Diamond Diaries

Cardinal baseball, from the girls

Tag Archives: Skip Schumaker

Jinxing Jay and Operation Jack

Yesterday I was bragging on darling Jon Jay (you can see the lovefest here) and he responded with an 0-for-4 night, striking out 3 times.  Today, I am avoiding any potential jinx by switching gears and bringing you a public service announcement instead.  Well…. a public service that gets you a face-to-face with some Cardinal ballplayers!  WIN!!

I know where you can find starting pitcher Adam Wainwright and Cardinal cutie Skip Schumaker on Saturday October 2nd!  =)
Do not miss this great opportunity to meet some of our St. Louis Cardinals, snag some autographs and help a great cause.  The event is to support Operation Jack, a charity to raise money for autism.  Our Twitter friend Scott, who is also a big Cardinals fan and writes for the wonderful Cardinals/Royals baseball website i70baseball.com, has helped coordinate this event.
If you would like more information, please visit the Operation Jack website at www.operationjack.org
or to find out more information about the autograph event, click here.
Thanks for reading, spread the word and buy some tickets to meet Waino and Skippy!
And GO CARDS!!

One Step Closer, and Looking at Wainwright’s Cy Chances

Quite the game last night, wasn’t it? Wow.

First, and most importantly, the Cardinals beat the Reds 7-3 thanks to their most productive inning all season: six straight hits (including an infield single from Yadi!) in the fourth that was capped by the first-ever grand slam from Skip Schumaker to give them six serious runs before there was even an out. During his second at-bat of the inning, Albert singled again to drive in the seventh run. And, with Chris Carpenter pitching, those were more than enough runs.

Ah, yes, Carp. No, there’s not (yet!) a feud here over his displeasure with Brendan Ryan delaying the bottom of the first inning. (Thanks, C70!) But, really, haven’t there been plenty of comments made throughout this season about a lack of fire and spark on the team, how they’re just business-like out there and act like they don’t really care? Then how can you complain when Carp understands the importance of this particular game and series, is all amped and ready to go, gets ticked when he has to wait because the guy who’s always the last one to the field anyway (based on our observations last week) delays his start of the inning and Carp lets him know about it later? Angela made a good point during the game: that it might not have been noticed at all were it not for the ESPN cameras focused on the dugout. But the look of fear on Brendan’s face that the camera did capture … yeah, the Hyperactive Puppy won’t be doing that again!

I could go on and mention the Jim Edmonds trade (who’s next, Walt?) or Brandon Phillips (think he’ll be regretting those comments?) but instead will switch gears a bit to talk about tomorrow afternoon’s starter, Adam Wainwright. After his brilliant two-hit shutout last Friday against the Marlins, he’s continuing to reassert his position as one of the top National League pitchers. So what are his chances for winning a well-deserved Cy Young Award this season? That’s exactly what I explored for Baseball Digest, which you can find here.

With all the drama and entertainment that the first game of this series provided, it’s hard to know what to expect tonight. Here’s to Jaime bouncing back from his outing-we-want-to-forget last Tuesday and providing another dominating performance again tonight. Because a win will bring those magic words “first place” back once again …

Go Cardinals!!

The Simple Proof – Wins and Losses

Yesterday’s game was frustrating. The offense is obviously frustrating, but for some reason I was fixating on the defense, so today you’re getting a little middle infielders by the numbers. Erika and I (along with several other diehards in Cardinal Nation) had a collective heart attack when we heard that Brendan Ryan and Jon Jay were the two names that had been potentially offered to the Astros in return for Roy Oswalt. Now, I don’t think this is actually a true offer, just a rumor, sent out into the world to make fans spaz out and scribes scramble to find out whether or not it is actual fact or fiction. We won’t go into that one any more today…

CardinalsCandids.com

After seeing a couple of botched double plays yesterday afternoon, and hearing one of our middle infielders dropped into trade talks made me wonder what this team has looked like with our various fielders in and out of the games.


