C70 At The Bat

We sometimes forget that the big trade didn’t take effect immediately.  The drama was just getting started!  Also, I was a bit wrong on TLR’s intentions…..

Is It Too Late?

The idea at the trade deadline is to give a team an added boost to push them to the finish line.  While it’s way too early to determine whether it worked or not here, the last couple of nights have reinforced an idea that has been floating around, that it may be not enough for this team.

Let’s look at last night first before examining the bigger picture.  In his first outing, Marc Rzepczynski gets the Hero tag, throwing two very impressive innings in relief.  Not limited to just LOOGY status, he struck out four of the seven batters he faced, allowing just a solitary hit.  On Twitter, there was some discussion about why he was allowed to throw two innings (the pitch count was a season high), but he handled it well.  I’d suggest that either Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan wanted to really see what they had in Rzepczynski or the stretching him out process has already begun.  Whatever the case, he looks like a good addition to the bullpen, if last night is representative of what he can do.

Corey Patterson and Octavio Dotel also got into the action with positive marks on the scoreboard.  Patterson drove in the first run of the game while Dotel threw a scoreless ninth.  At least for one night, there wasn’t much complaining about what came back in the deal.

Among the regulars, it was good to see Albert Pujols have a couple of doubles, but there just wasn’t much else going from the offensive side of things.  If Houston trades Wandy Rodriguez, I hope it’s to the American League so the Cards don’t have to face him nearly as often.

Flipping the focus, Jaime Garcia was off last night.  I don’t know if the law of averages is catching up to him, but his last two road starts–where he had been struggling–were excellent, while he comes home–a place where he’d been dominant–and allowed five runs and was generally inefficient, throwing just under 100 pitches in six innings.

Really, that’s the key.  If it’s a good night for Garcia, he throws about 8 innings in that many pitches.  If he starts scuffling early, it’s probably going to be a short night for him.  That’s the way it was last night.  Granted, he had some complications and one of the charges against Garcia has been his ability to lose focus at times, but on the whole, not what we wanted to see out of him in a game that was a needed win.

So the Cardinals reach the midway point in this series against one of the worst teams in the NL with two wins and their top two pitchers going next.  They wind up with an unsatisfying split, which seems to be par for the course for this team.

Since June 1, this team is 22-27 by my count.  Granted, there were some injuries that played a part in that, but the idea coming out of the All-Star break was that this team was ready to rock and roll, ready to put up a strong second half.  Instead, they are just 6-7 so far since the game out in Arizona.  While the competition has been better than doormats, they still should be better than that.  Right now, this team feels like mediocrity.

Of course, mediocrity might be enough to win the NL Central, but I’d be a little surprised.  The Cards sit tied for second, 1.5 games behind Milwaukee for the division lead.  It’s not like Milwaukee or Pittsburgh is tearing things up either, but right now all it’ll take is one medium-sized winning streak from either team and the Cardinals might be too far out to worry about it.

This team, from a fan’s point of view, still just feels out of sync.  Last night was an example–as soon as the team shores up its pitching staff, three position players leave because of injury.  Tony Cruz and Gerald Laird sound like they should be ready tonight or tomorrow, but Nick Punto, who is working on that “oft-injured” descriptor to go in front of his name, may wind up back on the DL.  While the manager continues to say that Allen Craig may not be ready yet, if Punto hits the DL (and with Craig getting two hits in Memphis last night), I’d be surprised if that’s not the move that’s made.

We know if the offense gets clicking and starting working with a pitching staff on a roll, very good things can happen in St. Louis.  All the parts are here (though one right now,Lance Berkman, apparently is still not likely to play tonight either) to make a run.  Whether they’ll all get on the same page is a question that is likely to linger for some time, and the longer it lingers, the less likely it is to happen or, at least, happen in time.

Just as a passing note, a Chicago columnist has suggested that the White Sox didn’t take Colby Rasmus because they wanted Tony La Russa to manage for them next year.  I’m thinking that if Cardinal management didn’t have a strong feeling TLR was coming back next year, they’d have been more likely to tell them to deal with each other for a couple of months. It was the fact that La Russa was going to be around for longer than this season that gave the club the impetus to trade him.

Edwin Jackson makes his Cardinal debut tonight and gets to jump straight into the Cards/Cubs rivalry.  He’s had some experience against the North Siders, but has it been good?

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS IBB HBP GDP
Marlon Byrd 13 13 3 1 0 1 4 0 2 .231 .231 .538 .769 0 0 0
Alfonso Soriano 13 12 4 1 0 1 3 0 4 .333 .385 .667 1.051 0 1 0
Carlos Pena 11 7 0 0 0 0 0 4 2 .000 .364 .000 .364 1 0 0
Geovany Soto 10 7 0 0 0 0 2 2 2 .000 .200 .000 .200 1 0 0
Blake DeWitt 7 7 2 0 0 0 2 0 2 .286 .286 .286 .571 0 0 0
Starlin Castro 6 6 1 0 0 0 2 0 0 .167 .167 .167 .333 0 0 0
Aramis Ramirez 6 5 2 0 0 1 2 0 1 .400 .333 1.000 1.333 0 0 0
Reed Johnson 5 4 1 1 0 0 0 1 1 .250 .400 .500 .900 0 0 1
Darwin Barney 3 3 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 .333 .333 .667 1.000 0 0 0
Ryan Dempster 3 3 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Randy Wells 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Total 79 69 14 4 0 3 17 7 14 .203 .278 .391 .670 2 1 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/29/2011.Not as much experience against them as I thought, but it has been pretty positive. Looks like Alfonso Soriano is the guy Jackson needs to be the most aware of.

For the Cubbies, Matt Garza takes the hill. He’s a pretty new face to most of the Cardinals.

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS IBB HBP GDP
Lance Berkman 18 15 2 0 0 0 1 2 4 .133 .222 .133 .356 0 0 0
Gerald Laird 15 12 2 1 0 0 2 2 5 .167 .333 .250 .583 0 1 0
Matt Holliday 12 11 2 0 0 0 0 1 3 .182 .250 .182 .432 0 0 0
Corey Patterson 11 10 6 1 0 1 1 1 2 .600 .636 1.000 1.636 0 0 0
Albert Pujols 5 4 1 0 0 0 1 1 0 .250 .400 .250 .650 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 3 3 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0
Skip Schumaker 3 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 .667 .667 .667 1.333 0 0 0
Ryan Theriot 3 2 1 0 0 0 1 1 1 .500 .667 .500 1.167 0 0 0
Daniel Descalso 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .500 .000 .500 0 0 0
Nick Punto 2 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.500 2.500 0 0 0
Jake Westbrook 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total 75 63 19 3 0 1 7 9 15 .302 .392 .397 .789 0 1 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/29/2011.Interesting that former Cub and new Cardinal Patterson has possibly the best line against Garza. With Berkman still hurting, you figure he’ll get another start tonight.

I said at the outset of this homestand than anything less than 5-2 would be a disappointment.  The Cards now have to sweep the Cubs to get to that level.  First step to a sweep tonight!

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Besting The Best

First, it was Noah Syndergaard.  Then it was snapping Jeurys Famila’s save streak.  Something about facing the top guys, dealing with the long odds, brings out the best in this team.  It’s something I’ve noticed in years past as well.  I don’t know if it’s a mental toughness or what, but it seems to happen semi-regularly.  (Ask Clayton Kershaw.)

Last night, it was Jose Fernandez‘s turn.

A guy that had never given up two home runs in a home game did so in one inning.  A guy that had only lost once in his career at home got saddle with an L.  A guy with a 1.62 ERA AFTER last night in Marlins Park gave up five runs in five innings.  If this happened in a video game, your friends would tell you to turn the difficulty up.

The Hero tag goes to Aledmys Diaz, given his huge two-run homer to get the Cards on the board (again, after that balk call that would have scored Jedd Gyorko was reversed) and his RBI double.  It had to be a lot of fun for him to go up against his childhood friend, especially when you think of what all they had gone through to get to that moment.  Diaz, as we discussed last night on the latest Meet Me At Musial (check it out!) has really come into his own this season.  He’s made the adjustments and there’s no particular reason to think he can’t be the starting shortstop for the next few years. That’s what John Mozeliak has pointed toward and, again, it seems like Mo knows what he’s talking about.

While Diaz gets the Hero badge for this one, I gave serious consideration to Matt Adams.  Not only did he have an RBI single, which turned out to plate the winning run, but he made a sensational grab at first base in the seventh with runners on second and third representing the tying runs.  While the runner on third was still able to score, without that stop Ichiro Suzuki (fresh off hit #2998) would have tied the game up and then where would we be?  We already know that the bullpen is in an interesting place right now.  Maybe they’d have been able to score again, maybe we’re looking at extra innings.  Adams’s play saved the game just as much as Seung-hwan Oh did.

Our Goat has to be Stephen Piscotty, who went 0-5 with three strikeouts, including one that had him yelling in displeasure at himself quite strongly.  I know I said yesterday that Piscotty’s numbers since the break had been better than I’d thought, since it seemed like every time I saw him he was unable to get anything going.  Since the start of the San Diego series, though, he’s hitting .214/.233/.381 with three extra-base hits, and that includes his three-hit, one-homer game to start off against the Padres.  He’s scuffling right now and maybe a couple of days off are what he needs.  Better do it quickly, though, since Diaz will be out of the lineup soon for a couple of days welcoming his new child to the world.

Michael Wacha was staked to a 5-0 lead and just about gave it all back in one fell swoop.  Single, double, groundout, homer and you have Giancarlo Stanton looming on the on-deck circle.  Wacha was able to get the next two, including Stanton, but it was a scary moment in a game that just seemed to be swimming along.  As I read over on stlcardinalsminimo’s blog, Wacha’s BAA the third time around is .309.  Still, he’s gone at least six innings in seven of his 10 starts since June 1 and has an ERA of 3.75 over that span.  It’s not spectacular, but it’s enough to keep the Cardinals in the game most of the time (they are 7-3 in that span).

