Tag Archives: David Freese

UCB Project: Top Stories of 2011

This month’s United Cardinal Bloggers project is to break down what we thought the top-5 Cardinals Stories of 2011 were. Albert Pujols‘ departure and the Cardinals winning the World Series will be two very big stories that my fellow bloggers will likely be hitting on today. But those are easy. That’s the low hanging fruit. What really contributed to the Cardinals being there in October and getting their chance to come through and why? That’s what I’m going for.

#5. Adam Wainwright out for the season after Tommy John

Those dreaded words crossed my Twitter feed in February, just three months after I embarked on my Cardinals’ blogging mission. The names “Tommy John” and “Adam Wainwright” were mentioned in the same tweet. And to top everything off, Cardinals’ GM John Mozeliak was not feeling optimistic when he talked about Wainwright’s injury. And so we waited with baited breaths wondering how Wainwright’s doctor’s appointment in St. Louis would turn out. Would we lose our ace?

Many looked back to 2007 and 2008. Those were two seasons where we lost Chris Carpenter, then our clear #1 pitcher, for the majority of the season. He made 1 start in 2007 and 4 starts in 2008. The Cardinals finished 3rd in 2007 and 4th in 2008 in the NL Central. Was our season over before it began?

Many fans packed it in and it would have been easy for the Cardinals to dwell on the loss of Wainwright. But they moved on without the ace of their pitching staff determined to compete without him. That determination would come in handy throughout the season. Little did we know it would set the tone for the season. Whether it was Matt Holliday‘s appendix, a moth looking for a new home, Allen Craig‘s knee cap, or Albert Pujols’ wrist, the team was determined to give everything when it would have been very easy to mail it in without their key players. It would have been a good excuse that everyone would have bought. The Cardinals were a team ravaged by injuries all year.

The determination to get over the injury of Wainwright and move forward served the team well. From day one they were being prepared for a difficult season.

#4. The Search for a Closer

For a few years the Cardinals had been relying on Ryan Franklin to be the team’s closer. And I’ve been saying for just as long that Ryan Franklin isn’t a very good closer and we needed some insurance for him because it was simply a matter of time. However, I think the Cardinals were attempting to ride it out at least one more year with Franklin taking the ball in the 9th inning.

But when the season started and Ryan Franklin was ineffective, it threw the entire Cardinals’ bullpen into chaos. First it was Mitchell Boggs who got the 9th inning opportunities. Then he blew one and Eduardo Sanchez got a chance. Then Sanchez struggled to throw his slider for strikes when batters realized they could just take the pitch and Fernando Salas finally got the opportunity.

Salas, the only pitcher near ready to pitch for the St. Louis Cardinals who had closing experience. Going into 2011 he was a perfect 44-for-44 in save opportunities between Springfield in 2008 and Memphis is 2010. Why he didn’t get the first opportunity is quite a bit of conjecture, but when the Cardinals needed a stabilizing influence in the 9th inning, they found it in Salas. He got his first save opportunity on April 28th. It was a little exciting with a hit and a walk, but he got the job done. He would save 10 games before blowing his first on June 1st. Over the summer he became a little homer happy, opening the door for Jason Motte who was having a dominant summer.

Jason Motte went from June 26th to September 6th, a span of 34 appearances and 26 1/3 innings, without allowing an earned run. It was enough to get Tony LaRussa to say he wanted to get Motte some time in the 9th inning role, but stopping short of naming Motte the team’s closer. On August 28th he got his first save as the team’s 9th inning man and racked up a total of 9 as the season went on.

#3. Wheeling and Dealing at the Deadline

Colby Rasmus was the future of the franchise. Or so we all thought going into 2011. He had a really good start to the season as well, with many, including myself, thinking that he had finally turned the corner and unlocked that potential. However, it wasn’t long before Rasmus was mired once again in a huge slump at the plate and was making big mistakes in center field. By July, most Cardinals fans were debating the merits of making Jon Jay the team’s starting center fielder. Apparently, so was Tony LaRussa as Jay started getting more and more playing time in center field.

John Mozeliak, the Cardinals’ GM, had apparently been working on an extension with Rasmus that would have bought out his arbitration years. The team still viewed him as a major part of their future. They denied wanting to trade him, but everyone recognized that Rasmus would be the organization’s largest trading piece.

