Diamond Diaries

Cardinal baseball, from the girls

Monthly Archives: July 2010

Bye-bye Luddy

At least Ryan Ludwick’s last play as a Cardinal was an important one: scoring the only run of the game early this morning for a 1-0 return-to-first-place victory. And he scored that run after being on base via a pinch-hit double to lead off the 10th inning.

There seems to be much shock over the trade of Luddy to the Padres in a three-way trade that brought Jake Westbrook to the Cardinals. (The Cards get prospect Nick Greenwood from the Padres too.) With just under an hour left until the trade deadline, maybe John Mozeliak still has another move in the works to address the Cardinals seemingly biggest need: a bat to help them score runs. We shall see.

Luddy is definitely a fan favorite – which was especially apparent in the Twitter reaction to this trade – and one of our favorites here as well. We even celebrated Ludwick Appreciation Day back in May. So we are definitely sad to see him go at this point in time, even though we are (reluctantly) happy for the opportunity he now has with the Padres – he has better offensive numbers than any of San Diego’s current outfielders. And, long-term, we knew that perhaps he wasn’t part of the Cards future following this season. But that was to think about during the hot-stove season. I honestly was blindsided that seeing him score that run early today was the end of his Cardinals career.

Matthew Leach has a great summary of Luddy’s career:
Ludwick, 31, has revived his career as a member of the Cardinals since signing with the organization as a Minor League free agent in 2007. He was an All-Star in ’08 and in four seasons with St. Louis has hit .280 with a .349 on-base percentage and a .507 slugging percentage.

In 2010, Ludwick has a .281/.343/.484 line with 11 home runs, 43 RBIs and 44 runs scored in 77 games. He missed nearly a month with a strained left calf, returning last weekend for the Cards’ series against the Cubs.

He would be a third-year arbitration-eligible player this winter, though, which means he will almost certainly receive a significant raise for the 2011 season. Rookie Jon Jay has impressed in his first 48 games, hitting .396 and slugging .604, evidently convincing the club that he is ready for a bigger role in the short term. The deal might also open up some playing time for rookie Allen Craig, who is hitting well at Triple-A Memphis.

In closing, here’s a tweet from our friend Neal Bradley that sums up our thoughts perfectly. “My final say on Ludwick. He played like a Cardinal should. Not perfect, but always 100% effort and 100% class. Good luck Luddy (until Oct).”

Oh, yes, welcome Jake Westbrook! We’ll think about you a little later.

First-Place Deadline Madness

So, the good news is the Cardinals are back in first place by half a game after that 1-0 win over the Padres early this morning. (Yay Brendan! But too bad you couldn’t have done that in time to get Carp a much-deserved victory!)

Yet all that seems to be very long ago right now, as all the talk on MLB Network and Twitter is that the Cardinals are on the verge of acquiring Jake Westbrook from the Indians (who was scheduled to start this afternoon) and that it’s actually a three-way deal that also involves RYAN LUDWICK going to the Padres. What??? How can we trade Luddy???

Stay tuned …

Trade Time Trepidation

This is the first year that I have known enough about the mid season trade period to be interested in the process.  Well, interested may be too mild of a word.  Anxiety-ridden may be closer to the truth. Hearing rumors that one of my favorite players is about to be traded makes me a tad nervous. 
(Brendan Ryan did survive the Roy Oswalt trade circus, so I am breathing easier again.)
Yesterday the trade gates opened and players started shuffling. The Cardinals did not grab pitcher Roy Oswalt even though reports made it seem that Roy would have preferred St. Louis.  No, he ended up in Philadelphia, moving young Phillies pitcher J.A.Happ (and two other minor league prospects) to Houston.  The Astros then turned right around and traded one of those prospects to Toronto in exchange for…. Brett Wallace. 
That trade would have passed by quietly for me except that I recognized Brett Wallace from 2009 when I watched him play as a then-Cardinals prospect with the AAA Memphis Redbirds.  Last year Wallace left the nest in the trade for one of my new favorite Cardinals, Matt Holliday. So, I did not hold a grudge very long.
In the grand scheme of things, this shuffling around of players has actually increased my love of baseball – much to the dismay of my husband.  (He married a gal who could not have cared less about sports and now has a DVR’d program list full of nothing but baseball.)
Thanks to trades and waivers and all the baseball musical chairs,  I have quite a few “step-teams” merely because they have my former Cardinals on the roster.  Rick Ankiel now wears a Kansas City Royals uniform.  Jimmy Edmonds is a Milwaukee Brewer.  Troy Glaus plays for the Braves. The Toronto Blue Jays ended up with our spunky shortstop David Eckstein back in 2008, took our Gold Glove third baseman Scott Rolen in 2009 and then snatched Jarrett Hoffpauir off waivers back in November.  Now Eckstein plays for the San Diego Padres, and Scotty is my only bright side of watching highlights from our current rival, the Cincinnati Reds. 

