2011 World Series Game 2 Recap

I’ll say it again.  The only way to get over a horrible loss is to explain it completely.   By getting over Thursday’s crippling momentum shifting defeat at Busch, I am going to prep myself for Game 3, clear my head and set things straight. 

There’s no need to talk about the first 8 innings.   Jaime Garcia and Colby Lewis dueled for a bunch of scoreless frames before Allen Craig got a hit off Texas reliever Ogando for the second straight night to drive in the go ahead run.  1-0 Cards heading into the 9th inning.   Yes, the Cards hit into a few double plays, left runners on base, wasted chances to get more runs, but Texas didn’t fare much better and the game produced another even match.   Even fights can only produce one winner.   Texas won and here’s why.

Tony La Russa lost faith in his closer.   You don’t pull your young closer when he still has the lead and a chance to escape.   Motte entered the ninth, and quickly gave up a bloop hit to Ian Kinsler.  The ball dropped into the empty vicinity in left field because Matt Holliday was playing near the warning track.   Outfielders playing so far back to start an inning is a bad idea and always a move by the manager.  Never mind that Kinsler has 32 homers, I still play standard depth in the outfield.  Kinsler’s pop would have found a glove if Holliday is playing normal depth.   Kinsler goes on to steal second base by a small reach off Yadi Molina.  Motte wouldn’t have hurt himself by throwing to first a couple times to keep a known base stealing threat close.   He didn’t throw once and Kinsler burned him.   Elvis Androus was next.   He worked the count to 2-2 after a couple foul balls and slapped a base hit to right center.   Jon Jay cuts it off and fires a worthlessly lame attempt towards home plate that triple hops into the middle of the infield.   Here comes the detail that starts the mini letdown.  Albert Pujols is the cutoff guy and doesn’t get a glove on the throw, allowing it to roll to the foul line and Elvis moves up to second base.   I don’t know if Yadi told him to let it go(if so, that’s still a moronic move, no chance Jay’s throw gets there to nab Kinsler, who stopped at third base).   Pujols failing to corral the throw allowed Elvis an extra base, who eventually scored the winning run.   Second and third with the gimpy Josh Hamilton coming to the plate.  Hamilton would be on the DL if this were the regular season.  That’s how bad his groin injury is.  He has been swinging one legged and with no power. With no outs and two on, you need a strikeout.   Why does La Russa pull Motte for the lefty Arthur Rhodes?  La Russa doesn’t trust Motte to get the out and escape.  He only trusts a veteran over 40 years old.   Rhodes is no match to strike out Hamilton and keep the ball on the infield.

This is the point where I can’t get past.   Why pull your ace closer with the lead in hand?  You live and die by your best arm and you don’t pull your closer with a lead?  NO MANAGER DOES THAT!!!  Plus, Motte is a strikeout pitcher and he is the perfect match to get a slow swinging Hamilton out.  Motte put runners on base and didn’t pitch great but his stuff was hitting the spots and he deserved the chance to make it right.   This raises the aggravation level for me.  If Motte stays in and Hamilton hits a 2 run double or a home run, I am mad but I am content with the right move being made.   You let your closer make the final pitch and only pull him when the lead is far gone and his pitch count is high.   Tony La Russa put in Rhodes to cover up the fact that he didn’t trust Motte.   Arthur Rhodes’ 87 mph fastball wasn’t enough to keep Hamilton from hitting a deep enough fly ball to score Kinsler and move Androus over to third base.  He failed.   A fly ball wasn’t the answer there.  A strikeout was, and Motte was the man for the job.  Big miss here by Tony.

So far the misfires are-

1.)Playing outfield too deep

2.)Pujols missing cutoff

3.)La Russa pulling Motte without a good reason

4.)Failing to think about walking Hamilton to load bases for the force out.

La Russa takes Rhodes out and inserts Lance Lynn.   Lynn gets to 3-2 on Michael Young and surrenders a deep fly ball to center that scores Androus.   Rangers lead 2-1 and all of a sudden the momentum in this series is lost for the Cards.  It shifts to Texas, who just climbed out of a scary 2-0 hole that few teams have survived in the World Series.   You can’t blow saves and hope to win the World Series.   You really can’t make the wrong moves from the bench.   La Russa and Motte fucked up this game.   Tony’s decision defies logic.    Once he put Lynn into the game with one out and a runner on third base, why not walk Young and set up the double play ball for Adrian Beltre.   Beltre ended up grounding weakly to third base, which could have been turned for a double play and the game is still tied heading to the bottom half of the 9th inning.   Where was La Russa’s gamesmanship and genius there?   Save the praise for La Russa’s moves up to this point in the playoffs.   Once Game 2 started, everything that any player or coach had accomplished went out the window.  A new dawn and a new day with heavier expectations.   The latest TLR debacle is all I see here.

Here’s one more thing-Why do you take out David Freese in the 8th inning?  Freese is your hottest hitter and a decent third basemen, so why does Tony deplete his bench with a one run lead?   He also put in Skip Schumacher for Lance Berkman, which I support more because of Skip’s arm in right and the ability to throw someone out at home plate.  The move to take out Freese was a bad one because you need your bench for extra innings.  You have to manage that way at all times.  Taking out Freese and Berkman made the Cards lineup beatable and hindered the shot of a comeback.

Looking ahead to Game 3-

*Predicting what Kyle Lohse brings to the mound is hazardous role playing.  Lohse starts Game 3 in an offense enabled ballpark and once again his main task will be to keep the ball down.  Lohse will have to survive 6 strong innings and give his lineup a chance to hammer Texas’ pitcher, Harrison.  Lohse holds the cards and that’s scary.  He’s like the driver in the getaway car who you only trust with his foot on the pedal. 

*So far, the Cards bats are being tamed by the Rangers pitchers.   Take away Allen Craig’s two pinch hits and the offense has produced 2 lousy runs through 17 innings of play.   A matchup of two powerful lineups is being tamed by pitching thus far.  Albert Pujols, Holliday and Berkman are all being held in check.   Pujols is getting close and Holliday and Berkman are chasing.  This has to stop or else the Rangers will take control.  It’s only a matter of time before the Rangers start to hit.  Now that Jaime Garcia and Carp have pitched, the next two games in Texas are huge.  With Lohse and Jackson/Westbrook taking command, the lineup needs to wakeup. 

*Let’s not forget Jaime Garcia’s outstanding work on Thursday night.  A recovery performance from two bad Mikwaukee outings.  Jaime controlled the Texas lineup, throwing 7 innings, striking out 7 and only allowing 2 hits.   He dominated and gave his team a very good chance to win.   My pressure boot is off Jaime’s neck for now.  He is in line for the Game 6 start at home.  While this start was impressive, the next may be the biggest of his career yet. 

This is the World Series kids.  Strap in and get comfortable.   The Game 2 collapse was heartbreaking and knocked this Cardinal team down, but that doesn’t mean we can’t get back up.  Respond to force with excessive force.  Arrive in Texas ready to score early and often.   Two pitching dominated close battles will give way to offensive firepower.  The question is….which pitching staff breaks first?  The Rangers have used Ogando and Mike Adams,and gotten mixed results.  The Cards have used everyone and pitched decent.   The starters have been very impressive.   The lineups are being held in check.   Which group breaks out of the cage first?   We will see.  Game 3 and 4 this weekend in Texas will be high stakes poker.  Who comes out with the lead?   With the two teams so evenly matched and playing so close, the answer is unclear.  All a fan can do is think about the Game 2 failure and hope for a happier ending in Game 3.   That’s life.  Hope for the best and wait for the worst.   You never know what’s coming next in the playoffs.   As we do in life, we deal and keep on coming back for more.

