Tagged: Tyler Greene

A Hot, Hot Time in Kansas City

Goin’ to Kansas City. 
Kansas City, here I come.

They’ve got some crazy little
women there,

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

 

WelcometothenewK.JPG

























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.

 

TheK.JPG

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.

 

IMG_3851.JPG

 

 

The scoreboard seemed more fabulous that ever.

 IMG_3856.JPG

 

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.

 

IMG_3864.JPG

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. 

 IMG_3876.JPG

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.

 

Schumakeratn2ndKC.JPG

Davies was pulled in the third and Thompson pitched a
gem.  Cardinals win!

 

ThompsonKCPitch.JPG


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.  

CarpenterStandingKC.JPG

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.

 

CarpThrowsKC.JPG

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?

ColbyRasmusKCPlate.JPG

 

 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:

IMG_3947.JPG

Did I mention the scoreboard is fabulous?  Especially, when it lists Ludwick’s grand slam:
IMG_3905.JPG
A night time view of the renovations in the outfield…
IMG_3952.JPG
Here are some shots of the Cardinals outfielders warming up:
Rick Ankiel:
AnkielWarmup.JPG
Colby Rasmus who seems to have staked a claim in centerfield:
RasmusWarmup.JPG
And, Ryan Ludwick.  Sometimes, I find surprises in pictures.  In this one, Ludwick is throwing the ball into the ball boy, and low and behold, I caught the ball!  In the frame that is.
LudwickBall.JPG
Here is some action with Colby Rasmus at the plate:
RasmusatPlateBall.JPG
Oquendo coaches Brendan Ryan at second:
Oquendo.JPG
Ryan makes it to third on an E-2:
IMG_4022.JPG
The “Greenes”, Tyler and Khalil, have a chat during a pitching change:
GreenesChat.JPG
Then, it’s back to work guarding the left side of the infield:
GreenesBacktoWork.JPG
Some call the following picture, the prettiest play in baseball:  bases loaded, 2 outs, full count, the runners going:
Prettiestplay.JPG
However, I am a little partial to the following picture.  It starts with  bases loaded, 1 out, full count and….
IMG_4217.JPG
…ends with Albert Pujols scoring on the grand slam:
PujolsGrandSlam1.JPG
On Sunday, I joked about heading to the ballpark with my broom in the trunk, ready for the sweep.  I was appalled that a couple of Cardinals fans actually brought brooms.  That might be a cool thing to do in your home park, but it was completely rude to do it in someone else’s park.  So, here he is. A representative of the so-called “smartest baseball fans”…acting like an idiot.  Come on, Cardinals fans!  Keep it classy.
Brooms.JPG

Here is Tony LaRussa before his 2500th managerial win:
IMG_4086.JPG
Nice to see Kyle Lohse with a bat in his hand to take a little BP.  Hopefully, he will be back in the rotation soon:
LohseBat.JPG
Under the category of things you do not see every day:  Yadier Molina playing first base in the late innings:
MolinaAtFirst.JPG
On Sunday, my seats were right behind the Cardinals bullpen.  Here are several images from the ‘pen:
Wainwright warming up:
WainwrightBullPen.JPG
And, Molina catching him:
MolinaBullPen.JPG
Warmup complete.  The battery heads to the dugout:
BatteryWainwrightMolinaDuncan.JPG
Here are most of the relievers walking out to the bullpen before the game.  Note that rookie Blake Hawksworth is wearing the rookie “hazing” pink backpack:
Relievers.JPG
I never understood why, but during each game, Ryan Franklin and Dennys Reyes would not go to the bullpen until the 3rd or 4th inning.  Anyone know why?  I thought maybe they were watching the Royals hitters on TV, one time through the lineup, but that is totally a guess.
FranklinReyesJPG
As Waino wears down in the heat, LaRue rushes to the bullpen to ready the relievers.
LaRuetothepen.JPG
Dennys Reyes warms up:
ReyesWarmsUp.JPG
And later, Jason Motte.  I love watching Motte throw.  He gets down to business and works fast.  
MotteWarmsup.JPG
…and you cannot believe how loud LaRue’s glove pops when he catches Motte’s heater.
LaRueWarmingUpRelivers.JPG
The rookie, Blake Hawksworth, pitched the ninth.  Here are two picks of him:
HawkWarms.JPG
HawkRunsin.JPG
Hawk got the ninth.  Franklin got the day off.  Here is a nice shot of the shrubbery that grows from his chinny-chin-chin:
Franklinchinhair.JPG
With Hawksworth leaving the bullpen via the mound, that made Chris Perez low man on the totem pole.  After the game, he got pink backpack duty:
PerezPinkBackpack.JPG
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United Cardinal Bloggers – Progressive Game Blog

Today’s
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.

