That's probably a bit unfair to say--and I did watch a few innings before the late hour and the storm knocking out DirecTV did me in--but it'd have been tough to watch another good pitching performance spoiled by the bullpen. Not saying that Shelby Miller was all that and a bag of chips, but he did put his offensively-challenged team in a position to win. Unfortunately, he was just not very direct about doing it.
Miller threw 107 pitches in 5.2 innings, which is the reason Mike Matheny had to turn to Fernando Salas earlier in the game than he'd probably wanted to. He walked three, which is an acceptable number, but threw a few more balls than was optimal. If he's at even 90 pitches at that time, Matheny leaves him in to finish the inning and perhaps the game turns out differently.
Salas gets the Goat because, even though he came into a tough situation, he should have been able to get out of it. Two were on, but two were out as well. Instead, he gives up a run-scoring single, a walk, and hits a man to force in another run. The Cards go from up one to down one while he's in and while his ERA doesn't get touched, it's still got to be on him this time.
Even though his throw apparently led to runners advancing in the sixth on the RBI single by Chris Denorfia, I'll give the Hero tag to Jon Jay, who was the only batter to get multiple hits against the Padre pitching staff last night. Not only that, he got half the team's total hits as well. I know San Diego has a strong bullpen and that Jason Marquis had been having a strong season, plus Petco is a pitcher's park even with the modifications, but that seems a little extreme to me. Just four hits? Of course, they did put together five walks, though two of those were to Pete Kozma, likely pitching around him to get to the pitcher's slot.
This is the sixth time the Cards have lost the opening game of a series, but (save for that two game series in Chicago) the first time they've done it in May. We've gotten used to the team going for the series win in the second game instead of having to rally to do it by winning two in a row.
This is also the second time I've talked about Matheny possibly starting Ty Wigginton due to his numbers against a pitcher, only to see him turn around and do it. However, Wiggy wasn't the first choice last night, but David Freese wound up being scratched because of a scratch. The cut he received on Sunday puffed up some and the trainers recommended pulling him as a precaution. We should see him back in the lineup tonight and find out if he's out of his slump or he just needs the Brewers on the other side of the field. On the positive side, some of the Padres jerseys do bear a resemblance to the Milwaukee ones.....
Wainwright's done well against the Padres too, which is even more encouraging. Nobody has taken him deep (which hopefully won't be an issue tonight either in the spacious ballpark) and only Yonder Alonso is hitting over .300 against him.
Cards get to try to solve Edinson Volquez. Volquez was on the other side of Wainwright's first shutout after returning from Tommy John surgery last year, but then won later in the year when Wainwright gave up five runs in an inning in San Diego. Strange how these two always seem to match up, isn't it?
The Cardinals have done OK against Volquez dating all the way back to his Cincinnati days, but it seems to be hit or miss. Some night they own him, some nights it is the other way around. Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday look like they'll be excited about tonight, though.
There are some significant changes coming to this blog in the next couple of weeks. Thankfully by then the Cards will be off of the West Coast. Another late one tonight!
The Cards have now played the Brewers 10 times this season. They wish they could play them 100 more.
After winning two of three against the Milwaukee squad, St. Louis has now won eight of 10 against them this season. David Freese loves to hit against the Brewers--even when he can't hit against anyone else--and pretty much everything has worked well in those games where the two teams get together.
Let's take a look at this weekend's games, then talk about what happened away from the field, as that might have more relevance to the rest of the season.
Even though Freese finally got into the home run column in grand fashion, giving the Cards a 5-0 lead, the Hero wasn't so clearly defined. If Freese had added another hit to that mix, I think I'd have gone with him and maybe I should anyway--after all, the Cardinals needed all of those runs. Matt Carpenter, though, had three hits in the leadoff role and scored two runs, which isn't a bad night either. Then again, Allen Craig went 3-3 plus added in a walk for a perfect night at the plate.
All are good choices, but I think I'm going to go with Matt Holliday. Not only did Holliday have a couple of hits, but he scored a run and drove in two, giving the most well-rounded performance on a night when there were a lot of offensive performances to choose from.
If I was one that chose more nebulous concepts for the tags, the bullpen in general might have gotten the nod. Coming into a one-run game in the sixth, Seth Maness, Trevor Rosenthal and Edward Mujica combined for 3.2 innings, two hits, no runs, no walks, and three strikeouts. In a game that became as tight as they come, those relief outings were huge.
Even tempered by the idea that he was hurting (something we'll discuss after the recaps), the Goat has to go to Jaime Garcia. Aramis Ramirez has been a Cardinal killer for a long time, but to serve up two three-run home runs to him is tough to swallow, and that's not because the crud has hit me and my throat is hurting this morning. Especially when you factor in that he was hurting badly through it but not letting anyone know. That's what we saw out of him in the NLDS last year (though someone--I think Bernie Miklasz--pointed out that it'd have been tough for him to walk past Chris Carpenter and all he represented then and ask out of a playoff game) and it doesn't help the team. It's understandable to want to grit it out when you are up 7-0, but when the game gets a little closer you have to say something.
Tough night for Carlos Beltran as well, who went 0-5 and struck out twice. Thankfully the offensive slack was picked up by others.
You hate to lay this one on Daniel Descalso. Sure, it'd have been nice if he could have gotten the winning hit in the ninth. It'd have been good if he could have laid off of pitches out of the zone. That said, he's a pinch hitter (and not necessarily the one you wanted up there, but there wasn't a lot of option by that time) coming off the bench cold with two outs. There were a lot of ways that could have ended badly and the odds of it working out were slim, really.
So I'm going to go with Joe Kelly on this one, even though part of me doesn't want to do that as well. Going into extra innings means it is always dicey, but it was Kelly's first inning of work and he's the one that created the jam. He faced some tough hitters in that inning, there's no doubt of that, but he didn't get enough of them out. This was the first time Kelly had given up runs in five outings, though, so he's gotten more reliable. He just didn't have it on Saturday.
