Diamond Diaries

Cardinal baseball, from the girls

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First-Place Showdown

So, here we go – Cardinals vs. Reds for three games and a battle for first place on the line. It’s Aug. 9 now, which means there are less than two months left in the regular season. The Cards are two games back going into tonight, thanks to the stellar (ha!) effort by the Cubs this weekend in allowing the Reds to sweep them.

In other words, these games are pretty big.

The Cardinals have a slight lead over the Reds this season, with a 7-5 record, and this will be the fifth series between the two teams. The Cards won two out of three in Cincinnati to open the season (with the winning pitchers being Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright), took two of three in St. Louis in late April/early May (Ryan Franklin and Carp were the winners), lost two of three on their last trip to Cincinnati in mid May (Jaime Garcia was the lone winner) and finally won two of three in late May/early June (with more victories for Jaime and Carp). The last victory over the Reds, on June 2, put the Cards into a first-place tie with the Reds.

In the time since, the Cards and Reds have battled back and forth for first place. No doubt the Reds have held that spot longer, and once had a three-game lead over the Cards, plus right now they are definitely on a roll – they’ve won four in a row and nine of their last 11 games. The Cardinals are 6-4 over their last 10 games (which includes the two unfortunate Diamond Diaries nights at the ballpark) and are only one game back in the loss column, with 49 total losses to the Reds 48. (Cards have 61 wins to the Reds 64.)

The pitching matchups couldn’t be better: our Big Three against their top three.

Tonight
Chris Carpenter (12-3, 2.91 ERA) vs. Mike Leake (7-3, 3.86 ERA)

Carp is 3-0 against the Reds this year, with a 1.29 ERA and has held the Reds to a .157 batting average. Leake is 1-0 in one game started against the Cards with a 3.00 ERA and the Cards have a .190 average against him.

Tomorrow
Jaime Garcia (9-5, 2.53 ERA) vs. Johnny Cueto (11-2, 3.24 ERA)

Jaime’s won both of his starts against the Reds this season, with a 2.92 ERA and the Reds hitting .245. Cueto has started three times against the Cards and has a 1-0 record with a 6.75 ERA (he’s allowed 12 earned runs in 16 innings pitched) and the Cards are hitting .308 off him.

Wednesday
Adam Wainwright (16-6, 2.06 ERA) vs. Bronson Arroyo (12-6, 3.83 ERA)

Adam is 1-1 against the Reds, with a 4.15 ERA (allowing six earned runs in 13 innings) but the Reds are only hitting .222 against him and he has 12 strikeouts. Arroyo also is 1-1 in three starts against the Cards this season and has a 4.22 ERA, with the Cards hitting .256 against him.

Slugging-wise, Albert Pujols is hitting .381 against the Reds this season with three homers and 12 RBI and is batting 1.000 against Leake. (It’s only one at-bat, but does that matter?) Matt Holliday is hitting .325 against the Reds with two home runs and 10 RBI, while Jon Jay is hitting .438 with one homer and four RBI. And, with Carp pitching tonight, maybe he’ll hit another grand slam like he did against the Reds last season. (Probably not, but I can always hope to see a repeat of that!)

With 12 hours until game time, I can still say that these games are going to be fun. It’s going to be playoff-type baseball, with possible post-season implications on the line. But, by tonight, I know watching these games will be excruciating – like all Cardinals fans, what I want most is a sweep over the Reds. Let’s see how it goes …

And go Cardinals!

P.S.: This is Diamond Diaries post number 100. Thanks to each of you for reading. We appreciate your support!

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?

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