Tag: World Series

What Goes Up Must Come Down, Daniel Murphy

Game 4. The Mets lead The Kansas City Royals by a thread,3-2. Top of the 8th inning. 1st and second, one out. Eric Hosmer turns over an inside pitch and sends a weak grounder towards second baseman Daniel Murphy. He charges, and the ball slips under his glove. Ben Zobrist scores from second. Lorenzo Cain to third. Only one out. Game wasn’t over but it felt that way in Citi Field. Blue and orange clad Mets fans looked on in disgust. Happy Halloween, Mr. Murphy. What goes up must come down, Murph.

May I call you Murph? Is that okay? Can we get on a platonic Robocop friendship going on here? After all, we are both Daniel’s and right now the internet is turning you into Bill Buckner’s younger brother. The other first baseman who ironically enough was playing the Mets in the 1986 World Series and let an easy grounder slip under his glove. History has a way of kicking someone right where they least expect it.

Murphy has enjoyed a rather historic 2015 postseason. This isn’t an average player coming to superhero life in October. Murphy is a career .291 hitter with a .424 slug who just put together a fine regular season. In only 130 games, Murphy drove in 73 runs and hit 14 home runs to go with a .449 slug and 113+(OPS sliced up into the particular park Murphy plays in). This isn’t a southpaw finding his way. Murphy has become otherworldly in the postseason. The Dodgers had no answers for him. The Cubs couldn’t figure him out, pitching him inside and outside or all around the plate. He cranked home runs in six consecutive games and they all had a signature impact. He was Roy Hobbs for 2 weeks but as sports teaches the lot of us, the good will be followed by some bad if you play long enough. Murphy’s law? Almost.

In a vacuum, Murphy’s overall postseason is still strong. His 7 home runs and 11 RBI to go with a .764 slug still shine bright, and he made a snazzy play on a double play grounder to end the 8th inning and hold the Royals to a 5-3 lead. He stopped the bleeding but that came after he popped a few stitches.

Murphy has played in over 920 games in his Major League career, which started back on August 2nd, 2008. There’s a good chance he will remember this one the most unfortunately. Athletes remember the duds over the greats. The goats over the heroes. That is wired into their DNA as young players. The good burns only half as bright as the bad, especially in the playoffs. Before Game 5 opens tomorrow in New York with the Mets backs up against the wall, fans will rip him in coffee shops and bars. “Looks like the Murphy magic ran out!” “Too bad his bat was left in Chicago!” All of it will be said and some of it will be written by NYC scribes wanting clicks while the Yankees are down.

Murphy has nowhere to hide here. He hasn’t had a good series. He is 3-17. Five strikeouts and two walks. Here’s the thing. He has zero extra base hits. All singles. No home runs. No doubles or triples. It doesn’t matter anymore what he did on October 21st(4 hits, HR). It doesn’t matter that in Games 2-4 against the Cubs he had a combined eight hits and three home runs. It’s in the past. Gone. Floating like a bird down the subway.

It wasn’t all Murphy’s fault. The Mets bats have fallen silent far too often. Jeurys Familia has come into two games with a lead and watched it all collapse, even though the second time wasn’t entirely his fault. Jacob deGrom was human. Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard didn’t have great games. Yoenis Cespedes is kicking balls all over the outfield. Things have gone bad. However, the white knight in Murphy looms large right now.

All that matters is today. What does Murphy do to redeem himself? Comebacks in sports are a great thing to watch. Watching an athlete rise from the ground and get it all back. I guarantee Murphy didn’t sleep last night. Clocks fell back but his mind sprung forward. All he can think about is Game 5. The bright lights. The win or go home mentality that won’t leave his or the rest of the team’s mind.

As Sean Connery’s wise old cop asked Kevin Costner’s Elliott Ness in The Untouchables, “what are you prepared to do” Daniel Murphy?

10 Takeaways from Game 1

mets-at-royals-in-world-series-game-1-52997330e53a87a9The Kansas City Royals and New York Mets wasted no time in raising the dramatics of a World Series face off and it started before a pitch was thrown.

10. Edinson Volquez, the Game 1 starter, may or may not have found out before first pitch that his father passed away at the age of 63. Talk about the emotions. The kid is at the high point of a World Series start, something every kid dreams of and he experiences the lowest point a kid can face with losing a parent. Volquez would pitch six solid innings, allowing 3 runs on 6 hits before exiting to grieve and deal with an unthinkable loss.

9. Baseball players with softball bodies can be efficient. Bartolo Colon may look like a pitcher you saw at Forest Park in a softball game but he can still pitch. He threw 2.1 innings before finally surrendering the winning run.

8. The postseason home run streak for Daniel Murphy ends at six. The hot hitting Met still collected two hits, but failed to go deep. Somewhere, Reggie Jackson smiled.

7. Who could have guessed Chris Young would be the winning pitcher for KC in Game 1? The Game 4 starter threw three innings with only 53 pitches thrown, shutting the Mets bats down and giving the Royals a chance to win it. Improbable doesn’t even describe it.

