Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Cardinal Slew An Eagle

I'm not sure if Arizona's 24-20 victory of the Eagles is a good sign or a bad sign.

It's good they won, to be sure. It's good they surrendered no sacks of Palmer, and only 3 QB hits. The offense had 400 yards, and averaged 6.6 yards per play. Palmer did only go 20 of 42, but with 329 yards an 2 TDs, it's hard to complain. Andre Ellington only averaged 3.1 yards per carry, but did get 23 carries, so even if the o-line isn't opening a lot of holes, Arians is at least committed to trying to run, which probably helps keep Palmer on his feet. Larry Fitzgerald had 160 yards receiving, including an 80 yard TD, and John Brown had 119 yards, including the game-winning 75 yard TD reception. The defense held Philly 0-3 scoring touchdowns in the red zone. It also intercepted Nick Foles twice, and recovered a fumble. After watching him luck his was into that ridiculous TD/INT ratio last year, it's encouraging to see things reverting to a more normal state of affairs.

On the downside, those are about the only positives for Arizona's defense. The Eagles had 521 yards of offense. Lesean McCoy ran for 83 yards at 4.0 ypc, and the Eagles had 110 yards rushing overall. Jeremy Maclin had a ludicrous game, going for 187 yards and 2 TDs. Riley Cooper had a 50 yard reception. The Cardinals did not record a sack of Foles, though they at least hit him 8 times. At least Foles had to throw 62 times to get his 411 yards, completing 36.

I didn't get to see the game, so I don't know what happened. Breakdowns in coverage? Patrick Peterson was hurt? They picked on Cromartie (as most teams have done), and paid the price twice? I just worry that all the injuries the defense has sustained are starting to take their toll. "Next man up" is a good idea in theory, but at a certain point, the gap between the next man and the guy he's replacing in either talent or familiarity with the scheme is just too large.

Maybe I'm worrying over nothing. The Arizona Cardinals are 6-1. Yeah, Philly racked up 521 yards on offense, but it netted them all of 20 points, and three of those came on a 54-yard field goal on a drive that only covered 20 yards. So they moved it a lot, but it didn't get them much. And Arizona is 6-1. The Rams lost, the Niners are 4-3 and on their bye, and the Seahawks won, which makes them 4-3. Nothing is guaranteed, nothing is for certain, especially with 5 division games remaining (including in San Francisco and Seattle) but for the moment, Arizona has a 2-game division lead.

Up next are, oh crap, the surprisingly good Dallas Cowboys, in Dallas. At least they're playing on Monday Night Football this week, so short week for them. Fingers cross Garrett runs DeMarco Murray into the ground against Washington.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

One Cardinal Holds Course, The Other Plummets

The St. Louis Cardinals lost three consecutive games to the Giants, and now their season is over. Matheny used Michael Wacha - who hadn't pitched in 3 weeks - in the 9th innings of a tie game that would end the Cards' season if a run scored. Maness, Rosenthal, Carlos Martinez, and Randy Choate were all available at the time (though Choate would have also been a bad call, given he'd be facing mostly righthanders). Also, true to my guess last week, Matheny started Grichuk in Games 2-4, despite the Giants using righthanded starting pitchers in all 3 games. He was so disinclined to use Peter Bourjos, he pinch-hit Daniel Descalso and Tony Cruz ahead of Bourjos at different times. The fact Matheny apparently thinks either of those guys is a better hitter than Bourjos ought to be enough to get him fired, even if the blithering idiocy of the Wacha blunder isn't.

But it probably won't get him fired, what with 3 consecutive trips to an NLCS. Well, I guess a manager can only screw a team up so much over 162 games. At least Wainwright ended the season on a strong outing, and now he has 3 months to let his arm recuperate. They're probably going to have to dial his workload back some next year. Molina's too. Also might be a good idea for Matts Carpenter and Holliday, maybe also Peralta. So it might behoove Mozeliak to fix the damn bench, and make Matheny understand he better fuckin' use it. And stop starting Grichuk against righties. How many times does he have to fail before he gets benched like Taveras did?

