GAME 66: Waking A Sleeping Beast
The best team in the National League has been slumbering for the majority of almost two months. Many observers wondered about the sloppy, inconsistent play and what might turn it around. Fortunately, more bad umpiring proved to be the breaking point, as an angry and frustrated Cardinal club (34-32) erupted for 6 early runs en route to a 10-7 escape of the Royals at Busch.
BOILING OVER: I don’t ever recall seeing so many awful umpiring calls in one two-month span in my life. It seems like almost every game involves a glaringly-bad call by idiotic umpires. For the most part the Cardinals have played with class when faced with such obvious stupidity, but today’s ridiculous reversed call proved to be too much. Let’s go into it.
IGNITION: With two runners on and no outs, Cardinal rookie starter Joe Kelly induced a pop up back to the mound by Eric Hosmer. Kelly caught the ball, as indicated by the home plate umpire. With that validation, Kelly threw to first to get Chris Getz wandering away from first. After Allen Craig gave the ball to Kelly, Kelly alertly threw it to second base to get Alex Gordon, who had run to third. In essence, this was a triple play; three umpires signaled outs. However, after the Royals complained, the umpires reversed their decision! This led to Mike Matheny‘s ejection after a long screaming match. This, though, was the perfect tonic for an emotionally-dead club, as the Cardinals finally came to life. I’m sure Matheny is already plotting his next ejection with these kinds of results.
MR. DO EVERYTHING: Joe Kelly will probably not be a superstar pitcher in major league baseball; his stuff is hittable and relies on good location for success. But in just two starts Kelly has shown that he is a tough competitor with guts and the desire to to whatever he can to help the team win. The kid kept the Royals (mostly) under control for almost five innings and gave us a fair chance to win. He also laid down the best bunt of the season in the second inning. Again, he’s not Steven Strasburg’s All Star clone, but he’s giving this badly-injured team some quality help.
ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER: After the debacle of the first, the Cardinals could’ve played a distracted game. Instead, they turned up the power for the first time in two weeks. A resurgent Matt Holliday started it with a massive two-run homer into Big Mac Land to put the first runs up. Then, starting 2012 All Star catcher Yadier Molina followed that with another two-run bomb. Folks, that’s how you answer adversity.
STILL DOWN: I guess Rafael Furcal needed another day off. Sadly, the tailspin continued today, with Furcal swinging at every baseball like it murdered his mother. Then came a hideous bunt attempt in the seventh that accidentally turned into a hit thanks to a Royals misplay. Furcal also played a sloppy game in the field. He’s really pressing now … I’d like to give him a few more days to realign.
ALL THOSE YEARS AGO: Every time Carlos Beltran gets a hit, my heart hurts a little bit. I ache for all of those years we could’ve had Beltran on our team. He’s so damned talented and classy, and his talents were wasted in an unappreciative atmosphere like New York. If I could master time travel, I would go back to 2005 and take Beltran over Albert Pujols. Then we could’ve watched this marvelous player in his prime as he achieved so much in the great atmosphere in St. Louis. Beltran had three more hits, with a RBI and two runs scored. He doesn’t stop. Hopefully we can make some magic in the short time we’ll have together!
NO RESTRAINT: The Cardinals’ bullpen has been a mystifying quagmire this season. Lately, they’ve been solid. However, today they couldn’t seem to hold the Royals in support of Kelly. After Victor Marte did terrific work, but we made the mistake of going to the well too many times. Sam Freeman gave up two runs, followed by a clueless three-run seventh from Eduardo Sanchez and Marc Rzepczynski (shocker). Zeppo in particular has been absolutely awful all year. Any time Mozeliak feels like chipping in with a quality move, I’m ready for it. Hey Mo, how about RIGHT NOW?!?
A REAL HOLLIDAY: It’s no secret that Matt Holliday hasn’t been himself all season. Even with a couple of small streaks, Holliday’s average and power production have been down. But Holliday showed what we’ve been missing from him today with a 4-5 afternoon and five big RBI. Even bigger than his titanic two-run homer in the first was his clutch RBI single in the seventh to tie the game and reverse the negative momentum of the previous bullpen disaster. Wouldn’t it be nice to savor a two or three weeks of a super-hot Holliday??
EL CAPITAN: There is no single player in baseball more important to their team than Yadier Molina is to the Cardinals. He is more than a ballplayer. He is a hero. He is the heart and soul of Cardinal baseball. When Yadi singled in two runs with the bases loaded in the seventh, he proved once more his indescribable worth to this franchise and its fans. If Molina doesn’t make it into the Hall of Fame, he needs to have a statue outside the stadium even more than Willie McGee. Yadi is a Cardinal god.
LOCKDOWN: Give Mitchell Boggs and Jason Motte credit; after a terrible afternoon from their peers, those two managed to hold a two run lead for a victory. They really gave a sense of stability to a volatile day for the pitching.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Molina, on a day when there were several heroes and goats.
CONCLUSION: What looked like a runaway game fueled by anger and frustration soon turned frustrating with another bullpen collapse. Thank goodness the bats came alive and were capable of competing against a hot Royals team. While the bullpen remains a sore spot, it was nice to see the Cardinals ignite and play with purpose for the first time in a while. This was a gutsy, never-say-die victory that should do much to improve morale. Hopefully.