I hope your weekend was more kind and less stressed than mine and here’s to a Monday full of hope and lacking despair. Allow me to unload here.
Vincent Buffa Update
The 26 day old fellow is making a comeback. Since Sunday afternoon(his last episode with SVT), Vincent is under a new dose of medicine and responding well. He has been good for 19 hours and counting(knocking on every piece of wood I can find, including the bark on trees) and finally starting his recovery. The last 72 hours haven’t been kind to my wife and I, but there’s still a good ending awaiting. This is the life of a parent. Constant worry and uncertain danger. Every time Vinny experienced an episode of SVT distress, it was like trying to quietly leaving a building of doom and getting caught and captured. Vinny is going to be dealing with this condition for at least a year until he can have surgery to knock it out, but he had to start somewhere. This is where he starts. Right now. He made it through the night without a problem and while the next week will be as stressful as any before, optimism is sneaking into the room at last. That’s life my friends. Once you’re shot down, the only way out is up. Vinny wouldn’t be a Buffa if he didn’t have to fight his way out of a problem.
Cards Fall Flat, Lose Game 1 in Milwaukee
Why did we lose? Finger pointing is valid in the playoffs. The Cardinals lost Game 1 on pitching alone. When your team scores 6 runs and hands the starter two different leads, the lineup’s job is done. Playing on the road in a hostile environment against a division rival, The Cardinals arms couldn’t hold down the Brewers bats. In a span of 22 pitches in the 5th inning, the Cardinals lost a 5-2 lead and by the time they exited the inning many pitches later, it was 8-5 Brewers. A 6 run explosion decided Sunday’s game 1 and halted the Cardinals in their tracks.
1.)Jaime Garcia. The young kid crumpled in Milwaukee. Garcia blew a 1-0 lead in the first by serving up a 463 foot blast to Ryan Braun, and when handed a 5-2 lead in the 5th inning, he gave up 5 consecutive hits in a row and handed the game back to the Brewers. Pitchers carried the weight in the Phillies series and Garcia ruined a potential huge win for the Birds. Garcia went 4 plus inning, gave up 6 runs on 6 hits and pitched like a child. After escaping further danger in the first, Jaime settled down and mowed down the Brewers for 4 innings until the 5th, where his stuff and head quickly evaporated. He made bad pitches and got burned. Jaime threw a breaking ball that Braun hit for a 2 run double in the 5th and then he served up a first pitch fastball to Prince Fielder that got deposited in the seats. The loss continues Jaime’s mixed bag trend of the second half. After an impressive 1st half, Jaime hit rock bottom last night. Does he get back up in this series? To be determined. A poor outing by the young gun.
2.)Albert Pujols. While Braun and Fielder delivered game changing hits, Albert failed to produce a big hit. After his 1st inning single, Pujols came up with runners on base his last 3 at bats and missed. Pujols’ first half of the season was characterized by his inability to hit the Brewers and it showed last night. Bad Albert showed up. With the Cards down 8-6 in the 7th inning, Pujols came up with 2 on and 1 out. With runners on first and third, Albert grounded into his 31st double play of the season. The play scored a run, but the rally was killed. Game over. K-Rod and John Axford finish the game and its over. I believe Albert when he says 7 other times he hammers that pitch, but the result is all that sits with fans. Pujols didn’t come through Sunday, and if that continues, the Cards are doomed. The Cards finished 9-9 against the Brewers, and if you look closer, you will see that comes as a result of Albert Pujols hitting the Brewers well. In August and September, Pujols lit them up. That was missing Sunday. While Holliday and Berkman had RBI hits, Pujols came up empty.
3.)Tony La Russa. His failure to have a pitcher ready in the 5th inning after two leadoff hits was a huge miss in this game. After Braun smashed a long homer off Garcia, in retrospect, there was no need to let Jaime face him again with two on and nobody out. Octavio Dotel had success against Braun, striking him out 6 out of 8 plate appearance. Dotel came in later and pitched horribly, but if there was a hitter he had to face, the man was Braun with the game on the line. This can be considered a small miss for the coaching staff. Dave Duncan had to know Garcia’s symptoms pretty well by now, and after Corey Hart and Jerry Hairston hammered hits to begin the inning, a change had to be brewing. After Braun’s hit, Garcia shouldn’t have faced Fielder. Clearly rattled, our “young 21 year old Andy Garcia” pitcher relinquished his second bomb of the afternoon. Leaving Garcia in lost the lead and when Dotel finally reached the game, he gave up the game winning bomb. Dotel couldn’t reach a swinging bunt grounder by Rickie Weeks, and Yuvisky Betancourt cranked a 2 run homer that widened the lead to the extent that it felt like a 30 run deficit. Pitching lost the game but La Russa and Duncan dropped the ball when it came to knowing the limitations of their young starter. I was against La Russa warming Lance Lynn in the first inning, but in the fifth inning and hanging around 85-90 pitches, Garcia was hitting his wall.
