Tag Archive | "Game"

The Royals hang on in playoff hunt

When a team like the Royals are in a Wild Card chase, every game is like a playoff game. And when they play six games against two teams ahead of them in the division, it’s important to win those games. In last Friday’s game against the A. L. Central leading Detroit Tigers, the Royals didn’t play well and lost 6-3. They rebounded in Saturday’s game and won 1-0, evening the series. In Sunday’s series finale, the Royals were tied 2-2 through seven and a half innings. Manager Ned Yost made the decision to have Jeremy Guthrie pitch the bottom half of the eighth, who at the time kept the Royals in the game.  But it was a costly decision, with Guthrie giving up a home run to Alex Avila, handing the Royals a 3-2 loss. In a crucial series, the  Royals lost two out of three games to the Tigers. It was a series the Royals really needed to win, but they didn’t.

JeremyGuthrie

Next up, the Cleveland Indians. With their two losses to Detroit, the Royals needed to sweep the Indians to move up in the Wild Card standings. And after their 7-1 victory Monday night, a sweep looked possible. Royals top pitching prospect Yordano Ventura was on the hill for Tuesday’s game and for six innings, Ventura kept the Indians to one run, striking out three and walking two before handing a 3-1 lead the the Royals reliable bullpen.

But the bullpen wasn’t reliable that night. A shaky outing from Kelvin Herrera tied the game at 3-3 and Wade Davis and Luke Hochevar each gave up a run, giving the Royals a 5-3 loss. In a 162 game season, one loss isn’t a big deal. But in a tight Wild Card race, a loss could mean missing the playoffs. Had the Royals won, they would be two games back of the second wild card spot with 11 games to go. Instead, they ended up 3.5 games back. It was a game the Royals needed to win, but they didn’t.

But if there’s a theme for the 2013 Royals, it’s resiliency. With their playoff chances on the line, the Royals came back Wednesday night with a 7-2 victory. While the win keeps their playoff hopes alive, the Royals still have three teams ahead of them in the Wild Card chase, and they’re 2.5 games back of a Wild Card spot. With ten games remaining and an 80-72 record, time and games are running out. But the next three games at Kauffman Stadium are against the struggling Texas Rangers, one of the Wild Card hopefuls. From there, the Royals finish the season on the road against the Seattle Mariners and Chicago White Sox.

With ten games to go and 8.5 games back of the Tigers, the only chance for the Royals to make the playoffs is a Wild Card berth. To do that, they need to win seven or eight games and have key losses from other teams in the Wild Card hunt to make the playoffs. It’s a long shot, but it’s up to the Royals to win their games and make it happen.

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Predicting the Rest of the Season and How it Looks Good For The Cardinals

MathenyandTheCards

The St. Louis Cardinals are in first place. It’s where they belong, because as I detailed in this article, they are by far the best team in the NL Central. The Cards have a one game lead on The Pirates and two games over the Reds. So, using the schedule ahead for all three teams, I wanted to give a projection of where the teams my end up.

As I pointed out in that same article, The Pirates are a mediocre team getting lucky. At the time, their run differential was +42, which puts them in line with most third place teams. Since then, they have lost control of first place and are now tied for second with The Reds. Their run diff has also slipped even further to +39.

The Reds run diff is climbing (along with their record) to +103. The Cardinals run diff remains at a league best +147.

Now let’s look at the strength of the schedule for the rest of the season for each team.

The Cardinals

The Cardinals have 3 games this week against The Brewers who have a winning pct of .437 and a run differential of -62. Then 3 games against The Marlins who have an awful winning pct of .376 and a run diff of -114. 4 games against The Rockies who have a winning pct of .458 and a run diff of -21. 3 more against The Brewers. 3 games against The Nationals who have a winning pct of .514 and a run diff of -12. And close out the season with 3 games against The Cubs who have a winning pct of .423 and a run diff of -54.

