We keep waiting and hoping for the Cardinals to catch fire, to pull away from the pack and start to pile win on top of win. So far, it's two steps forward, two steps back in the second half, and this weekend, while generally positive, just reinforced that trend. Recaps:
Hero: Jake Westbrook. He had the advantages of a larger than normal park, playing in Citi Field, and the heat of the day game possibly sapping the opposition, but even with all of those advantages, he went eight innings and allowed only two runs. He's said before that he heats up as the weather does, and the weather doesn't get any hotter than what we have now. (If it does, please don't tell me.) His August and September ERAs have been good the last three years, so perhaps he'll be a plus down the stretch.
Goat: Nick Punto. While we still give him credit for playing hurt, going 0-5 in the leadoff slot isn't really helping the offense much. Was able to score a run, which is good, but struck out three times. That's something the team will have to keep an eye on, to see if he's hurting the team more by playing than by being on the DL.
Notes: Albert Pujolswent yard, stirring his bat just a bit and giving the team an early lead. Jon Jayhad two hits and continued to put pressure on other members of the team (as we'll discuss later). Daniel Descalsofilled in at shortstop in a late lineup switch, when Ryan Theriot found out he could reduce the suspension to one game if he served it immediately. It's something (Descalso at short, not Theriot suspended) that we might see more going forward.
Hero: Albert Pujols. Four hits, including another first inning home run. It's pretty obvious Pujols will make it to 30 home runs again this season. He's at 60 RBI, which means that he's still got an outside shot at 100 of those. However, the third leg of his personal triple crown looks less and less likely. He's at .276 after Sunday's 0-5, meaning he likely needs to hit around .338 (assuming 550 at-bats) over the rest of the season just to reach .300. While that'd be great, I think we'll see the first blemish on AP's baseball card this year.
Goat: Ryan Theriot. 0-5 in the leadoff slot, dropping his average to .274. It dropped another point over the weekend and his OBP is .319, which is not really what the Cards had in mind when they were exchanging offense for defense. (As has been pointed out a lot this weekend, Brendan Ryan now is hitting .264 with an OBP of .324 and is continuing to play stellar defense. Perhaps this swap didn't work out exactly the way the Cardinals planned.)
As I mentioned on Gateway To Baseball Heaven last night (and fair warning if you click that link, our guest wasn't able to make it and Bill had some conflicts, so it's 30 minutes of a C70 monologue), I thought it was pretty telling that Descalso started at short on Saturday, even though there was no reason for Theriot not to be out there. He'd just sat out Thursday, so it wasn't that he needed the rest. It wasn't a lefty on the mound. And yet Descalso was starting and Tony La Russa made the comment this weekend that it was tough not to put Daniel out there on a more regular basis. That has to concern Theriot a bit.
Notes: David Freesehad a couple of hits, including a home run. Lance Berkmancontinued to be the best free agent signing of the offseason, having two hits and raising his average to .288 to go along with his large number of home runs. Chris Carpenter wasn't completely on his game, giving up four runs, but pitched eight innings and made pitches when he needed to. He pitched around his troubles, but this is the kind of game he'd have lost earlier in the year due to no run support, so maybe things are evening out a bit.
Hero: Jaime Garcia.After so much talk about how Garcia struggled on the road, he's thrown back-to-back solid outings away from Busch. This time he didn't quite get through the eighth, but still allowed only one run and limited the damage of eight hits by only walking one and striking out five. When Garcia can get into the eighth with less than 100 pitches, you know it's a good game and Garcia seems to be able to do that more than most anyone currently in the rotation.
Goat: Matt Holliday. The whole team got into this game, so it's tougher to name a Goat, but Holliday, while having a hit and a walk, did strike out three times as well. Kind of a rough stretch for Number 7, as he's only hit .231 since the break with two doubles his only extra-base hits. Not that it's a concern at all, but when it's coupled with the other slumps on the offense, it can hurt. Not so much this weekend in Pittsburgh, though.
