75 years ago today, Lou Gehrig told the world that he was the luckiest man on the face of this earth. He said this as he dealt with the most horrible of diseases, and one that attacked every part of his system. A disease that would give him paralysis and make him unable to raise his head. A disease that took his life less than 2 years after he made that legendary speech at Yankees Stadium. You know why Gehrig said those words to the crowd? Baseball is a helluva game and sports can leave an indelible mark on the soul. Every time July rolls around it’s time to remember that this sport only makes us stress so much, wince so frequently and draw 4500 conclusions per week because of how insurmountable the game of baseball can be. You may not be able to find another Gehrig in this game today, one that had to be helped to the microphone to make his speech that day, but you will find millions of people who could tell stories about what baseball meant to them. It’s a game that will drive you absolutely nuts but we love it and go after it no matter what.
With that cheerful reminder, let’s look at some game notes before tonight’s game.
*Giancarlo “Mini Rock” Stanton, the object of so many Cardinals fans affections, walks into Busch Stadium today to swing his mighty bat. Trust me, the bat is swift. Stanton comes to town with a .313 average, 100 hits, 21 HR, 61 RBI and a .991 OPS. Stanton has struck out 92 times but when you have the ability to hit the ball 118 mph, it hurts not to swing. It is a crazy theory to think of him coming to Cardinal nation, because why would the Marlins give up a man who is 24 years old and one who already owns 150 home runs. Why give him up for a commodity with no guarantee? With that in mind, appreciate the presence of Stanton while he is here. The vicious power he brings to the plate. There aren’t a ton of opponents I look forward to seeing play but Giancarlo is one of them.
*For those of you wondering why Allen Craig is not playing for the second game in a row, the answer isn’t hard to fathom. Craig was severely struggling and was doing so after a rough June. He was 8-37 in his last 10 games with just 2 RBI. Runs batted in are Craig’s bread and butter and something you will see when he is going right. If he isn’t doing that, then his worth drops a ton. Hitting with RISP is one thing. Hitting simply at all is quite another. Craig needs more than 2 games off. He needs a week. However, sitting him too long could affect his trade prospects, no matter how little they actually are at this point.
*Watching Brendan Ryan make dazzling play after dazzling play for the Yankees, you simply wonder what it would take to make that man hit like it was 2009 all over again, when he hit .292 in 390 at bats. Sure, Ryan is hitting .293 in a brief 22 games but his defense is so overwhelmingly good that one wishes how great he could be if his bat was more able.
*Lance Lynn takes the mound tonight for the Cardinals in hopes of erasing a bad outing in Los Angeles. The Cards lineup wasn’t supplying many runs of support over the weekend in LA but Lance sure didn’t pitch well at all. Lynn gave up 6 earned runs in 2 innings and it represented his first rough start in nearly a month. This also brought out all the Twitter general managers so they could put together their latest Lynn trade scenarios. They forgot to look at his overall stats on the season and didn’t care to notice how important he has been to this team whose rotation has had as many changing parts as a fashion show in London. Lynn doesn’t deserve a smackdown for a bad day in LA.
*Jon Heyman from CBS put his mid season awards and lists and on the top 5 busts of 2014 Heyman listed Peralta. Really, Jon? Go back to that laptop and look again. When it comes to WAR and defensive WAR, Peralta ranks behind one man in the National League. Troy “Superman of the Rockies” Tulowitzki. Peralta also has 12 home runs, 23 doubles and 38 RBI to go with a slugging percentage of .422. His 3.5 WAR is pretty shiny there, Heyman. I will call Peralta a most pleasant surprise.
*Matt Adams has cooled off since his monstrous series against Colorado. Sure, he has 5 hits in his last six games but he has zero RBI and 10 strikeouts. The big guy has cooled and with the exception of Thursday’s breakout, the offense has chilled without his robust presence. Hopefully, Adams picks it up against Miami.
*Oscar Taveras was 2-11 in San Francisco with 3 strikeouts and an error in centerfield but its important to let the kid unwind in his second stint in the majors. You don’t build excellence in three days and Taveras did ignite a much needed 2 run rally on Wednesday to give the Cards and Adam Wainwright a 2-0 win. He is making slower waves in his recall and maybe it’s best that he didn’t launch a 400 foot home run in his first game back. Keep the expectations down to a dull roar.
*It was very refreshing to see Sam Freeman get into trouble on Thursday and find his way out of it. He had two runners on and only one out and struck out a batter and induced a grounder against the Giants to escape the inning with only 1 run scoring and it was unearned. The best part of Freeman’s season is his ability to maintain control. He has 15 strikeouts against 6 walks in 16.1 innings. That’s improvement.
*Matt Carpenter has a funny way of having slumps. Even when he is down, the man finds ways to get on base, contribute and make a dent. Sure he has struggled, but in his 10 games he is hitting .361 with 13 hits and 6 runs scored. His strikeouts are up in 2014 but is walks aren’t too far behind and his OBP(the cream of a leadoff man’s crop) is still .381. Carpenter is doing just fine and doesn’t need to be moved out of the spot.
*The return of Kolten Wong won’t help the team hit for power but hopefully will sharpen the team’s already stiff defense and give them some speed to work with on the bases. He was hitting well before the shoulder injury. He looks to be back next week.
*Joe Kelly will collect a couple more starts in Memphis and return to the rotation after the All Star Break. Kelly is a second half monster and all the innings load critics who think he can’t duplicate success over a whole season will have to wait until 2015 for that to become a reality. Kelly could help this team in a variety of ways. He has a sense of humor on the bench that will keep things loose and an arm on the mound that is capable of spitting out quality starts.
*When will Peter Bourjos make an appearance again? I believe with Mozeliak’s need to see Oscar play every day that the center fielders in Jay and Pete will see their time cut into. This will make July very interesting.
*While Jason Motte isn’t as sharp as he wants to be yet, one encouraging sign is his control. He has 13 strikeouts and only 4 walks and hasn’t allowed a run or hit in four of his last five outings. Motte becoming great again is the equalizer to this bullpen being a force in September.
*I will write more about Motte and Wainwright next week but I will say this. What Wainwright is doing is better than he has ever done before. Waino’s batting average against of .197 is nearly 50 points below his career average. He is on pace for 202 strikeouts and 231 innings. He will have at least 11 wins at the All Star break and a league leading 1.89 ERA. With an anemic offense behind him, Waino’s stats take on a whole new level of dominance.
That’s it. The Cards changed the outlook of their situation with a series win in San Francisco but need to continue it against Miami before the resurgent Pittsburgh Pirates come to town. I would like to see the drill sergeant nature of Mike Matheny’s clubhouse relax a bit and a little more levity to creep inside the dugout. Have some fun out there boys. Fans will complain one way or another, because it’s part of the game.
Thanks for reading and come back for future doses.