Can Shelby Miller Break His Pirates’ Curse?

A quiet St. Louis Cardinals offense, a 3-5 road trip that included losing three of four to the New York Mets (ouch), back to Busch Stadium to begin a six-game home stand with Shelby Miller facing the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Shelby-MillerWelcome home?

Maybe, hopefully, tonight will be the time Miller manages to shut down the Pirates and find success. He’s 0-5 in his career against the Pirates with a 5.93 ERA and has allowed 20 earned runs in 27 1/3 innings along with 9 home runs.

He started against them three weeks ago tonight and pitched 5 1/3 innings while giving up 5 runs on 6 hits (3 of those hits were homers) and walked 3 while only striking out 2.

The bright side — yes, there is one after all that — is the Pirates are struggling lately too. They are 9-14 at the moment and just completed a 2-6 home stand, losing 3 of 4 to both the Brewers and the Reds. (The Brewers still have the best record in MLB, by the way, at 16-6 and have a 4 1/2 game lead in the NL Central over the Cardinals.) Continue reading

And Now For Opponents Other Than The NL Central …

After the season’s first 15 games, the St. Louis Cardinals are 9-6 and in second place in the NL Central. And all 15 games have been against the other four teams in the Central, as the Cardinals finished up their series in Milwaukee by falling to the first-place Brewers 5-1 yesterday.

MLB NL CentralBefore moving on to face the Washington Nationals for four games starting tonight and the New York Mets for four after that, is there anything we can learn from those first of 19 match-ups have with each Central team?

The Cards lost just one of the five series they’ve played, only taking one of the three games in Pittsburgh against the Pirates. Otherwise, they’ve won two of three against everyone else. That’s good to see — and especially good was stopping the nine-game winning streak the Brewers had coming into play on Monday.

The Brewers have to be the surprise of the NL Central so far, even though we’re just in the third week of the season. They have the best record in the majors right now at 11-4 and were the first team to double-digit wins. Their pitching is the best in MLB at the moment, with a team ERA of 2.17, with their starters ERA 2.52 and their bullpen ERA an incredible 1.33. What are the odds, however, that the Brewers pitching will still be so sparkling when the Cards meet them again on April 28?

Looking at the rest of the Central, the Cards overall ERA is 3.51 with the starters at 2.78 (third best in the NL, behind the Braves and Brewers) and bullpen at 5.06. The Reds are slightly better overall with an ERA of 3.50, though their relievers ERA is even worse at 5.18. The overall ERA for their starters is 2.94. In the standings, the Reds are 6-9 and in fourth place. Continue reading

Summing Up Today’s Cardinals Loss In 2 Sentences

Boo - smallI only had the chance to watch the first three innings of today’s game, which meant I had the opportunity to see some great pitching and one hit each by the Cardinals (Matt Carpenter to lead off the game) and the Pirates (Clint Barmes, of all people).

So when I received an email from my friend Michael with the subject “sometimes, this team is maddening” and a message that only said “but what else is new,” I didn’t have much frame of reference. When I emailed back that I didn’t see the game, he replied with this — which is now your game recap.

They lost. Wainwright pitched well, Edinson Volquez pitched better and against a left-hander and the Pirates’ mythical shift Matt Adams couldn’t hit sand if he fell off a camel.

There you go.

Back to St. Louis now, and on to the home opener tomorrow.

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: STLToday.com)

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

Let’s See, Can We Find 3 Positives About That 12-2 Loss?

Well, that was ugly.

question-markNot that the St. Louis Cardinals losing 12-2 can ever be pleasant, yet that just seemed exceedingly terrible as things went on.

Because it wasn’t awful when Matt Carpenter homered to make it 3-2 in the fifth inning and Gerrit Cole looked to be struggling as much as Shelby Miller had, plus Miller then retired the Pirates in order in the fifth.

But then came the sixth. Followed by the seventh. And, unfortunately, the eighth. A bullpen nightmare, from bad to worse.

Which made me remember something I forgot to include in yesterday’s series preview: the Cardinals weren’t very successful at PNC Park last year. I should have remembered that — I was there for the Labor Day weekend series, after all, and sat through two painful losses in person (in which Shelby Miller was the starter on a Friday night for a little deja vu to last night) plus watched all the rest on TV. The Cards only won three games out of 10 in Pittsburgh during the regular season last year, one of two (Michael Wacha!) in the NLDS. But it’s a new year — things should be different. Right?

Ah, well. Just one game …

And there’s plenty that could be said about Russell Martin interfering at third base and the relief pitching and the batting order below Matt Holliday not doing anything and 0-8 with runners in scoring position and Peter Bourjos’ struggles but the reality is that was the fourth game of the year. Too soon to panic. Continue reading

The Cardinals Bird’s Eye View: Pirates Series Preview

pirateslogoAh, the Pirates … ahoy there again, mateys! The Cardinals haven’t seen you in about six months now, not since they ended your storybook season in Game Five of the NLDS.

Here’s a preview of this weekend’s games at PNC Park from the latest issue of The Bird’s Eye View, produced before each series by a member of the United Cardinal Bloggers — and I just happened to write this one.

If you don’t yet receive it, subscribe now here to stay up-to-date throughout the season.

Birds Eye View HeaderSt. Louis Cardinals (2-1) vs. Pittsburgh Pirates (2-1)
April 4-6
PNC Park

After taking the first series of the season in Cincinnati, the St. Louis Cardinals continue their National League Central tour against the team they played the most in 2013: the Pittsburgh Pirates. The two battled 24 times last season and split those games, with the Pirates winning the regular season series 10 games to 9 but the Cards taking the more important postseason series 3 games to 2. These three games are the first of 19 regular season contests between the two in 2014. And, before we’ve quick to say that they won’t meet in October again this year, think back to the beginning of April 2013. Would you have imagined then the Cardinals and Pirates would play in the NLDS?

