This week I made my first pilgrimage to the festival known as Spring Training. There is no better excuse to get out of town, find some sun and get a taste of things to come.
aig first caught my eye playing for AA Springfield two years ago. I liked him immediately, and I am pulling for him to make the club.
Goin’ to Kansas City.
Kansas City, here I come.
They’ve got some crazy little
And you know I’m gonna go be one.
Off to See Some Inter-league Play
On my drive to Kansas
City, I listened to MLB Homeplate on XM Radio. There were endless debates over inter-league play. It’s bad. It’s good. Love it. Hate it. Love it, but let’s tweak it. Always use the DH. Never use the DH. Switch the use of the DH to the NL parks. Make the inter-league records determine the home field advantage for the World Series. And, on and on and on.
I could not care less about all of that. I am a fan of inter-league play for one reason and one
reason alone: The Cardinals play in Kansas City. Short of an inter-league game that would take them to Arlington, it is as close as the Cardinals ever get to me. Still, it’s a six-hour drive.
I lived in Kansas
City for a number of years and have friends and family
to visit, which makes the I-70 series weekend very special for me. I got to meet my brand week week-old nephew. I love hanging out with my fam.
The home of the Kansas City Royals, Kauffman Stadium or
“The K”, is a special place for me. I saw my first major league game there. I was probably nine or ten. I did not really know baseball back then. I do not remember who we played. I do not remember who won. I did know who George Brett was, and I knew when I walked into The K, that it was the biggest place I had ever been, and I liked being there.
I went with my sister her fiancé and some of his
family. We sat near right field. We played a game where each person drew an outfield position. Each time the Royal playing your position caught a fly ball, everybody else paid you a dollar. I had right-field and the other team must have been stacked with lefties because I made a killing.
It was poetic and special that I would be back at The K
with my sister on Friday. She does not understand my attraction to this game, but she is one person in my life that does not look at me like I am crazy when I take off cross-country to go see a game. And, I love that about her.
Welcome to the New K
The outside will always look a bit like a place the Jetsons’
would have gone to watch a game. It is a throwback to the early 70s when we were in love with astronauts, men walked on the moon and I drank Tang for breakfast.
The field area at The K has always been spectacularly
beautiful, with the signature outfield fountains. It was a gem in it’s day. However, as new parks are built, the old girl had been left in the dust. Little luster remained on the hunk of forty year old concrete.
No longer. Major
renovations were completed over the winter, and the old girl has a whole new look. The fan experience in this park is excellent.
The scoreboard seemed more fabulous that ever.
Before the renovations, there were no seats between the
foul poles. Unless a home run ball took some sort of funny hop, it could not be caught here. Now the outfield is full of seats and activity.
Although there were plenty o’ Cardinals fans in the seats,
I do believe I saw much more Royals blue than last year during the I-70 series. Good for you, Kansas City! However, the fans in blue (except for the ones in powder blue retro
Cardinals jerseys) would not have much to cheer about.
Game 1 Davies vs. Thompson
The Cardinals came out hitting the Royals well. Single, single, two-run single. But, in the
third, they broke out the cannons.
In the first, the Royals pitched to Pujols and were
punished with a 2-RBI single. This time they walked him. Enter the slumping Ryan Ludwick. Although the words “grand slam” were bouncing around in the back of my head, I quieted them and thought how nice it would be if Ludwick just got a nice simple base hit. And, he did 393 ft. into the brand new outfield seats.
The Cardinals weren’t finished handing out souvenirs to
that section. Rick Ankiel and Khalil Greeene went back to back with solo shots. All sluggers have had their issues at the plate lately. Nothing like a little long ball to get them going.
I like the move of Khalil Greene to third base. After seeing the athleticism that Brendan
Ryan and Tyler Greene can bring to the shortstop position, I think one of them should be playing that position. On a team with the pitching philosophy of “pitch to contact and let your defense do the work”, they need to play their best defenders.
Also, because of the philosophy, that puts extraordinary
pressure on the middle infielders to be practically perfect in every way. Perhaps, that is part of the pressure that was getting to Khalil Greene. Perhaps, he can relax a bit at third. It seemed to work in his rehab starts in Memphis. And, it seems to be working now.
I did not want to say this out loud too soon for fear of
jinxing it, but I think it is safe to say that Skip Schumaker has turned into a very fine second baseman. With Schumaker’s athletic ability and intense work ethic, I really believed the transition would work. I just did not know it would work so well. He looks
like he was born to it.
Davies was pulled in the third and Thompson pitched a
gem. Cardinals win!
Game 2 Bannister vs. Carpenter
With a rain delay of
about an hour and a half, it looked like it might be a long day at the ballpark. However, Bannister and Carpenter were like to pilots grooving in the jet stream trying to make up time on a cross-country flight. Length of game: 2:37.
Many might argue that Albert Pujols is the most intimidating
Cardinal. If I were a National League pitcher, I might agree. But, the Cardinal I find most intimidating is Chris Carpenter.
He is big. He is tall. His voice
is deep. He has amazing stuff, and he is all business, all the time. You often see Pujols smile or share a laugh. Not Carpenter. I am sure he has a light-hearted side, silly, fun-loving side. I have just never seen it, and that’s fine by me. If he scares the bejesus out of me
just sitting in the bleachers, I can only imagine the fear he inspires in those
who must stand in the batter’s box.
This was really the best game of the series. Although the Cardinals let the whole game, it
was close until the ninth. The Royals threatened to get the bats going in the 8th. Carpenter was pulled after a 2-out double. The third out was four batters, one walk, one error, one run and two pitchers away.
In the ninth, a string of base hits by Ludwick, Duncan,
and Molina, was topped off by a Khalil Greene home run. The four run inning turned the formerly 3-1 game into a rout.