6. Jeurys Familia, the untouchable Mets closer, gets torched by Alex Gordon in the 9th inning for one of the longest home runs of the postseason. Right when the super powered pitching of the Mets appeared to be too much for Kansas City, they struck down their most lethal threat. The 8th place hitting Gordon did the job. Improbable.

5. Eric Hosmer goes from goat to hero in one night. After making a crucial error at first base, he hits the sacrifice fly in the 14th to win it. He does that on the same night that David Freese four years earlier went from goat to hero. Freese dropped a popup in Game 6 only to go on and make history. Hosmer didn’t shine as bright but collected his dignity.

4. Ben Zobrist, the player many Cardinals fans wanted, had another great game with 3 hits and an RBI. The durable Phillips screwdriver type tool player is hitting .500 this postseason with an OPS of 1.404.

3. Matt Harvey was good if not great in a start many thought would go to Noah Syndergaard or Jacob deGrom. The Dark Knight arm who many thought may not even pitch this October continued a solid postseason. Remember when he was the only Mets pitching ace?

2. The Royals truly starved off a rough start to the series. With a loss, they would be staring down the barrel at Thor and deGrom and be in bad shape. Now, they have the upper hand and another game at home to stage an upset.

1. Is it just me or if Hosmer’s sac fly travels a little less into right field, Curtis Granderson had a shot at nailing Alcides Escobar at home? His throw didn’t miss Escobar by too much last night and he threw it on a fly. Impressive.

This series will only get better. Sure, the Cards are out but there is still plenty of good baseball to watch this week. There’s the opportunity for the ring to come back to Missouri. There is the chance for the Mets to clinb back into the limelight and win a World Series for the first time in 29 years. For the Royals, it would be the first time in 30 years, as 99 percent of Redbird fans know well.

What part of Game 1 did you find the most interesting?

A Stream of Consciousness amid Midnight Baseball

arnold-schwarzenegger-commandoWelcome to the late night early morning Buffa shack of thoughts. For the people who think I resemble a Post Dispatch writer, consider this the unfiltered take. The lost kids in the store in my head. The words I keep silent while I produce prose for the masses. As the Royals and Mets play baseball in the 14th inning at Kaufman in Kansas City in Game 1 of the World Series. In other words, the game where people try to decide which team Joe Buck wants to win more.

Harold Reynolds sucks. No I mean he really fucking stinks at being a color analyst. At one point in the game, he talked about how everything starts with a pitch and a hit ball. He’s just bad. He knows baseball but the wrong words come out of his mouth. It may be the fact that he accused the Cardinals of stealing signs from the Dodgers a year ago. It could have been the fact that he got on all fours and mentally undressed Clayton Kershaw on a mound. I don’t like him and brings Buck down.

No one rolls with the punches better than Buck. He isn’t as good as his dad. He has time there to get there. He can take anything and roll on. A bad graphic? Got it. A technical malfunction that literally cut off the world series from TV sets for a few minutes. He talked about putting change in the meter and playing all night. He’s smooth. He is intelligent. He cares about baseball. He’s a gem.

Eric Hosmer hits a sac fly and wins Game 1 in the 14th for the Royals. Something you’ll never predict. Bartolo Colon loses a decision to Chris Young. Download that one.

Speaking of Colon, he tested positive for PEDs in 2012. Something to help him recover from all those buffet trips. He’s a large man.

The Royals and The Mets. Two good clubs who made moves at the deadline that boosted their team. The royals added Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist. The Mets added Yoenis Cespedes, who hit 17 HR and slugged .604 down the stretch. Something the Cards didn’t do at the deadline.

Bridge of Spies and The Martian are worth your hard warren money at the cinema. 2015 was a weak slate until the last month. Add in the Walk and these are three films that could contend for Oscars yet also entertain and inform an audience.

Bridge of Spies is all Cold War history. A lawyer negotiating a swap of spies during a time where 2 countries engaged in a vicious cock fight that captivated a nation. Hanks is great. Spielberg is swinging the hammer again. The movie resonates.

Martian will literally beat you up with inventive survivalist thrills. In a good way.  As Matt Damon says, it will science the shit out of you. Ridley Scott hits all the right notes here in adapting a novel and adding cinematic twists to engage the viewer.

The Walk is a slice of wild American French history. Joseph Gordon Levitt plays the Frenchman who dared to lay a wire across the World Trade Center Towers and walk across it. Director Robert Zemeckis frames the film like a magician showing a bag of historical tricks. It’s a kick and bittersweet because those towers eventually fell 30 years later.

Kingdom is the TV show to watch and Frank Grillo is a big part of it. It’s everywhere. iTunes. Amazon. Hulu. Uverse. Everywhere. Yeah the show I’ve been bothering you with reviewcaps of is good. A family of MMA fighters. Drugs. Destiny. Ambition. Frank Grillo powered of course. Grillo has quickly over took guys like Jason Statham, Denzel Washington, Jon Hamm and Vin Diesel as my authentic action hero and must watch actor. Yeah fuck you I mean it. He’s dynamite. A guy who looks like he was chiseled out of rusted steel and grit to recreate what Charles Bronson would look like if he worked out. He is a guy who looks the part and sinks his teeth, balls and knee into. Few actors can mold into roles. Frank Grillo can do it. If you don’t know him or his films get on it.

