West Coast Redbird

That One Critical Thing

Going into the last 2 weeks of the season, lots of folks – yeah, me too – felt pretty good about the Cardinals’ chances of making the playoffs.  They’d won 11 of 13, both Colorado and Chicago were scuffling, St Louis had climbed within 2.5 games of both for a playoff spot, things were definitely looking up.

And, they had 7 games left against the Cubs.  Oh HO, here comes the Cubs collapse!  They’ll jump over Chicago (and Milwaukee too, but nobody ever talks about them) to win the NL Central. Their strong play inspired David Schoenfield to sing their praises and recall the echos of 2011.  (Note:  I am not making fun of David; the Cardinals certainly seemed to be on the fast track to a playoff berth 3 days ago).

Did their run reach it’s zenith in a bizarre fifth inning Friday that saw them get a run after a missed ball/strike call and a Lackey Meltdown(TM)?  That remains to be seen.

What is known is the Cubs erupted for 6 runs in the 6th on Friday to win 8-2; and St Louis couldn’t solve Kyle Hendricks yesterday, losing 3-1.  Coupled with the Rockies’ consecutive wins against San Diego, St Louis finds itself 4.5 back in both races with 14 to play.

Methinks we forgot one critical piece of the narrative in this run-up to the 2017 regular season endgame.  It takes two teams to make a rivalry.  St Louis would like nothing more than to knock the Cubs out of the playoffs; and I’m sure the feeling is mutual.

St Louis struggles against the Cubs.  Why?  Because this is a rivalry.  Since 2001 (and including yesterday’s result) St Louis is 147-143 against Chicago, but only 61-84 at Wrigley.  That’s 23 games under .500 on the road, over a stretch that included some really good Cardinals teams and some truly awful Cubs ones.  In the past seven seasons, St Louis has won only 5 series from the Cubs in the Friendly Confines.    Remember 2003, and the 5-game series at Wrigley?  St Louis entered that week in first place in the Central.  They left that series in third place, which is where they finished the season, after losing 4 of the 5 games.

This series is starting to remind me of that one.

Hope is not lost; there are still 14 games to go, and anything can happen.  Cleveland just won 22 in a row, the first time that’s happened in over a century.  Every game in September is important, and games in April count just as much as games in September, sure; but if any game this season is a must-win, today’s game is it.  Aside from finding yourself 3.5 games out is a much more attractive position than being 5.5 out, it also restores some hope that they could – could – catch and pass the Cubs during the upcoming 4-game series in St Louis.

Our rivals have had their fun the first two games of this series.  It’s high time to return the favor.

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Lack of Composure

Sometimes you get a call, sometimes you don’t.  What you do next is what counts.

If you watched the entire top of the fifth in yesterday’s game, John Lackey had an issue with at least one other call from Home Plate Umpire Baker.  There was a 2-1 curve ball to Wong that was called a ball.  It was close to the top of the zone and John thought it should be a strike. He stared in at the umpire for a moment, then recovered to get Wong.

With that as prologue we get to the 2-2 pitch to Carlos Martinez.

That pitch was a strike, and Martinez was out.  He knew it,; Lackey knew it; Cubs catcher Contreras knew it. Baker missed it and called it a ball.  Lackey lost his mind.  Not unusual, Lackey pitches with his emotions on his sleeve.  But here’s the thing:  The count was 3-2 now.  Lackey could still get out of the inning if he executed his next pitch.

He didn’t.  He hung a fastball and Martinez lined it to RC, giving the Cardinals the lead.  You saw what happened next.

Lackey blamed the umpire for the run, repeatedly shouting “You’re horrible!” at him as Wong crossed the plate.  But here’s the thing – the Umpire didn’t leave that 3-2 pitch in a hittable location, Lackey did.  That run is on Lackey.  Yes, he had every reason to be upset, and frustrated, with not getting the strike call on the previous pitch.  Take a breath and execute the next one.  Screaming at the umpire is poor form. That’s what I’d expect a 6-year old to do, not a veteran pitcher who’s won a World Series.

