Throwback Thursday: Happier 2013 Cardinals Days

Last night’s game was an improvement but, in the end, a loss is a loss. Seven games is seven games. So instead of finding a bright side or avoiding feeling down, let’s forget it and take a look back at better times this season.

We know the Cardinals are capable of playing well. They have, they will and these can remind us of that.

Maybe the new month can end one streak and start another. Hopefully …

Photo: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Photo: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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Miller + Craig + Molina = 60

How many ways can you say “The Cardinals are good at baseball?” Because I’m starting to feel like a broken record (it’s my favorite record, though!).

The Cardinals welcomed the Phillies to town last night. The Phills may be a little battered this season, but there are no small victories when the slimmest of margins separates the Cardinals from the rest. This was also the perfect way to see how rookie Shelby Miller would react to some extra time off.

He embraced it.image

Shelby was back to the Shelby who wowed us early this summer. He confused and frustrated the visiting hitters, throwing down a three-hit shutout through six innings of work, striking out six and walking just one for his 10th win of the year.

Let the doubters doubt. Miller wants that Rookie of the Year award.

Mike Matheny is (or at least was last night) being a bit more careful about how long his young star pitches. Shelby faced 21 batters and threw 85 pitches, but was suddenly bothered by a cramp in his right calf. Not willing to take any chances, Miller then was relived by Randy Choate, then Seth Maness, followed by Trevor Rosenthal, and Edward Mujica. Continue reading

Cardinals First-Half MVP? Cast Your Vote

You make the call — just click below to vote. We couldn’t decide among ourselves who is the most valuable St. Louis Cardinal for the first half.

Because while it seemed obvious at first  — Yadier Molina, of course — we thought of Matt Carpenter. And then thought more: where would the Cards be without Edward Mujica? Plus what about Adam Wainwright?

See … not so easy to decide.

That’s why we’ll put it up for a vote from you. Here is our rationale for each of those four, followed by the poll at the very bottom. And good luck with your decision.

To start: my thoughts on the starter.

Adam Wainwright

Wainwright-1If we’re comparing the 2013 Cardinals pitchers to cars, we know that Joe Kelly is a Ferrari who sometimes just sits in the garage. Shelby Miller would be a Mustang, because of course. And, before this goes on too far, Adam Wainwright would be an Audi A8. I mean, look at the words Audi uses to describe the A8: Prestige. Performance. Perfection. Truly a class apart.

Perfection might be stretching it a little bit — no perfect games for Wainwright yet, but that could certainly happen someday in the future. Especially given what we’ve seen so far in 2013.

Two masterpiece shutouts — a four-hitter with 12 strikeouts against the Brewers on April 13 and a no-hitter-into-the-eighth-and-two-hitter-overall with seven K’s against the Rockies on May 11. Only Clayton Kershaw has two shutouts in the National League this year, and no one has four complete games like Waino does.

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Yadi! Allen! Koz? Yes! And Cards Win!

It appears Yadier Molina likes being 31.

He also likes breaking out of a hitting slump in a big way, as he went 4 for 6 with 4 RBI, 3 runs scored and a home run on the day after his birthday.

Oh, and there’s no doubt he likes winning games. Pretty sure he doesn’t mind leading the National League in hitting either.

collage-ASBHe did all of those things on Sunday night, as the Cardinals entered the All-Star break with a 10-6 win over the Cubs and the best record in the major leagues as well as a 1-game lead over the Pirates in the NL Central. Yadi increased his NL-leading batting average to .341.

Of course, given that the Cards had 21 hits to go along with those 10 runs, Yadi was hardly alone in having a big night at the plate. Allen Craig increased his second-best-in-the-NL batting average to .333 by going 4 for 5 with a tie-breaking RBI in the top of the ninth inning. He’s also tied for second in the NL in RBI with 74.

Plus, there’s this: Pete Kozma — yes, Pete Kozma! — had 3 hits and 2 RBI.

Crazy, right? Just like the game itself.

It definitely was one for those who like offense, as the pitchers’ duel between All-Stars Adam Wainwright and Travis Wood didn’t exactly live up to the billing. Wood threw 100 pitches but only lasted 5 2/3 innings, giving up 10 hits and 3 earned runs while Wainwright got one more out than that, threw 11 more pitches and gave up 4 earned runs on 8 hits.

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50 Things After 76 Cardinals Games

With 2 1/2 months and 76 games complete for the St. Louis Cardinals, there’s been plenty of good so far — and also some bad and ugly, especially in June.

So here are 50 things about the 2013 Cardinals, following yesterday’s (perhaps much needed) day off.

June 251. The Cardinals are 47-29 and have the best record in the major leagues.

2. They have a 1 game lead over the Pittsburgh Pirates in the National League Central. The two teams play 14 more times, including 5 games in 4 days from July 29-Aug. 1 at PNC Park.

3. So far the Cards are 2-3 against the Pirates. (I was there for two of the losses — sorry. It hopefully won’t be bad news that I’m also going to the 3-game Labor Day weekend series in Pittsburgh.)

4. The Cards have a 2 1/2 game lead over the Cincinnati Reds and still have 10 games left against them.

5. They’ve won 6 and lost 3 against the Reds so far.

6. In June, the Cardinals are 12-11.

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Surprise — It’s Yadi Again As Cardinals Win

You’ll never guess who hit a tie-breaking homer for the St. Louis Cardinals last night.