For those of us without years of baseball history under our belts, all this moving around of players can certainly be shocking and frustrating as we start to love a team. 
However now I am learning it is fun, as a new baseball fan, when I recognize an ‘old’ name from the 2006- 2009 Cardinals.  Mostly it’s the pitchers who have been traded away and pop up in random games or baseball news, names like Marquis, Weaver, Reyes, Piniero, Wellemeyer, Isringhausen, and Flores; but also former players like Adam Kennedy, Cesar Izturis, Julio Lugo, Mark DeRosa, and Ronnie Belliard. 


What this constant shuffling of players has taught me is that baseball is a small world.  The more I watch, the more I learn and the more players and teams I develop a connection to. 
So, IF the unspeakable happens and one of my dear Cardinals (or Memphis ‘BabyBirds’) is suddenly shipped off in exchange for some brand new face in the next 48 hours, I will try to remember I may be losing a Cardinal, but I will also be gaining a new step-team.

Who am I kidding, that won’t help!  ;)


Just Too Confusing For Words

Most of the time I go into writing a post well before that evening’s game, or if not, at least I have a have a general plan as to what I will say. That was not the case last night. I went into the game just kind of crossing my fingers that inspiration would strike and I’d be left with the perfect topic. Well, 13 innings, 15 runs, 29 hits, 42 players and 4 hours and 32 minutes of baseball later, I have to say this:

