Tag:St. Louis Cardinals
Posted on: October 12, 2011 11:18 pm

Brewers need pitching, quick, in NLCS

ST. LOUIS -- Are the Brewers now in as large a hole as the Tigers? No, they are not.

It only seems like it.

Following Wednesday's 4-3 Game 3 loss to the Cardinals, Milwaukee, still very much in this series, trails St. Louis only two games to one. But given the way the rest of their rotation is bumbling around, the Brewers are wounded badly when Yovani Gallardo starts and they don't win.

Starting pitchers named neither "Yovani" nor "Gallardo" in this postseason have compiled a 11.52 ERA while going 1-3 in five postseason starts.

Being that Milwaukee's Game 4 starter contains the names "Randy" and "Wolf, the Brewers can only hope that trend changes.

Gallardo, now 1-8 career against the Cardinals, did not pitch like the ace Milwaukee thinks he is. He was lit up for four runs in the first inning before calming down.

Part of that wasn't completely his fault: Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke gambled and lost by starting veteran Mark Kotsay, 35, in center field. He liked Kotsay's numbers against Chris Carpenter (4 for 11, .364 batting average). But Kotsay could not get to a fly ball smacked into the left-center gap two batters into the bottom of the first, a play that Carlos Gomez certainly would have made. That helped fuel St. Louis' early rally.

But Kotsay had nothing to do with Gallardo's back-to-back walks of Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman later in the inning. Those were critical, too.

Bottom line is, this series still should have a very long way to go. Milwaukee is facing nothing like its Midwestern (across Lake Michigan) neighbor. Detroit is down three games to one and on the verge of extinction for 2011.

The Brewers are just one win from evening things up against St. Louis. But with Wolf, Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum rolling up next in the rotation, it sure looks as if the Cardinals were licking their beaks, er, chops as they left Busch Stadium late Wednesday night.
Posted on: October 11, 2011 6:19 pm
Edited on: October 11, 2011 6:20 pm

Struggling Brewers need Gallardo to step up

ST. LOUIS -- Yanked out of their comfy and productive home park, the Brewers at least have ace Yovani Gallardo starting Game 3 Wednesday as this National League Championship Series shifts scenes.

Lifesaver for them, right?

Um, maybe not.

Milwaukee's Misery Index in Missouri is uncomfortably high as the Brewers face the pivotal Game 3: Gallardo, lifetime against the Cardinals, is 1-7 with a 5.66 ERA in 11 starts. Extract a smaller sample size to just 2011, and it's 1-3 with a 5.70 ERA in four starts.

Amplifying the situation is this: Gallardo right now appears to be Milwaukee's best shot. He's 1-0 with a 1.29 ERA in two postseason starts for the Brewers, while those starters not named "Gallardo" -- Zack Greinke, Shaun Marcum and Randy Wolf -- are 1-3 with an 11.52 ERA in five starts.

Milwaukee's first-year manager, Ron Roenicke, has only see Gallardo's 2011 starts against the Cardinals and has no explanation for the struggles.

"There's not a good reason why," Roenicke says. "You know they have a good offense. Sometimes an offense matches up better against a certain type of pitcher. If it's a power pitcher and you have an offense that really handles the fastball well, that could be a reason. And same on the other end. If an offense matches up really well against guys that have the off-speed, slower stuff. ...

"I don't know what the case is with this, but I know we expect him to pitch a good game."

Elementary as it sounds, it starts at the beginning for both Gallardo and the rest of the rotation. While St. Louis leadoff man Rafael Furcal is just 2 for 10 against Milwaukee in the first two games, No. 2 hitter Jon Jay has severely wounded them with a .500 on-base percentage in the two games (.444 batting average).

When these two reach base consistently, that means Albert Pujols -- and Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman behind him -- is even more dangerous. Jay has scored four runs in the first two games of this NLCS, three of which were included among Pujols' five RBI in Game 2.

"We're not too concerned with what we've done in the past," Jay said of the Cards' success against Gallardo. "We just try to have good at-bats. He's a great pitcher. You have to make him throw strikes. If we can have good at-bats and work the count, we'll be all right."

As for Pujols' Game 2 fireworks, it's hard to imagine the Brewers pitching to him any more than they have to from here on out. But when they do, Roenicke said, the key is simple.

"We have to make good pitches," the manager said. "Even Albert, as good a hitter as he is, if you put the pitch exactly where you want to, he's still, percentage-wise, going to have a tough time to continue to hurt us like he has."

Easier said than done. Especially given the current numbers of a rotation of which Roenicke said, "Our starters, that's why we are where we are today. Our starters have pitched great all year, and our relievers have been great, too. ... The playoffs, we have not pitched as well with our starters. But if we are going to win this thing, our starters need to pitch well.

"That's the four of them. We can't get by with just one or two pitchers."

Among other things, expecting a low-scoring pitcher's duel between Gallardo and Chris Carpenter on Wednesday night, Roenicke hinted that he my start Carlos Gomez over Nyjer Morgan in center field in a nod to Gomez's defense.
Posted on: October 10, 2011 11:42 pm

One Pujols tops Fielder and Braun in Game 2

MILWAUKEE -- Sledgehammer? Yeah, St. Louis can do sledgehammer. Very well, in fact. One Albert Pujols was more than equal to Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder for the Cardinals in Game 2.

