Tag: Matt Holliday

Matt Holliday Injury: Updates on St. Louis Cardinals Star’s Hamstring

The St. Louis Cardinals placed Matt Holliday on the 15-day disabled list Saturday afternoon after the outfielder was unable to work through his hamstring injury over the All-Star break.

According to a statement from the team’s official Twitter feed, the move is retroactive to July 12. St Louis has also called up Triple-A standout Brock Peterson to give the team depth during Holliday’s absence:

The 29-year-old Peterson has hit .306 with 22 home runs and 66 RBI for the Memphis Redbirds, the Cardinals’ Triple-A affiliate in the Pacific Coast League. Peterson has not yet made a major league appearance and mostly played first base for Memphis.

Holliday, St. Louis’ stalwart offensive producer since Albert Pujols left for the Los Angeles Angels, was pulled from the Cardinals’ July 11 game against the Chicago Cubs with hamstring tightness. The 33-year-old outfielder pulled up short on his way to first base while running out a groundout in the fourth inning and was immediately taken to the clubhouse for observation.

While there was no significant damage shown during tests, Holliday sat out the team’s final three games before the All-Star break as a precautionary measure. Expected to be back in the lineup for Friday’s opening tilt against the San Diego Padres after taking two sessions of batting practice, the Cardinals star was unable to give it a go.

“I still feel a little bit in there,” Holliday said, via Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com. “We’re going to see how [Saturday] goes and go from there.”

Holliday likely tested out the hamstring again Saturday morning in team workouts before St. Louis decided placing him on the disabled list was the best course of action. Because the move was made retroactively, Holliday will be eligible to return from the disabled list on July 27, right before the Cardinals’ critical NL Central clash with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

St. Louis heads into Saturday night’s game at Busch Stadium with a two-game lead over Pittsburgh in the Central. The Cardinals hold a five-game advantage over the third-place Cincinnati Reds, who hold the NL’s final wild-card spot.

Holliday, a six-time All-Star, was hitting .268 with 13 home runs and 47 RBI at the break. Prorated over an entire regular season, those numbers would make for a career-low in batting average and his worst power numbers since his injury-plagued 2011 campaign.


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Preview, Predictions for 2013’s First Cardinals-Reds Rivalry Clash

Once the Cardinals finish up their West Coast swing through Arizona and San Francisco, they’ll find themselves smack-dab in the middle of a duel against their fiercest competition for the NL Central crown, the Cincinnati Reds.

Over the last few seasons, this has developed into a bitter rivalry.  David Schoenfield of ESPN said in 2011 the Cardinals and Reds has become the best rivalry in baseball.  

There have been some tense and exciting moments over the last few seasons between these two teams. From Brandon Philips igniting the fire with his inflammatory remarks over Twitter a few years back to the infamous brawl that ended backup catcher Jason LaRue’s career, this rivalry has taken on a life of its own.

Now fast-forwarding to 2013, the NL Central race will most likely come down to the Reds and the Cardinals.  

The Cardinals have not started off the 2013 campaign the way they had hoped.  Ace Adam Wainwright did not pitch well on Opening Night in Arizona and the Cardinals fell, 6-2, to the Diamondbacks.  

After playing well in game two of the series and taking down the D-Backs 6-1, the bullpen killed the Cardinals in game three, blowing four leads before losing in 16 innings, 10-9.

On Friday, the Cardinals’ left their bats in Arizona and were blanked by the Giants, 1-0.

The Reds, on the other hand, have started out the season well. They have posted a 3-1 record and taken two-of-three from the offensive juggernaut known as the Los Angeles Angels, to go along with thrashing the Nationals in their series opener, 15-0.

Last season the Cardinals held a slight advantage against the Reds with an 8-7 record. This season, the Cardinals will need to improve upon that record if they want to win the NL Central. They will need to create separation from the Reds by winning the head-to-head competition.



Game 1 Pitching Matchup


The first game of the series features Jaime Garcia against Mat Latos.  Garcia pitched very well against the Diamondbacks in his first start this season.  As he starts the home opener for the Cardinals, fans should know that Garcia has a 8-2 record in his career against the Reds in 11 career starts.

Latos will have to face his demons in Busch Stadium.  He is 1-3 there with a 13.50 ERA  Hopefully for Cardinal fans, that trend will keep up.  