I’m still confused.
Where do you start in this chaos? What do you say about a team that put up a big inning against an elite pitcher, coughed up a six run lead; had players playing with bumps, bruises and noticeable gimps; and looked like one of the most feeble and one of the most fearless teams… all in one night?
Kathy Willens – AP
The first inning was a heart attack all on its own. After hanging a very serious six spot on Johan Santana of all people, it was amusing that Jaime Garcia knocked in two runs before he had even taken the mound, while Albert Pujols had made both the second and third outs of the inning! How often do you see that? (Hint – you don’t.) The bottom of the inning seemed even more hectic, as Jaime managed to load the bases twice before sneaking out with only two runs allowed. Hey, at least he had already made up for those two before he gave them up, right?
For the next few innings I almost tuned out completely on the game, lost in my thought process on what to write about. Both pitchers settled in and it looked much more like the pitcher’s duel I think many of us were expecting. After all, Garcia and Santana were the two that had started out the game together during that 20 inning marathon back in April that stayed scoreless until well into extras. However, after a first inning like the one we saw last night, thoughts of that game were pushed far from our minds.
Suddenly it was the eighth inning. I’ll be honest – I contemplated making an ice cream run in the top of the eighth, but decided that the game would be over soon and I could go out afterward. I figured, half an hour, tops. ‘Afterward,’ had I still gone out, would not have come about until two and a half hours later. By that point, instead of wanting ice cream, I had contemplated losing my dinner once or twice. But I digress…
Where were we? Ahh yes, the eighth. Mitchell Boggs, who has been really quite good for most of this year, got tagged with four runs. I don’t normally play the armchair manager card, but I was not pleased at Tony spinning the bullpen merry-go-round. So Boggs comes out. Yes, Jason ‘Mayhem’ Motte needed 10 pitches to get his one out, but I’m fairly certain he would have been okay for a few more, whereas Dennys Reyes has struggled, and didn’t do the job last night either, giving up a walk and a single to the only two batters he faced before passing the ball to Kyle McClellan, who finally stopped the bleeding, but the damage was done.
Tie score. Frustration. Who is this team? They confuse me, alternating flashes of brilliance with shocking moments of despair more often than Ed Wade changes his trade demands for Roy Oswalt (Yep, I went there, although it sounds this morning like he might finally be on the move after all). If the pitchers are lights out, then the batters take the week off. If the hitters are scoring runs in bunches, someone is giving them up just as quickly. We saw the team go into a tailspin against the Rockies before the break, then bust out the big bats and electric arms for an 8 game winning streak, then immediately drop the next three, just to make fans start pulling their hair out again.
Extra innings brought their own share of what has made this a very confusing team. There were runners lost on the basepaths, extra opportunities squandered by immediately hitting into a double play or two, and another questionable manager choice. Can anyone explain to me why Tony ran out Randy Winn to pinch hit in the ninth with two on and two out instead of Ryan Ludwick? I don’t care if Luddy is still getting back in the swing of things – if he’s on the roster, he should be good enough to be IN the game. I would rather see Luddy out there 8 days a week over Winn. No joke.
Kathy Willens – AP
Seeing Pujols gimping around in the field after tweaking his calf in the top of the eleventh was a sinking feeling, and seeing Skip Schumaker get plunked in the thirteenth was another one of those feelings. At that point, the bench is empty, save for the other four starting pitchers. Had Skip been seriously injured or Albert been limping too badly to go back out there – who do you put in to play? I personally would have enjoyed Gold Glove winner Adam Wainwright out there, but he was burned in the top of the thirteenth as a pinch hitter. The options would have been Carpenter, Hawksworth and Suppan. I’m laughing just thinking about it!
Thankfully Albert and the Cards pushed a run across in the top of the thirteenth and Ryan Franklin threw a quick 1-2-3 inning to close out the game. I still feel confused, and as much as I want to say ‘A win is a win’ and move on, it’s tough sometimes!
To end this post with a smile, this is what I was thinking about when I was writing about pinch hitting Winn instead of Luddy… would someone pass this along to Tony for me? I feel like he forgot! ;)
Gametime today is… 11:10 AM? Are you kidding me? Those poor tired players… here’s hoping Albert, Skip and everyone else on the team feeling the bumps and bruises of those dog days of summer got some sleep last night. It would be nice to pull out a series win against the pond scum!

Production by the Pound plus Pics!

Well, I guess I do have to say something about the disaster – at least mention the trauma so that we can move on to happier thoughts…

The Cardinals’ 8-2 pounding by the pondscum (Mets) is something we all want to forget, nobody more than pitcher Adam Wainwright.   
You know it’s bad when the postgame show’s ‘Great Play’ of the game is video of a confusing onfield delay during the 2nd inning when Yadier Molina suddenly decided he needed sunglasses behind the plate and everybody from Blake Hawksworth to Brendan Ryan and finally Albert Pujols himself was involved in fetching Yadi his shades.


On the bright side… with 2 hits in the game, Brendan Ryan now has a batting average above .200!   Oh, the simple pleasures…


Changing the subject…..

Today, I have a piece over at i70baseball.com that delves into statistics (I can hardly keep a straight face typing that!) analyzing our Cardinals’ batting based on their body weight.  Who gives the most bang for their hunk?
Find out here!


Now, how about a few pictures, yes?

