Trevor Rosenthal: 10 Saves The Hard Way

Wins are wins, thus wins are always good, but Sunday night’s 6-5 Cardinals win over the Pirates was frustrating.

Sure, there were good points from the offense — taking a 4-0 lead in the top of the first inning, Yadier Molina looking more like himself again at the plate with two hits and an RBI, the Cards scoring two more runs when really needed in the eighth (one courtesy of a Peter Bourjos RBI single in his first at-bat) — and, given the struggles with that part of the game this season, those were great to see.

TrevorRBut the pitching was a different story — just good enough, obviously, even Shelby Miller against the Pirates, and maybe I’m supposed to be content with that, get my sparkly pompoms ready for the homestand and move on. But I’m concerned about Trevor Rosenthal.

Yes, he’s 10 for 10 in save opportunities. Impossible to have a better success rate than that.

But earning those saves has rarely been easy, especially lately. The last time he faced just three batters in earning a save was on April 25 in a 1-0 victory against this same Pittsburgh team, the day Shelby Miller vanquished his demons and finally beat the Pirates — four appearances ago.

In two of Rosenthal’s three saves since then, obviously including last night, he’s allowed a run — meaning thankfully there was a two-run cushion in which he could work. A week ago today in Atlanta, as the Cardinals had a 4-3 lead, there was no cushion when he allowed a lead-off single and walk before getting Justin Upton on strikes for the final out.

Last night it certainly seemed like his allow-guys-to-get-on-base-but-still-get-the-job-done-despite-all-the-panic-that-ensues strategy was finally going to blow. Continue reading

3 Bright Spots From A Disappointing Cardinals Loss

What a frustrating game. After battling back to take the lead twice — which, given the team’s offensive challenges for much of the season, was impressive — the Cardinals lost to the Pirates 6-4.

Bourjos catch

Photo: Pittsburgh Trib Live

Ugh.

Just when the offense had shown some spark, Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez have off nights. Guess that’s why the Cardinals are back at .500 again with an 18-18 record.

Despite the loss. there were three bright spots in the game — two on offense, one on defense.

1. Peter Bourjos’ awkward but great catch

It wasn’t very pretty (or should I say gorgeous?) but Peter Bourjos lost the ball hit by Starling Marte in the lights, found it, jumped against the wall and managed to make a great catch. Seeing is better than reading the description, for sure — and that picture sure gives you the idea how awkward it looked. But it got the job done. Honorable mention for a bright spot goes to Pete’s triple in the ever-increasing downpour following moment No. 2 below. (Whoever decides what videos to post on MLB’s highlights is obviously not female nor a fan of watching really speedy baserunners — that was a play worth seeing again.)

2. Allen Craig’s three-run homer

Maybe it just took the rain to get Allen Craig going. He came to the plate in the top of the fourth with Jhonny Peralta and Matt Holliday on base — each had singled — and connected for a home run into the Cardinals bullpen. It gave the Cards a 3-2 lead … which only lasted until the bottom of the fifth, but let’s focus on a positive. Craig also singled in the eighth. Continue reading

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

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

Cardinals Haiku Wednesday: Cards Win Behind Lynn

The St. Louis Cardinals are undefeated at Busch Stadium this season!

This expression looks unfortunately familiar. (Photo: St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

This expression looks unfortunately familiar. (Photo: St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Just wanted to emphasize that before also mentioning Lance Lynn is 2-0. Yep, the man who’s now allowed 8 earned runs and 16 hits in 11 innings is right there among the league leaders in wins. (And, yes, many think wins are a dumb and ineffective stat. But it still exists.)

Happily, there was plenty of offense behind Lynn as well — that’s a better thing to consider — and the 13 hits and 7 runs are what led the Cardinals to a 7-5 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.

Since a work obligation kept me from watching the game, Michael wrote this first stanza to describe last night’s game. In catching the game’s highlights, I felt compelled to add on …

Lynn is what he is.
But the offense is what it
Is, bailing him out.

About that offense:
Gorgeous Bourjos 3 for 4.
He likes his new home. 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

5 Cardinals I’m Most Looking Forward To Watching In 2014

Opening Day is almost here … though sadly (and not surprisingly), Ozzie Smith and Budweiser’s push to make it a holiday was denied. As a result, I had to take a vacation day for tomorrow to stay home and scout out the Cubs-Pirates and other early games before the Cardinals and Reds begin at 3 p.m.