The Cardinals play one team, The Nationals, with a plus winning pct and zero teams with a plus run differential.

The Pirates

The Pirates have 3 games against The Rangers who have a winning pct of .570 and a win diff of +76. 4 games against The Cubs who have a winning pct of .423 and a run diff -54. 4 games against The Padres who have a winning pct of .458 and a run diff of -93. 3 games against The Reds who have a winning pct of .569 and a run diff of +103. 3 more against The Cubs. And end the season with 3 against The Reds again.

The Pirates have 3 series against teams with plus winning pct and plus run differentials.

The Reds

The Reds play 3 games against The Cubs. 3 against The Brewers who have a winning pct of .437 and a run differential of -62. 3 against The Astros who have a winning pct of .329 (wow) and a run diff of -202 (wow again). 3 games against The Pirates who have a winning pct of .570 and a run diff +39. 3 games against The Mets who have a winning pct of .454 and a run diff of -44. And end the season with 3 more against The Pirates.

The Reds have just 2 series against teams with plus winning pct and plus run differentials.

So applying the winning pcts of these opponents that each of these three teams face, the average opponent winning pct for each individual game is as follows:

The Cardinals – .441.

The Pirates – .497

The Reds – .463

So The Cardinals have the lightest schedule per game (since their average opponents winning pct is lowest). But along with almost every team they play having under .500 winning pcts, that average is further brought down by the The Marlins’ especially low winning pct. So along with each team being weaker, they also get to face an especially terrible team. Though the same applies to The Reds who have The Astros to beat up. The Pirates, along with having the toughest schedule, don’t have any terrible teams to beat up on to get a break.

Now let’s look at the average run differential of each of the three team’s opponents going forward. Each of the three teams’ opponents’ average run differential of what they’ve done so far this year per game is as follows:

The Cardinals: -52

The Pirates: +10

The Reds: -47.

Again The Cardinals have the easiest schedule moving forward, followed slightly by The Reds (using run diff) and not so slight using winning pct. The Pirates again have the toughest.

So now we have each team’s opponents going forward in context.

But for a moment, remove those teams and just focus on The Cards, The Pirates and The Reds as teams moving forward. The Cardinals have 19 more games. The Pirates have 20. The Reds have 18. On average, The Cards have scored 4.81 runs this year and allowed 3.78. On average, The Pirates score 3.91 runs a game and give up 3.63. On average, The Reds score 4.35 runs a game and give up 3.63.

So moving forwards, The Cardinals look to score 91.39 runs and allow 71.82. The Pirates look to score 78.2 runs and allow 72.6. And the Reds look to score 78.3 runs and allow 65.34.

So applying Bill James’ Pythagorean expectation theory (which I know gets criticized for being flawed, but it’s still the best of what we have. Or my favorite at least).

The Cards expected record the rest of the year independent of strength/weakness of opponents is 12-7. The Pirates is 11-9. The Reds is 10-8.

Applying that to the current record, the projected final record of the season will be

St Louis Cardinals – 95-67   

Cincinnati Reds     -  92-70   

Pittsburgh Pirates  – 92 -70

So that’s where the math ends. Now I’m going to reapply the strength of the schedule back in and logically predict (completely my opinion based on the numbers) of what I feel the final record in the standings will be. The earlier conclusions lead me to believe that both The Cardinals and Reds will win 1 more additional game while The Pirates’ tough schedule will lead them to lose 2 more than predicted.

So my final prediction is as follows

St Louis Cardinals – 96-66

Cincinnati Reds      – 93-69

Pittsburgh Pirates   – 90-72

So there you go. All 3 teams will make the playoffs. But it will be nice if The Cards can avoid the annoying wild card game this year.

For those biting their nails and stressing over how tight of a race it is in the NL Central this year, I hope this article brings a little relief. A very formula-based article that may not represent the heart and desire of a pennant race, so let me wrap it up and summarize it in one very enthusiastic, pennant race fever sentence,

It looks very good for the Cardinals.

