We didn’t know it, but the run had begun. From this point until the end of the 2011 season, the drama would build, the excitement would take hold, and historical things were happening.
Right now, it just looked like a regular part of a lost season.
Taking Joy Where You Can
Been a while since we chatted about the team. Let’s catch up.
Wednesday (9-4 loss vs Los Angeles)
Hero: Skip Schumaker. Four hits, a run and an RBI. On a day when there wasn’t much of interest, Skip had a fine one.
Goat: Jaime Garcia. It appeared that his mental focus slipped yet again. Six earned runs in the third and twice he didn’t back up home plate on throws in. While that contract is still a good one, I heard that he’s 1-4 with a 5.00 ERA since he signed that deal. You wonder if the Cards are wishing they’d waited a bit on that one.
Notes: The bullpen, save for Kyle McClellan, pitched very well in this one. Not that it mattered since the Cards didn’t do most of their scoring until the game was out of hand, but it’s still nice to see some scoreless frames. Matt Holliday had two hits and Gerald Laird hit his first Cardinal home run.
Thursday (8-4 win vs Pittsburgh)
Hero: Matt Holliday. He only had the one hit, but it was a big three-run home run that sealed the game and made the ninth very anti-climactic. With the way this bullpen can go, anytime you can get that, it’s a big deal.
Goat: Yadier Molina. Tough night for the catcher, going 0-4 with a strikeout.
Notes: Albert Pujols walked three times, once right in front of Holliday’s blast. Hopefully that patience will translate into a torrid September. Marc Rzepczynski was finally used in a close game, though Tony La Russa did pull him after he gave up a leadoff hit in the eighth. I’d have probably let him continue, but Jason Motte did a fine job. This was also Social Media Night, about which I’ll have more to say later on.
Friday (5-4 win vs. Pittsburgh)
Hero: Lance Berkman. His two-run home run turned an eighth-inning deficit into an eighth-inning lead, one that McClellan was able to preserve.
Goat: Jake Westbrook. While he wound up going six, that first inning, where he gave up three runs, almost proved to be his undoing. Yadier Molina saved him there, but he gave up another run later on. I guess four runs in six is about the standard we’ll be getting from Westbrook, but that doesn’t mean we have to like it.
Notes: Three-run home run by Molina, as he continues probably his best all-around offensive season. Pujols went 0-3, dropping his average under .290. You know the Pujols watch will continue all the way through the next month, with little else to focus on.
Saturday (7-0 loss vs. Pittsburgh)
Hero: Yadier Molina. The only batter with two hits and none of the pitchers were that exciting either.
Goat: Chris Carpenter. Not that the loss meant anything, what with the race being over a while back, but it’s still disappointing to see Carpenter come out and give up six runs in five innings.
Notes: Interesting to see Fernando Salas pitch the eighth, especially since he had pitched Thursday and it shouldn’t have been that he just needed some work. I didn’t see the post-game wraps so I’m not sure exactly what the reasoning was there and it might have bit the Cardinals had they needed Salas to lock down Sunday’s game.
Hero: Ryan Theriot. We don’t get to say that very often, so let’s do it while we can. Theriot had two hits and drove in two runs.
Goat: Gerald Laird. I was going to go with Kyle Lohse, but Lohse did get the win and, save one bad inning, did OK. Laird was the only hitter to not get a hit in the game, so we’ll go that direction.
Notes: Lohse did turn it around, but his pitch count meant he had to leave after five innings. Still, he got his 100th win, which was nice. This time of year, you have to find the joy in every situation, because a lot of times, it’s not that obvious.
Interesting to see that Berkman had some choice words about the mid-afternoon starting times for the national games on Saturdays. It used to be that those games started at one, I believe, which may have helped with some of the shadows, especially this time of year. We’ll see if the Cards can break their Saturday FOX shutout streak this weekend against the Reds, as that game will also be nationally televised.
Somewhat surprising news in that John Mozeliak thinks that Eduardo Sanchez will return to the club this year after rosters expand. When I was at Busch Thursday, I noticed (OK, Christine Coleman pointed him out to me) that Sanchez was out there shagging flies during batting practice, but I didn’t think it was anything more than an injured player hanging out with the squad. Maybe he will get back, but I’d still bet that we don’t see much of him, if anything.
This week’s biggest news will likely be the callups when rosters expand Thursday. One has already been finalized, as Brandon Dickson will pitch that night against the Brewers. Garcia gets skipped in the rotation, giving him more rest and perhaps letting him think about his lack of fundamentals in the last outing.
Nice to see that Adam Wainwright is going to travel with the team this visit to Milwaukee. He’s going to continue his throwing program and, probably even more importantly to him, be involved in the team’s fantasy football draft tonight. I’m not a football guy, but that has to be a fun activity for those players, even as it is a sign that their season is winding down.
After the jump, I’ll talk a little bit about Social Media Night and my trip to St. Louis this week.
