Tag Archive | "Homerun"

St. Louis Cardinal Fan Catches Allen Craig’s Homer In Milwaukee

Allen Craig lifted his 12th homerun of the season this afternoon in Milwaukee, extending the St. Louis Cardinals’ lead to 7-0 at the time.

The more impressive feat was that of the fan who covered a lot of ground to track down the ball and snag it out of the air.

Check out the video below and tip your cap to a Cards fan in a visiting ballpark giving maximum effort to bring home the souvenir.

Craig’s solo homer8/21/13: Allen Craig launches a solo homer to left-center field, giving the Cardinals a 7-0 lead over the Brewers in the top of the second

Embedly Powered

via Mlb

But who was the fan?  Well, thanks to the wonderful world of Social Media (and @gr33nazn on Twitter), we discover that it is none other than “Milwaukee’s Ballhawk” Shawn.  You can read more about The Ballhawk at his blog by clicking this link.  He claims to be a Cardinal fan, especially Ryan Franklin, and is sporting a Franklin shirsey in the video.

Well done, Ballhawk, well done.

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Mitchell Boggs gets blame, but Victor Marte no better

The St. Louis Cardinals might have finally cut ties with one veteran right-handed reliever Friday when they sent Mitchell Boggs back to the minors, but they need to say goodbye to another.

Mitchell-Boggs

Sure, Boggs gave up a back-breaking homerun to Kansas City Royals pinch-hitter Jeff Francour in the ninth inning of Thursday night’s epic and took the official loss, but his successor just made matters worse.

Victor Marte came in with Royals leftfielder Alex Gordon, who Boggs walked, on first base. Marte promptly hit shortstop Alcides Escobar in the hand, and made a throwing error on the next play to load the bases.

To top things off, first baseman Eric Hosmer hit a high chopper over Cardinals first baseman Allen Craig’s head to drive in the deciding two runs in what became a 4-2 Royals win before Marte intentionally walked pinch hitter Chris Getz.

Mercifully, Mother Nature sent a massive rainstorm that required a four-and-a-half hour delay to prevent Marte from allowing the Royals to do anymore damage. Joe Kelly, who might have been a better option to start the inning anyway, came in after the game restarted at 3:04 a.m. and quickly got three outs.

Obviously, Boggs wasn’t manager Mike Matheny’s best choice to try and close the game since he deemed regular closer Edward Mujica unavailable because he had pitched in each of the four previous games, but Marte obviously wouldn’t have been any better if he’d have started the inning.

The Cardinals have an incredible stockpile of young pitchers in their organization, including four who they have used in the bullpen. Why not use them? Sure, the Cardinals had only a 2-1 lead heading into the ninth inning, but the rookies have done nothing so far to prove they can’t handle that type of situation.

Boggs has, many times.

The Cardinals tried to make him their closer to start the season after Jason Motte suffered a season-ending elbow injury in spring training, but Boggs allowed 16 runs in 13 games with 10 walks that led to two blown saves and another two losses.

That led the Cardinals to send Boggs to the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds on May 2, and he remained there until the big club recalled him May 19.

His performance wasn’t much better the second time around, either. He allowed a homerun to San Diego Padres outfielder Will Venable, the first batter he faced, May 20 in his return. He also gave up a run five days later against the Los Angeles Dodgers before Thursday’s meltdown.

Meanwhile, the team has had phenomenal success with pitchers such as Trevor Rosenthal, Seth Maness and Carlos Martinez. The team recently sent Martinez back to Memphis to condition as a starter, but those three pitchers have a combined 2.92 earned-run average in 45 appearances.

Marte’s first appearance of the 2013 season came Thursday, but it didn’t look much different than how he fared in 2012. The Cardinals picked the 32-year-old up off the scrap heap after he spent 2009-10 with the Royals, and he actually pitched pretty well in the first half of the season with a 3.82 ERA, 12 appearances in June when he allowed just five runs, combined.

However, by the time the season ended his ERA had ballooned to 4.91, and he did not make the postseason roster. The Cardinals used young pitchers such as Shelby Miller instead.

And that’s what they should do again in 2013. They called up Keith Butler from the Double-A Springfield Cardinals to replace Boggs, and they’ll soon need a replacement for Marte, if Thursday was any indication.

