The trading deadline was starting to heat up and, it appeared, so were the Cardinals as we again look back at the World Series year of 2011.
According To Plan
Looking at the schedule, the Cardinals needed this week to be a successful one. Four games against the woeful Astros and a weekend series against the struggling Cubs meant that a team that planned on playing in October should be making some hay. Last night, it went basically according to script.
I’m not sure what has gotten into Yadier Molina, but whatever it is Yadi needs to keep it around. For the second time recently, Yadi fell a triple shy of the cycle, smacking three hits including tying his career high in home runs with eight. I felt that some of the disparagement of Molina’s offensive skill set in the offseason was unjustified, as he had a very strong second half last year, but this is more than anyone expected. Perhaps it’s a coincidence, but I don’t remember as many gaffes and miscues recently either, unlike what we saw in the first half of the season. If his defense is strong, he doesn’t have to hit as much. Which means that what he’s giving the team right now is just a huge, wonderful bonus.
On the down side, P.J. Walters may never pitch to Carlos Lee again. For the second time in as many at bats, Lee took Walters deep for a grand slam. Walters made his own trouble, though, getting one out before loading–and then unloading–the bases. After praising him in yesterday’s post, it’s rough to see him struggle like that. Then again, as we all know, there are days like that for most everyone in the bullpen.
Colby Rasmus continues to shake off trade talk, apparently going into the up cycle of his streakiness. We’ve all known it was going to happen, just glad it happened this week, where it can only be good for the Cardinals. Either it raises his trade value or, more likely, reminds the organization what they have and they are much less likely to trade him off for pennies on the dollar. I don’t know that Rasmus’s future in St. Louis is that much stronger and I can almost guarantee that, at some time in his career, he’ll wear another uniform, but for right now and for this season, I think he stays with the Cards and they’ll be glad that he did.
Kyle McClellan had a much-needed good game, but even it came with qualifiers. How much of that outing was due to McClellan pitching well, making adjustments, things that can last, and how much of it was the fact that the Astros are almost historically bad? They’ve not lost 16 in a row like Seattle, but they are on pace for 110 losses or so, which is tough to do. Being that McClellan’s last win was against these guys, is he really able to stay in the rotation the rest of the year. His next outing may not tell us much more–it’s also a home start, this time against the Cubs–but the one after that is on the road in Florida, which would be a tougher test. That’s also after the trading deadline, though, so it could be a moot point. Either he’ll be in the bullpen or he’s going to be the rotation the rest of the year. There aren’t many other options.
Ryan Theriot continues to struggle, putting up an 0-5 line on a night when the rest of the team piled up 12 hits and four walks. It seems pretty obvious that a change should be made in the top of the lineup, at least for a while. Theriot’s July has been abysmal, with a .172/.184/.241 slash line. When your slugging percentage wouldn’t make an acceptable on-base percentage, there are issues. If Theriot isn’t getting on base but 20% of the time, that’s a pretty big drag for the offense. So far, at least the last few days, they’ve been able to get around it, but for a team in a heated pennant race, every drawback could end a season in September.
As Theriot has struggled, Daniel Descalso has gotten hot. Granted he’s had fewer at-bats, but his July line is .342/.457/.421. He’s not going to hit for much power, with only three doubles in the month, but he’s going to get on base. We saw how he could draw walks in the game Sunday against Pittsburgh. It seems like Descalso, at least for a while, should get a lot more time at the top of the lineup and Theriot get a chance to sit.
Two more hits for Jon Jay and David Freese went one-for-two with a walk before being subbed out for Descalso when the game well in hand. Some solid work up and down the lineup last night.
Lance Berkman has a rotator cuff strain, which kept him from participating in last night’s festivities. We worried and worried all spring long about Berkman’s legs, about his injury history, about whether he’d be able to handle the grind of the season. So far, though, those worries have been unfounded, as this is just one of those nagging injuries that players get from time to time. If Berkman has to sit 10 or less games during the season with things like this, it’s a major victory for the Cardinals. I’m pretty sure Berkman’s going to do that off-season workout like he did last year again after seeing these results!
The field became an issue last night, as the new sod has been laid after the entire field was taken up for the U2 concert. While it may be down, it hasn’t necessarily taken hold though, as Hunter Pence might attest to. There could be some slipping and sliding, some interesting plays during this homestand.
I was disappointed not to see the mowed arch in the outfield. The team added that as a wonderful trademark decoration for the All-Star Game in 2009 and it has been there ever since. Thankfully, it was quickly announced that the arch would be returning on the next homestand, but that the grounds crew wanted to give the sod more time to take root before they got out there with the mowers. Good to know!
Adam Wainwright is moving along in his rehab. He’s throwing from flat ground 60 feet 6 inches and plans to move to a mound in September. He’s still hoping to be ready for October, but even if he was, would you want a rusty Wainwright out there in the middle or late innings of a close playoff game? That’s an interesting question. Compared to some of the bullpen, it’d be a resounding yes. Most likely, though, it’d be better to wait and have him ready to go in the spring.
Allen Craig should be on rehab another week or so, as Tony La Russa says he’s a bit rusty still. That coincides with the trade deadline, which means two things to me. One, the odds are Craig isn’t traded. He’s a pretty solid trade chip and I guess it’s possible that if he shows that he’s over the affects of the cracked kneecap, another team would take him but I think he sticking with the club. Secondly, it may mean that we don’t have to worry much about the offsetting roster move, as a trade might wind up clearing a slot for him anyway. Probably not, since it’d have to be a two-for-one in terms of major league players, but it could happen.
Jake Westbrook is on the hill tonight, looking to build off of that strong start in New York. How has he done against the Astros in his career? I’m so glad you asked.
Carlos Lee has done a lot of damage in the past and has to be licking his chops after getting in a slam last night. Pence and budding Cardinal killer Brett Wallace have been successful as well, though in much smaller sample sizes.
Brett Myers goes against the Redbirds. Cards got to him for five runs in six innings the last time he faced them, back in early June. Here’s the career chart:
Generated 7/26/2011.Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday are looking forward to his outing, it would seem. It probably isn’t a bad thing that Berkman will need to rest that sprain a little longer, either, with his record against Myers.I said that the Cards needed to go 5-2 on this homestand. One win down, hopefully another one coming tonight!