Monthly Archives: April 2011

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.
Hero of the Game: 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)
Zero of the Game: 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.

And now onto Yadier Molina. If memory serves, twice Schumaker was walked in front of him to load up the bases and twice he swung on the first pitch. Now, common sense says when you have a pitcher struggling to throw strikes and the bases loaded, you take some pitches. He had two opportunities to crack this game wide open, but failed to convert.

It was also bad news for the Cardinals on the injury front, as well. Brian Tallet tripped while racing to make a defensive play at first base and fell into Stephen Drew. The end result is that Tallet apparently has a fractured a bone in his glove hand. Tallet will be flying back to St. Louis to get an opinion on his hand. That wasn’t where the triage ended though, Bryan Augenstein strained his right groin while making a pitch in the seventh inning. He has hit the disabled list while they wait and see on Tallet. According to the beat writers, Fernando Salas and Eduardo Sanchez will both be brought to Phoenix to catch up with the big league club. Salas is expected to be promoted to take Augenstein’s spot while Sanchez will wait to hear what will happen with Tallet.

Hero of the Game: Lance Berkman continued his hot streak tonight as he picked up his third home run of the season in just two nights. Welcome to the St. Louis Cardinals, Mr. Berkman. (3-for-5, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI)

Zero of the Game: Mentioned earlier, bases loaded twice and did nothing. It has to go to Yadier Molina. (0-for-5, 7 LOB)

Game 10: Cardinals 8, Diamondbacks 2

Who is this team? After a game in the desert, the Cardinals offense is certainly not thirsty. After 6 runs last night, they added on another 8 tonight for a total of 14 in the last two nights. They only scored 21 through the first eight games of the season.

Kyle McClellan was doing it all tonight. Not only did he throw 6 innings and allow just 1 run, he also went 2-for-3 with 2 RBI at the plate. Now, maybe that doesn’t impress you. But for a pitcher, who has been a relief pitcher, who had just 13 plate appearances in the nearly 10 years of professional baseball that he’s played (that’s majors plus minors), it’s pretty darned impressive to me. McClellan wasn’t dominant by any stretch of the imagination, but he did a really good job of managing base runners. That’s arguably something you become well accustomed to as the primary relief guy where you come in with men on base.

Lance Berkman showed up in a big big way tonight, hitting two home runs. The second was a two-run home run that scored Matt Holliday in the top of the 9th, with many Cardinal fans thanking him for “Franklin-proofing” what was a save opportunity. Bob Netherton (of On the Outside Corner) pointed out on Twitter that Holliday hustled on what should have been a double-play ball and made it safely to first. The guy has stitches and just got his appendix taken out less than two weeks ago.

Berkman’s home run was followed up by a Jon Jay home run, for back-to-back. That’s the first Back-to-back Cardinal home runs since July 19th of last year against Philadelphia when Allen Craig and Skip Schumaker did it.

And finally, David Freese continued hitting tonight. Less productive than last night, but hopefully tomorrow I can officially declare him back on track and done with his slow start.

Hero of the Game: Berkman and McClellan both key today, but McClellan did it on both sides of the ball and with his two RBIs and one allowed run, had a score of McClellan 2, Diamondbacks 1 when he left the game. Kyle McClellan (6.0 IP, 7 H, 4 BB, 1 ER, 4 K)

Zero of the Game: I really hate to give it to Albert Pujols, but he’s doing nothing to stop me. Once again he got an at bat with the bases loaded and did nothing. Meanwhile, he comes up in the 9th inning with nobody on and pops a single up the middle. Still, it’s gotta be him. He’s the only player still in the tight grips of a slow start. Albert Pujols (1-for-5, 1 K, 1 GIDP, 5 LOB)

Game 9: Cardinals 6, Giants 1

Great. I miss a game and the Cardinals offense breaks out. Six isn’t just a serious number, it’s how many the Cardinals scored today. Matt Holliday was back in the lineup, but I can’t even credit that as a big boost to the offense as Allen Craig was more than capable in the interim. The big difference?
David Freese finally broke out. His 3-for-4 performance with 3 RBI and his first home run of the season in the 8th inning. Freese had been struggling, more often than not, striking out. His breaking out really helps this team a ton, especially with Pujols struggling as well.

