At this rate, the highlight reel for the 2012 Cardinals is going to be set to Meat Loaf.
For the third consecutive series, the Redbirds couldn't sweep (though they've mixed up which game they've lost each time) but did win two of the three games. Couple that with the win in Miami on Opening Night and you have a club that is 7-3 and stands 2.5 games ahead of their nearest competitor in a division where no one is over .500.
Friday's home opener was slightly disappointing, in that the Cubs came out and won 9-5. I mean, you can't get too bummed when baseball returns to St. Louis, when the Hall of Famers like Ozzie Smith and Red Schoendienst are on the field and when everyone is graced with the presence of The Man, Stan Musial. (Side note: Musial's appearance probably was more appreciated this year now that there's no obvious challenger to his Greatest Cardinal Ever title. Also, wonder if Albert Pujols saw the ceremonies and felt a twinge of regret that he wasn't there?)
Watching that video, a couple of things struck me. One, I think it's awesome to see the Hall of Famers pay respect to Stan as well as the fans. It's one thing for him to be huge for the fan base, but these guys played the game, they know all about what it takes to be there and what it is like to be a legend and they seem to appreciate him all the more for that.
Secondly, kudos to Brian Schwarze. Brian is Musial's grandson and has taken on the role of caretaker for his grandfather. Lots of people do that and it's incredible when anyone does, but obviously Stan Musial is not just anyone. Without Brian, though, it's likely we wouldn't see as much of Stan and that'd be a loss for everyone. Brian also runs Stan's Twitter account at stanthemaninc, if you aren't following it. I'm sure that the whole thing is an incredible experience for Brian, but it's some work as well and he seems to do it very well.
However, when you start looking at the day, the cold and the rain didn't help matters and neither did Adam Wainwright's worst day as a professional. I don't think we panic about Wainwright yet, but he has been susceptible to the home run so far this season, allowing one in Milwaukee and two here to the Cubs. I think that's something to keep an eye on when Wainwright makes his next start against the Reds.
All in all, even though he wouldn't, I think you could chalk some of that up to the weather and the big day. If a game happens like this in July, you shake your head and move on. That's what we've got to do here as well, even as we still keep a little bit of concern in the corner. Wainwright's not been quite what we saw in the spring and there are logical reasons for that, reasons that don't require a panic. There are other reasons that do require one, but let's not pull those out quite yet.
On the upside, after Wainwright left the game the Cubs only scored one more and the Cards responded with a five-run fifth, but they were unable to get any more. We'll give the Hero to Jon Jay, who had three hits, drove in one and scored one. It was also good to see Carlos Beltran get a couple of hits in his home debut and Matt Carpenter--who we'll talk about a little later--also had a couple.
Saturday was ring day, which was a special treat as well. The Hall of Famers were back getting their rings (how fun is it to keep getting rings even after you are retired?) and it was another wonderfully special day.
The results were much better as well. The Cards scored four in the fourth and that was all Lance Lynn and five relievers needed to secure the victory. As I said last night on Gateway To Baseball Heaven, I'm cautious about drawing a lot of conclusions from Lynn's first two starts, given how Kyle McClellan started off so strong and then faltered last year, but you have to like what Lynn's giving you in the place of Chris Carpenter. So far, there's not really been a drop off, which is big as the club goes through this stretch of NL Central teams.
If you want to be concerned about someone, Fernando Salas may be the one to focus your attention on. He allowed two hits, but no runs, in his 0.2 inning stint on Saturday. The two outs did come via the strikeout, which is good, but so far this season he's had six appearances and only two of those have been completely clean. The only runs he's been charged with are the two he allowed in the loss to Milwaukee, though he did allow the inherited runner to score to lose the game against the Reds as well.
However, you can't give Salas the Goat for that performance, so I'll go with Rafael Furcal on my general theory that, barring other obvious bad lines, a 0-fer day out of the leadoff guy is a bad thing and breaks all ties.
Sunday was an extremely positive day for a couple of reasons. The first, of course, was that the Cards won 10-3 to keep their series-winning streak alive. The second was how they did it.
Paul Maholm has been one of those kinda guys--the left-handed, non-dominant types--that the Cardinals have had a lot of trouble with in the past. Those were the kind of guys (along with the just-up-from-AA or the ERA-larger-than-the-national-debt types) that the bats would tend to go silent against.
Maholm, for his career, has a 3.72 ERA against the club in 15 starts and that's after yesterday's shellacking of him. So to see the bats come alive against this kind of player, to see the Cards hit him like the rest of the league has. If we see this all year long, if we see the Cards being able to take out players that fit these molds, you have to wonder if Mike Matheny has made some sort of change in the clubhouse that has helped in that regard. It's just one game right now and there's a strong possibility Maholm won't finish the year (or even a couple of months) in Chicago, but I think it's very encouraging.
Obviously the Hero from yesterday was Matt Carpenter. Four for four, a run, five RBI and his first major league homer. I know that a lot of times they auction off the Jackie Robinson jerseys, but I have a feeling they aren't going to be able to pry that one away from Little Carp. That one's being framed at home. A day like that, you start saying, "Lance Berkman who?" At least, that's what Berkman did.
There were a number of other good offensive performances yesterday. Yadier Molina went two for three with his third home run of the season. Erik Komatsu came in when Carlos Beltran was hit by a pitch and had to leave the game and went one for two. Even Jake Westbrook got a hit, though obviously his biggest contribution was on the mound.
Westbrook, who has continued his spring training roll into the regular season, rolled through seven innings allowing only four hits and one earned run (plus one unearned as well). Westbrook didn't even crack 100 pitches, mowing the Cubs down efficiently and methodically. Who knows what the line would have looked like had there not been two errors behind him, a downside of the defensive configuration of yesterday.
In the battle between Daniel Descalso and Tyler Greene, so far there are no winners. Both are hitting right at .200 (as is Matt Holliday--hard to believe the team as a whole is hitting right at .300 with those three scuffling) and both made errors yesterday. If this continues and a capable second baseman hits the market, we may know what sort of move John Mozeliak will make this year. I'll give the Goat to Greene since he went 0-4 to Descalso's 0-3 and struck out once when Dirty Dan didn't, even though Tyler drew a walk.
David Freese spent most of this weekend out with a finger injury, but it sound like (in totally atypical Freese fashion) it's not going to be a big deal and he and Berkman both should be back in the lineup on Tuesday night, getting another day of rest via the calendar and the off day today.
There was a good article with Cardinal owner Bill DeWitt in the Post-Dispatch over the weekend. Like most of us, DeWitt sees the organization in a strong position both for this year and the years to come and has no intention of getting out of the ownership role. When you think about some of the past owners, that's a good thing. The success of this recent era of Cardinal baseball wouldn't have been possible without his commitment to the team.
Episode 19 of Conversations With C70 went up this weekend, as you may have noticed. Kevin Reynoldsof Cards 'N Stuff and I sat down and all of the sudden I've got the longest podcast yet. So make sure you've got some time when you download or play it, but I think it's a good one and you'll enjoy. Also, the giveaways are only going to be good through the rest of the week, so if you want a book or a DVD, best get your entries in!
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