i usually don’t write on wednesdays, but the red baron is traveling to a funeral today so i’m covering. he lost someone very close; my thoughts are with you, dude.
star of last night’s game goes to kyle mcclellan. he gets out of the 6th-inning jam throwing mostly breaking stuff ---- 8 sliders / curves in 12 pitches. then in the 7th, pitching with the bases empty against the rump of the order, he blows them away with 12 fastballs in 14 pitches. guy’s got some weapons. the cardinal bullpen now sports a league-leading 2.74 era and has allowed just 3 of 18 inherited runners to score. skip schumaker also merits a little mention --- couple of 2-out rbi hits plus a walk. cardinal leadoff men have a .403 on-base percentage so far, mainly thanks to schu (he’s led off 10 of the 14 games); his BB last night was his 7th in 50 plate appearances, or 1 walk fewer than he drew in 188 plate appearances last year. that’s a significant change in his game. his high obp last year was entirely a product of his high batting average, which in turn was mostly a product of (coughluckcough) random chance; small sample size plus high BABIP = fluke. he won’t hit .333 again this year, but if he can walk once every 10 plate appearances he won’t have to; a .275 average will do just fine. insert obligatory caveat here ---- it’s very early, we’re just sizing things up, blah blah blah. based on available evidence, the cardinal leadoff spot --- subject of much discussion and concern all spring --- has been one of the lineup’s strengths.
i can't get excited about kennedy. he's got 0 extra-base hits so far, and no signs of producing one any time soon; he had just 3 (all doubles) in 40 S.T. at-bats. miles doesn't have any XBH either, and izturis only has 2 (both doubles); it's worse than people feared. the middle-infield corps is hitting an aggregate .255 / .342 / .276. well, like we keep saying, it's early . . . . . .
last night’s game may be the answer to a trivia question: when’s the first time in big-league history that neither team batted the pitcher 9th? i asked sean forman of Baseball-Reference.com to do a quick run on his data; he writes back that it hasn’t happened since 1956, the limit of his archive of boxscores (compiled by the invaluable Retrosheet). there are still 50+ years unaccounted for, so it’s possible --- even likely --- that last night’s lineup oddity happened at least once before. here’s a list (sorted by team-season) of every game in which one team didn’t hit the pitcher 9th, going back to 1956. for some reason, there was a spate of pitcher-hitting-other-than-9th lineups in 1957; four different teams (1/4 of the big-league clubs at that time) used one at least once that year, and the kansas city athletics did it on a regular basis (56 games). it won’t surprise you to know that the la russa-led cardinals have batted the pitcher outside the 9 slot more times (146 games) than all other teams since 1956 combined (89 times).
here’s a little more trivia related to the manager: only once in his career has he opened the season with more than 10 wins in his first 14 games. that happened in 1990 in oakland, coming off his first world championship; he led the athletics to an 11-3 start and cruised to his 3d straight pennant. he’s started out 10-4 on three other occasions, including his first two seasons as a manager --- 1980-81 in chicago. the other 10-4 start came in 1992 in oakland. before this year, tony’s best starts in st louis were 9-5 marks in 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2005.
and in the non-la-russa trivia category, i bet you didn’t know this: chris carpenter follows the cards via mlb gameday:
Carpenter: Obviously, we’ve been playing hard, been playing well. Seems like there’s a lot of energy. It’s fun to watch. I’ve only got to see a few on TV. Mostly I’ve just been watching on that little computer where the dot comes in - ‘Ball’, ‘Strike’.
Q: Talk about how cool that is …
Carpenter: Fabulous . . . . .
elsewhere on the injured-pitcher beat, mulder threw 5 innings last night for palm beach; according to chuck king (who does a bang-up job covering the FSL), he was topping out at 88 mph. am i the only one who’s dreading this guy’s return to action? he last pitched well in may 2006; i’m sure there are a few examples of guys who regained effectiveness after two full years of alternately getting knifed by surgeons and clubbed by hitters, but i can’t think of one at the moment. he seems so much a part of the team’s past --- and not the glorious part. he’s like one of those old kinda-sorta friends who calls you from time to time; he’s the last person you want to waste your time on, and you cringe every time you hear from him, but at some point you have to go out and have a beer with the guy because it’s too awkward to keep making excuses. that’s mark mulder to me --- don’t wanna hang w/ you anymore, but i know i’m gonna be stuck doing it.
maybe we can sign einar diaz to catch him, just for old time’s sake.
that’s all i got for now. game thread this p.m.