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the joy of 6

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since they last faced the brewers and cubs, the cardinals have only gone 6-7 --- but they've still managed to cut half a game off milwaukee's lead and pick up a game and a half on chicago. . . . how fitting is it that the nl central was bud selig's division?

last week i noted that it had been more than a year since the cardinals received a full rotation-cycle's worth of 6-inning starts. four games later, they are trying to make it 2 cycle's worth. yesterday's outing by anthony reyes was the 8th start in a row of 6 innings or longer --- first time that has happened since july 6 - 17, 2005. it was also the 6th consecutive quality start, a feat the cardinal rotation last accomplished in the 2d week of this year, april 8 through 15 --- games 6 through 11 on the schedule. randy keisler threw one of those starts.

if wells keeps it going tomorrow night, it'll be the cardinals' first string of 7 consecutive quality starts since 2005 --- the aforementioned july 6 - 17 run that lasted 8 games. and it will be the first run of 9 starts of 6 innings or longer since april 27 - may 5, 2005. the 2007 corps very nearly logged a streak of this length, though you've prob'y forgotten by now --- 10 of this season's first 11 starts lasted 6 innings or more, with the only shortfall a 5-inning, 3-run effort by anthony reyes. the rotation posted a cumulative era of 2.97 over those 2 weeks but only went 4-5 because the team wasn't hitting. the starters couldn't sustain that early-season run; after it ended, they recorded just 1 quality start in the next 8 games.

4 of the 5 guys who contributed to that run (reyes wainwright wells and looper) are still in the rotation; can they keep it going this time? during the current streak, the rotation is 5-2 with a cumulative era of 2.11; the only losses came when reyes and wainwright matched 0s with two of the best starters in the nl, peavy and penny.

here's a little puzzler: if the rotation continues to get reasonably good results and the cardinals stay in the race, who loses his spot when mark mulder is ready to pitch? or do the cardinals simply stand pat and let mulder sit out the year? what do you think the cardinals a) should do? b) will do?

re the kerfuffle over juan encarnacion: i've never been one to dog the guy over his so-called lack of hustle. i think "hustle" is largely in the eye of the beholder, and the perception thereof is often colored by factors that have nothing to do with actual performance. my gripe with encarnacion has always been with his skill set: lousy on-base skills and just so-so power. but he is what he is --- i never faulted the player, i faulted the front office that signed him. since joining the cardinals, encarnacion has given the franchise the very best of his modest abilities --- a line of .282 / .321 / .443, all of which figures are slightly above his career averages. he's not a great fielder, but he's no worse than taguchi and far superior to duncan. i'm not suggesting he should remain in the lineup --- ludwick / ankiel are younger and cheaper and have more upside, and they're likely to be at least as good as juan from now through the end of the year. but i think encarnacion is being scapegoated; i think he's being treated differently by fans, and by the manager, than other players. say all you want about the guy's inadequate effort; his professional pride has been stung, and he's reacting the way any of us would --- angrily.

having said all that: i hope they clear his salary off the books, and i wish him well with his future team. the tigers reportedly have had interest in encarnacion since last winter; they're getting nothing out of craig monroe, and they don't have a whole lot of other options. encarnacion came up through their system; maybe they want him back. the angels might be another possibility --- they've been shopping for an outfielder to bolster their bench. the Indians need a bat but apparently aren't in the market.

that's all from me for today; short post, as i'm on the road the rest of the day, heading home. other good stuff to read: