Diamond Diaries

Cardinal baseball, from the girls

Tag Archives: Astros

Spring Training, Episode 1

Spring Training means different things to different people.  To me, a trip to Florida in late March when the weather is warm and Opening Day is juuussssst around the corner makes perfect sense.  Mornings spent soaking up the sights and sounds of baseball drills on the backfields of Roger Dean stadium are not too chilly.  Starters are going longer into games and the lineups are full of actual, live 2011 Cardinals!!  It’s as close to “real” season baseball as possible… while still in the cozy setting of the Cardinals Spring Training facility, surrounded by palm trees, sea breezes and sunshine.
Brief Recap:
Previous Spring Training trips (’09 and ’10) were hard on Hubby.
In 2009, new fan syndrome was in full effect.  I’d be up at the crack of dawn, not wanting to miss a single glimpse of a guy in a Cardinal uniform.  I was on Yadi Watch constantly. We hadn’t heard about the opportunity of watching morning practice drills.  I took a total of 178 photos (many of them were blurry because I was shaking from the excitement of it all.)  I noticed a guy named David Freese (#66) and took pictures of Chris Duncan and Rick Ankiel.  We saw two games and fell in love with the Spring Training atmosphere.
In 2010, new fan syndrome was still rampant.  PLUS I was armed with useful information from a baseball fan’s best tool: twitter. For example, this time I knew about Roger Dean stadium’s back fields, morning workouts & autograph opportunities, and the existence of Pyros Grill.  I was on Matt Holliday watch.  I took over 700 photos (some were still blurry because Brendan Ryan was spinning too fast for my camera or because I was drooling -just a little- over David Freese.)  I took pictures with Adam Wainwright and Kyle Lohse.  We saw 4 games – 2 home and 2 away.  I toured a baseball museum (because Aaron Hooks offered me free tickets if I’d review it for Cards Diaspora… #win!)  Highlight?? David Freese signed my shirt!!!  I was addicted to Spring Training.  Baseball overdose at it’s most extreme.
(Hubby was more than relieved to finally get me out of Florida!)
So, on our third trip to Spring Training, this year we did something different. Maybe because I’ve matured in my fandom, maybe because Hubby medicated me…who knows?  But somehow we achieved a more well-rounded Florida vacation.  Don’t get me wrong.  It revolved around baseball!  But we did venture away from Roger Dean.  We enjoyed restaurants and sight-seeing that didn’t involve player-stalking. (Granted, I knew I had to behave myself if Hubby would ever agree to a Spring Training trip #4!)
Last week we even went to see some *gasp* non-Cardinals games.  In fact, while Hubby was meeting friends for a day of fishing (he saw dolphins!!), I ventured off all by myself to watch the Phillies play the Braves.  That experience was a perfect Spring Training warm-up.  I was a berm bum, taking in a game whose players/teams I was less familiar with.  Honestly, I bought that ticket hoping to see Roy Halladay or Cliff Lee pitch for the Phillies and fully expecting to be cheering on former Cardinal Joe Mather in a Braves uniform.  Alas, none of my hopefuls were in the game.  So, I spent a lot of time watching just baseball. I didn’t care who won or lost. And you know what?  I loved every second of it.  The view from the grass was different, enlightening – the game looks different and catches that seem so simple when watching from the infield are suddenly a heckuva lot more impressive when the fielder manages to intercept a rocket while chasing across the outfield grass.  It was baseball.  Good baseball. Man, you gotta love Spring Training!
ST Game 1
Yay!! – 78 degrees, light winds and sunshine.
Ryan Madson, in all his Madson glory, LIVE!
Beach party on the OF berm
Boo   – No Joe, Halladay or Lee, but I got over it. 😉
That same night we went to watch the Yankees take on the Astros at the Yankees Spring Training complex.  We were late to the game and the gate guardian wouldn’t let me bring in some of my camera gear. So we were even later after lugging it back to the parking lot again.  No Mariano Rivera appearance. (So far I was shooting 0-fer on my Spring Training hopefuls.)  However it was a night game and the stadium was full of New York fans.  Suffice it to say, that was a FAR different experience than Roger Dean Stadium full of Cardinal fans at 1:05pm games. 😉  Again, I savored every second.
ST Game 2
Yay!! –    Joba and Dave Robertson pitching relief.
Jeter. Jeter. Jeter.
Brett Wallace (former Redbird) playing 1st, but hitless
Kettle corn for dinner!
Chuckling about “Mr. Know-It-All” sitting behind us who was always handing out words of (incorrect) wisdom to his kids
Boo   –  Gate trolls and repeat trips to the parking lot.
With that, my Spring Training warm-up was complete and we had a 4-hour drive to Jupiter, Florida (near West Palm Beach) for Cardinals camp the next morning.  Needless to say… it was hard to fall asleep that night.
Next post:   my stories from Jupiter and my time at Cardinals’ Spring Training:  running into Chris Carpenter out of uniform, on the sidewalk by the stadium; the batting practice frivolity of Lance Berkman; autographs, meeting players, and my favorite Spring Training game moments.
Fitting it all in a blog before Opening Day (tomorrow) was poor planning… but I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Like I said, we all do Spring Training a little differently.  I spend a lot of time taking pictures instead of keeping a scorecard.  I love watching ballplayers sign autographs and how they interact with fans.  Spring Training provides a unique opportunity to live and breathe the beginnings of baseball season…. until the big show begins.
Happy Opening Day Eve!!  =)