Of course, Lance Lynn could have gotten into that conversation as well. After throwing 124 pitches in his last outing, he likely didn't quite have the reserves he has had before, only making it through the fifth and giving up eight hits and four runs in that span. Throw in two walks and it's pretty impressive he only gave up four runs. Hopefully with that early exit, he'll be more rested up for his next start. He'll have an extra day of rest as well with the off-day Thursday and be playing in a pitcher's park, so you'd expect his next time out against the Dodgers will go much better.
It was another one of those games that we've seen numerous times out of the Cardinals, whether this year or in years past where they score all of their runs in one inning. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn't. This time, it did, though not without some drama along the way.
If Maness had gotten out of a bases-loaded jam that wasn't of his own making, I'd have probably have considered him as yesterday's Hero. However, not really the spirit of the thing to award for something that could have gone horribly wrong, even if he did work his way out of it with some key pitching. No, I'm going to go with Jon Jay for the title, as he got two hits, scored a run and drove in another. Freese and Craig also had two hits on a day where the offense was just good enough but nothing spectacular.
Some kudos have to go to John Gast as well, picking up his second major league win in part because Mike Matheny didn't try to ride him too long. When he put a couple of runners on in the sixth--the same inning he struggled against the Mets in his first outing--Matheny yanked him and while Maness allowed those inherited runners to score, the Cards still had the lead. Gast hasn't shown yet that he can get past that wall of the sixth (or hitters are starting to adjust to him the third time around) but hopefully he'll be able to make the adjustments needed to start going a little deeper.
I guess I'll invoke my "leadoff man tiebreaker" rule and give the Goat to Matt Carpenter, since he had an 0-4 day at the dish yesterday. Weren't many that didn't get a least one knock, so he'll have to wear that tag.
Some drama as well yesterday, as Kyle Lohse (who very well may have been getting frustrated by continually getting beat by rookie Cardinal pitchers, thereby justifying them not resigning him) started complaining about Gast pulling back on his bunt and looking to swing. (I didn't get to see it, being at my daughter's sixth birthday party. And yes, we played this.) Perhaps this is some of those inside baseball unwritten rules, but I've never heard any complaints like this that I can remember. Again, from the outside looking in it looked like Lohse was irritated and frustrated and took it out on that situation, but maybe that's a bigger baseball breach than we are aware of.
The big news from this weekend was, of course, that Garcia was going on the disabled list with the surgery that he didn't have in the offseason a strong possibility now. It seemed like the Cardinals had finally won an injury gamble, but apparently not so much. Shoulder issues are so dicey as well--look at what's gone on with Johan Santana since he's had his--and you wonder what Garcia you'll get whenever he does return. When John Mozeliak is saying stuff like, "All indications are this is not good," it's not good. The only other time I remember Mo being so negative before all the tests were in was Adam Wainwright in the spring of 2011. We all know how that turned out.
Does that mean that Chris Carpenter, who might start making rehab starts next month and already was planned to be stretched out in the minors, could return to the rotation instead of the bullpen when he's ready? Tara and I talked about this last night on Gateway to Baseball Heaven and she's concerned about the workload of a starter on Carpenter, that he might make a couple of starts then go down for the count. That's a valid concern and that might be enough for the Cards to continue tapping their pitching depth to replace the innings lost by injuries.
That said, I wonder if bullpen usage might not be even more damaging to Carpenter. Sure, he's not out there for five or more innings like he would be as a starter, but he might be used more than once every five days in the pen, he's got to get ready on a shorter time frame, he's got to come in and be dominant from the get-go instead of easing his way into the game as you can with a longer stint. I've still never been sold that Carpenter's stuff and talents would translate as well to the 'pen as some think, so if he could return to the rotation, I think that'd be my preference. Of course, any idea that the number 29 is going to be back on the mound at all is probably a bit premature, but that's never stopped bloggers from speculating before!
Look, we all want to see Wacha. However, Mo was quite emphatic on the point (and it's a talking point that's been picked up at Fox Sports Midwest as well, I see) that this time last year Wacha was pitching in college. He's still not adjusted to a five-day schedule yet. Sure, he's dominating in Memphis right now, but let's see if that continues into June or July. He definitely doesn't work as a stopgap replacement--Bernie acknowledges this in his post--but I don't think we'll see him until August or September at best this year. There's no doubt that Wacha is close to his ceiling and Mo has agreed that he could probably pitch successfully in the big leagues right now, but there are a lot of other factors including keeping him healthy and getting him into regular condition.
Besides, it would seem likely (as likely as it gets with Cardinal injuries, at least) that Jake Westbrook will be back soon, meaning this could be a fairly moot point as Lyons might only get one or two starts. Of course, it is a Cardinal injury, so you never can be too sure.
Put a guy that has an ERA under 1.50 in Petco Park against a Padres offense that has been middle of the pack (though, interestingly, the Padres have more home runs than the Cardinals--then again, only the Dodgers and Marlins don't) and what do you get? We'll find out tonight when Shelby Miller takes the mound in San Diego. Miller hasn't faced these hitters much before, obviously, so I don't know that the sample tells us even as little as it usually does.
Some good numbers, but the most that anyone has seen him is two at bats, which really tells you little to nothing.
Old Home Week continues when the Redbirds face Jason Marquis tonight. Obviously it's been a while since Marquis was a Cardinal and he doesn't invoke the same general good feelings that Lohse does--mainly because people were ready for Marquis to leave St. Louis well before he actually did--but he was part of the deal that brought us Wainwright, so we have to appreciate him for that much, at least. His career table is interesting:
While we've seen tables before where the pitcher has only faced a couple of hitters, I don't know that I've seen a table like that where everyone on it has faced the pitcher more than 10 times. It's always a little disconcerting when Ty Wigginton has good numbers, because you know Matheny is going to be tempted to start him, but I think that we'll avoid that bullet tonight.
Late games this week on the West Coast, so get your nap in this afternoon or after work so you can be ready!
sinister (adj): singularly evil or productive of evil; also, of, relating to, or situated to the left or on the left side of something; also, of ill omen by reason of being on the left.
