Diamond Diaries

Cardinal baseball, from the girls

Tag Archives: Jaime Garcia

Stories of the Year – UCB Style!

*brushes away the cobwebs again* Hey… remember me? I work here, sometimes.*

Sometimes the holidays take up a truckload of time and you have to scramble at the last minute to finish getting something together so Daniel** doesn’t come after you for not putting something together when you said you would for a UCB party. Well, better late than never. Actually, I don’t think we’re late since this will be posted before the new year. Win for us!

So here’s our top five Cardinal stories of the year, but instead of waxing nostalgic, we’re going to give you some older posts to bring back the warm fuzzy memories of baseball season. Okay, some of these are a little less than warm and fuzzy, but it’s baseball, so why are you complaining?

Our Top Five:
1) Stan the Man winning the Presidential Medal of Freedom – The Cardinals made a big push for the President to award Stan Musial the highest honor a civilian can earn, and Cardinal fans embraced it whole-heartedly. Jacqueline once met Stan, and Cadence got to be there when Stan was honored at the end of the season at “Stand for Stan Day.
2) The Brawl in Cincy – Like this wasn’t going to make our list? It was a crazy three game set with the Reds, which we were worked up about for weeks! The gut check reaction was probably my favorite, so look back with this piece called: Words? Meet Actions.

3) Great pitching – The Cardinals could not have gone as far as they did without stellar pitching this year. The two we’re choosing to highlight are Adam Wainwright’s 20 wins and Jamie Garcia’s excellent rookie season.

4) Whitey elected to Hall of Fame – Okay, I’ll be honest. We did not cover this very well at all. However, watching the Hall of Fame ceremony and seeing his acceptance speech was phenomenal. My favorite line? Being elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame… is like going to heaven before you die.” We apologize for glazing over it with this picture of the day. Are we forgiven?

5) Uninspiring play-uninspiring season – Well this is a downer to end with. We’re going to point you back to our first “Girl Talk” piece, where we answer the question, “What was the most frustrating part about this year’s team?”

2010 is over. Years from now, we might not really remember much about this season, but we here at the CDD have enjoyed our first year blogging and getting to know so many of you. Here’s to a new year and a new season to look forward to. Go Cards!!!!!

*Apparently I work too much over at i70 Baseball. If you haven’t been reading my off-season history stuff you can check out the archive here. Okay, end shameless plug.
**Daniel will not come after us. I went on the radio with him Wednesday night. I bought time with that one… I think. 😉

Girl Talk – The Best Part

Oh, dear Cardinal Fans, our season has come to an end.  Our Redbirds played 162 games.  The good, the bad and the ugly all combined for a final 86-76 record. The Cardinals ended the 2010 season winning 5 straight games, including a sweep of the Rockies to finish in 2nd place in the National League Central.  It was not the most glorious of seasons, but we certainly had some fun along the way.

It is Monday and we are sticking with our ‘Girl Talk’ round table format for another week. Today we are looking for those golden moments of the 2010 Cardinal season.

This week’s topic:
What one event/game/player was the highlight of the 2010 Cardinal season (for you)?

Cadence:  I have enjoyed plenty this season – yes, hard to believe with the not-so-stellar season but I believe there have been plenty of good things too. I could repeat my first post with CDD saying my favorite thing this season was fan photo day and getting pics with all those players, but I won’t.

Instead, I will say, quite simply, that Jaime Garcia has been the best part of the 2010 Cardinal Season for me.

“Jaime Garcia celebrates his 3-hit complete game shut-out
on August 22nd against the Giants.”
St. Louis Post Dispatch

Not really a surprise that he was as good as he was. When we saw him briefly in 2008, I thought he had some good potential. Now, to see what a great job he has done – coming back strong from Tommy John surgery and stepping up as the #3 starter – I have been blown away! Garcia has definitely been a bright spot in a dismal 2010 Cardinal season; going 13-8 with a 2.70 era (ranking 4th among starters behind Johnson, Waino & Halladay) and putting up his first-career complete game shut-out (which I was in attendance for). One moment in particular that I felt he stepped up was August 10th in Cincinnati; being the starting pitcher during the game of the infamous brawl, he was able to compose himself and pitch like a veteran as the Cardinals went on to win. The kid is good, and I can’t wait to see more from him in 2011.

Erika: Matt Holliday.  Last year during the offseason I spent far too much emotional energy hoping and fretting about the chances that Holliday would be a Cardinal in 2010.  A slugging, handsome Oklahoma boy like that was destined to join my dear Cardinals.  He signed.  I was in heaven.

After watching Holliday struggle to find his groove early on, it was a pleasant relief to see his bat catch fire in the 2nd half.  So many impatient fans were disappointed when ol’ Matty was struggling offensively at the start of the season.  Shoot, even Holliday himself was frustrated.  But since the All Star break he has been the more consistent powerhouse we were hoping for.