Whatever, on to happier topics. Arizona just finished beating the Oakland Raiders 24-13. I know it isn't much of an accomplishment to beat an 0-5 (now 0-6) team, but 1) it was on the road, and 2) I'm always terrified when Arizona plays winless teams this far into the season. I worry they'll lose and be the only victory for that other, pitiful team. Before you scoff, recall the Jets went 1-15 in '96, and the 1 was Arizona. In 2004, the 49ers went 2-14, and both of the 2 were Arizona, which is even more embarrassing.

Plus, this is just the kind of game Arizona blows, historically, though they've done better these last few years. Having a solid defense helps, and the Raiders managed just 220 yards on just 48 plays (compared to Arizona's 365 on 69 plays). And 79 of Oakland's yards came on their lone touchdown drive. The Cardinals didn't record any turnovers, and only had one sack, but they held Oakland to less than 3 yards per carry on the ground, and Carr went just 16 of 28 for 164 yards. And it's good to see a strong defensive performance that doesn't rely on a bunch of takeaways. You can't always count on those, because sometimes the ball won't bounce right, so it's helpful to just stop drives, and the Raiders were just 4-12 on 3rd down.

The Cardinals didn't have a hugely successful day running, just 3.7 ypc, but they did run 37 times for 123 yards. Seems like they played one of those "Enough to Win" games people talk about with the Patriots. They knew they were better, they got a lead, and then they just did enough to hold on. Which is fine, they went 9 for 15 on 3rd down, Palmer was 22 of 31 for 242 yards and a TD. He did throw the Cardinals first interception of the season. I knew I shouldn't have mentioned that to my dad yesterday.

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Monday, October 13, 2014

A Little About Two Victorious Cardinals

Arizona defeated that football team from the nation's capitol, 30-20. Carson Palmer came back from his shoulder nerve thing to throw for 250 yards and 2 TDs. The defense forced 4 turnovers, which is good, because the Cardinals couldn't run the ball effectively at the end of the game to keep the opposition's offense on the sidelines. Andre Ellington had 67 yards on 19 carries, 93 yards on 25 touches overall. I can't say Bruce Arians isn't using Ellington a lot.

The Cardinals shot themselves in the foot frequently, committing 14 penalties, several of which extended the Washington team's drives. It's odd, considering they'd been the least-penalized team in the league prior to that. Hopefully this week was the fluke in that regard. At any rate, the Cowboys beat Seattle, so the Cardinals are once again in sole possession of first in the NFC West. Sure, the Niners could win tonight and go to 4-2, but Arizona already beat them once this year so, tiebreaker!

On the baseball side of things, the Cardinals managed to beat the Dodgers in 4, thanks to L.A.'s complete lack of a bullpen. Have to figure that's why Kershaw was still in there in the 7th when things went wrong, such as it is. I mean, Holliday and Peralta's hits only just missed being caught, and Adams' home run only cleared the fence by a couple of feet. I thought football was the game of inches.

The NLCS has already started, and the Cards lost Game 1 to a lockdown performance from Madison Bumgarner. I'm curious, if the series went 7, would Bochy use him there? Right now, he's scheduled for Game 5, so Game 7 would be on short rest. But I think he's clearly they best guy they've got. Then again, Bochy seems to have a better bullpen overall than Mattingly (not to mention Bochy generally seems smarter at deploying his), so he might be more willing to trust a lesser starter, but keep the quick hook. And the Cardinals' offense is capable of making any pitcher look great on any given night.

Wainwright pitched poorly, again. The elbow is becoming more concerning. Given he had a week between his bad Game 1 NLDS start and his bad Game 1 NLCS start, I don't think rest is going to do the job. At least, not the amount of rest you can get during playoff series. I can hope an offseason will do the trick, but that's not going to help now. So do they keep running him out there, or do they try Wacha or Gonzales? I'm not sure I trust any of them, really, certainly not to win a game where the opposing pitcher is Bumgarner. Gonzales walks too many guys, and Wacha didn't seem to have great stuff or command the last time he pitched. At least with those guys, you aren't risking further injury necessarily (well, maybe with Wacha, given the chronic nature of his shoulder condition). I don't know what the answer is.

