Diamond Diaries

Cardinal baseball, from the girls

Tag Archives: Giants

Memories Wrapped in Baseball

I was in Texas this past weekend for a family Fall Break trip to San Antonio. We took the kiddos to the Alamo and the Riverwalk.  We saw the Shamu family, dolphins, sea lions and penguins at Sea World.  We lounged by the pool, rode bikes, played catch on the grass and truly enjoyed our time together having fun.

And of course, each evening we ended up back at our hotel in time to watch Postseason Baseball.
We were in Texas when the Rangers won the ALCS (their first championship in franchise history) against the Yankees.  It may not have been a typical postseason memory – being there in the ballpark– but I smile when I think of how my kids will remember the 2010 baseball postseason.  We were all tucked into our beds watching the games together in a hotel room, exhausted from each day’s adventures and falling asleep to the sounds of October baseball.
Ryan Madson  – my reason to cheer the Phillies (vs the Giants)
photo from dailypostal.com
The youngest of our clan never made it into the 6th inning of any game.  His sister lasted to the end of the first game, but by the last night – when the Giants won the NLCS over the Phillies – she too tuckered out before the 7th inning stretch.  (Plus she was the sole Giant fan of our bunch, so she was disappointed to find out the next morning that she had missed the celebration.)
I certainly treasure the fact that our family memories have been wrapped in baseball over the past few years. 
No matter where we travel or who we are with, baseball can always make a nice side-story, enriching the experience and bringing us together at the end of a long day.
Enjoy your week, Cardinal fans. 

And Then There Were Four

Cliff Lee (AP photo) celebrating the Rangers ALDS victory
Last night I watched as the Texas Rangers won their first (ever) postseason series in franchise history.  Cliff Lee topped off the night with a complete game gem to beat the Rays 5-1.  The Rangers expertly navigated the bases as if their lives depended on it.  It was beyond good baseball.  It was fun!   
While I do still bemoan the fact that my Cardinals are long gone for the season, I must honestly admit that our 2010 Cardinals would most certainly have been outplayed last night. 
Nolan Ryan’s Rangers were aggressive with brilliant base running, phenomenal offense, pitching magnificence, manufactured runs and stolen bases. It was brilliant, scrappy baseball magic strung together in a way that I have really only read about.  Visions of Whitey Herzog’s Cardinals – and what their version of smart small ball must have been like – were flashing before my eyes.
Maybe it was just the excitement of yesterday’s do-or-die postseason battle, but for the first time in a long time I was enjoying baseball for the pure energy of the moment – and I loved it!
If you are reading this today, I am guessing you too are one of the loyal (aka stubborn) baseball fans still fighting the good fight and savoring the last vestiges of the 2010 MLB season?   
The Reds, Rays, Twins and Braves are all out, and the party is down to four.
Rangers versus Yankees (ALCS)
Giants versus Phillies (NLCS)
Warning: wavering, indecisive, attempt at an opinion-forming train-of-thought paragraph ahead:
Personally, I find it hard to cheer for the Phillies. (See: Friday May 7th CDD post )
But after their stomping of the Reds, I have a very, very small fondness in my heart for that scruffy bunch of mugs.  And since another Yankees/Phillies World Series seems unfair and unimaginative, I guess I need to cheer for the Rangers?  But then again… I really like that Derek Jeter… and Mariano Rivera … and David Robertson (my new happy pitcher fascination). 
Hmmmm… the only team I don’t want to see in the World Series would be the Giants.  That Tim Lincecum is just so hard to watch. You know what I mean….right?  😉
But no matter… Whether the Rangers continue to impress or the big money superstar teams run away with it all over again, I’ll be watching.
Don’t look now, but there may be only 3 weeks of baseball left!
Savor the postseason, play ball!
And in case you missed it! —The UCB (United Cardinal Bloggers) October Project is in full swing with a roundtable discussion that keeps the baseball talk front and center.  Each day is a new topic and today the bloggers chimed in on how they are spending October.  Who is watching postseason baseball?  Who has moved on to football?  How do you compare to the other Cardinal faithful?  Check out today’s answers here (link pending).