A home run for Matt Holliday in this one as well, his 18th of the year.  Even so, as my podcast partner pointed out on Twitter and on the show, it’s one of his worst seasons so far.  He’s not walking, he’s striking out a good bit, and even his doubles seem to be down from where they were two years ago.  There’s still value in Holliday, but it seems like he should be hitting fifth or sixth instead of at the top of the order.  I know he’s finally been bumped from the third spot, but I’m not sure a spot or two lower wouldn’t be best.

The big news before the game yesterday was that Jaime Garcia will be taking the mound Thursday, even though it’s on just three days’ rest.  Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons threw a bullpen yesterday and it appeared he’d be the starter, just like the plan has been all week, but Matheny went a different way.  Why?  Well, that’s a really good question.

Garcia, as many have noted, seems to be the one pitcher in the rotation that needs his routine to be effective.  We’ve gone past the point of the “pillow was wrong, room service delivered late” standard that defined him early in his career, especially on the road, but he still wouldn’t seem to be the guy you want to go on short rest, especially given his injury history.

Now, Garcia’s probably only going to go three or four innings and there’s a good chance that Lyons will follow him into the game, but it’s surprising that you’d have Lyons throw a bullpen in that case.  After all, as far as I know Lyons isn’t regularly throwing bullpens and he’s still able to go three to four innings without issue.  Lyons also threw two innings on Tuesday, so it’s not like he’s been sitting for a long time.  Why they would then decide on Garcia is a strange idea, though I’m sure the off day coming up on Monday helped Matheny go in that direction, figuring Garcia will get an extra day of rest between this start and his next one against the Braves.

Otherwise, either something didn’t look right in Lyons’s bullpen or (gulp) it’s possible that Lyons is in trade talks and Matheny wanted to plan for him not to be here on Saturday.  I obviously hope the latter isn’t the case, but you’ve got a left-handed pitcher that’s proven he can go multiple innings and likely could start for a lot of teams.  There’s value there.  Again, I would sorely hate to lose #70, but it’s still an option.

It also reiterates quite soundly that the Cardinals want nothing to do with using Jerome Williams unless it is an absolute emergency.  While you don’t know what today will bring (or what yesterday would have), you could have at least planned for a Lyons-Williams game if you didn’t want to tax the bullpen too hard.  Williams has been up since Monday and has yet to make the field, even with a doubleheader.  I just feel like if they were comfortable with him, they’d have set Lyons aside for Saturday.  They aren’t.  Which, of course, brings up the question why is he even here, but we’ve been down that road.

Speaking of trades, apparently Tampa Bay had scouts in Springfield last night, perhaps looking at Luke Weaver.  This is another point that John and I discussed and we both came to the conclusion that you can’t be trading Weaver for a reliever.  If Weaver was to be part of a package going to Tampa Bay, there’d have to be something else big coming back other than something like Jesus Colome, who isn’t having that good of a year anyway.

The good thing about John Mozeliak is that, for the most part, he never gets burned in a trade.  He may not get what he thinks he’s getting, such as in Justin Masterson‘s case, but he rarely if ever gives up an asset that is going to come back and haunt him.  Yes, Shelby Miller had a good year for Atlanta last year, but Jason Heyward was good for St. Louis, Miller’s no longer good, and starting pitching is the one thing this team can afford to give away.  Again, where does Miller play on the 2015 Cardinals?

Other than that, what other asset has Mo given away?  David Carpenter went for Pedro Feliz and he’s stayed in the league a while, but we’re talking about a relief arm that had a solid if unspectacular career.  James Ramsey went for Masterson and he’s bouncing around the minors.  Rob Kaminsky has gotten better but still has a 4.00 ERA in AA and may eventually be an issue, but what the Cards have gotten out of Brandon Moss will help ease that a bit.  Mo’s a fairly good judge of what the club has and he likely knows that Weaver could be helping the big leaguers as early as September.  If Chris Archer is coming back, that’s one thing, but if it’s just a bullpen arm as the club tries for the wild card, that wouldn’t seem to fit his methods.

Cards try to break this wild-card tie with their spring training partners tonight as Ichiro goes for #3000 against Mike Leake.  Leake got roughed around last time by the Dodgers, but has been pretty solid overall this season.  He missed the Marlins last time out but he’s seen some of them before.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Chris Johnson 23 20 5 1 0 2 3 2 2 .250 .348 .600 .948 0 0 0 1 1
Martin Prado 21 19 4 1 0 0 0 2 0 .211 .286 .263 .549 0 0 0 0 1
Adeiny Hechavarria 15 14 1 1 0 0 0 1 2 .071 .133 .143 .276 0 0 1 0 2
Dee Gordon 14 13 3 2 0 0 1 0 4 .231 .231 .385 .615 1 0 0 0 1
Giancarlo Stanton 13 12 2 0 0 1 1 1 5 .167 .231 .417 .647 0 0 0 0 0
Christian Yelich 13 10 1 0 0 0 0 3 3 .100 .308 .100 .408 0 0 0 0 0
Marcell Ozuna 12 9 3 0 0 0 0 2 5 .333 .500 .333 .833 0 0 0 1 0
Derek Dietrich 9 8 3 1 0 0 0 0 3 .375 .444 .500 .944 0 0 0 1 0
J.T. Realmuto 6 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Ichiro Suzuki 4 4 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .250 .250 .250 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Jeff Mathis 2 2 2 1 0 0 1 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.500 2.500 0 0 0 0 0
David Phelps 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 133 118 25 7 0 3 6 11 26 .212 .295 .347 .643 1 0 1 3 5
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/29/2016.

Jose Urena just recently moved into the starting rotation (and, given the Marlins acquired Andrew Cashner and Colin Rea this morning, may be soon moved back out) but in both starts he’s allowed just one run in around six innings.  He spent some time in the minors before resurfacing and taking his rotation spot after having some rough outings in the bullpen.  He’s a guy the Cards saw a little bit last year, but is also one of those guys that you could completely see them losing too after solving Fernandez.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Randal Grichuk 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .333 .000 .333 0 0 0 0 0
Kolten Wong 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .333 .000 .333 0 0 0 0 0
Jedd Gyorko 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Carlos Martinez 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 2 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 12 10 3 0 0 0 0 2 0 .300 .417 .300 .717 0 0 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/29/2016.

If you are already keeping an eye around the league, the Cubs are hosting the Mariners, the Mets continue their series with the Rockies, the Dodgers are at home against Arizona, and Pittsburgh and Milwaukee meet at PNC Park.  So, really, the Cards need some wins to keep pace!

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I hope you’ve been enjoying this look back like I have.  It’s fascinating to see some of the same problems we talk about now were part of that 2011 team as well, plus seeing the reaction to things as they happened.  After the huge shakeup, the club still had to play some games and a trade doesn’t guarantee wins on the field. (Also, at least I got something right, talking about how the deal might be viewed in the future.)

Cardinals Move On

After all the news of the day, it was almost anti-climactic when the Cards had to go out and actually play a game.  Unfortunately, the ending was of the same mold.

There weren’t a lot of positive performances to go on, as Bud Norris was at it again.  I’ll give the Hero tag to Matt Holliday for his two-for-three performance last night.  You could have also gone with Chris Carpenter, who pitched well again, with eight strikeouts and two runs in seven innings.  Carpenter is showing no signs of turning back into a pumpkin, as it were, so he should give the Cards a significant weapon down the stretch of what is turning into a three-way race.

The Goat would be Mitchell Boggs.  Not only did he give up the deciding two runs in the game, but he was very shaky in his first inning of work as well, being a bit lucky not to have allowed any runs there as he loaded the bases with one out.  Boggs seems to have these kind of games, going from very effective at times to very iffy.  With the new arms coming for the pen and with Boggs having options, it’ll be interesting to see if he goes down to make room.  I don’t know that he will or that he should, but that doesn’t mean much.

Really thought the Cards were going to be able to at least force extras with Albert Pujols up, runners on second and third, and two outs.  A base hit would have been enough, but instead he struck out to end the game and cap his 0-5 night.  It seems to me that Pujols, save for his 4-5 game in Pittsburgh, has been fine with the long ball but isn’t hitting for much average.  His season number now is .274, at least seven points off of his season high.  As much as I like the homers, a 3-4 night with a double on a semi-regular basis would not go amiss either.

Last night the top three hitters in the lineup combined for 0-13.  It’s a good thing Carpenter was on his game, because it’s not easy to score many runs when that happens.

Of course, today is still a reaction day as the trade continues to be analyzed and discussed. It was interesting to see some of the comments from the people involved.

For example, the main piece in the deal, Colby Rasmus.  I think the takeaway from everything that he said yesterday, besides the boilerplate “It happens, enjoyed my time here, etc.” was “I hope he’s happy” in reference to Tony La Russa.

If nothing else, the Rasmus family seems to think that it was La Russa that got Colby out of town.  Cole over at Redbird Report picked up some comments from Tony Rasmus in a Toronto paper that paint a different picture than the official line.  While I think you take some of Papa Rasmus’s comments with a grain of salt–he’s been known to admit that he likes to stir the pot on line, and I expect an interview would be no different–that combined with Colby’s brother (not the one recently drafted by the Cards) Tweeting about “unfair treatment” makes you wonder exactly how things were playing out over there.

One of the other pieces that left was Trever Miller.  Miller made some comments on his way out, and took most of the blame, with the caveat that he though if he’d pitched regularly he’d have been better.

There’s only one problem with that.  When he was pitching regularly, he wasn’t getting people out, which is why TLR lost confidence in him and stopped using him.   For example, let’s look back at that five-appearance, no-out streak he ran in April.  He threw on 4/17, then 4/23, then three straight days 4/26-4/28.  You can’t get much more regular than that for a LOOGY.  It wasn’t until July until he really didn’t get regular work, but by then the damage was done.

