The season-long struggles of the 2014 Cardinals on offense are much discussed and well documented, so there’s no need to get into those. And that might be why I was surprised to hear last night of an offensive category in which the Cardinals lead the National League — a positive category, that is.
Did you know the Cardinals are tops in the NL in two-out RBI? That little tidbit was courtesy of Greg Brown on the Pirates radio broadcast last night (and, yes, I will often listen to the other team’s announcers instead). The Cardinals may be 13th in the NL in total RBI with 474 for the season, but 196 of those have come with two outs. That two-out total is six better than the second-place Dodgers, and just two behind the AL leading A’s.
The game-tying RBI by pinch-hitter Randal Grichuck (welcome back!) in the seventh inning last night was with two outs to add to the Cards lead in that category. Of course, the ultimate outcome of the game was not good as the Cards lost 5-2 on a pinch-hit home run by Ike David off Seth Maness in the bottom of the eighth.
The Cards and Pirates are back at it in just a few hours, with game time at 11:35 a.m. Central and a pitching match-up of Adam Wainwright vs. Jeff Locke. Here’s hoping the Cardinals can win to take the series — then at least they can have a split for this Pennsylvania road trip.
Three years ago, the Cardinals began today with a record of 67-63 after being swept by the National League West’s fourth place Dodgers. The Cards were second in the National League Central to the Brewers, 10 games back, and third in the wild card standings, 10.5 games behind the Braves and one game behind the Giants.
We know what happened from there, of course.
We’ll never tire of recalling how the Cardinals went 23-9 from Aug. 25 through the final day of the regular season on Sept. 28, when Chris Carpenter and Company beat the Astros 8-0 for a historic comeback to win the wild card. As those games — and wins — went by, we marveled at the contributions from The Shredder and The Riot and Freeser and even Carlos Marmol and his walk-off wild pitch in addition to the season-long contributions from Lance Berkman, Matt Holliday, Yadi and That Guy Who Used To Play First Base.
Yet one thing seems to be forgotten in all our giddiness and our magical memories of Happy Flights and reaching October and the incredible ride that culminated in glorious World Championship No. 11 in ’11.
It’s so easy to forget the absolutely vital role the Braves played in making it all possible for the Cardinals.
Ah, a Friday night game where the Cardinals play the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park … that reminds me of my favorite Cardinals game ever. And while the Cardinals could definitely find themselves playing Game Five of the National League Division Series again this year (although minus Chris Carpenter), the 56-71 Phillies definitely won’t. But they will take on the Redbirds this weekend — and here’s a preview of the series ahead.
How We Got Here
The Cardinals begin a six-game road trip that takes them to both Eastern and Western Pennsylvania, with the first stop being Philadelphia. The Cards enter tonight’s series having won four straight, including a sweep of the Reds, and seven of their last 10 games. They’re a season-high 12 games over .500, just 1.5 games behind the Brewers in the National League Central standings and currently hold the top spot in the NL wild card race with a two-game lead over the Giants.
The Phillies, on the other hand, are … well, not very good. They’re solidly in last place in the NL East, 17.5 games behind the first-place Nationals, and have spent much of the season there too. They did just win two of three from the Mariners, although they did not face Felix Hernandez, but have won just four of their previous 10 games. Continue reading
“It hasn’t been easy,” Matheny said. “There haven’t been a lot of laughers one way or the other. They show grit. They show fight. It’s a hard team not to love.”
The Cardinals won last night 5-4, their second straight walk-off win over the Reds — this one on a walk-off hit by pitch to Jon Jay (although it wasn’t the first time this season the Cards won in that way.) The victory put them at a season-high 11 games over .500. And, following the game, manager Mike Matheny said the above words.
It’s a hard team not to love. Hmmmm. How many fans feel that way about the 2014 Cardinals?
There’s certainly been a lot of discontent among Cardinals fans this season, more than I remember seeing in a very long time, and I am right there with those not enjoying things much. The main reason: Mike Matheny.
In a post from Monday at Viva El Birdos — Mathenaging: Mike Matheny doubles down on double standards — Ben Humphrey really captures the discontent well. If you just need a quick summary, the subhead from that post will do: “Manager Mike Matheny is not the Leader of Men the Cardinals sold us upon his hire.”
Sure, I know not every fan feels that way — I see the giddy social media posts and the tweets exclaiming how their record is even better now than it was at this point in 2011 and the continued gushing over Matheny’s looks. Continue reading
When Yadier Molina tore a ligament in his right thumb sliding into third base on July 9, the St. Louis Cardinals were 50-42 following their victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates that night. The Cardinals were in second place in the NL Central, two games behind the Milwaukee Brewers. They’d scored 340 runs on the season, while allowing 318.
Last night, the Cardinals lost to the Miami Marlins 6-5. Since Yadi went on the DL, the team has gone 12-13 and is now 62-55. At the moment, they’re in third place in the Central — three games behind the Brewers and a half-game behind the second-place Pirates. They’ve jockeyed back and forth with the Pirates for second place since July 29.
That run differential looks a little different now too, as they’ve scored 436 runs this season while allowing 444. Although losses of 12-1, 12-2 and 10-3 in that span will definitely change the look of things …
Now, granted, 2014 Yadi wasn’t quite hitting like 2012/2013 MVP finalist Yadi either. On July 9, his stats were .287/.341/.409 with seven home runs and 30 RBI. Decreased offensive production this season, however, certainly hasn’t been limited to Yadi alone.
Who’s stepped up the most in the past 30 days? Interestingly enough, according to the stats on the Cards website, the guy leading the team in hitting in that span is someone who’s only been on the team since July 26: A.J. Pierzynski. In his 11 games as a Cardinal, AJP is hitting .308/.357/.410 with a double, a homer and five RBI. He drove in the first run last night, just before Jon Jay homered to momentarily tie the game at 3-3. Continue reading
After the sad photos to describe Friday and Saturday’s games, here’s one to summarize today’s 8-3 Cardinals win.