That's a long way to say that lefties are pretty much evil when the Cardinals have to face them, and yesterday was no exception. The Cards did hit three doubles off of Jonathan Niese, but nothing ever really came of them. Either because of the pitching, the lineup, or the day game, the Cards seemed fairly listless yesterday, an attitude that carried over to the field as they made two errors, one of which lead to a run.
If Adam Wainwright is cursed against the Mets due to his legendary appearance against them in the 2006 playoffs, I think we as Cardinal fans can handle that. That moment--and the World Series title that came because the Cards weren't eliminated--is worth Waino struggling a couple of times a year, isn't it? It's not like the Redbirds are going to run into the Mets in the playoffs again for quite some time.
Whatever the reason, Wainwright's nemesis got to him again. After taking a no-hitter into the eighth in his last start, Wainwright only went six innings this time, giving up six hits and four runs (one that was unearned). He did strike out eight and only had two bad innings, but when New York got going he couldn't stop them. Daniel Murphy played a huge role in that, doubling in the first run and scoring later, then doubling to lead off the sixth and scoring after that.
The bullpen was OK, though not as dominant as we've seen. Remember when I suggested Mike Matheny should have left in Randy Choate to face Rick Ankiel yesterday? That might not have worked out the way we expected, since Choate allowed a double to Ankiel in this one. Choate gave up two hits and a walk in two-thirds of an inning, which is about as dangerous an inning as you can have without giving up a run. Fernando Salas was not so lucky, getting touched for a run in the eighth, and Joe Kelly finished it up with a scoreless inning only blemished by a two-out hit and a fielder's choice where nobody was out.
When you looked at yesterday's lineup, you thought something like this could happen. After all, Shane Robinson (who gets the Goat for an 0-3 day plus an outfield error) and Ty Wigginton (as I guessed he might) were both in the lineup. Given them and David Freese's struggles, there's a third of the lineup that didn't look to be productive and, indeed, none of them had a hit on Thursday. It's tough to get things going when there are significant holes in the lineup, like an engine that just won't catch.
Hero goes to Carlos Beltran, who beat up on his former team with three hits and drove in one of the two Cardinal runs, but even he had issues fielding yesterday, making one of his errors that allowed the runner to take another base. Still, when the whole team just had eight hits, you go with the guy that had 37.5% of them.
So the Cards can't finish off the four game sweep--which isn't terribly surprising, because that's tough to do--but at least they get to stay home and see if they can't take out a little frustration on a Milwaukee team that they've won six of seven from so far this season and are sitting in the cellar of the NL Central.
Jaime Garcia gets the ball for St. Louis. Garcia threw eight innings of one-run ball against the Brewers last time, which is reflected in these career numbers.
If only he can keep the threat that is Yuniesky Betancourt contained, Garcia's done pretty well against the Brew Crew. Ryan Braun's gone deep twice, but that's not a terrible number in 40 plate appearances.
Cardinals get to face Wily Peralta. They feasted on him last time, getting six runs in one inning (he pitched 4.1). Which is where all of the career numbers come from, as that was the only time they've seen him.
The Cardinals have won with dominant starting pitching. They've done that quite a lot this season, actually. They've won with some big thumpers, though not quite as often. When a team is winning this regularly, they've got to mix it up some, make sure they don't get bored clicking off win after win. So last night, they let the Mets rally then won the game on a wild pitch. Freshened things up a bit, you know.
The Hero of the evening goes to Daniel Descalso. On a night where nobody really stood out and nobody had multiple hits, Descalso had one of the six hits but, more importantly, drew a two-out walk in the seventh. Pete Kozma singled and Descalso, knowing that Rick Ankiel was out there but also knowing he was deep in the outfield, took the extra base.
Descalso--and everyone in the park--knew that that was a gamble. I mean, Ankiel's outfield work is a highlightreel of great throws. Cardinal fans, however, are not likely to soon forget these in Colorado, which proved that Ankiel may play deep, but there's no such thing as too deep.
As Descalso himself said, with Ankiel out there, "you better get there". He did and was in position to break the tie when Scott Rice threw a wild pitch. Cards scored again in the ninth and won 4-2.
Mike Matheny made a couple of interesting decisions last night, though that's nothing new for the Cardinal skipper. Shelby Miller struck out David Wright on a 96 mph fastball in the sixth, but Matheny came out and made the call for Randy Choate instead of letting Miller finish the inning. That, I have no problem with. Miller labored a bit more last night, was at 95 pitches and was coming off some high pitch count games. Let Choate face the lefty, no problem.
Choate got his guy, then got the first out in the seventh. Matheny then pulls him for Seth Maness, who wound up as the Goat, instead of letting Choate face one righty then another lefty in Ankiel. Granted, Choate doesn't run out that long in a game--two batters might have been his limit--but even though righthanders can get to Choate some, the benefit of letting a lefty face Ankiel might have counterbalanced that.
Still, Ankiel is struggling and Maness should have been able to get him out. Instead, after he gave up a groundball hit to his first batter, Ankiel launched a tying home run to remove Miller from the decision. Maness wound up tallying his third win when the Cards rallied in the bottom of the inning, but that doesn't get him off the hook when it comes to the Goat. That said, you knew that the young guys were going to hit a rough spot or two, so it's not like anyone is clamoring for Maness's head or anything.
Second questionable decision again didn't cost the Cardinals--how often do we say that? Matheny must be a time traveler who can see five minutes into the future or something--but it wasn't something I'd have done. After Kozma's hit, there were runners on the corners and Matheny sent Matt Adams up to pinch-hit. That makes plenty of sense, as the big guy is still hitting in the .500 neighborhood and with the pop to double in Kozma from first. Sure, great idea.
However, the Mets then make the pitching change, taking out Shaun Marcum (who really befuddled the Cards last night) and bringing in Rice. Does Matheny leave Adams in now that he's been announced, even though there's a left-hander on the mound? Of course not. He pinch hits Ty Wigginton for Adams, which is a bit like me filling in at St. Louis Perfectos. The old guy may have some hits in the past, but the young gun is going to give you the better quality at bat. Adams hasn't had a lot of exposure to lefties in the big leagues, and has struggled in the exposure that he's had, but I'd still take him over Wigginton there. Even if you want to burn Adams like that, it seems like someone else would have been the better idea. Yadier Molina was sitting there and pinch-hit in the eighth--why not when the game was on the line? Granted, this is what they got Wigginton for, but we've seen that hasn't really worked out so far this season.
