Poste by JE Powell
Wow. One, little, simple word, but it sums up what is, in this writer’s opinion, one of the greatest endings to a baseball season ever. woW. There, I wrote the word backwards and it still has the same impact, even if it looks a little weird.
I must confess, back in late August I had wrote the Cardinals off. Now, to be absolutely clear, I did not (nor would I ever, even in the worst of times) stop watching and paying attention to my beloved Cardinals. But conventional wisdom (which I admittedly stole from a M*A*S*H episode) is that a team can pick up a game a week. The Cards were 10 1/2 with about six weeks to play. I even commented to a co-worker in late August that the Cards would have to go 23-8 in September (which only has 30 days in that month, so how the Cards would play one more game than there are days in that calender month, I do not know) and at that time Atlanta was playing pretty well. Stictly from anecdotal evidence, I think most Cardinals fans felt that the Cards were not playing like a playoff team and were more than like NOT going to make the playoffs. I am often wrong, but I cannot remember a time when I have been so happy to have been wrong.
In 2006 I had a mantra all season long that continued down to the last day of the season. “The Cardinals just have to make the playoffs.”
“But the Cardinals have had two eight game losing streaks and a seven game losing streak and even got beat by nearly 20 runs by the Chicgo White Sox,” I had someone say to me.
“The Cardinals just have to make the playoffs,” I replied. Over and over again I said it. Every Cubs fan was rubbing it in, even though the Cubs finsihed 30 games under .500 that season. “The Cardinals just have to make the playoffs.” And in 2006, they did. By 1 1/2 games over the Houston Astros and the Cards ended the sesaon with a nearly pitiful 83-78 record. I think that was the 2nd worst record of a playoff team ever (the 2005 Padres finished 82-80 and won their division). I kept the faith, as it were. But 2011 was different.
This season, it didn’t look like the Cards would make the playoffs. They were not playing very well and they had seemingly too far back to make the playoffs. But then something happened. I don’t know what happened, but something obviously did. They started winning and Atlanta started losing. All through September the Cardinals kept winning and the Braves kept losing. The Cards swept the Braves in a three games series and picked up three games towards the Wild Card. In fact, I think the 2011 Cardinals need a nickname like the 1934 Cardinals “Gas House Gang” and I present to you, my faithful reader, the 2011 Cardinals “The Wild Cards”. It just fits. It’s nearly perfect, if a bit on the nose, I guess. But it sums up everything nicely. On the last day of the regular season, the Cards beat Houston 8-0 and the Braves lost to the Phillies 4-3 in 13 innings. The Cards were in.
But really, what were they going to do? They had to face a Phillies team that won 102 games and had what many predicted would be one of the best starting pitching rotations ever. No way the Cards are going to beat Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, or Roy Oswalt three times. “The Cardinals just have to make the playoffs.” The 2006 and 2011 Cardinals proved that that mantra is one that every Cardinals fan should keep in mind. Because once the playoffs start anything can happen. Case in point, the 2011 Cardinals. In the NLDS (National League Division Series) the Cards were down 2-1 in the series and had to face Roy Oswalt and then Roy Halladay. The Cards won game 4 to tie the series and then Chris Carpenter beat Roy Halladay 1-0 in one of the best pitching duels I have ever seen. NLDS Champion St. Louis Cardinals.
The Cardinals moved on, beating a team that many prediccted would win the World Series, to face the Milwaukee Brewers, a teamt he Cardinals haven’t faced in the playoffs since 1982 (when I was merely a year old). Nyjer Morgan, or Tony Plush, or whatever silly name he wants to give himself, made some silly comments (back in September) towards the Cardinals about them watching the Milwaukee Brewers on TV while Cards players sat at home. I love it when opposing players get cocky against the elder statesmen Cardinals. The Cardianls team, much to their credit, shrugged it off and did not retaliate. At least not with words. They did it with their bats and their bullpen. The Cards split in Milwaukee the first two games and then won on the road in Milwaukee (the toughest home team in all of baseball this year) to clinch a spot in the World Sereis. I certainly hope Nyjer Morgan enjoyed watching the Cardinals play in the world series. I am sure he has a very large, nice TV with high-def and could see everything nice and clear.
