Diamond Diaries

Cardinal baseball, from the girls

Category Archives: Skip Schumaker

The ups and downs of June

For the Cardinals, June was the best of times: last Tuesday’s 8-0 romp over the Diamondbacks when Albert hit two homers, Adam Wainwright’s two-hit complete game shutout over the Brewers (also an 8-0 win) and Matt Holliday’s resurgence when he was moved to No. 2 in the batting order. June also was the worst of times: that horrendously long loss to the D-Backs on Wednesday when they left 14 men on base, the sweep by the Dodgers in Los Angeles and a season-high four-game losing streak.

But, in the end, the month was perfectly mediocre as the Cards went 13-13. They also basically ended the month where they started in the division race, going from 1 game back on June 1 to a half-game back on June 30. In between, they were in first place for 15 days and even up by as much as 1 ½ games over the Reds June 19-20.

And, unfortunately, overall mediocrity has been the definition of the Cardinals since the end of April. As Bernie Miklasz wrote in his column on July 1: “The Cardinals are 25-27 since May 4, and during this stretch they’ve scored three runs or fewer 24 times. That includes 18 games of two runs or less. Counting Wednesday’s loss, the Cardinals are 0-8 when they’ve had the chance to sweep a three-game series. In the eight losses, STL hitters have scored three runs or fewer seven times. They’ve left 60 runners on base. They’re batting .214.”

On the plus side, mediocre May and June are exactly what the Cardinals had in 2009 as well – they went 25-31 for those two months yet managed to win 91 games and the National League Central. What the 2010 Cardinals need to keep the rollercoaster climbing up is one thing: consistent offense. Of course it doesn’t help that David Freese and Ryan Ludwick missed time with injuries (and now will both be on the disabled list in July). But the pitchers are still more than getting their jobs done. Ending June, the Cards’ overall team pitching was still second in the Major Leagues behind San Diego. The overall ERA increased to 3.24 (although the Padres’ ERA has increased as well) and the Cards’ team WHIP was 1.26 (tied for third-best in the Majors). The Big Three starters all still remain in the NL’s top 10 in ERA, with Adam Wainwright second in wins and Chris Carpenter tied for fourth. But pitching alone, as we’ve witnessed too many times, doesn’t win games.

Here’s a closer look at who did what in June.

Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Biggest surprise
Matt Holliday
Should it be a surprise when a guy finally does what he should have been doing all along? Yet Hunky Holliday finally got going, hitting .302 and slugging .583 for the month, with 6 homers and 16 RBI (the most he’s hit of both in a month this season). Hitting second for 10 games was the spark he needed and helped earn him NL Player of the Week honors for June 14-21.

Other surprises
Mitchell Boggs
As noted by Matthew Leach in his blog, “since May 29, Mitchell Boggs has made 13 appearances. In those games, he’s pitched 13 2/3 innings, allowing one run on six hits for a 0.66 ERA. He’s struck out 10 against five walks and not given up a home run.”

Skip Schumaker
Skip just keeps improving offensively, batting .311 for the month with one homer (which I saw in person in Kansas City last Saturday) and 6 RBI.

Colby Rasmus
Colby led the team in both homers with 9 and RBI with 19 for June. Now, if he can just stay consistent too. He also briefly had the longest home run in the Major Leagues this year last Sunday, hitting a 483-foot blast in Kansas City. According to the Fox Sports Midwest broadcast on June 29, Colby held the record for 3 hours and 29 minutes – until Josh Hamilton hit one 485 feet.

Biggest disappointment
Yadier Molina
Yadi did not have a good June, hitting only .183 with 1 homer and 2 RBI. And so far, July is not off to a much better start – he was robbed of what should have been two hits on Thursday with outstanding catches by Jim Edmonds (doesn’t Jim remember that he wouldn’t have a World Series ring without Yadi?) and Corey Hart, and is hitless for the two games this month.

Other disappointments
Dennys Reyes
That terrific May that earned Reyes last month’s biggest surprise certainly didn’t carry over. He allowed two earned runs a game in three of his first four appearances of the month and was the losing pitcher on June 1. His ERA for the month was 12.46.

Brendan Ryan
While it was his best hitting month, Brendan still only hit .230 in June. As Matthew Leach wrote on June 27, “With the season six days away from its halfway point, this looks less and less like a slump or two slumps or three slumps, and more like a bad year.”

