Game 20: Cardinals 4, Reds 2

Okay, okay. I consistently and loudly complain about a lot of Tony LaRussa’s moves, moves that seem to less and less reflect a statistical basis for the determination for the move. Moves I think have begun to cost the Cardinals more games than it’s winning us. However, being harsh in my complaints, I try to be quick with the praise when there is a brilliant move. 
That said, last night’s pre-game decision to scratch Kyle McClellan from his scheduled start to give the ball to Miguel Batista was brilliant. The plan was for Batista to start the game, which was expected to have an early rain delay, and then save McClellan to come in after the rain delay. For the Cardinals, it worked out beautifully. Six pitches into the game, the umpires called a rain delay.
When the game resumed, in came McClellan, who threw 6 good innings and Edinson Volquez, the scheduled Reds starter, didn’t throw a single pitch as the Reds had to go to their bullpen right off the bat and then ask them for 9 innings. 

For the Cardinals offense, they put 13 men on base in the first 5 innings of the game, but failed to poke a hole in the Reds, yet still scored enough to win. Daniel Descalso was the only offensive player with an at bat to fail to get a hit for the Cardinals.

The bullpen also turned in a great effort. Eduardo Sanchez got his first real test as he appears to be the team’s current 7th inning guy. Sanchez came in after McClellan allowed two batters to get on base in the seventh inning. It was Sanchez’s first pressured position. He walked one, but only allowed one of the two base runners to score, handing the ball to Jason Motte in the eighth with the lead still intact.  Motte allowed two hits and got two outs before handing the ball to Mitchell Boggs for the chance at the four out save.

Hero of the Game: On a brilliant move to save McClellan for after the rain delay, Tony LaRussa will earn today’s hero of the game.

Zero of the Game: Only Cardinals player with an AB and no hit to show for it, Daniel Descalso. (0-for-3)

Game 19: Cardinals 5, Nationals 0

Before the game I said that all I wanted out of Kyle Lohse today was 7 innings with 3 earned, one from the bullpen, and 5 runs from the offense. I got more, and less, than I asked for. Lohse was dominant on Thursday afternoon, tossing 9 scoreless innings and allowing just four base runners all day on two hits and two walks. For Lohse, it takes him to a 3-1 record as the only Cardinal to score a decision in all four of his starts, and his ERA drops to just 2.01 in the short season. 
Matt Holliday and Albert Pujols provided most of the offense. Holliday took Tom Gorzelanny deep in the bottom of the first to give the Cardinals a two run lead and they never looked back. Not wanting to be left out, Pujols would provide his own two-run home run to give the team some insurance runs as they plated three runs in the bottom of the eighth as well.
Despite the victory, one thing I noticed from the box score was that the Cardinals left six men on base this afternoon. They also went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position.
Hero of the Game: Can there be anyone else? Kyle Lohse. The man has stepped up when we needed him to. (9.0 IP, 2 H, 2 BB, 0 ER, 6 K)
Zero of the Game: Ryan Theriot was hitting .338 at the end of the first game during yesterday’s double header. Since then he’s gone 0-for-9 with 5 runners left of base. While Molina also went 0-for-4 today, the leadoff hitter is responsible for getting going in front of the big hitters, if he can’t do that he deserves this more. (0-for-4, 2 LOB)

Game 18: Cardinals 5, Nationals 3

Let’s play two! In the second game of the double header, Jaime Garcia picked up his third win of the season to remain undefeated. For Garcia it wasn’t an exceptional start. He threw 101 pitches over 5+ innings of baseball, but the offense managed to provide him enough offense to keep the lead. 
The unsung hero of today’s win might just be the bullpen. Through 6 innings in the first game and 4 innings in the second game, the only runs allowed by the bullpen was the home run off of Franklin in the first game. Jason Motte, who threw an inning in each game, pitched a scoreless 6th. Eduardo Sanchez continued his strong run by going 6 up, 6 down in the 7th and the 8th before Mitchell Boggs showed Cardinals fans how games are supposed to be saved in the 9th. 

Nick Punto got a bloop RBI single in his first day back playing in the major leagues. For a guy who hasn’t seen much major league pitching this year and hasn’t played a real game in probably two months, it was a pretty solid performance for him.

Today’s offensive performance was what I like to see. No homers, but actually getting quality hits for the RBI.

Also, I don’t think I’ve ever seen such varied performance in games in a double header that we got today from Ryan Theriot. He went 4-for-5 in game 1 and then went 0-for-5 in game 2.

Hero of the Game: After much consideration, mainly between Lance Berkman and Jason Motte, I chose Berkman. Berkman added RBI in both the bottom of the 4th and the bottom of the 5th to help the Cardinals answer to the Nationals who tried to keep up with the Cards. I considered Motte because he shut them down in the 6th after the Cardinals solidified their lead. But it’s Berkman. (3-for-4, 1 R, 2 RBI)

Zero of the Game: Ryan Theriot’s slow game 2 earns him this honor. I considered Punto, but he had an RBI and he hasn’t played a real game all year. (0-for-5, 3 LOB)

Game 17: Nationals 8, Cardinals 6

For Jake Westbrook, it wasn’t a fun game. Once again Westbrook battled through the game, leading many Cardinals fans believing that he may be fighting some sort of injury. While the previous starts this season haven’t been outstanding, Westbrook turned in his worst game of the season. He only went 3 innings, threw 68 pitches and allowed 7 runs over 7 hits and 2 walks.