Swinging like a man possessed, Pujols was a one-man wrecking (the Brew) crew. It was as impressive a postseason performance as you'll see as the Cardinals routed Milwaukee 12-3.

He clubbed a two-run homer in the first. Bashed a two-run double in the third. Drilled another RBI double in the fifth. Doubled and scored in the seventh.

He became only the fourth hitter ever with four extra-base hits in a postseason game, following the Yankees' Hideki Matsui (2004 ALCS), the Pirates' Bob Robertson (1971 NLCS) and the White Sox's Frank Isbell (1906 World Series).

That's one way to quiet the Brewers: Send them scurrying to the history books to look up Frank Freakin' Isbell.

However this plays out for the Cardinals, they're down to the final few games of 2011 -- and what might be the final few games for Pujols in a Redbirds uniform. If he does head elsewhere, he's leaving one whale of a parting gift.

From third base in the fifth, he raced home on a Marco Estrada wild pitch that really didn't scoot that far behind catcher Jonathan Lucroy. No matter. The zeal and determination with which Pujols played Game 2 was breathtaking.

One of the rarest things in all of sports is to see one man completely take over a baseball game. Pujols didn't just take this one over, he devoured it whole.

Now the NLCS heads back to St. Louis tied at 1-1 with Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter in the blocks to start Game 3. Momentum swings dramatically with each postseason win or loss, and right now it's all St. Louis.

The Cardinals are no longer facing the Phillies' pitching staff. Milwaukee starter Shaun Marcum, again, was dreadful. Brewers manager Ron Roenicke is going to have a dilemma if the Brewers find themselves in a must-win situation in Game 6.

Marcum now has served up 30 earned runs and 46 hits in 33 innings pitched over his past six starts. Once the calculater stops smoking, it reveals an 8.18 ERA. His location is not sharp, his fastball is dull, his command isn't there.

The Brewers lost only 24 games in Miller Park all season. Marcum started 11 of them. And by the time St. Louis finished batting in the first, it was clear the trend was going to continue.
Posted on: October 9, 2011 7:41 pm
Edited on: October 9, 2011 8:37 pm

Brewers too quick for Cards in Game 1 win

MILWAUKEE -- What would have happened had Cardinals manager Tony La Russa summoned reliever Octavio Dotel two batters earlier in the fifth inning?

We'll never know. But after the Brewers cracked open this NLCS with a 9-6 bruising of St. Louis, we do know this:

The manager who invented the modern day bullpen was a step too slow for Milwaukee's lighting-quick thunder. His team owned a three-run lead in that game-turning fifth, but Jamie Garcia had allowed the first two batters of the inning to reach base and Dotel was ready in the pen.

Up next: Ryan Braun, just 2-for-8 lifetime against Dotel (single, double) with six strikeouts.

Following Braun: Prince Fielder, also just 2-for-8 lifetime against Dotel (two singles) with six whiffs.

Yet La Russa made no move to the mound. Not even for a chat.

Quicker than you could scream "MVP!", as the sellout crowd chanted to near-deafening proportions, Braun sent the first pitch he saw from Garcia rocketing into the right-field corner for a two-run double.

Then, quicker than you could say "Beast Mode", Fielder sent the first pitch he saw screaming over the right-field fence for a two-run homer that lifted Milwaukee into a 6-5 lead.

It was as quick and brutal as a TKO.

How quick? Jerry Hairston Jr. doubled, Braun doubled and Prince homered on three consecutive pitches.

Not quick enough for you? Try this: As measured by ESPN Home Run Tracker, formerly Hit Tracker, the homer traveled at a speed of 119.2 m.p.h. off of Fielder's bat -- the highest speed for any homer hit in 2011.

So in their first League Championship Series game in 29 years, the Brewers set a land-speed record in leaping out to a lead over the Cardinals, in retaining their all-important home-field advantage and in convincing their fans that the World Series is just three victories from returning to Milwaukee for the first time since 1982.

Posted on: October 8, 2011 6:58 pm

Holliday's hand sore, but he's ready to go

MILWAUKEE -- Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday, battling an inflamed tendon near his right middle finger, said Saturday he's "as good as I can be" and proclaimed himself ready to go for Game 1 of the National League Championship Series here Sunday.

Holliday said he is undergoing two therapy sessions a day, each one lasting about 20 minutes. In addition to that, he said, he's taking laser treatment on his hand has well that "supposedly helps healing."

He took a numbing shot before a game the other day, which he said lasts for about four hours, but is not going to take another one.

"I couldn't feel my fingertip," he said. "It was fine for hitting, but not for throwing."

Plus, the shot itself, he said, was excruciating.

"That shot pretty much was the worst experience of my life," he said.

