Tag Archive | "Game Winner"

Lance Lynn is good, but St. Louis Cardinals run support has made him All-Star-caliber

No big-league pitcher has won more games than St. Louis Cardinals right-handed starter Lance Lynn in the past year-and-a-half, but that doesn’t mean Lynn has been the best pitcher in that time period.

Lance Lynn

Far from it, actually.

Lynn won his 26th game since the beginning of the 2012 season with a one-run, five-hit performance through seven innings Monday against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Busch Stadium.

Yes, Lynn gave up just one run, but the Cardinals scored four runs in the first four innings, and seven in the first six, to give Lynn a comfortable margin by the time he faced the Diamondbacks hitters for a second and third time in the 7-1 victory.

And that’s been the theme of Lynn’s career.

Lynn was an All-Star in 2012 when he started the season with 10 wins in his first 13 starts. However, the Cardinals offense provided him four runs or more in all but one of those wins. That outlier game was a 1-0 win June 13 over the Chicago White Sox in Lynn’s most impressive start of the season: 7.1 innings, three hits and 12 strikeouts.

Otherwise, Lynn got to hide behind ample run support, even as he allowed three or more runs in seven of those first 13 starts.

With that said, Lynn is a good pitcher, no doubt. He posted a 2.42 earned-run average in those first 13 starts of 2012, but it ballooned to 3.41 by the All-Star break as he tired in the summer heat. Lynn finished 18-7 for the season with a 3.78 ERA, which ranked fourth among the seven regular starting pitchers the Cardinals used throughout the season.

Lynn was nearly a 20-game winner, but he also nearly gave up an average of four runs per game. Thankfully for him, the Cardinals scored an average of 6.06 runs in his starts, the most runs support any pitcher received in 2012. Perhaps that’s why he didn’t receive any Cy Young award consideration even though only five pitchers in Major League Baseball had more wins.

But he won games nonetheless, and he has carried that formula into 2013. Through 12 starts, the Cardinals have averaged 5.89 runs per game and have scored fewer than four runs just once.

Lynn has received the fifth-most run support of any starter in baseball so far this season, and his record reflects the help his offense has provided. He is 8-1, and that loss was the only time the Cardinals scored fewer than four runs, a 2-1 loss May 7 to the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.

Perhaps Lynn’s spot in the rotation helps. The Cardinals have primarily slotted him in the third or fourth spot, which means he usually doesn’t pitch opposite of one of the opponent’s top pitchers. Therefore, the fourth-ranked Cardinals offense can feast on lesser pitchers while Lynn cruises through quality start after quality start. He has 25 of those in his 43 career starts.

Lynn’s 2.76 ERA this season is certainly good, and he deserves to be in the discussion as one of the best pitchers so far in 2013, but 20 pitchers have a lower ERA, and all but seven of those pitchers have fewer than seven wins. Patrick Corbin of the Diamondbacks is the only one to have more wins (nine) and a lower ERA (2.06).

So Lynn’s stats that will likely get him selected to his second All-Star team in as many seasons are deceiving, but that doesn’t matter to the Cardinals, which are 9-3 in his starts this season.

Lynn wins, and in the end, that’s all that matters.

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The Winter Meetings were pretty quiet for the Royals

Each year, officials from the 30 Major League teams come together for the Winter Meetings to make deals via trades or free agent signings. Of course trades and free agent signings happen all year, but some important deals happen during the Winter Meetings. Some teams make a big splash, some teams just show up.

The Royals didn’t made a splash as of Wednesday night. They have two needs; starting pitching and a utility infielder. Starting pitching is more important to the Royals and there’s plenty of rumors about the starting pitchers the team has interest in via a trade or free agency.

The way it looks now, the Royals prefer to sign a starting pitcher via free agency. Zack Greinke is out of the question, but the Royals top target is Anibal Sanchez, who could be looking for a six-year deal at almost $100MM dollars. That’s way out of the Royals price range, but it’s more likely Sanchez will get a four-year deal and if the money is right, Sanchez might be a Royal. Sanchez isn’t an ace like Greinke, but he would bolster the Royals rotation.

Wednesday, the Royals made a two-year, $26MM offer to starter Ryan Dempster, but he’s looking for a three-year, $39MM deal and there are rumblings the Cubs, Brewers and Red Sox have interest in Dempster.

