Yet it almost turned out that way for him yesterday. Though he left with a 3-2 lead, it seemed a struggle for the offense to even get that much. So when Kyle McClellan gave up the tying run, things looked dark. When he allowed the go-ahead run, it was time to put away the brooms.
Those two runs were the first charged to McClellan in August. He's only allowed one of eight inherited runners to score in that time. Yet, for some reason, I still don't have a world of confidence when he's on the hill. I guess the 4.15 ERA for July probably has something to do with it. I would have rather seen Blake Hawksworth get more than one inning, but on the whole, with Ryan Franklin out of the picture, it was probably the best move Tony LaRussa could have made.
On the upside, I'm going to give the Hero tag to Julio Lugo. He had two hits and beat out one potential double-play ball. Nice way to break out of an ofer slump. Hopefully that'll trigger him and, in turn, some of the rest of the offense.
Brian Burwell has a great article up about the group side sessions that go on with Cardinal starters. I'm kinda surprised that more teams don't do something like that. Maybe that's why the Cardinals always talk about "tipping pitches", because when so many eyes of your peers are on you, mistakes are easier to find. It'll be interesting to see if that continues if there is a managerial or pitching coach change in the next few years.
After putting out a huge offer to Brian Fuentes last off-season, it looks like the Cardinals are going to appreciate their good fortune in not getting him by locking up Franklin to an extension. It doesn't appear to be a bank-breaker, which is good, but since you had an option on him for 2010, why not wait and see what kind of season he has then? I'm not too worried about more than the natural regression, but if he blows up next year, that 2011 year could be an albatross, though hopefully not an Albertross, keeping the team from signing Pujols.
It is a little interesting that the Cards are already looking to start solving next year's problems. With so many free agents and moving pieces, they probably had to get a head start on it, though having a 9 game lead helps out in the fact they don't have to worry about it really being a distraction to the team.
Kyle Lohse is apparently doing much better and sounds like he'll be ready to come off the DL when the 15 days are up. Sounds like the club is really going to scramble to get him and Todd Wellemeyer minor league starts. I'm considering heading to the Arkansas Travelers game this Sunday when they play Springfield--wouldn't mind seeing either one of them there.
Cards open up with the Nationals tonight, as John Smoltz tries to keep the hype machine going against the NL's worst team. While they may the worst team, that is more on the pitching side of things than anything else. The team stands sixth in the NL in runs, eighth in home runs (just 4 shy of the Cardinals), and fifth in batting average. So while the Cardinals are going to be favored in this game, it should tell us more about Smoltz when it is done. Smoltz has already faced them once this year with disastrous results, so if the changes have paid off, we should really know.
The Cardinals face John Lannan. None of the Cardinals have seen him much (Albert's 0-2 against him) but it's not completely a fresh slate. He's been a middle of the road starter this year with an ERA just over 4 and an ERA+ of 107. Hopefully the Cards can get untracked against him, but it's no sure thing.
The Cubs host the Mets, which as beat up as the Mets are, may make for a good weekend on the North Side. Then again, it is the Cubs. We'll see if, come Monday, the Cards have a double-digit lead on the last day of the month.