Kyle McClellan was affected by the deal and he says he’s fine with going to the bullpen.  Fine might be an overstatement, really.  Watching him on FSMW yesterday it seemed like he was going to take one for the team and he couldn’t really complain about it, but he wasn’t thrilled.  You can’t blame him–he’s wanted to be a starter for a long time now and got a chance to do it this year.  He didn’t completely pitch himself out of the job (though if he was still going like he was going in April, the Cards either don’t make this move or don’t get him out of the rotation) and has to be pleased that he at least showed the team (and other teams) that he could do it.

He strengthens the bullpen now, though, and that’s a positive from this situation.  Most likely, with a rotation of Adam Wainwright, Jaime Garcia, Kyle Lohse and Jake Westbrook next year already set with Chris Carpenter looking like he might return and the Cards talking about making new guy Marc Rzepczynski a starter, McClellan could become a trade chip in the offseason and he’s done nothing to damage his value.

Tony La Russa continues to insist that the team shouldn’t choose a manager over a player and that he had nothing to do with the deal.  Perhaps that’s true, but there have been a number of players (J.D. Drew, Adam Kennedy, Scott Rolen, Brendan Ryan) that got into that doghouse and none of them are still here while the manager is.  With the comments from Tony Rasmus and the fact that the Cards were working on an extension with Rasmus before TLR ruined it with his public comments, there’s no doubt that he’s been significantly involved in this decision.  For some, that’s a failure of being a manager and I’m not going to say I disagree.

I do want to take issue with one point, though, that was brought up in the UCB Radio Hour last night and probably will be mentioned by a number of people aggravated with La Russa’s actions.  Tony La Russa is a very good manager.  Doesn’t mean he’s always right, doesn’t mean that he was right in this case.  However, a person doesn’t stay in the game managing 30+ years with no gaps without knowing what he is doing.

You look at the two teams that were affected by the death of a teammate, in ’02 and ’07.  Both of those teams were able to overcome that, though the ’07 team fell short of the playoffs.  Look at this year.  With all the injuries, most Cardinal fans would have been ecstatic with second place if you’d told them all of these players would go down before the season.  No matter the personnel, the TLR era in St. Louis has been a rousing success and we should remember that.

Does that mean that it’s not time for TLR to go, that he should continue to be manager in perpetuity?  I don’t know about that.  I think there should be some sort of accountability when comments are made that change the whole course of an organization.  What that should be is up to the powers that be.

Finally, this from John Mozeliak: “Was there a chance he [Colby] was going in the wrong direction?  I’ll let you answer that.”  It seems that the club realized there was a chance that he wasn’t going to get any better.  If he doesn’t, if he doesn’t come out of his shell being outside of St. Louis, perhaps we’ll look back on this trade much differently in 4-5 years.  I remember the outcry when the Mark Mulder deal was made.  People were so worked up about it because they couldn’t believe the Cards would trade such a prospect.  Of course, that was Daric Barton, who has done little to warrant that gnashing of teeth in his career.  If it wasn’t for the fact Dan Haren blossomed, that trade would just be a footnote.

One last point I want to make about the deal.  While there seems to be little thought that these players to be named later will be much of anything (they’ve been described as low-level prospects), either they or the “significant” cash that are coming back must be key.  I feel like there’s a player in Toronto’s system that Mozeliak really wants, and he did pretty well picking out David Freese from San Diego for Jim Edmonds and Makiel Cleto from Seattle for Brendan Ryan.

To me, that’s the only reason you turn down the Tampa Bay offer of Jeff Niemann and JP Howell and a prospect.  The story is that Mo was holding out for James Shields or Jeremy Hellickson, which I understand, but that’s not the quality he got from Toronto.  I don’t think anyone puts Edwin Jackson in the same class as those two, and the differences in contracts is significant as well.  Niemann would be under team control for five more years at a fairly minimum salary, something that’d be good when you are budgeting for Albert Pujols.  It’s true Howell would have a free agent at the end of the year, but easier to resign him than Jackson.

Tampa Bay’s package, on the face of it, was a much better blend of the now and the not yet.  I have to believe that the PTBNL will give us some of that “not yet” out of this deal as well.

Lance Berkman got an injection in his shoulder yesterday and should be back in the lineup today.  The outfield depth has taken a hit, so we really need Berkman to be healthy down the stretch.  Hopefully that will be the case.

Couple of lefties go today.  Jaime Garcia at home is a good thing, as we all know.  Here’s him against the Houston club:

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS IBB HBP GDP
Carlos Lee 9 7 2 0 0 0 1 2 0 .286 .444 .286 .730 0 0 0
Hunter Pence 9 9 2 0 1 1 2 0 2 .222 .222 .778 1.000 0 0 0
Chris Johnson 8 7 3 1 0 0 1 0 2 .429 .375 .571 .946 0 0 0
Jason Bourgeois 6 6 3 2 0 0 1 0 0 .500 .500 .833 1.333 0 0 0
Bud Norris 6 5 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .200 .200 .200 .400 0 0 0
Angel Sanchez 6 6 3 1 0 0 2 0 1 .500 .500 .667 1.167 0 0 0
Clint Barmes 5 5 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .200 .200 .200 .400 0 0 0
Jason Michaels 4 4 3 0 0 0 1 0 0 .750 .750 .750 1.500 0 0 0
Michael Bourn 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Matt Downs 3 2 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 .500 .667 .500 1.167 0 0 0
Brett Wallace 3 3 2 0 0 0 1 0 1 .667 .667 .667 1.333 0 0 0
Humberto Quintero 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0
Total 64 59 22 4 1 1 9 3 9 .373 .397 .525 .922 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/28/2011.These guys have hit Garcia hard. Not a lot of extra base hits and a small sample size, but that average jumps out.

Wandy Rodriguez vs. Cardinals has always been a tough matchup.

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS IBB HBP GDP
Albert Pujols 49 40 9 3 0 1 6 9 1 .225 .367 .375 .742 2 0 2
Yadier Molina 38 37 8 2 0 0 3 1 6 .216 .237 .270 .507 0 0 1
Ryan Theriot 33 31 10 4 0 1 1 2 0 .323 .364 .548 .912 0 0 0
Matt Holliday 31 29 8 1 1 3 7 2 6 .276 .323 .690 1.012 0 0 1
Skip Schumaker 24 24 6 0 0 0 1 0 2 .250 .250 .250 .500 0 0 1
Colby Rasmus 13 12 0 0 0 0 0 1 3 .000 .077 .000 .077 0 0 0
David Freese 8 7 1 1 0 0 1 1 2 .143 .250 .286 .536 0 0 1
Kyle Lohse 8 6 1 0 0 0 0 0 3 .167 .167 .167 .333 0 0 0
Gerald Laird 7 6 3 1 0 0 1 1 0 .500 .571 .667 1.238 0 0 0
Jon Jay 6 6 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0
Nick Punto 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Chris Carpenter 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
P.J. Walters 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Total 225 206 48 12 1 5 20 17 26 .233 .291 .374 .665 2 0 6
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/28/2011.Albert’s always had his troubles against Rodriguez, though it’s been better lately. Rodriguez has often been a Cardinal killer and they’ll have to step up their game tonight.  It won’t look good to their new teammates if they lose the first two games after the trade, would it?

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The Mets are a good team, neck and neck with the Cardinals in the wild card race.  They have their flaws, of course, but they are a quality team.  Yet if you were to tell folks that St. Louis would go in and take two of three, that probably wouldn’t have surprised many people.  The Cardinals do play better away from home, of course, and they had Carlos Martinez and Adam Wainwright going, so the pitching was going to be pretty good.

Tell those same people that same bit after Wainwright’s pitch to Yoenis Cespedes last night and I don’t think you’d have gotten the same reaction.

Before we do that game, we better take a look at Tuesday’s doubleheader.

Game 1 (3-2 win)

Hero: While we could go with Jedd Gyorko here, since he continued his power surge and drove in the key runs in the game, let’s go with Tommy Pham.  Not only did Pham get two hits in this one, his throw to get Curtis Granderson trying to advance to second in the ninth was a huge play.  The Cardinals may lead the league in errors, but every once in a while they have a beauty of a defensive play and this one proved it.

Goat: Stephen Piscotty.  0-4 with two strikeouts.  For some reason I was getting the feeling that Piscotty was struggling of late, but he’s hitting .273 with three homers since the All-Star Break, so it’s not a huge tailspin by any means.  It must be a factor of when I’m watching him, I guess.

Notes: Martinez held up his end of the bargain, though four walks meant that he wound up exiting after five innings, which isn’t exactly what the club wanted to see in the first game of a doubleheader (and with a start on Saturday still TBD).  On the whole, though, he looked pretty good save for his one mistake to Rene Rivera.

The Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons relieved Martinez, which in theory could put him getting the start on Saturday in jeopardy.  Then again, he only threw 29 pitches in two innings of work (efficient!) and would have three days of rest between the two outings, so I don’t think it’s completely ruled out.  Obviously I’d like to see Lyons, though the rumors about the starter being Alex Reyes won’t quite go away, especially since the Cardinal brain trust hasn’t ruled it out.  (Or, hey, maybe they’ll trade for Chris Sale and have him ready to go then!  OK, maybe not.)  If they need Lyons tonight in Miami, they’ll use him, but other than that I think he’ll be the starter.

The problem with Reyes coming up is, well, it would seem he’d need to stay up.  Top prospects, especially those already on the cusp of the big leagues, aren’t usually brought up for just one appearance.  Is he ready for that?  It seems like that’s a debatable question.  If you aren’t going to keep him up, I probably wouldn’t bother bringing him up, but I know I may be in the minority on that one.

