The Cards start the last four weeks of the season today. Hopefully, it goes much better than Wednesday did.
There was a lot of complaining before that game about the lineup that Mike Matheny ran out there. No Matt Holliday, no Allen Craig, no Yadier Molina. It just didn't look like a lineup that you would run out there when you were trying to go for the jugular and hopefully continue to make up ground on the Reds and the Braves. While the former might be a pipe dream, it doesn't mean that you have to write it off completely.
Of course, there were rationales for the weaker lineup. The Cards were playing their last game in a stretch of twenty straight, so there was going to be a need for a breather. They were facing R.A. Dickey, who had shut down a more regular lineup back in June and whose knuckler could, if conventional wisdom was accurate, cause an extended slump for some players. If St. Louis could stay close, perhaps they could bring the big bats out against the Mets' bullpen, who throw more traditionally.
Whatever the case, the lack of offense wasn't the main problem. Adam Wainwright helped make up for it with a home run, but it wasn't his day as he gave up five runs in five innings and left trailing 5-1. There aren't many days where Dickey gives up five or more runs, so I'm not sure even a full-blown attack would have done the Cards much good there.
That is back to back bad starts for Wainwright, giving rise to questions about whether he is tired or not after so many innings coming back from Tommy John surgery. Wainwright says he's not, which has to be given some credence, and that seemsto be backed up. It's more that his arm slot has gotten off as he says, though you wonder why his slot has gotten off. It would seem to me that could be a symptom of some fatigue, but it can also be just bad mechanics or a bad habit he's gotten into and, after some side work, he can break out of that. Hopefully that's the case and we'll see a better Wainwright on Tuesday against the Padres.
For the Hero, we'll go with Jon Jay. Both he and Daniel Descalso had two hits, but Jay being in the leadoff slot broke that tie. Descalso did score a run, but it was an extremely frustrating one (not at all his fault). With runners on the corners and nobody out in the seventh, Craig pinch hits. Being at work, I'm following on GameDay and see "In play, run(s)", always a welcome site. There's a delay in it updating, which lets you wonder. Was it a single? Maybe a double that drove in two? Could they be making a late comeback? Instead, it turned out to be a double play that brought the run in, which was the most unsatisfying way ever of having that tension resolved.
Wednesday also saw the major league debut of one Shelby Miller and, if that was indicative of what we are going to see out of Miller for his career, I say bring it on. You can read a lot of the technical stuff here (and see animated GIFs!). What's interesting to note is that he didn't come out blazing fastballs. I mean, first time in the bigs, that's what you'd expect, right? You'd expect a kid to try to live up to the gunslinger idea and just keep pumping 95 mph fastballs to the plate, saying "hit this if you can". Instead Miller, perhaps showing that his adjustments to both his stuff and his mindset mid-season have really taken hold, tended to get faster as he went. It was good to see and having him strike out the side in his second inning of work was pretty slick as well.
Perhaps fittingly, though, his first out in Major League Baseball didn't come without some controversy. Miller got Andres Torres to foul a ball back, which Tony Cruz got under and caught. No big deal, save that Cruz was very close to the netting that is behind home plate. Mets manager Terry Collins came out to argue that the ball hit the netting and, as such, was a dead ball unable to be caught. The umps didn't see it that way and Torres went back to the bench, the first victim of Miller. At least Torres didn't strike out, which is more than a lot of his compatriots could say.
A couple of players we haven't seen much of got into this game. Lance Berkman got the start and singled and reached on an error. He also played almost all game at first and didn't report any problems. While it was good to see that Berkman can play and still contribute, it's becoming more and more obvious that this is his last year.
