Busch “Memorial” Stadium.

Phillies take game 1. A former Cardinal hits #450, and a story about an all-time great.

Jake Westbrook struggled on Thursday. But let’s be honest, he’s a 12-year veteran with a career win/loss record of 89-87 with a 4.30 earned run average. Jake is what the numbers tell us. He wins 50% of his starts. When you live and die with a sinker, some days the ball just doesn’t cut as much.

Westbrook is a clear #5 starter, and across the majors, his numbers stack pretty well against other back-end rotation pitchers. He’s a 12-year veteran folks, and his career high in wins is 15. He went 15-15 in 2005 with Cleveland, and followed with a 15-10 season in 2006. He’s a .500 pitcher.

Mike Matheny praised his offense for battling despite a 6-0 deficit after 2 innings. I agree. Most teams lie down, and concede the game. Not the Cardinals. They keep fighting, and on most nights, they probably win a game like Thursday.

Standings in May mean very little to me. It’s unrealistic to stay in first for 162 games. The Red’s jumped a ½ game ahead Thursday after a 4-game sweep in Atlanta. We knew the Reds would contend in the National League Central, which is why I was disappointed when Matheny put out a B-list lineup in key games when in position to sweep during the 27-straight games against division rivals. Suddenly, those “throwaway” games put you in 2nd place.

Look for the Birds to take at least 2 of the next three games against Philly.

Losing Matt Carpenter is a bummer. He was on a straight tear. Hitting .288 in 104 at-bats is no fluke. He racked up 9 doubles, 3 triples, and belted 3 homers while driving in 20 runs. We use the word “gamer” a lot here on Daily Grind Sports, and he’s one of ‘em.

The bullpen is a crapshoot. I think Mike Matheny needs to get a better grip on what he has in right field. Lefties are hitting .429 against Fernando Salas, and those struggles continued Thursday night. Switch-hitting Freddy Galvis (batting left) drove in Shane Victorino (batted left and singled) and pinch hitter Mike Fontenot (left) drove in Ty Wigginton in a crucial 6th inning (St. Louis tied the game 7-7 in the 5th). Salas is 0-3 with 11 earned runs in 15.2 innings pitched. Yikes, where was Eduardo Sanchez.

These are the growing pains of a new manager. I predicted 86 wins for St. Louis, and at this rate–it seems about right.

Every home game I sit next to longtime media member Skip Erwin in the press box. He’s run my ear for 6 seasons during baseball games. To truly understand, you need to meet him, but his presence never goes unnoticed. Recently, his drumbeat includes a story from 1956. Stan Musial started slow. He was hitting around .200 after May, and a reporter asked him what was wrong. He chuckled, and gave a cliché line. Musial hit .310 in 1956, and broke Mel Ott’s NL record for extra base hits. He drove in 109 runs. Years later, Skip asked Musial why he acted so cordially despite a ridiculous question, and his response, verbatim, “Skip, I knew I could always hit”.

Classic from a 22-year veteran who hit a career .331 with 475 homeruns.

I repeat this short quip for those who think Albert Pujols has lost his mojo. He hit his 450th career bomb against Seattle on Thursday in a 3-0 win. Four of his 5 homers in 2012 came in his last 9 games…believe me, he can still hit.

That’s all for now. I’m off to Wisconsin. One last thought. Take a quick gander at this cartoon drawing. Memorial Day signifies so much in the history of the United States, and the continuous battle for freedom. America…fuck yes.

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