That decision will be easier once right-handed starter Jake Westbrook returns to help lessen the burden four rookies have carried in the starting rotation this season.

It might not be desirable to have so many young pitchers on the staff, but Matheny shouldn’t hesitate to use them in important situations because right now they are simply the best option.

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2013 St. Louis Cardinals are very good, but could be great

The St. Louis Cardinals jumped out to a 28-16 record through roughly the first quarter of the regular season, and while that is the best record in the National League, the team still has noticeable room for improvement.

Jon Jay

The roster started to round into form nicely in early May as the hitters such as centerfielder Jon Jay and third baseman David Freese improved their swings, and the bullpen stabilized to provide reinforcements late in the game for a starting rotation that was by far the most dominant in all of Major League Baseball.

But then right-handed starter Jake Westbrook went on the disabled list May 12 with a sore elbow, and left-handed starter Jaime Garcia’s probably ended Friday when he left the game with left shoulder pain and is likely headed for surgery.

The Cardinals called up left-handed pitcher John Gast to fill Westbrook’s spot, and Gast has done well with wins in each of his first two starts. Gast has a 4.76 earned-run average, but that’s largely because he ran into trouble in the sixth inning after pitching five scoreless innings in each game.

Another lefty, Tyler Lyons, will start Wednesday in San Diego against the Padres in place of Garcia. Lyons had a 4.47 ERA through eight starts with the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds, but neither Lyons nor Gast should be the Cardinals’ largest worries.

If Gast continues to pitch well, the Cardinals could keep him in the rotation when Westbrook comes back and send Lyons back to the minors, but the bullpen is still more of a concern.

Mitchell Boggs returned to the Cardinals on Monday in San Diego after a nearly three-week long banishment in Memphis to straighten out his pitching since he racked up an ERA above 12.00 in his first 14 appearances of the season.

Boggs gave up a homerun to the first hitter he faced Monday, which was Padres centerfielder Will Veneble, but then settled in to retire the next six hitters in a row.

Before Boggs, Fernando Salas entered Monday’s game in the sixth inning to relieve right-handed rookie starter Shelby Miller, who held a 2-1 lead at the time but left with two runners on base. Salas promptly gave up a single to center by outfielder Chris Denorfia, walked catcher John Baker and hit pinch hitter Jesus Guzman to allow the Padres to take their game-winning 4-2 lead.

The bullpen doesn’t have to be perfect every game. That’s an unrealistic expectation, but the inconsistency is frightening now that the starting rotation is down to three of its original five members.

The relievers’ workload could quickly skyrocket if Gast and Lyons can’t make it past the sixth inning. Right-handed starter Lance Lynn tends to run up a high pitch count fairly regularly, and Miller hasn’t made it past the sixth inning in his two starts after the complete-game shutout he threw May 10 at Busch Stadium against the Colorado Rockies.

That, in turn, puts more pressure on right-handed ace Adam Wainwright to pitch deep into every game he pitches because the bullpen will likely be either overworked or on the verge of being overworked until Westbrook returns and Chris Carpenter completes another surprising comeback.

Wainwright will also have to pitch very well in his starts because the offense has yet to consistently put up large run totals this season. The lineup has produced more than four runs in a game three times in the last 13 games.

However, the Cardinals’ lineup is packed with five hitters who have combined for more than 3,000 RBIs in their careers, so any scoring droughts likely won’t last very long.

Given their start, the 2013 Cardinals have the potential to put together one of the best records in franchise history, but they currently still have a few too many questions on their roster to make that prediction become reality.

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Patience pays off for Jon Jay, David Freese

Although short-sighted analysis would have suggested otherwise, St. Louis Cardinals centerfielder Jon Jay and third baseman David Freese weren’t going to struggle at the plate forever.

DavidFreeseBat

Cardinals fans quickly became anxious about both players in April as Jay struggled to a .213 batting average, and Freese was even worse at .163 as he returned from an oblique injury he suffered in spring training.

But Jay is now hitting .273, including four homeruns while playing very solid defense, and Freese has bumped his average up to .211 heading into play Saturday, including a grand slam for his first homerun of the season in the first inning Friday against the Milwaukee Brewers.

