Tag Archive | "Fifth Inning"

Adam Wainwright becomes even more important as St. Louis Cardinals injuries mount

Right-handed starter Adam Wainwright has been a leader on the St. Louis Cardinals staff for years as he became co-ace of the pitching rotation with Chris Carpenter, but the team needs Wainwright’s leadership now more than at any other time in his career.

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Wainwright, 31, is now the lone veteran in the Cardinals rotation after 35-year-old right-hander Jake Westbrook went on the disabled list May 9 with elbow inflammation.

Left-handed starter Jaime Garcia is only 26 years old, but he was in his fifth season in the big leagues and had made 90 career starts before he had surgery earlier this week that ended his 2013 season. The four other pitchers now in the Cardinals rotation have a combined 55 career starts, and 41 of those are from right-hander Lance Lynn, who is in only his second full season with the team.

Wainwright will make his 162nd career start Monday when he takes the mound in Kansas City against the Royals, and each start becomes all the more important as the Cardinals hold their breath every time rookies John Gast, Tyler Lyons or Shelby Miller make a start.

Their worries don’t come from those pitchers’ performances, they have combined for a 2.40 earned-run average, but young pitchers don’t have a track record to reassure management and fans that they’ll consistently have more good games than bad ones.

For example, Miami Marlins right-handed starter Jose Fernandez is touted as one of the best up-and-coming pitchers in Major League Baseball. Although he has a 3.31 ERA, he is 2-2 in nine starts and has failed to pitch past the fifth inning five times.

Gast, Lyons and Miller have pitched at least into the sixth inning in each of their combined 12 starts heading into play Saturday, but the chances of them maintaining that pace are slim, at best.

That means the bullpen will likely see more action in coming weeks, so Wainwright’s responsibilities could become two-fold every time he pitches. He’ll likely have to go deep into games to save the bullpen for days when the young pitchers start, and he’ll have to pitch well enough to win if the other starters hit a rough stretch and the team enters Wainwright’s start on a losing streak.

But Wainwright is capable of being a do-everything pitcher. He has a 6-3 record and 2.38 ERA in 10 starts and is returning to the type of dominant pitcher he was before he had Tommy John surgery and missed the entire 2011 season.

Plus, he has the experience that comes with nine years in the big leagues and has learned how to be a leader from the 38-year old Carpenter, who won the Cy Young Award in 2005.

Carpenter might join Wainwright in the rotation in late June or early July if his rehabilitation from nerve problems in his arm continues to go well, and Westbrook could return even sooner if he doesn’t suffer any more setbacks in his recovery.

Until then, Wainwright is going to have to be the starting rotation’s best pitcher, mentor and leader. Good thing he has strong shoulders.

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Cardinals/Rockies: Three things to walk with

The last thing that you’d think would rule a weekend between the St. Louis Cardinals and Colorado Rockies would be pitching. But not only was that the case, it was a historical level of pitching effectiveness. Between Shelby Miller, Adam Wainwright and Jorge De La Rosa, 21 complete hitless innings were tossed, and in the two of the starts, no-hitters were far from speculative; they were within grasp of being real.

Miller-Wainwright

The Cardinals took home the first two games of the series behind the masterful performances of their ace in the making and current rotation captain, before not being able to mount any offense until a very overdue Rockies lineup took control of game three. Yet, the Cardinals still won their third out of their last four series, and continue to keep a share of the best record in baseball at 23-13. Here’s three points to how they made that possible.

 

1.  Once in a Century Shelby: Shelby Miller, a veteran of a mere eight career starts, is beginning to make everyone take notice that the hype was well worth it. On Friday night he authored one of the greatest starts in not only Cardinal, but baseball history. After surrendering a base hit to lead the game off, he shut the door for the rest of the evening and retired the next 27 Rockies to hold down a 3-0 win. And while he didn’t join the ranks of the no-hit or Perfect Game club, but he did dominate in a way that no pitcher has since at least 1900. His nine-inning, one hit effort, with no walks and at least 13 strikeouts was a one of a kind feat that no other pitcher has done. His record improved to 5-2, and his ERA on the season now sits at 1.58, the third best mark in the Majors.

2. Weekend Warrior: Adam Wainwright is usually not one to be outdone, and he nearly wasn’t. A day after Miller’s masterpiece, Waino continued the Rockies woes by keeping them off-base until a fifth inning Todd Helton walk, a streak of 50 consecutive batters. Nolan Arenado broke up the no-hit bid in the eighth inning, which ended a remarkable shutdown streak by the two Cardinal hurlers. The 49 consecutive hitless at-bats was the longest streak in 29 years. For Wainwright, his impressive weekend work at home continued: he now has two complete game shutouts, surrendering only six hits and one walk against 19 strikeouts.

