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Sunday, April 6, 2008

A Couple With The Nats

A Couple With The Nats

By Cardinal 70

They haven't been easy, but the Cards have another series win after taking the first two from the Nationals. Ironically, it's been the aspect that people thought was a strength before the season--the bullpen--that's been causing all the heartburn.

Let's look at Friday night first. I've never been shy in noting that I'm not a big fan of Braden Looper in the rotation. I think his season last year was overrated somewhat, with his numbers skewed by a strong April. While he could be serviceable, he'd be someone I'd look at first to move either to the bullpen or to another team when the injured pitchers return.

That said, he did a pretty darn good job on Friday, limiting the damage against the Nationals to one run and five hits in his six innings. He left with a 5-1 lead (this is about where I turned it on) and most fans, I expect, thought that another one was in the books.

You had to know there was trouble when Cristian Guzman, who hardly ever gets hits, much less muscles up, sent one over the wall against Russ Springer. The next two batters reach via hit and that's Springer's night. For that performance, he received not only a DL stint but Friday night's Goat award.

Other potential goats were Ron Villone, for walking the bases loaded, and Troy Glaus, whose error on a ball that hit him in the glove plated the fourth Nationals run. Kyle McClellan did a heck of a job with what he was given. It's obvious that he's going to be in bigger and bigger situations as the season goes on. LaRussa really trusts the kid--which would surprise some--and he's so far producing.

If he'd come in and had a one-two-three inning, Jason Isringhausen would probably have gotten the Hero award. But even striking out the side doesn't seem so great when you put the tying and winning runs on. Still, he was in consideration. Cesar Izturis got a couple of hits (side note: unlike errors, the Goat award is never reviewed after the fact). You have to like McClellan's work. But I think, due to the home run giving the Cards an early lead, the Hero again goes to Rick Ankiel.

On to Saturday. The Hero is pretty obvious on this one. Adam Wainwright was, well, what'd you expect out of a staff ace. Eight innings, two earned runs, four strikeouts, and even chipped in an RBI single. You also could consider Izturis (again!) for reaching base three times. Yadier Molina probably would have gotten the nod if Wainwright didn't after a 2-4 day with 2 RBI.

He didn't blow the game, but for getting it as close as he did, the Goat has to go to Anthony Reyes. About as opposite from his last outing as you can get. I was watching the game while playing with the kids and, from what I could tell, the first hit that Reyes gave up was on a pretty decent pitch. However, giving up a home run after that, putting the game in jeopardy, wasn't what you'd want to see. And then he had to watch Randy Flores get the easiest save ever--throw one pitch, get a fly ball, game over.

Both games were similar--good starting pitching, fairly solid offense, and heart attacks induced by the bullpen. Even when they were successful, they were scary. The box score shows Ryan Franklin with a hold on Friday, with one unblemished inning. However, two of those batters hit long fly balls, the last had Ankiel up against the wall to catch it.

I've been reading the Baseball Prospectus annual and I just got to the Cardinal section today. One of the points that continually popped up in the player writeups was just how much went right for the Cardinal bullpen last year, such as low BABIP numbers, things that would be expected to revert to form--or worse--this year. Hopefully having players like McClellan, maybe Perez later on, whatever happens with the rotation when players start returning, things like that will negate those like Springer and Franklin that may slide from last year's results.

Speaking of returning, it looks like Joel Pineiro will be in St. Louis pretty soon. We may see him before Tax Day, which means that decision time will be coming for the Cardinals. I'd guess one of Thompson or Wellemeyer would move to the rotation and Kelvim Jimenez, who came up with Springer's injury, going back to the minors. What will happen when Springer gets healthy could be interesting. Also, Mark Mulder threw in extended spring training, so we may see him in the middle of May.

Something tells me John Mozeliak is keeping the trade lines open, in case this surplus holds.

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