From Sports Open Line
Yeah, it was a tough weekend for the home team. The Braves came into Busch Stadium and swept the Cardinals in three games and that never feels good.
But the Cards still have a 2 1/2 game lead over the Reds coming into play today and those Redlegs get to play the Braves for the next couple of days while the Cardinals square off against the Cubs.
Random Cardinals thoughts:
* Nice to see Lance Berkman return from the DL. Mike Matheny is now in the enviable position of having too many good hitters for too few spots. Right now that’s not a problem because I’m sure they’ll go easy on Berkman’s calf early on in his return. With Carlos Beltran killing the baseball lately I seriously doubt he’ll sit much but the Cards do have a couple of day games following night games this week (Tuesday & Thursday) so there will be opportunities to get everyone in.
* Too bad Shane Robinson had to go back to Memphis to make room for Berkman. The move made total sense, don’t get me wrong, but it’s tough to see a guy do everything asked of him only to face a demotion anyway. Robinson can play this game.
* Expect some more bumps for Cardinals’ starters in the not too distant future. Jake Westbrook (1.76 ERA), Lance Lynn (1.81 ERA) and Kyle Lohse (2.08 ERA) are all pitching above anything they’ve ever done in their careers and it only stands to reason that they’ll come back down to earth at some point. At the same time, I don’t think Jaime Garcia (4.09 ERA) or Adam Wainwright (6.16 ERA) will be where they are in a couple of months. They’ll get their ERA’s down and it should all balance out…in a perfect world, anyway.
* As we all probably suspected, it’s going to be a while before we see Chris Carpenter on a Major League mound. This weekend there were reports, including one from my buddy Derrick Goold, indicating that Carpenter is still at least a month away from beginning a throwing program and it would be fair to assume that it would be another month (maybe a little more) after that before he’d be ready for big league action. If all goes well he could be a “trade deadline acquisition” for the rotation.
* I love this team’s balance. They’re good defensively, they can hit from 1-7 in the order (and the guys who hit 8th, mostly the second basemen, can be threats at times too), the starters are solid and the bullpen has three guys who can get swings-and-misses consistently (Jason Motte, Marc Rzepyczynski and Mitchell Boggs) plus a couple of other guys (Kyle McClellan and Fernando Salas) who have proven themselves in tight spots in the past.
Random MLB thoughts:
* Holy Josh Hamilton, Batman. Carlos Beltran is 10-for-25 (.400) with 5 home runs and 12 RBI over the last 7 days and he hasn’t even been a blip on the radar on the national baseball scene. That’s because Hamilton is stealing all of the headlines. During that same 7-day stretch Hamilton is 13-for-28 (.464) with 9 HR and 16 RBI, including an historic 4-HR game.
* And if those numbers aren’t impressive try this on for size:
Hamilton so far in 2012: .404, 18 HR, 44 RBI, .455 OBP, .866 SLG in 32 games
Hamilton’s pace for 2012: .404, 83 HR, 204 RBI
I know he’s not going to hit .400, top 80 HR’s or drive in 200+ runs but he has a legitimate shot at being the first Triple Crown winner baseball has seen since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.
* Ladies and gentlemen…the hottest team in Major League Baseball is the Miami Marlins. After finishing April at a highly disappointing 8-14 they’ve gone 9-2 in the month of May and they’re finally starting to get some power production from Giancarlo (Mike) Stanton. And Jose Reyes is starting to heat up as well.
All of that even though closer Heath Bell continues to get smashed into little, bitty pieces. He’s allowed 30 base runners (18 hits, 12 walks) in just 11 2/3 innings of work. He’s been so bad that I have to think he’s hurt or something. That’s crazy considering he saved 43 games and posted a 2.44 ERA last season.
* Finally…another Albert Pujols update! I know you’re super excited about that! Well, the second highest paid player in baseball history is going to get a lot of attention if he’s hitting under .200 at this stage of the season and that’s a fact.
How in the world does Albert have a .196 average? Or a .234 OBP? Or a .275 SLG?
Unless he’s covering up some kind of injury – and I’ve neither seen nor heard anything even hinting at that – then it’s clear as day. He’s messed up in the head. No minor mechanical flaw changes a hitter this dramatically.
When great players struggle this badly for this long there are only two logical explanations. Injury is one. Psychology is the other. I don’t know if it’s the pressure to live up to that $240 million contract, the discomfort of not having his family around, the potential regret of leaving a very comfortable situation, the uneasiness about fitting into a clubhouse where you’re suddenly the “new guy” or some combination of all those things but I know that this isn’t mechanical.
I’m not buying the stuff about “one small adjustment” fixing this. If that was all it was he would have hit a few home runs by accident already. This is a psychological issue (again, barring an unmentioned injury) and a player can’t just snap out of it.
I fully expect Albert to go on a tear at some point soon but it won’t happen until he relaxes. He’s always been intense but right now he looks more “tense” than “intense” and that will have to change before the hits and homers will come.