Good afternoon folks,
A few things about the Cardinals today as they land in LA and prepare for a four game set with the Dodgers starting tonight at 9:10 central time.
*The Colorado series win was impressive and Wednesday’s win was particularly huge. A loss to the Rockies would have poked a hole in this uneven team and made fans go back to the pressure cooker. The Cards are starting to score runs at a consistent clip and beating the Rockies was a fine display of that renewed offense. Being down 5-1 in the early going and rallying to win 9-6 was one of the biggest wins of the season and propels the team into the next leg of the toughest road trip of the season. Good start.
*Trevor Rosenthal doesn’t make closing look particularly easy, but I still stand by the notion that one closer is the proper way to go. I like to think the bullpen pitchers should know their role and Rosenthal is the closer. It’s the last line of defense. For people wishing to go with 2-3 guys down there, it simply doesn’t work and there is no precedence to it working. Plenty of teams have rode a single closer to the World Series. Closer by committee isn’t the solution. Getting healthy bodies like Kevin Siegrist back and recovering arms like Jason Motte fully rolling is. Rosenthal did throw what seemed like a gagillion pitches on Wednesday but he was facing a great offense in their home park. Troy Tulowitzki doesn’t make the big bucks because he strikes out on three pitches. He battled Rosie and our guy won. Rosenthal is still walking guys and that’s an issue. However, remember the bottom line. Trevor is 23-26 in save opportunities and that puts him in the top 5 in the NL. His velocity is good and there are results. Basics come into play here.
*Allen Craig got a hit and a sac fly yesterday but he still doesn’t look right at the plate. He doesn’t get on base like Matt Holliday so the focus will stay on this third year slugger as he transforms from RBI machine into a pure streaky hitter. Pitchers adjusted and may have found a solution to the Craig hitting touch. It could also be an off year for the right fielder. Without bringing in salary difference here, Craig isn’t mashing like Matt Adams or reaching base like Holliday so he needs to get going again.
*How about Holliday? Three hits and a walk yesterday and his average hovering around .270, His slugging percentage is way down but his OBP is still very strong. He still has a chance to reach 10 home runs and 50 RBI by the All Star Break and keep himself on pace for another solid season. I will say it again. Holliday isn’t an issue. He could get a day off here or there and pound a HR at a higher rate, but he is doing his job.
*Adams has been a different player since his return from the DL on June 13th. 6 HR and over 15 RBI with a batting average staying up around .325. The kid has returned to his 2013 power stature as well as maintaining the ability to get on base. He has three triples, a ton of doubles and has improved his hitting with RISP. One could attribute his recent surge to a weight gain or it could be him adjusting his approach and letting it rip. His home run to the opposite field yesterday was impressive. Adams should play against lefties, righties and dual handed pitchers as well. He is the premium power source in this lineup.
*Pat Neshek has turned into another brilliant offseason signing by John Mozeliak. If Rosenthal does need a day off, Pat is the guy I look to. In 31.2 innings, Neshek has compiled a 2.05 ERA and has 32 strikeouts to only 4 walks. Batters are only hitting .131 off this guy. A big time surprise. He has been good elsewhere but not this good.
*Sam Freeman just needed a chance and with the Siegrist injury, a door opened up for Sam to get more opportunities and bigger stages to show his true talent. In 15 innings, Sam has a brilliant WHIP(walks/hits allowed per inning) of 0.80 and is holding hitters to a .140 batting average. His walks are down and his strikeouts are up. Mainly, his confidence is at an all time high and his efficiency is insane. For example, Seth Maness may have a solid ERA but he is allowing hitters to pound him for a .316 average against. Freeman and Neshek are pitching lights out from the bullpen right now.
*Peter Bourjos got on base in a key situation yesterday but man his strikeouts are ugly. He has 48 K’s in 156 at bats. He is striking out in just about a third of his at bats. Ouch. Jon Jay gets the start tonight but since Mike Matheny believes in the all mighty splits, Bourjos will start against Clayton Kershaw on Sunday for sure. That is odd, because Bourjos struggles against lefties. More Jon Jay starts, please.
*Speaking of the Cy Young award holder and recent owner of a no hitter, how about the Cards give Kershaw more trouble this weekend.
*Matt Carpenter may be in a slump but he still draws walks, hits sac flies and performs all the fundamental tasks required to be a quality leadoff hitter. Yesterday, he hit a grounder to second to move a runner over to third base that eventually scored. The little things count in this game and Carpenter is getting it done.
*Yadier Molina is struggling as well. Remember when he was hitting .325 along with Matt Adams? These days, Molina is hitting .284 and getting plenty of contact to go with the occasional hit. I am not worried about the guy. He plays a ton of games behind the plate and will go into his slumps with the bat. As long as his knees are ready for the stretch run, I am confident his average will be there. He is still a guy I trust the most at the plate in a crucial spot.
Closing words. The Cardinals are 43-36 and stand 4.5 games out of first place. That is fine. As long as the Cards stay close to the Brewers and within striking distance, the head to head series on July 11 will be huge. With the Brewers staying the course, the chances to make up ground are scarce so the head to head battles will be the opportune time to strike. To take a page out of a couple veteran ballplayers wisdom, winning isn’t easy but that’s simply what this team needs to keep doing in order to stay close to the division leaders and fight off a raft of brutal injuries.
Thanks for your time.