Category Archives: Cardinals recap

Game 3 to St Louis

As I tweeted last night, I came to watch World Series Game 3 and a softball game broke out.  Cardinals scored in every inning but the second and third and mauled Texas to retake the series lead and home field advantage.

Three story lines stick out from last night’s action.

1.  Ron Kulpa’s blown call.  As you likely know by now, Holliday should have been out on the Mike Napoli tag.  Kulpa blew it.  There’s no other way to say it.  Somewhat during, and definitely after the game, folks talked about how that call was critical even though the Cardinals won by 9.

And you know what?  They’re right.  If Harrison is pitching to Berkman with no one on and two out, he may have approached Lance differently.  He may have attacked Freese differently.  And the Cardinals may not have scored at all.  However that’s not the end of the story.  The bottom of the fourth unfolds differently too.  Lohse had to sit for 25 minutes while watching the Cardinals score 4 runs.  He came out and got absolutely hammered – home run, single, home run, single, pitching change.  It seems to me that folks assure us the top of the fourth would have been different and the Cardinals maybe up 2-0 vice 5-0 after that inning, but they assume the bottom of the inning unfolds exactly as it did.  I don’t see how you can say both.

Lohse may very well have gotten mauled in the home half of the fourth.  He’s a ML starting pitcher, so sitting around during a long inning is not unfamiliar to him.  But it might not have.  And yes, the whole game is different.

You may know that Kulpa himself hails from St Louis.  During and after the game this became the topic for some grumbling, and you can guess the context.  Kulpa threw the game because he’s a STL native.  What a bunch of crap.  If Kupla was REALLY trying to throw the series for the Cardinals Ian Kinsler is out stealing second base in Game 2.  That play was significantly closer than the play at first last night; Kulpa could have easily justified the call, and there would not have been much grumbling at all.  Note that he didn’t, and he got the call right.  No, I think Kulpa didn’t see the tag because Napoli’s glove caught Holliday on the back of the head and Kulpa just didn’t see it. So can we lay off the umpire?

To his credit, Ron Washington refused to blame the ump post-game for the meltdown, correctly noting that if Napoli makes the throw home accurately the Cardinals have the bases loaded, two out, and Theriot at the plate.  Texas might have escaped that inning with a lot less damage.

2.  Albert Pujols hits 3 HR.  It is special because it is only the fourth time ever it has been done in the post-season.  It is special because he is the first National League player to do it.  It doesn’t matter what the game situation was.  Plenty of guys have hit 3 HR in a regular season game.  That fact alone doesn’t make it remarkable.  The context, and the stage, do.  Not to mention the 3-run shot he hit off Ogando deflated Ogando, the Rangers dugout, and sucked all the air out of Arlington.  Before that swing I felt it was only a matter of time before Texas forged into the lead in Game 3.  After that swing I knew Game 3 would go to St Louis.

Ruth is the only man to hit 3 HR in the World Series twice.  Both times he did it against the Cardinals.  Here’s the particulars:

  • 1926 Game 4 (10/6/26) – first inning off Flint Rhem (1-0 NY)
  • 1926 Game 4 – third inning, off Rhem (2-1 NY)
  • 1926 Game 4 – sixth inning, off Hi Bell (9-4 NY).
  • 1928 Game 4 (10/9/29) – fourth inning off Bill Sherdel (tied 1-1)
  • 1928 Game 4 – seventh inning, off Sherdel (tied 2-2)
  • 1928 Game 4 – eighth inning, off Pete Alexander (7-2 NY)

Both those games took place in St Louis.

Reggie hit 3 HR in the Bronx, 18 October 1977 (Game 6) against the Dodgers.  His victims were Burt Hooton, Elias Sosa, and Charlie Hough.  If you’re looking for a bridge from Ruth’s exploits to Pujols’,  here’s my shot at it:  Hooton’s from Texas.  Sosa pitched for the Cardinals in 1975.  Hough pitched for the Rangers from 1980-1990.