In other rumors, free agent starters the Royals are looking at are Shaun Marcum and Brandon McCarthy. Both starters had some health issues in the past, but could be intriguing choices if the price and years are right.

As for the trade route, there’s a few starters the Royals have interest in. The Wil Myers/John Lester trade rumors are cooling off, but the Royals still have interest in Rays starters James Shields and Jeremy Hellickson. For a while, there was talk of a Myers/R.A. Dickey trade, but the Royals quickly dismissed it. Yes, Dickey won the Cy Young Award this year and he’s a 20 game winner, but he’s 38 and Myers is 22. If Dickey was younger, it might be a better trade. Astros starter Bud Norris is another pitcher the Royals are looking at, who will be free agent in 2016. And the Royals have interest in Rangers starter Derek Holland, who’s a free agent in 2017.

Whatever the Royals decide, they’re not in a hurry to find the “right” starting pitcher. It could be after the Winter Meetings before the Royals make a deal.

The Baltimore Orioles and Seattle Mariners have some interest in designated hitter Billy Butler, but there’s nothing concrete. Besides Felix Hernandez, the Mariners don’t have a Major League ready pitcher the Royals are looking for. Baltimore has some good pitching prospects and young Major League starters, but the Royals want a more established starter to lead the rotation in 2013.

There’s even talk the Royals are willing to trade Chris Getz and the St. Louis Cardinals might be interested in Getz as a utility infielder. Hey, aren’t the Royals looking for a utility infielder? Oh, wait, the Royals consider Getz a starting infielder.

With the flux of the Winter Meetings, this article might be invalid by the time it’s posted. As I write this, Twitter is buzzing about a potential Myers/Shields trade. Some Royals fans say yes, some say no, and some say heck no. Whatever happens, the Royals are getting a starting pitcher. Who that will be and when it happens is hard to say.

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Wil the Royals trade Myers away for starting pitching?

The Royals need another front of the rotation starter, even after acquiring Ervin Santana and Jeremy Guthrie. With a $70MM “soft” salary cap (which many argue is too low), the Royals say they’re willing to trade top outfield prospect Wil Myers for starting pitching. Names such as Tampa Bay’s James Shields and Boston’s Jon Lester have come up, but so far they’re nothing more than rumors. But is trading a top offensive prospect for starting pitching a good idea in the first place?

If it’s for Shields or Lester, no. Yes, they are good pitchers and better than anyone in the Royals rotation, including Santana and Guthrie. But they’re not worth Wil Myers trade value.

Both Shields and Lester will be free agents in 2014. If Myers stays with the Royals, he’ll likely be a free agent until 2019. Then there’s money. Shields will make $9MM in 2013 and has a $12MM team option. Lester will make $11.6MM in 2013 and has a $13MM team option. Myers will make much less.

Shields pitched 227.2 innings in 33 starts, had a 3.52 ERA with a 3.84 strikeout to walk ratio. Lester pitched 205.1 innings in 33 starts, had a 4.82 ERA with a 2.44 strikeout to walk ratio. Shields is 30 and Lester is 28, but between the two, Shields appears the one most likely to improve. Both pitchers are good and would be an asset to the Royals rotation, but not for Myers.

Now if the Tampa Rays are willing to deal David Price or Jeremy Hellickson for Myers, that might be a good trade. Price is a Super Two player, which makes him arbitration eligible in 2013 and a free agent in 2016. Hellickson is arbitration eligible in 2014 and a free agent in 2017.  Price made $4.35MM in 2012 and Hellickson made $489,500 in 2012, so they’re very affordable and would be under club control for at least a few years.

But I don’t see a trade like that happening. Price was a 20 game winner, pitching 211.0 innings over 31 starts with a 2.16 ERA and a 3.47 strikeout to walk ratio. And he was the American League Cy Young Award winner for 2012. Hellickson was no slouch, pitching 177.0 innings over 31 starts with a 3.10 ERA and a 2.10 strikeout to walk ratio. He was the American League Rookie of the Year in 2011.

Of the two, the Rays might trade Hellickson for Myers straight up, but to get Price the Royals would probably have to throw in another high level prospect like a Jake Odorizzi or Jason Adam. And the Rays aren’t rebuilding, so there’s no good reason for them to give up starting pitching for prospects.

