, that run scored on a Corey Hart homer, so calculate it as you will. I guess technically 12 of 15 have come from a home run, just not only ones Wainwright allowed.)
Wainwright won't blame the surgery for his early struggles, which is admirable. However, he's throwing his fastball more often than he has the last couple of years, but it's a couple of miles slower than it was pre-surgery. Everything else seems to be right on target in regards to speed, so developing a stronger fastball may be the key to turning around the season for him. That's just going to take time and repetition, most likely.
What's strange is that the Cards, the team with the best offense in the game and the team that so often has given the pitcher a lead even before he gets to the mound, have not scored a single run while Wainwright is on the mound. A strange coincidence, perhaps. It's definitely strange.
On the positive side, we saw a good game out of Matt Holliday. His three-run blast made it a game before Marte gave up a run in the seventh and Fernando Salas (who is another pitcher that has struggled a lot this season) did the same in the ninth. Holliday also singled in his last at-bat, getting his average over the .200 mark.
Other thoughts: Matt Carpenter went 0-4 and is now 0-6 since his big game on Sunday. Since he's going to be the starting first baseman for a while, I sure hope he didn't use up everything he had in that early start. It's going to be interesting to see how he responds to the league preparing for him and focusing on his weaknesses.
Rafael Furcal got another couple of hits from the leadoff slot. I'm not sure how long this will last, but it's nice to see him on such a run. Daniel Descalso and Tyler Greene continue their race to see who will yield first and take the second base job, as both of them went 0-3 with a strikeout to drop their averages under .200. If they aren't careful, someone else may get into that mix very quickly.
As expected, Skip Schumaker is coming off the DL today, passing Lance Berkman as he goes on it. Schumaker is being hurried a bit because of Berkman's situation and may wind up playing the outfield sooner than expected since Jon Jay ran into the wall yesterday and hurt his shoulder. Jay's injury isn't expected to take DL time, but we've all come to realize that expectations with Cardinal injuries don't always come to fruition.
With Jay out, Shane Robinson might get the start tonight in Pittsburgh if the Cards still want to be cautious. However, you have to figure Schumaker will be out there before the end of the series unless Robinson just takes off.
It's good to hear that Allen Craig is getting some work in down in extended spring training. Since we hadn't heard much about him, I was afraid that his rehab had hit a setback. Instead, it sounds like he could be ready to go in St. Louis by mid-May, which would mean that he and Berkman could come off the DL fairly close to each other. Robinson better enjoy any extra playing time, because odds are he's not long for the big league club.
Lance Lynn gets to go up against the Pirates tonight. (Side note: Ya think Pittsburgh's glad that #5 guy isn't coming with us anymore?) Lynn hasn't faced many of the Pirate hitters before, as you'll see, but right now the Pittsburgh offense is the worst in the league. Which means in theory Lynn should be able to go out there and dominate. In practice, well, we'll have to wait and see. The limited numbers:
Obviously he's faced these guys as a reliever before, so the approach might be a bit different. And with a sample size that small, it really doesn't tell you much anyway.
Charlie Morton, the guy that got a lot of press last year in his early success by being a guy that copied Roy Halladay, gets the start tonight. He tailed off at the end of last season and had a mediocre first start of the season. Facing the Cards may not make it much better.
Really a shame Berkman got hurt, as this is the second game in a row where he has outstanding career numbers against the starter. Lots of good numbers up and down the lineup, though Descalso hasn't done much with him. We'll see if they can keep that up tonight.
Cards still lead the division by three games over Milwaukee and 3.5 over Pittsburgh. If the biggest problem they have this year is the inability to finish off sweeps, it's going to be a lot of fun this summer.
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