I’ll admit – I didn’t go too in-depth on this one. I think you will see that it wasn’t particularly necessary. All I did was look at sheer numbers – did the team win or lose on any given day with any given player playing at various positions. So here it is – Aaron Miles, Tyler Greene, Felipe Lopez, Skip Schumaker and Brendan Ryan by the wins and losses:


With Miles…

  • starting at 2B: 3-4
  • starting at 3B: 0-1

I’ll admit, this is a very small sample size. Fair enough. Moving on.


With Greene…

  • starting at 2B: 2-2
  • starting at SS: 6-7

This is still a small sample size. Let’s keep going.


With Lopez…

  • starting at 2B: 6-5
  • starting at SS: 6-10

The numbers are getting bigger, and they are starting to paint a picture.


For Schumaker and Ryan I looked at it a little differently. They both have started in just the one position (in the middle infield at least), and I was curious as to how they fare with and without each other. Let’s look at Skippy first.


For Skip…

  • starting at 2B: 43-29
  • starting with either Lopez or Greene: 12-13
  • starting with Brendan: 31-16
  • sitting on the bench at the start: 11-14

The number line to catch here: Skip and Brendan in the lineup together has produced a Cardinals team that is 15 games over .500. Yes, I did contact Erika when I found that out. She and I thought the same thing, ‘No way and HECK YES!‘ But we’re just getting started…


For Brendan…

  • starting at SS: 42-20
  • starting with either Lopez, Greene or Miles: 11-8
  • staring with Skip: 31-16
  • sitting on the bench at the start: 12-23

This absolutely blew my mind. Brendan Ryan in the lineup equates to 22 games over .500, and out of the lineup is 11 games under. 

Scott Rovak – US Presswire



I think the answer is simple. Put Brendan and Skip in the lineup and let them play. Just by observation (read: don’t yell at me for the next sentence – it’s my observation), it looks like Brendan and Skip have the easiest camaraderie on the field. I don’t know if it’s because they have played together more than any of the other pairings (although that would make sense) or if they just blend the best. Obviously they have both had their share of errors, miscues and otherwise ugly plays this year. The fact of the matter remains – Brendan and Skip in the lineup together has produced winning baseball.


Wins and losses don’t lie.

Photo Diary of a Winning Streak

7 wins in a row. Beautiful feeling, isn’t it? 


We’re switching things up here on Cardinal Diamond Dairies and moving our photo day to Wednesday. Today instead of just random pictures I’m trying something out – a photo from each day of the 7 game streak (plus a bonus shot – you’ll see)! Hope you enjoy it!


7/11/2010 – Cardinals 4, Astros 2
Matt Holliday provided almost all of the offense with this 3 run blast the day before the All-Star break began. I don’t know how to point out the packet of sunflower seeds in his pocket that made me laugh without sounding like a #chickcomment… so there you go.

David J. Phillip – AP Photo

7/13/2010 – NL 3, AL 1
I couldn’t help but put in a shot of the Cards’ All-Stars together at the game in Anaheim. Hey, our team won that night too, so it fits!

Kirby Lee – US Presswire

7/15/2010 – Cardinals 7, Dodgers 1
The Cardinals jumped right back in after the break, putting up seven runs against Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers, who had been very effective against the Cards… until this night. After a day in which we were treated to no baseball at all, it was nice to be back seeing scenes like this one of Chris Carpenter pitching in the fifth inning.

Chris Lee – Post-Dispatch

7/16/2010 – Cardinals 8, Dodgers 4
You can’t help but enjoy a game that features runs and flashy defensive plays like this one Albert Pujols made from the seat of his pants! Two games after the break we were seeing what looked like a team that was putting things together. Solid pitching, scoring runs in bunches and defense? We love it!

Scott Rovak – US Presswire

7/17/2010 – Cardinals 2, Dodgers 0
With Adam Wainwright on the mound, thankfully the Cards didn’t need more than two runs on this day. Close games like this mean turning solid double plays like Skip Schumaker does here. Note where his feet are. Where is second base? (I’ll spare you all from the “Who’s on First?” joke I almost made here.)

