It’s a shame that so much had to go wrong in Waino’s coming out game. I have to say – and I’ll get murdered for this – it’s good to see the Cubs with some fight in them. I like to poke fun at the small bears and their small-minded fans…but I hate to see any fan base go entire life times without winning a championship. That’s gotta’ be painful. But last night’s game at Wrigley, from a Cardinals fan’s perspective, was a culmination of disturbing trends, bad luck, and inexcusable flaws that Major League Baseball refuses to address aggressively.
Right up front, this Cardinals team tried to play their hearts out for Wainwright. Firing throws to the plate, diving across home to make desperate tags that would never be seen, and picking off runners at second base. This team – especially Yadi – wants to win for Adam, and as much as he was there for them during their 2011 run, they want to be there for him while he recovers. It’s too bad their efforts came up empty…but at least they got him off the hook for the loss.
Speaking of great plays, let’s lay off Tyler Greene just a bit for last night’s loss. Yes, he had a chance to make a big league play and save the game for another inning – and he should have made it – but that tag at second base that the umpire missed was brilliant. I honestly believe no other second baseman on the team makes that play. He got his foot in position, blocked the bag, and applied the tag quickly and cleanly on an aggressive throw by Yadi. Greene knew Yadi wanted that out (he’s obviously taking last year’s throw out rate personally), and he knew he made the play – the replay clearly confirmed it – but the ump blew it. If that play is called correctly, we could be talking about the amazing tag Greene made to potentially save the game instead of the play he didn’t make to lose it.
Rafael Furcal needs to get his head in the game when he’s in the field. After all the uproar about Greene’s flubs, it’s Furcal that actually leads the team in errors this season with three. I typically don’t assign a lot of weight to errors simply because they don’t tell the whole story – or even always an accurate story – but in Rafi’s case, his errors total is telling. Every one of his gafs in the field have been clearly makeable plays on balls hit right at him. Last night, he rushed the play and dropped the ball. That’s it. He just dropped it. And the run that scored as a result cost us the game. Up to this point, I don’t remember any of Furcal’s previous errors being so signficant…but last night’s play stands out. Greene – a known enigma – had trouble handling a smashed line drive that would eat up half the second basemen in the league. Furcal – the veteran starting shortstop – booted a simple, routine grounder that any SS in baseball could make in their sleep. It’s bad enough that the position that’s supposed to be our best defender is leading the team in errors – but now it’s costing us games. Time to get some Oquendo time.
I thought Yadier Molina was going to jump out from behind home plate and tackle the winning run. The All-Star catcher was doing everything in his power to stop the Cubbies in their tracks and get a win in an Adam Wainwright start. It’s clear Yadi cares about his pitchers and takes their well-being personally – especially Carp and Waino. Last night in Wrigley, Yadi called an outstanding game, picked off a man at second base – his 40th – and should also have a diving tag at the plate and a throw out at second. Oh…and he went two for four with a double on a night when the Cardinals’ offense could only tally six hits overall. He clearly came to play.
Speaking of Yadi…did anyone notice Molina wagging his finger at, and jawing with, the Cubs’ dugout after that should-have-been throw out of Campana at second? Near as I could tell, according to the broadcast and the announcers, Garza and Yadi somehow ended up yapping at each other after the play. As much as I hate to see another heated rivalry get started between the Cardinals and an NL Central team, it is good to see some fire in the Cubs/Cards rivalry again. Sure, the Cubs are destined for a season of cellar dwelling this year – and that alone will likely cool the rivalry as it plays out – but the “friendly” rivalry tag has been too liberally applied to blue vs. red for years. The Cubs are rebuilding…from the bottom up…and they’re headed for change. It wouldn’t be a bad thing for the Cardinals to remind the Cubbies who the class of the division is, has been, and will be.
Once again, the Cardinals offense failed to show up. And once again, Carpenter went 0 for 3 and Beltran – hitting in the clean-up spot – went 0 for 4. I think it’s time for a change. With Lance Berkman in the lineup, I’m the first to advocate Puma in the two spot and Beltran in the four hole. Without getting into that subject here, with Puma gone, Beltran in the clean-up spot in the order doesn’t appear to be working. He’s hitless in his last four games – not that it would matter with the severe drop in OBP in the spots ahead of him – and the offense is sputtering. As a result, I’m going to suggest something I typically argue against here at Cards ‘N Stuff…it’s time to bump Freese and Molina up in the order (*gasp*). Carlos Beltran needs to return to the two spot between Holliday and Furcal, and David Freese needs to be plugged into the clean-up spot with Yadi in the flanking position. That produces a lineup of the following: 1. Furcal SS, 2. Beltran RF, 3. Holliday LF, 4. Freese 3B, 5. Molina C, 6. Schumaker CF, 7. Greene/Descalso Platoon 2B, 8. Carpenter 1B, 9. Pitcher. It’s not ideal, sure…but it could help our offense survive until Craig/Berkman can return. (To read more about Berkman’s absence and the impact it’s having on this offense, CLICK HERE).
Finally, once again it’s become painfully obvious that MLB needs to address the inadequate umpiring being displayed game-to-game. I’m typically the first one to say the reason the Cards didn’t win a game is their own play – lack of offense, lack of timely pitching, lack of critical plays made, etc. – but the reality is that sometimes umpires do cost you a game. Last night, the Cardinals didn’t hit well…Scrabble got lazy and lost focus with his up-in-the-zone pitch to LaHair…and timely plays were not made (Furcal and Greene?) – but they did make enough plays to win. If the umpires had one critical blown call – okay, that happens. But last night saw them blow two calls that easily and directly contributed to the loss. Interestingly enough, both calls were on plays where the player didn’t actually touch the base but the umpire made the assumption that they did. When will MLB address the ridiculous umpiring in the game today? The way it’s going, MLB’s refusal to aggressively address the umpiring issue is paving the way for exactly what they hope to avoid – expanded instant replay.
That’ll do it for today. Day game to avoid the sweep in Wrigley…ugh. Let’s hope Lynn is on his game today.
P.S. It’s too bad that the poor outcome of last night’s game will overshadow Waino’s tough performance on the mound. Let’s hope his outing is a sign of things to come.