Hunky Swing – photo by Erika

Since mid July Holliday has hit .331 with a .413 on-base percentage and a .541 slugging percentage.  In interviews Matt has frequently referred to the baseball season balancing itself out, stating every player goes through phases.  Personally, I really savored Hunky’s hot phase here at the end.  Without a doubt, Holliday has been my bright spot.  He played with 100% hustle in the outfield all the way to the final out, and (the gals knew this was coning…) watching Matt ‘Hunky’ Holliday dig in at the plate has been the highlight of my 2010 Cardinal season!

Jacqueline: Nobody does it bettah, or as I like to say he’s like buttah! Albert Pujols is simply the best player I will ever watch play the game. In 2010 he was without a doubt the best part of the season. Yes, we have grown to expect it. Yes, we are spoiled by his stellar play. But I refuse to hold that against him.

photo Credit: Chris Lee, St. Louis Post Dispatch

Since I grew up hearing about Stan the Man and Gibby, I cling to the miracle that I have Albert Pujols to watch every day. But ya don’t have to take my word for it. Here’s the individual stats that matter. I’m not gonna bore you non stat heads with a lot of numbers. I’m just gonna tell you his ranking in the National League in those categories that make him an MVP year in year out. Albert ranks 1st in HRS, RUNS, RBI and is tied for 1st in SLG and WAR. He ranks 2nd in OBP, OPS,  and WPA. He ranks 6th in BA and 19th in CLUTCH. All these stats are courtesy of our friends at FanGraphs. Here’s the link http://bit.ly/dmTSn8 if you want to peruse them or need a description of what WAR, WPA and CLUTCH mean. We all know Albert is so much more than numbers. As I watched the Stand for Stan ceremony yesterday, there is no doubt in my mind, there will be one just like it for Albert one day. He is now and forever a Cardinal. I’m verklempt. “Discuss amooangst yooaselves”.

Angela: Get ready for something really sappy (this doesn’t happen very often), but for me, the best part of the 2010 season was the people. I’m sure that I’ll remember the players and I will probably remember the disappointment of the season overall, but this season I got to attend eight Cardinal games (a personal high) in three different cities with people that are closer than close (family members), friends that I hold dear to my heart, and thanks to the miracle of Twitter and this blog, fans that I never would have had the chance to meet otherwise. I saw some fun games (Stavinoha’s HR off Trevor Hoffman in MIL), some unexpected games (Hawksworth’s nice start in the sweltering KC heat), and a laugher or two (18-4 on CDD night at Busch). In just those three examples I met or spent time with 8 different Cardinal fans to the core.

The players might be the ones that make the games happen, but the fans make it the experience. Thank you for sharing it with me. I hope to meet more of you in 2011!

Those are our 2010 highlights.  Add your own in the comments below!  We’d love to read ’em… reliving the good stuff helps ease the pain of *gulp* the reality that the season is over.  =)

Thanks for reading!
The Cardinal Diamond Diary Gals

Oooof Course He Did…


Maybe he hurt his elbow taking this picture?
Photo by @CardsInsider

Fine: I’ll admit it. When I got home from work yesterday and the first thing I heard was that Adam Wainwright – my boy, my favorite – might be shut down before his last start of the season after sleeping on his elbow wrong of all things, my only reaction was to say ‘Of course he did!’ out loud, alone, standing in the middle of my apartment. At this point, nothing will shock me.

Let’s take a stroll down memory lane, shall we? I think we need to look at when all of our busted up boys were shut down…

May: Brad Penny pulls his oblique while hitting a grand slam. He is never seen from again.

June: David Freese rolls an ankle while running the bases. While rehabbing he drops a weight on his toe and breaks it. When he is finally sent out for a rehab assignment in Springfield during the first days of August he injures the same ankle rounding third bases. He has since had surgeries/procedures performed on *both ankles. Sheesh kid. They’re called ankle braces. My volleyball girls wear them. You make more money than them. Invest.

Good thing you’re cute… still, Erika’s calling you
‘Prince Boo-Boo Foot’… are you going to take that?
Photo from STL Post-Dispatch

August: Jason LaRue takes multiple shots to the face and head from the cleats of one Reds pitcher whose name is no longer mentioned within the confines of this blog. After suffering a severe concussion, the effects of which are still lingering over a month later, LaRue decides to retire from the game of baseball. His farewell posts have almost read like eulogies to me, so I don’t even want to link ’em up for you (Sorry Erika…).

September: One year removed from Tommy John surgery, Jaime Garcia throws a career high innings total that eventually begins to catch up to him. Despite a very solid year in which he leads all rookie pitchers in pretty much every possible category, he was shut down by the team – not for physical issues, but as a preventative measure. I’m still on the fence about this one I guess, but I definitely will throw a ‘plays like a Cardinal’ tag on his locker for his plea to the powers that be to keep pitching after the premature announcement was made to the media for his abrupt end to the season before telling Jaime himself.

