GAME 86: Going out in style
With the final game before the All Star break, the Cardinals(46-40) went looking for their second straight win and a series win against the Miami Marlins. After some pre-game drama when the Cardinals scratched David Freese with a left leg contusion, the Cardinals looked to sharp young rookie Joe Kelly to hold down the fort on another hot day. Sadly, after a solid start from Kelly, right on cue the bullpen came in and blew it nearly costing the Cardinals the game. However a dramatic ninth inning led to a three run come from behind win at the hands of Rafael Furcal! Cardinals win it, 5-4 to end the first half.
As Ray and I have often mentioned, STL Cardinal Baseball have really become fans of the young rookie Joe Kelly. His modest attitude, backs the solid performances he brings out time and time again. Today was no different, despite walking a career high five batters, Kelly went six strong innings allowing only two hits while striking out five and allowing one UNearned run. In 6 starts this year, Kelly has yet to allow more than three runs and has put up decent numbers. Kelly is now 1-1 with a 2.70 ERA and 21 strikeouts in 33.1 innings pitched. It is nice to see a young guy like Kelly come in and be a stable force with guys like Jaime Garcia and Chris Carpenter on the DL.
The little things:
Skip Schumaker may not be the greatest ball player, but he once again showed today why he is a fan favorite. Who couldn’t help but cheer with glee when Skippy came through with an RBI single earlier in the game to give the Cardinals their first run of the game. Schumaker is still a reliable offensive force and I am glad we still have him as a bench option.
Allen Craig continued his hot streak, getting his 14th double of the season. It is hard to believe the stats Craig has put up in so little time. He really needs to stay healthy because he will be a huge key heading into the second half of the season. Right now Craig is batting .309, with 13 HR, 44 RBI in just 175 at bats. Imagine if he was healthy and had a full time position for a whole year, scary right?
Matt Holliday continued his hot streak picking up another hit which brought his first half average to .317. Holliday is very deserving of his All Star nomination following the departure of Yadier Molina from the All Star team. One of the keys of this year was having Holliday become the franchise player that signed the largest contract in team history, so far he has shown that he is capable of doing that. But there is still a lot of time left, Holliday really needs to hit all season long. If he can have a strong second half and pick up where he left off, the Cardinals will be in a much better position to win the NL Central. ALL HAIL KING HOLLIDAY!
Brown Town St. Louis:
How great has Barret Browning been since he was added to the major league roster? In his four appearances so far he has recorded an out to every batter he has faced, literally being perfect. Though it may be a small sample size, it is much more effective than Zeppo, Romero, and Freeman have been. Hopefully he will be able to be a stable force throughout the rest of the season.
Why did Matheny bring struggling rookie Maikel Cleto in to a 2-1 game in the seventh inning? With hot arms like Mitchell Boggs and Fernando Salas waiting in the wings, why go with the struggling rookie with such a close lead? Matheny’s decision didn’t pay off and Cleto immediately allowed two base runners and was forced out of the game without recording an out. Then without much hesitation, Victor Marte allowed a three run pinch hit homer from Austin Kearns wiping the Cardinals lead and Joe Kelly‘s chance of a win. It is little moves like this that show that Matheny is still a rookie manager. It also shows that this bullpen still needs a lot of help, HURRY JOHNNY MO!
Once again Victor Marte allowed a go ahead home run. Though Marte has been one of the more reliable arms in the bullpen he still has not been a good one. The Cardinals really need to get something going in the bullpen if they want another chance to make it to the post season.
I know that bringing up Maikel Cleto was supposed to help stabilize the bullpen but that experiment has failed. After his horrible outing today he now has a monstrous 7.00 ERA that makes Zeppo look like Cy Young. Cleto is still young and I still have hope for him, but let us not continue to allow him to get bashed around at this level, it is time for him to rejoin Sanchez and Freeman in the minors.
Mitchell Boggs came in with the bases loaded and two outs, and what did he do? No, he didn’t let up a grand slam, he got the strikeout and gave the Cardinals some momentum headed to the bottom of the ninth. He has really been a huge key to the Cardinals this year, if only he was used properly all the time.
Never Give Up:
The Cardinals managed to fight their way back in the bottom of the ninth against struggling closer Heath Bell. Down 4-2, the Cardinals soon found themselves in a position to win.After a walk, a huge ground rule double from Matt Carpenter, then another walk loaded the bases for Tony Cruz. Cruz managed to get a sac fly to cut the lead to 4-3. Then after a long, intense at bat from Daniel Descalso, Descalso walked again loading the bases with two outs. Rafael Furcal then came up huge with a two out, two strike two RBI single to win it all, his first walk off hit as a Cardinal, third of his career.
Rafael Furcal is going to be starting for the NL in the All Star game, and I cannot think of a reason why he shouldn’t. He proved his worth to the Cardinals again today getting a huge walk off two RBI single with two outs to not only win the game and the series, but to go out in style. He is an All Star and one of the main reasons that the Cardinals are having success this year, he has been a huge surprise to all and I am glad that we have a guy like this on our team!
Player of the Game:
A tie between Joe Kelly for his modest performance and Rafael Furcal for his late game heroics!
With the first half now over, the Cardinals still have a lot of work to do. They need to get healthy, fix up the bullpen, and finish strong. This team still has hope, with guys like Craig, Holliday, Beltran, Freese, Molina, and Berkman this offense will have no problem, it is the shaky pitching that needs to be the focus as we head to the trade deadline. This team is still salvageable, and they are just 3 games out of first place, there is no need to panic yet. I still believe this team is capable of winning it all, it just needs a few adjustments.