The World Series this year wasn’t the best played World Series, but damn was it entertaining. And Historic (with a capital “H”). The Cards won game one, then dropped game two in the top of the ninth inning when Texas scored two runs to take a 2-1 lead in the game. They headed to Texas for game 3. An Historic game because of one man, the true Prince of Baseball, Mr. Albert Pujols. Game 3 of the world series was a Wild (Cards) game, to say the least, but Albert Pujols put on, quite possibly the greatest offensive show you will ever see in the World Series. Sure, players have hit 3 home runs in a WS game (Ruth, twice, and Reggie Jackson), had 5 hits (Paul Molitor) and 6 RBI (Hideki Matsui) and 4 runs scored. But from what the experts said no one has ever had 3 HR, 4 Runs, 5 Hits, and 6 RBI…IN THE SAME GAME! Historic. When I saw Albert hit his first homerun, as soon as he made contact I said out loud, “It’s gone.” Just matter of factly. The sound of the ball off of a Cardinals bat in the WS is beautiful. Just Beautiful.
The Cards then dropped games 4 and 5 went to the Texas Rangers and the Series headed back to St. Louis with the Cards down 3 games to 2. I felt that whoever won game five would win the series. In game 6, when Texas went up 7-4 I thought, well, the Cards put in a hell of a season and the Rangers were definately a worthy adversary, my hats off to them. I kept watching, hoping for a miracle. I need to pause for just a moment to explain something. When the Cards fall behind or it looks like they are going to lose, I just assume they will. My reason is that if something great happens, it all the more great becasue I didn’t expect it, but if they do lose, at least I am not as dejected as I would have otherwise been. It’s a sort of defense mechanism. I didn’t give up, but I was kind of protecting myself, I guess.
So, the Cards are down 7-4 in game 6 when Allen Craig hit a solo shot to pull the Cardinals within two. Flashforward to the bottom of the ninth. 7-5, Cards sill behind. Pujols on 2nd, Lance Berkman on 1st. David Fresse up to bat. Has there ever been a more appropriate surname for a player in the history of baseball? David Freese had ice running through his veins. He gets ahead in the count 3-2, the Cards have two outs and are down to their last strike and that beautiful sound again, the ball of a Cardinal bat. A two run triple. Game tied.
Top of the 10th, one on and Josh Hamilton is up to bat. He swings at a ball a little low and outside and sends the ball over the fence for a two run home run. I texted my friend and fellow Cardinals fan (he is also the “official” STL: Fear the Red photographer, though I don’t post many pics) and said, “What was the point of the Cardinals tying the game up just to give the lead right back?” The Cardinals go to bat in the bottom of the 10th behind by two. Back to back hits, a bunt, and a ground out make it 9-8 Texas with two outs and the Cardinals have a player in scoring position. Lance Berkman gets up to bat and falls behind 1-2 in the count. Once again, the Cardinals are down to their last strike. If Berkman swings and misses the Rangers are champs. Oh, look at that, a single THE GAME IS FREAKING TIED AGAIN!!!! At this point I am curled up in a fetal position unable to take the drama any longer. OK, not really, but I was in my head, at any rate.
In the top of the 11th the Tony La Russa sends out Jake Westbrook to pitch, who hasn’t pitch in like a month. I’m thinking, oh no. But, oh yes, he holds them and keeps the game tied. Bottom of the 11th and up to bat is David “Absolute Zero” Freese. I say “Absolute Zero” because his veins are so ice cold that all molecular activity has stopped and he is no longer human. With one swing of the bat, a walk off home run, Absolute Zero has transcended baseball and become a Cardinals legend. I know with metaphysical certitude that one day when my baby daughter is older I will relive that moment over and over and over again as a bed time story. It was the greatest moment in my Cardinals lifetime, beating out Wainwrights curve to Carlos Beltran.The Cards made history for the 2nd time in the WS becoming the first team to come back from a two run deficit TWICE in the 9th inning or later. The also became the first WS team to score in the 8th, 9th, 10, and 11th innings of a World Series game. In my opinion, and I am sure the opinion of nearly all Cardinals fans, this was the Greatest World Series Game of Our Generation. Perhaps ever. Only time will tell, I suppose.