 

I have
the fifth inning, so visit these fine blogs first and then come back here:

Pregame:  United Cardinal Bloggers

First inning: Redbirds
Row

Second inning: Bird Brained
Third inning: Baseball Digest

Fourth inning: Cards on Deck 

 

Back?  Good. 
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.

 

The
Fifth

Unfortunately,
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
facilities.

 

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.

 

However,
had I been in the stands, the fifth inning would have been a good time go.

 

My
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. 

 

Royals
at the Plate

 

Callaspo
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.  

 

Cardinals
at the Plate

 

The
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.

 

Colby
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.

 

Finally,
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. 

 

Ho-hum?

 

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.

 

On to
the Sixth

Visit
these UCB sites to continue on with game.  

Sixth inning: Whiteyball
Seventh inning: The Cardinal Virtue
Eighth inning: Fungoes
Ninth inning: Pitchers Hit Eighth
Extras and game wrapup: C70 At The Bat

A Week in My Baseball Loving Life

The pursuit of happiness (watching baseball games) has left me little time to write.  So, finally, here is summary of the past week in my baseball loving life.

 

 

Friday, May 1st – Cold Night, Cold Bats

 

I left work at 5:00 in a rush to get Tulsa.  A 2+ hour drive.  A 7:05 start.  The AA Springfield Cardinals against the Tulsa Drillers. 

 

Fortunately, the St. Louis Cardinals were playing the Washington Nationals on the east coast with a 6:05 central start time.  So, for the second half the drive, I had Mike Shannon and John Rooney to keep me company.  Before I reached Drillers Stadium, Wellemeyer was off to a good start and both Albert Pujols and Chris Duncan had homered.

 

If Major League ballparks are cathedrals and Triple-A parks are lovely chapels, then the Drillers Stadium is little more than a place to hold a camp meeting.  The park serves the purpose but is lacking in charm and beauty.  However, the Tulsa Drillers are playing their last season in Drillers Stadium.  A new park is under construction closer to downtown.   

 

But, I know the folks that live close to Drillers will miss them next year.  A friend of mine grew up in the neighborhood and could watch the Friday night fireworks from her backyard.

 

The Drillers threw a gem.  The Cardinals bats did not get going.  The biggest cheer for the Cardinals came when shortstop, Peter Kozma, came to the plate.  Peter Kozma is from Owasso, Oklahoma, which is a few miles north of Tulsa.  This was his first game with the AA Cardinals, as he benefited from the trickle down effect of the Tyler Greene call up to St. Louis.

 

 

 


PeteKozma.JPGSitting near third base, I got a good look at last year’s number one draft pick, Brett Wallace.  He went 0-for on the night, but then again most of the Cardinals combined for only six hits against the good Driller pitching.  Wallace did make some solid plays at third.

 

 


BrettWallace.JPGHere Wallace is playing in, defending the bunt:

 


BuntDefense.JPG 

I thought back to last year when I impressed by another third baseman.  That player came into spring training hitting like crazy, over .500.  He is doing well at Triple-A Memphis this year.  I wonder where they will both be next year.

 

One prospect that did get a hit is outfielder Daryl Jones:

 

 


DarylJones.JPGAnd, no minor league game is complete without a food race.  In this case it is the burrito, hotdog and eggroll from QuickTrip.  Burrito wins!  But, the Cardinals lose 5-3

 

 


FoodRaceJPG 

It was not a nice night for baseball.  Chilly and damp.  Although it never actually rained, a mist hung in the air the whole game.  I began to think I would never be warm again.  By the end of the game, I figure the only people left in the stands were me, another Cardinals fan, the players’ families and two drunk hecklers.

 

I have been single much of my adult life.  I am cool with that.  Probably, too much so.  I am comfortable going most places by myself.  Never is that more true than at the ballpark.  I have a seat that is mine, so I have a place to be.  The people around me also like baseball, so I belong.  And, it seems like no matter where you go, there is always a Cardinals fan to chat with.

