Albert Pujols has hit a home run.
Sure, that may not seem like the biggest deal; I remember a time when Albert Pujols hitting a home run was literally the most unremarkable thing in the world. Hell, he would hit two or three just for practice before breakfast, so he wouldn't get out of the groove.
Before last night's blast to left field, though, Albert hadn't put one over the fence in 105 at-bats. That's an awfully long time for a hitter expected by many to become the highest paid player in the game after this season. It's also an awfully long time for a player whose defining characteristic over the first decade of his career hasn't been excellence, but rather the uncanny, unnerving regularity with which that excellence has issued forth. Machine-like, you know.
But now the drought is over, and all feels right with the world. The Cards have now won seven of eight, are three and a half games up on the Cincinnati Reds, and have somehow amassed all this success while suffering through a litany of bizarre maladies.
It was, you might say, a pretty good night.
-- Okay, I'm not saying Colby Rasmus's catch on Ryan Ludwick's would-be home run
was the best catch any of us have ever seen, but still. Jim Edmonds
' robbery in Cincinnati still stands a bit higher on the mountain for me, but I wouldn't have a problem with putting Colby's catch right below it.
Now that Colby has gone not only to the wall, but in fact over it, can we all just go back to ignoring everything Andy Van Slyke says?
I was curious, so I looked up Colby's defensive numbers this year. Obviously, the sample size keeps us from drawing any conclusions about his defense going forward, but it's still useful to see what he's done so far. After posting a negative value in both UZR and the +/- ratings last season, Rasmus is back on the positive side of the ledger in 2011 by both systems. Not hugely meaningful less than a third of the way through the season, but nice to see nonetheless.
-- I was listening to the radio last night during the pregame show, and they were interviewing one of the Padres' broadcasters. He commented on the woeful San Diego offense, and said something to the effect that the ballpark seems to have gotten into a few players' heads. At the time I just sort of let the comment go by, the sort of thing broadcasters and analysts say to try and rationalize what is most likely a much simpler lack of talent.
After watching the game, though, I think I'm inclined to agree with the broadcaster. You know that old story about the manager who, when asked by his pitcher to name one park a home run wouldn't have gone out of, responds with, "Yellowstone?" Well, we might want to add Petco to that list. I always forget just how huge that stadium is, and how many balls seem to just die at the edge of the warning track.
Honestly, as great as it was watching Albert hit his home run, it was just as encouraging watching the other flyballs he hit that found gloves. In most other parks I think he would have had two, maybe even three homers on the night.
-- Kyle Lohse is at least moderately awesome. His ERA is barely over 2.00, and while he should certainly see that number regress a bit based on his peripherals, he isn't getting incredibly lucky. Kyle McClellan
is having success in a way I find incredibly hard to fathom
; Lohse really is pitching almost as well as his numbers suggest. It's remarkable.
-- Fernando Salas is also at least moderately awesome. He throws strikes like Lady Gaga produces hits. His strikeout of Chase Headley was a thing of absolute beauty. Long-term I still think Eduardo Sanchez has the higher ceiling, just because Sanchez's stuff is so -- ahem -- filthy, but Salas has plenty of stuff to go along with a thousand-yard stare a coma patient would have to be impressed by and the unflappable nature of a trained killer.
-- Speaking of closers, there was quite the clamour among the fanbase recently for the Cards to take a look at trading for Heath Bell. After all, the Cards can't find anyone to close out games, so they should go out and trade whoever and whatever it takes to bring in someone who can, the argument went.
After watching Bell blow the game last night, does anyone still want to go out and trade for Bell? Well sure, of course you do! After all, he's still a hell of a pitcher, and one bad game doesn't change that, right?
My point being, of course, that blown saves are not the end-all be-all statistic to consider for a bullpen. Heath Bell isn't a different pitcher now than he was before getting hit up for a pair of runs last night. No better, no worse. The same goes for the pitchers who have blown saves for the Cardinals. That big blown save number is painful to consider, certainly, but it doesn't tell us nearly as much as you might think about what kind of pitcher you're actually watching.
Ladies and gentlemen, our long national nightmare is over.