3. Against the odds: Jaime Garcia’s home dominance is well known; his 2.41 ERA entering Sunday was the best in the history at Busch Stadium III. Yet for his career against the Rockies, he has sported his worst performance against any team, with an 0-3 record and an ERA of 10.53 to drive it home. Sunday’s performance wasn’t his worst, but he caught a mixture of the law of averages coming back around (Colorado is the NL’s best hitting team on the season), as well as a couple of bad situations. Troy Tulowitzki is one of the worst batters possible catch in the middle of the perfect storm of both issues the team was facing before hitting his third inning, three run homer (0 for the series, five strikeouts). Add in the fact that Jorge De La Rosa turned in a matching performance to the two Cardinal starters the day before nearly, and it wasn’t in the cards for Garcia in finishing up the sweep.

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Cardinals/Reds: Three Things To Walk With

The Cardinals brought an end to a brief slide over the weekend with a series win over the Cincinnati Reds. Despite still not getting the offense going on all cylinders, the strong starting pitching staff continued to hold the fort down in the mean time. After dropping the first game of the series 2-1, club surrendered only three runs over the next two contests to pull itself out of a three-game losing streak, and back atop the National League Central.

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Yet, as the club moves back onto the road for a four-game series in Milwaukee beginning this evening, they are grinding out wins in an efficient style, but are still giving the vibe that there is more to come. They finished the home stand at an even 3-3, and take back to the road where they have a NL-high nine wins on the year. Yet before that gets underway, let’s look at three deciding factors in the series that just was against their toughest recent rival:

 

1. Lynn-sanity: Lance Lynn would be a sprinter’s favorite pitcher. For the second year in a row, he’s opened up a season 5-0. And while he doesn’t have last season’s insane 1.60 ERA that he carried through April, he’s on currently enjoying the best stretch of his career to date. Over his last three starts, he is sporting a 0.85 ERA, surrendering only two earned runs over his last three starts, which have each gone seven innings. Over this same stretch, he’s surrendered only eight hits and eight walks, and has not surrendered a home run since April 15.

However, what’s most telling for Lynn is how much better he’s controlled the ballgame via his work rate. In his first three starts, he crossed over at least 94 pitches in each start, despite not getting out of the fifth inning. Now he is staying at a slightly higher pitch count (averaging 107 per outing), but he’s going two innings longer, and working at a much more efficient rate. Efficiency is what escaped Lynn throughout the late stages of 2012, and half of the first month of the year. While the results of his last few outings aren’t sustainable throughout a full year, the more economical approach is, and that is the next step in Lynn’s evolution as a starting pitcher.

2. Freese Frame: 2012 has not been David Freese’s year so far. After starting the spring swinging a very good bat, he was sidelined by a back injury that kept him out of action through the beginning of the regular season. So far, it’s like he hasn’t shown up yet either. He is hitting only .163 on the year through 49 at-bats, with only two extra base hits. Freese has been held out of the lineup the last two games, and could continue to be out of the everyday lineup while he works out his slump. Whether it’s the fact he’s never quite mended from the injury, or is just plain having the worst breaks possible, him breaking out of his issues is key to the offense balancing out.

3. Stressing the Division: The Cardinals are faring well inside the NL Central thus far. They are tied with Pittsburgh for the most wins inside the division with eight, but they have had particular success with the Reds so far. They have outscored the Reds 26-19 on the season, while working to a 4-2 record early on. Yet looking inside of that breakout doesn’t tell the true story of the Cardinals dominance over the Reds so far. The Reds scored all but six of those runs in one game, and otherwise the Cardinals have dominated the series thus far. The Cardinals have only lost one series at home on the season, and have gone 32-3 vs. the Reds in their last 35 series in St. Louis.

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Wacha Wacha Wow

The St. Louis Cardinals have shown offensive prowess over the last week, racking up the run support and showing midseason form at the plate.  The offense was impressive, but may have been overshadowed by the presence of pitching prospect Michael Wacha.

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Wacha took the mound behind starter Lance Lynn on Wednesday against the Mets.  The young prospect was making his second appearance in a Spring Training that has had many Cardinal officials raving about his work.  On the heels of Wednesday’s performance, I doubt the hype will be dying down anytime soon.

Mets announcers seem to be uttering the same phrase repeatedly in that highlight, “Oh Boy” seemed to be the order of the day.

The Cardinal farmhand took over for Lance Lynn to start the third inning and went right to work striking out Mets’ shortstop Ruben Tejada.  Superstar David Wright would follow with a base hit, the only blemish on Wacha’s day, before Ike Davis and Marlon Byrd would send fly balls into left field for an easy inning.

If the third inning was easy, the fourth was borderline dominant.  Lucas Duda and Justin Turner would both strike out, the former looking and the latter swinging, before John Buck would ground out weakly to second baseman Daniel Descalso.

The fifth inning would be more of the same with different names at the plate.   Matthew den Dekker, who’s name is familiar thanks to his home run robbing catch earlier in the week (seen below), would watch strike three while Mike Baxter would take his chances swinging even though he would come up empty.  Ruben Tejada, seeing the Cards right hander for a second time, would also ground out to Descalso, though the Cardinals infielder had moved across the diamond to third base.