Plus, each is likely to improve from here.

Jay is a career .298 hitter, and Freese has a career average of .289 and averages 16 homeruns per season.

Sometimes players simply get off to bad starts. That’s no reason to wish for centerfield prospect Oscar Taveras to take Jay’s job or for the Cardinals to trade Freese.

Sure, neither Jay nor Freese are likely going to be All-Stars this season and neither figures to have the much potential to be a Most Valuable Player candidate in their careers, but they are vital pieces of the Cardinals’ team.

For example, the Cardinals had a 15-11 record in April while Jay and Freese struggled. That’s good, and bullpen problems played a large role in at least four of those losses, but the Cardinals also got minimal production from their centerfield and third base positions, which are traditionally two of the most important offensive positions on the team.

Once the calendar turned to May, the Cardinals went on an 11-3 surge as Jay and Freese started to hit the ball better.

Jay’s improvement came from adjustments in his swing. He has always been a singles hitter, but his approach at the plate included a lot of movement in his hands. That allows ample opportunity for his timing to get messed up and creates a lot of unnecessary movement.

But Jay made the required adjustments. He now holds the bat up straighter in his stance and has a more direct approach to the ball. And now he looks like a hitter who could bat .300, which is the type of batter Cardinals fans remember from Jay’s first three seasons with the team.

Freese’s development has been a little slower. He did have a five-game hitting streak last week but had only one hit in each of those games. However, he’s been recovering from the oblique injury, and those types of injuries tend to linger, not to mention the twisting motion required to hit puts stress directly on the injury part of his body.

In any case, the signs of progress from both players are welcome for the Cardinals, and they could help power the team through an extended stretch of winning baseball.

The Cardinals entered play Saturday with a 27-14 record, the best in Major League Baseball, and that could get even better because of the team’s upcoming schedule.

The Cardinals beat up on non-divisional opponents in the current home stand by winning five of seven games against the Colorado Rockies and New York Mets. Now they’ll head to the West Coast to play the San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers, who had a combined record of 35-46 heading into play Saturday and were the bottom two teams in the National League West Division.

The Cardinals already had a strong team with consistently great performances by their starting rotation and sections of their lineup hitting well, but they could continue to contend for the best team in baseball title throughout the summer if players such as Jay and Freese join the run-production party as the weather warms up.

All it took was smart, steady work, and a little bit of patience.

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St. Louis Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak might be best in MLB

In just four years, St. Louis Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak has done just about everything an organization could ask out of that position, and he has done it in steady, yet stunning fashion.

JohnMozeliakBillDewitt

Mozeliak was promoted to the general manager position in 2008 after the Cardinals fired long-time GM Walt Jocketty, who had helped lead the organization through one of its most successful stretches in team history.

Since, Mozeliak took a team that was in the midst of a two-year hiatus from the playoffs and helped turn it into a team that has won a World Series and made the playoffs in three of the last four seasons despite losing arguably the best player in the game, Albert Pujols, at the end of 2011.

Mozeliak made some shrewd moves to reach that success, and he took avenues that weren’t necessarily glamorous, but they were vitally important to the success of the Cardinals.

For example, the only big signing he’s made since taking over as general manager was the seven-year, $120-million contract he gave Matt Holliday after trading for him midway through the 2009 season. Other than that, Mozeliak has deftly made trades that didn’t make major headlines, but paid off huge for the team in the long run.

In one of his first moves, Mozeliak traded Jim Edmonds to the San Diego Padres leading up to the 2008 season, and the Cardinals received a minor leaguer by the name of David Freese in return. At the time it looked as though the Cardinals had given up a fan favorite at the end of his career for a player who had potential but hadn’t had a stellar minor-league career.

But Freese has gone on to hit .296 in his four seasons with the Cardinals to go along with a .345 postseason batting average that includes the most famous hits of the 2011 World Series, a ninth-inning triple in Game 6 to tie the Texas Rangers, who were one strike from winning their first championship, and an 11th-inning homerun to win the game that sent the Cardinals to their championship moment the next evening.

Mozeliak has also added a great mix of veterans and young players. He signed Lance Berkman and Carlos Beltran in back-to-back seasons, and both had their best seasons in recent memory. But he also has developed a farm system that is cranking out big-league caliber players who are on the cusp of stardom.

