ahhhhhh . . . . . relief. joe strauss described la russa as "ecstatic" over chris perez’s performance last night. reyes perez became the 7th cardinal pitcher to record a save this year; you never know, he might be the only going forward. la russa --- like most managers --- rarely uses a rookie in the closer’s role, but as we saw in 2006 he will break that rule when circumstances warrant. and they clearly do warrant --- any pitcher, rookie or no, who restores order to the 9th inning is going to keep getting the opportunities.
i’m hoping perez will be that guy ---- even if he has his ups and downs, which he probably will. don’t forget, 10 of the first 100 batters to face him in the big leagues got extra-base hits off the kid, and just two weeks ago, he blew a 5-run 9th-inning lead at memphis. he still loses the strike zone periodically, and he may be prone to the longball. . . . . . but so what. he has more ability than the diminished isringhausen, and more than franklin ever possessed. he gives the team its best shot to hold a late lead, ergo he should get the opportunities --- even if he occasionally blows one, as he almost certainly will. and he upholds the build-from-within philosophy the cardinals are trying to instill. is he as sure a bet as brian fuentes would have been? no, not quite; he’s a riskier bet. but there’s a decent chance that he’ll be as good as fuentes would have been, and an excellent chance that he’ll be nearly as good. the difference between fuentes and him clearly isn’t worth the price in talent the rockies were demanding. . . .
if you’re wondering, the franchise record for saves by a first-year player is 9, set by john littlefield in 1980. i say "first-year player" rather than "rookie" because todd worrell still qualified as a rookie when he saved 36 games in 1986. but in 1985, the year he first reached the majors, worrell only picked up 5 saves, plus another 1 or 2 in the playoffs. . . . . if perez breaks that record (and yeah, i’m getting way ahead of myself), the cardinals stand a great chance to go to the playoffs.
[update] the post is reporting this a.m. that wainwright's rehab will prep him to pitch as a reliever when he returns, but i think he's a fallback. mozeliak hints that there might be another solution for the 9th inning (ie perez) by the time wainwright is ready to return . . . . [end update]
you might have read in the RFT (or seen it on WGN) where wilco sang "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" last weekend from the press box at wrigley --- clad in cubs jerseys, no less. in the ensuing interview, jeff tweedy admitted that, yeah, he grew up down in belleville across the river from . . . . er, uh, you know, st. louis . . . . as a cardinal fan. i'm told that a couple nights later, a cardinal employee showed up at the wilco gig in indianapolis with a birds-on-bat jersey personalized for tweedy (#1 on the back), a baseball with a personal inscription from TLR, and a bunch of swag for tweedy's kids. star-spangled banner at the all-star game next year, fellahs? . . . .
- did pineiro save his spot in the rotation last night? well, he gave up 5 extra-base hits in 7 innings, including 2 to angel berroa, a player who is slugging under .300. . . . it was the 3rd consecutive start in which he’s yielded at least 5 extra-base hits. pineiro has now made 19 starts; batters slugged .423 against him in the first 10 (ie, through june 17) but.574 in the last 9. the corresponding eras are 4.02 and 6.09. . . . . the cards will still need a 5th starter for another couple of turns, and i don’t know that they have anybody better than pineiro to turn to; well, jaime garcia might be a better option, but it seems as if they’re committed to using him out of the pen. beginning on august 17 the team will only need a #5 starter 4 more times over the rest of the schedule. wainwright will probably be back by then; doesn’t it make sense to close out the sched with a 4-man rotation of carpenter / wainwright / lohse / wellemeyer? that is being discussed by the decision-makers; i don’t know what’s left to discuss. just do it, guys.
- inside stl had an interview with #1 draftee brett wallace recently, if'n you haven't seen it.
- jason bay has a .423 / .500 / .692 line in 6 games since the trade deadline, with a homer and 6 rbis; manny ramirez, in 5 games, is hitting .600 and slugging 1.100, with 3 dingers and 7 rbis. ryan ludwick in the same span: .500 batting average, 1.500 slugging with 6 homers, including a walkoff. just sayin’ . . . .
- ludwick and pujols currently rank 1-2 in nl slugging, by the way.
- as a team, they now rank 3d in the league in scoring --- first time all season they have ranked that high. they’re on pace to score 777 runs, which would be an increase of 52 runs over last year.
- here’s something you’ll never believe: cardinal second basemen, as a group, are batting .300 on the year ---- that’s #1 among national league teams. but they are near the bottom in both walks and isolated power, which drops them to the middle of the pack in ops, at .721. that’s still a vast improvement over last year, when st louis 2bmen ranked 14th in the league. you could say the same for the catchers, who were dead last in 2007 but are 7th this year with a .723 ops.
- st louis outfielders, as a group, are the best in the league with an .862 aggregate ops. they rank first in homers, 2nd in slugging and obp. their 66 homers so far this year are just 2 shy of last year’s full-season total.
- the pitchers aren’t hitting quite as well this year; they ranked first in cumulative ops in both 2006 and 2007 but are only second this year, behind the cubs.
sorry, gotta keep it short this morning. game thread will be up at about noon.