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)
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)
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)
Some fun Saturday afternoon suggestions on ways to improve the Cardinals team.