Scott Rovak – US Presswire

7/18/2010 – Cardinals 5, Dodgers 4
The Cards were rather rude hosts to the Dodgers, running them out of town with ninth inning heroics on Joe Torre’s 70th birthday no less! Allen Craig didn’t care about Torre. He had his own 26th birthday to worry about, and he did it in style, making the hit to tie the game in the ninth inning and set up Matt Holliday for the game winning hit in the next at-bat!

Chris Lee – Post-Dispatch

7/19/2010 – Cardinals 8, Phillies 4
Back to back days of come from behind wins. This is a treat we were not privy to in the first half of the season. The team started chipping away at an early 3-0 hole behind Blake Hawksworth, scoring a single run in both the first and second inning before exploding for three home runs (including Allen Craig’s first big league HR!) and five runs in the fifth to blow the game open. This photo? Yadier Molina picking Jason Werth off first in the third inning. I like Albert sticking his tongue out at Werth. ‘Nana nana boo boo. We got you!’

Scott Rovak – US Presswire

7/20/2010 – Cardinals 7, Phillies 1
After a couple less than Carp-like starts towards the end of the first half, Carpenter has been a rockstar since the break, throwing 62 strikes over 90 pitches in eight dominant innings last night against the Phillies. Randy Winn kicked off the fireworks in the third inning with his second home run in as many days, and Matt Holliday put the game away for good with his three run blast in the fifth that put the Cards up 6-0. 

Chris Lee – Post-Dispatch

Winning is fun. How about we keep it going tonight, say 7:15? Jaime Garcia will be there…

Talking about Toes..

Last night when I turned off the television and my computer for the evening, the Cardinals had just won their 6th straight game.  And what a game it was!  FOUR homeruns!  Albert Pujols kicked off the long ball party in the bottom of the 5th inning. Then Allen Craig followed suit with his first Major League homerun.  The very next batter, Skip Schumaker, stepped to the plate and hit his 3rd blast of the season.  Then in the 6th inning Randy Winn added his own dinger over the right field wall to make the score 8-4.  Throw in some spectacular defense from Brendan Ryan and I was a very happy baseball fan!

Want to watch the highlights again?    Click Here

Winning – I could get used to that!

Even  more amazing is that the Cardinals are winning with our substitute starting pitchers Jeff Suppan and Blake Hawksworth. Plus manager Tony La Russa has rested several key players in the past two games, getting creative with starting lineups that have scared many fans.  But those beloved Baby Birds up from AAA are filling in quite nicely. Jon Jay continues to tear it up with a .372 batting average.

The Cardinals have stepped up their game since the All Star break and are playing some amazing baseball.  Whatever is in the water, I hope they keep drinking it, because THIS is the team I was expecting to show up in April.

More Good News! Ryan Ludwick is returning from the DL, heading to Memphis for a quick rehab stint before rejoining the Cardinals possibly this weekend (at least that is what Luddy thinks.)

Bad News of the Morning: David Freese has apparently broken his left big toe by dropping a weight plate on it during a workout. Are you kidding me???  I am very thankful the Cardinals have figured out how to win without their complete starting roster, because Freese seems to be accident-prone.  If we were losing games, that news would have hit me a lot harder, but with the way things have been going lately it is hard to complain.  Hurry back David, before we forget why we loved you so much!

Maybe somebody should wrap him in bubble wrap for a few weeks to keep him safe!

Have you read the rumblings about the lack of clubhouse chemistry?  Apparently GM John Mozeliak even commented that a midseason trade might add more personality to bring a positive vibe to the clubhouse.

You probably can imagine how I feel about it, but just in case you want to read more of my rant, check out my post today at Baseball Digest.com.  Just click here.

And over at i70baseball.com Angela has a great look at the resurgence of our Cardinals.  Here’s a shortcut for you!

Have a great day, Cards Fans!  Tonight our boys are working on their SEVENTH STRAIGHT WIN!  Maybe they can crush those nasty Phillies again with another Cardinal HomeRun Derby?!

