Walk-Off Hit By Pitch? That’s So 2014 Cardinals

In a thus far inconsistent and mediocre St. Louis Cardinals season …

GarciaWhen Adam Wainwright finally, sort of, maybe figured out the 2014 Cubs and only allowed two runs in six innings on a Luis Valbuena homer …

During a game when the Cardinals had the same number of strikeouts as hits (nine), were walked eight times and left 13 runners on base while scoring just three runs through 11 innings …

When Trevor Rosenthal finally did what was seeming inevitable and blew a save …

Yet the rest of the bullpen — Kevin Siegrist, Carlos Martinez, Sam Freeman in his 2014 debut, Pat Neshek, Seth Maness — combined to allow just one hit and no runs in five innings …

And, in the 12th inning, when the Cubs bullpen started to resemble what we would expect the Cubs bullpen to be with Justin Grimm walking Allen Craig and Yadi to load the bases with one out after Jhonny Peralta singled …

Up stepped Greg Garcia to pinch-hit. It was Garcia’s 14th plate appearance yet he had just 10 official at-bats, thanks to one walk and two hit-by-pitches.

He still has just 10 official at-bats, thanks to his third hit-by-pitch. Plus he now has his first RBI — and it’s a game-winning RBI.

Thank you, Justin Grimm. And thank you, Greg Garcia.

Whatever it takes to win.

Especially for the 2014 Cardinals.

Whose Game Was More Gorgeous, Bourjos Or Wainwright?

It was a beautiful 7-1 win for the St. Louis Cardinals over the Atlanta Braves last night.

5-8collageWait — it actually was a gorgeous win, with Peter Bourjos having the best game of his Cardinals career so far and Adam Wainwright having a pretty stellar night too, both on the mound and at the plate. It was the kind of game that made us remember those times when these things used to be routine … everything coming together on both offense and pitching in the same game. But, as we all learned long ago, you’ve got to play them one game at a time.

And this one game was definitely a step forward for the now 18-17 Cardinals, with 13 hits to go with those seven runs on offense and the pitching continuing to be such a strength.

But which of our two heroes had the better night?

You’ll actually find both of them at the top of the stats list of the Cards hottest hitters in the past seven days, as Wainwright has hit .600, which includes a double and a single last night plus two runs scored. Overall, he’s hitting .400 for the season — thus well on his way to being The King Of All Pitchers with his stated intention to win both the Silver Slugger and Cy Young Award. He also became the first National League pitcher to six wins this season, joining Mark Buehrle of the Blue Jays who won his sixth yesterday too. Wainwright allowed the one run on six hits while striking out six and walking win. Obviously, a nice bounceback from his previous start last week at Wrigley Field.

Then there’s Peter Bourjos. After his rare-as-of-late start on Monday night in which he went two for four and was rewarded with the chance to sit on the bench Tuesday until entering the game as a defensive replacement in the eighth, he definitely made his presence back in the lineup Wednesday known — from the very first pitch thrown to him by Mike Minor. Continue reading

3 Positives From The Cards Loss To The Cubs

If there ever was a game that seemed like a guaranteed win for the Cardinals, yesterday was it. Adam Wainwright had a perfect 6-0 record at Wrigley Field to go along with his 25-inning scoreless pitching streak, as well as a 1.20 ERA after a terrific April. The offense had come to life in the last game. The wind was blowing out in Chicago.

Positive-AttitudeAnd then we were reminded that nothing is guaranteed, especially in baseball.

Wainwright did not have a Wainwright-like day, with the scoreless streak ending in the first with two runs scoring on Anthony Rizzo’s single (which came after Luis Valbuena’s was-it-fair-or-foul double that was called fair). Waino allowed all 6 runs to the Cubs, and has allowed 10 runs in 12 innings pitched this season against them.

Still, even with the loss for the Cards — and despite the fact that puts their record at 15-15 — there were some positives to be found.

1. The offense kept its momentum
With yesterday’s 5 runs on 8 hits, the Cardinals now have 14 runs and 21 hits in two games. That’s a welcome change. Sure, there were missed opportunities — they were just 2 for 7 with runners in scoring position — but, still, we know it could have been worse because we’ve recently had to endure it being worse. Progress is progress … even when it’s slow. Continue reading

7 Highlights From A 7-0 Win, Plus 2 Roster Moves

Welcome back, Cardinals offense! You were greatly missed. Yes, it was definitely nice to see runs being scored — more Sunday, 7, as the Cardinals beat the Pirates 7-0, than they had in Wednesday through Saturday’s games combined — and even a home run for the first time in 366 at-bats since Allen Craig last launched one on April 16.

