first of all: apologies to all who have been trying to log on since last night. both SB Nation servers went down at about 10 p.m. CDT yesterday and stayed down until about noon CDT today. our hosting company has some `splaining to do. anyway, crashes suck all around -- not good for bloggers, not good for blog readers. thanks for your patience ev'yone.
patience also in order vis-vis the crash of stl's server -- ie matt morris -- yesterday. what a mess; his curveball didn't bite, was consistently up in the zone -- and it was his best pitch. the fox gun had his fastball only reaching the mid-80s, and morris used it sparingly -- but it still cost him and the cardinals the game. all three homers came on weak fastballs. he tried to sneak one past burnitz on 1-2 after tying the guy into knots with three straight breaking balls; it came in low and 85 mph right down the middle, just a terrible pitch. so too was the gopher ball to lee, an inside fastball clocking 84 mph, jockstrap high. apparently derrek used to have trouble with this location but has altered his stance or his hand placement or something and is now crushing inside pitches. or so jeff brantley said on baseball tonight; that don't make it true, but it's a theory.
yet even after those two bombs, morris still threw a hittable fastball to ramirez leading off the 6th. in his previous at-bat (right after burnitz's homer) ramirez had driven an 84-mph fastball to the wall in right-center; taguchi caught it right at the fence. maybe morris missed his location, meant to throw it further inside; maybe he thought aramis couldn't get the bat head out in front of a pitch on the inside corner. whatever the case, maybe fastball wasn't the wisest selection right there; away went the cubs' third hr in a span of 11 hitters. according to miklasz, morris "thought he let the team down" -- and so he did. he has been brilliant this year, pitching the cards almost singlehandedly to a number of wins. yesterday, he pretty much singlehandedly pitched them to a loss. the threadbare lineup somehow managed 5 runs; a shame they couldn't make that stand up.
cardsrul posted a comment last night cautioning that morris tends to wilt on afternoons like yesterday's, and perhaps that accounts for the distressing lack of velocity on matt's pitches. he was in such a rhythm before the all-star break; hasn't reestablished it yet two starts into the 2d half. . . . . . just don't let it be health-related. we have got more than enough of those cases at the moment.
which consideration apparently spooked tlr and barry weinberg into unneceesarily benching the cards' best player. pujols thought he could have played; even arriving late to the party, he nearly turned the game around.
the last couple of games should serve as a wake-up call. the cards have been living off lights-out pitching all month; it has felt as if we could go on winning 2-1 games forever. but pitchers are human, even ours. they've carried more than their share of the load; time for the bats to start picking it up. for the month of july, the cards rank 14th in the league in obp, 13th in slugging and batting average, tied for 11th in home runs; somehow they're tied for 8th in runs scored, which under the circumstances is pretty good. thanks to the arms they're 13-6 in this light-scoring month, but that can't go on indefinitely. i don't worry about losing ground to the cubs/stros, but i do worry about losing it to the braves, who at this moment are 7.5 games back in the race for home-field advantage in the nlcs.
walker likely available tonite, and pujols will be back; that'll give the lineup more of a pennant-winning feel. lance armstrong polished off his 7th straight tour de france victory today; a champion of champions, as relentless as they come. cardinals, take note.