If the Royals are so bent on trading for a starting pitcher, maybe they should consider Chicago Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija. Jeff Samardzija? To be honest, I didn’t know much about him either. But Samardzija was the ace of the Cubs, pitching 174.2 innings in 28 starts with a 3.81 ERA and a 3.21 strikeout to walk ratio. Sure, being the ace of the 61-101 Cubs isn’t that impressive. But Samardzija made $2.64MM in 2012, is arbitration eligible in 2013 and a free agent in 2016.

And the best thing is the Royals won’t have to trade Myers to get Samardzija (unless they’re very stupid, which is possible). The Royals could give the Cubs someone like Mike Montgomery or Cheslor Cuthbert for Samardzija and jettison or trade Luke Hochevar to pay Samardzija’s salary. The Royals still have money left to get a free agent pitcher like a Shaun Marcum or Anibal Sanchez. And Myers can take Jeff Francoeur‘s place in right field in 2013. Sounds like a good deal to me.

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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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Royals Add A Winner To Their Rotation

Bruce Chen won 12 games in 2010. He came back to win 12 again last season. Name the last Royal lefty to post back-to-back seasons with at least 12 wins.

It looked for some time like Chen wouldn’t have the chance to add to that string of 12-win seasons. But last week Chen inked a two-year deal that will hold his place in the KC rotation.

Chen is what the Royals need at this moment. He’s not a fire-balling ace. He’s not a young phenom with limitless potential. Those are nice to have, and we would take them in a heartbeat.

But what Chen is fills a need in KC. You see, the Royals have phenoms. They have players with tons of potential. They even have starting pitchers with great ability. But they haven’t won anything yet. Not at the big league level.

Bruce Chen has shown over the last two seasons that he knows how to win games.

The other Royals last season? Not so much.

Kyle Davies showed for years that he knew how to lose games. Luke Hochevar showed last year that he knew how to let winnable games slip away. Felipe Paulino, for all his promise, didn’t show that he knew how to win games. And Danny Duffy showed he has no idea what’s going on.

The addition of Jonathan Sanchez was heralded as a significant upgrade in the Royals’ rotation. But it remains to be seen if Sanchez is not a year removed from his best work. A little too reminiscent of Jeff Francis to have the hope of a franchise placed on him.

I hope Sanchez is a difference maker in KC. I hope he’s a 20 game winner. But I feel safer in hoping that Chen can win 12 games again, milking the most out of his average physical ability. And by doing so, I hope he shows Hochevar and Paulino and Duffy how to get the most out of their considerable talents.

And if Chen can win 12 games in 2012 and in 2013, he’ll match which pitcher as the last Royals lefty to win 12 in four straight seasons?

That would be none other than Charlie Leibrandt, who won 60 games over a four-year span from 1985 to 1988, and picked up a World Series ring in the process.

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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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Cardinal Success In Game 5s And Game 7s

As we prepare for the finale of this exciting series, and its marquee Game 5 matchup of two former Cy Young Award winners, let us take a walk down memory lane, and look at the Cardinal history in Game 7s (and Game 5 for the NLDS).

St Louis is the preeminent franchise in the National League, second only to the Yankees in terms of World Series wins. All that success means the team has had multiple occasions to play a one game, winner-take-all contest. For example, the Cardinals played seven consecutive World Series Game 7s from 1946 to 1987. How did they fare in those opportunities?

The Early Years (1926-1967)

Their first World Series appearance went seven games. The Cardinals won that game, which ended with my personal favorite game-ending play for any World Series, namely Babe Ruth getting thrown out trying to steal second. Can you imagine the amount of ink, hot air, and bandwidth that would be consumed dissecting that decision if it happened in 2006 instead of 1926?

Having started well, the Cardinals kept rolling. They defeated the Philadelphia A’s to win the Fall Classic in 1931, and took out Detroit in Tiger Stadium to win the Series three years later. Enos Slaughter’s mad dash home secured the 1946 title in front of the home town fans, and Bob Gibson wrestled those mighty Yankees into submission 18 years later in front of those same fans. The Boston Globe learned the price of publishing a great headline prematurely (‘Lonborg and Champagne’), as Gibson extended Cardinal dominance and Boston angst with a 1967 Game 7 win at Fenway.

