Tagged: St. Louis Cardinals

Rick Ankiel is still hitting the ball

Remember when Rick Ankiel broke down and admitted that he didn’t have pitcher stuff? Instead, he had outfield stuff, and he was going to do that instead. It must be nice to have so much talent that you can switch positions.

We checked back with him last year, and he was doing pretty well for himself. And now, the guy who struck out 19.7 batters/9IP in his senior year of High School is looking like he is a right fielder for good. On June 16th, he had 3 homers in one game. He now has 19 on the year, along with 52 RBI. (I began writing this piece on June 20th. Since then, Ankiel has gone 0-13.) Not bad, Rick. And he turns 28 in a month. How insane would it be if, having led the Cardinals to the NL Central title in 2000, he comes back in 2007 to replace the old and decrepit Jim Edmonds? As I mentioned before, I like Jim, but it might be time for him to launch a preemptive strike of the "you can’t fire me, I quit" variety. The Cardinals probably have the most lopsided drama-to-wins ratio of any team besides the Astros. And maybe the Orioles. Anyway. Rick’s problem is that he can only play right field, apparently. This is the stupidest thing I have ever heard. Sure, the ball comes off the bat differently to left or right. But have you ever looked in a mirror? It’s the same effect. They’re basically the same position. Center, you can’t learn – you just have to be an athletic guy. But left and right are dopplegangers. It takes time to adjust, but the Cardinals have the entire 2007 season to play with. This whole year is already one big training exercise, except all the ‘trainees’ are really old. I submit that Juan Encarnacion’s "success" in right shouldn’t keep Ankiel out of the bigs, as La Russa says. The only real problem is that he has no options remaining. And the Cardinals can’t afford to give up any more outfielders for no reason. So they want him to develop, and they don’t think he can get good playing time in the Majors yet. So he’s still down in the minors.

In fairness to the Cards, this is probably the right decision. Ankiel is only batting .270 in the AAA PCL league. So he isn’t setting the world on fire, by any means. So one argument is to give the guy some limited MLB experience while the stakes are low, and risk losing him to another team if he has to get sent down again. Or you leave him in the minors to develop at a 4AB a day pace. Basically a wash.

Also, thanks go out to geoff for the comment the other day. I forgot about that, because I forgot that you guys posted comments. Because you stopped posting comments. Anyway, it looks like we have found a new home at http://ballhouse.blogspot.com. Nothing concrete yet. Right now, we’re calling ourselves the Ballhouse. Not sure I like that name, in fact I’m pretty sure I don’t. Best suggestion for a new name gets a prize. Send it to me at reidksmith at hotmail. Include your business in the subject line, or I might delete it along with the payment due notices from Discover.

The Battle for Missouri Supremacy

There is one thing you have to love about interleague play. You can beat it up for screwing with the team’s records. You can knock it for forcing AL pitchers to hit. Heck, you can even take issue with the over-commercialized, we’re-going-to-stuff-it-down-your-throat advertising. But you can’t say a bad word about some of the great Interstate match ups that take place every year. And I’m not talking about the Subway series, or the freeway series, or any of that garbage. I’m talking about Florida v. Tampa Bay. And, new to this year, St. Louis v. Kansas City. What used to be serious three-day slaughterhouse is now a send-in-the-clowns matchup. We’re talking about two of the worst teams in the game right now. And tonight, they’re pitting off for the decisive game 3.

It’s been a real rubber band series so far. Mark Teahen had a single, double, and a triple to lead the Royals to a Game 1 victory over the Cardinals, 8-1. Royalscardspreview_1
But the Cardinals came surging back to take Game 2, 7-3. And now Kip Wells faces Scott Elarton for the tie-breaker. Hows this for a series-deciding matchup? I don’t even know what to say. I mean, is Kip Wells the better pitcher because his ERA is a full point less than Elarton’s, at 6.33? Or is Elarton the better pitcher because he only has 2 loses, and not 10? Seriously guys, this game could go either way. You can just see these two clubs battling it out on the diamond. Beating the heck out of one another. After all, winner is the best baseball team in Missouri, right? And who doesn’t wake up every morning wanting exactly that? Are they even playing this game at a major league ballpark? Is anyone even going to show up? Does anyone even care?

And after this, the Royals play the Marlins. There’s another interleague matchup we have all been dying to see. Two teams that, quite frankly, could pack up their tents tomorrow and go home, (or move to Las Vegas, I guess,) and no one would notice. Who was the scheduling genius at MLB who decided, "hey, we’ve got this great marketing tool here with interleague play. It really gets the fans involved. Shows them something they’ve never seen before. And you know what the Missourians need to see? Another 100-loss team." Exactly. Maybe it will keep Royals fans from selling their loyalty on eBay when they realize, ‘man, my fellow Marlins fan has got it even worse than I do. I think I’ll hold on for one more year.’ Don’t hold your breath, brother. And by the way, once Dan Uggla comes crashing down from his turbo-orbit, that team is going to fall apart. Again. And it won’t be Lou Piniella’s fault this time, Curt.

