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PURE CARDINAL OBSESSION
The #1 authority on St. Louis Cardinals baseball in Kent County, Maryland.
(And a little on the Orioles, Rams, Blues, Purdue Boilermakers, and Mizzou Tigers too, ever so often.)
This site is not affiliated with the St. Louis Cardinals, MLB, or anything, really. Contact the creator, if you wish.
Throwing away a victory
So much for having nothing to complain about. The Cards lost last night in disappointing fashion, giving up a run on a throwing error after a double in the ninth inning... eerily reminiscent of this game
, lost to the Reds on a Griffey inside-the-park home run that Edmonds nearly caught (however, it bounced off him so hard that even the speedy Kerry Robinson could not get to it in time to prevent Junior from going all the way around). Ironically, that game also ended a long Cards winning streak.
Who's to blame for such a loss? To me, it wasn't Suppan for giving up the tying run, Tavarez for giving up the double, or any of the Juggling Fielders who made wild throws on the game-winning play; instead, it was the offense's lack of productivity with guys in scoring position. In two innings (that I remember, anyway), Cardinals came to the plate with a man on third base and one out. In those situations, Cards batters were 0-for-2 with a walk and a GIDP, and most importantly, 0 RBI. But... it's just one game. There's two more in Pittsburgh, and with Carpenter going tonight, we should do no worse than split them, before coming home for nine games before the All-Star break, six of which are against our closest competition in the Cubs and Reds. Cruisin' in first place is mighty fun.
Keep on chuggin'
The Cards have a five-game lead in the division, thanks to the current five-game winning streak. And that lead, in addition to their nearly spectacular play of late, has made them the talk of the town. On all three Sunday night sports programs in St. Louis, the main story (other than the death of a race car driver at the Gateway race track that day) was the Cardinals.
What's not to like? Nothing. That's why I'm not going to complain.
Catching up, and staying ahead
It's been a busy past two weeks in my neck of the woods, and with dial-up internet, posting requires patience -- so I've avoided it entirely. However, in the meantime, our boys rattled off a pair of 6-game winning streaks to pull away slightly from the rest of the crowd at the top of the Central. Tonight, after having split the first two games against the Cubs, the Cards sit two games ahead of said Cubs, and five ahead of the slumping Astros, who are all the way in fifth place. The Reds and Brewers are still hanging around, too.
Given the Cubs' resurgence this season and last, I'd say that the Cards-Cubs rivalry has definitely heated up. Every game seems more intense than, say, your average game against the Reds. Many have been close this season especially (7 of the series' 13 games have been decided by one run) -- including the last two games.
That said, every little thing is important in order to win these 1-run games (the Cards have won 5 of the 7 -- and only one other game in the series, which now stands at Cubs 7, Cards 6). And La Russa's decisions to use Isringhausen in the 8th inning Tuesday night and then to not use him at all in a 1-run save situation in the 9th Wednesday night suprised me. First off, Tavarez has been lights-out in a setup role this season. With Marquis done, and a runner on second base and one out in the top of the 8th, and a whole bunch of right-handed hitters due up (Alou
-Sosa-Ramirez-Lee), why not put in Julian? The pitcher's spot in the order wasn't anywhere near due up, and if need be Tony could double-switch after the bottom of the eighth. Who knows. (It must be noted that tonight, placed in a key situation in the 6th, Tavarez responded by blowing the lead -- however, it was the 6th inning, which is not his accustomed role. Perhaps he had not woken up from his mid-game nap
quite yet.) I don't necessarily disagree with Wednesday's decision to leave in Kline, who was throwing well -- perhaps he wanted to give Izzy the day off, in addition, although he only threw 18 pitches in 2/3 of an inning Tuesday. Again, who knows.
If you had told me on Opening Day that on June 24, the Cardinal starter with the lowest ERA would be Jeff Suppan, I'd have thought you were telling a belated April Fool's joke. But sure enough, he's managed to post the lowest one of the five -- and ironically, the two highest are the big salaries of Woody Williams and Matt Morris (although, to Woody's credit, he has pitched better of late). Chris Carpenter, however, is leading the starting staff in quite a few other categories (wins, WHIP, K rate, etc.).