And then Rice throws a wild pitch in the midst of walking Wigginton and it's all an academic exercise. Sometimes you'd just rather be lucky than good.
Chris Carpenterthrew a shorter bullpen session than he had been yesterday, but that's because he's going to do a simulated game in a couple of days. He'll do another one of those a few days later and, by time the Cards return from their road trip at the end of the month, they should have an idea of what's going to happen with him. While the idea had been to send him to extended spring training, if he's feeling good enough they may go ahead and start the rehab clock, which means that if all goes well Carp could be up in the bigs before the All-Star Break. Still think there needs to be a lot of caution on all of this and expectations should be tempered, but it looks more and more likely that Carpenter has another act in his big league career.
An afternoon affair at Busch as the Cardinals go for the sweep. When you are going for a sweep, it's a great luxury to have your ace on the hill for it. Adam Wainwright tries to follow up his no-hitter try with another stellar outing. The Mets don't have much to encourage them either.
A couple of people have had success against him in a small sample and Waino struggled with the Mets last year, getting beat up on the other side of Johan Santana's no-hitter and giving up five runs to them in September. It would be surprising to see him struggle like that today, as I expect he'll be focused in on trying to beat them in retaliation.
Mets can't send out their ace Matt Harvey, so they counter with Jonathon Niese. Niese has, like most Mets starters, been ineffective this season, posting a 2-4 record and an ERA just under six. His last outing, he allowed eight runs in 4.1 innings to the Pirates and the game before that, seven runs in four innings to the Braves. He has had some good starts this year, but he's not trending in the right direction.
These numbers don't inspire confidence either. Nobody has taken him out of the yard, but there are some good averages. With three games in hand, does Matheny get crazy and start Wigginton based on these samples? I'd like to say no, but.....
Enjoy the afternoon. I'll be writing up The Bird's Eye View today, so if you've not signed up, you might want to!
John Gast threw five scoreless innings before running into a spot of trouble in the sixth. Even that wasn't entirely of his own making, as two of the runs came after the Cards had what Mike Matheny termed an "ugly" rundown attempt of John Buck. Marlon Byrd homered after that, something that would have been avoided had they gotten Buck for the third out.
Other than that, though, Gast was quite good. It wasn't a situation where he put runners on and his defense kept bailing him out. He gave up only six hits and one walk and four of those baserunners came in that sixth inning. That overall ERA of 6.00 is really misleading given the way he pitched.
Then the Cards followed up a rookie with two more, as Seth Maness and Carlos Martinez both had scoreless frames, with Martinez striking out the side (with a walk mixed in). Maness had to labor, though, throwing all of 10 pitches, which is about as many as he's thrown in his career up to this point! Joe Kelly ruined the rookie streak, as the second-year man finished up the game.
The Hero of the night, not discounting at all how the arms did on the mound, would be Carlos Beltran. Beltran had three hits, scored two runs, drove in four and had a home run mixed in with all of that. That's a nice evening of work right there.
Of course, when the team puts up 10 runs, there are a number of offensive stars. Allen Craig had two hits and drove in the first two runs of the game. Jon Jay had a couple of hits and his fourth home run of the season. Matt Carpenter set the tone by going 2-3 with two walks in the leadoff slot.
As for our Goat, Yadier Molina did go 0-5, but given that he guided the rookie through such a strong outing, I'm going to give him a pass this time. Unfortunately, that means winding up with David Freese again. Freese went 0-3 with a walk and left three men on, though he did wind up scoring once. I'm not sure what's going to have to happen to get Freese back on track. You figure Matheny's got to give him a couple more days off pretty shortly, though that means more starts for Daniel Descalso. Still, Dirty Dan's hitting better than Mr. Freese, I think, so maybe it's a livable tradeoff.
The road doesn't get any easier for the Mets tonight. Sure, they are facing another rookie, but a rookie that had an almost-perfect game last time out. Right now, the Mets are hoping that Shelby Miller wore himself out throwing that gem against the Rockies, because otherwise it could get pretty rough.
Small sample, but it doesn't give much encouragement to the New York squad, who are really struggling right now. However, you know there's going to be a lot of focus on the at bats where Miller faces Rick Ankiel. After all, they are linked in a way, with Rick being the Shelby Miller of the last decade, really.
The Mets run out an old acquaintance to the mound tonight. The Cards have faced Shaun Marcum a number of times, most recently when he was with the Milwaukee Brewers. It's been a mixed bag with Marcum, though he's only 1-1 against the club in five outings. His 4.65 ERA against St. Louis isn't completely out of line, so the Redbirds might have a bit more trouble with him than they had with Dillon Gee last night.
Jay and Matt Holliday seem to have solved him the best, but a lot of the other guys haven't seen him much. Expect Freese to sit again given his struggles both recently and against Marcum.
Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of the Jose Oquendo Game, when the Secret Weapon threw four innings in an extended extra-innings affair. If you've not read about this one and were too young to remember it (which I think I have a vague idea of seeing a little of it, but I can't be certain), Chris Jaffe has a great writeup about it here.
Cards go for the series win tonight. They are 10-2 in May so let's hope they keep that machine churning!
There's been a lot of talk this year about baserunning gaffes by the Cardinals and rightfully so. Numerous big innings or rallies have been killed when St. Louis has been too aggressive on the basepaths. Even last night we saw this as Yadier Molina tried to go from second to third on a fly ball and was cut down (though a run did score on the play). It's been a nagging thing, not necessarily something you can blame many losses on but not something that's helped the Cards win games, either. [Edit: As pointed out, it was Allen Craig who was thrown out on the play. As I say, I was listening to it in the car and, well, I don't know if I wasn't paying attention or Mr. Shannon's description was a bit off. You know it's hard to be sure!]
