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Saturday, July 31, 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 ...

Friday, July 30, 2010

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!  ;)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

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!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

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

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

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.

Monday, July 26, 2010

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.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

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...

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.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Truth and Consequences, Plus Some Fun

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???


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.

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…


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! 

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!   =)  

Thursday, July 22, 2010

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.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Photo Diary of a Winning Streak

7 wins in a row. Beautiful feeling, isn't it? 

We're switching things up here on Cardinal Diamond Dairies and moving our photo day to Wednesday. Today instead of just random pictures I'm trying something out - a photo from each day of the 7 game streak (plus a bonus shot - you'll see)! Hope you enjoy it!

7/11/2010 - Cardinals 4, Astros 2
Matt Holliday provided almost all of the offense with this 3 run blast the day before the All-Star break began. I don't know how to point out the packet of sunflower seeds in his pocket that made me laugh without sounding like a #chickcomment... so there you go.
David J. Phillip - AP Photo
7/13/2010 - NL 3, AL 1
I couldn't help but put in a shot of the Cards' All-Stars together at the game in Anaheim. Hey, our team won that night too, so it fits!
Kirby Lee - US Presswire
7/15/2010 - Cardinals 7, Dodgers 1
The Cardinals jumped right back in after the break, putting up seven runs against Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers, who had been very effective against the Cards... until this night. After a day in which we were treated to no baseball at all, it was nice to be back seeing scenes like this one of Chris Carpenter pitching in the fifth inning.
Chris Lee - Post-Dispatch
7/16/2010 - Cardinals 8, Dodgers 4
You can't help but enjoy a game that features runs and flashy defensive plays like this one Albert Pujols made from the seat of his pants! Two games after the break we were seeing what looked like a team that was putting things together. Solid pitching, scoring runs in bunches and defense? We love it!
Scott Rovak - US Presswire
7/17/2010 - Cardinals 2, Dodgers 0
With Adam Wainwright on the mound, thankfully the Cards didn't need more than two runs on this day. Close games like this mean turning solid double plays like Skip Schumaker does here. Note where his feet are. Where is second base? (I'll spare you all from the "Who's on First?" joke I almost made here.)
Scott Rovak - US Presswire
7/18/2010 - Cardinals 5, Dodgers 4
The Cards were rather rude hosts to the Dodgers, running them out of town with ninth inning heroics on Joe Torre's 70th birthday no less! Allen Craig didn't care about Torre. He had his own 26th birthday to worry about, and he did it in style, making the hit to tie the game in the ninth inning and set up Matt Holliday for the game winning hit in the next at-bat!
Chris Lee - Post-Dispatch
7/19/2010 - Cardinals 8, Phillies 4
Back to back days of come from behind wins. This is a treat we were not privy to in the first half of the season. The team started chipping away at an early 3-0 hole behind Blake Hawksworth, scoring a single run in both the first and second inning before exploding for three home runs (including Allen Craig's first big league HR!) and five runs in the fifth to blow the game open. This photo? Yadier Molina picking Jason Werth off first in the third inning. I like Albert sticking his tongue out at Werth. 'Nana nana boo boo. We got you!'
Scott Rovak - US Presswire
7/20/2010 - Cardinals 7, Phillies 1
After a couple less than Carp-like starts towards the end of the first half, Carpenter has been a rockstar since the break, throwing 62 strikes over 90 pitches in eight dominant innings last night against the Phillies. Randy Winn kicked off the fireworks in the third inning with his second home run in as many days, and Matt Holliday put the game away for good with his three run blast in the fifth that put the Cards up 6-0. 
Chris Lee - Post-Dispatch
Winning is fun. How about we keep it going tonight, say 7:15? Jaime Garcia will be there...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Talking about Toes..

Last night when I turned off the television and my computer for the evening, the Cardinals had just won their 6th straight game.  And what a game it was!  FOUR homeruns!  Albert Pujols kicked off the long ball party in the bottom of the 5th inning. Then Allen Craig followed suit with his first Major League homerun.  The very next batter, Skip Schumaker, stepped to the plate and hit his 3rd blast of the season.  Then in the 6th inning Randy Winn added his own dinger over the right field wall to make the score 8-4.  Throw in some spectacular defense from Brendan Ryan and I was a very happy baseball fan!

Want to watch the highlights again?    Click Here

Winning - I could get used to that!

Even  more amazing is that the Cardinals are winning with our substitute starting pitchers Jeff Suppan and Blake Hawksworth. Plus manager Tony La Russa has rested several key players in the past two games, getting creative with starting lineups that have scared many fans.  But those beloved Baby Birds up from AAA are filling in quite nicely. Jon Jay continues to tear it up with a .372 batting average.

