GAME 80: Early Fireworks
St. Louis pummeled a hapless Rockies team, providing a gutsy Kyle Lohse with more than seven runs for the first time this year as the Cardinals (42-38) whipped Colorado 9-3 at Busch.
BIG BATS: The Cardinals crushed three home runs tonight, all line drive shots of jaw-dropping power. Matt Holliday slashed his 13th home run in the third off of a wild Josh Outman for the Cardinals’ first run. Later, Allen Craig ripped two home runs (a two-run shot in the fifth and a solo shot in the eighth), both being planted into the grassy area in straightaway center. These weren’t lazy fly balls; they were kill-shots fully deserving of the fireworks erupting over Busch. Pedestrians in downtown St. Louis would be forgiven for thinking that the Fair had started two days early. An incredible display of raw power!
STANDING O: Kyle Lohse wasn’t brilliant – nine hits and two runs over 7.1 innings – but he fought hard to hold the Rockies in place. His best moment came in the fifth, when Lohse wriggled out of a bases-loaded jam with the skill of Houdini without allowing any runs to score. When Matheny finally came out to pull Lohse with the bases-loaded in the eighth, the crowd gave Lohse a loud standing ovation for his efforts – that’s real class. It was not just a recognition of his efforts tonight, but also a respectful “thank you” for being our winningest pitcher over the last two seasons (and that’s hard to believe). Lohse doesn’t have many more chances to feel that appreciation in a Cardinal uniform, so I hope he soaked it up.
QUANDRY: What are we going to do about Allen Craig?? His beast-mode power display tonight once again shows that he needs to be in the lineup every day. However, he’s blocked this year by Lance Berkman (once he returns), and is blocking the potential rise of Matt Adams next year. It’s a delicious problem for GM John Mozeliak. Craig or Adams will probably be traded this summer for pitching – but which one?
PRIMAL SCREAM: Mitchell Boggs is an animal even without the facial scruff. He strode out to the mound with the bases loaded and one out in the eighth, and with two nasty pitches Boggs induced an inning-saving double play. After the final out, Boggs pumped his fist wildly and screamed with intense joy. THANK GOODNESS FOR BOGGS THIS YEAR! In a bullpen quagmire of epic proportions, he has been one of the few marginally-consistent highlights of the season. Stay focused, Mitchell, and never lose that edge!!!
NOT QUITE AN ALL STAR: Considering how awful the All Star voting went for Yadier Molina this season, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Rockies catcher Wilin Rosario placed third in the voting despite being the most abysmal catcher in the National League. He was awful tonight, possibly the single worst catching performance in the history of the position. There were approximately 287 wild pitches tonight (though they should’ve been ruled as passed balls), and Rosario also missed a crucial throw at home that allowed Molina (average foot speed: .004 feet per minute) to score from third on a grounder to second for the Cardinals’ seventh run. Rosario wasn’t helped by a Rockies pitching staff that threw the ball in the dirt so many times that it appeared they thought the strike zone started from the ground up. I have no idea how the Cardinals didn’t break the 20-run barrier with the ten hits and eight walks surrendered by the Colorado battery tonight. Yes, there are reasons why the Rockies are 14 games out of the NL West race.
WEIRD HOP: The Cardinals looked willing-and-able to run on Rosario throughout the game, and Rosario seemed helpless to stop them. However, Rosario managed to throw out Carlos Beltran at third after a Molina strikeout to end the bottom of the third inning. I have no idea what Beltran was doing – he had a good jump, but then suddenly stopped as he reached the bag and the throw came in to third baseman Jordan Pacheco. Beltran was out easily at third. Did Beltran think Molina’s strikeout ended the inning? Did his knee pop? It was a mysterious-looking play that left me quite confused.
RUDE RETURN: Maikel Cleto tore up the Pacific Coast League this season, posting a 3.94 ERA (just a .212 BAA) with 41 strikeouts in 32 innings. But major league hitting is a bit different than what he saw in the minor leagues, even when the opponent is the lowly Rockies. Rosario slightly atoned for his previous atrocities with a ninth-inning homer off of Cleto, the second homer Cleto has allowed in his six innings of major league work this season. His walk rate is better, but it looks like major league hitters are catching up to Cleto’s blazing fastball. Better work on another pitch, buddy.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: It’s a toss-up between Craig and Lohse, but I’m giving it to Lohse for a relentless performance on a hot evening.
CONCLUSION: The Cardinals need to consistently whip teams like the Rockies much in the manner they did tonight – solid, deep starting pitching, good spot relief, and a thumping offense that capitalizes on the frequent mistakes of their opponent. Of course, that would be a winning formula against any team, but the losses to weaker and losing teams has been a sore spot this season. It’s nice to see the correct approach for once.