7And while things are starting to get better at the plate, just like Michael wrote they would on Saturday, one game is apparently not enough of a jumpstart, since two roster moves were announced late Sunday night. Promoted to the Cardinals are infielder Greg Garcia and outfielder Randal Grichuk and one of the subsequent demotions, Shane Robinson, is not a surprise. But the other is: Kolten Wong.

Wong was hitting .225 and hadn’t played since going 0 for 4 against the Pirates Friday night. And, courtesy of Rick Hummel in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, here’s a very interesting comment from general manager John Mozeliak:

“This will give him a chance to play every day and if he gets back on track, that would be helpful,” said Mozeliak.

Hmmmmm.

Back to yesterday, in addition to the offense, it’s always good to see Adam Wainwright be Adam Wainwright, isn’t it? Here’s more on him and six other highlights from the series-winning victory.

1. The Cards manufacturing a first-inning run
Matt Carpenter did a very Matt Carpenter-like thing (guys doing what they typically do was a theme of the day) and doubled to lead off the game for the Cardinals. While there was plenty of Twitter outrage when Jon Jay then bunted him over to third base, the move immediately paid dividends: the Cards took a 1-0 lead on a Matt Holliday sacrifice fly. With the way the offense had been struggling, the move was understandable at the moment — regardless of opinions on Mike Matheny and his bunting strategies. Continue reading

Summing Up Today’s Cardinals Loss In 2 Sentences

Boo - smallI only had the chance to watch the first three innings of today’s game, which meant I had the opportunity to see some great pitching and one hit each by the Cardinals (Matt Carpenter to lead off the game) and the Pirates (Clint Barmes, of all people).

So when I received an email from my friend Michael with the subject “sometimes, this team is maddening” and a message that only said “but what else is new,” I didn’t have much frame of reference. When I emailed back that I didn’t see the game, he replied with this — which is now your game recap.

They lost. Wainwright pitched well, Edinson Volquez pitched better and against a left-hander and the Pirates’ mythical shift Matt Adams couldn’t hit sand if he fell off a camel.

There you go.

Back to St. Louis now, and on to the home opener tomorrow.

Yadi + Wainwright + Bullpen = Opening Day Happiness

When there are nine tight, tense and dramatic innings that end with the St. Louis Cardinals on the right side of 1-0 Opening Day victory over the Cincinnati Reds, it’s pretty hard to be unhappy about it.

collageOpeningDayWhen the lone run is courtesy of a Yadier Molina seventh inning homer — after the crowd had already been booing him all day? Great.

When Adam Wainwright throws seven scoreless innings and gives up only three hits while striking out nine to not only pick up his first-ever Opening Day win but also the 100th of his career? Even better.

When we get to see Kevin Siegrist, Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal throw 21 of their combined 28 pitches for strikes to get the final six outs of the game — especially when three of those outs are in a messy eighth inning? Fantastic.

Oh, and for Johnny Cueto to pitch nearly as well as Wainwright by allowing just Yadi’s homer and two other hits while striking out eight Cardinals in seven innings — and be the losing pitcher? What more could you want?

Well, sure, you could want to not see the Cardinals defense commit three errors. Yet each of the three who committed those errors — birthday boy Peter Bourjos, Kolten Wong and Matt Adams — also made good defensive plays. The first inning catch by Bourjos was great (and, sadly, not worthy of being a video highlight from the game according to MLB’s website) and proved right away why his speed will be such an asset. Continue reading

Finally, Opening Day — Get Ready, Relax, Enjoy

It’s been 151 days since the last St. Louis Cardinals game that counted, which was Game Six of the World Series on Oct. 30. Now, it’s 2014 and a brand-new season begins today. The proverbial slate is clear — even the Cubs, Marlins and Twins still have a chance. (Theoretically.)

Opening DayThat’s the beauty of Opening Day: new beginning, fresh start, all those cliches every sports columnist and blogger trots out every year just for today because those too are part of the baseball tradition … even though the Dodgers have already played three games, the Diamondbacks two and the Padres one. Today, though, is Opening Day for real, because the Cardinals are playing.

And that’s what we’ve been waiting for. Daydreaming and counting down to Opening Day is what got us through the very long and very awful winter with so much snow and Polar Vortex cold which all seems far in the past with the ground now clear and the temperatures warmer.

