the cardinals sure aren’t giving up; i guess i won’t, either. but it doesn’t look good for them, despite last night’s stirring win. they need to close with a 19-9 or 20-8 run, something like that, just to have a chance; they haven’t posted a run such as that since 2006, and even if they pull it off it won’t be enough unless the brewers cool down some and play .500 or just over the rest of the way. of course, there’s always the possibility that the crew chokes in september and plays sub-.500 ball against an easy schedule, but that is extremely unlikely with sheets and sabathia in the rotation. and whatever the brewers might do, the cards have to worry about the mets and/or phils now as well as the team in front of them. that’s quite a needle to thread; they’re not likely to succeed, but they haven’t stopped trying. and why should they? show up, play, try to win. logic tells us their odds are poor (less than 10 percent, according to BP’s latest odds report), but logic --- like everything else in baseball --- can have an off-year. it’s already having one so far vis-vis the cardinals, whose entire season has defied logic.
defy, cards, defy. hey logic --- you suck.
the milwaukee newspaper was full of quotes about carlos villanueva’s indiscretion in the bottom of the 7th, which very obviously fired the cardinals up --- especially el hombre:
"He did us a favor. He woke up a sleeping giant. I congratulate him. They beat us all year long. You don't have to do something stupid like that. I respect the game. I wanted him to know I didn't appreciate that."
if the cards somehow manage to pull off a comeback, this game --- and the villanueva flap in particular ---- might be looked back on as The Turning Point. i tried to come up with a list of season-changing moments in the franchise’s history but could come up with very few examples that truly apply. terry pendleton’s homer at shea in september 1987 definitely qualifies, imho. two years later there was one in the opposite direction at wrigley field. the cards led the cubs 2-1 in the 8th and were on the verge of moving past them into first place when a cub batter named dwight smith singled to right and took a very wide turn; tom brunansky threw behind the runner and smith lit out for second, where he was safe. he scored the tying run, and chicago won it in extras, then won the rubber game the next day and never looked back. the cardinals lost 6 in a row; in retrospect, smith’s baserunning play appeared to have deflated them. ankiel’s HGH revelation last year might also be wedged into this category --- the team was surging when the ankiel news broke (in arizona, where the team is now headed), then proceeded to lose 9 in a row. for that matter, you could say that zambrano’s fight w/ michael barrett in the dugout last june (and piniella’s showy ejection the next day) had a galvanizing effect on the cubs; they were 9 games under .500 at the time, but they immediately won 5 of 6 and had climbed back to .500 within a month; they went 63-46 the rest of the way to win the division.
but bona fide turning points (or TPs) are extremely rare, and even when they occur they don’t always change the ultimate outcome --- viz. pujols’ homer off lidge in 2005, the biggest TP in franchise history. everyone was waiting for the astros to collapse after that, but they didn’t; the cards would never hold another lead in the series. i’d like to think that last night’s win (and the villanueva business) tilted the dynamic of the race in the cards’ favor, but i just don’t think it’s very likely.
onward now to houston, where they’ll face two left-handed pitchers (wolf and rodriguez), followed by two more in arizona (big unit and doug davis). since july 1 the cards have faced left-handed starting pitchers 16 times (including last night) and gone 8-8 despite scoring just 51 runs total --- 3.2 a game. maybe that’s why josh phelps was called up. (in case you were wondering, phelps has played one game in the outfield this year at memphis --- the only one in his entire professional baseball career. he has never played the outfield in the majors. . . . . dude’s a pure pinch-hitter. . . . ) the good news about the arizona series is that the cards will miss both haren and webb --- those two are being set up to face the dbacks’ chief pursuers, the dodgers, on saturday and sunday right before the cardinals arrive, and again the following friday and saturday when the dbacks and dodgers meet in los angeles.
- very soon, somebody will hit the 250,000th home run in major league history. dollars to donuts it gets hit by cesar izturis. . . . . btw, anybody remember who scored baseball’s 1 millionth run back in the late 70s / early 80s?
- springfield, still fighting for a playoff spot, won last night to stay within a game of first place. they got a homer from donavon solano, who’s holding his own at double A so far --- .291 / .347 / .384, which is not bad for a 20-year-old second baseman. he’s roughly in the position that jose martinez was in at this time last year.
- if you haven’t shared your evaluations yet in tangotiger’s scouting report by the fans, do it now.