Offensively Gyorko picked up where he left off last week with a two-run homer off of Noah Syndergaard, which is a fairly impressive feat in and of itself.  Syndergaard handed the Cards the other run when he threw high to home trying to get the lead runner when Martinez hit a ball back to him with the bases loaded.  In other words, this really was the pitching battle everyone thought it was going to be.  The only other Cardinal with multiple hits was Yadier Molina, who scored that run.

Game 2 (3-1 loss)

Hero: Jedd Gyorko.  The Cardinals only had four hits, with Greg Garcia tallying two of them, but Gyorko became the first Cardinal since Stan Musial to twice homer in both ends of a doubleheader in the same year and Gyorko’s came about a week apart.  I’m not really sure if it’s playing time or what that has gotten Gyorko going, but he has as many homers in the past 10 days as he did all year long up to that point and he’s hitting over .300 during that span to boot.  If he can keep this up, that’s a really great thing to have in the lineup.

Goat: Aledmys Diaz.  Not only did he go 0-4, not only did he leave three men on base, but he also hit into a double play.  Tough nightcap for the rookie, but as noted, he had a lot of company.

Notes: Jaime Garcia was solid, even though he ran a lot of deep counts which also had him exiting after the fifth inning.  He didn’t walk anyone and he only threw 77 pitches, which made for an interesting hook by Mike Matheny, especially given the pitching situation.  Garcia did get burned a bit by a Randal Grichuk error, leading to the go-ahead run.

Matt Bowman was probably a little excited to face his former organization in their home park, which led to him loading the bases with two outs.  Thankfully, the Mets decided that Bartolo Colon was worth more on the mound than pinch-hitting for him would get them, so Bowman was able to get out of it.  Since Colon only went one more inning, I’m not sure I’d have gone that route, but I will say the margin felt a lot wider than it actually was the way Colon was going.

The broadcast made mention that Colon was the starting pitcher in the first-ever interleague play the Cardinals had, when they faced the Indians in 1997.  I realized that he was also the pitcher the first game my now-wife and I went to in 1999.  He took a no-hitter into the seventh before Mark McGwire singled to break it up and the Indians went on to win.  It’s a testament to him that he’s still out there and still very effective.

Wednesday (5-4 win)

Hero:  Yadier Molina.  Jeurys Famila had a nice little save streak going, having not blown one (save, of course, for those World Series outings) in almost a year.  Honestly, once the Mets took the lead off of Wainwright, it felt like things were done, that it was all over but the shouting.

I will say, though, that give this team an impossible challenge, whether it’s an ace pitcher like Clayton Kershaw or a dominant reliever like Famila, they tend to be able to rise to the occasion.  I don’t know what it is, an increase in focus or selective memory, but so often when they are basically completely out of it, that’s when they’ll do something grand.

Molina’s double drove in Gyorko, who had walked, and it was possibly the second-greatest sight from Molina in New York, after this one:

Goat: As always, it’s only players allowed here, so Mike Matheny leaving Wainwright out there to face Cespedes having thrown about 115 pitches doesn’t get consideration.  (Though it won’t be ignored, trust me.)  It was a rough night for Greg Garcia, who drew a walk but was otherwise 0-4.  Piscotty went 0-3 but also drew a walk, as did Gyorko (and his walk was, of course, a key one!)

Notes: You could give Kolten Wong a Hero tag as well if you wanted, coming off the bench to work a double down the line and driving in Jeremy Hazelbaker from second after his stolen base.  It was a great moment for Wong, who hasn’t necessarily had a lot of those this season.  Given his reaction, he knew it as well.

Adam Wainwright pitched a fine game, at least until the seventh.  He looked like what we expect out of Waino, keeping the Mets at bay and giving up just one run in the first six frames.  The seventh was challenging, with the first two men of the inning getting hits before Waino struck out the next two.

With those two strikeouts, it’s easy to see why Matheny left Wainwright out there, even with his pitch count getting over 110.  With a somewhat limited bullpen (and the trust issues that go with them), if Waino could get through the seventh, it would help the team immensely.  Even when he wild-pitched in a run, if you keep Cespedes in the park you are at the worst tied.  It’s not the worst decision Matheny’s ever made, just one that didn’t work well.  Waino hung a curveball–the curve that had been working most of the night–and Cespedes didn’t miss it.  That’s baseball.  On the face of it, it feels like the wrong move, but the more we talk about it, the more I don’t think it was as terrible as the results made it out to be.

If, IF this team seemed to be susceptible to momentum, this was the kind of game you’d like to see.  A rally against a tough closer to win a key ballgame, with a series against a team ahead of you in the wild card standings coming up.  Momentum hasn’t meant much to this club all year long, though, so while we enjoy this win, it’s hard to say that there’s a corner that’s been turned.  Especially when you have to face Jose Fernandez tonight.

Trevor Rosenthal went on the disabled list on Tuesday.  There seem to be a few different ways to look at this.  One is that he’s been hurt all year and the medical staff hasn’t been able to find it.  One is that it’s a gimmick, a phony injury made up by the club to be able to send him to the minors without the stigma of a demotion.  One is that Rosenthal has been pitching through pain for a while and should have had things checked out sooner.  And, I guess you could just take it at face value, that Rosenthal recently felt something and asked for an exam, though that one doesn’t seem to carry much weight with the fan base.

If I was to lean toward any camp, I’d say it’d be the one where Rosie’s been hurting but hasn’t told anyone.  I wonder if this was a Seth Maness situation, where they suggested a trip to Memphis and that got him to speak up and ask for an examination.  I don’t know that it was, but I could well imagine that if you are going to lose major league time anyway, you might as well tell them that you’ve been hurting more than normal recently.  There’s talk, as there has been for a long time, of him being a starter in Memphis so that he can get regular innings.  That’s not to say that they are trying to convert him back to being a starter, no matter what some reporters might say.  With a full rotation, Alex Reyes on the way, Lance Lynn returning next year, and Luke Weaver knocking on the door (plus folks like Lyons and pitchers like Tim Cooney and Marco Gonzales who could be in the mix next year), why would you take him from where he’s been successful and try to slot him into an already overstuffed position?

I will say that my thought is there’s no real fixing Rosenthal this year, unless this injury is more significant to the problem than we thought.  (Again, like Maness, who has done significantly better since returning from the disabled list.)  I think it’s going to take the offseason to clear the head, get things right, and hopefully the old Rosie will show up to Jupiter next year.  Of course, there’s no guarantee that he’d ever return to form–Mitchell Boggs would let you know that, if you can catch him between practices at the University of Georgia.

Brandon Moss begins his rehab at Springfield tonight.  Given the way most rehab stints go, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him in Cincinnati next week assuming no setbacks.  I’m sure he’ll definitely be back in the lineup for the homestand that starts a week from Friday.

As noted above, St. Louis has to face Jose Fernandez tonight for the first time in a while.  In fact, if you don’t count spring training (and you shouldn’t), the Cards haven’t seen much of Fernandez.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Jedd Gyorko 8 8 2 0 0 2 6 0 4 .250 .250 1.000 1.250 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Holliday 6 5 1 0 0 1 1 1 1 .200 .333 .800 1.133 0 0 0 0 2
Yadier Molina 3 3 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Total 17 16 4 0 0 3 8 1 5 .250 .294 .813 1.107 0 0 0 0 2
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/28/2016.

Fernandez shut down the Mets last time out, allowing two runs in seven innings.  Save for an inexplicable blowup against the Braves at the beginning of the month, he’s been exceptionally strong pretty much all year long.  He has seven starts of double-digit strikeouts, so the fans may be out this evening.

Michael Wacha gets the nod for the Redbirds.  The Marlins have seen him a little more than the Cards Fernandez, but not a significant amount.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Martin Prado 8 8 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 .375 .375 .500 .875 0 0 0 0 0
Ichiro Suzuki 6 4 1 0 0 0 0 2 0 .250 .500 .250 .750 0 0 0 0 0
Christian Yelich 3 3 1 0 0 0 2 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Adam Conley 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Derek Dietrich 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Adeiny Hechavarria 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .500 .000 .500 0 0 1 0 0
Don Kelly 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Jeff Mathis 2 2 2 0 0 0 1 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000 0 0 0 0 0
Giancarlo Stanton 2 2 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 .500 .500 1.000 1.500 0 0 0 0 0
Chris Johnson 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 30 27 9 2 0 0 3 3 4 .333 .400 .407 .807 0 0 1 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/28/2016.

Wacha went just four innings and allowed three runs when he faced Miami last week, so let’s hope he can do better in their ballpark.  Also, we’re on history watch this weekend as Ichiro Suzuki is just three hits away from 3000.  I remember when the Cards were on the other side of Roger Clemens’s milestones (300 W and 4000 K) and I remember Tony Gwynn getting 2999 against St. Louis before hitting the milestone the next night.  It’s always cool to be part of that kind of history, even if it’s the other side, so we’ll be rooting for Ichiro–in non-RBI situations, of course!

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If you blog long enough (usually about a week, though some of us don’t even make it that long), you are going to be wrong about something.  The first blush reaction to the Colby Rasmus trade isn’t the same as the post-Series lens we use to look at it today.  Fair is fair, though, so here it is. (I was also wrong on another point–I could spell Rzepczynski before it was all said and done!)

Worldview Shaking

I’m a positive guy.  I give people the benefit of the doubt, figure there are things that aren’t in evidence that I don’t know, and generally expect that people running a business or a baseball team or anything of that nature know what they are doing.

Which is why the earth has apparently tilted on its axis today.

I was waiting to write anything until it was official.  Lots of rumors and talk out there, especially as the deadline gets closer.  You never want to come out and talk about something that doesn’t actually happen.  However, with PJ Walters tweeting about Toronto and Colby Rasmus’s brother doing the same, it’s a pretty safe bet that the trade, as we know it, will be happening.