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This One’s For You : Wearing The Flag On Your Arm And Heart

The game of baseball has long been “America’s favorite past time.” But another one of America’s past times is our Armed Forces. The men and women that stand up and fight for our freedom day in and day out truly hold a special place in all of our hearts.

AirForce

Having a cousin currently in the United States Air Force, he proudly wears that flag on his arm and in his heart. Growing up, he always wanted to have his own set of wings. He loves to be able to fight for the country he loves and for those that cannot fight for themselves.

He has been able to see parts of the world never imaginable, and live in places never expected. He is proud to do his part and having not only his Illinois family, but his Air Force family as well. Above all, he loves being able to live out his dream.

To all of the men and women currently doing their part, we thank you. To all who have previously served with pride and honor, we thank you. It is much, much appreciated day in and day out. Thank you for lacing up those boots, standing tall, and defending that flag.

Aim high, fly, fight, and win Richard Ranachowski. Thank you for being someone to look up to all of these years. This One’s For You.

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Kansas City Royals: Rating The First Half

The All Star break is almost upon us.  We have already played through half of the 2013 season.  This provides us with a great opportunity to evaluate the performance of the Royals thus far and see how they measure up to the rest of the league and explore the possibilities for a second half run at the playoffs.  Coming in at just over the eighty-one game halfway mark of the season, the Royals remain six games out of first place in the American League Central Division and two and a half games behind the Cleveland Indians, putting them in 3rd place.

SPerez

The Royal’s record is a slightly disappointing 43-45.  It’s not a very pretty number to look at but still, being only two games below .500 means that they have at least been able to keep pace with the league so far.  Compare this with the Twins and the White Sox who sit at the bottom of the division and below .500 by fourteen and eighteen games respectively and things don’t seem that bad at all.

Rating:  Average

The Tigers have a record of 27-17 playing at home in Detroit.  This is a big reason why they sit atop the Central Division.  Kansas City, on the other hand, has a 22-22 record at home, incredibly unspectacular and perfectly even.  The thing about having home field advantage is that it’s supposed to be…well, an advantage.   Unfortunately the Royals have not been able to capitalize on playing in friendly territory.  This is something that will need to change in a big way in the second half.  Playing at home shouldn’t be a break even scenario if you want to lead your division.  Their record on the road is only two losses worse at 21-23.  Once again, not very inspirational but not the end of the world either.

Rating:  Almost Completely Average

The Royals have given up a total of 351 runs this year to opposing teams.  They have scored a total of 354 runs off of opponents pitching.  That’s a run differential of +3 whole runs.  Comparing the Royals again to the first place Tigers, Detroit has a run differential of +88 but has given up 22 more runs than Kansas City.  So what do the Royals need to improve upon, scoring runs or giving them up?  Well, the Royals currently have a team batting average of .256.  The American League as a whole has a combined batting average of, are you ready for this, .256.  Incredible.  In this particular instance, the Royals literally define the term average.  Every team in the American League can accurately gauge their offensive performance in this category by comparing themselves to the Royals.  Batting average aside, the rest of the offensive numbers for Kansas City align very closely to league averages.

 

Statistic

Royals

MLB

OPS

.691

.719

SLG

.379

.402

OBP

.312

.317

Hits

769

786

2B

150

156

3B

19

15

 

Rating:  Astoundingly Average

Pitching has been one of the better improvements for the Royals this year.  Halfway through the season, the Royals have the 3rd best ERA in the American League at 3.73, well ahead of the league average of 4.10.  Combine this with the fact that the Royals pitchers have pitched the fewest amount of innings than any other team in the American League and that their strikeout totals are below average (not that that’s a good thing) and what you get is a pitching staff that’s efficient and getting ground balls and keeping the damage to a minimum.  Giving up the long ball was a big problem early in the year for Royals pitching but they seem to have that under control now as well as they have only given up 96 home runs on the season compared to the American League average of 98.  Overall, pitching remains a positive in Kansas City.

