Diamond Diaries

Cardinal baseball, from the girls

Tag Archives: Chris Carpenter

The Boys Are Back! Almost.

Little league practice schedules and reports from Jupiter’s Spring Training games: signs that the world is finally waking up from a long winter, and baseball’s back! …..almost.

Spring Training whets the appetite and refreshes the senses.  Lineups, pitching reports, actual games on green grass with familiar faces (and some unfamiliar mugs) donning the birds on the bat… it’s all so surreal, especially with the backdrop of Florida palm trees.

While that’s all very well and tropically good (and I’m still crossing my fingers for the possibility of a quick pilgrimage to Florida), I find myself longing for the real deal:  the true start of the 2012 season.   The 2011 World Series Champions have a lot to prove.  New manager and No Albert Pujols may top the list, but whether ESPN is interested or not, Cardinal Nation has a lot of curiosities about how this team will perform.

My Top 10 Highlights/Curiosities for the upcoming 2012 season:

10. Pregame interviews on Fox Sports Midwest:  this is where the players get a chance to prove they have personality.  Sink or swim, boys!

9. Who’s on 2nd?  Descalso? Greene? Schumaker??  The anticipation’s killing me.  Wishlist:  quick glove, soft hands, excellent range, add in a little offense… Honestly, I’m just glad it isn’t Theriot.

8. Eduardo Sanchez’ filthy slider.  I fell in love with that pitch only to have it ripped away too early in the season last year.  Please, oh please, let’s have a healthy Sanchez and many, many gorgeous dirty pitches out of the bullpen this year.

7.  Mike Matheny management style.  What attitude will this team have under Matheny’s reins? Will it be more youthful? Will the playbook be more predictable? One thing’s for certain, getting my non-baseball girlfriends to watch a game will be easier with Matheny front and center in dugout shots.  (Cute manager?  Heckya!)

6. Jason Motte, “The Closer”.  Bearded, fidgety, always throwing himself off the mound with the force of that fastball.  He makes me smile.  Bring on the crazy-Motte!  I miss watching him yell at his glove.

5. Lovable Lance at 1st – those are mighty big shoes to fill!  Can Berkman be more than “adequate”?  For his sake (and ours), I hope we never hear “Albert would’ve…” or “if Albert had been there…”  Honestly, Berkman surpassed any and all expectations last year, so here’s hoping he can make us forget all about you-know-who.

4. Chris Carpenter attitude.  Yes, he scares me.  Yes, he has a mouth on him.  But man, oh man, a game with Carp on the mound is like a baseball drug.  He’s our bad boy, intense. fierce.  And afterwards, please throw in a good dose of that sexy, deep, gurgly Carp-voice in post game interviews?  Thank you.

3. Adam Wainwright back on the bump.  Remind me again…How did we ever win the World Series without Wainwright??   Soooo glad he’s back.  Soooo thrilled he’s healthy.  The question now is can we expect him to pick up where he left off??  Pencil him into those pregame TV interviews ASAP.  And also into those dugout shots.  Ok?  Ok. Good!  ;)

2. David Freese smiles.  Is there anything lovelier?  Especially those ginormous joyful grins of a walk-off win.  Such a humble, talented, gorgeous MVP… and he tweets?!!  (love!) Stay healthy, Dave, stay healthy!

…and for my #1 pick, I gotta say that I am most looking forward to seeing the return of my favorite familiar baseball sight: Matt Holliday digging in at the plate, Matt Holliday leg kicks, Matt Holliday launching ‘em into the stands, Matt Holliday digging for home,  Matt Holliday… well, you get the point.

The boys are back!  Almost.  =)

Euphoria

World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals.

Roll that around for a bit in your mind. See how it feels on the tip of your tongue.

Who-da-thunk.

I haven’t been around lately. Since the last time you saw me here, I have moved across state lines, started a new job, coached my way through a volleyball season, and lived and died with the Cards. I cheered for them, I cried for them, I laughed with them. I just wasn’t here.

That’s okay, the Cardinals almost weren’t here either.

