It’s been a 6-6 run for the Cardinals while I’ve been gone and it’s been quite the busy one for the Cardinals. For one, Joe Pettini is the acting manager on this road trip while Tony LaRussa has been out dealing with his viral issues. I know I’ve been heavily critical of Tony in the past, but I wish him a speedy recovery so he can be back on the bench so I can continue to be critical of him.
Some of my thoughts on the last two weeks of Cardinals’ baseball.
- The Cardinals will definitely have a major decision on their hands when Brian Tallet and Skip Schumaker are ready for their return to the lineup. Likely both will take a quick trip through the minor leagues while the team decides what to do. Do you send Fernando Salas or Eduardo Sanchez down the minors because they are the junior members of the bullpen, or do you consider doing something with Ryan Franklin?
While many Cardinals fans will instantly say that we need to DFA Franklin as soon as possible, I highly doubt the team will do that. However, I will be the first to admit that I’ve been wrong about a few things. Tony and Mo have surprised me with their moves, and just as I thought I was successfully getting into their heads.
Salas and Sanchez have options. Obviously the coaches’ like Sanchez. Salas has pitched well too. So where does that leave Ryan Franklin, his $3.5 million salary, and his 9.88 ERA? Who knows. While I realize what Franklin has done for us, I give him the opportunity to pitch in the minors for the Cardinals to see if he can’t get it back, but also the opportunity to walk and potentially find another opportunity. Tough call, and I am glad that I’m not the one that has to make it.
- Swept by the Reds? Say it ain’t so. Chris Carpenter got slaughtered today as he allowed 7 earned runs over 6 and a third innings. Three errors in the series by the Cardinals as poor defensive play was once again the team’s hallmark. Ironically, the Reds committed four errors, which reminds me that the Reds’ offense was much more efficient last year on capitalizing on mistakes. The Cardinals’ offense has lacked this in recent years.
While some of my Cardinals fan brethren are ready to pack it in after one bad series, claiming the Cardinals did a good job masquerading as contenders, these are really the same issues that the team has had all year. Nothing new is popping up. I think it was in the movie Glory Road where the coach says that the best players make the routine plays over and over and over again. That’s where this team needs to get. Don’t be flashy, don’t be fancy, just get the job done. 9 times out of 10, that’s enough.
- Jaime Garcia is a beast. One start he’s perfect through 4 innings, and the next he’s perfect through 8 and a third. I had some worry about a sophomore slump as the league caught up to him, but Jaime is proving that he has the potential to be one of the premiere left handed pitchers in the major leagues. The thoughts of pairing him up with Adam Wainwright as twin-aces again is highly tantalizing.
- Allen Craig played second base? That’s what I see and read about. I found it interesting to note that Craig was drafted a short stop. While he only played three games at the position in 2006 before being moved to third base, he at least has a capable glove. Which pretty much translates around the infield. If he doesn’t have the arm for third base, second base would be a good solution. Obviously, though, he’ll need innings at the position to truly be ready to play it. Inexperience reared it’s head, but not as badly as I expected. Could he potentially make a play to play more games at second base? I’d actually like to see that. He has the biggest bat of anyone on that bench or currently playing second base. It’d be a way to get it in the lineup.
- Albert Pujols is still hitting just .266 after today’s game. That’s not too far off the magic .300 number though. What is concerning to me is that, now at 19 games he is in the fourth longest homeless drought of his career. In 2007 he had droughts of 22 (his longest) and 20 games. In 2009 he added one that was 21 games long. In each of those three instances, he had a hot streak right after he broke out of the streak. So is a power slump signaling his getting closer to being right? Who knows. I guess we’ll find out.
It was a crazy game. A game that saw Jaime Garcia perfect through four innings and fall apart in the fifth. It also saw Albert Pujols playing third base in the major leagues for the first time since 2002.
Most Cardinals fans will see the L by Ryan Franklin‘s name and assume he blew it. Honestly, for once I don’t blame him for this one. With no outs, Alex Gonzalez hit a pop fly that a little leaguer could catch, except Ryan Theriot did not as he picked up his 7th error on the season (that puts him on pace for 40 errors this season, the most for a major leaguer since Jose Offerman had 42 errors in 1992, before that you go to 1978). Say what you will about what Franklin should have done at that point, the fact is if you give most teams a man on first and nobody out, they will most likely score that run. Good teams will, at least. The Braves are a good team.
Defensive issues have plagued this team and currently have them 24th in the league in fielding percentage going into today’s game. This game won’t help as Pujols and Theriot each made an error, which each led to an unearned run being scored and ultimately were the two runs that cost us this game.
In a highly questioned move, Albert Pujols made his first appearance at third base since September of 2002. How did it happen? After David Freese‘s injury (a broken left middle finger, it seems), Tyler Greene came in to play the infield. Later, he was pinch hit for by Jon Jay, leaving Mark Hamilton as the only infielder left on the bench. So what does Tony LaRussa do? In comes Hamilton to play first and Pujols returns to third base in the bottom of the 8th. He was involved in one play, but had Cardinals fans on edge as his elbow is still believed to be a worry.
Hero: Matt Holliday. The only guy with 2 RBI off a first inning double, it was Holliday that was in position to be the game tying run in the top of the 8th and was able to score on a Molina sac fly. (2-for-3, 2 R, 2 RBI)
Zero: Ryan Theriot. I’m giving it to him based on his strikeout in the top of the 8th with Jay on second and his error which unraveled the bottom of the 9th. (0-for-4, 1 K, 4 LOB)
The Comeback Cards are at it again to finish out April. Down 2-0 going into the 8th, they tie it up and then take the lead in the 9th. Later that night while grocery shopping I saw a Braves fan and resisted the urge to rub it in. I know what it’s like to have a closer who doesn’t close.