So it’s Colby Rasmus, Trever Miller (who is expected to be flipped to the White Sox), Brian Tallet, and PJ Walters for Edwin Jackson (whom the Jays received earlier today from the White Sox), Marc Rzepczynski (whose name I will never spell right without looking it up), Octavio Dotel and Corey Patterson.  There is apparently money changing hands as the commish has to approve it (as he does with any trade involving more than $1 million), but so far, nothing has changed to indicate that isn’t the case.  (Late note: Apparently the Cards could get another reliever from the White Sox if Miller is dealt.)

That’s the deal.  That’s what John Mozeliak has apparently signed off on.  Then it was like a million voices cried out at once on Twitter and nothing is going to silence them.

The blog posts are already being written and keep trickling in.  Colby Rasmus is a trending topic.  And I have to agree with the prevailing sentiment, which is, “That’s it?  That’s the deal?”

The Cardinals have traded a young, cost-controlled (to a degree–Rasmus will be arbitration eligible after this year, I believe), quality player at a premium position for a rental pitcher and some relievers?  You trade a guy that could have been part of the core of the team for three more years for, at best, a LOOGY and a draft pick past this season?

There is just not that much to like about this deal.  Yes, the Cardinals needed left-handed relief help.  We get that and I agree wholeheartedly.  Rzepcynski has been very effective against lefties this year and he’s not been that bad against righties, either.  However, if you go into this year’s splits (and it’s small sample size, true), he’s been worse away from Rogers Center and been worse on grass by significant margins.  For his career it’s the same way, though it isn’t as pronounced.  I’ll give you that he fits a need, but he’s not worth giving up Rasmus for.  Apparently, the club thinks he can be a starter (he’s been one in the minors) because they’ve determined that no matter what your position in the majors, it’s the wrong one.

Pip did a great breakdown of why you don’t trade Rasmus for Jackson yesterday, showing that yet again the man is on the bleeding edge of things and that apparently the front office isn’t reading the blogs as much as we thought they might.  To get someone that projects, as Pip says, “between Lohse and Westbrook” for the rest of the year isn’t exactly the impact player that we thought the team was looking for before it moved the centerfielder.  With Scott Boras as his agent and the state of the pitching staff in the next couple of years, I can’t imagine any way Jackson is back with this team next year unless someone gets traded.

As for Octavio Dotel and Corey Patterson…..nobody told me we’d gotten into a time machine and shown up in 2004.  Dotel’s been passable this year, I guess, but he’s 37 years old and has been up and down.  Not sure who he’d be an upgrade on.  He’s not going to take Lance Lynn‘s place in the 8th, I don’t think.  He’s not better than Jason Motte or Mitchell Boggs.  Where does he fit?

Corey Patterson, well, ugh.  Besides the whole “former Cub” thing, he’s one of those guys that’s hung around long enough to get the “veteran” tag that apparently is so appealing to some parts of the Cardinal decision making tree.  He’s been better the last couple of years, but the last time he was in the NL Central, with both the Reds and the Brewers, he was a disaster.  He’s filler, a guy that plays once a week or so on a lot of teams (which means he’ll likely start tonight, but that’s another story.)

(Now, since things move fast and I don’t write that way, a couple of things have happened since I started this.  The first is that it has been officially announced.  I’ll post the press release when I get it–actually, just got it so it’ll go up after this post.  The second is that the Cards get either three players to be named later or cash.  If they are able to get some quality from the PTBNL list, perhaps this deal doesn’t look as bad.  Flip side of that is if there were top prospects on that list, chances are the Cards get them now rather than later.)

As Bernie Miklasz Tweeted, there’s little upside to this deal.  Does it help the Cards this season?  There’s an argument there, I would guess.  It depends on what Jackson does in the starting rotation, because I don’t think the bullpen was as bad as it was earlier in the year and so the moves probably not do much for it.  It’s a gamble, though.  Can Jon Jay hit like he’s been hitting on a regular basis?  Remember his tail spin last year after Ryan Ludwick was moved.  Can Allen Craig step in and be a dependable fourth outfielder?  There’s a chance the offense is a bit weaker, especially if Rasmus still had a positive streak in him.

This was not an overwhelming trade, which is what Mozeliak said would need to happen to move Rasmus.  This, for all intents and purposes, was Scott Rolen all over again.  (We could hope that it’s JD Drew and that one of the PTBNL is an Adam Wainwright, but I think that’s pushing it.)  Rolen had to leave because he and TLR couldn’t get along anymore.  It happened with Brendan Ryan this last season.  Which means that it begs the question: who actually is running this team?

I’ve been a La Russa fan for a long while, but I said back with Rolen that you can’t let the manager get a situation to the point where you have to give up on a player that can help you.  Especially in this situation, when TLR might not be back next year and Rasmus could be a future contributor, you don’t give him away for spare parts.  Yet that seems, right now, exactly what they’ve done.  There’s a dynamic in play in St. Louis decision making that doesn’t seem to be anywhere else and I don’t think it’s a positive one for the club.

We knew Rasmus was going to leave sometime, though.  If nothing else, he’d have walked as a free agent in a few years and he probably did need to go somewhere else to have his potential realized.  It’s just….this way?  When the reports are you could have gotten a starter, a lefty reliever, and a prospect from Tampa Bay?  Are the draft picks that apparently were such a focus better than current young talent?

However, what’s done is done.  Harping on it won’t help anything, won’t get it undone.  Years later there are still people talking about the Mark Mulder deal and, while this one has the potential of that one, there’s nothing the fan base can do about it.

Although Joe Strauss now suggests the Cardinals could move Motte and Boggs for Heath Bell.  We might be doing this same up-in-arms reaction again before it’s all said and done.  It’s not over until the buzzer sounds on Sunday.  Remember, though, you can talk about it tonight during the UCB Radio Hour!

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The calm before the storm, right before things radically changed.  You can hear the thunder in this piece, though we didn’t know it at the time that Edwin Jackson was not going to settle in Toronto.

Continuing The Roll

So far, so good.

The Cardinals have a home stand against the two worst teams in the division and they’ve been taking advantage of it.  They didn’t really capitalize on their offensive showing last night, getting only three runs out of 11 hits (no walks, not sure if that meant Houston pitching was around the plate or patience wasn’t in force last night) but they didn’t have to since the hot-weather Jake Westbrook showed up.

Again, you have to take some excitement with a grain of salt, since Houston is struggling, but being that these batters had a good career history against Westbrook, I think it’s a good sign.  I remember that Westbrook was very solid down the stretch last year (including the mid-September game that was the first Social Media Night) and if he can do that again this year, it increases the odds of the Cards making the playoffs significantly.

All the scoring came via the long ball, as Albert Pujols hit a disputed home run in the first inning, giving the Cards a 2-0 lead, then David Freese added insurance with home run number 5, a career-high for him in the big.  We’ve all expected more pop out of Freese and hopefully we are getting it.  Last year all of his home runs were centered in a two-week span before his injury.  If he can start hitting for a little more regular power, that’d be a good thing.

The bullpen was also stellar last night.  Fernando Salas was fairly dominating, striking out the side in the ninth (though he did walk a batter) and Lance Lynn showed that he can be an eighth inning guy now that it appears Eduardo Sanchez isn’t going to make it back this season.  All in all, it seemed to alleviate some worries about the pen, even as John Mozeliak said there were more opportunities to bring in a reliever.

Of course, there is still a pen issue, and that’s the left-handed “relief”.  Trever Miller again allowed the only runner he faced to get on last night.  It was pointed out that he’s not been used much, throwing only 1 1/3 innings in July.  However, in three different appearances in July, he did not get a batter out.  In fact, nine of his 39 appearances this year have a 0.0 in the innings column.  More to the point, he’s faced 77 batters and allowed 29 of them to reach via hit or walk.  When 38% of the time you can’t get the couple of guys out that you are supposed to, it becomes a major issue.  I still expect Mozeliak to bring in a lefty if he can find one, but we’ll have to wait and see what’s going to be available.

Lance Berkman gets the Goat as the only hitter with no hits.  He also had to leave early due to the shoulder strain that initially looked like it would keep him out of the starting lineup last night as well.  Reports are he’s going to get an MRI on it today, which may be a wrench in any trade discussions.  Matt Holliday was also out of the lineup battling illness, but should be back in a day or so.

Also, it didn’t escape anyone’s notice that Daniel Descalso started at short and got two hits.  However, there’s nothing like a platoon with him and Ryan Theriot because that would be “oversimplifying” and we all know there is nothing, NOTHING simple about the way TLR manages.  I’m sure Theriot will still see a lion’s share of the playing time, but he’s really going to have to get right before he plays every day.  Nice of TLR to at least acknowledge that.

The biggest point of discussion, of course, is the trade talk surrounding the centerfielder.  Take it for what it’s worth (and that’s going to be at various levels for different members of the UCB) but Joe Strauss indicates the Colby Rasmus situation might be untenable.  Tony La Russa indicates that Rasmus isn’t listening to the coaches, even though he was pretty supportive and happy with Rasmus overall in the interview.  That, to me, was more of a shot at Papa Rasmus than an indication he wanted Colby out of the organization.

Lots of teams are sniffing around on Rasmus, of course, because they smell a deal.  It seems obvious that, unless the Cards can get a lot for him, they should keep him around.  I don’t figure that Seattle would give up Michael Pineda for him or anything of that nature.  If all you are going to do is collect some spare part, some players that might or might not help this year and be gone later, then that’s doing a disservice to both Rasmus and the fan base.

However, if Berkman’s going to be out of any length of time, the talks have to come to a halt.  Do we really want to see an outfield of Holliday, Jay and Schumaker on a regular basis?  Perhaps Holliday, Jay and Allen Craig when he returns, but that’s assuming he can get right back into the swing of things after the layoff.  Hopefully it’s a moot point and Berkman will be fine, but it’s something to keep in mind.

