GAME 76: A Wind Of Change
After a frustrating series of starts characterized by little offensive support and peculiar one-innning collapses, Chris Carpenter finally had everything go his way. The Cardinals had an entire game of near-perfect situational hitting as Carpenter gained his second win of the year in a 12-2 rout of the Philadelphia Phillies.
PARTY LIKE IT’S 2005: Carpenter was electric tonight, striking out seven in seven innings and never seeming to be threatened at all. The season has seen Carp fine-tuning his nasty curveball, and I think he may have finally figured it out in this start. He was everything that he once was: commanding, aggressive, unrelenting. It’s the kind of stopper performance that the team really needed at just the right time.
A SHOT AT OSWALT: Did anyone else find it odd that Charlie Manuel removed Roy Oswalt from the game after two innings? Oswalt is one of the best pitchers in the game, and he was only losing 4-0 at that point. It seemed like a LaRussa move, actually, and one that reeked of unnecessary desperation.
THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS: One of the contributing factors to the Cards’ recent slide has been the slight cooling of Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman. But tonight both sluggers put on a show, going 4-9 with 5 RBI and 3 runs scored. Particularly nice was Berkman’s 18th home run of the year, a classic Berkman opposite-field shot that really put the final nail in the game for the Phillies. These two might as well pack for the All-Star Game right now.
JAY’S WAY: Outfielder Jon Jay wa all over this game again, smacking an early home run and making some fine catches. He’s really ingratiated himself into this team, hasn’t he? It’s interesting to see Jay right in the middle of the goofiness on the bench, laughing it up with the vets. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons TLR prefers Jay over Rasmus – Jay is a more personable guy.
CRUZ CONTROL: Rookie Tony Cruz started for the second straight game, and turned in a great Carpenter start as well as going 2-3 at the plate. It will be a shame to see Cruz go back to the minors when (if?) Gerald Laird (remember him?) comes back. The starters obviously love the kid, and he has been outstanding in Laird’s absence. There aren’t many people TLR would play instead of Molina two days in a row – that, more than anything, tells you what TLR thinks of him.
MOP UP MOTTE: Jason Motte got the call in the ninth inning of a game way out of control by then, and he proceeded to submit more of his baffling statistics. Once more, he showed the strikeout stuff by fanning two. He also gave up an earned run on a homer by Carlos Ruiz. Does this guy want to win anybody’s favor? It’s time to prove you have lock-down stuff, Jason!
CONCLUSION: A morale-boosting win, and a fun game if you’re a Cardinals fan. I wouldn’t read too much into it, though; winds can change in a hurry. This is a damaged ballclub still trying to crawl its way to health, but it’s nice to see they have no intention of giving up. The first of August still seems pretty far away, and there is a lot of baseball between now and then. Let’s see if they can keep battling.