Watch these films.

Warrior, The Grey, Disconnect, End of Watch, The Purge Anarchy and Pride and Glory. See who sticks out.

I haven’t listened to enough new music but Alabama Shakes and The National are good bets.

Starbucks coffee officially tastes like shit. It’s burnt. Over roasted. Bad. I get a five shot iced espresso from the Bux these days. It’s like iced coffee with a nasty ex wife and sirloin steak attached to it with a hammer and blowtorch finish. Try it and hang on.

I’m a t shirt, jeans and fleece guy. Always. Fuck polo’s. Fuck suits. Pleats. I’m a stay at home writer dad so I can look like a bastard. I can be a bald headed bearded Italian with torn jeans and a shirt on the snug side. I got the body to back it up too so don’t hate. If you are fat, stop being fat. It’s a choice.

Don’t eat gas station food. 

Too many school shootings but I’m becoming less surprised. The world we live in has a load of fucked Up people in it. It has nothing to do with video games or movies. Or bad parenting. Some people are born with a faulty wiring. Bad makeup inside. It’s sad but true. This would get more attention but we are busy crying over an ex basketball player who snorted enough drugs to kill a horse. Yeah.

People flip that on me by saying I made it okay to sympathize over Heath Ledger. Wrong. I loved Ledger’s work in the Dark Knight. What he did to himself off the set is moronic. He took a wild mix of pills and died. He didn’t kill himself but he was stupid. He left behind a little girl, family, friends and talent. You see people die and it’s not mourning them. It’s mourning the loss from others. Heath was dumb. No sympathy. His performance in DK is legendary and deserved accolades. His death…not. Same for Philip Seymour Hoffman. Not cool to have your kid find you with a needle in your arm pale dead.

Oscar Taveras made a terrible albeit common mistake. He drank a shit ton, drove and killed himself and his 18 year old girlfriend in a crash. He left behind a son. He was dumb. People can learn from his mistake. No sympathy but Oscar isn’t a murderer. Murder is premeditated assholes.

Maybe parents who lost a child and had a rough childhood can learn from Odom and not snort everything but the dust off the walls at a brothel to find peace. Maybe that will help future depressed folks not make unthinkable lapses in judgement. No Love Ranch for a healing. Better at a church with a horny priest.

Vladimir Tarasenko is a stud and if he doesn’t like being called Tank, I will stop. I fall victim to the player is great so slap a nickname on it bug as much as anyone. Vladi doesn’t care for nicknames and that’s cool. Special talent can make special demands. Not that he actually cares.

If Daniel Craig wants to talk shit about playing James Bond in four films and its “toll”, let him. On the other hand, he can also decide to stop sounding like a petulant child who finally gets to leave home and explore on his own. I love the guy and his impact on Bond won’t be easy to match, but every time I hear high paid movie stars complaining about how a role makes them look or strains them, I feel like stepping into Danny Bautista’s shoes and bouncing their ass down a slope. Then SAY NO NEXT TIME.  LIKE I SAID, Frank Grillo never bitched and moaned. He has two sequels to one monstrous franchise(Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War and The Purge 3) coming up but you don’t hear him WHINING. He just gets on set and kills it. Follow suit, Mr. Craig or I will stain your tux and kick your ass myself. Or I’ll call Tom Hanks to come kill you again(like he did in Road to Perdition).

Ed Burns new show Public Morals isn’t just a good enough show to write about. It’s an old school classy ode to 1960’s police work. He based on his dad’s stories. Consider it the other side of town to Mad Men. Burns is a master at casting, telling a simple story and at making a dream happen. He is the reason you can watch new releases on demand instead of in theaters. He is the reason Itunes releases movies. He once made a film for 12,000 dollars. Respect the craft. Burns is a made guy in cinema.

Burns responded to my tweet, read my article and retweeted(sending it to his 67,000 followers for the Twitter handicaps) my review. He is a gent. Having actors, directors, creators or whatever respond and show a piece of shit like myself attention never gets old. Never.

My wife, the lovely and ferocious Rachel, turned 32 today. We are getting so fucking old. Yes, 32 and 33 can be old when you decided to fight life at an early and try to play house with another human. I am 33 but feel 45. We met when we were flirting with 21. Now we are an old married couple with a four year old 42 pound heavyweight pain in my ass yet adorably earnest dude named Vinny. Happily ever after comes at a cost my friends, but it’s worth it. If the other person is a good fit. Find someone who loves you at your lowest and when you are a complete gigantic fucking moron. I got one in Rae. She’s mine. Hands off bastards. Did I mention she’s almost 5 feet 3 inches? I can lean on her when I’m sleepy. That’s a bonus round you Facebook slot game clicking maniacs. Anyway, today, wish her a happy birthday or just think it you cheap prick.

Time for me to go. I have talked for over 1.600 words and it’s past 1am. It’s late and quiet. Except for the TV, which never sleeps. What’s bad? Trying to go to sleep and a classic like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Commando comes on the tube. 96 minutes of brainless yet highly entertaining scenery chewing muscle glistening macho tough guy banter. A movie where Arnold spends the entire film in the same green henley and never showers. Fuck. Those were the days. Budget around 25 million. Explosions. Ugly fat bad guys wearing chain shirts with creepy mustaches. I just got a nostalgic boner thinking about it.