3. Will the Rangers Quit?  Not bloody likely.  St Louis absorbed a gut-punch of a loss in Game 2 and came back to score 16.  I expect Texas will be just as resilient tonight.  This series remains a long way from being over.

You know, St Louis is one ninth inning meltdown away from leading this Series 3-0.  Just thought I’d point that out.  And, for all of Texas’ offensive brilliance this year, they’ve led a World Series game for exactly one inning (that ninth inning in Game 2).  I saw someone write that this Series was starting to look like some recent ones, in that the better team loses.  I don’t see how anyone can say that seriously.  Through 3 games, and setting all the managerial comparisons and nonsense aside, the Cardinals have out-played Texas.  This series may still turn in Texas’ favor.  However, I thought it was vital the Cardinals win Game 3.  Lohse is by far their weakest starter of the 4 LaRussa has used in the post-season.  Edwin Jackson is a power pitcher with movement; while not as accomplished or polished as Chris Carpenter, he has the same stuff in his arsenal.  In a series as even as this one, the Cardinals ran out their weak link and won the game.  The starting pitching edge tips back in the Cardinals favor, with Jackson/Carpenter/Garcia scheduled to go in the next 3 games.

Texas faces a must-win game, their first since trailing Tampa Bay 1-0 in the first round.  Should be a good one tonight.

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Game 2 to Texas

If you like your baseball with a healthy side order of tension, this World Series is for you.

Today’s main stream media storyline is how well Colby Lewis pitched – ‘dominated’ is the word being thrown about.  And yes, he did pitch well – one run allowed in 6+ innings is a great performance.  Let us not forget that Jamie Garcia pitched just a little better.  Texas had 3 hits going into the ninth inning.  Garcia threw 7 shutout frames against the best offense in the American League.

I’ll have a post up today at I-70 Baseball discussing the top half of the ninth inning, so I won’t go into details here.  Several factors combined adding up to the 2-run inning.  The bottom of the ninth was tough to watch, for Neftali Feliz was his typically wild self and the Cardinals failed to take advantage of his generosity (at least, after the Molina walk).

I should also mention I found it amusing Gerald Laird came in to pinch-run for Molina.  You could probably time a 40-yard sprint between those two with a sun-dial.

Now the series shifts to Texas.  The Cardinals are certainly not out of it, but the road is a lot tougher now.  It is possible St Louis can win 3 straight in Texas and not return to Busch, but frankly not likely.  It is possible Texas will close out the series in the Dallas suburbs, but I don’t think that’s likely either.  Game Three sizes up to be an interesting contrast in styles, between the hard-throwing Matt Harrison and the change-up artist Kyle Lohse. 

I will admit some trepidation at Lohse’s prospects in Arlington.  He has made 5 career starts in The Ballpark, but none there since 2006.  Minnesota was 3-2 in his starts; twice he gave up 1 run; the other 3 times he gave up at least 5.  On the other side, Harrison has been wild this post-season (6 walks and a wild pitch in his two starts).  He has struck out 12 as well, a testament, I think, to how good his stuff is.

Game 4 is advertised to be Derek Holland vs Edwin Jackson, but I have a sneaking suspicion Jake Westbrook will get the start, especially after LaRussa stated Jackson was available in relief during Game 2. 

No one said it would be easy.  This is the World Series – it’s not supposed to be easy.  I’m looking forward to Saturday Night.

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Game 1 to St Louis

Most of the post-game discussion centers around managerial decisions in the sixth and seventh inning.  I’ll get to that.  First, some disconnected thoughts.

– Hat Tip to Elvis Andrus for not spiking Chris Carpenter at the bag in the first inning.  It was not clear to me if Carpenter broke late, or Albert Pujols just made a bad throw to first.  Whatever.  Carp made a real athletic play to reach that ball, and Andrus did a great job avoiding Carp’s prone, exposed body while Elvis ran up the line.

– David Freese had a tough first two innings on defense, no?  After looking over the replay a few dozen times, it appeared Adrian Beltre’s ball hit the infield lip and bounced higher than Freese expected.  Ian Kinsler’s shot was just too hot to handle.

