Category Archives: San Diego Padres

Stand Down

I'm the runt on the left...

With the World Series over and the parade cleanup complete, the off-season starts in earnest. Every club and player takes a moment to reflect on the season past, the challenges of tomorrow, and their place in it. The Cardinals front office has already started that process and declined to exercise their options for Rafael Furcal and Octavio Dotel. Tony LaRussa began his reflection back in August and announced his retirement yesterday. There are more changes to come for the ballclub.

There are changes coming here too. This is the last post of Stan Musial’s Stance.

I started the blog in 2006, when the Cardinals went on an unexpected playoff run and won the World Series. Apropos that it ends now, after the Cardinals went on an unexpected playoff run and won the World Series.

It’s easy to be a fan. It’s relatively easy to be a fan and a writer. It’s difficult to be a fan and a good writer. In order to do it right, one has to not only read what’s going on with the team but actually watch/listen to the games. I can find the time to read what’s going on via the Post Dispatch, Twitter, and the United Cardinal Bloggers, but unless the game is nationally televised I don’t have the free time to watch or listen to it. You’ve no doubt noticed that; if you laid a schedule down next to the dates I published something, the dates would almost exactly correspond to when the Cardinals were on ESPN, FOX, or in San Diego.

And the time is the issue. Geoff Young of Ducksnorts recently hung up his spikes, and he said something that resonated with me: “The sacrifices and compromises one is willing to make in life at age 42 are different from those one is willing to make at age 28.” I’m closer to 42 than 28. My children demand my attention. My wife deserves my attention. It’s not fair to plop down in front of the TV at 5pm Pacific, spend 3 hours watching the Cardinals, and deny them that. You may disagree, and that’s cool. Everyone’s got to live their life the way they think is right.

I close this chapter with no regrets. I’ve had a lot of fun doing this. Blogging about the team my father and I rooted for has literally changed my life for the better. I’ve had the opportunity to do things I never thought I would experience, and I have met some tremendous people along the way. The people list is an All-Star team of Cardinal writers. Dan Shoptaw. Nick at Pitchers Hit Eighth. Bill Ivie. Bob Netherton. Matt Philip. Derrick Goold. Matt Leach. And many others I should mention but won’t in the interest of brevity. Thank you all for your help, your kindness, and your friendship.

To those reading this – thanks. Thanks for making this blog an occasional part of your week. Thanks for your feedback and comments. I am not disappearing altogether from the internet. I will continue to write. I will do a weekly article for I-70 Baseball as long as Bill Ivie will have me. I also plan to focus on the San Diego Padres, the local team in my time zone, as well as provide sage observations via Twitter on a wide variety of things. Perhaps our paths will cross again.

Cheers.

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Filed under Annual Petco trip, General Baseball, Off-Season Moves, San Diego Padres, St Louis Cardinals

On To San Diego

The Cardinals won their weekend series from Kansas City, getting 2 runs on bases loaded walks and hanging on for a 9-8 win in 10 Sunday.  The win pushes them to their biggest season lead in the division at 2.5 games (tying their lead on May 3), their farthest over .500, and just percentage points behind San Francisco for the second-best record in the league.

Their offense is clicking, and now they go to San Diego to play the woeful Padres.

The Cardinals have dominated San Diego in St Louis since 2004 (when Petco Park opened).  Despite losing 2 of 3 to open this season they are 19-9 in that stretch.  They have struggled in San Diego though; they are 11-11 at Petco.  Some of those Padres teams were better than others, but the Cardinals have trouble there.

Now the Padres are in a funk right now.  They followed a streak of scoring 7 runs a game for 5 games by scoring 6 runs TOTAL in their last 7.  Looks like an easy sweep, right?  I wouldn’t count these chickens yet.  San Diego did call a team meeting yesterday after being smoked by Felix Hernandez.  Team meetings are not unusual, but they are for the Padres; manager Bud Black rarely calls them.  The Padres are being embarassed at home and they are an angry team right now.

Based on sheer roster talent the Cardinals should cruise through this 3-game set.  But a word of caution:  the Padres feel like a cornered team.  Don’t be surprised if they play markedly better over the next 3 days than they have over the past week.

I will be at tonight’s and tomorrow’s games.  Game summaries will go up over at Padres Trail; I will post links to those stories here.

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Filed under Annual Petco trip, Cardinals Preview, San Diego Padres, St Louis Cardinals

Cardinals lose as Trevor Hoffman nets save #600

Trevor Hoffman during his dominant days in San Diego

Sometimes I hate being right.  This is one of those times.  Just as the Cardinals won 3 of 4 and breathed some life into the sails of USS PLAYOFF HOPE, they whiff 9 times against Chris Narveson and lose 4-2 to Milwaukee.