Until next time, enjoy the structured writing.

-DLB

 

Cardinals Burning Questions: Round 1

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Now that the offseason is settling into our house, the baseball homesick minds have to start breaking down what happened and what will happen going forward.  This week, I participated in The United Cardinal Bloggers roundtable discussion.  Here are my answers to the first week’s burning questions.

1.)Grading Mike Matheny’s second season as manager

Grading Matheny’s season isn’t easy because while the result was 2 wins shy of a World Championship, he made a few mistakes that would have crippled other teams less stocked with such an arsenal of young talent.  Matheny was very solid again this season and for me that means a B+ grade.  What he lost in injuries to key veterans and young arms was made up for with a late brigade of future pitching power and the full time arrival of Matt Adams.  Matheny’s biggest attribute is also the thing that lessens his grade from the A level.  His loyalty.   He leaned towards his heart instead of his head and in the end I believe it costed him and the team dearly.

Mozelaik didn’t set him up with the greatest set of cards when he didn’t stock the bench at the trading deadline, but Matheny failing to make key adjustments in the later part of the season and into the World Series was damaging.  What started as a severe loyalty to fallen closer Mitchell Boggs(including giving him one extra closing opportunity mid season that blew up a winning streak) ended with his unwillingness to insert fresh players into roles.
His playoff roster construction was simply bad team management.  He gave two respect spots to Edward Mujica and didn’t feel like using rookie Shelby Miller more than once.  In some crazy way, I expected Ty Wigginton to show up on the roster as well just to make it seem right.  Matheny also didn’t turn Tony Cruz loose by putting Rob Johnson on the postseason roster.  He depleted his bench by putting players on it he hoped to never actually use.  Name another manager that wins a World Series and does that.
Matheny needed to bench David Freese in the World Series.  The former Mr. October had done little to deserve every start in the World Series and ended it without an RBI.  If Tony La Russa can bench Scott Rolen in the 2006 World Series, Matheny had to find a way to sit Matheny, insert the speedy Kolten Wong(pickoff or not) and switch things around.  Playing Jon Jay(also no World Series RBI) Shane Robinson at a time where Jay was the lesser player was also a big mistake.   His loyalty to Freese and Jay hurt this team’s offensive chances.
Let’s not forget that if Mozelaik hadn’t basically banished Fernando Salas and Boggs, there was a good chance Mike would have used them more.   Matheny’s greatness came from his ability to stick with the right rookies and go with youth over age.  He inserted Mujica and Trevor Rosenthal into the closer role for good returns.  He engaged Joe Kelly a little too late out of the garage and fired up the Wacha Train in the final stages.  His key plus also happened to be his weakness when he failed to recognize a leaking part.   The pitching changes, bunt craziness and other little bits of Matheny brokerage was also hard to watch at times.
In the end, Matheny pushed the team 3 wins further than he did in 2012 but may have hindered his team with his moves late in the playoffs.  When I think of Mike Matheny, I see a talented young man still learning to be a manager in the majors.  This team would obviously run through a wall for him and that won’t change going forward.  Matheny simply has to know when to say when with his players and their abilities.   If someone else is a better option, go with the solution now rather than their resume.  I do expect Matheny to improve as he goes along.
2.) What to do with David Freese?
It’s hard to think of Freese and not get a little emotional.  The local kid who came here in a deal for departing slugger Jim Edmonds who turned into an unlikely World Series hero in 2011 is a fine story to tell your kids but these days that is all it amounts to.  An older story.   Freese’s heroics did happen just two years ago and he put together a fine 2012 season which begs the question of whether to keep him or not.   My answer is only if he wants to be a bench player.  Part time at best and most of the time a late inning pinch hitter/DH/injury backup.   His days as a starting third baseman are over.   Blame it on injury or something else, but I’d say its a ceiling collision of one man’s talent with the ever growing pitching surplus of Major League Baseball.
