October 2009

Call for Inbox submissions

I will be running a new Inbox (the artist formerly known as the
Mailbag) next week. If you want to get a question in, submit it now
using the link below. If you send an email directly, without using that
link, I implore you to include the word “Mailbag” in the
subject header. Otherwise it won’t make it in. If it doesn’t have that
header, I assume it’s not for inclusion.

Email a question about the Cardinals

-M.

Carpenter to start Sunday if series continues

Matthew Leach
MLB.com

Blog: Obviously, You’re Not A Golfer
Twitter: @MatthewHLeach

Manager Tony La Russa confirmed on Saturday that if the Cardinals’ National League Division Series against the Dodgers goes to a fourth game on Sunday, Chris Carpenter will start that game. Carpenter would be starting on three days’ rest for the first time in his Major League career.

“We wanted to wait until [Friday],” La Russa said on Saturday. “Chris played catch and passed the test, so if we play tomorrow, Chris starts.”

If the game were not an elimination game for the Cardinals, it’s likely that either John Smoltz or Kyle Lohse would have gotten the call to start. However, the Cardinals must win all three remaining games in the series in order to advance to the National League Championship Series.

Carpenter had a very difficult start in the opener of the NLDS, allowing four runs in five innings and needing 105 pitches to get 15 outs. La Russa said, however, that that slog did not deter him from going with his ace and former Cy Young winner on short rest.

“The fact is that the amount of effort he put into it was OK to consider pitching on [his fourth day],” La Russa said. “But the key thing was how he came in yesterday. And if we felt like it was a risk physically, then we had other options. But he’s good to go.”

Pitching Carpenter on Sunday also allows the Cardinals to pitch Adam Wainwright on regular rest on Tuesday if the series goes to a fifth game in Los Angeles.

“If we were playing on Monday Game 5, we wouldn’t do it,” La Russa said. “Because then you’d have to pitch him and Adam both [on short rest]. But … there is an off day Monday and Adam will be fully rested. It’s an edge that you play. It’s fair to say that we’re always careful with our pitching, and careful with Chris, and we’ll be extra careful. [We just want him to pitch] as hard as he can, as long as he can. If that’s five innings, six innings, fine. Whatever he’s got, it helps us compete in that game.”

NLDS travel day tidbits

Matthew Leach
MLB.com

Blog: Obviously, You’re Not a Golfer
Twitter: @MatthewHLeach

Greetings from cold, wet Busch Stadium. It was in the 40s and raining this afternoon, so most of today’s workout activities were canceled. A few pitchers from each team got on the field to do some throwing, and the Cardinals held some meetings, but it was an abbreviated session for sure.

I was fortunate to have a relatively easy travel day, arriving on time via a nonstop from LAX. Evidently some scribes had a rough go of it with connections and weather and the like. But no complaints here, fortunately.

Not many tidbits from the park today, but here are a few:

* As noted in an earlier entry, TLR said today that Chris Carpenter is in the mix to start a potential Game 4, and that Kyle Lohse and John Smoltz will both be listed as available relievers for Game 3.

* TLR gave a lengthy and impassioned statement in favor of Ryan Franklin today. He was asked essentially where he stood with Franklin, and whether any other options would be considered in the ninth, and emphatically stated that Franklin remains his guy. He went on at some length, but this comment was really the heart of it:

“I was very impressed, so was Dave [Duncan], so was Marty [Mason]. So the short answer is he’s got a day of rest, and if we have a chance to save it tomorrow, he will definitely be our closer.”

* The players had no complaints about the workout being cut short. I think they were happy to get the break.

No playlist. I’ll get y’all a good one tomorrow.

-M. 

Carpenter in mix for G4; Lohse, Smoltz available in relief for G3

Matthew Leach
MLB.com

Blog: Obviously, You’re Not a Golfer
Twitter: @MatthewHLeach

ST. LOUIS –  Cardinals manager Tony La Russa has yet to decide — or at least yet to announce — a starter for a potential Game 4 of his team’s National League Division Series against the Dodgers. However, the fact that Game 3 is an elimination game for his club may have changed the equation a bit.