Wacha seemed dominant, at least on paper, but watching the young man pitch made it obvious that he was pitching smart.  His fastball was in the lower 90’s, but it was also in the lower part of the strike zone.  His changeup was pinpointed and seemed to keep guys off balance while his “third best pitch” as the Mets’ announcers pointed out, his breaking ball was sharp and kicked up dirt.  He truly stepped on the mound to pitch, not throw, and it was clear by the outcome that he was successful.

Most impressive might have been his efficiency.  Wright’s base hit was the only ball struck hard, and even that one was not crushed.

Fans have been hearing for some time now that this is a great farm system.  Spring training gives them their first chance to see this first hand.

Michael Wacha is the future of the organization.

The future looks really, really good.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball
Follow him on Twitter here.

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Jaime Garcia still needs maturity to become top-tier pitcher

St. Louis Cardinals projected No. 3 starter Jaime Garcia could become one of the best pitchers in Major League Baseball, but his emotional control will have to catch up with his physical ability.

Garcia has the talent to be a 20-game winner in the big leagues. He kept opposing teams hitless the first time through the lineup several times last season, but still ended up with a 13-7 record with a 3.56 ERA.

Much of the reason for Garcia’s lack of spectacular numbers is because he allows himself to get rattled during a game. If a defensive play isn’t made behind him in the field or the umpire squeezes the strike zone, Garcia has a tendency to lose command and become hittable.

Unfortunately, that same script played out Saturday in his Spring Training start against the Detroit Tigers.

The Tigers have a powerful lineup with MVP candidates Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder holding down the corners of the infield, but Garcia held the Tigers to one hit in the first three innings. With the Cardinals up 3-0 in the fourth, Cabrera singled, Fielder tripled on a questionable fair/foul call and all of a sudden the flood gates opened. By the time the fifth inning rolled around the score was tied 3-3.

Garcia left the game after recording one out in the fifth. He was charged with four runs on five hits with three walks and the Cardinals went on to lose 10-3.

Granted, this was just another Spring Training start and the Tigers have a good lineup, but Saturday’s start continued a frustrating trend with Garcia. At times he shows the talent of an ace but also shows the steadiness of a rookie.

As Garcia struggled on the road to a 4-3 record with a 4.61 ERA that was two full runs higher than his home ERA of 2.55, reports surfaced that Garcia had trouble focusing for his starts on the road. That problem wasn’t caused by any misbehavior. Rather, he cared so much about the upcoming game that he would get bugged up if something didn’t go as planned during the day, such as a taxi cab showing up late.

Garcia could be the next part of the Cardinals’ two-headed monster and join Adam Wainwright at the front of the rotation if Chris Carpenter is indeed in the final stages of his career, but right now Garcia could just as likely be a guy who remains stuck in the middle of a rotation.

We must remember, however, that 2012 is going to only be Garcia’s third full season in the majors. It often takes talented pitchers some time to develop before they become great perennial all-stars such as Justin Verlander.

Verlander won the Cy Young and MVP awards last season, and although he had success his first two full seasons, he went 11-17 in 2008 before starting a three-year record of 61-23.

Garcia doesn’t have Verlander’s fastball, but Garcia does have good enough pitches to potentially throw multiple no-hitters. He came close a few times in 2011, but one problem would always happen and then Garcia became an average pitcher for the rest of the game.

Garcia did go the farthest of any Cardinals starter so far this spring with his 4.1 innings Saturday, and soon starters will begin throwing regular-length games as the regular season approaches. Hopefully Garcia learns to focus for a full seven innings or longer without letting one issue mess everything up.

If that happens, the Cardinals could have a great starting rotation in 2012.

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Duffy Admits His Need For Improvement

The Kansas City Royals roster is loaded with youngsters who were baptized by fire during the 71-91 campaign of 2011. Hopes were soaring high in September, as nearly every one of those pups seemed to be putting it together.

But for the team to take the next step to contention, nearly every one of those youngsters will need to improve on what he’s shown thus far (save perhaps Alex Gordon, who may not be able to improve on his great showing).

While improvement from the likes of Mike Moustakas and Alcides Escobar is essential, and while Lorenzo Cain and Johnny Giavotella must prove they can do it over a long haul, the biggest improvement is probably needed from pitcher Danny Duffy.

Duffy was given a crack at the starting rotation perhaps because the Royals realized no one could do worse than the starters they were running out to the mound.

Duffy was called up the day after Kyle Davies broke down in the first inning of a start against the Indians. What followed was legendary. Vin Mazzaro proceeded to give up an unthinkable 14 runs in just 2.1 innings of relief.

So the bar couldn’t have been much lower when Duffy joined the club. Still the jump from Omaha to KC was a big one. Duffy was rolling along with a 2.96 ERA and 84/19 K/BB ratio in 76 innings between Double-A and Triple-A. But the big leagues aren’t called “the big leagues” for nothing.

“It’s night and day. Everybody up here is up here for a reason,” Duffy said this off-season about the difference between the minors and majors.

Duffy went 4-8 in 20 starts, but he rarely gave himself a chance to pick up victories. When he wasn’t giving up big leads, he was racking up so many pitches that he had to be pulled early.