Despite the rumors of teams like Tampa Bay offering a very good starting pitcher for Rasmus, Mozeliak decided to take an offer that was viewed as lesser of the deals, but it did two very important things for the Cardinals. It filled holes in the rotation and the bullpen, something the other deals didn’t. Mozeliak knew Rasmus was his biggest (and likely only) bullet, he needed to it fix as many problems as possible. It also brought the Cardinals back draft picks for Edwin Jackson and Octavio Dotel who left for free agency. They also got to keep Marc Rzepczynski, a talented left handed pitcher, something the Cardinals have been unable to produce on their own in recent years.

He wasn’t done. The Cardinals needed to improve the defense at short stop. Their plan to forego offense for defense during the offseason had come around to bite them when Ryan Theriot struggled to field his position as he had in the past. Mozeliak found a partner in the Dodgers who were willing to send them Rafael Furcal. All the Dodgers wanted was Alex Castellanos, and considering the Cardinals were facing a little bit of an outfielder squeeze at the top of their minor league depth charts, he was expendable.

When all was said and done, for the price of Colby Rasmus and Double-A outfielder Alex Castellanos, John Mozeliak filled every hole on the 2011 Cardinals. It was a move that earned him Executive of the Year awards, but the Cardinals still needed help to get to the playoffs.

#2. September and the Hunt for a Cardinal Red October

Despite the additions, the team went just 15-13 in August and fell from half a game back of Milwaukee when the trades were made to 8.5 games back when August drew to a close. But that was mainly because Milwaukee was really good in August, going 21-7. It’s hard to keep up with a team who is that hot.

But the Cardinals would put together an 18-8 September, finishing as one of the hottest teams in baseball as they slipped into the playoffs on the final day of the season, courtesy of the Philadelphia Phillies beating the Atlanta Braves. Many would say that the Braves choked up the playoff spot, but when you look at the fact they lost their #1 pitcher for the final two months of the season and their #2 pitcher for the final month, I have a hard time saying that. Where would the Cardinals have been this year if they’d lost Chris Carpenter as well? Nowhere pretty.

It was just what the Cardinals needed to get into the playoffs. As Daniel of C70 at the Bat said Wednesday night on the UCB Radio Hour, if the Braves win two more games anywhere in the season, they go to the playoffs and we don’t have this discussion and the trade of Rasmus seems like a huge mistake. What a kill joy.

#1. The Emergence of David Freese and Allen Craig

My top story of the season has nothing to do with the big names Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday, and Lance Berkman (though Berkman did have an excellent 2011 season, way better than I expected). I attribute a lot of the Cardinals winning this World Series to the unsung heroes of this team. The Cardinals run into the playoffs and to the World Series Championship was a total team effort. There was no singular player’s performance, at least from a player you could expect.

Allen Craig, the subject of my largest sports man-crush right now, only had about 220 plate appearances for the Cardinals this season, but they were MVP quality appearances. His 2.9 WAR over those plate appearances projects out to 8.6 if he gets 650 plate appearances at the same rate. That’s better than some guy named Ryan Braun, who walked home with the National League MVP trophy. He also had RBI in 5 of the 7 games in the World Series. He had the game-winning RBI in game 1. He had a go-ahead RBI in game 2. His first inning home run in game 3 set the tone for the Cardinals. His 8th inning home run in game 6 was crucial to set up David Freese‘s opportunity. And in Game 7, his third inning home run put the Cardinals on top for good. He was definitely a worthy candidate as World Series MVP in my opinion. Well, were it not for this next guy.

It was a situation that all kids dream about. You play with the bat in the backyard and you call out the situation to yourself, “Bottom of the 9th. Game on the Line. Two out. Down to your last strike. You lose the World Series if you don’t get this hit. In comes the pitch…” It’s a triple off the wall to tie up the game! Even more incredible when you come up to bat 2 innings later and hit your first home run of the World Series to win the game in walk-off style to send it to Game 7. Then he goes and gets the game tying runs in the bottom of the 1st just two nights later in Game 7. Yeah, that’s David Freese.

It was the emergence David Freese and Allen Craig that really propelled this team. Your superstars can only do so much. Teams attempt to minimize the impact your superstars have on the game. Having players behind them who will make them pay too, that just makes things sweeter. And that’s what makes a team a winner.

Those are my top-5 stories. What are yours?

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Matheny named manager

After an interview process that lasted roughly a week, Mike Matheny stood in front of the cameras and was announced as the next manager of the St. Louis Cardinals.

