GAME 57: Lifting The Curse Of Norris
After a long stretch of being shut down by excellent pitching, the Cardinals were faced with the prospect of struggling against their arch-nemesis, the infamous Bud Norris. Tonight, however, the Cardinals (29-28) solved Norris and the Astros with a curse-lifting 4-3 victory at Minute Maid Park. WHACKING THE BUD: The Cardinals’ offense wasted little time clubbing the cross-eyed Norris. Daniel Descalso ripped a one-out home run to start it off, and consecutive hits by Carlos Beltran, Allen Craig, and David Freese added two more runs for a quick 3-0 lead. After so many limp offensive games, it was nice to see this lineup come roaring back to life.
CLUMSY: The deterioration of the defense continues. The infield team of Rafael Furcal and Matt Adams isn’t working out well; Furcals’ throwing error in the second pulled Adams off the bag for what feels like the fourth or fifth time since Adams took over at first.
THROW ME OUT: The strike zone of umpire Angel Hernandez has nothing to do with baseball or reality. I firmly believe Hernandez alone will force the installation of automated strike zones based solely on his incompetence.
AMATEUR: Even more egregious was Carlos Beltran’s casual pursuit of a lazy fly that he dropped while trying to be cool. UNACCEPTABLE. Beltran is a major league ballplayer making millions of dollars a year. We should expect and receive a performance better than what we’d see from a cocky teenager. Beltran’s stupid play forced Wainwright to throw 15-20 extra pitches, which shortened his night. Herzog and TLR would’ve pulled Beltran out of the game for that kind of nonsense, and I wouldn’t argue about it, either.
HITTING MACHINE: If a baseball player was only judged on his hitting, Allen Craig would be a superstar. The dude can slug. He hit his seventh home run in the third to pad the Cardinals’ lead to 4-0. Hitting the homer saved Craig from running at full speed, which is good because he clearly cannot run. He looked like a ninety year old man running on rusty nails earlier in the game. How much longer before his knees blow out again? It seems inevitable at this point. We’ll definitely miss his big bat when it happens.
WHIFF: The Cardinals struck out an astonishing twelve times against Norris and fifteen times overall. They looked like ME up there when I used to swing with my eyes closed. On a related note, it’s obvious that these clubs have caught on to certain players and are working their weakenesses. The Astros fed Beltran nothing but breaking balls after his first-inning double, and Matt Adams saw nothing but high fastballs. Time to readjust the approach.
VINTAGE: Adam Wainwright wasn’t unhittable, but he really locked down when he needed to during the first five innings. His most impressive inning came after a walk and two hits loaded the bases in the fifth with one out. Waino threw the kind of curveballs that probably made Beltran flinch in right field, and he struck out Jed Lowrie and Fernando Martinez to end the threat. Magnificent! However, the foolishness behind him eventually caught up, and he had to leave the game prematurely.
UGH: With the game on the line in the seventh and a runner on with two outs, Matheny brought in Marc Rzepczynski to retire left-handed Brett Wallace. Zeppo managed to induce a ground ball to second base. Unfortunately, as Descalso went to field it and get the out, Furcal swept in and bumped Descalso and ruined the play. Why was Furcal over there in the first place?? Hey Raffy, we already have a second baseman! Fortunately Mitchell Boggs came in to get the last out and save the game.
EIGHTH INNING TERROR: Boggs allowed a leadoff single in the eighth. Then the Astros bunted down the first base line toward Adams, who has the defensive abilities of a half-eaten shark victim. Adams threw the ball into right field, allowing the runner to come around to home plate. Fortunately Descalso sprinted to the ball and fired a strike to Yadi, who tagged the runner out. WHEW!
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Descalso saved the game, and gave us a homer. He deserves it.
CONCLUSION: The Cardinals appear to be slowly righting the ship after a long and torturous stretch. There are still lingering symptoms (the strikeouts, the defense), but the Cards are scoring some runs and getting some serviceable bullpen work. I really think a couple of consecutive long starts from the rotation could really put this team back together. But can anybody do that besides Waino?