GAME 23: Bombs Away
The Cardinals (15-8) took advantage of a Charlie Morton meltdown and some atrocious Pirates defense to (finally) support Adam Wainwright and bring him his first win of the year. Things looked shaky at the end, but the Redbirds held on to win 10-7 in front of 36,000 at Busch Stadium.
A STRAIN-O FOR WAINO: Wainwright threw 92 pitches in seven innings, which included a six-pitch sixth inning. He had some rough spots, surrendering four runs on five hits with six strikeouts. That doesn’t sound too bad, until you see that the scoring came on two home runs; Wainwright has already given up seven home runs this year in five starts. The seventh was a very uncharacteristic Wainwright inning; after being given the lead, he immediately let the Pirates back in with some careless pitches to punchless Pedro Alvarez. Wainwright is clearly still struggling to regain both his pitch quality and his concentration.
LEAKY SHIP: I like the Pirates as a team this year. They have some talented offensive players, and some potential in their rotation. However, the entire team needs to go back to Tee Ball and work on their defense. Just like last week, the Pirates repeatedly bungled plays in the infield, and the Cardinals took advantage of every miscue. They had three errors tonight, plus an “attempt” by Jose Tabata in right field on a liner by Yadier Molina that led to the Cardinals’ sixth run. I have no idea how these guys trot out onto the field with their heads up after such sloppy play.
SMORGASBORD: The Cardinals’ offense might be the most balanced in the National League. They kill opponents with home runs (three tonight from Matt Holliday, Rafael Furcal, and David Freese) just as easily as they play small ball with the running game. Any team that can homer three times and steal four bases in one game will win most of those contests.
DIGGING OUT: The home run from Holliday in the fifth is yet another proof that our left-fielder with the size-ten cap is pulling himself from the abyss. He had another big day, going 3-5 with 2 RBI, 2 runs, and a stolen base. His slugging percentage is finally over .400 and climbing. I still think he looks like he’s rolling the bat over the top of too many pitches, but I’m not complaining as long as the numbers are there.
SKIP-A-DEE-DOO: Skip Schumaker will never remind anyone of Tommy Herr at second base, but he tries, dammit. Schumaker’s diving, rolling, and ultimately failed attempt to throw out Garrett Jones at second base in the seventh made me laugh as much as it made me cringe. Skippy has yet to match his previously-low level of defense since his return from the DL, yet he’s still a better fit there than Tyler Greene.
CRAIGKEN RELEASED: Allen Craig finally – FINALLY – returned from the longest, most mysterious rehab assignment since Brad Penny strained a mole on his back and went on a six-month drinking binge. While I like Matt Carpenter, it’s much nicer seeing Craig’s smooth power swing in this lineup. The World Series hero looked rusty at first, striking out in his first two at-bats. But Craig reminded everyone of his clutchiness in the fifth with a key single into center that Tabata played like a blind man stabbing at fish in a lake. With Craig supporting Freese and Molina, this lineup is going to be dangerous. And to think – we still don’t have Berkman in it! YIKES!
LITTLE THINGS: I love the approach I’ve seen from Carlos Beltran since he’s arrived. One thing I love is his willingness to work walks. For instance, even when he’s having a tough night (he went 0-3 with three strikeouts), he still helped the team by coaxing a walk and scoring on David Freese’s home run in the fifth. Big players do little things to help a team win.
OLD FAITHFUL: Like the famous geyser in Yellowstone, you can count on David Freese to provide fireworks at some point every night. Freese looked visibly frustrated in the fourth when he flied out with the bases loaded and the Cardinals down 2-1. But when Freese came up with two on in the next inning, you just knew it was going to happen. And it did – Freese decimated a Morton fastball, sending it into the bleachers in right center for a three-run homer that put the Cardinals ahead to stay. If there is a more consistent RBI man in baseball than Freese (not named Matt Kemp, of course), I’d like to hear it.
TOSSED SALAS: The game looked like a cakewalk when Fernando Salas jogged out from the bullpen to take over the game for Wainwright in the eighth and the Cardinals leading 10-4. Two-thirds of an inning later, Salas had given up three runs on two hits and two walks; he was fooling absolutely nobody. His WHIP this season is a shocking seventy points higher than his career average. He has given up 14 hits and five walks in just 8.2 innings this year – GROTESQUE. Can we please switch Salas out for Eduardo Sanchez now?
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Holliday tonight, although I’m tempted to pick Molina or Furcal or Craig. Holliday did almost everything right tonight, though.
CONCLUSION: Like I said earlier, this team comes at you from almost every angle. When faced with an opponent as clumsy as the Pirates, the Cardinals overwhelm them. However, some nagging bullpen issues remain.