There was only one thing that would make this game better. A victory in game 7. A loss would diminish the heroics and the drama of game 6 in my mind. Game 7 was a good game, but couldn’t possibly rival game 6 and it didn’t. What it did do, though was, three fold: 1) Gave David “Absolute Zero” two more RBI (to tie the game again, so less) making him the current record holder for most RBI in the post season with 21, 2) Made Game 6 a perhaps legendary status, and 3) Made the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals World Series CHAMPIONS!!!!!!!!!
This season was one of the most memorable seasons I have ever seen, not just as a Cardinals fan but in general. All the Cardinals have done since last August is come back. They came back from 10 1/2 down to win the Wild Card; they came back from a 2-1 series deficit to win the NLDS; they came back FIVE times in game 6 of the WS to win; and they came back from a 3-2 series deficit in the WS.
Because when all is said and done, “All they have to do is make the playoffs.”
JE is a life long Cardinals fan and is still pinching himself. He can be seen very infrequently tweeting on Twitter at @stlfear_the_red and has a Facebook Fan page, though he has no idea what the address is. The Cardinals, at this time, have won the world series every year that he has had a blog.
* JE apolgizes for the lenght of the post and any grammatical and spelling errors. He will attempt to correct any mistakes that are pointed out and will eventually re-read through the long, long post to try and correct any he sees. That might not be for awhile, however, because he has alot of other UCB blogs to read through. Please forgitve him any mistakes that he has made.
Posted by JE Powell
The title of this post is also a chant that can be heard whenever you go to a Cardinals home game. Right now the Cardinals need our support, perhaps more than at any point this season. With tonight’s 6-5 victory over the Mets, coupled with the Braves 4-0 loss to the Marlins, the Cards sit a mere 1.5 games behind the Braves for the Wild Card. The Braves have 6 games left and the Cardinals have 7, so it’s going to go down to the wire.
Right now the Cardinals are playing solid baseball, predicated on the notion that efficient pitching and timely hitting wins games. The Cards finished 3-1 in a four game series against the Phillies, a team that many experts think will represent the National League in the World Series.
The season is drawing to a close and the Cardianls are definately hot right now, but they need to keep winning to have a shot at a playoff berth. After they finish this series with the Mets, the Cards must face the Cubs and Astros. The Cubs will not give in and that will be a tough series and, although they have not had a good season, Houston could play spoiler. It’s not an easy road ahead. So, put on your Cardinals apparel, tune in to Fox Sports Midwest and CHEER, CHEER, CHEER!
Posted By JE Powell
I am back! Well, at least to do a bit of bragging. It’s been over two weeks since my last post, but I have been preoccupied with moving and learning the new position I have at work. Hopefully, I will be writing at least twice a week. So, here we go.
As I promised when I wrote my Monthly Predicitons: May, if I were to be correct for the overall monthly record, I said I would do another “I was right, sort of…” post. So, here it is.
I predicted that by the end of May the Cardinals would have finished with a record of 17-12 for the month and an overall record of 33-23. Oh, and by the way, I WAS RIGHT!!! In fact, my batting average for this month is a very respectable .545. Slightly above random chance in reality, but in baseball terms, that’s pretty damn good. I counted the last game of the Atlanta series as a series, even though it was one game. I was wrong on that one. I also counted the first two games against San Fransisco as a series, though it closes out the month. I was right in predicting a 1-1 split those first two games.
I would also like to point out that I predicted a two game sweep of the Astros and I was right on that count, too. I only mention it because I predicted a three game sweep in April and even though I was wrong then, I decided to predict it again and I was right. It’s good to be back, writing about the team I love above all other sports frachises (thought, perhaps, I may start rooting for Winnipeg in the NHL, formerly the Atlanta Thrashers. Why? I don’t really know, I am not really a hockey fan). I hope to have my Monthly Predictions: June up sometime tomorrow.
