Tag:Allen Craig
Posted on: October 22, 2011 8:25 pm
Edited on: October 22, 2011 8:44 pm
 

Craig continues hot World Series

Allen Craig

By Matt Snyder


ARLINGTON, Texas -- Cardinals pinch-hitter/outfielder Allen Craig was the hero of Game 1. He would have been the hero of Game 2, had the Rangers' not mounted a ninth-inning comeback.

And he's already made a huge impact on Game 3. In the first inning, Craig got a pretty fat pitch from Matt Harrison and planted it into the left-field seats in Rangers Ballpark, giving the Cardinals a 1-0 lead after one inning. After his first at-bat in Game 1, he's 3 for 3 with 3 RBI in the World Sieres and hitting .333/.440/.714 in the postseason, with two homers and six batted in.

The difference in this game, though, is that it's being played at 2011's top hitter's park in conditions almost ideal for hitters. One run isn't going to cut it. Still, the Craig story this postseason continues to grow.

Follow along live on CBSportscom's GameTracker

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Posted on: October 21, 2011 9:49 pm
Edited on: October 22, 2011 4:04 pm
 

World Series Game 3: Offense on the way



By Matt Snyder


Rangers at Cardinals, 8:05 p.m. ET, Rangers Ballpark, Arlington, Texas. Series is tied 1-1.

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Can two slumping offenses magically reappear to what they were heading into the World Series? Of course they can, simply by taking the flight from St. Louis to Dallas-Fort Worth. First of all, the temperature will be about 20 degrees higher, give or take a few. Secondly, Rangers Ballpark in Arlington was the top offensive stadium in the majors for both runs scored and home runs this season, while Busch Stadium rated out as a pretty significant pitcher's park this year.

The Cardinals aren't denying the difference.

"The ball does carry here, and you're going to have some danger if you don't hit your spots," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said Friday in Arlington.

"It's a tough place to pitch, especially when you see those flags blowing in," said St. Louis' Game 3 starter Kyle Lohse. "It usually means that jet stream is going out to right-center. I think everyone in the league knows that. Coming in you've got to keep the ball down, especially against this lineup."

Oh, and of course the pitchers look a bit different. While we've seen recent struggles from C.J. Wilson of the Rangers and Jaime Garcia of the Cardinals, there wasn't much question the two had the ability to provide some quality innings. Colby Lewis has a great postseason history and Chris Carpenter is, well, Chris Carpenter. So when you factor in the weather and ballpark, it shouldn't seem a complete shock that the first two games were mostly a pitcher's paradise. The Game 3 starters aren't awful by any stretch, but they're a step down from what we saw in the first two games. And the conditions for them are the complete opposite of what the pitchers had in St. Louis.

Simply: The scoreboard operator is likely to be busy. 

World Series Coverage
PITCHING MATCHUP

Harrison vs. Cardinals:
The 26-year-old left-hander was 14-9 with a 3.39 ERA and 1.28 WHIP this season and he's 1-0 with a 4.22 ERA in two postseason starts. Like I said, he doesn't suck. He has never faced the Cardinals and no St. Louis hitter of relevance has a large enough sample size to draw any conclusions.

Lohse vs. Rangers: The 33-year-old right-hander was 14-8 with a 3.39 ERA and 1.17 WHIP this season. Eerily similar numbers to Harrison.

In 52 2/3 career innings against the Rangers, Lohse has been dreadful. He has a 6.66 ERA, 1.67 WHIP and has coughed up 14 homers.

But.

He hasn't seen them since 2006 or gotten hit hard by the Rangers since 2005. He doesn't really know these Rangers well, other than Michael Young. Young vs. Lohse has taken place 31 times. Young is hitting just .233 off Lohse, but four of his seven hits are of the extra-base variety, including three homers. Adrian Beltre has homered of Lohse, but it's his only hit in nine tries. Ian Kinsler is 0-for-2 and Mike Napoli is 0-for-5. 