4.)Kyle McClellan for bringing his dead arm to the roster. K-Mac came into a 8-6 game and gave up a run to spread the lead. McClellan’s arm is dead because the Cards pushed him to enter the rotation and his shoulder gave out in June. Once he hit the 90 inning wall in late June, McClellan’s second half of the season was a regret exercise in bad decision making. Once he hit the pen, K-Mac couldn’t pitch two outings without handing over a home run. This is why some relievers can’t be major league starters. Their arms aren’t conditioned and cut out for the 6 month haul. McClellan spent 4 years in the bullpen, and tried to become a starter too late. The normal progression of versatile arms is starter to reliever, like John Smoltz and Dennis Eckersley experienced. McClellan’s arm gave up and his decision making crumbled. The reason he made the NLCS roster is beyond me, but probably revolved around La Russa’s inability to hurt K-Mac’s feelings. At this point, K-Mac is useless.
Remember, Cardinals fans, this wasn’t going to be easy. The Brewers didn’t win 96 games on swagger alone and carry an explosive lineup and deep bullpen and rotation. They are just as dangerous as the Phillies and playing better baseball. The Cardinals are the comeback kids, but the Brewers are the ones who failed to put us out of our misery late in the season. This series is far from over and that would have been said had the Cards won Game 1. There are 6 more games and the Cards must win Game 2 in order to stand a chance. That’s the goal now. Forget about game 1 and set up for Game 2 with Edwin Jackson and Shaun Marcum taking the hill. A few things to think about tonight.
*Edwin Jackson recovered from his early August implosion against Milwaukee(7 IP, 10 ER, 14 hits) to pitch well against them on two occasions. He pitched 6 solid innings at home the following week and beat them with 7 strong innings and an RBI single on September 5th. Unlike Garcia, Jackson is a mentally strong young pitcher with good stuff and the endurance to outlast a bad inning. I expect him to handle 6-7 innings tonight and give us a chance to win but wouldn’t be surprised if Milwaukee tuned him up. While a slaughter awaits any Cards pitcher, I carry more faith in Jackson’s ability to adjust.
*The Cards face a tough foe in Marcum, but he is beatable. While Marcum held the Cards to 3 earned runs or fewer in his two starts in August and September, we all remember Jaime Garcia blasting a 3 run homer off him. Marcum is a pitcher who works well with his offspeed pitches so its important to see if he is throwing his changeup for strikes early on and attack it. He doesn’t overpower you and is beatable if the Cards are patient.
*Pujols has to have a big night. Once again, if he doesn’t hit, we stand a far lesser chance of winning the game.
*A late deficit on sets the Cards up for doom. If we fall behind in the middle innings, we have to face a Brewers bullpen of LaTroy Hawkins, Takashi Saito, Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford. Improved or not, the Brewers bullpen is deeper than the Cards so its imperative we stay away from a 7th inning deficit. Bullpens function off probability. The probability of breaking the bullpen’s serve is measured. Breaking the Brewers is hard work so get to Marcum.
*The longer the series goes, the better for the Cards because they can throw Chris Carpenter at the Brewers twice. Carp shut down the Brewers 2-0 at Busch late in the season and is on fire at the moment on regular rest. Garcia and Lohse won’t win this series. If the Cards are to win the series, it will be in 7 games.
*A meltdown like Dotel’s on Sunday can’t afford to happen. The Cards bullpen is overmatched, so the more leads they give over cripples their team’s chances. Keep McClellan out of there.
Other than that, lets play baseball. The stronger teams survive the toughest fights so the Cards simply have to attack the Brewers relentlessly, no matter the score. If it was easy, every team would make the playoffs.
The Random Thoughts
- The Blues face Columbus today at 1pm. While there are 81 games left, I won’t tell you winning today is optional. We need this team to get out to a good start and stop the crushing symptoms from years past. Power play efficiency, strong goaltending and the ability to play a full 3 periods at high energy. I hate it when I see a lazy flat hockey team on the ice. Rosters are built to field energy bodies at all times. Hockey shifts last for 90 seconds or less, so there is absolutely no reason for a flat 5 to skate for the Blues. That’s the coaches job to regulate the lines and keep the fresh legs on the ice. The Blues need to come bursting out of the gate, get another lead and keep pushing. How many soft goals will Halak allow today? Also, I’d like to see Ryan Reaves knock another player out cold. That, unfortunately, was the highlight of Saturday’s game.
