Tag Archive | "Mental Lapses"

Is Hands Off Best For Jaime?

Jaime Garcia has, at times, been one of the best pitchers the St. Louis Cardinals have on staff.  At other times, he has been erratic.


It is a subject that has been poured over many times, but Jaime Garcia can go from “lights out” to “nobody’s home” with just a bad call or missed play behind him.  The lefty has shown moments of brilliance and moments of complete confusion, sometimes in the same game.  Much has been said about it and, behind the scenes, much has been analyzed about it.

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny has said in interviews that he fully believes that he could have helped prevent the amazing collapse of Rick Ankiel on the mound had he not been hurt and not on the field during the 2000 playoff run.  He has stated that earlier in that season, Ankiel had struggled and he was able to bring him back into focus and get through the situation.

Thirteen years later, Jaime Garcia has Matheny for a manager and the two are trying to find the best way to help the pitcher overcome mental lapses and realize his potential on the mound.

During a recent interview, Matheny has revealed that the team will attempt to take some pressure off of Garcia by not looking into every detail of the starter’s games.  It seems there is some concern that he tries to adjust his mechanics too often, becoming too much of a perfectionist and getting inside his own head.

“I’m not dissecting everything he’s doing,” Matheny insisted after the win. “I know everybody else likes to right now. I’m just watching him go out there and do his thing. He did a nice job of pitching without reading into every situation that he gets into or out of. … I made a commitment to myself not to microscope him.” –from StlToday.com

Garcia will need to continue to pitch at the level he projects at in 2013 for the Cardinals to remain successful.  In addition, with the young talent being developed in the system, Garcia may be pitching to secure a spot on this team in the near future.

Either way, getting Garcia out of his head and into a routine will be a good thing for everyone involved.

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

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Wild, Indeed…

The St. Louis Cardinals beat the Atlanta Braves in the first ever Wild Card game Friday and are headed to the NLDS to face the Washington Nationals. As significant at that news is, the outcome of the game was unfortunately not the big story of the night.

See if you can keep up: Jason Heyward reached over the top of the wall and hauled in what looked like a Yadier Molina home run; in one Braves at bat, a borderline pitch went David Ross’s way, the next pitch time was called during Kyle Lohse’s windup and Ross swung and missed at what was called no pitch, and the next pitch was hit over the wall for a two-run homer; Andrelton Simmons was called out when he ran inside the first baseline after bunting and Lohse’s throw hit him; with two on and one out in the eighth, Simmons popped into shallow left and Pete Kozma missed an easy catch, but because the ump made an at-best questionable invocation of the infield fly rule the batter was out—turning bases loaded, one out into second and third, two out; Braves fans responded to the play by littering the field with garbage, causing a 20-minute delay in the game; Braves manager Fredi Gonzales protested the game but because of the nature of the game the umps had to call Joe Torre during the delay to get a ruling on the protest; the Braves committed the fewest errors as a team in the regular season but committed three in this game; the Cardinals outscored the Braves 6-3, but the Braves outhit the Cardinals 12-6.

Did you get all that?

For whatever reason, the Cards managed to come out on top of the trash heap and will move on to start the NLDS at Busch Stadium Sunday against the Nationals. It certainly wasn’t a pretty win, even taking away all the absurdity, mental lapses, and misplays in the field. Lohse pitched well, but the bullpen allowed the Braves to get on base in each of the final three innings of the game. Mike Matheny also made a couple of questionable moves: bringing Lance Lynn in for just a third of an inning in a 4-2 game that was far from won; and pinch-running for David Freese with Adron Chambers in the 6th inning, then having Descalso sacrifice bunt Chambers to 3rd base. The Cardinals did enough to win without the questionable calls…but not by much.

Also lost in all the craziness was the end of Chipper Jones’ career. He did get a hit in his final at bat—which came with two outs in the 9th inning—but was responsible for the Braves’ first error, too. All in all, it was in no way a fitting end to a remarkable playing career. Although there is a hint of irony that his swan song was a loss to the Cardinals in the postseason, much like Ozzie Smith’s final game was a loss in Game 7 of the 1996 NLCS to the Atlanta Braves. Incidentally, the Braves have not beaten the Cardinals in four postseason meetings since.

Unfortunately, what the game will most be remembered for is the infield fly call and the madness that followed. Braves fans were irate, and maybe deservedly so. But their actions at Turner Field were reprehensible, dangerous, and ignorant. Ugliness like that happens infrequently, but when it does it really illustrates how ridiculous a herd of emotional human beings can be. When it comes down to it, all that play cost the Braves was an out and a base runner. The inning did not end, no runs came off the Braves’ side of the scoreboard, and no runs were added to the Cardinals’ side. The two runners that were already on base even advanced on the play. I’d hate to see what would happen in Atlanta if they were on the wrong side of a close play at the plate…kind of like the one where they beat the Pirates on a bad call to end that 19 inning game in 2011.

Regardless, the Cardinals survive to play another day. If the 2011 run was magical, then Friday night felt like it had black magic in play. The really scary part? The playoffs are just getting started…

Chris Reed also writes for InsideSTL Mondays and Bird Brained whenever he feels like it. Follow him on Twitter @birdbrained.

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St. Louis Cardinals set to begin second surge as All-Star break approaches

The St. Louis Cardinals began their World Series title defense in impressive fashion, going 14-8 in April and leading the NL Central division by three games over the Cincinnati Reds. But then the season quickly took a turn for the worse as several key players got hurt and the Cardinals lost the division lead.

However, the Cardinals looked a lot more like the team of April this week than the depleted roster that struggled to keep up through much of May and June.

Sure, they are just 3-2 in their last five games heading into play Sunday, but the team has played much more solid games devoid of the mental lapses and poor fundamental play that plagued the team for more than a month.

Lance Lynn started last week’s series against Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers unimpressively. He gave up five runs in five innings, but since then the Cardinals pitching staff has been dynamite. Jake Westbrook threw a complete-game shutout Wednesday, and Kyle Lohse certainly pitched well enough to win Thursday afternoon’s game the Cardinals lost 2-1 in 10 innings.

But the real wake-up call came when the team showed up Friday at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City to begin a beatdown of their cross-state rival, the Royals. The Cardinals plastered 10 runs on the board in the first two innings of Friday’s game started by Joe Kelly. They went on to win 11-4 and then pounded out eight more runs Saturday to help Adam Wainwright get the 8-2 win.

Perhaps how the Cardinals won those games is more impressive than the fact that they won them. The offense jumped out to early leads in both games and put the Royals in a position where they had to try and make a comeback if they were going to win.

That’s what the Cardinals did so well at the beginning of the season. Fans who were late to their seats would miss most of the scoring because the Cardinals often had a multiple-run lead before the stadium lights would begin to take effect.

Not coincidently, the Cardinals recent performances happened the same weekend as centerfielder Jon Jay and utility man Matt Carpenter returns from the disabled list. Both players returned to the lineup for Friday’s game.

Now let’s not oversell those two players return as the saviors to the season. Injuries have certainly played a major role in the Cardinals’ struggles this year, but there have also been defensive lapses and bullpen problems that have nothing to do with injuries.

Still, the return of Jay and Carpenter are a boost to the club and should be the beginning of a stretch of better baseball.

Plus, the Cardinals will begin a series Monday in Miami to face the Marlins, who are in the middle of a rough stretch where they’ve lost nine of their last 10 games. The Cardinals started the season in Miami with a 4-1 behind a masterful performance by Lohse and maintained that momentum for the rest of the month.

Westbrook is scheduled to start Monday’s game, but his complete game last week in Detroit might have been the spark for a similar run into the second half of the season.

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