Some of us weren't too thrilled when John Mozeliak pulled the trigger and acquired Matt Holliday from the A's. While the future cost is still to be determined, it's safe to say the present reality makes that deal look like a steal.
When you are down by one and Trevor Hoffman is pitching, you don't necessarily expect big things. After all, he shut down the Cardinals last week in the same type of situation. However, just as Milwaukee may have gotten a little edge from seeing John Smoltz in close proximity, so too did St. Louis get a little extra from so recently seeing Hoffman.
For example, last week Hoffman was able to strike out Albert Pujols, who still hasn't gotten a hit off of him, with the tying run on at first. Last night, Pujols was disciplined enough to take the walk, which allowed Holliday to win the game instead of just tie it up.
And after a month of the two sluggers not homering in the same game, they've now done it three times in about a week. What do you do if you are a pitcher? Besides duck and hide?
So as it stands right now, Holliday in Cardinal red is hitting .381 with 12 HR, 41 RBI and an OPS of 1.143 in 33 games. How nuts is that? I tell you one thing, if Holliday does go somewhere else this offseason, it's going to be a National League team. I don't necessarily subscribe to the widespread theory that the AL is the toughest thing ever and the NL is a little second-rate backwoods league in comparison, but obviously Holliday either didn't agree with the AL or didn't agree with Oakland in particular, and if I were him I don't think I'd risk finding out which it was.
Holliday kept the unique streak of not losing ground in the division race going, as it's up to 32 days or so. If the race was any closer, you'd think that'd be darn frustrating to Cub fans. When you are down by 11.5, it probably doesn't matter as much.
Holliday also helped ease the night of our Goat, Yadier Molina. The double play he hit into back in the sixth looked really costly late, though it did get one run in. I liked that he was able to execute the hit and run in the eighth, though, after not being able to get the bunt down.
Early in the game, it looked like the Cardinal magic had run out for Smoltz. Not so much the two-run blast by Prince Fielder, because Fielder does that. However, with Ryan Braun almost hitting one before that shot, settling for a double, and then the Brewers tacking on another one in the second and having two runners on with no outs, you started to wonder if the wheels were coming off.
So it's a credit to Smoltz that not only did he strand those runners, but he didn't allow any more runs in his five innings of work. I think he likely would have gone into the sixth, but with two on and his slot in the lineup coming up, Tony LaRussa had to pinch hit for him and see if they couldn't cash in.
Interesting to see Kyle Lohse come in for an inning. He looked pretty sharp and I would expect that he's still in line for the Saturday game, treating this as his between-starts throwing session. I'm anxious to see how he does against the Braves, because if he can finally get back to something approximating last year, the Cardinals have five talented starters for the postseason, which is a great problem to have.
Colby Rasmus seems to be injured again. I wondered that on Twitter yesterday when the lineup came out and he wasn't in it for the second day in a row. With his myriad of injuries and his lack of expressed enthusiasm, I could easily see Rasmus getting the "JD Drew" reputation around Cardinal Nation. I hope that won't be the case, though. He had a very good at-bat last night pinch-hitting, I thought, even though he struck out. I was wondering if TLR sent him up there as bait to get the lefty into the game, then do a switch. That didn't happen, though, and Rasmus worked the count full and had good strokes down both lines that went foul before chasing an outside fastball.
Sounds like the Cards are still getting that headstart on their after-season checklist, starting to talk to Mark DeRosa about returning. Not only would it be good to get him back, of course, but as discussed when the Ryan Franklin/Trever Miller extensions were announced, anything that gets the budget more firm for the next few years will only help in getting an offer to Holliday and an extension offer to Pujols.
Afternoon baseball today, which is good in that there's something to follow at work, bad because there's no game on tonight or tomorrow, so we have to go over 48 hours without the Cards playing. Never a good thing. You can follow today's game over at FSMW's live blog, with some of the best comments and questions making it to the broadcast.
Adam Wainwright goes for the Cardinals, looking to shake off that six-run inning against Pittsburgh last time out. This may be the team to do it to, because he's had the Brew Crew's number during 2009. He's faced Milwaukee three times this year and has a 2-1 record and a 0.77 ERA to show for it. Historically, they've not done much against him either. Really, the only sliver of hope for the Brewers that an away day game would seem to be the worst possible combination for the Wagonmaker. You take what you can get.
Of course, the Brewers send out the former Redbird Jeff Suppan, who has been known to baffle Cardinal hitters as well. The Cardinals were finally able to get to him in his last time against them and he has a ERA close to 5.00 against the club this year. Historically, though, he's been pretty tough on Cardinal hitters and I believe he's the pitcher that Pujols has the most at-bats against without a home run.
To get you through a baseball-less evening, tune in to the UCB Radio Hour. The guys from Pitchers Hit Eighth are hosting tonight and will likely marvel over Chris Carpenter, look ahead to the postseason, talk about today's game, and anything else that may come to mind. Callers welcome! 646-929-1758 from 9:30 to 10:30 pm Central.
Over at MLB.com, they are celebrating 9/9/09 by letting you vote for the top offensive season at each position. Go over and check it out.
Ironically, I'm finishing this up right about 9:09. Enjoy "baseball day" as the marketing folks at MLB are terming it!