 

Sitting in front of me at the Drillers game was Scott, the aforementioned other Cardinal fan who stuck out the game.  We talked throughout the game, sharing Cardinal experiences and thoughts on players.  He was a Cardinals fan by birth, the great-nephew of Oklahoman and Cardinal, Pepper Martin. 

 

 

Saturday, May 2nd – Just Call Me Ball

 

Today was a family day.  A Kentucky Derby themed 21st birthday party.  Fun times with family in friends.  However, all the fun was happening in Kansas City.  So, I spent the night in Tulsa and was on the road again by 7:00 am.

 

Four hours later, I stopped to visit the youngest of our family, my nephew, who is 20 months old.  Before going in the house, I reached into my baseball game bag and dug out a baseball from an OKC AAA game, which I slipped into my pocket.

 


Nephew.JPG 

After greeting the family, I asked my nephew, “What does Auntie have in her pocket?”  He walks over, digs out the ball, gives me a million dollar smile and says, “Ball!”.  Then, in a memory I will treasure forever, we had our first catch.

 

Well, maybe, it was not actually “catch”.  Basically, he fired the ball as hard as he could at me from two to three feet away, while I pulled out my best Molina catching skills.  The kid has an arm, but he does not exactly have pinpoint control, yet.  Check out his form.  Up over his front leg, nice follow through.  Wonder how much Dave Duncan charges to tutor toddlers?

 

 

For the rest of the weekend, he scoured my pockets for balls and anytime someone said, “Where’s Auntie?”  He would point at me and said “Ball?”  I have been called much worse.  He also had a catch with his dad where I captured this shot:

 

 


DadSonBall.JPG 

While we were playing catch, the Cardinals-Nationals game got underway.  I reached my car in the 5th inning to drive to my sisters.  The score was 0-0.  Somewhere along the short drive from the suburbs to the plaza, the score was suddenly 4-0, Nationals.  A single, a force out bunt, another single, a sac fly, a potentially inning ending dropped foul popup, another single (Ryan Zimmerman, a name I am suddenly all too familiar with), all topped off with a big home run from their big guy, Adam Dunn. Brutal.

 

With the Royals’ hot start, the city is buzzing about them.  Later at the birthday party at a local pub, the Royals game was on.  People were actually watching.  I lived through many baseball drought years in this city.  It nice to see the citizens of Kansas City falling back in love with their team.

 

 

Sunday, May 3rd – A Wash Out from Top to Bottom

 

Time to come home.  The plan was to listen to the Cardinals-Nationals game on the road, and to drop back by the Driller Stadium to catch another Springfield Cardinals game.  Mother Nature had other plans.  Both games rained out.  Coincidently, the Memphis Redbirds rained out, too.

 

I had to console myself by listening to the San Francisco Giants game. Good to have a backup team. But, it was not the same.  Bengie Molina had the day off.  The Giants finally beat the Colorado Rockies in the 10th by finally scoring the only run of the game on Rich Aurilla’s walk-off RBI single.

 

Monday, May 4th – Play a Hard Nine

 

The World Champion, Philadelphia Phillies, rolled into St. Louis for a two-game series with big bat and hometown hero, Ryan Howard, in tow.  Howard always plays well in St. Louis.  However, hitting a grand slam in the 5th seemed a bit like over-kill.

 

Cardinals pitcher, Kyle Lohse’s non-throwing arm was drilled by a pitch while batting.  While he refused to use that as an excuse, the fact is he was pitching well before taking the bullet.  He was not sharp afterwards.

 

“Play a hard nine” is the Cardinals mantra.  They all talk about it.  They all do it.  It is the Cardinals way.  For the past couple years, the Cardinals marketing theme has been “Play like a Cardinal”.  It might as well be “Play a Hard Nine” because it means the same thing.

 

As Cardinal fans we sometimes have cause to whine about a lack of execution, but we rarely, if ever, have reason to complain about players not giving 100%.  For example, in today’s game, Joe Thurston ran through third base coach Jose Oquendo’s stop sign and right into an inning ending out.  Again. 