Ooooh the aching knees…
Photo by Scott Rovak

Also in September: Yadier Molina is a workhorse of a catcher. In the past two years he has caught more innings than all but two catchers in all of baseball. Squatting for minutes a day is no fun, so turn those minutes into hours and it’s pretty clear that Yadi’s knees have taken a beating. After being sent back to St. Louis for an MRI the announcement was made that Yadi’s kaput for the year as well.

More in September: On Saturday in Chicago Blake Hawksworth was smashed in the face by a line drive off the bat of a Scrubbie (oops, forgot I’m not supposed to take shots at the Cubs on here. Hi Grandpa!) and was immediately taken to the hospital. I screeched when I saw it happen, and my first thought was ‘broken nose’ because those just suck (Personal experience? Yes). Somehow Blake escaped with no broken bones, but around 30 stitches to his upper lip and face. Yikes! Needless to say, I will not be seeing Blake over the last week of the season.

September isn’t over yet?: Yesterday, as stated above, the announcement was made that Waino might be done for the year as well.

Please make it stop. There are only five of us here at the CDD, and we can only bandage so many boo-boos at a time. We love you boys and we want to take care of you, but we would really prefer that you take care of yourselves as well!

Of course, the announcement of Waino’s possible end of the season came as I was writing a Baseball Digest piece about him. Do me a favor and head over to read it anyway, would you? It’s called “Twenty Wins Is A Serious Number”… apologies, it was just too good a title to pass up! 🙂

A little perspective: no matter what, it’s the team (and the game) we love

A note from Ang…
Are the boys going to make a run at a playoff spot? They continue their absolutely baffling ways of beating good teams and losing to bad ones, so I suppose if the boys play winning teams the rest of the year (they don’t – darn) it’s always possible. Either way, we’re not giving up hope yet!!!
We have a surprise for all of you – not one, but TWO new writers! Cadence and Courtney Rippeto are a fabulous sister duo located in the St. Louis area, and have thankfully accepted our offer to join the team. More about them will be coming in the next week, but their big premiere is here now talking about their experience with photo day!
Enjoy and show them some love so they come back next week! 😉
Go Cards!

Entering the weekend 8 games behind the Reds, we took the time to enjoy the Friday and Saturday Cards/Reds games for what they were worth; photo day on the field and booing Brandon Phillips.

Courtney and I attended the first game of the Cards/Reds series on Friday night and we just knew that we were looking forward to hearing the roar of boos that Brandon Phillips would receive from the adoring Cardinal Nation after he ran his mouth in Cincy during the previous series. We all know what happened there. Needless to say, he was greeted with boos every time he came to the plate and every time he even came near to the ball. Even the foul ball that he got a piece of was thrown back on to the field. As much as I HATE it when that happens (hello, we are NOT Cubs fans), I had to applaud the guy who threw the ball back. Probably one of the greatest things I have seen. I think he would agree that it was worth him getting thrown out over. 🙂
Obviously, if you watched any of the games, you would know that the “love” for Brandon Phillips continued all weekend. Even the Reds fans sitting next to us on Saturday said “I hope that he gets a hit so it will shut them up.” HAHA. Sorry, Reds fans, but the hate will never disappear for Phillips, and he brought that upon himself.
To end Friday night, after another fantastic Jaime Garcia performance, Busch Stadium had another fireworks night. And after getting to see the Mizzou Tigers marching band battle the Fighting Illini marching band before the game (Go Mizzou!), it was quite a great end to an awesome night. We couldn’t wait to get to Saturday’s game.

While almost everyone else was focusing on the fact that “the season is over”, we were busy enjoying a day we had been looking forward to since early this season – yes, I bought the tickets in May. Saturday, September 4th was fan photo day on the field at Busch Stadium. Having missed out last year, I was determined to go this year and enjoy it to the fullest. (Courtney’s friend, Laura, came with us – so that is who the blonde is in all of our pics!) Courtney had gone last year and I knew I couldn’t miss out. Although my fave (Luddy), who I had been looking forward to seeing earlier in the season, wasn’t there, I still couldn’t wait to go!
We knew we were in a great position to get close to the players, having placed ourselves in kind-of a corner of the roped off area, we were certain there would be opportunity for us to at least try and get the attention of our favorites. We had NO idea what was about to happen! First the coaches made their way around the field, waving to the fans and being very courteous. Then, the first round of players entered the field; Albert Pujols, Yadier Molina, and Jon Jay. Those three almost ran around the field so quick, I forgot they were even there! But, I guess since they were starters, it was understandable considering pre-game rituals and superstitions.
As more players proceeded to enter the field (Brendan Ryan, Randy Winn, Matt Pagnozzi, Nick Stavinoha – we called him Dr. Thunder and he got a kick out of it!, Pedro Feliz, Bryan Anderson) we saw Matt Holliday coming our way. Somehow, we got his attention and lured him over to take a photo with us! It was so surreal that we couldn’t believe it…he even had his hand on my shoulder! Pretty amazing. Needless to say, we were so stunned in our excellent convincing skills that we thought we would try it with other players as the rounded the field.