– Lance Berkman’s 2-RBI single started off foul but was fair when it passed the first base bag.  Umps made the correct call there.

– Didn’t see Mike Napoli’s 2-run HR live.  Also didn’t realize he has that much power the other way.  Considering how hard the wind was blowing – and that it knocked down potential HRs to center off the bats of Freese and Rafael Furcal  – that’s a mammoth shot.

– Allen Craig’s at bat against Alexi Ogando was the big sequence of the night for the Cardinals, and not just because he hit a dying quail juuuuust out of the reach of Nelson Cruz.  No, that at bat did a couple of things.  First, it sent Craig’s confidence through the roof because LaRussa stuck with him against a very tough reliever.  Second, and perhaps most important, Craig’s at bat dented the Aura of Invincibility that’s been built around Ogando.  Ogando has been unhittable this post-season, and had only allowed one run ever in the post season (yeah I know he’s only been in 2, but still pretty impressive).

– Speaking of Cruz, some folks on Twitter are questioning why he didn’t head-first dive for Craig’s ball.  Based on the trajectory off Craig’s bat it certainly looked like it would hang up long enough for Cruz to run under it.  I guess the wind (or whatever) blew it closer to the line than Cruz expected.  He probably thought he could run onto it and catch it on his feet.  By the time he realized he might not catch it he’s already committed to the slide.  Besides, who wants to dive head first into foul territory with the stands right there?  And, the ball missed his glove by what – 2 inches?

No one should fault Nelson Cruz for how he approached that ball.

– Esteban German as the pinch hitter with two on and two out?  Wow.  Yorvit Torrealba had faced Rzepczynski only one time in his career – it was this season, back in April, and he singled on a 2-0 pitch.  German had never faced Rzepczynski before last night.  Here’s some more data they’re not telling you:  it’s not that German hadn’t hit in a game since September 25.  It’s that he had 13 major league plate appearances all season (all in September).  He had 16 the year before, and 50 the year before that.  He’s a 33-year old career minor leaguer at this point.

You’re telling me he was a better option than Torrealba with World Series Game 1 on the line?  Sorry Ron Washington – bad choice.

*****

Game 1 was important to the Cardinals, because they had their ace on the mound and the drop-off after him in their rotation has become quite serious.  I will argue, however, that Game 2 is key.  If the Cardinals can go up 2-0 they guarantee a return trip to Busch no matter how the games in Arlington play out.  The Rangers are good, but winning 4 of 5 this time of year is a tall order.  Colby Lewis is a stud, and in many ways the best playoff starter Texas has.  He threw a 1-hitter over six innings vs Tampa Bay in the ALDS.

Tonight’s game will be just as tense as last night’s.  Expect La Russa to have a short leash for Jamie Garcia.

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Cards Win, Pujols Breaks Arm

None of this for 6-8 weeks...

Well Matt Holliday missed time with a torn quadricep muscle.  Lance Berkman got a cortisone shot to help an ailing wrist.  Rasmus missed time with fatigue, Freese is recovering from a broken bone in his hand…

And on and on and on.  Guess it was only a matter of time before the injury bug bit Albert Pujols as well.

Losing a player of Pujols’ stature puts a big hole in the lineup.  He goes to the DL with a .279/.355/.500 line, but since 1 June he’s been more like his historical self, posting a .317/.419/.778 in those 17 games.  But this lineup seems to be the best positioned since 2004 to weather an extended loss of Pujols’ bat.  In fact, I’d argue they become a better defensive team without him.

Hear me out.

Losing AP allows the Cardinals to shift Berkman to first base.  It also allows them to play Jon Jay in right every day.  Jay’s  posted a 126 OPS+ so far this season, fifth-best on the team (behind Holliday, Berkman, Allen Craig, and Pujols). Note I did not include Freese (145 OPS+) since he’s still on the DL.  Jay’s Plus/Minus is +5 on the Dewan scale, just out of the top 10 among right fielders (Carlos Quentin, Nyjer Morgan, and Scott Cousins sit at +6).