There’s nothing else to talk about.   As a man once said, say what you have to and do nothing more.   Treat your audience like a ticking timebomb.   Speak firm and tread carefully across the vulnerable waters.  I’m done here.

Thanks for reading,

Buffa

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2011 World Series, Game 1

Lets push all the useless information to the side and talk Cardinals baseball for a few here.   Follow me.

The Cards threw the first punch last night, taking a nailbiter 3-2 over the Texas Rangers in Game 1 of this title bout.   How did they do it and who came up huge last night?  Lets look at the stars of the game.

1.)Chris Carpenter grinded out 6 tough innings, the most innings pitched by a starter in 7 playoff games this month.   While he hates the comparisons, Carpenter is the closest thing this team has since Bob Gibson.  It has nothing to do with stats or history.   Just look at the two on a pitching mound.  They make you feel like the game is in hand and the result is favorable.   They give the players behind them a higher dose of confidence.   Gibson had a swagger and presence on the mound that few can match, but Carp comes close.   He is the pitching equivalent to Albert Pujols.   You expect him to get it done.  He is a true gamer.   Who else slides into first base on a play in the first inning to get an out and puts their arm and face in danger?  Carpenter.  Bill Simmons tweeted that “Really enjoy watching Carpenter pitch.  Hard to believe it’s the same guy from the Blue Jays eons ago.”   Baseball purists love Carpenter because he is old school in his manner and ruthless in his practice.   Six innings was enough last night, and if his elbow is truly sore and needing rest, the extra couple of innings can be saved for next time.   Carp would take the mound right one legged right now.   You can’t teach intensity.

2.)Albert Pujols’ gold glove at first base.  Once again, the guy delivers in various ways all over the field.  He went 0-2 with 2 walks and a run scored, but he made a game changing play at first base.   After putting his pitcher’s life and career at risk in the first inning, Albert made a diving snag to save a run and end the 6th inning.    A ball heading down the right field line came into Albert’s area and he grabbed it and fired to Carp at first.   A game of inches is defined by great plays.   Albert made another.

3.)Allen Craig won the first round of an extended matchup with Texas reliever Uganda(no idea on his first name, who cares), who looks like a Dominican gangster on the mound.  Tall and angry.   Craig whiffed on two high fastballs and then plugged a sinking liner to right field in the 6th that produced the game winning run.   Craig is the secret weapon off the bench for the Cards.   At home, he is the pinch hitting power threat.  On the road, he is the DH who can burn ANY pitcher.  A great thing to have in your back pocket.

4.)The Bullpen was the true star of the game.   After Carp left and handed the lead, the Cards pen pitched 3 scoreless innings and only allowed 2 base runners.  Fernando Salas had a mini meltdown and midseason flashback, but Marc Rzepcynski came in and delivered 2 strikeouts to end the 7th with a runner on base and truly knock out the Rangers.   With Salas in flux and putting two runners on , Rzep came in and slammed the door, getting the pinch hitter Gentry on a nasty changeup away.   That’s Rzep’s bread and butter pitch that strangled Prince Fielder’s bat.  The fading changeup off the plate.   Rzep is becoming a real weapon at the right time and is here to stay in 2012.   Octavio Dotel and Arthur Rhodes combined for the 8th inning and Jason Motte delivered another 1-2-3 ninth inning.   Motte looks unhittable right now, firing puzzling heaters and cutters at hitters.   He mixes a 4 seam and 2 seam fastball and is pitching lights out at the moment.   While Feliz gets all the attention in Texas, Motte is becoming the real deal.  Not bad for an ex-catcher.  His keys to success are location and his use of the secondary pitch.  See him get Nelson Cruz to reach last night to end the game.

Looking towards Game 2-

*The Garcia complex.   Who long will he go and where will his head slip down the hill?  Garcia is talented yet mentally unstable on a mound.   When he toughens up and takes a setback in stride, this kid is top of the rotation material.  Now he is middle ranged and insecure.   He gets a big start at home tonight and La Russa will have a quick hook waiting for him.   If he can produce 5-6 solid innings, I would be a happy guy.   Garcia must keep the ball down and limit the mistakes.  The kid has to step up right now.

*Edwin Jackson will be waiting behind Garcia, as my early thinking is Jake Westbrook gets a start in Texas over Jackson.   If Jackson pitches, he must must keep the ball down and not overuse his fastball.  Jackson gets into trouble when he throws heat over and over.  These guys have to keep the ball down against the Rangers.  You get the ball up and a 7th place hitter like Mike Napoli bombs one to right field.   The Cards pitchers have to be the smarter men in this series.

*Kyle Lohse’s start in Texas is something I’m particularly not looking forward to.   Unlike Jake Westbrook or Edwin Jackson(sinker pitchers), Lohse has zero out pitches.   He basically has to outsmart the competition for 6 innings.    This is why the Cards must win tonight’s game at Busch.  Get up 2-0, give Lohse a failure cushion and prep for the next game.

*It’s a given that there will be bullpen dominated games in this series.   These are two offensive machine teams, and the pitching will get easily tromped at some point.   Carpenter and C.J. Wilson played a game of high stakes poker last night, but the starting pitchers will get bombed sooner or later.   The Cards bullpen came up big in Game 1.   They will have to be sharp throughout the series, as there will be at least 2 games when they log more innings than the starter.

*Tonight, the Cards face Colby Lewis, another hard throwing lefthander.   Lewis is a crafty lefthander with power behind his fastball and a carrier of the changeup that offsets the heat.   The Cards must continue to attack the first pitch fastballs and be smart late in counts.   Be smart and hungry.   It’s okay let it rip on a chest high pitch, but if the pitcher isn’t throwing strikes, be patient and take a walk.   Every single detail counts in the playoffs.

*Here’s a suggestion.  Start Skip Schumacher over Jon Jay tonight.    Jon Jay looked lethargic outside a sacrifice bunt attempt last night.   Jay is weaker against lefthanders and has gotten plenty of at bats against them in the playoffs.  Skip is a tougher at bat right now, deserves the start, and also has a stronger arm and baseball sense in center field.   Jay can loom as a pinch hit threat late in the game with Allen Craig to throw off Texas Manager Ron Washington’s decision making.   Start Skip tonight.

*Message to Tony.  Stop subbing in Daniel Descalso for David Freese in the 7th inning of a one run game.    I love D.D.’s defensive capabilities and scrappy bat, but Freese is the hottest most clutch hitter in baseball right now, and needs to play all 9 or more innings.   Freese isn’t as sharp defensively, but he has the big bat.   With only a one run lead, there was no need to pull him last night.

*I have no problem with Westbrook getting a start here.  We need a fresh arm on the mound in the 1st inning.  Westbrook has career stats against Texas and has pitched in Arlington.   He can do no worse than Garcia, Lohse or Jackson.  

*That’s it on the Cards.   Game on for the second round.   The Cards struck first, savored the flavor of victory and get back at it tonight in the cold tunnel bowl of Busch.   The ballet of emotion continues tonight for fans, players and the future.

Side Topics

*The Rams need to sit Sam Bradford this weekend against Dallas.   High ankle sprains in football are like elbow pains in baseball.   Something to worry about and watch.  Unlike baseball, football is hard contact and can cause serious injury.   Bradford has a high ankle sprain and needs to sit out.  Let Aj Feeley and his 3.5 million dollars get some work.  Dallas defensive coordinator Rob Ryan is licking his chops right now at the announcement of Bradford starting, waiting to unleash Demarcus Ware on Bradford and end his season.   Do the kid a favor and sit him.   This is completely on Steve Spagnuolo’s shoulders if something happens to Sam.  Feeley can do no worse than the first five weeks of depressing failure.  Let the backup get a round of beaten torture while Sam rests for New Orleans at the Dome next week.

