I'm sure there was something good about the Cardinals trip to Los Angeles this weekend. However, it might have been limited to hearing Vin Scully on the call because, otherwise, this was like checking into Hotel California--as much as they wanted it to, it seemed like the trip would never end for the Redbirds. Let's look at these three losses, four if you count personnel as well.
Hero: When you hit a home run to tie the ballgame in the ninth inning, especially when it's a pinch-hit version, you get this title. Lance Berkman did his part to keep the Cardinals alive, even if it didn't last more than a half-inning.
Goat: When you walk in the winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning, you get this title. Fernando Salas has continued to struggle this year and he walked three (one intentionally) plus gave up a hit in just one-third of an inning. There's still hope for Salas, of course--he had a very good outing against Atlanta last weekend--but you start to wonder if the consistency is going to come.
Notes: Matt Holliday came up with a big home run, capping a four-run inning and giving the Cards the lead on Ted Lilly, who otherwise shut them down like he always does. Lance Lynn battled, but wasn't able to keep that lead longer than a half-inning. He wound up giving up four in six innings, which kept the team in the game at least. Marc Rzepczynski gave up what looked to be the winning run in the seventh before Berkman's rally. It was a rough weekend for Scrabble.
Hero: Yadier Molina, who went 2-3 in the game. Only Holliday also had more than one hit as Clayton Kershaw dominated the lineup. That's what Cy Young Award winners do and coming into the game everyone knew it would be a tough matchup. How the end of the game worked out added extra depression.
Goat: Any number of 0-for-Saturday batters could fit this bill, but I think I'm going to go with Eduardo Sanchez. The game was likely already out of hand when it was turned over to him, but he finished it off, allowing two runs of his own and his only inherited runner to score, turning a reasonable effort into a rout. Sanchez has electric stuff, but still can't always harness it.
Notes: Jake Westbrook really deserved a better fate. He gave up two runs in the first when Matt Carpenter misplayed a ball at first. He then allowed a home run in the seventh but nothing else. A solid defense behind him and it's possible things would have been different, though facing Kershaw, they well may not have.
The bigger loss came in the bottom of the second, where a routine ground ball to shortstop ended the inning, but also possibly the season and the career of Berkman. While the team and the first baseman await today's MRI to see what exactly the injury is, there are small odds that there is going to be anything positive come out of this. The fear is that he's torn his ACL, which would definitely keep him out the rest of the season. With no real likelihood of coming back to St. Louis after this season, Berkman would have to weigh how much he wanted to keep playing, deciding if he wanted to do all the significant rehab he would have to go through to play at the big league level, especially when he doesn't know where he'd be playing.
If it is the ACL, I'm leaning toward thinking he's done. He's considered retirement before, he's been fairly picky about where he wants to play, and I think he walks away. Now, apparently there's a possibility, however small, that it is just a meniscus tear, which from what I understand would not be as severe and Berkman could be back the latter half of the season.
Hero: Rafael Furcal. Two hits from the leadoff position and drove in two as well.
Goat: Rzepczynski. I think a number of Cardinal fans of a certain age would have been fine with Scott Van Slykegetting his first home run against the team. They remember his dad fondly and it would have been like a family member taking a big step. However, that was only if he hit it in a rout or a game the Cards won. When he hits a three-run shot off Scrabble that winds up winning the game, Cardinal fans are not amused.
Notes: Cardinals had their chances to break this open. Not capitalizing on all of them was not completely their fault--Yadier Molina was safe going first to third on a shallow dunk into center, even though the umpire called him out and I have no idea what he was thinking about doing such a reckless play, save that he'd obviously paid attention to our former first baseman a lot--but some of them were. Two double plays in the first two innings, when there were base runners aplenty, didn't help matters. That was a game that, from all angles, they should have won.
The silver lining to the Allen Craig and Berkman injuries was that the Cardinals had to go to their depth and promote top prospect Matt Adams. Adams doesn't bring the flexibility Craig does--he's limited to first base--but he does bring a big bat and some youth to this team, which hopefully means he'll be more likely to stay healthy. Adams got a solid single in his first at-bat Sunday night and went 2-4 on the evening. I expect he'll get a huge ovation in St. Louis this evening.
Tough night for David Freese as he struck out four times. Freese is 3 for 34 during this ten game rough patch the Cards have had since starting the Atlanta series, with all three hits coming in one game against San Francisco. He's struck out 11 times, grounded into four double plays, and all in all looked pretty lost. While he may want to play his way through this, giving Carpenter a few days at the hot corner and resting Freese might not be the worst idea.
While injuries are a big factor in the recent tailspin, that's not all of it. The pitching has come back to earth, especially in the bullpen, and the defense has been very sloppy. They need to come out and have a few more games like they did in April, but that may be tough for this team right now.
Coming back home may help out their collective spirits, but what would do more for it would be to see Jaime Garcia have a dominant outing this evening. Garcia has been known to be outstanding at home and here's what he's done against these Padre hitters:
Not a lot of sample size there, but what is there is in Garcia's favor. He's been able to shut down some of the bigger threats in the San Diego lineup, which is good. If he comes out and struggles tonight, the malaise may continue.
The Cardinals get to hit against Clayton Richard. That isn't exactly going to get these hitters drooling, though.
Not a lot of success there. When the top averages come from other pitchers, you know there's a problem, especially when they aren't the guys going tonight. There are a lot of walks on there, though, so perhaps the Cards can be patient and wait for their pitches this evening.
Every team goes through a rough patch. Championship teams make sure they don't last too long. What kind of team will this one be?
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