Archive for the ‘St. Louis Cardinals’ Category

MLB: World Series-St. Louis Cardinals at Boston Red Sox

Just about every pundit or World Series preview agreed on the big issues. The Cardinals’ starting rotation was better than the Red Sox starting rotation, given the way Michael Wacha has thrown the ball and taking Clay Buchholz‘s injury concerns into consideration.

Most also conceded the Red Sox defense was better than the Cardinals defense. The Red Sox shift and switch players and devote man-hours and assets and go out of their way to grab extra outs where ever they can while the Cardinals….well they sure score a lot of runs, don’t they?

In a tale-of-the-tape list post, it makes sense to break these factors off into different sections. The need for content is significant, and dispensing binding letter grades or check marks is Serious Business.

When the lights come up and the bunting hangs just so around the venerable grounds of Fenway Park, these two component work in concert to become run prevention – and one side cannot exist without the other. As Adam Wainwright, the postseason warrior and ace of the Cardinals staff who witnessed the power of poor defense up close and personal. The Cardinals defense gave away bases, outs, and runs in undoing an otherwise decent outing by Wainwright as the Red Sox bested the Cardinals 8-1 to take a 1-0 series lead.

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MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Chicago Cubs

The playoffs are all about results. This is the “house style” of this postseason – process doesn’t really matter. Unsustainable production is no match for forever flying flags. Mr. October is not subject to regression.

The St. Louis Cardinals better pray this is true. They defied the Gods of situational hitting all season long, putting up incredible numbers with runners in scoring position. Allen Craig drove this bus, of course, but the Cardinals marched all the way to the World Series without his magic RBI wand.

The Cardinals also have a secret weapon in their bullpen, a man immune to the law of average’s pull. Seth Maness is their escape artist, the Cardinals Houdini. The master of the double play ball when it is needed most.

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Aren't you tired of this by now?

Aren’t you tired of this by now?

It is easy, in the aftermath of a 9-0 whitewashing at the hands of the Cardinals juggernaut, to point fingers inside the Dodgers clubhouse. To blame the series loss Yasiel Puig‘s outfield adventures or Clayton Kershaw for picking Game Six of the NLCS to have his worst game of the year. It isn’t much more complicated that. The Cardinals won Game Six handily and won the series, having beaten Clayton Kershaw twice. Once, they didn’t beat him as much as outlasted the Cy Young shoo-in. Last night he was bad and the Cardinals pounced.

The lame storylines grafted on top of this series only succeed in distracting from the immutable truth – the Cardinals were the better team over the last week. The Cardinals triumph should be recognized for what it is: nothing short of a player development miracle.

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MLB: NLCS-St. Louis Cardinals at Los Angeles Dodgers

The best British soccer announcers have a way of making any random match seem important. If not important, a posh accent at least lends an air of authenticity to the proceedings. An English-language soccer broadcaster without an accent is one I am unlikely to suffer for long, in all honesty. The best announcers — like the great Martin Tyler to name one — have delightful little phrases and terms they pepper into their call to add color to the game.

“A turn of the screw” or “turning the screw” is one you hear often, generally when the team with the lead dominates possession and continually forces the opposition onto “the back foot.” Watching the Cardinals slowly, methodically, surgically beat the Dodgers tonight, I can think of no other phrase to better describe the National League Championship Series.

The Dodgers might have better players – Hanley Ramirez and Yasiel Puig are better than any one position player on St. Louis and Clayton Kershaw likely gets the edge over Adam Wainwright in a popular vote – but the Cardinals are just a better team. Top to bottom, one through 25, in all facets of the game, the Cardinals look better. Their non-stars are performing, cumulatively, better than the Dodgers stars and scrubs approach. The veteran Dodgers are racked with injury concerns while the Cardinals, outside of Allen Craig, are healthy and productive.

Last night, the Cardinals facade of perfection cracked and the Dodgers seized upon the opportunities. Not tonight. St. Louis didn’t blow the game open tonight, pushing over four runs on two homers and a Matt Carpenter double. They staked a small lead and then politely nursed it like a beer in the new neighbor’s garage. St. Louis snuffed out rallies with key double plays and an astute pick off in the eighth inning which felt like the game ended right that second.

The Cards didn’t make the same kind of mistakes they made 24 hours earlier. Instead of giving away extra bases and extras chances, the Cardinals played a tight “crisp” game. They turned to their excellent bullpen after Lance Lynn battled his way through 16 outs. Mike Matheny‘s bullpen got the next 11 on their own (with an assist to Nick Punto, of course.)

Without Ramirez the Dodgers look top-heavy, calling on Michael Young to play shortstop after a series of double switches removed Hanley’s replacement Nick Punto – not long after he made the base running gaffe featured above. They seem unable to solve the Cardinals pitching staff, but then again it is October 2013 and most pitching staffs are now unsolvable puzzles.

They turned the screw. Slowly yet steadily increasing the pressure on the Dodgers. The Dodgers have their own ways of reliving that pressure, of course. Knowing two starts from Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw is all that stands before LA and a Game Seven coin flip offers a brief respite from the pressure. But it is there. The Cardinals just keep turning the screw, with their timely hits and efficient relief pitching.

All that remains to be seen now is if they can finish the job. Or, just like one year ago, will a team from California disrupt the coronation of Baseball’s Greatest Franchise. Pressure’s on.

MLB: NLCS-Los Angeles Dodgers at St. Louis Cardinals

You’ll never believe it but, even in the playoffs, striking out batters is a great way for a pitcher to help his team win. Anibal Sanchez of the Detroit Tigers pitched really well Saturday night and Max Scherzer also pitched well Sunday night. Combined they struck out 25 batters in 13 innings.

Scherzer might have pitched better but Sanchez got a lot of attention for leaving the game without allowing a hit, a desirable outcome for a starting pitcher. The Tigers staff as a whole held the Red Sox to just one measly base hit while striking out 17 as a staff. That’s good!

Comparing the two starts, it’s a little odd that Sanchez allowed six base runners while Scherzer only let four reach safely. Six walks seems like a lot for a “dominant start”. In the minds of some, this diminishes his outing a little. Hey, if taking pride in a strange fun allergy is your thing, go nuts – tear down as many no-hitters or near no-hitters as you can. Nobody forces you to enjoy them, let your beige accountant flag fly.

The Tigers dominated the Red Sox batters both nights, but the Sox ability to work counts and draw walks gave them chances to score on Saturday, loading the bases in the sixth inning against the AL’s ERA leader. It was in those brief moments of hope for the Sox that we saw the true value of the strikeout – a pitcher’s ultimate equalizer.

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The Cardinals beat the Pirates last night. They pitched better and they hit better. St. Louis didn’t play better defense but it doesn’t really matter because even the best defense can’t stop a ball from going 15 rows deep into the outfield bleachers.

The Cards pitched better, needing just one pitcher to do so: Adam Wainwright. He pitched a complete game, dominating the Pirates with his curveball and other pitches that aren’t his curveball. His curve is the best in the business and he threw the living crap out of it. He’s pretty good, this Wainwright.

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MLB: NLDS-Pittsburgh Pirates at St. Louis Cardinals

There is no shame in losing to the St. Louis Cardinals. They’re the Cardinals, the Yankees of Flyover Country. The factory for nameless, faceless productive Major Leaguers. They are quietly, annoyingly, the most successful team in baseball over the last decade. Since losing the 2004 World Series in four straight, the Cards have reached the playoffs six times, winning the title twice.

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