The Cardinals are trying something new this year

We’ve talked about the Cardinals a bunch lately. And right now I’m ‘watching’ the CBS GameCenter of the Reds v. Cardinals, and I have to ask… how much longer are the Cardinals going to try to win games with a 5-man lineup before they decide the experiment has failed? In our ‘Welcome to the wacky fun house that is the NL Central‘ post, we discussed the faults in the Cardinals rotation. Now we’re going to talk a little more about that interesting lineup of theirs…

Fun Fact #1 – The only player on the active roster with an average above .300 is Adam Wainwright.
Adam also has a 5.12 ERA. So maybe they should go Rick Ankiel on him. Anyway, the Cardinals’ lineup tonight, which I assume to be pretty typical, at least statistically, is as follows: Eckstein, (.288) is leading off, which is where you want your best hitter. Followed by Chris Duncan, Albert Pujols, Jim Edmonds, Scott Spiezio. Then you have Encarnacion (.231), Gary Bennett (.254), Adam Kennedy, (.224), and your pitching spot. That’s really a 5 man lineup. And it’s one of those things that’s just going to roll over itself and get progressively worse. As more and more managers realize that Jim Edmonds/Scott Rolen is no longer as sharp with a bat as he once was, no one will pitch to Albert anymore. It’s bad enough already. How much farther can you get from not protecting the best hitter in the game when you put a .244 hitter behind him? Typically, Rolen will hit behind Pujols. He is batting .258 so… no difference.

Fun Fact #2 – The Cardinals offense ranks in the bottom four of 16 NL teams in 10 of 12 categories.
This one is really unbelievable, folks. And it’s according to baseball-reference, (which, though I have no way to prove it, is quickly becoming the most frequently cited website in the world.) There are 16 NL teams, so here are all 12 categories and the Cardinals’ respective ranking: AB (16th), Runs (15th), 2B (16th), 3B (16th), HR (13th), BB (16th), SO (16th), Avg. (11th), OBP (13th), SLG (15th), SB (16th), SB (16th). Keep in mind that for SO, 16th is technically first place. So they’re not striking out a lot, which is good. But they’re also never getting on base, which nullifies that. Keep in mind, this is for the entire National League. You know, the same league that the Pirates, Marlins, Red, Nationals, and Rockies play in.

Fun Fact #3 – Apparently, Barry Bonds is a better hitter than Albert Pujols.
And five times better, in fact. Bonds has 20 intentional walks this season. Pujols, with the solid-hitting Scott Rolen batting behind him, has 6 intentional walks. Furthermore, Adam Kennedy – whose OBP (.292) is higher than his SLG (.286) – has 5 IBB. Bonds has better protection. And heck, Kennedy, who is ‘protected’ by the pitcher’s spot, is pretty much the same matchup as the pitcher. So, the first person who can explain this gets a prize.

Then again, asking for your guys’ input lately is a downright waste of time. I appreciate the CBox comments, Kaylee and Mark. Definitely appreciate the praise. What is strange is that, on Sunday, we logged 3,157 visits. And 0 comments. So… I’m thinking of shifting to a shorter-post, more frequent model. Which has always been the opposite of what we’ve been doing here at BHGM for the last 2 years. But I think it may be time to get more concise.

UPDATE: Too soon for another post, but I just couldn’t keep this to myself. Nate Robertson got bounced around the yard this evening. Actually, the problem was more that the balls he was throwing were bouncing… in the seats. Nate went exactly 0 innings before he was ‘yanked.’ He allowed 6 runs, all earned, without getting an out, on 4 hits and 2 walks. Sammy Sosa hit a bases-loaded single, followed by a Victor Diaz grand slam, followed by a Marlon Byrd (of course,) triple. Game over, Nathan. He saw his ERA rise from a decent 4.25 to a frightening 5.07. There’s that Texas offense for you.

Also, Carl Crawford is just killing me in this week’s fantasy matchup. So far tonight, he’s 3-5 with a 1B, 2B, HR, 3RBI, and 3R. That’s 13 points against. I’m 9-0 in this head-to-head pay league, and Crawford might ruin it for me. In other news, Andruw Jones is a respectable 0-7 in today’s Braves-Marlins doubleheader. Guess that would be a "bad day," huh Andruw?

Welcome to the wacky fun house that is the NL  Central

Ah, sorry about the break guys. My older brother got married this weekend, congratulations Dave. We’ll talk about something that, criminally, I’ve been avoiding this season – the Brewers and Cardinals. I’ve always loved the Brewers, especially when they had Carlos Lee. Lee is, by far, the most underrated player in the game, I believe. He consistently puts up great numbers. For example, he is currently leading the NL with 45 RBI’s, (he’s with the Astros). Back to the Brewers.

You may recall there being a bunch of buzz about this team early in the season. We were told they came out of nowhere to take the NL Central by storm. Well, to the team’s credit, this is not entirely true. The Brewers have been a team on the ups for quite some time now, and in many ways could be compared to last year’s Tigers. That is, they weren’t that bad in previous years, but they were deceptively bad if you simply looked at their record. In 2006, they won 75 games. In 2005, 81. So, they weren’t terrible. In fact, the Brewers and Tigers were the only teams to start the 2006 season 5-0. In any case, the Cardinals came crashing back to earth this year. That kind of opened up the division a little bit. The Brewers are 17-8 against the NL Central, of which they are the only team above .500. They are a combined 10-13 against the East and West. Right now, they’re 28-23, (three games of interleague play were not counted in the previous splits.) So they’re not world-burners. They’re also 2-8 in their last 10 games, including a 6 game losing streak. So, how is everyone so excited about them? Because the team is, like I said, on the ups. They’re maturing. Prince Fielder, J.J. Hardy, (who will come fall back to earth, trust me,) Rickie Weeks, Geoff Jenkins – that’s a pretty solid core you have. Not to mention Cordero, and Turnbow, who’s a bit split-minded, but he’ll figure it out. You can’t throw that hard and be bad for too long. So the Brewers are young, and getting older. And people love that. They’re drawn to that like bugs are drawn to the light. There’s just something about aging…

Speaking of which, lights-out closer Francisco Cordero (0.47 ERA), who we have discussed, has basically been unemployed since May 20th, which was the last time he was needed for a save. He did pitch this afternoon in a non-save, (losing) situation. In fact, in the Brewer’s last two road trips, they’ve won only three games. Two of them were blowouts, leaving Cordero with only one chance to pitch. Manager Ned Yost said, "I don’t know why I even bring him on the road." And it’s true, the Brewers are 11-15 on the road. That’s something they may want to work on.