Duffy didn’t make it to the fifth inning five times. That means that in one of every four starts, Duffy didn’t even finish the fourth inning!

The rookie never led the team deep into games – he only pitched past the sixth inning three times.

For all his troubles, there’s no denying Duffy’s strike-out stuff. Armed with a mid-90s fastball and knee-buckling curve, the Royals believe Duffy doesn’t have to continue beating himself.

Former Royal pitcher and current broadcaster Jeff Montgomery, for one, sees hope for Duffy.

“Consistency will be the key for Danny,” Montgomery said recently. “It’s really important for him to go out and be a more consistent pitcher. He’s got to learn how to become more of a pitcher than a thrower.

“He’s got great stuff, great ability. If he’s able to capture that magic and learn how to get people out and that he doesn’t have to get everybody out himself, allow the hitters to get themselves out occasionally, he will improve.”

Montgomery seemed to see some of that kind of improvement in Duffy during the season. The former closer said recently that he saw Duffy trying to make the necessary changes as the season went along.

“One thing I saw in him last year that I was very impressed with was that every time he had a failure or a struggle, he made adjustments,” Montgomery said. “And it’s a system of adjustments that you have to make before you finally become a quality plug-in guy that you can go to every day.”

Duffy was just 1-4 at the All-Star Break, and he did improve with a 3-4 mark after the break. But the quality of his starts seemed to remain about the same. A closer look doesn’t exactly show that Duffy got better from the “adjustments” Montgomery alluded to.

Judging by a split of the first half and second half, Duffy didn’t really improve in two key areas – earned runs per inning, and walks per inning.

Duffy pitched 52 innings in the first half of the season. In that half, he gave up 28 earned runs and 25 walks.

In the second half of the season, Duffy was shut down after 53.1 innings. In the second half, he allowed 38 earned runs, while walking 26.

Duffy is not unaware of the fact that he didn’t get it done last year. He knows that he was allowed to stick in the rotation in spite of his dismal performance because the team was determined to let him grow into the role.

He said he’s been focused and disciplined in his effort to be better. He knows his big-league livelihood is at stake.

I think this off-season I’ve done everything I can to be what it takes to stay up here,” Duffy said. “I’ve watched a lot of video and I’m doing a lot of stuff, even in the mirror, with my delivery to improve. I just want to get out there and prove that I belong up here.”

Duffy may not have long to prove he belongs. Not in the starting rotation at least. He’ll most likely start there, but he might not stay there. He’ll have Mike Montgomery breathing down his neck, and Jake Odorizzi, Chris Dwyer and John Lamb not far away. Add those calling for Aaron Crow to be given a shot at starting, and there are plenty waiting in line, should Duffy continue to sputter.

But Duffy is trying to not let the pressure bother him.

“Everybody needs to have a progression in their career, and I feel like I’m getting to that point where I’m going to be consistent,” Duffy said. He admitted he’s aware of the talk about his struggles.

“I know there’s a lot of critiquing going on about my walks and my pitch counts, but I think this year I’m going to conquer that,” Duffy said. “I’ve really worked hard to get strong enough to repeat my delivery every pitch, and I feel that once you get that delivery repetition, you start putting the ball where you want.”

Duffy knows he’s not guaranteed the fifth spot in the rotation come spring. But he says he’s not going to get hung up on his role.

“I’m going to just fill in wherever they need me,” he said. “I can’t get ahead of myself. I’m just happy to be lucky enough to be a part of the squad.”

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UCB: Top Five Iconic Moments

The United Cardinal Bloggers puts together monthly projects and post ideas for the group of us to chime in on.  Next month will start another run of round-table discussions, a personal favorite.  This month they have asked us each to summarize our top five iconic moments in St. Louis Cardinal history.

That’s a lot of history to pour through, even for a historian like myself.  My top five will be moments that I personally remember, whether on television or in attendance, that are ingrained in my mind and truly define my love for that franchise.

Number Five: Where 1998 Started
A lot of writers will plug in the great home run chase into their top fives, but I’m not sure many would utilize Opening Day of the 1998 season.

As a fan, it is one of my favorite games to attend.  The fanfare and celebrations around the city are a holiday like no other.  From the parade of champions to the player introductions, it is a ballgame that rivals any other.  In 1998, long before anyone realized the special season we were about to witness, the player we would all cheer for to chase the unreachable record would start things off in grand style.

During a scoreless game entering the bottom of the fifth inning, Dodger starter Ramon Martinez would find himself in some trouble.  A lead off double to Gary Gaetti followed by a base hit by Tom Lampkin would have runners at the corners with no one out.  Back-to-back strikeouts of Cardinal hurler Todd Stottlemeyer and lead off man Royce Clayton had Martinez back on top.  When the Dodger pitcher failed to retire Delino DeShields, Mark McGwire stepped to the plate with the bases full.  The one ball, no strike pitch to McGwire landed deep in the left field seats, an opening day home run in front of a crowd of just under 48,000.  The city of St. Louis would erupt in the middle of the game and while home runs 61, 62 and 70 would not only be etched in the record books, it was the opening day grand slam that I was in attendance for that started it all.