So six Game 7s had come and gone, and the Cardinals had won all six. They were invincible when all the chips were down. No one wanted to play them in those situations, no matter where the game was to be contested.

The Desert of Futility (1968-2001)

Was it Curt Flood’s slip? Was it Lou Brock getting thrown out at the plate two games earlier? Was it the law of averages finally catching up to them? Probably some combination of the three. The Detroit Tigers, led by Denny McLain, beat St Louis at home in that 1968 Game 7. After that, Cardinal dominance in Game 7s ceased. They continued to win the Game 7s played at home, clinching the World Series against Milwaukee, defeating both Los Angeles and San Francisco in the LCS.

But on the road they were hapless. The Cardinals blew a 3-1 series lead in 1985, dropping Game 7 in Kansas City. They blew a 3-2 lead two years later, losing to the Twins in the Homer Dome. Then, when they returned to the post-season 10 years later, even their home mojo disappeared. They blew another 3-1 lead, getting embarrassed by the Atlanta Braves and losing the NLCS for the first time. Finally, to conclude their first best-of-five playoff series that went the distance, they lost a heartbreaker in the Arizona desert.

Return to Normalcy (2002-present)

They needed a great play or seminal moment to change their luck. They got one, and it occurred in a Game 7. The Cardinals played their next winner-take-all game to close out the 2004 NLCS against Houston. The Astros looked poised to take complete control of the game when with two on and one out, Brad Ausmus hit a fliner into the left-center field gap. Jim Edmonds ran it down, making a spectacular diving catch to keep the runners at their respective bases. St Louis went on to win the game and the National League.

They played another Game 7 two years later, and thanks to a Yadier Molina HR in the top of the ninth, St Louis beat the Mets 3-1 at Shea. It marked the first time since the 1967 World Series the Cardinals had won a Game 7 on the road.

Summation

Over 85 years of playoff baseball, the Cardinals have played 15 Game 7s and 1 Game 5. They are 7-1 as a franchise at home in those games, and 4-4 on the road. In comparison, the Philadelphia Phillies have never played a Game 7. They have played 2 Game 5s, winning the first, beating the Astros in extra innings to win the NL in 1980. But, they lost the second, to the Dodgers a year later* in the same situation.

What does it all mean? No Phillie on the current roster has ever played in a Game 5/7 for that franchise. The Cardinals have 4 men left from the 2006 playoff run: Albert Pujols, Yadier Molina, Adam Wainwright, and … Chris Carpenter, tonight’s starter. Additionally, tradition here has to favor St Louis. Plus, the veterans who played in those games of yore – men like Lou Brock, Gibson, Red Schoendienst, Willie McGee, even Stan Musial – keep that tradition alive by being a part of the locker room during spring training, and passing that tradition on to the current generation.

Everyone looks for even the slightest edge in games like this. Only in games like this can intangibles play a role. Experience and tradition favor the Cardinals. That has to count for something. It might be the last straw they need to break the Phillies back.

* Editor’s Note: It should be noted that this game five in Phillies history in 1981 was the first ever division series. This series was mandated by the players strike that year.

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Freak Cardinal Injuries

Matt Holliday hurt his finger while swinging a bat in the on-deck circle Tuesday night. Doctors found the tendon for the ring finger on his right hand inflamed when they examined him on Wednesday. Holliday will miss this weekend’s series with Philadelphia.

Hurting one’s finger while warming up has to qualify for weirdest injury ever, right? How unlucky can you be? Unfortunately, the Cardinals are no strangers to freak injuries. Here’s a short list of other odd injuries that have recently befallen the franchise.

Freese breaks toe, 2010. While rehabilitating from an earlier injury, part-time third baseman David Freese dropped a weight plate on his left foot, breaking his big toe. He missed the rest of the season.

Matheny cuts hand, 2000. Mike Matheny was a Gold Glove catcher for the Cardinals in 2000, and the team returned to the playoffs for the first time in 4 seasons. On the last Friday of that regular season Matheny received a hunting knife as a birthday present; since it was wrapped, he didn’t realize it was a knife until after he had opened it and almost sliced the ring finger off his right hand. Matheny missed the 2000 playoffs.