Eight runs! Seventeen hits — although the first 13 of them were singles! Seven for 16 with runners in scoring position! Four hits for Kolten Wong! Two hits — including the first extra-base hit — and an RBI from Daniel Decalso! A home run by Peter Bourjos! Lance Lynn — not spectacular but good enough especially when he needed to be! Pat Neshek with six Orioles up and six Orioles down in order! Trevor Rosenthal with a 1-2-3 inning! (Thankfully, since it wasn’t a save situation.) No homers by the Orioles! Mike Matheny challenged a call and it was overturned! And a highly entertaining ejection of Buck Showalter! Continue reading
A picture is worth a thousand words, as we know. So, instead of two thousand words, here are two photos — one for Friday night’s game and one for yesterday’s.
Orioles 12, Cardinals 2
Orioles 10, Cardinals 3
So, today, can the Cardinals avoid the sweep? Perhaps more realistically, can the Cardinals not allow double-digits in runs to the Orioles for one game and not let them total double-digits in home runs for the series? (They’ve hit nine so far. This month, the Cards’ total is eight.)
We will find out starting at 12:35 p.m. Central Time, with Lance Lynn and Kevin Gausman the starters.
In Lance we trust! Hopefully, anyway …
With the Cardinals headed to Baltimore to play in Orioles Park at Camden Yards this weekend for only the second time ever, it reminds me of the first of my own two visits to the ballpark.
It was on Opening Day 2005, it was brief — and it was free.
My own photo, from July 2008
I was actually in Baltimore for work, attending a fundraising conference at the Baltimore Convention Center that began on Saturday. The convention center is across the street from the warehouse side of Camden Yards so, during breaks between seminars, I’d see all the action and preparations at the ballpark as it was being readied for Monday’s Opening Day. It was killing me to see it all so close and know I couldn’t go.
The A’s were the Orioles opponent for that first series of 2005 and, at the time, they were my favorite American League team. Nine years later, I have no idea where I found the time to keep up with them in addition to the Cardinals. But I loved that Moneyball/Big Three era of A’s teams, particularly because they were such a contrast to the Cardinals of the time. Opening Day 2005 found only one member of their Big Three remaining — as of course you remember, Mark Mulder was a Cardinal (which, having watched his slide in the second half of 2004 for the A’s, did not thrill me) and Tim Hudson was a Brave — meaning the lone remaining A, Barry Zito, was starting on Opening Day.
The game began at 3 p.m., which was the same time as my final seminar. As I stood on the convention center balcony during the break before the seminar and saw all the activity right there across the street with game time nearly there, I knew I had to go over there once the session ended. Continue reading
As we know, A.J. Pierzynski’s reputation preceded him.
Photo: St. Louis Post-Dispatch
He was designated for assignment by the Boston Red Sox on July 9 — the very day Yadier Molina tore a ligament in his thumb sliding into third base. There was Twitter chatter that the Cardinals should sign Pierzynski once the full extent of Yadi’s injury was announced the next day, yet also much consternation since we also read how much of a jerk he is.
Fast forward to July 26, when he was signed by the Cardinals — at a time when they needed a little spark as they were in a 4-game losing streak that included being swept by the Rays and a loss the day before to the Cubs. Pierzynski immediately made an impact in his Cards debut at Wrigley Field, going 3 for 4 amid boos from the Cubs fans.
He’s now played seven games as a Cardinal, is hitting .320 in those games and was a key part of the comeback rallies in both last night’s and Sunday’s respective 3-2 victories. The Cardinals have won 6 of the 9 games they’ve played since he joined the team on July 26.
Yet now we find out some absolutely terrible truths about him, courtesy of yesterday’s Boston Globe:
Pierzynski preferred to play with his kids rather than make small talk with his teammates. He preferred to read a book on the team flights rather than participate in jocularity.
In February Billy Beane, general manager of the Oakland A’s, was the keynote speaker for the convention I work on at my full-time job. It was fascinating to hear his talk, which was about 50 minutes long. One thing he elaborated on was why he does not watch the A’s games, which was a famous part of the movie “Moneyball.” He said he prefers to make his decisions based more on the big picture and what it will take to help the team win overall, rather than what happens in one particular game.
I thought of Beane and his comments after Thursday’s trade deadline — both in reading about the moves he made for his own team as well as after the moves John Mozeliak made to try to improve the Cardinals.
With a few days to absorb it all now, combined with a trip to St. Louis for Friday and Saturday’s Brewers-Cards games, I am glad that Mozeliak made the moves to acquire John Lackey and Justin Masterson. In addition, I’m glad he began the team’s transition about 10 days ago in signing A.J. Pierzynski.
It’s not a secret that I haven’t been too thrilled this season, since I wrote a post called “This Year’s Cardinals Don’t Do Much For Me” two weeks ago and, in it, I said that maybe something would change my mind about this year’s team. And something has — the work of John Mozeliak.
So thank you, Mo.
Sure, it’s sad to see Allen Craig and Joe Kelly leave — it definitely gave me pause on Friday to see a table and rack outside of the Cardinals team store at Busch Stadium filled with Kelly and Craig jerseys and shirseys under “50 percent off” signs. It’s hard to believe they aren’t Cardinals now, and it was difficult to see Craig’s 2013 World Series jersey on display at the Cardinals Hall of Fame and Museum when I was there Saturday plus even harder to see Kelly’s glasses on display too. But change is always difficult — for fans and players and the manager alike — when some likable and popular guys are moved. Continue reading