Number Four: The Passing Of The Guard
A tumultuous few years seen a Cardinals franchise changed forever.  Fan favorite manager Whitey Herzog would leave, former popular player Joe Torre would arrive and take the reigns of a team that had very little support from upper management, and a new era would be ushered in with the arrival of Tony LaRussa.

Tony would stick around for a long time, making decisions that would make the most die hard fan question his methods, only to find that his methods lead to victories, and championships, along the way.  The biggest change, and the one that most fans could not bring themselves to move past, happened after the arrival of LaRussa, however.

Prior to that arrival, in 1992, franchise legend Ozzie Smith had filed for free agency.  By December, the team had reached an agreement on what was being called a “Lifetime Contract”.  That contract guaranteed the short stop three million dollars a year and automatically renewed the following season if he reached a modest amount of plate appearances.  The contract also included a $500,000 signing bonus, payable upon retirement, and a 10-year personal services contract.

in 1996, with the arrival of Tony LaRussa, Walt Jocketty, and a new ownership, the team reached an agreement with former Giants short stop Royce Clayton.  It was the beginning of the end for the man known as “The Wizard”, Ozzie’s playing time was cut drastically and his contract would not roll over.  While Ozzie had reached the age of 41, many fans believed him still capable of handling the position and was forced out of the league by the new regime.  Ozzie would retire after the season and enter the Hall Of Fame later as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals, but the decision to remove him from the short stop position in St. Louis was the single most iconic personnel change in my life at the time.

Number Three: Go Crazy Folks
On a personal note, my family moved to Missouri in 1985.  I was a young, eight year old boy that was just truly discovering the beauty of the game.  That summer, I attended a Cardinals game against the Chicago Cubs and had fallen in love with the beauty of listening to the game on the radio.

I was sitting on the living room floor, not to far from our console television, with the sound on mute so that we could hear Jack Buck instead of the national announcers.  I can remember the feeling of anxious anticipation with Ozzie at the plate.  No one, not one baseball fan anywhere, can say honestly that they expected what happened next.

Angela at Diamond Diaries explains that reprinting the words and recounting the scene does not do it justice.  The moment, as provided by Ozzie Smith, was shared by Jack Buck.  It was the combination of the two that created a moment in my mind that will live forever.  Without Jack’s call, it was a great walk off moment.  But with Jack Buck on the mic and Ozzie Smith hitting his first home run of the year from the left side of the plate, the moment became iconic.

Number Two: Grief
It is hard to believe that number two on our countdown will have happened 10 years ago by this summer.

I remember the news on June 18, 2022 announcing the passing of a man that I had grown to idolize.  The reason I wanted to write and do radio and continue being around this game was Jack Buck.  The sight of him, frail and suffering, in front of a crowd days after the September 11th tragedy was hard to watch and harder to process.  Legends like him are not supposed to die.  When he passed away, I wept openly.  A man I had never met face to face, yet I felt I spent a portion of my adult life with, was gone and I reacted as if he was family.  Because he was.  One of my first articles for Baseball Digest contained the simple phrase “I miss Jack Buck…” and I don’t think I have written another line with as much feeling as I did that day.

As iconic of a moment as the passing of Jack Buck was, it was four days later that the moment came to close in Chicago.  Settling in to watch a game with the Cubs, I could not understand what the delay was.  The game was delayed but there was no rain and the announcers were not saying why, other than an emergency.  A tearful Joe Girardi, the Cubs catcher and team captain at the time, approached a microphone near the plate and announced that the game would be postponed due to “a death within the Cardinal family”.  We would later find out that Darryl Kile, the Cardinals ace of their pitching staff, had lost his life in his hotel room the night before.  Ironically, Kile’s last pitching performance was a 7-2 Cardinal victory over the Anaheim Angels on the day Jack Buck passed away.

In four short days, the Cardinals family had been shaken to the core.  The moment, all four days of it, is etched in our minds.

Number One: We Will See You Tomorrow Night
Maybe it ranks this high because it was so recent.  Maybe it is because I am a sucker for announcers.  Maybe it is because of who I watched the game with.  Maybe it is all of those reasons.  However you count it, this past post season was magical.

The night of Game Six was amazing, no doubt.  From the game tying hits, the come from behind moments, and the “they just won’t go away” moments, it was an emotional roller coaster ride that I had never experienced as a fan.  The end of the game, however, is what ensured that I would never forget it.

David Freese would send the crowd home happy with a game winning home run to center field that would fit the mold of the season.  A game-six, walk off home run was enough to make it iconic.  What came across the television cinched it as a moment I will never forget.  When I heard Joe Buck exclaim as the ball landed in the grass beyond the center field wall, “We will see you …. tomorrow night,” I immediately commented that he used his father’s call.  A moment for the ages suddenly spanned a generation of fans.  It brought back memories of Jack.  It created a new found respect for Joe.  It wasn’t forced.  It didn’t feel scripted.  It simply flowed across the screen and then, as friend Bob Netherton points out, he and Tim McCarver did the thing that most broadcasters fail to do.  They shut up.  The let the fans at home be overflowed with the emotion of the moment and share in the joy of the fans at the park.  Cardinal Nation, from coast to coast, was united.  It was an amazing, and iconic, feeling.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball as well as the Assignment Editor for BaseballDigest.com.
He is the host of I-70 Radio, hosted every week on BlogTalkRadio.com.
Follow him on Twitter here.