Osborne cuts hand, 1996. In Tony LaRussa‘s first year as manager, and a year after finishing 19 games under .500, the Cardinals were NL Central Champions, headed to the post-season for the first time since 1987. Dutifully, Cardinal management provided champagne for the players to enjoy the day they clinched the division title. At some point, one of the bottles was broken, and as (un)luck would have it, Cardinal lefty Donovan Osborne cut his pitching hand grabbing that bottle. 1996 was the best year of Osborne’s career, and based on ERA+ he was the ace of the staff. Osborne got shelled in two of his three post-season starts, including Game 7 of the NLCS against Atlanta.

Cox breaks ankle, 1986. Danny Cox was an 18-game winner for the NL Champs in 1985, combining with Joaquin Andujar and John Tudor to form a formidable rotation for the Cardinals. In a harbinger of the season to come, he jumped off a 3-foot seawall while fishing during spring training and chipped a bone in his right ankle. The surgery to remove the chip, and subsequent recovery, caused the righty to miss the first month of the 1986 season. St Louis staggered out of the gate, was 10 games under .500 on 31 May, and finished 79-82.

Coleman and the tarp, 1985. Quite possibly the most famous of all the Cardinal freak injuries. Vince Coleman, arguably the fastest man in baseball, the 1985 NL Rookie of the Year, owner of 110 stolen bases, was run down by the 1.5 MPH automatic tarp machine before Game 3 of the 1985 NLCS against the Dodgers. Without him as the catalyst for their attack, St Louis put up a puny .309 OBP and recorded only 8 successful steals (they were caught 8 times) during the rest of the post-season (13 games).

Matt should only be out 4 or 5 games. The bad news: that’s 38% of the Cardinals remaining games. Trying to make up 4 games on Atlanta with 13 left to play just got a lot harder.

Mike is a life-long Cardinals fan currently sitting in San Diego with his fingers crossed. He blogs about the San Diego Padres.

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2011: An Offseason Success Story

People are always quick to say Dayton Moore is a bad GM. The problem with that statement is people don’t look at the full GM work that he does. Moore has built the Baseball America number one minor league system, which prevents him from being a bad GM but also something people around here are tired of talking about. GM has made some of the most boneheaded moves at the pro level, which everyone wants to crucify him for, which keeps him from being a good GM. So let’s except for this blog that Dayton Moore is an average GM.

Isn’t that what you should have for an average team, ran by an owner who wants an average return from exceptional fans. Well, being exceptional fans we just can’t accept things around here being average or really below average as they have been. What stinks is Baird conditioned an entire fan base to expect us to build great minor league systems and sell them off. Some say we saw it again this year with the Greinke trade. I disagree. There is a great chance 2 of the 4 prospects start in the majors and a good chance another one does. That is the kind of trade a small market team needs to make. At best we picked up instant impact at short and center and a lock down 8thinning guy to get us to Soria. We all know what the worst is. More realistically, we now have a good piece for a bad pen, someone probably better defensively than Yuni, but not as good offensively. A Triple-A centerfielder and a potential third starter in three years. I consider this trade a win, when all we gave up was two diva filled years of unhappy Greinke. Never forget Greinke blocked a great deal for the Royals from the Nationals, NEVER FORGET THAT.

The Royals also acquired Jeff Francis. A 30 year old, former 19 game winner who has had arm trouble but has also showed signs of greatness. I am personally invested in this signing because the Rockies are my National League team and Francis brought me plenty of happiness when I lived out there. I feel Francis will get some of his form back and be a 12-14 game winner, which is a heck of a lot better than what we had there. This is a win. The Royals acquire Jeff Francoeur. Come on, we knew this was going to happen. We got our hopes up it wasn’t but let’s be real. So Jeff Francoeur is a Royal (Who’s name I will misspell at least 50 times on twitter this season).One thing about Francoeur I took away from the Digital Digest interviews was, he is making a difference on the difference makers. Butler seems happier with him here and hopefully that will spell out a big year for him. I will keep this as a loss but if he is the difference maker in the clubhouse then it could be a win

Oh but then there’s Melky Cabrera. The guy all Yankees fans told me was the next Yankee legend… Um Yankee legends don’t end up with the Royals… Not even in the 80s…. I guess he’s not that bad. In his last full season in the AL, he hit 13 HRs which would be tied for fourth on last year’s team. His .274 batting average puts him behinds DDJ and Pods, tied with Gregor Blanco and ahead of the rest of the potential Royals outfielders. So if you look at the team of last year, the move makes sense, I guess, but I think everyone around here would have actually been happy to see GMDM throw out some of the kids at Omaha instead of signing another maybe outfielder. So let’s think like we can only imagine GMDM was thinking.

