The Cardinals finished April with a 15-8 record (although it should likely be 16-7, since last night’s game should have been stopped for a rain delay when the Cards were winning 2-0). Regardless, the Cardinals have a three-game lead over the Reds, the only other NL Central team with a winning record at 12-11. They also are tied with the Padres (anyone else surprised?) for the best winning percentage in the National League, .652.
Enough numbers. April was a great month for the Cardinals, with many memorable games and exciting moments. Yes, there were eight losses that also are memorable – to distract myself while running this morning, I tried to remember each of them and could easily recall seven. (The only one I couldn’t remember details of was one I didn’t see at all, the Astros first win of the season on April 15.) With one month down, here are my highlights of the past four weeks.
Obviously, with the way Jaime pitched during spring training, we knew he deserved his spot in the starting rotation. Yet did anyone expect he’d do this well? (Hoped he would, sure – but expect it?) He leads the starting rotation with a 1.04 ERA, has allowed no home runs and showed considerable poise in pitching against top-of-the-rotation starters Yovani Gallardo, Johan Santana and Tim Lincecum. It’s a joy to watch him every time he starts.
Brad Penny – Tough break for him last night. (Thanks, umps.) He’s been outstanding.
Colby Rasmus – He’s currently leading the National League in on-base percentage and OPS and is second in slugging percentage, has six homers (love those Colby jacks!) and – amazingly – 17 walks. Another fun guy to watch, game after game.
The bullpen – Everyone’s biggest worry going into the season had a terrific month. The reliever with the highest ERA is Joe Mather. (Ha!) Behind him is Mitchell Boggs at 4.00. Ryan Franklin is seven for seven in save opportunities, and Jason Motte got a save the other night. Overall, Cardinals pitching has the best ERA in the National League, 2.65.
He’s struggled both at the plate and on the field. He temporarily boosted his luck by adopting Brendan Ryan’s high socks Wednesday night and reached base four times, with two singles and two walks. But on Thursday he was 0 for five and yesterday was back to the regular socks once again. He has three errors at second base (I actually thought he had more) and hasn’t always looked as skilled and sure handling the ball as he did last season.
Brendan Ryan – The CDD favorite has had a very rough month at the plate. Hopefully a new month will mean better production for our Brendo!
Albert’s strikeouts – He had 14 strikeouts for the month, compared to 13 walks. A week ago, it was hard to watch his at-bats. However, since he’s Albert, he’s turned things around.
The Cardinals home opener is always such a goosebump-inducing event with the Clydesdales and the Hall of Famers and the parade of players before the game. Add to that a victory featuring Albert with a homer and four RBIs, Ryan Ludwick going four for four and Adam Wainwright pitching eight scoreless innings – yeah, best game of a month filled with many good ones!
It’s been a good month when there’s no blow-out loss that automatically stands out. The April 20 loss to Arizona (when the Cards kept scoring, but then giving the runs right back and Dan Haren went four for four at the plate) or last night’s loss to the Reds (especially all the chances on offense they couldn’t capitalize on once play resumed) tie for the worst game.
Most memorable game
Note to my friend Michael: SKIP THIS!
The 20-inning game on April 17. Yes, it could have been managed better (and thus has provided much fodder for the La Russa haters of the world). Yes, Felipe Lopez is now on the disabled list because he pitched the 18th inning with an already sore elbow he didn’t tell anyone about beforehand. Yes, even a mention of the game still infuriates my friend Michael two weeks later. But that afternoon and evening provided so many of the reasons why we watch and love baseball – to see things we’ve never seen before. Lopez pitching. Mather pitching. Kyle Lohse playing left field. Yadier Molina momentarily breaking Mets’ hearts yet again with a game-tying single in the bottom of the 19th. I still marvel at that game and all that happened throughout those nearly seven hours.
Pitcher of the Month
Player of the Month
And now to build on a successful April into an even better May!