From a St Louis fan perspective, it’s too bad the team couldn’t hold the 2-1 lead.  We needed the win, and relying on San Diego to beat Colorado in Denver is like hoping the San Diego Chargers of Los Angeles via Carson sell out the Home Depot Center for their home opener (local content there; I apologize).  It ain’t going to happen.  At least the Cubs got their catharsis out of the way in the same game by scoring 6 in the 6th.  With the emotions from the missed strike call (and subsequent ejections) successfully discharged into the ether, perhaps the Cardinals can recover and win the next two.  They have to.  If they have any hope of making the post season they cannot afford to lose many more games.

Fifteen games to go.  Remember, beating the Cubs isn’t enough; Milwaukee needs to lose enough to slip behind St Louis in the standings.

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Arson Squad

Well that was a frustrating series.

The Padres are a long way from being a contender for the playoffs, but they are far from the worst team in the NL.  As uncomfortable as it might be to admit, San Diego is a lot closer to St Louis in terms of the quality of the team on the field than either are to the elite teams in baseball.

Even considering that, St Louis should have won this series.  The fan in me wants to shout the Cardinals should have swept, but being tied 4-4 in the seventh inning isn’t a guarantee they’d have pulled it out.  And after watching the bullpen light this series on fire for three games, that game could only turn out the way it did.

There are less than 40 games left, and even the die-hard fan has to admit the 2017 Cardinals are not a playoff team.  Sure, the 8 game winning streak gave us hope, but that hope is a distant memory.  Trevor Rosenthal’s season-ending injury permanently weakens a bullpen that has spent most of the season careening from competent to ‘Oh My God Lookout!’.  San Diego scored 18 runs in this series; 2/3 of those were allowed by the bullpen.  I’m further and further removed from the guy who watched this team religiously every day, but is Brett Cecil really the 4th best option out of the bullpen with the game tied in the top of the ninth?  Manuel Margot killed the Cardinals in this game.  Righties are hitting .236 against Cecil this year, and he hadn’t worked since Sunday.

San Diego has always been a proof test, for me, about the Cardinals.  When St Louis is good they slap the Padres around.  When they are mediocre/bad, San Diego wins the season series. The Cardinals visit the West Coast just after Labor Day so we’ll see.  All signs point to what we already know.  This is a flawed team with lots of talent that isn’t going anywhere this year.

Of course, the last time San Diego won a series in St Louis was Opening Weekend 2011.  Wouldn’t it be something if 2017 ended the same way the 2011 season did.

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Quick Hitter on Game Scores

With Michael Wacha winning last night, 1-0, after tossing 6 scoreless innings, I was reminded of a post I hadn’t finished after his start in New York. So quickly:

  • Wacha’s complete game shut out of the Mets on 7/18 posted a Game Score of 95.  For the purposes of this short post, Game Score was not calculated using Bill James’ original formula, but with the updated version rolled out by Fangraphs in 2016.
  • That score was the second best one by a Cardinal pitcher in 2017, and is one of three this year to have a game score of 90+.  Carlos Martinez has the other two – a 96 for his 11 strikeout gem against Philadelphia on June 10, and a 94 for his 2-hit shut out of the Giants on May 20.

One would be remiss for to acknowledging the huge role Trevor Rosenthal played in preserving last night’s win, cleaning up Brett Cecil’s mess.

Something to take your mind off the Matheny/Molina FLAPEX….

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As you’re no doubt painfully aware, yesterday’s 9th inning started with a Francisco Cervelli ground ball up the middle.  Paul DeJong got to the ball but could not control it, and Cervelli reached on what was charitably called a ‘single’.  Two quick things on that: First, it should have been an error.  Yes DeJong had to go to his left, but it hit him in the heel of his glove as he was running.  Gotta make that play.  Second – Statcast scored that a ‘single to left’?  Really?  Ball didn’t leave the infield.

Eight pitches (and one no-pitch intentional walk) later, the Cardinals lost 4-3.  A painful ending on a day they’d fought back to tie the score twice, and taken the lead in the 8th on Yadier Molina’s solo HR.

After the game there was some chatter on social media blaming DeJong for the loss; to paraphrase, ‘hey if he makes that play they win.’  Not unreasonable. But wrong.

Here’s why – players make errors in the field all the time – be it physical errors like DeJong’s, or mental ones like throwing to the wrong base, taking a bad angle to a fly ball, that sort of thing.  Pitchers know this.  Pitchers need to push the miscue aside and make pitches.  Brett Cecil left way too many pitches up in the zone, out over the plate, with nothing on them, after Cervelli reached.  That’s why the Cardinals lost.

