Observations from a sensational weekend of sports:
** If ever there was truth to the phrase “_____ is a game of inches,” we saw it in golf this weekend. Tiger Woods hit the flagstick with his third shot at the par-5 15th on Friday at the Masters in Augusta. As we all know, he had to take a penalty, then a drop, and double-bogeyed the hole. On Saturday, Tiger was hit with a two-shot penalty for taking his drop two yards behind the original shot.
Just think if that ball had hit the pin and dropped right next to the hole, or missed the pin and spun to within three feet. If Tiger gets a birdie and gets a four on that hole, rather than an eight, he would have been in the playoff with Angel Cabrera and champion Adam Scott. He was that close to being in the hunt at the Masters. But, the golf police got this one right. The two-shot penalty was correct, as was not disqualifying Woods. That’s the way the rules are written now. Since returning from his 2008 injury, Tiger has played in 15 majors, and finished in the top six eight times. Nobody else on the tour has been in the hunt even half that much. Even though he hasn’t won one lately, it’s just logic that Woods should be considered the favorite going into the U.S. Open at Merion in Pennsylvania.
** The remarkable run of Cardinal starting pitching extended through the weekend. After Jake Westbrook shut out Cincinnati on Wednesday, Shelby Miller turned in seven innings of one-hit, shutout ball on Friday against Milwaukee. Then, Adam Wainwright went all the way on Saturday for the Cardinals’ third straight shutout – the first time since Jose DeLeon, Joe Magrane and Larry McWilliams delivered three straight for the Cardinals in September of 1988.
On Sunday, Jaime Garcia tossed seven more shutout innings against Milwaukee before the bullpen imploded. When you add in Lance Lynn’s last two innings against Cincinnati, Cardinal starters have turned in 34 straight shutout innings. Winning baseball’s foundation is starting pitching, and the Cardinals so far have been as impressive as could have possibly been expected.
Twelve games into the season, the Cardinals have a one game lead over Pittsburgh in the National League Central. As they head to PNC Park, they have an opportunity to show the Bucs that they are still the division’s big brother. This should be a fun trip, with Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Washington coming up. It’s a good early chance for the Cardinals to measure themselves in the NL.
** After a fabulous six-game winning streak, the Blues have dropped two in a row. Friday night in Columbus, they suffered a schedule loss. It was their third game in four nights, and they got into Columbus early in the morning after winning in Minnesota. That loss was completely reasonable and, honestly, to be expected.
But Sunday against the Blackhawks was a different story. The Blues had a day of rest and had the ‘Hawks on their home ice. There was palpable emotion in the Scottrade Center. Yet the Blues refused to go to the net and were held to one or fewer goals for the fourth time in five games. Chris Stewart and David Perron had as many shots (one) as Chris Porter and Ryan Reaves did. Perron had 19 minutes of ice time, Stewart had 16, Porter had nine and Reaves had less than seven. Patrik Berglund did have three shots, and David Backes had two shots in 22 minutes.
There wasn’t a time where I thought the Blues were going to score. They never went to the net. If you’re going to score, especially against Chicago, you have to assert yourself, and the Blues didn’t. On offense, this team belongs to Perron, Berglund, Stewart, Backes and the injured T.J. Oshie. It’s unfair and unreasonable to expect rookies Vladamir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz to lead the offense. The veterans have to step up, to buy in, and be aggressive. They weren’t against the Blackhawks, and those guys have to live with the fact that they lost the game on Sunday – not the defense, not Brian Elliott, not the coaching staff.
The Blues play six of their last seven at home. That sounds great, until you realize that the Blues are 14-8-1 on the road, and just 9-8-1 at home. If this team has the ability to “buy in” as Hitchcock says, if they have heart, they have enough talent to roll into the playoffs. If they are what they’ve been for the majority of this season, they’ll meekly back in, and get eliminated quickly. It’ll be interesting to see who they are over the next 12 days.