The Pirates have a little bit different look from last season after A.J. Burnett, Marlon Byrd, Garrett Jones and Justin Morneau departed. Newcomers include Edinson Volquez, who will face the Cards on Sunday, and Travis Ishikawa. They also, of course, have the reigning National League MVP in Andrew McCutchen and Manager of the Year in Clint Hurdle.

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Catching Up With the Cardinals, Current and Former Edition

With spring training games under way (Michael Wacha today — yay!) plus the opportunity to get a look at the newest Cardinals, it also means we have the chance to see those who’ve moved on to other teams.

Yep, it still feels weird.

Freese-angels

Photo: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

I had the chance to see the highlight of David Freese’s first Angels spring at-bat on MLB Network on Friday. Since he was in red, that wasn’t too jarring — but seeing the 6 on his back is definitely different. The result of a ground-out? Well, yeah, we’ve seen that before. Not that spring results matter, especially at-bats in the first game.

Here’s an article on Freeser from the Los Angeles Times and his perspective on leaving his hometown team. And, though the pic above is not from the Times article, he looks a little awkward … although we should probably be thankful the photo is not as awkward as all the Angels photos this year have been.

Skip+Schumaker+Cincinnati+Reds+Photo+Day+h7Koaytz7xJlSpeaking of awkward former Cardinals photos, thanks to Kelly for passing this one of Skip Schumaker along. Well, “thanks” meaning “ugh, yeah, we’ll share the pain of this with you.”

Because, yeah, it is nice to see Skip in red again … sure, but not that red.

And apparently Reds writers feel the same way, saying that Skip spent eight years with the “much-despised Cardinals.” Although isn’t Hal McCoy the one who wrote the article with the infamous and idiotic Brandon Phillips quotes back in 2010? And Phillips and “that” whole thing is referenced in here, as well as in this article from the Reds MLB.com site, as Skip calls him the “best second baseman in the big leagues.”

Ouch.

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Mariano Rivera, Skip Schumaker and Michael Wacha — Oh My!

What do the just-retired greatest closer of all time, a Cardinal-turned-Dodger-now-turned Red and the Cardinals rookie sensation all have in common? Nothing, it would seem — yet posts we wrote about those three were what you read the most at Aaron Miles’ Fastball in 2013.

12-31 collageAfter looking at our picks for the top five stories of the year yesterday, we close out the year today with a look at the most-read posts. And, as you can already see, it’s certainly not a Cardinals only list — although of course they dominate the list. Just not at the top.

No, our No. 1 post of the year (in terms of readership numbers) is one about the man who is used to ending things instead of starting them, Mariano Rivera. Watching the All-Star Game tribute to Mo on July 16 reminded me of the time my Yankees friend Kat and I went to Busch Stadium in 2005 for the Yankees-Cardinals series. We had the opportunity to see something very few people probably even noticed before that Sunday’s game, which I wrote about in The Tale of Mariano Rivera and The Ball Thrown Out of Busch Stadium. It was a fun, entertaining post — and it ended up in Deadspin (which was a surreal moment, and one I had to capture via screenshot). So lots and lots and lots of people ended up reading about what Mo did that day, and it was by far our most read post of the year.

deadspin Continue reading

And Now I’m Over Andrew McCutchen

It was never a secret I adored Andrew McCutchen. A love letter to him a year ago made that very clear (and, not to pat myself on the back, but check out the final paragraph — pretty impressive for something I basically made up to close out the letter and, really, Yadi should have finished second for MVP) as did many, many tweets over the past couple seasons.

Yes, even a photo like this won't persuade me to continue my crush. (Photo: Pittsburgh Magazine)

Really, even a photo like this won’t persuade me to continue my crush. (Photo: Pittsburgh Magazine)

But I’m done. Yep, just like that. (Don’t crushes just tend to flame out anyway?)

And, yes, it has to do with his marriage proposal this week. Not because he did it, not at all. It’s not like I harbored any secret fantasy he really likes women 20 years older than him who live 600 miles from Pittsburgh and are Cardinals fans

Good for him that he’s now engaged, sure. Best wishes and much happiness and all that. But everything else about the proposal just turned me off — that he did it on “Ellen,” and it was the sole reason for him being on the show at all. I mean, what? Why? It just didn’t make any sense.

I realize I am likely the one and only female in the entire universe who feels this way. My reaction is supposed to be like that of every other woman who saw it. I should think it was so romantic and beautiful and perfect, and there were supposed to be tears springing to my eyes as I watched it like there were for all those women who tweeted about it and for my friend Tracy when she watched the video at work. Even male Pirates bloggers were writing that “he also proved he can propose to his girlfriend better than any man ever will. The guy continues to show his superiority over the male species.”

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Wainwright Leaves No Doubt – Cardinals Are NLCS Bound!

Before Adam Wainwright took the mound  to try to carry the Cardinals into their third-straight NLCS, before newbie Matt Adams and Mr. October David Freese blasted their way past those pesky Pirates, before 47,000+ fans made their way through the gates at Busch III to see which team had more magic left, Adam Wainwright thought about his last NLDS Game 5 start. Waino Winner

That game didn’t quite go according to plan. Six runs in 2 1/3 innings? Not exactly vintage Waino. But, the Ace said, that may have been the problem. That night against the Nationals, Wainwright — who has always deeply admired Chris Carpenter — wanted to recreate a magical night from one year earlier: Carpenter’s shutout in Game 5 against the Phillies.

“To be honest, I wanted to replicate his game,” said Wainwright, whom the Nationals roughed up for six runs before the end of the third inning. “That was the wrong kind of thinking. I needed to be me. I needed to be focused and be prepared and be me.” Continue reading