So if you are dying by the sword, it seems only fitting to live by it every once in a while. Ty Wigginton gets to be--gasp!--the Hero of the evening. After doubling through new Met and former Card Rick Ankiel's borrowed glove (it's good to see Rick employed again, even if it is in New York), Wigginton went from second to home on an infield hit when both the pitcher and the catcher chased after it, leaving home unoccupied. That broke a 3-3 tie and Matt Holliday added an exclamation point a couple of batters later with a two-run homer.
It's not quite "Glenn Brummer steals home" but it is one of the more unlikely baserunning exploits of recent times. Wigginton is not a fast man, but being alert worked for him here. It's nice that Wigginton will have at least one highlight from his time in St. Louis, because at the rate he was going, that was definitely in question.
Holliday went two-for-four and might have gotten the Hero tag was it not for him hitting into a double play in the first inning, something that could have cost the Cardinals. Both teams struggled to get settled into this game--St. Louis scored two in the first, then gave up three in the second before tying it in the bottom of that frame--and that might have had something to do with the man behind the man behind the plate. I only was able to listen to some of the first innings but Mike Shannon was not very complementary of the strike zone. I believe he said something to the effect of "That's the third man the umpire has walked."
Whether it was the strike zone or just wildness, it looked like Lance Lynn might have a short evening. Giving up three and walking four in the first two innings (including Ankiel, which is a fairly tough task) made it look like it wasn't Lynn's night, but he settled in and didn't allow anything else, walking just one over his last five innings. I was surprised to see Mike Matheny leave him in there so long, running his pitch count up to 124, but it seemed to work. Lynn had had an extra day off so that probably factored into it. Hopefully that won't play into his results next time out.
Also nice not to really have to talk about the bullpen. Randy Choate basically did his job, though the walk wasn't good to see. Trevor Rosenthal came in and struck out two batters and Edward Mujica clicked off yet another save. That's the way you want to see a bullpen work!
The Goat of the game has to be Carlos Beltran. Not only did he go 0-3, but he lost a ball in the sun (a result of the game starting an hour earlier to be on ESPN, at least in part) which allowed the Mets to score two of their runs directly and the other run indirectly (since that'd have been the third out). Everyone has an off game, of course. Save us commenting at home--we never goof up, do we?
Chris Carpenterthrew another bullpen session without incident on Monday and noted that, if he were to come back, this time he'll be making some minor league rehab stints instead of going straight to the big like he had to last year. I'm sure there were a number of Cardinal minor league teams quite happy to hear that report! Great quote from Jake Westbrook on the return of Carp: "There really shouldn't be any shock when it comes to Chris Carpenter." Very, very true. While I'm still not completely sold this is going to happen, you can't dismiss it out of hand like you would 95% of other baseball players.
The minor league depth comes into play again this evening as John Gast makes his major league debut in the place of the hurting Westbrook. Gast brings solid minor league credentials to his first battle with major league hitters and it should be fun to see yet another product of the farm system.
He's going up against Dillon Gee. Gee has struggled so far this season, going 2-4 with a 5.55 ERA, meaning that he's either struggling or he's trying to place a call on TV. He's had a couple of good games, including his last outing against the Pirates where he gave up just one run in five innings. Obviously, though, the bad outings have outweighed the good.
If anyone was going to get him on track, though, it looks like it might be the Cardinals. They've struggled against him the couple of times they've seen him, which is a bit surprising since he's not a lefty. Be nice if David Freese could use his past success against Gee to get jump started, don't you think?
The Cardinals threw two of the best games we've seen in a long time Friday and Saturday. Even with that, though, the weekend was just bittersweet instead of wonderfully triumphant after Sunday's outing. Can't have it all, I guess.
We've already discussed Shelby Miller and his incredible outing on Friday night, but then Saturday Adam Wainwright just about went out and said, "Hey, rook, nice but this is how it's done." Waino, looking incredibly sharp, waited until the 13th batter of the game to walk someone, meaning the Rockies went 40 batters between baserunners. It was 10 more batters before they actually got a hit, breaking up the attempt at history with one out in the eighth.
Watching Wainwright work, I really thought he was going to get the no-hitter. He was dominant and with his focus on each pitch (and with Yadier Molinaapparently in the zone when it came to calling pitches) it would not have been a surprise to see him finish it off. He wasn't able to, but was the Hero all the same.
It was good that Wainwright was on his game, because again the offense didn't give him just a ton to work with. They were able to put together 13 hits, but twice left the bases loaded and one out when the bottom of the lineup couldn't do any damage. The Goat of the day had to be Pete Kozma, who was a big part of both of those fizzled rallies, striking out both times with one out and bases loaded. It's not surprising that Wainwright, who followed him, couldn't come through but even a fly ball by Kozma would have been nice.
Three runs out of the top five of the lineup each having two hits, including Allen Craig having three, just doesn't seem possible. Yet, amazingly, they were able to do just that. The offense this weekend got buried in the great pitching performances, but it's still a cause for concern.
As we saw on Sunday. A team that had spent the weekend keeping an offense down found itself in the same position, as the Cardinals didn't get their first hit until two were out in the seventh. While they were able to eventually tally two runs and six hits, all was done when the game was out of reach and the day belonged to Colorado. Jorge De La Rosashut them down as a lefty is wont to do against this lineup and made sure the Cardinals didn't sweep the series and go into playing the Mets with a lot of momentum.
The reason that those runs didn't matter was due in large part to our Goat of the game, Jaime Garcia. Garcia was in an untenable position. How do you follow a one-hit almost perfecto and a deep no-hit bid? In this case, Garcia did so by allowing a double in the first inning, letting the Rockies tie their total bases for the weekend in one swing, then by being unable to finish off innings. Garcia had two outs and nobody on in the third before back-to-back singles preceded a Troy Tulowitzki home run. In the sixth, he allowed a one-out single, got the second out, then gave up Charlie Blackmon's first home run--of the season, not of his career like was announced at the stadium. (Though it did give another piece of evidence to the "best fans" pile that they cheered him believing it was, something Blackmon commented on.)