Until next time, sports fans, this is JE from STL:FTR signing off.
PS, please excuse any glaring grammar or spelling errors as I sacrificed that for simply getting a new post out.
Posted by JE Powell
Just before the season started, I went through and predicted the outcome of each series in April (I was only right on 4 of the 9 series, but I had the over all recored right!) and I am now going to continue that for May. So, here I am at my computer, have a Diet Coke beside me and I am ready to go. (Just a note, I am going to go through this one a little quicker than last time, do to time constraints)
Cards at Atlanta, Last Game of 3 Game Series
It’s hard to sweep a series in the majors, but I am going to get greedy and say the Cards win this one. Derrick Lowe is the scheduled starter for Atlanta and he is fresh off of a DUI arrest, so perhaps he will be distracted. Oh, and the Cards have a little pitcher name Jaime Garcia going. 1-0
Cards vs. Florida, 4 Game Series
Florida is playing very well right now and so are the Cards. I see a draw. 2-2
Cards vs. Milwaukee, 3 Game Series
Milwaukee is a good hitting team this year, but seems to rely quite a bit on the long ball and their pitching isn’t quite what I thought it would be. They are still a good team, though, and I think it will be a tough series. Cards 2-1
Cards at Cubs, 3 Game Series
It seems to me that the Cards always struggle against the Cubs, especially in Chicago. I don’t have any stats to back that up, but I (and it frustrates me to says this) see a lost series. Cards 1-2
Cards at Cincinatti, 3 Game Series
The Reds are a much better team this year than their record (at the time of this writing, 13-13) would indicate and their is some recent bad blood between the two teams. I think the Cards have better pitching overall. Cards 2-1
Cards vs. Philadelphia, 2 Game Series
The Philies are pitching really well, but I think the Cards are two. These two teams match up well, in my opinion. Phillies have a little better pitching, but the Cards have a little better hitting. 1-1
Cards vs. Houston, 2 Game Series
If I keep predicting a sweep, I would have to be right sooner or later, right? Cards 2-0
Cards at Kansas City, 3 Game Series
The Royals are a good young team and a playing pretty well right now, but I think the Cards are a better team. I am also going out on a limb here and thinking that there might be as many Cards fans in KC as Royals fans. Might seem almsot like a home series. Cards 2-1
Cards at San Diego, 3 Game Series
A little revenge anyone? The Padres took two of three in St. Louis and since then the Cardinals have been hitting very well and the Padres haven’t. 2-1
Cards At Colorodo, 3 Game Series
This years Rockies team is much better than I thought they would be and are probably going to be near or at the top of the division all season long. Tough series, especially for in Colorodo. Cards 1-2
Cards vs. San Fransisco, 4 Game Series (Two in May)
The first two games depends on who the Cardinals face. If it’s Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, it will be tough to win both of the first two games. It will probably be tough anyway. 1-1
It’s kind of tough to predict how a team will do a week in advance, let alone a month, but, really, I have nothing to lose. Well, except perhaps the respect of my reader. But, my wife loves me, so I am not to worried about losing her respect. At least on my blog. If you do the math, I predict a 17-12 record for the month of May and a 33-23 record overall. If I am right, expect another “I Was Right! Sort Of…” post and if I am wrong, expect a “If you make enough predictions eventually you will get one right and just make sure you keep telling people about that one right prediction so they forget about the others” type of post. Or some such nonsense.
Posted By JE Powell
Back before the baseball season started, I did a prediction post about how I thought the Cardinals would fare in each series, you can read it here, if you wish. In the second to last paragraph, I said I thought the Cardinals would go 16-11 (plus or minus 11, you know, just to give myself some wiggle room). At the end of April , 2011, the Cardinals are, in fact, 16-11. So, I was right!
I only accurately predicted the outcome of 4 of the 9 series the Cards had in April, for a .444 average. But since this is primarily a baseball blog, a .444 batting average is pretty damn good.
Cards take 2 from the Padres. NOPE! Cards only won one game.
Cards take 2 from the Pirates. NOPE! Pirates took two.