In contrast, Berkman has played RF at a -5 level.  So that’s a +10 shift in ability by shifting Berkman to first and placing Jay in RF.  Berkman’s also -2 at first in limited playing time; AP this year has been a -3.  So overall no appreciable change at first base, and a significant upgrade in right.

Jay is no Pujols at the plate, but he’s no Chone Figgins either.  The Cardinals lineup will be a little less fearsome but not so much that Pujols’ loss will derail this offense.

There’s your optimism for today.  Now the team needs their pitching staff to recapture its mojo.

Get well soon, Albert.

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Bring Back Tony

Have you seen this man?

The Cardinals endured another loss when they failed to protect a late lead.  Yes that’s a harsh way to put it, but seeing as they led on Saturday (2-1 headed to the bottom of the sixth), Sunday (3-0 headed to the bottom of the sixth), and last night (6-1, bottom of seventh) there’s no way to sugar coat it.

Losing two late at Miller Park stings, but the Brewers don’t have the league’s best home record for nothing.  And those games were at least close.  Losing a 5 run lead to the also-ran Nationals hurts.  The night went from painful to surreal after Tony LaRussa’s post game remarks.  Concerning his reliever decisions in the bottom of the seventh, specifically Ryan Franklin:

“Our fans are more tolerant of Batista, Miller and Motte than they would have been of Franklin,” La Russa said, before adding that tonight’s game is a concern.

Wait. What?

Tony LaRussa, the hard boiled manager’s manager, actually considered fan reaction when making a pitching decision?  Is this the same guy who attacked reporters earlier this year who dared question the team’s offense, who waited a full month before removing an obviously ineffective Franklin from the closer’s role, who seemingly every time the fans question an in-game decision tells same to stick it?

Say it ain’t so, Tony.

I understand the desire to protect a bullpen that has been really been overworked recently.  However, no one knows how McClellan is going to pitch tonight, and no one knows if tonight’s game will even be played (and you don’t know that either.  Sure the weather looks good now, but there might be a power outage, or a swarm of  bees, or some other random event that occurs.)  Take the bird in the hand vice holding out for the two in the bush.

To cite fan reaction as a rationale for sitting on Franklin is, frankly, a cop out.  If he really wanted to save Franklin for tonight because of concerns about how deep into the game McClellan will go why not say that first?  Leave the fan reaction statement for private discussions in the manager’s office.

Tony LaRussa would never have made such a statement.  It must have been his stunt double managing last night’s game in Washington DC.  Bring back the old gruff Tony, please.  My world does not make sense right now.

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Walkoff Wonderland

I personally love it when St Louis plays the Cubs, but not for only the normal  reasons (heated rivalry, competitive games).  WGN shows the games locally here.  Granted, the Fox “Which Will Bring The Highest Ratings” Game of the Week sometimes trumps the Saturday showing, but otherwise there’s a Friday night and Sunday afternoon contest to enjoy.

This week, having finally gotten my XM radio to work in the car again, St Louis was with me wherever I went.  Bonus.

We’ve been waiting all season for Albert Pujols to break out of his season long funk.  Well, he did this weekend.  And none too soon – coming off a disappointing series with the Giants where they lost 3 of 4 (and Franklin kind of blew up again; I guess I jinxed him with the last post), Pujols’ reemergence could not have been more timely. Happily I got to “see” all 3 bombs he hit:  the 3-run shot on Friday courtesy of the aforementioned WGN, and the other 2 via the radio.

Chicago is down this year, but the Cardinals really needed those 3 wins.  Don’t look now (OK, you should probably look) but the Brewers have started playing real well.  As Cincinnati fades amidst their rotation struggles and the stubborn insistence in playing Johnny Gomes as the everyday LF, Milwaukee becomes the main challenge to St Louis.  We’ve got 15 games left with those guys, starting with 3 this weekend at their place.

It’s going to be a fun summer.