For the Cardinals, Jake Westbrook proved that he might be back at it. Two earned runs over 6 innings is enough to garner a quality start, though I would have liked to see him go deeper into the ballgame. The 106 pitches he threw, said otherwise. His ERA is now down to 6.53. It’s going to take awhile to rebound it though.
Once again a solid bullpen brought home the game. Mitchell Boggs, Miguel Batista, and Fernando Salas brought home the game, throwing 3 scoreless innings of relief. Batista earned the win while Salas picked up his second save of the season.
For the offense, it was David Freese that provided the 2 RBI single to tie up the game with two outs in the 8th. Then Gerald Laird scored Matt Holliday on a 9th inning triple.
Hero: Tough decision for me between Freese and Laird, both played integral parts. Ultimately, Freese set it up, so he will get it. (2-for-4, 2 RBI, 1 K)
Zero: Tough call between Lance Berkman and Albert Pujols. While Berkman got just 2 at bats as he came in late in the game, he left 5 runners on base. Pujols played the whole game and went hitless, leaving 3. Berkman had the opportunity to blow it wide open, and didn’t. (0-for-2, 1 K, 5 LOB)
The bullpen has made us the Cardiac Cards, but tonight we were the comeback Cards. A sacrifice fly by Daniel Descalso in the ninth tied up the game and it was a Nick Punto triple in the eleventh that put the Cardinals ahead.
Chris Carpenter once again turned in a quality start, his fifth on the season, and yet he remains winless. He left the game today after 7 innings with the Cardinals down 3-2. He will officially go winless in April, despite having been effective on the mound. Despite the solid start, this was the first game that Carpenter has started and the Cardinals have won. I’m sure that gives Carpenter a little relief in the end.
Mitchell Boggs, Eduardo Sanchez, Jason Motte, and Trevor Miller combined in the bullpen to offer 4 scoreless innings of relief. For Boggs, it was an exit from his typical 9th inning position after he blew the save in Houston. I’m sure Cardinal Nation was questioning the move to bring Trevor Miller in for the final out of the game, relieving Motte. However, Miller finally got the job done.
Hero: Nick Punto. The game winning triple. (1-for-6, 2 RBI, 2 LOB)
Zero: Colby Rasmus. (0-for-4, 2 BB, 1 K, 4 LOB)
Kyle McClellan picks up his fourth win of the season, remaining undefeated, as the Cardinals offense puts up a huge crooked number in the top of the 6th and Lance Berkman went off on his former team.
While Kyle McClellan ended up with the win, it was potentially his least impressive start. Today he was unable to dance out of trouble as he was tagged with 5 earned runs in 5.2 innings. Despite it, his ERA is only up to 3.23 as he is still perfect on the year and hasn’t been tagged with a loss. In fact, the Cardinals have won every game McClellan has started this season.
Lance Berkman has had a great series against his former team, but none better than tonight. With a pair of homers, a three run shot in the sixth and a solo shot in the ninth, Berkman went wild with 5 total RBI in a 4-for-5 performance. It was also during this game that I realized why this team can be successful, while 2010 was a disappointment. Berkman is a unifying force in the clubhouse, willing to chat with everyone veterans and rookies alike. I think it keeps the clubhouse and the dugout a little looser during games and allows them to relax and just play. Something, I feel, that’s been missing since Jim Edmonds left.
Fernando Salas meanwhile came in a cleaned up an 8th inning mess and then closed out the 9th for his first save of the season for the big league club. Perhaps we have a true closer by committee?
Hero: Lance Berkman, was there any doubt? (4-for-5, 3 R, 2 HR, 1 2B, 5 RBI)
Zero: Daniel Descalso. It was his two errors that set up the trouble in the 8th inning, and he didn’t add anything from the plate to help. (0-for-5, 3 K, 5 LOB)
The Cardiac Cardinals. After the bullpen failed to hold onto the lead the night before, the bullpen took a 6-0 lead and made it close. Ultimately, it was Eduardo Sanchez striking out Hunter Pence with the game tying run on second base.
Kyle Lohse picked up his fourth win of the season, pitching 7 dominant innings before giving way to the bullpen. Lohse has been impressive this season, he sports a 1.64 ERA and a 4.8 K/BB ratio. He has, by far, been the Cardinals ace this season and in a time when they needed it like nothing else. It is nice to see him finally right and finally getting a chance to earn his paycheck (despite Forbes naming him the most overpaid pitcher
For the offense, it was a team effort with 5 different Cardinals driving home runs and 6 different Cardinals scoring them. It is a radically different Cardinals offense from last year as they seem to really be clicking right now. In the 7th inning, it was the core of the Cardinals lineup that provided three of the four eventually much needed insurance runs. Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday, and Lance Berkman each had RBI hits with two outs.
And on the bullpen. Ryan Franklin and Trevor Miller are struggling hard. Franklin faced two batters, each who scored a hit against him before being pulled out of the game for Trevor Miller. Ironically, it’s been Miller who has handed Franklin a mess on the base paths a few times this season, this time it was Franklin giving Miller a mess. And once again Miller failed to convert his much needed out, walking his left handed hitter. Fernando Salas allowed a pair of hits, but managed to get the Cardinals out of the inning. Handing the ball to Eduardo Sanchez in his first high pressure situation. Three hits and two earned runs later, Sanchez managed to fight his way out, striking out the final batter of the game.
Hero: Kyle Lohse. (7.0 IP, 4 H, 1 BB, 0 R, 2 K)
Zero: Ryan Franklin and Trevor Miller in a split award. (Combined: 0.0 IP, 2 H, 1 BB, 3 ER, 0 K)