LINEUPS

Cardinals Rangers
No. Name Pos No. Name Pos
1 Rafael Furcal SS 1 Ian Kinsler 2B
2 Allen Craig RF 2 Elvis Andrus SS
3 Albert Pujols 1B 3 Josh Hamilton CF
4 Matt Holliday LF 4 Michael Young DH
5 Lance Berkman DH 5 Adrian Beltre 3B
6 David Freese 3B 6 Nelson Cruz RF
7 Yadier Molina C 7 Mike Napoli 1B
8 Jon Jay CF 8 David Murphy LF
9 Ryan Theriot 2B 9 Yorvit Torrealba C
SP Kyle Lohse RHP SP Matt Harrison LHP


NOTES

• With Harrison being left-handed, that means switch-hitting Lance Berkman will be hitting from the right side of the plate. Berkman hit .307 with a .998 OPS left-handed this season, but just .277 and .804 as a right-hander. Berkman is 0-for-3 against Harrison in his career.

• It's worth noting that Harrison's ERA during the regular season was nearly a run worse at home than on the road.

• Lohse has been terrible this postseason, racking up 13 hits and eight earned runs in just 9 2/3 innings pitched across two starts. And he now gets to face a better offense in a better hitter's park. 

• Cardinals supersub Allen Craig is 5-for-10 with a home run and five RBI in the NLCS and World Series. He's now going to be in the lineup for three games as things shift to the AL ballpark, with Craig taking right field and Berkman moving to DH. That is a huge advantage for the Cardinals, as they add Craig's bat to the lineup while the Rangers only get to add either Mitch Moreland or Yorvit Torrealba. So the designated hitter rule ends up helping the National League team, who is only using it because the American League team is at home. Definitely an interesting twist as the games shift to Texas for three.

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Posted on: October 19, 2011 11:13 pm
Edited on: October 19, 2011 11:27 pm
 

Cardinals take Game 1 behind Craig's big hit



By Matt Snyder


ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals have a 1-0 lead in the World Series after a 3-2 win in Game 1.

Hero: Allen Craig came on to pinch hit in the bottom of the sixth with runners on first and third, a tie game and two outs. He delivered a line drive down the right field line that ended up a game-winning single. Having him as a weapon off the bench is huge for the Cardinals, and will be even bigger when the series shifts to Texas and a DH spot becomes available.

World Series coverage
Goat: It's a tough call here, because this was a pretty well-played game by both teams that could have gone either way. But Alexi Ogando was brought in from the bullpen to get a big out. That's what his job has been and will continue to be. He didn't come through Wednesday night. C.J. Wilson putting the runners on base also bears mention here, but Ogando's job is to be the bailout guy. He didn't bail Wilson out.

Turning point: There were three big ones. The first was the Cardinals' initial 2-0 lead on a Lance Berkman single. The next was Mike Napoli's game-tying, two-run homer. And then Craig's big hit ultimately proved the biggest play of the game and was the defining turning point after Napoli's shot.

It was over when ... In the top of the seventh, the Rangers put two runners on base with one out. Marc Rzepczynski was summoned to face the left-handed hitting David Murphy. Rangers manager Ron Washington countered with right-handed Craig Gentry. Cardinals manager Tony La Russa elected to stick with Rzepczynski against both Gentry and fellow righty Esteban German -- even with right-hander Octavio Dotel warming in the bullpen. Rzepczynski struck both out to end the threat. It would be the Rangers' last threat of the game.

Next: Game 2 is Thursday night at 8:05 p.m. ET, here in St. Louis. The Cardinals will run Jaime Garcia out to the mound while the Rangers are going with Colby Lewis. Look for the Game 2 preview here at Eye On Baseball very soon.

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Posted on: October 19, 2011 2:50 pm
Edited on: October 19, 2011 2:51 pm
 

World Series relievers vs. hitters



By C. Trent Rosecrans

Both the Cardinals and Rangers advanced to the World Series with a huge hand from their bullpens, so both bullpens are expected to be used often during the series.

St. Louis manager Tony La Russa likes to use match ups to his favor, relying on stats to decide when to use a reliever and which one to use. Octavio Dotel's mastery of Ryan Braun was part of the Cardinals' NLCS victory -- Dotel had struck out Braun six times in eight at-bats coming into the series and the two faced each other three times in the NLCS, with Braun striking out all three times. While the Brewers and Cardinals faced each other 18 times during the regular season, the Cardinals and Rangers have only played three times in the teams' histories, back in 2004.

While some free agents have moved, there are still many pitchers and hitters who haven't seen each other, giving this a true old-school World Series feel.