It was a field of six candidates. Jose Oquendo, Chris Maloney, Ryne Sandberg, Joe McEwing, Terry Francona, and Matheny. According to the team, after each interview they ranked their board of potential candidates. After his interview, Matheny went to #1 and stayed there, despite his lack of experience.

Matheny, 41, has long been predicted by those around the game to make a good manager. He has recently served as an assistant to General Manager John Mozeliak and has been an instructor at spring training for the team as well. Since he retired at the end of the 2006 season due to concussion related problems, Matheny has been involved with the Cardinals organization, leading many to believe that he would one day be destined for the big chair. However, going into the interviews, he was likely the dark horse candidate that nobody gave a real shot to.

He will now be the youngest manager in the major leagues.

Matheny played five of his 13 year career with the Cardinals. He hit just .245 with a .304 OBP, but took home three of his four Gold Gloves while playing for the Cardinals. He was the catcher who tutored a young Yadier Molina before handing the starting job off to him in 2005. Molina has received four Gold Gloves of his own in the years since.

The management decision was rumored to have come down between Matheny and former Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona. In my opinion, Francona was only going to be a manager for a few years before we had to find someone else. Both in Philadelphia and Boston his end came when he could no longer reach and motivate his players. Matheny has the potential to be a much more longterm manager than Francona would.

Ultimately, I think the move will be good for the Cardinals.

First and foremost, he is already familiar with the team and has the respect of the players in the locker room. The Cardinals players who are on Twitter, like Jon Jay, David Freese, and Daniel Descalso made sure to applaud their new manager and let us know they were excited to play for him because they like and respect him. Two important keys for a manager.

Secondly, Matheny has worked with John Mozeliak on the front office side. He likely buys into the same philosophy that Mozeliak does as far as building the roster. I felt that since Mozeliak took over as the team’s General Manager that he and Tony LaRussa were oft times at odds about how they wanted to build the roster and what they wanted out of it. Now Mozeliak has his guy in the manager’s seat and those conflicts will likely be limited. But now Mozeliak can’t blame shortcomings on that relationship (not that he did, at least, not publicly).

Thirdly, even though he is inexperienced at this particular job, he is likely to be surrounded by experienced coaches and has a sharp baseball mind. Dave Duncan is under contract for 2012 and is expected to return to the organization as pitching coach. He and Matheny would have worked closely together over the five seasons Matheny spent as the Cardinals’ starting catcher. He also has a good relationship with hitting coach Mark McGwire.

Something Matheny will hopefully remember is that this is a championship team and while you do want to make your mark and make it your coaching staff, some consistency will be good for the team. No need to reinvent the wheel. But I see the desire for him to make it his coaching staff rather than LaRussa’s coaching staff.

At the same time, he needs to be his own manager. Don’t try to emulate someone else’s managerial style, be yourself.

The big question will be how we judge his success. He is being handed a World Series Champion. Is anything less a disappointment?

We as fans need to be careful how high we set that bar for him. It is his first year and he’ll be learning on the job. At the end of the year, I want a team that was in contention until late September and I want to see how Matheny handles games. Does he under manager or over manage? My biggest complaint about his predecessor was that I felt LaRussa could over-manage a game like nobody else and as a result managed us out of some games. There is a fine line to walk and I understand it could take him some time to find the right touch.

In the end, it’s a positive move for the Cardinals to begin the post-LaRussa era.

Oh, and for fun, Arthur Rhodes, who pitched last season for the Cardinals is 333 days older than Matheny.

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Cardinals are World Series Champions

For the 11th time in their illustrious history, the St. Louis Cardinals can be called World Series Champions. Thankfully, they did it without the type of drama or heroics required in Game 6.

The Texas Rangers got on Chris Carpenter early, putting up two runs in the top of the first. It looked like it was going to be more of the same from the night before. But in the bottom of the first, it was David Freese once again delivering in the clutch with a two-RBI double to tie the game up.

After getting into a little trouble in the top of the second, Carpenter started to settle in, and so did Cardinals fans who have grown accustomed to knowing when Carp has a game under control. When all was said and done, he gave the Cardinals 6 quality innings on the mound, allowing just those two first inning runs. It was exactly what the Cardinals needed.

In the bottom of the 3rd, Allen Craig put the Cardinals on top with his third home run of the World Series and what would end up as his second game-winning hit of the series, bookending the best of 7. His 6th inning single in Game 1 scored David Freese in what put the Cardinals ahead to win that game 3-2.

