Diamond Diaries

Cardinal baseball, from the girls

Tag Archives: inconsistency

Gooooooing UP!

I kind of have a thing for roller coasters. Upside down, spinning in circles, and ridiculous drops… I love going to amusement parks just to ride the roller coasters.


I’ll be honest. I’ve been on the same roller coaster for the past  5 months, and I think I’m getting ready to get off. I’ve been up, I’ve been down, and I think I was upside down for the better part of a few weeks. I haven’t lost my lunch, but I thought about it for awhile.


However, I am a roller coaster junkie… and right now, I’m feeling that upward trend again. Yes, a 3-5 homestand is embarrassing, especially since we were playing 5 of those games against the Cubs and Brewers, who should have been a doormat waiting for the Cards happy cleats to run right over. But! Winning the last two games against the Giants and last night’s game against the Pirates in rather dominating fashion has me looking up at the sky again, wondering how far I’ll see the team climb this time. Is this the hill that pushes the team over the top? Am I being tricked again, raising my hopes and then watching them go down, down, down in a death spiral, then returning me to the start, forcing me to immediately get off and get back in the long line (unaffectionately called ‘winter’) until the Spring Training gates open and I can get back on for another go around?


Another plummet would be sickening, even for this roller coaster fan. That doesn’t mean I’m giving up hope. Why? For that answer you have to go over to my post on i70baseball.


I know, what a tease. 🙂 Game time is 6:05 again tonight. Don’t be like me last night and forget about that east coast start time!

Who are the 2010 Cardinals, really?

Chris Lee/STLToday.com

Here we are again. Another off day, two more losses tacked onto the latest losing streak (which is tied for the longest of the season), now trailing the Reds by three games in the NL Central (tied for this year’s biggest deficit), the Giants (who took two of three from the Cards out in San Francisco in late April) headed to town to conclude what’s been a rotten home stand for a team that had a great home record …

The Cardinals are 7-7 for August, which seems appropriate: mediocre once again. In this latest losing streak, it’s the offense that’s (once again) the source of the dive, particularly against the Brewers. This is after the team scored four or more runs every day from July 31 until the streak started last Saturday, Aug. 14.

With the exception of Albert (who had at least one hit in each game), the numbers over the last four games for the rest of the team look expectedly anemic given the game results. Matt Holliday was 2 for 15, Yadi was 1 for 13, Felipe Lopez and Jon Jay were each 2 for 13, Allen Craig was 1 for 11. The team struck out 26 times, with six for Jay alone. Each of the Big Three starters had a loss, with each having a quality start. Jaime’s loss was particularly painful, since he allowed no earned runs in his six innings Tuesday night. Yesterday was Adam Wainwright’s first loss at home this year.

Yet this all seems familiar, right? Déjà vu all over again, as Yogi Berra famously said. Maybe instead of inconsistency being the defining trait of this team, it’s underachievement. This is a team with five All-Stars, a team picked to run away with the NL Central. And at times, obviously, they do play like that team. They have won 65 games and are still 12 games over .500. The pitching overall is still number three in the majors in ERA, and the Big Three are in the NL top eight in ERA (with Wainwright still first with 2.06). BODY { MARGIN: 8px}.LW-yrriRe { FONT: x-small arial}.MsoNormal { MARGIN: 0px}Albert is leading the league in RBI with 87, tied for first in homers with 31 and fourth in batting average at .314. But there are the Reds, playing the way they are. The “last 10 games” column in the standings is one I always look at. Currently the Reds are 7-3, the Cardinals 5-5.

Driving home last night, thinking about what to write, the song “I’ve Seen Better Days” by Citizen King came on the radio. Seemed appropriate. Then, listening to the chorus, I wondered if it was fitting for this latest streak or a sign of things to come: “I’ve seen better days – and the bottom drops out.”

There are six-and-a-half weeks left, so plenty of time for things to happen. A Twins fan friend reminded me yesterday that last year her team was seven games out in early September and still made the playoffs. Anything truly can happen. And I’ll guess we’ll see what the legacy of the 2010 team will be – one that lives up to its pre-season predictions and five All-Stars potential, or one that has the bottom drop out and fades away.