Notes: Yadier MolinaandBerkman both went yard in the Cards' big inning. Good to see some production from Molina, who has been scuffling for a while. PJ Walters had a very nice outing in relief, continuing to show that he can handle some of the less-stressful innings, saving some of the bigger guns for later or closer in games. Skip Schumakerhad a couple of hits in the leadoff slot and, while I still wouldn't want him there regularly, he's made the decision of what to do with Allen Craig when Craig returns. Early on, you'd have thought Craig would play a lot at second. Now, Skip's made you at least think about that call. Of course, if there's an open slot in the outfield....
Hero: Colby Rasmus. To come out with all the trade talk swirling around you, the fact that the manager has apparently lost confidence in you (witness Colby not starting Saturday against a righty) and slumping as well and get two hits, including what could have been the game-winning home run, speaks well for Rasmus's frame of mind. Hopefully if Colby is going to have a surge, it'll come wearing the birds on the bat. We'll get to that, though.
Goat: Gerald Laird. First, he gets picked off of second base while Descalso is trying to bunt him over in the late innings, taking the go-ahead run off the basepaths. Then, he overthrows second and allows the winning run in the 10th to move to third. Not exactly the kind of game you want to have when you only get in once a week, especially with a guy like Tony Cruz on the bench willing to go in as well.
Notes: Kyle Lohsehas fallen from those lofty heights of the early season, but he's still not gotten to the point where Bill can send his crow back to Bob. Lohse only went five innings, partly because there was a good scoring opportunity in the sixth when his turn came up to bat, but also likely to monitor the finger issue that had flared up earlier in the week. Lohse only threw 64 pitches and was in line for a solid start, though things have started falling apart for him in the sixth lately, so perhaps that was on Tony's mind.
Lance Lynngave up the tying run in his second inning of work, but didn't pitch that badly. A leadoff double is always an issue to have to deal with. Lynn's command is a little shaky, as he walked two, but he's still providing good innings. Same could be said for Mitchell Boggs, who threw two scoreless frames and kept the team tied.
As it stands right now, there is less than a week to go before the trading deadline, which means a lot of things are going to be coming out and thrown against the wall this week. The biggest one made its presence known on Sunday, as there was a story that the Cardinals and White Sox were talking about Rasmus. Coming back to the Cards would be Edwin Jacksonor Matt Thorntonalong with some quality prospects.
My thought is that, depending on the prospects, if that's all you can get for Rasmus then you might as well keep him. Jackson is a free agent and, as we know, is erratic enough to not be a definitive upgrade over the current staff. Thornton would be nice to have as a lefty reliever, but those aren't the kind of guys you trade quality centerfielders for, and even with Rasmus's struggles, he's a quality centerfielder.
I really don't see how this improves the team that much. While Jon Jay is hitting now, we have to remember that he tailed off after Ryan Ludwick was traded last year. Will he do that again? Even if he doesn't, Jay doesn't really have the power that Rasmus has, so it's not an even exchange.
Jeremy Guthrie is another name that is making the rounds. I would sincerely hope that Guthrie wouldn't cost Rasmus, as he's putting up middling numbers and has never been a big-time pitcher. That said, Guthrie does pile up innings and has held his own in the AL East this year (save his record, which you can ignore), so I could see him being a good fit in St. Louis if the price is not extravagant. With other teams apparently in on him as well, the Cards could get priced out.
If you are wanting to guess when John Mozeliak will pull the trigger on something, I'd lean toward Wednesday. I'd give you some solid reasoning behind that, but it's mainly because the Cards tend to make news on the same day as the UCB Radio Hour. I know Jon would appreciate having something like that to talk about!
The Cardinals have a big homestand coming up, as they face the bottom of the division. Anything less than 5-2 would probably be a disappointment going against the Astros and Cubs. Some interesting promotions as well, including tonight's Christmas in July. The Salvation Army will have the bell ringers at the stadium, so if you are going to the game, be sure to have some loose change or bills with you.
Kyle McClellan takes the hill for the Redbirds tonight. Here's what he's done against the Astros in his career.
Not exactly dominant, but again, you never know what you are going to get with McClellan. He gave up just two runs in eight innings against the 'Stros back in May, running his record to 6-1. He has not tallied a win since then.
J.A. Happ is who the Cards have to face. Here are his numbers:
Not as bad as I thought, as Happ is one of those lefties that would typically give St. Louis fits. Cards lit him up for six runs in five and a third back at the beginning of June down in Houston, so perhaps they'll get the fireworks going again tonight!
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