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Game Recap: Cardinals 11, Padres 3

THE GOOD

The Schu Fits  Skip Schumaker, despite what many Cardinals fans tend to believe, is quietly becoming one of the most valuable outfielders in the National League. Last night, Skippy went an impressive 4 for 5 with a double, a walk, and two runs scored – a performance just good enough to step back over the .300 line with a .301 batting average. And, as if his excellent table-setting ability was not enough, Skip made more than one stellar play in the outfield last night, including a spectacular diving catch that saved at least two runs and possibly the game (there’s no telling what can happen if you let a game like last night get close). It’s time fans finally realize that this Schu is just the right size for our Cardinals outfield.

Ank the Tank Opens Fire  I have to say, I was one of those fans second-guessing TLR and wondering if he should have DL’ed Ank in order to bring up the ball-crushing Joe Mather from Triple A. But wouldn’t you know it…I was wrong again (between this and the Izturis thing, this is getting to be an unpleasant habit). Ank came in cold off the bench – after not playing since Friday – with a potentially still-injured shoulder… and promptly hit a 2 run shot. I admit it…you were right, Tony. A player like Rick is just too valuable to DL if there is a possibility of him getting well enough to play even a few games he would likely miss from a 15-day stint. Guess that’s why he gets the parades and I’m stuck in the confines of the blogosphere…not that I’m jealous…not at all…well…maybe a little…

It Works! It Works!  Last night was a small sample of how this offense is supposed to work. Guys in front getting on base, guys in back bringing them in, and everyone with opportunities to contribute. We haven’t seen our offense click like that since…well…a long time ago. As a fan, it’s difficult to watch all this lineup tinkering TLR has become fond of…but a few more games like this could actually produce a bit more regularity to the lineup. For more on the success of a lineup like last night’s configuration, see my previous Adam Kennedy post: “Fear vs. Reality – The AK Experiment.”

The Boys are Back in Town  Chris Duncan and Troy Glaus continued their simultaneous hitting recovery in the 5 and 6 spots going a combined 4 for 7 with 4 RBIs, 3 runs scored, and 3 walks. Even the 1 strikeout between them was the result of a tough pitch running low and away on the outside corner that Duncan is learning to recognize as a pitch he can’t handle consistently. If the two keep up this joined-at-the-hip hitting streak, I may just have to start referring to them as the Twin Towers…I know, I know…overused…but Bash Brothers was already taken…

Looper’s Lazy Day  With all the oddities in last night’s game, it’s a wonder Braden made it as long as he did. Between the Cardinals’ long offensive innings, the two unusual Padres injuries, and the lengthy warm-up session by Young’s pitching replacement, it’s a wonder Looper could even take the mound again…but he did, and he battled through 5 innings with 92 pitches despite a lazy day with perhaps more time spent on the bench between innings than he actually spent on the mound pitching. He may have only lasted 5 innings, but he earned his 6th win of the year.

Katie Bar the Door!  On the flip side of Looper’s gritty performance, the bullpen was asked to pitch 4 full innings to secure the win. They came through admirably. Of the four pitchers who entered the game, only McClellan allowed a hit (2) while Villone and Parisi walked a batter each – but none came around to score as the bullpen effectively shut the door on the down-trodden Padres.

THE BAD

Young and Bard  Early in the game, Pujols reached out and drilled a line drive into pitcher Chris Young’s face. He left the game with a broken and lacerated nose. In the same inning, Pujols’ hard but clean slide into catcher Josh Bard’s extended left ankle (an ill-advised attempt to block the plate) sent the Padres’ backstop to the disabled list with a sprained ankle. Early indications suggest both will eventually be okay…but any true baseball fan hates to see that happen to anyone. We send our prayers to both players and wish them a speedy recovery.

Pujols’ Psyche  After the injuries he inadvertently inflicted, Pujols was clearly rattled. In fact, that was his only hit of the game. The distraught first baseman went 1 for 5 on the night and was lifted late in the game by La Russa due to his clear inability to focus at the plate. Pujols stated the injuries did in fact bother him quite a bit and would bother him for a day or two afterwards. Thankfully, the Cards have an off day Thursday that should afford Albert some much needed down time to collect himself.

A Disturbing Trend  Despite Looper’s admirable perseverance, his string of I-didn’t-have-my-best-stuff starts is becoming a trend. Too often Looper has had to gut it out in games where he reportedly did not have his best pitches working for him. This, of course, is an improvement over last year when he would routinely lose games without said stuff, but one has to wonder just when exactly we will see a game when his stuff actually returns. One also has to wonder if Looper is feeling the effects of consistently throwing 100 pitches per start for the first time in his career. Let’s hope he figures it out soon…if nothing else, the All-Star break is on the horizon and could allow him a much-needed break to rest and reboot.

THE UGLY

Dude…Seriously…Lay Off the Kool Aid  On a night when everything seemed to be falling the Cardinals’ way, Brendan Ryan turned in a disappointing 0 for 4 performance at the plate. Many fans in St. Louis feel this guy is the shortstop of the future, and perhaps his occasional hitting woes are the result of inconsistent plate opportunities, but whatever it is, it needs to get fixed. With Izturis playing well, Ryan needs to show he can keep up regardless of how many regular at-bats he gets; otherwise, he will again be overlooked this winter when the Cardinals are considering who their starting shortstop/second baseman is going to be for ’09. With the only clear offensive hole in the lineup residing at the middle infield positions, Ryan needs to make his case now if he expects to be considered over other available free-agents and trade targets during the off season. If he can’t do it, high-priced options such as Dan Uggla become all-too inviting. Such a signing/deal not only imperils Ryan’s roster spot with the club, but also squeezes him out of starting shortstop contention – remember, he’s considered the future for his bat, not his defense. If we sign an offensive second baseman, we can easily afford to go the experienced defender route at short, and Ryan is not that guy.

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