That hurts.  Cincinnati lost to Colorado, so gaining another game in the standings was right there for the taking.  Not to be, folks; not to be.  The Reds’ magic number moved to 20.  Six back with 26 to play.  Not seeing it.

But enough of the Cardinals woes.  Trevor Hoffman closed out the game, and in the process earned his 600th save.  Wherever you fall on the ‘is the save a valuable stat’ spectrum, doing anything 600 times is pretty impressive.  Especially when it means you’ve performed at a high level for many, many years to achieve that total.  I had the pleasure of watching Trevor Hoffman pitch on numerous occasions during my sojourn on the Left Coast, back during his golden age, when his fastball sat the mid-90s and his change-up was unhittable.  Through it all, Trevor Hoffman remained a gentleman, a quiet star, and by all accounts, a genuinely good guy.

If there’s one silver lining to last night’s loss, it’s that Hoffman became the first man to save 600 games.

Hoffman has not been very good this season by any measure.  He lost the closer’s role in May and has pitched sporadically since.  Most likely he will retire after this season; his contract contains a $7M club option for 2011, but most expect the Brewers will pay Hoffman $500K and buy it out.  He’s never complained about any of it.  In fact, the Milwaukee news media has reported he took nascent closer John Axford under his wing, teaching him what he had learned over the course of his two decades closing out games in the big leagues.  How many guys today would do that?

So despite the fact that save #600 put another nail in the coffin of the 2010 Cardinals’ playoff hopes, I cannot help but smile that Trevor Hoffman reached yet another milestone.

Congratulations, Trevor Hoffman – for save #600, and for a brilliant career.

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Filed under Cardinals recap, San Diego Padres

Brendan Ryan Leads the Charge

(Ed. note:  This post should have appeared Friday AM.  My apologies; clearly I screwed something up.)

I would have lost a lot of money if I’d bet on which Cardinal would hit the first HR of the series at Petco.  Brendan Ryan?  He of the .175 batting average and .237 slugging percentage coming into the game?  Wow.  I turned towards some Cardinal fans at the game, caught the eye of one, and said “Brendan Ryan?  You kidding me?”  He laughed and shrugged his shoulders.

Ryan had three hits to pace the Cardinals, who survived a seventh inning scare and beat San Diego 8-3 today, salvaging one of the three games.

Odd.  San Diego finally drives in a runner in scoring position and loses the game.

Albert Pujols also homered for St Louis.  I think I’ve seen Albert hit a HR just about every time the Cardinals are in San Diego.  Not saying I’ve seen him hit a home run in every game I’ve been to here, but I’ve seen him hit one a lot.  The one I remember best is the HR off the batter’s eye he hit back in 2006.  What a shot.

PJ Walters – what can you say?  He pitched great in a tough situation.  Only his second start in the majors, his first in over a year, and he got through 5 scoreless.  It helped he had Wade LeBlanc at the plate in the second with two out and the bases loaded, although LeBlanc has swung the bat well in 2010 – and put a bit of a charge in his flyball to right that ended that inning.

I didn’t keep score, so I don’t have any unique insight from Thursday’s contest.  This is a rare occurrence for me, but I have an excuse – I took my oldest boy to his first baseball game.  My Dad took me to my first game, and I watched the Dodgers bludgeon St Louis 11-0 – and eventually became a Cardinal fan.  My son fared much better.  I hope I didn’t just fate him into becoming a Padre fan.

I took some photos at the game, but I put them at up over at Padres Trail (they’ll be up at 9:30 CDT).  No the Cardinals didn’t wear the powder blues to go along with the Padre throwbacks, which is too bad.

On to Chicago.

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Filed under Annual Petco trip, Cardinals recap, San Diego Padres, St Louis Cardinals

Baserunning

It feels like they gave that game away.  When we look back, the 5 baserunners lost on outs on the basepaths will be the big story.  Let’s take a look at them.