Just one more note, on yesterday’s game:  I’ve listened to Mike Shannon sporadically over the years, including his call of McGwire’s 61st.  I can’t remember the last time I heard him project joy as well as he did when Ryan Theriot lined that ball into the left-field corner to tie the game.  He sounded just like I felt:  First ‘holy crap that’s extra bases,’ then ‘SEND CRUZ FOR CRYING OUT LOUD’, then ‘holy crap we tied it with 2 out in the ninth!’  I’m sure the drivers around me thought I was an idiot and couldn’t figure out what they’d done to piss me off as I did repeated fist-pumps after Cruz scored.  It was beautiful.

Saturday was Garden Gnome night at Petco, so in honor of that here’s a picture of a Cardinal Gnome.  Don’t ask why.

Cardinal Gnome: Helping cucumbers grow since 2010

Also it appears I’ve figured out my schedule to at least post here weekly.  Thanks for your patience and continued patronage; I hope you find this site worth the weekly read.

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Cards Rally to Defeat the Beards 4-3

Allen Craig drives in the tying run Tuesday night (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

On the surface of it, there’s no reason to dislike the Giants.  They boast one of the game’s unique starters in Tim Lincecum, a rising star in the injured Buster Posey, two feel-good stories from last year’s playoffs in Cody Ross and Aubrey Huff, and they won the first ever World Series as the San Francisco Giants in 2010.

Still whenever I see the Giants playing St Louis, my mind’s eye sees Jeff Leonard’s ‘One Flap Down’ rounding the bases.  I guess old animosity dies hard.

I can no longer read a TV schedule.  Sometimes I’m amazed I’m conscious of what day it is.  After putting the Padawan’s to bed, I flipped the TV on to ESPN and found the Cards/Giants in the top of the seventh down 2-1.  Just long enough to see Trever Miller come in, hit Brandon Belt, then fail to field his position on Cody Ross’ RBI single up the middle.  3-1.

Since 2002 there are only 3 NL teams with a winning record against the Cardinals:  Chicago Cubs, Philadelphia Phillies, and the Giants.  Philly and SF also have a winning record in St Louis.  So being down 3-1, I was resigned to seeing the Cardinals lose again.  Sergio Romo comes in, he of the ‘2 runs allowed this season’.  John Jay has been the Cardinals hottest hitter lately, taking the mantle from Lance Berkman.  He rolls a hard grounder up the first base line.

Years ago it seemed the first and third baseman always hugged the line in the late innings, to prevent the extra base hit. Belt was at least 4 steps off the line during Jay’s at-bat.  Maybe the Giant scouting report said Jay does not pull the ball.  Last week in San Diego I watched Jay take the ball up the middle for hits on at least 4 occasions.  Considering that Romo has thrown his slider on more than half of his pitches so far in 2011, however, that’s an odd way to position the defense.  Jay’s hit started the inning off on the right foot.  Albert Pujols followed by taking a meatball of a slider (up, out over the plate) and lining it up the Left-Center gap for an RBI.  See ya, Sergio Romo.

Cardinals got a break with Javier Lopez in the game, but that comes later.  After Berkman rolled over on a pitch, Allen Craig executed a beautiful piece of hitting, taking a tough low outside strike the other way for the double that scored Pujols and tied the game.  Ramsus grounds out; Molina is intentionally walked; Schumaker hits a hard ground ball to Freddy Sanchez who stops it, then (as the Baseball Tonight guys said) throws in the vicinity of first base, allowing Schu to beat it out for a hit (Editorial comment:  IF the throw is on target Schu is out because he slid.  IF the throw is on target and Schu runs through the bag he beats the play.  I’ve never understood why players dive into the bag at first; diving actually slows you down.).

Salas comes in and shuts the door, capping off a nice comeback win.

One other thing worth mentioning:  Ryan Franklin got the win by striking out the side in the eighth.  No one’s probably noticed, but that’s 4 2/3 scoreless innings for Franklin with 6K’s.  It’s the longest scoreless inning streak on the season for him.  Salas is doing a creditable job as the closer, having converted all 10 of his save opportunities, so I do not sense a change coming.  Franklin has, in my opinion, started to work himself back into set-up type appearances for the Cardinals.  Having that kind of experience at the back of games is a good thing – don’t you think?

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