Tag:NLCS
Posted on: October 15, 2011 6:28 pm
 

Roenicke: No chance of Gallardo in Game 6

Shaun Marcum

By C. Trent Rosecrans

MILWAUKEE -- Brewers manager Ron Roenicke reiterated his confidence in Shaun Marcum, his starter in Game 6, during Saturday's workout day news conference -- but that doesn't mean he doesn't have a backup plan in case Marcum's start goes south quickly.

Roenicke, of course, wouldn't share his break-glass-in-case-of-emergency plan, but it did say it would not including throwing right-hander Yovani Gallardo on short rest.

"Yo is not an option," Roenicke said Saturday. "You know, really you guys talk about Yo and coming back on three days' rest. We have to win (Sunday) and the next day. You know, I don't know why I would bring back Yo to win (Sunday) when it would hurt us then for the next day and not being able to win. I don't know if there's a difference there. I think it makes sense to keep Yo on his basic rest. 

"You know, he wasn't that sharp the other day either. So to bring him back, if we had a chance if we were even up (Sunday), I would say yeah, Yo has a chance to be in our bullpen. But unfortunately we're not in that position."

As for Marcum, he said he never doubted that he'd be the choice if the series went six games.

"No, not at all. I know they had a lot of confidence in me and just talking with Ron and (pitching coach) Rick (Kranitz), and even guys in the clubhouse, you know, I think they felt that they're comfortable with me going out there, and you know, it's nice to have that kind of support."

Now it's his turn to show he can deliver and give Gallardo another chance to pitch this year.

"You know, I think I'm on the bandwagon with everybody in here, probably everybody in the country that wants to see Yo versus (Chris Carpenter) in Game 7," Marcum said. "So I'm going to try to get the ball to Yo." 

Roenicke also said he would stick by struggling second baseman Rickie Weeks, who has four errors this postseason and three in this series. Weeks is also hitting just .211/.250/.421 in the NLCS.

"I think you stick with him. You know, Rickie's a guy that our lineup depends on," Roenicke said. "We depend on him swinging the bat well. He protects Prince (Fielder). He's got the ability to if you get a couple of guys on base to drive the ball out of a ballpark. And we felt like coming into the playoffs that we needed Rickie, we needed his presence in there behind Prince. And I know his swings have gotten better. But I know there's still some things that he's not locked in there, both offensively and defensively."

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Posted on: October 15, 2011 6:06 pm
Edited on: October 16, 2011 4:15 pm
 

NLCS Game 6: Cardinals not eyeing Series yet



By C. Trent Rosecrans

Cardinals at Brewers, 8:05 p.m. ET, Miller Park, Milwaukee. Cardinals lead series 3-2.

MILWAUKEE -- For the first time in probably two months or so, the St. Louis Cardinals have some breathing room. For a team that needed every single victory (and every single Braves loss) to just make the playoffs, St. Louis also trailed 2-1 in the National League division series against the Phillies and now actually have a game up on the Brewers and aren't in a "must-win" situation for once. But don't tell that to Cardinals manager Tony La Russa.

"One of the neatest things about what's happened to our club from whenever we started smelling a chance to get into the eight-team playoffs, was we took the attitude that tomorrow is the last game of our lives, which means you don't think about anything beyond that," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "And that's really helpful. It's solved a lot of problems, therefore, have no thought about Game 7 and what happens, other than we're playing tomorrow. It's the last game we're ever going to play. And don't want to have any regrets when it's over. If the Brewers beat us, you tip your hat, hey, we did the best we could and you beat us. Not thinking about anything beyond our best shot tomorrow."

Game 6 on Sunday will be a rematch of the Game 2 blowout at Miller Park with Edwin Jackson taking the hill for the Cardinals and Shaun Marcum for the Brewers. Marcum and the Brewers bullpen were battered around a bit by the Cardinals in a 12-4 victory last Monday, while Jackson and the Cardinals bullpen did enough that there was little drama in the Brewers first home loss of the postseason.

A victory by the Cardinals would not only send them to the World Series, but avoiding a Game 7 would allow Chris Carpenter to start Game 1 of the World Series. Because of his heroics in Game 5 of the NLDS against the Phillies, Carpenter didn't get a chance to pitch until Game 3 of the NLDS.

WHO HAS THE EDGE

 

By just about any mark, the Cardinals have the advantage with their pitching -- as Jackson has better stuff and has pitched better recently than Marcum. Several Milwaukee players said they felt Marcum was "due," but that's not exactly how baseball works.