Here's a look at both team's primary relievers against the most important batters:

Cardinals relievers vs. Rangers hitters
Rangers Mitchell Boggs Octavio Dotel Lance Lynn Jason Motte Arthur Rhodes* Marc Rzepczynski* Fernando Salas
Elvis Andrus N/A 0-4 N/A N/A N/A 1-3 N/A
Adrian Beltre N/A 5-22, 2B, HR, 8 K N/A N/A 0-1, K N/A N/A
Nelson Cruz N/A 1-2, HR N/A N/A N/A 2-5, 2B N/A
Josh Hamilton* N/A N/A N/A N/A 0-2, 2 BB, K 0-3, 2 K N/A
Ian Kinsler N/A 0-5 N/A N/A 1-2, BB, K 4-6, 2 HR N/A
Mitch Moreland* N/A 1-1, HR N/A N/A N/A 0-1 N/A
David Murphy* N/A 0-1, K N/A N/A 0-0, 2 BB 0-4 N/A
Mike Napoli 1-1, 2B 0-3, 2 K N/A 0-2, 2K N/A 1-5 N/A
Yorvit Torrealba 0-2 1-1, 2B N/A 0-1, K N/A 1-1 N/A
Michael Young N/A 3-12, 2B, 4 K N/A N/A 0-9, 3 K 1-4, 2 BB N/A

Rangers relievers vs. Cardinals hitters
Cardinals Mike Adams Scott Feldman Neftali Feliz Mike Gonzalez* Mark Lowe Alexi Ogando Darren Oliver
Lance Berkman^ 1-3, 3B 3-9, 2B, 3 K 1-4, BB, 2 K 2-6, BB N/A N/A 4-6, BB
Allen Craig N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
David Freese 0-2, 2 K N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Rafael Furcal^ 1-6 1-2, 2B N/A 0-6, 2 K N/A N/A 2-9, 2B, K
Matt Holliday 1-5, HR 2-5, 2BB N/A 0-4, BB, 2 K 1-2, BB, K N/A 1-4, HR
Jon Jay* 1-2, 2B N/A F4 1-1 N/A N/A N/A
Albert Pujols 1-8, 2B, BB, 3 K N/A N/A 1-7, 3 BB, 2 K N/A N/A 2-6, 2 K
Nick Punto^ 0-0, BB 1-5, 2B, 2 BB, 2 K 0-1 0-1, K 0-2, BB N/A 0-8, 2K
Skip Schumaker* 1-3 N/A N/A 0-2, K N/A N/A N/A
Ryan Theriot 0-4, 2 K N/A 0-1 1-4, 2B, BB N/A 0-1 N/A
* left-handed
^ switch hitter

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Posted on: October 16, 2011 11:50 pm
Edited on: October 17, 2011 1:24 pm
 

World Series preview: Rangers vs. Cardinals



By Matt Snyder


Talk about your clashes in historical pedigree.

The St. Louis Cardinals franchise began all the way back in 1882 (as the St. Louis Brown Stockings). After having just won the 2011 NL pennant, the Cardinals now have 18 NL titles and 10 World Series championships -- looking to add No. 11 in the next week and a half or so. The history of the franchise is loaded with Hall of Famers and transcendent personalities, and the city is often said to be one of the best baseball towns in the country. Manager Tony La Russa has been playing bullpen matchups since before Al Gore invented the Internet.

The Rangers' franchise, on the other hand, has only been around since 1961 (as the Washington Senators -- they moved to Texas and became the Rangers in 1972). Prior to 1996, the Rangers/Senators had never been to the playoffs. Prior to last season, they'd only won one playoff game in franchise history. The only individual Hall of Fame plaque with a Texas Rangers cap is Nolan Ryan's. Sitting right in the middle of die-hard football country, Arlington hasn't exactly been romanticized as a baseball hot spot. Manager Ron Washington took his first managing job in 2007.

Full playoff coverage
Of course, history has absolutely nothing to do with this series. The players are the ones who will win this series, not the uniforms or any flags in the respective stadiums honoring the past.

The Rangers are now making their second consecutive trip to the World Series and there's no doubt they're a current baseball powerhouse. Anyone who watched Game 6 of the ALCS can attest that the fans are as great as anywhere, too, because Rangers Ballpark was rocking.

These two teams have lots of similarities, too.