In the meantime, I guess the Cardinals will just keep trying to hit homers. They hit 4in Game 2, all solo, but it was enough to help them win and even the series. Matt Carpenter hit his 4th of the postseason, Taveras hit one as a pinch-hitter to tie things up, Adams his his second to give them a lead, and after Rosenthal pitched like garbage again, Kolten Wong saved his bacon with another homer. That's 11 in 6 games, 9 of them by lefthanded hitters. Not sure if that means anything.

I do know the Cardinals are about to face righthanded pitchers the next two games, so maybe Matheny ought to consider benching Grichuk, who has historically not hit well against righties. There's next to no chance he'd start Taveras, but he could always go with Holliday-Bourjos-Jay. For all matheny's talk about winning games, that is the outfield best suited to win games, certainly when facing righthanded pitching, and playing in a park with an expansive outfield. Get the really fucking good centerfielder in centerfield. Odds of this happening are basically nil. Matheny made sure to single out Randal for praise for a couple of good plays he made in Game 2, so I'm pretty sure he's trying to lay groundwork for starting him again. Him and my dad, they both just love Grichuk. Me? I find him a useful player, but I'm pretty sure he's the second coming of Jim Lindeman offensively (while being more useful defensively and on the basepaths). Insert your preferred "promising prospect who flames out because he can't stop flailing at breaking pitches and stuff out of the strike zone". Well, my first goal for the Cardinals in any playoff series is to not get swept, and they have taken that off the table, so we'll see what they can manage from there.

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Sunday, October 05, 2014

Guess I'm Rooting For The Seahawks To Lose Tomorrow

Arizona lost to the Broncos 41-20. Ouch. I expected Arizona would lose, but not that badly. Maybe 28-20, something moderately respectable. Arizona's offense was completely shut down, managing only 215 yards and converting just 3 of 16 third downs. Oh, and 81 of Arizona's offensive yards came on one catch and run by Andre Ellington.

The sad/scary thing is that in some ways, Arizona didn't play that bad. Only 3 penalties, they held Denver to 7 of 16 on 3rd down, which isn't great, but not terrible. They held the Broncos to 92 yards rushing, though Ronnie Hillman averaged over 4 yards a carry on his 15 attempts. The defense even intercepted Peyton twice.

You're right, I'm grasping at straws. The flimsiest of which is hoping the Seahawks lose to that football team in the nation's capitol so Arizona can maintain sole possession of first place.

So let's move to baseball. The playoffs are in full swing, though they aren't providing much suspense so far. The Orioles finished a sweep of Detroit this afternoon, and as I type, the Royals are leading Anaheim 5-2 in the top of the 4th with their own chance to sweep. After winning an 18 inning war of attrition on Saturday, the Giants are poised to sweep the Nationals.

The only series that has no chance of ending in a sweep in Dodgers/Cardinals, because they split the two games in L.A. St. Louis won the first game in a slugfest, hardly what anyone would expect from a game featuring Adam Wainwright and Clayton Kershaw (not to mention the Cards' anemic offense), but there you are. The Dodgers won the second game behind a good start from Zack Greinke, and a timely 9th inning home run by Matt Kemp. Off Pat Neshek, who isn't exactly covering himself with glory in this postseason, having surrendered a run in each of the first two games.

Oh well, the Cardinals needed a split to wrest away home field in this match-up, and they got it. In about the most unlikely way possible - lighting up Kershaw for 8 runs in less than 7 innings - but it still counts. Now they're sending out John Lackey against Ryu, which is another pitching match-up that favors the Dodgers, unless Ryu's shoulder is still bothering him. Now would be a great time for Lackey to be what I thought he was going to be when the Cardinals acquired him: a really good starting pitcher. Certainly didn't do it much during the previous two months.

Also, what the hell is up with Matt Carpenter? Hits 8 home runs all season, and now 2 in two games? Could have used you driving the ball like this a little more this Matt 2. I don't think that's his actual nickname (there's not one listed on his Baseball-Reference page), but I figure Holliday would be Matt 1, and Adams would be Matt 3, based on when they made the big leagues.

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