In the bottom of the 4th, the Cardinals threatened to score once again on Rangers’ starter Matt Harrison. Yadier Molina and Rafael Furcal both singled before Skip Schumaker and Carpenter got the final two outs of the inning. However, that was enough for Harrison as the Rangers would head to the bullpen, who would hopefully put the brakes on this Cardinals team.

However, it was anything but, as the game unraveled in the bottom of the 5th and Cardinals fans exhaled then breathed a sigh of relief. The Rangers put Scott Feldman on the mound, but he got into trouble after walking Allen Craig and hitting Albert Pujols with one out. Lance Berkman moved the runners over before the Rangers intentionally walked Freese to load the bases.

Then Yadier Molina drew a walk that scored Allen Craig to give the Cardinals a 4-2 lead. The Rangers then went to the bullpen for C.J. Wilson, their #1 starter to try to stop the bleeding. Wilson may not have been ready and hit Rafael Furcal with his first pitch, scoring Pujols for a 5-2 Cardinals lead before striking out Schumaker.

In the top of the 6th, Nelson Cruz almost broke the postseason record for home runs in a playoff run and reclaimed some momentum for the Rangers with his shot to left field. However, Allen Craig found himself guilty of Grand Theft Homer when he pulled Cruz’s ball back with an excellent defensive play. To me, that was the defining moment of the game that really sucked the air out of the Rangers.

Jason Motte came into the game in the top of the ninth and needed just 11 pitches to work his way through Cruz, Mike Napoli, and David Murphy to close out the Cardinals’ first World Series clincher since 2006.

In the end, David Freese walked away with the World Series MVP trophy, a 2011 Chevrolet Corvette. His finally tally for the World Series featured a .348 batting average, 1 HR, and 7 RBI. He totalled up 21 RBI and 52 total bases in the playoffs, which now stand as postseason records.

However, you could have made a sincere argument for Allen Craig as MVP. Craig drove in the winning run in Game 1, drove in what should have been the winning run in Game 2, hit the game winning home run in Game 7, and hit a critical home run in Game 6 that allowed David Freese to tie up the game in the 9th inning. Certainly a stellar postseason resume for a player who, if all goes well according to Cardinals’ fans, doesn’t even have a guaranteed starting position going into next season.

This season is one that I will never forget. To follow this team virtually all season, all 180 games, was a once in a lifetime experience and to have it end like this? Amazing.

This World Series will probably not top the 2001 World Series on anyone’s list for the greatest World Series ever (mainly due to the Yankees or Red Sox’s lack of involvement), but it has in my opinion. In that series, Arizona headed home on the heels of two consecutive blown saves by their closer Byung-Hyun Kim. They too were down 3 games to 2. They blew out the Yankees in Game 6 before beating the Yankees’ invincable Mariano Rivera in the final inning of Game 7 to win the game and the series.

At the time I was even a Diamondbacks fan. So there’s no fanboyism.

However, this year. The Cardinals made mistakes that cost them Games 4 and 5. The series was prepared to go down as the Cardinals having lost the series to the Rangers rather than the Rangers truly winning it. Those miscues would have doomed any number of teams, but these Cardinals were resilient and fought back. Even when down by three runs late in Game 6, they hadn’t given up. They fought back to tie the game while down to their last strike in both the 9th and the 10th innings. Then on a well hit pitch came away with the winner. Then their ace went onto the mound on three days rest and shut down the Rangers in Game 7.

It’s certainly the best World Series of my lifetime. I can’t speak intelligently about those before.

The question on many people’s minds after the realization that the Cardinals won the World Series was what this means for Albert Pujols’ contract situation. To me, I think it guarantees that Pujols will be back with this club next season. Over the last few years Albert has said he wants to be somewhere that gives him the opportunity to win championships. Well, you’ll have a hard time convincing anyone of that when you walk away from a World Series team that has a pitcher like Adam Wainwright returning to the mound next year.

The risk to his legacy would be too great to simply walk away from St. Louis for more or equal money. If he leaves, he will never be felt in the same vein as the other Cardinals’ greats. The scar of his walking away from a World Series Champion would be too great. Albert is a smart man, and I’m sure he understands that.

For now though, enjoy this championship.

Why? Because the Cardinals will likely be favored to do it all again next season. Which means they’ll probably finish third in the NL Central.

