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Another Lost Cardinal Weekend

Posted on August 30, 2010 at 6:55 AM
Filed Under: Heroes and Goats | Houston Astros | St. Louis Cardinals | Washington Nationals
What is left to say about this team?  We are using up all the possible words to describe what we are seeing out of this team that, on paper, is one of the most talented ever to play in St. Louis but, on the field, has a frustrating inability to not put bad teams away.  That'd be annoying if they were up 5 games in the division.  Since they are now 5 games down, it is potentially fatal.  A quick recap:

Friday (4-2 win)
Hero: Matt Holliday.  2-4 with a home run that turned out to be pretty big when Ryan Franklin danced through the ninth.
Goat: Felipe Lopez.  0-3 with two strikeouts sitting in the middle of the lineup keeps the engine sputtering.
Notes: Jaime Garcia didn't pitch as well as he did last time out, of course, but was able to make the pitches he needed to get out of his jams.  He might not have been able to do that against lesser teams, perhaps, but the rest of the staff couldn't do it against this lesser team.

Saturday (14-5 loss)
Hero: Skip Schumaker.  In a game that didn't have much redeeming value, his two hits and a run stand out.
Goat: Pick one.  I guess the most glaring is Kyle Lohse for not only allowing eight runs, but to have squandered the 3-0 lead he was handed plus the 5-5 tie the Cards rallied for.  The home run to Adam Dunn really put the nail in the coffin.
Notes: I'm guessing since rosters are about to expand they won't cut him, but will we see Mike MacDougal in anything but a lopsided game or as the last pitcher out of the pen?  I hope not.

Sunday (4-2 loss)
Hero: Pedro Feliz.  2-4 and a home run, which allowed the Cardinals again to have a game where the tying run comes to the plate in the ninth.
Goat: Adam Wainwright.  Waino continues to put a dent in his possible Cy Young season by not only being unable to gain his 18th win, but to lose against such inferior teams.  Milwaukee, Pittsburgh and now Washington have beaten him his last three times out, and his ERA in that span is 5.21.  Not the best time for him to hit the wall.
Notes: Jon Jay seems to be cooling off, as expected.  An 0-7 in the extra inning game and another 0-fer here.  Did have a home run this weekend, though, so he's got that going for him. Fernando Salas is a definite keeper.  I think he and Mitchell Boggs were the only bullpen members not affected by the meltdowns this weekend.

As always, more descriptive recaps of the games over in my weekly Baseball Digest column, if you can bear to go through it.

We aren't tracking the pennant race here, but it does bear noting that the Cards are now five games behind the Reds and three out in the wild card.  After these last two series and knowing that Houston has a 7-5 season advantage on us, it really seems like September may be just playing out the string.

Which means, of course, that there is much more time for the palace intrigue between Tony La Russa and Colby Rasmus.  Rasmus was scheduled to play in yesterday's game, so much so that KPLR listed him in the starting lineup and Jay Randolph was completely thrown off by the fact that Aaron Miles was hitting where Jon Jay was supposed to be.  (Really, it doesn't take much to throw Randolph off.  I'm going to be pretty glad that all the games are on FSMW next season.)

Apparently, TLR decided to scratch Rasmus due to an abundance of caution.  He said something about wanting to give him another day, didn't want him to get dehydrated or anything of that nature.  Which is all well and good....if they had moved the game from a night game to a day game all of the sudden.  Last I checked, though, people have been planning for that 1:35 EDT start since, oh, the beginning of the season.

So what really is going on in the clubhouse?  A very good discussion on that topic is over at Viva El Birdos.  I hope that there is less there than we fans are making out of it, but anyone that's read Three Nights In August knows what La Russa thought about JD Drew.  If the fans are starting to do a little comparison of those two, is the manager as well?  Is it possible that that previous relationship is coloring the current one?

Back in 2007 and 2008, when the manager was seemingly incompatible with the young star, I argued that you keep the youngster and let go of the manager.  I was wrong then, as Anthony Reyes hasn't panned out in Cleveland any more than he did in St. Louis.  However, I'm not swerving from that course in this instance.  Not only is Rasmus more established than Reyes ever was, you have to wonder if La Russa is losing the clubhouse.  If so, there's no reason to stick with him over a guy that you really have to have in the long run, if only from a payroll point of view.