I live in Missouri now. My coworkers and I daily chatter about baseball. I’ve watched games with family and friends that I haven’t been able to watch games with in years. For the first time since the 2004 World Series, I watched a playoff game while living in the state of Missouri (Okay, I was at game 3 of the 2009 NLDS. That shouldn’t count. It was pathetic).

I almost quit this team. I actually had a thought one day about what I would do with all my free time in October. That day was in August. I couldn’t fathom what else could happen to this team – random injuries, snatching losses from the jaws of victory, drama with the manager and a team that I felt was listless.

I couldn’t quit this team. Most of you couldn’t either. Suddenly I felt a shift. Games started falling the other way. Call it regression to the mean or getting breaks to fall your way or whatever you want to call it, this team looked different. They almost had… wait for it… swagger. Not in the Phillies’ pitching staff of doooooooom. Not in the Brewers’ “Beast Mode.” Not in the Rangers antler clash. The just had this childlike, sneaking a cookie from the cookie jar determination that they were just going to do this. It was going to happen.

They did it. Allen Craig randomly appeared here and there to hit home runs like they were no big deal. David Freese found a way to have every big hit. Chris Carpenter pitched with a bulldog mentality on short rest. Jason Motte closed the door. Tony LaRussa smiled.

Cardinal fans rejoiced. I sit here, a full 14 hours since the game ended, still feeling speechless as to how to describe this game.

But these pictures say it better than I ever could. Enjoy it Cardinal fans – especially those of you that couldn’t quit.

Game 6 Winner

Game 7 Winner

Daydream Believer

Pinch me.

It’s the postseason and my St. Louis Cardinals have conquered the unconquerable, done the unthinkable.

This team, who was 10 ½ games out of first place in the NL Central during the last week in August put on the turbo-boosters and raced into October, beating the odds-favorite pitching monsters of the Philadelphia Phillies in the National League Division Series and then moving on to snuff the mighty Brewers in the National League Championship Series.

Pinch me.

This is the team who lost their “Ace” Adam Wainwright to Tommy John surgery during Spring Training, whose veteran closer fought a prolonged and painful struggle to “get it right” through a good part of the season before finally hanging up his cleats, whose bullpen woes and injury bugs peaked early and haunted faithful fans.  This is the team who failed to reach a contract extension agreement with their legendary (pending free agent) first baseman before the start of the season, leaving a cloud of doubt over the future of the club. This is the team whose manager battled SHINGLES for what seemed like an eternity.  This was the team nobody expected to be here.

And yet, here we are.

The Cardinals are heading back to the World Series, five years after another of their unexpected (and victorious) runs through the postseason.

The Texas Rangers are the bulldogs waiting for us in the final showdown.  The Cardinals are (again) the underdogs, facing a powerhouse lineup that should strike fear in the hearts of any opposing pitching staff.

Except this team is the 2011 Cardinals, something unexpected, something… special.  This is the team with the power trio of Albert Pujols, Lance Berkman, and Matt Holliday.  This is the team with Golden (glove) Boy, Yadier Molina anchoring the battery.  This is the team of David Freese, whose superhero powers apparently magnify in the postseason.  This is the team of churlish veteran Ace Chris Carpenter, the wise-beyond-his-years lefty, Jaime Garcia, and the resurgence of Kyle Lohse. This is the team with an MVP bullpen (Fernando Salas, Jason Motte, Mitchell Boggs, Lance Lynn…), a work in progress throughout the entire season, rich in talent and tuned to perfection under the mad genius of Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan.

This team exemplifies the saying:  The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  The midseason trade for shortstop Rafael Furcal added a potent combo of game-changing glove and switch-hitting hot bat.  The Colby Rasmus trade, initially flunking all seemingly rational baseball criteria, now shines with the luster of La Russa brilliance (isn’t hindsight incredible?) as pitchers Edwin Jackson, Octavio Dotel and Marc Rzepczynski have all contributed handily to the magic of these rally Cardinals with Jon Jay in centerfield, making Rasmus’ absence (dare I say?) forgettable.