Rating:  Thankfully, Above Average

Alex Gordon and Salvador Perez will soon be heading to New York for the All Star game.  The team they are representing has been consistently keeping pace but not excelling.  There is still a lot of season left to play and there is nothing stopping the Royals from having an excellent second half and to their credit they are still in contention.  However, average teams don’t typically make the playoffs.

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First Place Royals

It’s late June and the Royals are in first place.  No, they aren’t at the top of their division nor are they leading the wild card race.  They are, however leading teams in a way they haven’t in some time.  The Royals have very quietly acquired the best earned run average in the American League.  The season is long but this is still a huge accomplishment considering their performance on the mound in years past.

JamesShields3

Saying that Royals pitching has been bad would be charitable.  Saying that Royals pitching has been the worst would be closer to accurate.  For well over a decade, Kansas City has put up some of the worst pitching numbers in all of baseball.

Since 2000, the Royals have been one of the three worst teams in combined ERA nine times.  In that time, their best pitching performance was in 2007 when they ranked 7th in the American League.  To add a bit more perspective, in 2009, when Zack Greinke won the Cy Young award he posted an ERA of 2.16 for the season.  That same year the Royals had a collective ERA of 4.83 coming in at 12th as a team in the league.

That’s what makes the jump to number one, even at this early point in the season something worth mentioning.  Even as they sit five games out of first place, Royals pitching has given up fewer runs than the division leading Tigers, who sit at number two as a team in earned runs.  And as the Kansas City bats slowly awaken from their royal slumber (pun entirely intended), they find that they are able to win the close games that they were losing earlier in the year.  They are currently 12-6 in the month of June in part by holding opponents to an average of about two and a half runs a game.

But as mentioned before, in the 2009 season, team ERA can be somewhat deceiving.  Ervin Santana has been lights out thus far with the American League’s 3rd best ERA of 2.64.  James Shields is right behind him at 2.72, putting him at 6th best in the league and one one-hundredth of a point behind Seattle’s Felix Hernandez.  Even Jeremy Guthrie comes in below league average in ERA at 3.72, good enough to get him in the top twenty in American League pitching.  However, the combined efforts of these three cover up the chink in the armor at the back end of the Royals’ rotation.

Luis Mendoza is 2-4 with an ERA of 4.30.  He hasn’t been terrible, but he has been unpredictable.  Wade Davis has been worse averaging over five earned runs per start.  The stunning performance of Santana and Shields, who were acquired this offseason, have covered up what could be the biggest weakness for these Kansas City Royals.

Santana and Shields routinely pitch deep into games.  This has been a god send for the Royals bullpen, who have now pitched the fewest amount of innings in baseball (175.3).  With the bullpen rested and the bats coming alive it’s this first place Royals pitching rotation that could use some shoring up.  There do exist options, none that the Royals hope they have to use though.

Dan Duffy, who is coming off of Tommy John surgery, has been making minor league rehab starts since the end of May.  Duffy has been sharp in the past averaging over nine strikeouts an inning in 2012 but since coming off of surgery he’s been getting ruffed up in AAA.  Also pitching right now in AAA Omaha is Yordano Ventura, the Royals young ace in waiting.  “Ace” Ventura as he is already being called, has had mixed success in Omaha but dominated in double A ball.  Ventura owns a fastball that can touch 100 mph.  His K/9 rate over four starts is 8 and 11.5 in AAA and AA respectively.  Ventura has talent to be sure but the Royals probably don’t want to prematurely promote their young prospect and limit his training and experience (not to mention bring his arbitration date closer) simply because Wade Davis has had a few bad starts.

And of course there is always the trade option, but most people suspect an underwhelming trade deadline from the Royals this year considering the amount of players they surrendered before the season started.  And of course Davis and Mendoza may pick up the pace down the stretch.  Davis has yielded only four runs combined in his last three starts.

