2011 Revisited: Three Small Steps

At this point in 2011, it was still hard to believe that there was going to be a postseason.  But it wasn’t as inconceivable as it was a week before.  Then, as now, the Cards just finished with Milwaukee and were about to play Cincy.

Three Small Steps

Rafael Furcal led off with a home run.  Albert Pujols hit a home run a batter later.  Corey Hart hit a home run for Milwaukee.  There was a grand slam for the Redbirds, giving them six runs.  They tacked on two more in a later inning and scored 8 on the game.

Can I just rerun yesterday’s post as well, since it seemed like the game was a repeat?

Of course, there were some differences, mainly in the fact that our hero Pujols went 4-4 with both that home run and that grand slam.  Matt Holliday also joined in the fun, cranking his 200th career home run as the Cards scored all eight runs via the long ball.  As long as the home runs are plentiful, I don’t think anyone is going to complain too much about that.  (And just more proof that Albert reads this blog and loves to prove me wrong, since I stated yesterday he wasn’t likely to get to .300 or the 100 RBI standard.)

I think you also have to give some kudos to Brandon Dickson.  He pitched a very strong first inning and worked of some trouble in the third (after giving up two home runs of his own) before putting runners on in the fourth.  Tony La Russa not only did his usual “make sure the kid can’t lose the game” bit by taking him out there, but also showed how much he really wanted to win this game.  Octavio Dotel did a fine job before running out of gas at the end of his 2.2 inning stint and Fernando Salas (save the home run he allowed to Prince Fielder) and Jason Motte kept things from blowing up and ruining a fine day for Cardinal Nation.

So, the Cards swept the first place team and cut three games off the lead.  What does it mean? Well, probably, not a whole lot.  Even if the Cards win all three games next week against the Brewers, it’s still four and a half with not a lot to play.  I talked with Bill Ivie last night for the next edition of Conversations With C70 and I hope to get that up sometime today or tomorrow, because he really laid out how hard of a mountain that is to overcome.

That said, the Cards did get a win without having to use Chris Carpenter, who can go today against the Reds.  That’s a point in their favor.  If they actually have found a groove–not just one of these false hopes that they’ve given the fanbase so often this year–they could start piling up some wins and perhaps make Milwaukee a bit nervous.  If the Brewers lose a game or two this weekend in Houston while the Cards are beating the Reds (both sides of the proposition are gambles, I realize), then perhaps a little doubt enters the Brewers’ minds.  Until then, though, I’m going to root for the Cards to make this respectable, to lose by 4-5 games instead of 10-12 if they are going to lose.

The good thing about the stretch, where they’ve won six of seven, is that they’ve pulled away from the Reds somewhat for second place.  I think it would have been even more embarrassing for this team that was projected to win the division to finish third and finish closer to Pittsburgh than Milwaukee.  If there’s no postseason in your future, at least aim for respectability.

The downside of yesterday was Lance Berkman, who not only went 0-4 on a day when only one other starter didn’t get a hit, but also struck out four times.  There’s no comments that I can see in any of the writeups about it, so hopefully it was just a bad day at the plate.  However, he’s 1 for 18 in his last week of play, which seems to indicate that there is more to it than that.  Could be just a slump, something that he’ll shake out of before too long.  That’s part of the game.  It’s been just over a month since he had a cortisone shot, so I wouldn’t think that would have worn off yet.  Hopefully he’ll get his groove going this weekend against the Reds.

Other positive news, though not for this season, concerns Adam Wainwright.  Waino is just about to get to the point where he can throw some bullpen sessions, meaning that there should be absolutely no reason he won’t be ready to go on Opening Day.  I love what he says here about his motivation, though:

“Realistically the only way to get in a game is if we were to go deep in the playoffs,” Wainwright said. “And I think realistically the chances of that happening — not that we go deep in the playoffs, but the chances of them placing me in a game if we do — are very, very, very, very, very, very small. But my work is drastically improved with the thought that I’m working for something.”

I like that insight into an athlete’s mind.  He rationally knows that he’s not going to pitch in any playoffs, even if the Cards get there, but if he can trick himself into thinking that’s the case, he’s much more motivated to do the work and get himself better.  I’m glad that the Cards have indicated they will pick up his options, because it’s going to be great having this guy in a Cardinal uniform for a long time to come.