Still four days plus until the trading deadline.  The first dominoes haven’t fallen yet, but once they do (if they do), things could get busy in a hurry.  According to Twitter, the White Sox and Jays are close to a deal that would put Edwin Jackson in Canada and some Cardinal minds at ease.  We’ll see if it pans out and if that starts the wildfire.

Cards look to take the series tonight and it may be another low-scoring affair.  For the Birds,  Chris Carpenter is on the mound.  Surprisingly enough, he’s not faced the Astros yet this year.  Here’s what he’s done in his career:

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS IBB HBP GDP
Carlos Lee 46 43 7 0 0 2 5 2 12 .163 .196 .302 .498 0 0 1
Michael Bourn 22 19 5 0 0 0 1 2 5 .263 .364 .263 .627 0 1 0
Hunter Pence 18 18 3 0 1 1 5 0 6 .167 .167 .444 .611 0 0 1
Clint Barmes 16 14 2 1 0 0 0 1 0 .143 .200 .214 .414 0 0 1
Angel Sanchez 7 7 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 .286 .286 .286 .571 0 0 1
Chris Johnson 6 5 2 0 0 1 3 1 1 .400 .500 1.000 1.500 0 0 0
Humberto Quintero 6 6 3 0 0 0 0 0 1 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0
Brett Wallace 6 4 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .333 .000 .333 0 1 0
Wandy Rodriguez 4 4 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .250 .250 .250 .500 0 0 0
Bud Norris 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Jason Michaels 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 1
Brett Myers 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
J.A. Happ 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Total 139 128 25 1 1 4 14 7 27 .195 .246 .313 .559 0 2 5
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/27/2011.Looks like he’s fared very well.  Still have to keep Carlos Lee in the park, but other than that, should be good to go.On the other side, it’s Cardinal killer Bud Norris. He’s faced the Cards three times this year, and he’s 1-1 with a 2.84 ERA against them. Sadly, that’s progress from his earlier stints against the club.  Here are the numbers:

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS IBB HBP GDP
Albert Pujols 25 23 5 2 0 0 2 2 3 .217 .280 .304 .584 1 0 1
Yadier Molina 24 21 6 0 0 0 0 2 3 .286 .375 .286 .661 0 1 2
Colby Rasmus 24 22 4 2 0 1 1 2 6 .182 .250 .409 .659 0 0 0
Matt Holliday 23 23 6 1 0 2 5 0 4 .261 .261 .565 .826 0 0 0
Skip Schumaker 22 19 3 0 0 0 2 3 3 .158 .273 .158 .431 0 0 0
Jon Jay 13 12 2 0 0 0 2 0 1 .167 .167 .167 .333 0 0 1
Ryan Theriot 13 11 4 0 0 0 0 2 0 .364 .462 .364 .825 0 0 0
Lance Berkman 8 6 2 0 0 1 1 2 1 .333 .500 .833 1.333 1 0 0
David Freese 8 8 2 1 0 0 1 0 4 .250 .250 .375 .625 0 0 0
Daniel Descalso 6 4 3 2 1 0 2 2 1 .750 .833 1.750 2.583 1 0 0
Jaime Garcia 6 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Kyle Lohse 4 3 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .667 1.000 0 0 0
Nick Punto 3 3 1 1 0 0 1 0 1 .333 .333 .667 1.000 0 0 0
Chris Carpenter 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Total 181 163 39 10 1 4 17 15 31 .239 .307 .387 .694 3 1 4
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/27/2011.Nobody really stands out, but Descalso will probably be in the lineup somewhere with that 3 for 4 line.  Berkman has done OK as well, but again doesn’t sound like he’ll be in the lineup.  Here’s hoping to keep the roll going!

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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.

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS IBB HBP GDP
Carlos Lee 40 36 15 4 0 2 7 4 2 .417 .475 .694 1.169 0 0 3
Michael Bourn 9 9 2 0 0 0 0 0 2 .222 .222 .222 .444 0 0 0
Hunter Pence 9 8 5 0 0 0 0 1 1 .625 .667 .625 1.292 0 0 0
Brett Wallace 9 7 5 1 0 0 2 1 2 .714 .778 .857 1.635 0 1 0
Chris Johnson 8 8 2 0 0 0 0 0 3 .250 .250 .250 .500 0 0 0
Brett Myers 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Clint Barmes 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
J.A. Happ 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Angel Sanchez 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 1
Humberto Quintero 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Total 90 83 29 5 0 2 9 6 12 .349 .400 .482 .882 0 1 4
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/26/2011.

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:

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS IBB HBP GDP
Albert Pujols 46 44 15 1 1 3 6 2 4 .341 .370 .614 .983 0 0 2
Yadier Molina 29 28 6 0 0 1 4 1 4 .214 .241 .321 .563 0 0 2
Lance Berkman 28 21 4 0 0 2 5 7 5 .190 .393 .476 .869 1 0 0
Skip Schumaker 28 26 9 1 0 2 2 2 4 .346 .393 .615 1.008 0 0 1
Matt Holliday 23 20 7 2 0 2 6 3 1 .350 .435 .750 1.185 0 0 3
Ryan Theriot 18 18 4 0 0 0 0 0 2 .222 .222 .222 .444 0 0 0
Colby Rasmus 15 14 2 0 0 0 0 0 2 .143 .200 .143 .343 0 1 0
Jon Jay 8 8 2 0 0 0 0 0 3 .250 .250 .250 .500 0 0 0
Jake Westbrook 4 4 1 1 0 0 3 0 2 .250 .250 .500 .750 0 0 0
David Freese 3 2 1 0 0 0 1 1 0 .500 .667 .500 1.167 0 0 0
Mitchell Boggs 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Chris Carpenter 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Daniel Descalso 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .500 .000 .500 1 0 0
Total 208 190 51 5 1 10 27 17 31 .268 .332 .463 .795 2 1 8
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
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!

 

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Rosenthal Disabled

Whether conveniently, an issue with the medical staff, or somehow a recent development, Trevor Rosenthal has been placed on the DL and Dean Kiekhafer recalled.

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Last week, Carlos Martinez was scheduled to take the mound Tuesday, but rain came and forced a cancellation, creating a doubleheader the next day.  Apparently that was such a good idea the Cardinals thought they’d do it again this week.  I guess it could have been worse.  I mean, if you are playing the God of Thunder, you don’t want any clouds around.

Anyway, the Cardinals did make a move yesterday before the rains came, sending down Sunday’s starter Mike Mayers, moving Jordan Walden to the 60-day DL, and bringing up Jerome Williams.

(On Walden, I kinda think it was something similar to the end of this scene:

Hard to remember when he actually pitched, isn’t it?)

The Williams part of this really was somewhat of a head scratcher.  If you’ve read over the last couple of days, you know I kinda thought they’d leave Mayers up until Miguel Socolovich could return.  Or perhaps Sam Tuivailala could return in a swap for Mayers.  I don’t think anyone expected this move.

It does make some sense, I guess.  If there was another short start in the next day or so or if there was an extra-inning affair, someone that could throw multiple innings might be helpful.  As someone pointed out on Twitter, though, why not bring him up to make the start on Sunday rather than an untested and questionably ready rookie?  If nothing else, you can leave a guy like Williams out there no matter what for 4-5 innings and not worry about ruining the best day of his life.  I’m not saying that he’d have given the Cardinals a better chance to win–looking at his career and his Memphis work this year would dissuade you from thinking that–but it wouldn’t have been worse and it would have let you not use up Seth Maness.

And while it probably does make sense to plan for every contingency, Tyler Lyons should be ready to go again as early as today.  Matt Bowman could be as well.  Many of the short relievers had at least a day of rest.  I’m not saying folks aren’t tired–I imagine they are–but I’m not sure how pressing the need for a security blanket was.  Someone like Tuivailala or even Ryan Sherriff could come up and give you an extra arm in the pen.

Because, honestly, save for Michael Wacha most every starter is going to give you five or six innings at the least right now.  The rotation hasn’t been an issue in that regard.  True, you never know when you’ll get an extra inning affair, but they don’t happen all that often.  The club so often has this want for long men–Joe Kelly, Lyons, and others over the past few years–but often not the need.  Lyons went over two weeks without pitching recently and it wasn’t the first time this season.

This is going to be a lot like Michael McKenry, it seems like.  They brought McKenry up, barely used him, and then he didn’t clear waivers when they sent him down.  (Eric Fryer was a similar situation, though at least they had him for a good chunk of the year even if they didn’t use him.)  Granted, it’s no big loss if he can’t go back down to Memphis, but it’s still the principle of the thing.

Then the rain came and really made the situation look unnecessary, given that it allowed another day of rest.  Of course, depending on how today goes, Williams might be needed later in the week, but hopefully not starting on Saturday when the need arises.  Let’s hope the Patron Pitcher is the one going there.

Anyway, they’ll try again today with Martinez going against Syndergaard, followed up by Jaime Garcia versus Bartolo Colon.  We looked at the charts for the first two yesterday, let’s take a look at the others now.  Garcia first:

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Jose Reyes 17 17 4 1 0 0 0 0 2 .235 .235 .294 .529 0 0 0 0 0
James Loney 8 8 4 1 0 0 2 0 0 .500 .500 .625 1.125 0 0 0 0 0
Kelly Johnson 6 5 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 .200 .333 .200 .533 0 0 0 0 1
Wilmer Flores 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 1
Juan Lagares 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 .000 .667 .000 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Neil Walker 3 3 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .667 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Jacob deGrom 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 1 0 0 0 0
Total 42 38 10 3 0 0 2 3 2 .263 .317 .342 .659 1 0 0 0 2
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/26/2016.

Garcia’s not faced the Mets much, which hopefully will work to his advantage.  He’s been solid if not spectacular as of late, which might be enough, though I’d feel better if he was more on the spectacular side in this one.

