Take a look at the NL Central standings this morning — the Cardinals are in first place! Why, yes, it’s a four-way first place tie with the Brewers, Cubs and Reds, everyone is 9-9 and it’s April 21. But it’s the first time for first place this year, so let’s enjoy the moment … and now move along.
The Cardinals reached first by splitting yesterday’s doubleheader, losing 8 to 5 in the afternoon and winning 5 to 3 in the evening. After being shut down by Chad Billingsley on Sunday, the offense bounced back yesterday — especially nice to see in game one, since they were down 7-0 in the top of the third inning. The top three in the order went 8 for 14 with 6 RBI (yes, including one from Ryan Theriot) and homers from Colby and Albert. In the second game, Lance Berkman was 3 for 4 with a double and 2 RBI, and Nick Punto had his first Cardinals hit and RBI. (Yay, new scrappiness! And yay, LB Fan Club!)
But the story of both games was pitching. Jake Westbrook had another bad outing, as the Nationals took that 7-0 lead in his three innings of work. That meant six bullpen innings in game one, plus four more in game two since Jaime Garcia exited after throwing 101 pitches in five innings.
Here’s a look at how the bullpen fared in those 10 innings.
- Fernando Salas: 3 IP, 1 hit, 3 Ks
- Ryan Franklin: 2 IP, 1 hit, 1 earned run, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 HR
- Jason Motte: 2IP, 1 hit, 2 Ks
- Eduardo Sanchez: 2 IP, 2 Ks
- Mitchell Boggs, 1 IP, 1 hit, 1 K, save
The totals: 1 run, 4 hits, 9 Ks, 1 walk. Pretty impressive.
The overarching story from yesterday, though, is Franklin — not his numbers, but what he said after the first game. Then, later, after the second game.
I missed game one, but watched his innings on the DVR. The thing that first struck me most was how small and quiet the crowd was. When Laynce Nix launched the ball into the right field bleachers, you can clearly hear Franky’s f-bomb reaction (which Dan McLaughlin apologized for on TV moments later). Knowing the situation before watching, I expected a chorus of boos. There were a few, then a few more when Franky walked Pudge Rodriguez.
So, to a degree, that makes Franklin’s initial comments, as reported by B.J. Rains, a little more surprising: “You should go write stories about the fans booing. They are supposed to be the best fans in baseball. Yeah right.”
Yet I also can understand his irritation, even if I don’t support it. To state the obvious (and put it mildly), he’s had a rough start to the season. And I don’t know that the boos were for Ryan Franklin The Person, just Ryan Franklin The Pitcher — the pitcher who hasn’t been doing his job well.
After the second game, Franklin gave a statement to Matthew Leach of Cardinals.com that apologized for his earlier comments. After reading it, I’m not really sure just how Franky is feeling these days:
“Obviously these last 2 1/2 weeks have been frustrating for me, and I’m frustrated with myself. I can understand why the fans are frustrated … It’s just a frustrating time for me right now, because I feel like I’m letting everyone down … It’s just really frustrating … I was frustrated. I am frustrated.”
Seriously, though, I am willing to give the guy a break for what he said. Everyone, in the heat of a moment, has said something he or she regrets later, and that seems to be the case here. Or maybe he was told to apologize. Whatever. I’m not someone who would boo one of the guys on my own team, no matter the situation, but I’m not going to deny others their right to express themselves. And I’m not going to harp on a guy having a bad time for something he said out of … frustration. On the other hand, I’m not charitable enough to want Franky out there working through his tough time by closing either. Keep him in middle relief and pick the situations carefully.
So, an eventful day yesterday — and now baseball again in a few hours, to complete the three-games-in-less-than-24-hours trifecta. Kyle Lohse gets the start. And with only one the Reds playing today out of the first place gang of four, maybe we can start tomorrow’s series with a real division lead.
Christine Coleman is the senior St. Louis Cardinals reporter for Aaron Miles’ Fastball. Follow her on Twitter, @CColeman802, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Also follow @AMilesFastball for the latest updates.