  • Felipe Lopez thrown out stealing (first inning) – well, the Cardinals hadn’t scored the previous night, and Tony LaRussa was trying to get the offense started, so one can understand why he’d send Lopez. Yorvit Torrealba made a good throw, and Lopez was out by 4 or 5 feet.
  • John Jay thrown out at home (first inning) – Luis Durango was called up from AAA on Tuesday, so the Cardinals probably had no scouting report on his arm and decided to test him.  Doing that in the first inning, when you have 8 innings to recover if he’s thrown out, seems reasonable.  Durango had the ball before Jay rounded third, and threw him out by 10 feet.
  • Cody Rasmus thrown out at second (fourth inning) – there were two out, and Yadier Molina hit a dribbler up the line.  Rasmus rounded the bag thinking he might be able to get to third if the defense was asleep.  Adrian Gonzalez, however, was wide awake, and alertly threw to second, getting Rasmus in a rundown.
  • Whatever that was in the eleventh (eleventh inning).  I hate the contact play, especially in extra innings with NO OUTS.  You gotta get a run there.  If the ball is hit right to an infielder, then they get the out at first, but you can still score the run from third with a fly ball.  Rasmus was caught in a rundown.  Molina tried to get to third, and probably would have if Rasmus had stayed in the rundown a little longer.  He didn’t, and both runners got tagged out.

So if you’re keeping score at home, three outs based on managerial/coaching decisions, and two on over-aggressive baserunning. But, one could come up with a rational reason for all the blunders, except Rasmus getting picked off second.

The other thing I can’t figure out is why LaRussa stayed with Kyle McClellan in the eighth against Matt Stairs instead of bringing in Trever Miller.  Stairs is 0-3 lifetime with 3 K’s against Miller, and had walked against McClellan the only time they squared off before tonight.  Seemed a curious decision, exacerbated by Stairs lining the only pitch he saw to the deepest part of the park for an RBI double.  Sure looked like that would be the game, although gritty at-bats by Skip Schumaker and Ryan Ludwick in the ninth staved off defeat for 3+ innings.

As Jerry Hairston Jr’s second HR in as many days left the yard, all I could think was ‘They gave that game away.  They gave it away.’

PJ Walters gets the start tomorrow as the Redbirds try to salvage one.

For my Padres coverage, click here.

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Filed under Annual Petco trip, Cardinals recap, LaRussa decision making, San Diego Padres, St Louis Cardinals

Cardinals Shut Down by Garland

Jon Garland won his first ever start against the Cardinals 1-0 Tuesday night on a Jerry Hairston Jr. home run.

How dominant was Adam Wainwright?  He didn’t allow a single baserunner to get to third.  In fact, only two runners, Yorvit Torrrealba in the fifth, Will Venable in the sixth, made it as far as second.  He struck out 12, including Padre masher Adrian Gonzalez times.  One reads a game recap like that and expects to see Wainwright with the win.

Nope.  He made one single mistake, a hung curve ball to Hairston Jr, and Jerry hit it out.  Talk about unlikely.  Hairston has 20 HR in 3,766 plate appearances; in other words, he hits a HR once every 188 times he walks to the dish.  Wainwright did make one more mistake to Venable, but Ryan Ludwick ran it down.

I talked yesterday about the need to make Garland work.  Here’s the pitch counts for his seven innings:

  • First:  29
  • Second:  19
  • Third:  13 (double play)
  • Fourth:  8 (strike ’em out, throw ’em out)
  • Fifth:  8
  • Sixth:  14
  • Seventh:  15 (double play)

The first two innings the Cardinals were very patient.  In the first they did everything right but score.  Second inning, two on with two out and Ludwick left them there.  After the second, Garland averaged 12 pitches an inning.  Granted, the three double plays turned by the Padres (two conventionally, one a caught stealing on the back-end of a Yadier Molina strikeout) bailed Garland out and killed budding Cardinal rallys.  Although the Padre bullpen is very good, letting Garland negotiate seven innings was not the recipe for success against him.

The other thing from last night was a complete lack of extra base hits.  Other writers will cover the dearth of Cardinal hitting in detail – the grumbling about Mark McGwire as a hitting coach are starting to get louder, but from a performance perspective this time – but one would think a team that features power hitters like Ludwick/Pujols/Holliday/Freese could find a way to get a double in every game.

Last night was the fourth time this season the Cardinals failed to record an extra base hit in a game.  The last time was 3 weeks ago against Roy Halladay.  Barry Zito and Brett Myers also did it.  Adam Wainwright started two of those 4 games.

Kevin Correia will probably go to the hill tonight with the same game plan Garland had Tuesday.  The Cardinals’ response needs to be the same:  be patient, work good at bats, score early.  Otherwise, the as-yet unnamed Cardinal starter tomorrow will be looking to salvage one game of this series.

My coverage of this game from the Padre perspective can be found here.  Yes the content is different.

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Filed under Cardinals recap, NL Central, San Diego Padres, St Louis Cardinals