Aaron Miles was one in the next group to come by. We talked to him for a second and he even stopped in his tracks to read my shirt, “It Ain’t Right til it’s Wainwright”, and he gave me the thumbs up (the pics below are him reading my shirt, and then posing for us) and told me he liked it. In fact several of the guys really liked my shirt; too bad Waino was pitching and he didn’t participate in photo day, so he couldn’t see the shirt like I had hoped. Dennys Reyes and Fernando Salas came around next. Again, very nice, but kinda scooted along without stopping to talk.

The group of Felipe Lopez, Trever Miller, and Ryan Franklin were the next to walk by. Trever Miller was a hit with this crazy curly wig he wore (which he explained on the Sunday pre-game show to be a way to loosen up the guys and make them laugh in the clubhouse – it worked with the fans too!). While Lopez and Miller were stopped taking pictures with other fans, I chatted up Ryan Franklin asking if he would take a photo with us. He replied “Sure! Just a second, ok?” What was he waiting for? He was rounding up the other guys to come over and take a photo with us! Totally awesome of him.
At this point, we were even more geeked and couldn’t wait for others to show up. Courtney wanted a picture with Jason Motte and we all wanted one with Colby Rasmus. Jaime Garcia was also tops on our list. So, as they kept coming, we continued to reach out to the players to get photos with us as well as help a fellow cardinal fan who was much shorter than me standing behind us. She was desperate for a picture with Skip Schumaker, so we made sure we helped her get one. For some reason, the guys just couldn’t say “no” to a group of girls begging for photos with them. This, of course, was good for us.
Some of the bullpen guys made their way around the warning track and I got Mitchell Boggs while waiting for Jason Motte. Both pics were achieved and they were both so sweet to us. We expressed our appreciation for them stopping to take photos with us.

When another group made their way around the corner, we noticed that Mike MacDougal wasn’t getting much love, so we asked him if he would take a photo with us… “Sure!” And we had officially made it up to 7 different players! Meanwhile, we helped our short Cardinal friend we met get a picture with Blake Hawksworth. Courtney said to him “Hey, I follow you on twitter!” He was very responsive and said, “Really? That’s awesome.” Whether he actually meant it or not, he was very nice about it.

In the last group, we were super confident that we could get the last two on our list; Jaime Garcia and Colby Rasmus. We were extremely successful and we also got Kyle Lohse in there too! All three had to be so tired of fans yelling at them and wanting pictures, but they were so sweet to us and obliged.

What these guys might not know is that they made our day! Win or lose, we were never going to forget how awesome it was to get pics with all these guys.  See, how we look at it is that this is our team. Whenever something like this happens, you seem to forget a stretch of bad play and remember that this is baseball, the sport we absolutely love.  And they are the team that we absolutely love. Yes, they did lose, but there was no shortage of amazing memories that we will never forget. Thank you, St. Louis Cardinals for hosting this event and thank you to the players for being so amazing and courteous to the fans, we truly appreciate it.

Hopefully this is just the beginning of many entries to come from us. Courtney is divulged in pharmacy school, so you will mostly see my writing, but because we do so many things together (in regards to the Cardinals) it will likely be a combined effort. We really look forward to sharing our Cardinal experiences with all of you in Cardinal Nation!
Cadence (and Courtney)

A Productive Day, and Jaime’s Productive Rookie Year

Yadi celebrating his grand slam yesterday.
(AP Photo/Jim Prisching)

“From now on, we have to win. That’s the rule.”

This quote, from Yadier Molina after yesterday’s win over the Brewers, caught my attention. It might be because I’m very much a “rules” kind of person (the result of attending Catholic schools from third grade through high school), but it’s also the simplicity of it. Yadi knows what needs to be done, and certainly the rest of the team does as well. They have to win. Period. Although it might have helped if Yadi had made this rule several weeks or months ago …

He gets a break, though, since his grand slam yesterday gave the Cardinals an 8-6 win over the Brewers on a day when the Reds, Braves and Phillies all lost (although the Phillies also won game two of their double-header) to make it a productive day in the NL Central and wild card standings. With 27 more games in the next 27 days, anything still could be possible.

Yesterday was a productive day for the Memphis Redbirds too, as they beat the Iowa Cubs to give the Redbirds the division championship. They start the Pacific Coast League playoffs on Wednesday night. Hopefully that will be a productive night all around, as the Springfield Cardinals and Quad Cities River Bandits also began their playoff hunts that night. Tonight, it’s the Batavia Muckdogs. Hopefully all the levels of Baby Birds are aware of Yadi’s rule and they all win from now on.