 

While we applaud Thurston’s gumption, we hope he is beginning to understand that Jose Oquendo is one the most aggressive Cardinals to ever play or coach the game.  Nothing good can come of trying to be more aggressive than him.

 

 

 
 

Thumbnail image for AnkielinMemphis.JPG One player that always plays a hard nine is Rick Ankiel.  How many outstanding diving, running or leaping catches has he already made this year with no thought to his own safety?  Tonight, he almost made one too many. 

 

Chasing a line drive, running all out and making the catch, Rick Ankiel ran out of room, stumbled, and had no time to put on the brakes before crashing headfirst into the outfield wall.  Flipped over by the force, he landed on his back.  Arms above his head, the ball rolled out of his left hand.  Even knowing the collision was imminent, he had transferred the ball from the glove, looking to make a throw, even though no runners were on.

 

 

If there was any air left in Busch Stadium after Ryan Howard’s Grand Slam, it was sucked out as Rick Ankiel lay motionless on the warning track.  The TV cameras scanned the worried faces of the crowd.  Not so much worried about losing Ankiel to the DL for a while, but worried that he could be lost forever.  As he left the field on a cart, strapped to a back board, he gave the thumbs up he knew his friends, family and fans needed to see.  Later, we would get the reports that although banged up, he will be fine.

 

He did this in the 8th inning of a 6-1 game that the Cardinals had all but lost.  When asked about it later, he said basically even if the play is not going to change the game, the pitchers still have ERAs to protect.  On a team where “pitch to contact” is preached, never has “I’ve got your back” meant more.

 

Often it seems the pitcher stands all by himself on the mound.  Solitary.  Alone.  His only friend, perhaps the catcher 60 feet 6 inches away.  Not so, the Cardinals pitchers.  They can feel the safety net behind them.  A safety net ready, willing and able to go the distance for as many innings as it takes.  All they have to do is keep it in the park.

 

However, the Cardinals defense has been criticized for the league leading error total racked up thus far this year.  What statistics do not easily show is that for every error, there has been a play that should not have been made, but was.  Rick Ankiel’s catch is just another one of those impossible plays.

 

Tuesday, May 5TH – Home Run Derby

 

I was missing my Oklahoma City Redhawks and hoping to go see them.  However, it rained all day long, and the evening forecast did not look inviting.  So, I stayed home and watched the Home Run Derby.

 

And, by Home Run Derby, I mean the Cardinals-Phillies game.  Five long balls left Busch Stadium.  The Phillies hit two off Adam Wainwright.  Shane Victorino took a solo shot in the first.  Jason Werth hit a three-run jack in the fifth.

 

Ryan Ludwick and Yadier Molina both took solo shots off Brett Myers.  Molina’s career high season home run total is eight.  This was his third, which in theory would put him on pace for 18. In other news, Albert Pujols took Brad Lidge deep.  Again.

 

The Cardinals chipped away, scoring runs in five consecutive innings, but it was not enough.  Phillies win 10-7.

 

Wednesday, May 6th – Oh, What a Relief

 

After dropping two games to the Phillies, the other Pennsylvania team came to town:  The Pittsburgh Pirates.   Albert Pujols homered at his last at bat on Tuesday.  He homered at his first at bat on Wednesday.  He also went 4-4.  It is hard to beat the Cardinals when #5 is hot in the three hole.

 

Chris Duncan was also an offensive force with a two-run triple.  Khalil Greene was back in the lineup after being limited to a pinch hitting role by a sore forearm.  He got a double and a RBI on a sac fly. 

 

Rookie Mitchell Boggs got the start.  He gave up five hits and five walks.  With that many ducks on the pond (runners on the bases), it is amazing he only allowed two runs.  He also had four strikeouts.  All this in 4.1 innings of work.  In the fifth, after walking the leadoff batter, who stole second and scored on a McLouth double, LaRussa took the ball from Boggs hands and handed it to the bullpen.

 

Trevor Miller, Kyle McClellan, Dennys Reyes, Jason Motte and Ryan Franklin were nearly spotless in relief.  Between them, only two walks, one hit, two strikeouts and no runs.  They protected the 2 run game.  McClellan go the win.  Franklin got the save.  His 8th out of eight opportunities,  but who’s counting.  Cardinals win 4-2.

 

 

Thursday, May 7th – Finally, Back to the Ballpark

 

The Cardinals played a matinee against the Pirates.  While I sat at work, a friend was at the game.  He texted me a picture of the arch from Busch Stadium. 

