My Choices For Top 5 Cardinals Stories of 2014

With 2014 drawing to a close tonight, it’s the perfect time to look back at the year that’s ending — as well as time to close out 2014 with the United Cardinal Bloggers annually December project, the Top 5 Stories of the Year.

It was certainly an interesting Cardinals season. Definite highs, with another division title and fourth consecutive trip to the National League Championship Series, yet also a shocking and devastating low. And, though it doesn’t make my list, a lot of angst and frustration about the team mostly because of Mike Matheny — which I wrote about several times (Hey Cardinals, Are You There? Do You Even Care in early June and This Year’s Cardinals Don’t Do Much For Me after the All-Star break) that culminated in their final game of the season, The “Because Matheny” Season Ends Because of Matheny. (Honestly, I’m getting tense again just looking back at those posts. Maybe it should have been one of my top stories …)

Anyway, here’s a look at my choices, listed chronologically.

1. The debut of Oscar Taveras on May 31

532360868e088.preview-300From that day: “As you’ve no doubt heard by now, since rumors began circulating during last night’s game, the moment every Cardinals fan has been waiting all season for is finally here: Oscar Taveras is coming to the big leagues.”

Then there was the game — the first hit in the second at-bat, which you can see again here. That swing, the raindrops, those cheers, that smile, the curtain call … Such promise right then. So much was written everywhere that my own post was merely a wrap-up with links to those.

The season for Oscar didn’t go as gloriously as that first hit did, though he definitely continued to have a flare for dramatic homers in the few he did hit, and obviously Oscar unfortunately makes my list again. But on May 31, and with that beautiful home run, the anticipation for what could be ahead was tremendous. Continue reading

Cards NLDS Win Is So Much Deja Vu

The Cardinals against Clayton Kershaw — again.

The Cardinals trailing the Dodgers in the seventh inning — again — with Kershaw dominating — again.

Matt Holliday leading off the seventh with a single off Kershaw, followed by Jhonny Peralta singling — again.

A big hit by a Matt to stun Kershaw and the Dodgers and give the Cardinals the lead — again.

In Game Four, however, it was Adams instead of Carpenter — and he launched a no-doubt-about-it-even-Joe-Buck-got-crazy-excited-3-run-bomb into the Cards bullpen (which of course you want to see again and again even though you’re already watched it countless times).

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Another classic Cardinals postseason home run, this time from Matt Adams (Photo: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Huy Mach)

In the ninth inning, Trevor Rosenthal in for the save and makes it interesting — again.

Yet that’s a winner — again!

And a win that’s a division series clincher — again, like in 2013. And 2012. And 2011. Continue reading

And Now Another Amazing October Friday Win

Friday nights in October seem to be made for the St. Louis Cardinals.

Looking back over the most memorable postseason games since 2011, some of the best were on Fridays. Game Five of the 2011 NLDS and the masterful performance by Chris Carpenter. Game Seven of the 2011 World Series (nothing more needs to be said about that, obviously!) The wacky and weird wild card game in 2012 against the Braves. Game Five of the 2012 NLDS with that incredible comeback against the Nationals.

Game1

Photo: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Then there was last October and Game Six of the NLCS, Cardinals up in the series 3-2. One more win against the Dodgers, though it would have to be a win against Clayton Kershaw — would send the Cards to the World Series. Kershaw gave up 7 of the runs scored by the Cards in the 9-0 pennant-clinching victory. No doubt a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence. Clayton Kershaw would never have that kind of night in the postseason again …

Especially in 2014, after his not just Cy Young but possibly MVP-worthy season in which he went 21-3 with a 1.77 ERA.

Especially when Adam Wainwright unfortunately had a Game-Five-of-the-2012-NLDS-like night and allowed 6 runs to the Dodgers, leaving in the fifth inning with the Cards down 6-1.

Especially when Kershaw, after allowing the first-inning home run to Randal Grichuk then retired 16 straight Cardinals and struck out seven until Matt Carpenter homered to make it 6-2 in the top of the sixth.

Then came the seventh inning. Continue reading

A 5-Sentence Summary of Today’s Loss

Clayton Kershaw is a great pitcher — he’s won two Cy Young Awards; threw a no-hitter on June 18; plus allowed a grand total of 4 earned runs while striking out 48 and walking 2 this month coming into today.

Cardinals Loss 2The Cardinals offensive struggles are continuing, as they’d scored just 4 runs on 18 hits while striking out 28 times in the first three games in this Dodgers series, so today was going to be a tough challenge anyway.

Yes, the Cards beat Clayton Kershaw twice last October in the National League Championship Series — which mattered not at all today.

Updated Cards totals for the series: losers of 3 of 4 games, 4 runs, 21 hits, 41 strikeouts.

But at least Jorge Rondon finally got to make his MLB debut — third call-up is the charm.

MVP: Making The Case For Molina

Tonight and tomorrow, the Baseball Writers Association of America will be able to announce the winners of the two most prestigious post-season awards, and the Cardinals are well represented in both categories. Though Adam Wainwright is not expected to win the Cy Young Award (Clayton Kershaw seems to have it all but locked up), the battle for MVP is developing into quite the hot topic.

DSC_0332Most “experts” seem to believe Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutchen, who led his team to its first winning season in over 20 years, will land at the top of the ballots. An award that generally follows the path the numbers create favors the center fielder whose .317 average in 583 at bats, complete with 97 runs, 21 homers, 84 RBI, 27 stolen bases, an 8.2 WAR (not to mention his fielding percentage, runs saved, etc.) — especially as a center fielder — make him an easy favorite.

Now, I know my perspective is dripping in bias, but I don’t think it has to be in order to make a convincing argument in favor of Yadier Molina. It does, though, require a willingness to look beyond just the numbers to what “value” really means. Continue reading

Wacha, Rookie Relievers And Thankfully A Passed Ball

While Michael Wacha didn’t come close to a no-hitter during Saturday’s Game Two of the NLCS, there were no complaints. Instead, it was just continued awe — of him as well as rookie relievers Kevin Siegrist, Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal.

Photos: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Photos: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

The quartet (plus Randy Choate, who tripled his production to three pitches in Game Two) shut down the Dodgers in a no-room-for-error 1-0 Cardinals win, as the Cardinals managed to score with their only hits of the day being a first inning triple and fifth inning double.

It was the first 1-0 Cardinals postseason victory since that guy hugging Wacha in the picture at left beat the Phillies in Game Five of the 2011 NLDS.

Pitching really was the story of the game, as it has been whenever Wacha starts. And while he gave up five hits, scattered through four innings, he struck out eight — none bigger than the last.

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

Joe Kelly, Forgotten No More

Remember when Joe Kelly was the Ferrari stuck in the garage? Without a defined role, without many opportunities. He was jumped over for spot starts by the AAA flame throwers like John Gast and Tyler Lyons. Meanwhile, Kelly sat.

Remember that?

Now, twice in the last week Kelly has been the guy. The stopper … literally. He stopped the Cardinals’ seven-game losing streak last Thursday, then last night he stopped the Dodgers’ 15-game road winning streak. And, he out-dueled one Clayton Kershaw in the process.

There was much to clap about as the Cardinals defeated the Dodgers 5-1.

There was much to clap about as the Cardinals defeated the Dodgers 5-1.

The once-forgotten son silenced the hot Dodgers bats through the first five innings, due in part to three double play balls, giving up just one run in the sixth. That run ended Kelly’s own streak of scoreless innings, but the “fill-in” starter has an 0.78 ERA over his last four starts. Not too shabby. Continue reading