GO CARDS!  =)

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. 


Parties
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!


Broken!
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!

The ups and downs of June

For the Cardinals, June was the best of times: last Tuesday’s 8-0 romp over the Diamondbacks when Albert hit two homers, Adam Wainwright’s two-hit complete game shutout over the Brewers (also an 8-0 win) and Matt Holliday’s resurgence when he was moved to No. 2 in the batting order. June also was the worst of times: that horrendously long loss to the D-Backs on Wednesday when they left 14 men on base, the sweep by the Dodgers in Los Angeles and a season-high four-game losing streak.

But, in the end, the month was perfectly mediocre as the Cards went 13-13. They also basically ended the month where they started in the division race, going from 1 game back on June 1 to a half-game back on June 30. In between, they were in first place for 15 days and even up by as much as 1 ½ games over the Reds June 19-20.

And, unfortunately, overall mediocrity has been the definition of the Cardinals since the end of April. As Bernie Miklasz wrote in his column on July 1: “The Cardinals are 25-27 since May 4, and during this stretch they’ve scored three runs or fewer 24 times. That includes 18 games of two runs or less. Counting Wednesday’s loss, the Cardinals are 0-8 when they’ve had the chance to sweep a three-game series. In the eight losses, STL hitters have scored three runs or fewer seven times. They’ve left 60 runners on base. They’re batting .214.”

On the plus side, mediocre May and June are exactly what the Cardinals had in 2009 as well – they went 25-31 for those two months yet managed to win 91 games and the National League Central. What the 2010 Cardinals need to keep the rollercoaster climbing up is one thing: consistent offense. Of course it doesn’t help that David Freese and Ryan Ludwick missed time with injuries (and now will both be on the disabled list in July). But the pitchers are still more than getting their jobs done. Ending June, the Cards’ overall team pitching was still second in the Major Leagues behind San Diego. The overall ERA increased to 3.24 (although the Padres’ ERA has increased as well) and the Cards’ team WHIP was 1.26 (tied for third-best in the Majors). The Big Three starters all still remain in the NL’s top 10 in ERA, with Adam Wainwright second in wins and Chris Carpenter tied for fourth. But pitching alone, as we’ve witnessed too many times, doesn’t win games.

Here’s a closer look at who did what in June.

Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Biggest surprise
Matt Holliday
Should it be a surprise when a guy finally does what he should have been doing all along? Yet Hunky Holliday finally got going, hitting .302 and slugging .583 for the month, with 6 homers and 16 RBI (the most he’s hit of both in a month this season). Hitting second for 10 games was the spark he needed and helped earn him NL Player of the Week honors for June 14-21.

Other surprises
Mitchell Boggs
As noted by Matthew Leach in his blog, “since May 29, Mitchell Boggs has made 13 appearances. In those games, he’s pitched 13 2/3 innings, allowing one run on six hits for a 0.66 ERA. He’s struck out 10 against five walks and not given up a home run.”

Skip Schumaker
Skip just keeps improving offensively, batting .311 for the month with one homer (which I saw in person in Kansas City last Saturday) and 6 RBI.

Colby Rasmus
Colby led the team in both homers with 9 and RBI with 19 for June. Now, if he can just stay consistent too. He also briefly had the longest home run in the Major Leagues this year last Sunday, hitting a 483-foot blast in Kansas City. According to the Fox Sports Midwest broadcast on June 29, Colby held the record for 3 hours and 29 minutes – until Josh Hamilton hit one 485 feet.

Biggest disappointment
Yadier Molina
Yadi did not have a good June, hitting only .183 with 1 homer and 2 RBI. And so far, July is not off to a much better start – he was robbed of what should have been two hits on Thursday with outstanding catches by Jim Edmonds (doesn’t Jim remember that he wouldn’t have a World Series ring without Yadi?) and Corey Hart, and is hitless for the two games this month.

