Cardinals Philly Cheese – May 3, 2010

The scoop from Philadelphia as the Cards take on the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park in Game 1 of 4. Matt Holliday returns to the place where he joined the Cardinals last July.

Holliday back where it all began

 

July 24, 2009 was a Friday filled with anticipation as the St. Louis Cardinals arrived in Philadelphia for a weekend series against the hometown Phillies, the defending World Champions.

 

At the time, the Cardinals were treading water, having been three games under .500 since the first month of the season and were holding onto a slim 1 ½ game lead in the National League Central. The Phillies, on their way to a second consecutive NL pennant, were 15 games over .500 on the season with a 6 ½ game cushion in the East.

 

That afternoon, a long-rumored trade came to fruition as the Cardinals announced the acquisition of outfielder Matt Holliday from the Oakland A's. On a road trip in New York at the time, Holliday and his family were rushed to the City of Brotherly Love. The newest Cardinal arrived at Citizens Bank Park in time to meet the media along with general manager John Mozeliak prior to Game 1.

 

That weekend, the newest Cardinal got out of the gates quickly. Holliday reached base nine times in 14 plate appearances, smacking four doubles and driving in three runs. Though Holliday's new club only won the first game of the series, the Cardinals went on to post a 39-25 (.609) record overall following his acquisition.

 

Holliday remembers the whirlwind events of last July 24 with some fondness.

 

"It was a pleasant memory checking in the hotel last night," the outfielder recalled before Monday's game. "It was all the more special this time knowing I will be spending most of my career here. I definitely have fond memories of this trip."

 

Though both clubs are again in first place in their respective divisions, there is a difference in 2010.

 

"My kids are still in school back in St. Louis now," Holliday explained with a smile.

 

Jay understands his lineage

 

When Holliday first joined the Cardinals last season, he was assigned number 15. Despite the fact that former St. Louis hitting coach Hal McRae had donned the digits in the two years since fan favorite Jim Edmonds was traded away, Holliday admitted he was uncomfortable with it and switched to number 7 for 2010.

 

It was with a bit of surprise that the 15 jersey was trotted out again when outfielder Jon Jay was promoted from Memphis on April 26. The 25-year-old lacked the veteran status of the others who had worn the number in recent years but understands its significance.

 

"Jim Edmonds is a great player," Jay said on Monday. "I followed him growing up as a left-handed hitting centerfielder myself. He was an All-Star many times (in 2000, 2003 and 2005 with St. Louis) and was a great representative of the Cardinals."

 

Jay also has a history with number 15 which helps to explain the assignment.

 

"It is a birthday number for me – I was born on March 15. I have worn it for years – back to my USA summer team and most recently with Memphis each of the last two seasons."

 

Jay is coming off a month in which he was named the Cardinals Minor League Player of the Month by both the Cardinals organization and TheCardinalNation.com.

 

"I had a good start," Jay explained. "All the hard work paid off. There are a lot of very good hitters in that league (the Pacific Coast League). My friend Daniel Descalso (leading the PCL in RBI) also had a great month. I hope he wins it (the award) in May."

 

Of course, the first-time major leaguer is hoping he isn't required to don the Memphis threads ever again.

 

Freese works on NL Player of the Week acceptance

 

Until he arrived at the ballpark Monday afternoon, David Freese was unaware he had been named the National League Player of the Week for the period of April 26 through May 2. I was the first member of the media to see him, so suggested he practice his acceptance speech as he would have to repeat it many times this day.

 

"I definitely had a good week," Freese said. "It is a big honor. My goal is to help the team every day and win."

 

Perhaps said modestly, but also realizing he was in the minor leagues and on the disabled list much of last season after making the 2009 opening day roster, Freese closed his short rehearsal with this line.

 

"I have to continue to prove I belong here."

 

All he did last week was collect a Major League-best 11 RBI, hit .462 (12-for-26) and slug three home runs. Freese posted a .500 on-base percentage and slugged .923. His 12 hits and 24 total bases were good for second in the NL.