DeJong’s error did not help.  But after retiring Gregory Polanco on an OOPSIE ground-ball back to the box, Cecil had a guy on second and one out.  That’s manageable.  Leaving a pitch up to Jordy Mercer for a double to LF wasn’t in the manual.  The inning devolved from there.

Some folks also commented (again after the game) asking why Trevor Rosenthal didn’t pitch the 9th instead of the 8th.  Absolutely fair question.  Mike Matheny didn’t really address his thinking other than a vanilla quote about not giving out titles yet.  But, if I may:  Maybe Rosenthal worked the 8th because he’d pitched the two previous days, and the 8th is considered a lower leverage situation.  Or, maybe he worked the 8th because the Pirates’ two best hitters were due (in McCutchen and Bell). I think either reason is defendable.  Or maybe Matheny blacked out due to the heat.  After all he used Rosenthal with a 4-0 lead the night before.

Bottom line:  DeJong’s error hurt; but if Cecil makes his pitches, St Louis wins that game.

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Second Half Musings

Didn’t there used to be games on the Thursday after the All-Star Game?  Oh well.

Games in April count the same as games in September, but for the Redbirds the next 17 are critical:

  • 3 against a mediocre Pirates team
  • 4 against a mediocre Mets team
  • 3 against a mediocre Cubs team
  • 3 against a Rockies team that limped into the ASB (losers of 13 0f their last 18)
  • 4 against a Diamondbacks team that limped into the ASB (losers of 8 of their last 11)

The team has the talent to (a) get over .500 and (b) mount a serious challenge to Milwaukee, or the Cubs, or whichever NL Central team wakes up.  Now is when they need to exercise that talent.  Here’s hoping we’re playing meaningful games in September and don’t sell off assets at the deadline.

Other things to watch as the balance of the season unfolds:

  • Will Wacha move to the bullpen allowing Luke Weaver to start?
  • When is Diaz coming back to the majors?
  • How will Matheny manage the budding Dexter Fowler drama about playing CF?
  • Will the team ever settle on a permanent Second Baseman?  Is Tommy Herr still in playing shape?
  • Who closes if Oh (and Rosenthal, for that matter) continue to struggle?  Is Matheny agile enough to match up his best relievers with the situation regardless of inning (sources say no)?

Get ready for the stretch … run?

I won’t promise to write every day … life intervenes … but I am going to make the effort.  Hopefully that doesn’t drive down readership here. 🙂

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Old Habits Die

I didn’t plan to watch the All-Star Game this year.

But with Netflix on the fritz and a fidgety 5-year old next to me I flipped the TV over to cable.  I started looking at Honduras vs French Guiana but that looked initially like a Sunday game at my local park.  Over to FOX.  Carlos Martinez was on the mound; he’s worth watching.  Which led to the game staying on for the duration.  The game was well played and had some excitement to it.

So why would I not plan to watch it from the get-go?

The buzz isn’t the same as it was when I was a kid.  I remember quite clearly watching Dave Parker’s seed of a throw at the Kingdome to nail Brian Downing, Fred Lynn’s Grand Slam, and Fernando strike out 5 AL All-Stars in a row (and the subsequent comparisons to Carl Hubbell)..  But more than that, the ASG was an event – a big date in the middle of the summer.  It just isn’t anymore.  Frankly the HR Derby these past 2 years has been more exciting than the actual game.

Why that is could be due to several factors.

  • Baseball isn’t ‘America’s Past Time’ anymore.
  • Teams opt out of sending some of their best players now.  Injury replacements were always there, but pitchers who start on Sunday not going to the game is relatively new.
  • Interleague, but more than that,
  • I can watch every regular season game now on one device or another.

I really think the allure of the ASG centered around it not just being a chance to see the best players compete against each other.  It was a chance to see the other League’s players on the field versus your League’s best.  Prior to 1997 there were only 3 ways to do that – Spring Training (lol), the ASG, and the World Series.  If you lived in a town with 2 teams you could go to games for each League, but the rest of the country had to take advantage of one of those 3 opportunities.  The advent of Interleague meant you’d see the AL’s players on a rotating basis every year.  The current schedule ensures an AL team plays a NL team every night.

