The St. Louis Cardinals had a 4-2 week this week, without much shift in the overall NL Central standings. Though there wasn’t much movement in the standings, the Redbirds showed tremendous grit. The weekend series against the Chicago Cubs being at the forefront, there are signs that the Cardinals are moving in the right direction.
Monday July 16, 2012 St. Louis Cardinals 3 Milwaukee Brewers 2
Two rookie starters, both bright spots to their teams, faced off on Monday. Lance Lynn took the hill for the St. Louis Cardinals, while Mike Fiers was on the bump for the Milwaukee Brewers. Both pitchers tossed 7 wonderful frames, with Lance Lynn’s only run allowed being a Corey Hart 7th inning homer which started the scoring. Lynn’s final line was 7 innings, 6 hits allowed, 1 run, and 10 strikeouts. Mike Fiers was impressive in his 7 frames, allowing only 4 hits and 4 walks, while striking out 4. There was nothing doing for the Cardinals in the 8th, as Francisco Rodriguez came in and disposed of the Cardinals on 17 pitches. For the Brewers, Ryan Braun‘s double off of Barret Browning scored Norichika Aoki, and that was that as far as the Brewers scoring. 2-0 Milwaukee Brewers after 8 innings.
In stepped John Axford, as he looked to close out the Cardinals. It certainly didn’t go as planned for him. Matt Carpenter walked, leading off the inning, and Lance Berkman came to the plate in place of Daniel Descalso. He flew out to Carlos Gomez, and in stepped Carlos Beltran, who also flew out. 2 down, and it looked as though the Cardinals night would soon be over. Not so fast! Rafael Furcal singled, sending Carpenter to 2nd. Skip Schumaker then walked, loading the bases. Matt Holliday then singled, scoring Carpenter and Furcal, tying the game at 2. With Skip Schumaker on 2nd, Allen Craig hit a soft looper towards Ryan Braun, scoring Schumaker. After giving up the lead, Axford was forced to cede control to Kameron Loe, who got Yadier Molina to fly out to center, but the damage was done. Jason Motte, who took over after Browning allowed a run, finished off the game, striking out Corey Hart and Rickie Weeks, and inducing a grounder from Martin Maldonado. Mote threw 1.2 innings, and took home his 4th win of the season, while Axford suffered both his 6th defeat and 6th blown save on the year.
The Positives: Though the Cardinals were on the ropes, they proved their grit and tenacity, but eeking out a 3-2 road win by scoring all their runs in the 9th inning.
The Negatives: The St. Louis Cardinals left a total of 20 men on base, and only mustered 8 hits against the Brewers on the night. It wasn’t until the 9th that they were able to push their first run across the plate.
Player of the Game: It has to be Matt Holliday. His clutch 2-out 2-run scoring single tied the game, and set the table for Allen Craig to drive in what would prove to be the winning run.
Tuesday July 17, 2012 St. Louis Cardinals 2 Milwaukee Brewers 3
Rookie Joe Kelly faced off against seasoned veteran Randy Wolf. In 6 solid innings, Kelly allowed 3 runs (2ER) on just 6 hits, while striking out 4. Randy Wolf was equally as impressive, allowing just 2 runs in 6 2/3 innings. The scoring started in the 1st, with Corey Hart’s single scoring Norichika Aoki. The St. Louis Cardinals matched that and took the lead in the 3rd, when Jon Jay’s double scored Rafael Furcal, and Carlos Beltran hit a sacrifice fly to score Allen Craig. The lead was short lived however, as Aramis Ramirez singled home Carlos Gomez. At the end of 3, the score was tied 3-3.
In the 4th inning, Rickie Weeks led off with his 9th homered deep to center field. Joe Kelly, Barret Browning, and Fernando Salas combined to hold the Brewers scoreless the rest of the way, and the Cardinals couldn’t manage anything either. As they entered the 9th inning, they got a look at newly ordained closer, Francisco Rodriguez. The move was a result of Axford’s 6 mishaps on the year, his latest being just a day earlier. It looked as though the Redbirds would have back to back late inning heroics. David Freese led off with his 15th double of the year, and Yadier Molina’s single sent him to 3rd. Matt Carpenter grounded out to the shortstop, but Freese elected to stay put and not test things. Skip Schumaker struck out, and there were 2 down. In stepped Daniel Descalso, with a chance to take the lead with one swing of the bat. However, he couldn’t get the ball out of the infield, as he popped out to shortstop Cesar Izturis.
The Positives: Other than Joe Kelly’s start and 10 Cardinals hits, I think it ends there.