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Royals Fall League Farm Report

Myers, Surprise teammates gear up for Championship
Rough going of late for ex-Naturals in winter leagues

SURPRISE, AZ – Wil Myers along with Christian Colon, Jeremy Jeffress, Anthony Seratelli, Nate Adcock, Brendan Lafferty, and Bryan Paukovits are spending the final few days in the Arizona Fall Leagues preparing to compete for a championship.

Their club, the Surprise Saguaros, 25-10 on Wednesday, had clinched the three-team AFL West Division and will face the Salt River Rafters for the Arizona Fall League Championship on Saturday. The game will be broadcast to a national television audience at 2 P.M. Central Time on MLB Network, which is available on Cox Cable in Northwest Arkansas on channel 128 (2128 in high definition).

Monday, Adcock took a perfect game into the fifth inning, finishing with one hit over five dominant frames for his second win as Surprise blanked Phoenix. The Royals’ right-hander was unhittable through four innings until the Yankees’ Ronnier Mustelier drove a leadoff grounder up the middle to start the fifth frame. Jeffress, Lafferty, and Paukovits have been dominant of late out of the Saguaros’ pen, and Myers has been one of the loop’s best hitters.

In the final AFL report next week, we’ll recap the game and the final cumulative stats for these Royals’ prospects, who have all made key contributions to helping Surprise contend for a Fall League crown and the best record in the near two-decade run for the league.

Check back on nwanaturals.com for updates on the progress of these players. You can also get updates by following the Naturals on Facebook and Twitter.

Naturals/Texas League Notes

Former Royals bench coach to manage Missions: John Gibbons, who was the bench coach for the Royals for the past three seasons, was hired by the San Diego Padres to manage the Texas League Champion San Antonio Missions. Gibbons is a San Antonio resident. The remainder of the Missions’ coaching staff is unchanged…The Midland RockHounds announced that skipper Steve Scarsone and his staff will return for the 2012 season…Springfield, Frisco, Corpus Christi, and the Travelers join the Naturals as teams yet to make announcements with regard to their 2012 field staff.

Winter Ball Updates: Several other current and former Naturals are honing their craft this off-season playing in various winter leagues that span the globe.

In Puerto Rico, Naturals’ infielder Rey Navarro has seen his early season winter struggles continue for Criollos de Caguas, where he has a lone hit in six games, although he’s drawn three walks. Irving Falu (Indios de Mayaguez) has also had a slump of late and has a .200 average thus far. Falu is teammates in Mayaguez with former Natural and current Houston Astros shortstop Angel Sanchez, who is batting .250 with a pair of RBI in eight games.

 

In the Venezuelan Winter League, Mario Lisson (Navegantes de Magallanes) hasn’t gotten a hit in almost a week, causing his average to dip to .239. Former Natural Jose Duarte (Leones de Caracas) has been ice cold, with just one hit in his past ten games. Ernesto Mejia (Aguilas del Zulia) continues to be a beacon of consistency as he’s got four homers and 16 RBI’s to go along with a .276 average, while Manny Pina (Bravos de Margarita) is hitless in two at-bats in the past week and has seen his average drop to .148.

In the Dominican League, Naturals’ right-hander Manauris Baez (Estrellas de Oriente) made his most recent start last Wednesday and it wasn’t as good as his first four, as he allowed two runs in 4 1/3… Mario Santiago (Tigres del Licey) had an excellent start Monday, allowing a run in six innings to record his second win in three starts…Willy Lebron, Santiago’s rotation-mate in Licey and fellow Royals’ farmhand, hasn’t pitched since November 6thKelvin Herrera (Leones del Escogido) continues to mount a resume for 2012, as he’s gone scoreless in all eight of his outings. He’s teammates with Everett Teaford, who pitched 5 2/3 scoreless in his last outing and lowered his ERA to 3.57 in four starts.

In other leagues, former Natural Federico Castaneda (Tomateros de Culiacan) had a scoreless outing on Sunday and lowered his ERA to 7.84 thus far in the Mexican League, while former Naturals’ southpaw Paul Mildren (Adelaide Bite) pitched eight innings, allowing just one run in his most recent start in the Aussie Winter League. Mildren has not pitched stateside since the 2009 season.

These teams and respective leagues will play the round-robin Caribbean Series which takes place in February just before early reports for Major League Spring Training.