‘Melky is better than anything we currently have and I just did a pretty good flip on Farnsworth, Pods and Ankiel. I should be able to do as well for Melky and Franny.’

Well GMDM I can’t jump on board here. You have a good young, center fielder that you got when you traded the best player on the team and now don’t have anywhere to play him. Loved the Ankiel/Pods signing, I was wrong. Hated these signings and I hope I am wrong again and that you flip them for good AA or AAA talent, however this is a big loss for GMDM. Sorry.

Now at 2 wins, 2 losses, we get to the move to my favorite move. I started #BringbackChen on twitter as soon as he was a free agent. Boras wanted 2 years; GMDM said no way….So did everyone else. Bruce came back for one more year. I am such a sick fan that this made me happier than anything that has happened on this team all last year and this off season. He led the team in wins even though he started in Omaha. Why can’t he do it again? This time for a full season. This time to the tune of 15 plus wins. We could get thirty wins from two free agent signings. That’s more than we got from our Cy Young Winner and our $55 Million Dollar Man. This is a win! Another thing that is very positive for GMDM is, according to Greg Schaum, he has never had to go to arbitration with any player. He got another clean sweep this year! For now, even giving Kyle Davies $3.4 Mil, GMDMs ability to avoid arbitration is a win.

Billy Butler’s 4 year contract is another HUGE win! It was really cool that this story broke during fan fest and lifted all the Royals fan spirits at the Overland Park Convention Center. It’s a step in the right direction to say the Royals are going to try and contend. It allows some of us to say, ‘look they are spending money! We are getting better. Quit being Negative Nancy’s!’ I am so excited for this season!

I went in to this offseason expecting the Royals to trade Greinke and lose 100 games. Now I feel like the royals could win 70 or so and finish out of the cellar. No fan should be happy for 4th but if fans expect low and wish high, you are much happier when the team over performs rather than underperforms. Billy is coming in happy. He’s going to be the leader this team needs. Maybe they’ll surprise us and win 82 maybe they won’t but we still have baseball and a little something to look forward to.

Troy “KCRoyalman” Olsen can be heard on 810 Radio Wednesdays and Fridays from 9-11pm as part of 3 guys in a garage. Follow him at twitter.com/kcroyalman and facebook.com/kcroyalman.

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The Fall of Joaquin Andujar

Last week, we took a look at the Rise of Joaquin Andujar. After the talented and often temperamental hurler wore out his welcome in Houston, he became something of an overnight sensation in St. Louis. He almost pitched the Cardinals into postseason in the strike shortened 1981 season, and did that and more the following year, including a gutsy performance in Game Seven of the World Series.

As did many of the Cardinals, Andujar struggled through the all of the transitions in 1983, but emerged as a stronger and more capable pitcher in 1984. Surrounded by a bunch of kids, just getting started in their major league careers, Andujar was totally dominating in 1984. He went deep into games, completing 12, including 5 shutouts. His command seemed to be much better as well, not that he was getting any more strikeouts, but he just wasn’t walking batters. The result was the first 20 win season of his career. If Andujar could keep this up, and the kids could mature a little, 1985 might be a very good year.

Blitzkrieg

Joaquin Andujar

There is really no other way to describe the start to Andujar’s 1985 season. After a shaky start to the season, the ace of the staff would win his remaining 4 starts in April, allowing just 7 runs in those 4 games. He would lose his first start in May, but then win the next five, running his record to an amazing 9-1 as the calendar turned over into June. He would win his next three starts before losing a pair of heart breakers to the Philadelphia Phillies, 1-0 and 3-1. It’s sort of hard to win when your team is scoring half a run in your starts. Unphased, he would win his next three allowing just three runs in 27 dominating innings.