Ooh, someone finally caught at least a little of Chris Carpenter’s tattoos!
Nam Y. Huh – AP
‘Can’t catch me – I’m the gingerbread man!’
Scott Rovak – US Presswire
‘Being elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame… is like going to heaven before you die.’
Congrats Whitey!
Jim McIsaac – Getty Images
If those aren’t the craziest eyes you’ve ever seen…
Dilip Vishwanat – Getty Images
Brendan says, ‘When are you going to learn? You don’t run on Yadi!’
Dilip Vishwanat – Getty Images

A Search For History

If you’re here looking for Cardinal writing, today there isn’t any here. However, I have a new post up over at Baseball Digest that I would appreciate you checking out. It talks all about Tony making players work for their playing time, and I had some fun writing it! In the meantime, I have a story for you, if you will indulge me for a few minutes…

I received a challenge from a friend when talking about ‘A League of Their Own’ one evening. Every time I watch that movie I remember that I live in the town where one of the teams from the AAGPBL was located, and I wonder where they played and what still exists to showcase the historic area. I made the mistake of mentioning my curiosity to said friend, who challenged me to go out and find it. I couldn’t say no, so I started researching. Unfortunately, what I found has left me frustrated.

The Racine Belles played at Horlick Field, which made me happy since I’d actually been there to watch a high school football game, not knowing that there was a baseball field on the other side of the bleachers I was sitting on. I’ve been searching for baseball in this goofy town for a year and didn’t know I already had found the field! What started to deflate my sails was when I found out that the championship game had not been filmed in Racine, but in Indiana, at a minor league ballpark that hadn’t even been in existence when the AAGPBL was playing. More confusion came when I learned that the championship game was actually played between the Belles and the Kenosha Comets that year, not the Belles and the Rockford Peaches. I don’t know why the movie changed those details, but that’s how it goes.

At this point all of my research had been online, and I had been coming up fairly empty as to what history might still exist that I could go and physically see. I finally decided that if there was something to see, I would find it at Horlick Field, so I made the five minute trek to the field to explore.

If you’re looking at the picture to the left, you are looking at all there is to see. I drove around the entirety of the complex before parking to get out. The whole place was locked up, which wasn’t particularly surprising, but I stuck my head through the gates to see if there was anything on the inside that might actually give clue to the history on this ground. Women in baseball is such an under-appreciated story, I felt like if I just looked hard enough I would surely find something. The Belles played there for over 10 years! How could there just be nothing?
After looking as far as I could through the gates, I gave up. Frustrated, I started walking back towards my car. I had been looking around by the baseball field, which is why I hadn’t noticed the plaque at the entrance of the football field. I almost missed it again, but happened to glance over as I was waiting to cross the street. This little plaque is the only reminder of the tough women who played their hearts out day in and day out on the grass of Horlick.
My search might be over. I’ve been poking around, but nothing has come up. My last play was to get in touch with the Racine Kiwanis Club to see if there is something else hidden away in a museum or something. I sent out an email to every branch in town, but I don’t think I should hold my breath. After being so excited to finally have something baseball-related near me, I could not be more frustrated with how this search has ended.

Finding baseball’s simplicity again

While the Cardinals 8-game winning streak was wonderful, the subsequent 3-game losing streak had me bummed. The team again looked like it had for too much of the season, underachieving and disappointing, and had me wondering just who the 2010 Cards really are. So by last night’s game, I needed a boost in my spirits.

Unlike most Cardinals fans, I started my baseball life as a (sorry, but it’s true) Cubs fan. Friday night, I caught some of a Cubs game from 1987 that Comcast Chicago broadcast as a tribute to Andre Dawson’s Hall of Fame induction. That time period was my prime Cubs fandom, so watching those players – and especially hearing Harry Caray again – was like seeing old friends, bringing back a simpler time when watching baseball was just that: watching for the game itself, unencumbered by the constant presence of my laptop and Internet and Twitter and the other technological advances of the last 23 years. It also got me wondering what it would be like to just watch a game again. My game routine is so different now, as I’m so attached to Twitter throughout the course of a game. Could it be possible to voluntarily avoid it? More importantly, could it help relieve that malaise?

The clincher to my decision came from Andre himself in his Hall of Fame induction speech when he said, “If you love this game, it will love you back.” I needed a way to recapture that 1987 baseball-watching love. But on the night of a Chris Carpenter start – which would mean foregoing an evening of connecting with all my fellow CC fans and missing all our discussions of the extreme close-ups the ESPN cameras surely would provide? Yes. Plus there would be no Jon Miller and Joe Morgan to complain about, since they were in Cooperstown. So, it was time to just enjoy the broadcast on its own.