But, finally, here we are.

Our Cardinals are taking the field at last and facing off against the Reds when 3:10 p.m. Central Time arrives. Yeah, Johnny Cueto is starting and we all rightfully hate him and we’ll no doubt have to hear from Danny Mac and Al what a terrific guy Brandon Phillips is, just like they tell us every single Cards-Reds game, and they’ll have to mention August 2010 and all of that and still talk about Dusty Baker even though he’s gone — but it will be Cardinals baseball and we will be watching it again. Therefore, it’s good.

Which is why I want to remind you to enjoy it. Continue reading

Adam Wainwright, Cubs Fan?

Perhaps you were under the impression St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright grew up a Braves fan. I know I was, plus his Wikipedia page even says so — and he was a Cub Scout.

Adam WainwrightMaybe that latter tidbit is where Comcast SportsNet Chicago got confused. Last night Wainwright was a guest on SportsTalk Live, and I happened to see — and not hear — a small portion of it on a television at the gym. It seemed interesting a Cardinal was on the network that features the Cubs and White Sox, and this morning I saw a link online about last night’s broadcast.

So of course I clicked, and read this:

The Cubs-Cardinals rivalry has been fierce among fan bases. But to St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright, it’s just a friendly rivalry between the two National League Central ball clubs.

Adam Wainwright joined SportsTalk Live to talk about the competitive nature between the two divisional foes.

“We respect them, and they respect us,” Wainwright, who grew up a Cubs fan, said. “It’s a good relationship.”

It concluded with this tease to watch the video: “Check out what else Wainwright had to say about the rivalry, and he relives his memories as a Cubs fan as a kid.”

Continue reading

Catching Up With the Cardinals: Monday Morning Edition

Ah, Monday morning … right after Daylight Saving Time begins. And just when we were beginning to enjoy the fact it was brightening up after 6 a.m. Patience is now needed again for the longer days ahead.

DiazAs you’ve probably read by now, the St. Louis Cardinals have signed 23-year-old Cuban free agent shortstop Aledmys Diaz to a four-year contract. There aren’t many details about it yet, as he’s scheduled to be introduced at a news conference this morning, but Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has some good info on what he calls “a landmark moment for the Cardinals. His will be the richest contract ever from the Cardinals for an international free agent or amateur, signaling their intent to reach beyond the Latin America amateur market they’ve cultivated.”

Joe Schwarz at Viva El Birdos also has been covering Diaz in-depth since he first worked out for the Cardinals several weeks ago.

Headed to Jupiter, Fla., to see the Cardinals spring training games at Roger Dean Stadium? Forbes reports that the Cardinals have the 10th most expensive spring training tickets, with an average price of $50. The teams with more expensive tickets, in order from 9 to 1: the Astros (perhaps surprisingly?), the Twins, the Phillies, the Cubs (which is perhaps not a surprise — have you seen there new spring home?), the Yankees, the Giants, the Rangers, the Braves (who train at Disney World) and, of course, the Red Sox with an average price of $79.

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Just Imagine If There Was No Tommy John Surgery

All of us as St. Louis Cardinals fans — actually, all of us as baseball fans — should be thankful for Dr. Frank Jobe, an orthopedic surgeon who died a few days ago at age 88. You may or may not have heard of him, but there’s no question you’ve heard of his greatest contribution to baseball: ulnar collateral ligament replacement surgery, better known as Tommy John surgery.

collage-Tommy JohnThat surgery is something we as Cardinals fans are quite familiar with, isn’t it? Jason Motte is still recovering from undergoing the procedure last May.

And just imagine what the 2011 Cardinals pitching staff would have been if there were no Tommy John surgery and a pitcher’s career — as happened with Sandy Koufax — just ended because of elbow injuries.

Of course there already wasn’t Adam Wainwright that season, since he’d had Tommy John surgery in February. But there also wouldn’t have been Chris Carpenter (who had the surgery in 2007), Jaime Garcia (2008), Jake Westbrook (2008), Kyle McClellan (2005 — and remember how good he was in the starting rotation early that year?) and Octavio Dotel (2005).

Just imagine … no happy flights and magical September and October without them, and that’s just one Cardinals season.

Also just one team. Last July Will Carroll, an expert on sports injuries, published a study at Bleacher Report that indicated one-third of current MLB pitchers at the time had undergone Tommy John surgery.That was 124 of 360 pitchers and even Carroll was stunned at the high number. Here’s his full list of the 124, if you’re interested.

Continue reading