The Merry Month of May

Chris closed the books on April quite nicely yesterday, and the boys started out May with a solid win against Dusty Baker and the Reds. I know this has been said elsewhere, but if there’s any manager in baseball that uses his pitchers worse than Dusty, I have yet to see him. I feel bad for the guys on that staff – especially the starters. Their starters are averaging 102 pitches per game, a 35% quality start rate, and have 16 games already in this young season of 100+ pitches in a game (the Cardinals, by contrast, are at 97, 87%, and 9). That’s ridiculous.

Anyway, today I thought we’d have a little preview of the month ahead. If you’re interested, @DBear5 has created a nice desktop calendar for the month of May, which can be found here as well as pictured on the right. It’s easier than actually looking up/memorizing the schedule!

After today’s getaway day game against the Reds, the Cardinals are heading on the road for 4 games in Philly and 3 in Pittsburgh (May 3-9). As far as the Phillies series goes, it looks like the only pitcher we’ll miss is good old, old, old Jaime Moyer. Unfortunately, that means we’ll face two lefties in Cole Hamels and J.A. Happ, as well as a little ol’ Cy Young winner by the name of Roy Halladay. The last Philly pitcher we’re likely to see is Kyle Kendrick, who, as far as I can tell, hasn’t faced the Cardinals since June 13, 2008, a game in which the Cardinals lost 20-2, and Aaron Miles pitched a scoreless 9th. Ouch. Needless to say, the Phillies are going to be a tough match-up for the Cards.

I’m glazing over the Pittsburgh series, because I saw them in person last week, and despite the whuppin’ they put on Trevor Hoffman 2 days in a row, they’re still the Pirates, and that really isn’t Trevor Hoffman anymore, just a guy who looks like him. We’ll be okay.

From there, the Cards come home for 3 against Houston (May 11-13), then head to Cincinnati for 3 (May 14-16), before turning around and coming back home again. That’s a head scratcher. I do find it odd that we’ll face Cincy 3 times in the season’s first month and a half, and both the first two Houston series are in St. Louis, which means late in the season we’ll be playing in that bandbox known as Minute Maid a lot. I’ll save my rant on Minute Maid for later in the summer though…

On May 17-23 the Redbirds get to a home series featuring the Nationals, Marlins, and Angels. Wow, the more I look at this schedule the more demented it looks. Okay, so the Nationals actually aren’t horrible this year, and that’s without their savior-in-training, Stephen Strasburg (who might be getting the call to AAA after his next start). They’re being led by Pudge Rodriguez of all people, who’s putting up an insane line of .400/.431/.508, as well as Ryan Zimmerman with his line of .373/.418/.784. Another blast from the past – Jason Marquis – is 0-3 with a 20.52, and has only pitched 8.1 innings. In 3 starts. Tell me – is that bad?

After 2 with the Nats, we’ve got 2 with the Marlins, who are playing .500 ball through the first month. We then face the Angels, our first interleague series on the year, as well as our last until June 14th. One interleague series and then none for 4 weeks? Like I said, very strange schedule. Last year’s Duncan project – Joel Pinero, had a really rough outing on Friday, and is having issues with his sinker, which was his go-to last year. If he loses that, good luck LAA… in other Angels news, the offense is starting to heat up after a slow start, led by (a sentimental favorite, for reasons I’ll never know) Torii Hunter’s .314/.378/.535.