Cards only win one against the Giants. YES! Well more like “yes (frowny face)”. The Cards lost the first two games of the series in the bottom of the ninth. Had they had a pitcher capable of closing a game at that point, they could have swept.
Cards take two of three from the Diamond backs. YES! This was the series when the bats came alive and began to take the National League by storm.
Cards and Dodgers split, 2-2. NOPE! And I am glad I got this one wrong. Cards took 3 of 4 and nearly swept the Dodgers.
Cards win two against the Nationals. YES!
Cards take two of three against the Reds. YES!
Cards sweep Astros. NOPE! They did take two of three from Houston, though.
Cards lose last two games of April to the Braves. NOPE! Another one I am glad to have been wrong on. In fact, the Cards one both of the April games against the Braves.
So, while I may have been below .500 on the predictions that led up to my 16-11 prediction, I was spot on for the overall record.
Posted by JE Powell
I want to take a look ahead to the schedule the Cards have for April (I am counting the one game in March) to see what kind of win loss record they will have when May 1st comes around. I am going to list their schedule by series and you can go here for a complete day-by-day schedule, if you are so inclined. My goal is to have a Monthly Prediction post up before the first of each month and take a look at the games ahead.
San Diego Padres, 3 Game Series:
I think the Cards can go 2-1 in this series. San Diego’s projected starting line-up doesn’t have anyone who hit better than .268 last season (Orlando Hudson) or hit more than 17 home runs (former Cardinal Ryan Ludwick). With the loss of Adrian Gonzalez (via trade with the Boston Red Sox) the Padres lost a near .300 hitter with 30+ home run and 100+ RBI capability. As of right now, they do not appear to have a team that has the ability to put many runs on the board each game.
Their pitching doesn’t appear to be that great right now, either, outside of Mat Latos perhaps. Latos won 14 games last year with a 2.92 ERA and 189 strikeouts and he’s only 23 years old, so he could become a top-tier ace. Clayton Richard had 14 wins as well, but with a 3.75 ERA. He did have a decent 153 K’s, though. Then there is Heath Bell, who posted 47 saves last season with 86 strike outs in only 70 innings pitched. So, if the Padres can get a lead going into the 9th inning, Heath Bell’s history suggests that they will hold the lead and win.
Pittsburgh Pirates, 3 Game Series:
I see another 2 out of 3 for the Cardinals. The Pirates have some young, talented players, especially Andrew McCutchen and Garrett Jones, but they are still a young team. A team that finished the season 57-105 last year. Their projected starting line-up has several players that could be All-Stars one day, but as has been the case more often than not the last several years, they will probably be All-Stars on other teams.
The Pirates biggest problem is pitching. Their projected opening day starter, Paul Maholm, went 9-15 with a 5.10 ERA last year. That’s barely a fifth starter on most teams. The Pirates projected five starters went a combined 26-54 last year, with Ross Ohlendorf going 1-11 and Charlie Morton going 2-12 (with a 7.57 ERA, yikes!).
The main reason I give the Cards a loss to the Pirates is that it seems like the Cardinals have a tendency to lose games against relatively bad pitching. I don’t have specific evidence, just past experience in being a Cardinals fan.
San Fransisco Giants, 3 Game Series:
This will be a tough series and I think the Cards will lose 2 of 3. The San Fransisco Giants are the defending World Series Champions and they have a shot to repeat. Buster Posey is coming of off a Rookie of The Year award and Pablo Sandoval and Aubrey Huff are two very capable hitters. Edgar Renteria has gone on to the Reds, but was replaced by former MVP Miguel Tejada, who may be in the twilight of his baseball career, but can still perform.
Which brings us to the one of the top two or three pitching staffs in the National League. Tim Lincecum won the Cy Young award in 2008 and 2009 and could win more in the near future. Matt Cain is a solid number 2 starter and could be an ace on many other teams. Together Lincecum and Cain combined for 29 wins and 408 strikeouts last year. The Cards may not have to face Lincecum in this series because the first game of the Giants series is the seventh of the year for both teams, so Lincecum will more than likely have pitched the day before. That’s why I think the Cards will win one. If Lincecum does pitch, there could be a sweep.