It’s a relief to finally have the regular season arrive. All the countdowns and all the spring training games are finally over and it’s real baseball for the next six (and hopefully seven) months. And there are five 2014 St. Louis Cardinals I’m looking forward to watching a little bit more once game time arrives tomorrow (or, in the case of a couple, when they take the pitcher’s mound).

Here they are.

1. Michael Wacha

MLB: St Louis Cardinals-Photo DayNo surprise, right? Who isn’t looking forward to seeing Wacha (Wacha Wacha) pitch again when it counts, especially after how he did this spring when it didn’t matter at all?

Perhaps those spring numbers are encouraging too, despite the fact they don’t mean anything. He just went out and continued to do what he did last September and October. Expectations are obviously high for him based on those performances, both from around the rest of MLB and even the Cardinals — the kid is starting the home opener after all.

It will be fun to watch him out there again starting Wednesday night. Continue reading

8 Reasons To Like The Adorably Gorgeous Peter Bourjos

There are now eight days until the St. Louis Cardinals face the Cincinnati Reds on Opening Day. Since Friday, when the countdown was 10 days, I’ve been posting a photo on the AMF Facebook page with the corresponding Cardinal who wore that number.

So this morning I was searching for a picture of the Cardinals new No. 8, who obviously is Peter Bourjos. And while I have yet to find a photo of Pete that actually shows his uniform number, I have discovered some nice photos. Uh … very nice.

Perhaps you will agree with me, once you take a good look at these. (Yes, you might need to study them carefully.) Here are eight photos of No. 8 — all in honor of Opening Day being a week from tomorrow.

MLB: St Louis Cardinals-Workout

Bourjos2

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Cardinals Haiku Wednesday: On Spring Games and Kolten Wong

There’s no prize for having the best record in spring training, no Grapefruit League or Cactus League championships. But, even with games that really aren’t important once March 31 arrives, it’s painful to look at the standings and see the St. Louis Cardinals at the bottom with only two wins to go with seven losses (and, though not listed, two ties).

MathenyEven with the small number of innings to skew things, looking at the pitching stats thus far is not terribly pleasant either. The hitting stats are a little better … until you really start looking at some of those toward the bottom.

Patience, right? It’s only March 12. Things will improve, because these are the Cardinals. They are talented. They have depth. They are the reigning National League champions. They’re good enough, they’re smart enough and, doggone it, people like them!

We like them!

Even when we get frustrated by them … which we sometimes do these days. Right?

But things can — and will — change. A week ago, we were all worried about Kolten Wong. Now look at him. Not that he’s at the top of those stats, and that’s OK. He’s improving. He’s relaxing. He’s doing back flips and being featured everywhere, with this story in the New York Times especially good. As is this one by Derrick Goold. Plus you can see his homer from yesterday in this story by Jenifer Langosch (which is not to say her story isn’t good, because it is as well).

With all of that, plenty of poetic fodder …

Continue reading

Cardinals Haiku Wednesday: Holiday, Holliday And Photo Day

Ah, Opening Day. Just hearing those magical words brightens your spirit, right? Only 33 more days until Cardinals baseball officially begins for 2014, and only 40 days until the real Opening Day, the Cards home opener.

0331-us-sports-openingday_full_600A friend has joked for years that Opening Day should be a holiday, which I absolutely agree with — especially since I usually take the day off anyway (actually, days, since the Cards seems to open on the road far too often in recent years). And now Ozzie Smith and Budweiser are leading a charge to officially make it so.

Just read the description for the petition to the White House and tell me this doesn’t get you even more excited for baseball after this long, dreadful winter:

MLB Opening Day is more than just the beginning of the season. It’s a symbol of rebirth. The coming of spring. The return of America’s national pastime. It’s a state of mind where anything is possible. You can feel the electricity in the air. Opening Day brings with it the promise of a new beginning. Every fan is in good spirits. It’s a day of celebration. It’s a day of hope. It’s a day that, for generations, has been looked forward to by baseball fans every off-season. It’s an American tradition, and it deserves to be recognized as an American holiday. Join us in our quest to make sure every American can exercise their inalienable right to celebrate the day those two magical words are uttered for the first time: “PLAY BALL!”

Poetry on its own, right? You can sign the petition here, as 100,000 signatures are needed for it to move forward and I was No. 20,996. (Never mind the logistics of what Opening Day would be the holiday, with games in Australia this year and on Sunday Night Baseball. It will all work out.)

Yet, with today being Wednesday, more poetry is needed …

Despite confusion
Of when Opening Day is
Baseball is our right.

Those magical words
“Play ball!” make all good once again.
A holiday? Yes!

Continue reading