Sunday Morning Coffee with Ray Mileur

Mileur is on this third cup of coffee this morning, without a worry or a care in the world with the anticipation of a three-game sweep in Boston today.

The Road Warriors, a/k/a the St. Louis Cardinals, are on the verge of sweeping the American League Eastern division leaders, the Boston Red Sox, perhaps the best team in all of baseball, payback in big time for the embarrassing three-game sweep by the Kansas City Royals this week.

The Cardinals were suppose to be dwelling in the bottom of the standings by the All-Star break, but something is going on here, because as we wrap up the month of June, the Redbirds are 12 games above .500 and just 3.5 games behind the Chicago Cubs, due in large part to a 21-15 road record that is the best record in the National League. The Cardinals are just one of just five major league teams to have a winning road record to date, this season.

Brian Walton, the managing editor here ‘In the House' and I both predicted prior to the start of the season, that we thought that the Cardinals would be much more competitive this season than the pundits and so-called experts had projected. So while I can't speak for Brian, waking up this morning after a good night's sleep (4 hours), filled with dreams of a three-game sweep in Boston today, after four years of nightmares following the four-game World Series sweep at the hands of Boston, finding the Cardinals in second place, still in contention, comes as no surprise to me on one hand, yet on the other hand, I'm amazed at how they are winning.

If you lived anywhere within two blocks from where I lived, it wouldn't be unusual for you to know exactly, for that matter, hear exactly what it is that I'm thinking about what the Cardinals and manager Tony La Russa, about what they are doing are not doing, in the course of the season.

My most recent rampaged had a lot to do, with the Cardinals carrying 13 pitchers into Boston Friday night. Not that, that is so unusual, going against the American League and designated hitter lineups for nine straight games, but this is a team with no Albert Pujols in the lineup, along with a shorthanded and depleted bench, with catcher Yadier Molina suffering from a brain concussion last Sunday, leaving the Cardinals without a legitimate backup catcher for a whole week.

My take has always been, if you are carrying 13 pitchers at the major league level, there are at least three of them that shouldn't be there in the first place. I still struggle with the 12th pitcher on the active roster, let alone the 13th.

Yet the Cardinals appear to be leading a charmed life. Molina, who in my opinion, shouldn't have even been in the lineup Friday night, responded by hitting his fourth home run on the season to help propel the Cardinals to 5-4 win over the Red Sox, even as Cardinals lose another player out of their lineup, as shortstop Cesar Izturis had to leave the game in the fourth inning because of a sprained right hamstring.

Saturday morning, I'm thinking surely the Cardinals are going to make the necessary rosters moves to balance the roster and replenish the bench. Molina isn't even going to get to play Saturday as a precaution. Izturis, while I'm not a doctor, I'm married to a nurse and I'm a Priority Club Member of Holiday Express, which makes me qualified as much as any fan and more than most to predict, Cesar will not likely be able to play for at least a week to 10 days.

While I'm wearing my doctor's smock this morning, hey if I can pretend to be a writer, then why not a doctor, Molina can't play and shouldn't play for perhaps another three or four days at best and Izturis is probably a week away from being anywhere near 100%.

As I paced up and down the halls of the Birdhouse corporate offices, between my bedroom and living room, I'm mumbling something about, somebody do something,(I don't always even listen to my own rants) by the time we get off this road trip the Cardinals are going to look like the old Eddie Feinger "the King of Softball" and his court, softball team, with Kyle Lohse on the mound with basically four healthy players playing defense behind him.

So what did the Cardinals do on Saturday, while I was engaged in my morning rant, and scaring my German Shepherds, the Cardinals take what is left of a tattered roster and a rookie pitcher in Mitchell Boggs and go out and beat the powerhouse Boston Red Sox 9-3. You just want to shout out the old Jack Buck refrain, "Go Crazy, Go Crazy, Go Crazy," but I'm already there.