 

Color me green with envy.

 

However, the day was not a total loss.  I left work at 3:00 to head to the Oklahoma City Redhawks game and caught the end of the Cardinals game on the radio.  Yes, Schumaker had already hit his lead off triple and scored on an Albert Pujols sac fly.

 

The Cardinals had already put up a nice fat crooked “four” in the 5th inning.  Jason LaRue’s lead off homer got the party started.  Schumaker singles.  Rasmus bunt singled.  Pujols took a first pitch, 93 mph fast ball in the ribs to load the bases.  Ludwick was hit with same and a run scored.  Duncan sac flied.  Khalil Greene singled, and the Pirates were in a pit they would not recover from.  Cardinals win 5-2

 

Cardinal batters have been plunked seven times in four games.  Intentional or no?  Impossible to say.  But, the scouting report on the Cardinals seems to read “throw inside.”

 

Todd Wellemeyer, who has struggled a bit this spring, was super sharp, going seven innings, giving up two runs and notching the win.  Maybe May is his month.  Last year, Wellemeyer was the National League Pitcher of the Month in May.

 

Rick Ankiel was officially placed on the disabled list, and as I expected, outfielder Shane Robinson got the call from Memphis.  The slight-framed Robinson is a plus defender with plus speed.  He hits singles, turns them into doubles, draws walks, steals bases and will climb the outfield wall to make a catch. 

 

 


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He only had a failed pinch hit opportunity today, but LaRussa has said he will get some starts soon.  I hate seeing players go down, but I love seeing them come up.

 

“Taste of the Big Leagues” is the theme at AT&T Bricktown Ballpark, home of the Oklahoma City Redhawks.  They opened with the Yankees. You can check out coverage of that here.

 

They continued with the Cubs and Wrigley field.  So, I was not sure I was going to enjoy this promotion very much. 

 

I was greeted with a poster of Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks, and his quote, “It’s a beautiful day for a ball game…let’s play two.”

 

 


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It was a nice day.  Finally, warm.  Can’t argue with that logic.

 

The Wrigley sign was cool:

 

 


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The replica ivy wall was a nice touch.  I like ivy.  I think the ivy wall at Wrigley is beautiful.  Yet, I can not help but think about Rick Ankiel running into the padded wall at Busch.  Would the outcome have been far more serious had the wall been brick covered with a bit of ivy?

 

 


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The best piece of Wrigly to make its way to Oklahoma City had to be the historic scoreboard.  I took a full shot of it:

 

 


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Then I zoomed in on the only score on the board and was surprised (and delighted) to find the Cardinals winning.  What a strange homage to the Cubs?

 


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Finally, I purchased a Chicago Dog at the concession stand.  Chicago may be terrible in the post-season, but they know how to make a championship hot dog.  Good hot dog on a poppy seed bun topped with peppers, bright green relish, diced tomatoes, onions and mustard.  Yum-tastic.

 

Back to the game, the lead singer from Korn threw out the first pitch:

 

 


Korn.JPGBut, the pitcher to talke about was Eric Milton of the Albuquerque Isotopes:

 

 


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Milton had a perfect game going for five innings before giving up an infield single.  The Redhawks were shut out 7-0.

 

It is amazing how the quickly the wheels turn.  The night before Xavier Paul was playing for the Isotopes in Oklahoma City.  Midday, the news broke of Manny Ramirez’s 50 game suspension for a positive drug test.  By the time the rosters were printed in Oklahoma City, Xavier Paul’s was gone to Los Angeles, his name already removed from the AAA roster.

 

I listened to the Dodgers-Nationals game on the way home.  Here in the Midwest, west coast ballgames come in handy.  Dodgers were leading 6-0 when I tuned in.  The Dodgers were off to a great start putting up a six in the first.  Very reflective of their season so far, maybe too much so.

 

This season the Dodgers were setting records for their home winning streak, when suddenly their big bat is taken away for 50 games.  In Thursday’s game, the Dodgers were cruising.  In the six and seventh, the Nationals chipped away at the lead.  In the eighth, the Nats came to bat and stayed putting up six runs and giving former Cardinal, Ron Villone, a win in his first appearance with the Nationals.   The game seemed to be a synopsis of the Dodger season thus far. 