Still, having the best pitching in the American League is a great problem to have.  The Royals took a chance this off season to acquire pitching and they got what they wanted.  And now that the offense is starting to show up they are starting to look like the contender that fans had hoped for.

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No Shields Support

James Shields can’t buy a win.  A look at his last few starts highlights the problems that are plaguing the Royals.  Over his last 4 starts, Shields’ ERA is sitting at 2.48.  During this time, Shields has pitched 31 innings, walked only 5 batters and struck-out one shy of a batter per inning.  Fairly impressive numbers thus far in the month of May for the Royals newly acquired ace.  Despite his performance, James hasn’t won a game since April.  A lack of run support and a struggling bullpen is keeping the Royals from getting wins out of their best arm in the rotation.

JamesShields3

Going back to the May 6th start against the struggling Chicago White Sox, Shields gave up just 2 hits, 2 walks and no runs while striking out 9.  The Royals scored off of a double by Butler in the first and that would be all that Shields would need, shutting the Sox down for 8 innings.  Holland would come in to close off the game in the 9th and give up a walk and 4 hits allowing the Sox to tie the game and send it to extra innings.  Two innings and one home run later, the Royals lose a very winnable game.

Shields’ next start was against the Yankees who would score first off of a throwing error by Moustakas in the 3rd.  The Royals answered back with a run in the top of the third and a solo home run by Butler in the 4th, but that would be it for the Royals offense for the day.  A 2 run shot by Vernon Wells in the 5th handed Shields another tough loss in yet another very close game.

May 17th sent the Royals to Oakland.  The Athletics sent the very hittable Jarrod Parker to the mound.  David Lough doubled in what would be the Royals only run of the game in the 3rd.  Shields carried a shutout into the 7th inning when he gave up a solo shot to Josh Donaldson and then another in the 8th to Adam Rosales.  Game over.

Shields got his next start against the last place Houston Astros.  He gave up a 2 run homer in the 1st to J.D. Martinez.  Despite going on to strike out 7 Astros in the game, the 2 run lead would be enough to carry Houston through the game.  The Royals scored once in the third.

The Royals acquired James Shields to do exactly what he has been doing, keeping the runs to a minimum.  They aren’t paying him to score runs, that’s something the rest of the team can and should be doing.  Scoring 5 runs in 4 games behind their ace isn’t going to cut it.  The Royals have to win these close games to contend.  That means not letting the bull pen give away the win and it means scoring more than once a game.

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Kansas City Royals Power Rankings 5-19

It’s week three of the I70 Baseball Royals Power Rankings, as we basically reach the end of the first quarter of the season. This was an up and down week that ended at 2-4. There are many years that 2-4 in California wouldn’t sound that bad and neither would 20-20.

July 8, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; Kansas City Royals left fielder Alex Gordon (4) in the dugout during the eighth inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

#5 Billy Butler (Previously: NR) Butler finally broke loose with his best series of the season against the Angels. In the series Butler went 8/13 with a home run and 9 RBI. His contact numbers still aren’t on par with his standards but he’s now on pace for 20 home runs and 120 RBI.

#4 Ervin Santana- (Previously: #5) Santana bounced back with an excellent outing against the A’s in what would be one of three wasted gems on the road trip. His control continues to be remarkable and his 1.46 BB/9Ip is fifth in the American League.

#3 Jeremy Guthrie- (Previously: #2) Guthrie finally took the loss that we had been expecting and just doesn’t look quite as sharp as he did earlier in the season. A part of that is just the fact that very few pitchers are as sharp as Guthrie was early all year long. He’ll get a chance to start a new streak this week vs. Houston.

#2 James Shields- (Previously: #3) Shields continues to move up the rankings despite the fact that he simply cannot buy a win right now. After another outstanding start Shields now ranks 6th in the AL in ERA, 8th in Ks, and 3rd in inning pitches. No one that ranks ahead of him in ERA or innings has less than 5 wins.