Wednesday morning, the organizational revolving door turned once more and sent Cody McKay back to Memphis in exchange for So Taguchi. I agree with the Cards not having a need for three catchers; however, I think Yadier Molina might be better served by playing every day in Memphis instead of every third day in St. Louis -- but really, that doesn't matter all that much. Let's see what the kid can do. I also get the impression that La Russa is a huge Taguchi fan, as am I, but it's hard to ignore the numbers put up by John Gall in Memphis. I know very
little about Gall, except for the fact that he didn't seem to have a position in the field last year -- perhaps Tony questions his ability to play the outfield at the major league level, and that's why he's hesitating bringing him up. However, if La Russa is willing to play the Marlon Andersons and Hector Lunas in left field ahead of capable defensive players such as Ray Lankford, then why not bring up Gall, if he's even remotely able to match his production at the plate in the majors? And if La Russa is willing to play a rookie (Molina) ahead of a veteran (McKay) in one situation, then why not another (Gall vs. Mabry/Taguchi/Lankford)? Seems a little hypocritical to me.
Let's take this series from the North Siders Thursday... Carpenter vs. Clement, it should be a dandy.
Please go away, guys
After yet another winning road trip, the Cards return home this week to face the Oakland A's. Their home record is an astounding 13-15, and yet, they are two games clear of the rest of the NL Central Division. In looking for an explanation to the Cardinals' struggles at home, I first thought of the pitching staff's affinity for giving up the long ball; however, that seems to not be the problem, as Busch is 24th in the league in park factor for home runs. Surely, that isn't a perfect measurement, but it is baffling nonetheless, especially considering that Carpenter is the only starter with an ERA under 4.00 at Busch (however, in only 3 starts compared to 6 or 7 for the other four guys). The staff's ERA as a whole is nearly 0.80 higher at Busch, also, despite nearly the same HR rate (1.21 HRA/G at home, 1.20 on the road) as well as K rate (5.66 K/9 IP on the road, a higher figure of 5.78 at home). So, what's the difference, you ask? The answer is walks. At home, Cards pitchers have issued 3.36 walks/9 IP per game, as opposed to 2.51 on the road. (A note: the hits/9 IP rate is also about the same amount higher at home, but that can be attributed somewhat to luck. Keep men off base by not walking as many, and the hits won't score as many runs.) And, for the record, the batters are .278/.342/.440 (.781 OPS) at home, versus .267/.328/.471 (.799) on the road -- not as significant difference as the record would indicate, assuming all pitching statistics as equal.
Let's hope those hurlers can keep the ball in the strike zone over the next few weeks, during which we play 18 of the next 24 games at Busch Stadium.
Putting some things to rest
For the record, after Thursday's debacle, the Cards finished their 20-game stretch of divisional note with a record of 12-7, plus a rainout. Against the Cubs, they were 3-4 (all in Wrigley); Astros, 4-2; Pirates, 5-1.
All in all, that record is decent, since it got us to the top of the division when the Cubs were struggling; however, the blowout Thursday left a bitter taste in the mouths of fans, and hopefully left the team hungry (angry?) enough to keep playing well.
A note: Chris Carpenter has emerged as the ace of the Cards starting staff. He's won 6 straight decisions (it would be eight straight starts, but for two Isringhausen blown saves in this game
, in addition to The Balk Game
), and lowered his ERA from 5.28 on May 4 to a solid 3.42 this morning, thanks to a stretch of:
6 starts, 44 2/3 IP (avg. 7 1/3+), 11 ER (2.22 ERA), 32 K (6.5/9 IP), 34 H + 5 BB (0.87 WHIP)
Quality numbers, especially when you add in that in 4 of his 6 starts he did not walk a batter, and only threw 100+ pitches in 2 starts. Yow.
Now... to Texas. That's right... Texas. I love interleague play.
View from the top
First place is nice, isn't it?