Holliday played in four games against the Phillies during the Division Series, batting .222 with no homers and no RBI. In 10 plate appearances, he was hit by one pitch and struck out three times.
Posted on: October 3, 2011 12:02 am

Cardinals refuse to be written off ... again

PHILADELPHIA -- This is a trick, isn't it? The way the St. Louis Cardinals are setting this up, it looks suspiciously as if it might be a referendum on how smart the rest of us are.

We wrote them off once, back in early September when they were 8 1/2 games out of a playoff spot.

You and the Atlanta Braves know what happened after that.

Now, after they blew an early lead in Game 1 of this Division Series and then fell behind by four runs against Cliff Lee in the second inning of Game 2, yes, just when it looked as if it was safe to write them off again ... BAM!

The Cardinals undressed Lee, a tag-team of six relievers redeemed Chris Carpenter's awful start and Tony LaRussa's gang swiped one from the Phillies, 5-4.

This was a game made for LaRussa. He used four different pitchers in the eighth inning alone. And it worked.

The Cardinals have to feel great about this one, and not just because of the win. But because of how they earned that win.

Rafael Furcal chopped a leadoff triple in the first ... but his teammates failed to score him.

David Freese drilled a leadoff double in the second ... and never moved as St. Louis blew another early opportunity against Lee.

St. Louis was 0 for 6 alone in the first two innings with runners in scoring position. And Carpenter was so off that LaRussa ripped plate umpire Jerry Meals during his mid-game television interview for having two different strike zones for Carpenter and Lee. Blatently untrue.

But somehow, Phillies mustered just two baserunners against the not-so-vaunted Cardinals' bullpen over the last five innings. The Cardinals drove Lee from the game in the seventh.

And they drove this series back to St. Louis even.
Posted on: September 29, 2011 12:10 am

Rays pass Boston, seize wild-card on wild night

This Dan Johnson character ... c'mon.

He's not real, is he?

He can't be. Because what he did on Thursday night ... again ... was beyond fiction. He stepped to the plate batting .108, with Tampa Bay's season down to its final strike ... and he did it again?

He sliced a low liner of a gloriously colorful Tampa Bay rainbow that rifled into the seats just inside the right-field foul line to push the game into the 10th.

Then Mr. Triple Play, Evan Longoria, took it from there in the 12th, smashing a game-winning homer against Yankees reliever Scott Proctor within 10 minutes of Boston blowing one, final game in Baltimore.

And just like that, Tampa Bay's in.

Just moments after St. Louis staged the greatest comeback ever when Atlanta lost, the Rays topped them.

Tampa Bay's in.

It was unreal, unbelievable and for so long for the Rays, unattainable. They trailed 7-0 by the fifth. They were still trailing 7-0 in the eighth. Then they scored six runs, then came Johnson in the ninth and. ...

Dan Johnson? The guy is like the Easter Bunny, or Santa Claus. Daniel Ryan Johnson. In his fourth season, 31 years old. He shows up once or twice a year and ... wham!

When the Rays were staging their miracle World Series run in 2008, he clobbered a huge, late-season home run against Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon in Fenway Park at a time when the young Rays were trying to believe in themselves. The homer sent the game into extra innings.

He belted a game-winning home run against Boston's Scott Atchison at Tropicana Field last August that helped the Rays' playoff bid.

He crushed two go-ahead home runs against Phil Hughes and the Yankees last September that helped pave the Rays' way to last October even more.

That should have been enough, right? I mean, who does this kind of thing? Who does he think he is, Gates Brown?

On one of the most exhilarating nights of baseball in memory, the playoff field is set.

Detroit at the Yankees and, incredibly, Tampa Bay at Texas.

And Arizona at Milwaukee and, yes, incredibly, St. Louis at Philadelphia.

Posted on: August 24, 2011 12:35 am

Konerko sixth to 2,000 hits this season

ANAHEIM, Calif -- Highlights have been few and far between for the 2011 Chicago White Sox, but Paul Konerko put up one for the books when he cracked his 2,000th career hit in the eighth inning of Tuesday's series opener here.

The hit surely was especially meaningful to Konerko in that it was an RBI single against Ervin Santana that tied the game at 4-4 at a point in the season where the White Sox are desperate for every run, every win they can get. Konerko, a beloved figure on Chicago's South Side and widely respected throughout the game, becomes only the 13th player in club history to collect his 2,000th hit.

It's been a boom season for the 2,000-hit club: Konerko is the sixth man to join that club this summer. Previously this summer, Houston's Carlos Lee, San Francisco's Orlando Cabrera (then with the Indians), Cincinnati's Scott Rolen, St. Louis' Albert Pujols and Texas' Michael Young each collected his 2,000th hit.

The White Sox dugout immediately erupted in cheers, then most of the players began waving for the baseball as soon as the play concluded with Alejandro De Aza crossing the plate. With the game 4-4, White Sox manager removed Konerko, who was DHing, for pinch-runner Brent Lillibridge.

Konerko also is at 393 career homers and soon could become only the sixth active player with 400 homers and 2,000 hits, joining Pujols, the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez, Atlanta's Chipper Jones, Baltimore's Vladimir Guerrero and Minnesota's Jim Thome.
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