The idea at the trade deadline is to give a team an added boost to push them to the finish line. While it's way too early to determine whether it worked or not here, the last couple of nights have reinforced an idea that has been floating around, that it may be not enough for this team.
Let's look at last night first before examining the bigger picture. In his first outing, Marc Rzepczynksi gets the Hero tag, throwing two very impressive innings in relief. Not limited to just LOOGY status, he struck out four of the seven batters he faced, allowing just a solitary hit. On Twitter, there was some discussion about why he was allowed to throw two innings (the pitch count was a season high), but he handled it well. I'd suggest that either Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan wanted to really see what they had in Rzepczynski or the stretching him out process has already begun. Whatever the case, he looks like a good addition to the bullpen, if last night is representative of what he can do.
Corey Patterson and Octavio Dotel also got into the action with positive marks on the scoreboard. Patterson drove in the first run of the game while Dotel threw a scoreless ninth. At least for one night, there wasn't much complaining about what came back in the deal.
Among the regulars, it was good to see Albert Pujols have a couple of doubles, but there just wasn't much else going from the offensive side of things. If Houston trades Wandy Rodriguez, I hope it's to the American League so the Cards don't have to face him nearly as often.
Flipping the focus, Jaime Garcia was off last night. I don't know if the law of averages is catching up to him, but his last two road starts--where he had been struggling--were excellent, while he comes home--a place where he'd been dominant--and allowed five runs and was generally inefficient, throwing just under 100 pitches in six innings.
Really, that's the key. If it's a good night for Garcia, he throws about 8 innings in that many pitches. If he starts scuffling early, it's probably going to be a short night for him. That's the way it was last night. Granted, he had some complications and one of the charges against Garcia has been his ability to lose focus at times, but on the whole, not what we wanted to see out of him in a game that was a needed win.
So the Cardinals reach the midway point in this series against one of the worst teams in the NL with two wins and their top two pitchers going next. They wind up with an unsatisfying split, which seems to be par for the course for this team.
Since June 1, this team is 22-27 by my count. Granted, there were some injuries that played a part in that, but the idea coming out of the All-Star break was that this team was ready to rock and roll, ready to put up a strong second half. Instead, they are just 6-7 so far since the game out in Arizona. While the competition has been better than doormats, they still should be better than that. Right now, this team feels like mediocrity.
Of course, mediocrity might be enough to win the NL Central, but I'd be a little surprised. The Cards sit tied for second, 1.5 games behind Milwaukee for the division lead. It's not like Milwaukee or Pittsburgh is tearing things up either, but right now all it'll take is one medium-sized winning streak from either team and the Cardinals might be too far out to worry about it.
This team, from a fan's point of view, still just feels out of sync. Last night was an example--as soon as the team shores up its pitching staff, three position players leave because of injury. Tony Cruz and Gerald Laird sound like they should be ready tonight or tomorrow, but Nick Punto, who is working on that "oft-injured" descriptor to go in front of his name, may wind up back on the DL. While the manager continues to say that Allen Craig may not be ready yet, if Punto hits the DL (and with Craig getting two hits in Memphis last night), I'd be surprised if that's not the move that's made.
We know if the offense gets clicking and starting working with a pitching staff on a roll, very good things can happen in St. Louis. All the parts are here (though one right now, Lance Berkman, apparently is still not likely to play tonight either) to make a run. Whether they'll all get on the same page is a question that is likely to linger for some time, and the longer it lingers, the less likely it is to happen or, at least, happen in time.
Just as a passing note, a Chicago columnist has suggested that the White Sox didn't take Colby Rasmus because they wanted Tony La Russa to manage for them next year. I'm thinking that if Cardinal management didn't have a strong feeling TLR was coming back next year, they'd have been more likely to tell them to deal with each other for a couple of months. It was the fact that La Russa was going to be around for longer than this season that gave the club the impetus to trade him.
Edwin Jackson makes his Cardinal debut tonight and gets to jump straight into the Cards/Cubs rivalry. He's had some experience against the North Siders, but has it been good?
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