On-Paper Advantage Falls Through In Game 3 Loss

Ah, the best laid plans. Lion

On paper, things were lining up perfectly for the Cardinals headed into last night’s NLCS Game 3. They’d beaten the Dodgers’ two star pitchers, and had Adam Wainwright on the mound. They were up 2-0 over a Los Angeles team that had struggled offensively even more than the Cardinals had, and they had a golden opportunity to put the first nail in the coffin.

Unfortunately, it’s games where the odds are with them that the Cardinals tend to struggle. And struggle they did. Continue reading

Kelly And Company Escape With Game One Winner

It didn’t look good.

That moment many have feared since Joe Kelly returned to the starting rotation —  the Joe Kelly 1moment the league catches up with his magic tricks — appeared to have arrived. Too many pitches. Too many base runners. Too much adrenaline booming through his usually mellow veins.

That was the first three innings. The good news is, it takes at least nine innings to tell the whole story.

Yes, in the first three innings, Kelly struggled. A single, a hit batter, and a wild pitch in the first; another runner at second base with two outs in the second; and a double, two walks, a botched 1-2-3 double play and a base knock in the third, and the Dodgers — behind Zach Greinke — had a 2-0 lead.

But, we know how this story goes. Where Adam Wainwright is the Ace, Michael Wacha is the Boy Wonder, and Shelby Miller is the Near-Perfect Game guy, Kelly is the Escape Artist. He weaves his way into, and then out of, trouble. He ties himself in knots, bound with the chains of one of baseball’s most potent lineups. And yet, he escapes.

It baffles the minds of the sabermetricians. The numbers don’t always add up. He shouldn’t be this successful. He keeps getting lucky.

… I think he gets lucky a lot. And I have nothing against getting lucky. Continue reading

Wainwright Leaves No Doubt – Cardinals Are NLCS Bound!

Before Adam Wainwright took the mound  to try to carry the Cardinals into their third-straight NLCS, before newbie Matt Adams and Mr. October David Freese blasted their way past those pesky Pirates, before 47,000+ fans made their way through the gates at Busch III to see which team had more magic left, Adam Wainwright thought about his last NLDS Game 5 start. Waino Winner

That game didn’t quite go according to plan. Six runs in 2 1/3 innings? Not exactly vintage Waino. But, the Ace said, that may have been the problem. That night against the Nationals, Wainwright — who has always deeply admired Chris Carpenter — wanted to recreate a magical night from one year earlier: Carpenter’s shutout in Game 5 against the Phillies.

“To be honest, I wanted to replicate his game,” said Wainwright, whom the Nationals roughed up for six runs before the end of the third inning. “That was the wrong kind of thinking. I needed to be me. I needed to be focused and be prepared and be me.” Continue reading

Wacha Wows In One-Hit Winner

Wacha 2All too often, kids come into professional baseball hot off of a collegiate career with potential through the roof. It’s not unusual for the transition to pro ball to take some time. It IS unusual for a guy less than a year removed from his final college game to not only be invited to Spring Training, but also force his way into the conversation about the Big League rotation.

When Cardinal veterans like Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright jump on board, you have to believe there’s something to it.

This spring, Molina said the 22-year-old Michael Wacha was Big League ready. Wainwright, when asked about the 2014 rotation said, “He’ll be there.”

Cardinals fans know first hand what happens when a guy doesn’t live up to the astronomical expectations. Colby Rasmus? Brendan Ryan? Tyler Greene? Not pretty. And with a rotation of Wainwright, Jaime Garcia, Jake Westbrook, Lance Lynn and Shelby Miller (which left out Joe Kelly and Trevor Rosenthal), there was no need to rush Wacha. Continue reading

Holliday’s Cardinals Fly High Over Rockies

When the Cardinals score 11 runs, there are certainly plenty of moments to highlight. It’s even better when they snatch first place back in the process. Last night’s win provided both.

Since it was Joe Kelly Day, let’s start there.

Holliday blasts a 2-run homer and his 4th hit of the night in an 11-4 Cardinals win.

Holliday blasts a 2-run homer and his 4th hit of the night in an 11-4 Cardinals win.

Kelly certainly didn’t look phased by the loss in his last outing against the Brewers. Or, perhaps, he was simply comfortable with the task at hand — getting the Cardinals a much-needed win after dropping game one in Colorado and only scoring two runs in the process.

Through five innings, he kept the Rockies scoreless, giving up just three hits and two walks. The downside? He left after five with what he later described as tightness in his right calf and knee that has been “feeling weird” as of late. After a rather lengthy discussion at the mound with Yadier Molina, Mike Matheny, and a trainer, he continued throwing with two outs in the inning. A couple of mind-90s pitches later, and he was eligible for the win. So, there was that. Continue reading

Lance Lynn Lives!

