The Cardinals get another chance at regaining composure in the NL Central. St. Louis had busted through the gates swinging in the 2011 season with the risky offseason signing of Lance Berkman to compliment sluggers Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday to recreate another version of "Murderer's Row."
They were dominant in the early going to retain a 2.5 game lead in the Central Division, even taking two out of three in May against Milwaukee. By mid-July the Cardinals had found themselves one game behind the Brewers and the "Johnny Come Lately" Pirates. Rumors had circulated that CF Colby Rasmus had made himself expendable with his previous antics and that Cardinals GM John Mozeliak was taking calls on the young fielder to fill holes in the starting rotation, bullpen and a void bigger than Ben Bishop's five-hole at the shortstop position.
Just four days before the deadline, the news broke all over respective cities: "Colby Rasmus has been traded to Toronto with bullpen arms P.J Walters, Brian Tallet and Trever Miller in exchange for starter Edwin Jackson, relievers Octavio Dotel and Mark Rzepczynski , OF Corey Patterson and three more players to be named later, or cash considerations."
The reaction to the news was mostly negative in St. Louis. Toronto media and fans alike were excited to have a player with so much potential (on paper) to help fill their lineup, and to be able to have him cost controlled over time to help build for the future. St. Louis, however, was angry at the mere fact that the club's finest product of AAA Memphis had been given up on and his replacement Jon Jay couldn't get the job done.
This goes without mentioning that the rest of the chips were predicted to be duds according to Dotel's age, Edwin Jackson's inconsistencies and that "scrabble" Mark Rzepczynski wouldn't be as effective in the rotation or the bullpen as recent favorite Kyle .
Roughly at the same time these trades were made, Cardinals skipper Tony LaRussa was quoted in saying that SS Ryan Theriot "is his guy" and there will be no platooning at the position. Funny, two days later, Cardinals acquire former Dodger SS Rafael Furcal after he approved his moving to the "Mecca of baseball" St. Louis.
It's clear to see his positive numbers with the glove over the middle-of-the road bat and bottom-of-the-league glove Theriot. The Cardinals were making the moves needed to compete with the rising stars in Milwaukee to keep up in their division.
Unfortunately for the Brewers, it is evident that after this season Prince Fielder will be a free agent and will be taking offers. It's win-now for everyone. The Brewers even bolstered their bullpen pairing fireball closer Francisco Rodriguez with closer John Axford to ensure that the Brewers can finish a game after inflicting the necessary damage.
The Cardinals looked to be on the up and up when they met Milwaukee at Miller Park. The Brewers owned the best home record in the majors at 40-14, and showed the Cardinals why, taking two out of three games. It seemed as if the chips had paid off for the Cardinals, with Furcal going 6-13 with a dinger in the series and the bullpen not imploding like Cardinals fans had saw in recent history.
The first game was a battle to the fifth inning where the Brewers tagged ace Chris Carpenter for five runs. The Cardinals couldn't respond enough offensively and fell 6-2. Game 2 was interesting, where seemingly enough the home plate umpire Rob Drake, who grew up a Brewers fans (at least according to Cardinals fans and players), got into a scuffle with Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina.
Molina was tossed after what he thought was an errant call, Pujols and Braun were plunked and Berkman used "Puma Power" to single in Matt Holliday to send the game into extra innings. The birds eventually won the game in 11 innings by the score of 8-7. Kyle McClellan allowed a one-out single to Casey McGehee in the 11th, but earned the victory after Octavio Dotel got the final two outs for his first save in the NL this year and second this season.
Game 3 was not a game of note, but a game where the usual Tony LaRussa complaints are filed about him leaving his starters in too long to get beat up so he can save his bullpen. In seven innings, newcomer Edwin Jackson was tagged for eight runs on 14 hits. With exception of a Rafael Furcal three-run yard shot, it was a game to forget.
Now, as of August the 8th, Cardinals are three games behind. Three games starting August 9th in St. Louis, will decide who really is ready to win the NL Central. This series will not include Chris Carpenter on the mound, but will start with Edwin Jackson vs. Shaun Marcum, Kyle Lohse vs. Randy Wolf and Jake Westbrook vs. Yovanni Gallardo, a different set of matchups from the last.
So far for the Cardinals, the trades made have been a pleasant surprise. Can they continue to be effective? Time will surely tell. You keep on watching and I'll keep on talking. Thanks for reading.