Monday, October 28, 2013

A Cardinal Feasts On A Falcon, Another Cardinal Stumbles In The Dark

Arizona defeated the Atlanta Falcons 27-13! All right! Andre Ellington ran for 154 on just carries, making the first 100 yard rusher the Cardinals have had since LaRod Stephens-Howling ran for about 129 last year against. . . the Atlanta Falcons! Wow, the Falcons run defense is terrible if they can't stop Arizona.

The Cardinals' defense held the Falcons to 27 yards rushing on 14 carries, sacked Matt Ryan 4 times, and intercepted him 4 times as well. Carson Palmer only had to throw the ball 18 times, so he only threw 1 interception! Whoo!

Anyway, that's all good news, and the Cardinals go into their bye week at 4-4, which is the same record they had halfway through last season. In that case, they won 4 in a row, then lost 4 in a row. I guess going back and forth on wins and losses is better. Maybe. Anyway, I'm still happy with the defense. When the offense can give them anything in the first half, the team has a chance. It's just a matter of whether Palmer commits a bunch of dumb turnovers that puts the team in a hole right off the bat.

On the baseball side of things, Game 5 of the World Series is tonight. The Series is tied 2-2, and Wainwright gets a chance to improve on the disaster that was Game 1. Hopefully his defense will also decide to show up. The series has been kind of a mess honestly. The Red Sox won game 1 in large part because the Cardinals forgot how to field. Then the Red Sox returned the favor at key moments in games 2 and 3 by forgetting how to throw to bases, or when to do so. The Cardinals won Game 3 on an obstruction call, the Boston won game 4 by Uehara picking Kolten Wong off first base. Both managers are making curious bullpen decisions. I'm not really surprised by Matheny's, and maybe Boston fans aren't surprised by Farrell's, but I don't know. It's been a close series, but not exactly a crisply played one.

But so far, the Cardinals have met my minimum expectations. They won Game 2, ensuring they wouldn't get swept. They won Game 3, ensuring the series would be at worst, even at 2 after 4 games. I figured that was the best I could reasonably hope for in a scenario where Joe Kelly and Lance Lynn would face the best offense in baseball, even one that wasn't getting to use their precious DH. At this point, it's best 2 out of 3, and the Cards send their two best starting pitchers out for the first two games. They can't ask for a much better chance to win. Of course, if they lose either of those games, it's back to Joe Kelly. In a Game 7. In Boston. They probably better win the next two games.

And Matheny better get his head out of his ass and start using his lefthanded relievers against David Ortiz. Seriously, he has two of them: Randy Choate and Kevin Seigrist. Choate's been doing this thing for awhile, and Siegrist wasn't really good this year. Ortiz is a below-average hitter against lefties, and one of the best hitters in Boston's lineup. Make him face lefthanded pitchers, god damn you, Matheny. The Red Sox might still win, but there's no reason to make it easy for them.

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Sunday, October 20, 2013

Good A Time As Anyway To Discuss Cardinals

Arizona had two games in a span of 5 days against the best two teams in the NFC West. Great chance to send a message that they should be taken seriously. With their 34-22 defeat at the hands of Seattle on Thursday, they lost both. Which sends a message, too.

Arizona actually won time of possession, and broke even in the turnover battle - 2 more INTs for Carson Palmer! - but were outgained by 110 yards. They rushed for a grand total of 30 yards, and Palmer needed 45 passes for 258 yards, which was only 204 after you subtract all the yards he lost from being sacked 7 times. Which might explain why he was throwing so many short passes. So pin it primarily on the offensive line, thought the defensive failed to stop the run for the second consecutive game, as the Seahawks ran for 135 at 4.2 yards per carry. The one thing Arizona's defense had been doing consistently well, they stopped doing. Swell.

On the baseball side, St. Louis manged to finish off the Dodgers in 6 games. Which means another trip to the World Series, whoo! And with Boston defeating Detroit, it's a rematch of 2004. Which leaves me conflicted. On the one hand, I'd love for the Cards to avenge that series. They were the best Cardinals team I'd ever seen, and they got swept. And since it was the Red Sox, I had to hear about from the media for the next nine damn months. When Houston lost to the ChiSox the next year, the media moved on from that in like 5 seconds. So getting some payback, that'd be nice.

On the other hand, if they'd been facing Detroit, and they lost, at least it would be to a team that hadn't won the Series in about 30 years, and had kept coming close the last 8 years or so. The Cardinals already got one over Detroit recently, and I don't have any real animosity towards them (not that I have much to any current Red Sox players in particular, more their franchise in general). Plus, I'd like the Cardinals' odds better against Detroit. Yeah, their starting pitching is pretty serious business, but so was the Dodgers', and the Cards managed to scrape by. Miguel Cabrera wasn't himself, and neither was Prince Fielder, which I'd say handicaps the Tigers' offense fairly substantially.

As it stands, though, Boston has a hellacious back of the bullpen, and their lineup is solid top to bottom. The Cardinals do seem to be getting Allen Craig back, so they have someone to DH, which just leaves that offensive hole at SS, and the almost total lack of productive bench players. Plus, Matheny seems intent on not using Shelby Miller, and sticking with Lynn and Kelly. Which might not be so bad if he didn't give them so much rope to hang the rest of the team with. This isn't a Dodgers lineup with no Kemp and hobbled Hanley Ramirez and Andre Ethier, or a Pirates team that was mediocre offensively at best. If either of those two start to struggle, they need to be yanked before the Red Sox plant a five spot on them in one inning, and I'm not sure Matheny is willing to do that. I wonder if it's his catcher's mentality, that he (or Yadi) can just talk the pitcher through it, even when that isn't that case? Or if he's too worried about hurting their feelings/confidence. Though that wouldn't explain tossing Shelby basically in the garbage. I mean, they say he could go about another 14 innings, then freaking do it. He's a better pitcher, and he surely can't have fatigue issues after you haven't used him in like 3 weeks!