Shockingly, it was Yadier Molina.

Yadi-4Can you believe it?

Yes, of course we all can — not much of a shock anymore. Just Yadi being Yadi again … and again and again.

And Yadi’s BAMF-ness on Wednesday came in the form of a homer with Allen Craig on base in the bottom of the 6th to give the Cards a 3-1 lead. It was his only hit of the night, so he knows how to make them count.

And the Cubs just expect it from Yadi — even before last night’s game, as Chad Thornburg wrote at

When asked before the game how his team could get Yadier Molina out, Cubs manager Dale Sveum had a simple answer — you don’t. You just have to hope he hits it at someone.

“He’s that locked in,” Sveum said. “You really have to make a great pitch now to get him out and make him have a bad swing. It’s very hard to make adjustments to those kinds of hitters because they’re hitting everything.”

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Yadi, Yadi, Yadi Leads The Cardinals Yet Again

Anyone tired of watching Yadier Molina do his thing?

Yeah, didn’t think so.

Yadi slide

Photo: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Yadi had two hits, two RBI and a very interesting run scored to help the St. Louis Cardinals win 5-2 over the Chicago Cubs. Oh, those hits also raised his National League-leading batting average to .355. And he is (thankfully) gaining ground on Buster Posey in the NL All-Star voting.

It was another good night for Yadi — actually, a good night for all of the Cardinals once the rain ended and the game actually began.

Shelby Miller was terrific yet again, although his start was cut short by cramping in his right leg. He left after 5 scoreless innings in which he gave up 2 hits, struck out 5 and walked 2. He also lowered his ERA to 2.08, which is third-best in the NL.

And Shelby joins Adam Wainwright with 10 wins and Lance Lynn with 9 to make this the first time since 2005 the Cards have had three pitchers with 8 or more wins in their first 70 games, according to Tom Orf.

Kevin Siegrist took over in the 6th inning and continued what he’s done since his debut: held the opponent scoreless. He retired four Cubs, including Anthony Rizzo on a great called third strike, and walked one. Siegrist has pitched 6 2/3 big league innings now and allowed just 1 hit while walking 2 and striking out 10.

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Stopping To Smell The Proverbial Cardinals Roses

Some people hate Cardinals days off, but I enjoy having a break from the day-to-day intensity every once in a while — a time to stop and look at how things are going.

And I would have enjoyed yesterday a lot more had the Cubs actually been able to keep Brandon Phillips off base last night — but, then again, they’re the Cubs. What can we really expect?

Stop & Smell The RosesSpeaking of expectations, I can’t imagine any of you could have expected what’s transpired thus far for the 2013 Cardinals. Sure, we all thought they’d do well — but this well? With this many pitching injuries and kids coming up Memphis and Springfield and jumping right in and having such success?

As for “doing this well,” Sunday’s win was the 41st of the season. Last year on June 9, they weren’t anywhere close to winning their 41st game — they were 31-29 (and would lose the next two to put them at .500) in third place in the NL Central, three games behind the Reds. Going back to 2000 (my first year as a Cards fan), they have never had 41 wins this early in the season.

The closest: 2005 and, surprisingly, 2008, when the Cardinals won their 41st game on June 14 both seasons.

By contrast, in 2007 they won their 41st game on July 15.

As for other seasons since 2000 in which they’ve been in first place on June 11, there are five: 2011, 2006, 2005, 2004 and 2000. The only year in which they didn’t finish atop the division, of course, was 2011.

Some numbers: Given the offensive production lately, probably not a surprise that the Cards lead the NL at the moment with a .276 average and .338 on-base percentage. Pitching-wise, they lead the majors with an overall ERA of 3.19 and starters ERA of 2.73.

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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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Cardinal Love Letter: The Pitching Staff

Dear guys,

Now that the Super Bowl is over, next up — finally — is baseball. It’s just over a week now until you’ll all be in Jupiter, Fla., with Yadi and Tony Cruz and the minor league catchers and the St. Louis Cardinals will finally start moving toward the 2013 season.

Ah … Last October seems like forever ago, so it’s good that our countdown is in the single digits.

As if that alone isn’t enough to get me excited, the season preview articles I’ve read in the past couple days just up my admiration for you collectively all the more. There was this in USA Today last week, “Healthy staff generates optimism in St. Louis,” and a Yahoo Sports preview too. And Jenifer Langosch wrote the “Cardinals boast remarkable depth in rotation,” which of course doesn’t mention all of you in the bullpen who also are a strength of the team.

Pitching, and pitchers, have fascinated me for years, going back to my own very brief and ill-fated softball pitching career. Because you don’t realize, or at least I didn’t, the power the pitcher has over controlling the game. The pace, the momentum, the outcome — it’s all right there, resting on you and when you decide to throw that ball and set the next play in motion.

(And when you walk batter after batter after batter, and your coach ignores your frantic glances to the dugout as you internally plead for him to take you out of the game, so you keep walking batter after batter … well, it stays with you for a very long time. Obviously. Plus, way back in 2000, my own experience made me want to hug Rick Ankiel. And, more recently, made me feel sorry for Ryan Franklin. But enough of that …)

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