September Baseball: Emotional, Exhausting, Energizing

If you’re like me, the Cardinals aren’t the only team you’re watching now. With the National League Central race so close and the standings fluctuating daily, my nightly baseball watching has expanded this month since I need to know what the Pirates and the Reds are doing every game too.

9-18-13 1The Cardinals still have my primary attention, of course, and the prime viewing spot on my television. But here’s a picture to show you just how I’ve been watching — with the Pirates game on MLB-TV, sound muted. The Reds game, depending on who they are playing, is either on Gameday on my laptop (like last week when they played the Cubs and Brewers, since I’m in their home market and blacked out on MLB-TV) or on a split-screen with the Pirates.

But it’s September — what else can we do? Besides find ourselves doing the unlikely and rooting for the Cubs and Brewers and Astros to win, anyway.

It’s an emotional roller coaster at times — last night being a prime example.

It’s exhausting on occasion.

Yet it’s also energizing.

And it gets us ready for what’s ahead in October, on a slightly less intense level.

Back to last night …

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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

Welcome Back, Cardinals Offense! You’ve Been Missed!

More runs that the last four games combined. Same number of hits as the combined total for those previous games.

Yes, the 12-run and 19-hit performance by the St. Louis Cardinals yesterday was incredibly welcome. As was the 12-2 victory over the Seattle Mariners to not just win the series, but finish a very successful 7-2 home stand.

9-15-13

Yadi, we are just as happy as you are over yesterday’s game! (Photo: St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Leading the charge on offense: Yadier Molina, who broke out of his 0-15 slump in a rather Yadi-is-such-a-BAMF manner: by launching a no-doubter home run into the Mariners bullpen in the second inning to put the Cards up 1-0. Yet his contributions for the day were only beginning.

He singled and scored in the fourth, singled and scored in the fifth and singled in the sixth. He did fly out to right field in the seventh. Oh — since Yadi is Yadi — he also threw out Dustin Ackley trying to steal to end the top of the fifth inning. Make that Dustin “the man who obviously learned nothing when he also was thrown out Friday night” Ackley.

Besides Yadi’s big day, it was a great one for Matt as well — all three of them.

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Cards Battle Back For Wild, Walk-Off Winner

Last night’s 14-inning marathon between division rivals was everything you hope for in baseball … and everything you hope you never see again. It was messy. It was complicated. There were more “What in the world?” moments than “That was awesome!” moments. There were misses, followed by extra chances.

Also, there was a final inning lineup that included Sam Freeman, Adron Chambers, Pete Kozma, Rob Johnson, and Daniel Descalso. So, yeah …

Cardinals beat writer Jenifer Langosch condensed it nicely:

The ace pitcher the Cardinals had pushed back to set the tone in a key division matchup sunk his club into a hole early. A routine catch not made gave St. Louis an extra breath late. The Pirates stalled rallies by moving an infielder to the outfield and later adding an outfielder to the infield. And a Cardinals middle reliever would twice find himself batting with the winning run 90 feet from home.

In all, the Cardinals used 20 of their 25 players, threw 227 pitches, stranded 17 on base and finished 4-for-14 with runners in scoring position.

Roughly eight hours later, and the baseball world is still trying to make sense of it all.

Cards win in walk-off style, 5-4 over the Pirates in 14 innings!

Cards win in walk-off style, 4-3 over the Pirates in 14 innings!

One thing everyone can agree on — this win was big. Dare I say, huge. The Cardinals played with more heart, with more “never say die” intensity than we’ve seen this year. Dubbed the “Comeback Cardinals” the last two seasons, they seemed to have lost that edge. I guess winning so many games in the first half with relative ease buried the killer instinct a little deeper than anyone realized. But, if there was a time for it to return, it was last night. Continue reading

Westbrook: “I’m going to be better.”

It wasn’t Westie’s night. Boo

Five runs on four hits and five walks in five innings.

It wasn’t the rest of the lineup’s night, either. At least not like it had been the previous two evenings.

Just four hits. Three runs. Six runners stranded. One-for-nine with runners in scoring position, and three left with two outs. No magic two-out RBI this time.

And the Pirates won, to boot.

No, it wasn’t the Cardinals’ night. But, they’re going to be better. Winning teams make adjustments. They take nights like last night and figure out how to avoid the same mistakes again. That’s the idea, anyway.

“I’m going to be better,” Westbrook said. “It’s just a matter of figuring it out and getting back into the swing of things and getting back to where I was earlier in the year, getting a lot of ground balls and limiting my walks and getting a lot deeper in the ballgame than I have been.”