Cards host the Reds this evening.  They really can’t afford to have an off night, not with wanting to keep a little pressure on Milwaukee, but they do have a tall task.  Johnny Cueto is going to go for the Cincinnati squad, and all he has done is lead the league in ERA this season, as well as put up a 1.19 ERA in 22.2 innings against the Cardinals this year.  Cueto’s been good against everyone, but that is above and beyond.  The Cards did tag him for four unearned runs over that span, which is one reason he’s 1-1 against the club.  Something’s got to turn around or it’s going to be another quiet night in Busch.  Here are the historical numbers:

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS IBB HBP GDP
Ryan Theriot 43 39 13 2 0 1 2 2 3 .333 .381 .462 .842 0 1 2
Lance Berkman 33 22 5 2 0 2 6 11 7 .227 .485 .591 1.076 0 0 1
Skip Schumaker 29 28 6 1 0 0 0 1 1 .214 .241 .250 .491 0 0 0
Albert Pujols 26 23 5 1 0 0 1 3 3 .217 .308 .261 .569 1 0 0
Yadier Molina 25 22 7 1 0 1 3 0 2 .318 .333 .500 .833 0 1 1
Matt Holliday 23 18 7 2 0 0 5 4 2 .389 .478 .500 .978 0 0 1
David Freese 14 14 3 1 0 0 3 0 1 .214 .214 .286 .500 0 0 1
Jon Jay 14 12 6 1 0 2 5 1 2 .500 .538 1.083 1.622 0 0 0
Daniel Descalso 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Chris Carpenter 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Jaime Garcia 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Kyle McClellan 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Kyle Lohse 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000 0 0 0
Jake Westbrook 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total 218 187 53 11 0 6 25 22 22 .283 .362 .439 .800 1 2 6
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/2/2011.Historically, they’ve been able to hit him. That just hasn’t been the case this year, as Cueto is starting to develop into the pitcher the Reds were hoping they had. Hopefully a strong focus and some timely hits (or, if nothing else, a close game until the bullpen takes over) and maybe the Cards can get a sweet win against one of the biggest villains in Cardinal Nation.Also on the plus side, Carpenter is on the mound for the Redbirds. Carpenter has a 3.18 ERA against the Cincinnati squad this year, going 2-1 in his four starts against them. In his career, though, he’s 14-4 against the Reds and only allowed a .199 BAA. He’s been a Reds killer and, in his own way, as much of a villain in Reds Country as Cueto is to Cardinal fans. Here are the career numbers against this current crop of Redlegs:

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS IBB HBP GDP
Brandon Phillips 52 48 7 4 0 0 7 2 7 .146 .180 .229 .409 0 0 2
Ramon Hernandez 42 40 9 2 0 1 4 2 6 .225 .262 .350 .612 0 0 2
Joey Votto 38 32 13 1 0 2 4 5 7 .406 .500 .625 1.125 1 1 0
Jay Bruce 32 30 5 0 1 0 1 2 5 .167 .219 .233 .452 0 0 1
Drew Stubbs 26 24 8 2 0 0 0 2 6 .333 .385 .417 .801 0 0 0
Edgar Renteria 25 22 5 2 0 0 2 2 3 .227 .292 .318 .610 0 0 1
Miguel Cairo 20 17 4 1 1 0 2 2 5 .235 .350 .412 .762 0 1 0
Ryan Hanigan 15 14 3 0 0 0 0 1 4 .214 .267 .214 .481 0 0 2
Paul Janish 9 8 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .125 .125 .125 .250 0 0 0
Chris Heisey 7 6 0 0 0 0 0 1 3 .000 .143 .000 .143 0 0 0
Bronson Arroyo 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Johnny Cueto 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Homer Bailey 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Carlos Fisher 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Sam LeCure 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Dontrelle Willis 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Yonder Alonso 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Juan Francisco 1 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000 0 0 0
Mike Leake 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Total 283 257 56 12 2 3 21 19 55 .218 .277 .315 .592 1 2 8
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/2/2011.These two met July 4, with Carpenter coming out ahead on the 1-0 score. Could be another doozy like that tonight! But just a note to FSMW–you know I have a lot of respect for you, but let’s not rehash the fight from last year tonight, OK? It’s been over a year, the Reds aren’t the biggest problem for the Cardinals, and the teams have met a number of times since then with no incident. (I know that’s a bit contradictory to the fact that Cueto is still disliked, but not completely.) So let’s see if we can get through the night without a replay of that. I’d appreciate it!

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