Consistently good

Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Chris Carpenter
As the leader of the Cardinals Big Three, Carpenter went 3-0 with 2.30 ERA for the month. Interestingly, he was involved in both 1-0 games that the Cardinals played in June. He received no decision on June 8, pitching 7 shutout innings, and was the winner on June 23 against Toronto, where he pitched 8 obviously shutout innings against his former team.

Jason Motte
In 11 innings pitched for the month, he struck out 13 and allowed 2 earned runs. He’s a reliable presence, and also an entertaining one with his on-the-mound antics.

Ryan Franklin
He had 5 saves for the month, with one rough outing where he was removed and Motte got the save instead. That blip aside, he only allowed one earned run in eight other appearances for the month.

Disturbing trend
The aging of the roster with the additions of Aaron Miles, Randy Winn and Jeff Suppan. (We’ve discussed this plenty of times!)

Best game
June 4
Cardinals 8, Brewers 0
Adam Wainwright has his first career complete-game shutout, allowing 2 hits and striking out 8 while throwing only 103 pitches. On offense, it was obviously a night where everything was working: Colby was 2 for 3 with a homer and 2 RBI, Albert and Ludwick each drove in 2, and Holliday and Felipe Lopez each drove in 1.

Worst game
June 27
Kansas City 10, Cardinals 3
Just like in May, there were plenty to choose from – including five losses when the Cards could have swept. But I’ll pick this one. I was listening on the radio to the Royals broadcast of the game while driving across Iowa. The Cardinals had so many chances in the first two innings, having the bases loaded twice in the first inning and two runners on in the second, yet only managed one run. The Royals announcer even commented on the Cardinals troubles getting things going with runners in scoring position. Add to those troubles Jaime Garcia’s worst outing of the year and it’s a game to forget – even if both Albert and Colby homered.

Craziest win
June 28
Cardinals 6, Diamondbacks 5
Just saying that two pitchers scored runs in the bottom of the 9th – including the winning run – should be enough to earn the title of craziest win. The Diamondbacks literally threw the game away, with errors by Aaron Heilman and Adam LaRoche letting pinch-runner Garcia and pinch-hitter Wainwright score. (Brendan also scored the tying run.)

Player of the month
Matt Holliday
Let’s keep it going …

Pitcher of the month
Mitchell Boggs
Same goes for you …

Actually, let’s hope for a little more consistency this month from everyone – even though the Cardinals are off to a 1-1 start in July. It also will be interesting to see how many of the Cardinals spend their All-Star break on the “beach” in Anaheim with Albert. Wainwright? Carpenter? Jaime? Yadi? Holliday?

A Bit of Pixie Dust…

Matt Holliday turned on the heat last week and has not looked back.  After a chronic dry spell that had Cardinal Nation seeing red, Holliday finally broke free of the evil curse that had stolen his slugging power.
So what happened? What flipped the switch?  Some have speculated that Holliday heats up when the mercury rises.  Sure, Matt may have just started seeing the ball better or fixed a hiccup in his swing, but isn’t the possibility of magic blogger pixie dust a whole lot more fun?
Hang with me here…
A little blog with magic powers? What if that were true? Maybe Albert Pujols came back swinging to prove me wrong when I blogged about him in “Questioning the King,”  When Holliday heard boos at Busch stadium, Diamond Diaries gave him a shout out of support and maybe Matt returned the favor by hitting us 5 homeruns in the next 4 games. Coincidence?  Maybe.
This week a reader suggested we give a little blogging love to some other Cardinals in need of a boost.   And obviously we could never refuse if the boys need our help!