Both lost an ace before the season even began. The Rangers lost Cliff Lee to free agency while the Cardinals lost Adam Wainwright to a torn UCL in his throwing elbow -- requiring season-ending Tommy John surgery. Both offenses feature several power hitters while the bullpens got stronger down the stretch on the strength of midseason acquisitions and some roster/role tinkering. And both teams have been scorching hot for the past six or so weeks.

Sure, the Cardinals late surge got lots of attention and rightfully so. It's because they were running down the Braves from a double-digit deficit in the NL wild-card race. But check this out:

Rangers' September record: 19-6
Cardinals' September record: 18-8

Rangers' October record: 7-3
Cardinals' October record: 7-4

So if you're going to argue for the hotter team winning the series, you're picking the Rangers -- not the Cardinals. Since a Sept. 10 loss to the A's, the Rangers are 21-5. To put that in perspective, that's a 162-game pace of 131 wins. To reiterate, the Cardinals are playing exceptional baseball right now and deserve all the credit they've gotten for the huge comeback in the regular season and run in the playoffs, but let's not be fooled into thinking they come in hotter than their Texas-sized opponent.

TEAM INFORMATION

Texas Rangers (host Games 3, 4, 5*)
96-66, AL West winner.
ALDS: Beat Tampa Bay three games to one.
ALCS: Beat Detroit four games to two.
Manager: Ron Washington
Offensive ranks: 3rd in R, 2nd in HR, 1st in AVG, 5th in OBP, 2nd in SLG
Pitching ranks: 13th in ERA, 12th in K, 5th in WHIP

St. Louis Cardinals (host Game 1, 2, 6*, 7*)
90-72, NL wild card winner.
NLDS: Beat Philadelphia three games to two.
NLCS: Beat Milwaukee four games to two.
Manager: Tony La Russa
Offensive ranks: 5th in R, 13th in HR, 5th in AVG, 3rd in OBP, 6th in SLG
Pitching ranks: 12th in ERA, 21st in K, 15th in WHIP

*if necessary
[Note: All rankings were regular season and for the entire MLB]

POSITIONAL BREAKDOWN -- WHO HAS THE EDGE?

Catcher: Mike Napoli vs. Yadier Molina


Big offensive advantage to Napoli here, but Molina can hit, too. Big defensive advantage to Molina here, but we've seen what Napoli can do behind the plate this postseason. This is a tough call for many reasons. We're weighing Napoli's power stroke (30 HR in 369 at-bats this season) against Molina's ability to completely eliminate the opposing running game. Ultimately, it's a toss up between two really good players.

First base: Michael Young vs. Albert Pujols


Young is a very good hitter. A great one at times, including most of the 2011 season. He just became the first player in LCS history to record two extra-base hits in one inning. He's gotten some noise in the AL MVP argument. It's just that he's not Albert Pujols in any aspect of the game.

Second base: Ian Kinsler vs. Ryan Theriot


Theriot's a scrappy singles hitter who makes lots of baserunning mistakes. He's not a defensive liability at second like he was at short, but he's still not much more than just an average player. Even if Skip Schumaker can return at full health, the upgrade is pretty minor. Kinsler had 32 homers and 30 stolen bases in the regular season and is far superior with the glove. 

Shortstop: Elvis Andrus vs. Rafael Furcal


Andrus is a solid defender and base stealer, but not a very good hitter. Furcal has provided St. Louis a bit of a power-speed combo atop the order since his acquisition. It's a really close call here, but Furcal seems to be providing his team more of a spark at this point in time. Things could easily change by the second inning of Game 1, but we're going Furcal by a nose for now.

Third base: Adrian Beltre vs. David Freese


A healthy Freese has been a monumental boost for the Cardinals' offense, especially as Matt Holliday has dealt with some injuries. Freese was a really good hitter in the regular season and absolutely exploded in the NLCS. Beltre can match and exceed his firepower, though. Beltre had 32 regular-season homers and then went yard three times in the clinching ALDS Game 4 at Tampa Bay. He's also a great defender. Before the NLCS, Freese was underrated, but let's not overcorrect based upon six games. He closed the gap, but is still slightly behind Beltre overall.

Left field: David Murphy vs. Matt Holliday


When healthy, Holliday is an elite player. He's starting to look healthy based upon the last few games, too, so this is an easy call.

Center field: Josh Hamilton vs. Jon Jay


Jay isn't a bad player by any stretch, but he's out of his league here. When Hamilton can keep himself on the field, he's one of the most feared sluggers in the league, and will also sell out his body to make a big defensive play (see Game 6, for example).