Game 2 Pitching Matchup


In Game 2 of the series, the Cardinals will send Lance Lynn out to face Bronson Arroyo.  Lynn hasn’t seemed to overcome his postseason demons from last season.  He only lasted four innings in his season debut and gave up four runs, walking three and serving up a home run.  

Arroyo has made 31 career starts against the Cardinals and posted an 8-13 record with a 4.56 ERA. In 2012, he was 1-1 with a 4.15 ERA when pitching against the Cardinals.  



Game 3 Pitching Matchup


Jake Westbrook will lead the Cardinals into the final game of the first 2013 series against the Reds. He’ll be opposed by Homer Bailey.

Westbrook owns a 3-2 record agains the Reds in his career in nine starts.

Bailey hasn’t pitched very well against the Cardinals in his career.  He has a 3-7 record with a 5.00 ERA in 13 career starts.  That said, Bailey shut down the Nationals’ lineup in a 15-0 shellacking on Friday night.  He allowed two hits and no runs in six innings of work.


Game 1: With the Reds hitting the ball like they have a vendetta against it, it will be tough for Garcia to keep them in check.  

However, he is quite capable of doing so and with the Cardinals’ success against Mat Latos, game one should go to the Cardinals.

Game 2: I don’t have much faith that Lance Lynn will get out of the fourth inning against the Reds’ prolific offense.  He hasn’t had much luck in 2013 between spring training and his first start of the season.  

If the Cardinals’ offense doesn’t show up against Bronson Arroyo, it could be a long day for the Cardinals and their bullpen.  Game two goes to the Reds.

Game 3: If Jake Westbrook can get his sinker to do what it is capable of and the Cardinals can get to Homer Bailey early, it could be a good day for the Redbirds.  

With the way Todd Frazier (.471 batting average, three home runs at time of writing) and the Reds’ bats have come out of the gate, it will be a tough assignment for Westbrook. 

This one will be a tossup.  Whichever club strikes early will probably get the win.  Neither Westbrook nor Bailey are prone to make it past the sixth inning, so it will come down to the bullpens.  Both clubs are expecting their bullpens to be a strength this season, and this will be an early test.  

With the history that has been built over the last few seasons between these clubs and the lack of love for one another, it should be a great series to watch.  

Hopefully there will be some fireworks to set the tone for the rest of the season when these two clubs hook up down the road.

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Matt Holliday Versus Marco Scutaro: The NLCS Slide Seen ‘Round the World

Was Matt Holliday‘s slide into Marco Scutaro in the first inning of Game 2 of the NLCS a dirty play?

While Holliday’s intent was almost assuredly not to injure Scutaro, the fact is that Scutaro did have to eventually leave the game because of the collision. Scutaro‘s status is in question for Game 3 as he deals with a hip strain and sore knee suffered from the collision.

Still, even though Holliday slid late and hurt Scutaro, he doesn’t come across as a dirty player, and the Giants players and coaches didn’t think it was a dirty play.

Holliday said that he wished he had started his slide earlier, and Giants reliever Jeremy Affeldt, Holliday’s former teammate in Colorado, vouched for Holliday’s character after the game.

So, the question of whether it was a dirty play really comes down to your judgment on Holliday’s intent. Based on everything I’ve read, it seems that Holliday accidentally slid late; therefore, it wasn’t a dirty play. If he had sharpened his spikes before the game a la Ty Cobb and spiked Scutaro, that would be dirty, but that’s not what happened.

However, the better question might be if that was a legal play. Giants manager Bruce Bochy was adamant that the slide was illegal.

There’s reason to think Bochy‘s assessment is correct. The rulebook states, “In sliding to a base, the runner should be able to reach the base with his hand or foot.”

By the time Holliday finished his slide, his arms were taking out Scutaro‘s legs, and thus he was not in a position to touch the base with his hand or foot, in my judgment.


The rulebook goes on, “A runner who, in the judgment of the umpire, contacts or attempts to make contact with a fielder with a slide or roll block that is not a bona fide effort to reach and stay on the base may be called out for interference and, when appropriate, a double play may be called.”

Holliday’s slide may have been an attempt to hit the base and stay on it, but it failed miserably, as he started the slide at the base and by the time he was finished he was not in position to be able to stay on the base.

Thus, had the umpire judged the play as I did, calling an automatic double play for an illegal slide would have been quite reasonable. Alas, the umpire did not make that judgment, and his judgment ultimately was the final verdict on the legality of the play.

