Let me rip into the daily news here and provide you with a little perspective on certain subjects.
*NLCS Insight-The Cardinals bullpen shut down the Brewers last night after a 4 run outburst by the bats in the first, enabling the Cards to take a 2-1 series lead. The win came from the classic grinder format. Offense provides early lead, starter is rusty, offense fails to add to lead, lead dwindles and the bullpen comes in to rescue the day. In 23 innings in the postseason, the Cards bullpen is posting a 0.93 ERA. Jason Motte has 3 saves and Lance Lynn’s return has provided a much needed boost with the downfall of Kyle McClellan. The Cards bullpen is outperforming The Brewers strong pen and earning this team victories when the starting pitching isn’t there.
Other Thoughts on the Series-
*Thinking about the Cards go for broke streak had me wondering the last time I stepped foot in Busch Stadium. The Last Game I went to came in early September with the team out of contention. The Cards were 10.5 games back, playing in a half empty stadium, facing Milwaukee on September 6th. Its amazing what a difference winning makes even in a baseball town. From Funeral prep to a carnival like gathering. That’s sports. The Cards were playing for desperation that night, when Kyle Lohse defeated Yovani Gallardo and the Cards won 4-3 on a Lance Berkman home run. The game carried more significance than anyone in Busch could ever dream of.
*If Milwaukee is wondering why their suddenly crippling beast mode ride is in danger, they can look in the mirror at the culprits. They faced the Cards 6 times in September and lost 5 of 6 games. With a chance to bury us, they failed and we stormed the weakening Braves for the Wild Card. Simple as that. The Brew Crew had a chance to put us away and they screwed it up. That’s similiar to leaving the back door open in your home when you go to sleep. Bad idea.
*Expect nothing from Lohse or risk being let down tonight. After starting red hot in Philly, Lohse got beat up in the 6th inning and made 2 horrible pitches and lost the game. What does he bring tonight? Uncertainty. Let’s hope the bats come out in full force after last night’s grinder. While we won 4-3, the pitching dominated the victory. The bats threw up 4 runs in the 1st and then quit. Tonight, the Cards must solve Randy Wolf, who owns a 21.53 ERA in the playoffs.
*It’s hard to pinpoint the Cards success off a fine young pitcher like Gallardo, but sometimes a pitcher can’t solve a lineup. It comes down to one pitch. The Cards hammer Gallardo’s best pitch, a power slider that never gets far enough off the plate. Albert Pujols continues to own him, collecting two hits to pump his personal record against the Brewers Ace to 8-13 with 3 home runs and 3 doubles.
*Albert Pujols has responded with a vengeance in this series. After a one hit letdown in Game 1, Pujols has hammered out 6 hits in 7 plate appearances with 2 walks, a home runs, 6 RBI and 4 doubles. Right now, he locked in and facing a pitcher tonight in Randy Wolf, who always seems to shut him down. Will Pujols continue his torrid streak? I’d bet on it because Albert is the best adjuster in the league. Very few pitchers manage to keep him down for long.
*Is it just me or does David Freese seem to hammer every big hit to the opposite field? His success makes you wonder why the opposing pitchers even throw him a fastball on the outside corner. I picture Ron Roenecke realigning his Brewers outfield to put two players in right field guarding the track. Freese hits those line drive doubles/home runs to to the exact same spot every time. Amazing opposite field power. The cheapest clutch bat in baseball right now is David Freese. Pour that man a drink of Captain Morgan, because if he keeps bringing home the loot in his home town, the future looks bright for this kid.
Yes that was a shameful Captain Morgan commercial plug, but eat it up and keeping reading.
*Jason Motte is so much better because he can spot his 99 mph heater and has improved his secondary pitch, a slow biting cutter clocking in at 89 mph enough to fool the hitter and keep them honest at the plate. Motte is making a strong claim to the closer role while La Russa resists labeling him the finisher. Motte’s got 99 problems but a fastball isn’t one, and it was electric last night to see him blow smoke past Cards killer Casey McGahee to close out the win. Imagine if we had Motte since April 1st. Possibilities are endless.
*Somebody tell Matt Holliday that the pitch on the outside corner isn’t a strike. Lumberjack Matt is helping the opposition by failing with runners in scoring position. He is healthy but he is getting fooled. His string is getting pulled on outside breaking pitches. A smart play to Holliday that has the Brewers walking Albert to get to him. Pujols is only as good as the guy behind him and 17 million dollars isnt being given to Matt to screw up.
*Allen Craig is going to challenge the slumping Holliday and Berkman, rightfully, for playing time here. In the playoffs, ignore stature and salary and go with the hottest hand. Craig deserves a look after being shunned after Game 1 of the NLDS.
Random Note-If Lebron James is keen on taking a shot at the NFL, here’s an idea that needs to be passed along to John Clayton at ESPN. Have James meet at a football practice field in Miami and send Ndamukong Suh, Ray Lewis and Troy Polumalu to greet him with reality. A tough reality. James was probably joking or wanting attention because he is out of work and felt like getting some sportscenter minutes, but let me take him seriously for a minute. Have Suh, Lewis and Troy hit him with every painful shot they can possibly take. Line up James and let Suh rock him on a rush. Let James catch a pass and have Troy pop him. See if King James can find a way around Lewis in the middle. Listen, Lebron, youre talented and performed well in high school but this is the NFL. Don’t be a stupid millionaire. Stay in shape, play some hoops at the gym and stay ready. If you come into the NFL, your career is over. Every thirsty NFL piece of scrap metal will aim to take you down and why not. You’re a superstar and most of them aren’t. Stay home James.
*Watching television in a hospital on a 19 inch wall TV makes you appreciate your larger set at home. The combination of bad announcers, several commercials and a very small television made the Cards games rather painful. Coming home to my 47 inches if 1080pi powered plasma was fitting.
*Vinny is home, doing a lot better and responding well to his medication. I couldn’t tell you what will be happening in a month, but right now the kid is fine.
*The Brewers complaining about their ticket packages for their families only puts pressure on them during games. The lesser the distraction, the better for a team.
*Music to Listen to At the Moment-Band of Skulls, a punk rock indie band with one album of pure gold. Check it out. Baby Darling Dollface Honey.
*How much money would you need to let Ndamukong Suh hit you without pads on? Plenty of money and a good health insurance plan. He is the most feared body in the NFL, so think carefully.
*Show to Watch Next-Breaking Bad On AMC. Hearing great things about it, and it seems like a well done man version of Weeds. Bryan Cranston is a good actor and got the role of a lifetime, akin to Timothy Olyphant on Justified or James Gandolfini on Sopranos. The magical meeting of an actor and a role is rare in Hollywood these days.
That’s it. Honestly, I am done here. Enjoy the rest of the evening, watch some Cards action and find some food to starve off the hunger strike. It’s time to go home and make myself useful.
Dan L. Buffa