Right field: Nelson Cruz vs. Lance Berkman


We cannot discount the season that Berkman, the NL Comeback Player of the Year, put together. He was great, and especially valuable early in the season when Holliday was hurt and Pujols was struggling. But Cruz still almost matched his power production despite playing 21 fewer games in the regular season. In the playoffs, Cruz has been the best hitter in baseball, not to mention that he's a much better defender than Berkman. This one would be a toss up, but Cruz's hot hand pushes him over the top. Put it this way, Cardinals fans: What if you could trade Berkman for Cruz straight up for the series? You'd do it. Don't lie.

Designated hitter


The designated hitter for the Rangers is a mix and match thing. Young or Napoli can be used there, which would get Mitch Moreland or Yorvit Torrealba into the lineup. It's also possible Washington goes with Endy Chavez or Craig Gentry in the outfield and uses Murphy at DH. So, essentially, we're judging the bench here. For the Cardinals, the smart money is on Berkman being used as the DH, which then puts Allen Craig in the outfield. So what we're really judging here is which offense benefits more from being able to use a DH and, oddly enough, the NL team here does. Craig is a much better offensive player than Moreland, Torrealba, Chavez or Gentry. So the three games in Texas will actually favor the Cardinals in this one aspect of the game, however small it is.

Starting rotation: C.J. Wilson, Colby Lewis, Matt Harrison, Derek Holland vs. Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia, Edwin Jackson, Kyle Lohse


Both rotations have good ability yet have been shaky at times. Holland and Garcia particularly struggled in their respective LCS'. Wilson and Carpenter both pitched like aces at several points throughout the regular season, but the deciding factor here is that Carpenter has shown he can carry his team in a big game. Wilson, meanwhile, is 1-4 with a 5.40 ERA and 1.40 WHIP in seven career postseason starts.

Bullpen: Neftali Feliz et al vs. Jason Motte et al


The fact that both teams won four of six games against their respective LCS opponents with zero quality starts tells you all you need to know about how good the bullpens are right now. The Cardinals' bullpen has significantly improved down the stretch, as Motte has stepped in as the closer -- despite not being "officially" named as such. Marc Rzepczynski has been a solid left-handed addition just as right-hander Octavio Dotel has gotten some really big outs. Especially after the NLCS, you have to say the Cardinals have a very strong bullpen right now. The way things have gone for Texas of late, though, it's even better. Scott Feldman and Alexi Ogando have proven to be an exceptional duo to bridge the gap from the starters to the potentially dominant Mike Adams and Neftali Feliz at the back-end.

Defense


Getting Furcal helped the Cardinals, as will being able to use Craig in right instead of Berkman when the games are played in Texas, but this isn't really a match. The two teams had virtually identical fielding percentages during the regular season, but that doesn't measure range. The advanced metrics that do measure range pretty heavily side with the Rangers here. If you just go by position, only at catcher and first base are the Cardinals clearly better. Everywhere else it's either debatable or definitely the Rangers.

PREDICTION

First of all, keep in mind all categories above aren't created equal. Having a slight edge at shortstop, for example, isn't near as important as having an edge in the bullpen. The position-by-position breakdown is just a snapshot at the different strengths and weaknesses of each team. Adding everything together, including the momentum and swagger heading into the World Series, the Rangers have a better offense, defense and bullpen. And while the Cardinals have been having all their happy flights, the Rangers haven't lost consecutive games since August 23-25. The Cardinals' run has been a great story and nothing would surprise us here, but we'll go with the St. Louis run ending when it runs into a more talented buzzsaw. Rangers in six.

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Posted on: October 14, 2011 2:32 am
Edited on: October 14, 2011 2:47 am
 

Overheard: NLCS Game 4

Francisco Rodriguez

By C. Trent Rosecrans

ST. LOUIS -- The Brewers' bullpen has been a strength since the acquisition of Francisco Rodriguez, but a bullpen is a strength you don't really want to rely upon, especially in a postseason series.

Coming into Game 4, no Brewers starter had gone more than six innings in the NLCS and only once -- in Game 1 of the NLDS -- had a Brewers starter done it in the postseason. In the first three games against the Cardinalds, the Brewers bullpen had pitched 11 innings to 15 by the starters.