Kyle Lohse turned in another stellar start. He avoided allowing the walk and as a result, allowed just a single run over his 8 innings. It appears that he is healthy and back in form, which is a very important thing for this team if they intend on contending this season.

With Freese hopefully having broken out of his slow start, the Cardinals really need Albert Pujols to snap out of it and start providing the offense we all know he’s capable of. 0-for-5 won’t cut it. In fact, not many teams can be productive without their #3 hitter hitting. The Baseball Musing’s Lineup Analysis Tool gives the Cardinals A-lineup currently a 2.955 runs per game rating. With Pujols at his career averages, they rank at 3.750. That’s nearly 50% better, so how many more runs do we score?

Hero of the Game: Really a tossup for me between Freese and Lohse. Ultimately, I went with Freese as a reward for finally breaking out of it. (3-for-4, 2 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI)

Zero of the Game: The only Cardinals hitter to fail to get on base all day, Albert Pujols. (0-for-5, 1 K, 3 LOB)

Game 8: Giants 3, Cardinals 2

What a heart breaker. I was getting ready for bed when Colby Rasmus hit his first home run of the season to break the 1-1 tie, and at that point I decided I had to stay up for it. A couple scoreless innings by Miguel Batista and then in came Ryan Franklin. The nerves mounted as I grabbed the Tums and settled in for a nerve wracking inning. Right off the bat, I knew it was a blown save. One of the first pitches by Franklin was a long strike down the first base line. He was having trouble throwing strikes and when he did, the hitter gave them a ride. And it all led to a two out, two on fly ball to deep center field which was misplayed by Rasmus and Jay and ultimately dropped to give San Francisco another win, and St. Louis their sixth loss of the short season.
Colby Rasmus became the third Cardinal to hit a home run this season. During the game I commented that the Cardinals were on pace to hit a grand total of 46 home runs this season. Obviously, the slow start by Albert Pujols has dropped this number. Still, I’m surprised that there were only two and then now three home runs hit by the Cards this season. For a team that needs to wait on the long ball, we certainly aren’t hitting a lot of them. But I have seen the running game loosened up a bit, which is always good. Puts pressure on the other team to execute.
Jaime Garcia once again turned in a stellar start. I did not agree with his being pulled after six innings to give the ball to Batista. He’d only thrown 82 pitches and could have easily gone one more inning. It’ll be interesting to see if there was a reason for it. Garcia’s spot did come up in the lineup, Craig pinch hit, but they bunted in front of his spot with Descalso. Just don’t understand that move when your starter is still cruising.
And on Ryan Franklin. Do we have a large enough sample size? I’m sure Tony LaRussa will come through and pat Franklin on the back and tell the media he’s still the closer. You have Fernando Salas down at Memphis who was perfect in save opportunities last year for them. I think he’s earned the opportunity. Franklin looks scared to throw strikes out there and I don’t like it. I don’t like a closer who relies on the other team hitting the ball to get the other team out. Too much 9th inning drama.
One has to ask when the slow start by Pujols turns into a full on slump. I get criticized for my comments about Pujols. Often they bring up the last 10 years in some fashion. Honestly, the last 10 years don’t win us any games in 2011, so I really don’t care about that. When I make a comment, like calling him a killer to whatever momentum the offense generates, I’m not saying that he always has been or always will be, but it’s an ‘in the moment’ statement.
Hero of the Game: Jaime Garcia wins it again. He turned in another great performance. Rasmus would have had it if his home run had stood up and maybe even if he hadn’t made the final error. (6.0 IP, 4 H, 1 BB, 1 ER, 9 K)
Zero of the Game: Ryan Franklin with his third blown save of the season earns the Zero of the Game. I’m ready to try someone else. Put him in middle relief until he gets the groove back, but you can’t throw him out there with the game on the line. We need wins right now and we can’t wait for Franklin to get his groove back. (0.2 IP, 2 H, 1 BB, 2 ER)