Kolten Wong deserves the opportunity to get a healthy dose of at bats at second base and no way will Matheny take out Carpenter’s bat, fluke or not.  David Freese will have to decide if he wants to play full time for a lot less elsewhere or will he take a seat on the bench and earn 4 million here where there is a guaranteed chance of winning.  Paying him 4 million won’t be stupid.  Signing a veteran as good or less than Freese will likely cost you more.   This decision comes down to Freese.  Hopefully Mo is blunt with David in those talks.  Do you want to be a part time contributor/pinch hitter here or a full time player somewhere else a little bit less awesome?   His age and the Cards burgeoning vessel of youth puts this Lou Hero on the bubble.
3.) With so many arms in the running for a rotation spot in 2014, what group makes up my starting 5 for opening day?
Barring further injury, my starting rotation out of the listed candidates has to Wainwright, Wacha, Garcia, Miller and Martinez unless Lance Lynn finds a way around an offseason trade.
Lynn is premium trade material.  He has a fine resume that includes over 30 wins in two seasons and good bullpen work.   He is young and hungry and may need a change of scenery to lower his pouting potential.
Jaime is making 7 million this year so he needs to be in the rotation and he is a lefty who can be great when he is on.  Let’s hope his feelings are in check.
Joe Kelly is Mr. Stretch.   He can start, relieve, and close and will find himself in that long arm bullpen spot to begin the season as insurance in case someone gets hurt.  Few can do what he does effectively.   Be solid out of the bullpen and win a lot of starts.  His mindset is key and helps him adjust.  I am surprised teams don’t target him in a trade because of his versatility.
Lyons and Gast are Memphis starters until injuries happen.   They performed well in 2013 but won’t climb over guys like Martinez and Kelly for starts, at least not again.  These guys are also trade depth because they proved they can come up to big leagues and instantly win games.  Look for them to be add on’s to big deals Mozelaik keeps up his sleeve.
Trevor Rosenthal is a setup-closer with this team for a long time.   He has the makeup, ability and finish to go into the ninth and let it rip.  We saw it for good when he saved 3 games in the final week of the season and basically made the Pirates, Dodgers and Red Sox look stupid for a month.   He has a propane heater and a decent changeup and if he was going to try his hand at starting again, he would have to redefine that third pitch.   I get why he wants to start but at this point it’s futile.  Jason Motte will be back but won’t be ready to even compete for the closer role until July.   Motte had the surgery in May of 2013 which means he may not touch a baseball diamond during a real game until late April/early May.  He will find his control and slowly develop back into that stopper we knew from 2011 and 2012.  He will set up until the Cards really deem it necessary to switch him and Rosenthal.  If Trevor is throwing gas and closing everything, it won’t happen unless Motte is electric.  I do think Motte gets back to the closer role sometime, but too late for Rosenthal to switch back to starting.  Motte makes 6 million this year but needs to get healthy.   Rosenthal may say he would like to start but watching him close in October I see a man empowered and having a lot of fun.  Let’s not believe he is wanting to truly move just yet ladies and gents.
Waino, Wacha, Garcia, Miller and Martinez for me in early April.
That’s all this week.  This next week, I present my question to the roundtable and what it is will depend on what hasn’t been put forth up to that moment.  Expect 3-4 more burning questions next week.  I expect Carlos Beltran’s rejection of the one year qualifying offer to make one of the questions, but to me it’s a non issue and needs to be thrown to the side.  Beltran was paid handsomely for 2 years and only missed 28 games and bashed 56 home runs and played solid baseball.  He wants 3-4 years and that won’t come here.  So long Carlos.
Also to be addressed-Jon Jay, Closer Situation in 2014, Oscar Taveras, and Kolten Wong.
Thanks for reading,
-DLB
Photo Credit-Bleacher Report
Attention all readers.  One of the blogs I write for, United Cardinal Bloggers, has posted an awards session for The Cardinals. You can vote by going to this page.  Check it out and get involved.  

