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AZ 9, Cardinals 2 - Busch League

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Record: 57-65. change on last year: +20

"Hopefully we'll end up here to start the first round."
     -- Luis Gonzalez.

Most unlikely, Gonzo. Not only because we'd have to start, oh, winning series - regularly - but Atlanta also need to overtake St. Louis for the best record, and they're seven games behind right now. And besides: going on this year, who would you rather face?
Atlanta: 3-3, 32 runs scored, 32 allowed
St. Louis: 2-5, 18 runs scored, 35 allowed

Another quality start for Vargas, though I think even he would have to say, this wasn't his finest outing. It was hard work out there, with conditions tough for any pitcher: given this, five hits, two walks and a pair of runs over six innings was a good job, well done. His only slips were in the fourth, where a wild pitch was lost by Stinnett, allowing a runner to score from second, and an RBI single to Marquis, the second of his hits.

Normally, allowing two hits to the pitcher would be a hanging offense, but we'll waive that here. Marquis is now batting a mere .373, the best average in the major-leagues for any player with 50 or more at-bats. Not any pitcher. Any player. And there are 482 of them. Oddly, the worst* is another Cards pitcher, Chris Carpenter, batting .036 - less than one-tenth of Marquis. But when you're 17-4 with a 2.25 ERA, who cares? [* = before Aaron "1-for-54" Harang qualified this morning, dammit. :-)]

Marquis might be contemplating a change of position now, as he was tagged for ten hits, four walks and six earned run, after flagging badly in the seventh. We got to bat around - which makes a nice change from watching the opposition do it - and had seven straight hitters reach with two out, on six hits and a walk, before Tracy grounded out to end it, much as he'd started the inning.

Three hits for Glaus, two home runs for Gonzalez, and two hits for Stinnett and Counsell. We avoided the sweep, and that's also something we've been rather good at, despite our sub-.500 record. In thirty-nine series to date, we've only been swept three times, in Washington, Philadelphia and Cleveland; we've swept three (Colorada and San Diego at home, and in LA), and have split all the other thirty-three.

We're now 26-13 in series finales, and so, if the season comes down to the very last day, we've got to feel optimistic about our chances... Thanks to Otacon and Devin for joining me in the bleachers, and we welcome Spike, who is keen to see the BOB roof open - though having watched the players sweat it out in Busch Stadium yesterday, I'm very glad we have a nice, climate-controlled facility.

Heroes + Zeroes, Series 39: vs. Cards, on road
Glaus: 7-for-9
Vargas: 6 IP, 5 H, 2 BB, 5 K, 2 ER
Gonzalez: 4-for 13, 3 HR, 4 RBI
-----------------------------------
Webb: 6.2 IP, 11 H, 2 BB, 3 K, 6 ER
Lyon: 1 IP, 3 H, 0 BB, 0 K, 3 ER
Green: 1-for-8, BB, GIDP x 3

Glaus had almost 1/3 of all our hits for the series, and ended the year 12-for-19 against the best team in the NL. While all seven hits this set were singles, they were not cheap bloops. Vargas is simply our most reliable starter; in the unlikely event that we reach the playoffs, serious consideration must be given to making him our #1 starter - he's the most reliable one we have. And Gonzo had more than 1/3 of all our RBIs, rediscovering his power stroke.

On the other end, neither Halsey nor Webb were acceptable in their starts, and either could have got the nod; Webb lasted a little longer, but was probably a little worse. Lyon has been pretty toothless in his appearances so far; I don't think Valverde need currently worry about the closer's job. But top "dishonours" go to Green, who managed the rare feat of wiping out more base-runners than he created. We'd have fared better if Bob Melvin had stapled Green's bat to his shoulder.

But on the whole, very satisfied to have completed the most threatening part of the road trip and not lost ground on the Padres. Admittedly, as much because of their failings as any great skills of our own - both teams have gone a mediocre 3-6 - but for road series against two division leaders and the 2003 World Series champions, it was okay. If we take one out of three in Cincinnati - exactly what we've done each stop so far - that'll be the 4-8 trip expected.

We're actually ahead of schedule, since I didn't expect us to win in Atlanta. And as we face a team with a worse record in Cincinnati this weekend, while San Diego faces Atlanta, we have a genuine chance to catch up a game or two. Though with Ortiz on the mound, it might not be tonight! But more of that later...