Things are progressing very nicely this week. Not only did the Cards win the series opener on Monday night -- almost a must-win with Carpenter pitchin against Glendon Rusch (I finally saw a loss out of him), but we beat one of the "big three" in Prior to guarantee at least a split in the series. As far as I'm concerned, the series is almost a victory already (I would be satisfied with a split); however, why not go for the jugular tomorrow, since the Cubs are hurting? Three games out of four would be a great statement to make at this point in the season.
Albert, the Franchise
My, my, how scary that moment was. Pujols rounds second base on a single by Edmonds, and since the Golden Rule of Baseball says "Never make the last out of an inning at third base," Albert wisely held up. But, in the process of holding up, something in the left hamstring tweaked, and as Albert hobbled back to second, millions of people held their breath.
, the injury will only cost Sir Albert a couple of games. They come at an inopportune time against the Cubs, yes, but I say this: if he has to sit out a week and a half for an injury that would cost Reggie Sanders (for example) three days, it's worth it for the length of his contract. Hamstring problems can wreck a player (a la Griffey Jr.), so the team's staff should be very
careful with Albert, especially at his young age.
The awards section
I've touted Scott Rolen for MVP elsewhere
, but not on this site. Consider that changed. Here's the pace he's set, through tonight's game:
.353/.411/.627, 208 hits, 41 HR, 174 RBI
Each one of those would shatter his career high in that category. Wow. I'd be happy with a .320/.400/.600 line with 35 HR or thereabouts (with a few more walks), since nobody can be expected to keep up that pace, but it's nice to think about while it's still going on. Even if Rolen drives in 150 runs, that would be the highest total for a Cardinal since Joe Medwick set the franchise record in 1937. Medwick's total, you ask? The number is 154, which Scotty is on a pace to shatter.
...I'll also add that Rolen's lead over 2nd-place Aramis Ramirez in the All-Star voting is over 250,000 votes. To his credit, Ramirez is having a very good season thus far, as are Mike Lowell, Vinny Castilla, Sean Burroughs, and Adrian Beltré, but Rolen is the class of what is a strong position. Other Cardinal positional voting leaders include Pujols and Renteria, although Renteria (lower OPS than César Izturis, among many other SS's) appears mostly to be taking advantage of both a good 2003 as well as a weak crop this year. Strangely enough, the two best SS's in the NL to this point (Jack Wilson and the Coors-powered Royce Clayton) aren't even in the top five in the voting
. And, for the record, Pujols has a narrow lead over Jeff Bagwell at 1B -- which he should keep if he gets back on the field and hits remotely decent.
Thanks to an unreal road record of 20-9, the Cardinals will be a game out of first place at the end of the night -- after having taken 3 of the first 4 games of one of the biggest 7-game stretches of the season. Thanks to that, their record in the 20-game divisional stretch I mentioned earlier is now 11-5, with one rainout, through 17 games -- and a more respectable 6-4 against the Big Two. I'd have committed anyone who told me on April 1 that the Cards would be ahead of the Cubs and Astros right now despite being 2 games under .500 at home. Now, I'll gladly take it.
Yearning for the good ol' days
Tonight's game momentarily eased a couple of concerns. First, Scotty Rolen looked just like his old self, blasting balls off walls and into gaps, driving in runs (55!), and playing solid defense like always. I'm a little more convinced now about Rolen's health than I am the stability of the catching situation. Yadier Molina was indeed promoted to the bigs today, and started tonight, going 2-for-4 with a double. He also put down a nice tag on Abraham Nunez, and threw out Jack Wilson trying to steal a base. So, a solid debut for the kid, but we'll see how he does after 2 weeks or so before we can fully judge his adjustment to the majors. So far, so good though.
This 4-game sweep was also the Redbirds' first 4-game winning streak of the season (yes, the Expos and Devil Rays both had won 4 in a row already). Here's to many more of those.
Isn't it sad for the state of baseball today that Wednesday night, the defending world champs -- who are currently in first place in the NL East -- closed out their series against the NL Central's first place team by drawing 12,222
?!? That, I might add, was after only 13,269
showed up the night before. The people of South Florida simply do not deserve the team that they have.