Not only were the Cardinals' October chances hurt this weekend, but so were Albert Pujols's Triple Crown chances.  After getting as close as one point in the batting race, today finds AP sitting six points out of the batting race, now trailing Carlos Gonzalez.  (That's not including the specter of Omar Infante, who is at .341 and creeping closer to eligibility.)  Albert is also only two RBI ahead of Joey Votto, as the two battle it out.

Of course, Pujols isn't thinking much about it and won't do a lot of discussing of it, but you wonder if either that or the fact that the team is struggling again is starting to weigh on him.  He has six strikeouts in his last five games, which would not be notable given his "struggles" in that department this year, but during his hot streak, he's been making significant contact.  The first 19 games of August, he struck out only four times.  If he's falling out of "the zone", it could make it very difficult for him to win any of the TC categories, much less all of them.

While it wasn't the best of weekend for Pujols on the field, off the field provided probably one of the highlights of his life.  Much was made out of AP and TLR being a part of Glenn Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally in Washington this weekend.  I never worried much about it, one because TLR emphasized they were told it would be non-political, which it seems to have turned out to be, and frankly because I'm on that side of the spectrum anyway.  (Shocking, I know, to find a conservative on the Internet!)

I hope that everyone, whatever their political beliefs, can acknowledge that the Cardinal representation at the rally was done well and non-politically.  Here's a video of both of them and politics never comes up.  From what I understand, it was more a religious rally than anything and, as such, there's no doubt that Pujols belonged there.

The Cardinals finish up this road trip by going to Houston for three games.  As mentioned above, Houston has been a thorn in the side of the Redbirds all year long.  We should have known this was going to be a frustrating year when the Cardinals became the first team to lose to them, or when Houston swept them in St. Louis is mid-May.  In other words, expect a sweep is out of the question and hoping for a series win may just be a long shot.

Jake Westbrook goes for the Cardinals.  In his words, he's been "consistently mediocre" since coming over from Cleveland.  Given whom he was replacing in the rotation, mediocre was a step up.  Still, it'd be nice to see him come out and give a strong performance for once.  Especially since the Redbirds go up against J.A. Happ, who I thought was someone that had shut the Cards down a lot in the past, but he gave up five runs in six innings last year and seven runs in the only inning he's faced the team this year.  Maybe this is a more favorable game than I thought.

On a final note, I've mentioned before the Social Media night that the Cardinals are having on September 16.  As someone that does the blogging and the Facebook and the Twitter, it's of course of interest to me.  While it's not to the level of other major league teams, who have had dedicated nights for their bloggers and at times have given them press credentials to cover the ball game from the press box, it was a first step.  Could have been bigger, but it was definitely good to see the Cardinals going in that direction.

Matt Sebek, writing over at Joe Sports Fan's new abode, has put together an open letter to the Cardinals, suggesting that they should have expanded their panel to include more non-traditional media members.  I'm flattered to have been included on Matt's list, though basically anyone else on that list would be much more interesting to listen to than myself!

Cards and Houston tonight at 7:05.  If you want the perspective from the other side, remember friend of the blog Astros County for your Houston needs.

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4 Comments | Leave a comment

G. O. A. T = Greatest Of All Time, like Mariano Rivera of the Yankees, find another adjective.

Kip, are you really serious? If I had used it as an acronym, I think you might have a point, but since the term "goat" as a failure, a disappointment, a reason for bad things well predates Ali's use of the letters, I think I'm safe to keep using it. Thanks for the comments, though.

you have to wonder if La Russa is losing the clubhouse

Oh, I think the clubhouse was lost several weeks ago. There's been a crack in the foundation for a while, and things have just seemed a bit disjointed, if you will. I think the Ludwick trade widened that crack(especially after one player said to either Strauss or Goold, "what the hell are we doing?"), and this rift with Rasmus is just making it even bigger. We all know, though, who the FO will side with, and it'll just push Rasmus farther and farther into the TLR doghouse. I fully expect to see Craig and Stavinoha get a lot of playing time once the rosters are expanded on Wednesday.

I don't know, though. If they plan to keep Pujols, they have to have young, cheap, good talent. In that case, Rasmus is much more valuable. Add in the fact that this team has underachieved really for the majority of two seasons and I wonder if TLR's welcome is wearing thin.

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