As I sit here composing this ode to what looks more and more like a team of destiny, I am finding it difficult to know where to stop.  So many players up and down the bench, the bullpen and the rotation have contributed to get this hot surging team to the magical summit: Allen “Do It For Torty” Craig, Nick Punto, Adron Chambers, Skip Schumaker, Daniel Descalso, Ryan Theriot… the list goes on and on.  When you stop to think, it is beyond belief:  the timely talent really does run that deep, this team has surpassed every expectation.  But don’t tell them that.  They have momentum and their eyes on the ultimate prize.  They are aiming for the top.

This is not a team of superstars, this is a TEAM.  The light-hearted frivolities: Puma suits, rookie hazing costumes, the “shredder”, tortoises, rally squirrels, “Happy Flights” and sprinkles have combined with an underlying burst of what can only be described as a perfect storm of “Do It or Go Home” mentality.

Game 1 of the World Series starts tomorrow…. and it starts at Busch Stadium.

Pinch me.

Go Cards!  ;)

An Interesting Game

There are many beautiful things about the game of baseball. The smell of the grass. The pop of the glove. The crack of the bat. Many people have written many words about its beauty. Announcers talk about all the things that make the game great. They have to use a variety of words and probably constantly find themselves looking for new ways to describe a 6-4-3 or a routine fly ball. I think of Bob Uecker’s character Harry Doyle in Major League 2 when it comes to summing up baseball on some days…

"It's a funny game, eh Monty?"

A lot of words are flying around about last night’s game with the Marlins. I could pick out a few right now – awkward, rollercoaster-esque (okay, I made that one up), ugly, confusing – but there was one word last night that is just stuck in my mind.

Interesting. It was an interesting game.

I won’t rehash all of the issues with the Cardinals defense this year. Emily did that quite nicely yesterday. 28 errors in 31 games. I’ve seen better lines on slow pitch softball church league teams… with me in the lineup (all bat, no arm). It’s just… bad.

Yadi’s throws were scaring me last night. All the errors are terrible. No error is a good error (unless it is made by the opposition… or the Cubs), but seeing Yadi throw the ball away twice in a game just hit a nerve with me. I was good with Berkman being a less than average defender (and he hasn’t embarrassed himself totally out there). I’ve been able to make peace with second base being sub-par (although I think Dirty Danny D, with consistent playing time, could change that). I’ve forced myself to deal with Theriot at short (but that doesn’t mean I like it).

But Yadi throwing balls into the outfield? I can’t handle it. It makes me sick. I take his defense for granted, and dangit, I can’t say that about many players. I need it for someone, and I thought it was him.

More interesting, although rather unsurprising, was Carpenter’s start. I’m not going to say that Carpenter is pitching poorly this year, because he’s obviously not. Last night he threw roughly 110 pitches and 67 strikes over six innings. A roughly 60% strike rate? Not great. Fell behind in the count, walked some guys. He also fussed at a couple of Marlins after Hanley Ramirez made an interesting slide after he was already out at home, the ump called a close play at first against Carp, and when Ramirez reacted after grounding out and Carp got on him about that. Geeze. I honestly just don’t like seeing his hot-headedness come out like that. Nothing good comes of it. Some players become more effective when angry – the anger propels them to perform at their peak. When Carp gets hot-headed he doesn’t really get good results.

People compare Carp’s intensity to Bob Gibson. I hate that comparison, and that’s not a knock to Carpenter so much as it is a rather severe nod to the excellence of Gibson. Dude tried to pitch on a broken leg. He was accused of being surly, crass, and borderline rude. The words I would use to describe Carp (besides intense, obviously)? Fierce is fair, but after that… crabby. No really. When he does things like that, it seems like a hissy fit from an old man yelling at you to get off his lawn to me. I have no idea where that image of Carp came from, but it’s all I see.

This game exhausted me. Thankfully it never felt out of reach. This is a team that has the ability to come back, and they honestly almost did at the end, despite it all. It was just… interesting. I caught this tweet last night, and all I could do was agree…

Early start today – 12:45PM Central. Westbrook is on the hill to hopefully continue to forget his first few starts of the year and continue with the momentum he’s built in his last two outings. Go Cards! :)

Note: Coming up this Saturday is the UCB Progressive Game Blog. It looks like we have drawn the seventh inning, which could mean either we spend our time talking about how great the starting pitching is, how Tony is using the bullpen, hoping the team holds on or cheering for a comeback. Either way, it should definitely be exciting! Head on over to the UCB website to see the entire roster of blogs for the event!