The Cards’ Last Stand

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Here we are, Cardinals fans.  Nearing the end of another amazing, intriguing, emotionally draining and all together viciously entertaining season of baseball.   For me, no other sport stirs up my emotions and drives me insane quite like the game of baseball.   Maybe it is the way they play it.  Maybe it is just the experience I have watching it and the memories that bleed into the present day.   Casual fans and non followers look at me in disbelief at how screwed up I can get watching baseball.  My dad, wife, and a few of my friends have the ability(and YES it is an ability) to simply watch, turn it off and move on.  I carry every loss around like a bad habit and break down every win.  It’s what I do.   It doesn’t matter if I find a job in sports journalism or driving a forklift in a warehouse(I can tell you which one is more likely), I will always come here and dish my take.  Whether you agree or not, all I ask for is that you appreciate and respect it.  I know only one way.  Blunt and unfiltered.

Here’s where my mind is on the eve of Game 6 of the 2013 World Series-

  • Pitching to David Ortiz is futile.  A man with a .742 batting average and who is known for delivering crushing blows to opposing teams doesn’t deserve a strike to be thrown his way, so my memo to Cardinal pitching is, outside…outside…outside.   Throw it to the backstop or roll it up to Yadi Molina.  Don’t let Ortiz help send you home unless you are flying home to a parade and a trophy awaits you.
  • Offense, light it up please.  The time is now to create one of those 2 out running scoring barrages.  The best offense in the NL needs to show up once in this World Series.   Don’t let Boston have all the fun.  We have scored 13 runs in 5 games in this series, and one came on an obstruction call that will paint Boston Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks in odd baseball history for years to come.   Simply put, our bats haven’t produced more than 5 runs and have been held to 1 run twice.  That’s just not acceptable.  Let me say this. The Cards approach is bizarre.  Against a powerful hard throwing guy we will be patient.  Against a soft tossing hurting pitcher, we will be over aggressive and help him out.  When it comes to hitting, approach is everything.   Tonight, John Lackey is going to be firing that 94 mph fastball towards the strike zone.  He isn’t crafty like Jon Lester.  He dishes it up there and hopes you are stupid or ill-equipped to handle it.   Tonight, be aggressive.  Stop staring at called third strikes.  It’s bad for your resume.   Go for it.  Show up.  Destroy this Red Sox team in front of their own fans and put the pressure back on them in Game 7.   Their pitching is good but not this good, guys, so go after them.
  • Giving Michael Wacha a lead is important.   The kid can loosen up and fire more fastballs if he knows the bats have his back.  We have asked this kid to be Rambo this postseason.  Go into enemy territory and rescue the team from expected death.  Wacha has been amazing and will be World Series MVP if we pull this off.   He has been absolute NAILS for the entire postseason and he deserves a 4-0 lead for his month long efforts.  The Red Sox got one big hit from Ortiz in Game 2 off Wacha and that is it in 6 innings.   My feeling is an unconventional one in that Wacha will adjust more to their lineup than they will to him.
  • David Freese, do something with you life.   The pride of IMOS and St. Louis past glory needs to deliver a hit tonight.   For the love of baby jesus, take the ball to right field.   Be your old self.   Be the guy from 2011 or 2012.  Those guys were good hitters.  This 2013 nonsense needs to stop.  Freese could be playing his final game for the Cards.  Get over it, ladies.  He is arbitration eligible and will probably want too much to come back.   True or not, make tonight count Freese.  You have done little in this postseason worth remembering.  If you become lethal, this lineup looks pure doom for Boston’s pitching.
  • Here is something I can’t get out of my head.  Mike Matheny didn’t help himself by allowing his loyalty to burn him in this series.  I love the guy and most of his moves are good but his roster moves this postseason are amateurish.  You are facing a powerful team with a very good left-handed basher and you don’t load up your pen with lefties.  Here is my problem.   Ortiz has gotten to Randy Choate’s slow toss pitching and burned Kevin Siegrist’s high octane heat.   This is where Sam Freeman comes into play.   He has decent heat on his fastball and has a sweeping slider/cutter that moves away from lefties.   He could have been the ideal matchup for Ortiz but no, instead, we have Shelby Miller and Edward Mujica riding the bench and soaking up roster spots.   This is where loyalty needs to be broken for logistics.  He is hurting his bench as well, with a good pinch hitter in Tony Cruz being off limits due to his catching insurance behind Yadi.    A smart move would have been adding Rob Johnson to the roster so Cruz can be used in a pinch hitting role.  Instead, we have limited options in our bullpen and bench.  Thanks Matheny for being loyal but you failed here.   The inclusion of Shelby Miller and Edward Mujica on the roster takes away two valuable fresh players from this team.  Instead of strengthening his roster with worthy players, Mike Matheny got sentimental.
  • Shane Robinson needs to start tonight.  He hits RH pitchers very well and at this moment, is the best option for CF.   He plays better defense and is hitting just as well as Jon Jay.  I could root for the speed demon redemption seeking Kolten Wong to start at second, but I won’t get greedy.  Start Sugar Shane.
  • What has went wrong this series?  A few things.  The little things that pushed our locomotive forward all season are starting to show signs of wear and tear. Once unbreakable relievers Seth Maness and Kevin Siegrist are capable of getting rocked suddenly. David Freese is incapable of getting a big hit. Pete Kozma and Daniel Descalso can’t buy hits.  Lester has been better than Wainwright this series.  Our RISP has dropped dramatically.  Utility players like Johnny Gomes and David Ross have beaten Cards pitching at bad times.  The flipping point to me is still Lance Lynn being pulled for Seth Maness to face Gomes in Game 4.  Since then, it has been a fight.

We can only hope the delay in the trip to Boston last night had more to do with bat retrieval than mechanical failure. This team has barely hit. We haven’t put on display a barrage of hits yet in this series.   Defense and pitching wins games, but tonight the Cards bats need to provide a little magic in order to support their rookie pitcher and save the series.

Will the Cardinals offense show up or will we fall short of greatness?

If we fall, ladies and gents it has been fun. Every season it seems I make new friends and build great conversations through my doses, activity on twitter and facebook. Sports can be the greatest connective tissue in life.  Thanks for mixing it up and reading.

Go Cards!

-Dan L. Buffa

@buffa82 on Twitter

PHOTO CREDIT-THE GUARDIAN

Mistake Filled Game 4 Evens The Series

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Prepare yourselves.  I am about to defend Kolten Wong.   The rookie second baseman made a crucial mistake in the bottom of the 9th inning, getting picked off first base with Carlos Beltran standing at home plate representing the tying run.   It’s easy to jump on Wong after this loss but the man entered the game in the ninth inning.  There are other people to blame for this Game 4 collapse and I am going to lay it out for you.  Let’s go.

*Believe me, Kolten Wong’s mistake was brutal.   He should have kept a leg on first base because his run represented basically nothing, unlike last night when he pinch hit, singled, stole second and was stranded.  Tonight, he had the energetic kick of a young base hound and was caught.   A rookie mistake.  Wong will be back and deserves another shot.  In my opinion, he should start Game 5 at second base because he is mad, hungry and deserves to right the ship.  Mike Matheny has a way of going back to struggling young players and I hope he does here.  Wong isn’t the reason we lost this game.  He is merely one of them.   The kid messed up. Big deal? Yes!  Throw it on him only?  No!  Get it right in your head.  Kolten Wong deserves another shot.   Hopefully his teammates pick up his shoulders tonight off the floor and remind him baseball is great because everything can be turned around on the next huge play.