Other disappointments
Dennys Reyes
That terrific May that earned Reyes last month’s biggest surprise certainly didn’t carry over. He allowed two earned runs a game in three of his first four appearances of the month and was the losing pitcher on June 1. His ERA for the month was 12.46.

Brendan Ryan
While it was his best hitting month, Brendan still only hit .230 in June. As Matthew Leach wrote on June 27, “With the season six days away from its halfway point, this looks less and less like a slump or two slumps or three slumps, and more like a bad year.”

Consistently good

Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Chris Carpenter
As the leader of the Cardinals Big Three, Carpenter went 3-0 with 2.30 ERA for the month. Interestingly, he was involved in both 1-0 games that the Cardinals played in June. He received no decision on June 8, pitching 7 shutout innings, and was the winner on June 23 against Toronto, where he pitched 8 obviously shutout innings against his former team.

Jason Motte
In 11 innings pitched for the month, he struck out 13 and allowed 2 earned runs. He’s a reliable presence, and also an entertaining one with his on-the-mound antics.

Ryan Franklin
He had 5 saves for the month, with one rough outing where he was removed and Motte got the save instead. That blip aside, he only allowed one earned run in eight other appearances for the month.

Disturbing trend
The aging of the roster with the additions of Aaron Miles, Randy Winn and Jeff Suppan. (We’ve discussed this plenty of times!)

Best game
June 4
Cardinals 8, Brewers 0
Adam Wainwright has his first career complete-game shutout, allowing 2 hits and striking out 8 while throwing only 103 pitches. On offense, it was obviously a night where everything was working: Colby was 2 for 3 with a homer and 2 RBI, Albert and Ludwick each drove in 2, and Holliday and Felipe Lopez each drove in 1.

Worst game
June 27
Kansas City 10, Cardinals 3
Just like in May, there were plenty to choose from – including five losses when the Cards could have swept. But I’ll pick this one. I was listening on the radio to the Royals broadcast of the game while driving across Iowa. The Cardinals had so many chances in the first two innings, having the bases loaded twice in the first inning and two runners on in the second, yet only managed one run. The Royals announcer even commented on the Cardinals troubles getting things going with runners in scoring position. Add to those troubles Jaime Garcia’s worst outing of the year and it’s a game to forget – even if both Albert and Colby homered.

Craziest win
June 28
Cardinals 6, Diamondbacks 5
Just saying that two pitchers scored runs in the bottom of the 9th – including the winning run – should be enough to earn the title of craziest win. The Diamondbacks literally threw the game away, with errors by Aaron Heilman and Adam LaRoche letting pinch-runner Garcia and pinch-hitter Wainwright score. (Brendan also scored the tying run.)

Player of the month
Matt Holliday
Let’s keep it going …

Pitcher of the month
Mitchell Boggs
Same goes for you …

Actually, let’s hope for a little more consistency this month from everyone – even though the Cardinals are off to a 1-1 start in July. It also will be interesting to see how many of the Cardinals spend their All-Star break on the “beach” in Anaheim with Albert. Wainwright? Carpenter? Jaime? Yadi? Holliday?

A Bit of Pixie Dust…

Matt Holliday turned on the heat last week and has not looked back.  After a chronic dry spell that had Cardinal Nation seeing red, Holliday finally broke free of the evil curse that had stolen his slugging power.
So what happened? What flipped the switch?  Some have speculated that Holliday heats up when the mercury rises.  Sure, Matt may have just started seeing the ball better or fixed a hiccup in his swing, but isn’t the possibility of magic blogger pixie dust a whole lot more fun?
Hang with me here…
A little blog with magic powers? What if that were true? Maybe Albert Pujols came back swinging to prove me wrong when I blogged about him in “Questioning the King,”  When Holliday heard boos at Busch stadium, Diamond Diaries gave him a shout out of support and maybe Matt returned the favor by hitting us 5 homeruns in the next 4 games. Coincidence?  Maybe.
This week a reader suggested we give a little blogging love to some other Cardinals in need of a boost.   And obviously we could never refuse if the boys need our help!