In my mind, it was an illegal slide, but the umpire judged that Holliday could have still contacted the base with his hand or foot even while his body was annihilating Scutaro and appeared to be nowhere near the base.

So, the play was ultimately legal because the umpire deemed it so. It was also a clean play in that Holliday doesn’t seem like a malicious player and no one on the Giants has called it a dirty play (to my knowledge). He should have slid sooner, and he admitted as much.

It’s a shame that Scutaro was injured on the play, and it will be a bigger shame if he misses any more time or can’t play as effectively going forward.

Personally, I do think the play should have been ruled illegal, and I also think Major League Baseball needs to do more to protect players from these types of collisions around second base and home plate. 


Dave Cameron of FanGraphs suggested today that MLB should institute a rule in which base runners are ejected for making contact with fielders the way that Holliday did in Game 2. This type of rule would go a long way to preventing the type of collisions that injured Scutaro last night and catchers like Buster Posey and Carlos Santana in brutal home plate collisions in recent seasons.

The players are the commodity. They are the reason fans go to games, and doing everything to keep them healthy should be of vital importance.

If Posey’s career had ended in that brutal home plate collision last year with Scott Cousins, we all would have been deprived of watching one of the greatest offensive catchers to ever come along. Is losing someone so valuable worth it because home plate collisions have always been a part of the game?

In my mind, that makes about as much sense as preventing minorities from playing because that’s the way it used to be.

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2012 NLCS: Will Game 2’s ‘Dirty Slide’ Bad Blood Carry over into Game 3?

The San Francisco Giants didn’t need extra motivation to beat the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series. They knew the series would be shifting to St. Louis for Game 3, and they wanted to make sure things were all even at a game apiece before it did.

Perhaps just to make things a little more interesting, the Cardinals gave the Giants a little extra motivation anyway.

We all saw what happened at second base in the top of the first inning at AT&T Park on Monday night. Allen Craig bounced a tailor-made double-play ball to Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford, but Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday broke up the would-be twin killing with a hard slide into second baseman Marco Scutaro.

It was a very hard slide.

Like, hard enough to be well past the point of it being a “dirty” slide.

There’s really no arguing that Holliday’s slide wasn’t dirty. It’s true that going hard into second base is perfectly within the rules, but there has to be some sort of pretense that the runner is just going hard into the bag.

A runner going out of his way to upend the fielder at the base is a no-no. A runner going out of his way to crush the fielder is a huge no-no.

And Holliday did go out of his way to crush Scutaro, not starting his slide until he was at the second base bag and then hurling his body at Scutaro‘s legs.

Holliday may not have had it in his mind to injure Scutaro, but he should have known that his linebacker-esque frame was going to do some damage if it actually made contact with Scutaro‘s wheels. 

And it did, of course. Scutaro stayed in the game long enough to get his revenge in the form of a bases-loaded single that gave the Giants three runs thanks to a misplay by none other than Holliday in left field.

He eventually left the game to go get himself checked out, but his single loomed large in a game that the Giants eventually won by the final of 7-1.

Fortunately for the Giants, Scutaro is OK. According to Henry Sculman of the San Francisco Chronicle, X-rays taken o Scutaro‘s left hip turned up negative, meaning he could be in the lineup for Game 3 of the series on Wednesday.

If so, there will be no need for payback. If Scutaro takes the field on Wednesday, it will be like nothing ever happened.

But something most certainly did happen, and now the question becomes whether the Giants or the Cardinals will be entirely willing to let it go. The narrative of the series has been changed, and the next chapter could very well see bloodshed.

The operative word here is “could.” Technically, a UFO could land in center field in Game 3 and abduct Angel Pagan. The baseball gods could descend from the heavens and steal Holliday’s hat right off his head as a form of payback. Or just for funsies. Anything could happen.

Whether some sort of violence will happen is going to be up to the Giants. They got back at the Cardinals for Holliday’s slide by putting seven runs on the board and evening the series, but they didn’t respond by drilling Holliday at the plate or by going after one of St. Louis’ own infielders on the basepaths. The Giants got angry, but they haven’t necessarily gotten even yet.

If the Giants are ticked off enough, they will get even. And from the sound of things, they were pretty ticked off on Monday night.

