A little luck never hurts

Once again, the importance of strong pitching performances from the starters comes through. We managed to stifle the Indians for the first few innings of the last couple of games. If we just keep that up, we’ll be okay.

For a while now, it seems like our entire team has forgotten its philosophies. Drop the bunt, get the ground ball, etc. Last night though, we came back to our roots, dropped a bunt, and took advantage of some timely errors. Granted, a spot where a squeeze would have been ideal was replaced by a timely hit, but that guy ended up scoring one way or another.

How many double plays did we get during the losing streak? 1? 2? It may have been more than that, but it didn’t feel like it. Do we blame that on Miles? Seems like he’s the only element that is different at this point. I think Cardinal Nation has been clamoring for Luna to finally get the second base position full-time, but then where does that leave Miles? We could trade him for some power on the bench. Don’t know where we’ll find that though.

I feel the Cards must make the playoffs this year to avoid a downswing like they had in the early 90s. If we don’t, the deterioration might very well begin next year. Edmonds will retire in the next couple of years, and though his bat hasn’t been as potent, who do we have that is sufficient to replace him in center field? We’ve got some talent in the minors, but as we’ve seen with our younger-than-young bullpen, younger isn’t always better.

One win is a start; now we need to go on a winning streak to get our bearings and reclaim our title as the best in the NL.


Laying down the arms

Well, it happened again last night. Multiple members of the pitching staff failed to hold off a good offensive team in the Tigers, getting pounded 10-6. Carpenter gave up five runs and went through stretches of dominance and weakness. He would carve up a couple of batters, and then give up consecutive hits to lose a lead. His pitches seemed to be finding all parts of the strike zone consistenly, but then would suddenly float too high and get knocked for bloop hits or line drives. Did he lose his release point? It doesn’t matter now.

The Cards have lost four in a row after winning four straight. Right now, we’re looking more like a pretender than a contender, given the recent pitching troubles. The gift of actually being able to watch my Cardinals during the Sox series was painfully wasted, as we were kicked around for 33 runs in the first two games. The third game was quite a bit more interesting, with Anthony Reyes showing why he needs to be brought into the rotation full-time by one-hitting the home team. Unfortunately, that one hit would be a bomb by Thome, resulting in a 1-0 loss.

I don’t fret about occasional pitching woes. It happens. No one is Cy Young, and even he had over 300 losses. My worry is when the entire staff starts to look bad. But why has everyone started to leave the ball up at once? When the majority of our staff starts doing things they aren’t supposed to, it’s not at all surprising to watch us lose by 8, 10, 14 runs. Mulder is on the DL now. He apparently hasn’t had as much mobility in his arm as he used to, which explains all the meatballs he threw up Tuesday.

What really scares me about all of this is that, during the course of this season, no one has been sharp for more than a couple of weeks at a time. Right now, no one is sharp at all, except Reyes. That kid will be a breath of fresh air around here, and maybe it’ll help pick the others up.

Ohbytheway, Pujols is back. And he’s still a monster that can break out a 4-4 night on occasion.

One name down

Well, it finally happened, though a little bit unexpectedly. Someone actually spoke up and said, "Yeah, that’s me."

First Jason Grimsley, now David Segui? Another journeyman comes clean as Segui admits to Jeremy Schaap that his name is on the affidavit. It’s interesting though, in that Segui was actually using HGH under a doctor’s prescription, as his levels were lower than normal. However, he never got clearance from MLB. How uninteresting! Is this going to end up being another case like last year, where all the players who get caught are just the average Joe Baseball? I would laugh at that, given how much publicity this whole Grimsley mess has gotten.

Strong performance from the rotation two days in a row for the Cards. Let’s see if Carp can keep up the streak. Juan bombs two and is up to .280 on the season. I’ll take that, considering how terrible he was in April.

Here’s hoping for a long Cardinal winning streak in the works!

Who’s worried about the offense?

It was a really scary day when Albert Pujols cringed and suddenly, on a rare occasion, stopped going after a foul ball — one that was easily catchable in any other situation. When AP doesn’t give it everything he’s got, it’s usually because he physically cannot. The cries of doom were heard everywhere. Not much mention has been made of the Cards or Albert since then.

Yet, here we are, still leading the Central, having lost the lead briefly to Cincinnati. As much as baseball is a team sport, it is very much individual as well. We make a bigger deal about someone hitting a lot of home runs than we do about a surprise team leading a division (of which, I might add, was every division in the NL for a day). So, when Albert went down, it was no surprise to me that we kept on hitting the ball. However, we kept getting hit too. The rotation’s ERA is down to ninth or tenth now because of the recent slide.

However, I believe that everything is just fine. We’ve been through rough patches before and made it out okay. Marquis pitched a gem tonight, allowing only a solo home run. Of all our pitchers, he’s the one I least expect to get his act together, but at least for tonight, he’s proven otherwise. Now, if only we can get the other three going again…

By the way, I’m taking bets on whether or not AP is still the leader in homers and RBI by the time he gets back. Currently, the lead is slim but he’s rumored to be back by the end of next week possibly. He’s apparently been taking ground balls at first with Chris Duncan but hasn’t swung a bat yet. I say two weeks, but I think Dunn will overtake him in homers by that time. We’ll see.

Only the beginning

Hello all, and welcome to my first weblog. I won’t waste a post describing myself, what I do, or anything else about me for that matter. I’d rather talk about something else.

That something else? Closers. Good, bad, current, past. You see, there really is such a thing as a closer. You can’t put any ordinary man in that situation and expect him to excel. It’s so much more than just telling a reliever, "Pitch one inning and go home." It’s a different mindset altogether. However, it’s not just that way for the pitcher. It’s that way for the hitters facing that pitcher as well. After all, it’s the last chance those hitters have to win the game. A feeling of desperation begins to take hold. However, where that desperation takes them depends far more on who is on the mound than anything.

Take the Yankees’ future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera, for example. Possibly the most dominant closer ever. Does any team come in down three runs and expect to pull out a win against this guy? A few years ago, people spoke of Rivera and the Dodgers’ then-closer Eric Gagne in such glowing terms as any pitcher could hear. Many references were made to the Dodgers playing 8-inning games, because no one was touching Gagne. 70+ straight save opportunities converted. Looking back at it, that’s just unreal. That’s Bonds-ian unreal.

What is it these guys have that other pitchers don’t? I can tell you that it’s not their pitches. Don’t get me wrong, each of the top tier closers has a nasty selection to choose from, but there is more to it. They have personality, intimidation, and a reputation that precedes them. Even years ago, they had the same thing. Think about the likes of Eckersley, Gossage, Lee Smith. Did anyone want to see that beard of Goose Gossage staring at them from 60′ away?

This is all leading to something, so I won’t keep you in suspense. I think we’ve found this year’s intimidator. His name is Papelbon. Jonathon Papelbon. I actually got to see him pitch a little tonight. There’s something about it. He falls off the mound every time he throws to the point where he’s barely looking at the hitter by the time the ball reaches the plate. When he strikes someone out,it’s like he knew it before the ump calls the pitch. He’s already looking to get the ball from his infielders. He’s got sass and that’s what a closer needs.

Now, if only Izzy could pick some of that up. Maybe I wouldn’t be commiserating with my fellow Cardinal fans on the ESPN boards, downing stomach medicine and wincing with every cutter that floats back over the middle of the plate.

That’s all for now.