Transaction log: Veteran big league Matt Treanor, who was with the Naturals on a rehab assignment when he was traded to the Texas Rangers in a cash transaction on August 31st, signed a one-year contract Wednesday to be the Los Angeles Dodgers’ backup catcher. The 35-year old Treanor spent most of last season in Kansas City and batted .214 with three homers and 22 RBI’s in 72 games last season. Treanor, who batted .263 in seven games in Northwest Arkansas, picked up an AL Championship ring for the second consecutive season with the Texas Rangers… Former Natural David Lough is done with winter ball. He heads home for the off-season after batting .200 with one homer in 70 AB for Aguilas Cibaenas.

The Northwest Arkansas Naturals are the Double-A Texas League affiliate of the Kansas City Royals and play at state-of-the-art Arvest Ballpark, located in Springdale. Visit our website, nwanaturals.com, for information on season tickets and ticket plans.

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A Look Back: 1982 – Game Three

The year 1982 marked the first of three 1980′s appearances in the World Series for the St. Louis Cardinals. It also marks the one and only time that the Milwaukee Brewers reached the World Series.

With the two teams, now in the same league, prepared to face off for the National League Pennant, i70baseball brings you a look back to that series in 1982. A monumental series that took all seven games to decide a winner. A series that would see would see both teams win a game by a double digit margin as well as each team winning a game by two or fewer runs.

You can read more about Game One by clicking here.
You can read more about Game Two by clicking here.

The series was on it’s way to Milwaukee’s County Stadium for the middle three games. Tied up 1-1, the Cardinals and the Brewers had played a first game blowout in favor of the Brewers and a close game settled by a bases loaded walk for the Cardinals. The third game of this Series was played on Friday, October 15…

Game Three: October 15, 1982
This time the Cardinals would send Joaquin Andujar to the mound to face the Brewers on their home surface. The 29-year old pitcher had arrived in St. Louis the year before after being traded by the Houston Astros. He was dominant in 1982, winning 15 games over 10 losses, posting a 2.47 earned run average (his career best), and throwing five shut outs. He would post a 1.080 WHIP and a 2.74 strikeout-to-walk ratio as well that season. He was almost an identical pitcher whether home or away that season.

Milwaukee would counter with 18 game winner Pete Vuckovich. Vuckovich would only lose six games in 1982 while posting a 3.34 earned run average, 1.502 WHIP and 1.03 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Home cooking was Vuckovich’s speciality as he pitched much better in the friendly confines than he would on the road that season.

The two teams would lock themselves in for a pitchers duel with each hurler carrying shut out baseball into the fifth inning. In fact, each team had exactly one hit when the fifth inning rolled around and it was Andujar who had seen the most trouble but worked out of it by that frame. All that changed quickly when the middle frame got started.

After Darrel Porter lead off with a strikeout, Lonnie Smith would drive a double to left-center field and the Cardinals would have their first base runner in scoring position. Dane Iorg would reach base on an error by Brewers first baseman Cecil Cooper, putting runners at the corners for the Cardinals young outfielder Willie McGee. McGee would drive the first pitch he saw over the fence in right field to put the Cardinals up 3-0.

The homerun to McGee would be one of the few mistakes by either starter through six innings as the pitchers duel continued. It was Lonnie Smith once again in the seventh inning with one out that would stroke a triple off of Vuckovich and subsequently score on the play as the Brewers secondbaseman Jim Gantner would throw the ball way at third. A Dane Iorg fly ball out would bring McGee back to the plate, this time with the bases empty, to face Vuckovich again. A 1-0 pitch would again be driven over the wall in right and McGee would have his second home run and fourth run batted in of the game, putting the Cardinals up 5-0 after six and a half innings.

The bottom of the seventh would see the Brewers threaten after catcher Ted Simmons would drive a ball back up the middle and off of Andujar’s knee. The Cardinal ace would leave the game and the Cardinals would use both Jim Kaat and Doug Blair before turning the game over to Sutter and escaping the inning with no damage after the Brewers loaded the bases with two outs.

The Brewers would get on the board in the eighth inning off of Sutter. After Robin Yount drew a walk, Cecil Cooper would follow with his own home run to right field, a two run shot that would make the score 5-2.

Walks would once again hurt the Brewers in the ninth, however. After George Hendrick had reached on a rare catcher’s interference call and Dane Iorg would hit a ground rule double, Vuckovich would intentionally walk McGee to load the bases and pitch to Ozzie Smith. Sometimes when you have a pitcher issue an intentional walk, however, he struggles to find placement again and Vuckovich walkEd Smith to force in the sixth run for the Cardinals.

As Sutter took the mound to be the finishing touches on the game for the Cardinals, he would work himself into some trouble of his own. Brewers left fielder Ben Oglivie would reach base on an error by Cardinal first baseman Keith Hernandez. Gordon Thomas attempted to pull his team a bit closer but his ball that would have left the park in centerfield was brought back by Willie McGee and turned into a loud and long first out. A strikeout and fly ball later and Sutter would have a save, the Cardinals a 6-2 win, and the comfort of Milwaukee hotels as they looked forward to Game 4.

The Cardinals now lead the series two games to one. Important to note that Sutter got a save in a 6-2 ballgame due to his work in the seventh inning to escape a bases-loaded jam.