Now, there's been plenty of rest in between and there are enough arms to get it done, but it's not exactly a good sign when relievers are pitching that much. In Game 4 Friday, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke was finally about to use his bullpen just like he wanted it -- Rodrigue in the eight and closer John Axford in the ninth, simple as that.

That was due to the performance of Randy Wolf, as the veteran left-hander threw seven innings, allowing just two runs and none after the third inning of MIlwaukee's 4-2 victory over St. Louis.

NLCS Coverage

Wolf, actually, was the first starting pitcher in this series to go into the seventh inning -- and he breezed through his last inning, finishing the day having allowed six hits, striking out six and walking one. He threw 107 pitches, 74 for strikes and retiring the final six batters he faced.

"There's no way I could put into words of just the intensity that's there every inning," Wolf said. "You know how important every out is. You know how either team, if they have an opportunity to score, how good they are at taking advantage of that opportunity."

• Cardinals manager Tony La Russa on using his bullpen: "We had a chance to win today. This is October. This is not the season where when this series is over you have to play for another 20 days or something. It's real simple. This is the end of the season for these starters, too, so they are probably not as strong. Go as far as you can, as long as you can and we have plenty of bullpen help."

• Wolf on Matt Holliday's second-inning homer: "Off the bat, I first thought i was a foul ball, and then I saw the ball staying fair, i thought it was going to be a fly-out. But you know, he's one of those guys that has brute strength. He's just a big, strong guy, and you know, I think all three of us, me, George (Kottaras) and Matt, we were all kind of surprised that went out. But he's a strong enough guy. It's like trying to pitch to Brian Urlacher. He's a beast."

• Cardinals right fielder Allen Craig on Wolf: "We jumped on him early, and then he went away from his change up and started going to his curveball. That made it tough on us and we just didn't adjust."

• Brewers manager Ron Roenicke on the decision not to pinch-hit for Wolf in the sixth: "There was a lot going on there. You know, really, if we decided -- we decided that if we had a great opportunity with Wolf's spot, that we would probably hit for him. But how it came up, really, if we were going to do that, probably we were going to have to also hit for George. So you go through (Jonathan Lucroy) and then use a pinch-hitter. If we used Corey (Hart), they would have walked him, left-to-lefty and probably to face Nyjer (Morgan). There was a lot going on. They had some options. They had (Octavio) Dotel down warming up. They had a lot of options, and we did, too.

"I don't know why we decided to leave it as is. We already were up a run, which had a lot to do with it (and) felt good with George facing Arthur Rhodes and putting it in play and at least getting us one run. And he did a good job there."

• Craig Counsell on Jerry Hairston Jr.: "Every time he comes up, his at-bats are so solid. He's been a great addition. I don't think anybody anticipated him playing that great a role, but I know he's impressed everyone in here, that's for sure."

• Hairston on the team's loose attitude: "You know what, we are a loose bunch of guys. Even when we were getting beat pretty good in Game 2, we were still kind of loose. They just caught fire and really beat us pretty good, and I think one of the guys said we need to score two touchdowns to get back in the game. That's the type of team we have to be, we have to be loose, because, you know, I think it was in late August or early September, we tried to tone it down and we lost three or four games in a row, and we said, you know, we can't be that way. We have to go out there and have fun. No disrespect to any team, but we have to go out and have fun and enjoy ourselves, and we've been doing that and we've been successful."

• Hairston on the Brewers' breaking their eight-game playoff road losing streak: "Eight? Oh, like in '82? Come on man. I guess we can blame them for most of those losses, right? They were a great team, Robin Yount, Paul Molitor. Listen, that was a long time ago. We felt that we had been a pretty good road team the last six weeks of the season and we felt our team really started to get complete. We felt we could play anywhere."

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Posted on: October 13, 2011 6:50 pm
Edited on: October 13, 2011 6:54 pm
 

Berkman, Hart sit due to matchups

Lance Berkman

By C. Trent Rosecrans

ST. LOUIS -- Lance Berkman won the National League Comeback Player of the Year Award, but if he gets a chance to show why in Game 4 of the NLCS, it'll be in the late innings as a sub.

"Guys are kidding me, his reward for the award was a spot on the bench, so they were giving him a hard time," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. 

It's not just Berkman getting shown the seat for Game 4 -- the Brewers are also going with a different right fielder, sitting Corey Hart in favor of Mark Kotsay.

