You know, as Bill and I talked about last night on Gateway To Baseball Heaven, even if the Cards had a good month, say 19-6 in their last 25, they'd still be three games behind the Brewers. What Milwaukee is doing is amazing and will be part of the lore for their fans for many years to come, especially if they wind up doing damage in the postseason. So let there be no mistake, Milwaukee won this division.
That said, the Cards didn't have a good month. They are 10-9 in August and over their last 25 games, they are 13-12. So you can easily see why they (along with the rest of the division, which didn't play much better) got buried so quickly.
This road trip was a symbol of that and of the frustration that this team can cause. Already hanging on the fringes of the race due to their middling play and Milwaukee's run, a successful team would have gone through these two opponents, a Pittsburgh team that's come back to earth and a Chicago team that hasn't done anything all year (but has played better recently) and at least done some damage. I said I thought they needed to go 5-1 in that stretch and a contending team could have easily done that.
Instead, they dropped the first two games to Pittsburgh and won the last, then did the same thing in Wrigley Field (which means it was doubly aggravating). We're five and a half weeks from October and while Milwaukee's magic number is not yet in the single digits, it really looks like the Cards are playing out the string.
Let's take a quick look at Saturday's game. It can be quick because the Cards put up absolutely no offense in the game. Five hits, two from Jon Jay and two from Skip Schumaker, is all the team could muster against Matt Garza. (We'll give Skip the Hero because he had one less at bat, though it's good to see Jay hit that well.) Edwin Jackson pitched a very solid game, allowing only the three runs in seven innings and two of those came on a home run by noted Cardinal killer Aramis Ramirez. If he pitches that well every time out, he'll win a number of games.
On the downside, well, you could pick any number of batters who went 0 for the day. I guess we'll go and give it to Allen Craig, because with Jay getting two hits ahead of him, a hit here or there might have at least helped break the seal on the scoring and who knows how that could have affected the rest of the game.
As for last night's game, as Bill said on the show, it just shows how frustrating this team can be because we see what they can do when all the pieces click. The power was there--Hero Yadier Molina capped a big weekend for himself by hitting two homers, Albert Pujols hit one among his four hits and Jay also got one--plus the pitching showed up as well. Jake Westbrook wasn't dominant, allowing nine runners in seven innings, but he was effective, allowing only two runs. That'll do most nights and it was nice to see that as well. (BTW, we'll go with Schumaker as the Goat this time out since he went 0-4 in the leadoff role, even though he did drive in a run.)
For the most part, this turn through the rotation was very nice for the starting pitchers, even if they didn't get the results they wanted. Seeing some good pitching down the stretch would perhaps ease the sting of a season that didn't quite turn out the way we drew it up back in spring training.
As we saw the good and the bad from Schumaker this weekend, it's interesting to note the article that came out talking about his contract status. Will the Cardinals offer him arbitration or non-tender him? It seems impossible to think that Schumaker won't be back on this team next year, but what if Tony La Russa decides to hang them up? Would a new manager want Skip on the team? Can the Cardinals afford what his market rate might be? It's obviously not the biggest issue facing the Cards this offseason, but one I hadn't really thought much about. With all the shuffling that could happen this winter, Skip might be somewhere else in 2012.
Rafael Furcalsprained his thumb this weekend, tripping over some rope before the game on Saturday. Because that's exactly what the team needed, another injury. It's unknown if he'll be able to play in this series against his most recent former team that starts tonight. It doesn't sound like it is serious, though since Ryan Theriot has also aggravated his hamstring, Daniel Descalso might get a little extra playing time in the next couple of days.
Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp have done pretty well against him, but they do well against a lot of pitchers. If Carp can keep them in check, he'll likely have a good night.
The Dodgers send rookie Nathan Eovaldi to the hill tonight. I like to think that I've at least heard the name of a lot of the current major leaguers, but I'd never heard this one. Looks like he's making his fourth career start, which bodes ill for a Cardinal team that tends to not like seeing unfamiliar pitchers. Obviously (and ominously), no one on the Cardinals has faced him before.
Episode 2 of Conversations With C70 went up this weekend. If you've not seen that in your iTunes subscription (and if you are using iTunes, please consider submitting a review!) you can find it online as well. My thanks to Dathan Brooks for sitting in the hot seat!
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