Then again, they can probably lose every road game for the rest of the year and do just fine for themselves. Now, I don’t want to start counting all the little chickens before they hatch, but lets be real here. Baring some major influx of talent in the NL Central – of which there are none on the horizon – the Brewers can just about start selling playoff tickets. It’s very NL West-esque for a .549 team to start declaring victory – much less in May – but the NL Central is behaving a lot like the NL West. The Central is, in fact, worse than the West. It’s like these two divisions got together before the season and said to each other, ‘alright, we’ll play really bad if you play really bad too.’ There are four 30+ win teams in the top four divisions, (AL East-NL East), and zero in the bottom two. But to focus on the NL Central. Again, the Brewers have lost 8 of their last 10, and they’re still 5 games up. Heck, Chicago is in 2nd place. Pittsburgh is in 3rd. And St. Louis is three lousy games up on the last place Reds.

The Arches
It’s like we’re watching the NL Central in some bizarro universe, where up is down, and left is right. The Cardinals have a 3-man rotation, in which Braden Looper, who has been a touch-and-go reliever for the last few years, has a 3.10 ERA. ‘Staff Ace’ Kip Wells has a 6.10 ERA and a 2-9 record, (seriously, has he even pitched 11 games yet?) Todd Wellemeyer has an 8.06 ERA, and was recently promoted from the bullpen to start games. Bradthompson_2That’s when you know it’s time to call it quits – when you’re promoting guys with 8.06 ERAs to start baseball games. I don’t think Wellemeyer will be playing the role of stopper anytime soon. I think that the unofficial rotation (correct me if I’m wrong,) includes Adam Wainwright and Brad Thompson (right), who looks a lot like a lady.

So, how many games, prior to 2007, have the bottom four members of the rotation started? One. Not exactly what you would call loads of experience. And again, Kip Wells isn’t really a pitching sage. Chris Carpenter? Mark Mulder? Yeah. But not Kip Wells. Speaking of Mark Mulder, where is he? Well, he’s not on the active roster. He’s recovering from rotator cuff surgery, and we’re not sure when he’s going to be back. And, apparently, neither is anybody else. Chris Carpenter, we know, is out for quite some time. Jim Edmonds is still trolling center field in his walker, and hitting .230 at the plate. I like the guy. And that’s why I don’t want to see a repeat of 2005, when the Mariners took Bret Boone out back and, you know… cut him. Frosty Boone was, at the time, hitting a very frosty .231. So Taguchi is just waiting for the full-time center field job, and he can do it too. He’s not great, but he’s better than Edmonds right now. And you have to think the Cardinals can find an outfielder with an OBP above .300. So, Edmonds might want to think of launching a preemptive strike of the "you can’t fire me, I quit," variety. The Cardinals will hold on to him because hey, he’s not costing them the division. But you know what they’re thinking. So come this off-season Jim, it’s get them, or get got.

Right now the Cardinals are in danger of becoming the 2nd best team in Missouri. Indeed, they’re only up on their Royal Brethren by one game. One day you’re hoisting the World Series trophy high in the air, the next you’re fighting off Mark’s Army for 1st place in the state least deserving of two baseball teams, (there are about 2.8 million fans per team in Missouri. California, by contrast, has 6.8 million fans per team. I know. Where does he find this stuff.)

Alright. The comments are getting out of control. Did someone take away your commenting privileges? We’re 0 for our last 4 guys, lets get something going. Rally caps, bubble gum, do whatever you need to do. But make it happen.

Well, look at this

Been gone for awhile, no doubt. But, I’m back now because I’m waiting for the library to open – 11am – and don’t have much else to do until that time. Just because I know everyone wants to know, it’s been a busy semester. Right now I’m completing a research study on the differences between male and female study group formation, its relationship to the choice of studying alone, and hopefully the consequences of this behavior as it can be applied to different learning strategies. Meanwhile, my Organic Chemistry exam was moved up by a week because, "I wanted the exam to be before the drop date." Both research report and exam are now due on the same day; Tuesday. I just got back from a Writing Competence Exam that I’m required to take in order to graduate college. You pick one of 10 questions presented to you. I chose the question asking if, since the two teams with the best record in the AL were eliminated in the first round, should we increase the series to a seven-game format from the current five-game format? Let’s get something straight – these ten questions were all current event questions to be answered in typical, five-page, persuasive format. There were questions asking about the college’s upcoming ‘Coming Out’ week. There was a question asking about Congressman Foley’s "deplorable" behavior. Questions of great and worldly importance. And a question about baseball. Well, I think I passed.

Now, look where we are? The Tigers are up 3-0 on an Oakland team that I berated SI for rating as the "2nd best" in all of baseball. Looks like they weren’t that far off the mark. Actually, Oakland beat the Twins because, in the all-important Game 3, the Twins sent out tough guy Brad Radke. When your very existence in the post season is on the line, you don’t send out a guy with so many physical problems that, less than halfway through the season, he says "screw it, I’m retiring after this." If he’s you’re Game 3 stopper, you have no business in the post season anyway. Taking one step back, the A’s made it into the playoffs because, heck, they’re in the AL West. If you can take out the pitching-deprived Rangers, the talent-deprived Mariners, and the offensively-deprived Angels, you win. And I know the A’s finished with 93 wins, and the Angels with 89. Toronto had 87 wins in a heck of a lot tougher division. If Toronto had played say, eight games, against the Mariners instead of the Yankees, they might have 95 wins. But good job Oakland, I’m sure it means a lot to you guys, even after you get your brains beat in by a very good Tigers team.