Game 3 Meche vs. Wainwright
I enjoyed the game with family on Friday. Saturday was spent swapping baseball stories with friends. Both were great, but Sunday was for me. I walked up to the ticket booth and purchased
one of the last seats in outfield section 105. I wanted sit in one of the new seats. I wanted to sit where the home run balls landed.
The 1:00 pm start on the first day of summer was as hot as
they come. Despite application of sunscreen, I would leave with a souvenir sunburn. But, the weather was no hotter than Albert Pujols’ bat.
I have run out of words to describe El Hombre. Special.
Amazing. The best player in baseball. The words fall short. While he is capable of anything, he still
finds a way to exceed our expectations.
When Albert Pujols came to the plate in the 4th
with bases loaded, I tucked away my pencil and scorecard. I was ready to catch the ball. The grand slam ball. I thought, “Albert, hit it to me.”
But, he missed. The
grand slam ball landed about 15 feet to my left and 10 feet back. I expected a home run, but I did not expect the 423 feet monster shot. He’s such an over-achiever.
The game had been close, but the grand slam put the
Cardinals out of reach. In a continuation of that inning, the Cardinals sent 12 batters to the plate and
scored 8 runs. I began to feel sorry for the Royals. Especially, the catcher,
Olivo. I was drenched in sweat just sitting there. I could not imagine
working in the heat while wearing catcher’s gear.
In other news, Khalil Greene hit his third home run in
three days. He was rewarded by a plunking. Maybe, intentional. Maybe not. Either way, the Royals paid. The pinch runner, Thurston, was the first to score on the grand slam.
Random Images from the I-70 Series
Colby Rasmus at the plate. How much to we love our little Rookie of the Year Candidate?
On Friday, the Royals catcher, Olivo, hit a long fly ball to deep left field. I quickly tried to get a picture of Ankiel making a spectacular catch. Instead, I got a blurred image of his attempt and the very sad shot below of him looking at where the ball landed inside the Cardinals bullpen:
was the Second Annual United Cardinal Bloggers Progressive Blog Day, where UCB
members write about one inning in today’s installment of the I-70 series as the
St. Louis Cardinals take on the Kansas City Royals at Busch Stadium.
the fifth inning, so visit these fine blogs first and then come back here:
Pregame: United Cardinal Bloggers
Fourth inning: Cards on Deck
So, by now, you know that Kyle Lohse has a two hit shutout going. A two RBI single by Nick Stavinoha, got the
Cardinals out in front in the first. Skip
Schumaker added on with a lead-off home run in the third. Cardinals are leading the Royals 3-0 at the
start of the fifth inning.
I was watching the game from home today rather than from the sold-out stands in
Busch Stadium. However, when I am at the
ballpark, there in one thing I hate: having to go to the bathroom during the
game. Sometimes I can make it a whole
nine innings, but more often than not, the beverages kick in, the bladder
stretches to capacity and I am left with no choice but to make the trek to the
I hate to
go because I am always afraid I am going to miss something. Depending on how far away the bathroom is and
whether or not there is a line (actually, I am female, so there is always a
line), the roundtrip can take a whole half an inning or better. Annoying.
had I been in the stands, the fifth inning would have been a good time go.
anticipation grew as I watched the first through the fourth inning of this
really fine Cardinal outing. I wondered
what new excitement my inning would bring.
Another home run? Lohse striking
out the side? Another fine catch by
center fielder, Colby Rasmus?
Turns out, the most
exciting thing that happened in the inning is that the Royals phone to the
bullpen was on the fritz. They had to send a runner out to give instructions.
at the Plate
led off for the Royals and hit a routine fly ball to center fielder, Colby
Rasmus. This was the sixth fly ball of
the day to Rasmus, who was earning his money in center. He plays a sweet and easy center field. A real joy to watch.
Next up, Olivo
did hit a double down the left field line.
That might have been new and interesting since it was only the third
Royals hit thus far, but Olivo hit that exact same double in the second inning.
Aviles, with his odd helicopter batting
stance, struck out. The pitcher,
Hochevar, quickly got behind 0-2, and grounded out to shortstop, Tyler
Greene. Olivo, once again, found himself
orphaned at second base.
at the Plate
Cardinal lineup was back to the top as lead-off hitter, Skip Shumaker,
led-off. Schumaker had a tough at
bat. Fouled off three pitches. Worked the count to full. And, ultimately line out sharply to Royals
third baseman, Teahan.
Rasmus was up next. He took a curve for
a strike, a curve for a ball and then grounded out sharply to first baseman, Butler.
Again. Very much as he did in his
last at bat in the third.
Albert Pujols is up. Nobody on, which is
good because he might get a pitch to hit.
He did find a pitch to hit, unfortunately he hit it on the ground to the
shortstop who threw to first and got the third out.
Was it a
ho-hum inning? For most people it would
be. No runs. One extra-base hit. One strike-out. No diving plays to make the highlight
reel. However, a real baseball fan will
appreciate the following:
- A very efficient scoreless
inning for starting pitcher, Kyle Lohse.
Four batters faced. Twelve
pitches thrown. Of which, only two
were balls. Very, very sweet.
- It took twelve pitches to
retire the Royals. It took eight
pitches to retire Skip Schumaker, who took a very good lead-off style at
bat before lining the ball into a glove.
- Sometimes less is more. Especially when it comes to excitement
in a close 3-0 game. I have seen
enough Cardinals pitchers in trouble in close games. I have seen enough errors on routine
plays. I will happily take a quiet
inning of solid pitching and defense.
In particular, when the Cardinals are enjoying the lead.
these UCB sites to continue on with game.