Jaime Garcia has been winning a lot this year, as his rookie year has been very productive. What are his chances of being named National League Rookie of the Year? He keeps expanding his credentials with each start he makes, and that’s just what I explored today for Baseball Digest. You can read that here.

So, here we go. Time to see how productive Jaime and the Cardinals can continue to be, in addition to how well they follow the rules.

Jaime Garcia’s Greatest Day

Chris Lee/STLToday.com

After being the hard-luck loser against the Brewers last Tuesday, Jaime Garcia deserved a better fate when he started yesterday. He definitely got it, as he went out pitched the best game of his young career. Jaime was masterful, throwing an 89-pitch, three-hit complete game shutout. The standing ovation he received from the Busch Stadium crowd when he came up to bat in the bottom of the eighth inning was goose-bump inducing, even watching on television. “I think this is the greatest day of my baseball career,” he said after the game.

Thankfully, the Cardinals offense provided more than enough support for Jaime to win. The Cards’ bats came alive against Cy Young winners Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito on Saturday and Sunday, as the Cardinals scored 14 runs in the two games to win a series for the first time since sweeping the Reds nearly two weeks ago. The contributions came from everyone, veterans and rookies alike – as well as from the newest Cardinal, Pedro Feliz. After the instant negativity at his acquisition, he had two hits in each of his first three games plus drove in two runs and scored three. He’s also, as expected, played well defensively at third base.

Yes, once again the Cardinals 2010 rollercoaster is on the upswing. With six more weeks left, anything really can happen in the NL Central race between the Cards and the Reds. But yesterday was all about Jaime. Going into the game, he was only 1-2 with a 4.41 ERA for the month of August (including that not-so-memorable start on Diamond Diaries night Aug. 3 when the Cards lost 18-4). Jaime’s numbers for the second half of the season were perfectly fine, 2-2 with a 3.86 ERA, but not quite on the same pace as the first half when he was 8-4 with a 2.17 ERA. He’s been given extra rest this month, with a week between each of his previous August starts, as the innings have piled up in his first season back from Tommy John surgery, and his total innings pitched will likely continue to be monitored. Yesterday everything paid off, as he proved just how talented he is.

I will admit to not realizing Jaime’s efficiency yesterday until seeing a couple of tweets after the fifth inning saying that he’d only thrown 50 pitches. Of course I’d noticed he’d been doing well and hadn’t allowed anything beyond Pat Burrell’s two singles, but was focused more on the offense as the Cards scored in the third, fourth and fifth innings (including Jaime’s base hit and his going from first base to third on Brendan Ryan’s single). From then, each inning became a joy to watch as he retired Giant after Giant. Before yesterday, Jaime’s longest outing had been seven innings – something he’d done five times this season, and not since July 21 – so it was exciting to see him move through the eighth so quickly. Then came the top of the ninth. How appropriate that the first two outs were right to him, although it was a bit disappointing that Nick Schierholtz singled. But in the end, of course it didn’t matter, and Jaime finished the game in 89 total pitches.

He’s now 11-6 for the season, with an ERA of 2.42 (sixth best in the National League). His name continues to be rightfully mentioned in the NL Rookie of the Year race. Jaime continues to anchor his third of the Cardinals Big Three starters along with Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright. And all three continue to dominate, as the team is 50-27 in games they’ve started (and 17-27 otherwise).

Jaime’s masterpiece yesterday is definitely something to be savored, a game to watch again and appreciate all the more – most definitely his greatest game, and day, to date. Here’s to many more career highlights like that in his future.

Just Too Confusing For Words

Most of the time I go into writing a post well before that evening’s game, or if not, at least I have a have a general plan as to what I will say. That was not the case last night. I went into the game just kind of crossing my fingers that inspiration would strike and I’d be left with the perfect topic. Well, 13 innings, 15 runs, 29 hits, 42 players and 4 hours and 32 minutes of baseball later, I have to say this:

