The Cardinals Just Keep Rolling Along

On the day the St. Louis Cardinals had the fifth player from their Opening Day roster go onto the disabled list, they did what was expected: won.

happy faceIt was win No. 40 of the season, and on June 12. The Cardinals are the first team in MLB to reach 40 wins this season. The next NL team to reach that plateau won’t do it until at least Tuesday, if the Dodgers win their next four straight. No AL team will reach 40 wins until at least Wednesday, if the Astros (how awesome is that?) now go on a winning streak after destroying King Felix Hernandez and the Mariners last night.

Not surprisingly, the Cardinals still have the best record in MLB, and also have the biggest division lead — the second-place Pirates are 6 1/2 games back. (If the Pirates were in the NL East, they’d be in first at the moment.)

As for last night’s game, Jaime Garcia was impressive — again. He pitched eight scoreless innings, allowed only four infield singles, struck out six and didn’t walk a batter. In fact, he hasn’t walked a batter since his season-debut on May 21 … four starts and 30 innings ago.

And while Kolten Wong, Matt Carpenter, Mark Reyonds and Yadi all went hitless, it didn’t matter. Jon Jay hit a first inning triple that drove in Everyone’s Favorite Man (and Woman) Crush Randal Grichuk, who’d singled. Jaime was up next and singled to score Jay.

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Kevin Siegist To Disabled List

Never good news when any pitcher has arm trouble, but such is the case with Kevin Siegrist.

nurse-e1397756375763He’s been placed on the disabled list with a left forearm strain, according to the Cardinals Twitter account. Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch first reported on the concern with Siegrist a couple hours ago.

Sam Freeman has been recalled by the Cardinals to take Siegrist’s roster spot. He was sent back to Memphis last Sunday when tonight starter, Jaime Garcia, was activated from the DL.

Here’s hoping for the best for Siegrist, even though a forearm strain on a pitching arm rarely ends with good news.

Game time tonight is 6:15 p.m. Central Time, with Garcia facing Tony Cingrani in Cincinnati.

Look! In The Field! At The Plate! It’s Peter Bourjos!

It’s been a curious season for Peter Bourjos, hasn’t it?

Bourjos8He entered spring training and began the year as the Cardinals starting centerfielder, which was all part of the plan when he was acquired from the Angels. But he struggled at the plate to begin the season, lost his starting job to Jon Jay and Randal Grichuk, and then subsequently was somehow supposed to break out of his offensive slump by pinch-hitting every few days.

When I read yesterday morning in Daniel’s post at C70 At The Bat that Bourjos was four for 10 against Aaron Harang — and with three of those hits being a double, triple and homer — I was hopeful he would actually start again for the first time since April 26. Just seemed to make sense, despite the lack of playing time Mike Matheny had been giving him. Plus Matheny had remembered Sunday night that Pete has a glove, inserting him as a defensive replacement in the eighth inning.

Yesterday afternoon, I read this from Joe Sheehan and found myself nodding my head throughout the entire piece — especially the section on Bourjos. While it didn’t make me feel any better about the way Matheny has been managing the 2014 Cardinals so far, it certainly helped me realize just how crazy his use of Bourjos (and Kolten Wong) has been … just in case I needed further clarification.

Then came the game in Atlanta. 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

Winning Makes For A Better Night All Around

From the very beginning, things were much improved for the St. Louis Cardinals compared to Friday night. For that matter, things were much improved in facing the Pittsburgh Pirates Francisco Liriano than they had been during the entire 2013 regular season when they only scored two runs off him in three games.

Last night, the Cardinals scored two runs before they even made two outs in the top of the first and finished that inning with a 3-0 lead. Matt, Matt and Matt all played a role as Carpenter led off with a single, Holliday drove him in following a Jhonny Peralta walk and Adams followed an Allen Craig sacrifice fly and Yadier Molina single with an RBI single of his own.

Allen Craig

Allen Craig driving in a run, always a good thing. (Photo:

And though Liriano settled in and began throwing like his usual self facing the Cards, retiring 13 straight from the second inning through the sixth, Yadi homered to make the final total on the night four runs allowed.

That kind of game is so much better, as the Cardinals ultimately won 6-1 since Jhonny Peralta has apparently decided the only kind of hits he’s going to get as a Cardinal are home runs — he hit a two-run shot in the ninth with Matt Carpenter on base. (Now, if only Peter Bourjos can get that bat going …)

With just a lone run scored by the Pirates, it’s obvious the pitching was much better too. Yes, Pirates Stopper Joe Kelly retains that title once again. And while it wasn’t necessarily the most efficient of outings for him — the run allowed came on a bases-loaded walk, one of four he gave up for the night along with six hits and four strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings — it was good enough to get the job done. Continue reading

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

Is It Time To Worry About The Cardinals Bullpen?

Spring training games don’t count, but spring performances are what determine the final St. Louis Cardinals roster that will take the field on Opening Day in Cincinnati March 31. And some spring pitching performances have been awfully unpleasant.

collage318Now it’s true that pitchers sometimes work on specific pitches and take risks they wouldn’t otherwise do when the games count — Adam Wainwright focused just on his curveball in Sunday’s game against the Mets, for example. But is it time to get concerned about the bullpen — or at least some components of it?

Looking at all 30 MLB teams this spring, the Cardinals team ERA through yesterday is 6.27 — tied for last in baseball with the Texas Rangers. Cardinals pitchers have given up 105 earned runs (108 runs total) in 150 2/3 spring innings.

Break that down to starters vs. relievers and the picture changes considerably. The ERA for Cards starters is 3.63, which is fourth-best in the National League and ninth-best in MLB. And for the relievers, it’s 7.66 — not surprisingly last, but more than a full run worse than the team directly ahead of them, the Rangers at 6.18, and two runs worse than the NL team ahead of them, the Padres at 5.42.

