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Bird Watching

Bird Watching: All Hands on Deck

Adam Kennedy drops a fly ball in right field allowing 2 runs to score.Last night was exactly what the Cardinals needed. With Adam Wainwright on the mound for the Cards and Dave Bush on the mound for the Brew Crew, a win was assured. It was a win the Cardinals desperately needed – but it was a win that would not be realized. Instead of handily trouncing the rival club’s worst pitcher (Bush was 0 – 4 coming into last night), our scrappy young bird-ballers dropped a hair-puller in 8 – 3 fashion. They’ve now lost 5 of their last 6 and have fallen a game behind the Cubs for first place in the NL Central.

We knew this was coming, though…didn’t we? Before the game, Bernie Miklasz of StlToday.com posted the following in response to a fan discussion regarding Molina in the 2-spot:

“Dave Bush is a terrible pitcher, and if they can’t beat him with this or any other lineup, then it’s futile… so enough already with the overreaction.”

Thanks for the jinx, Bernie. Cardinals hitters mustered just 4 hits and 1 earned run against Bush while Brewers hitters effectively punished Wainwright for mistakes up in the zone and over the heart of the plate. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not picking on the Cardinals or Bernie. I love both of them emphatically. But I think it is appropriate to point out our over-confidence entering this game (including myself), and that is one reason why I believe we desperately needed a game such as this one even more, perhaps, than a win. Let me explain…

The past week has been a tough one for the Cards. After starting strong, the club lost the final two games in Colorado while playing – well – just plain sloppy. Enter Milwaukee and a new beginning, right? Wrong. The Cardinals’ sloppy play and bad-luck breaks continued, and the visiting club dropped 3 of 4 while the stalking Chicago Cubs caught fire, torching the eye-opening Arizona Diamondbacks. Everything that could happen did happen – or at least it seemed that way.

After blowing saves in both Colorado and Milwaukee, Jason Isringhausen stepped down as the club’s closer. The rest of our bullpen has seemingly gone over to the dark side. Yadier Molina was quickly (and ridiculously) tossed from a game for “arguing” balls and strikes. His manager quickly followed. Our staff ace was chased with 8 runs (some earned, some not). The Brewers’ Ryan Braun homered twice…per game…in two separate games…on two consecutive days. And the usually sure-handed Adam Kennedy dropped what should have been a routine fly ball in shallow right field with 2 outs (two more runs scored).

You knew a game like this was coming…and we desperately needed it. In last night’s game, all hell broke loose. The Cardinals lost their cool, and so did I as I screamed at the TV, “Drill someone! Just drill him!” We came into this game over-confident, hoping our staff ace could over-match their staff whipping boy and halt the skid with minimal effort from the rest of us. And that’s exactly how it appeared it would go in the first when Ank lifted a solo shot over the wall for a one run lead. But then it all fell apart…and we were brought back to earth just a bit with a very sobering end to a god-awful road trip. Screw the road. I hate the road.

So why did we need a game like last night, again? Because it humbled us with a slap to the face that served as a reminder – no one is going to step aside and give us this division. We are NOT the best team out there. Every game we win is going to have to be earned the hard way. Considering the scrappy nature of this team, I think remembering that is important. But there was another reason why we needed last night’s game. It allowed us to purge – a thick, puss-like purge – before heading back to St. Louis for a little bit of home-cookin’. Couldn’t you just feel the build-up from the road trip? All the “what ifs” and “if onlys” hanging in the air from previous road games? What if Albert had caught that foul ball? What if Duncan had not misplayed that ball in left? And on, and on, and on… We needed a bottom-out game like this…one that ripped all excuses from us – our best pitcher vs. their worst pitcher should be a slam dunk. But it wasn’t. It was a wake-up call.

I can hear Cardinals Nation waking up this morning and panicking, the cry of “All hands on deck!” ringing through the St. Louis air. But let’s not lose perspective. This game was coming. It was indicative of the entire road trip. In fact, ask yourself…which would you rather have…a win last night that simply served to put off the inevitable bottom-out that you knew was coming…or the loss we got that should serve as a reboot the day before we get to come home against one of the perennial bottom-dwellers in our division? I’ll take the reboot…especially just before a long road trip. In fact, I think this game is exactly what we needed.

But that still doesn’t mean I forgive Bernie…next time, let’s just leave the sleeping bear alone, okay?

BIRD SEEDS

Say it ain’t so, Jimmy!  Jim Edmonds, Cardinals great for much of the last decade, may be signing with the Chicago Cubs this week. Jim was unceremoniously dumped by the San Diego Padres after requesting the Cardinals trade him to that very club during the off season. He was off to a horrid start (.178 and 1 HR) and appears to have lost a step or two in center field…but I still hurt for him. I love Jim Edmonds. He was a true Cardinal and a joy to watch. That said, if he sides with the enemy this season, I would rank such a betrayel right up there with Anakin Skywalker’s turn to the dark side. Hopefully, he can still be saved.

Unassisted Triple Play – Wow!  Asdrubal Cabrera of the Cleveland Indians (say that five times fast…I dare ya’) turned a rare unassisted triple play in last night’s game against the Blue Jays. That’s just amazing. We will always go out of our way to recognize truly great baseball on this blog – Cardinals-related or not. Check out the story on mlb.com: http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20080512&content_id=2686835&vkey=news_mlb&fext=.jsp&c_id=mlb

Izzy is a True Professional  Jason Isringhausen is exactly what you want out of a professional baseball player…especially in St. Louis. After heroically (and secretly) attempting to battle through a horrendously painful hip injury a few years ago, Izzy has humbly recognized his own ineffectiveness and asked to be removed from the closer’s role just 8 saves shy of 300. That’s ballsy right there, fans. Izzy has given more than you know to this organization over the years – and he’s done so amidst an unusually unforgiving crowd in St. Louis. The guy is a true class act, and I sincerely hope he makes it back to his old form – so treat him with some respect, mmm-k? In fact, if I see a fan booing Izzy, I think I might just slap him full-on across the face.

Chris Duncan is Coming Around  Speaking of giving a player a break, how ’bout throwing one Chris Duncan’s way? I’ve been right there with you in my living room yelling at his outfield guffaws, but the guy is working hard and getting better. In fact, his last few games at the plate have been immeasurably better with a few RBIs and a homerun. We really need him to turn it around, and it looks like he’s headed in the right direction.

Someone Put Cesar Izturis in a Straight Jacket!  Twice now…twice he has swung on the first pitch in a critical situation. The first was against Jeff Suppan immediately after he walked 3 baserunners to load the bases. Cesar swings at the first pitch and dribbles it back to the pitcher. The second was last night after Bush had walked the two previous hitters in the midst of a ninth inning rally with one out. Cesar quickly jumped on the first pitch to become the second out and severely handicap the rally. GAH! Here’s hoping someone pulls him aside and teaches him a bit about situational at-bats.

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