Ugh

Well, that wasn’t what any Cardinals fan hoped to see this weekend.

J.B. Forbes/STLToday.com

Of course there are no absolutes in baseball, but there are definitely a few certainties about the 2010 Cards: Adam Wainwright will pitch extremely well. Albert will be Albert. Yadi will throw out any baserunner foolish enough to try to steal second. And the team will remain consistently inconsistent.

After the emotional sweep of the Reds and gaining a one-game lead in the NL Central, of course expectations were high for this weekend’s series against the Cubs. Friday’s game lived up to our hopes: Jake Westbrook finally received his first Cardinals win, Albert Pujols hit his 29th home run of the year in the first inning, and Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina continued hitting and driving in runs like they did in Cincinnati. Ryan Franklin even had a 1-2-3 ninth inning for his 21st save as the Cards won 6-3.

 

Going into Saturday’s game, it seemed like things should keep rolling along with Chris Carpenter starting. But then things started to look eerily familiar to all those not-so-pleasant games this season. Carp allowed three runs in the first three innings (although he did settle in after that), although it was the lack of timely hitting – and especially the inability to bunt – that cost the Cards the game in the end.

 

Then there was yesterday. Realistically, it was difficult to know what to expect from Kyle Lohse. Our friend Bob had a great pre-game piece on his Throatwarbler’s Blog that detailed all Kyle has been through in the last year-plus, since he was hit on the forearm by a Ron Mahay pitch in May 2009. Unfortunately, Lohse had a terrible day and allowed seven earned runs as he pitched into the fourth inning. If the bullpen had been able to keep the Cubs scoreless the rest of the game, things would have been better and the Cards could have actually won. However, both Mike MacDougal and Dennys Reyes allowed a run each. The Cardinals did stage a valiant comeback attempt in the bottom of the ninth, scoring five runs, but it wasn’t quite enough.

So the team that got swept by the Reds last weekend beat the team that just swept the Reds this week, winning two out of three games. The Reds also had another sweep this weekend, beating the Marlins, and now find themselves back on top in the Central by a game. And the frustration is back among Cardinals fans again, that’s for sure. While there are definitely bright spots when you look at the team’s record since the All-Star break, it’s the ups and downs that stand out more than anything. Of course, no team is going to win every game and even great teams are going to lose around 60 games a season. But it’s the now season-long inconsistency that stands out as the hallmark of the 2010 Cardinals.

It’s difficult to know what to expect from this team during the next seven weeks. The optimist in me can easily see them winning the division. With the starting pitching of Carpenter, Wainwright and Jaime Garcia – plus Westbrook – they could do very well in the playoffs also. But then there’s the internal pessimist. I can just as easily see the Cardinals not winning the division, nor the wild card either. September has not been their most productive month in recent years. And look at what happened last year when they did win the division, with Carpenter and Wainwright as Cy Young-worthy starters.

 

Time will tell us what the 2010 Cardinals really are. And, unfortunately, we have an off day to dwell on what should have been instead of what was throughout the weekend.

Sunday’s Highlights

Congratulations to:

  • Albert, who hit his 30th home run of the season in the first inning yesterday. With the blast, he now has hit at least 30 homers in each of his first 10 seasons in the majors. He currently has 396 homers, the most ever by a player in his first 10 seasons.
J.B. Forbes/STLToday.com
  • Steven Hill on hitting his first major league home run to start the Cards’ rally in the bottom of the ninth inning. Steven was on what today are the Quad Cities River Bandits in 2007, when they were the Swing of the Quad Cities. He wasn’t the only former Quad Cities player getting that rally going, as Nick Stavinoha (2005) and Aaron Miles (1997/1998, when they were an Astros farm team) followed Hill by getting base hits. Jon Jay (2006) received a bases-loaded walk a bit later to score Stavinoha. (Personally, it’s nice to see some of the guys I remember seeing in the Quad Cities make contributions to the big league team. At this level, most of the guys I see year after year never make it to the majors.)

More on Rivalries

Obviously the Cardinals’ rivalry with the Reds has intensified this season. Read more in Angela’s post “A Reflection on Rivalries” at i70baseball.com here.

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