Carlos Martinez had his first struggles at the big league level, following Garcia's lead. He struck out the first two batters of the eighth before allowing a walk and three hits (and three runs) and having to be replaced by Fernando Salas. We've not seen the young guns struggle much since they've come in, but it's inevitable that it's going to happen. You don't just walk into the bigs and start dominating, or at least you don't do that forever. Hitters adjust, unfortunately. Martinez also had a bit of a layoff (like everyone in the pen) which may have played a factor.
We'll give the Hero award to Matt Carpenter, who drew two walks along with one of the rare hits for the Cardinals. Can't ask for a lead-off guy to do much more than that, can you? It was also nice to see David Freese break up the no-hit attempt, since he's been scuffling so much lately. Plus we saw actual signs of life from Ty Wigginton! Dennis will be so pleased.
So, amazingly, the Cardinals and Rockies both scored eight runs this weekend, just the Rockies spotted the Cards two games to do it in. Those pitching performances were masterful by the Cardinals, but obviously you can't have those every day. Hopefully the offense will start reverting to their regular levels soon.
With all the pitching that was talked about this weekend, it's not surprising that another starter made some news as well. Jake Westbrookhas some inflammation in his elbow, meaning he's got a DL stint and John Gast is coming up from Memphis. With everyone saying that the inflammation isn't that bad, you wonder if they were just looking for an opportunity to promote Gast, who has been dominant in Memphis, and they ran with the first one available. Not that inflammation doesn't need rest or anything, but if the Cards were short on pitching, you wonder if they'd kept Westbrook active and tried to juggle his starts or something. With all this help on the farm, they had the luxury of DLing him quickly.
Oscar Taveras scared pretty much everyone in Cardinal Nation yesterday by leaving a game with an ankle injury spawned when he stole second base. X-rays proved negative, though, and he'll probably just sit a few days while that sprain heals up. Taveras had been on a tear in Memphis and hopefully this won't affect his hitting in any way.
Speaking of Memphis, Mitchell Boggs is cruising down there. If he's actually gotten his head on straight (and it's not just the fact that he's facing lesser competition) he could be back relatively quickly, which might mean Martinez goes down to be a starter again.
The Mets come to town for their only appearance at Busch this season. The Cardinals will miss Matt Harvey, who pitched yesterday against the Pirates, but will face every other pitcher in the New York rotation, starting with Jeremy Hefner. Hefner is an unknown quantity for St. Louis, as he's only faced Wigginton before (and Ty is 2-4 against him, which hopefully won't garner him a start, but you never know.) Hefner is 0-4 with a 4.63 ERA this season and doesn't seem to be an overpowering pitcher, striking out well less than a batter per inning.
Lance Lynn, fresh off losing his perfect record in a tough loss in Chicago, takes the hill for the Cards. New York hasn't seen him much, but they've not liked what they have seen.
Lynn's been able to corral most everyone in the small sample size. Hopefully the results stay the same as the size gets larger tonight.
Speaking of this evening, if you don't hear me enough on the weekly Gateway To Baseball Heaven, you might have noticed that Episode 33 of Conversations With C70 is now out, talking with JD Norton of Bleed Cardinal Red With Me. Check that out if you've not yet. Also tonight, I'll be talking with AC Wayne on his Mets show, Mets Public Record, at around 9 PM this evening. You'll find it over at Blog Talk Radio, so check it out because I always enjoy being on with AC.
Let's see if the offense can get it going this week against the Mets and the Brewers while the pitching stays as good as it has been. That'd be a pretty good week, don't you think?
This is a guy that took a no-hitter into the sixth in his very first major league start. Who almost every start seems to have a stretch of 10, 12, 15 batters retired in a row. While you hardly expect a guy to throw a perfect game (which is what he did after that leadoff hit), Miller's dominance in the league has been all that we have hoped for during those years when all we got were dispatches from the farm, dreaming about what we'd see out of him in a Cardinal uniform.
What was even more impressive to me was that he threw 113 pitches in his complete game. While that number isn't by itself remarkable, when you factor in that he was able to strike out 13 in that number, it really is. Usually a high strikeout total means a high pitch total, though I guess when you are wasting pitches on extra batters, you can be efficient with your totals.
It's telling about this rotation that, while this is obviously the best game thrown this season by a Cardinals starter, you've got some games that are pretty close competition.
There are only 12 pitchers in major league baseball that have thrown a shutout this season. Three of them reside in the same rotation, while no other team has more than one to its credit. While we keep thinking that this staff is going to come back to earth, this ride that we are on watching quality pitchers every time out is a whole lot of fun.
Miller was incredibly dominant, getting eight called strikeouts and ringing up the last two batters he faced, showing that he wasn't slowing down much. You've seen the stats running around--just the fourth time in history that a pitcher has allowed a leadoff hit and then retired 27 in a row (wonder if that counts the infamous Babe Ruth/Ernie Shore game?) and that it's only the 13th time since 1921 that a pitcher has had 13 K, thrown a shutout, and given up at most one hit. That's some pretty exclusive company to be in. It's harder to do those than to actually throw a perfect game!
Miller gave a lot of credit to Yadier Molina, which probably shows how he's matured in the last couple of years, but as great as Yadi is (and he did deserve a lot of the glory for that outing), he doesn't throw the ball. Yadi was catching those relievers when they were getting lit up and I don't think he suddenly became a bad catcher then. It was smart of Miller not to question what Yadi was putting down, but he still had to execute, and that he most certainly did.
As we've seen, though, a wonderful pitching performance can be wasted if the offense doesn't put some runs on the board. Thankfully last night there weren't many runs that were necessary. Carlos Beltran smoked one out of the park, Jon Jay and Pete Kozma singled in runs, and that was about it. Jon Garland pitched well enough to win on some nights. Just not last night.
So obviously Miller is our Hero. Who's the Goat? Every batter got a hit and obviously there's no bullpen to pick on. Jay left the most men on (a function of striking out with the bases loaded, in part) but he did drive in a run and scored a run, so it can't be him. I was going with David Freese again, since he left four on (three were the same that Jay left) without the benefit of the run or RBI to get him off the hook. Freese did get a single, though, plus a walk. Being that he had the worst average on the night, we'll go with Matt Carpenter. 1-5 isn't bad, but given the rest of the lineup, he draws the short straw.