Signs of Life

Nine games in the early 2011 season have left our Cardinals floundering.  Some fans have already thrown in the towel in disgust, heading off in search of less painful entertainment options.  But yesterday, others who donned their “true fan” label as a badge of courage were rewarded to what we can only hope will be more typical (winning) Cardinal baseball.

The record is not pretty at 3 wins and 6 losses, but the Cards have had some strikes against them.  The most obvious has been lack of run support coupled with costly fielding errors.  Leading the league in double plays (not the defensive kind) hasn’t helped much either.  And then there’s Albert…. With a string of unAlbertlike games and a batting average of  .143,  is it any wonder that Cardinal fans are wondering if we all fell down the rabbit hole?
There are, however, signs of life.  Slugger Matt Holliday returned yesterday, 9 days after his emergency appendectomy, showing he was back and ready for action.  David Freese belted his first homerun and collected his first 3 rbi of the season, helping the Cardinals score their inaugural “6 serious runs.”  Kyle Lohse, showing strength and command, went 8 full innings with no walks, 5 strikeouts and only 5 hits.  He threw 96 pitches, 65 for strikes.  Couple that with previous stellar early outings by Jaime Garcia and Chris Carpenter (whose records are unfortunately tarnished by lack of run support) and a strong showing from Kyle McClellan – and we have reason to hope this is just an unlucky/slow start.
Two of my favorite bloggers have taken the high road from all the grumblings and cussing about the comedy of errors we have witnessed lately from our hobbling redbirds.  If you need to be nudged away from the ledge, I highly recommend stopping by their sites for a positive reality check.

Bob at On the Outside Corner posts “There Must Be A Pony In There Somewhere”

And Mark at Retrosimba reminds us of the many, many years that our “Cards Turned Bad Starts Into Great Seasons.”

Sure, one good game does not a rally make.  But the Cardinals are not dead and buried.  So chin up, Cardinal Nation.  There are signs of life!  ;)

The boys continue their western road trip tonight against the Diamondbacks with Kyle McClellan on the mound at 8:40 CT.  You never know what baseball magic you may see.  So tune in with us and watch the rally continue!

Go Cards!!

Basebrawl: Boys Being Boys

Wow.  First, I cannot believe how long it has been since I’ve blogged here.  My last post was in July?!  A lot has happened – including our week-long blog hiatus while we Diamond Diaries gals met up in St. Louis to watch our boys plays some ball.  Fun trip.  Absolutely amazing!  I finally met Angela and Chris in person -plus a few other great Cardinals fans we knew from our Twitter baseball watch parties.  The trip was wonderful even if the Cardinals gave up two games to the Astros and the devastating news broke that our hop-a-long hotcorner David Freese would have season-ending surgery to rebuild his ankle.   But enough about that….

Yesterday we learned the penalties imposed on the players and managers for their actions during the mayhem that erupted during the 1st inning of Tuesday night’s game between the Cardinals and the Reds. (Chris disected the basebrawl details in yesterday’s Diamond Diaries post. and Viva El Birdos has broken the entire fight down into an amazing must-see video and picture sequence here.)



MLB’s disciplinary actions targeted 5 players and both team managers:

Johnny Cueto, Reds pitcher – 7 game suspension plus fines
Managers Tony LaRussa and Dusty Baker – 2 game suspensions each
Cincinnati players Russ Springer and Brandon Phillips – fines
Cardinal players Chris Carpenter and Yadier Molina – fines

With one glaring exception, I found the penalties acceptable.  MLB made a point with the managers, and 4 of the 5 players did not deserve anything worse. Johnny Cueto was the only player in the melee who went berserk – violently kicking Chris Carpenter in the back and Jason LaRue in the head and ribs with his spikes, leaving Jason with a mild concussion and stitches in his lip.  Cueto’s actions were reprehensible and thankfully LaRue was not more seriously injured.  In my opinion, this was where MLB dropped the ball.  Cueto’s repeated thrashing of his spikes at the heads and bodies of players posed such risk to every player in that mobbed backstop that I believe he should be jailed for assault.

