GAME 48: Slump Slamming
The Cardinals hit well in the previous three games against Philadelphia, but they didn’t have the pitching to complement their offense. Today, though, they had Adam Wainwright in solid form to hold the Phillies as the Cardinals (26-22) and three home runs salvaged the final game of the four game series 8-3 and avoid a four-game sweep.
GRAND START: It was clear from the opening pitches that Phillies starter Roy Halladay wasn’t right. He quickly loaded the bases on two hits (by Skip Schumaker and Matt Holliday) and a walk to David Freese, which brought up Yadier Molina with one out. Halladay tried to throw a low sinker, but Yadi golfed it to straight-away center for his third career grand slam. It’s hard to believe that a player like Yadi, not known for his power, has almost as many grand slams as Holliday. The moment would be bittersweet, as El Capitan would later go down with dehydration.
GAMER: Adam Wainwright didn’t have the same stuff he had in his last start, a complete-game shutout. He danced around a few early problems, and endured the blistering heat in earning his fourth win. By giving up just one run in six innings, he dropped his ERA down to 4.45, which is much better than it was a month ago.
THE WIZARD: Rafael Furcal is playing like a man possessed this season. If he isn’t dismantling opponents with his bat (batting .333 and slugging a ridiculous .454), he’s making the most spectacular defensive plays on Busch Stadium turf since those glorious days of Ozzie Smith. I was wrong about signing Furcal, okay? Does that make you feel better?? Furcal’s fully-extended mid-air catch of a line drive by Freddy Galvis was eye-popping. Then, in the eighth, Furcal cut down a runner at second by diving deep behind second and flipping the ball to Daniel Descalso for the out. The guy has turned into one of the most invaluable players on this team, and he’s been worth the premium price to keep him.
BELTING CARLOS: Carlos Beltran‘s swing should have its own wing in the Hall of Fame. It’s so effortless; sloths expend more energy while closing their eyelids. In a stadium full of sweaty St. Louisans (gross!), Beltran looked cool and collected as he crushed his National League leading 15th home run, a three-run shot that also tied him for the league RBI lead. Beltran is my idea of a leader and a star!
FIRST OF MANY: In recent days it was obvious that Matt Adams was close to hitting his first home run of his career. A few days ago he ripped one off of the top of the wall, and he did it again today in the second inning. Then, in the sixth, it finally happened – Adams pounded a belly-high (this is Adams we’re talking about) Chad Qualls fastball for his first major league homer. And, as he rounded the bases, he had all of the emotion of someone filling out a form for a driver’s licence at the DMV. The crowd made up for his nonchalance, however, by demanding a curtain call. What a whirlwind week for Grizzly!!
BAD FANS: When Molina had to come out of the game in the middle of his at-bat in the fifth due to dehydration, Tony Cruz was announced to a smattering of boos in the stands. How pathetic! No, Cruz is not Molina, but who is?? Cards fans should be grateful to have such a talented, Molina-like back-up catcher who is willing to work in Yadi’s long shadow. Cruz made them eat crow in the next inning when he gunned down Hunter Pence at third base to prevent a Phillies rally. Shame on those Cardinal fans who booed this excellent young player!
PERFECT USAGE: Matheny has gotten a lot of criticism here and in other places about his recent misuse of the bullpen and some of the players. Today, under adverse heat conditions, Matheny seemed to have it all under control. I really liked how he wisely switched out players as the Cards took over the game, preventing anyone else from suffering Molina’s fate under the simmering sun.
FICK THIS GUY: After an inspired game, Matheny brought out Chuckie Fick to close it out. Questions that existed before his call-up remain after Fick gave up three hits and a run. On television, Al Hrabosky said one of the few things about which I’ve ever agreed with him when he muttered, “If you can’t close out this game, you don’t deserve to be up here.” Fick is not going to be the answer to the bullpen struggles. That would most likely be Maikel Cleto. Let’s get it done!
PLAYER OF THE GAME: (tie) Yadi and Matt Adams.
CONCLUSION: This is the kind of win we had come to expect out of this team before their recent losing streak. Here’s a question – can any of our other starters follow Wainwright’s example and hold down opponents? Wainwright’s performance is exactly what we need to happen nightly in order to right the ship and get back on a winning roll. I don’t know if this collection of starters can do it, but a guy can hope.