Initially, the Cards’ plan was to have John Smoltz and Kyle Lohse, the two primary candidates for the spot, available in relief in Games 1 and 2, then move one of them back to starting in Sunday’s Game 4. Instead, La Russa said on Friday that both right-handers will be listed as available relievers for Saturday’s Game 3. Smoltz, Lohse and Chris Carpenter are all in the mix to start on Sunday, assuming the Cardinals can force a fourth game by winning on Saturday.

Carpenter would be starting on three days’ rest, following a grueling 105-pitch, five-inning slog in Game 1. However, starting Carpenter on Sunday would allow the Cardinals to pitch Adam Wainwright on regular rest in a potential Game 5 in Los Angeles on Tuesday.

“What we’re doing is we’re spending a lot of time thinking about what we do to get to Game 4,” La Russa said. “That’s definitely the priority. But whether it’s the right thing, it’s more fun anyway, we are thinking about what if 4? I think that’s the way we should think. And Chris is one of the guys that’s a possibility.”

Carpenter will not be listed as a possible reliever for the third game, no matter what. But he, Wainwright, and starter Joel Pineiro are the only ones who won’t be available to pitch. Because Saturday is an elimination game, Lohse and Smoltz will both be in the bullpen on Saturday.

“When I talk about options, I think 99 percent of our attention is on trying to get to Sunday,” La Russa said. “So everything is about Saturday. But I did mention that Chris is an option [for Game 4]. Chris is not going to be in the bullpen. But other than that, it’s the other 99 percent. We’ve got to win tomorrow. We’re going to try to win tomorrow. And then we’ll see what we shake up with, as far as alternatives.”
 

NLDS Game 2 Tidbits: Lugo, Thome, Ludwick

Matthew Leach
MLB.com

Blog: Obviously, You’re Not a Golfer
Twitter: @MatthewHLeach

It’s an absolutely perfect day at Dodger Stadium. Seriously, 71 degrees, clear, spectacular. Great day for baseball.

*
Julio Lugo gets the start at second base today against left-hander
Clayton Kershaw, in place of Skip Schumaker. It was Schumaker against a
lefty yesterday, and in fact Randy Wolf has a bigger left-right split
than Kershaw. However, Kershaw is, in TLR’s parlance, “one of those
wipeout kind of lefties,” while Wolf isn’t so much in style.

* Jim Thome talked a little about facing the Cardinals, since he hails from Peoria, Ill.

“St.
Louis has been a great baseball town. I’ve enjoyed being in there
whether it was Interleague with Cleveland, with Philadelphia. This will
be my first time to the new park. I’m looking forward to that, and I’ve
got a lot of friends around the St. Louis area that are excited as well.

“So
it’s going to be a neat experience. It always has. I’ve always said St.
Louis is probably fans-wise one of the better baseball cities in the
game. So it’s fun to go there and feel that atmosphere towards
baseball. They did a wonderful job there.”

Another Thome note:
For his regular-season CAREER, he has a .430/.565/1.010 line in 131
plate appearances against the Cardinals. That’s a 1.575 OPS.

*
Ryan Ludwick talked a little bit more about the ball he hit down the
line last night, but both he and TLR said they have yet to see a
conclusive replay on it. I haven’t either — anyone find some way to
get a really good look at it?

Today’s playlist is all GNR in honor of Slash’s playing of the anthem today:
“Rocket Queen”
“Used To Love Her”
“Dead Horse”
“Civil War”
“Coma”

-M.

Game 2 lineup; tidbits to follow

Here’s the Cardinals’ Game 2 lineup against LHP Clayton Kershaw:

1. Lugo 2B
2. Ryan SS
3. Pujols 1B
4. Holliday LF
5. Ludwick RF
6. Molina C
7. DeRosa 3B
8. Rasmus CF
9. Wainwright P

-M.

Division Series Game 1 tidbits: Schumaker, Rasmus, Ankiel, Boggs, Hawksworth

Greetings from gorgeous Dodger Stadium. It’s an absolutely perfect night at the ballpark, dusk just settling in. Had some fantastic Cuban food for lunch (Versailles, on Venice — highly recommended) and now we’re settling in for a ballgame. Life is good.