Baseball fights are definitely their own creature, much as baseball has its own personality.  The fact that baseball’s unwritten rules extend to benches-clearing, emotion-driven pushing-and-shoving matches leaves me smiling at this sport I have fallen in love with.
Sure, these grown men got all riled up and acted like a bunch of gorillas, but (with the exception of Johnny Cueto) they were civilized gorillas. 
Not a fan of fights, I do not enjoy hockey. Ultimate Fighting makes me sick and boxing horrifies me.  But Tuesday’s brawl between the Cardinals and the Reds was different – mostly because baseball fights, while full of bravado, are rarely violent, but also because I understood and appreciated the underlying emotions behind the furor.  Reds 2nd baseman Brandon Phillips rudely and intentionally insulted the entire core of the Cardinal organization and catcher Yadier Molina took exception to Phillips’ attempt to gloss over his comments. 
Don’t run on Yadi and don’t insult his baseball family. 
Sure, Molina could have let it go.  He could have just ignored Phillips and excused him as the publicity-seeking big mouth that he is.  Instead, Yadi took a stand, and with that confrontation (punctuated by a heroic retaliatory homerun in the next inning) Yadi ignited what will in all likelihood be the turning point for the 2010 Cardinals.
These Cardinals have been hungering for a unifying moment to ignite the type of fire that drives a talented team forward, and this sweep of the Reds – in the midst of the Phillips’ comment controversy- did just that.

The Cardinals won much more than a sweep in this past series against the Reds.  Their bond as a team is now iron-clad.  Conversely, the Reds lost more than just these 3 games and 1st place in the NL Central.  Cincinnati may now be playing as a team divided.  With proud former Cardinals Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds in Reds’ uniforms, Brandon Phillips’ comments make him an unpopular teammate, and Johnny Cueto’s conduct was a disgrace.   

Could we have just witnessed the downfall of the 2010 Reds? Time will tell. But the Reds will only have themselves to blame for sinking that ship.
Today the Cardinals take on long-time rival Chicago Cubs with the Cubs seeming much more like that pesky neighbor kid that wastes your time than a bitter adversary. Tony LaRussa serves his two-game suspension at the start of this Cardinals-Cubs series, and our Cardinals have some well-earned momentum. 
So, Let’s Play Ball!    …  and play nice.  =)



And if you happen to be looking for more baseball reading, I wrote a story for i70baseball earlier this week about Surviving August Baseball.  You can check it out here.

Two Nights and An Afternoon in August

Talk about making a statement.

In sweeping the Reds, the Cardinals provided the heroics and dominated the villainous antics of the Reds to take a one-game lead in the NL Central. The series featured a familiar cast for anyone who’s read Buzz Bissinger’s classic “Three Nights in August”: Tony La Russa, Dusty Baker, Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds. Yet the drama and intrigue provided during these two nights and an afternoon went far beyond anything that happened during that pivotal August 2003 Cubs-Cardinals series.

Of course the main antagonist is well known by now: Brandon Phillips. The desperate-for-attention statements he made Monday provided him with the media attention he apparently craved, but also united the Cardinals as a team in a way we haven’t seen all season. Yes, the Cards have played with spark and energy at times – such as in April and during July’s eight-game winning streak – but these three games were different and more intense, particularly when they discovered what Phillips had said about them.

Yet even before the Cards knew how they’d been disparaged, they were on a mission during Monday night’s game when the combination of scoring seven runs in the fourth inning and Chris Carpenter’s pitching brought them victory.

Tuesday night, Yadier Molina played like a true Cardinal: standing up to Phillips’ shallow attempt to play nice after his words were blasted everywhere, and then hitting his most memorable home run since game seven of the 2006 NLCS. (The fact that Reds fans booed him the rest of the series, just like Mets fans still boo him today, proves how monumental the homer really was.) Jaime Garcia was able to rise above the literal fray that happened as he was ready to pitch and provided a solid performance that led the Cardinals into a tie for first place.