This Detroit team is, quite simply, a team that is not going to be beaten right now. This is the kind of team that I play in MVP Baseball 2004, and they make every play. The pitcher will spot every pitch on the corner. The outfielders catch up to every ball. It’s like the team is playing on god mode. Now, I’m not saying that the Tigers aren’t a good team. They’re great. But they’re also hot right now, and the postseason is the right time to get hot.

Now, who saw last night’s Game 2 of the NLCS? First, let it be known that, in every conceivable way, the NL is a wreck of a league. I simply cannot find the entertainment in any NL Game. There’s something about it that just is not exciting. I know it’s crazy, but I feel like the parks are darker, the players are more formal, and the excitement level just isn’t there. I feel like I’m watching a golf match. I don’t expect anything exciting to happen. But when I watch an AL game, I never know what to expect. It’s like getting together the 2004-2005 Pacers team; some idiot is going to throw a punch, or fire a gun, or scream at Rick, or freak out at the media. You don’t know what will happen, but you know it will be big. In the AL, we have all the drama of Kenny Rogers and the Tiger’s bullpen limiting the A’s to two hits to go up 3-0 on them and on the brink of a World Series. Meanwhile, in the NL, we have Chris Carpenter pitching as well as John Maine; actually, worse, but only because he was in for one more inning. And then we have a tie game, broken up when the great So Taguchi – who didn’t even start – hits a home run. The Cardinals score twice more, and the Mets respond – as their own stadium empties – by striking out, and then grounding out twice more to end the game. Fabulous. Did you actually listen to So’s Home Run? It was morbid. Shea was silent. The announcers were mildly excited. Now the series is tied 1-1, while the Tigers are about to enter the World Series. It’s just boring. However, I won’t deny the fact that, since the only NL team I even come close to caring about is the Cardinals, maybe I just don’t like it because I don’t follow it. Oh yeah, and because every team is awful.

So where do we go from here? Is a well-rested Tiger team better off than a down-trodden, pitching deprived Cardinals or Mets team? The writing is on the wall, people. I just have one question – when is the parade?

Still on vacation…

As you may recall, I took a trip down to Cincinnati. I’ve been gone since Thursday, which is why we haven’t seen any posts lately. Right now, I’m packing to head to Chicago. I’ll be there for three weeks, but I’ll have my laptop with me. I’ll just be a bit busier than usual, because I will be working.

One thing though. I noticed that Albert Pujols has been placed on the DL. What does this mean? What is to become of the Cardinals? Is it my fault, since, just a couple days ago, I was thinking about how the Cubs are a lot like the Cardinals – Derrek Lee being Albert Pujols. Did I cause this? But, more importantly… when Albert comes off the DL in 4-6 weeks… will he still be leading the league in HR and RBI?

Again, if anyone can get me tickets to any Cubs/White Sox games in the next three weeks, it would be well appreciated. I can pay for the ticket, I just need a way to get a hold of it. Thanks. I think I’ll be able to make daily posts while in Chicago, but I’m not sure how it will go. By the way, great job on the comments lately, guys. Keep it up. I’ll get to them all soon, promise.

Liveblog: Cardinals at Royals

As you should know by know, Tiffany (Party like it’s 1982) and I will be liveblogging tonight’s Cardinals at St. Louis matchup. While I will be covering from the Royals side, there’s no doubt that I’ll be doing a little Albert Pujols loving. Let’s get some pre-game warmups, from both sides of the field:
St. Louis Cardinals (27-15)
Often referred to as the St. Louis Albert Pujols because, let’s face it, that’s kind of what they are. Anyway, tonight they send brand new starter Anthony Reyes to the hill. Reyes, one of the organization’s top prospects, had a 3.65 ERA in 7 starts (earning a 1-1 record, 40 K’s,) and 5 BB’s so far in AAA ball. And, just so you know, Ste. Louis has been putting up pretty solid numbers so far this year. They have the best bullpen ERA (2.74) and their starters have the best ERA in the NL (3.74.) The St. Louis PR Office wanted you to know that, so I thought I would forward the info. They also told me to tell you that this one guy, Albert Pujols, is pretty good with a stick. Here’s all the info from them. Also, big ups to Tiffany over at Party like it’s 1982 for covering the Cardinals side. She lives in Spain, and so while the game starts at 7:10pm for us, it’s 1:10am for her. Furthermore, she was willing to do this because it was the only day that worked for me – so big ups, Tiff.
Kansas City Royals (10-29)
The Royals are not the best team in the league. They are, however, the worst. And I mean, they literally have the fewest wins in all of baseball. The Marlins have 11, and the Pirates have 13. Heck, even the Cubs have 17. Anyway, some important background information for the new readers to the site – the Royals are my favorite team to rag on. Here’s a link to all the Royals posts. And an excerpt from the upcoming "year in review" post:

PFC Mark GrudzielanekKansas City Royals, "Mark’s War"
Alsoknown as Mark "we’re not gonna be a bad team this year, but if we are,
we’re gonna battle all season long" Grudzielanek. This is probably one
of the most important things to know on BHGM. In SI’s 2006 Baseball
Preview, Mark said that "We will not sit back and get used to losing.
We’re fiery guys. I guarantee you we will not accept being a mediocre
team. If we start looking like one, we’ll fight against it all year."
Because the Royals are basically no fun if you can’t make fun of them,
we’ve turned Mark into a Private First Class. See, Mark said his team
would need to "fight against it," but he didn’t realize that the Royals
would be so bad that the "fight" would have to be more like a war.
Therefore, the Royal’s 2006 Season is usually referred to as "Mark’s
War."