I’m still confused.
Where do you start in this chaos? What do you say about a team that put up a big inning against an elite pitcher, coughed up a six run lead; had players playing with bumps, bruises and noticeable gimps; and looked like one of the most feeble and one of the most fearless teams… all in one night?
Kathy Willens – AP
The first inning was a heart attack all on its own. After hanging a very serious six spot on Johan Santana of all people, it was amusing that Jaime Garcia knocked in two runs before he had even taken the mound, while Albert Pujols had made both the second and third outs of the inning! How often do you see that? (Hint – you don’t.) The bottom of the inning seemed even more hectic, as Jaime managed to load the bases twice before sneaking out with only two runs allowed. Hey, at least he had already made up for those two before he gave them up, right?
For the next few innings I almost tuned out completely on the game, lost in my thought process on what to write about. Both pitchers settled in and it looked much more like the pitcher’s duel I think many of us were expecting. After all, Garcia and Santana were the two that had started out the game together during that 20 inning marathon back in April that stayed scoreless until well into extras. However, after a first inning like the one we saw last night, thoughts of that game were pushed far from our minds.
Suddenly it was the eighth inning. I’ll be honest – I contemplated making an ice cream run in the top of the eighth, but decided that the game would be over soon and I could go out afterward. I figured, half an hour, tops. ‘Afterward,’ had I still gone out, would not have come about until two and a half hours later. By that point, instead of wanting ice cream, I had contemplated losing my dinner once or twice. But I digress…
Where were we? Ahh yes, the eighth. Mitchell Boggs, who has been really quite good for most of this year, got tagged with four runs. I don’t normally play the armchair manager card, but I was not pleased at Tony spinning the bullpen merry-go-round. So Boggs comes out. Yes, Jason ‘Mayhem’ Motte needed 10 pitches to get his one out, but I’m fairly certain he would have been okay for a few more, whereas Dennys Reyes has struggled, and didn’t do the job last night either, giving up a walk and a single to the only two batters he faced before passing the ball to Kyle McClellan, who finally stopped the bleeding, but the damage was done.
Tie score. Frustration. Who is this team? They confuse me, alternating flashes of brilliance with shocking moments of despair more often than Ed Wade changes his trade demands for Roy Oswalt (Yep, I went there, although it sounds this morning like he might finally be on the move after all). If the pitchers are lights out, then the batters take the week off. If the hitters are scoring runs in bunches, someone is giving them up just as quickly. We saw the team go into a tailspin against the Rockies before the break, then bust out the big bats and electric arms for an 8 game winning streak, then immediately drop the next three, just to make fans start pulling their hair out again.
Extra innings brought their own share of what has made this a very confusing team. There were runners lost on the basepaths, extra opportunities squandered by immediately hitting into a double play or two, and another questionable manager choice. Can anyone explain to me why Tony ran out Randy Winn to pinch hit in the ninth with two on and two out instead of Ryan Ludwick? I don’t care if Luddy is still getting back in the swing of things – if he’s on the roster, he should be good enough to be IN the game. I would rather see Luddy out there 8 days a week over Winn. No joke.
Kathy Willens – AP
Seeing Pujols gimping around in the field after tweaking his calf in the top of the eleventh was a sinking feeling, and seeing Skip Schumaker get plunked in the thirteenth was another one of those feelings. At that point, the bench is empty, save for the other four starting pitchers. Had Skip been seriously injured or Albert been limping too badly to go back out there – who do you put in to play? I personally would have enjoyed Gold Glove winner Adam Wainwright out there, but he was burned in the top of the thirteenth as a pinch hitter. The options would have been Carpenter, Hawksworth and Suppan. I’m laughing just thinking about it!
Thankfully Albert and the Cards pushed a run across in the top of the thirteenth and Ryan Franklin threw a quick 1-2-3 inning to close out the game. I still feel confused, and as much as I want to say ‘A win is a win’ and move on, it’s tough sometimes!
To end this post with a smile, this is what I was thinking about when I was writing about pinch hitting Winn instead of Luddy… would someone pass this along to Tony for me? I feel like he forgot! 😉
Gametime today is… 11:10 AM? Are you kidding me? Those poor tired players… here’s hoping Albert, Skip and everyone else on the team feeling the bumps and bruises of those dog days of summer got some sleep last night. It would be nice to pull out a series win against the pond scum!

The Streak Climbs Higher and Higher

And so it continues …

By winning number 8 in a row last night, the Cardinals exceeded a 7-game winning streak for the first time since 2006. Now they have the longest streak since another memorable year, 2004. And watching the team play over the last week reminds me a lot of that amazing 2004 team. They’re playing with confidence, they’re playing with energy – even when they’re trailing or tied, you know they’re going to come back and get it done.

Winning is obviously fun. The always quotable Brendan Ryan provided some words of wisdom on winning after Tuesday night’s game. “It can be contagious and it sure seems like it’s gotten contagious. We know in the first half we never played our ‘A’ game. We’d like to find out what our ceiling is.”

That’s the intriguing thing about winning streaks: you never know how long they will last or the ultimate impact they will have. And the end to a particular streak doesn’t necessarily mean the rollercoaster is headed back down. Look at the White Sox. Before the All-Star break, they won 25 of 30 games (including winning streaks of 11 and 8 games each) and propelled themselves from 9 1/2 games back and third place on June 9 to first place by a half-game on July 11. Since the break, the Sox are 3-4 but have built their lead to 2 1/2 games.