Still, this series has proven nothing if not unpredictable, at least as far as starters go. No Cardinals' starter has pitched six innings and the Brewers' best starter was Randy Wolf, who was absolutely shelled in the NLDS. The St. Louis starters have a 6.04 ERA in the series and the Brewers are hitting .340 off of the St. Louis starters.

What does give the Cardinals another edge is not just their bullpen, but La Russa's ruthlessness to go to the bullpen and use the eight relievers he stockpiled on his postseason roster. This is October, La Russa doesn't care about his starters' feelings, he's just going for the throat of the Brewers, and so far it's worked.

Cardinals' Edwin Jackson: Jackson allowed two runs and picked up a no-decision in the Cardinals' 12-3 victory in Game 2, and despite joining the Cardinals at the trade deadline, he will be facing Milwaukee for the fifth time in a Cardinal uniform. In the regular season, he was 1-1 with a 4.95 ERA in three starts. 

"I don't think either team has an advantage -- there's neither advantage for a pitcher or the batters (with the familiarity)," Jackson said on Saturday. "I mean there's no secret what I have, there's no secret what they can do. It's just a matter of execution. Whether they hit pitches that you miss or whether you throw pitches where you want to and get outs, it's just one of those things where you're not going to change up the game. I'm not going to change up my game plan, go out and attack the strike zone and take my chances with them putting the ball in play."

The current Brewers are hitting .295/.346/.525 off of Jackson, but he's been good against Prince Fielder (2 for 13) and Ryan Braun (3 for 12). Casey McGehee had a three-home game off of Jackson in the regular season, but will not be starting.

Brewres' Shaun Marcum: Marcum is well aware of his recent failings -- Marcum hasn't gone five innings in any of his last three starts and he's allowed at least five earned runs in five of his last six starts.

"There was more than a couple rocky ones heading into, but feel good, arm feels good, body feels good. Just a matter of going out there, keeping the ball down, throwing strikes and trying to get ahead of these hitters," Marcum said. "They've swung the bats well all year long. They've got one of the best offenses obviously in the National League but in baseball, so gotta go out there and make pitches against them."

But it's not as if he's a total basket case, Marcum was one of the team's best starters during the regular season, winning 13 games and throwing 20 quality starts.

"I think the starting pitchers, for example, and the relievers, too, have all proven, including Marcum in Game 2," La Russa said. "When they're making their pitches, they're real good offense on both sides, they're not centering the ball, they're making outs. But these are two very dangerous offenses, and if you happen to get a pitch in the middle against either side, you get damaged quite often. So he's going to try to avoid the middle. He's a pitcher, not a thrower, so is Edwin. If he has good command, he's tough to deal with. Same with Edwin. There's within some skewed numbers, because we got to their bullpen in Game 2. But they got to ours in Game 1. If you look at when either team pitches good, start, our back end, hitters aren't having any fun. He can do that, but hope he doesn't."

LINEUPS

Cardinals Brewers
No. Name Pos No. Name Pos
1 Rafael Furcal SS 1 Corey Hart RF
2 Jon Jay CF 2 Nyjer Morgan CF
3 Albert Pujols 1B 3 Ryan Braun LF
4 Lance Berkman RF 4 Prince Fielder 1B
5 Matt Holliday LF 5 Rickie Weeks 2B
6 David Freese 3B 6 Jerry Hairston Jr. 3B
7 Yadier Molina C 7 Yuniesky Betancourt SS
8 Nick Punto 2B 8 Jonathan Lucroy C
9 Edwin Jackson RHP 9 Shaun Marcum RHP

NOTES

  • The roof at Miller Park will be closed. It is expected to be 52 degrees at game time, and dropping into the 40s during the game. The roof was open for the first two games of the series at Miller Park.
  • St. Louis is 22-19 all-time in potential clinching games.
  • Before Yadier Molina's second-inning RBI double in Game 5, the Cardinals had gone hitless in their previous 22 at-bats with runners in scoring position.
  • Braun has no reached safely in the first inning of nine straight postseason games, the longest such streak in baseball history.
  • The Brewers' four errors in Game 5 were the most in an LCS game since Atlanta had four in Game 4 of the 2001 NLCS against the Diamondbacks. Second baseman Rickie Weeks has four errors this postseason, there have only been two other errors by second basemen in the postseason. The last second baseman to have five errors in a single postseason was Milwaukee's Jim Ganter in 1982.
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Posted on: October 15, 2011 2:00 am
 

Overheard: NLCS Game 5

Jerry Hairston Jr.

