Off Day Thoughts

It’s been awhile since I wrote something other than a game recap, right? I agree. Very little time for me as I hit the end of my last fulltime semester of college. Silly me is taking more than the maximum hours that they allow without the right kind of permission. Seems like a big mistake now, will be the best decision I made come May 4th.

But this is a Cardinals blog! Let’s talk baseball and the thoughts and concerns of Cardinal Nation as we prepare for a six game homestand where we face the Washington Nationals and the team that loves to be hated by Cardinals fans, the Cincinnati Reds.

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Game 16: Dodgers 2, Cardinals 1

Once again, Carpenter throws a fantastic game. Once again, Franklin blows it. For the Cardinals, the only bright side to today’s game was that it was a getaway day and they’ll be back home on Tuesday against the Nationals. I know I’m excited about that. *yawn* Too many late nights. Maybe that will be one of the excuses LaRussa uses to defend Franklin from valid criticism? For fear of turning this into a Ryan Franklin post, it’s time to give someone else the closer’s job. Four blown saves in five opportunities so far this season. He hasn’t looked sharp and he’s been hit hard by everyone. Enough is enough. Tonight, Mitchell Boggs turned in a solid 8th inning in relief and he has looked good lately.  The guy I would love to see is Fernando Salas or Eduardo Sanchez, Sanchez has quickly climbed to the top of the list of intriguing candidates, but there is no way Sanchez even sniffs the closer’s job on a Tony LaRussa ball club. So Boggs is our best option to save us. That said, I still don’t expect a change. If Franklin was a 22 year old, he’d already be packing his bags for Memphis because of his ineffectiveness. But Franklin is a 38 year old veteran and Tony loves his veterans. Tony will back up Franklin as his closer after the game, he will say that it was his fault for putting him a tough situation, and he will probably add that Franklin wasn’t sharp because he hasn’t been used lately. The problem: Franklin hasn’t been sharp all season, and the Cards have the best record in baseball if their closer closes the games like he should. Chris Carpenter turns in a stellar effort that was wasted. 7 innings, 5 hits, no walks, no runs. You HAVE to win those games if you want to be a playoff caliber team. While Holliday turned in a 3-for-3 day, it was David Freese coming through with the go-ahead single that scored Holliday in the top of the 9th to put the Cards on top with the first runs of the game, and setting it up for Franklin to be handed the ball. =&0=& Holliday’s 3-for-3 day seals it for him. Came across the plate for the game winning run. (3-for-3, 1 R, 1 BB) =&1=& Any doubt here? Ryan Franklin. (0.0 IP, 1 H, 1 ER)

Games 13-15

Raise your hand if you are ready to get back to the midwest and east coast? *raises hand* While I did end up staying awake for these games, I was too exhausted to write the recap that night and with my busy-ness this week, it got put off and put off and then here we are at the end of the series. So we will recap everything in one, shall we?

The bats kept it up in LA. Garcia earned his second win of the season with another solid start against the Dodgers. Pujols is now officially out of his slump and the top-5 in the Cardinals lineup is once again hitting. Franklin closed out the game in the ninth inning, but not before giving up a home run to Matt Kemp. I considered giving this game’s Hero of the Game to Pujols for his fifth inning home run, but Holliday had too great of a game, going 3-for-5, two runs, and 3 RBI. The Zero of the Game will end up with Skip Schumaker who went just 1-for-5 with 4 left of base. It was still a really tough call and considered giving it to nobody. Kyle Lohse pitched a brilliant game as the offense continued it’s historic attack. Albert Pujols and Lance Berkman went homer happy as each put up a two home run game. Berkman’s came in consecutive bats against the same pitcher, Jon Garland.  That game’s hero was Lance Berkman with his 2-for-4, 2 HR performance. Albert Pujols was very deserving as well though, but I only give out one! As far as the zero, it goes to Skip Schumaker again. Skippy struggled again going 0-for-4 with 7 men left on base and one GIDP. And lastly, the Cardinals got their first real test against a fairly top flight pitcher in Clayton Kershaw and met it with excellent results. Though, when you look at the numbers against Kershaw, the Cardinals have typically hit him well. Holliday, Pujols, and Rasmus all hitting above .300 against him. Kyle McClellan turned in his best game for the team as a starter. He was in trouble twice and danced out of it with minimal damage, just the one run in the fourth inning. He also managed to go 7 innings before handing it over to the bullpen. Allen Craig was the power behind the night, hitting his first home run of the season off of Kershaw for three runs in the top of the fifth. The hero, of course, is Allen Craig. He went 3-for-4 with a homer, two runs scored, and three RBI. The zero, for once, may not exist. The only hitter worth getting it was McClellan and his pitching compensated for that pretty well. So no zero in this game, everyone’s a winner!

