I'd say that I took a personal vow not to write again until the Cards won a game, but we all know better than that. A rough patch for the Cards did clear up yesterday, which makes getting back to the keyboard much more satisfying. Let's recap.
Hero: David Freese, who had two hits and two walks, plus a run and an RBI.
Goat: I'd hate to whiff on this, but Tony Cruz went 0-3 with two strikeouts for the worst batting line.
Notes: This may be the most disappointing game of the year. I know that Erik Bedard is a good pitcher, that the biggest knock on him has been health. Still, 11 strikeouts? Including seven in a row? And then the Pirate bullpen gets another six? That's just unacceptable. This team is too good, even with some of the bench players playing with the series locked up, for that kind of line.
Jake Westbrook also struggled some, giving up four runs in six and a third. Pedro Alvarez continues to torture Cardinal pitching, hitting the go-ahead home run. It's a tough pill to swallow when the Cards score two in the first and then the bats go as quiet as they did.
Hero: Fernando Salas. Salas has struggled a lot this season, so much so that if Eduardo Sanchez had been doing much of anything in Memphis (he's got a 7.15 ERA in 11.1 innings) he might have gotten the call to replace Salas. However, Friday Salas came into a one run game and pitched 1.2 scoreless innings, allowing just a hit and a walk. While the Cardinal offense wasn't able to rally, they'd not have had a chance at all if it weren't for Salas.
Goat: Kyle Lohse. Giving up five runs in the first two innings is a tough thing for any team to deal with. Lohse settled down, but the big home run to Jose Altuve, who only had one home run on the year at the time and only three in his career, was something that couldn't be overcome.
Notes: Two hits by Rafael Furcal, Jon Jay and Matt Holliday at the top of the lineup and each of them scored a run. Cards wound up with nine hits and drew three walks, but they couldn't get a runner across when they needed to.
Hero: Somebody's got to be one, right? No hitter had more than one hit and only Mitchell Boggs was unscathed on the pitching side, and he went less than an inning. I'll give it to Matt Holliday because not only did he get the hit, he also walked and drove in a run. Really, though, if I didn't have a tradition of assigning one each game, this one might have gotten a pass.
Goat: Jaime Garcia. No matter what else he did, walking three batters then giving up a grand slam on an 0-2 pitch would have sealed it for him. He looked to right himself, but gave up another two a couple of innings later. When Garcia is good, he's very very good. When he's bad, well, let's just say Garcia doesn't have a lot of middle ground in his repertoire.
Notes: You know, I was starting to think that the Bud Norris stuff had run its course. Seemed like the Cards had gotten to him a couple of times. Apparently even changing managers and personnel doesn't change the fact that Bud Norris must have purchased some shares in the team from Bill DeWitt, because he owns the Redbirds.
Hero: Adam Wainwright. I know, I know, Tyler Greene had an awesome day and I'm going to get to that in a minute. However, if we hadn't seen the old Adam Wainwright on the mound, that might not have mattered. Wainwright had been getting destroyed by the home run ball, but for the second time in three starts, Wainwright kept the ball in the yard and got his second win of the season. (Which is even more impressive when you factor in where he was pitching.)
Seven innings of one run ball, seven strikeouts, he got the groundouts when he needed them and was the beneficiary of some stellar defense (I still am amazed at Jay's sliding grab in front of Holliday and the Crawford boxes). Wainwright looked more like the Adam we thought we were getting this year than ever before and hopefully is getting stronger and back to that Wainwrightian level we are accustomed too.
Goat: David Freese. Rough day for the third baseman as he went 0-4 with three strikeouts. Everyone else was hitting, though, and there's always someone that can't join in on the fun.
Notes: Greene had an outstanding day, with two home runs and a double, plus a walk and a stolen base. The second home run was a little cheaper, landing in those infamous boxes down the left field line, but the first home run, down the right field line, was completely legitimate. Mike Matheny has said that he wants to rotate Greene, Daniel Descalso, and Skip Schumaker to make sure none of them get rusty. It'll be interesting to see if Greene's big day gets him a second consecutive start.
Also, it's good to see Allen Craig back and doing well at the plate. Craig smoked a two-run homer and also had an RBI double as he returned to the park where he injured himself last year. With Lance Berkman apparently still on the mend--he ran Saturday but couldn't go all out and was supposed to do that again yesterday, but there don't seem to be any reports on what the results were--Craig could find himself at first quite often in the next stretch.
So, after basically playing the NL Central for the entire season (save that opening game in Miami), the Cards get out of their comfort zone and head to the NL West and Arizona tonight. The Cards are 16-11 against their division and that's why they have the 2.5 game lead over Cincinnati. However, as much as we think this team is for real, can we be sure that we aren't thinking that because the Central is a weaker division? In other words, the Cards may be the class of the NLC, but can they take on the powers of the rest of the league?
Arizona is probably a good test. A playoff team in 2011, they've struggled a bit in the early going, finding themselves one game under .500 before tonight's action and in third place in the NL West. Justin Upton has gotten off to a slow start while Chris Young has been very hot. At just a quick glance, it looks like a team that can be very dangerous.
Lance Lynn gets first shot at the Snakes, trying to run his record to 6-0. He's had very, very limited exposure to these guys, though it's been all positive.
Only one walk in five plate appearances. However, I don't think anyone's going to take that as anything definitive. If Lynn continues to pitch as well as he has this season, though, things should be OK.
He gets to face Joe Saunders. Saunders has been around a bit longer in the big leagues, but did spend a lot of time in the American League. The Cards don't have all that much more experience with him.
Carlos Beltran has hit him well, but other than that there's not much to take from this. Interesting that Freese has walked both times he's faced Saunders, but that's just a fluky quirk, I'm sure. Could be a fun (and late--game doesn't start until 8:40 PM Central) one tonight!
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