Jake Westbrook was sailing along, another six shutout innings in the books. The St. Louis Cardinals held a slight 2-0 lead they acquired in the first inning. By the end of the seventh the Redbirds were down 5-2. Gone was the 16-inning scoreless streak and the Cardinals could not manufacture a comeback to avoid the loss. The win streak (or no loss streak if you will) ended at the hands of the New York Mets by the score of 6-3.
Understand that Westbrook was done in some by his bullpen. He left ahead 2-1 with two runners on and one out. Marc Rzepczynski was unable to stop the damage, allowing both runners to score on two walks and a hit. Before Kyle McClellan could get the final out of the inning, he allowed two of Rzepczynski’s runners to score. Scott Linebrink gave up his first run of the spring in the eighth and Victor Marte, still very much in the running for the last spot in the pen pitched a scoreless ninth.
The Cardinals got off to a fast start against Mets’ pitcher Johan Santana. Santana walked Rafael Furcal and Carlos Beltran to open the game and Matt Holliday promptly singled in the games’ first run. He now has a 13-game hit streak. David Freese walked next, and following a strikeout of Matt Carpenter, Tyler Greene hit a sacrifice fly to give the Cardinals a 2-0 lead.
Westbrook went through the first six innings allowing only two hits and zero walks. His groundout to flyout ratio of 8-5 was the lowest it has been in any game this season, but none the less, still impressive.
CARPENTER BACK IN CAMPChris Carpenter
arrived back in Jupiter yesterday, happy to finally be finished with all the poking and prodding. During his four days of testing he underwent two MRIs nerve conduction tests, an ultrasound and an spinal tap
to Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The plan is for everything to settle down and rest before working on getting strength in the rotator cuff. The minimal rest and rehab process is about two months and then he would have to go through a ‘spring training like’ routine to get into game shape. So, we could be talking three to three and a half months before he sees a game, at best. One other thing was cleared up and that was the bulging disk in his neck had nothing to do with the balky nerves in the shoulder area.
FINALLY AN OFF DAY
No game today for the Cardinals, the only open day of the Spring Training schedule for the Redbirds. Jenifer Langosch reports this has been a sticking point with manager Mike Matheny. He felt that having to wait 39 days from the start of Spring Training was outlandish and as such he has a very light day in store for most. In fact Matheny and most everyone else will be away from camp today. Only Jaime Garcia is set to get real work in as he will pitch in a Triple-A game in order to stay on his turn.
MY TWO CENTS
For what it’s worth, the Cardinals have played good overall baseball this spring. They have received very good starting pitching as a whole. They have enough bullpen depth which allowed them to send down Eduardo Sanchez, who has lights out stuff, it just needs to be harnessed some. The lineup is potent and the bench will feature players who can handle long term stints if required. That said the Cardinals would be wise to jump out to a lead in the division instead of playing from behind. Last season they went toe to toe with other teams from the NL Central, mostly the Milwaukee Brewers, being tied with them atop the division as late as mid-season. But, this year they have a chance to sprint ahead of the group.
After the Opening Day game in Miami, the Cardinals will play 27 straight games against NL Central rivals which brings them through the first week of May. Want to bury the opposition? Get to them early. If the Cardinals can build a cushion early on it will allow them to get through any mid-season slumps and it will help them navigate the loss of Chris Carpenter. However, if the Redbirds play .500 ball or worse for the first 28 games they may find themselves trying to claw back into the race down the road. Divisions are not won in April, but it can’t hurt to jump out ahead to build confidence for the team and demoralize the competition. The Cardinals have played very well this spring. If it translates into the regular season they could go wire to wire for the division title.