Pregame Dose On The Cardinals

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Let’s shed some light on a few things heading into tonight’s interleague showdown with the most one legged team in the majors, The Seattle Mariners.  They have Felix Hernandez and….well….other players too.   I kid around a little but you get my drift.  The Mariners are the most non-descriptive team in the AL and join the Padres as the biggest band of misfit toys since Billy Beane bought into moneyball.   Our old friend Brendan Ryan departed this week for the Bronx, leaving this weekend to be a non jersey licking affair.   Excuse me readers.  This is a little Friday madness from my end of cyberspace.  It’s fight weekend in the Buffa house with Canelo Alvarez and Floyd Mayweather Jr. squaring off tomorrow night, so I’m a little amped and loose at the same time.   Let’s look at some pregame notes on the Cardinals.

*Don’t chase down Joe Kelly with pitchforks just yet.   The right hander who was unbeaten in nearly 2 months finally broke down last night and was solved for 4 runs in 5 innings.  The last time he allowed 4 runs came against the Marlins and that was a long time ago.   Kelly’s curve wasn’t as tight as usual, which made his fastball easier to locate.  The Brewers are bad but are not pushovers.  They know their role and stole a game last night that caused the Birds to move into a first place tie with the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Kelly will be good again.   He didn’t help himself with early throwing errors and things basically didn’t go the Cards way last night.  A plain unfortunate if digestible 5-3 loss.

*Speaking of those Pirates, they just won’t die.  After getting swept in a weekend series and moved out of first place, the Bucs swept Texas on the road and took the first game against the Cubs at home last night.   If the Pirates were going to wilt and die, Sunday was the day the grave was set.  Instead, they bounced back and are playing very good baseball.  Things won’t be easy down the stretch for the Cards because the two teams in contention with them will not perish.   There are sixteen games left and the Cards only have 3 against a winning team, but have to sit back and watch the other teams square off 6 times in the final three weeks.  It will be an eventful finish.

*David Freese lost a lot of steam from his weekend revival and had a horrible Brewers series, going 0-8 with 3 strikeouts.   His supposed breakthrough against Pittsburgh was short lived and he is again searching for that big hit and having issues turning on an inside fastball.   He finds himself in the lineup again as the defensively superior and speedy Kolten Wong rides the bench looking for his swing.  Freese isn’t showing me anything new and hasn’t come alive in September.  Take away the two long home runs and a lot of noise rides away with it.  He is hitting .260 in September so far with 6 hits and 8 strikeouts.  Stop saying this is his month.  Story is dead.

*Edward Mujica may be suffering from a few minor injuries but keep in mind he was bound to be hit.  He has sharper stuff than our old friend Ryan Franklin but still pitches to contact and throws that 90-92 mph fastball a lot.  When he gets hit a little, people freak out and forget we didn’t even know this guy had a social security number before July 31st of 2012.   He will still be effective if more hittable down the stretch.  Give him more 2-3 run leads.

*Yadi Molina is back with the team and in the lineup.  The 3 Molina brothers were in town this week as their mother had surgery on her heart.   All things went well and Yadi is back hitting 5th in the lineup tonight.  The splits with Yadi getting a spot in a game and not participating at all are amazingly one sided.   The Cards sharper than any club with Molina in the game and just bad without him in it.   I don’t have the exact stats but let’s just say that this guy is still the team MVP.  Sorry Carp Jr., but Molina is the rock of this squad.   I am pretty sure Matt wouldn’t argue with that conclusion.

*Matt Holliday is turning it on folks.  It is the second half and this is a typically hot time for the left fielder who attracts as many haters as supporters.   Since he makes 17 million per year and not the same salary as Rogers Hornsby, he gets flack when he doesn’t come through or doesn’t show off Edmonds like skills in the outfield.  A man who will prove to be a better bargain than Jayson Werth, Josh Hamilton, Jason Bay and Carl Crawford doesn’t get much love for slowly putting together another solid season.  His numbers are down but not flat.  Holliday hit .320 in August and .308 so far in September but has more RBI than anyone in the game since the end of July.  With 16 games to go, Holliday is hitting .287 with 19 HR and 82 RBI to go with 90 runs scored.  He has 81 K(down from last year) and 59 walks.  His double plays have rapidly decreased in the second half as well.   He is finishing well again and could easily get 22 HR, 95 RBI and hit .290.   I will take that.  Is it 17 million dollars worth?  Not exactly, but it’s not bad either.  I like the fact Holliday saves his best days for last.

*Adam Wainwright has thrown bullpen sessions out of his regimen and basically doing some long toss this month.   Whatever gets the guy into dominant mode is fine with me.  Unconventional methods are practical in the final stages of a 162 game season.  He takes the mound tonight against a team he rarely, if ever, faced.   All bets are off but I expect him to be his usual reliable if dominant self.  After Kelly picked him up for several starts since August 1st, it would be nice to see our ace clean up the wound from last night’s loss.

*The Cards don’t have to be amazing and go 13-3 in their final 16 games.  Think of it like an NFL schedule.  Win 9 and be sure of a spot.  Win 10-11 and win the division.   We just have to stay with the Pirates and hope to push away at the end.  We will make the playoffs either way but I don’t want to see another one game playoff where we may have to use Wainwright in that game and lose him for the start of the NLDS.

What else?   Pete Kozma is good for a few scrap hits but his defense is cracking.   Ryan Jackson makes a mean pasta in the clubhouse I hope because he isn’t getting a shred of playing time.   Why bring him up to sit him on the bench?  I wanted change but not a zombie.   Jake Westbrook is growing a garden in the bullpen.  Lance Lynn earned another start with his impressive performance Wednesday but don’t get too excited until he pitches well in Colorado.  Daniel Descalso is due to heat back up because he has been cold since early July.  Jon Jay isn’t hot or cold right now at the plate but looking sharper than ever in center field and will get the bulk of the playing time down the stretch.  Audrey Perez is plain old catcher insurance.   As in extended insurance.  If Molina can’t go and Tony Cruz and Rob Johnson both get hurt and Descalso can’t do it, Perez will play.  The more I see Kevin Siegrist the more I think he would make a killer 7th inning guy but its hard to dismiss him as a starter with his experience and killer assortment of pitches.  If there is anyway we can trade the problematic Jaime Garcia, The Cards have a steady supply of cheap effective lefthanded starters hungry for a shot.  Siegrist is this year’s Rosenthal.  A white hot phenom.

That’s all I got.  Thanks for taking this in and come back for more next. Until then, visit my site, doseofbuffa.com for a more versatile set of news.

-D.L.B.

(Image provided by stlcardinalsbaseball.com)

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Author: D. Buffa

A regular guy who feels a journalistic hunger to tell the news. I blog because its wired into my brain to write what I think in print. I offer an opinion. A solo tour here. Take regular stories and offer my spin on them. Sports, film, television, music, fatherhood, culture, food, and so on. Commentary on everything. A St. Louis native and Little Rock resident who wants to write just to keep the hands fresh and ready.

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