* Despite some speculation to the contrary, TLR went with Skip Schumaker at second base and Colby Rasmus in center field tonight against Dodgers lefty Randy Wolf. It’s the team’s best defensive lineup, rather than having Lugo at second base.

Here’s La Russa on the two calls:

“It really came down to Colby or Rick in center. And I think Colby earned the start. Rick’s close. We have a good team, [so] we have a choice to make. And at second, we’ve gone with Lugo a lot against left-handers and I would expect maybe tomorrow [he'll play]; we’ll see how today goes.  I felt like Schu was a good matchup for Wolf, and Julio has struggled against Wolf. In fact, quite a few of our guys have.”

For what it’s worth, Lugo is 1-for-8 against Wolf and Schumaker is 0-for-3. Rasmus is 3-for-5, which may be the real key to the equation in TLR’s mind. One other thing: I think there’s at least a perception that Wolf is not a lefty-killer in the same way that Kershaw is. However, Wolf has a much bigger split this year than Kershaw, and is absolutely obliterating left-handed hitters.

Still, personally, I like the lineup. I’ve already gone on record saying that in the playoffs, I think the defensive downgrade to Lugo isn’t worth whatever offensive edge you may get against a LHP. We’ll see.

* Also within the outfield mix, of course, is Rick Ankiel. TLR was asked in his pregame news conference today about Ankiel’s pinch-hitting success, and he acknowledged that it factors into his decision making. It’s only 26 plate appearances, but Ankiel is batting .273 with a .385 OBP and .591 SLG as a pinch-hitter this year.

* Mitchell Boggs and Blake Hawksworth secured the last two spots in the Cardinals’ bullpen when the roster was announced today. The manager’s answer when asked about the decisions was, I thought, revealing. He basically indicated that Hawksworth was all but automatic, and Boggs was the one guy who was maybe a close call.

“I don’t know who you would define as the last two,” he said when asked about the decision on the final two roster spots. I think Boggs is probably one of the two, I’m not sure who the other one would be. … And as far as the other one, we really had a tough call.  We’d have had a really tough call to go 11, because Hawksworth has done a good job, McClellan and Motte been part of what we do. So really going to 12 pitchers made us not to have to make a decision on Boggs versus one of the other young guys.”

Tonight’s playlist certainly suits where I am mentally, and I hope all of y’all are too. It’s let’s-get-it-going music. If you think some of it is cheesy, well, sorry.

U2, “Where the Streets Have No Name”
Motley Crue, “Kickstart My Heart”
Metallica, “Enter Sandman”
Rolling Stones, “Start Me Up”
Living Colour, “Cult of Personality”

-M.

Thursday tidbits: Pujols, Molina, DeRosa, Freese

Matthew Leach
MLB.com

Blog: Obviously, You’re Not a Golfer
Twitter: @MatthewHLeach

It’s finally the end of the road trip. Headed home tonight, and tomorrow actually brings me an off day as I celebrate turning 35.

* Albert Pujols wasn’t feeling good last night or this morning, so the initial lineup did not include him. But Pujols took a nap and took some medicine — I actually saw him snoozing in the clubhouse — and by game time he was OK.

“I wanted to be out there for Carp,” Pujols said after the game. “But if I would have known that he was going to carry our offense like this, I would have stayed on the bench.”

* Yadier Molina didn’t seem at all concerned about his leg tightening up in the fifth inning on Thursday. The early innings moved very slowly, and it was fairly cool. He and TLR both said they expect him to play tomorrow night.

* Mark DeRosa just got a scheduled day out of the lineup. Day after night, and a chance for Glaus to get some ABs.

Today’s playlist has an obvious theme:
Postal Service, “Such Great Heights”
Jimmy Buffett, “Come Monday”
Simon and Garfunkel, “Homeward Bound”
Dave Dudley, “Six Days On the Road”
Rolling Stones, “Moonlight Mile”

-M.

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