“Somebody said, after that play happened, ‘That’s just gonna [tick] us off,'” said Giants veteran Aubrey Huff, via Jayson Stark of ESPN.com. “And sure enough. We scored four runs there [in the fourth inning]. And it looked like we played with a little more edge after that.”

Even Hunter Pence, a man who doesn’t need an excuse to have more energy coursing through his veins these days, was fired up by the play.

“In my opinion, it pumped us up a little bit, you know?” said the Giants right fielder, via Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News.

As for the man in charge of the Giants, Bochy said point-blank that he thinks the Cardinals got away with a dirty play.

“I really think they got away with an illegal slide there,” he said after Game 2.

Are we hearing the rumors of war in these comments? Are the Giants planning some sort of attack? For that matter, will the Cardinals strike preemptively if they think the Giants are planning some sort of attack?

Hmmm…let’s see here. I’ll go with no, no and no.

The Giants talked about how the play fired them up, but there was also a clear “no-hard-feelings” sentiment to some of their postgame comments. It helps that they won the game and that Scutaro isn’t seriously injured, but there’s also no real hatred for Holliday for what he did.

“There’s no bad feeling or anything—just one of those plays where baseball happened,” said righty reliever Sergio Romo. “He plays hard, he was trying to win for his team, so you can’t fault him for that.”

Hunter Pence agreed: “You know Holliday, I don’t think he’s trying to hurt someone. He’s playing the game hard and those things happen.”

Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated wrote something very much akin to “You know Holliday,” pointing out that the brawny left fielder is not the most coordinated player under the sun. Given his size and utter inability to play the game with any finesse, it’s no wonder Holliday “is a bull in a china shop when it comes to baseball aesthetics.”

Even Holliday himself stopped justifying his slide to a certain extent. 

“In hindsight, I wish I’d started my slide a step earlier,” he said. “But it’s happening fast. And you’re trying to get to his lower half so he can’t turn the double play. I wish I didn’t land on top of him.”

When Holliday was asked if the extra energy that goes hand in hand with the postseason was a factor in the play, he admitted that it was.

However, he also pointed out that he had been doing the same thing at second base on potential double plays all season. This particular play did some damage to Scutaro, but Holliday said there was “no ill intent.”

Holliday wasn’t just regretful in speaking to the media after the game, either. He said he gave Scutaro his best wishes through Giants catcher Buster Posey the next time he came to bat in the third inning.

“Tell Marco I should have started my slide a step earlier,” Holliday said he told Posey. “I hope he’s OK. Obviously I wasn’t trying to hurt him.”

Granted, even here you can ask whether Holliday was really being sincere or if he was just telling Posey something he wanted to hear. How do we know for sure that Holliday wasn’t just blowing smoke?

How about a testimony from a former teammate?

“I know Matt Holliday very, very well. He’s a good friend of mine. He’s not a malicious person…I saw him running off, and I played with Matt, so I can kind of read his facial expressions pretty good, and I could tell he felt bad,” said Giants lefty reliever Jeremy Affeldt.

Behind every violent baseball play is a guy who may or may not be violent. In the case of Holliday, there’s enough floating around out there to suggest that he’s not a violent man. He’s just a very big man who made a slight miscalculation. He deserves the benefit of the doubt.

But even if the Giants are willing to give Holliday the benefit of the doubt, are he or any of his teammates safe from the Giants’ wrath?

Of course not. If the Giants feel that they need to send a message, they’re not going to allow their sympathy for Holliday, such as it is, to get in the way. He may still yet get plunked in the ribs. One of the club’s infielders may still yet get pulverized by a Giants baserunner.

Here’s the thing, though. The postseason may be a time for going the extra mile on the basepaths and in other aspects of the game, but it’s a pretty lousy time to go out of your way to get revenge. Winning games is the No. 1 priority, and petty things like revenge have a way of making it tough to win games.

For example, plunking Holliday wouldn’t be very good idea because that would mean a free baserunner for a Cardinals team that features plenty of thump in its lineup.

Even if the Giants have a comfortable lead, a Holliday HBP could lead to a two-run homer that would make the lead considerably less comfortable. More bad things could transpire.

Going hard into a Cardinals infielder doesn’t carry the same kind of risk, but it’s something that could still end up being a regrettable incident for the Giants.