Stay tuned as i70baseball brings you game recaps for all seven games of the 1982 World Series on game days of the 2011 National League Championship Series.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball as well as the Assignment Editor for BaseballDigest.com.
He is the host of I-70 Radio, hosted every week on BlogTalkRadio.com.
Follow him on Twitter here.

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With Dominating Win In Game 2, Cardinals Path To World Series Looks Bright

Before we get going, I have a confession to make. Prior to last night’s game, I was planning on writing about the need for Albert Pujols to step it up offensively and have a big impact on this series. I was getting ready to tell you he hadn’t hit a homerun since September 22nd, how he’d only driven in 3 runs since then, and that the drought needed to end. I was even going to go as far as to suggest he could no longer work over playoff-quality pitching at the clip he once could.

The prosecution would obviously like to strike all that from the record.

Monday night in Game 2 of the NLCS, Albert put on a display for the ages. How’s this for stepping it up offensively?

First Inning: Home Run, 2 RBIs

Third Inning: Double, 2 RBIs

Fifth Inning: Double, 1 RBI (the aggressive base-running led to him scoring on a wild pitch)

Seventh Inning: Double, Run scored

Eighth Inning: Groundout to 2nd, Milwaukee crowd gives home team a mock-ovation for finally getting Albert out. Resident pest, Milwaukee centerfielder Nyjer Morgan, sure didn’t waste much time backpedaling on his “Alberta” comment, saying after last night’s game:

“He’s special. I’ve never said anything about how (Pujols) plays. It was just talking smack. He’s still that special player, one of the best and greatest hitters around. You tip your hat to a guy who does his work like that.”

It was as if Morgan just then realized that it’s probably not such a great idea to poke the sleeping bear… especially a bear who nearly has as many career home runs (445) as Morgan has hits (467). Both Pujols and Morgan are 31 years old.

But it doesn’t take Morgan’s comments to cement the fact that it was an absolutely dominant performance, and awaiting in Game 3 is a pitcher in Yovani Gallardo that Pujols tagged for 2 home runs in a game just last month.

The Pujols v Gallardo matchup is just one of the many things the Cardinals have going for them as the NLCS returns to St. Louis for the first time since 2006.

Carpenter Pitching Twice: Splitting the first two games in Milwaukee was huge for the Cardinals, especially considering how much Milwaukee has struggled on the road this season (more on that in a minute). But the big boost comes in the form of Chris Carpenter, who after putting on one of the best lock-down pitching performances last Friday, is now set to take the mound in 2 of the remaining 5 games in the series (if necessary). Even though he’s going up against Brewers ace, Yovani Gallardo, in both games, you still have to feel good about the Cardinals’ chances of winning those games. Carpenter shutout Milwaukee on 4 hits in September, and went 8 innings allowing just 2 runs in a Cardinals win in mid-August (one of just 2 losses handed to the Brewers over a 21 game stretch at the time).

Braun’s Bat Neutralized: Milwaukee outfielder, Ryan Braun, is one heck of a hitter. With all due respect to Prince Fielder, Braun is probably the most frightening postseason hitter the Cardinals have seen since Carlos Beltran’s in the 2004 NLCS. Every time he comes up, it feels like he’s going to stroke a double into the gap… at least in Miller Park, that is. For whatever reason, Braun has been a much better hitter at home this postseason, as have most of the Brewers (though admittedly, it’s a small sample size). But that has also been the case over much of the regular season, so we’ll have to see how it all plays out here during these next 3 games in St. Louis.

Road Woes: The Brewers went 39-42 on the road this season, not a terrible record considering how bad of a start they got off to, but here’s what is bad: Including the playoffs, Milwaukee is now 10-21 against teams who made the playoffs this season. Considering Carpenter’s dominance the past 2 times the Brewers came to Busch, and Jaime Garcia’s near-miss at no-hitting them at Busch earlier this year, Milwaukee might need to win Game 4 if they plan on bringing this series back home for a possible Game 6 and 7.

Starting Edge: There’s really no reason to believe that the Brewers will have the upper hand for the rest of the games in the NLCS from a starting pitching standpoint. We’ve already been over what Carpenter and Garcia have done to the Brewers (Game 3, 5, and 7 starters), we’ve already touched on Pujols’ success against Yovani Gallardo, who the Cardinals beat twice in one week early last month (he’s slated for Games 3 and 7). In game 6, you have a rematch of Game 2… and we all know how well that worked out for St. Louis. That leaves only game 4 where the matchup might be even… but Kyle Lohse has been hot the past month and a half for the Cardinals, and Randy Wolf, the Brewers’ #4 starter, just got bombed by the Diamondbacks in the NLDS.

With that said, I leave you this fair warning: The Cardinals and Brewers are not simply tied at one game apiece… they’re tied 10-10. In 20 games this year, the teams have split them evenly. So despite home field advantage, the Brewers’ road woes, and the Cardinals’ apparent pitching edge… don’t expect the Cardinals to wrap this series up at Busch and coast into the World Series. What you can expect, more than likely, is another heart-stopping, nerve-wracking, intense as all get-out Game 7 at Miller Park.

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