*The absence of Danny Amendola crippled Bradford this season as well.   Amendola was able to do a lot of things on offense.   Third down receiver, punt and kickoff returner and a clutch guy who can catch.  Amendola’s injury set this team back, but Clatyon and new addition Lloyd need to rescue the receiving game in Dallas.

*Is it too early to get restless with the Blues?  Yes, but they have to be monitored.   Trends of play are important here.  Going 2-4 in your first few games isn’t life threatening with a 82 game season but if the play continues, there could be trouble.    Davis Payne isn’t the cause, but as is the case with Spags, he will be the first one to go.  Losing Andy McDonald hurts.   The depth on the roster must carry this team through and Jaroslav Halak must string together solid starts.   The Blues are entertaining yet come with a frustration that comes with any STL sports team.   Nothing is easy in St. Louis.  However, Blues fans, now isn’t the time to run away.   Bandwagon riders and outside kool aide drinkers are runners.   Stick with the Blues and they may surprise you.  Just don’t be surprised if its a new coach in March guiding the boat.

That’s all folks.  Thanks for reading. 

-DLB

 

World Series Ticket

Without further delay, allow me to dive straight into the gauntlet of hope, dreams, and the resistance of failure.  Beginning with the National League Champion St. Louis Cardinals remarkable run into the World Series.  Anyone who pays attention and knows me should know where this blog is heading.   Strap in for the ride, because I am loading up here and firing on all cylinders.

The Cardinals are National League champions for the 18th time in franchise history, and entering their 2nd World Series in their past 6 seasons.   A fitting defeat of their division rivals, The Milwaukee Brewers, in 6 games gives this team a ticket to the Series.  After all the bad blood, loud talk and pregame waves made by the Brewers, the Cards pounded them into submission Sunday night to advance.  The highly improbable trip this Cards team is taking will extend for another week.  This isn’t over yet, and I have a feeling this stress inducing dream team will put us through the ringer for another 7 days.   Before I give you the small details of another Cardinal victory, here’s a relaxing fact.  This is where being a true fan pays off.   A season long plunge into the depths of baseball addiction leaves me with a satisfied feeling as I write this.   The die hard’s sit here in absolute delight, because our pain and suffering over the course of 6 months is paying off as we enter the final and biggest stage.   That’s the fun part of sticking with this team.  I will be honest up front and admit(there are words to back this up) that I wrote(wrote, didn’t actually believe and stick to my dismissal) that the Cards were done.  On August 25th, we were 10.5 games out and coming off a  sweep at home at the hands of the Dodgers.  That was the bottom of the barrel.  On September 9th, we had defeated the Brewers at home but were still 8.5 games back.  On September 14th, we were 5.5 games back.  Slowly but surely, The Cards pushed their way through a door of improbability.  There’s no way to track or deny that.  All I did was keep watching and quietly hoping for a comeback.  A hint of life in a troubled team.  Ask any sports writer if they believed we could come back and make it all the way to the World Series in early September and I’ll buy that man a bottle of scotch.    This is the wildest silliest and most fulfilling run of any Cards team in my lifetime.    This victory tour is highly satisfying because of the frustration produced by this team, but mostly for the longevity of the complexity of a 6 month season.   They are easily the hardest team to watch because of their ups and downs throughout the year.  It’s only fitting to look at the troubles and rough stretches this team faced.  In order to appreciate the sweet, the bitter must be explained completely.  What happened?  What changed?

Starting in spring training with the loss of Adam Wainwright and ending with the pop of champagne after a magical 23-7 run to finish the season and steal the Wild Card, here’s a season look at the torment this team faced.

1.)The Loss Of Waino-Right off the bat, the Cards lose their best starting pitcher, who promised 18-20 wins and a dominant presence in the rotation.   Wainwright suffered a torn ligament in his throwing arm, which needed Tommy John Surgery.   He is throwing off the mound already and will be ready for 2012 spring training.  A team losing their Ace in the spring isn’t picked to win much.  This was the first blow.

2.) More Injuries-Where do you end?  David Freese, the NLCS MVP, was lost for two months with a broken hand.   Albert Pujols missed 2 weeks with a hairline fracture in his wrist.  Lance Lynn missed two months with an oblique strain.    Skip Schumacher missed 2 months with a shoulder injury.  Matt Holliday missed several patches of games that equaled a month and a half of lost playing time.   The Cards lost a position player from each spot in the field and managed to pull help from the bench and fill the holes.

3.)Closer Meltdown-After producing 2 solid seasons, Ryan Franklin blew 7 games in April and burned out quick as the Cardinal closer, forcing his release in June.   Franklin got hammered early and often, and started a moving chair formation of closers on the team that produced over 20 blown saves.

4.)Milwaukee Brewer power-A close race exploded in July and August as Milwaukee took control of the division with a flawless home record, great starting pitching and bullpen work and a solid lineup.   As the Cards went down, the Brewers moved quicker and powered their way to a huge division lead.

5.)Colby Drama-A 6 year promising prospect finally crashed and burned in late July, when the Cards traded Rasmus to Toronto for Edwin Jackson, Octavio Dotel and Marc Rzepcynski.  The trade was pivotal, controversial, and looked good on the Cards end.  Rasmus tanked in Toronto, and Jackson and Dotel plugged the Cards leaking pitching problem.   Rasmus collision with La Russa and his father, Tony Rasmus, drove the kid into a 2 month long dry spell at the plate that also affected his defense in center field.   Combined with Jon Jay’s ascension to the spot, Rasmus was doomed here and traded off for important season finishing parts.   What happens when a dad gets in the way of his kid’s career?  Trouble with the coaches and a doomed fate.   When Colby left, this team sank yet found a way to get back to the top.  Fundamentals or a lack of pure desire led Colby away.

The Cards dealt with every possible roadblock in their journey to the World Series and came out on top for certain reasons.  Key players and moments.   Here are a few big time second half players.

1.)Jason Motte becomes the closer.  Motte closed down 10 games in September and has recorded 4 saves in the playoffs.  He has been slamming the door on opponents since late June, but not until early August did Motte take over the role and make it his own.   After Fernando Salas burnt out and blew 6 games, Motte took the reins and only blew one save down the stretch.   Finding a true closer was the first piece towards a comeback.    What began as a project for 2012 ended up as a vital part of a turnaround.

2.)Jon Jay and Allen Craig inject a surge into the outfield when injuries come crashing in.   As Matt Holliday spent time on the DL and Rasmus was shipped out, Jay and Craig came in and added fundamentally strong baseball and power from the bench.   Craig produced 11 home runs and 40 RBI off the bench and Jay hit .300 and turned another negative(center field, #2 hole) into a positive for this team.   Along with Daniel Descalso and Nick Punto off the bench, Jay and Craig pumped this team up with young go for broke blood.

3.)Edwin Jackson seals the rotation up.  While not being completely overpowering, Jackson solved the riddle of the end of this rotation.  When McClellan hit an innings wall, Jackson came in and shored up the spot with a consistent performance.  Jackson gave this team 6-7 innings of productive pitching.   Jackson isn’t lights out and won’t throw any complete games too often, but he gives you a consistency that fixed a leak here.  While hittable and a lower end starter, Jackson’s arrival helped this team.

4.)The Bullpen becomes a strength.   With addition of Dotel and Rzepcynski to the pen and the insertion of Motte as closer, the group got a little structure late in the game.  Salas went back into setup, Dotel was the 2 inning arm, Rzep was the matchup lefty, and Motte closed the door in the end.   Lance Lynn and Eduardo Sanchez made it back from injury and Lynn has come up huge in the postseason, but the group as a whole picked up a tiring rotation in the second half.

