Tagged: Ludwick

It ain’t over ’til it’s over…

The 2008 Cardinals are young, hungry, strong, tough and resilient.  Their ability to improvise, overcome, adapt and bounce back from adversity has been tested over and over.  It was tested again this week.

 

The little two-game series against the Brewers was probably the BIGGEST series the Cardinals have played this year.  The Brewers are the team to beat for a team trying to make a playoff run.  We could not afford to lose ground.

 

The first game was a humiliating 12-0 loss.  Just one of those nights where everything the Brewers did worked.  Everything the Cardinals did flopped.  Wellemeyer kept us in it, but got no run support.  Then the Brewers had a run against the Cardinals bullpen, and there was no catching up.

 

The second game started much the same.  Good starting pitching by Wainwright.  The Brewers able to eek in three runs.  The Cardinals leaving runners in scoring position.  In the 6th, Ryan Ludwick finally broke 14 2/3 innings of scorelessness against the Brewers with a solo home run.  But, when the Cardinals had the bases loaded in the 7th and couldn’t come up with a run, the game seemed lost.  Then the tide turned.

 

The Brewer reliever, Villanueva, thought he’d really done something we he got out of that bases loaded inning.  He made the mistake of gesturing toward the Cardinals dugout.  Pujols took exception to the lack of respect.  Villanueva then made the mistake of saying something foul in Spanish to Pujols.  The umpires put out the flames, but the fire still smoldered.

 

The fire translated into an amazing 8th:

·         Franklin‘s strong pitching  allowed no runs.

·         Pujols came up to bat and hit a lead-off double.

·         Ludwick copied with an RBI double. 

·         After a three K night, Glaus finally got a piece of one for an RBI single.  

·         Molina hit behind the runner to sacrifice himself and advance the runner. 

·         Glaus beat the throw to home on Aaron Miles’ pinch hit grounder.  (Why isn’t Miles playing everyday?)

·         Looper came in the game to put down a sac bunt.

·         Lopez scored Miles on a single.

 

The Cardinals lead 5-3.  Would it be enough? 

 

It might have been an even more amazing 9th:

 

Rookie, Chris Perez came in to shut the door.  The anticipation and expectation hung in the air as heavy as would in any game 7 of the World Series.

 

Chris Perez slammed the door hard, fanning 3 of the 4 batters he’s faced.  The Cardinals fans went home happy.

 

Tonight the Cardinals played the kind of game that winners play.  They kept themselves in the game, took advantage when the chance presented itself, and finally went for and got the kill.

 

Now, on to Houston!  I’m looking forward to this series because will be in the stands watching Saturday and Sunday’s games live!  I’m excited to check out Minute Maid Park, and watch the Cardinals take the Astros.

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Wainwright is Back!!!

Six innings.  72 pitches.   47 strikes.  25 balls.  1 run.  5 hits.  1 walk.  4 K’s.  Batting 3 for 5 with 1 RBI and a run.  And, most importantly a win. 

 

Going up against his boyhood home team, the Atlanta Braves, Adam Wainwright gave us far more than we could have asked for or expected from a guy coming back from the DL.  Seems like he was trying to make up for lost time.   Or, trying to make the Braves question once again, what were we thinking when we traded Adam Wainwright to the Cardinals.

 

He could have gotten a win with only four Cardinal runs on the board, but the Cardinal bats were hot-hot-hot, putting up 18 runs on 26 hits–most hits for the Cardinals since 1929. 

 

When we faced the Braves in Atlanta, we took three out of four, but they were missing two of their best:  Chipper Jones and their fine young catcher, McCann.  Although they are a team that has struggled this year, I would never have guessed that a score this lop-sided was possible, especially with those guys back.

 

It was one of those nights when the stars seem to align and everything the Cardinals touched turned to gold.  All they had to do was make contact, and the ball would fall.   Nothing fancy:  a bunch of singles, few doubles and quite a few walks. 

 

Molina led with 4 RBIs.  Pujols and Ankiel had 3 a piece.  Schumaker and Ludwick both had three runs.  Molina and Izturis both hit 4 singles a piece.  The only extra base hits were doubles hit by Pujols, Glaus, Mile, Lopez and Joel Pineiro–who got in on the hitting fun when he came into to finish out the game for Wainwright, pitching 3 innings and getting the save.

 

By the same token, the Braves couldn’t get a break.  The Cardinals defense was a nearly impregnable fortress.  The only bright spots in their day were a pinch hit solo home run by Norton, a little 2-run surge in the 9th, and the arm of their catcher, McCann, who caught two Cardinal runners in a row trying to steal 2nd.