- The Rams play the Packers, 5-0,next week. Start the funeral proceedings now. The Packers are a tough bunch of ballers. On Sunday night, they came back from a 14-0 deficit against the Falcons to win 25-14. 25 unanswered points. Its hard to watch that game and not think about the high climb facing the Rams. How many points will Rodgers put up? What will the Packers defense do to Sam Bradford? Clay Matthews will be chasing him around night, working Dom Capers blitz packages. AJ Hawk will shadow Steven Jackson all day. Also, the game takes place in the cold icy confines of Lambeau Field. This is the Rams biggest test and they are already 0-4. If there was a David and Goliath matchup on this schedule, October 16th is it.
- I’m loving Hung on HBO. A really simple yet well done series about the survival of the fittest in a sea of recession. Thomas Jane is a perfect low key everyman here, playing Ray Drecker, desperately trying to fuck his way out of unemployment. A show centered around a pimp carries plenty of heart and soul about the working man. There are tons of small jewels in this series, including the well rounded cast and comedic story lines. This isn’t a laugh out loud comedy but a drama with dark comedic undertones.
- Boardwalk Empire is a slow boiling drama that just gets better and better. The second season is heating things up around Steve Buscemi’s Nucky Thompson’s corrupt city treasurer. Thompson’s entire internal family is turning on him and setting him up for the fall but there are so many worthy subplots. Jimmy Darmedy’s chance at going solo in the liqueor running business. The slow rise of Chicago’s Al Capone, brilliantly played with fear and juice by Stephen Graham(Snatch, Public Enemies). The desperate drive of FBI agent Nelson Van Alden, who is chasing Nucky’s trail of deceit. Dabney Coleman’s Comodore, who is trying to stea Atlantic City back from Nucky. At the center of it, Margaret Schroder, who is living and supporting Nucky yet knows what he does for a living. Arnold Rothstein and Lucky Luciano also stalk the plot here as potential players and everything is rolled into an entertaining batch of gangster drama. Don’t forget about Michael Kenneth Williams’ Chalky White, the black dealmaker who takes down a member of the Ku Klux Clan in order to protect his business. The central theme of this show is survival. A group of criminals fighting for the highest theft during Prohibition. Critics complain about the pace and the boring storylines, and I’d tell them to watch a network procedural. Terrence Winter is taking his time and setting up Boardwalk for an explosion. I like the patience and character building. TV shows on cable get one upside over network. Time and money to get things right if there is skill involved. Backed by Martin Scorsese and Mark Wahlberg as producers, Boardwalk gets the time to set the plot up. My guess is there will be plenty of blood to go around when its all said and done.
- If I told you one of these teams would be 4-1 on this day, which would it be? The Buffalo Bills or the Philidephia Eagles. Many would say the proposed dream team, the Eagles. They would be wrong. Michael Vick and company are 1-4 and reeling. The Buffalo Bills, powered by Harvard grad Ryan Fitzpatrick’s golden arm, are shocking football but not me.
- Albert Pujols faces the same scrutiny he has faced for the past 5 years. Excellence provides the deepest set of expectations. His .350 average and great defensive plays in the NLDS are instantly forgotten as the NLCS starts. That’s high profile sports warfare. What have you done for me lately? Fans want to constantly see greatness. That’s what we come to expect from legends like Albert. Of course, Albert is trying to do too much. He is used to throwing this team on his shoulders.
- Ndamukong Suh will destroy Jay Cutler tonight. That’s a fact. If Suh doesn’t do it, Glenn Haley will or Kyle Vander Bosh will get to him. The forecast for tonight’s Monday night football action is carnage.
- While the history is clear, the rivalry is old and things have changed between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez. I fully expect Pac-Man to destroy him on November 13th. Until then, HBO’s outstanding sports series, 24/7, takes us behind the scenes starting October 25th.
That’s all. Expect more at a later timen but for now I am closing the curtains on this latest rant. Don’t worry about keeping me in your prayers. Just think about Vinny sometime this week and hope(not pray) for a quick recovery. The next few years of my wife and I’s lives are being reshaped, but that doesn’t mean you can’t hope. Life is full of surprises. My son being in the hospital is one of them. My blogs are not. Enjoy.