 

While the Nationals try to hit their way of the bottom (Hello, Ryan Zimmerman), the Dodgers are going to find it hard to stay on top with the loss of Manny’s bat.

 

Friday, May 9th – Memorable Bombs

 

The St. Louis Cardinals headed to Cincinnati to face the Reds.  Or, Cincyapolis, as the voice of the Cardinals, Mike Shannon called it the day before.  Joel Pineiro who has pitched like a new man this year, gave us glimpses of last year.  Pineiro struggled in the first two innings, giving up five runs and digging a hole that the Cardinals could not dig out of. 

 

Probably, his biggest mistake was not a pitch, but overthrowing to first on a bunt by opposing pitcher Cueto.  Three runs scored in the at bats that followed.  Pujols put a stopper in the inning by catching a Jay Bruce liner and stepping on first to double off Hairston

 

In Pineiro’s defense, many balls, not well-hit, dropped in for base hits.  Sometimes, that just happens.  Also to his credit, innings three through six were flawless.  Perez came in throwing a little wild and gave up the sixth run.

 

The Cardinal bats never really got going against the Reds’ Cueto, until the seventh when the eked out one run.  In the eighth, they took advantage of Weathers, starting with rookie Tyler Greene.

 

McRae told him to look for a first pitch fast ball.  Tyler Greene found one and smoked it to the bullpen in leftfield.  His first Major League home run.  The smile on his face could not have been bigger. 

 

The Cardinals rallied behind him.  Ludwick walked and stole second.  Duncan brought him in with a double and later scored on a Molina single.  But, that would be all the Cardinals would get.  Oddly enough, Albert Pujols was 0-4 on the night.  I would hate to be the next pitcher to face him.  Good luck, Haraung. 

 

I have been uncharacteristically quiet on all things regarding Alex Rodriguez.  Mostly because the accusations keep on coming and I have know way of really knowing what’s true or not, and really there is a part of me that does not care.  Maybe, if he were a Cardinal.  Maybe, if I had watched him play regularly, I could work up the proper outrage or disillusionment.  But, I got nothing.

 

However, I could not miss the announcement that he was returning to the Yankees lineup.  With the rough start the Yankees have had this year, they could seriously use a lift.  I hear Yankees fans say things like, “A-Rod is not really a Yankee”.  I thought to myself, if Alex Rodriguez comes back, plays well and the Yankees start winning, all will be forgiven. 

 

Inexplicably, I tuned in the Yankees game to see Alex Rodriguez’s first at bat.  I do not know why, maybe I was expecting to see something special.  I was rewarded.   He came to the plate with the table nicely set with two runners on and promptly jacks the ball out of the park.  Yankees beat the Orioles 4-0.

 

I am not condoning or condemning him for anything.  It is just nice to be talking about a baseball player in terms of actual baseball.

 

Next Week?

 

Bedlam baseball comes to Oklahoma City this weekend when OU and OSU take over the Redhawks park in Bricktown.  As a Cardinals fan, I normally where a lot of red, but as an OSU alum, I will be sporting my orange for the next two days.

 

The Redhawks will be home most of next week, so I will have opportunities there.  The Cardinals continue division play with the Reds, Pirates and Brewers. 

 

So much baseball, so little time!

 

 

Going Greene

TGreene.JPGJust under two weeks ago, I saw shortstop Tyler Greene play in Oklahoma City for the Triple-A  Memphis Redbirds. I liked what I saw.

With Cardinals starting shortstop Khalil Greene’s ailing arm and the backup shortstop, Brendan Ryan headed to the DL with a hurt hammy, Tyler Greene got the callup.
In his Major League debut in the Cardinals game against the Nationals on Thursday, he got his first big league start. 
His first big league at bat ended in a strikeout.  He followed that with his first major league ground out, his first major league popup and his second major league ground out.  
It looked like his first start would be rather uneventful, until he came to the plate in the ninth with the bases loaded in a close game.
No, he did not hit a grand slam.  He hit a little dribbler up the third base line.  The Nationals third baseman could not get to it.  Rick Ankiel scored.  Greene reached.  The shortstop came over to get the ball as the Joe Thurston rounded third.  Thurston and the ball reached home plate at simultaneously.  The catcher drop the throw.  Thurston scored.
Tyler Greene stood on first with his first big league single, first big league RBI and a big smile on his face.  His first major league single was probably not the well-struck ball he imagined his whole life, but it was very well placed and very productive.  
Tyler Greene was not done.  He helped induce a balk that got him to second.  He stole his first major league base to get himself in position at third to score his first big league run on a Brian Barden sacrifice fly.  
I love going to watch the Cardinals minor league teams.  It gets me excited about the future.  It is fun to see a player I liked move up to the next level and have success.  I liked Tyler Greene at Triple-A and I like him at the big leagues.  Go Greene!
This weekend I will get a couple peeks at the Double-A Springfield Cardinals when they come to Tulsa to play the Rockies affilate, the Tulsa Drillers.  Last year, I spotted Allen Craig at AA.  I wonder who I will see next?