#1 Alex Gordon (Previously: #1) Gordon’s 4 hit day on Sunday capped off another outstanding week. He’s on pace to break all kinds of Royals’ records including Willie Wilson’s single season hit record of 232. He carries a 7 game hit streak to Houston and has multiple hits in 20 of the team’s first 40 games.

Honorable mention: Salvador Perez- Perez has yet to show much power in 2013 but he’s been hot at the plate the last week. His nine hits on the week raised his average to .307 on a team that struggled mightily at the plate. Perez has still been a beast on behind the plate as well save for the couple of mental lapses we’ve seen this season.

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Royals Ticket Policy For May 3 Postponement

BreakingNews3

KANSAS CITY, MO (May 3, 2013) – This evening’s game between the Kansas City Royals and the Chicago White Sox has been rescheduled for Monday, May 6th at 1:10 p.m.  Tickets for tonight’s game will be honored for the rescheduled game.  The Royals have established the following policy for fans unable to attend Monday’s game:

Any fan holding tickets from the Thursday, May 2nd or Friday, May 3rd games who cannot attend the rescheduled games may redeem those tickets for any of the remaining 2013 regular season games excluding the following dates:  Saturday, May 11th, Monday, May 27th and Tuesday, May 28th.  Replacement tickets will be in a comparably priced seating category based on availability at time of exchange.

Unredeemed parking vouchers or parking receipts will also be good for the available games. This policy provides fans with an opportunity to select tickets from 65 remaining home games including the games this weekend vs. Chicago May 4th and 5th and the rescheduled game on Monday, May 6th at 1:10PM. All exchanges must be made at Kauffman Stadium. Fans are strongly encouraged to exchange their tickets well in advance of the game they hope to attend. All seating is based upon availability.

The Kauffman Stadium Ticket Office is open Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

In addition, the Royals Charities and FOX Sports Kansas City have rescheduled the annual Broadcast Auction to the Friday, June 7 game against the Houston Astros.

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St. Louis Cardinals need more Joe Kelly, less Mitchell Boggs

The St. Louis Cardinals beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 9-1 Friday, but they had to survive another bad performance from reliever Mitchell Boggs while Joe Kelly once again proved he should be used more often.

JoeKelly2

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny didn’t give Boggs a chance to completely blow the 5-1 lead he had when he entered the game to start the eighth inning, but he did load the bases while recording just one out.

Left-handed specialist Randy Choate bailed him out by forcing Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez to hit into an inning-ending double play, but the Cardinals could have avoided the entire situation if they’d used Joe Kelly to start the inning.

In fact, the Cardinals might not have had to suffer through nearly as many lousy bullpen outings if they had used Kelly more in the first three weeks of the season. Matheny has instead used him in situations such as Friday’s ninth inning when the Cardinals had already opened an eight-run lead.

The bullpen has been the Achilles’ heel of the team so far this season. It had a collective 4.84 earned-run average through 22 games and blew four leads for a starting rotation that has a 2.12 ERA and has kept the team in all but one game so far this season.

Part of the problem is the Cardinals lost their regular closer, Jason Motte, to an elbow injury during spring training and had to scramble to fill his spot right before the regular season started.

Boggs was a logical choice to open the season as the Cardinals’ closer after a great 2012 season when he was the eighth-inning setup reliever. He had career-best 2.21 ERA while pitching in 78 games and earning 34 holds.

But he was a completely different pitcher as the closer. He has allowed 12 runs with eight walks and two blown saves in 11 appearances through the team’s first 22 games. Meanwhile, Kelly has pitched in seven games and allowed four runs with no walks. However, he hasn’t pitched in many high-leverage situations.

Now, that’s not to say Kelly should be the Cardinals closer. Edward Mujica stepped into that role nicely by earning two saves each on recent road series in Philadelphia and Washington.