So, in the spirit of fun …
Ready? Set?   Bring on the magic pixie dust and let’s meet the three candidates for this Diamond Diaries luck-changing experiment!
Brendan Ryan (my favorite spinning RedBird)
image from FSMW
Brendan was the first player nominated for this post.  While he certainly could use another boost, we admit that our track record is poor when it comes to pushing Brendan out of a slump The more we talked about his troubles at the beginning of the season, the longer Brendan kept mucking it up. In fact, Brendan didn’t find his groove again until we QUIT talking about him. So, I’m going to ignore him again and hope that is the magic button. (I will not even mention how his lucky ‘stache is growing in nicely or the fact that Brendan disappointed us by ditching his rockin’ high socks again on Wednesday.)  Shhhhh…
Albert Pujols
When “Dark Erika” showed up and blasted Albert back in May, he went on a tear.  So let’s try it again:  Albert has been striking out A LOT more than he should be.  He is swinging at some crazy pitches that last year’s Albert wouldn’t have touched.  Suggestion:  Colby hit a lot better with new contacts.  Maybe Albert needs an eye exam?  Prove us wrong Albert, because we know you aren’t playing like you should!  And those base-running bloopers are embarrassing.  (Whew! That better work because writing it made me cringe!)
Skip Schumaker
photo from stltoday.com
Poor Skippy has had a rough year so far, and was even recently booted from his perch as lead-off hitter.  Luck has not smiled on Skip as his batted balls appear to sail directly into waiting gloves more often than is logical. Like Holliday, Skipperdoodle’s rocky start this year has frustrated the fans – and the grumbles are getting louder.
With little prior blog love for our darling outfielder-turned 2nd baseman, I had trouble predicting a magical blog tone for Skip.  Holliday responded to support, Brendan to silence, and Albert to criticism.  So here I went with a different plan: “praise plus pep talk.”
Praise: Skippy is the reigning prince of ill-advised headfirst slides and spectacular gliding belly flops across the grass reaching for line drives through the gap. He’s a cutie-patootie, writes a darling column for the Cardinals GameDay magazine each month and the boy likes to slide!  Yay Skip! 
Pep talk: Now Skip, we love looking at you, but we also know you can hit that ball. So it’s time to focus, make solid contact (hopefully hitting away from waiting infield gloves) and earn back your leadoff spot! Your bad luck is now over. *sprinkles magic pixie dust*
Have a magical Friday, Cardinals Fans!  =)
And if Brendan, AP and Skip all sparkle just a bit more tonight, we may just do this again for other worthy candidates!
Cardinals vs. Royals (the I70 Rumble) at 7:10 CST
GO CARDS!  

The Rollercoaster Ride of May

A little late, due to some technical difficulties*

After having a terrific first month of the season, May was a little bit tougher to take. Losing a 5-game division lead? Swept by the last-place Astros while home at Busch Stadium? That struggling offense, and being shut out four times? Yes, it all happened – but as the month ended, the Cardinals were tied with the Reds for first place, heating up hitting-wise and on the plus side with a 15-14 record (and 30-22 overall).

It was definitely a month of extremes. The Cardinals scored their most runs of the season this week, with 12 runs against the Reds on Monday (May 31). But they also allowed their most runs of the season, 10, to the Angels on May 22. They had two 3-game losing streaks, May 4-6 against the Phillies (after winning the first game of the series) and the already mentioned sweep by the Astros May 11-13. The longest winning streak also was 3 games, May 1-3, although they did win 4 of the last 5 to end the month. And the hot streak the offense went on in those four victories (scoring 8, 7, 9 and 12 runs on 15, 11, 14 and 16 hits) definitely improved the stats for some familiar names who spent much of the month struggling.

So who helped make this rollercoaster month what it was?

Biggest Surprise
Dennys Reyes
He had a 0.00 ERA for the month (which actually was a surprise when I discovered it). In 14 appearances covering 10.1 innings, he allowed 2 hits, struck out 5, walked 6 and allowed no runs (earned or unearned). Another unrelated surprise I found while looking up these stats: he is 6-foot 3. He just always seems kind of, well, short and squat (and sweaty) when he’s out pitching. Maybe that listed weight of 250 is a little kind? All that aside, great month for the Big Sweat (see No. 6).

Other Surprises
Jason Motte
In 11 innings pitched during May, he only walked 1 and struck out 15. While his nickname is Mayhem, he wasn’t causing any this month.Brendan Ryan
The bar was set low since he finished April batting .179 (and it went down from there once May began), but Brendan finished the month batting .217. The May 27 game (where he went 4 for 4 with his first homer of the year) definitely helped. He also struck out much less in May: 9 times, compared to 19 in April.

Skip Schumaker
After a bad April for Skip also, he improved in May after being moved out of the lead-off spot. He had a .271 average for the month (compared to .212 in April) plus had 9 RBI, after only having 3 last month.

Biggest Disappointment
Colby Rasmus
We now know Colby needed new contacts but his May was definitely disappointing after being on of April’s biggest surprises. His average for May was .226 (compared to .323), he had only 1 homer (6 last month), he struck out 33 times (up from 22) and he walked 11 times (compared to 17). June is getting off to a better start, so let’s hope those new contacts really are the key to getting back to more April-like production.