The Cardinals have stepped up their game since the All Star break and are playing some amazing baseball.  Whatever is in the water, I hope they keep drinking it, because THIS is the team I was expecting to show up in April.

More Good News! Ryan Ludwick is returning from the DL, heading to Memphis for a quick rehab stint before rejoining the Cardinals possibly this weekend (at least that is what Luddy thinks.)

Bad News of the Morning: David Freese has apparently broken his left big toe by dropping a weight plate on it during a workout. Are you kidding me???  I am very thankful the Cardinals have figured out how to win without their complete starting roster, because Freese seems to be accident-prone.  If we were losing games, that news would have hit me a lot harder, but with the way things have been going lately it is hard to complain.  Hurry back David, before we forget why we loved you so much!

Maybe somebody should wrap him in bubble wrap for a few weeks to keep him safe!

Have you read the rumblings about the lack of clubhouse chemistry?  Apparently GM John Mozeliak even commented that a midseason trade might add more personality to bring a positive vibe to the clubhouse.

You probably can imagine how I feel about it, but just in case you want to read more of my rant, check out my post today at Baseball Digest.com.  Just click here.

And over at i70baseball.com Angela has a great look at the resurgence of our Cardinals.  Here's a shortcut for you!

Have a great day, Cards Fans!  Tonight our boys are working on their SEVENTH STRAIGHT WIN!  Maybe they can crush those nasty Phillies again with another Cardinal HomeRun Derby?!


Monday, July 19, 2010

First by Force

The Cards are back in first! Just writing that sentence brought a smile to my face. But that fact alone is not the best part.

Happy Cards! Our favorite!
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The Cards are back in first... and they deserve it! The team has been on fire the first four games out of the gate after the break, sweeping a Dodgers team that is duking it out in the brutal NL West and kicking them out of town in style with a late inning comeback win that featured tough pitching, smart baserunning, key hits and solid defense. We haven't seen this much of a cohesive unit since I don't know when.

What's brilliant is that on his Sunday morning radio show Tony LaRussa admitted that this lineup has basically been triaged together. Can I just say that I love listening to the Sunday morning chats on KTRS? Tony takes every question, and the people that suck up to him with a 'Thank you Mr. LaRussa, you're a great manager and I hope you stay here for a real long time,' always make me laugh. This week's best caller tag has to go to the guy that requested that TLR not have any more C-team lineups. Tony was trying not to laugh when he said that although he didn't think there had been any such lineups this year, the caller might not appreciate the lineup for that game. Oops!

People were ready to fight when they saw a lineup that had no Colby Rasmus, no Albert Pujols, no Yadier Molina and no Tyler Greene, but the truth of the matter is that every one of those guys is dinged up, battered, bruised and all around not feeling great! Matt Holliday almost didn't make it into the lineup yesterday either after fouling a ball sharply off his ankle on Saturday. It was definitely a patchwork lineup that no one expected to play tough, especially not with Jeff Suppan on the mound. I'll hand it to Sup though, he pitched a very nice game yesterday. (Someone better write that down, because I don't say things like that often.)

The fact of the matter is that the team isn't back on top because the Reds finally started to fizzle. In all honesty the Reds just got better by bringing back Edinson Volquez from the disabled list. They have more starting pitching than they know what to do with, and the Cards are running a M*A*S*H unit in and out of the training room. These Cards have been battling lately, and fought tooth and nail to make it back on top. They weren't handed first, they took it by force. That's what we like to see.

I wonder what will happen when we get all our boys back? Last I heard Ryan Ludwick is very close and David Freese is still a week or two away. Maybe when they return some of the unwelcome veterans on the team will be given one way tickets to the retirement home (oh, I was going for no snark today... sorry).

Chris has challenged all of us to be Mo and make some plans for the rest of the year. So check it out and make your voice heard!

Speaking of voices, tonight is the second broadcast for i70baseball.com. It starts at 10PM, and for some unknown reason the team has invited me to be the chat host. Head over to BlogTalkRadio and hang out in the chatroom!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Your weekend project: the chance to be Mo

The Cardinals are on a roll after the All-Star break, winning Thursday and Friday against the Dodgers and scoring 15 runs in the two games while giving up only 5. Also on Thursday, general manager John Mozeliak was given a three-year contract extension. That will keep him on as GM through 2013 with an option for 2014, which means he has some pretty important decisions coming up.

