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dazed, confused

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april seems like a lonnng time ago, dudnit?

can't pin this one entirely on marquis; he pulled himself together and kept em within range. but a 3-0 hole is a bad place to leave any team when roy oswalt's pitching. and no matter who's on the mound, this is not a cardinal offense that can just shrug aside a 3-run deficit. don't know if it's a coincidence or not, but the hitters abruptly changed their approach at the plate after the cardinals fell behind. in the top of the first, they didn't take a single called strike -- swung at every pitch that crossed the plate. even eckstein went up there hacking, swung at the very first pitch of the game and made an out on it. maybe the game plan was to try to hurt him early in the count, jump on that fastball right away and (hopefully) force him out of his preferred pitching pattern. it didn't work, but i don't fault the idea (if that, in fact, was the idea). by the time they batted in the 2d inning the cardinals were down 3 runs and had to abandon the have-a-hack approach; the score dictated that they take some pitches, try to make oswalt work as hard as possible. the last 25 hitters to face oswalt took a total of 26 called strikes.

the astros went up there hacking against marquis, too; he threw 21 strikes in the 1st inning, and the astros swung at 18 of them. the nationals took a nearly identical approach in jason's last start: they saw 19 1st-inning strikes and swung at 16. maybe it's no coincidence that jason walked 4 men in both starts: teams know what's coming -- sinker, fastball -- and they are sitting on it. they've taken away his bread n butter; it's up to him to counteradjust. from this morning's post-disptach:

Pitching coach Dave Duncan thought Marquis' heavy use of sinkers early allowed the Astros to jump him. Marquis offered a wider assortment his last three innings and, according to Duncan, may have found a lesson. "He needs to throw his off-speed pitches for strikes. When he does, he's a much more effective pitcher," Duncan said.
now just a second -- hasn't the storyline been that marquis gets hurt when he fiddle-farts around with his 3d and 4th pitches? that if he'd stop trying to get so cute out there and just take duncan's advice to stick to fastball-sinker, all would be well? i'm confused -- which i suppose is where we inevitably end up when marquis pitches.

i think tony gets confused too. marquis was at 98 pitches after the 4th inning but was so efficient in the 5th -- eight pitches -- that la russa left him in for the top of the 6th. several times last season, during marquis' miserable losing streak, tony decided to extend jason, and it always backfired; after the 105th pitch, opposing hitters batted .395 against marquis last year. but then, the bottom of the order was up, and jason did get two quick outs . . . .

all the positives that got us excited about him in 2004 continue to fade. his strikeouts remain too low, his ratio of groundouts to flyouts continues to fall, and now his control -- the thing that redeemed him over the last month of 2005 -- is gone; he has walked 10 in his last 16.2 innings. but we're probably stuck with him; his performance, salary, and free-agent status make him a pretty unattractive trade chip right about now. nothing to do but hope that things cycle back around (they always do with this player) before too long.

the rotation suddenly looks a little threadbare; instead of an ace and four #3s, which is what it used to be, it's starting to look like an ace and four #4s (in case you missed it, by the way, mulder's got a bad back). project ahead to a postseason series: carpenter in game 1, mulder (hold breath, cross fingers) in game 2, and then . . . ? as desperately as the cards need to upgrade the outfield (speaking of which, bigbie did in fact reinjure himself the other night in memphis), i wonder if they don't need to upgrade the rotation even more. the current five will get them through 162 games, but does anybody think they're a championship group? the dontrelle rumors are out there, and i heard a crazy one lately that the twins (off to a very slow start) might just clean house, starting with johan santana's fat contract. i'll believe that when i see it . . . .

Update [2006-5-4 11:27:43 by lboros]: here's a link to the santana speculation, posted at the blog Getting Paid to Watch: "Unless scouts indicate there's something terribly irreplably flawed in Santana, or he's not healthy, look for Ryan to shop him. In a smaller market this is the manner in which the twice world champion Twins have done business over the last 20 years." the writer is a former nymets trainer . . . i post this with triple-strength caveats. it's not even a rumor; just one guy's uninformed speculation.

carp goes tonight, and they play the weakling marlins over the weekend; still an opportunity to salvage something out of this road trip.