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reyes our hopes

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well, they lost a game but they gained a pitcher. outstanding tradeoff.

the season just got a lot more interesting.

how refreshing was it to see a guy get batters out on pitches inside the strike zone? to see him attack hitters rather than nibble at corners? working with no margin for error -- the kid never had a lead -- against a potent lineup in a hitter's park, reyes went right after the white sox; he fell behind in the count against only 6 of the 26 batters he faced, and 4 of those occurred in the first trip through the lineup.

even la russa/dunc had to have been impressed; they like competitors. they also like pitchers who throw complete games when the bullpen desperately needs rest; maybe those two old buzzards will start to warm up to the kid a little. here are some of la russa's postgame thoughts, from matt leach's recap:

"That's as big a test as you're going to have. [It's a] 0-0 game with quality hitters at the plate. It was great to see. He didn't change anything. That's the way he pitched for them not to have any real rallies. That was a wow performance."

"What a performance. It shows you there's no justice when he's the losing pitcher. He should have gotten a no-decision at worst. That was really good."

in just 90 pitches, the kid erased the previous two nights' demoralizing mound scenes and gave us pissed-off petes something to feel good about. he could be the missing #2 pitcher we've been pining away for, the guy you can throw in october -- on carptenter's nights off -- who inpsires confidence on our side and doubt in the opposition's. emphasize could be -- it was only one game, after all. but he came into a tense situation and pitched with great composure, more than standing up to the circumstances . . . . well, even that's not entirely true. he seemed oblivious to the circumstances, which is even better. and he was also unshaken by the additional tension he created for himself by carrying a no-hitter into the 7th inning. he told joe strauss at the p-d, "I never really thought about (a no- hitter). I was just happy to keep the team within striking distance." i like the attitude, and the statement rings true. he appeared to be as relaxed as if he were pitching at a sunday picnic. or for memphis. or even for kansas city.

in the end, he got beat by a great hitter -- no shame in that. it may not have been a coincidence that thome homered on the 1st pitch after having stayed at the plate for 9 pitches in his previous at-bat; got himself a good look at the rookie, saw that reyes was throwing nothing but strikes, and went up there looking for a fastball down in the zone; didn't miss his pitch.

guys with 450+ career homers will do that to you sometimes.

the universe being what it is -- baseball being what it is -- we should not be surprised that the offense, so fecund in alberto's absence, became barren upon his return. that, too, is only one game, but it underscores what is, in my mind, still a pressing concern for this team -- the lack of punch. the cards' designated hitters the last two games were a part-time infielder and a reserve outfielder who'll prob'y be back in the minors (or out of baseball) by the end of next month. the other team's dh was jim thome. the cardinals do have chris duncan, who's slugging .600 . . . but also has 0 walks vs 14 strikeouts, and is whiffing more than a third of the time. hard to sustain an acceptable level of production when you're failing to make contact that routinely. those k/w numbers remind me of the sev'l occasions (i can immediately think of 3) in which duncan came up with the bases loaded, ran the count full . . . . and then got himself out by swinging and missing at ball 4. he's a far sight better than timo perez, don't get me wrong; but i can understand why they might send him down with instructions to work on a few things.

and speaking of albert's return. . . . didn't expect to see him back this soon, and am frankly not happy to see it. a few days after the injury, i wrote this:

he will no doubt demand to come back before he's ready -- that's his nature -- so it'll be up to the team to keep him out of action until it's truly safe for him to play again, with minimal risk of re-aggravating the injury. but suppose it's early july and the cards are feeling heat from the astros, or they've fallen a few games behind the reds, and albert says "get me out there dammit, i'm fine, i gotta help the team" . . . . will the cards impose the discipline necessary to avoid a foolish risk? or will anxiety cloud la russa's judgment?
panic move, or well-considered decision; you be the judge. at that time, i was thinking early july might be an imprudently proxmiate date for his return -- i was like, "give him the full six weeks" -- but under the present circumstances i guess i'd say i would have settled for early july. . . . . here's what will carroll wrote just yesterday at baseball prospectus, well before the surprise announcement that pujols would play:
Albert Pujols is pushing for his return, continuing to pass all the challenges that the St. Louis medical staff puts in front of him. . . . . Pujols isn't outside the timeline for a [return from a] mild oblique strain, though he is well within the period where recurrences happen, the ones that are always worse than the original injury.
i keep putting up the link to this post, written last week. . . . . tony has gotten away with this sort of stuff before, but when you're playing chicken you better have a 1.000 winning percentage; .900 is the same as .000.

and now i'll just shut up.