Yesterday the Cardinals completed their statement to the Reds and moved to a season-high 15 games over .500, thanks especially to birthday boy Colby Rasmus and Adam Wainwright. Waino further enhanced his Cy Young qualifications, moving into a tie with Ubaldo Jimenez for the league lead in wins with 17 and lowering his ERA to 1.99 (just above current leader Josh Johnson’s 1.97). His numbers for this month are astounding: three wins, one earned run allowed in 23 innings pitched for a minuscule ERA of 0.39, one complete game shutout (and he was certainly on track for another yesterday until the rain came). And those are only through Aug. 11!

His numbers weren’t the only impressive ones of the sweep. Matt Holliday hit .636 (7 for 11) during the three games and had four RBI. Including his Monday grand slam, Skip Schumaker hit .455 and had five RBI. Colby drove in six runs during the series. Yadi hit .417 for the three games, plus had a stolen base on Tuesday in addition to his homer. Jon Jay hit .385. Albert only hit .274, but his four walks definitely had an impact (particularly the intentional ones). Pitching-wise, the bullpen bounced back from last week’s struggles and turned in admirable performances. Fernando Salas especially deserves mention for his 1.2 innings pitched Tuesday night.

It was, by far, the series of the season.

Now, after a 4-1 road trip, the Cardinals return home and enjoy a day off today. Fittingly, after such an impressive sweep, they take on the Cubs this weekend for one night and two afternoons in August. (How can this really be the Cubs first time in St. Louis this season?) With Chicago currently in fifth place, the action won’t necessarily be as important as that August 2003 series – but it is still the Cubs vs. Cardinals, after all. And that always means something.

Now for a few chick comments …

Thanks to Twitter, Erika and I discovered we are not alone in our fascination with the now clean-cut Jason LaRue. His pre-game interview on Fox Sports Midwest to discuss his battle wounds from Johnny Cueto’s unbelievable form of fighting drew plenty of complimentary tweets yesterday morning. (There’s something rugged about seeing those stitches on his lip too, right? In addition to that scruff …) Hopefully Jason will be healed up very soon and, more importantly, hopefully Cueto gets the punishment from MLB that he definitely deserves. If you didn’t have the chance to see Jason’s interview, it’s available here.

In addition, the dugout shots of Jason and his fellow wounded warrior Chris Carpenter sitting side by side Tuesday night were great. When Dan McLaughlin mentioned that the two had just been shown on the kiss-cam at Great American Ballpark and Carp obliged by kissing his pal on the cheek, my immediate reaction on Twitter was where’s the footage of that? My sentiments were not unique, I was happy to find out, although we unfortunately never did see video or a photo of the moment. And I wonder how the camera operator in Cincinnati felt following the kiss? My guess is that person purposely chose Carp in hopes of getting some negative reaction from our fiery ace. So way to go, Chris, for smooching your buddy and showing your softer side to the Reds crowd. Your intensity not surprisingly returned when you were discussing the fight following the game (you can see his reaction on the Fox Midwest link also), and we once again saw the literal and figurative hot Carp who we love.

Photos: top, Gary Landers, Cincinnati Enquirer; bottom, New York Post

One Step Closer, and Looking at Wainwright’s Cy Chances

Quite the game last night, wasn’t it? Wow.

First, and most importantly, the Cardinals beat the Reds 7-3 thanks to their most productive inning all season: six straight hits (including an infield single from Yadi!) in the fourth that was capped by the first-ever grand slam from Skip Schumaker to give them six serious runs before there was even an out. During his second at-bat of the inning, Albert singled again to drive in the seventh run. And, with Chris Carpenter pitching, those were more than enough runs.