Also, it's nice to see this from tonight's Cards game notes: "It was 'Classic Night' at PNC Park. Instead of live, animated videos, the Jumbotron scoreboard remained static with an image representing the scoreboard at old Forbes Field. There also was no music other than an organist." Cool! Teams should do things like that more often. It's sickening that every game
fans have to not only put up with the "Cap Dance," but painfully find out, yet again, that people "want to go for the doors."
TCB, but not quite enough
PCO returns to find the Cards tearing through Pittsburgh, going for the sweep this evening. Twelve games into what I'd consider one of the more major 20-game stretches of this season, the Birds have performed admirably, posting a 7-4 record (with one rainout). Unfortunately, four of those seven wins -- and only one of the losses -- have come at the hands of the Pirates, and thus the remaining 3-3 record against the Cubs and Astros is merely ordinary. However, it's nice to see the Cards taking care of business against a team they needed to dominate. That said, the next seven games following tonight's -- all against Houston and the Cubs -- are a bit more important.
The scoreboard-watching over the weekend went well, but the most pleasing experience of the trip was sitting in TGI Friday's at Miller Park both Friday and Saturday evenings watching the Cubs lose in painful fashion. Rob Mackowiak and the Buccos picked the perfect time to bust out of their slump at home and win a couple games.
It's safe to say that the past week Albert Pujols has woken up. He's raised his average from .279 to .320, while vaulting into the league lead in HRs with 17. His OPS ranks only behind Berkman and Bonds in the NL, and over the past week is nearly 2.000. That is officially a tear.
Rolen's beaning was pretty scary; hopefully he won't go into a funk like Sosa did last season after he got hit in the head -- the spots of those are a little different, but still... a fastball to the head is a fastball to the head.
And then there's Matheny's muscular problems. How long he'll be out is anyone's guess. Cody McKay is a decent backup, and has done well as a "personal" catcher for Jeff Suppan so far this season, but he cannot be made our starter for a long period of time if Matheny is indeed out. Yadier Molina? Perhaps, but the arbitration clock would have to begin since he is not currently on our 40-man roster. I'm not sure quite what the free-agent market holds, but one name jumps out to me as a trade possibility (assuming Matheny will be out long-term), if the Tigers are up for it: Brandon Inge. Unfortunately, the price might be too high for him, and we'll get stuck with McKay.
Regardless of the injuries, the next eight games could very well determine the course of our season. Let's go win 'em all.
St. Louis Cardinals -- The Purpose.
Major League Baseball -- The system behind The Purpose, messed up in some ways as it may be.
StLToday.com -- More polished journalism than can be delivered on this blog.
ESPN.com Cardinals Clubhouse
Redbird Nation -- My inspiration.
The Birdwatch -- A new Cardinals blog. Highly recommended. Oh yeah, I post there.
Get Up, Baby
Random Redbird Reasoning
Royalties & Cardinalate -- Cross-state rivals, sort of.
Cardinals Birdhouse -- My dream job.
The Cardinal Virtue
Cards Fan in Cub Land
Other Baseball Links
Rob Neyer -- One of my favorite baseball pundits, even though he's a Royals fan.
Jayson Stark (on ESPN.com) -- Another guy I like.
Peter Gammons (on ESPN.com) -- Ken Burns would love his East Coast bias, but the guy knows what he's talking about.
Baseball-Reference.com -- An easy-to-navigate and uncluttered site for historical statistics. Yours truly is Ray King's page sponsor.
Al's Ramblings -- An excellent blog focusing mainly on the Brewers, a tribute to the lukewarm Brewer fan I've become.
Honest Wagner -- I don't hate the Pirates, and this is a good one as well.
Aaron's Baseball Blog -- Aaron Gleeman, Twins blogger extraordinare. Al of Ramblings fame calls him "King Gleeman," for good reason.
Transaction Guy -- Very witty. Keeps you up to date, which is handy for fantasy leagues.
Bat-Girl -- Twins commentary, with sass.
Throws Like A Girl -- Astros blog.
The Hardball Times -- General baseball blog/news site.
College Basketball Links
Big Ten Wonk -- Big Ten blog.
Yoco's College Basketball -- General NCAA blog.