 

Manager Tony La Russa said, "It was well deserved for his offense, but his defense is great, too."

 

On Monday, La Russa batted Freese fifth in his lineup, the fourth time he has done so this season, according to the skipper. "He batted fifth three different times and he had three good games, so it doesn't bother him. He is seeing the ball as good as anyone."

 

La Russa's pre-game remarks

 

Quizzed by the local media about Mark McGwire's reception on the road this season, La Russa replied in a manner that was remindful of his location, Philadelphia.

 

"I don't want to challenge the fans, but…," the manager opened. He went on to repeat that McGwire signs autographs every day but it isn't like he is an active player.

 

La Russa agreed that concerns by some that Chris Carpenter isn't using his fastball enough are overblown. "He has a lot of weapons, so should use them… He reared back too much" once on Sunday, but pitching coach Dave Duncan "reeled him in."

 

Among the questions the locals posed were about the Phillies ("the best kind of competition"), Ryan Howard's contract and impact on Albert Pujols ("They are two very productive hitters… The only thing that was foolish was the trade talk."), Pujols' struggles against the Phils the last two seasons and a .269 career average ("They have no special formula for getting him out."), and if these are the two best teams ("I don't think there is any way to know – way too early. Whatever happens, we have five months to keep playing.").

 

Felipe Lopez is traveling with the team so I asked the manager about progress. La Russa was upbeat on Lopez' recovery from his elbow injury, noting the second baseman may be cleared for "more baseball-wise activities during this trip." Lopez has made only a few swings and light tosses so far since going on the disabled list on April 26.

 

Quote of the Day:

 

"I don't know if I could ever be a good hitting coach." – Albert Pujols to the Philadelphia media as they quizzed him about what he has learned working with Mark McGwire.

 

Post-game update: Umpires get deep into the action

 

Tim McClelland's umpiring crew got into the action front and center three times Monday night. Two outcomes were in the Cardinals favor and the other not.

 

In the home first, a ball just past the right field foul pole struck by Phillies number three hitter Chase Utley was ruled a foul ball, but was immediately disputed by the home club. The umpires retired to the clubhouse, where they remained for just over 6 ½ minutes. Two views of the play, shown on the monitors within the first 30 seconds, made the outcome abundantly clear. What took the arbiters so long to draw the same conclusion is unknown.

 

La Russa, a part of the commissioner's Special Committee for On-Field Matters, intended to improve play, was not critical of the delay. Instead, the Cardinals manager praised the umpires "for taking the time to get the call right."

 

Leading off the Cardinals' fifth, Brendan Ryan hit a gapper to right center. Instead of taking the safe double, the shortstop kept on running. He slid into third just ahead of the relay. It appeared he maintained contact when third baseman Placido Polanco applied the tag despite Ryan changing hands. Home plate umpire Andy Fletcher, moving to third to call the play, saw it differently, calling the Cardinal safe then out. Ryan, third base coach Jose Oquendo and La Russa argued to no avail. It was ruled a double.

 

Ryan acknowledged that with no outs, "If I didn't make it, it would have been a bad decision, but I was safe." La Russa added, "I don't know what the umpire saw." The shortstop also had a legitimate follow-on question in wondering why it wasn't scored a triple since he was first signaled safe then out, apparently when changing hands. Elias Sports Bureau's answer is that it is like an overslide when stealing. In that case, the runner is not awarded the stolen base because he was not in control when first contacting the base.

 

A few minutes later, with one out in the home fifth, Joe Blanton hit a chopper in front of the plate. Yadier Molina threw to Ryan, who ran to the bag for one out, but his throw to first eluded Skip Schumaker, covering for Albert Pujols. What would have been the lead run crossed the plate, but it was taken off the board. Blanton was called out as he was running inside the lane, not to mention the fact he gave the Cardinals second baseman an elbow as he ran past. Phils manager Charlie Manuel was ejected by Fletcher between innings as he continued to argue to the delight of the home crowd. It was scored a 2-6-4 double play.

 

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog.

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