After the sweep by the Astros, the Cardinals needed a series win to stay ahead of the Reds in the division standings. Â It didn’t happen.
Hero: Ryan Ludwick.Â Â Three hits, including a two-run home run that proved to be the difference.
Goat: Ryan Franklin. Â Didn’t blow the save, but he did his darndest. Â Thankfully the team turned a double play behind him to end the game, otherwise they probably go extras.
Notes: Ludwick and Albert Pujols hit their first home runs since late April, seemingly a good sign for the offense. Â Jaime Garcia continues to be amazing. Â He’s not faced any team twice yet, so we’ll have to see how the league adjusts to him, but he keeps just mowing down hitters and showing maturity and poise beyond his rookie status. Â The bullpen (save Franklin) also did a very nice job in this one.
Saturday (4-3 loss)
Hero: Skip Schumaker. Â He drove in the first run with a sac fly, then had a wonderful piece of hitting in the ninth to bring the Cards within a run. Â He took the low pitch from Francisco Cordero right back up the middle, not trying to do too much. Â Really nice work. Â If Joe Mather’s ball had been just a bit farther from the outfielder or the throws hadn’t been perfect, he’d have scored the tying run as well.
Goat: Adam Wainwright. Â Waino was bound to have a night like this, even as I start to come around to the idea that he’s the ace of the team, with Chris Carpenter a strong runner up. Â Just didn’t have the curve working as well as normal and it showed, especially on the hanger to Jonny Gomes that tied the ball game up.
Notes: Should have known the Cards would have trouble with Mike Leake, since they’d never seen him before. Â Good to see Colby Rasmus go deep–again, his first home run since late April–but the offense continued to struggle as it has for three weeks or so now. Â Really did like the look of those 1947 uniforms. Â I couldn’t believe people on the FSMW text poll preferred the powder blues to those classy look. Â What has happened to Cardinal Nation?
Sunday (7-2 loss)
Hero: Jason LaRue. Â Two hits, including a home run.
Goat: Brad Penny. Â Penny’s results have been sliding the last few games, though it’s been overshadowed with how good he was at the beginning of the season. Â He labored all day long on Sunday, finally adding salt to the wound by allowing a bases-loaded single to Bronson Arroyo, who was in the process of shutting the offense down (like we’ve not heard that one before).
Notes: Dusty Baker walked Pujols intentionally in the first. Â It worked out, of course, when Matt Holliday bounced into a double play. Â Until the people behind him catch fire, the odds of Pujols hitting in a key situation are nil, even though he’s been more impatient and not quite Pujolsian for a month or so now.
If anyone wondered if Cincinnati was for real, this weekend proved that they are. Â You look up and down their lineup and they have a solid offense, one that seems to be clicking. Â Their pitching staff is solid as well. Â If the Reds fade, and I’m not sure that they will, you have to figure it’ll be August or so. Â The Cardinals are going to have a fight on their hands.
That is, of course, if the Cardinals are going to be in that mix. Â This is the first time they’ve been out of first since the end of last July. Â How they respond that that this week, against some tough opponents in Washington, Florida, and the Angels, may give us a little indication of how this season is going to go.
The offense is going to have to get clicking. Â Opponents think Pujols isn’t comfortable (and they are glad for that). Â Mark McGwire thinks the players need to trust their abilities. Â Whatever needs to happen, hopefully we’ll see it start happening soon. Â The starting pitching, showing some signs of wear, can’t keep this team afloat forever.
The slump has cost him his job, at least regularly. Â Brendan Ryan is now the utility guy, not the starting shortstop. Â With Felipe Lopez about to come off the DL (and how important was THAT move now?), it looks like we’ll see a lot more of Lopez at short or a mix of Lopez and Tyler Greene.
Have we overestimated what Ryan is? Â When he first came up, I thought he was going to be another in a long line of Stubby Clapp/Joe McEwing/Bo Hart-type players. Â He surprised me a lot last year and I revised my opinion accordingly. Â However, looking at his career numbers, it’s hard to see if there’s a pattern or not, due to more limited usage in his first couple of years. Â He had a strong debut season in ’07, slipped in ’08, was great in ’09.
Then we have 2010. Â He’s made almost as many errors this year (7) as he did all of last year (8). Â Most of his fielding numbers are down, though he’s still an asset there. Â It’s just when the bat is as befuddling as his is, defense can’t completely carry you. Â A .162 average is something you see from a starter in the second week of the season, not the seventh.
You hope that he’ll get it going, though sporadic playing time and defensive substitutions don’t necessarily lend themselves to working out slumps. Â Maybe he’ll show something in the cages and get an extended trial again. Â Otherwise, his star may have burned brightly, but quickly.
Cards get a two game set with the Nationals kicked off tonight. Â Normally, that’s not a big deal, but Washington sits tied for second in the NL East, four games behind the Phillies. Â In fact, after the recent swoon by the Redbirds, Washington is only one game worse in the standings than St. Louis.
Adding to the degree of difficulty, Kyle Lohse goes for the Cardinals. Â We know how Lohse has struggled at times this season, though he has had flashes of, well, at least goodness. Â How’s he done against these National hitters?
Doesn’t look too promising. Â At least no one has taken him yard, but there are some high averages among the guys that have seen him the most.
Cardinals get to face Craig Stammen. Â Stammen’s numbers are pretty bad, but that’s the kind of pitcher that can be kryptonite to this team.
Add in the fact that the Cards haven’t seen him much, and it’s not a recipe that inspires just a ton of confidence.
Big news in Nationals camp is that their first-round pick from last year is coming to the bigs in time for this series. Â No, not that guy, their stud reliever from that draft, Drew Storen. Â It’s going to be interesting to see if he gets into this series. Â He’s supposed to be a dominant arm in the pen and I’d like to get a look at him, especially if the Cardinals are well ahead.
Cards need to start righting the ship. Â While the rest of the NL Central is quite a ways below them in the standings, the Reds were at one time as well. Â Things can spiral quickly if they aren’t nipped in the bud.
My weekly article will be up at Baseball Digest later on today and I recorded some thoughts for Redbirds of a Feather this weekend, though last I checked Freddie hadn’t uploaded the weekend podcast yet.