 

There’s been much discussion about what Wainwright’s role will be in relationship to Carpenters availability.  Tonight, Adam made a very strong case that he is a starter.

 

Fishing for Wins in Florida

The Cardinals traveled to Miami to take on the hard hitting Florida Marlins team.  They took 3 out of 4 in front of a sparse crowd at Dolphins Stadium.   It’s rather a shame that the winning Marlins can’t pack in a crowd in a city the size of Miami.  However, except for the Marlin fans that stuck out the rain delay in game three, the fans that did show up this series would be disappointed.

 

8/11/08  Cardinals 4, Marlins 2

 

Well, ya’ll were going to figure it out sooner or later, so I might as well come clean.  If the Cardinals are my favorite team and catching is my favorite part of the great game of baseball, then it’s no surprise that the Cardinal jersey I own has a number 4 on the back. 

 

Yadier Molina.  There are so many things I love about this player.  From his work ethic to his enthusiasm, he’s the type of player that makes the game great.  As a great contact hitter, he doesn’t get very many homers.  So, I loved watching him get his 2-run dinger tonight.  Not just because it was the difference in the game, but because hardworking, good defensive, catchers batting over 300 just don’t get as many moments in the sun as power-hitters.  And, no one deserves the spotlight any more than Molina. 

 

You cannot over-estimate what Molina brings to this team, especially in terms of leadership and game-calling.

 

I enjoyed the homerun for him and for the team, but the part I loved the most was watching him catch Uggla stealing second…twice.  Uggla must be a slow learner.  It will be fun to see if he tries it again in the series.  Helping Molina gets those plays was Aaron Miles, my favorite utility player, who finally got the start at 2nd tonight.

 

Great to see Ankiel back in the lineup, and contributing offensively.  It looked like he was a little rusty in the outfield scoring to E’s on one play.  Brutal.  But, it didn’t matter because….

 

…Kyle McClellan got three outs stranding the runner on third.   Great bullpen pitching tonight between McClellan and the closer, Chris Perez.  Oops, did I call Perez, “the Closer”.   I mean, if you hear the door slam, somebody must have shut the door, right?  I don’t know if we’ll ever get LaRussa to call Perez, the Closer, but I guess as long as he’s closing, I don’t care.  It was great to see him do well in basically his hometown in front of family and friends.

 

Wins have not come easy for starting pitcher, Joel Pineiro this year, often being a victim of the no-decision, but tonight Pineiro got it done and got the win to show for it.

 

Finally, how about that Joe Mather, pinch-hit homer?  Pretty sweet.

 

 

8/12/08  Cardinals 3, Marlins 4

 

Field got wet; bats got dry.

 

 

8/13/08  Cardinals 6, Marlins 4

 

I believe I saw somewhere that LaRussa called this one a real “grinder”.  I can’t think of a better word.

 

Nothing came easy.  Lots of hits producing a few runs.  No homers for either team.  Pitchers getting out of tough innings.  In the end, we had more runs than them, and that’s all that matters.

 

Looper pitched an excellent 7 innings only giving up two runs.  Hats off to him for keeping all the Marlins in the park.  That is huge with this team.

 

McClellan struggled, but Perez once again closed the door coming in to a mess in the 8th.  In the 9th, he had to get four outs to do it with Baker advancing to 1st on a strike out/wild pitch.

 

Runs did not necessarily come from the usual suspects.  Adam  Kennedy racked up two RBI’s on two sac flies.  Backup catcher, Jason LaRue, got a 2-RBI double.  Schumaker scored Kennedy.  Glaus scored Lopez that had a big triple in the 9th.  Glaus reached base all 5 times with 3 singles, 1 double and an intentional walk

 

Defensively, Joe Mather saved a big inning by climbing the wall to get an out.  Albert Pujols tracked a foul ball that spun fair.  The batter didn’t even really run, but Pujols stayed with  it  and got the out.  Glaus had a big double play at 3rd and 1st to end the 8th.

 

 

8/13/08  Cardinals 3, Marlins 0

 

TODD WELLEMEYER.  The longer he pitched, the better he got.  He gave up a hit a piece in the 1st and 2nd.  His pitching seemed to go a little crazy, walking 3 batters in the 3rd, hitting one in the 4th.  But, maybe he was crazy like a fox–he walked some serious home run hitters.  After that, he settled in for 14 outs in a row. 