Then there’s local cable TV deals and MLB.TV.  I can watch any team at any time on my TV or mobile device.  I can even watch the local 9 on my phone via the Fox Sports One app (not that I really want to watch San Diego play without a COPIOUS amount of beer available).  I’m not seeing players in the ASG I haven’t seen already on TV, at the ball park, via a highlight package, etc, dozens of times.

Pandora is out of the box.  Time marches mercilessly forward.  The Baseball ASG was the one All-Star event that people would really watch – because even though it was an exhibition (and is again, thankfully), the mechanics of the game remained the same.  Guys competed to see which League was really better.  It wasn’t a glorified walk-through like the other major sports ASGs tend to be.  Now we know which league is better because we have interleague records to use as proof, and we can see guys in rival ‘leagues’ compete against each other any time.

I no longer mark my calendar and I don’t watch starting with the introduction of players.  When Baseball’s Mid-Summer Classic has to compete with a Gold Cup group stage game for my attention the shine is off the diamond.  It is, unfortunately, what it is.

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Oh. Hello.  It’s been a while. Hope you’ve been well.

The Cardinals are on a swing through San Diego, meaning it’s time for an annual trip to Petco.  Which contained more than the usual foreboding while watching St Louis on the west coast.  For some reason, the Cardinals have had lots of trouble handling the lowly Padres.  That, combined with an usually ugly start to the season, meant it could be a painful series to watch.

Andrew Cashner had been awful so far in 2016, but his awfulness was more than matched by Adam Wainwright’s crummy start to the season.  Which formerly good but suddenly mediocre starter would prevail?

Turned out it was Cashner.

Random thoughts on last night’s game:

  • St Louis put two on in the first, with one out, but Matt Adams struck out swinging.  This became a theme.  With two on and one out in the fifth – on second and third this time – Matt Carpenter struck out looking.  Hey at least Adams swung the bat.  Carp looked like he was guessing something other than a fastball on the 3-2 pitch.  St Louis didn’t have a hit with RISP.
  • Reuben Tejada has an interesting warm-up routine in the first inning.  He takes the throw from first, then writes something in the dirt behind short (at the lip of the OF grass), taps his thigh with his glove, and finally throws the ball back to first.  Not making fun of it; just have never seen something like that before.
  • Apparently opposing hitters are crushing Wainwright’s first pitch of the AB.
  • As if proving the point, Wil Myers took an 88-MPH fastball and drove it out to RC for a home run in the bottom of the first.  It was apparent the first time through the order Padre hitters were sitting on Waino’s opening pitch.  Then it became apparent the Padres were not only sitting on the first pitch, but Waino’s fastball.  He threw a lot of carly count curveballs in this game.
  • Wainwright never retired the side in order.  He did only face 3 hitters in the sixth, but walked the second man and was rescued by a great grab/tag/throw from Kolten Wong on Adam Rosales’ slow chopper.
  • Tejada didn’t look like he was a very fast runner in his first AB.  That said, the Padres grounds crew waters the crap out of the infield (which may include the first base line).  And, a couple of other Cardinal hitters didn’t look that mobile either (Matt Holliday for one).
  • Adams tried to bunt to beat the shift.  Good thought; sadly he fouled the ball off.
  • Cashner bunted for a hit, then Jon Jay hit one juuust out of Matt Adams reach (but close enough for Matt to get the top of his glove on it) that kicked into short RF.  Went for a single and sent Cashner around to third.  He eventually scored on Wil Myers’ line drive sac fly to deep RF.
  • I don’t understand why the Padres had Jay bunt with a man on second and no outs in the seventh.  Yadier Molina got the runner easily at third.  Thanks for the out, Padres.
  • St Louis also caught a break when Wainwright popped up a bunt in the fifth that landed, but Cashner never looked at third base.  He had Wong dead to rights, because Wong had to hold up just in case Cashner caught it.  Again, thanks, Padres.  Sadly Wong didn’t score.
  • Don’t fault Aldemys Diaz for getting cut down at home.  First, Matt Kemp threw wildly to second, and Diaz aggressively broke for the plate.  Give Rosales credit for alertly pouncing on the ball and firing a strike to the plate.
  • I saw someone steal third on Molina.  I don’t think I’d ever seen that live; not sure I’ve ever seen someone successfully do it (although I’m sure it’s happened).
  • Wong had 2 good swings, flying out to deep RF an lining a single to right, but Matheny pinch-hit for him in the seventh anyway.  Seemed odd.  Diaz was the pinch-hitter and was replaced by the new pitcher.  Jedd Gyorko pinch-hit later in the same inning but stayed in to play second.  In the ninth he pinch-hit for Tejada.  I was hoping the Cardinals would tie it just to see who was going to play shortstop, because all their middle infielder options had been used already.  Maybe Oh can play short.