NLCS Coverage

Both Berkman and Hart have had trouble with the starting pitchers, Randy Wolf and Kyle Lohse, respectively. Berkman is just 3 for 32 lifetime against Wolf and Hart is 2 for 17 against Lohse.

While those aren't the largest sample sizes, Berkman said it's enough for him to understand the move by La Russa.

"I think off of an individual pitcher, once you get 15 at-bats, you probably have a decent idea about -- and even if the numbers are not -- don't tell the whole story, at least personally, you know how you feel when you go up there, like whether you feel like -- I can see the ball fine, and I've lined out eight times, and I haven't gotten any; or, if it's, man, I've got no chance and I've really struggled, this guy, he's just got my number or whatever," Berkman said. "You can tell that as a hitter pretty quickly; I would say as many as 10 at-bats, or as few as 10 at-bats I should say. Certainly I think when you compile 15 or 20 at-bats against a guy, you can have a decent idea. And again, none of this is hard and fast. I mean, heck, if I had started tonight, I might have gotten three hits. You just don't know. But, being a game of percentages and playing percentages, I think that -- I mean, I have 30 at-bats against Wolf, so I think that's plenty to figure out that I don't hit him very well at all."

Berkman is also slightly hobbled after getting hit by a pitch Wednesday night in the leg.

With Berkman out, La Russa moved David Freese up from seventh in the lineup to fourth and moved Matt Holliday back to fifth. Holliday has just two extra-base hits in his last 53 at-bats. In Berkman's spot in right field is Allen Craig, batting second. Craig's not exactly been a world-beater against Wolf either. Craig is 1 for 15 lifetime against Wolf and 0 for 12 this season.

Brewers manager Ron Roenicke told Hart after Wednesday night's game that he'd be sitting him for Game 4.

"Just Corey's scuffling lately, and he scuffled against Lohse," Roenicke said. "So I talked to him last night after the game, and it sounded like putting Kotsay out there was a good way to go about it."

Kotsay is just 1 for 13 against Lohse. But Kotsay did have a home run Wednesday night and walk twice, while Hart is 1 for 12 in the NLCS and 6 for 33 in the playoffs. But Roenicke did say he'll be ready to use Hart as a pinch hitter if needed.

"it's really nice for me knowing that Corey Hart is on the bench as a pinch hitter," Roenicke said. "He's dangerous. They can't bring in a right-hander to face him because they think it's going to bother Corey."

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Posted on: October 4, 2011 10:02 pm
Edited on: October 4, 2011 10:50 pm
 

Cardinals need Holliday's bat back in lineup

Allen CraigBy C. Trent Rosecrans

If there was a good sign for the Cardinals in Tuesday's 3-2 loss to the Phillies in Game 3 of the National League division series, it came in the eighth inning when Matt Holliday sent a Brad Lidge slider into left field for a single.

It was just Holliday's second at-bat of the postseason, striking out as a pinch hitter in Game 1. Holliday has been dealing with a strained tendon in his right hand and unable to play in the field. However, before Tuesday's game, manager Tony La Russa said Holliday had improved and also said his outfielder had gotten a cortisone shot, something he had been avoiding up until this point.

The Cardinals could certainly use Holliday's bat in the lineup, as Lance Berkman is just 2 for 12 so far this postseason batting in Holliday's fourth spot. With Albert Pujols doubling three times ahead of Berkman, he had plenty of opportunities to drive in a run, but failed each time, leaving a total of five men on base. The Cardinals left 14 on base as a team. Not including Pujols, who had four hits, the top third of the Cardinals lineup went 3 for 27 against the Phillies on Tuesday.

Philadelphia-St. Louis NLDS

For the first time in the series, Berkman moved back to right field with Allen Craig starting in left. Craig started the first two games in right with Berkman in left. With Holliday out of the lineup, Craig has hit second and gone just 1 for 10 so far.

The question may be whether Holliday can play the field for an entire game. In the last game he started, on Sept. 27 in Houston, Holliday left the game in the third inning not because of his inability to swing the bat, but his inability to grip the ball on throws.

There's also the question of whether he can handle an inside fastball. In Tuesday's game, he only saw two sliders from Lidge, not anything hard. The Cardinals are a better team with Holliday in the game, but we'll see if Tuesday was the start of a great comeback story or just a cameo.


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