Holliday ticked the Giants off when he went sliding into Scutaro‘s legs on Monday night, and the Giants responded by winning the game. If the Giants respond in kind by taking out a Cardinals infielder, they could find the tables turning on them. 

You can think back to the 2003 ALCS between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees. That was the series in which Pedro Martinez threw a pitch at Karim Garcia’s head and wrestled Don Zimmer to the ground in Game 3, inciting all sorts of bad blood and headline fodder.

The Red Sox lost Game 3, and went on to lose the series. The bad blood didn’t do them any good.

Regardless of how they go about getting it, revenge therefore isn’t necessarily in the Giants’ best interest. They could end up shooting themselves in the foot, and they’d also be going out on a limb that the Cardinals wouldn’t want their own revenge after the Giants get theirs. They may not be willing to call it even.

If the Giants want to punish the Cardinals for Holliday’s slide, the best thing they can do is beat the Cardinals again.

Likewise, if the Cardinals want to defend their honor after what happened on Monday night, the best thing they can do is fight back and beat the Giants to take a lead in the series. 

A beanball war or a benches-clearing brawl would certainly make for great headlines and writing fodder, but I doubt we’re going to see anything like that because both the Giants and the Cardinals know that now is not the time for war games. Now is the time for baseball, and nothing else.

And why shouldn’t they just play baseball? The slide happened. The Giants won. Scutaro will live. Holliday was remorseful. The Giants don’t hate him. Both clubs only care about going to the World Series.

So play ball.


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Matt Holliday Slide: Cardinals of Must Be Fined for Dirty Play in NLCS

St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday needs to be punished, at least to some degree, for his blatantly obvious slide that was designed to take out San Francisco Giants second baseman Marco Scutaro during Game 2 of the National League Championship Series. 

Carl Steward of the San Jose Mercury News wrote that the slide was evocative of the Will Clark play back in 1988 when the Giants and Cardinals met in the postseason. 

Clark went in hard at second base attempting to break up a double play and upended Cardinals shortstop Jose Oquendo, touching off one of the most memorable brawls in Giants history. With St. Louis infielders pummeling Clark, the Giants, most notably outfielders Dusty Baker and Candy Maldonado, rushed to his defense. There ensued a full-tilt melee in the middle of the diamond.

While there was no such drama this time around, Holliday’s reckless abandon is not something that can go unnoticed from the Commissioner’s office. 

Most slides into second base are designed to break up a double play, but they don’t deliberately go after the player covering the bag. The runner will keep his hand up or slide slightly out of the line in order to force the defender to put less on the throw. 

That was clearly not the case with Holliday. However, I do think there has to be some leeway. I don’t think that you can suspend Holliday for what he did. Everything has to be taken on a case-by-case basis, and he wasn’t attempting to hurt Scutaro

It is weird since we are saying that Holliday was trying to take out Scutaro, but there is a distinction that can be made. Pete Rose barreling over Ray Fosse was an attempt to hurt a player, not just playing to win. 

Players should have enough respect for themselves, each other and the game to avoid deliberately trying to hurt someone. 

Holliday violated that, at least to some extent, on Monday night. As a result, he deserves to be hit in the wallet. 

Sure, Holliday can afford to pay any fine levied against him, but it is also a way for Major League Baseball to send a message to anyone else, including the Giants, who might look to retaliate in some way later in this series. 

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St. Louis Cardinals: Matt Holliday Leaves Game vs. Brewers After HBP

St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday left Tuesday evening’s game at Miller Park vs. the Milwaukee Brewers after getting hit by a first-inning fastball from Randy Wolf on his left kneecap.

The Cardinals clubhouse—via the St. Louis Post Dispatch—listed  a left thigh contusion as the reason for pulling Holliday from the lineup.

Holliday had just extended his hitting streak to 15 games last night.  He drove home the game-tying runs in the ninth inning off of Brewers closer John Axford in the Cards’ eventual 3-2 win.

Holliday was 23-for-59 (.390) during the streak and has raised his average from .215 to .317 since May 1.

He came into Tuesday’s game with a line of .317/.393/.512, including 14 homers and 59 RBI.  He’s first on the team in hits (107), second on the team in RBI, BA and runs (56) and third in OBP.

The Cardinals outfield has been affected by injuries for most of the season, but it had finally gotten healthy in the brief period after the All-Star break.  

