Game 5: Cardinals 3, Pirates 2

Is that the hallelujah chorus I hear? No? Well it should be! The Cardinals eked one out tonight with a hit by Albert Pujols that just barely squeaked past the infielders. Plus, it wouldn’t be the ninth inning without Ryan Franklin letting someone on base. My thoughts on the game: Kyle McClellan did everything we could have asked him to do. Threw a strong six innings and kept us in the ballgame. You have to rely on the offense to score some runs because no pitcher will always be perfect. He made one real mistake in the first inning that resulted in a two run home run by Lyle Overbay, but settled in after that. Who can blame him? The St. Louis boy making his debut as a starter in front of the home crowd, my nerves would be flying. In the end, six innings, 6 hits, 1 walk, 7 strikeouts. Colby Rasmus has turned into a beast in the two spot so far this season. He goes 2-for-3 tonight with a walk to improve his batting average to .400 on the short season. Hitting in front of Albert, even a slumping Albert, has gotten him hot. If he can maintain the attention he seems to be paying to the game, this may be the season he polishes his game and puts it all together for a very big year. Return of the MV3 in 2011? We could see it with Rasmus, Pujols, and Holliday in the middle of the lineup. And yeah, Albert Pujols finally comes through. He might not be out of his slow start yet, but he manages to get the game winning RBI and for 13 or 14 hours, all will be right with the world. It wasn’t a very well hit ball, but it went between the infielders for a hit at a crucial time and that’s what matters. =&0=& Craig and Pujols are obviously both very good candidates, but I’m going to give it to Kyle McClellan tonight. (6.0 IP, 6 H, 1 BB, 2 ER, 7 K) =&1=& Does there have to be one? I think I’m just excited about another win. Looking at the boxscore, I think that has to go to Gerald Laird, though David Freese could get it too as his struggles at the plate continued. It was his first start of the season, and I heard the 600th game of his career. Unfortunately, he did not celebrate it in style. (0-for-4, 2 K, GIDP, 3 LOB)

Game 4: Pirates 4, Cardinals 3

Kyle Lohse turned in five solid innings before his first walk of 2011 came back to bite him in a 4 run sixth inning. All in all, probably one of the better fundamental games of the season. Considering the lack of fundamentals, I’ve decided that was worth noting. However, here are my three thoughts. In the bottom of the 8th, the Cardinals had Lance Berkman on first, Albert Pujols on third, with Allen Craig at the plate and none out. Tony LaRussa had Daniel Descalso and Tyler Greene sitting on his bench and didn’t opt to pinch run for Berkman. I’m curious as to why as it probably became the game changing move after the Pirates short stop bobbled the ball and managed to just beat a sliding Berkman to second. If anyone faster is on first, there isn’t an out and you get another at bat in the inning.  Yes, you’d already used your other outfielder on the roster in a pinch hitting situation, this is a place where only having 24 usable players has hurt the Cards. However, with the will to shuffle Descalso or Greene could have been used. Either Greene goes to right field or Schumaker does, in either case Greene or Descalso can play second. But LaRussa was probably unwilling to move Schumaker from second base.  I know I got on Tony last season for managing us out of games, but this is one time where he sat on his hands and shouldn’t have. There were a couple of us on Twitter that realized this and we’ve never managed a major league ballclub, so why did we know it was the right decision? That leads into my second point. How does Tyler Greene only have one plate appearance this season? The way he was talked about in the offseason led me to believe that he was going to be the primary guy off the bench this season. Instead, it’s Descalso getting the opportunities. For once, Tony has surprised me with how he’s handled guys off the bench. Part of me wonders if Greene is hurt and we just haven’t heard anything. And finally, Lance Berkman should have played more outfield in Spring Training. His error in the top of the 4th was a result of having not played enough outfield and not having the right instincts. As a guy who plays outfield a lot, and usually right field at that, once you’ve decided how to pursue the ball you don’t change your mind. In this situation, Berkman was charging hard at the ball and changed his mind at the last minute and the ball bounced off his shoulder and away from him. Luckily it didn’t haunt us this time, but it’s something he’ll need to get back if he wants to be an every day right fielder.  =&0=& Tough call. I really liked how Lohse threw six of his seven innings. He bounced right back from the four runs, but I think it has to go to Lance Berkman. Beyond the error, he went 1-for-2 and drew a couple walks. (1-for-2, 1 R, 1 RBI, 2 BB) =&1=& As much as I’d like to give it to Albert for another 0-for performance, it goes to David Freese tonight. Twice he came up with an opportunity to make something happened and struck out. (0-for-4, 2 K, 5 LOB)