That move has settled the bullpen, for now, but Kelly must have a larger role in the late innings if the Cardinals are going to consistently keep teams from completing late-inning comebacks.

Matheny recently referred to Kelly as “a Ferrari” that is a nice luxury to have in the bullpen, but that resource is nearly useless if it only sits in the garage.

Instead, Boggs and rookie reliever Trevor Rosenthal have come out of the bullpen seemingly every single day. Rosenthal has pitched in 12 games already, the most of any pitcher on the team despite also being the youngest.

That’s a lot of pressure to put on a young pitcher and his arm so early into his first full big-league season. Yes, Rosenthal throws really hard and can be an effective weapon out of the bullpen, but flamethrowers don’t always last that long.

For example, the Detroit Tigers had a bullpen that included 100 mph-plus throwers Joel Zumaya Fernando Rodney, but both suffered injuries within two years.

The Cardinals have excellent pitching depth in the minor leagues, but Rosenthal is a prized possession and should be treated as such. Kelly also throws really hard and has enormous potential, but he pitched in the starting rotation much of 2012 and is more accustomed to the demands of a Major League Baseball season.

However, Matheny continues to bring in Rosenthal nearly every night, and Boggs pitches in game after game as the team waits for him to fix his motion while Kelly sits out in the bullpen.

And that type of bullpen management could continue to cost the Cardinals ballgames before Mujica ever reaches the mound until Kelly receives a larger role in the late innings.

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Cardinals/Nationals: Three Things to Walk With

After a tough end to the weekend on Sunday night in Philadelphia, the Cardinals rebounded nicely a day later and haven’t let up yet. The club pulled off its first series sweep of the season against the Washington Nationals in DC, wrapping it up against their ace Stephen Strasburg on Wednesday afternoon. It was the club’s first return back to DC since the improbable end of their Division Series matchup in the city last October. All in all, the longest road trip of the season ended with an impressive 6-3 record, with one game lost to rain. And as the club returns back home a half game ahead in the NL Central, here are three things to take from tilt with the Nationals.

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1.Fear the Koz: Clearly Nationals fans have not forgotten the last time Pete Kozma made an appearance in their city. Kozma was routinely booed through the series each time he stepped to the plate, as an after effect of the two run single he plated to complete the Cardinal comeback in the decisive game of the 2012’s Division Series. Kozma, who is rather stoic even on a regular day, was also unflappable at the plate for the series. Despite the constant outpour of boos, he had four hits in nine at-bats for the series, and played his usual hard nose style on the basepaths. On the year, he’s turned in a respectable .262/.306/.675 effort thus far, and has been one of the most consistent everyday performers on the club.

2. Missing in Action: Jon Jay, who has been knees deep in a major slump, was sat down the last two games of the series. With lefty Ross Detwiler on the mound on Tuesday, it seemed to be a matchup move, yet when he sat again versus Strasberg on Wednesday, it became clear that the intention perhaps is to let him get all the way relaxed and back in Busch Stadium (where he is a career .329 hitter, yet only .250 in 2013) before putting him back in the mix again. His prolonged slump has dropped his season total at the plate to .205, which is tough to stomach out the leadoff spot. While a drop down to seventh didn’t help him much to start the series, he did manage a crucial sliding grab in the 8th inning of Monday’s victory.

3. Mujica makes a way: For now, the Chief is in charge. Edward Mujica, who was really turned to as the last reasonable resort in the bullpen for the closer position, turned in series that has (for the time being) fanned the flames on much maligned closer role. He saved each game in the series, without surrendering a hit in the process. He pitched to contact, striking out only one batter, but has maintained the impeccable control that’s made him the exception in the late inning mix all year (one walk in nine appearances). While he doesn’t have the track record or the stuff that Boggs and Rosenthal boast, there’s nobody else that’s even gotten close the effectiveness he’s shown thus far.

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