Utility man Allen Craig, who can play the corner outfield spots, had knee surgery in November, which caused him to miss the first six weeks of the season.  He then spent another two weeks on the DL with a hamstring issue in May and June. Jon Jay also missed 35 games in May and June due to a shoulder issue.  

First baseman Lance Berkman—who played right field for the Cards a lot last season—just returned from surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his right knee.  He has been limited to just 16 games this season.

St. Louis is also missing two hurlers from its starting rotation, ace Chris Carpenter and Jaime Garcia. Carpenter is done for the year because of nerve issues in his right throwing shoulder.  Garcia is on the 60-day DL with issues of his own in his left throwing shoulder.  He will be back no later than mid-August and could be done for the season as well.

There’s no reason to panic yet as it appeared that Holliday was removed as a precautionary measure. But the Cards can ill-afford to lose Holliday’s bat.  They can fill in with Craig, who is sometimes the odd man out with Berkman back in the mix, or call up Adron Chambers or Shane Robinson in an emergency.  

But Holliday was just starting to hit his stride during the season.  And with the Cards struggling to get clutch hits in tight ballgames, seeing the guy that is finally clicking go down is not what you want to see.

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4 Reasons the St. Louis Cardinals Are Legit Contenders Without Chris Carpenter

The St. Louis Cardinals should still be viewed as serious contenders in the second half of the 2012 MLB season despite the loss of Chris Carpenter.

While the loss of any team’s co-ace starting pitcher is a huge blow, the Cardinals have already shown this year that they have what it takes to weather the storm.

In Carpenter’s absence, the team has put together an impressive first half.

With as many as seven key players on the disabled list at once, the Cardinals pushed through a tough May and a tougher early June to find themselves only 2.5 games out of first place and six games over .500 at the All-Star break.

Given the Cardinals’ tough schedule in June and the problems they faced, they could easily be much farther down in the standings.

Following are four reasons the Cardinals will still be legitimate contenders without Carpenter.

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St. Louis Cardinals: Bullpen Woes Continue, Costing Wins

After another great outing from Adam Wainwright, the St. Louis Cardinals fall again after bullpen struggles and defensive miscues continue to plague the team.

Wainwright put together a big night going seven innings giving up only two runs on five hits with seven strikeouts. By any stretch, that’s a great night. Not only was he pitching well, he got an early base hit and made a pair of key defensive plays.

It was clear early on that he was going to have to do it all.

The game fell apart only moments after Wainwright went to the bench.

Marc Rzepczynski came in and barely pulled one out before giving up two runs on three hits including a monster home run to Adam Dunn (21).

RHP Mitchell Boggs then came in to clean up the mess, but with no luck. Boggs got the final two outs of the eighth inning, but not before giving up a two-run home run to take the game to 6-1.

The only real glimmer of hope the bullpen showed was from Fernando Salas who faced only four batters in the ninth inning to get the final outs. Salas is beginning to get himself together and it couldn’t come at a more opportune time for this team.

The offense managed to string together hits on multiple occasions with the team batting .275 on the night, but were haunted by the double play three times.

Matt Holliday, Allen Craig, David Freese and Tyler Greene all went 2-for-4, but never managed to hold together a rally long enough to circle the bases.

Yadier Molina, who batted second for only the second time in his career, went 1-for-4 with a key double in the top of the third. It’s unclear as of yet whether Molina will spend much time that high in the lineup, but he’s hit well enough of late that he can handle the challenge.

At this point, it appears Manager Mike Matheny is doing everything in his power to get the faltering team back on track.

Wainwright (5-7) wound up taking the loss Tuesday night, but he deserved better. The frustration is clearly mounting with the team as they continue to slide further away from the top of the National League Central Division. 

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Matt Holliday’s Injury Not as Detrimental to Cardinals as Longoria’s Is to Rays

The emergency surgery to remove Matt Holliday‘s appendix certainly harms the heart of the St. Louis Cardinals lineup. But with the advent of laparoscopic procedures, the Cardinals have yet to put the All-Star slugger on the DL.  

His absence and the early-season struggles of Albert Pujols have left St. Louis hurting for runs early this season. But it could be worse.

Tampa Bay third baseman Evan Longoria was

Former Cardinal Felipe Lopez has been tabbed to replace Longoria in the lineup.