Other Disappointments
Blake Hawksworth
Not a good month for Diesel either. (Maybe it was the disgusting looking chili and chili dogs he ate on camera in Cincinnati?) After not allowing a run during 9 innings in April, he allowed 12 earned runs in 11.1 innings pitched in May for a month ERA of 9.53. He allowed 4 homers, with 5 walks and an equal number of strikeouts.

Trever Miller
The man who handed out the nicknames (and still doesn’t have one?) didn’t fare too well in May either. He had a 5.14 ERA for the month, allowing 4 earned runs in 7 innings pitched — plus he hit 2 batters and allowed 2 homers.

Consistently Good
David Freese
His batting average wasn’t quite as good for May as April – .315 compared to .324 – but he had a better slugging percentage (.491, after .412 in April) and had 17 RBI compared to 14 last month.

Ryan Ludwick
He had the same batting average for May as he did for April, .291. He improved on his RBIs, with 16 compared to 10. Add to that the great catches he made in the outfield and it all adds up to another reason to celebrate Ryan Ludwick Appreciation Day.

Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia and Adam Wainwright
Can we call them the Cardinals “Big Three”? For May, they were a combined 9-4 with a 2.44 ERA.Surprisingly Not Disappointing
Albert Pujols
The end of the month definitely helped! (Or maybe it was Erika’s post?) While his average was only .291 for the month (after .345 in April), he finished with 20 RBI – one more than last month – and struck out 12 times compared to 14 in April. He had a pretty good day last Sunday too.

Matt Holliday
While he only had 1 home run compared to 4 in April and he struck out 17 times after 13 Ks last month, his other stats look pretty good. His batting average was .325 (.284 in April), he walked 13 times (4 last month) and he had 12 RBI (10 in April). Both he and Albert are continuing their hot streaks in the first few games in June, which is promising.

Best Game
May 30
Cardinals 9, Cubs 1

Albert breaks out with 3 homers, Holliday has 4 hits, all the runs score with 2 outs, Adam Wainwright pitches 7 strong innings – and all against the Cubs at Wrigley Field? Hard to top that.

Worst Game
May 26
Padres 1, Cardinals 0
There were a lot of bad losses to choose from, but this was by far the most frustrating. Adam Wainwright did all he could, allowing only 4 hits (including a homer to Jerry Hairston Jr. for the only run) while striking out 12 in 7 innings. The Cardinals actually had more hits than the Padres, 7 total, plus had the bases loaded with only one out in the first inning – yet were shut out.

Nicest Moment

P.J. Walters getting his first major-league victory on May 27 in San Diego.
Pitcher of the Month
Jaime Garcia
The Cardinals pitching overall continues battling the Padres for the best ERA in the major leagues, and Jaime Garcia is a key reason why. Our Rookie of the Year candidate was 3-1 in May with a 1.53 ERA, giving him an overall record of 5-2 and a 1.32 ERA (second in the National League).Player of the Month
David Freese
As mentioned above, the other Rookie of the Year candidate continued what he started in April and it made a big difference during this month’s offensive struggles.

After all that, we can be glad May is over, and that June is off to a good start. Hopefully this month will be a little bit less of a rollercoaster!

*The Geek Squad still has possession of my laptop, but tell me they were able to recover everything from it. Not that the original version of this post will help me much now! But it will be nice to get my laptop back (and working again), plus all of its contents, very soon.

These things happen

Obviously the Cardinals are in an ugly stretch right now. The month of May has been awful so far (a record of 6-8 to date) after a successful April when the Cards were 15-8. Yes, as many on Twitter lamented and as online coverage is continuing to hype, the Cardinals are now in second place in the NL Central, half a game behind the Reds. (Both teams have 21 wins, by the way.)

Let’s all take a deep breath and relax. These things happen.

And these things happened a year ago too. The 2009 Cardinals went 13-14 in May, fell from a 4-game lead over the Brewers on May 1 to a tie May 13-14, then fell further to a low of 3 games behind the Brewers May 18-19. They did tie the Brewers again on May 23, even had a 1-game lead on May 27, then shuffled back and forth in May and June. Speaking of June 2009, do you remember how terrible it was? The Cards record was 12-17. Then there was that brief period in early August when the Cubs tied the Cardinals for the NL Central lead. (I remember it clearly, as it started on my birthday.)