*Somehow, some way, we let a sore shouldered Clay Buchholtz’s sore shouldered ailed body pitch 4 innings and only allow 1 run.  We had a chance to jump on his soft tosses and missed out.  Bad approach, bad swings and little execution.  Do baseball readers read scouting reports?

*We can let David Freese start again.  Why not?  Imos boy is 1-12 in the World Series with 40,000 guys left on base.   His defense at third isn’t gold glove material so he needs to sit.   His bat can change a game with one swing and that means put him in a bench role.

Let him come off the bench late, when it’s Freeze Hour.  He doesn’t deserve 4 at bats a game right now.  He looks flat, solved and dead at the plate.   He wasted opportunities tonight but gets a pass because he was great in the postseason 2 years ago.

Freese has topped out and after a magical 2011 postseason and solid 2012 season, looks like damaged goods about to be released in the offseason.

*Mike Matheny shouldn’t have taken out Lance Lynn in the 6th inning.  Johnny Gomes was 0-2 against Lynn and looked horrible.   Why put in Seth Maness, your contact pitcher who is brought in for double plays, when you just need one out and your starter is fresh?  Lynn was visibly mad, not whining, and I back him here.  He was at 89 pitches, had life on his fastball, had 2 outs, and had only allowed 3 hits.

What made Matheny pull him?   Mike Matheny is afraid to let Lynn lose a game.   Why?  In September, John Mozelaik wanted Lance Lynn out of the rotation.   He told Matheny this and Mike backed his young starter and Lynn paid off his debt and did well.   However, Matheny is so scared to let Lynn give up the big bomb.

Mozelaik has more say in the management of this team than some believe I think.   He wanted Lynn gone, Matheny backed him and walks in fear daily.  Just my feeling but maybe a reason behind the early pull of Lynn tonight.    Lance Lynn had the stuff to finish the 6th inning.

*Daniel Descalso can have a bad day at the plate.  No hits. Bad strikeouts.  His big hits make us forget he is about as good of a hitter overall as Pete Kozma.   He is a magic man in that department.  Descalso popped up ball four in a crucial 7th inning spot where we had a chance to score more than 1 run.  He left too many runners on base, decides to swing the bat before the pitch comes and doesn’t need to start another game this series.

*Seth Maness has come down off the mountain in October.  He has allowed 6 of 10 inherited runners to score, which is the meat and potatoes stat for relievers.  He should only come in when a double play is needed and only then when the bigger guns are tied.

*Allow me to point out that two pitchers on the roster aren’t pitching meaningful innings.  They aren’t pitching at all.  Edward Mujica and Shelby Miller.   I understand loyalty to players and letting them know that their services rendered means something but you have to cut that off in the World Series.  Why isn’t Sam Freeman or Tyler Lyons on the roster as arms who can get people out?   Why not disable Miller or Mujica and activate Lyons or Freeman?  It’s probably not possible but it was worth the line.   I just don’t understand it.  How many managers waste a playoff roster spot twice?  Barely any.  Talking to you Mr. Matheny.  Give me an answer in that gruff Eastwood voice.

*Find a way to start Allen Craig.  He is so money at the plate and it’s hard watch him get one chance per game.  Before Wong’s mistake, Craig put the Cards in line to tie the game.  I don’t care if he can’t run.   Let him launch bombs and limp around the bases for all I care.  He has the winter to heal properly.  If he can field grounders let him go.  Play Matt Carpenter closer to first or something.  Make up for lost ground.  Get Craig in there.  Off the best closer in the American League, Craig has cranked two hits.  One to left and one to right.  He will be deadly against Jon Lester tomorrow.  Find a way.  Matt Adams is slowing down at the plate and will serve as a solid pinch hitter off the bench in the 8th or 9th.   Find Craig some Icy Hot, a Tony Robbins video and a live chicken. Get him out there.

Look, it wasn’t going to be easy.  If you want easy, apply for jobs on http://www.careerbuilder.com.   Winning the World Series takes guts, glory, comebacks and true clutch moments.  This is center stage.  The Cubs, Mariners, and Padres dream about this stage.  The Cardinals are here for the 4th time in 9 years and are in a dogfight with a team that plays baseball in a similar fashion to them.  Hard and to the end.   In Game 4, we got up early, and seemed to be in control until Gomes hit a ball out of the park.  We didn’t quit and lost in a tragic fashion.  Every game in this series has been dramatic and intense.  Expect the next 3(if needed) to be just as emotional and crazy.   That’s baseball in October.  Tense encounters.  Which team’s will breaks first?  We made two horrible errors and lost our way in Game 1.  We benefited off their mistakes and came back in Game 2.  We won a contested battle on a technicality in Game 3.  Game 4, a few bad decisions and performances cut us short.  What happens in Game 5?  This is what I want.