Game 3: Cardinals 2, Padres 0

Finally! The Cardinals break through for the win on the back of Jaime Garcia. Garcia, who had looked shaky during Spring Training, put some worries to rest with his dominant pitching performance. He used just 102 pitches to work through the 9 innings, showing some improvement over a problem he faced often in his rookie season. Last year he would commonly be inefficient with his pitches and hopefully this is him turning over a new leaf. It was just his second complete game shutout, the last was a 3-hitter he tossed last August against San Francisco. After just getting through watching this game on the MLBtv Archive after missing it because I was on the road this afternoon, there are a few thoughts. First, Skip Schumaker still looked awful at second base. How long until his fielding problems become a bigger issue? Today he couldn’t hang onto a pretty decent throw from Molina to attempt to catch someone stealing and then he made a bad throw on a double-play ball in the top of the sixth that got Garcia into the most trouble he was in all afternoon.  Secondly and luckily, Daniel Descalso held onto a sharply hit line drive to him and managed to pull off the unassisted double play while San Diego had the bases loaded with 1 out. It ended the inning and got Garcia out of a big jam. Had he not made the play, this game would have looked very different and it would have all unraveled because of that bad double play toss from Schumaker. Thirdly, there was an interesting graphic that has shown Yadier Molina‘s batting average drop the last three seasons. From .304 in 2008 to .293 in 2009 and then to .262 in 2010. Part of me wonders if this isn’t due to the strain on the body of playing all the innings? In 2009 he played the most innings behind the plate of any catcher in the big leagues, and he probably did it again in 2010 (haven’t been able to find a list to confirm, though). Are we riding Molina into the ground or should we be easier on him in the hopes his career lasts? At this point he’s nearly due a new contract and those knees have a lot of innings on them. Boxscore =&0=& There really is no doubt here. The man who dispelled all the questions with his performance today, Jaime Garcia. (9.0 IP, 4 H, 2 BB, 0 ER, 9 K) =&1=& Not sure what’s wrong with him, but there is plenty to speculate about. For the second time in three games, Pujols goes hitless and he added another to his already MLB high GIDP total. Albert Pujols, you get your second ZOG award. (0-for-4, 1 GIDP, 4 LOB)

Game 2: Padres 11, Cardinals 3

If you thought Thursday’s game was bad, Saturday’s was worse. Ugly is about the only word I have to describe what happened.

Thanks to Allen Craig, who picked up where Holliday left off, the Cardinals scored a pair of runs on his two-out double in the bottom of the first. But Padres worked Jake Westbrook hard all afternoon. He had thrown 51 pitches by the end of the second inning. In the second inning, Chase Headley tripled in a pair of runs to tie up the game.

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Game 1: Padres 5, Cardinals 3

It was a game that the Cardinals had every opportunity to win. Chris Carpenter turned in 7 stellar innings for the Cards, but that wasn’t enough for the bullpen to hold on. Or the offense to secure the win.

The same issues that plagued the Cardinals last season reared their ugly heads once again. Base running miscues and defensive mistakes cost the Cards this one. During the first seven innings, Skip Schumaker had a defensive mistake that was not credited as an error. Arguably it could have been, giving Carpenter 7 innings allowing just a single run.

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