We’ll close out the month with one of the weirdest road trips I’ve seen in recent history, with a 3 game set in San Diego, followed up by a 3 game set in Chicago. Why on earth wouldn’t the powers that be do another West Coast series there? Depending on how the month goes, this will be either a brutal trip or just one of those random things we complain about (get-away day in SD is a 5:35 Central start, followed by the opener in Chicago at 1:20 Central)… but chances are Tony is not pleased with this set-up.

Those of you out-of-towners without mlb.tv will be able to enjoy national broadcasts for the month on the following days:
Wed, May 5 – @PHI on ESPN (the worldwide leader)
Sat, May 29 – @CHI on FOX (the worldwide failure)
Sun, May 30 – @CHI on TBS (very funny)

So here’s to a month of dominant pitching, solid hitting, W’s in the scorebook and leaving scribes scratching their heads as to what could possibly keep the Cardinals from October baseball. Pretty much like April, plus guys like Skip and Brendan breaking out of their beginning of the season slumps and Lohse having more games like the one he started the month with yesterday. It’s good to be a Cardinals fan.

Editor’s Note: We keep finding new toys – off to the left you’ll find a poll question on who April’s MVP was. We picked out Garcia, Penny, and Rasmus (though we could’ve picked others, such as Yadi or Wainwright). Who do you think the MVP should be?

I Hate West Coast Swings

Really, doesn’t the title say it all? Oh, elaborate a bit? Alright then…

No offense California friends. I just don’t like your time zone.

When I was little, road trips to the West coast were the worst. San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego games didn’t start until almost bedtime, which means I could listen to or (on one of those rare occasions when the game was on TV) watch, at most, around 3 innings of baseball. Trust me, my parents knew when I’d try to stay up for the later innings (they’re smart like that). The local paper never had the late game scores in (not even for the playoffs!), and, before the days of internet fast enough that I could check scores online, I often went to school without knowing who won the night before. Frustrating for a die-hard little kid.

Now that I’m an adult, I still hate games on the coast. 9:15 starts are just too late, especially after a full day of work. Times like these I act like an absolute baseball purist and wish that all games were day games. But I digress…

To sum up the trip… our starting rotation is something fierce. Right now the only one I’m not impressed with is Kyle Lohse. Jaime Garcia and Adam Wainwright deserved better fates in their starts on the trip. In fact, Chris mentioned to me during Saturday night’s game that these were the kind of tough luck losses I had alluded to in our Cy Young post, and she wasn’t wrong. Our rock solid defense had a couple of rough patches as well in those two games. Over the course of the season, these games happen. Trips like this one happen as well.

Believe it or not, we actually pulled three wins out of these two series, even though (to me at least) it didn’t feel like the Cardinals were playing all that well in a couple of the games. As in, they’re a really good club that just wasn’t getting the job done. Part of that might be because of the fact that they’re west coast games too, and my brain scrambles the details. To be fair, the pitching duels were amazing in the San Francisco series, and seeing a little small ball on Sunday was a welcome sight as well. My dad likes to remind me that winning half your games on the road and taking two of three from every home series will probably get you to the playoffs, so we’re on our way!

Albert does not look like he is at all comfortable at the plate, which means by the time you read this he will have hit 3 home runs and told the media that everybody has rough stretches, but he’s been swinging the bat well and just not getting anything out of it. That’s what usually seems to happen when we the fans start talking about Albert in a slump. (Case in point – I wrote this paragraph Saturday night, then watched – amused – as Albert went 3-4 on Sunday with a home run and several well hit balls.) So here’s the plan, whenever Albert looks bad, just talk about it all the time (as the media is wont to do), make him mad, and watch the results. It seems to work every time.

The whole team is striking out at a rate I don’t want to teach my math students about – especially since they’re all Brewer fans, with one random Cub fan thrown in just to irritate me. It’s not a great stretch… we have yet to ‘miss an ace’ in any series we’ve been in (unless you count Houston… do they even have an ace?), and we’ve faced several tough lefties (plus Chuck Bud Norris) that the team hasn’t been able to figure out in years.

Rest easy Cardinal fans. No more late night games for awhile. The boys are heading back to St. Louis, where the Braves await…

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