The St. Louis Cardinals have dropped the first two games of a four game set with the Philadelphia Phillies, and both were heartbreakers which the Cards could (should?) have won. In both games, the Phils jumped all over the Cards’ starter for first inning leads. Both nights, the Cardinals battled back to tie or lead the game, but were not able to finish the job. Some notes and thoughts:
–The Phillies clearly are not the same team without Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. Normally, this would be a perfect time to face the Phils and exploit that vulnerability. But the Cardinals are so depleted by injury, they may be in even worse shape. Watching great teams locked in see-saw battles is exciting; watching teams full of replacements stumble through games and lead changes until one stumbles worse than the other is frustrating. It’s almost hard to imagine that these two teams clashed in an epic playoff series less than eight months ago.
–What was Yadier Molina thinking on the base paths Friday night? In the 4th, he tried to go first to third on a “can of corn” pop-up that Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino muffed in shallow right-center. Molina read the play right as the outfielders searched for the ball in the twilight sky; he was practically standing on second base by the time the ball dropped. But when he saw the Philly fielders fall over each other, he tried to leg out an extra base. And Molina is not a base runner that is going to fare well against someone like Pence—who has a cannon arm—in the outfield. Molina was gunned down at third…for the first out of the inning. Later, in the 8th inning with the game tied 3-3, Molina tried to score from first base (yep…you read that correctly) on a Matt Adams gapper. Molina is not alone in owning this one because Jose Oquendo was waving him home. But a collision with catcher Carlos Ruiz was not enough to knock the ball loose, and Molina was the third out of the inning. For those of you who haven’t completely forgotten everything from Little League, making the first or last outs of an inning at third base or home is generally frowned upon. He is still the best catcher in the league, and his offense this year has been a revelation. But a piece of advice for Yadier Molina, the base runner: know thyself.
–Speaking of that collision at home, it did seem a bit on the ballsy side for a catcher to plow into his counterpart like that. Collisions at home are a part of the game, and nothing about the play seemed dirty. But it will be interesting to see if Molina is the target of any repercussions throughout the rest of this series. I could be wrong, but Jonathan Papelbon’s first two offerings to Molina in the 10th seemed awfully high and tight.
–The recent antics by the Cardinals’ relief corps can be summed up by using a lot of one- or two-word descriptors, but I’ll keep it civil with a simple “Yikes.” Late addition to this note: the Cardinals have called up reliever Chuckie Fick from Triple A and optioned Fernando Salas back to Memphis. Time will tell if this ends up being an effective fix or a band-aid on a bullet wound.
–Whoever came up with the idea for Fredbird to dash across the field sans jersey in between innings Friday night after the streaking incident Thursday should be applauded. Good stuff. And if it somehow deters future hijinks on the field, please find a way to do something similar in the stands to stop The Wave.