If there was a shining moment for this game, it was the three scoreless innings tossed by Fernando Salas in his second appearance of the season for the big league club. Salas allowed just one hit over those 3 innings and struck out 3 of his own. The unsung hero of the game was the bullpen who threw six innings and allowed just 3 hits.

Unfortunately one of those hits was a home run allowed by Ryan Franklin. Afterwards, Franklin heard it from the St. Louis faithful and he was bitter about it afterwards, questioning whether they earned the naming as the best fans in baseball. In his statements to B.J. Rains of Fox Sports Midwest, Franklin said that he didn’t understand them booing him because he made one mistake. But honestly Ryan, have you not seen the “4” in the BS column? And you reached it quicker than anyone in recent memory. And you are kidding yourself if you think that the boos would have waited this long to come in any other baseball town that actually cares about the performance on the field.

The offense tried to win this game, Ryan Theriot went 4-for-5 and Albert Pujols and Colby Rasmus each added a solo shot and 3 RBI, but it wouldn’t be enough as the team did manage to claw their way back into the game.

Hero of the Game: Fernando Salas. What? Yeah, for a pitcher that Tony LaRussa called a one inning pitcher after selecting Bryan Augenstein to the big league club, Salas threw three shutdown innings that helped the Cardinals sneak back into the game with the potential to win it. (3.0 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 3 K)

Zero of the Game: Jake Westbrook. Was there any doubt? His season ERA stands at 9.82. Only slightly higher than Franklin’s at this point. (3.0 IP, 7 H, 7 ER, 2 BB, 1 K)

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.

First, the big news: Lance Berkman has been named the NL Player of the Week. Was it really a surprise? The first year Cardinal hit .417 over the 6 games the Cardinals played this week and added 6 home runs and 12 RBI. He was hitting just .214 heading into the series against the Diamondbacks where the Cardinals’ bats exploded with offense at a historic rate. He finished the road trip with a .308 average.

Injuries have hit the Cardinals offense for the first time this season in a big way. Skip Schumaker and Allen Craig are both being looked at to determine whether they will need a stint on the disabled list. Schumaker is apparently dealing with a hyperextended elbow and Allen Craig with a groin strain. The popular question is, who gets the opportunity?

Daniel Descalso probably stands to get the most increase in playing time. Descalso has played mainly second base in his professional career and started there Sunday in Los Angeles. While a similar hitter to Schumaker, Descalso has a much better glove.

But who will get the call from Memphis? That is a really good question. In the infield your options sit with Pete Kozma, Mark Hamilton, and Zack Cox at Memphis. I’d expect Hamilton to be out of the running as he is primarily a first baseman and we don’t have that need. Kozma has played short stop and a couple games at third base in his minor league career, but has mostly disappointed since being drafted in the first round of the 2007 draft. Meanwhile Cox was playing college baseball for Arizona State at this time last year.

The intriguing thought for Schumaker’s replacement would be whether Nick Punto is ready to go. They expect a late April return and he is capable of playing every position in the field and would be a valuable piece to have for that fact.

As far as outfielders, only one outfielder is on our 40 man roster other than the ones in St. Louis. That would be Adron Chambers, who is a big favorite of our minor league writer Jerry Canaday. Chambers has a lot of talent, but is probably not major league ready.

Because of this, the Cardinals have their hands tied for injuries to position players on their 25 man roster. Nobody that they have sitting on the 40 man roster in the minor leagues is really ready to come up to the big leagues yet.

Will Tony LaRussa try someone else at closer? Just a week ago, LaRussa was saying that we had no other options in the bullpen to close. “The fact is right now those young guys aren’t better,” said LaRussa in an April 10th article where he and Mozeliak both backed Ryan Franklin. Now, I’m all for having faith in a player, but all this backing of Franklin to help instill some confidence in him has to be hurting the rest of the bullpen to hear their manager say that they aren’t any better than a guy who has a double-digit ERA and has four blown saves.

Mitchell Boggs has been the best bullpen arm the Cardinals have had in this short season so far. I don’t say that simply because we sponsor his player page at baseball-reference. Boggs has thrown 9 innings and has 2 earned runs. Those are two earned runs that were scored against him in his season debut. Since then he has thrown 6 scoreless innings with 8 strikeouts. While I do like Jason Motte more now than I did a year ago at this point, he still has a long way to go before he will be capable of closing out games. Boggs has a greater ability to make pitchers miss and has alternate pitches as he spent most of his career as a starter. He should be the guy that gets the opportunities now.

The current “it” pick is Eduardo Sanchez though. The 22 year old has 8 strikeouts in his 3 innings in the major leagues. He hasn’t shown any signs of being unable to handle the role. Granted his appearances were in games where the Cardinals had a huge lead. Still, I think his stuff has earned him an opportunity to get a couple appearances in the seventh and eighth innings of closer ballgames. At this point it’s my feeling that you have to go with the hot hand, or hot arm in this case, in order to win ballgames.

We’ve already lost four that we should have won, so we need to find a way to make those back up.

That is the extent of my thoughts for this Monday. Hope everyone is enjoying it. Now I’m back to my regularly scheduled class work.