By C. Trent Rosecrans
 

ST. LOUIS -- Brewers third baseman Jerry Hairston Jr. was called for interference as Yadier Molina tried to score from second following Hairston's second-inning error, but there was no malicious intent on Hairston's part, he was still dumbstruck that he didn't make the play.

With two on and two out, Cardinals pitcher Jaime Garcia hit a hard grounder right at Hairston, who made a spectacular diving catch on the pitch before to rob Nick Punto, and the ball seemed to hit the lip of the infield and scoot under Hairston's glove into left field.

NLCS Coverage

"Shock," Hairston said of his reaction. "You see it, you've taken so many ground balls in your life, you know what a ball's going to do. When it just shoots down and scoots once it hits that lip, it's definitely a shock. Ask any third baseman or first baseman when they're in, it's not fun."

What made it so stunning was the play Hairston had just made to rob Punto of a hit and two RBI: "There's no bad hops in the air," Hairston said.

• Cardinals reliever Lance Lynn on the St. Louis bullpen: "We're going out there trying to get as many outs as we can until (Tony La Russa) comes out to get us."

• Ryan Braun on having already played an elimination game this postseason: "It's similar, except that time we only had to win one game and this time we have to win two. It's challenging, but at least we've been there before, we've experienced it, we came out and played a great game in Game 5 and hopefully we can do the same for Games 6 and 7 at home."

• Brewers starter Zack Greinke on team's fielding woes: "I think everyone’s going to make every play. Those things happen. I don’t think I’ve ever thrown a pitch my whole entire life worried about if there’s going to be a play made behind me. That stuff happens, but it’s not going to happen very often."

• Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy on the team's errors: "It's tough, especially against that lineup. You give those guys more than three outs in an inning and they're going to happen. That's part of it. I've made mistakes. You can blame me for calling some of the pitches."

Octavio Dotel on facing Braun, whom he has now struck out eight times in 10 at-bats: "Just licks against him, that's what I can say. I try to make my pitches every time I see him, and every time I face him, I just want to make my pitches. I guess I'm lucky against him, and I would love to be the same lucky when the series is over."

• Braun on the series returning to Milwaukee: "It didn't go the way we wanted it to, but against we get to go back home which is nice. eE need a two-game winning streak at home, which we've done plenty of times."

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Posted on: October 15, 2011 1:38 am
Edited on: October 15, 2011 1:41 am
 

Errors didn't help, but neither did Greinke

Zack Greinke

By C. Trent Rosecrans

ST. LOUIS -- Among qualified starters during the regular season, no pitcher struck out more batters per nine innings than Zack Greinke, and just 11 pitchers had a higher percentage of swings and misses on their pitches than Greinke's 10.6 percent.

To say Greinke wasn't that pitcher in Game 5 of the NLCS on Friday is an understatement. He didn't record a strikeout and of the 89 pitches he threw, there were just two swings and misses by Cardinals batters. So instead of his season percentage that was better than Justin Verlander (10.2 percent), his 2.25 swing-and-miss percentage was closer to Elih Villanueva of the Marlins, and nearly a full percent less than the swing-and-miss rate recorded by Scott Kazmir. So as much as his fielders struggled behind him in the Cardinals' 7-1 victory, Greinke can shoulder plenty of blame himself.

NLCS Coverage

"Wasn’t a great game pitched for me," Greinke said afterward. "Made several mistakes that ended up costing us. They pitched a good game. Tough loss. Definitely could have done better and made it a better game. I made a couple tough mistakes."

Both of the swinging strikes came on fastballs, while his best out pitch, his slider went for 11 strikes, but none of them swings and misses. 

No batter swung and missed at a pitch until Greinke's 68th pitch of the night, a 1-1 fastball to Matt Holliday in the fifth inning. Holliday hit his next pitch to shortstop for a hit. Greinke's next swinging strike was on his 88th pitch of the night, a 1-1 fastball to Albert Pujols in the sixth. Pujols blasted Greinke's next pitch into left for an RBI single.

"I don't think his slider was biting as it usually was tonight," Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy said. "He had velocity, but his movement wasn't there and it usually is on his slider. His best pitches are his slider and his fastball, and if his slider's not working, it takes away from his fastball."

Greinke's fastball averaged 93 mph and had a high of 95.4 mph, but the Cardinals weren't missing them. He still threw 18 sliders (20 percent), close to his usual percentage.

