Brooms Work Fine On Nats

Daniel ShoptawAnalyst IAugust 31, 2009

Friday (4-3 win)
Hero: Khalil Greene.  Albert Pujols got the big, game-winning, ninth-inning blast, but he might not have been in the position to do that if it weren't for Greene's pinch-hit home run.  I sometimes  think the announcers and commentators go too far in "being nice" to Khalil due to his anxiety and everything, but there's little doubt that they were correct in saying that was huge for him.  Nice to see the curtain call as well.
Goat: Colby Rasmus.  An 0-3 with at least one really rough AB.  In the eighth, with the Cards down one (and, as such, needing baserunners) he swings at the first pitch that was in on him and hits a little dribbler to the pitcher.  Greene cleared that up with the next swing, but it still wasn't good baseball.
Notes: Another strong outing by John Smoltz.  Like I said last week, the Nationals did have some offensive pop.  Smoltz looked a little shaky early but settled in.  Be interesting to see how he continues to gain strength in his next start....Blake Hawksworth had a rough outing, giving up back to back doubles to put the Cards in the hole.  At least he was able to limit the damage...Didn't you just know that AP was going deep?  Strangely, I was pretty sure Khalil was but wasn't as confident about Albert.  Maybe his "slump" is over.

Saturday (9-4 win)
Hero: Colby Rasmus.  Sure, Matt Holliday hit the first three-run bomb, but the game was still pretty close when Rasmus went yard.  Add to that the fact that it was off a lefty reliever and was a complete bomb, mix in another hit and a stolen base and you've got to go with the rookie.
Goat: Kyle McClellan.  Most everyone did their job on Saturday.  The offense was clicking, with numerous hitters having a multi-hit game.  Mitchell Boggs basically held the Nationals in check for a while, especially after getting his lead.  However, McClellan did his best to give it all back to Washington, getting only one out but allowing a run and putting two on before exiting the game.  He was better Sunday and perhaps has had a reminder of what he needs to do, but it's still just a little dicey when he comes into a game.
Notes: Nice to see the Cards hit multiple home runs in a game that weren't solo shots....Jason Motte came a tough situation and made good.  He pitched over an inning and only allowed one hit, one that actually stayed in the park.

Sunday (2-1 win)
Hero: Adam Wainwright.  The offense wasn't there and Wainwright did only go six, but he picked up his 16th win on his birthday with another stellar outing.  It's a shock to the system when Wainwright or Carpenter don't go seven or more, but it was enough yesterday as the bullpen did its job.  He kept those Cy Young chances alive, which is a big thing.
Goat: Matt Holliday.  When only Rasmus and Pujols have hits in the game, you are probably going to find your goat on the offensive side.  Holliday wasn't the only one with 0 hits, of course, but he did leave three men on.
Notes: The Cubs losing gave the team the 10-game cushion I mentioned on Friday.  Cubs do play this evening vs. Houston, so they could get it back into single digits....Back to back good games for Colby Rasmus.  He's become the heir apparent to Jim Edmonds, not just because he plays center at a Gold Glove level, but because he's about as streaky as anyone.

The Cards get the day off to reflect on an August that saw them go 20-6 and go from tied to up 10.  There may have been better months in Cardinal history, but it's tough to beat both of those facts.  A 20 win September (and early October) would have them finishing up with 97 wins.  While you'd think that back-to-back 20 win months would be touhg, look at the schedule.

You have Milwaukee nine times in that span, a team right at .500.  Three games with Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh, which usually goes well for the Birds.  A tough stretch with back to back series with Atlanta and Florida, both of whom are contending for the wild card.  Three with Houston.  Three with Colorado, also working for the wild card.  Finally, another series with Cincy, who has bottomed out this year.

The Cards have 30 games left.  20-10 would be a pretty strong stretch with this schedule. 18-12 would be .600 ball, which since they've played at a .735 clip since acquiring Holliday, seems to be doable. St. Louis right now has the second best record in the National League, just a game and a half behind the Dodgers.  So we'll have to do some West Coast scoreboard watching this September.

Of course, the big off-the-field "news" this weekend was the rift between Dave Duncan and the front office.  Anyone who has been following the Cardinals knows that Dunc was ticked at the time of the Chris Duncan trade.  Which, as a father, there is going to be some of that anger there, especially if you think your child isn't being treated fairly. 

That said, if Joe Strauss is right in his article, the more immediate problem for Duncan would likely be the lack of impact he's allowed to have at the minor league levels.  I can see where he'd want to have input on the pitching philosophy at those levels, because those are the players he'll have to deal with if they make it to the bigs, and if they've already got that background, it helps a lot.  However, you don't necessarily want to remake the whole organization in the image of one man that may or may not be around a few years from now, at best.  VEB has a better breakdown of the whole situation.

I got to do a little minor league watching yesterday, taking the family down to Little Rock to see the Arkansas Travelers take on the Springfield Cardinals.  Now, if you actually want to do scouting, you don't take a 4 1/2 year old and a 2 year old.  Just a tip to the wise.  I did get to see some of the game, though.

Lance Lynn was the starting pitcher and I was interested to see how he'd do, but he moved through the first three innings without getting a hit.  He seemed to be getting a good number of swinging strikes and left with the lead.  Pete Kozma went yard, taking one just over the wall to get the baby birds on the board.

Eduardo Sanchez, the topic of promotion talk before the John Smoltz deal, came in to pitch the eighth with a one run lead and was not impressive.  He gave up a towering home run to tie the game and a well-struck double down the left-field line in the same inning.  He did get out of a first-and-third jam to keep it tied and looked better in the ninth, but the Cardinals gave it away in the 10th, hitting a batter with the bases loaded and no outs.  (Which was fine with me by that time, because I had been standing in line so the boy could run the bases since the top of the 9th.)

Troy Glaus looks to return to St. Louis this week, though he did tweak his ankle during Saturday night's game.  It's amazing to think that, just a couple of weeks before spring training, we were counting on Glaus to be a huge part of a successful Cardinal season.  Now he's been out all year and the Cards haven't missed a beat.  You'd think people on the internet didn't know what they were talking about at times.

Someone who does know what's he's talking about is Jason from It's About The Money.  One of the members of the continually-growing Baseball Bloggers Alliance (as you can see from my blogroll, and more on the BBA later in the year), he had a great experience during the Cards/Pads series, even though he's a Yankees blogger.

Another link for you to consider is this site's Top Athlete Tourney.  Eugene was writing the Cardinal blog Riding The Pine until getting involved at this general sports site.  Check it out and I know they'd love to have your input.

We'll take a look at the Milwaukee series tomorrow.  Today, enjoy being 10 up!