In addition to the Cardinals’ ongoing streak, they have won 9 of their last 10 games and, in doing so, beaten three of the “charter members of the Cardinals Killer club” in the process: Bud Norris on July 9, Kyle Kendrick on Monday and now Joe Blanton last night. So things have definitely turned around!
The Cardinals’ eight wins have come in a variety of ways, with a variety of heroes, as Angela detailed in yesterday’s photos of the week. Last night was another strong pitching performance, as Jaime Garcia was outstanding in his 7 innings and allowed only 1 run on 4 hits (with the run coming on a homer to Ryan Howard). Perhaps best of all, Jaime threw only 95 pitches to go those 7 innings. Offensively, Albert gave the Cards a short-lived 1-0 lead when he drove in Wonder Boy Jon Jay (pictured above, and he went 2 for 3 last night with a sacrifice bunt). Hunky Matt Holliday continued his homer tear to put the Cards up 2-1 in the 7th – giving Jaime the well-deserved victory. In the 8th, the Cardinals added three more runs thanks to Everyone’s Nemesis Aaron Miles, Brendan (with help with a Phillies error), Felipe Lopez and Colby Rasmus. Even Ryan Franklin had the opportunity to bat that inning, since he came in to get the final out in the top of the 8th. Not that Franklin actually did anything with the bat, however – like even swing it at all. But he stood there to get the third out before heading back out to pitch his way to save number 18.

Who knows how high up the ceiling is for the Cardinals this season? Thankfully, that’s still to be decided so we can just appreciate the games and enjoy the ride. And we don’t have long to find out how if they can sweep the entire homestand: game four against the Phillies is this afternoon at 1:15 p.m. Central time, with Adam Wainwright going for his second win of the streak.

Photo: UPI/John Boman Jr.

Parties, Gut-Wrenchers, and the Flat-Out WEIRD

Sometimes, the best thing about baseball is that during the regular season there’s always another game tomorrow. For the Cardinals, after a brutal sweep at the hands of the Rockies, their next tomorrow couldn’t come fast enough, but fans and scribes everywhere weren’t sure what to expect coming into yesterday’s game against the Astros and Bud Norris. Norris had been inexplicably dominant against the Cardinals… right up until last night. Eight shutout innings by Adam Wainwright and eight wild runs by the boys in red helped everyone find serenity last night!

The Cardinals have been wrapped up in their fair share of craziness already this season. Today we thought we’d look back at the good, the bad and the strange. Ready? Here we go!

Gut Wrenchers

Chris Lee – STL Today

May 21: Cardinals – 9, Angels – 5
I’m sure you didn’t expect the first ‘bad’ game to be a win. However, after shocking everyone (including himself) with a third inning grand slam, Cardinal fans watched in horror as Brad Penny went out in the next half inning and, after throwing a couple of warm-up pitches, was quickly ushered off the field by the training staff. He hasn’t seen the mound since. The team might have won the game, but was losing Penny worth it?

May 25: Cardinals – 0, Padres – 1
What on earth did Adam Wainwright have to do to win this game? Here’s what he did do: give up 4 hits and 1 run over 7 dominant innings, walking 1 and striking out TWELVE. To add to the madness, the Cardinals actually outhit the Padres 7-4, but couldn’t figure out how to bring any of those baserunners back around to home plate. It was a frustrating start to a strange six game road trip to San Diego and Chicago.

July 6: Cardinals – 9, Rockies – 12 and July 7: Cardinals – 7, Rockies – 8
What could possibly be worse to a fan than seeing your team give up a huge lead in the ninth inning? Watching them do it all over again the next day in the eighth and ninth. Salt? Meet wound. Both games were so winnable. The bats were getting things done and the baserunners were going crazy. Fans were lauding Matt Holliday and Jon Jay for having big games at the plate,  seeing so many 2 out RBI’s and stringing hits together in a way that we haven’t seen in weeks. Then, everyone watched in horror as the strong bullpen fell apart and some bizarre defensive positioning and play let to back to back walk-offs for the Rox. It was a horrible 2 days in Cardinal Nation.

Flat-Out WEIRD
April 17: Cardinals – 1, Mets – 2
The Fox Saturday game of the week provided fans with almost 7 hours of listening to Tim McCarver spout nonsense as the Cards and Mets clashed for 18 innings of no-run baseball, a 19th inning in which both teams scored exactly 1 run, and the Pond Scum finally pulling ahead to stay in the top of the 20th. 19 pitchers battled through the game that never seemed to end, including appearances by both Felipe Lopez and Joe Mather. Skip Schumaker had 10 plate appearances. Brendan Ryan, who pinch hit for Jaime Garcia after 7  innings of 1 hit ball, had six plate appearances. At the end of the game, fans couldn’t decide whether to just breathe a sigh of relief that it was over, or agonize over enough missed opportunities to cover a week’s worth of games.