5.)Chris Carpenter makes a comeback.  It’s simple.  Carpenter repaired his career with a second half surge that included a 10-2 record and a 2.74 ERA. He pitched 4 complete games in September.   He pitch the playoff clinching complete game against the Astros.  He outdueled Roy Halladay in Philly to lock down the NLDS.  He recorded the only 5 inning decision of any starter in the NLCS.   Carpenter found his groove and carried the rotation to the playoffs.  He was rewarded with a 2 year extension and a chance to play for more gold.

6.)Albert Pujols finally showed up.  After a disputed contract extension chat and a sleepy April and May, Albert exploded in the second half, hitting 30 home runs and driving in more than 70 runs since the end of May.   Once Albert fixed his problems, the team truly caught fire and finished well.   Pujols hit .400 in September and rediscovered his MVP ways when the Cards needed him most.    He reclaimed the throne, put together another solid season and has hit .400 in the playoffs.

7.)Rafael Furcal and the infield defense.   Furcal came over in a trade on July 30th and fortified the infield defense.   Take away a 5 error stretch of play in September and Furcal played lights out defense and has risen to the occasion in the playoffs.   Freese and Descalso have shored up the third base position and Nick Punto has boosted the play at second base to turn this Cards infield around completely.   The addition of Furcal in the field and at the top of the lineup was a slow burn of success on this team.

How Did the Cards defeat Milwaukee?  Careful precision.   The Brewers made a playoff record 9 errors.  The Cards destroyed Yovani Gallardo, Zach Greinke and Shaun Marcum in 5 starts, getting 4 wins from those solid starters.   The Cards outhit the Brewers in the clutch and took better at bats.   The Cards bullpen recorded a 0.93 ERA in the series and pitched more innings than the rotation.    Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday hit .400 plus and drove in key runs, with Pujols cranking 5 RBI and a HR in Game 2.  David Freese won the NLCS by hitting close to .500 and driving in 14 runners.   Freese became the secret weapon and Mr. Clutch.  He buried the Brewers.   The Cards pen held Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder to 5-28 hitting with only 1 RBI.  All in all, the Cards outplayed the Brewers in nearly every facet of the game and took the series in 6 games.  While the Cards starting pitching wasn’t strong, the Brewers big 3 didn’t fare that well and were the victim of bad defense.   A small detail left hidden is the fact that St. Louis’ defense improved towards the tail end of the season and came up big in this series.  The bullpen carried the starters, the lineup overpowered their pitching and the Cards played sound defense to shock the Brewers.

As my good friend Derek Winters said, the fans and writers have been forced to come full circle with this team with their entertaining erratic play.   Look back and we have been defying logic the entire season.   When Waino went down, the Cards were picked to finish 4th and had an outside chance by others to reach the playoffs.  It was amazing the Cards were able to steal the Wild Card on the last day of the season and have the Phillies beat the Braves to clear them away.   Then, we thought it would be amazing to push the Phillies to 5 games in the NLDS.  We out pitched their big 3 arms and hung in for a Game 5 showdown between Carp and Roy Halladay.   We beat them in 5.   The Brewers came along and we weren’t supposed to beat them, much less play 6 games.   Fans thought, it would be amazing to push the series to 7.  After a Game 1 loss, things looked bleak.   Then, our bats broke out and won 4 of the next 5 games, sending us to the World Series.   For awhile, the Cards played the role of losers, diving into a July-August swoon and burying themselves.  Slowly, we dug ourselves out and put up a fight.  We took every punch known to inner season despair, with injuries, position breakdowns and meltdowns, but La Russa and his bench made the calls and plugged the holes.   The 2011 Cardinals weren’t expected to do anything and have a chance now to win everything.   That’s amazing.   Starting hot, falling slow, crashing mid season and slowly picking themselves up, this team resembles an underdog boxer.  A Rocky squad.  It’s going to be fun to see if they can finish the job.  After taking down the two best NL teams, what’s stopping the Cards now?  The AL Champ Texas Rangers.   My mind will be consumed by the Rangers for the next two days and how we can beat them.    Hint…it’s not easy, not even a little bit.

Can we beat the Rangers?  How?  The Cards have banged down every other obstacle in their way, and if the task were easy now, the Cards would probably lose.  The Rangers are tough.  There’s no getting around that scary fact.   They are well rounded and strong in nearly every area.   They have a rotation armed with 3 good lefthanded starters, which puts the pressure on Pujols, Holliday and Freese.   Cj Wilson and company will expose the fact this Cards team doesn’t hit lefties well.  If Randy Wolf was a handful, Wilson and Lewis will present problems.   The Rangers are an offensive juggernaut, powered by Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz and Michael Young.  THey score runs in bunches and finished in the top 3 in the AL in hitting and situational production.   Hamilton and Young are the hammers and Cruz is the “Freese” on their team, the 7th spot bat that does damage.   This group will be hard to stop or slow down.   Their closer, Feliz, is one of the best finishers in baseball.   The Rangers are stacked and will put up a huge fight.

Here is a “must do” list for the Cards-

1.)The starters have to be better.   Jake Westbrook may enter the rotation and how can you dispute it?  Westbrook pitched in the AL for a long period and can shut teams down with his sinker.   He earns the right to turn the ship around.   The real question is, can anyone other than Chris Carpenter a game for this team?   Kyle Lohse, Jaime Garcia, and Edwin Jackson pitched average to horrible overall so far in the postseason, so where’s the hope?  If this group can’t improve, get out the shovels because the bullpen won’t save us this series.

2.)As mentioned, The righthanders in our lineup must produce clutch hits.   If Pujols, Holliday, Molina and Freese are shut down, there are serious problems.     Allen Craig and Holliday will trade the DH spot and this Cards lineup will be stacked for the 3 games in Texas.   Facing a lefthanded based rotation, the big bats must come through.   Lance Berkman is due for a breakout game.

3.)We MUST SCORE FIRST.   Every time we scored first in the regular season and postseason, 95 percent of the time we won.   It’s a tactic that sheds the pressure and gives your weaker pitching staff confidence.   Get ahead early and don’t stop throwing punches until the 27th out.

4.)Use the Home Field advantage.   The Cards get the first 2 games and last 3 at home in this World Series and it’s important.  The Rangers play very well at home in Arlington Field and are more beatable on the road.  The Cards played well down the stretch at home and must continue here.

5.)Jason Motte must match Feliz save for save.   A closer’s margin for error in the World Series lowers to zero.   Closers have to get their “Riveria” on now and go into lockdown mode.  Motte has been lights out in the postseason and that must continue.   The same goes for the rest of the bullpen.   My guess is the starters will be exposed and the pen will be in rescue mode again.

Basically, the Cards have to keep doing what got them here in the first place.   Score first and get clutch 2 out hits, finish well with the bullpen, outrun your opponent and hope for a solid start from your rotation.   The Cards beat the Brewers with their bullpen and now need other areas to step it up.    The Texas Rangers are a tough foe and will bring everything they got and more in this series, but they are beatable.

The X-Factor-Chris Carpenter’s elbow, a new fascination in the local media here in St. Louis.   A small issue that was going to be shadow his Game 7 start against Milwaukee two days ago is still a lingering worry.   My best guess is arm fatigue, being that Carp has thrown nearly 260 innings this season.   That’s a heavy workload and will cause a smal amount of wear on a pitcher’s arm.   However, a truck couldn’t stop Carp from taking the mound tomorrow, so to me this is a non-issue but it had to be addressed.

Moving on to other areas while the hands are still hot and my Cards hype count is momentarily low.  After pounding out nearly 3,000 words on the Cards, I am ready to explore other topics.