"The slider wasn’t very sharp at all today," Greinke said. "I kind of wanted to get it up a little more and get some weak contact with it. I did that pretty good. But whenever I needed to get it down, I had some trouble doing that. The last pitch to Albert (Pujols) was a hanging slider, and if I get it down, it’s probably a strikeout. You could say that several other times, where if I’d have gotten the slider down better, there’d have been better results."

In all, he allowed seven hits in 5 2/3 innings and five runs, although just two were earned. He actually lowered his postseason ERA to a pedestrian 6.48 -- hardly the type of production expected from a former Cy Young-winner who demanded out of Kansas City so he could pitch in playoff games. Now three games into his playoff career, he's not shown himself to be the level of Chris Carpenter, Roy Halladay or Cliff Lee, the top-line pitchers who also have proven themselves under baseball's brightest lights. And make no mistake, there were those who wondered how Greinke would fare under the glare of the postseason. While it's not appeared to be a mental block, his lack of production in the postseason will be an issue and concern until he proves he can pitch on this stage.

He didn't have help on Friday -- Jerry Hairston Jr. missed a grounder by Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia that allowed two runs to score, Corey Hart missed a ball in right field that produced St. Louis' first run, Rickie Weeks missed a tough over-the-shoulder catch in the fourth before commttin an error in the fifth and Yuniesky Betancourt's error in the sixth aided the Cardinals' final run off of Greinke. That's all true, but it's also true that Molina's double and Garcia's grounder in the second were both hit very hard. That's because Greinke wasn't fooling anybody, and like it or not, his reputation in the postseason will be based more on what he's done in his three starts this October than anything he's done in the past.

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Posted on: October 14, 2011 11:15 pm
Edited on: October 14, 2011 11:29 pm
 

Brewers hand Game 5 to Cardinals

Zack Greinke

By C. Trent Rosecrans

ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals' 7-1 victory in Game 5 has put St. Louis one game from the World Series, as they lead the series 3-2 after Friday's win.

Hero: Jaime Garcia really got the job done with his bat, as three of the Cardinals' first four runs came off the bat of Garcia. Two runs scored in the second on his grounder that went through the legs of Jerry Hairston Jr. and then he knocked in a run in the fourth on a ground out. Oh, and he pitched too... allowing only one run and striking out five (but did give up seven hits) in 4 2/3 innings. 

Goat: Hairston was the toast of Milwaukee for about 23 hours after his brilliant slide in Game 4 and then his diving stop of a liner by Nick Punto in the second inning on Friday that temporarily saved two more runs. But with the next pitch, Garcia hit a grounder that went right between Hairston's legs, allowing two runs to score with two outs. He wasn't alone in the Brewers error-parade, but his was the first one and the most costly.

Turning point: It's hard to overstate how crucial Hairston's error was -- even though it seems like it's getting beat to death here. With the pitcher up, all the Brewers need is a routine play and it's still 1-0 after two. Instead, it's 3-0 and the seeds of doubt have been sown. 

It was over when … Octavio Dotel came in to face Ryan Braun with two on and two outs in the fifth inning and the Cardinals leading 4-1. Braun came into the game just 2 for 9 with seven strikeouts against Dotel. He left the game 2 for 10 with eight strikeouts against Dotel.

Next: The series returns to Milwaukee with the Brewers' season in the hands of Shaun Marcum. Expect a run of Pepto in Wisconsin. Edwin Jackson can send the Cardinals to the World Series with a victory.

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Posted on: October 14, 2011 9:21 pm
 

Brewers defense comes up short early in Game 5

Corey Hart

By C. Trent Rosecrans

ST. LOUIS -- For the second time in three games, a ball went just off Corey Hart's glove, leading to runs for the Cardinals. Neither the ball hit by David Freese in the first inning of Game 3 on Wednesday, nor the double off the bat of Yadier Molina in the second inning of Game 5 on Friday were ruled an error -- nor should they have been. But both showed the small difference between scoring runs and preventing them.

With two on and one out in the second inning, the Cardinals catcher drove a ball deep to right off of Brewers starter Zack Greinke and Hart jumped near the fence, but the ball ticked off his glove, allowing one run to score and Molina to motor into second with a double. Molina and Freese would both score on an error by Jerry Hairston Jr. later in the inning, give St. Louis an early 3-0 lead.

On Wednesday, Hart had a shot at Freese's liner, but missed that one as well, allowing the fourth run of the first inning to score in an eventual 4-3 Cardinals victory.

The Brewers are not a very good defensive team and that could come back to hurt them in this series. Game 3 turned not only on Hart's play, but also Mark Kotsay's inability to catch Jon Jay's liner that started the first-inning rally.