Colon is having a pretty good year by any standard, but especially when you factor in that he’s 43.  (One of the few left that’s older than me!)  The Cubs beat him around last time out, as he gave up six runs in 4.1 innings.  That was actually the second time this month he’s allowed that many, as July hasn’t been great for him.  Still, he’s plenty capable of shutting down St. Louis.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Matt Holliday 18 16 7 2 0 0 4 1 4 .438 .500 .563 1.063 0 0 0 1 0
Yadier Molina 13 13 2 1 0 0 1 0 1 .154 .154 .231 .385 0 0 0 0 2
Matt Adams 12 12 2 0 0 1 3 0 3 .167 .167 .417 .583 0 0 0 0 0
Kolten Wong 12 11 4 0 0 0 1 1 1 .364 .417 .364 .780 0 0 0 0 1
Randal Grichuk 5 3 1 1 0 0 2 1 0 .333 .600 .667 1.267 0 0 1 1 0
Carlos Martinez 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 1 0 0 0 0
Jedd Gyorko 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Jerome Williams 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 67 61 17 4 0 1 11 3 12 .279 .333 .393 .727 1 0 1 2 3
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/26/2016.

Matt Holliday’s done well, as has Kolten Wong.  Maybe this will help jump start those guys, though as we’ve said so many times before, what’s momentum to this team?

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Williams Added

The Cardinals have brought up veteran pitcher Jerome Williams from Memphis.  Mike Mayers was sent down and Jordan Walden was moved to the 60-day DL.

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We started this series earlier in the year but let it drop as the season got started.  However, this is about the time five years ago that things got interesting, so let’s jump back in the time machine and take a look at what was going on as #11in11 really got started.

Treading Water

We keep waiting and hoping for the Cardinals to catch fire, to pull away from the pack and start to pile win on top of win.  So far, it’s two steps forward, two steps back in the second half, and this weekend, while generally positive, just reinforced that trend.  Recaps:

Thursday (6-2 win at New York)
Hero: Jake Westbrook. He had the advantages of a larger than normal park, playing in Citi Field, and the heat of the day game possibly sapping the opposition, but even with all of those advantages, he went eight innings and allowed only two runs.  He’s said before that he heats up as the weather does, and the weather doesn’t get any hotter than what we have now.  (If it does, please don’t tell me.)  His August and September ERAs have been good the last three years, so perhaps he’ll be a plus down the stretch.

Goat: Nick Punto.  While we still give him credit for playing hurt, going 0-5 in the leadoff slot isn’t really helping the offense much.  Was able to score a run, which is good, but struck out three times.  That’s something the team will have to keep an eye on, to see if he’s hurting the team more by playing than by being on the DL.

Notes: Albert Pujols went yard, stirring his bat just a bit and giving the team an early lead. Jon Jay had two hits and continued to put pressure on other members of the team (as we’ll discuss later). Daniel Descalso filled in at shortstop in a late lineup switch, when Ryan Theriot found out he could reduce the suspension to one game if he served it immediately.  It’s something (Descalso at short, not Theriot suspended) that we might see more going forward.

Friday (6-4 win at Pittsburgh)
Hero: Albert Pujols.  Four hits, including another first inning home run.  It’s pretty obvious Pujols will make it to 30 home runs again this season.  He’s at 60 RBI, which means that he’s still got an outside shot at 100 of those.  However, the third leg of his personal triple crown looks less and less likely.  He’s at .276 after Sunday’s 0-5, meaning he likely needs to hit around .338 (assuming 550 at-bats) over the rest of the season just to reach .300.  While that’d be great, I think we’ll see the first blemish on AP’s baseball card this year.

Goat: Ryan Theriot.  0-5 in the leadoff slot, dropping his average to .274.  It dropped another point over the weekend and his OBP is .319, which is not really what the Cards had in mind when they were exchanging offense for defense.  (As has been pointed out a lot this weekend, Brendan Ryan now is hitting .264 with an OBP of .324 and is continuing to play stellar defense.  Perhaps this swap didn’t work out exactly the way the Cardinals planned.)

As I mentioned on Gateway To Baseball Heaven last night (and fair warning if you click that link, our guest wasn’t able to make it and Bill had some conflicts, so it’s 30 minutes of a C70 monologue), I thought it was pretty telling that Descalso started at short on Saturday, even though there was no reason for Theriot not to be out there.  He’d just sat out Thursday, so it wasn’t that he needed the rest.  It wasn’t a lefty on the mound.  And yet Descalso was starting and Tony La Russa made the comment this weekend that it was tough not to put Daniel out there on a more regular basis.  That has to concern Theriot a bit.

Notes: David Freese had a couple of hits, including a home run.  Lance Berkman continued to be the best free agent signing of the offseason, having two hits and raising his average to .288 to go along with his large number of home runs.  Chris Carpenter wasn’t completely on his game, giving up four runs, but pitched eight innings and made pitches when he needed to.  He pitched around his troubles, but this is the kind of game he’d have lost earlier in the year due to no run support, so maybe things are evening out a bit.

Saturday (9-1 win at Pittsburgh)
Hero: Jaime Garcia.  After so much talk about how Garcia struggled on the road, he’s thrown back-to-back solid outings away from Busch.  This time he didn’t quite get through the eighth, but still allowed only one run and limited the damage of eight hits by only walking one and striking out five.  When Garcia can get into the eighth with less than 100 pitches, you know it’s a good game and Garcia seems to be able to do that more than most anyone currently in the rotation.

Goat: Matt Holliday.  The whole team got into this game, so it’s tougher to name a Goat, but Holliday, while having a hit and a walk, did strike out three times as well.  Kind of a rough stretch for Number 7, as he’s only hit .231 since the break with two doubles his only extra-base hits.  Not that it’s a concern at all, but when it’s coupled with the other slumps on the offense, it can hurt.  Not so much this weekend in Pittsburgh, though.

Notes: Yadier Molina and Berkman both went yard in the Cards’ big inning.  Good to see some production from Molina, who has been scuffling for a while. PJ Walters had a very nice outing in relief, continuing to show that he can handle some of the less-stressful innings, saving some of the bigger guns for later or closer in games. Skip Schumaker had a couple of hits in the leadoff slot and, while I still wouldn’t want him there regularly, he’s made the decision of what to do with Allen Craig when Craig returns.  Early on, you’d have thought Craig would play a lot at second.  Now, Skip’s made you at least think about that call.  Of course, if there’s an open slot in the outfield….

Sunday (4-3 loss in 10 at Pittsburgh)

Hero: Colby Rasmus. To come out with all the trade talk swirling around you, the fact that the manager has apparently lost confidence in you (witness Colby not starting Saturday against a righty) and slumping as well and get two hits, including what could have been the game-winning home run, speaks well for Rasmus’s frame of mind.  Hopefully if Colby is going to have a surge, it’ll come wearing the birds on the bat.  We’ll get to that, though.

Goat: Gerald Laird. First, he gets picked off of second base while Descalso is trying to bunt him over in the late innings, taking the go-ahead run off the basepaths.  Then, he overthrows second and allows the winning run in the 10th to move to third.  Not exactly the kind of game you want to have when you only get in once a week, especially with a guy like Tony Cruz on the bench willing to go in as well.

Notes: Kyle Lohse has fallen from those lofty heights of the early season, but he’s still not gotten to the point where Bill can send his crow back to Bob.  Lohse only went five innings, partly because there was a good scoring opportunity in the sixth when his turn came up to bat, but also likely to monitor the finger issue that had flared up earlier in the week.  Lohse only threw 64 pitches and was in line for a solid start, though things have started falling apart for him in the sixth lately, so perhaps that was on Tony’s mind.

Lance Lynn gave up the tying run in his second inning of work, but didn’t pitch that badly.  A leadoff double is always an issue to have to deal with.  Lynn’s command is a little shaky, as he walked two, but he’s still providing good innings.  Same could be said for Mitchell Boggs, who threw two scoreless frames and kept the team tied.

As it stands right now, there is less than a week to go before the trading deadline, which means a lot of things are going to be coming out and thrown against the wall this week.  The biggest one made its presence known on Sunday, as there was a story that the Cardinals and White Sox were talking about Rasmus.  Coming back to the Cards would be Edwin Jackson or Matt Thornton along with some quality prospects.

My thought is that, depending on the prospects, if that’s all you can get for Rasmus then you might as well keep him.  Jackson is a free agent and, as we know, is erratic enough to not be a definitive upgrade over the current staff.  Thornton would be nice to have as a lefty reliever, but those aren’t the kind of guys you trade quality centerfielders for, and even with Rasmus’s struggles, he’s a quality centerfielder.

I really don’t see how this improves the team that much.  While Jon Jay is hitting now, we have to remember that he tailed off after Ryan Ludwick was traded last year.  Will he do that again?  Even if he doesn’t, Jay doesn’t really have the power that Rasmus has, so it’s not an even exchange.

Jeremy Guthrie is another name that is making the rounds.  I would sincerely hope that Guthrie wouldn’t cost Rasmus, as he’s putting up middling numbers and has never been a big-time pitcher.  That said, Guthrie does pile up innings and has held his own in the AL East this year (save his record, which you can ignore), so I could see him being a good fit in St. Louis if the price is not extravagant.  With other teams apparently in on him as well, the Cards could get priced out.

If you are wanting to guess when John Mozeliak will pull the trigger on something, I’d lean toward Wednesday.  I’d give you some solid reasoning behind that, but it’s mainly because the Cards tend to make news on the same day as the UCB Radio Hour.  I know Jon would appreciate having something like that to talk about!

The Cardinals have a big homestand coming up, as they face the bottom of the division.  Anything less than 5-2 would probably be a disappointment going against the Astros and Cubs.  Some interesting promotions as well, including tonight’s Christmas in July.  The Salvation Army will have the bell ringers at the stadium, so if you are going to the game, be sure to have some loose change or bills with you.

Kyle McClellan takes the hill for the Redbirds tonight.  Here’s what he’s done against the Astros in his career.