Freese keeps the champagne on ice

Four times the Cardinals tied up or took the lead in the game. Four times the Rangers followed in their next half inning by taking it back. When Jake Westbrook came in to pitch the top of the 11th and held the Rangers off the board, that was the first time that the Rangers hadn’t come back immediately to take the lead. And it was just what the doctor ordered… Doctor Freese, that is.

After tying up the game with a two-out, two-RBI triple in the bottom of the 9th on a 1-2 count, David Freese came to bat to lead off the bottom of the 11th in a tie game.

Flashback to the 2004 when in Game 6 it was Jim Edmonds hitting a 12th inning home run into the St. Louis night to take the series to Game 7. Coincidentally, it was Jim Edmonds who was traded to San Diego for David Freese. So when Freese came to bat in the 11th, the allusions were made.

While Edmonds’ shot was just that, a shot. Freese’s had a little more doubt as he hit to straight away centerfield and dropping it just a few feet beyond the fence.

Because of the home run and the triple, Freese will get all the attention as the savior of the game. Well deserved attention too, but let’s not forget the rest of the crew that played pivotal roles in this come back.

After being injured diving back to third base on a pickoff play by Mike Napoli, Matt Holliday re-injured his finger and was forced to come out of the game. That put Allen Craig into it and the next time Craig came up to bat, he parked a curveball in the left field bleachers. It brought the game within 2 runs and was largely unheralded. Considering that Matt Holliday has hit just one home run since September 7th, over 50 days, it’s safe to say that Holliday would not have gone deep in that situation.

Next would be Daniel Descalso and Jon Jay, both left handed batters, leading off the bottom of the 10th inning against left handed reliever Darren Oliver. Descalso doesn’t hit left handers very well at all, hitting just .190 against them in the regular season. Jay lacks the split as badly, but had just 1 hit in the World Series (hitting .059) coming into that at bat. Both players would single and set the Cardinals up to make another rally back into the game.

Then Kyle Lohse got a chance to bunt in a double pinch-hit situation. Edwin Jackson pinch hit for Motte in the bottom of the 10th, but before he got a chance to take any pitches, LaRussa pulled him back and sent Kyle Lohse out for the bunt. And Lohse’s bunt, while horrible, did exactly what it needed to do, and nearly more. He advanced Desaclso and Jay to second and third which allowed Ryan Theriot and Lance Berkman to drive home those two runs to tie the game back up. The bunt was far enough though, that he nearly made it on base himself. How that would have changed the complexion of the game.

Then calling on Jake Westbrook who had been relegated to bullpen duty this postseason, surely a tough situation for a longtime starting pitcher like him. But he threw his second scoreless inning of relief in the postseason in a moment where the Cardinals needed it the most. Allowing them to recapture some momentum and for David Freese to play the hero.

It was a rough game for Cardinals fans who would see their team take a step forward, only to take two steps back. To the lead, back behind. And they weren’t helping themselves on the field either.

For both teams, the game was a seeming comedy of errors. The two teams generated 5 errors between them and numerous misplays that didn’t get tagged as such. For 8 and a half innings it was going to go down as the Cardinals handing away the World Series, much like the Detroit Tigers did in 2006.

And they weren’t even tough errors. No, a misplayed fly ball to left field caught Rafael Furcal and Matt Holliday failing to communicate and the ball dropped. Then you had David Freese dropping a routine pop fly to third base.

Needless to say that it would be difficult to overcome all those obstacles again. So the Cardinals need to not do it again.

Game 7 will be tonight in St. Louis with the World Series on the line. In the last 30 years, the home team in Game 7 of the World Series is 8-0.

The last time a home team failed to win a World Series Game 7, 1979, when the Pirates beat the Orioles 4-1.

It will be an interesting game for both managers after an extra innings thriller that saw both bullpens do a lot of work.

For the Rangers, Game 7’s expected starter Matt Harrison along with Michael Gonzalez and C.J. Wilson were the only three pitchers that weren’t used in Thursday night’s contest.

The Cardinals are in slightly better shape. Three starting pitchers for the Cardinals went unused in pitching situations. Edwin Jackson and Kyle Lohse both made pinch hitting appearances (sort of, Jackson pinch hit and then Lohse pinch hit for Jackson before there were any pitches thrown). Not to mention, Mitchell Boggs went unused and you have Chris Carpenter available on 3 days rest.

Each team also has some injury decisions. Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz strained his groin during his final at bat.