So, in the spirit of fun …
Ready? Set?   Bring on the magic pixie dust and let’s meet the three candidates for this Diamond Diaries luck-changing experiment!
Brendan Ryan (my favorite spinning RedBird)
image from FSMW
Brendan was the first player nominated for this post.  While he certainly could use another boost, we admit that our track record is poor when it comes to pushing Brendan out of a slump The more we talked about his troubles at the beginning of the season, the longer Brendan kept mucking it up. In fact, Brendan didn’t find his groove again until we QUIT talking about him. So, I’m going to ignore him again and hope that is the magic button. (I will not even mention how his lucky ‘stache is growing in nicely or the fact that Brendan disappointed us by ditching his rockin’ high socks again on Wednesday.)  Shhhhh…
Albert Pujols
When “Dark Erika” showed up and blasted Albert back in May, he went on a tear.  So let’s try it again:  Albert has been striking out A LOT more than he should be.  He is swinging at some crazy pitches that last year’s Albert wouldn’t have touched.  Suggestion:  Colby hit a lot better with new contacts.  Maybe Albert needs an eye exam?  Prove us wrong Albert, because we know you aren’t playing like you should!  And those base-running bloopers are embarrassing.  (Whew! That better work because writing it made me cringe!)
Skip Schumaker
photo from stltoday.com
Poor Skippy has had a rough year so far, and was even recently booted from his perch as lead-off hitter.  Luck has not smiled on Skip as his batted balls appear to sail directly into waiting gloves more often than is logical. Like Holliday, Skipperdoodle’s rocky start this year has frustrated the fans – and the grumbles are getting louder.
With little prior blog love for our darling outfielder-turned 2nd baseman, I had trouble predicting a magical blog tone for Skip.  Holliday responded to support, Brendan to silence, and Albert to criticism.  So here I went with a different plan: “praise plus pep talk.”
Praise: Skippy is the reigning prince of ill-advised headfirst slides and spectacular gliding belly flops across the grass reaching for line drives through the gap. He’s a cutie-patootie, writes a darling column for the Cardinals GameDay magazine each month and the boy likes to slide!  Yay Skip! 
Pep talk: Now Skip, we love looking at you, but we also know you can hit that ball. So it’s time to focus, make solid contact (hopefully hitting away from waiting infield gloves) and earn back your leadoff spot! Your bad luck is now over. *sprinkles magic pixie dust*
Have a magical Friday, Cardinals Fans!  =)
And if Brendan, AP and Skip all sparkle just a bit more tonight, we may just do this again for other worthy candidates!
Cardinals vs. Royals (the I70 Rumble) at 7:10 CST
GO CARDS!  

The Rollercoaster Ride of May

A little late, due to some technical difficulties*

After having a terrific first month of the season, May was a little bit tougher to take. Losing a 5-game division lead? Swept by the last-place Astros while home at Busch Stadium? That struggling offense, and being shut out four times? Yes, it all happened – but as the month ended, the Cardinals were tied with the Reds for first place, heating up hitting-wise and on the plus side with a 15-14 record (and 30-22 overall).

It was definitely a month of extremes. The Cardinals scored their most runs of the season this week, with 12 runs against the Reds on Monday (May 31). But they also allowed their most runs of the season, 10, to the Angels on May 22. They had two 3-game losing streaks, May 4-6 against the Phillies (after winning the first game of the series) and the already mentioned sweep by the Astros May 11-13. The longest winning streak also was 3 games, May 1-3, although they did win 4 of the last 5 to end the month. And the hot streak the offense went on in those four victories (scoring 8, 7, 9 and 12 runs on 15, 11, 14 and 16 hits) definitely improved the stats for some familiar names who spent much of the month struggling.

So who helped make this rollercoaster month what it was?

Biggest Surprise
Dennys Reyes
He had a 0.00 ERA for the month (which actually was a surprise when I discovered it). In 14 appearances covering 10.1 innings, he allowed 2 hits, struck out 5, walked 6 and allowed no runs (earned or unearned). Another unrelated surprise I found while looking up these stats: he is 6-foot 3. He just always seems kind of, well, short and squat (and sweaty) when he’s out pitching. Maybe that listed weight of 250 is a little kind? All that aside, great month for the Big Sweat (see No. 6).