Don’t let David Ortiz beat you.  Let Adam Wainwright throw 130 pitches if needed.  Check Jon Lester’s glove for Clay Buchholtz’s green hair gel.  Don’t start David Freese.  Don’t start Daniel Descalso.  Start Kolten Wong.  And find Shelby Miller.  As long as the Cards play sound defense, get a few clutch hits and don’t self destruct I think Waino will bring this Game 5 home.

That’s all.  Thanks for staying.

-D. Buffa

@buffa82 on Twitter

IMAGE CREDIT-Fansided.com

 

 

The Cardinal Way Appears At Fenway

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I believe in the Cardinal Way.  While the Boston Strong moniker is wearing thin on me, this brand name sticks because it connects to the way the St. Louis Cardinals play baseball.   At their best, the Cards grind out at bats, make the plays, get timely hits and present young guns on the mound to make the other team squirm or look like old haggard sluggers.   On more than one occasion, Boston right fielder Shane Victorino stared out into space after striking out against Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez.  Dustin Pedroia went to a knee reaching for a Martinez delivery.  Johnny Gomes looked as useless as a plant in the winter time at the plate against Trevor Rosenthal.   Throughout their two years under Mike Matheny and the final portion of the Tony La Russa managerial streak, the Cards have been a team that strings the little hits together, doesn’t quit until the end and makes every effort count.  We are either universally loved or hated for never putting these attributes to rest.   As I said in the NLCS, the Cards play like they all grew up together and became a team and weren’t merely assembled to win.   Here is what happened Thursday night for the Cards to win 4-2 and pull the World Series even at 2 games.

*Michael Wacha pitched very well without his best stuff.  The Red Sox stuck to their sickening trend and made the young hurler work for his outs, but Wacha didn’t break.  Sure, David Ortiz hit a changeup above the green monster for a brief Boston lead, but that was all the Sox could score off the kid.   Wacha shut down another offense for 6 solid innings.  He is 4-0 this postseason.  I have a feeling he will adjust more to the Red Sox than they will to him for the next game.

*Carlos Beltran, fresh off a shot of painkillers to his bruised ribs, collected 2 key hits and knocked in a huge insurance run in the 7th inning where the Cards netted their lead taking charge to reclaim the game.   Beltran is a smooth easy going presence that could make walking across a tight rope look easy.   He has saved this team many times this postseason with different methods.  Deemed a slowing down player in September, Beltran slammed a 3 run bomb to open the playoffs at home against Pittsburgh.  He put on a one man show in the first game against the Dodgers, throwing out the winning run at home plate before knocking in the eventual game winner.  He saved a potentially back breaking embarrassing grand slam in Game 1 against the Red Sox on Wednesday night.  Under the shadows of playoff glory, Beltran is working his October magic.  I am glad it’s on our end and not like in 2004-2005 when he helped make our life a living hell while playing for Houston.   He is a Cardinal now and it will be hard to let him go after this season.

*Matt Holliday is quietly putting together a big postseason.  He isn’t collecting a ton of hits but he has made them count.  He hit a solo HR in game 1 and tripled and scored the first run last night.  In the first series’, he seemed to collect that HUGE HR and get the hits when needed.   It would be amazing if this long ridiculed left fielder won the World Series MVP.  That would shut all the haters up.  For all the errors on the infield and NLCS hijinks in the outfield, Holliday has played a solid outfield for the Cards.  He handled the green monster in Games 1 and 2.  He doesn’t make many flashy plays but he makes the routine ones and has a better arm than either of his center fielders.   Holliday is a secret weapon.

*The Young Arms reveal themselves to the Red Sox hitters.   Carlos Martinez, after being used here and there for most of the season, has broken out during the past month.   Once again, Matheny was keeping a hot sports car in the garage as long as he could until he had to use it.   Down the stretch run to the division title and through the playoffs, Baby Carlos is proving to be the late inning setup man to Rosenthal with his eye popping fastball and wicked breaking pitch and nearly folked Victorino up last night.   He threw a crucial 2 inning last night to form the bridge to Rosenthal’s shutdown 9th inning and is starting to lose the baby tags.   He is a mult-tool threat for the future that could contribute in the bullpen and rotation.  One of many.  Nice to see Rosenthal climb the rubber at Fenway and blow 11 fastballs past the Red Sox and silent their postseason momentum and that stuffed crowd of raucous beantown fanatics.  If we win this series, it will be on the heels of our great young pitching.

*Our defense stayed strong.  In a ballpark known for sending opposing players into fits, the Cards made the plays last night.  The highlight of the night was Pete Kozma redeeming himself with a misdirection grounder field and throw in the 7th inning that reminded people why he started so many games this summer for the Redbirds.   Kozma is a plus defender with a great arm and helped the defense hold the fort yesterday.

Instead of being down 2-0 and looking fatally wounded, the Cards come home with a 1-1 series and 3 games at Busch.   Sure, Allen Craig will probably be on the bench, but then again Boston will lose either David Ortiz or Mike Napoli.   Each team will lose an offensive bullet so its even.   The series will be defined by how little mistakes are made and how great the relief pitching can be.   So far, it’s tied and looks like a 7 game series.  At the moment, the momentum belongs to the Cards.

Thanks for staying,

D.L.B.

@buffa82 on Twitter