The St. Louis Rams misery continued on Sunday in Green Bay. Until the Rams stop beating themselves(penalties, turnovers, dropped passes, sacks allowed), they won’t stand a chance against anyone in the NFL?  If this play continues, we could finish 0-16.   The 49ers are 5-1, legit defensively and in the running game.  They own this division.   The Bengals, Browns and Cards won’t be pushovers and next week’s game in Dallas is going to be scary for one reason.  If Dallas defensive coordinator Rob Ryan can generate a pass rush that breaks down the mighty Patriots O-Line, what will he be able to do against our shitty bunch of blockers?  Bradford’s life may change next week in a very bad way.  Chokeville Romo has to be excited to face our horrible secondary.   Naming the bad things on this team is like throwing a dart at a wall blindfolded.  Easier than you think.  Hopefully, the additions of Brandon Lloyd(Mcdaniels disciple in Denver) and Mark Clayton give Bradford some chests to throw to that can hold onto the ball.
The Rams are facing injuries with Danny Amendola out for the rest of the season with shoulder surgery and Bradford now wearing a boot due to a high ankle sprain.   Things are crashing fast in Rams Nation, but the play must pick up or this team will be in danger of losing fans and the head coach being fired.  Listening to the apologetic and defensive Steve Spagnuolo on the local radio here, its hard to not feel for the guy’s situation but it must improve or the team needs to go in a new direction.   Blaming head coaches is the easiest job in sports journalism, but if the players aren’t responding to Spags’ pillars of character, it’s time for a change.  The NFL is a “can or can’t” league, where results tromp effort.   Tell me they are hard workers and I will ask why they make so many mistakes.  Why can’t Jason Smith or Roger Saffold resist a false start if they try so hard?  They aren’t elite talents and never will be.   For all the millions invested in the offensive line, their work is cutthroat and average.   Bradford’s brain will be under examination before long.

The addition of Lloyd can spark the offense.  Under Josh McDaniels in Denver last season, Brandon Lloyd caught 11 touchdowns and accumulated 789 yards in receiving.   The Rams got him for a 5th round pick.   A steal if you ask me.   Hopefully, McDaniels can insert him right away and use his explosiveness to the offense’s advantage.   Right now, I’ll take anyone who can catch a pass.   Apparently, Lance Kendricks, Austin Pettis and Brandon Gibson work hard yet can’t bring in a catch during games.   Lloyd will change that and Mark Clayton worked so well with Bradford that these two have to make a difference.

Why is the supposedly high powered McDaniels offense not working in St. Louis this season?  The Cardinals have scored more runs than the Rams points in the playoffs and that’s quite pathetic.  McDaniels offense is creating yards yet not bringing in touchdowns in the red zone, a huge problem last season.   Red Zone Efficiency.   Is it a personnel issue or McDaniels’ offense falling flat?

Green Bay is a great team and easily handled us with one explosive quarter to hammer it down 24-3 in Lambeau territory, but the manner in which the Rams are losing is hard to watch.   Going from 7-9 to 0-5 and seeing Spags record with the team at 8-29 is depressing.   The team’s play matches it.  The Rams are fundamentally horrible and can’t make plays to save their idiotic ways.   Penalties, dropped passes, sacks allowed and horrible red zone efficiency.   If this continues, the Rams will be in for change again come 2012.  Owner Stan Kroneke doesn’t care about character or good will.  He will make the right moves to craft this team into a winning franchise and one that makes money.  Right now, this team isn’t making anything but mistakes.

Sign Posted Outside The Ed Dome Right Now-“HELP WANTED”

The Blues Get Dealt Another Bad Hand by Luck-After splitting the first two games of a road trip, the Blues lose forward Andy Mcdonald to a concussion.   He has been placed on injured reserve and will miss 25-30 games or until he can handle daylight and contact at the same time.   This is the second consecutive season that McDonald has missed extensive time with a concussion.   An unfortunate turn for the Blues as they battle through early struggles and skate at the moment to a 2-3 record.   Bad luck comes in the form of losing two gifted players, arguably the best on your roster in McDonald and David Perron to concussion related injuries.  Evgeni Grachev fills McDonald’s spot on the top line after logging minutes with Backes and Oshie in the preseason, but this is a huge blow.   When McDonald went down last season along with Perron, the team’s play took a turn for the worst.

Hockey is producing more concussions these days and speed demons like McDonald are always going to be subject to a hard hit that knocks them out.   Too bad.  What do you do with him as he nears the end of a contract and struggles to stay healthy?  Look for a trade if there is one available.  He will miss a 6-8 weeks but he may hold value to a team looking to load up around the new year.     I do shop him and look for defensive help, a penalty killing forward.   Our special teams suck,  so there is help needed there.  You can’t replace McDonald, so the search for a top line forward isn’t worth the trouble.

What’s the deal with the goaltending on this team?  Goaltending on this team is strung up in Halak, Elliot, Bishop and Allen.   Halak is here for 3 more seasons and Elliot is the Conklin of this season.   Halak is inconsistent yet I am not sure you trade him because what can Elliot give you full time.  In my opinion, Bishop had his chance to win a spot here and failed.   Kill him off.   Jake Allen comes into play next season and will start pushing Halak and be the backup.   Moving Halak is dangerous because the market is thin(unless you can work a trade for someone better) and his 4 million salary is heavy to hand off.   I’d entertain a trade, but I am not sure it exists.   Halak can catch fire, take control of the position, Elliot is your backup and Allen is setting up to challenge Jaroslav next season.

While they will remain exciting to watch and a threat to score a playoff spot, the Blues latest injury bug proves this season will be a frustrating extended round of pain and anticipation.

Random Voice On the Radio-My boy, local talent Jon Hamm , on 101.1 ESPN radio’s Fast Lane yesterday afternoon.   Hamm is a big time Cards and Blues fan, and is growing in Hollywood stardom as we speak.   A lead on AMC”s Mad Men and a fine supporting actor in cinema features, Hamm is getting better and better.  Hamm lives in LA now, but spent a majority of his life in St Louis, growing up here after his parents passed away and he went and taught at John Burroughs High School.   Hamm is a cool guy, is hilarious in interviews, and made a name for himself the hard slow way.   Until he auditioned for Mad Men, he was a bit actor and a lingering body in film.   Now he is a known name, and he still keeps his roots and comes back to St. Louis.   You can confirm that I have a man crush on Mr. Hamm.   A cool talented guy and since he is from St. Louis he is a representative of my neighborhood and city.   A proud feeling after the talent runs away.

Real Steel Review-A  well done and engaging robot boxing flick that keeps an eye towards the future but maintains an emphasis on the heart with a father/son story. Look, if you like something new, exciting fresh and love old school boxing and storytelling, give this flick a shot. Jackman is fine and Real Steel delivers.  The setting is decades into the future, and boxing combat between mortal humans has been replaced by large financially powerfully robots.   Jackman plays Charlie Kenton, a former boxer currently playing his part in the new age as a trainer, operator and promoter.  Kenton is the classic fuckup artist who finds different ways to screw things up and wager his soul on a robot.   The juice doesn’t exist in the details here of the rules and regulations of the new boxing world, but rather in the father and son story attached to it.  Kenton’s ex wife dies, and before his son Max goes into the custody of his ex sister in law, Charlie takes the kid for the summer.  The establishment of their relationship is the heart of the film, as Kenton and his son spar and come together over their love of boxing.   If you are a son who has looked up to his dad before, this film will click.   There’s nothing extraordinary in the storytelling here and some of the material of recycled from other sports films, but Director Shawn Levy lays the weight on Charlie and Max here and it pays off.  Max finds an old sparring robot, and they restore it and take it on the fight circuit as the underdog contender.  The finale is familiar yet well played.  Real Steel is a satisfying escape for a fan of old school action dramas.