The Cardinals really didn’t threaten that much, but they had their opportunities.  They didn’t produce anything with runners in scoring position and that killed them.  Wainwright settled down and pitched OK in the end. Seth Maness got hit pretty good in his first inning of work but got the ground balls working in his second inning.  All told it added up to a 4-1 loss. This was a winnable game but it didn’t happen.

Thanks for reading –

Post slightly delayed due to sleep needs and Little League responsibilities.

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Armageddon

I can honestly say, I would have waited a lot longer for this day to come.

The Cardinals playing the Cubs in the post season is something many in each fan base want.  I’m comfortable saying Cubs fans were/are more eager to see this happen than Cardinals fans.  Why?  Because it meant they were in the playoffs, something that doesn’t happen all that often.

As an aside, I found it hilarious the announcers Wednesday night felt compelled to tell us, ‘this is the first playoff series the Cubs have won since 2003!’  Enjoy your success Cubs Nation, we salute you winning something meaningful every 10 years.

This series is win-win for Chicago.  If they lose, well, they are the young upstarts who charged into the playoffs earlier than expected.  If they win, they knock off the Hated Cardinals – which, apparently, is a Capt Ahab-style quest in some quarters (looking at you, Deadspin).

This series is kind of lose-lose for the Cardinals.  Win, and that’s really what’s expected given regular season success.  Lose, and this fanbase will never hear the end of it. Even though we have DOMINATED this rivalry for 50+ years, a Cubs victory will become the trump card of all trump cards to end any argument.

“you guys haven’t even been to the World Series since 1945!”

“So?  We beat YOU in the playoffs, didn’t we?”

Normally I would put my faith in the battle tested team in these situations.  But I’m not so confident this year.  Why?

  • St Louis stumbled down the stretch against their main NL Central rivals
  • Jon Lester had a playoff hex placed on the Cardinals in 2013, which may not have been removed
  • The myriad of injuries this team is still fighting to recover from:  Holliday, Adams, Piscotty, Grichuk, MOLINA, da dum da dum da dum
  • Wacha’s control problems
  • No Carlos Martinez

And so on.

The best news – besides Wainwright making the post-season roster – is that we only have to face Jake Arrieta once in this series.  It is a LARGE comfort to know St Louis can win the series without beating Arrieta.

We will know right away how this series will go.  For the first time I can remember Game 1 is a must win.  It is absolutely essential St Louis holds serve at home.  If Lackey and Co can find a way to beat Lester our odds of winning increase dramatically.  Really Game 2 is must-win as well, but life gets a lot easier with one in the bag.  Put the pressure on that Savant Maddon, and the former San Diego Boston front office.

Really how Game 1 goes will determine whether I watch this series through my fingers or not.  And whether or not I post lookouts to warn of the Four Horsemen’s impending arrival.

Armageddon, indeed.

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Foreshadowing

If you ever wondered what it would be like to face the Small Bears in the playoffs, you’ll get a taste of it this week.

I think I can speak for everyone when I say I hoped the Cardinals would bury Pittsburgh for the rest of the regular season, when they played this weekend.  Alas, it was not to be.  I’d rather be 5 1/2 up than 5 1/2 back with 26 to play, but I’d MUCH rather the Pirates were staring up from a 9 1/2 game hole.  St Louis is still in good shape, but has lots of work to do.

Chicago can inject some more not-needed drama into September, especially if they take this series.  Old friend Dan Haren faces Lance Lynn today. Haren hasn’t pitched particularly well since joining the Cubs (5.87 ERA, 6.03 FIP, 4.63 xFIP) but has historically pitched pretty well at Neo-Busch (3 games, .265/.307/.361 slash line allowed). Jason Hammel faces Michael Wacha Tuesday.  Hammel’s ERA/FIP/xFIP are almost identical (3.55/3.65/3.46) and he’s been hot/cold all year.  Currently he’s cold, having allowed at least 3 runs in three of his last four starts.  He’s gotten a no-decision in his two starts vs STL this year, and the Cubs lost both games.