The Negatives: To continue the trend that seems to have plagued the team all year, they left 17 men stranded. Included in that were the 5 men they left in scoring position with 2 outs.
Player of the Game: I always hate giving it to the opposition, but Francisco Rodriguez in the closer role has to take this one. Though he faced some trouble, he got out of the 9th inning unscathed and with his second save on the season.
Wednesday July 18, 2012 St. Louis Cardinals 3 Milwaukee Brewers 4
Adam Wainwright faced Tyler Thornburg in this one, and Wainwright was nothing if not dominant. It’s a shame that the St. Louis Cardinals defense let him down immediately, in the 1st inning. 4 runs were scored in the frame, all but one of them unearned. Norichika Aoki reched on a fielding error by Rafael Furcal, and Nyjer Morgan followed that up with a single. Aramis Ramirez was hit by a pitch, and the bases were loaded for Corey Hart. He singled to center, scoring both Aoki and Morgan. Rickie Weeks and Martin Maldonado both produced outs, and it looked like the damage would be minor. However, another Furcal error produced 2 runs, and the inning wasn’t over until the deficit was 4 runs.
The Cardinals were able to add solo homers by David Freese and Allen Craig, but there was nothing of note until the 9th inning, other than rookie Trevor Rosenthal‘s first MLB appearance, a scoreless one in which he struck out 2. Heading to the 9th down 2, it would have to be another comeback if the St. Louis Cardinals were going to win the rubber match. It looked for some time like they might. Skip Schumaker struck out, and Carlos Beltran followed that up with his 12th double of the year. Furcal walked, and Matt Holliday struck out swinging on a pitch in the dirt. Allen Craig walked, sending Furcal to 2nd, and in stepped David Freese. He managed a walk, scoring Carlos Beltran. Down 1 run, Lance Berkman stepped to the plate with a chance to extend the game. I closed my eyes for a minute, hoping that Mike Matheny would pull the string and call up a pinch hitter, because Berkman’s bat has been admittedly slow. He flew out to end the hope of what could have been another Redbird comeback. 2 saves in 2 days for K-Rod.
The Positives: Adam Wainwright was positively dominant, as he dialed up his fastball to 93, and had his curve and breaking pitches working well. Between he and Trevor Rosenthal, there were 11 Ks on the night from Cardinal pitching.
The Negatives: It was yet another loss in a 1-run game for the Redbirds. The St. Louis Cardinals may have had 11 Ks, but struck out 11 times themselves. They also stranded another 17, and another 5 with runners in scoring position with 2 outs.
Player of the Game: John Axford, who pitched in a non-pressure situation, was very good. He only allowed 1 hit in 1 1/3 innings of work, and got the win. I’d have to give this one to Adam Wainwright though. In one of his best starts of the season, and through no fault of his own, Wainwright took the loss. He was dominant though, and his performance was a bright spot in what was otherwise a disappointing loss.
Friday July 20, 2012 St. Louis Cardinals 4 Chicago Cubs 1
After a series against a very beatable Milwaukee Brewers team produced only 1 win, the St. Louis Cardinals returned home hungry and looking to prove that they are better than the 3rd place in the division they now occupy. The beginning of the series pitted Kyle Lohse against the on-the-move Ryan Dempster. After the Cubs sent just 4 to the plate in their half of the 1st inning, with no runs, the Cardinals came out swinging. Ryan Dempster’s 33-inning scoreless streak definitely didn’t scare off the Cardinals. Skip Schumaker was called out on strikes, but Allen Craig, Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran, and Yadier Molina each singled, sending the Cardinals out to an early 2-o advantage. Lance Berkman’s groundout produced another run, scoring Carlos Beltran, and David Freese struck out to end the frame.
Darwin Barney‘s sacrifice fly scored Bryan LaHair in the 2nd, but the Cubs were unable to push another man across the remainder of the game. The Redbirds got another tally on Matt Holliday’s homer, his 15th of the season. What’s worth noting here is that it was said on the broadcast that the homerun was the longest in the current Busch. His moonshot went above the Bic Mac Land sign in left, and traveled a reported 469 feet.
The Postives: Four runs off of Ryan Dempster is good at any point, especially when he has a scoreless streak of such magnitude as what he had entering the game. That had to be a huge confidence booster for the Redbirds. Though it was a groundout, it was nice to see Lance Berkman get an RBI. Also, Matt Holliday’s blast was one of his greatest, and he has been absolutely white hot of late.