Scott Rovak – US Presswire

June 28: Cardinals – 6, Diamondbacks – 5
In a game where the team was playing with an extremely short bench, Adam Wainwright became player of the game, and all he did was walk to the plate in the bottom of the 9th with instructions to bunt. A throwing error on Waino’s bunt scored Jaime Garcia (who was pinch running for Yadier Molina), and after a weak groundout by Randy Winn, Skip Schumaker came up with runners on second and third. He slapped a ball to the first base side, and Adam LaRoche threw wildly to the plate, allowing not only Brendan Ryan to score, but Adam Wainwright to swipe home plate as well! If you want the definition of a gift-wrapped win, that was it. 

May 30: Cardinals – 9, Cubs – 1
After Erika had the gall to question Albert Pujols on Friday, Albert had his revenge on Sunday of Memorial Day weekend in Chicago, blasting 3 home runs deep into the bleachers and on to Waveland Avenue. Wainwright knew what to do with that kind of lead, throwing 7 innings of 1 run ball and sending Cardinal fans home happy. David Freese also got in on the fun, going 3 for 5 with 3 RBI’s and a home run.

June 4: Cardinals – 8, Brewers – 0
How did Waino choose to follow up his Memorial Day weekend game mentioned above? How about a his first complete game – a 9 strikeout, 2 hitter vs. the Brew Crew? The Cardinals were patient, tossing runs on the board in 4 different innings and putting up 5 runs on starter Randy Wolf and 3 on relief pitcher Jeff Suppan. 3 days later the Brewers released Suppan and… oh wait, this is the happy section. Moving on!

Chris Lee – STL Today
Mark this down as the day Nick Stavinoha broke Trevor Hoffman. In a game that the Brewers had seemingly been running away with since about the 4th, Cardinal fans had felt little reason to cheer coming into the 9th, save a Matt Holliday home run in the 6th that went farther than any other regular game home run I have ever seen at Miller Park (Yes, I was there). When Hoffman came trotting in for the 9th, it felt like game over. A walk to Colby Rasmus gave me a little hope, but then two warning track shots by David Freese and Yadier Molina left the Cards down to their last out, and pinch hitter Stavinoha trotting to the plate. Who could have predicted Stavi golfing a shot from his knees deep into the left field bleachers?! Miller Park went silent, and I went crazy. Poor Trevor Hoffman went into a dive, blowing 4 of 5 save opportunities. Brewer fans still haven’t forgiven me for being at the game where it all went downhill.

We’ve had some ups and downs with this Cardinals team. By the end of the season, we’re hoping that the good outweighs the bad. We’ll find out! 

Game time tonight is 6:05. Go Cards!

All Star Musings on the Off Day

Most of the free world had yesterday off to continue on with their Fourth of July fun, so what better day for the Cardinals to have an off day, right? No, wrong. What’s worse is that the Mets couldn’t do us a favor and take a game from the Reds. Losing ground when you don’t play is no fun at all!

Speaking of the Reds, Erika spoke yesterday about the Cardinal All-Stars, and I think Joey Votto for the Reds got a raw deal by not being selected to the team. If you’re into that sort of thing, head over and vote for Votto to be the final player on the NL squad. I admit – I watch every second of the All-Star festivities and love it to death. No, the game doesn’t really mean anything, despite what MLB tells you about home field advantage. I don’t usually make comments on who is on or off the rosters, and I won’t even stand up here and argue that Jaime Garcia should be in or anything like that. I will say 3 things: 

  1. Ryan Howard over Joey Votto is a joke. I don’t really care that Howard is a St. Louis product – he’s crazy overrated, and the most annoying three true outcome player ever. You know that the managers don’t actually care about the outcome when Charlie Manuel states that he chose Howard just because it was ‘his guy.’ If he really cared he’d put the best players on. You’re not going to change my mind on this.
  2. I support Stephen Strasburg not being on the team. That probably contradicts what I just said about having the best players on, but they already are not pitching wise when the second best ERA in the league didn’t make the team. Yes, the second best ERA belongs to Garcia (fine… *honk honk*). Also, the NL squad has one lefthanded pitcher. AL squad? Five. Solid roster Manuel.
  3. I definitely support Albert Pujols not being in the Home Run Derby. He is tired of it, LaRussa hates it, and despite their denials of this, I hate what it does to Albert’s swing for the first week or two after the break.
This has probably been the least Cardinal centric post to ever appear on this site. Apologies for that, but I will make it up to you by rolling out a new post over at Baseball Digest. It talks about Cardinal teams in the second half under Tony LaRussa, and what we can hope to see for the second half. It was a labor of love for me, so please head over and check it out.

Blake Hawksworth has been officially announced as tonight’s starter for the Cards in Colorado. You might disagree with me, but I’m happy to see him getting sent out there over Jeff Suppan. Game time is 7:40 PM – Go Blake and go Cards! 🙂
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