Playoff nemesis Jon Lester gets Wednesday’s game opposite Carlos Martinez.  Lester has pitched better than his 9-10 record would indicate (3.59/3.07/3.15), and the Cardinals have beaten him twice in three starts this year.  Curiously his lone win came in St Louis.

The biggest concern going into this series has to remain the Cardinals’ offense.  Chicago appears to be firing on all cylinders at the plate, led by Anthony Rizzo and presumptive NL ROY Kris Byrant.  Manager Mike Matheny did a good job stacking his two best pitchers for this series, because it will take guys with their kind of stuff to slow down the Cubs attack.  On our side of the ball, here’s wishing Matt Holiday was ready to go.  One wonders if Randal Grichuk will swing a bat in this series or if Steven Piscotty can keep his torrid hitting going.

Like the just-concluded series, it would be most appreciated if the Cardinals could win this series and formally assign Chicago to the Wild Card Game.  Let them slug it out with Pittsburgh to host that game knowing they can’t win the Division.

Mike’s been blogging about the Cardinals since 2006.  He still monitors Twitter occasionally @metzgermg

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Starting this weekend, St Louis will make their final foray to the West Coast for the regular season.  Since they start the road trip in my hometown, I had great designs on a 1200+ word essay about the Padres – what to expect, strengths and weaknesses; kind of a Bird’s Eye View reprise.

Then the Mrs. suggested we have margaritas after dinner.  What a great idea.  However, after I made it half-way through the second pitcher, I realized this post will probably not meet those lofty goals. So apologies in advance

San Diego started the season as a media darling.  New GM AJ Preller made lots of splashy trades in the off-season, including and culminating in a blockbuster trade the day before Opening Day to land Craig Kimbrel.  They started the year 10-5, and all that hype about a darkhorse for a playoff birth seemed well placed.

Then Wil Myers got hurt, Brandon Morrow‘s shoulder gave out, Odrisamer Despaigne got way way WAY too many starts, and the season kind of fell apart.  San Diego has been up and down all year.  Currently they stand at 59-62, actually closer to the NL West lead than the second Wild Card spot.  They are hot at the moment, having won 5 0f their last 6 and coming off a series sweep of the Atlanta Braves.

The Team:  Long-time manager Bud Black was fired 15 June, replaced with AAA manager Pat Murphy.  San Diego was 32-34 when Black was cashiered.  They are 27-28 since.  Hmmm. Seems like Black was fired for a reason other than performance.

Murphy has done a decent job, although his lineup decisions leave many scratching their heads.  Derek Norris is not allowed a day off under any circumstances, apparently, which is why future Padres catcher Austin Hedges has only 94 plate appearances in 3 months with the big club.  Murphy also has an obsession with Alexi Amarista starting at short, no matter how low his OBP and SLG numbers go.

Best Position Player:  Justin Upton.  He leads the team in every major offensive category, has a 122 OPS+ and a 121 wRC+.  He’s also been a very good defender – +17 by Dewan Plus/Minus (he’s especially good on balls hit deep).  Upton is really the first Padre to figure out how to hit HR at Petco since Adrian Gonzalez left.  If there’s anybody in the order you don’t want to beat you, it’s Justin Upton.

Best Position Player you’ve never heard of:  Yangervis Solarte.  He hits the ball, like, really hard.  Solarte was characterized as the left-over platter when San Diego got him after shipping Chase Headley off to New York.  He’s since turned himself into the everyday 3B for the Padres.  He’s not real good defensively (-1 on the plus/minus scale), but he’s hit well this year (.268/.326/.422) all over the lineup.  He led off Wednesday against the Braves and went 3-3 with a HR.

Biggest Strength:  San Diego enjoys a well-deserved reputation for bullpen excellence and 2015 is no exception.  Although they struggled to start the season, Shawn Kelley and Kimbrel have returned to their dominant ways.  After a disastrous first month, starting on 25 May Kelley has handcuffed the League to a .191/.220/.227 line.  Kimbrel started off slowly as well, but since losing to Anaheim on an Albert Pujols walk-off single (also 25 May) he’s limited hitters to an even more ridiculous .150/.238/.195 line and saved 24/25 games.  Kelley manages the seventh, and eighth-inning set up guy Joaquin Benoit had the best WHIP in baseball until Wednesday (2 hits resulting in a run).  They are good.  Cards don’t want to be down late this weekend.

