A four-game series at Coors Field against the last-place Rockies should give the Cardinals a good opportunity to keep pace with the Pirates, who will be playing host to the Padres for four games.
The week in Denver also should give the Cardinals plenty of time to see a few old friends on the Rockies. There are three, in particular, they won’t want to miss.
This will be Helton’s first game at Coors Field since making official over the weekend that he will retire at the end of the season. Helton hasn’t been playing much, mainly because he hasn’t been hitting, but he figures to be a fixture in the lineup on the Rockies’ final homestand.
Helton said the main reason he announced his retirement is to give Rockies fans a chance to show their appreciation to the franchise leader in most offensive categories.
“It was brought up to me that I couldn’t look at it from my perspective, that I had to look at it from the fans’,” Helton told reporters in Phoenix on Sunday. “That it would be selfish if I didn’t (announce it now) and I never thought of it that way. Once I heard that, I said, ‘Let’s do it!’ We’re going into the last homestand and I wanted to go into that homestand knowing it would be my last.”
Helton and Matt Holliday enjoyed a three-year run from 2005-2007 when both hit better than .300 in the middle of the Colorado lineup. A .317 career hitter, Helton also owns a career .415 on-base percentage and .539 slugging percentage. If not for several injury-marred seasons at the end of his 17-year career spent entirely with the Rockies, Helton would have far more than his franchise-most 2,505 hits and 367 homers.
In 107 games against the Cardinals, Helton has hit .283/.391/.522 with 22 homers and 67 RBIs.
Boggs’ nightmarish season hasn’t improved much since the Cardinals traded him July 9. He spent most of the past two-plus months in Triple-A Colorado Springs, where his ERA was 8.27 in 12 outings covering 16 1/3 innings. He was called up Sept. 3 and has pitched three times. In his most recent outing, he gave up two runs in one inning, hiking his ERA to 9.31 — more than seven runs higher than the 2.21 he posted in 2012 for the Cardinals.
Throughout the trying season, Boggs somehow has maintained a positive outlook.
“I haven’t run and hid from this all year and I certainly am not going to do it now,” Boggs told STL Sports Page over the weekend. “There’s games left on the schedule and I expect to be really good these next few weeks.
“I don’t want to forget any of this. This is an incredible learning experience for me, as tough as it has been, as hard as it has been — and it has been extremely tough. But I think I would be missing out on an incredible opportunity if I try to forget it all. I’ve been through a lot this year. I am not the first baseball player to have a bad season. And it has been a bad year, no question about that. I’m not trying to skate around that at all, but I don’t want to forget any of it. I want to be better because of it, and I feel like I have that opportunity.”
It has been more than two years since he left a start at Busch Stadium after allowing four runs in two innings and complaining of a bad back. Talking with him after that game, I rated his chances of ever pitching again no better than 50-50. The bulldog right-hander admitted he didn’t know if he would be able to come back, adding that he did not want to take any more pain shots to the back.
But he still is hanging on, even though the numbers indicate he might be better off tending to his property and restaurant at his Weir, Miss., home. Oswalt, 36, is 0-6 with a 7.71 ERA in six outings with Colorado.
The Oswalt scheduled to start the series finale Thursday afternoon can’t be expected to be close to the same pitcher who shut down the Cardinals more than once when he was pitching for the Astros.
Remember the 2005 NLCS? The Cardinals had momentum on their side after Albert Pujols’ unforgettable homer off Brad Lidge won Game 5. But in what would be the last game played at Busch Stadium II, Oswalt shut down the Cardinals for seven innings in a 5-1 win that sent the Astros to their only World Series.
You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @stanmcneal or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.