Game 12: Cardinals 15, Diamondbacks 5

Don’t worry, you don’t need a trip to the eye doctor, you really are seeing 15 runs on the scoreboard. For the fourth consecutive night, the offense put up serious numbers. A tweet from one of the Cardinals’ official twitter accounts claimed that 10 hitters had 5 hits over the previous two days, and three of them were Cardinals. Ryan Theriot, Colby Rasmus, Albert Pujols. It’s amazing what happens when the top of your lineup produces. Lance Berkman continued his tear, hitting a two-out grand slam home run, his fourth home run in the last three days, in the second inning off Diamondbacks starter Ian Kennedy. It might have been the only hit that Berkman got all night, but it was the biggest and best. For the Cardinals, it was the homer act. Not only did Berkman hit his grand slam, but Skip Schumaker also went deep. Now, Schumaker is the light hitter who averages about 4.5 homers per season in his professional career. That’s over 9 years now! The guy has virtually no power and went deep with two-out on Aaron Heilman.  After two very bad starts for Jake Westbrook, he was given the opportunity to relax and just pitch on Wednesday night, but he wasn’t able to pull it out. Handed a 12-0 lead going into the bottom of the fourth, Westbrook gave up a two run home run to Russell Branyan. Then errors in the bottom of the fifth resulted in another three runs crossing the plate. It was disappointing to say the least when given that lead and he was only able to coax it 5.1 innings. However, the star of Wednesday night’s game would become Eduardo Sanchez, the 20 year old pitcher who found out just this afternoon that he would be active for the game. The relief pitcher who was a first graduate of the Cardinals’ Latin American baseball academy to make the major leagues. He didn’t disappoint either. Sanchez struck out 5 Diamondback hitters in just 2 innings, stealing the show from the offensive slugfest and sending Cardinals’ fans buzzing about the power pitching right hander. =&0=& Though Sanchez was heavily considering, ultimately I have to give it to Lance Berkman. The man is flat hitting right now. My only concern is that he doesn’t pull a Scott Rolen and fall off hard in the second half. (1-for-3, 2 R, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 1 BB) =&1=& Every Cardinal with multiple at bats got on base at least once, except for Jon Jay. Beyond that, the worst performance of the night might be Jake Westbrook, even his impacted numbers don’t hurt the team too badly as he only allowed 2 earned runs, 3 went into the book as unearned. Tough call, but I think it’ll be Westbrook. With a 12 run lead he should be making it deeper into the ballgame. Used up a couple guys from the bullpen when we shouldn’t have had to, but it’s been three lackluster starts for Westbrook this season so far. (5.1 IP, 9 H, 2 BB, 5 R, 2 ER, 3 K)

Game 11: Diamondbacks 13, Cardinals 8

It was a Cardinals loss to the Diamondbacks. I didn’t even need to watch to find that out because I awoke this morning to a Facebook message from my brother (who is a Diamondbacks fan) enjoying his victory. Of course, he was oddly quiet following Monday’s game. The offense finally showed up for Chris Carpenter. Unfortunately, we got a different Chris Carpenter than we got in his first two starts this season. Carpenter didn’t even make it to the fifth inning, and ironically, he still has allowed more runs that the offense has scored for him. The Cardinals scored 8 runs in this game and Carpenter allowed 8 runs in his 4 innings of work.  It was an odd night though as it seemed that no pitcher was good enough to get everyone out.

In what is hopefully a signal of Albert Pujols turning it around, he went 3-for-5 at the plate, scoring a run. I’m a bit wary to fully declare Pujols out of his slow start because everyone hit last night. The only Cardinal player who played the majority of the game and failed to get a hit was Yadier Molina (more on him in a moment). So he’ll have to do it tonight too to show that he’s beginning the turnaround. It’d be good for the Cardinals who need him desperately to stop slowing down the offense.

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