So, as a project this weekend, let’s pretend you’re Mo. Two questions for you:

1. What moves, if any, would you make in the next two weeks before the trade deadline? Who would you trade, from the major or minor leagues, and for who?

2. What are your plans for Albert Pujols?

Let's hear your thoughts!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Bloops and Bleeps - the Deception of Aaron Miles

BJ Rains of foxsportsmdwest.com started this train of thought last night when he stated the following about Aaron Miles in his midseason report:
The scrappy utility infielder is hitting .314 since joining the Cardinals and has played surprisingly well in the field. While the popular opinion seems to be dumping Miles in favor of Tyler Greene, the veteran infielder Miles has done more than enough to deserve a spot on the roster. 
Sorry BJ, because I do enjoy reading your work, but I completely disagree. You've failed to mention the fact that he's only hitting .314 over 39 at-bats prior to last night, which means he only needed 11 hits (9 of which were singles) to pull off that amazing .314 average. Small sample size? Definitely. Consider this - last night Miles went 2 for 3, plating a run and taking an extra base on errors. His average this morning? .342! This is an April batting average in terms of plate attempts, and you are absolutely joking me if you think he's going to hold that up consistently.

As for those 2 hits last night? They both looked like this. Yes, he made contact, but both of his hits were little bloops and bleeps that dropped just over the fielder's head. 2 feet shorter or 5 feet farther and it gets a lot closer to being caught. Some of the most hard hit balls of the night were hit right at people, hence why Allen Craig and Brendan Ryan, both of whom had some of those harder hit balls, have no hits to show for it. Sometimes life just isn't fair, boys.

Back to Miles - his defense is also deceptive. Go basic and you see he only has 2 errors. Another layer? He only has 23 attempts. Another layer? He has no range. He makes the plays on the balls hit to him, and sometimes he even makes them look flashy. However - last layer - his zone rating is negative. That means he's actually getting to fewer balls than the average player. To reference - Brendan Ryan, for all his struggles this year, is still playing well above average at his position because he gets to balls that no one else on the team can snag. Because of this, he probably will have more errors because he often has to get up and make a fast play, instead of being a player that only is playing the balls hit right at him.

I won't get too far into that, but the point is saying that Miles is playing surprisingly well in the field is overblown.

Let's talk happy. Beating the stuffings out of Clayton Kershaw last night was awesome, and has set a good tone for the beginning of the second half. Let's keep it up tonight when Jaime Garcia takes the mound at 7:15 PM!

Happy Friday and go Cards!!!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Good, bad, ugly: the first half by the numbers

NOTE: Yes, today is Thursday, which has always meant Photo Thursday. We’ve taken an All-Star break from our photos of the week, but will be back next week – with Photo Wednesday! Look for the best Cardinals pictures on a new day for the second half of the season.

Thankfully, baseball returns tonight with the Cardinals taking on the Dodgers at Busch Stadium in the first of a four-game series. Hopefully Chris Carpenter will return to his pre-forearm-hit form and the bats will have stayed hot with the three-day break. Before the second half of the season begins, here's one more look at the first half: by the numbers.

Wins by the Cardinals at the All-Star break

Losses by both the Cards and the Reds at the break

Games the Cards are behind the Reds in the NL Central

Days the Cardinals spent in first place, most recently on June 29

Most games above .500

Most games below .500

Longest winning streak


Longest losing streak


Most runs scored in a game (May 31), also most runs allowed in a game (June 7, July 3, July 6)

Total runs scored by the Cardinals

Total runs allowed by the Cardinals

Team ERA, second in the Major Leagues (behind San Diego)

Team batting average, tied for fifth in National League (with Brewers, Mets and Braves)

Combined wins from Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright and Jaime Garcia

Combined wins from Brad Penny and Blake Hawksworth (3 each)

Combined wins from Kyle Lohse and P.J. Walters (1 each)

Wins from Jeff Suppan


Combined losses from Joe Mather and Evan McLane (1 each)

Joe Mather’s ERA

Evan McLane’s ERA

Blown saves each by Ryan Franklin and Jason Motte

Saves by Ryan Franklin

Games the Cards have won when leading after 8 innings

Game (unfortunately memorable) the Cards lost when leading after 8 innings

Pinch-hit home runs by Nick Stavinoha

Grand slams hit by the Cardinals this season (Yadier Molina, Felipe Lopez)

Matt Holliday’s average in 10 games batting second.

Albert Pujol’s average when the count is 3-0.