Other Surprises
Jason Motte
In 11 innings pitched during May, he only walked 1 and struck out 15. While his nickname is Mayhem, he wasn’t causing any this month.Brendan Ryan
The bar was set low since he finished April batting .179 (and it went down from there once May began), but Brendan finished the month batting .217. The May 27 game (where he went 4 for 4 with his first homer of the year) definitely helped. He also struck out much less in May: 9 times, compared to 19 in April.

Skip Schumaker
After a bad April for Skip also, he improved in May after being moved out of the lead-off spot. He had a .271 average for the month (compared to .212 in April) plus had 9 RBI, after only having 3 last month.

Biggest Disappointment
Colby Rasmus
We now know Colby needed new contacts but his May was definitely disappointing after being on of April’s biggest surprises. His average for May was .226 (compared to .323), he had only 1 homer (6 last month), he struck out 33 times (up from 22) and he walked 11 times (compared to 17). June is getting off to a better start, so let’s hope those new contacts really are the key to getting back to more April-like production.

Other Disappointments
Blake Hawksworth
Not a good month for Diesel either. (Maybe it was the disgusting looking chili and chili dogs he ate on camera in Cincinnati?) After not allowing a run during 9 innings in April, he allowed 12 earned runs in 11.1 innings pitched in May for a month ERA of 9.53. He allowed 4 homers, with 5 walks and an equal number of strikeouts.

Trever Miller
The man who handed out the nicknames (and still doesn’t have one?) didn’t fare too well in May either. He had a 5.14 ERA for the month, allowing 4 earned runs in 7 innings pitched — plus he hit 2 batters and allowed 2 homers.

Consistently Good
David Freese
His batting average wasn’t quite as good for May as April – .315 compared to .324 – but he had a better slugging percentage (.491, after .412 in April) and had 17 RBI compared to 14 last month.

Ryan Ludwick
He had the same batting average for May as he did for April, .291. He improved on his RBIs, with 16 compared to 10. Add to that the great catches he made in the outfield and it all adds up to another reason to celebrate Ryan Ludwick Appreciation Day.

Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia and Adam Wainwright
Can we call them the Cardinals “Big Three”? For May, they were a combined 9-4 with a 2.44 ERA.Surprisingly Not Disappointing
Albert Pujols
The end of the month definitely helped! (Or maybe it was Erika’s post?) While his average was only .291 for the month (after .345 in April), he finished with 20 RBI – one more than last month – and struck out 12 times compared to 14 in April. He had a pretty good day last Sunday too.

Matt Holliday
While he only had 1 home run compared to 4 in April and he struck out 17 times after 13 Ks last month, his other stats look pretty good. His batting average was .325 (.284 in April), he walked 13 times (4 last month) and he had 12 RBI (10 in April). Both he and Albert are continuing their hot streaks in the first few games in June, which is promising.

Best Game
May 30
Cardinals 9, Cubs 1

Albert breaks out with 3 homers, Holliday has 4 hits, all the runs score with 2 outs, Adam Wainwright pitches 7 strong innings – and all against the Cubs at Wrigley Field? Hard to top that.

Worst Game
May 26
Padres 1, Cardinals 0
There were a lot of bad losses to choose from, but this was by far the most frustrating. Adam Wainwright did all he could, allowing only 4 hits (including a homer to Jerry Hairston Jr. for the only run) while striking out 12 in 7 innings. The Cardinals actually had more hits than the Padres, 7 total, plus had the bases loaded with only one out in the first inning – yet were shut out.