After Molina's double, Hairston made a nice diving play to temporarily save two runs on Nick Punto's liner, but he then let Jaime Garcia's ground ball go between his legs, scoring two more.

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Posted on: October 14, 2011 6:38 pm
 

La Russa reminisces about a young Hairston

Jerry Hairston Jr.

By C. Trent Rosecrans

ST. LOUIS -- A cool story came out of Friday's pregame interview for Game 5 of the NLCS when Cardinals manager Tony La Russa was asked about Jerry Hairston Jr., who first met La Russa when Hairston's father, Jerry Hairston Sr., played for La Russa on the White Sox.

Hairston and his brother Scott Hairston are third-generation big-leaguers, with not only Jerry Hairston Sr. playing in the big leagues, but also their grandfather, Sam Hairston, who played in the Negro Leagues and for the White Sox.

After Thursday's game Hairston told some reporters that he remembered playing in the White Sox clubhouse as a kid and his dealings with La Russa. La Russa was then asked about that on Friday:

"Well, that's an emotional one, because of his grand dad. For any of you that have been around a while, Sam Hairston, not just for the White Sox, was an institution in baseball. Great, great man. And when I got to the White Sox and met Sam, he had a lot of idiosyncracies that were really neat, and whether you were the worst Minor Leaguer or the best Big Leaguer, just an amazing man. 

"I met his son, and then we had a unique experience -- I'll tell you quickly. During the strike of '82, Roland Hemond went to México to scout two or three guys, and young manager, he took me with him. We got rained out of a game, so we went back to the capital, and we drove all the way out, someplace out in the country to see a left-hand pitcher, a guy named Angel Moreno know who ended up signing with the Angels.

"We saw a night game, Mexico City Reds were playing against the Mexico City Tigers, and I watched that game and I watched and there was this young right-handed reliever, and I said, "Roland, look at this guy." Salomon Rojas, pitched for us the next year. Maybe it was the '81 strike. And the other one was Jerry Hairston who I was running into in the Minor Leagues and he's taking these at-bats, he's in great shape, and Roland was and still is a great baseball man, very emotional, and knew Sam. 

So in September, we brought Jerry up, and he lit us up as a pinch-hitter. So he was with us the next year, I forget exactly how many years he was with us, but just do anything, ready all the time. I really enjoyed Jerry, one of my favorite players, and then he had these two little kids, two little jerk kids running into my office telling me to play their dad more than I'm playing him. 

"I'd say, "Okay, maybe I should, but get out." I really enjoyed his family and his wife. Yeah, makes you feel real old to see Jerry, Jr. kicking our butt like he does, but I hope Sam is appreciating it." 

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Posted on: October 14, 2011 6:27 pm
 

Furcal wants Cardinals, but should they want him?

Rafael Furcal

By C. Trent Rosecrans

ST. LOUIS -- Rafael Furcal has seen enough of St. Louis that he'd love to return in 2012 and beyond. The question is how much of a pay cut he'll be willing to take and if the Cardinals want him back.

"When I come here with Atlanta, or I come in with the Dodgers, I play those guys, I'm always in a big competition, and I love it here," Furcal said before Game 5 of the NLCS. "I love the fans and the players and everybody is on the same page and everybody wants to win. Who wouldn't want to play for one of the best managers in all of baseball?"

Furcal has been a definite upgrade defensively for the Cardinals, who had Ryan Theriot start 87 games at shortstop, resembling the statue of Ozzie Smith outside Busch Stadium than the Hall of Famer that patrolled the former incarnation of Busch Stadium.

However, despite hitting better than he did in Los Angeles (.197/.272/.248), Furcal hasn't lived up to his career numbers in either batting average (.282) or on-base percentage (.348), hitting .255/.316/.418 with St. Louis in 50 regular-season games and .200/.220/.325 in the playoffs. He has as many stolen bases as Lance Berkman and Yadier Molina.

Furcal will also turn 34 on Oct. 24, the scheduled day of Game 5 of the World Series. For a player who has based so much of his career on his speed, Furcal's age is a real concern. The Cardinals have a $12 million option for 2012, and that seems highly unlikely to be picked up. His three-year, $30 million contract runs out after this season and will likely be granted free agency.

Are the Cardinals better with Furcal than without him? Yep. And he could be a decent pickup, and he certainly wouldn't be the first player to resurrect his career playing for Tony La Russa, but in the end it comes down to the biggest question in the offseason -- is the price right?

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