GAME 44: Medicinal Bud
On a day when the Cardinals were set to face their greatest threat – Bud F. Norris – they received bad news to make their prospects a little bit dimmer. Nick Punto (i.e. the best defensive player on the team) was placed on the disabled list with a sore right elbow. To compensate for his loss, the team brought up Pete Kozma, known primarily as the guy who committed 34 errors in two months at AA. Uh oh.
Even worse, Tony LaRussa released his lineup for the night, and it did not contain the words “Colby” or “Rasmus” in centerfield. Cleared to play two nights ago, Rasmus has been conspicuously absent from the festivities while the team has struggled to score runs. Looks like someone has found themselves back on their musty cushion in the ass-end of TLR’s doublewide dog house.
The beginning of the game started with another potential disaster: Matt Holliday was forced to leave the game in the second inning with a strain of his left quad. Everyone braced for a long night, because things seemed like they always do when Norris pitches: hits scattered here and there, missed opportunities, and mind-melting strikeouts on easy pitches. It certainly looked that way in the beginning of the third, when Kyle Lohse, batting with two on and nobody out, popped out on a bunt attempt. WHY CAN’T CARDINALS PLAYERS BUNT A BASEBALL?? But then the Cards strung together several seeing-eye hits (and a bases-loaded walk) to gather four runs for Lohse.
Lohse looked good again. Like Jaime Garcia, Lohse feels like a transformed pitcher. He throws pitches where he wants with excellent command, and never seems rattled. For the first time Lohse appears relaxed, part of the team, and allowing his personality to benefit the chemical makeup around him. While he still has a way to go to earn that contract I hated so much, he’s quietly become a very important part of the success of the 2011 squad.
By the fifth inning the Cardinals looked more like the Memphis Redbirds. Most of the regulars were gone due to injury or precaution, while TLR shuffled the lineup faster then a dealer at the President Casino five minutes before it sank in the Mississippi. When you have a five run lead against a team as pathetic as Houston, you can afford to get the kids in there to get some time on the field.
Fortunately those kids played their hearts out behind Lohse, who never had much trouble throughout the game. His worst inning was the seventh, when the Astros scored a run and were trying to mount a comeback when Jon Jay made a diving catch to start a double play and end the inning. Tyler Greene also made a nice running play in right field as well. While I don’t like seeing them play in place of Colby Rasmus, at least they are better replacements than Randy Winn, for cryin’ out loud.
It was strange to see Eduardo Sanchez pitch the ninth; I would’ve liked to see Ryan Franklin pitch with a big lead instead. But Sanchez preserved the lead and tacked on another strikeouts to boot. YAY!
KOZMIC KARMA: Batting for Berkman in the fifth, young Pete Kozma collected his first ML hit, his first ML extra base hit, and his first ML RBI in his first ML at bat. The Cards fans rightly gave him a wonderful ovation. Who knows what the rest of his career will look like, but tonight it was a perfect moment.
NO HOLLIDAY: Words cannot express just how damaging it would be to lose Matt Holliday for even more than one hour. He is one of the league’s leading hitters this year, and he plays a solid (if somewhat scary) left field. He cannot be replaced by Mark Hamilton. He cannot be replaced, period. This is potentially a season-ending injury for this team, especially if Pujols keeps hitting like Aaron Miles.
THE WORST BUNTING TEAM IN HISTORY: Bunting is an important part of National League baseball. It’s not easy, but it’s certainly easier than swinging a bat at a ball. But the Cardinals cannot bunt at all. Not only did Lohse fail in the third, but Ryan Theriot failed to put a bunt down with a runner charging down the third base line in the fourth. I’m sorry, but this is not acceptable. These are millionaires at the plate … shouldn’t bunting be a fairly routine play at this level?
HOTTIE YADI: The guy’s bat is ON FIRE. Remember when all of those people were complaining about Yadi’s early-season struggles? Well shut your mouths, people! He’s the league’s best hitting catcher since the middle of April, and he’s had quite a few multi-hit games, including this one. LOVE HIM!
BERKMAN’S REDEMPTION: Berkman is mostly cringe-worthy in the outfield while his offense has carried the team, but he does some things on defense that just make you leap with joy. For instance, how about that full-on diving catch in the fifth to rob Chris Johnson of a hit?? You don’t see the kids making these kinds of balls-out diving plays. He’s been inspirational. Just hope he didn’t injure himself on the play.