Nicest Moment

P.J. Walters getting his first major-league victory on May 27 in San Diego.
Pitcher of the Month
Jaime Garcia
The Cardinals pitching overall continues battling the Padres for the best ERA in the major leagues, and Jaime Garcia is a key reason why. Our Rookie of the Year candidate was 3-1 in May with a 1.53 ERA, giving him an overall record of 5-2 and a 1.32 ERA (second in the National League).Player of the Month
David Freese
As mentioned above, the other Rookie of the Year candidate continued what he started in April and it made a big difference during this month’s offensive struggles.

After all that, we can be glad May is over, and that June is off to a good start. Hopefully this month will be a little bit less of a rollercoaster!

*The Geek Squad still has possession of my laptop, but tell me they were able to recover everything from it. Not that the original version of this post will help me much now! But it will be nice to get my laptop back (and working again), plus all of its contents, very soon.

These things happen

Obviously the Cardinals are in an ugly stretch right now. The month of May has been awful so far (a record of 6-8 to date) after a successful April when the Cards were 15-8. Yes, as many on Twitter lamented and as online coverage is continuing to hype, the Cardinals are now in second place in the NL Central, half a game behind the Reds. (Both teams have 21 wins, by the way.)

Let’s all take a deep breath and relax. These things happen.

And these things happened a year ago too. The 2009 Cardinals went 13-14 in May, fell from a 4-game lead over the Brewers on May 1 to a tie May 13-14, then fell further to a low of 3 games behind the Brewers May 18-19. They did tie the Brewers again on May 23, even had a 1-game lead on May 27, then shuffled back and forth in May and June. Speaking of June 2009, do you remember how terrible it was? The Cards record was 12-17. Then there was that brief period in early August when the Cubs tied the Cardinals for the NL Central lead. (I remember it clearly, as it started on my birthday.)

It’s not just this and last season where these things happen either. Our friend Bob Netherton, known as Throatwarbler on Twitter and his very informative blog, had some interesting information about the 1968 National League pennant-winning Cardinals. They started the season 20-10. Then, “the Cardinals would hit a bit of an early season slump, going 2-11 over the next 13 games, including losing six of seven games against the Philadelphia Phillies.” By May 29, the Cardinals had fallen to fifth place, 3 games behind the Giants. (As an aside, if you are on Twitter and not following Bob – @throatwarbler – please do so. You will learn much! If you’re not on Twitter, his blog is available at http://throatwarbler.wordpress.com/.)

So, on May 17 and with 124 games remaining, there’s no need to panic about the 2010 Cardinals. There are, however, definitely reasons to be concerned.

  • The string of quality starts by the rotation ended and, after yesterday, every starter but Jaime Garcia has had a non-quality start this month. The starters have now allowed homers in five consecutive games. (At least everyone is getting involved.)
  • The Cards have grounded into 17 double-plays with runners in scoring position this season, according to yesterday’s post-game report on FS Midwest. This is the most in the majors.
  • Then there’s the offense overall. Yeah, we all know how terrible it’s been, about the lack of hitting and timely hitting, the number of strikeouts, Brendan Ryan … No need to get into details.
Lucikly, amid the bleakness, there are a few bright spots.
  • Skip Schumaker now has a 6-game hitting streak and has hits in 12 of the 14 games he’s played this month.
  • Erika detailed the latest on Ryan Ludwick on Saturday, and his hitting streak reached 8 games later that day before ending when he pinch-hit yesterday.
  • Courtesy of the STLToday.com, David Freese entered Sunday with 29 RBIs in his first 50 major-league games. Only four players in franchise history — Albert Pujols (51), Joe Cunningham (36), Ray Jablonski (36) and Wally Moon (32) — have generated more in their first 50 games.
  • Jaime Garcia continues to do nothing but impress. His current 1.42 ERA is second in the National League.
  • The pitching overall still has the third-best ERA in the Majors, currently 2.91, trailing only the Padres (2.64) and Rays (2.75).

In closing, perhaps some advice from the reigning NL MVP is best: “There’s no pressure. We need to pick each other up. That’s the key.” And the next chance to do that is tonight at 7:15 p.m. Central Daylight Time.

Photo: May 13, 2010; UPI/Bill Greenblatt

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