As the Cardinals were preparing for the All Star break, Andujar’s 15-3 record started whispers of a possible 30 game winner across the national sports media. His record was being compared to that of Denny McLain, the last pitcher to win 30 games in the Major Leagues. And that brings us to the first four events that converge like a perfect storm to destroy the career of one of the best pitchers in baseball.

July 12 and the All Star Fiasco

The 1985 All Star Game would be held on July 16, in the Metrodome in Minneapolis. The manager of the National League, Dick Williams of the San Diego Padres, was about to announce his pitching selections, including his choice as a starter. Without question, everybody expected Andujar to get the start in the mid-season classic – well, everybody but Andujar. As it turned out, the second best pitcher in the National League was LaMarr Hoyt, who happened to pitch for the San Diego Padres. He had just come over from the American League, pitching for Tony La Russa’s Chicago White Sox. His 11-4 record was impressive, to be sure, but it was well short of Andujar’s 15-4, and Andujar’s ERA was a half a run better.

But this is Joaquin Andujar, and crazy things seemed to follow the Cardinals hurler.

In a stroke of luck, the two pitchers would face each other, just 4 days from the All Star Game. It was perfect – let the two men give it their best, and let the winner start the All Star Game.

But Andujar couldn’t just let that happen. No, he had to do something unexpected. Prior to the game, he announced that he would not be playing in the All Star Game. He took the decision right out of Dick Williams hands.

It didn’t lessen the drama from the game on July 12. In fact, it magnified it significantly. In the game, Andujar was good. The Padres had their chances, but Andujar limited the damage. They managed just two runs, both after a little bit of small ball, and key singles. Unfortunately for Andujar, Hoyt was brilliant. In 7 innings of work, Hoyt would allow just 2 Cardinal hits. Goose Gossage was just as stingy in his 2 innings of relief. The Padres would win 2-0, and Andujar would take the tough loss.

There is still much more to this part of the story. LaMarr Hoyt would indeed start the 1985 All Star Game. Hoyt, Nolan Ryan, Fernando Valenzuela, Jeff Reardon and Goose Gossage would totally dominate the American League batters, and the NL won 6-1. Hoyt would pitch three innings, earn the win and was chosen as the Most Valuable Player for the game.

The Rise of John Tudor

A large part of Andujar’s success in St. Louis was undisputed role as ace of the pitching staff. He took over the day he arrived in St. Louis, and hadn’t been questioned since. Until early June when a left hander named John Tudor started turning heads.

John Tudor

Tudor had been acquired during the 1984 Winter Meetings in an effort to improve the pitching staff. With all of the young arms on the roster, it was thought that a veteran like Tudor, especially since he was a lefty, could turn the staff into something special. The coaches had noticed that Tudor was an effective pitch-to-contact hurler that could benefit from playing in front of an All Star caliber infield. Through May, that hadn’t happened, and Tudor was struggling badly.

Things turned around for Tudor on June 3 when he combined with Ken Dayley for just his second win on the season, to go with seven losses. It wasn’t a particularly good pitching performance, it was largely his team beating up on Houston starter Nolan Ryan. Tudor pitched just well enough to win. But his next start on June 8 was a real eye-popper. A 3 hit shutout against the New York Mets, in New York. The game was won on a solo home run by Tommy Herr in the ninth inning, but what everybody noticed was the cool domination of the Cardinals left hander. Including Joaquin Andujar.

As June went on, Tudor become the talk around town, and by the All Star Break, the national sports media had caught wind of his amazing turnaround.

For the first time since J. R. Richard and Nolan Ryan, there was a challenger to Andujar’s spot as ace of the staff.

As July turned to August, Tudor continued to collect win after win. 2 shutouts in June, 3 in July, 1 in August and an amazing 4 in September, including three in a row to start the month. While the talk in July was comparing Andujar to Denny McLain, now the comparisons were John Tudor to Gibson’s shutout record in 1968. From June 3 to the end of the season, Tudor would turn in an unbelievable 19-1 record, finishing the season 21-8.

For Andujar, the second half of the season wouldn’t be nearly as kind. With 15 wins at the All Star break, 20 wins was a given. The question was whether he would win 25, or maybe as many as 30. As it turned out, Andujar would win only 6 games in the second half. One of those games was the 3rd event that conspired too bring down the big right hander.

