Saturday, August 2, 2014

August 2, 2013 - Craig, Freese & Beltran Spark Redbird Assault on Reds

Friday, August 2, 2013 - At Great American Ballpark (Shelby Miller - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Cincinnati Reds (Bronson Arroyo - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  39,095

The Cardinals scored thirteen runs for the second straight game - in a 13-3 thrashing of the Cincinnati Reds - as the now-departed Allen Craig had a perfect night in four plate appearances:  three hits - including a home run - one base on balls, three runs scored and three runs batted in. 

Two other former Cardinals - David Freese and Carlos Beltran - made their presence felt in this game right from the outset.  Freese launched a bases loaded first-inning double - scoring Beltran, Craig and Matt Holliday - to give St Louis a 3-0 lead - then later scored the fourth run of the inning to put the game on ice.  He finished the night with four runs batted in.

After scoring another run in the second, the Redbirds exploded for four runs in the fourth and three more in the fifth, to build a 12-0 advantage.

Shelby Miller pitched brilliantly for the first five innings, but ran afoul in the sixth, even with that twelve-run lead to work with.  Joey Votto's three run home run prompted manager Mike Matheny to remove his enigmatic rookie - who still won the game (11-7) - but forced the bullpen into four innings of work - instead of getting a night off.  It didn't seem to matter - as Kevin Siegrist logged two perfect innings of relief - striking out three - while Keith Butler allowed just one hit in his two-inning scoreless stint.

Beltran also had a perfect night in four plate appearances:  three hits - including two doubles - one base on balls and four runs scored.

Jon Jay had two hits and three runs batted in, while Daniel Descalso added three hits - including two solo home runs - and scored three runs to round out the major offensive performances for a Cardinal team that would lead the National League in runs scored in 2013 - by a wide margin.

Strangely enough, lead-off hitter Matt Carpenter - who led the league with 126 runs scored - was 0 for 6 in this game.  But he had a little help from his friends tonight - who had five hits in eight attempts with runners in scoring position.

For the season, St Louis hit .330 with RISP - giving perhaps a false hope that they could do something like that again in 2014.  That hasn't happened - although the team is still competitive - with a greatly improved defense and a pitching staff that leads major league baseball with 18 shutouts.

The recent departure of another sentimental favorite - Allen Craig was inevitable - at least as far as I was concerned.  On Twitter, just a few days before the deal went down, I tweeted:  "Have a feeling Allen Craig will be gone...very soon."  Of course, I had no idea who the Cardinals planned to acquire - I just felt he was going to be the odd man out - especially with the surplus of young outfielders in the system waiting to get a chance to play on a regular basis.

As it turned out, both Craig and the gregarious Joe Kelly are now members of the once dreaded Boston Red Sox - a team unlikely to reach the postseason in 2014.

The Cardinals, with shored-up pitching (Masterson from Cleveland, and now Lackey from Boston) will remain competitive.  But if they're going to reach the postseason this year, it will be an entirely different path they'll be following - with pitching and defense overshadowing a once potent offense.

Last season, the Cardinals bludgeoned the opposition to reach the World Series; but they still lost in six games to a Red Sox team that had finished in last place in 2012.  Quite possibly, Boston will finish last again in 2014.  The Cardinals may start winning at a pace similar to last season's 97-win campaign.  But it's going to be a different cast of characters leading the way.  One year can bring about great change in baseball.

The trading deadline can do that over night.

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