Also, the Rangers’ leading candidate for series MVP, Mike Napoli, who rolled, and likely sprained, his ankle on a botched slide attempt into second base. He played the rest of the game, and his xrays were negative, but swelling could be an issue.

For the Cardinals, Matt Holliday’s finger is a major question mark. There were reports that it was bothering him more than he was letting on and that could be seen at the plate, and I think in field early in that game when he let Furcal call him off of a fly ball that should have been the left fielder’s.

How will Game 7 finish out? That remains to be seen, but I thoroughly expect another nerve-wracking game. I don’t know if my heart can take it!

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Playing Game 6 Manager

Tony LaRussa has some tough decisions to make about his lineup for tomorrow night’s contest against the Texas Rangers. I’m here to help him make those decisions.

I might not have any major league or minor league experience for that matter, but I have managed my Las Vegas Aces CSFBL team to more playoff berths than any other team in my league since I took over the franchise some 60 seasons ago.

Sometimes it’s easier for us outsiders to generate a lineup like this. Why? Because we don’t have to deal with player egos. We can offer an purely analytical look at the lineup and why it should be a particular way. So without further ado, I hereby present my batting lineup for Game 6 of the World Series.

1. CF Skip Schumaker
Rafael Furcal is hitting .188 with a .233 OBP in the playoffs. I have to ask myself why he is even still leading off for the Cardinals. It just doesn’t make much sense to me to keep your coldest hitter in the lineup in the leadoff spot. It just kills any momentum you could generate at the top of the order.

Ultimately I would choose to go with Skip Schumaker. Schumaker is hitting .500 in the playoffs. Colby Lewis, the pitcher, is the only right handed pitcher that is starting against the Cardinals in this series, so take advantage of Schumaker’s .287 average against right handed pitching this season. That’s in comparison to a .230 from Furcal.

2. LF Matt Holliday
I’ve felt since we acquired Holliday that he should be hitting second in the lineup. Even more so now that Lance Berkman is here to hit cleanup. The situation gets the bat of Matt Holliday into the lineup right from the get go. He and Pujols are guaranteed first inning at bats. Hopefully, Holliday can take advantage and put Lewis and the Rangers in some trouble in the first inning. The idea is to jump on them early and often.

3. 1B Albert Pujols
Say what you will about Pujols, but the man is the best choice for a #3 hitter that the Cardinals currently have right now. I’m not going to move him.

4. RF Lance Berkman
Well, on this one Tony LaRussa agrees with me. But why should Lance Berkman be hitting fourth? The simple fact that he is hitting .389 with a .476 OBP in the World Series. He has been our best hitter over the last 5 games against Texas. He was also the only player to eke out a hit against Derek Holland in the Game 4 gem.

5. 3B David Freese
While Freese has seemingly been put on ice (see what I did there?) in clutch situations, his .313 batting average is still the second best in the World Series for the Cardinals. That makes him a great choice to backup the core 2/3/4 hitters in this lineup.

6. C Yadier Molina
There really isn’t another choice. Offense. Defense. It don’t matter. Yadier Molina is the best catcher on this roster. Oh, and his .294 batting average in the World Series is good for third on the team. The 4/5/6 hitters should definitely be generating some run producing opportunities.

7. SS Daniel Descalso
Okay, here’s where I start to raise eyebrows and get some funny looks. Follow me here. Furcal is hitting .188 in the playoffs and .230 against right handed pitching this season. Meanwhile Descalso is hitting .280 this season against right handed pitching with a .347 OBP.

He is solid defensively at short stop and has the potential to be excellent if he were to get some playing time there, so I don’t think you are giving up that much offense with him out there. Plus, you can always slide him to third and bring in Furcal if you want to shore up the defense later in the game.

8. P Jaime Garcia
There are quite a few people who don’t like to hit the pitcher 8th, but computer models prove that if players hit to their averages, your worst hitter should hit 8th in the lineup. For the Cardinals, that would be Garcia’s .097 batting average.

9. 2B Ryan Theriot
This is one that I go back and forth on. Really I’d be satisfied playing Jon Jay at CF in this spot and moving Schumaker to second or playing Nick Punto. Except here’s my problem with it, Theriot is hitting .320 in the World Series, though he only hit .256 against right handed pitchers this season.

Jon Jay is in the middle of a pronounced slump and Punto has looked silly on some crucial late game at bats, despite his strong numbers.