Music of the Week-Alexi Murdoch’s “All My Days”, a somber ballad about the 24/7 grind of life and how decisions are the ultimate answer to anyone’s riddle.  Murdoch’s moody slow baritone vocals lay the bricks here as slow acoustic guitar wrap around the lyrics to form a relaxing melody that is fine for any evening.  If you want something slow and heartfelt, give this a look.

Random Bits

Donovan McNabb has lost another starting quarterback job.   This is the third in three teams.  After getting ousted in Philly and Washington, McNabb’s lackluster 2011 start has gotten him shoved to the side for top draft pick Christian Ponder.  Ponder was the surprise QB pick for the Vikings and was selected as a security blanket behind D-Nabb’s washed up skills.  There’s no person to blame this time for Donovan.  He simply isn’t good enough anymore.  With a talented set of receivers and all star running back behind him, McNabb failed to put up the stats and is gone.

Carson Palmer kept his word about sitting in Cincinnati and now gets a shot with the Oakland Raiders.    Palmer is a talented QB with knee issues and a player who lost his tolerance for Cincy drama.   There wasn’t a single NFL analyst who thought Carson would keep his promise of refusing to play for the Bengals, but things worked out nicely for both sides.  Palmer sat, Andy Dalton filled in nicely and now Carson gets a shot in Oakland after Jason Campbell goes down.

The Blues sale should have been final by now.   After a couple weeks of final talks, the Blues were supposed to be locked in with new ownership.  All I hear is that the two sides are close.   David Checketts and Towerbrook Corporation selling their share to Michael Huskiez, a businessman from Chicago.  While sales of teams take time, one would have suspected this deal would be done by now.  I guess not.  Does this bother you?

Bernard Hopkins was wrongly given a bad decision in his light heavyweight bout against Chad Dawson.  Dawson picked up Hopkins in the second round and slammed him to the canvas, dislocating Hopkins shoulder.  The referee ruled it a technical knockout, which is absurd.  The decision should have been a no contest.  When did boxing become the UFC or NFL?  If Hopkins has a dislocated shoulder, he can’t continue and the ruling needed to be changed.   Dawson decided to get dirty instead of lose the fight, and I smell a rematch in the making for Hopkins, who at 46 years old isn’t done beating up young guys yet.  The man’s a technician and got a bad decision.

Olivia Wilde gave House a fresh dose of unpredictable fire.  Now that she is gone, what happens with the wiring on this falling FOX drama?  Wilde’s character, mysteriously named Thirteen as in the 13th candidate for the last spot on House’s team, brought something fresh to table here.  Her character’s ailment was a disease that was going to kill her in 10 years or less.  Her conflict was deciding to run away or stay a doctor with House.   While staying away from romance, House and Thirteen shared a bond that was bound by being different and isolating yourself from the outside world.  She felt that if she left her post at the hospital, that she would be bound with a lifelong guilt.  In the end, House took care of her decision by giving her an out, firing her.   At the core of Hugh Laurie’s brilliantly played Gregory House,when you get past the narcissistic rage and supremely cynical desire, is a heart of gold.    That’s the show for newcomers.  House’s brilliance and arrogance giving way to real kindness that shows up in small shadow hints.  Wilde, along with being gorgeous, is a decent actress and she played Thirteen perfectly.  She shared a connection with House because they were both tied to their jobs by guilt.  House freed her, yet took away one of the better characters on the show.   On a show that was watchable yet slowly dying, Wilde’s unpredictable portrayal of a woman chained to her profession and freed by her will, was something new and cool.   Now what?

The bad rap on bloggers isn’t proper at all.   All I hear from people when I tell them I blog is a blind expression and small smirk on the other end.    Is it a day and age where writers who aren’t paid don’t get the proper respect and can’t be taken seriously without a paycheck?   That’s crap.    Bloggers have more freedom and land to cover with their words.  I can write exactly what I’m thinking and get away with the freedom of speech.   While I respect paid writers and read several daily, I like my roguish stance in the world of creative journalism.   While I would cross over for a paid job if the right offer came along, I feel a bit of renegade spirit lies in my words.   The knockers of bloggers should give it a shot first.   They might find more freedom than they ever imagined. 

Being a father brings a certain level of anxiety.  All my wife and I do is check on Vincent and make sure he is okay.   We monitor him like a piece of china at an auction.   One small disturbance and we turn into the A team.   That’s being a parent.   A neverending worry and anticipation of the worst possible scenario.   Since he came home, we check his heart rate by the hour and give him his meds but also look at him every second.   We are ready for danger now because we’ve experienced it front and center.   Our days in the ICU and Cardialogy wing will never go away.   I wouldn’t change a thing because those 6 days taught me a lesson I couldn’t learn elsewhere.   Survival techniques.  

Vincent is a guaranteed mood boost.  Look at the kid and you easily become happier.    I have taken close to 100 pictures of the guy on my phone and I can’t delete one of them.  Every image carries a small memory and carries detail.   

That’s all for now.   5,500 words should do the trick of emptying the head.  It’s time to pull this latest Buffa train of thought into the station and start prepping the next batch of material.   Every word is followed by another, whether you see it or not.   Everything must be explained because every story comes with an answer or opinion.    For now, I am done.   It’s time to leave this material for inspection from the masses.   Thanks for reading and take care. 

Sincerely,

Dan L. Buffa

 

The Friday Spill

Ladies and gents,

We are gathered here today to discuss the common topics found in my realm of the blog.  I have been know to dive into sports, film, TV, a splash of music and almost anything in between.   It’s hard to stay unpredictable when you know what you do well.  Today, I take a look back at the Cards game from last night. Standard fare for the trained eye.

NLCS Recap-The Brewers aren’t going lightly.   They evened the series last night at 2 games by coming back from being down 2-0 to win the game 4-2 and set this series up for at least 6 games.  The Cards and Brewers have split the season/playoff series so far at 11-11, and the Brewers have outscored the Cards by only 2 runs at 90-88.    These two teams play hard fought baseball games and neither are going down easily.   A co-worker of mine told me the Cards could polish the Brewers off in 5 games and I laughed lightly and told him the 2011 Cards don’t do anything the easy way.   Everything this season has been bloody and stressful.   Talking about this team has to include pain medication or a stomach pump to recall past events.   Lets roll over some more details.

*The Wolf silenced us again.   Randy Wolf pitched 7 strong innings to reverse an early 2-0 deficit.   Wolf keeps the Cards off balance with his range of speeds on his curveball, fastball and changeup.   He beat the Cards for the 4th time in 2011 and its one of those matchups that’s always going to be a deficit.  Wolf is a pest to this team and there’s no way to explain it.   He makes the Cards extend their swings and widen their strike zone.   A week after Arizona kicked around Wolf, he walks into Busch and shuts down a hot offense.  You have to tip your cap to him while wishing him to fail.

*The Allen Craig for Lance Berkman move paid off.  Craig hit a solo home run and Berkman hit a single in the 9th to bring up the tying run.   Berkman comes back tonight to face Zach Greinke and Craig goes back to the bench.

*The Starters have to be blamed for their poor work in this series.  In 17.2 innings, the Cards rotation has allowed 13 runs and haven’t went past 5 innings of work.   This is a problem and if this trend continues, they won’t win this series.   You can only count on the bullpen for so long before they break.   The bullpen pitched great last night.  Mitchell Boggs allowed a go ahead single to Ryan Braun, but limited the damage.   Octavio Dotel and Arthur Rhodes followed suit and kept the game in hand.  Sooner or later, a Cards starter needs to deliver a big start.   It’s been a week since Carpenter pitched a complete game against the Phillies.

*Jaime Garcia goes for redemption tonight.   Garcia is coming off a rough game 1 start where he blew a 5-2 lead and only lasted 4 innings in a loss.   Garcia made game breaking pitches to Braun and Fielder.  He needs to redeem himself tonight.   Facing Greinke on the other side, if Garcia falters, this game is lost.