Albert’s average with RISP

Matt’s average with RISP

Longest hitting streak of the season, currently a tie between Jon Jay (ongoing) and Albert Pujols

Team high in stolen bases, by both Colby Rasmus and Albert Pujols

Runners Yadier Molina has caught stealing

Errors by Brendan Ryan, a team high

Errors by Skip Schumaker

Games the Brewers have played at Busch Stadium this season

Times the Cubs have played at Busch Stadium this season

Times the Cards have played the Diamondbacks this season

Times the Cards have played the Cubs this season

Games in the second half against the Cubs

Attendance at Busch Stadium this season (third-best in National League)

Record on first game of home stand (hopefully a good sign for tonight)

Mike Shannon’s age today - happy birthday!

My prediction for where the Cards will finish in the NL Central

Sources: Baseball-Reference.com, Cardinals.com, Yahoo! Sports

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Winner Winner at the All-Star Game

Disclaimer: The current time tells me that the NL just closed out the win about 10 minutes ago. Also, I've had caffeine. I'm a little hyper. This could be awesome.

The last time the NL won the All-Star Game, I was 9. Despite my steadfast dedication to watching the All-Star game (which includes the year a storm knocked out the power and I freaked out in the dark for about two innings), I am fairly certain I didn't really watch the game until around 1998. Therefore, I am really really excited about this win.

I was talking to my grandpa before the game started, and he ended the conversation the same way he always does - by saying, 'Go Cubs!' He's the lost soul in my family. I laughed and said I didn't think I'd be able to cheer for Marlon Byrd, even if it was the All-Star Game.

Then, the seventh inning rolled around. Even though Cardinal fans had been treated to a Yadier Molina single in the third, which was only the second hit of the night for the National League, there hadn't been much to cheer for from the NL side of the stands. No NL batter had even made it safely into second base before the seventh began. It was then that the NL 'Comedy' Central took matters into their own hands (with a little help from the East).

After a quick groundout by Joey Votto (Reds), Scott Rolen (also Reds) came up and fought Phil Hughes (Yankees) in a 7 pitch at bat for a single. After watching Rolen for the past two days*, I remember all the things I loved about him as a Cardinal. He works his butt off, has a fun personality, and the man can flat out play third like no one I've seen. Anyway, after Rolen gets on, Matt Holliday lined a single up the middle and Rolen scampered all the way to third. Chris Young (D'Backs) popped out, and Marlon Byrd walked to load the bases with 3 members of 3 different teams in the Central. Then, NL fans everywhere watched with glee as Brian McCann (Braves) hit a double to the right field corner that cleared the bases. This was the scene at home:

Yeah. You're looking at a picture of a Cardinal, a Red, and a Cub high fiving and cheering together. I'm confused too. I even received a tweet from a Cub fan that was addressed to a Reds fan, a Cubs fan and myself that said, 'The one night we can get along. Go NL!' I couldn't have said it better myself. I almost called my grandpa to apologize. Almost.

My other highlight of the night was the bottom of that same seventh inning: seeing Adam Wainwright take the mound. It was his first relief appearance since the last game of the 2006 World Series, and we all know how that ended! Adam was definitely pumped, hitting 96 MPH on his first pitch. Despite a botched catch in left field that I won't go into detail on, Adam pitched a dominant inning, striking out two and making several batters look silly with their swings and misses. Torii Hunter (strikeout victim #2) said after the game that Wainwright's stuff was flat out nasty, and I agree!

I love some of the fun insights you see at the All-Star game. Interviews (#chickcomment), anecdotes, and it's never the player you expect to get the job done. After the game, Matthew Leach (mlb.com) and BJ Rains (foxsportsmidwest.com) had interesting tidbits to note afterward:

Food for thought...

I can't wait to see it!

One last thing - today is literally the most boring day in the sporting world. No baseball games, the World Cup is over, and no other major sports are in season. That's just sad. You'd think someone would have come up with some gimmicky thing to do every year on this day. Oh wait, the ESPY's are on tonight. Leave it to ESPN...

*For those of you that missed it, Rolen was on MLBNetwork Monday during the media frenzy, and after basically conducting the interview himself by making fun of Kevin Millar ('Why are you 40 with highlights? Why do your shoes look like that?!'), he described a priceless moment with AJ Pujols. Yes, 9 year old AJ was tearing up the media yesterday. Sign him up now! Anyway, Rolen walked into the room where the players were being interviewed, and after Albert pointed him out to AJ, the kid looks over at Scotty, opens his arms wide and goes, 'How did YOU get here?!' Amazing.

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