That’s essential information. In fact, for tonight’s game, that’s just about all you need to know. The Royals are also sending Denny Bautista to the hill. They’ve lost 7 straight games. And, uh, if there were ever any press notes to see, these are it. You can tell that even the PR office is sick of the team. Starter Denny Bautista is, well, he’s a pitcher. Career ERA of 6.48, really nothing new. Has no idea where he is throwing the ball and has a complete and utter lack of control, (for his career, 40 BB in 83.1 innings.) And that about sums it up for the pregames. If you’re watching the game, comment on the ChatBox to your left.

Here’s the Game:
Some info on the game; it’s being covered from the Royals perspective on the TV. Also, they’re not blacking out the commercials, so we see and hear everything from the announcers during that time. Here are the lineups:

Cardsroyals_1_2

Top of the 1st:
Well, if you can’t draw Royals Fan to their own stadium, at least you can make all the red from Cardinal Fan look purple. No joke, the TV crew altered the hue so that the red in the crowd would be purple. Yup, there’s always that. Anyway, the Cards went 1-2-3, with Bautista only using up 10 bullets on Eckstein, Spiezio, and Pujols.

Bottom of the 1st:
The Royals are now batting against this Anthony Reyes kid. Costa grounded out to Rolen to start off the inning. Next, Mark "We’re not gonna be a bad team…" Grudzielanek grounded out to short, but not after Reyes tried to kick it. That’s always a bad move – if you’re a pitcher, and you can’t get your glove on the ball, don’t go for it. With any part of your body, ever. Good, learn that lesson. Tiffany noted that the Cardinals are starting 6 hitters with an average .300 or above. The Royals are starting two. Doesn’t surprise me. Anyway, Mientkiewicz just singled up the middle. Good job. Could it be because one of the announcers accused Cardinals Pitcher Anthony Reyes of "ironing his hat" before the game? He’s right, of course – Reyes’ bill is flat as a board. Now, #4 hitter Reggie Sanders – former Cardinal, along with the Fighter – lined out to 2nd. Inning over, Royals score 0 runs.

Top of the 2nd:
The announcers started out by telling us how much the Royals miss David DeJesus, who is currently on the DL. Obviously, if you’re counting on a .280 hitter with 16 HR in 855 career AB’s, you’re gripping it pretty hard. Denny Bautista just nailed Rolen with "a direct shot" to the hammy. Like I said, Bautista can’t spot the ball too well. In other words, he’s not the Sniper on the Royal’s squad. And, according the the announcers, Bautista has terrible mechanics, and they just fell apart with his confidence after he hit Rolen. Edmonds just flied out to Sanders. He is now 0 for his last 14. (Rolen on 1st, one out, Encarnacion up.) Bautista left a terrible slider up and in the zone, and Encarnacion took him to left. 1st and 2nd tagged, 1 out, Rodriguez up. Bautista just struck out Rodriguez with a tricky-looking knucklecurve. Actually, all knucklecurves are tricky-looking. Molina grounds out to short to end the inning. Most of the contact off Bautista is coming when he leaves pitches dead in the zone. Again, good stuff, no command.

Bottom of the 2nd:
Matt Stairs just flied out to Edmonds. The announcers noted that only 10,000 attended the Marlins-Devil Rays game. Why would that be? Looks like "Battle for Florida Supremacy" isn’t as important to Floridians as we think. Brown just singled to center. Graffanino just fouled out to the catcher. Great. Way to battle it, guys. I didn’t think people still fouled out to catchers anymore. Anyway, Buck just chased a slider and struck out. End of the innings. And seriously, Reyes does need to bend his bill. It looks brand new.

Top of the 3rd:
Miles just grounded out. Back to the top of the order. Eckstein just doubled to left. Great, you know what this means. Spezio just grounded to first. So now there’s a runner on 3rd with 2 outs. Can the Royals battle out of this? With Pujols up? First, Bautista really pitched around Pujols and his .800 slugging percentage, but eventually he grounded out as well. One thing’s for sure, Bautista is really keeping the ball down today. Notice that?

Bottom of the 3rd:
Blanco flies out to Edmonds. Costa grounds out to second. Look, if you’re gonna really battle to win, you shouldn’t be having a guy that barely made the club as a backup leading off your lineup. Of course, this is becauase DeJesus is out, but still. Don’t you have anyone better? That said, Costa’s OBP is .338, which, while bad, isn’t like Juan Pierre, who leads off for the Cubs. He has an OBP of .268. That’s bad. And PFC Mark just ended the inning, 1-2-3. Again. Man, this is a really bad team.

