After everything this team has been through, both with injuries and ineffectiveness (especially out of the bullpen), for them to be tied with the Brewers for first place in the division is a huge accomplishment. They split with a good Arizona team to finish up the first half, so let's take a look.
Hero: David Freese. He went 1-2 with two walks in the second slot in the lineup, a pretty interesting place for him to be. With his OBP he can get on base, but if he gets a prime pitch due to Albert Pujols being behind him, he can cause some damage. Not that he'll play there that often, likely, but it's another option for the lineup construction.
Goat: Lance Berkman. One of the very rare complete off nights for Berkman, as he went 0-4 with two strikeouts. One of those came with two on and one out after Matt Holliday had doubled in the only run of the night. A hit there could have made for a much different last few innings.
Notes: Have to give some credit to Kyle McClellan. I'm still not sure that he's going to be able to handle the rigors of the full season in the rotation, but I said it'd be great to see him come out and give a quality start and that's what he basically did. Seven innings and three earned runs (four total) gives the team a good chance to win. That they didn't really doesn't sit on his doorstep.
PJ Walters was called up to refresh the bullpen, with Brandon Dickson going down. (Also, in a surprise move, Mark Hamilton went down when they activated Gerald Laird.) Walters had a great outing in his 2011 debut, going two scoreless innings.
Hero: It's really a tossup, but I'll give it to Matt Holliday. Holliday went 2-5, no strikeouts, two RBI, a home run. Berkman goes 2-4, with two runs, one RBI, and a strikeout. You could go either way.
Goat: Kyle Lohse. It looked like he might be able to work out of things, but the grand slam to Kelly Johnson meant that he gave up seven runs in six and a third. Hopefully a little rest at the break and he could get back closer to his early season performance.
Notes: Another good "don't give up" game, as the Cards plate three in the eighth to get within a run. Obviously moral victories don't count in the standings, but as we saw the next night, sometimes those comebacks get completed. Nice outing for Raul Valdes after giving up earned runs in both of his last two appearances.
Hero: Albert Pujols. Tony Cruz might have had the game winning hit, but he wouldn't have had a chance without the big guy. Pujols hit his first home run since returning from the DL to tie up the game in the eighth and also went three for four on the night. Good to see him swinging the bat with authority.
Goat: Chris Carpenter. Whether it's been the extra pitches he's been throwing lately or just an off night, but Carp really didn't have it. Five runs (four earned) in six is pretty tough to deal with, especially when he walked four in that span as well.
Notes: Arizona had the choice of facing Cruz or Daniel Descalso in the final frame. I know Descalso has come up big at times late in games, but I think I'd have rather faced him than Cruz, who continues to show he belongs at the big league level. Great work by the bullpen. Mitchell Boggs allowed the only two batters he faced to reach (and one came around to score against Jason Motte) but other than that the pen did its job very effectively.
Hero: David Freese. His two-run home run was the difference in the ballgame.
Goat: Ryan Theriot. 0-4 in the leadoff slot can really hamper a lineup.
Notes: Jaime Garcia wasn't as sharp as we've seen him in Busch Stadium, but it was enough to get the win. Great work out of Lance Lynn as well, who is doing a fantastic job after being converted from a starter in the minors.
Shelby Miller and Carlos Martinez were solid at the Futures Game. It's good to see the Cardinals have some top prospects that can hold their own against other top talent. It's a far cry from the days when players like John Gall were the top names in the minors just because they were better than a weak bunch.
After the brake, the rotation will get an adjustment: Lohse, Carpenter, Jake Westbrook, Garcia, McClellan will be how it is coming out of the gate. I'm not sure what I think about that Reds series going with Lohse and Westbrook both, as a sweep could really damage the Reds quickly. That said, Garcia and McClellan (especially McClellan) could use the extra time.
Colby Rasmusisworking with his dad, trying to figure out what's going wrong. I checked his numbers and was surprised to see how rough the first half had been on him. Getting Rasmus going would be a huge thing for the second half.
That is, assuming Rasmus is still around. The reason his sessions with his dad are news is because Tony La Russa made them that way, with the casual toss out to the media as he says Mark McGwire and company aren't to blame for Rasmus if he's not listening to them. It doesn't take much to get the Rasmus pot stirring.
I still say keep him and I'd favor the young, talented player over the manager most any day, but I do think that it's becoming easier to face the possibility of moving him. There's a possibility that he won't reach his full potential in St. Louis, and there's even a chance he won't be as good as we think anyway. He won't sign a long-term deal with the Cardinals, I feel pretty confident, and while Jon Jay and Adron Chambers would be downgrades, they would be cheaper as well. With Rasmus one of the team's few good trade chips, I think you have to keep an open mind, even if I wouldn't put him on the block.
Brian Tallethas kidney disease which might hamper his return. We'll have to see if he can get back to throwing soon. At least he was able to find it early, which is great.
Bernie Miklasz has some positive thoughts about the second half. I'm with him--the rest of the season has the potential to be outstanding!
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