It’s not just this and last season where these things happen either. Our friend Bob Netherton, known as Throatwarbler on Twitter and his very informative blog, had some interesting information about the 1968 National League pennant-winning Cardinals. They started the season 20-10. Then, “the Cardinals would hit a bit of an early season slump, going 2-11 over the next 13 games, including losing six of seven games against the Philadelphia Phillies.” By May 29, the Cardinals had fallen to fifth place, 3 games behind the Giants. (As an aside, if you are on Twitter and not following Bob – @throatwarbler – please do so. You will learn much! If you’re not on Twitter, his blog is available at http://throatwarbler.wordpress.com/.)

So, on May 17 and with 124 games remaining, there’s no need to panic about the 2010 Cardinals. There are, however, definitely reasons to be concerned.

  • The string of quality starts by the rotation ended and, after yesterday, every starter but Jaime Garcia has had a non-quality start this month. The starters have now allowed homers in five consecutive games. (At least everyone is getting involved.)
  • The Cards have grounded into 17 double-plays with runners in scoring position this season, according to yesterday’s post-game report on FS Midwest. This is the most in the majors.
  • Then there’s the offense overall. Yeah, we all know how terrible it’s been, about the lack of hitting and timely hitting, the number of strikeouts, Brendan Ryan … No need to get into details.
Lucikly, amid the bleakness, there are a few bright spots.
  • Skip Schumaker now has a 6-game hitting streak and has hits in 12 of the 14 games he’s played this month.
  • Erika detailed the latest on Ryan Ludwick on Saturday, and his hitting streak reached 8 games later that day before ending when he pinch-hit yesterday.
  • Courtesy of the STLToday.com, David Freese entered Sunday with 29 RBIs in his first 50 major-league games. Only four players in franchise history — Albert Pujols (51), Joe Cunningham (36), Ray Jablonski (36) and Wally Moon (32) — have generated more in their first 50 games.
  • Jaime Garcia continues to do nothing but impress. His current 1.42 ERA is second in the National League.
  • The pitching overall still has the third-best ERA in the Majors, currently 2.91, trailing only the Padres (2.64) and Rays (2.75).

In closing, perhaps some advice from the reigning NL MVP is best: “There’s no pressure. We need to pick each other up. That’s the key.” And the next chance to do that is tonight at 7:15 p.m. Central Daylight Time.

Photo: May 13, 2010; UPI/Bill Greenblatt

When you can’t quit thinking about it…

We had planned on taking a blogging break on Sundays here at Diamond Diaries.  But I woke up thinking about the end to last night’s game and immediately went online in search of video and chatter about it.  So a quick Sunday blog wouldn’t hurt, right?

Yesterday was the Civil Rights Game and the boys were in vintage (~1947 style) jerseys.  So, watching the recap is a must just to catch a glimpse of those uniforms.  Adam Wainwright in high socks is something that cannot be missed!

You can watch the MLB.com recap here

And you can read the StlToday game recap here

But the moment of the game that I woke up thinking about is this one:

Al Behrman///AP

Should third base coach Jose Oquendo have sent Skip Schumaker home on Joe Mather’s 9th inning, 2-out smash hit to the left field wall?  If Skip had been safe, the answer would have been a resounding “Heck, yeah!”  But Skip was tagged out, the game was over and the Cardinals lost.

Watching the Reds’ left fielder fumble around for that baseball, I was certain Skip would be hustling across homeplate before the camera followed that long throw back into the infield. So close, but yet….

The Cardinals lost, but they RALLIED!!  Heartbreaking, but yet edge-of-your-seat EXCITING all at the same time.  Not the ending we’d hoped for, but a 9th inning effort that was pure baseball energy!

Have a wonderful Sunday, Cards Fans!!  🙂

Let’s win this one today!  GO CARDS!
(gametime is 12:10 pm CT)

…and lucky for me, it is a rare Sunday game that will be covered by FoxSportsMidwest  🙂

Superstitious?

For players and fans….

superstition is part of the game.

Watching our team before games and in the batter’s box, it is obvious that superstition is alive and well in baseball.

Reportedly, David Freese has a batman mask in his locker. We’ve all seen Skip Schumaker incessantly readjusting his batting gloves. Yadier Molina must kiss the gold catcher’s mitt pendant on his necklace before each pitch. This past week, Skip wore the high socks for a couple games in hopes of changing his luck at the plate and Brendan Ryan has similarly given up his trademark sock style for the same reasons.