Memphis Redbirds in Oklahoma City

From April 17th to April 20th, the Memphis Redbirds were in Oklahoma City taking on the Oklahoma City Redhawks. Even though the AT&T Bricktown Ballpark is two hours from my house, it should come as no surprise that I was there for three of the four games.  The only reason I missed the Saturday game is that I went to the wedding of friend that I obviously like.  A lot.  
The pictures here were taken over the course of three games.  The friday and sunday night games were chilly, but I took off work for the 4:00 game on monday.  That day the sun was out.  The sky was blue.  I got there in time to watch batting practice.  In the mostly empty ballpark, I settled into my row three seat near the on deck circle.  I kicked off my flip-flops, propped my legs up on the seat in front of me.  I knew my shins were getting a nice sunburn, but I did not care. Warm weather, bright sunshine and baseball players preparing to play the game I love.  I was in heaven.
One thing I often say is when the happy times come, you should enjoy them to the fullest because there is always some problem or sadness lurking just around the corner.  There in Section 113, Row D, Seat 12, I soaked up happiness with a sponge.
Enough philosophy, how about pictures?  The first is a picture of “the colors” being unveiled for the National Anthem.  I liked how the sun shown on the flag, while all else is in shadows.
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I do not know who the powers that be have listed as the top prospects in the Cardinals organization, but here are mine.  Conveniently, the bat one, two and three in the lineup and are all standing together as the lineups are called.
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Here is leadoff hitter and fine center fielder, Shane Robinson, at the plate:
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Robinson on base with his lead-off double:
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Here Shortstop, Tyler Greene bats while left fielder, Jon Jay, waits on deck:
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Tyler Greene actually struck out in the first inning, but hit a triple in the second inning.  Here Tyler Greene is on third base, while Jon Jay tries to bring him home.
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Last year, Joe Mather saw a good amount of successful playing time in St. Louis.  He came into spring training hitting very well.  He seemed a lock for the replacement third base job.  Then, he got the flu, lost weight and stopped hitting.  As I pondered the mystery of Joe Mather’s slump, I noticed that he still looked really thin.  Too thin.  I wondered if he ever really gave himself a chance a recover from his illness.
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It’s tough to watch a good hitter slump.  Especially, away from home.  When a batter strikes out, the announcer says, “That’s another Redhawk…”  and everyone (not me) yells “strikeout”.  And, there were the boys who sat next to me that said after seeing Mather’s sub-100 batting average, “That’s the worst player on the team.”  There was the heckler that yelled to the Redhawk’s pitcher something about “his average is on the scoreboard.”  Just brutal.
Word from Memphis is that Mather broke out of his slump over the weekend and is hitting well once again.  Hopefully, he will shut up his critics when he returns to Oklahoma City.  Here Mather takes a strike.  I was excited to actually catch the ball in the frame!  JoeMatherTakesaStrike.JPG
I also caught the ball taken by Jon Jay:
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I saw one Springfield Cardinals game last year.  From that game, I remembered one player, third baseman, Allen Craig.  When Allen Craig was hitting over .500 in spring training, and everyone was saying, “Who is this Craig fellow?”, I was thinking I was a pretty decent scout with good instincts because I do not remember him doing anything special in the game.  I just remember thinking he was something special.  I still do.  Craig had some nice picks at third and he is still raking at the plate.
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I like Jarrett Hoffpauir, too.  Here the second baseman is going after the throw from center fielder Shane Robinson:
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Nick Stavinoha spent some time in St. Louis outfield last year.  This year, he is playing first base and so far, he is not hitting great.
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As I sat in the sun on Monday, a strange event unfolded before my very eyes.  Brian Barton took batting practice and went out to shag flies.  A few minutes later, he was called into the dugout and did not go back to the field.  When batting practice was over, I walked up to the concourse to get refreshments because watching BP is such hard work.  