That’s the 9 guys that I’d run out there as my starting 9 tonight. I doubt that’s what LaRussa does though. With Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated tweeting that Holliday’s finger is hurting him worse than he’s letting on, we might see Allen Craig out there in Game 6, and Craig has done pretty solid.

With LaRussa’s love of veterans and certain players and consistency, this is the lineup we’re likely to see tomorrow night.

SS Furcal
LF Craig
1B Pujols
RF Berkman
3B Freese
C Molina
2B Punto
CF Jay
P Garcia

But hey, what more could we expect?

Season’s on the line. Let’s go Cards. I’m not ready for the season to end. I want Game 7.

Join me tonight on UCB Radio at a special time as we preview Game 6 of the World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Texas Rangers on BlogTalkRadio. We will be live starting at 7:30 pm Eastern time, 6:30 Cardinals time. You can listen live over the Internet here.


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Mistakes cost the Cardinals Game 5

Stranding runners in scoring position. Bullpen mismanagement. Hit-and-run mistakes. Swinging at bad pitches. Deflected balls. You name a mistake, the Cardinals probably made it on Monday night.

The Texas Rangers weren’t doing anything special. In fact, more than anything, it seemed as if the Cardinals were poised to once again take the series lead. They kept threatening and kept threatening and then hitting themselves out of scoring opportunities. But when all was said and done, the Cardinals and their fans can only shake their heads in disbelief that they gave this game away.

For 7 innings, Chris Carpenter hurled a quality game. The Rangers had mustered two solo home runs, one by Mitch Moreland in the third and one to Adrian Beltre in the sixth. It was enough, though, to cancel out a pair of RBI singles by the Cardinals from the second inning to tie the game up at 2-2.

It was actually the 7th inning where the Cardinals’ issues really started compounding and causing a problem. In the top of the 7th with one out Alexi Ogando walks Allen Craig. With Albert Pujols at the plate, Allen Craig took off running for second. Pujols didn’t swing and Craig was thrown out by Mike Napoli on what was assumed to be a hit-and-run when Craig looked over his shoulder at the plate while he ran towards second.

Now off the hook, Ogando and the Rangers quickly decided to walk Albert Pujols to face Matt Holliday. According to an ESPN account on Twitter, that is the first time anyone has been intentionally walked with nobody on base in World Series history. Holliday capitalized on the opportunity and singled, but ended up on second base on the throw. The Cardinals now had 2nd and 3rd with two out. The Rangers again decided to walk Lance Berkman to face David Freese.

Freese flew out to Josh Hamilton to end the inning, leaving Cardinals fans wondering what happens if Allen Craig stayed at first base.

As Lance Berkman said to MLB.com’s Matthew Leach after the game, “I think the more you let them off the hook, the better they feel about their chances, especially at home. If you’re going to beat a good team at their ballpark, you’ve got to capitalize when you have the opportunity.”

The Cardinals certainly let them off the hood more than once tonight, leaving 12 men on base and going just 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position.

The game cruised into the 8th inning, still tied up at two runs a piece. In the top of the 8th, the Cardinals’ catcher Yadier Molina managed to get a single on a ground ball to the short stop. At this point, Rangers’ manager Ron Washington brings in left handed pitcher Darren Oliver to face Skip Schumaker. Not to be outdone, Tony LaRussa pinch hit Ryan Theriot for Schumaker, and then called for a sacrifice bunt.

Theriot successfully converted, but you have to wonder how the lefty-lefty matchup affects a bunt? More on puzzling moves later.

A strikeout from Nick Punto and a ground out by Rafael Furcal and the Cardinals let the Rangers off the hook again.

In the bottom of the 8th, Octavio Dotel came in from the Cardinals’ bullpen to pitch. Dotel allowed a double to Michael Young to lead off the inning before striking out Adrian Beltre. LaRussa then had Dotel intentionally walk Nelson Cruz before making another trip out to the mound.

Marc Rzepczynski was called into the game to replace Dotel to face the lefty David Murphy. Murphy hit a bouncer back up the middle that Rzepczynski caught a piece of while trying to catch, which eliminated any potential play on what otherwise might have been a double-play ball. At this point, the Rangers had the bases loaded with just a single out.

Rzepczynski stayed in the game to face right hander Mike Napoli, only the hottest hitter in major league baseball since July 4th. Why he still hits 8th when his OPS is over 1.100 since that time, I don’t know. Napoli does what everyone was expecting him to do, Rangers and Cardinals fans alike, Napoli drives a ball to right center, doubling to bring home Young and Cruz to make the game 4-2.