It is impossible to predict why or when it will happen, but during some Cardinal games, I can become a very superstitious baseball fan.

I love to be on twitter during the games – talking to other Cards fans. It is so much fun! But during Saturday’s game against the Reds, twitter was ‘off limits’. Not because the internet was down or my computer was broken. No, it was because Kyle Lohse was having a great game and I didn’t want to jinx him.

If that last sentenced confused you, I’d venture to say you are not a superstitious fan.

Kyle, who has yet to get a win this season, was phenomenal on Saturday. He was efficient, averaging just 12 pitches per inning to keep the Reds scoreless through the first six innings. Not only did he pitch strong, but he also hit his way onto base in his first two at bats of the game. Quite the day for our struggling starting pitcher!

So as not to disturb the vibe that Lohse had going in the game, I knew I had to keep doing whatever I was doing (as all superstitious fans would agree!) Unfortunately I had started the game working out on the elliptical. Because of the ‘situation’ I exercised much longer than I had originally planned, but I finally had to admit there was no way I could keep going for the entire game!

I did get off the elliptical between the 4th and 5th innings, but decided to keep off twitter, just in case that was key to our Cardinal good luck. (Admittedly, it does sound rather silly to me now as I write this, but it made sense to my irrational, superstitious baseball self at the time.) Lohse continued to mow down the Reds’ offense, giving up only one run in the 7th. (Lohse deserved the win that day…. but that is a different discussion.)

Angela and Christine (my partners in crime here on Cardinal Diamond Diaries) knew what I was up to. I had messaged them early in the game about my mission – to stay off twitter- so as not to jinx the good luck. They, of course, laughed at my foolishness, but I’d like to believe they were also nodding their heads sympathetically at my chosen role for the day…. ‘Superstitious Baseball Fan’.

Both of them later fessed up to their own baseball superstitions:

Christine wrote about one:
This started out as a playoff superstition in 2006 – one day I decided to wear the same earrings because I’d worn them the day before and the Cards won. That continued throughout the playoffs, and obviously through the World Series, so now I do that all the time starting on Opening Day. If they win on Opening Day, I’ll wear those same earrings (or bracelets, if I wear particular ones that day too) each day until they lose. Then I’ll switch to another pair. If they win that day, I’ll stick with those … on and on, switching around all my pairs of earrings.


After some consideration, Angela came up with her own example:
During the 20 inning game, I refused to get off the couch. I moved everything – computer, work, phone, drinks, everything to the coffee table so I wouldn’t get off the couch, for fear I’d mess something up. I don’t do that often (Friday night I watched from my couch, a chair and in bed!), but games like that I do. I’m worse in the playoffs – in college, wherever I sat at the beginning of the game was where I stayed. If I left to get something from my dorm room and came back to find someone had taken my seat, I’d force them to move (I sat ON a guy for half an inning once before he moved – but we won, so I did the right thing).


We’d like to think we aren’t alone in our quirky superstitions. So, share your game day rituals in the comments box below!

Our reader poll question for the day:

1.How superstitious are you as a Cardinals fan?

One month down …

The Cardinals finished April with a 15-8 record (although it should likely be 16-7, since last night’s game should have been stopped for a rain delay when the Cards were winning 2-0). Regardless, the Cardinals have a three-game lead over the Reds, the only other NL Central team with a winning record at 12-11. They also are tied with the Padres (anyone else surprised?) for the best winning percentage in the National League, .652.

Enough numbers. April was a great month for the Cardinals, with many memorable games and exciting moments. Yes, there were eight losses that also are memorable – to distract myself while running this morning, I tried to remember each of them and could easily recall seven. (The only one I couldn’t remember details of was one I didn’t see at all, the Astros first win of the season on April 15.) With one month down, here are my highlights of the past four weeks.

Biggest surprise
Jaime Garcia
Obviously, with the way Jaime pitched during spring training, we knew he deserved his spot in the starting rotation. Yet did anyone expect he’d do this well? (Hoped he would, sure – but expect it?) He leads the starting rotation with a 1.04 ERA, has allowed no home runs and showed considerable poise in pitching against top-of-the-rotation starters Yovani Gallardo, Johan Santana and Tim Lincecum. It’s a joy to watch him every time he starts.

Other surprises
Brad Penny – Tough break for him last night. (Thanks, umps.) He’s been outstanding.

