Kelly And Company Escape With Game One Winner

It didn’t look good.

That moment many have feared since Joe Kelly returned to the starting rotation —  the Joe Kelly 1moment the league catches up with his magic tricks — appeared to have arrived. Too many pitches. Too many base runners. Too much adrenaline booming through his usually mellow veins.

That was the first three innings. The good news is, it takes at least nine innings to tell the whole story.

Yes, in the first three innings, Kelly struggled. A single, a hit batter, and a wild pitch in the first; another runner at second base with two outs in the second; and a double, two walks, a botched 1-2-3 double play and a base knock in the third, and the Dodgers — behind Zach Greinke — had a 2-0 lead.

But, we know how this story goes. Where Adam Wainwright is the Ace, Michael Wacha is the Boy Wonder, and Shelby Miller is the Near-Perfect Game guy, Kelly is the Escape Artist. He weaves his way into, and then out of, trouble. He ties himself in knots, bound with the chains of one of baseball’s most potent lineups. And yet, he escapes.

It baffles the minds of the sabermetricians. The numbers don’t always add up. He shouldn’t be this successful. He keeps getting lucky.

… I think he gets lucky a lot. And I have nothing against getting lucky. Continue reading

That’s A Perfect Home Stand Winner!

Now that’s the way for the St. Louis Cardinals to finish the regular season: a 4-0 victory over the Chicago Cubs for a perfect 6-0 home stand, a final record of 97-65 for the best record in the National League, tied with the Boston Red Sox for top record in MLB.

9-30-collageBring on the Pirates or Reds!

Yes, the prize for having that best NL record (in addition to home field advantage throughout the playoffs) will now be a very familiar foe, pending the results of the wild card game at PNC Park on Tuesday night. But we have plenty of time to wonder about that — game one isn’t until Thursday at Busch Stadium.

For now, let’s appreciate what happened today.

And appreciating Jake Westbrook was what the first inning was about, while recognizing Yadier Molina with a standing ovation was what happened right before the first pitch of the game — Tony Cruz actually caught today.

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Hopefully, Cardinals, That Will Be The Only Star Wars Night

What’s that saying — it’s all fun and games until somebody takes a line drive off the elbow?

Westbrook 8-7

Yes, Jake, we felt the same way. (Photo: St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Yeah. That was Star Wars Night at Busch Stadium. Two pitches, a Carl Crawford liner, Shelby Miller out of the game.

Then there were the nine runs allowed by Jake Westbrook (including six during his first inning of relief), four allowed by Keith Butler and four RBI by Skip Schumaker as the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the St. Louis Cardinals 13-4.

But, hey, Rob Johnson pitched! Yes, the Cards backup catcher faced Dodgers relief pitcher Paco Rodriguez — and got a strikeout. (Not even our blog namesake ever got a K in his five career innings pitched.) It was the first time a Cardinal position player took the mound since Mr. Schumaker himself, back on Aug. 23, 2011, coincidentally against the Dodgers (and our namesake had a role in that game as well).

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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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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

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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