In the first two games this weekend, I was so concerned about the offense and lack of depth on the bench, which now seems to be a waste of my time and energy as the Cardinals have responded by scoring 14 runs against the Boston Red Sox.

Today the Cards are going for the sweep by sending RHP Joel Pineiro (2-3, 4.02 ERA) to the mound while the Red Sox counter with LHP Jon Lester (6-3, 3.18 ERA). Pineiro hasn't won since April 29 will be making his third start since returning from the DL on June the 12th. He's pitched well enough to win at least three times, He's allowed just three runs in 12 innings (2.25 ERA) since coming off the DL and in his most recent start he allowed a single run over seven innings.

The way the Cardinals are playing, there is little doubt in my mind that this team has what it takes to deliver a knockout punch to the Red Sox on Sunday. I'm so confident, that I'm not even worried, for that matter, I don't even have a rant for the day, meaning my neighbors up and down both sides of the street, are getting to sleep in late this morning.

To help save my sanity, if for no other reason, the Cardinals have decided to put shortstop Cesar Izturis on the disabled list before Sunday's series finale against Boston. A move that comes, a day late, but hey, it came.

Memphis Redbirds' outfielder Nick Stavinoha is expect to replace Izturis on the roster. In order to make room on the 40-man roster for Stavinoha, the Cardinals likely will move pitcher Chris Carpenter to the 60-day disabled list, a move you wonder why it hasn't been made before.

Izturis will be replaced in the field by the combination of Brendan Ryan and Aaron Miles and on the active team's roster by Nick Stavinoha, who will be the ninth player to make his big league debut this season for the Cardinals. Kudos to Nick, who has made a terrific comeback this season, showing up in the best shape of his career, he deserved the call up over the others that were being considered, including the Cardinals top prospect, Colby Rasmus.

If you are wondering where Nick is going to play, he'll likely take some more playing time away from Brian Barton, who hasn't started in the outfield since June the 8th in Houston and hasn't played since Tuesday night against Kansas City.

For all my ranting and raving over the last 48 hours, this team continues to impress me, beyond even my wildest expectations. It's just amazing with Izturis being the 10th Cardinal to go on the DL, that manager Tony La Russa and this team has managed to keep themselves just 3.5 games back of Chicago.

How the team and roster is managed from day to day, well it's like when you were a kid going through the ‘House of Horrors' at the fair, it's scary sometimes, but you can't wait to go back in, for the thrills.

I guess I just loved being scared, so I can't wait for the next posting of a La Russa lineup or the next roster move, or non-move.


St. Louis is considering activating Mark Mulder for a start in Kansas City that will be my next rant, what is he doing back in the majors?

Todd Wellemeyer is expected to be back in the rotation when the Cardinals play the Detroit Tigers this week. The rotation in Detroit looks like it's going to be with Braden Looper taking the mound on Tuesday, after the Cardinals have the day off on Monday with Kyle Lohse, toeing the rubber on Wednesday.

Yadier Molina, was not in the lineup Saturday and is doubtful that he'll be in the lineup on Sunday. My take is, he shouldn't be, give him Sunday off, the team is off Monday and I'd let him play in the third game in Detroit, if he passes the test designed to gauge the recovery from his concussion. Why he wasn't place on the DL in the first place, is still beyond me. It was an unnecessary risk in my opinion to carry him on the roster on this road trip, but thanks anyway for that home run, Friday night. ?

Matt Clement, money misspent. The Cardinals are going to shift him to the bullpen for the final two weeks of his rehab assignment, for whatever that is worth.

Albert Pujols could return to the lineup as early as Wednesday and unless La Russa and his staff are carrying fully-automatic weapons, there isn't anything that is going to keep Pujols out of the line up as the Cardinals wrap up this important road trip.

I'll see you at the ballpark, or the funny farm, whichever comes first. Until then, it's another cup of coffee, the Sunday paper and hoping the neighbors are awake by the time the Cardinals game starts.

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