July 26, 1985 – St. Louis at San Diego

This would be Joaquin Andujar’s revenge game, to make up for the disappointing loss to LaMarr Hoyt just before the All Star break. Instead of facing Hoyt, Andujar drew Dave Dravecky, a left hander that would just give the Cardinals fits. Dravecky was just as good as Hoyt was two weeks earlier, so if Andujar was to get his revenge, he’d have to pitch one of the best games of his career. And he did. This was about the most determined we’d seen Andujar since postseason in 1982.

A little bit of small ball would give the Cardinals a 1-0 lead in the first inning. Some small ball, including a double off the bat of former Cardinal Garry Templeton, tied the game in the fifth inning. While both sides battled, neither were able to get the key hit to take a lead. Dravecky turned the game over to the bullpen after 9 regulation innings, but Andujar continued to pitch until his team could rally. Which they would do in the 12th inning, giving him a 2-1 lead. Ken Dayley would come in and totally overpower the Padres to earn the save. Andujar got his revenge, but those 11 innings he pitched would end up costing him dearly.

Andujar would leave that game with a record of 17-4 and an ERA of 2.31. In his remaining 15 starts, he would win 4, lose 8 and his ERA over the period would skyrocket to 5.46. This was not a single bad game, something was seriously wrong with the Cardinals ace. His velocity was down, his control was inconsistent (a 1:1 k/bb ratio), 4 hit batsman and 9 home runs – this was not the work of an ace. Andujar should have gone on the disabled list and rested his ailing shoulder. But he didn’t, and things did not get better.

The Pittsburgh Drug Trials

The final blow for Andujar would come in September, 1985. A Grand Jury would be assembled in Pittsburgh to look into illegal narcotics use that was running wild in baseball. One of the players being investigated was Joaquin Andujar. He would join former Cardinals Lonnie Smith and Keith Hernandez, as they testified in front of the Grand Jury. In exchange for their testimony, all of the players were granted immunity from prosecution, but not from the wrath of commissioner Peter Ueberroth, who had been very vocal about his disapproval of drugs in baseball. Lengthy suspensions were expected, but the players would not learn of their fate until the next spring.

All of this proved to be too much for the Cardinals star, and his on the field performance continued slipping. Whether it was pitching while hurt to take his mind off the upcoming verdict, or just trying to out-duel Tudor to maintain his position as the ace of the staff, things fell apart for Andujar in September. His sole win in the month would be more the result of an offensive explosion from the Cardinals bats than good pitching. Ironic, as that’s how the Tudor turnaround started. He would lose his last three starts and pitch ineffectively in 2 starts against the Dodgers in the National League Championship Series.

Andujar would make two more appearances as a Cardinal in the World Series. He didn’t pitch poorly, but would take the loss in Game Three. His final Cardinal appearance would be in relief in Game Seven, as the Cardinals unraveled in front of the huge Kansas City crowd. The volatile right hander would get into a shouting match with Don Denkinger, eventually being ejected from the game.

For a pitcher that had been dominating for most of five seasons, the end came so quickly, we didn’t really have time to take it all in.

Epilogue

As rumors of a year long suspension started floating around the Major League, the Cardinals acted quickly and traded Andujar to the Oakland Athletics for a backup catcher. Before the start of the 1986 season, Commissioner Ueberroth ruled on the punishment for the players involved in the drug scandal. All would be suspended for one year, but in a surprise act of compassion, the commissioner gave each of the players a choice of serving the suspension or donating ten percent of their salary to a drug prevention program. All of the players chose the donation, and all of them continued their careers.

For Andujar that meant starting over in Oakland. He never managed to get back on track, but would post a respectible 12-7 record in 1986. But the strangeness that was Andujar would continue. Even though the Athletics play in the American League where the designated hitter is used, Andujar insisted on taking batting practice. And he would be injured doing so.

A trip back to Houston in 1988 would end things right where they started. Somehow, that seems an appropriate end to his major league career.

Looking back at those four events in the summer of 1985, if any one of them didn’t happen, maybe the Andujar story ends differently. A lot happened to the tough right-hander, and in a very short time. Even considering how things ended, Andujar still gave Cardinals fans five of the best years we’d seen out of a pitcher since Bob Gibson. It would take a decade and couple of guys named Kile and Morris to rival them, but that’s a story for another day.

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