St. Louis fans can only pity the plight the Rays are in, given their knowledge of Lopez’s capabilities at the hot corner. After a positive stint with the Redbirds for 43 games late in the 2008 season, Lopez was a tremendous disappointment in 2010 with St. Louis. He batted .231 with a paltry OPS of .651 as the fill-in for the injured David Freese, eventually being cut in September due to repeated tardiness and ineffectual play.

Holliday is optimistic he will return to the lineup soon.  

“I told them I would like to not go on the DL,” he stated in his first public comments since the surgery. Jon Jay and Allen Craig will hold down the fort in LF for the Cardinals. Jay’s emergence last season allowed St. Louis to trade Ryan Ludwick to pick up right-handed starter Jake Westbrook at the trade deadline last season—and Craig has been a very successful hitter in Triple-A Memphis the past few years.

Losing Holliday is a cause of concern for Cardinals fans, but given what they know about who the Rays have to replace Longoria, it doesn’t seem so bad.  

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Matt Holliday Appendectomy: Why 2011 Warns Cardinals to Let Albert Pujols Go

According to reports by ESPN.com, Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday was having an appendectomy Friday and the team is unsure how long he will be out.”

While it is tentatively believed that it was caught rather early in the process and he should recover before a big chunk of the season is missed, nothing can be deemed a certainty.

This sudden bad break can be added to the growing list of hurdles being thrown in the path of the St. Louis Cardinals during the 2011 season.

First came a tough contract negotiation with Albert Pujols that ended with nothing more than an agreement to disagree until after the season concludes.

Then the Cardinals were slapped with a season-ending injury to dominant ace and Cy Young candidate Adam Wainwright—a loss that I’m not sure any contender can overcome in a competitive division race.

Next was an injury to replacement ace Chris Carpenter that had placed the beginning of 2011 in question—though it thankfully turned out to be nothing more than a tweak.

Now St. Louis must face the realization of how quickly a season can go from all smiles to trepidation, and it’s becoming more and more clear how poor a decision Pujols’ $25-30 million per year would be for the franchise.

While the Cardinals fanbase is a loyal one and the organization is one of the most respected in the sport, they remain in a “mid-market” payroll threshold. They typically hover between $85 million and $100 million in total player salaries, and this is unlikely to change in the near future.

Pujols taking up between 25 and 30-plus percent of the payroll will limit their ability to place talent around him and will leave the team even more susceptible to injuries crippling their season (due to a lack of quality depth).

Instead of paying Pujols upwards of $300 million over 10 years, they can instead split that money up into five quality pieces on a playoff-caliber roster.

A farm system ranked anywhere from 17th to 24th in MLB (according to Baseball America and AOL Sporting News) will not provide quite enough cheap aid to compensate for the lack of additional payroll, and St. Louis would struggle to compete without receiving MVP-caliber seasons every year from their 30-something slugger.

Due to Wainwright’s uncertainty in terms of 2012 performance, they will likely have to pick up Chris Carpenter’s option in order to compete—further strapping their ability to sign quality free agents if retaining “The Machine.”

This experiment has been completed before in MLB, as the Texas Rangers handed Alex Rodriguez a little less than 25 percent of their payroll in a similar situation.

While St. Louis undoubtedly possesses a larger talent pool moving forward than Texas had in 2001, the general principles of why this can create an issue rang loud and clear.

Virtually no team can lose its ace and second-best hitter while continuing to contend, but the early misfortunes of 2011 are a clear reminder how much more it takes to win than one immortal offensive force.

Holliday will return before too long, and it is doubtful that his 2011 season will be derailed by this surgery. That said, injuries like these can ruin a team when it’s so dependent on the health and success of one high-salary player.

The Cardinals should take this as a wake-up call that as painful as it will be to watch Pujols walk out the door, letting him go may be the best thing for long-term success within the franchise.

The Seattle Mariners won 116 games the year after making that same tough decision, and the Minnesota Twins have not lost a beat after trading Johan Santana after 2007.

Additionally, the Colorado Rockies won 92 games the year after letting Holliday walk, and the Florida Marlins have done well since Miguel Cabrera left town (even while getting little help from any of their young trade acquisitions).

The decision is a very, very difficult one—one that most fans will rightfully lash out against. At the end of the day, however, it is oftentimes the right decision for small- to mid-market franchises to move on.

The Cardinals have won a championship thanks to Pujols’ immense talent, but it may be time to try winning one without him after 2011.

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