*The Starters have also been blowing leads this series.   Garcia blew 2 leads in Game 1, Carp flirted with it in Game 3 and Lohse blew a 2-0 lead last night.    Getting mad at Kyle Lohse is like getting mad at a retarded kid for screwing up the alphabet.  He isn’t a big game pitcher and not someone to lean on for a quality start on a big stage.  He is a good pitcher but he will have that one bad inning where you feel like disowning him.

*Ryan Theriot had a bad night.   He failed to get a runner in from third with one out and made a costly error in the 6th inning.  Theriot is a player you don’t get too excited about.

*The Cards situational hitting was horrible last night and continued a nasty trend from Wednesday’s game.  After scoring four in the 1st inning on Wednesday,  The Cards failed to produce with runners in scoring position and went 0-10 last night, including 2 instances where there was a runner on third base and only one out.  If you fail like that in a 2 run game, odds are a loss is going to be hitting the board. From the 2nd inning through the ninth inning last night, the Cards failed every single time they had a runner in scoring position.   How can this team win if we can’t pull through in the clutch?

*Watching this team do everything the hard way, you’d think they were paid to make it this interesting.    A torture test for fans that has been going on for 6 months.  It has nothing to do with talent and capability and everything to do with the competition put in front of you.    The Brewers are fighting to put an end to their playoff dismal record in the past decade.  The Cards are fighting to reclaim the order in the Central and play for a chance to go to the World Series.  Who else thinks it’s comical to see two teams from the NL Comedy Central fighting for a pennant?

*This series will go 7 games because these two teams are so evenly matched no team will get too far ahead. 

Other Material-

*The Rams will need a miracle to beat the 5-0 all mighty Aaron Rodgers led Green Bay Packers on Sunday at Lambeau Field.   A pure David VS. Goliath matchup that doesn’t look good at all for the Rams.    This is the game you go into thinking we will lose and hope for the best.   All we can hope for are the Rams to leave the field standing.   I am not shitting on my team here.  Just being honest.   It’s going to be a tough day at the office.  This is the game on the schedule with a large “L” next to it. 

*Blues fans, it’s going to be a long season.   In a similiar fashion to the Cards, The Blues are going to put us through the ringer this season.   Up and down, zig and zag play while being entertaining and contending for a spot.   The first three games have produced a win and two losses along with scary trends.   Goalie Jaroslav Halak is allowing 3 goals per game while facing less than 25 shots.  The entire team sleeps through the first periods.   The Blues are pounding the opposition with shots and have hung in their two losses.  Patrik Berglund, Jason Arnott and Jamie Langenbrunner have looked impressive so far along with Daggs.   It’s important to understand this team is going to frustrate us this season.   The result is undetermined but the effort will be there.  

*There’s a chance I make it to the movies this weekend.   Real Steel or Ides of March are the options.  A robot story with a father/son bond at the heart or a cold hearted morality play about losing your life to politics.   I’ll take my chances with Jackman or Clooney. 

*While being tough and active, Vinny is the cutest kid on the earth.   I didn’t look to the scorecards.   This is pure opinion.  He wins a ton of staring contests. 

*Music to Seek Out-The Black Keys early album, Rubber Factory.   Full blooded blues rock is good for the soul. 

Final Thought-If I was a car, I’d run on coffee.   No day is complete without it and there are some days I wonder what I would do without it.   Seriously, don’t underestimate the value of coffee.   Today, I spent 3 hours walking around like a zombie.   Then, all of a sudden, I found coffee and everything is better.  If I stayed in a hospital and they were willing, I’d get an IV of coffee.   If there is one thing that is required for me to be as sharp as I can be, it’s coffee.   Just a cup of morning joe.  My coffee of the moment is Gold Coast Blend from Starbucks, a rich bold flavor that stings the nostrils. 

Thanks for reading everybody and have a good weekend.  Do something nice and tell them I sent you.

Sincerely,

Dan L. Buffa

The Daily STL Outlook

Greetings,

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.

Final Thoughts-

*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. 

Sincerely,

Dan L. Buffa

*

The Quick Read

Stay tuned, I am going to make this quick and painless.   The Buffa News Reel. 

Vincent Buffa is home.   At last, my kid exited the hospital today around 1130am and came home to a quiet house of feeding, sleeping and plenty of trips for the Browns to the Super Bowl.   If one thing was consistent the past few days, it was my kid’s ability to produce a solid shit.   If babies had shit charts tracking their diaper disposals, Vinny is up there.  His heart rate is being controlled by medication and so far, so good.  Keep your fingers crossed(save the prayers) and think of my boy when you rise out of bed in the morning.  Rachel and I were treated to a dose of reality this weekend.  Anything can happen, good or bad. 

Tim Tebow Gets the Nod in Denver-Ask me, and its about time.  What is wrong with plugging in a firecracker rookie at quarterback to spark your team?  Former Head Coach Josh McDaniels drafted this kid with Denver and after he was fired last season and Kyle Orton got hurt, Tebow took over and produced a couple solid games to end the 2010 season.   His throwing is unorthodox and his mechanics need work, but that’s why football teams hire quarterback coaches and give rookies time.  If Tebow knows how to do one thing, it’s win with intensity.  This kid got bloodied up at Florida, and ran up and down the sidelines screaming at his team to keep the faith and fight back.  Tebow is a physical specimen and has something a ton of more gifted football players lack.  A true desire to be great.   Tebow will only get better at the scout love requirements if he plays more.  Reps are required for improved play.   The Broncos are 1-4 under Kyle Orton and save me the Orton defense.   Save me the bullshit about him coming to work each day knowing the fans want Tebow.  Athletes are paid millions of dollars to overcome obstacles put up by their fans, coaches, and their own inner demons.  Here’s the facts.  Orton had one great statistical season last year under McDaniels and when he was fired, Orton took a turn for the worst, back to his Chicago Bear average days.  This season, he simply didn’t play well, throwing 7 interceptions to only 3 touchdowns.  It was time for a change.  Denver President John Elway and Head Coach John Fox aren’t stupid here.  They know Tebow will bring the fans, money and excitement to Denver.  If you are going to lose, do it with an exciting rookie and dismiss the boring veteran who can’t produce.  Evidence needed still?  Look at last Sunday.  Tebow takes over after halftime and turns a 14 point deficit into a 5 point loss for the Broncos by running for a score and throwing for one.   During his two games last season, he engineered a memorable comeback against the Texans.   Will Tebow become a great QB?  Time will tell.  I am saying the kid is talented and deserves a shot.  He waited and was patient and has worked his ass off at improving.  Now, he takes over a 1-4 team with a chance to produce.   Stop whining and accept it. 

Theo Epstein goes to Chicago-News of the day here.  The Cubs have a new general manager.   Theo leaves the Red Sox after 9 seasons and two World Series to take over a new challenge.   Restore another cursed franchise.   Epstein is a smart kid and will provide the Cubs with the proper resources to become a winning team.  Will he turn them into a World Series?  Not so fast.   The Cubs are still the Cubs.  Epstein will need time to reload the roster and turn this team into a contender for the playoffs.  I will admit Theo will make this team a contender.   He will call about Albert and Prince Fielder.  The Cubs have money to spend, so keep your eyes and ears ready.   He was only 29 when he took over in Boston after Billy Beane turned down John Henry’s 12.5 million dollar offer.   Theo will restore the Cubs.  How long will it take?   I am interested to find out but a GM can only do so much.   Theo had similiar money in Boston and produced a World Series in 2004, 2 years after his arrival.   It’s hard to doubt the kid but it’s hard to show faith in the sad bears.   He gets 20 million over 4 years to manage the little Bears.

