GAME 154: The Case For Lynn
As questions abound about how the rotation will be set for the upcoming rounds of playoffs, Lance Lynn made another convincing case for himself with a good seven inning, nine strikeout start. Backed by two home runs and some astounding defense, Lynn earned his 17th win as the Cardinals overcame the Houston Astros 6-1 to lengthen their wild card lead to 3.5 games. Just eight more games remain.
CANKLES: Moments before the game, David Freese twisted his right ankle while doing some calisthenics in the batting cage area. Freese injuring his ankle ranks somewhere between the water cycle and the rotation of the Earth as unavoidable forces of nature. Freese could twist an ankle while encased in carbonite (Star Wars jokes, nerds!). When he had surgery on those ankles, the surgeon (Nazi doctor George Paletta) apparently replaced the cartilage with marshmallow creme. Anyway, Freese was a (very) late scratch and has been listed as day to day. Sadly, there aren’t that many days left.
HELLO, STRANGER: Daniel Descalso hasn’t received consistent playing time recently. Most of that has to do with his bat; Descalso entered play batting .227. But what a glove, eh? Anyway, D-Money thanked Matheny for the call tonight, ripping a triple into right field to drive in Matt Carpenter with the Cards’ first run. He also singled and scored a run. If Descalso could hit better than a blind Brendan Ryan, I’d love to see him take over the second base job for the rest of the season. However, with the offense already struggling, it’s hard to justify his bat in the lineup.
KOZMIC BLAST: Who is this guy impersonating the once-incompetent Pete Kozma? After spending two years so deep in La Russa’s doghouse that he could lick his own nuts, Kozma has suddenly found his swing. Personally, I believe some of his success this year has been his bulkier, more balanced frame; he’s no longer the scrawny kid with the funny last name. After hitting the first homer of his career last night, Kozma hit his second homer in the second, a two-run bomb into the Crawford boxes approximately 150 feet from home plate. Overall, Kozma is batting .283 and slugging .587 in place of Rafael Furcal. While it’s difficult to imagine Pete Kozma possibly starting at shortstop in the playoffs, at least he’s justified the consideration with this solid offense.
THE KID’S ALRIGHT: Does Yadier Molina have some sort of secret healing potion stashed in his locker? Is he taking McGwire’s cream and clear concoction? How does he keep going despite what has been the most physically draining season of his career? Molina, doubled over just two days ago by lower back spasms, returned and crushed another homer (his 21st) in the fourth. If you had told me in 2005 that Molina would someday hit .300 and smash more than 20 home runs, I’d spit in your face and call you a liar. Amazing season for our indestructible leader.
WEB GEM: Jon Jay has done everything this season to remind Cardinal Nation of the glory days of Jim Edmonds. In fact, Jay might be better than Edmonds on a day-to-day basis. Despite already having a DVD full of defensive highlights this year, Jay topped himself with a bobbling, circus-style catch on a hard liner by Jason Castro in the fourth. At first, Jay misjudged the speed and arc of the ball as he turned to chase it. Jay poked his glove up at the last second, causing the ball to bounce off the top of the leather and fall away. Running on pure instinct, Jay reached out with his left hand and attempted a barehanded catch. However, the ball popped out of his hand. Falling with the ball, Jay quickly snapped at the ball again, corralling it for the out. The bench erupted in amazement. Even better was the reaction by Jay, who managed a wide smile once he realized what had happened. It was a big, fun moment for this team.
HOLLIDAY’S BACK: It’s been tough to watch Matt Holliday (and Carlos Beltran, for that matter) struggle so much in September. Holliday in particular has been swinging at everything with his blind-rage swing. It’s been tough to watch. But Holliday, often accused of lacking clutch, slapped a grounder up the middle with the bases loaded in the seventh to tack on the fifth and sixth runs of the night. On a more personal note, those RBI’s gave Holliday the fifth 100 RBI year of his career (he’s fourth in the league). Holliday even aggressively took second on the subsequent play as if he had the lower back of a 20 year old. Can it get him on a roll? Let’s hope so.
EDITORIAL COMMENT: As I watched Holliday attempt a catch (while avoiding injury) near the jutting, hexagonal fence in the Bermuda Triangle of the Minute Maid outfield, I’m reminded of a baseball truism: Minute Maid Park SUCKS. It’s like playing baseball in a miniature golf course filled with broken glass. I HATE IT. So, apparently, do the fans – the announced attendance was just over 12,000. Depressing.
ZEPPO 2012: Remember the buzz Marc Rzepczynski created during his lock-down performance down the stretch? The same kind of buzz now surrounds Sam Freeman and his blistering 96 mph fastball. The tall, lanky lefthander has stepped into the void created by Zeppo’s meltdown, his rising anxiety levels, and subsequent banishment into the seventh level of Hell. We will see Jimmy Hoffa’s rotting corpse before we see Zeppo on the mound in a high-pressure situation. Freeman reinforced this with a perfect eighth inning of relief that required just eight pitches (six strikes). What a huge boost that kid has been!
PLAYER OF THE GAME: I might be inclined to give it to Jay for that freakish catch. But I’m also leaning toward Lynn for a long and strong start when we really needed it.
CONCLUSION: With the win tonight, the Cardinals pushed the Brewers and Dodgers to 3.5 games back with eight games remaining. The team seems looser and more confident in recent days, and they are starting to show a desire to push for the playoffs. Sweeping the Astros would be a phenomenal accomplishment. Tonight was a great start to that goal.