At first, it felt odd. Instead of a laptop, I had actual paper and pen to record any immediate thoughts such as my displeasure at the Cards bad base running in the top of the first. And, as the bottom of the first was going to start, I regretted my Twitter-less decision for a Carp start even more. (Did you see him?) These were my untweeted thoughts: “Carp, bathed in sunlight – yes! And smiling and laughing before he throws his first pitch – what?? Need to see that again! Shadows of him: very cool. Chris Carpenter should always have a golden glow of evening sun spotlighting him when he pitches.” Of course, thanks to technology, I also could (and did) take advantage of my DVR to rewind those golden high-def ultra-close-ups of Carp. Then there was the bottom of the fifth inning, when he took exception to a pitch that was called ball four by umpire Bob Davidson to walk Geovany Soto. As soon as I saw Carp walk off the mound, I knew things wouldn’t be good. “The madder he is, the more he chomps his gum,” I jotted down as he did just that on screen. And, after Ryan Theriot drove in Soto to tie the game, I wrote: “And, predictably, CC’s emotions got the best of him again.”

Other than those moments, though, I didn’t necessarily miss being disconnected for the game. Too, that could be because of the vast amount of information ESPN supplies. A huge change from watching the 1987 game is, of course, the on-screen graphics. Now we expect to have the score, outs, count and pitch speed constantly displayed. I like that ESPN displays the pitch count also, once it reaches 10 (and I didn’t know until last night they do that). Plus the amount of information and obscure statistics that ESPN has is staggering. The Cards were 38-9 (now 39-9) when scoring first in the game, the best in the majors. Carp leads the National League with 12 strikeouts with a man on third base and less than two outs – just in case you were curious who did. And did you know the Cubs have spent 0 days above .500 this season? In addition, the analysis from Orel Hershiser was enlightening, such as his explanations at various times of Carp’s differing fastballs and types of breaking pitches. He even explained the annoying glove wiggle by Ryan Dempster, and demonstrated it in the booth with a glove. While I find the wiggle annoying, Hershiser’s explanation was good and made sense.

The game was definitely action-filled. Although I briefly appreciated Marlon Byrd two weeks ago for his smart fielding during the All-Star Game, he annoyed me last night for his harsh treatment of Jon Jay in particular. And when he strode to the plate in the bottom of the 10th with the bases-loaded and Ryan Franklin in his second inning of work, all I could do was watch instead of share my fear that Byrd would be the hero right then. Not focusing on a computer screen did let me see the shot of a Cardinals fan kid standing next to a Cubs fan kid, with Cards Fan wiggling his fingers toward the field. Putting another curse on the Cubs? It worked, as Franklin got Byrd on a called third strike. And I loved that smile from Franklin as he walked off the field.

As the ESPN camera showed Kyle McClellan warming up in the top of the 11th, I knew – courtesy of Cards MLB.com writer Matthew Leach on Twitter last Thursday – how poorly McClellan does in tie games. So I was worried anew. Yet Felipe Lopez came through, McClellan and Dennys Reyes got their jobs done, and the Cardinals had a hard-fought, first-place winner.

As the Cards congratulated each other on the field, ESPN’s Dan Shulman described the game as a highly entertaining 11 innings. He was right. Perhaps I wouldn’t have thought so had the outcome gone the other way, but it was – as I’d been hoping – the opportunity I needed to simply enjoy the beauty of a baseball game. And in the end, the game’s outcome honored yesterday’s Hall of Fame inductees perfectly: Andre’s team losing, as they’d done so many times during his Cubs days, and Whitey Herzog’s team winning.

***

Congratulations, of course, to Whitey on his well-deserved Hall of Fame induction also. He too had a wonderful quote, that being inducted “is like going to heaven before you die.” I appreciate Whitey and his success in his Cardinals’ years, even though I was an enemy fan at the time. (And I can’t go back and retroactively change my feelings about either the 1980s Cards or Cubs. I will always love June 23, 1984.) Whitey’s contributions were many, and I did enjoy reading the tweets yesterday afternoon from the long-time Cardinals fans as they were watching Whitey’s speech.