All of this was about the only thing that could have driven yesterday afternoon's news off the top of the sports page. Chris Carpenterthrew a 75-pitch bullpen at full strength and felt good. (Sounds like Sam Carpenter's loss of feeling in his hands catching his dad might be the Cardinals' gain!) Carpenter, who now sports a full, slightly disturbing head of hair rather than his normal shorn look, will throw two more bullpens before the end of the homestand next Sunday and then they'll evaluate from there.
Now, everyone is trying (and really, failing) to be cautious about this. Remember, we got a lot of this last year. Carpenter would feel good, start throwing, but before he could get into the rehab starts, the numbness and such would return. It's positive that he is throwing at full strength and not having these problems, because I think it was when he ramped it up last year that the issues returned, but until he's back on a mound in some sort of game situation, probably even beyond the extended spring training that he'll likely go to if things progress well this week, I'm going to be pretty leery. Hopeful, but leery.
Another injured pitcher talked to the media yesterday. When I heard both Carpenter and Jason Motte were addressing the media, I thought perhaps Motte was donating his beard to Carpenter to help him adjust to bullpen life. While Carpenter did have more hair on his head than we expected, Motte still has the trademark beard billowing from his face.
You have to feel for Caitlin Motte, who now likely feels like she has two kids at home. Motte admits to not being able to sit still, but is at peace with not only the surgery, but the attempts to avoid it. Motte will be in the cast a couple more weeks and won't start the rehab process until the middle of July.
Cardinals will again take on the team from Colorado here in about 2.5 hours. It doesn't get any easier for the Rockies as they get to face Adam Wainwright this afternoon.
Todd Helton and Carlos Gonzalez, as they've done to a lot of pitchers, have had some success against Waino in the past. Wainwright only faced the Rockies once last year, going six innings and allowing just one run on July 4.
On the other side, Jhoulys Chacin will be tasked with keeping St. Louis from scoring. Chacin has some similar numbers to Wainwright this year (3-1, 2.56 ERA) and will be pretty unknown to most of the Cardinal hitters.
Beltran's seen him the most, but struggled the most. Could this be a day where Allen Craig moves to the outfield and Matt Adams gets into the lineup? Whatever the case, hopefully whatever mojo Shelby had last night is still lingering!
One of the great things about being in an organization such as the Baseball Bloggers Alliance is that you meet some great people that are working on some really neat things. Brad Cook is one of those guys and the games of Out of the Park Baseball are some of those things. I wrote up a review of OOTP 13/iOOTP 12 last year and everything that I wrote then still holds. This is an extremely fun game.
Personally, I love the ability to set up baseball however I want it. That's more a feature of the PC game, I believe, but it's still great. Right now I have a 40-team overall league, split into two leagues of four divisions of five teams each. There's no DH in my baseball, none at all. I've also got theme divisions, meaning the Chicago Nontraditionalists battle with the Texas Historians in the UCB Division while the Serenity Browncoats can take on the Gallifrey Whovians in the Sci-Fi Division.
Now, with a game this good and this established, there's not going to be a lot of changes from year to year most of the time. That said, the team at OOTP have done some interesting tweaks to this year's PC version. For instance, you can now obtain players not only from the draft, but from international scouting or international free agents or even from the independent leagues. They've also tinkered under the hood, improving the fielding ratings, reworking the player creation and scouting algorithms, and improving the trading aspect of things.
Obviously, some of the features aren't in the mobile version of the game, but iOOTP is worth your time anyway. Even if it was just the fact that it's a portable baseball simulation game you can play anywhere, that'd be enough to justify getting it. You've got the real rosters, they've redesigned the interface and improved the play-by-play, and you can even buy past seasons to import in.
You can even play with the financial structure of your team in both versions. Want to win a title with the smallest possible payroll? Or fancy yourself a Steinbrenner? You can do it with Out of the Park.
iOOTP is available in the App Store now, though there's no Android version available yet. You can purchase the PC version right at their website. Do it today, but only if you have no plans for this weekend. Once you get started, it's quite hard to stop!
After their six-game winning streak was snapped, the Cardinals were in the ugly position of possibly getting swept at Wrigley Field by the last place Cubs. (That's what a short series will do for you.) Now, anytime you are going to be swept by the Cubs, it's a bad thing, but when they are in last place, it's especially bad. Well, they often are in last place, so maybe when they aren't in last, it's incrementally not as bad? Anyway, you get the idea.
That idea looked much more possible in the fourth, when the Cubs scored three to take a 4-2 lead. Thankfully, the Cardinals were able to put together some single runs in three innings and the umpires actually made a correct interference call, something we obviously can't take for granted. The Cardinals escaped with a 5-4 win and gained ground on most of the NL Central, pushing their lead out to three games over the Pirates and the Reds.
Our Hero of the day has to be Seth Maness. Mr. Double Play came into the game with two on and one out in the sixth. Two pitches later, everyone was heading for the dugout. He actually allowed a single to lead off the seventh, but like I said on Twitter, that was just to guarantee he could get another double play. Sure enough, after the batter interference on the bunt got him one out, Maness coaxed David DeJesus into yet another double play.
Derrick Goold breaks down Maness's amazing and efficient start to his career in the gamer today, but Adam Wainwright's question about whether Maness could get to 100 wins before 100 pitches says it all. He's got more innings pitched than batters faced. He has three double plays in three outings. Of his 18 pitches to get 10 outs, 83% have been strikes. The man chews doublemint gum, for crying out loud!
So far, Maness has been what we expected Brad Thompson to be, a ground-ball specialist with that uncanny knack of getting the double play. Obviously Maness is a better, more talented pitcher than Thompson was, but there are some similarities so far in their careers.
You have to give some love to Jon Jay as well. His sacrifice fly gave the Cards a 2-1 lead and his base hit in the ninth drove in the winning run. Like Daniel Descalso last year (and what has happened to that progress, I don't know), Jay reworked his swing radically on the fly and, so far, it's working like a charm. On the road trip, he hit .500 with two home runs, raising his batting average 50 points. Having Jay clicking is big for this lineup, because he's never going to be the power source, but he can be the guy that scores the runs or gets the hit that keeps the line moving.