Colby Rasmus – He’s currently leading the National League in on-base percentage and OPS and is second in slugging percentage, has six homers (love those Colby jacks!) and – amazingly – 17 walks. Another fun guy to watch, game after game.

The bullpen – Everyone’s biggest worry going into the season had a terrific month. The reliever with the highest ERA is Joe Mather. (Ha!) Behind him is Mitchell Boggs at 4.00. Ryan Franklin is seven for seven in save opportunities, and Jason Motte got a save the other night. Overall, Cardinals pitching has the best ERA in the National League, 2.65.

Biggest disappointment
Skip Schumaker
He’s struggled both at the plate and on the field. He temporarily boosted his luck by adopting Brendan Ryan’s high socks Wednesday night and reached base four times, with two singles and two walks. But on Thursday he was 0 for five and yesterday was back to the regular socks once again. He has three errors at second base (I actually thought he had more) and hasn’t always looked as skilled and sure handling the ball as he did last season.

Other disappointments
Brendan Ryan – The CDD favorite has had a very rough month at the plate. Hopefully a new month will mean better production for our Brendo!

Albert’s strikeouts – He had 14 strikeouts for the month, compared to 13 walks. A week ago, it was hard to watch his at-bats. However, since he’s Albert, he’s turned things around.

Best game
April 12
The Cardinals home opener is always such a goosebump-inducing event with the Clydesdales and the Hall of Famers and the parade of players before the game. Add to that a victory featuring Albert with a homer and four RBIs, Ryan Ludwick going four for four and Adam Wainwright pitching eight scoreless innings – yeah, best game of a month filled with many good ones!

Worst game
It’s been a good month when there’s no blow-out loss that automatically stands out. The April 20 loss to Arizona (when the Cards kept scoring, but then giving the runs right back and Dan Haren went four for four at the plate) or last night’s loss to the Reds (especially all the chances on offense they couldn’t capitalize on once play resumed) tie for the worst game.

Most memorable game
Note to my friend Michael: SKIP THIS!
The 20-inning game on April 17. Yes, it could have been managed better (and thus has provided much fodder for the La Russa haters of the world). Yes, Felipe Lopez is now on the disabled list because he pitched the 18th inning with an already sore elbow he didn’t tell anyone about beforehand. Yes, even a mention of the game still infuriates my friend Michael two weeks later. But that afternoon and evening provided so many of the reasons why we watch and love baseball – to see things we’ve never seen before. Lopez pitching. Mather pitching. Kyle Lohse playing left field. Yadier Molina momentarily breaking Mets’ hearts yet again with a game-tying single in the bottom of the 19th. I still marvel at that game and all that happened throughout those nearly seven hours.

Pitcher of the Month
Jaime Garcia

Player of the Month
Colby Rasmus

And now to build on a successful April into an even better May!

Photo Thursday

Welcome to our first weekly photo post! Enjoy the week in pictures. If you come across a picture we should use in the next post, contact one of us via Twitter or send an e-mail to cardsdiamonddiary@gmail.com. Also, if you have suggestions for a different way to display the pictures besides a big link dump, let us know. We’re new at this, after all …


Saturday
Brendan makes a diving stop. We could watch him do this alllllll day.
Easy Albert. It wasn’t a great call. We know.

Sunday
Thankful Albert. We’re thankful for the home run too.
I gotta get me some of them shades, man. Brad Penny admiring Carp’s fashion.
I’ma get you. Brendan didn’t have to work too hard to chase down Bengie Molina. Bengie is a big boy.

Monday
Signs of a good night. RBI base hit? Check. Dirty jersey? Check. We love Yadi!
Welcome to the majors, Jon Jay. Don’t worry, this won’t be your last at bat.
This picture is just sweet. Matt Holliday connects for a broken bat base hit in the rain.

Tuesday
Happy birthday! Which present was better: Yadi’s hit or Motte’s save?
Speaking of saves, this one was pretty good too.
Can’t forget Luddy. He came through when needed too.
Because it’s his birthday, Carp gets two pics. This is our all-time fav! If we had to, we would nominate this as the official photo of the CDD.

Wednesday
Getting dirty. The high socks were a hit for Skip Schumaker, who broke out of a slump and got on base 4 times last night.

Chilling in the dugout. Is there room for us on that bench?
We want to know… what is Jaime throwing here? Fastball? If so, which kind?

Final stamp of approval on this week: We approve of Skip’s socks from last night. Well done, Skippy.

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