We could get used to this, couldn't we? Another day, another well-rounded performance by the Cardinals, who now sit at 5-1 and now lead the NL Central by a game and a half.
It has to be tempered, of course, with the fact that it's just six games. It's better than the alternative, most definitely, but we have to remember that the playoff tickets in St. Louis now are for the Blues, not the Cardinals. I heard on KMOX last night that the last five times the team has started off 5-1, only once did they make the playoffs (2000). It was interesting to hear that one of those teams with the hot start was the 1983 squad, who like this team was coming off a World Championship. So it's not over yet, though it's nice to watch.
I hate to keep giving the Hero tag to a pitcher, but if they are going to continue to be so dominant, it's going to be tough not too. I really didn't expect another gem out of Kyle Lohse last night. I thought he'd do well and keep the team in the game, but with balls just flying out of Great American Ball Park, I was sure he'd be touched for a couple. Instead, six innings of one-run ball, which will usually get you a win, especially backed by this offense.
Kudos to David Freese as well. Two for three, including a huge two-run home run that gave some cushion to Lohse and the bullpen. After Lohse let up his run after a Zach Cozart triple, those two runs became the game winners. He also could have been three-for-three if not for a classic Scott Rolen play. Still a lot of fun to see Rolen pick it in the field and make the throws, even if he's wearing the wrong red.
Nice to see Carlos Beltran swinging the big stick as well. The home run was his only hit, so that's the way to get some bang for your buck. Beltran's hitting .320 with three home runs, even stronger than Cardinal fans and management likely expected. Hopefully he'll be able to keep that up for the entire year.
Solid work by the bullpen as well. Mitchell Boggs and Jason Motte closed the door, with neither of them allowing any sort of rally to get started. Early on in the season the bullpen has been the shaky part of the team, so if it gets settled in, the Central really better watch out.
Rough night for Jon Jay. 0-5 in the leadoff role with a strikeout and a couple of men left on. I don't think we've seen the last of him in that leadoff slot, though as long as Rafael Furcal is hitting, he'll be up there most of the time.
Lance Berkman legged out a triple, but it was a costly one. After singling in the eighth, he came out of the game with a calf injury, one that hopefully won't keep him out for a long time. I'd guess he won't be in today's getaway game but with that and an off-day tomorrow, he'll be ready to go for the home opener on Friday. This team has dealt with enough injuries for the early going, let's hope we don't have to add one more to the pile.
Speaking of injuries, there was an update on Chris Carpenter yesterday. Carp's going to have some tests done at the end of the week to see where his strength is at before getting on a throwing program. Assuming everything comes out the way that the club and Carpenter are hoping, we could see him start making some minor league rehab starts maybe by the end of the month. Of course, I'm still leery about whether these tests are going to come back the way the club wants. It's good that Carp doesn't think it's as bad now as it was earlier in the spring, but I'm going to withhold any expectations of him being back before the All-Star Break until we hear these results. Even at best, an early June return would seem more likely than anything else. If Lance Lynn can put together starts like his last one, the loss is tempered. As long as everyone else stays healthy.
Early tilt for the Redbirds and their fans today, especially those not in the Eastern Time Zone. Jaime Garcia takes the mound facing a Cardinal nemesis in Johnny Cueto at 11:35 Central. Let's take a look at what the hitters have done against Garcia.
Garcia's been able to have a lot of success against the Reds, holding them to a pretty low average. He'll need to watch out for Drew Stubbs and we'd probably have seen Ryan Hanigan in today's lineup anyway (day game after a night game for a catcher) but this adds to Dusty Baker's motivation to get him in there.
As you can see, Garcia and Cueto have matched up before. August 10, 2010, which was the game so many of us remember from that season. We don't often remember that it was Garcia on the mound, though. I don't expect we'll see much in the way of fisticuffs today, though, even if Brandon Phillips is able to get back on the field.
Cueto's a tough pitcher to have to face when you are wanting a sweep. Here's how the Cards have done against him.
Wow, the Cardinals have teed off on him in the past. I knew that the first time he faced the Cards in his career, they went to town on him, but I don't think I realized that it'd continued. Now, Cueto has developed into a much better pitcher in the last year or so and some of this could be left over from facing him early on, but on the whole, those are some positive numbers to take into today's game.
Before I wrap this up, I want to go off on a bit of a tangent. Feel free to pack it in and call it a day if you don't want to read it.
I don't write about other sports in this space very often, mainly because I don't follow them. There's only one real sport, of course, and I'd rather focus on following it year-round than trying to learn the nuances of another. Besides, I feel like football is one of the symptoms of a declining society and it really over-saturates the sports market.
That said, I usually read the headlines and keep track of a few things. Being that I'm not only from Arkansas but a University of Arkansas alumni (with my name on the Senior Walk and everything), I tend to root for their teams and keep an eye on how they are doing. I've been glad to see that the football team recently has become somewhat of a national power and seemed to have a bright future.
If you are a sports fan, you know what has happened with their football coach over the last week, culminating in his firing. While I was surprised at the result, I wanted to say how proud I was to see my alma mater being coupled with words like "integrity" and "honor". These things don't happen in major college sports or, indeed, major sports in general. If you are a winner, sins are overlooked and rationalized away. If Bobby Petrino had been 2-10 last year instead of 11-2, this decision is expected. However, being ranked #5 in the country typically buys you some protection. It could be that Petrino counted on that.
Athletic Director Jeff Long, though, made the tough call to potentially sacrifice the future to do the right thing. It could be Arkansas never makes it any higher than where they are right now, but that doesn't mean people shouldn't be proud of what they've done. They made a stand in an arena that stands aren't made and they deserve any and all kudos for that.
Cards go for the sweep and look for a Happy Flight today (we still doing that this year?). Watch some baseball while you have your lunch!
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