You know the best part about this road trip? It’s almost over. One game left today, and it’s over. You know what else? There’s absolutely nothing the Cardinals can do about the last 10 games. The wins were big. They were loud. Yet, the losses were louder. Even so, just like a good pitcher has to have a short memory, so does an entire team. Continue reading

It’s a Challenge to Win Without Scoring

With all the advances in baseball, no one’s ever been able to figure out how a team can win without scoring. Doesn’t matter how good the pitching is. A big, fat zero on the scoreboard under that R column? No W.

zeroAnd the pitching on Saturday — well, poor Joe Kelly. He had a lot of big, fat zeroes too. With nothing to show for it.

Our favorite class clown proved that he’s serious when he’s on the mound. He threw 86 pitches in 6 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing a good number of baserunners — 7 hits, 3 walks — yet always working his way out of any potential jams. Early on it was via groundouts, like this nice double play that Daniel Descalso started in the third. Later it was by strikeout, as he had 3 total coming in the 5th and 6th innings — including a great called K of Dan Uggla on a 96 mph fastball to end the 6th.

After getting Chris Johnson to ground out to start the 7th, Kelly gave up a single followed by a double to put runners at 2nd and 3rd. Jason Heyward was intentionally walked to load the bases. And, with a double play the obvious requirement for the Cards here, who else to relieve Joe except Seth Maness?

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Cardinals Fans, Doggies Make Everything Better

How to feel better when this 2013 Rangers-Cardinals match-up has been nothing like all those 2011 World Series clips we’ve seen? Puppies!

Well, doggies anyway — pictures of them, anyway, made all the more soothing because these are photos of the Cardinals with their doggies.

Yesterday was the annual Pooches in the Ballpark game, which prompted these photos from the Cardinals on their Facebook page yesterday.

Enjoy!

freeseYes, we’ve seen plenty of 2011 highlights of David Freese this weekend — and will see even more tonight with the game on ESPN. Not that anyone is complaining … or complaining about this picture, right?

 

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In Case You Missed It: Wacha, Whacker, Winner

As much as I wish my days always revolved around watching and covering the best team in baseball (I just love being able to say that legitimately!), some times it doesn’t.

Last night was one of those nights. I couldn’t rearrange my schedule for Wacha night 3.0, and it turns out, I missed a good one. So, if you’re like me and didn’t have a chance to catch the Cardinals beating up on the Mets live, here are the things you’ll want to know.

michael-wacha1. Wacha With The Win

Finally! (We all said collectively.)

It was only a matter of time before the hot new thing got his first Big League “W,” but it’s been more of a struggle than most thought it would be. Twice before, the Cardinals came close to winning on Wacha night in St. Louis. Instead, though, it was a road game that earned Mr. Wacha a win.

Yes, he struggled in the first inning, giving up two runs, three walks,  and throwing a third of his total pitch count before finally inducing a inning-ending ground out from Kirk Nieuwenhuis. But, the kid recovered and stymied the Mets offense after that.

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Yes, Of Course The Cardinals Get 7 Runs In The 10th

Was there a more satisfying win yet this season than this one?

And could there be a more stereotypical 2013 St. Louis Cardinals way to win than scoring 7 runs in the 10th inning and holding the Cincinnati Reds scoreless from the 5th inning on?

Photo: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Photo: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Mostly rhetorical questions, as the answers to both are likely no.

The Cardinals 11-4 win in 10 innings over the Reds — their first extra-inning win of the season — gave them a 4-game lead in the National League Central, continued their streak of winning series that stretches back to the end of April and was their 41st win of the season. Speaking of streaks, three of the four hitting streaks continued as well. (Sorry, Allen Craig.)

Yet much of the game was tight and tense, the proverbial playoff atmosphere-type game in June made all the more frustrating by the ESPN crew’s love of the Reds. Brandon Phillips is so amazing, you guys! And Bronson Arroyo — hey, look at this video from when he was a kid! Isn’t he just adorable? And Brandon Phillips — seriously, he is just awesome on Twitter! We’ll let him tell you himself how much! Isn’t the the best?

Ugh. And, for the second straight game, hello mute button.

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Cardinals Homers, Hitting Streaks And Shaky Relievers – Oh My!

Here’s a quick review: games with 8-run innings and 5 homers, including one by the pitcher – good.

Extending hitting streaks to 16, 15 and 10 games — also good.

Photo: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Photo: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Six innings with 9 strikeouts from the starting pitcher and maintaining the National League ERA lead at 1.91 — obviously good as well.

A 12-2 lead — very good.

Getting rookie pitchers a chance to gain some experience — yes, that is good.

Having to bring your closer into a game because the score becomes 12-7, the bases are loaded, it’s now a save situation and he gives up a sac fly to make it 12-8 — not good.

But all’s well that ends well, as the saying goes.

And despite the drama that built as Seth Maness and Keith Butler had rough nights and allowed three runs each, it was a good night. Not ideal, obviously, and of course getting battered around like that is not what anyone wants to see from any relievers — especially ones in a bullpen with the Cardinals’ track record for too much of this season.

Still, it was a win.

Let’s go back to the good.

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