Ah, yes, Carp. No, there’s not (yet!) a feud here over his displeasure with Brendan Ryan delaying the bottom of the first inning. (Thanks, C70!) But, really, haven’t there been plenty of comments made throughout this season about a lack of fire and spark on the team, how they’re just business-like out there and act like they don’t really care? Then how can you complain when Carp understands the importance of this particular game and series, is all amped and ready to go, gets ticked when he has to wait because the guy who’s always the last one to the field anyway (based on our observations last week) delays his start of the inning and Carp lets him know about it later? Angela made a good point during the game: that it might not have been noticed at all were it not for the ESPN cameras focused on the dugout. But the look of fear on Brendan’s face that the camera did capture … yeah, the Hyperactive Puppy won’t be doing that again!

I could go on and mention the Jim Edmonds trade (who’s next, Walt?) or Brandon Phillips (think he’ll be regretting those comments?) but instead will switch gears a bit to talk about tomorrow afternoon’s starter, Adam Wainwright. After his brilliant two-hit shutout last Friday against the Marlins, he’s continuing to reassert his position as one of the top National League pitchers. So what are his chances for winning a well-deserved Cy Young Award this season? That’s exactly what I explored for Baseball Digest, which you can find here.

With all the drama and entertainment that the first game of this series provided, it’s hard to know what to expect tonight. Here’s to Jaime bouncing back from his outing-we-want-to-forget last Tuesday and providing another dominating performance again tonight. Because a win will bring those magic words “first place” back once again …

Go Cardinals!!

Diamond Diaries Heads to St. Louis!

It doesn’t matter if the Cardinals win or lose, it’s how much fun we have …

Well, of course we would have preferred the two Diamond Diaries nights at Busch Stadium this week (Monday and Tuesday) be Cards wins. But we did get to see: a successful debut by Jake Westbrook, a birthday-present-for-me homer from Albert on Monday, several hits by Brendan over the two nights, a Colby jack, a Hunky homer and pitcher Aaron Miles. (And a lot of other defensive plays, hits and runs we are still trying to forget – ouch!) We also had a blast making all of our chick comments in person and taking plenty of photos! Plus we had the chance to meet several Twitter pals, which – in all seriousness was awesome. We also checked out as much St. Louis baseball history as we could and visited the Missouri History Museum to see the Cards history on display, took the Busch Stadium tour and even visited the former site of Sportsman’s Park.

So here’s a photo special with a few of our pictures from this week. Enjoy! (We did!)

 

Outside our favorite place!

 

And inside too.

 

It was a tweet-up, as we met Cadence and Courtney!

 

It’s probably not a surprise that Erika took a lot of Brendan photos.

And a lot of Hunky photos too!

Or that I would take as many pictures of Chris Carpenter as I could …

No matter what he was doing.

Angela took photos while doing her Adam Wainwright imitation in his seat in the dugout.

We enjoyed learning more about the history of baseball in St. Louis.

And, all too soon, it was time to say good-bye – to Busch Stadium, St. Louis and each other, but only until the next time!

 

So, we’re going to take the rest of the weekend to look through our photos and relive the memories, but we’ll be back with regular posts again on Monday. Go Cardinals!

July in Review: Good Cards, Mediocre Cards

Well, how about that month of July? Wow. It’s like the Cardinals were two different teams – playing, as Bernie Miklasz described it on Twitter during that 13-inning game against the Mets, bipolar baseball. The Good Cards were definitely more fun to watch, while the Mediocre Cards were just frustrating.

Record-wise, the Cards definitely were good: 15-11. A big part of that win total was the Good Cards 8-game streak, the longest since winning 9 straight in 2004, which began the Sunday before the All-Star break and continued through July 21. Before the All-Star break, the Mediocre Cards were definitely taking the field nightly. We don’t want to remember much of that, given that the sweep at Colorado was part of it. And right after the 8-game streak ended, the Mediocre Cards reappeared again – and even were shut out in back-to-back games for the first time since 1995.

And it’s interesting when the Good Cards and the Mediocre Cards tended to appear in July. The Cards record at home for the month was 11-3 – including 7 of the 8 wins of the streak. On the road – traveling to Colorado, Houston, Chicago and New York – they were 4-8. Ouch.

