Break Out the Brooms

Nice to see the Cardinals were able to actually take care of business this weekend. The Reds gave them some scares–I really was worried on Friday night that they’d blow their opportunity–but they battled through them and came out on top every day, with major credit due to Mr. Ankiel, who started it off again today with a home run and drove in another with a sac fly. With Juan Encarnacion out and with Ankiel hitting lefties the way he is, I’d say there’s a good possibility he’s going to be playing almost every day from here on out. And that’s likely a good thing from the Cardinals’ point of view.

As for Encarnacion, the news isn’t good from that horrifying incident from Friday night. It looks like he’ll be fortunate just to be able to see out of the eye again, much less play baseball any more. Hopefully it’s not as bad as they think it is, but that is out there. It’s amazing that, in the split second it took from the ball to leave Aaron Miles’s bat and hit him in the face, Encarnacion’s public perception took a 180.

Personally, I’ve never had a problem with Encarnacion. The biggest problem with him, I think, was his contract. Walt Jocketty signed him to a deal that was really more than he probably was worth, which is what got everyone really up in arms and let him slide easily into the Cardinal Whipping Boy slot recently vacated by J.D. Drew. All the other criticisms, in my mind, flowed out of the fact that we got him at above-market rates. If he’d been a bargain, a lot of the complaints levelled at him would have been shrugged off, I think.

Anyway, now if Encarnacion shows up at any Cardinal function, he’s about guaranteed to always get a warm ovation. It’s a little sad that it takes something as drastic as this to see and care about the person underneath, instead of the abstraction that we think of when we think of a baseball player.

Looper continues to befuddle me. Today’s outing was just amazing, really. I would have pinch hit for him in the sixth with two on and two out, because 1) they could have used another run there and 2) I was afraid he’s start getting hit in the seventh. But he took care of business in the seventh, handed it off to the bullpen, and picked up yet another win. Very nice work there, Mr. Looper. Nice work indeed.

And if the Astros knew how to hold a lead, it’d have moved the team within 1 game of the lead. But Houston couldn’t hold the Cubs off and so the standings still look like:

Chicago —
Milwaukee 1.5
St. Louis 2.0

Games like that make you afraid it’s the Cubs year. I hope there’s nothing to that, though. The Cubs have outlasted their typical moniker (Completely Useless By September) so maybe they’ll be useless in September as well.

Then there is word that the Cardinals will go with a six-man rotation for the rest of the season, plugging Mark Mulder in, but also removing Anthony Reyes and putting in Mike Maroth. Needless to say, that stirred up some passions in Cardinal Nation as well. Maroth didn’t show a lot in his rehab stints down in Memphis, save the last one where he worked two nice innings in support of Mark Mulder, so it’s surprising that LaRussa wants to toss him into the fire of a pennant race. I know there is some factoring in of “what do we do with him for next year”, but this doesn’t seem like the time to try that out.

Having said that, it’s tough to make the arguement that Reyes doesn’t deserve his fate. I know that the stat was thrown around that he had a 3.38 ERA (before Friday) in his last few starts. However, four runs he gave up against Florida were unearned, which definitely skewed the ERA. (The BAA of .208 or whatever it was, though, was pretty nice.) Reyes probably still has some work to do. And, honestly, I’d expect Maroth is really on a short leash and that Reyes could slide back into the rotation if he doesn’t do well.

The Cardinals spend the holiday entertaining the Pittsburgh Pirates. Paul Maholm goes against Kip Wells. Wells has been, well, not the Wells we documented when we started this blog in his last few starts. Hopefully running up against an offense that is not overly awe-inspiring will help. Maholm has a 4.56 road ERA (BAA .295/OPSA .821), though has a 3.27 ERA in two games (only one decision-a loss) against the Cards this year.

Here’s Maholm vs. the Cardinals. Looks like Pujols is the only one that has gone deep on him, but numerous Cardinals have high batting averages against him. Most of the Pirates don’t have much record against Wells, mainly because he played with the Pirates for so long. Let’s see if the Cards can’t put a lot of runs up early and get Wells back into his rhythm.

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