In just the past two seasons, Freese, Jon Jay, Allen Craig, Jaime Garcia, Lance Lynn, Joe Kelly, Jason Motte and Trevor Rosenthal have filled critical roles for the Cardinals throughout the regular season, and in the team’s deep postseason runs.

Baseball America also recently ranked the Cardinals minor-league system as No. 1 in baseball. That is quite an honor for a system that the same organization ranked last in 2005. The organization is currently stocked with exciting prospects such as outfielder Oscar Taveras, infielder Kolten Wong and pitcher Carlos Martinez.

The combination of all of those factors is what makes Mozeliak the best general manager in baseball. He hasn’t had incredible amounts of money to throw at free agents to try and buy a winning team, as so many organizations have done. The New York Yankees, Miami Marlins, Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are just a few examples.

Those teams can overcome poor decisions by throwing money at the problem. Others, such as the Toronto Blue Jays this year, trade for a bunch of high-priced talent all at once and hope it all mashes together to create a winning team.

The Cardinals don’t solely use either of those approaches, but they take pieces from each. They are an organization that has developed a near-perfect combination of developing young talent while maintaining the flexibility to add key outside pieces to the puzzle of a big-league roster. The Cardinals are sort of a balance between the Tampa Bay Rays, who rely almost solely on home-grown talent, and the big market teams that spend a ton of money.

Granted, general managers are often viewed as good or horrible based on the flexibility their owners give them. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman was viewed as a genius when the Yankees spent loads of money each offseason, but this year his reputation has taken a hit because the Yankees don’t want to spend as much money. That’s not fair, but it is something that comes along with the job.

Texas Rangers general manager Jon Daniels is probably the closest to Mozeliak in terms of his ability to build a consistent winning team without breaking the bank on free agents. The Rangers had the No. 1-ranked minor-league system in 2009 and followed it with two consecutive World Series appearances.

San Francisco Giants general manager Brian Sabean is another who does an excellent job, and Jocketty is also building a strong foundation with the Cincinnati Reds by applying the same principles he used during his successful 13-year run with the Cardinals that included seven playoff appearances and a World Series championship.

Mozeliak has taken those principles to the next level and built a team that is capable of winning a World Series now, as well as a team that should consistently compete for championships in the foreseeable future.

Given the Cardinals’ recent success and the projections that similar success lays ahead, Mozeliak deserves to be called one of the best, and quite possibly the best, general manager in Major League Baseball.

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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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Still El Hombre

One homerun, 4 RBIs, and a .128 batting average.

Still The Man

Those were Albert Pujols’ numbers during the first two weeks of this season. Heck, he only had 5 hits. By months end, one of the best hitters the baseball has ever known “rebounded” to hit .257 for the month… a far cry from his then .331 career batting average.

Not exactly the start he or Cardinals fans were hoping for.

May was not much better for Albert, who only put up 2 HRs and 13 RBIs. That’s a total he’s nearly eclipsed already just 11 games into the month of September (2 HRs, 12 RBIs, and a .428 Avg. by the way). And that’s exactly the point.

Albert Pujols is still the man.

Has he had his flaws this year? Absolutely. With 15 games to go, there’s a decent chance he’ll tie or break the National League record for groundball double plays in a single season (32 – Miguel Tejada, Pujols has 29). His current batting average of .298 is well below his previous career low of .312 (’10). He slumped so much that teams started pitching to him late in games with the tying run in scoring position and first base open. His intentional walks, in fact, will likely be the lowest since 2004 (yes, teams still pitched to him in ’04. Crazy, I know).

But despite all that, plus a broken wrist and an overwhelming large contract cloud looming over him, he’s still managed to put up these numbers: .298, 35 HRs, 92 RBIs… and there’s still two weeks left. The man is simply absurd.

His value to the Cardinals is undeniable. In the team’s 79 wins, he has driven in 70 RBIs. In the team’s 67 losses… just 22 RBIs.

Many fans will think back on the 2011 season and think Pujols had an “awful” year. By Albert’s incredibly high standards, he truly is having an awful year. But luckily for the Cardinals, and “awful” Pujols means hitting .428 in September, (likely) driving in 100+ Runs, scoring another 100+, and leading the league in homeruns.