NLCS Intrigue-A small rant before the first pitch flies across home plate with rain coming down.   Carpenter puts 2 guys on base yet gets the fly out to Jay and doubles Mark Kotsay off first base to end a seemingly erratic first inning.   Carpenter shares interesting splits against the Brewers in 2011.   2 great starts at home and 2 rough starts on the road.   He finished the season by holding the Brewers to 2 runs in 17 innings at Busch, and that’s where he faces them tonight.  Brewers young ace Yovani Gallardo finished 17-10, but only 1-3 on the season against the Cards.   He shut us down on May 7th, but struggled in August and September, especially against Albert Pujols.   AP collected 6 hits in 11 at bats, including 3 home runs.   Rafael Furcal and Pujols homered in the first inning twice off Gallardo.   Look for an early assault on him but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a pitching duel tonight after 2 offensive explosions in Game 1 and 2.   The Cards control their fate and can snag the next 3 games and head to the World Series, but I see this series reaching a full 7 games.   

Update-Cards erupt for 4 runs in the first inning off Gallardo, including a RBI double by Albert and a two out opposite field double from the white hot David Freese.   Watching Freese bash hits to the opposite field over and over again, you wonder why the defense doesn’t throw 2 outfielders in right field.   Opposite field power like no other. 

Blues Rebound and Get First Win-After falling 4-2 to the Preds on Saturday, the Blues avenged the loss and won 5-2 on Monday afternoon against the Flames.   10 different Blues collected points and Chris Stewart scored a goal with the softest set of hands of all time, floating a backhander over for the final nail.   This team is deep offensively.   Jason Arnott collected a goal and an assist and Jamie Langenbrunner knocked in an assist.   Pietro and Shatty scored from the point and the Blues looked good in their second home game.  Now they hit the road for 3 games, enduring their first real test of the season.  Road warriors or not?

The Avengers Trailer is for the crowd who can forget about reality, dive into the land of superheroes and get a kick out of wild action.   Also, Robert Downey Jr. is in it as Tony Stark aka Iron Man.  That’s enough for me.  Dig it or not, I’ll be watching. 

The Bill and Lions are for real.   This doesn’t surprise me if you watched these teams last year.  They score points and plays bend but dont break defense.   One of them at least makes the playoffs. 

The Brewers Come Back and Get 3 runs off Carp to cut it to 4-3.   I don’t like this from my ace pitcher.  Carp needs to do better.  I’d expect this from average arms like Lohse or Jackson. 

The NBA lost 2 weeks of play.  I don’t care because I have no emotional connection to NBA action which stems from the fact there is no St. Louis team to get behind.  Go ahead and cancel the rest of the season.   Players have to learn to save money one way or another.  NBA action is boring anyway.  Get them ready for the playoffs.  I’ll take a playoff faceoff in June. 

That’s it.  Time to run and watch the rest of this game while finishing dinner, taking care of the little guy and doing other fatherly and husband like duties.  It’s my life. 

Thanks for reading,

DLB

Do You Know Who I Am

The Alberto Pujols Rant-
A fastball was heading towards the inside corner.  Pujols saw it, recognized the speed and make, and drilled it to left field.  He slowly walked towards first base, watching the ball sail out like a father watches his son go to college.  He flipped his bat and gave an emphatic look towards first.  The damage was done.  Albert knew it.  The Brewers knew it and we knew it.  Albert Pujols was going to put on a show.
I’m going to give it to you straight.  Alberto Pujols is an MVP.   Few players in sports can dominate the way Pujols can during a single game and like any legendary talent, Albert rebounds from an off night with a clear bang.  A 4 hit night.  A home run and 3 doubles.  5 RBI.  A flawless night at first base.  One flip of the bat included.  When asked what the STL beat writers will say when he explodes, Derrick Goold said, “we will say you made adjustments”.   Albert responded with, “I’m pretty good at that, mang.”  Trash collectors make adjustments.  Albert Pujols just loves to rake history. Previously 1-9 against Shaun Marcum, Alberto Pujols torched a soft 4 seam fastball for a majestic bomb in the first inning that hushed the Milwaukee faithful and sank a knife into their team.  That’s Alberto Pujols.  Who has a bigger impact on a game?  Pujols singlehanded did enough to beat the Brewers in Game 2.   No player puts the media on their knees or make fans jaws drop faster than Pujols. Fact.



If this NLCS is a boxing match between the two biggest free agent first basemen in sports history, Pujols clearly took round 2.   Prince Fielder hit a game changing 2 run bomb in Game 1 but Albert stamped his name into the box score last night.  He not only hit a 2 run bomb, but added 3 more extra base hits, including a laser to center field that made Loud Mouth Nyjer Morgan crash into the center field wall like Jose Canseco.   Alberta, who?  Pujols pulled his dick out last night and didn’t put it away until he got on the plane.  At his biggest moment, Pujols exceeded expectations.

When he has a good game, the Cards win the game most nights.  When he hits game changing baseballs, Pujols tromps an average pitching night by his starter and a 1 game deficit.   He is the greatest player of all time.  Make a case to say different.  I dare you.  Man, I triple dare you?

Who knows what he’ll make in free agency in November.  My feeling is he will once again take less than market value to play in Cardinal Red.  He’ll sign for less than Prince and once again surprise people.   Why would he want to leave a city where he isn’t even the highest paid player on the team but he owns the city and is the face of the franchise?  Who doesn’t want to be king?

Alberto Pujols is a MVP.  In every sense of the word. He is the most clutch hitter.  He is a gold glover at first.  He runs the bases more aggressively than any player.  He is devastatingly consistent.  He plays with the highest expectations each season.

Without Pujols, this team isn’t playing in the NLCS.  In a season where all his critics rallied to finally poke a hole in Pujols’ legend, he reminded them what greatness looks like.  In baseball, Pujols always reminds us to stay thirsty.

You feel that?  That tinkling sensation in your balls.  That’s the feeling I get watching Albert Pujols play baseball.  He’s the guy you hate to face.  While Ryan Braun and Fielder combine to have good games, Pujols does it all by himself.

The next time Albert struggles, remember he is one game away from reminding you how great he is.

I’m done here.  Albert isn’t finished yet. He still wants 9 other rings for the rest of his fingers.
The Rest
There’s no need to discuss much else in the game last night but here’s a few things.
-The Brewers ridiculous beast mode gestures didn’t happen because they were blown out.  The Cards don’t need a gesture every time they get a big hit.
-Edwin Jackson again proved why I don’t see him as a “must sign” pitcher in the offseason.  While he does the job of 6-7 innings while keeping his team in the game most nights he throws, Jackson never blows you away with a performance.  Also, Jake Westbrook has a no trade clause and won’t opt out of it for a younger kid.   Jackson isn’t worth the 12-13 million another team will hand him.  Look at his career record and that’s what he will give you.  I like the guy and will depend on him but there is no room for him on this team next season.
-The Cards piled on runs late just to prove what their lineup can do when everything is working.  11 run destruction.
-Prince Fielder’s 8th inning home run traveled over 400 feet but still only counted for one run.
-Nyjer Morgan didn’t tweet anything last night but Tony Plush was unavailable.
-Jason Motte pitched a much needed 9th inning to stay loose for save opportunities this week.
-It was very cool to see the emotion from Tony La Russa during the Cards big innings.   You can be as professional as a funeral home manager but pure excitement is infectious.
-Who else feels like shooting the TBS broadcasters along with wild dressing Craig Sabel?
-Is it illegal to hang Ray Vinson from a tree yet?
-The Cards win was highly important because now they have Chris Carpenter pitching Wednesday to take control rather than to survive.   The Cards have the Brewers right where we want them.  Tied with the next 3 games at Busch Stadium.

Sincerely,


Dan Buffa