Since we need a little good news after that, let’s look at those who are excelling — beginning with closer Trevor Rosenthal. Nothing to worry about with him. After being slowed by a strained groin in late February that kept him from appearing in a game until March 8, he’s now pitched five total innings and allowed one earned run on a homer while striking out five and walking three for an ERA of 1.80. No saves, but no save opportunities yet either.

Having nearly identical stats — same number of games, innings, earned run on a homer, ERA and strikeouts — although with two saves in two opportunities is Kevin Siegrist. No worries there.

Randy Choate has pitched 5 2/3 innings over six games and allowed just two hits while striking out six and walking two. Hard to improve on an ERA of 0.00.

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What Could Keep The Cardinals From Winning The NL Central?

It’s a good week ahead, right? Spring training games begin on Friday — just the final step before real baseball games — and the outlook is good for the talented and deep 2014 St. Louis Cardinals.

united-cardinal-bloggers-lgYet yesterday morning, I couldn’t help but feel pessimistic as I thought about what to ask my fellow United Cardinal Bloggers members for our spring training roundtables. Blame it on Monday, blame it on the post I’d just finished at the time, blame it on the rain (for those of you who’ve even heard of Milli Vanilli …)

My question to them: what could keep the Cardinals from winning the NL Central in 2014?

Here are the responses.

Daniel Shoptaw, C70 At The Bat

Your post this morning pointed out the main possibility — Yadier Molina missing a significant portion of the season. Most anything else I think the Cards can survive, but Molina going down would be rough.

Bill Ivie, I-70 Baseball

I’m taking two shots … Health and inexperience …

The Cardinals have depth, but it is young and unproven at a lot of spots. An injury to a key player with little depth behind him could disrupt this team fairly quickly. An injury to a veteran starter and the young arms that have yet to pitch a full season are suddenly going to have to shoulder (pun intended) a lot of the inning load.

The team has the depth in various places to sustain an injury. But young players will have to play up to expectations for the Cards to be able to chug along without a key component. The pitching looks great on paper, but I wonder how hard they will push the young bucks. Time will tell.

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Player Feedback From the Winter Warmup

Now that the hysteria and maniac writing in the room has died down and there are seconds to process thoughts let me provide you with player feedback, pictures, analysis and other information from the first day of the St. Louis Cardinals Winter Warmup.

*Funniest moment of the day.   Yadi Molina coming into the conference room at the end of Adam Wainwright’s media session and raising his hand, “I have a question.” This event is where you can match a face with the player and see them as the regular people they are away from the field.  People have undervalued Molina’s sense of humor for a while. When asked his knee injury lingering into the offseason, Molina admitted some exhaustion.  “Sometimes you go that long into the postseason, your body needs the rest.  Then you are lying around your house, getting bored and you want to go back to the ballpark.”  Molina was excited about Peralta’s addition to the team, admiring his offensive production.  Like many teammates, Yadi was sad to see David Freese go.  “With David, it’s a business and I wish the best of luck to him.  But we will stay friends.”

*Kevin Siegrist spoke about his work his offseason.  “Working on the same stuff, getting stronger, working on my pitches and refining the ones I have.”  Asked about his role this season, Siegrist was blunt.  “For my development, it is better to work on my pitches as if I am going to start.  It’s easier to translate that to the bullpen.” On his role this season, “I am ready for whatever they want me to do.”  In person, the young lefthander is a tall monster and bigger than he appears on television.  They say it adds 10 pounds but they didn’t mention height.


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Our Choices for the 2013 Cardinal Blogger Awards

Every November the United Cardinal Bloggers vote for the best of the season just completed as well as the best of our peers. Here are our ballots for 2013.

20130831-161018.jpgCardinals Team Awards
Position Player of the Year
Chris: Yadier Molina

Yes, Matt Carpenter had an incredible, and unexpected, breakout season and earned a well-deserved fourth place finish in National League MVP voting. But Yadi is Yadi — on offense, on defense, as a leader. He’s intrinsic to the Cardinals success and one of the biggest reasons the 2013 team made it to Game Six of the World Series.

Tara: Matt Carpenter

This might seem hypocritical of me, considering the excessive lobbying I did for Yadier Molina for MVP, but it’s hard to beat the transformation Carpenter made this year. Not only did he learn a new position — and fare exceptionally well in it — but he also took over the leadoff role, carried much of the offensive weight, and went from a “probably not an every day guy” to a fourth place finish in the MVP voting. I’ve always seen something special in Matt, but this year exceeded even my lofty expectations!

Pitcher of the Year
Chris: Adam Wainwright

With a starter plus two eighth-inning-guys-turned-closers, it’s not necessarily an equal comparison to choose among these three options. But, in the end, results speak for themselves. Nineteen wins (regardless of your opinion on them, that’s not a total many pitchers reach in a season), 2.94 ERA, 219 strikeouts with only 35 walks, five complete games, two shutouts and 6.2 WAR speak pretty loudly — as does a complete game in the decisive Game Five of the NLDS after a dominant Game One start.

Tara: Trevor Rosenthal

There was nothing more impressive than how Rosey handled the postseason. His first appearance in the NLDS, I thought he was going to pass out on the mound! But (after that magical talk from Molina), he did more than just settle. He absolutely owned the 9th inning. The confidence, the accuracy, the power … he was phenomenal. It wasn’t just the posteason, though that’s most distinct in my memory. He started the season as a key piece of a bullpen in flux. Not knowing what his role was, or what it might morph into, he steadily improved, and, for the most part, consistently executed. What a year he had!

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