Perspective is a funny thing sometimes.

But with perspective in mind, fans have to hope that both the Cardinals’ management and team Pujols have it going into the offseason. Both sides know he was underpaid for 11 years of dominant baseball… putting up over nine-hundred extra-base hits during that span and leading the team to two World Series and one championship. Both sides must also know that the next 8-10 years will not yield that same kind of production unless Pujols goes Barry Bonds on us.

The Cardinals paid $116 million for Pujols’ prime, and he wants $300 million for his decline. It’s a tough situation for everyone involved. Hopefully they can settle things up for a less-than-franchise-crippling amount in the middle… because Cardinals Nation wants him back, and the team needs him back.

He is, after all, still the man.

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Garcia’s Endurance Raises Questions About Future

Let me take you back to the rubber-game of the first I-70 Series this season. The Cardinals sent Jaime Garcia and his 1.68 ERA to the hill in the bottom of the 6th inning with the game and the series in hand. The Cardinals had jumped out to a 7-2 lead in Kansas City, and the team was in cruise-control. The Cardinals’ oft-criticized manager, Tony LaRussa, made a number of questionable decisions that day, including bringing Tyler Greene into the game as a defensive replacement for Allen Craig. Not only was Craig 2 for 2 with a homerun and 2 RBIs in the game, but Greene also made a crucial error, letting an infield pop-up fall to give the Royals a run. I wrote a full article about the game here on i70baseball.com back in May.

Garcia Tired

Though I stand behind most of my criticism in that article, I must offer my apologies to the Cardinals’ manager on my questioning of one decision: taking Jaime Garcia out of the game early.

At the time it seemed ridiculous. Garcia’s 84th and final pitch was crushed over the right field fence to make the game 7-3, and La Russa went immediately to the bullpen. 84 pitches. That’s it. Asking Brian Tallet, Trevor Miller, Ryan Franklin, and Miguel Batista to protect a 4-run lead for four full innings seems as crazy then as it does now, but I understand why the skipper did what he did.

LaRussa was saving Garcia for another day, or really any day in the second-half of the season. Since joining the Cardinals’ rotation last season, Jaime Garcia has hit the ground running from Opening Day through June, but something happens to the Cardinals’ lefty as the dog days of summer wear on. The numbers paint an interesting picture.

2010 2011 2010 2011
ERA in April: 1.04 2.08 Innings: 26 30.1
ERA in May: 1.53 4.23 Innings: 35.1 38.1
ERA in June: 4.50 3.44 Innings: 26 36.2
ERA in July: 2.51 2.51 Innings: 28.2 32.1
ERA in Aug: 2.53 6.84 Innings: 30.2 26.1
ERA in Sept: 5.94 —- Innings: 16.2 —–

Perhaps a more telling stat is this: in 13 career starts in August or September, Garcia has failed to pitch at least 6 innings 8 times. He’s pitched more than 7 innings just once. Since the trade deadline this year, he’s made it to the 6th inning just once in five tries.

The Cardinals know Chris Carpenter’s clock is ticking, and by handing Jaime a $27 million contract, they’ve established him as the team’s future #2 starter behind Adam Wainwright (or at least a #3 starter). The Cardinals him down early last season, and they’re skipping at least one of his starts this season. The Cardinals may be out of the race at this point, but there’s still plenty of things to watch for as the season winds down. And one of, if not the top things should be Garcia’s ability to handle the workload in September. Because if he can’t handle September, how will he handle October down the road?

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What About Carp?

Chris Carpenter looks back while the homerun he just gave up to Pirates second baseman Neil Walker flies over the fence. He is taken out of the game, which would eventually end 7-0.

Carp

These are tough times for Cards fans to be sure. After all, their team is over 10 games out and recently has played with questionable effort. But some of the backlash Carp got after his five inning, six run outing was completely uncalled for, regardless of how their team as a whole is doing. Some in Cardinal Nation, both the usual brilliant philosophers and fans who can actually think, were drilling Carp, even saying that they hated the idea of having him back after this season. What?

He had a rough start to the year that consisted of either bad pitching on his part or bad backup on the part of his offense, but he righted the ship and has been amazing of late–minus Saturday’s start, of course.