At this point Rzepczynski stays in face the left handed Mitch Moreland, ultimately striking him out. The Rangers now have men on 2nd and 3rd with two out.

So Tony LaRussa walks to the mound and signals for the right hander and out trots Lance Lynn from the bullpen. Lynn, however, had been deemed unavailable for this game. Deciding that he wasn’t going to have Lynn pitch to someone because they’d deemed him unavailable, he had Lynn intentionally walk Ian Kinsler before coming back out to the mound to finally call in Jason Motte.

Motte quickly came in and got Elvis Andrus to strike out swinging to end the threat in the 8th inning.

LaRussa said after the game that he wanted Jason Motte to be ready to come in and face Mike Napoli, but that when he called the bullpen they warmed up Rzepczynski and Lynn instead.

Now, common sense would dictate that the bullpen coach, Derek Lilliquist, should know who is available to pitch in a particular game and who isn’t. Right? LaRussa and Duncan claimed after the game that they hadn’t shared that information with Lilliquist before the game, so he didn’t know. I’m sorry, either that’s a severe lack of communication or it’s just plain old incompetence.

And who hears “Motte” and confuses it with “Lynn,” they don’t even sound alike?

With the damage already done, the Cardinals came up in the ninth inning with Rangers’ closer Neftali Feliz once again on the mound. And once again erratic.

He led off the inning by hitting Allen Craig with a 78 mph slider. That put the tying run at the plate in Albert Pujols.

Pujols worked Ogando to a 3-2 count. Now with a full count, LaRussa put on the hit-and-run in an attempt to eliminate the opportunity of hitting into a double play, something that Albert Pujols and the Cardinals led the league in this season. After fouling off two pitches, Pujols swung through a 99 mile an hour fastball that was very likely a ball. Not skipping a beat, Napoli threw to second to catch Allen Craig by about four feet for an old fashioned “strike ‘em out, throw ‘em out” double play. Once again, letting the Rangers off the hook.

With now two out, the entire complexion of the game has changed from a doable comeback, to a very slim chance. Matt Holliday worked a walk off of Ogando before Lance Berkman struck out swinging to end the top of the ninth, and the game.

Mistakes like this have always been my problem with Tony LaRussa. He gets into these phases where he tries to pull off a genius move, except that it doesn’t work and he ends up managing the Cardinals out of the ballgame. Tonight was definitely one of those nights.

While you can hang it on the offense for , I am left to question why LaRussa makes the moves he does in the bullpen.

With six outs left in the game against the Rangers if the Cardinals can win, LaRussa decides to get fancy with his bullpen and use Dotel, then Rzepczynski, and then Motte. What’s the point in having Fernando Salas, a guy who spent the majority of the season as your closer before being dropped later in the season, if you aren’t going to use him in pressure situations. Salas in the 8th, Motte in the 9th. The system works for every other team in baseball.

Now, you might argue with two left handed hitters that Rzepczynski, the left hander, was the correct person to pitch there. They are both effective against left handed pitchers, but Salas can throw more effectively to both sides of the plate overall. And when you need him for just 3 outs, Salas is extremely reliable.

The Rangers are now up 3 games to 2 and headed to St. Louis, where Wednesday night they will match up in Game 6. It will be a straight rematch of Game 2, Colby Lewis on the mound for the Rangers and Jaime Garcia for the Cardinals. The Cardinals came nearly snuck away with a win in that game, but a late game collapse doomed the Cardinals.

The Cardinals haven’t figured out who will pitch Game 7. In fact, rain might make that even more interesting if Wednesday’s Game 6 is rained out as suggested by local meteorologists. If Game 6 is pushed off and Game 7 gets played on Friday night instead, there would be the potential of bringing Chris Carpenter back on 3 days rest to pitch the final game of the series.

But that still requires the Cardinals to win Game 6 behind Jaime Garcia. A late game mistake that prompted a media firestorm around Albert Pujols cost the Cardinals that game. They’ll have to bring their bats to the party as it’s naive to expect a similar performance out of Jaime Garcia.

Many fans are already ready to write the season off as over. No team has beaten the Rangers twice in a row since the Red Sox did it on August 24th. Because of that, all hope is lost. But many haven’t checked the Cardinals’ record on that. Until last night, they hadn’t been beaten twice in a row by the same team since that day as well.

Streaks are made to be broken.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not ready to call it a season just yet.

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