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…

About That 2009 Cy Young Race …

Playing against the Giants this weekend (and Tim Lincecum last night) seemed like as good a time as any for Chris and I to ponder what could have been in last year’s Cy Young race. As a surprise to no one, Chris was pulling for Chris Carpenter, while I was gunning for my favorite trade pick-up that no one paid attention to at the time – Adam Wainwright.

Photo Credit – stltoday.com

For me, it was a tough battle. I’m not going to throw a bunch of numbers at you, because let’s face it, I’m a math teacher and play with numbers all week. Today is Saturday. I get a day off from numbers too. But I’ve been watching Waino pitch since we picked him up from Atlanta before the 2004 season. If you watched the 2006 postseason, you know that Wainwright can buckle the knees of any batter in the league with his curveball. He’s a confident, bulldog-type innings eater who carried the Cardinals through some of the weaker months of last season (AKA, before we traded for Matt Holliday, Mark DeRosa, etc.).

Who knew what was going to happen last year when Carpenter went down? I’m not knocking on Chris Carpenter here – the guy’s a beast. But he was injured for part of the year, and at the time we were spinning a rotation that included Wainwright, Kyle Lohse, Joel Pinero, Todd Wellemeyer (shudders) and…..? The fact that losing Carpenter for those few weeks put Wellemeyer in the 4th spot in the rotation was not a good thing, but we had Adam Wainwright taking the ball every chance he got, and very rarely leaving the game without a good chance for the Cardinals to win.

Okay, I lied. I couldn’t not look at numbers. Adam had the ball in some of the biggest games of the season: opening day, the division clincher, and some games against other teams’ aces. He also had this nice little 26 start string where he had all quality starts (averaging a tidy 7 innings per), kept it under 4 pitches per at bat (3.77), and survived the entire brutal St. Louis summer while going 15-7 (and in 5 of those losses he allowed 2 runs or less – our offense had some really anemic spurts last year!). There’s a reason he had the most 1st place votes – he deserved the Cy.

Chris? Whatcha got?

Photo Credit – stltoday.com

Well, Ang, interesting that you mentioned Carp being hurt last year! Yes, it’s true that a torn left oblique muscle sent him to the disabled list and kept him from making a start between April 14 and May 20. And I heard that reason – he missed time the other top contenders did not – as one of the reasons why he shouldn’t win. He still made 28 starts (to Wainwright’s 34 and Lincecum’s 32).

And the fact he did miss a month makes the final numbers all the more impressive. Yes, despite not being a math teacher (sorry!), I have to use his numbers to paint the picture of how good – and Cy-worthy – Chris Carpenter was.

He finished with the second-most wins in the National League with 17 (to Wainwright’s 19). He had the league’s best ERA, 2.24. With a 17-4 record, his winning percentage of .810 led the majors. He was second in WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched, and perhaps my new favorite stat) with 1.007. (Dan Haren was first with 1.003.) He had an 11-game winning streak from July 5 to Sept. 7.

Though it rightly has no bearing on awards voting, how effective Carp would be in 2009 was definitely a question mark to start the season. He was coming back from making one start in 2007, having Tommy John surgery that July, making only four appearances (three starts) in 2008 before developing shoulder trouble and then more elbow surgery in November 2008. Yet he returned to the dominant starter he’d been in 2005 – when he won the Cy – and 2006 (plus earned a second Comeback Player of the Year award).

Intangibles-wise, Carp is an intense competitor and every bit the bulldog that Adam Wainwright is. He’s the leader of the pitching staff, and even was side-by-side with Dave Duncan watching first-round draft pick Shelby Miller throw at Busch Stadium last summer. He sets the tone for the entire rotation.

As we all know, the final Cy Young voting was very close. Yes, Wainwright had the most first place votes with 12. Lincecum was second with 11, Carp third with nine. Carp also had the most second-place votes, 14. (Lincecum had 12, Wainwright five.) Interestingly, Wainwright had the most third-place votes with 14 to Lincecum’s nine and Carp’s seven.

And, truthfully, I could just as easily have written a post defending Adam Wainwright and why he deserved the award. He is definitely all those things Angela already mentioned, plus has the numbers to prove it, and I’m greatly looking forward to seeing him pitch tonight. But Chris Carpenter deserved to win the 2009 Cy Young Award.

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