GAME 150: Kicking Astros
After a terrible road trip, the Cardinals really needed to make a statement against losing teams. They won the first two games against the Astros, and came into this afternoon contest eyeing a sweep. Two things stood in their way. One was their arch nemesis Bud Norris. The other was the mentally-unstable Jaime Garcia. But the Cards brought out their big bats as well as their broomsticks, sweeping the Astros 5-4 and maintaining a slim 2 game lead over the Dodgers in the wild card race. Just twelve games left!
BIG SWING: Allen Craig can hit. He has my vote for Most Consistent Bat this season. So often he has saved games with one huge hit, like he did today when he yanked a fastball out of the ballpark for a three run homer to reverse a 1-0 deficit in the first. If he stays healthy, Craig is shaping up as one of the premier hitters in the league for years to come.
SETTLE DOWN, CRAZY: Headcase Jaime looked frazzled in the early innings today, prompting Mike Shannon to say, “I don’t like Jaime’s body language today.” Garcia started off in ugly fashion, loading the bases full of Astros and then surrendering a bases-loaded walk. I LOVE THAT (#sarcasm). However, Garcia began to effectively tail the ball down-and-in to righthanded batters, and his fortunes changed. After allowing the Astros to tie the score in the third, Garcia settled in a bit and allowed the offense to claw the team into the lead. I wish Garcia would bring more consistency, but, for him, this is about as good as it usually gets.
SHEER STUPIDITY: I cannot understand why opposing runners ever leave the first base bag when Yadier Molina is catching. Isn’t it generally understood by now that Molina is the greatest defensive catcher of all time? With Jose Altuve bouncing around at first, Molina took a strike, rose to his feet, and fired a laser to first to pick Altuve off. Molina has done this so many times that leaving the base at all should be ruled an automatic out. Still, as long as this stupidity persists, I guess we’ll just enjoy the extra outs they give us.
BELTRAN’D: Carlos Beltran is rarely a pinch hitter, but he has had great success in that limited role. He came into the game in the sixth to pinch hit for Garcia with runners on first and second. Batting right-handed, Beltran crushed a long drive that came within a light wind gust of becoming his 30th homer of the season. Instead, he drove in both runs with a double, which proved to be the game winners. Wouldn’t it be something if Beltran returned to his April/May form at just this important point in the season?!?
LOCK DOWN: Mitchell Boggs, so good for most of the year, struggled in his eighth inning. He gave up two walks around a bunt, which brought Matheny from the dugout to summon left-hander Marc Rzepczynski. And Zeppo did what he has done most of the season – fuck up. He walked Matt Downs to load the bases (thanks, Zeppo! Now go cash that unearned check, ya pug-nosed fucktard!), which forced Matheny back to the bullpen. He picked Fernando Salas, and that proved to be a terrific idea. Salas was nasty, striking out Altuve and Brett Wallace to end the threat. Awesome work from a guy we sorely need to be ready for October!
A LOT OF MOTTE: And concerns about overusing Jason Motte evaporated with his blistering ninth inning performance today. I thought he might kill someone with his 95 mph fastball. Despite a hair-raising moment with Jordan Schafer on base and stealing second, Motte struck out the side to earn his 38th save, which ties him for the league lead.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: I’m picking Beltran, who had just one big chance to influence the game, and he ended up winning it with a timely hit. Salas, though, deseves some credit, too.
CONCLUSION: The Cards really needed to sweep the Astros after a terrible road trip. Prior to that, I was hoping the Cards could take two of three. This is obviously a better scenario. Even better, the Cards all look like they have suddenly turned the corner emotionally and really want to win this thing. Of course, they’ve looked like that before. But now there is an urgency in their play like I haven’t seen all season. Twelve more games to go. It’s a great time to get really, really hot.