St. Louis Cardinals: Ready for the Second Half
By Bob Hudgins
I dread the All-Star Break. It upsets my routine, and it lasts too long. I dread it ahead of time, and when it’s here, the dread builds into what could be described as low-level neurasthenia. As Judy Grimes (Kristen Wiig) might say, “Just kidding.”
The time off really sets baseball fans–St. Louis Cardinals fans–on edge. They reflect on what’s transpired so far, and get nervous about what’s ahead. If you get off to a bad start after the break, some start calling for heads. The Kansas City Royals got swept in Boston over the weekend. Look what Sam Mellinger, a columnist for the Kansas City Star, wrote yesterday.
Conversely, if your team does well right out of the break, the plaudits come in almost a giddy tone. This is where I am today, despite Sunday’s frustrating loss to the Dodgers late in the game. The St. Louis Cardinals have the look of a hungry club out to prove something.
How about Matt Holliday, for instance? He’s come roaring out of the gate, likely pissed off that he didn’t get to attend the All-Star Game. Matt Holliday is good at baseball, and a prideful man. Did you see how he tried to take out the shortstop on a double-play turn last night, just after Clayton Kershaw hit him in the posterior with a 95-mph fastball?
Baseball fans like our players to appear motivated to perform. And it makes us nervous when the sense creeps in that our emotional investment in “the laundry” (the home team) may be misplaced. So far, in the three-game showdown with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Cardinals made us feel better about things.
Peter Bourjos looks good lately, after hitting a home run against Clayton Kershaw, collecting another hit later, and stealing two bases. He also made a very good catch early in the game, perhaps saving a run or two.
Matt Carpenter is up to his old tricks. He worked a walk off Kershaw right before the Bourjos homer, that was reminiscent of the eleven-pitch at-bat Carpenter took against Kershaw in last fall’s NLCS. He eventually doubled in that at-bat. Many of the players–Kolten Wong, Matt Adams, Jhonny Peralta–look refreshed, and Lance Lynn and Joe Kelly verged on excellent in their second half debuts.
Allen Craig is doing the best he can. He is clearly dealing with the effects of the Lisfranc injury he sustained last September. As he attempted to run down what turned into an Andre Ethier triple, he did not appear to have solid balance; his gait looked hindered. If his back foot is painful and unstable, he can’t get his lower body energy into his swing.
Craig can be a force. Take a look at this game log from April 16, 2011. He had three hits, one of which was a three-run homer to left field off of–you guessed it–Clayton Kershaw. (Watch the video, too.) Craig also stole a base that night. He strained his groin doing it, and went on the 15-day disabled list the next day. The guy’s had tough luck.