I think the Goat has to go to Jake Westbrook, who wasn't quite on his game yesterday. He allowed four runs (three earned) in just over five innings, being bailed out by Maness when he left as well as a comebacker double play the inning before. Westbrook danced with trouble all day long (10 baserunners allowed) and was lucky to be able to keep the score as close as he did to allow for a Cardinal comeback.
Mike Matheny made a curious move as well, but that's pretty much par for the course. I'm not talking about double-switching out David Freese and bringing in Descalso. With Freese still not hitting and the game situation, I could understand that one. What I was surprised with--well, not surprised so much because I know what he was thinking, but I'm not sure it was necessary--was the fact that he brought in Trevor Rosenthal, who struck out Starlin Castro and then walked Luis Valbuena. That's not the problem part.
The issue was that instead of sticking with Rosenthal, who even this year has been more effective against lefties than righties, he brings in Randy Choate to face the left-handed Anthony Rizzo. Could be he was remembering the fact Rizzo took Rosenthal deep last year in Wrigley, I guess. However, Rosenthal has faced Rizzo two other times and gotten him out. (Rizzo was 0-1 with a sac fly off of Choate, if you want to deal with small samples.) Choate then blew the whole hand advantage by allowing a singe to Rizzo, but got Nate Schierholtz--who was the Cub hero this series with his homer on Tuesday and his two-run double earlier in the game--to hit into yet another double play.
Edward Mujica continues to prove that those that thought he'd struggle out of the seventh inning (yes, that's my hand in the air) were wildly incorrect, nailing down his ninth straight save with no drama whatsoever. Just the way we like it.
Cards get their second off day of the week today, then head home to take on the Rockies in Busch. The Rockies are off to a solid start, 19-14 and just a half-game out of the divisional lead. (They'll finish off their series with the Yankees this evening, so that record will be a little different at the start of play.) Going to the mound for Colorado will be Jon Garland.
Being that Garland spent most of his career in the American League, it's not a huge surprise that most people on the team haven't seen him. Molina's destroyed him in his limited sample and Beltran's seen him the most and will be glad to renew acquaintances.
Shelby Miller gets the ball for the Cardinals. Obviously the rookie is doing quite well so far--four wins and an ERA under 2 into May kind of indicates that--but he's never faced the Purple Mountains Majesty.
Should be a good series! Come back tomorrow when I'll hopefully have up a review of Out of the Park Baseball 14 as well as iOOTP 13!
Lance Lynnmade one mistake on the evening, but that kept him from being able to run his record to 6-0 for the second consecutive year. A fourth-inning, two-run homer by Nate Schierholtz was all the Cubs needed to take the game 2-1. Someone pointed out that Lynn lost the game even though he never threw a pitch with a runner in scoring position. Ironically, it was just last Tuesday when the Cards won a game without a runner in scoring position, with Matt Holliday playing the Schierholtz role. Baseball is a fickle game.
A lot of attention, and rightfully so, will be focused on Yadier Molina trying to steal third in the eighth inning off of Carlos Marmol. I can understand, generally, what Mike Matheny was trying to do there. Marmol is erratic--we know from first hand experience that he can throw a wild pitch at the wrong time--and the extra base might have helped. Plus, Pete Kozma was at the plate and while he could chip in a single at the right time, he's hitting eighth for a reason.
All that said, it still seems like a fairly crazy thing for Matheny to try to do. Sure, the offense was struggling, but Marmol could have easily walked Kozma or something of that nature. It seems like the risk of Molina being thrown out and ending possibly your last threat of the game would have overruled the benefit of one extra base. With the quotes from Dale Sveum after the game about being aware of Molina's sneak attacks on the bases, I don't know that we'll see Yadier trying to steal too much against them the rest of the year.
Lynn has to take home the Hero label, even if his winning streak snapped. Seven innings, eight strikeouts, four hits and two runs is going to win you a lot of games. He's put up four very good outings in a row, putting to rest (at least for a while) any worries about inconsistency from him. We'll have to wait and see if the weight loss means that he can take this success deeper into the season than he did last year.
I'll give the Goat to Matt Holliday, who went 0-3 with three men left on base. David Freese actually went 0-4, but Holliday followed a two-out single by Matt Carpenter and double by Carlos Beltran with a groundout, something that would turn out to be key. Do hate seeing Freese have back-to-back hitless games, though, as it makes you wonder if he wasn't quite out of his slump (or that Milwaukee pitchers were just that bad).
Kudos also go to Allen Craig, who came into May with no home runs and now has hit two in three games. He's already been driving in runs, but it's good to see his power bat is warming up as well. Matt Adams returned last night as well, so Craig might be traveling around the diamond again soon.
Jason Motte had his Tommy John surgery yesterday, and as is the case in just about every news report after a pitcher's surgery, it was successful. Successful in this case has a pretty low bar--I would assume that Motte walked out with both arms still attached. Whether he'll be able to pitch again at his normal level still remains to be seen after rehab, though there's no particular reason to think that he can't.
Cards have an afternoon affair in Wrigley this afternoon before another day off and back home to Busch. Jake Westbrook goes for win 101 in his career.
Good numbers for Westbrook there, assuming he can deal with Starlin Castro. Of course, the Cubs offense wasn't really the problem for Lynn last night either, was it?
St. Louis will face Carlos Villanueva, whom most of us remember from his days with the Brewers. Perhaps that Milwaukee connection will help out? Villanueva does sports a 2.85 ERA this year, so he's been fairly effective, especially for a Cubs pitcher.
Not a good look for the Cardinals either. Holliday's really the only one with much extended success against him. Could be a low scoring game, though it is a day game at Wrigley, so you never know when things will just explode. Worth watching to see!
The BBA has, as a secondary aim, the goal of producing year-end
awards in a similar fashion to the Baseball Writers of America. These
awards can be found at the official site in October with links back to the voters,
ensuring transparency and, most likely, the onset of some good baseball