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Saturday, July 3, 2010

The ups and downs of June

For the Cardinals, June was the best of times: last Tuesday’s 8-0 romp over the Diamondbacks when Albert hit two homers, Adam Wainwright’s two-hit complete game shutout over the Brewers (also an 8-0 win) and Matt Holliday’s resurgence when he was moved to No. 2 in the batting order. June also was the worst of times: that horrendously long loss to the D-Backs on Wednesday when they left 14 men on base, the sweep by the Dodgers in Los Angeles and a season-high four-game losing streak.

But, in the end, the month was perfectly mediocre as the Cards went 13-13. They also basically ended the month where they started in the division race, going from 1 game back on June 1 to a half-game back on June 30. In between, they were in first place for 15 days and even up by as much as 1 ½ games over the Reds June 19-20.

And, unfortunately, overall mediocrity has been the definition of the Cardinals since the end of April. As Bernie Miklasz wrote in his column on July 1: “The Cardinals are 25-27 since May 4, and during this stretch they've scored three runs or fewer 24 times. That includes 18 games of two runs or less. Counting Wednesday's loss, the Cardinals are 0-8 when they've had the chance to sweep a three-game series. In the eight losses, STL hitters have scored three runs or fewer seven times. They've left 60 runners on base. They're batting .214.”

On the plus side, mediocre May and June are exactly what the Cardinals had in 2009 as well – they went 25-31 for those two months yet managed to win 91 games and the National League Central. What the 2010 Cardinals need to keep the rollercoaster climbing up is one thing: consistent offense. Of course it doesn’t help that David Freese and Ryan Ludwick missed time with injuries (and now will both be on the disabled list in July). But the pitchers are still more than getting their jobs done. Ending June, the Cards' overall team pitching was still second in the Major Leagues behind San Diego. The overall ERA increased to 3.24 (although the Padres’ ERA has increased as well) and the Cards’ team WHIP was 1.26 (tied for third-best in the Majors). The Big Three starters all still remain in the NL’s top 10 in ERA, with Adam Wainwright second in wins and Chris Carpenter tied for fourth. But pitching alone, as we've witnessed too many times, doesn't win games.

Here’s a closer look at who did what in June.

Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
Biggest surprise
Matt Holliday
Should it be a surprise when a guy finally does what he should have been doing all along? Yet Hunky Holliday finally got going, hitting .302 and slugging .583 for the month, with 6 homers and 16 RBI (the most he’s hit of both in a month this season). Hitting second for 10 games was the spark he needed and helped earn him NL Player of the Week honors for June 14-21.

Other surprises
Mitchell Boggs
As noted by Matthew Leach in his blog, “since May 29, Mitchell Boggs has made 13 appearances. In those games, he's pitched 13 2/3 innings, allowing one run on six hits for a 0.66 ERA. He’s struck out 10 against five walks and not given up a home run.”

Skip Schumaker
Skip just keeps improving offensively, batting .311 for the month with one homer (which I saw in person in Kansas City last Saturday) and 6 RBI.

Colby Rasmus
Colby led the team in both homers with 9 and RBI with 19 for June. Now, if he can just stay consistent too. He also briefly had the longest home run in the Major Leagues this year last Sunday, hitting a 483-foot blast in Kansas City. According to the Fox Sports Midwest broadcast on June 29, Colby held the record for 3 hours and 29 minutes – until Josh Hamilton hit one 485 feet.

Biggest disappointment
Yadier Molina
Yadi did not have a good June, hitting only .183 with 1 homer and 2 RBI. And so far, July is not off to a much better start – he was robbed of what should have been two hits on Thursday with outstanding catches by Jim Edmonds (doesn’t Jim remember that he wouldn’t have a World Series ring without Yadi?) and Corey Hart, and is hitless for the two games this month.

Other disappointments
Dennys Reyes
That terrific May that earned Reyes last month’s biggest surprise certainly didn’t carry over. He allowed two earned runs a game in three of his first four appearances of the month and was the losing pitcher on June 1. His ERA for the month was 12.46.

Brendan Ryan
While it was his best hitting month, Brendan still only hit .230 in June. As Matthew Leach wrote on June 27, “With the season six days away from its halfway point, this looks less and less like a slump or two slumps or three slumps, and more like a bad year.”

Consistently good
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
Chris Carpenter
As the leader of the Cardinals Big Three, Carpenter went 3-0 with 2.30 ERA for the month. Interestingly, he was involved in both 1-0 games that the Cardinals played in June. He received no decision on June 8, pitching 7 shutout innings, and was the winner on June 23 against Toronto, where he pitched 8 obviously shutout innings against his former team.

Jason Motte
In 11 innings pitched for the month, he struck out 13 and allowed 2 earned runs. He’s a reliable presence, and also an entertaining one with his on-the-mound antics.

Ryan Franklin
He had 5 saves for the month, with one rough outing where he was removed and Motte got the save instead. That blip aside, he only allowed one earned run in eight other appearances for the month.

Disturbing trend
The aging of the roster with the additions of Aaron Miles, Randy Winn and Jeff Suppan. (We've discussed this plenty of times!)

Best game
June 4
Cardinals 8, Brewers 0
Adam Wainwright has his first career complete-game shutout, allowing 2 hits and striking out 8 while throwing only 103 pitches. On offense, it was obviously a night where everything was working: Colby was 2 for 3 with a homer and 2 RBI, Albert and Ludwick each drove in 2, and Holliday and Felipe Lopez each drove in 1.

Worst game
June 27
Kansas City 10, Cardinals 3
Just like in May, there were plenty to choose from – including five losses when the Cards could have swept. But I’ll pick this one. I was listening on the radio to the Royals broadcast of the game while driving across Iowa. The Cardinals had so many chances in the first two innings, having the bases loaded twice in the first inning and two runners on in the second, yet only managed one run. The Royals announcer even commented on the Cardinals troubles getting things going with runners in scoring position. Add to those troubles Jaime Garcia’s worst outing of the year and it’s a game to forget – even if both Albert and Colby homered.

Craziest win
June 28
Cardinals 6, Diamondbacks 5
Just saying that two pitchers scored runs in the bottom of the 9th – including the winning run – should be enough to earn the title of craziest win. The Diamondbacks literally threw the game away, with errors by Aaron Heilman and Adam LaRoche letting pinch-runner Garcia and pinch-hitter Wainwright score. (Brendan also scored the tying run.)

Player of the month
Matt Holliday
Let’s keep it going …

Pitcher of the month
Mitchell Boggs
Same goes for you …

Actually, let’s hope for a little more consistency this month from everyone – even though the Cardinals are off to a 1-1 start in July. It also will be interesting to see how many of the Cardinals spend their All-Star break on the “beach” in Anaheim with Albert. Wainwright? Carpenter? Jaime? Yadi? Holliday?

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