As mentioned, Thursday was the Cards’ Social Media Night. The club was kind enough to give a number of the bloggers two tickets to the event, but through a miscommunication with a friend of mine, both of my tickets got promised. Thankfully, Christine allowed me to use her extra ticket with the caveat that any extra activities I arranged she got to tag along.
So that’s how we wound up taking a quick tour of the Fox Sports Midwest offices (nicely decorated with Cardinal and other pictures and memorabilia, but other than the editing rooms in the basement, not that much different than a number of other offices you may have been in before) and then having lunch with Geoff Goldman at PW Pizza, chatting with him about the season and what was to come.
It’s been a pretty good year for FSMW. We talked about the rotation of the broadcast teams and what the feedback has been on them. Geoff said it’s been more about specific people (i.e., why hasn’t Dan done any games recently) than about the concept in general. No decisions have been made on whether this will continue into next year as is, if there will be some more uniformity or if there will be a fourth person added, making two regular teams. (OK, that was more of my suggestion to Geoff, seeing if Jim Hayes might be willing to expand his repertoire.)
We also talked some about GameConnect. They are still in the tinkering stages with it, hoping to use the rest of the season to get some idea on how best to get people to use it and what modifications it might need. If you’ve got any feedback on that, email me and I’ll make sure to pass it on.
There’s also been some talk about expanding their off-season baseball programming, though I’m not sure the UCB Video Hour was as catchy as I was hoping it was when I suggested it. C’mon, you’d watch that, wouldn’t you? An hour of Bill, Jon, Tara, Rob, Dathan, Chris and/or myself talking baseball? OK, yeah, perhaps radio is a better medium…..
Finally, Geoff teased us with the news that FSMW will have some significant changes in the next couple of weeks. “You’ll know it when you see it,” he said, but was unable to tell us more. Needless to say, Christine and I tried to get more out of him, but left unsuccessful (and intrigued!)
Christine and I spent the rest of the afternoon outside the stadium, enjoying the cooler weather and planning out the post-season UCB publication. (If you didn’t get a chance to read last year’s, you should be able to find it here.) With the season just four and a half weeks from being over, it’s sadly time to start planning for the days when we have no Cardinal baseball to warm us.
We had actually called Terry Rodgers, whom you heard on the UCB Radio Hour a week back, but due to a number of meetings he was unable to get in touch with us until later in the afternoon. While we were waiting, we were handed a “Fast Pass” by someone circling the stadium, which allowed the bearer to go into the stadium 45 minutes before the gates opened and hang out in the new Bowtie Bar, which is where the SMN event was going to be anyway.
When Terry joined us, he noted we could head on in and so took us up to the bar. It’s a very nice place to see the game, with the bar set up on the concourse so there’s plenty of room for milling around and talking, plus there are seats that allow you to sit and watch the action from the left field line. Christine and I watched both the Cardinals and the Pirates take batting practice and I’m expecting her scouting report of AJ Pujols, who was out shagging flies and participating with the players, very soon.
As the gates opened and people started trickling in, we saw some familiar blogging faces and a few that I hadn’t met in person, though obviously had read before. Bill was there from I70 Baseball, of course, as were Dustin (Welcome To Baseball Heaven), Dathan (GMGAGN), Eugene (85% Sports), Diane (Cardinal Diamond Diaries) and Chris (Bird Brained). It was good to get to talk to them and just hang out for a bit. I gave many of them grief for not having their UCB project done as well, which meant some good-natured grumbling.
Soon after that the main event started. The Cardinals had arranged for their three biggest Tweeters, David Freese, Jon Jay, and Daniel Descalso, to be a part of the festivities. All the players sat close to the fans, signing autographs and posing for pictures, then answering questions that had been asked to the team’s Facebook page or Twitter account.
The players were good sports about all of this, coming up with some memorable lines. For example, Jon Jay’s idea of a great first date was tailgating at a University of Miami football game. “If we have a team,” he added. Freese got off a couple of good ones, answering the question of who has the most underrated pitch in baseball with “Skip Schumaker’s fastball” and responding to which of Carp or Waino would be most likely to go up and in if he was an opposing batter with, “I think the answer to that’s pretty obvious.”
The Cardinals also raffled off some great prizes, including a Desclaso autographed jersey, and everyone had a great time. For the Cardinals to win (moving to 4-0 in either SMN or Blogger Events) was just icing on the cake.
Before I finish up, some links:
–Chris Jaffe continues to put out great stuff that Cardinal fans could find entertaining. For example, did you know this weekend would be “technically” the 200th meeting between TLR and Dusty Baker? And did you know it’s been just over 30 years since Garry Templeton saluted the fans and paved the way for Ozzie Smith? Or that it’s been 25 years since Mark McGwire made it to the bigs?
–If you are interested in the intersection between comics and sports, check out 7th Inning Sketch. The most recent comic (as of this writing, at least) shows perhaps what the moth was thinking when it headed for Matt Holliday.
Cards have the day off today before flying to Milwaukee for the quickest of road trips. We’ll talk about matchups, etc. tomorrow!