On April 9, after Ryan Franklin blew his third save in four chances to turn what should have been a 2-1 victory over the Giants into a 3-2 defeat, the Cardinals’ record was 2-6. There was definitely panic in Cardinal Nation.
Thankfully, things started looking up the very next afternoon — and the Cards went 14-5 throughout the rest of April and propelled their way into first place in the NL Central.
Remember the series in Arizona, where Lance Berkman’s bat heated up (and hasn’t really cooled since)? Or the series against the Dodgers, where that crazy streak of scoring at least eight runs per game reached six? And how about beating the Reds two out of three? LB’s return to Houston last week and the nine-run inning Thursday night? All memorable moments in April.
Here’s our look at the best and worst of the month.
Chris: Lance Berkman. After he struggled in spring training, I was worried. Obviously, those worries are long gone.
Emily: Lance Berkman and Kyle Lohse.
Miranda: For me, the biggest surprise was the start of the season for the whole team and then the comeback. I thought we were doomed for a long season but the team just proved that it is a long season for a reason. You have to play the games!
Tara: Kyle McClellan. For a guy who wasn’t even supposed to be in the starting rotation, 4-0 isn’t too shabby! He’s stepped up and while I think he’s still learning how to be a starter, he’s figuring out how to get out of some jams and keep a level head. At the end of the day, Team KMac has a lot to be happy about!
Chris: Kyle Lohse, even though he pitched just as well in spring training as he did in April, plus Eduardo Sanchez and Kyle McClellan. Also, Matt Holliday’s hot start. With all that LB is doing, he seems to get overlooked — yet he’s leading the NL in hitting!
Miranda: Lance Berkman. An off-season spent getting in shape really paid off for LB. The Big Puma is playing like the All-Star he is on the field and in the dugout. Have you seen the smiles when he is around?! (Come on Ann! It’s time to join the LB Fan Club!)
Tara: The young guns, Salas and Sanchez. We hear a lot about TLR’s tendency to lean toward veterans, but who can deny the boost these two have given to the experienced guys who are struggling?
Chris: Albert. His slow start was a concern, but he still doesn’t seem like himself at the plate even with his homer and RBI totals.
Emily: Ryan Franklin.
Miranda: Ryan Franklin. Just think of what our record would be if he was pitching better. Despite the little hissy fit he had, he seems like someone the team should be able to get behind and do better for, but it just isn’t happening for Franky.
Tara: The obvious choice is to call out Ryan Franklin, but I’m going to again be a bit more general and say the defense as a whole. Too many dumb, costly mistakes that are just not okay. The offense stepped up after the first couple weeks, now the defense needs to do the same.
Chris: Ryan Franklin. The defense in general, Ryan Theriot’s in particular. Leading the majors in GIDP. Chris Carpenter’s bad luck.
Miranda: Albert Pujols’ start to the season. The amount of double plays the team has hit into. Ryan Theriot’s TOOTBLAN stat. Theriot’s defense. (While he is an upgrade at the position, he needs to learn to keep his eye on the ball and use the whole glove!) Yadi’s occasional lack of hustle on defense, which I thought was made clearer when you observed Gerald Laird high-tail it to the plate to tag out a runner. Oh, and Chris Carpenter doesn’t have a win yet. Sheez!
Tara: Chris Carpenter. Not so much CC himself. While he hasn’t been as dominate as in the past, he certainly hasn’t received any help from the offense or the bullpen. It’s disappointing to see Carp without a win yet, especially when it’s mostly not his fault.
Chris: April 3, Jaime Garcia’s masterpiece complete game shutout over the Padres — and the first win, at last, of the season! (OK, I was at this game too!)
Emily: April 13, the 15-5 win over the Diamondbacks.
Miranda: It’s a tie between April 13’s game at Arizona where they won 15-5 and the April 22 game at home against Cincinnati where the Cards won 4-2. The Arizona game was a needed blowout to prove they could play hard and pound a team like that. It was good for the team! And the Cincinnati game was good because it got the team to first place and it was just nice to get a win on a night where parts of St. Louis were getting shelled by a tornado … and it was against those pesky, smart-ass Reds!
Tara: Could have picked one of half a dozen games for this, but I’m going with game 2 against the Dodgers on April 15 when the Cards won 11-2 with Pujols and Berkman finding their home run power. This was when not only LB’s numbers were looking good, but Albert’s were looking more “normal” as well. By the end of this game, I think a lot of people were breathing again … the Cards were back on track.
Chris: April 9. Back-t0-back blown saves by Franklin were just a punch in the gut.
Emily: April 2, the 11-3 loss to the Padres.
Miranda: April 8’s game against the Giants in San Francisco. Hands down. We had the game won and then Ryan Franklin showed up. That weekend sucked all together, as I went to the hospital with the Stone of Pain early Sunday morning.
Tara: Part of me wanted to go with game two against the Reds at home (losing after that rain delay was painful), but I actually think the recent game one loss in Houston was worse (April 26). Berkman had what should have been a game winning, ninth inning double, but an error (surprise, surprise!), a wild pitch, a passed ball, and a handful of missed offensive chances gave this one a very disappointing ending. Plus, it seemed to get in Boggs’ head and he’s been over-thinking things a bit since then.
Player of the Month
Chris: No question — LB.
Emily: Lance Berkman
Miranda: Lance Berkman is the obvious choice for player of the month — see “Other Surprises” above! A close second for player of the month goes to Daniel Descalso. Dirty Dan, as TLR calls him, proved that he can hit, hustle and field like he’s been doing this forever. What a great addition he’s been to this team.
Tara: Lance Berkman. Period.
Pitcher of the Month
Chris: Also no question — Kyle Lohse
Emily: Kyle Lohse
Miranda: Kyle Lohse. Last season I couldn’t handle him. Now, with his masterful pitches, I love seeing his starts! I do want to join his fan club, seriously! Yes, he’s that much better than last season!
Tara: Kyle Lohse. I said at the beginning of the season that he would be a make-or-break player for this team, and I must say, he’s doing me proud. Bullpen unreliable? No worries … Kyle Lohse, reporting for Ace duty.
And, though he’s mentioned nowhere else, Miguel Batista — The Poet — deserves a nod for causing us to test our creative abilities with our Poems for The Poet whenever he pitches. We even have an archive of them now, along with our first reader submission from our friend Daniel. Check it out!