The Simple Proof – Wins and Losses

Yesterday’s game was frustrating. The offense is obviously frustrating, but for some reason I was fixating on the defense, so today you’re getting a little middle infielders by the numbers. Erika and I (along with several other diehards in Cardinal Nation) had a collective heart attack when we heard that Brendan Ryan and Jon Jay were the two names that had been potentially offered to the Astros in return for Roy Oswalt. Now, I don’t think this is actually a true offer, just a rumor, sent out into the world to make fans spaz out and scribes scramble to find out whether or not it is actual fact or fiction. We won’t go into that one any more today…

CardinalsCandids.com

After seeing a couple of botched double plays yesterday afternoon, and hearing one of our middle infielders dropped into trade talks made me wonder what this team has looked like with our various fielders in and out of the games.


I’ll admit – I didn’t go too in-depth on this one. I think you will see that it wasn’t particularly necessary. All I did was look at sheer numbers – did the team win or lose on any given day with any given player playing at various positions. So here it is – Aaron Miles, Tyler Greene, Felipe Lopez, Skip Schumaker and Brendan Ryan by the wins and losses:


With Miles…

  • starting at 2B: 3-4
  • starting at 3B: 0-1

I’ll admit, this is a very small sample size. Fair enough. Moving on.


With Greene…

  • starting at 2B: 2-2
  • starting at SS: 6-7

This is still a small sample size. Let’s keep going.


With Lopez…

  • starting at 2B: 6-5
  • starting at SS: 6-10

The numbers are getting bigger, and they are starting to paint a picture.


For Schumaker and Ryan I looked at it a little differently. They both have started in just the one position (in the middle infield at least), and I was curious as to how they fare with and without each other. Let’s look at Skippy first.


For Skip…

  • starting at 2B: 43-29
  • starting with either Lopez or Greene: 12-13
  • starting with Brendan: 31-16
  • sitting on the bench at the start: 11-14

The number line to catch here: Skip and Brendan in the lineup together has produced a Cardinals team that is 15 games over .500. Yes, I did contact Erika when I found that out. She and I thought the same thing, ‘No way and HECK YES!‘ But we’re just getting started…


For Brendan…

  • starting at SS: 42-20
  • starting with either Lopez, Greene or Miles: 11-8
  • staring with Skip: 31-16
  • sitting on the bench at the start: 12-23

This absolutely blew my mind. Brendan Ryan in the lineup equates to 22 games over .500, and out of the lineup is 11 games under. 

Scott Rovak – US Presswire



I think the answer is simple. Put Brendan and Skip in the lineup and let them play. Just by observation (read: don’t yell at me for the next sentence – it’s my observation), it looks like Brendan and Skip have the easiest camaraderie on the field. I don’t know if it’s because they have played together more than any of the other pairings (although that would make sense) or if they just blend the best. Obviously they have both had their share of errors, miscues and otherwise ugly plays this year. The fact of the matter remains – Brendan and Skip in the lineup together has produced winning baseball.


Wins and losses don’t lie.

Truth and Consequences, Plus Some Fun

RUMOR:
photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images
No Cardinals blog would be complete without at least mentioning the current rumor that the Cardinals are looking to make a deal with the Astros for their star pitcher Roy Oswalt before the July 31st trade deadline. And apparently Mr. Oswalt favors the Cardinals as well? Sounds like a match made in baseball heaven to me… as long the front office can avoid the hurdles of budgetary constraints (with Albert Pujols’ epic contract negotiations looming) and depletion of the farm system. This one sure got the chatter going.  What if???


TRUTH:

Ryan Ludwick, who last played with the Cardinals on June 25th, says he could be back with the club by the weekend.  After spending nearly a month on the disabled list with a strained calf, Luddy has shown he still has what it takes, hitting two homeruns in two games during his rehab stint at AAA Memphis.  

Welcome back Ludwick!!  We would all love to watch you and Hunky Matt Holliday have your own version of a Cardinals HomeRun Derby throughout the coming months.