Top of the 4th:
Denny runs the count full on Rolen, who then rolls one right through a hole at 2nd that shouldn’t have been there. This was no seeing eye single, it was a slow roller. Of course, that’s what happens when your shortstop is Andres Blanco. Who? Yeah, I know. This is his first game of the 2006 Season. Edmonds is now up. The Royals announcers, who are actually not spending a lot of time on the game itself, just noted that when you have a hitting steak, and it ends, a lot of time a slump ensues. Well, unless your name is Joe D. He had what, a 20-some hitting streak after his 56 gamer? Scott Rolen just stole 2nd base, John Buck made an awful throw to center field, and Rolen ended up on 3rd. C’mon, people. That’s no way to play a baseball game. That throw wasn’t high, it was just away. I mean, about 10 feet off the bag. And it’s Scott Rolen, dude. He’s aging and he’s not that fast. Edmonds then struck out. Encarnacion just doubled through that hole in short. Yes, that’s right, there’s a hole right where the shortstop should be playing. The ball was recovered by the left fielder. Somehow, Blanco just plain missed the ball. Cardinals up, 1-0. 1 out, runner on 2nd, Rodriguez up. The broadcasters just made an interesting observation – John Rodriguez has a strange batting stance. He just stands there in the box, bat resting on the shoulder, looking like he’s "waiting for a bus." I’m not sure how he pulls that off. John just grounded to 1st, pushing Encarnacion to third. Did you know that the Royal’s favorite promotion is the retired numbers bobblehead? I guess if you don’t have any good players on your current team, you can always make bobbleheads of the guys that used to be on your team. Another astute observation by the broadcasting team – being a guess hitter is okay, if you’re a good guesser. Really? Genius. Molina just grounded to 3rd, on quite a tough play to Graffanino. He had to dive to his right, knock down the ball, scramble to his feet, pick up the ball, and make the throw to 1st before Yadier Molina got there. Either Molina is really slow, or Graffanino is a sorcerer.

Bottom of the 4th:
Great, the Royals are up to bat again. Mientkiewicz, swinging on the 2nd pitch, grounds out. Wow! Reggie Sanders just looped a single over Reyes head. It landed right around the 2B bag. The Royals now have 3 hits in 3.1 innings against a guy making just his 2nd MLB start. Stairs flies out to left, again. Note that Mientkiewicz and Stairs hit their 2nd pitches, Sanders on his 3rd. That’s 7 pitches to 3 batters. If you’re struggling this much against a pitcher that had a 3.65 ERA in AAA, you need to take more pitches. And, I just saw the funniest thing ever. They just showed a replay of the Royals mascot wiping out, with some guy on his back or something. Hilarious. After he took a nice fall, the mascot got up and body slammed the dude, who had apparently stolen a flag. Meanwhile, Emil Brown, ‘hitting one, deep to left, it’s going!… and foul.’ Good job. Brown then took a walk, giving the Royals men on 1st and 2nd with 2 outs. First time they’ve gotten a runner in scoring position all game. Also their first walk. And obviously, the Royals are nothing if not bad. So Graffanino pops out to Eckstein to end the inning. Cardinals still up, 1-0.

Top of the 5th:
Miles leads off. He runs the count full, then swings at pitch #8, grounding out to short. See, Royals, this is the way you have an at bat. Tire out the pitcher. If you’re interested in knowing, Bautista has fired 80 shots, and Reyes 63. 63 pitches in 4 innings, for a guy you’ve never seen and, again, had a 3.65 ERA in AAA ball? Not acceptable. Eckstein grounds out. Spezio strikes out. Cards down, 1-2-3. And someone is doing an Irish dancing thing in the stands, wearing a Sprint T-shirt. This must be some kind of wacky promo. Cards still up, 1-0.

Middle of the 5th:
Alright. We’re halfway through this battle and this is where we stand – St. Louis is making a push, but the Kansas City line is holding, for the most part. Yet, there are no signs of any reinforcements to the front. The St. Louis line continues to push, while the Kansas City militia – obviously out-numbered, out-teched, and generally out-trained – can only hold on for so long. Basically, St. Louis is a new army equipped with sniper rifles, advanced machine guns, and the like. Navy SEALS, Army Rangers, etc. They’re calling in cruise missile strikes, bombing runs, and fighter sorties. Meanwhile, Kansas City is doing a bit of the Red Army deal. They’ve got a lot of men out there on the field, but they’re sharing old, antiquated rifles. And that’s all they have. Just an analogy.

Bottom of the 5th:
It looks like the Royals were listening to me when I told them to take more pitches. John Buck, first ball swinging, flies out. Blanco, 3rd pitch swinging, grounds out to first. Costa, 4th ball swinging, just flied out. 8 pitches, in the 5th inning. Are you kidding me? Is there any part of this lineup that’s good? At all?

Top of the 6th:
Pujols is up. Good stuff. And he grounds out to 1st. Rolen grounds out to the pitcher. Is anything ever going to happen in this game, or no? It was just revealed that Bautista is listed as 6ft 5in, and 190lbs. Are you serious? I thought I was thin. I’m about 160 with 6 solid feet. Mientkiewicz just did something kind of confusing. Dove to cut off a Jim Edmonds ball to 1st, knocked it out of play, tried to flip it to Bautista covering at 1st, and kinda missed. No worries, as Encarnacion grounded out to short. So here we are, almost 2/3 through the game, and we have 8 total hits. Fantastic. The Cardinals are struggling for hits (5) against the worst team in the league.