 

Welly got in a bit of bind in the 8th, but Russ Springer came in and struck out Cantu for out three.  Ron Villone and Ryan Franklin took out 3 batters in the 9th to finish the shut out.

 

There’s been a lot of talk about Cardinal pitching this year, much of it negative.  But, tonight they showed what they were capable of.  Wellemeyer went 8 2/3 innings– his longest start of the year.  Then the bullpen got the job done.  Maybe, the pitching staff is starting to peak…just in time for a playoff run.

 

Runs were hard to come by.   Cesar Izturis’ hot streak continued.  He singled twice and Ryan Ludwick knocked him in both times on a double and a homer.  LaRussa put up an unusual lineup with a lot of power at the top.  There could be arguments about the effectiveness of the lineup, but Ludwick and Izturis were definitely batting in the right places.  Ludwick now has 90 RBI’s

 

 

California Comes to Town

The temperatures here in Oklahoma have been topping the 100-degree mark, and while that says nothing but “It’s summer!”, the proliferation of back-to-school sales tells me that fall is on the way.   The series with the Los Angeles Dodgers wasn’t always pretty, but we took two out of three.  Especially with the approach of fall, a win is a win is a win.  It doesn’t have to be pretty.

 

 

8/5/08 Cardinals 6, Dodgers 4

 

At the top of the 9th, I was starting to collect my observations about the game.  Undeterred by the pinch hit home run given up by Villone, I was excited about Izzy coming into the game.  I was all ready to lead off with the following summary:

 

“It was just like old times.  Carp starting.  Izzy closing.  Pujols jacking the ball out of the park.  Did I close my eyes and wake up in 2006?”

 

Unfortunately, the struggles of 2008 reared their ugly head:  the bullpen allowing teams to rally, while the offense gets on, but can’t get home.  There will be enough complaints about this, but as I said a win is a win is a win.  And, that’s what we got.  So, as always, I’m going to talk about what was great about this game.

 

Forgive me, but I had seriously forgotten how good Chris Carpenter can be.  Five shut out innings.  3 hits.  17 Batters. 2 K’s.  51 pitches.  It’s a shame the rain delay knocked him out of the game.  At the rate he was going, he could have easily pitched seven.

 

The bullpen put together 5 shut out innings.   The pitching of Thompson, McClellan, Franklin and Garcia was just beautiful.  On a night when we got to see most of the bullpen, it’s good that most of them got the job done. 

 

The Cardinals offense was able to string together six runs against the tough Dodger pitching staff.  Ryan Ludwick, Mr. National League Player of the Week, made a case for being nominated next week with his 2-run walk-off homer.

 

 

8/6/08  Cardinals 9, Dodgers 6

 

If there is anything better than a grand slam, it’s having a grand slam for dinner with a solo shot for dessert.  The fourth inning was VERY big.  The pitcher, Joel Pineiro got a 1B, Izturis got a 1B, Kennedy got a 1B and Pujols got a 4B to clean the bases.  Ludwick followed with another 4B–just to make sure Pujols didn’t miss a spot.

 

Pineiro seemed to struggle a bit through the 2nd and 3rd innings, but he was locked in after that, especially after he contributed to the Cardinals big lead.

 

Kennedy scored on a wild pitch in the 1st.  In the 3rd, Ludwick knocked in Pujols who had advanced to 3rd on another wild pitch.  Yadier Molina knocked in Ludwick on a 2-out single in the 3rd.  Molina has 42 RBI’s this year, with 27 of them on 2-outs.  Molina is very clutch.  Finally, in the 7th Schumaker knocked in the new guy, Felipe Lopez who had stole his first Cardinal base.

 

Then there was Chris Perez.  Earlier in the day, a co-worker and I were discussing the closer situation.  He said we need a guy who can throw some serious heat.  I said the only guy we got like that is Chris Perez, but he’s in Memphis.  Then, magically he appeared in St. Louis came into the game and shut the door.  Oh yeah, I know he’s not “the closer”, but he sure looked like one.

 

I’ve made fun of his Dodger team photo (seriously, it looks like a mug shot).  I’ve made fun of his too baggy uniform (there might be the finely honed body of an athlete under there somewhere, but who could tell when his uniform makes him look like marshmallow man).  I’ve said that I would never want anyone on my team that would make the statement “my team doesn’t deserve me”.  But, I can find no fault with the way that Manny Ramirez can flat hit the ball.  He seems completely rejuvenated, and the Dodgers are getting their money’s worth. 

 

8/7/08  Cardinals 1, Dodgers 4

 

Three words:  Good Dodger pitching.