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS IBB HBP GDP
Hunter Pence 17 16 8 0 0 0 2 1 1 .500 .529 .500 1.029 0 0 0
Michael Bourn 14 13 2 1 0 0 1 1 3 .154 .214 .231 .445 0 0 0
Carlos Lee 14 13 3 1 0 0 2 0 2 .231 .214 .308 .522 0 0 0
Chris Johnson 8 8 1 0 0 1 2 0 2 .125 .125 .500 .625 0 0 0
Brett Wallace 7 6 1 1 0 0 0 1 2 .167 .286 .333 .619 0 0 0
Humberto Quintero 6 6 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 .667 1.167 0 0 0
Clint Barmes 5 5 2 2 0 0 2 0 0 .400 .400 .800 1.200 0 0 0
Angel Sanchez 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Jason Michaels 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
J.A. Happ 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Brett Myers 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Total 81 76 20 6 0 1 9 3 13 .263 .288 .382 .669 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/25/2011.

Not exactly dominant, but again, you never know what you are going to get with McClellan. He gave up just two runs in eight innings against the ‘Stros back in May, running his record to 6-1.  He has not tallied a win since then.

J.A. Happ is who the Cards have to face.  Here are his numbers:

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS IBB HBP GDP
Albert Pujols 19 16 4 1 0 1 4 3 0 .250 .368 .500 .868 1 0 2
Colby Rasmus 11 7 1 1 0 0 0 4 1 .143 .455 .286 .740 0 0 0
Matt Holliday 9 8 4 0 0 1 3 1 1 .500 .556 .875 1.431 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 9 9 3 0 0 0 2 0 2 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0
Ryan Theriot 9 9 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 .222 .222 .333 .556 0 0 0
Lance Berkman 8 7 2 0 0 1 2 0 3 .286 .286 .714 1.000 0 0 0
Jon Jay 8 6 3 0 0 0 0 1 1 .500 .571 .500 1.071 0 0 0
Skip Schumaker 7 6 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 .167 .286 .333 .619 0 0 0
David Freese 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0
Gerald Laird 3 3 1 1 0 0 2 0 1 .333 .333 .667 1.000 0 0 0
Nick Punto 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 1
Daniel Descalso 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .500 .000 .500 1 0 0
Kyle Lohse 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Kyle McClellan 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Jake Westbrook 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Chris Carpenter 1 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000 0 0 0
Total 98 84 24 5 0 3 14 11 16 .286 .368 .452 .821 2 0 3
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/25/2011.Not as bad as I thought, as Happ is one of those lefties that would typically give St. Louis fits.    Cards lit him up for six runs in five and a third back at the beginning of June down in Houston, so perhaps they’ll get the fireworks going again tonight!

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Mayers-ed In Mediocrity

Major League Baseball players are a fortunate class.  Even the rookie minimum is more than many of us will make in years of work, perhaps even in our entire careers.  They have first-class accommodations.  They get plenty of attention and exposure, perhaps even respect.  I mean, even at my advanced age (an age that ticks up one next week) I still have problems remembering that these guys are younger than I am.

With all of that, though, they are still human beings.  Which is one of the many reasons last night was tough to watch.

Mike Mayers had worked a long time for this.  Four years in the minors, plus all the youth leagues and high school ball and everything else that put him in the position to be drafted in the first place.  His parents are in the stands.  He’s on national TV.  He’s at the pinnacle of his profession, taking the mound in a major league game.

Only to see it immediately unravel in possibly the most painful of ways.

Hit. Hit. Walk. Grand slam. Double.  All of that before recording his first out.  Two more runs scored later in that inning and he only was able to retire one batter in the second, allowing three more runs in the process.  Nine runs, four outs.  All for the world to see.

You know that has to be tough on the kid and I hate to pile on by making him the Goat, but to be behind by eight runs in the second inning of an important game is a hard thing for this team to be involved in.  At a time when they need to be making their run through the wild card teams, they are instead 2-4 against those squads over the past two weekends.  They needed a win last night.

Of course, Mayers didn’t ask to be thrust into this situation, into this spotlight.  I’m sure he’d probably rather have had one of those starts against the Padres last week rather than a nationally televised debut against a tough Los Angeles team.  As a competitor, he expected to go out and be good no matter who he was facing, but you have to think that he wouldn’t have minded a little easier entry into the big leagues.

With the big deficit early, Twitter of course got riled.  There were a lot of complaints about John Mozeliak making the decision to promote Mayers for this one.  I think if it’d been more than one start, Mo might have done things differently, but it’s hard to bring up a Luke Weaver (though my podcast partner was in favor of it) for a start not created by an injury or a trade, but by a rainout that forced a double header.  It’s not a recurring role, at least it shouldn’t be.  Do you burn an option on Weaver for just one outing, even if it is against a wild card team?  I can see why Mo wouldn’t want to do that.

Alex Reyes could have been an option if he’d not struggled a bit lately and didn’t pitch Thursday, when the Cards still expected Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons to make Sunday’s start.  By time Lyons was used up in the extra-inning thriller on Friday, it was too late for Reyes.

Who else goes?  Nobody in Memphis is setting the world on fire.  Tim Cooney and Marco Gonzales are still out with injuries.  Perhaps the best case was throwing Carlos Martinez on short rest.  After all, he got a day of extra rest before his last start with the rainout plus just recently had the All-Star Break.  He also didn’t throw an excessive amount of pitches.  Perhaps letting him go for 70 pitches and having the bullpen ready for a longer outing would have been the better way.

It also would have shown an urgency that, frankly, it doesn’t feel like this team has had in a while.  Tara made an excellent point, one I want to think on more, last night on Gateway.  I’m paraphrasing, but she said there comes a time when you have to realize the future is the present.  We were waiting for the days of Martinez and Stephen Piscotty and Wacha and Kolten Wong.  Those days are here and you have to take advantage of it.

When your window never seems to be closing, you can always think “let’s save up, because there will be next year.”  We saw the Nationals do something like that with Stephen Strasburg’s shutdown in 2012.  They figured, “let’s keep him healthy because, at worst, we’ll have a lot more chances.”  It’s not worked like that for them.  The future is never guaranteed.

I’m not saying you don’t plan for the future or you always just trade all your chips for random stabs at glory.  Don’t mistake my meaning.  I’m saying that sometimes, even when you know the window is still open, you might run a risk of closing it a little early for a much stronger chance of winning it at least once.

To illustrate, let’s say the Cardinals, because they are who they are and have developed a great system, have a 60% chance for the next five years of winning the World Series.  However, if they made a certain trade (say, for Chris Sale), their chances for this year and next went up to 85% while the chances for the last three years of that span dropped to 50%, maybe less.  Is that worth it?  While we always appreciate the consistent winning and playoff appearances, wouldn’t it be worth trying to develop a team more like 2004 and 2005 than muddling along and hoping for 2011?

The Cardinals have a system in place where they can take a risk if they want to do so.  They just don’t typically want to do so.  And, to be fair, unless there are names available we don’t know about, there’s not exactly a lot worth taking a risk on in the market.  Aroldis Chapman might be heading to the Cubs, but the Cards aren’t nor shouldn’t spend what it takes to get him in their current situation, leaving aside his domestic abuse issues.  (That said, I was liking having Chapman out of the NL Central and would really like that deal to fall through.)  Sale might be the most “risk-worthy” guy out there, but there’s no real guarantee he’s even on the market.  As I said on both Musial and Gateway, the suspension for his sartorial decisions doesn’t necessarily rule him out for me, because we’ve said there is an edge missing.  An edge John Lackey and Cardinal great Chris Carpenter brought to the team but that isn’t there right now.

Anyway, that’s a long way afield from the game recap, but this is what happens when I don’t try to put a week’s worth of Heroes and Goats into one piece!

Back to last night.  Let’s give the Hero tag to Seth Maness, because honestly, I didn’t realize Maness could go three innings.  Not only did he do that (actually, almost four!), but he kept the Dodgers scoreless and never really had much of a jam.  The Cardinals were able to get the tying run on deck with a rally in the seventh and that’s mainly because Maness kept the game where it was.

It was also because Matt Bowman bailed out Trevor Rosenthal.  As Tara said on Twitter and on Gateway, there’s been consistent talk about getting Rosenthal innings somewhere (either the big leagues or Memphis) to see if he could get worked out.  A 9-1 game would seem to be the place for that kind of work, but instead Maness took the bulk of it.  Rosie then came in and pitched a scoreless fifth (allowing two hits and stranding runners on second and third) but then walked three straight guys to open the sixth.  It was 9-3 at the time, but instead of letting Rosenthal try to work his way out, figuring the damage wouldn’t matter much, they went to Bowman.

It seems to me that it’s going to take the offseason to try to figure out what’s wrong with Rosenthal.  I don’t know what you do with him in the meantime, though it’s really just the month of August you have to worry about, given the roster expansions.  I’d say you don’t want a pitcher that you can’t use clogging up your 25-man, but Rosenthal can be useful in certain situations, just not really any that have a lot of leverage.  He might come through in those–he’s had a few successes of late–but it’s not the way you would want to bet.

Otherwise, not much of interest.  The Cardinals were able to get to Scott Kazmir a little bit in the early going, but given the huge deficit, it didn’t make a lot of difference.  The rally in the seventh was nice–and perhaps could have been nicer without a questionable third strike call on Tommy Pham to lead it off–but Matt Holliday struck out with Piscotty at second, ending the threat.  After that, it was six up and six down and the Cards were another game behind the Cubs.

At least with the Cards keeping Martinez on his regular schedule, that means we get him against Noah Syndergaard in what might be the best pitching matchup of the night.  Thor recently had a little injury scare, but basically has been as dominant as you’d expect from a guy that has a nickname from the Avengers.  He allowed one unearned run in 5.2 innings against the Cubs last time.  Should be a low-scoring affair and a fun one to watch!

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