Biggest Weakness:  Shortstop.  Amarista hits about as well as you do.  Clint Barmes hit well the first half of the season, and flirted with .300 as late as 28 June; since then he’s hitting .167 on balls he puts in play, in limited action.  The team has tried Cory Spangenberg and Jedd Gyorko there in recent games.  Those two are normally second basemen (although Gyorko came up as a third sacker).  Recently the Padres inducted Garry Templeton into their Hall of Fame.  Some fans on Twitter wished he was starting that night at SS.

Projected Lineup:  Manager Murphy has not been shy about moving guys all around the order, but for argument’s sake here’s probably what he’ll throw out there.  The only true constants are Matt Kemp will hit 3rd and Upton 4th.

  1. Solarte 3B
  2. Alonso 1B
  3. Kemp RF
  4. J. Upton LF
  5. Norris C
  6. J. Gyorko 2B
  7. M. Upton CF
  8. Amarista SS
  9. Pitcher

Starters:  Andrew Cashner (4-12, 4.20) starts Friday against John Lackey.  Andrew beat the Cardinals 2-1 on July 3rd, and got a no-decision in his last start at Colorado last Saturday.  He remains a primary fastball pitcher, pumping it in there at 94.9 MPH (average). He can still reach back and touch 98 when needed.  He also throws a slider and the occasional changeup.  He is only 2-6 this year at Petco.

Ian Kennedy (7-11, 4.20) will face Carlos Martinez Saturday.  He’s 5-3 at home this year. He lost his last start in Colorado last Sunday.  Kennedy also lost to the Cardinals 3-1 on July 5th.  He’s a primarily fastball pitcher with three secondary pitches; He favors the curve ball and change up almost equally (about 16% of the time).  Over his career the Cardinals have manhandled him; he’s 2-5 lifetime against them, 1-2 at Petco.

Colin Rea (2-0, 4.22) will go against Michael Wacha Sunday.  Rea was called up last Tuesday to replace Despaigne.  His fastball sits 91-92 and he spots it pretty well.  In his first start, he left several pitches up that guys like Brandon Phillips didn’t miss.  Luckily for him, the Padres destroyed Cincinnati in his major league debut so it didn’t matter.  He’s still raw, which should make Sunday an interesting start.

Prediction:  Given the pitching matchups, the Cardinals should win this series and have a good shot at a sweep.  Given the state of St Louis’ offense, however, and that the Padres are hot at the moment, this could be a much tighter  series than the records would suggest.  Remember the Cardinals struggle at Petco; they lost 2 of three here last year and are 16-18 lifetime next to the bay.  That said, quality should win out.  Cards take 2 of 3.

Mike has written about the Cardinals since 2006, although less often recently.

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Get Checked

This will have nothing to do with baseball.

A close friend of my family died Tuesday of breast cancer. She was 49. This hits home because she was my friend; she was about my age; and her youngest daughter is the same age as my oldest son. They were classmates once upon a time.

She suffered a lot the last few months, and there is a feeling of relief now because that pain is over. However, for me, there is also frustration at how the last two years went. After she was diagnosed, I learned she had been in pain for a while but just put up with it. Not days; not weeks; but months (and possibly a year or longer). Never went to the doctor to try and figure out what was going on.

By the time she did finally relent and go see someone, the cancer was Stage 4.

I truly wish things had played out differently.

For me – and I suspect, for most of you – going to the Doctor isn’t one of life’s pleasures. But it’s absolutely necessary, especially as you get older. No one is handing out medals for how long you go between Doctor’s visits, or how much pain you can tolerate. That nagging pain you can’t explain? Find out what’s causing it. We pick apart transactions and starting lineups, things we have no ability at all to influence. Turn that intellectual curiosity to yourself, and find out what’s going on with your body.

I implore you – GET YOURSELF CHECKED. Forty-nine is far, far too young to move into the next phase of life; especially thanks to breast or prostate cancer, when early diagnosis brings with it a very high survival rate.

Now there’s an empty hole where my friend should be, and in the lives of her family and her friends.

GET YOURSELF CHECKED. Watch your kids graduate from High School. Walk your daughter down the aisle.

Don’t find out you have cancer too late and spend your remaining days living with regret. Who needs that?

This post also appears at Padres Public.

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