Berkman has contacted his alma mater, Rice University, to talk about finishing his degree. Obviously, with over $100 million earned in his career, he doesn't need the degree to make his way in the world, but it's good to see he's going back to finish. Not only that, he's wanting to be a student assistant to the baseball team while he's there. I'm guessing that he'll be the most overqualified SA ever, but that'd be incredible for those players. Something tells me that Berkman will do whatever SAs are supposed to do, even if that's laundry and dugout maintenance. Personally, I think Berkman would be an incredible analyst on TV in his retirement, either in pre/post game shows or as the color guy in the booth. (Man, team him with Dan McLaughlin on a regular basis? FSMW would see about a 75% decline in snarky comments and complaints toward it, I bet.)
We also saw the return of Victor Marte and realized just exactly why it was that we hadn't seen Marte much lately. He faced three batters, none of them got out and a run came in. The bullpen has gotten better while Marte is out and hopefully Matheny will limit his use to games where the Cards are well behind. Marte shouldn't be put in any close games between now and the end of the season, when he'll likely get his release.
The Cardinals really have to buckle down over the last four weeks. St. Louis does have a game and a half lead over Pittsburgh and Los Angeles for the last wild card slot, but are 3.5 behind Atlanta, meaning they'd have to go on the road for that play-in game. There's not a large margin of error here and they have to take advantage of the fact that, save for four games in Los Angeles and the last six games of the year, it's not the toughest of roads to hoe.
That road starts with Milwaukee tonight, coming to St. Louis for a three game set. Milwaukee stands seven back in the wild card race, which would seem a long way but that's about where the Cards were last year before they faced Atlanta in September. The Brewers are coming in with the idea that a sweep puts them right in the thick of things and the Cards have to make sure that doesn't happen.
They should be able to get off on the right foot since Kyle Lohse is going for the Redbirds tonight. Lohse struggled last time out, allowing five runs in just under six innings against the Nationals in a game the Cards rallied to win. Other than that, though, he's been fairly dominant and pitched six innings of shutout ball the last time he saw the Brewers.
There are some players on here that have done well against Lohse. Rickie Weeks has struggled all year long, but has historically done OK against the Cardinal pitcher. Aramis Ramirez has dominated him, but is having back problems and may miss this outing.
Yovani Gallardo goes for the Brewers and that could be a problem for the boys in red. Gallardo has been a thorn in their side in the past, almost throwing a no-hitter against them last year. However, he's not faced the Cards since April, when he threw two horrible games against them, allowing a total of 14 runs in just 5.2 innings. Pittsburgh also roughed him up last time out, scoring seven off of him.
David Freese sure likes seeing him and Carlos Beltran has good numbers in limited action. Holliday's been known to get some extra-base hits against him as well.
This weekend is also United Cardinal Bloggers weekend or #ucbweekend if you want to follow the Twitter hashtag. You can read a humorous look at what might happen over at our friends at Pitchers Hit Eighth, but I think it's fairly unlikely that we'll have the Game 6 recreation.
On Sunday, the Cardinals are being gracious enough to invite us to the game. We'll have a little time with team president Bill DeWitt III and general manager John Mozeliak, then get to watch the Cards take on the Brewers from one of their suites. There are going to be a cavalcade of blogging stars, including On The Outside Corner, Aaron Miles' Fastball, RetroSimba, Redbird Dugout, Fungoes.....the list goes on and on.
Speaking of Fungoes, Pip and I had a chance to sit down and talk last night. Hopefully the next episode of Conversations With C70 will be up later on today, so keep an eye on my Twitter feed.
Finally, Chris Jaffe of The Hardball Times, who always has some great stuff, points out that it's been 20,000 days since the Cards were able to obtain Curt Flood, 15,000 days since Bob Gibson threw a no-hitter (which was also the same day Tony La Russa went from Kansas City to Atlanta), 30 years since the passing of Ken Boyer, and 14 years since Mark McGwire tied up Roger Maris. Lots of good Cardinal stuff on this day!
Hopefully the Cards can end the Brewers' thoughts of becoming, well, the 2011 Cardinals tonight with a win in the first game. Enjoy the weekend!
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