The Cardinals have a home stand against the two worst teams in the division and they've been taking advantage of it. They didn't really capitalize on their offensive showing last night, getting only three runs out of 11 hits (no walks, not sure if that meant Houston pitching was around the plate or patience wasn't in force last night) but they didn't have to since the hot-weather Jake Westbrookshowed up.
Again, you have to take some excitement with a grain of salt, since Houston is struggling, but being that these batters had a good career history against Westbrook, I think it's a good sign. I remember that Westbrook was very solid down the stretch last year (including the mid-September game that was the first Social Media Night) and if he can do that again this year, it increases the odds of the Cards making the playoffs significantly.
All the scoring came via the long ball, asAlbert Pujols hit a disputed home run in the first inning, giving the Cards a 2-0 lead, then David Freese added insurance with home run number 5, a career-high for him in the big. We've all expected more pop out of Freese and hopefully we are getting it. Last year all of his home runs were centered in a two-week span before his injury. If he can start hitting for a little more regular power, that'd be a good thing.
The bullpen was also stellar last night. Fernando Salas was fairly dominating, striking out the side in the ninth (though he did walk a batter) and Lance Lynn showed that he can be an eighth inning guy now that it appears Eduardo Sanchez isn't going to make it back this season. All in all, it seemed to alleviate some worries about the pen, even as John Mozeliak said there were more opportunities to bring in a reliever.
Of course, there is still a pen issue, and that's the left-handed "relief".Trever Miller again allowed the only runner he faced to get on last night. It was pointed out that he's not been used much, throwing only 1 1/3 innings in July. However, in three different appearances in July, he did not get a batter out. In fact, nine of his 39 appearances this year have a 0.0 in the innings column. More to the point, he's faced 77 batters and allowed 29 of them to reach via hit or walk. When 38% of the time you can't get the couple of guys out that you are supposed to, it becomes a major issue. I still expect Mozeliak to bring in a lefty if he can find one, but we'll have to wait and see what's going to be available.
Lance Berkman gets the Goat as the only hitter with no hits. He also had to leave early due to the shoulder strain that initially looked like it would keep him out of the starting lineup last night as well. Reports are he's going to get an MRI on it today, which may be a wrench in any trade discussions. Matt Holliday was also out of the lineup battling illness, but should be back in a day or so.
Also, it didn't escape anyone's notice thatDaniel Descalso started at short and got two hits. However, there's nothing like a platoon with him and Ryan Theriot because that would be "oversimplifying" and we all know there is nothing, NOTHING simple about the way TLR manages. I'm sure Theriot will still see a lion's share of the playing time, but he's really going to have to get right before he plays every day. Nice of TLR to at least acknowledge that.
The biggest point of discussion, of course, is the trade talk surrounding the centerfielder. Take it for what it's worth (and that's going to be at various levels for different members of the UCB) but Joe Strauss indicates the Colby Rasmus situation might be untenable. Tony La Russa indicates that Rasmus isn't listening to the coaches, even though he was pretty supportive and happy with Rasmus overall in the interview. That, to me, was more of a shot at Papa Rasmus than an indication he wanted Colby out of the organization.
Lots of teams are sniffing around on Rasmus, of course, because they smell a deal. It seems obvious that, unless the Cards can get a lot for him, they should keep him around. I don't figure that Seattle would give up Michael Pineda for him or anything of that nature. If all you are going to do is collect some spare part, some players that might or might not help this year and be gone later, then that's doing a disservice to both Rasmus and the fan base.
However, if Berkman's going to be out of any length of time, the talks have to come to a halt. Do we really want to see an outfield of Holliday, Jay and Schumaker on a regular basis? Perhaps Holliday, Jay and Allen Craig when he returns, but that's assuming he can get right back into the swing of things after the layoff. Hopefully it's a moot point and Berkman will be fine, but it's something to keep in mind.
Still four days plus until the trading deadline. The first dominoes haven't fallen yet, but once they do (if they do), things could get busy in a hurry. According to Twitter, the White Sox and Jays are close to a deal that would put Edwin Jackson in Canada and some Cardinal minds at ease. We'll see if it pans out and if that starts the wildfire.
Cards look to take the series tonight and it may be another low-scoring affair. For the Birds, Chris Carpenter is on the mound. Surprisingly enough, he's not faced the Astros yet this year. Here's what he's done in his career:
Looks like he's fared very well. Still have to keep Carlos Lee in the park, but other than that, should be good to go.
On the other side, it's Cardinal killer Bud Norris. He's faced the Cards three times this year, and he's 1-1 with a 2.84 ERA against them. Sadly, that's progress from his earlier stints against the club. Here are the numbers:
Nobody really stands out, but Descalso will probably be in the lineup somewhere with that 3 for 4 line. Berkman has done OK as well, but again doesn't sound like he'll be in the lineup. Here's hoping to keep the roll going!
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ensuring transparency and, most likely, the onset of some good baseball