Arizona Diamondbacks, 3 Game Series:
This is a team to look out for this year with a very good young core of players in Stephen Drew, Justin Upton, Kelly Johnson, and Chris Young. I think that the D-Backs should be able to put some runs up on the board. However, I think the Cards will go 2-1 against this team. Here is a look at their depth chart.
Record-wise their pitching didn’t look to good last year, except for perhaps Daniel Hudson who posted an 8-2 record with a 2.42 ERA in only 14 games. If the offense can put up some runs, I look for pitchers such as Ian Kennedy and Joe Saunders to win 11-12 games, which would be an improvement over last season.
Los Angeles Dodgers, 4 Game Series:
I predict a split in this series. Here’s a look at the Dodgers depth chart. Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, and James Loney are three very capable hitters, but at 37 Casey Blake is starting to decline. If he can hold up, he may very well be productive. The addition of Juan Uribe will certainly help, assuming that can put up another 20+ HR, 80+ RBI season. I don’t think this team is capable of winning the NL West or even getting the wild card, but I think they will be around .500 when the season ends.
Their pitching looks to be pretty decent this year. All five of their starters won 10+ games last year and Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley could both win 15 games. If those stats hold up, you are looking at a starting rotation that’s capable of winning 55 to 60 games. Not to shabby.
Washington Nationals, 3 Game Series:
Win 2, lose 1. The Nats added Jayson Werth, but lost Adam Dunn, though the acquisition of Adam LaRoche will certainly help the team. The Nationals have done a pretty good job of improving the offense of the team. Their probable starting line-up has former Cardinal Rick Ankiel in left, though he has a tendency to strike out and does not seem to be able to his left-handed hitters, so he may platoon in left. Center fielder Nyjer Morgan can steal some bases and run out some bunts for hits, but other than that his bat doesn’t have much pop.
Their pitching isn’t really any better either. Livan Hernandez could be their opening day pitcher and he went 10-12 last season. I think one of Washington’s bottom of the rotation pitchers will sneak a win in this series.
Cincinnati Reds, 3 Game Series:
I have touched upon the Reds in an earlier blog, so I am not going to go to in-depth here. There Reds have reigning MVP Joey Votto and the team is coming off of a sweep in the NLDS. The Reds won the division by five games over the Cards last year and will be in the mix to repeat as division champs this year. The Cards had the Reds number last year winning 12 of 18 and I look for that to continue this year. 2-1.
Houston Astros, 3 Game Series:
The Astros had a nice stretch from June 1st on last year where they had a winning record in that time period and they may be able to build on that this year, but I look for them to be at the bottom of the barrel this year along with the Pirates. Hunter Pence and Carlos Lee have some pop in their bats and Michael Bourn is a very speedy guy, so this team may put some runs up on the board and sting you when you aren’t looking, but I am predicting a 3-0 sweep of this team. This series is in Houston, but I just have a feeling that brooms will be involved.
Atlanta Braves, 2 Games of 3 Game Series in April:
The Cards will play to games of a three game series to finish out April. The Braves look to be an offensively improved team with the addition of Dan Uggla, though I would certainly not call him a defensive improvement. I think Snoopy is a better defensive player. The Braves outfield is looking pretty good with Martin Prado in left, Nate McClouth in center, and Jason Heyward in right. These three guys are capable of power and hitting for average. If Chipper Jones can stay healthy, look for this team to be in the playoff hunt for a wild card spot (The Phillies pitching may be to strong for any other team to seriously think about winning the NL East). 0-2
So, my prediction for the month of April is the Cardinals going 16-11, plus or minus 11. The Cards, I think, have a good team and will continue to do what they have done in years past be winning 16+ games in April and then have slightly worse months (record-wise) in May and June (than they did in April), but I will take a closer look at those months when they get nearer.
So, there you have it, a minimally researched outlook at the month to come with some mediocre analysis and sub-par links. Do you kind of get the feeling that you are watching Saturday Baseball on Fox after reading this?