It wasn’t necessarily only the team that was Good and Mediocre – Chris Carpenter exemplified that trend perfectly in July. He had his worst start of the year July 3, allowing 7 earned runs in the 3 innings pitched. The start after that, he gave up 4 earned runs in 6 innings. Then he headed to Anaheim as an All-Star and, though he didn’t pitch during the game, he’s certainly pitched like an All-Star ever since: two 8-inning outings where he allowed only 1 run, a 7-inning outing against the Cubs where he allowed 3 runs and his start Friday night where he pitched 8 scoreless innings. Thankfully, though, Mediocre Carp seems to have faded away. Let’s hope the same can be said for the Mediocre Cards.

The Cardinals started July 1 1/2 games behind the Reds and ended the month a half-game ahead of them and in first place. Let’s hope the Good Cards continue what they started this weekend, with the offense being so productive.

So who helped make the Good Cards and Mediocre Cards have the kind of July we went through?

Biggest surprise
Jon Jay
We knew he was having a terrific month, and he hit .431 in July with a .500 on-base percentage and .647 slugging percentage. He’s hitting .383 overall. And he’ll continue to play regularly now, thanks to the (unfortunate) trade of Ryan Ludwick to the Padres at the trading deadline. So, yay for Jay!

Other surprises
Kyle McClellan
Although he was the losing pitcher in the 11-inning loss to the Phillies to end the 8-game winning streak, Kyle actually had a great month. He allowed only that one run – via a homer by Placido Polanco – in 14.1 innings pitched over 12 games. His ERA for the month was 0.64.

Jason LaRue
Although he gets mentioned more for the clean-cut look we all approve of, the back-up catcher hit well during his limited playing time in July. He had a .385 batting average with a home run in 7 total games.

Biggest disappointment
Trading Ryan Ludwick
Yes, it still stings. Luddy, we already miss you!

Other disappointments
Albert Pujols
While his numbers aren’t bad, they aren’t Albert-like and he began August with a .299 batting average. His average for July was .267, his worst for any month this season, and he also had a season-low 11 walks for an on-base percentage of .333 (also a season-low).

Ryan Franklin
Although he had 4 saves, he allowed 6 earned runs in 10.1 innings pitched for the month. Yes, those runs all came in one particular game we’re all trying to forget … but Ryan still had a 5.23 ERA for July.

Welcome
Mike MacDougal
He made his Cardinals debut against the Mets on July 28, picking up the win in the 13-inning game with a scoreless inning. He pitched 3 scoreless innings in 3 games at the end of July, allowing only 1 hit. And, based on Twitter, there are plenty of us who are willing to take him out for some pasta and help him gain a few pounds!

Best game
July 18
Cardinals 5, Dodgers 4
When the lineup was announced, everyone basically wrote this off as a loss – no Albert, no Yadi, Jeff Suppan pitching. And the Dodgers had a 4-0 lead in the seventh inning, but that’s why they play the games. The Cards came back and won, thanks to birthday boy Allen Craig – picking a fantastic way to celebrate turning 26 – and All-Star Matt Holliday, who drove in the walk-off winning run in the bottom of the 9th.

Worst game
July 6
Rockies 12, Cardinals 9

Does anything more need to be said? (If you somehow need to refresh your memory, here you go.)

Pitcher of the month
Adam Wainwright
Even with his worst game of the season against the Mets on July 28, Adam still finished the month with a 3-1 record and a 1.85 ERA – and with a scoreless inning pitched during the All-Star Game. His 14 overall wins at the end of July were second in the National League, his ERA of 2.23 was third and his WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) was fourth with 1.03.

Player of the month
Jon Jay
One more time: yay for Jay!

Although there’s only been one game in August so far, it was definitely a great showing by both the offense and the continued stellar pitching of Adam Wainwright. And now tonight will bring the Cardinals debut of Jake Westbrook – as well as the first of two Cardinals Diamond Diaries nights at Busch Stadium! (You mean that’s not listed on your schedule?) It’s a road trip for the three of us and the chance to watch the next two games together, which we are all highly anticipating! So we’ll be taking a little break from posting until later in the week. In the meantime, GO CARDINALS!!

Photo of the game of the month by Chris Lee, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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