Friday, April 5, 2013

Cards rattled by snakes, lose opening series

As I'm sitting down to write this, I can almost audibly hear Beavis in my ear John Kerry-ing back and forth about the series the Cards just wrapped up with the DBacks. "That was cool.  No, no, wait, it sucked.  That sucked.  Um, except for, like, that part that was cool.  That part was cool.  The rest of it sucked, though.  It sucked.  FIRE!!!!"

Aaaaand now I've just lost the 7 readers I had by mentioning Beavis in my first paragraph.

If I'm going to take a few things away from this opening series, it is true, some of those things are cool, and some of them...well, some of them suck.  Let me be clear about the whole starting-a-game-at-like-9pm-then-playing-til-almost-two-thirty-in-the-morning-on-a-weeknight-to-BEGIN-the-season thing?  As a fan, it most definitely sucks.  It's tough enough getting through the week when they take a 6-game road trip out west in mid-season.  Kicking off April that way?  I've not worked up to that just yet.  Color me exhausted.

I'll tell you what was cool, though, Jamie Garcia's performance, that's what.  5 2/3 IP, surrendering 1ER on 2 hits?  I'll take it!  Not to mention he did it in a place not called Busch Stadium.  That 1:1 K/BB ratio (4ea) isn't great, but it's easy enough to overlook for now.  I really like how after Montero left the yard in the 2nd, Garcia didn't lose his mind & fall apart.  Instead, he came back, went after (and retired) the next three batters he faced.  I didn't do the research to find out exactly how long it's been, but it's been quite a while since I can recall Jamie giving up a bomb, then retiring the next three he faced.  Jamie's 6th got off to a good start when he induced back-to-back groundball outs.  Unfortunately, he couldn't finish the job, walking the next three to load the bases to punch his ticket to the showers.  Mujica came in and ended the threat, stranding the bases full of snakes.  So, while not the greatest performance you'll ever see Garcia make, there were plenty of positives to take away from his outing.  There are no shortage of things to work on, but the things you can't teach, like what's between his ears, seemed to look good night on Tuesday.

Wainwright was cruising on Monday, until that comebacker hit him in the arm.  He was leaving a lot of stuff up after that, and it caught up to him.  A throwing error by Descalso proved costly in the home half of the 5th, and a couple of baserunning blunders were responsible for taking the redbirds out of a couple of opportunities that seemed to be unfolding.  It just sort of felt like things weren't clicking on Monday night's opener, like the team was covered in funk, and just couldn't shake it.  Probably LaRussa's fault somehow--I saw where he was in the building that night.

Then, there was the marathon 16-inning game.


The longest game I've ever been to was a 20-inning affair vs. the Mets a few years ago.  It's a great story to tell, and maybe I will another time, but now isn't the time or place.  But, I can tell you first-hand that I didn't miss one pitch of that game, and somehow the 6:53 it took to play seemed like a good amount of live baseball to watch.  But that game started at 3:10 on a Saturday afternoon, and as I told my (now) wife as we left that night, "I can't even begin to tell you how many time I've been to a 7:10 game that ended earlier than this one did.".  (It was our first baseball game date, and she didn't complain one bit while sitting through 20 innings.  How could I NOT marry her?!)  True story.

But this 16-inning game was, if nothing else, a decent opportunity to get bullpen guys some chances to throw.  Matheny sent 7 different Cardinals pitchers to the bump Wednesday night/Thursday morning, and there was no shortage of opportunities for hitters coming off the bench.  In a cruel twist of fate, the Cards came out on the wrong end of a 10-9 ballgame.  It was a decent chance for guys who might have otherwise not seen action for another couple of days to get a little work in, which never hurts.

Don't misunderstand me for being cavalier about the loss, though.  I've long said that every game you win in April is one you don't have to worry about in August or September.  Once the tallies start piling up in the loss column, there's nothing you can do about it.  I'm merely pointing out that at least some good came from the extra-long game.

Also good?  Having Thursday off!  The official time of the game was 5:32, the longest game in Chase Field history.  Rather fortuitous that the team didn't have to shower, and get on the bus to head straight to the airport and fly to San Francisco right away.  They would've been fortunate to travel, land, get to the team hotel, and get settled in and to sleep much before the sun came up.  Realistically, this might have been how it went down anyway.  But, at least they didn't have to do so, only to get up after a few hours of sleep and go start a series against the Zito and the Giants.

After all, last time we faced Zito and the Giants, we had a 3-1 NLCS lead, and were playing on a Friday night in our home ballpark and couldn't win.

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