Bottom of the 6th:
PFC Mark Grudzielanek just grounded out to second. Cool. Now Mientkiewicz is up. And Ambiorix Burgos is up in the pen. His claim to fame? He’s the Royals ‘former closer.’ That is, he closed out 2 games last year. He has 5 saves this year. Sounds like he’s more of the ‘current closer’ than the ‘former closer.’ Although, he is warming up in the 6th, and he does have a 5.59 ERA, so I guess he is a has-been in the closer department. Mentkiewicz just got on base, only to get out when Reggie Sanders grounded to 2nd. Sanders made it to 1st on what I presume would be scored as a fielder’s choice. The Royals now have 4 hits with 5.2 innings in the books. Anthony Reyes just got pulled for Tyler Johnson. Johnson has appeared in 5 games and has a string of 0’s – 0 hits, 0 runs, 0.00 ERA, etc. Wild pitch to Stairs, Sanders advances to 2nd. Uh, err, passed ball. Still, for the 2nd time in the game, the Royals have a man in scoring position. Go team!… Ok, this can’t be good. Johnson just struck out Matt Stairs. Stairs was wildly offended, and glared down Johnson. Please. If you’ve got a problem, solve it by hitting your way out of it. Not by glaring at Johnson. Why would Tyler even care anyway? Woo, Matt Stairs and his .226 average just glared me down. Right Matt. That’ll show him.

Top of the 7th:
Yeah, we got the story on Burgos. He blew 3 consecutive saves, and people were "sitting on his fastball." Rodriguez just grounded to Burgos, who missed the play. Luckily, PFC Mark G saved him with some timely fielding and a quick fire to 1st. Blanco just caught a Yadier Molina pop up. 2 outs. 5 pitches in the inning. Now, usually I’m not a big guy for taking the pitch, myself. I’ll be the first to admit, I’m a free swinger. But I’m a big foul guy. And if it’s a ball, I’m not swinging at it. So please, guys, take those balls, and take a couple strikes too. Because you, (the Cardinals,) are struggling for hits against a team that, quite frankly, has no business being one home run away from tying you in the 7th inning. Miles just struck out swinging on a ball that was approximately in the dirt. Splitter, from the looks of it. Now if Tim Huddy could only start spotting his splitter low like that, he’d throw about 4 perfect games. At least, that’s what happened when I started doing that in MVP 2004, for X-Box… Cardinals still up, 1-0.

Bottom of the 7th:
Uh, yeah. This game is going by at warp speed. Did you know that the Royal’s mascot name is ‘Slugger?’ If his name is any indication of his ability, maybe the Royals need to be enlisting his bat. He’s got a mean body slam, at least. Braden Looper is now pitching. In Braden we trust, cries New York Met fan. A quick recap – the Royals have had 5 baserunners so far, against a guy that was making his 2nd major league start. Seriously. I’m just gonna start picking up every pitcher that starts against the Royals in my fantasy leagues because hey, why not? Brown grounds out to 3rd, second pitch swinging. Graffanino grounds out again to Rolen, second pitch swinging. Identical approaches to the plate with identical outcomes. C’mon. John Buck strikes out on 5 pitches. 9 pitches, 3 outs. Fantastic job. Do the Royals have a coach, or are they kind of like the little league team that’s so bad, no one wants them? Maybe the coach is a drunk and the parents are always busy, but either way, they’re pathetic. Kind of like the Sandlot, before the whole.. you know… Quick note, do check out Tiffany’s blog, she’s doing the Cardinal’s side. I haven’t had a chance to read her stuff because I have my hands full here, but do check it out.

Top of the 8th:
The Royals crew has a new toy. They can lay over two separate deliveries from a pitcher and tell you if, for example, the splitter has a different delivery than the fastball. So far, of course, all the Royals have identical deliveries. Shocking. And does anyone know why Slugger is sitting behind the Cardinals dugout, trying to punch out a text message on his cell phone? Burgos just walked Eckstein. For those of you who don’t know, Eckstein runs – even when he walks. Now they’re showing a pain train of mascots. Billy the Marlin, Slugger the Royal, Slider the Cleveland Indian, and some other guy that looks like a giant toenail fungus, from that creepy commercial. Aren’t the mascots supposed to entertain, not frighten? OH BOY. Spezio just flied out to Center. Wait, no he didn’t. He hit a ball out to the center fielder. Grudzielanek ran out to get it while the center fielder, Shane Costa, ran in. And neither one got the ball. The crowd let out a collective cheer, because remember, Albert Pujols is up next. And what do you know, Albert takes Burgos long to center. Cardinals up, 4-0. Why is the crowd cheering? I mean, they’re going crazy. Screams, whistles, the whole deal. The opposing team just executed their plan flawlessly, and put a 3-spot on the board. In fact, the announcers just noted that it sounded like the fans wanted a curtain call, but that Pujols was too classy to do that on the road. Good job, Albert. A General should never embarrass an honorable foe on his own home turf. Imagine if Grant had trotted into Richmond VA, pointed at Lee, and laughed? A good story, at least. Rolen just singled to right. Now Joe Nelson is warming up in the pen. In other words, the Royals have officially lost. Not that the game was ever in doubt. We pretty much knew the outcome as soon as the official schedule came out. Edmonds just hit a soft comebacker to Burgos. Out at 1st, Rolen to 2nd. Yay, one out, and now they’re intentionally walking Encarnacion. Ok… I know you’re looking to set up the double play and stuff, but… you need to be walking Albert, especially when there are two men on base. The 40-year-old Juan Encarnacion is not the bat you need to be afraid of in this lineup. Joe Nelson, new pitcher, just struck out Iguchi. Good thing they walked Encarnacion, huh? At least they have the force available at 2nd, since there are now 2 outs. But I’ll bet money it doesn’t come into play that way… and it doesn’t. Molina pops out to PFC Grudzielanek to end the inning. Oh well. Captain Buddy Bell might not be the greatest in-game manager of all time, but even if he was, it probably wouldn’t make a difference. Cardinals up, 4-0. By the way, the announcers just said we’d played 7 and a half. Great. They’re so out of it, they don’t even know what inning we’re in.