There was a chance. After giving up a single and a walk, he had a moment … a small one, but a moment, nonetheless. In his defense, most anyone would have had a moment when the throw from Tony Cruz to Daniel Descalso ended up in center field, allowing the first run of the game to score.

Lynn is certainly allowed a moment of frustration there.

More often than not, though — at least as of late — that “moment” turns into a catastrophe. The frustration steals away his focus and BAM. It’s all over.

LynnI’ll admit it — I was ready for it. I was bracing for “in play, run(s)” to flash across my iPhone screen. I was even more resigned to it when Lynn promptly walked the next Milwaukee batter to put two on with two outs in the second inning.

Whether he wants to believe it or not, he was pitching for his rotation life last night. Based on the rumblings from the top of the food chain (i.e. John Mozeliak), the organization isn’t entirely pleased with the repeated “maturity” struggles. No one has ever questioned Lynn’s stuff. But, keeping the attitude and emotions in check? That’s been in question for a while now. Continue reading

Dear Cardinals: No More Synchronized Slumping

For all the fuss made about the Cardinals needing a starting pitcher in order to keep up with the Pirates, a bigger issue has quickly evolved: they have got to figure out how to score runs. Five losses, three runs.

Sad baseballNot even Wacha’s spectacular return to the rotation can save a Cardinals team that seems to forget how to handle the bats. Losing 1-0 to the Reds is not about the Cardinals’ pitching.

Baseball is a tricky thing. It becomes even trickier when you’re in as tight a race for a division title as the Cardinals find themselves.

It’s a performance-driven world, and yet sometimes, even the performance isn’t enough if the results don’t match up. Individuals are held to staggering standards because they must be — successful individual performance is the only way to create successful team results.

The pressure, the length of the season, the challenge to be better than the guys in the other dugout … sometimes, it leads to slumps. Maybe it’s mechanical. Maybe it’s a guy trying too hard. Maybe it’s just the sort of battle baseball is made of. The trouble is, the Cardinals seem to be in a synchronized slumping pattern. Continue reading

Kelly Saves The Day Again

We have a problem. We’re running out of adjectives to describe Joe Kelly and the impact he’s having on this team.

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Awesome. Magnificent. Stunning. Formidable. Brilliant. Dazzling. Impressive.

He’s the stopper. A stud. A Ferrari showing what makes him luxury. In many respects, he’s the constant in an inconsistent playoff picture.

He’s the shot in the arm the Cardinals needed, especially as the other starters sputtered.

Of course, getting a lift from the offense doesn’t hurt.

Yesterday, he did all that again and salvaged a PNC Park winner, bringing the Cardinals back into a first-place tie as they head for Cincinnati.

Continue reading

Confident Cards Win Again

If Monday’s comeback win over the Reds was one of the biggest of the year, last night’s win was more evidence that the Cardinals team that held the best record in baseball through the All-Star Break is alive and kicking.

Joe Kelly, who apparently can win even if he doesn’t need to stop a losing streak, picked up his sixth victory after tossing six innings, surrendering just one run on eight hits — a homer by Sin-Soo Choo.

Cards win 6-1 over the Reds.

Cards win 6-1 over the Reds.

There were base runners, sure. But that’s become the norm for Kelly. He’s just good at working around them … or, in last night’s case, making them get themselves out. With two on and two out in the top of the fourth, a base hit should have scored Jay Bruce. Instead, two Reds ended up on third base. Which, well, that’s not allowed.

Kelly left the game having lowered his ERA (since June 1) to 1.77. He’s 5-0 in the month of August, 6-3 overall. That’s one more win than he had last season. Not too shabby for a guy many didn’t believe could last in the rotation, eh?

The youth-filled bullpen came in behind Kelly and did what we’ve come to expect — shut it down. Continue reading

Lynn And Co. Can’t Quiet The Crew

Apparently, the Brewers did their homework since the last time they faced the Cardinals. Of course, things have changed quite a bit for the Redbirds since then, too.

One inningLance “First Half” Lynn is tending toward the late-season struggles we hoped were a thing of the past. Jake Westbrook can’t seem to hold it together. Michael Wacha hasn’t been the rotation savior we’d hoped for. Neither has Carlos Martinez. Even Shelby Miller has shown signs of vulnerability after taking that line drive off his elbow a few weeks back.

And, the Brewers are the least of this rotation’s concerns over the next few weeks.

Last night, many will argue, was not really Lynn’s fault. A litany of innocent singles and a few less-than-stellar defensive plays quickly turned a 3-0 Cardinals lead into a 5-3 hole.

But, he had good stuff! They were only singles! Twice a double play could have/should have/would have been made if that slouch David Freese wasn’t manning third! Continue reading