Creeping Toward The End

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Creeping Toward The End
The Cardinals wound up splitting the series with the Braves, which basically just accomplished the feat of marking days and games off the calendar.  The last three games, in synopsis:

Friday (8-6 loss)
Hero: Matt Holliday.  Three for four, including a two-run home run that looked to be a game-winner, for a while.
Goat: Jon Jay.  Chris Carpenter got himself into trouble and never could get out of it, but Jay's dropped fly ball proved to be pretty critical.
Notes: Carpenter also gets some credit for driving in two runs, including his own home run.  Another solid night out of the bullpen and another multi-hit game for Brendan Ryan.

Saturday (6-3 loss in 12)
Hero: Albert Pujols.  His attempted steal of third didn't pan out, but he did drive in all three runs.  With nobody else having a stellar game, that really stands out.
Goat: Mitchell Boggs has been pitching well and it's always tough when you are in extra innings on the road, but he just didn't have much in the 12th inning, giving up three hits and the game.
Notes: I believe that is four times this season that the Cardinals have been one of the Fox Games of the Week and have gone into extra innings, including that epic 20-inning affair back in April.  (Was it really that long ago?  Hard to believe the season has slipped by like it has.)

Sunday (7-3 win)
Hero: Albert Pujols.  Two home runs, eclipsing one of Stan Musial's team records.  The rewriting of the record book has begun.
Goat: Pedro Feliz, the only starter not to get a hit.
Notes: An acceptable outing for Kyle Lohse.  I'm not sure when he'll be able to get through the six or later in a game, but two runs in 5.1 is pretty good compared to where he's come from.

As always on Monday, you can read my weekly recap over at Baseball Digest.  I'd also love to hear any feedback on that article, as we are starting to try to decide whether to do it next year or what changes to make to it.

Albert's strong weekend was more impressive when Tony La Russa revealed that he's playing with a swollen elbow.  Albert has most of his milestones, continuing the streak of now 10 straight seasons with 30 or more home runs and 100 or more RBI and has scored 100 runs for the ninth time (one year he only scored 99, the slacker).  What still is up in the air is his .300 batting average.

I know that Pujols isn't concerned with whether he keeps his streak of .300 averages intact, at least not to the extent of not playing to protect it.  But with an injured elbow and a team barely on the fringes of contention, do you let him rest a bit more down the stretch?  

He's "only" at .309 right now.  Assuming he plays every day left, guesstimate around 65 more at bats.  He'd need 15 hits in that span (a .231 average) to finish right at .300.  So it seems fairly safe that he'd make it, even with that level of play.  If he rests some, even just to 50 more AB, he'd only need 10 hits (.200 average) to finish at .300 on the button.

It looks like he'll keep his .300/30/100 streak going.  I still think he should have a day off here and there down the stretch anyway.  The makeup game with the Marlins is a gimme, since they aren't in the postseason race.  You hate to see him sit out any game against the Cubs and he's always hit so well against Pittsburgh, but I'd guessing that day game to wrap the Pirate series up would be another good time.  He'll play most of that final homestand, though, if only for our fans and the fact that the Cards could make an impact on the Rockies' October plans with their final series.

I've thought for a while that final series might also be the end for Tony La Russa, but his comments over the weekend don't necessarily seem to bear that out.  I'm not sure that he's really made his decision, planning on doing his usual talking to the clubhouse and ownership routine, but it sounded like he might be more inclined to return than I had thought.  I'm still not sure that it would be a good thing, but I can imagine it'd be tough to turn down the core that you have with this team.  If he does return, it sounds like Mark McGwire will be back as hitting coach.

Also, if this had come out before, I missed it, but apparently Matt Holliday has offered to move to right field if the team can get someone that only plays left.  He reiterated this recently, but he actually made the first offer around the trading deadline or so.  It's a great offer, but I don't expect it is one that will actually come into play.  Looking at the free agents, the only one on the list that would probably bump Holliday would be Carl Crawford, and I think we all know that, with payroll the way it is, he ain't comin' here.

It's kinda snuck up on us, since the Cards have been focused on trying to stay in the race while the Cubs are, well, Completely Useless By September, but the two rivals hook up starting tonight at Busch.  The Cards are lined up well for the series, as Jaime Garcia and the two aces go against the baby bears.  Garcia looks to have a stronger outing than last time to keep his Rookie of the Year hopes alive.  

Cubs were supposed to run out Carlos Silva, but apparently he's been scratched from the start so Jeff Samardzija will take the ball.  I remember when the Cubs spent all this money to get Samardzija away from Notre Dame football, thinking he was the next big thing.  Hasn't quite panned out that way.  He's only thrown three and a third innings in the bigs this year but his ERA is close to 19.  So you know what that means.  Another 1-0 game tonight, folks!

Counting down the days until the big gathering in St. Louis on Thursday.  The Cardinals' Social Media Night is going to be a great chance for members of the United Cardinal Bloggers and others to actually meet each other for the first time, not to mention the great panel they've put together.  Also, three of us are going to be guests of Fox Sports Midwest and have a backstage pass, as it were, for some of the pregame stuff.  Expect no blog posts here Thursday or Friday, but plenty of pictures and recaps this weekend!
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