Bottom line, he’s the best pitcher on the team this year. Sure, that doesn’t mean a whole lot this year, but let’s take a step back. Next year’s rotation will read like this:

Adam Wainwright
Jaime Garcia
?????
Kyle Lohse
Jake Westbrook

Waino will most likely be a beast, Jaime can be great but has to pick it up after this season, Lohse could be good but may continue to stink, and Westbrook will most likely stink or be par at best. The next person can either be Kyle McClellan, Edwin Jackson, Marc Rzepczynski, a free agent, a minor-leaguer, or Carp. With a pretty suspect rotation that won’t be as lucky with injuries, don’t you want the second-best pitcher on the team?

You can make the argument that $15 million is too much, especially with all the players that need to be re-upped this offseason. But besides all of that, Carp doesn’t deserve to get smacked around by an ever-corroding fan base that, I believe, has been weakened by social media.

He has become one of the best Cards pitchers ever and there’s no denying he has more fire than any guy out there–a common complaint that ‘fans’ file against every other player on the team at some point. It’s possible he’s approaching the horizon year of being a dominant starter, but don’t give him the Derek Jeter treatment and act like he’s dirt after all he’s done for your team. Instead, enjoy him while you can.

He may only have five starts left.

Become part of the ever-growing readership at EM, updated daily. And no, I didn’t pick the picture.

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48 Hours That Could Change The Whole Season

Even as resilient as this Cardinals team had proven to be over the past three months, it’s hard not to wonder whether this past weekend may have been a critical turning point in the season. We all know the stories of the Cardinals’ injuries by now, but up until Friday night, the team still held a share of first place in the NL Central.

Once again, the Cardinals had rallied to overcome a deficit and had knotted the game at 4-4. With closer Fernando Salas on the mound for the top of the 9th, the Cardinals seemed to have the upper hand in the game. But with 1 out, Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista sent a long fly ball towards the Cardinals bullpen. Jon Jay tracked it all the way to the wall, leaped high in the air, but missed the ball by inches. The Blue Jays took the game, and Milwaukee took over the division lead.

Twenty-four hours later, it was the 3rd inning (and the men in blue) that did the Red Birds in. With the score tied 1-1, the Blue Jays had runners at the corners and 2 outs when catcher J.P. Arencibia hit a hot-shot to 3rd base. Daniel Descalso made a diving stop, but his throw pulled Lance Berkman off the bag. Berkman was able to make it back in time, but the 1st base umpire called Arencibia safe, allowing the runner from third to score and the inning to continue. The next batter jacked a 3-run homerun, and in the blink of an eye it was 5-1 and the Jays were on their way to a 6-3 victory. The Brewers, meanwhile, pulled 2 games ahead of the Cardinals in the division.

Sunday afternoon, the Cardinals were locked in another tight ballgame in the 6th until a chopper to first base resulted in an errant throw home and opened the flood gates for another big inning. In 48 hours, the Cardinals lost 3 winnable games; and 3 important games in the standings to the Brewers.

As difficult as a home-sweep would normally be, it’s twice as hard for the Cardinals under their current set of circumstances. If you want to sum up the first half of the Cardinals’ season with one number, one telling statistic, it might be 77. That’s the number of games reserve right fielder Jon Jay has played in, leading the team in that category.

Not a single opening day starter has missed fewer than 5 games this season. David Freese, Matt Holliday, and Skip Schumaker alone have missed a combined 102 games thus far. Three-time MVP Albert Pujols will have missed 4-6 weeks by the time he returns to the lineup, and ace Adam Wainwright will not throw a single pitch for the 2011 squad.

With this recent sweep, the Cardinals have now lost 12 of their last 15 games. While it’s nearly impossible to say that a sweep in June was the knock-out punch for the Red Birds, it has certainly knocked them down in a big way.

The Cardinals have 13 games left before the All-Star Break against the Orioles, Rays, Reds, and Diamondbacks. They’re also getting David Freese back. Mid-to-late July will bring the return of Allen Craig, Albert Pujols, and Eduardo Sanchez. The rest of the team has to get back off the mat and roll with the punches until then, or postseason chances could be lost by the time the Cardinals are back at full strength.

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