The Negatives: 7 of the 12 men left on base on the day were left stranded in scoring position with 2 outs.
Saturday July 21, 2012 St. Louis Cardinals 12 Chicago Cubs 0
This one saw Jake Westbrook take the mound against Matt Garza. Westbrook went 7 solid innings, allowing just 3 hits and 2 walks, while striking out 5. Garza was only able to toss 3 innings, as he left with a cramp in his right triceps muscle. The first 6 innings of the game saw both team toss scoreless ball.
The 7th inning was the biggest that the Cardinals have had since 1936. Their 7 doubles were something to behold, but let me break it down a bit further for you. David Freese singled leading off the inning, and that chased Justin Germano, bringing in James Russell. Jon Jay popped out to third, and Allen Craig replaced Jake Westbrook in the batter’s box. He hit a pinch-hit double, sending Freese to 3rd. Rafael Furcal singled, sending Freese across for the first run of the night. Skip Schumaker tripled for the third time on the season, scoring Craig and Furcal. Matt Holliday then walked, and Carlos Beltran followed with a ground-rule double, scoring Schumaker. Russel then intentionally walked Yadier Molina, to face Lance Berkman. Berkman popped out to 2nd for the second out of the inning. 4-0 and still one more out to go. David Freese came up again and doubled, sending Holliday and Beltran across, and Molina to 3rd. In stepped Jon Jay, and he doubled to left, scoring both Molina and Freese; 8-0 Redbirds. Allen Craig stepped to the plate for a rare 2nd pinch hit appearance of the inning, and he promptly doubled to right, scoring Jon Jay. Rafael Furcal walked, and Skip Schumaker came to the plate. He doubled, scoring Allen Craig. Matt Holliday hit his 23rd double of the season following Skip, which brought him across to score the 12th run of the inning. Carlos Beltran struck out swinging to end the bleeding. Does your head hurt yet? For anyone who wasn’t able to see this, I am sorry. It was probably one of the most amazing games I’ve ever witnessed.
The Positives: The runs, oh the runs! It was nice to see the Redbirds pound out 16 hits, allowing just 4 on their end.
The Negatives: I guess the only negative really was the 19 left on base, but it hardly mattered at all on this night.
Player of the Game: I’d have to go with the entire St. Louis Cardinals offense! The seven doubles were incredible, and throw in Skip Schumaker’s triple too.
Sunday July 22, 2012 St. Louis Cardinals 7 Chicago Cubs 0
Lance Lynn went to the mound in search of his 12th win of the season and he wouldn’t be denied. Opposing him was Travis Wood, who entered the game 4-4 on the year. The doubles were in full force again on Sunday, as were the long balls this time too. Jon Jay’s 8th double of the year scored Allen Craig and Matt Holliday in the bottom of the 1st, leading to an early 2-0 lead. Tony Cruz followed with his 5th double of the year, which scored David Freese and Jon Jay.
The 4th inning saw the Cardinals add another tally on a Tyler Greene sacrifice fly. The Chicago Cubs, on the other hand, couldn’t master Lance Lynn, Fernando Salas, or Marc Rzepczynski, as the Cardinals allowed just 5 hits on the day, walked just 3, and struck out 6. In the 5th inning Matt Holliday led off with his 16th shot on the season, and Carlos Beltran immediately followed that up with his 21st shot of the year. That was it as far as the scoring on the day.
The Positives: Break out the brooms! The Cardinals got the sweep, and managed their second shutout of the Chicago Cubs in the series. The Redbirds only allowed them a single run the series, while scoring 23. Also of note was Trevor Rosenthal’s scoreless 9th, on just 10 pitches.
The Negatives: There weren’t many, aside from the 14 men left stranded.
Player of the Game: It has to be Lance Lynn. Lynn has filled in incredibly well for the injured Chris Carpenter, and the only question now is whether or not Lynn will face an innings cap. I certainly hope he doesn’t, though there has been evidence that he performs better the longer he rests. The St. Louis Cardinals know him better than anyone, and durability has not been a question up to this point at any level, so that should factor in Lynn’s favor.
Looking ahead: The Redbirds will face the Los Angeles Dodgers for a 4-game home set, and then head to Wrigley Field to face the same Cubs team they just massacred. The Dodgers are equally as hot as the Cardinals, winning their last 4 games overall. We will see what this series brings, but I’m hoping for no worse than 3 of 4. Let’s see if Joe Kelly can’t notch another win tonight. Cardinal Nation has a lot to look forward to, and let’s hope the success can continue. Let’s go Redbirds!