Bottom of the 8th:
Braden Looper is back on the mound again. Yay. Oh boy, something just happened. Blanco bunted a grounder 1st, fielded by Pujols. Pujols tossed the ball to a sprinting Braden Looper, who somehow arrived about a second behind the incoming, headfirst, Andres Blanco. New pitcher, Randy Flores, and I’m grabbing a Gatorade. Back in a second. Ah! New batter! Esteban German in for Shane Costa. And uh-oh, the Royals are threatening; German got a single up the middle, and now there are two on, no outs. They just might make a game – excuse me, battle – of it! PFC Grudzielanek, who is 0-3 tonight, is now up in this tight spot. And the crowd is going wild, because Mark’s got a 3-0 count. Way to battle, Mark! Holy! The Private punched a single right by Rolen, knocking in Blanco! Royals still down, 4-1, but the Stadium is alive! And Blanco comes in with another headfirst dive into home, again losing his helmet. Dude, the throw wasn’t even close. If you need to slide because that’s how you are, do a pop-up slide or something. Mientkiewicz is now up, with men on 1st and 2nd and no outs. Hits one just foul to 1st, 1-2 count. Ah, he strikes out. Still, just one out. Pitching change: Josh Hancock comes in. Is the crowd chanting Let’s go Cardinals, or Let’s go Royals? Look, I know this game is technically being played in the K, but it might as well be in the new Busch. Reggie Sanders just showed bunt on a 2-0, but pulled back. Pitch was a strike, as was the next. You just went from 2-0, to 2-2. Now you can’t bunt, but why would you want to anyway, with 1 out, runners on 1st and 2nd, but most importantly, down by 3? Does Captain Bell know anything? Great, Sanders just put one over Taguchi’s head in left. German scores, and Grudzielanek – coming all the way around from 1st, tries to score. He blows through the 3rd base coach’s stop sign, and gets thrown out at home. With all due respect, the 3rd base coach was about 45 feet down the line, and Grudzielanek probably couldn’t find him. Wow. 2 outs, runner on 2nd. Matt Stairs grounds out, inning over. Cardinals still up, 4-2.

Top of the 9th:
Alright. So who’s the Royals stop-man? Elmer Dessens. He’s also, apparently, the new Royal’s closer. Look. I said this when Elmer was with the Dodgers, and I’ll say it again – Elmer Dessens should not be on your team. Elmer? His name is Elmer. Think anyone ever made fun of him in elementary school? Miles lines out to 3rd, nice grab by Graffanino. Izzy is up in the pen, by the way. And Eckstein just hit Elmer in the heel with a hard liner. The ball deflects, Blanco adjusts at short and barehands the ball, firing it to 1st with a loopy underhand throw, but just too late – barely. But great play. And really, really close at the bag. Spiezio is now up, with Pujols on deck. Runner on 1st, one out. Now they’re going over why Spiezio said he did well in the post-season. He says it’s because he used to play ball with his Dad in the backyard, and at the end of every workout, they’d say, "World Series, game 7, bottom of the 9th, 2 outs, 3-2 count" and play a whole series of at bats like that. C’mon, who didn’t do that as a kid? And wow – Spiezio just struck out, Eckstein was off running, and Buck’s throw was so early it was sick. Eckstein was about 10 feet away when the ball came in, and he just stopped and took the tag. Meanwhile, Spiezio is yelling at the home plate ump, telling him it wasn’t a strike. Dude, no good has ever come from arguing balls and strikes with an umpire. Maybe Dad should’ve taught you that as well.

Bottom of the 9th:
Alright, this is the end of the battle. Basically, St. Louis was pushing from the get-go, and KC was just barely able to hold them off for the first couple innings. Finally, reinforcements arrived and the KC Militia was able to make a brief comeback, which was kind of killed when PFC Grudzielanek was gunned down at home. Now Izzy is up pitching for the Cards. Did you know he wears #44 to remind himself that he was drafted in the 44st round? That’s a real bad reason to wear a number, because the only people you’re reminding are the fans. Everytime you walk Emil Brown, like you just did, they’ll know why. And Graffanino just grounded into a double play. Tailor made DP ball. 2 outs, and Paul Bako is pinch hitting for Aaron Guiel, who was pinch-hitting for John Buck. Can Izzy get the save? It’s 0-2 on Bako. 2 outs. Pressure. There’s a ball. A foul. 1-2 count. And he swings at a pitch that drops into the dirt. Strikeout. Game over.

Final Score: Cardinals win, 4-2.
Winning pitcher: Andres Reyes, who went 5.2IP, allowing just 4 hits, 1 walk, and 1 K. This was Reyes first win in only his 2nd career start at the MLB level.
Losing pitcher: Denny Bautista, who falls to 0-2. Bautista, who didn’t have a terrible outing in his 2nd start off the DL, went 6 innings and allowed 5 hits while striking out 3. He gave up 1 ER.
Other Notes: Albert Pujols had what ended up being the deciding three-run HR in the eighth, off noted former closer Ambiorix Burgos. Pujols now has a league-leading 21 HR, and a league-leading 53 RBI’s. In other words, he’s the best there ever was. He is #10 in the NL in the 3rd Triple-Crown category, with a .319 average. Atlanta catcher Brain McCann leads the league in that category with a .353 average.

Thanks for reading. Make sure you checked out Tiffany’s Cardinal-based account at Party like it’s 1982. I don’t think too many people got the chance to read this live, what with the screwy time. And I don’t think too many will read it after the fact, but oh well. It was fun. It’s almost like going to the game, because you get so into it you’re forced to observe the nuances.