I saw Barton in the concourse talking on his cell phone.  I thought that was odd, but I just assumed the cell phone reception in the clubhouse was bad.  When I got back to my seat with my peanuts, I checked my phone, and received the news that Brian Barton had been traded to the Atlanta Braves…right before my very eyes.  
I will not miss the need to specify “Barton with a T” or “Barden with a D” in conversations, but I will
miss Brian Barton:  hitter, rocket scientist and world traveler.
Here are the last pictures of Brian Barton in a Redbirds uniform:
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Here is very much the last picture of Barton in a Redbirds uniform.  In Sunday’s game, this check swing was called strike three.  Barton, who has been struggling at the playing, allowed his frustration to boil over.  He threw down the bat, said something to the umpire and was promptly ejected.
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There were pitchers, too.  Brad Thompson, fresh from his demotion from the Big Club, pitched a gem.  He went five innings, giving up only an obligatory long ball to the short porch in left.  Mitchell Boggs good start against the Cubs may keep Thompson in Memphis longer than he would like.
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Clayton Mortensen pitched seven really nice innings giving up only two runs, while getting in and out of trouble.  It was not enough as the Redhawks shut out the Redbirds on Sunday.ClaytonMortensendeals.JPG
Kat Maekawa looked great until he left with an injury to his leg at the end of the fourth.  A combination of relief pitching by Matt Scherer, Ring and Todd finished the game, which was a winner.  Jess Todd, in particular, was impressive, retiring six in a row.  Here is Maekawa:
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Here is the battery for Monday’s game:  Matt Pagnozzi, Blaise Ilsley and Kat Maekawa
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Which brings me to this guy:
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Matt Pagnozzi is a catching prospect to get excited about.  Last year, the Memphis Redbirds catcher, Brian Anderson, impressed me at the plate, but never behind it.  In contrast, Matt Pagnozzi looks great behind the plate, and while he does not swing an exciting bat, his bat was serviceable.  He takes good at bats, can lay down a bunt and did get three singles in two games.  Here Pagnozzi, nephew of Tom Pagnozzi, gets instruction from the dugout:
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Here is a warm-up throw to second.  He has a plus arm.  In his only chance to catch a base stealer, the pitcher did not really give him a chance.  The throw was on target, but not in time.  I predict that Jason LaRue will not be re-signed and Pagnozzi will be next year’s backup catcher.
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I do not often talk about a player being hot, cute or handsome, even when I do find them attractive.  I will go on and on about a great clutch hit, a sparkling defensive play or a perfect pitch because I take the game seriously and I want to be taken seriously. I do not let a player’s good looks make me think he is a better player than he is.  I have years of practice making that separation…not just in baseball, but in life.
However, a strange think keeps happening.  Every time I see an unfamiliar baseball player and his above average attractiveness registers in my mind, he will turn out to be a catcher.  It is really unbelievable.  It is not like they are wearing gear when this happens.
This happened at a Redhawks game this weekend when I saw an Omaha Royals player walking to the dugout.  I thought, “Wow, he’s really nice looking.  Who is that?”  I look at my player list.  Of course, it was the catcher.  We all know how much I love great catching, but this is starting to get ridiculous.  It is like I have an over-active catcher radar.
So, it should come as no surprise, that I noticed Matt Pagnozzi, even before I knew I was looking at the catcher.  Rarely does male beauty actually take my breath away, but his did.  Tell me, ladies, am I off the mark?  Can you not see him in a Calvin Klein ad?
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Thank you for allowing me my “girl” moment.  Seriously though, if he had been a poor catcher, he would have gotten ugly fast.
The Redbirds split the four game series with a very good Redhawks club.  Cardinal fans should rest easy.  The Triple-A club is packed with talent.  Depth is so nice to have.
Next weekend, I will get a look at the Springfield Cardinals as they travel to Oklahoma to face the Tulsa Drillers.  There’s some Wallace kid that they say is pretty good. ; )