Sorry, I just have a lot more confidence in Miller than either of the other two, and it frustrates me they aren't even using him.

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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

I Should Have Done This Yesterday

At least one of the Cardinals teams would be coming off a win. Arizona lost to the 49ers, 32-20. They couldn't stop the Niners' running game (Frank Gore went for over 100 yards), or Vernon Davis (180 yards receiving and 2 TDs). Arians had said that stopping Davis would be a team effort, well they better clue the team in to that fact in the future. Carson Palmer shot the team in the foot with 2 interceptions - again - and they lost two fumbles. On the plus side, they did rush for over 100 yards as a team. Arians is finally catching on to the fact Andre Ellington is a useful offensive player. I don't know if he's the fabled "every down back", but he needs to be on the field as much as they can manage.

On the baseball front, the Cardinals lost to the Dodgers last night. So St. Louis is still up 2 games to 1, but I'm a little concerned. Not a lot: even if the Cardinals lost I won't feel disappointed in the season. The Dodgers are pretty good, and I went into the season thinking the Cardinals were likely to win around 85 games and struggle to make the playoffs. And they've had plenty of success recently, so it's hard to be too mad. But I still want them to win, and this was a game the Dodgers weren't starting Grienke or Kershaw. This Dodgers team makes me think of the 2001 Diamondbacks, where a team really needed to win any game that Randy Johnson or Curt Schilling didn't start against them if they wanted to move on. The Cardinals didn't pull that off, and they were ultimately knocked out in Game 5 of the NLDS.

Mattingly's starting Nolasco tonight, apparently. If the Cards had gone up 3-0, he was almost certain to start Grienke on short rest to stave off elimination. Even on short rest, I'd be more worried about Grienke, which is maybe not a feeling supported by statistical trends of pitchers on short rest, but neither is my complete lack of trust in the Cardinals' Game 4 starter, Lance Lynn. Maybe if he'd had even one decent playoff start in the last two years I might feel better, or if he didn't seem to have entirely too many starts where he craps the bed and kills the team's chance of winning. But that's where we are. If he loses, then the Cards have to win two of three going up against rested Grienke and Kershaw. Well, they already managed that once, by the skin of their teeth, but I'd prefer to avoid the suspense if possible.

It would help if their offense could get on track. Outside of Games 1 and 5 of the NLDS, the offense has been basically dead. They've scored 4 runs so far against L.A. I don't know if it's the quality of the Dodgers pitching (certainly part of it), a bunch of hitters slumping at once, or just that they can't string the hits together the way they did in the regular season.

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Monday, October 07, 2013

2 Crappy Offenses, One Cardinal Overcomes, The Other Stands At The Brink

Arizona won their second game in a row against the bottom half of the NFC South, handling the Panthers 22-6. The Cardinals defense deserves the majority of the credit (surprise!), considering the offense totaled about 250 yards, Palmer threw 3 INTs (two in the end zone), lost the time of possession battle (again), and went 4-for-12 on 3rd down (still an improvement). Rashard Mendenhall continued to be a largely ineffective back, though maybe that's the O-line's fault. Can't rule it out. To be fair, the O-line only allowed 2 sacks, so that's an improvement.

The Cardinals' D scuffled a bit in the first half, letting Cam Newton throw for over 200 yards, though they held Carolina to only 6 points. But in the second half, they dialed it up, and Newton threw for less than 100 yards. The Panthers were held below 100 yards rushing as a team, Newton to just 25 yards. The Cards sacked him 7 times, intercepted three of his passes, and forced a fumble. So yeah, all credit to the defense. And Jay Feely (2-for-2 on FGs, including a 50 yarder), and Dave Zastudil (averaged almost 50 yards per punt).

Just like last year, the rest of the team is holding the offense up, so anytime it wants to get its butt in gear would be fine. Cardinals' fans were disgusted enough yesterday to start booing Palmer, which I'd probably be doing if I'd gotten to see the game. We've seen enough dumb passes the last few years, it'd be nice if he'd cut it out.

Over on the baseball side of things, the St. Louis Cardinals need that luck I was talking about more than I thought. They're down 2-1 to Pittsburgh after Sunday, and Game 4 kicks off in less than 2 hours from when I'm typing this, so they could be done by this evening. The offense hasn't really come through (4 runs in the last 2 games), but Matheny's rotation decisions haven't helped.

There was no reason to start Joe Kelly ahead of Michael Wacha (starting today) or Shelby Miller (consigned to the bullpen?!) Kelly is Jake Westbrook, meaning even on a good day, he's at the mercy of luck on balls in play. Even if he's getting ground balls, if they're finding holes in the infield, he's sunk. As for Lance Lynn starting Game 2, well, let's put it this way. Given the choice between Lance Lynn of 2013 or Jeff Suppan of 2004-2006 to start one game, I'd take Suppan. Not because I believe Suppan is more likely to deliver a great start, but because I think he's less likely to deliver a disastrous one. Lynn's results just seem so variable. Like he can give you the 7 innings, 1 run, but he can give you 3 innings, 5 runs. Over the course of an entire season, he has enough of the good starts to make it worthwhile, but in the playoffs, I'd rather just stick with the guy I feel I can count on for 6 innings, 3 runs. So given the choice, i'd have thrown Miller at the Pirates in game 2, and Wacha in Game 3.

As few runs as the Cards have scored, maybe it doesn't matter, but best foot forward.

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