DILEMMA:
With the return of Ryan Ludwick, the question is which player gets bumped back down to AAA?  Jon Jay has been the darling of the BabyBirds in the big leagues, batting .462 since his July return.  Allen Craig has had 6 rbi and a homerun during his recent 5 games with the Cardinals, batting .286. Tyler Greene will likely stick around as platoon in the infield until David Freese returns to action.  So, my guess is that Allen Craig will be getting his mail in Memphis again.  But then again, we never know…

CHECK OUT THE INK!

Jason LaRue may be rocking the clean cut look lately, but video from Wednesday gave us a sight we rarely see.  The biker boy has tattoos!  I guess I should not have been surprised, but for some reason I was?!  That’s a lot of ink Jason! 


Finally!  POSITIVE BRENDAN NEWS:
Buried at the bottom of a MLB Cardinals news report on July 21st was this tidbit:
Courtesy of the Cardinals media relations, Brendan Ryan leads all middle infielders with eight double plays turned since the All-Star break.”  

Sometimes you just have to focus on the good.
Yay Brendan!!

Today the Cardinals face the cubs at Wrigley Field for another afternoon matchup. Game time 1:20pm CT.  

How about another 8 game winning streak?  
GO CARDS!   =)  

The Streak Climbs Higher and Higher

And so it continues …

By winning number 8 in a row last night, the Cardinals exceeded a 7-game winning streak for the first time since 2006. Now they have the longest streak since another memorable year, 2004. And watching the team play over the last week reminds me a lot of that amazing 2004 team. They’re playing with confidence, they’re playing with energy – even when they’re trailing or tied, you know they’re going to come back and get it done.

Winning is obviously fun. The always quotable Brendan Ryan provided some words of wisdom on winning after Tuesday night’s game. “It can be contagious and it sure seems like it’s gotten contagious. We know in the first half we never played our ‘A’ game. We’d like to find out what our ceiling is.”

That’s the intriguing thing about winning streaks: you never know how long they will last or the ultimate impact they will have. And the end to a particular streak doesn’t necessarily mean the rollercoaster is headed back down. Look at the White Sox. Before the All-Star break, they won 25 of 30 games (including winning streaks of 11 and 8 games each) and propelled themselves from 9 1/2 games back and third place on June 9 to first place by a half-game on July 11. Since the break, the Sox are 3-4 but have built their lead to 2 1/2 games.

In addition to the Cardinals’ ongoing streak, they have won 9 of their last 10 games and, in doing so, beaten three of the “charter members of the Cardinals Killer club” in the process: Bud Norris on July 9, Kyle Kendrick on Monday and now Joe Blanton last night. So things have definitely turned around!
The Cardinals’ eight wins have come in a variety of ways, with a variety of heroes, as Angela detailed in yesterday’s photos of the week. Last night was another strong pitching performance, as Jaime Garcia was outstanding in his 7 innings and allowed only 1 run on 4 hits (with the run coming on a homer to Ryan Howard). Perhaps best of all, Jaime threw only 95 pitches to go those 7 innings. Offensively, Albert gave the Cards a short-lived 1-0 lead when he drove in Wonder Boy Jon Jay (pictured above, and he went 2 for 3 last night with a sacrifice bunt). Hunky Matt Holliday continued his homer tear to put the Cards up 2-1 in the 7th – giving Jaime the well-deserved victory. In the 8th, the Cardinals added three more runs thanks to Everyone’s Nemesis Aaron Miles, Brendan (with help with a Phillies error), Felipe Lopez and Colby Rasmus. Even Ryan Franklin had the opportunity to bat that inning, since he came in to get the final out in the top of the 8th. Not that Franklin actually did anything with the bat, however – like even swing it at all. But he stood there to get the third out before heading back out to pitch his way to save number 18.

Who knows how high up the ceiling is for the Cardinals this season? Thankfully, that’s still to be decided so we can just appreciate the games and enjoy the ride. And we don’t have long to find out how if they can sweep the entire homestand: game four against the Phillies is this afternoon at 1:15 p.m. Central time, with Adam Wainwright going for his second win of the streak.

Photo: UPI/John Boman Jr.
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