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!
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!
I know, the traditional cleaning implement in this situation is a broom, but sweeping up spilled product from a brewmaster just isn't going to get you very far. The Brewers were thoroughly cleaned up and out this weekend, so any cleaning tool you want to use is pretty appropriate. We've already talked about Thursday's game and Saturday's game, which leaves us two others to quickly discuss.
If you've been following the Cardinal minor league system for any extended period of time, this game was what you've been waiting for. Shelby Miller, followed by Carlos Martinez (making his debut) followed by Seth Maness (also making his debut). Fernando Salas, another minor league product, cleaned up the ninth. Offensively, you had Matt Carpenter with a hit and a walk, Allen Craig with three hits, Yadier Molina, David Freese and Jon Jay with two and Pete Kozma with a hit of his own. Prospect gurus probably sniffed and wiped a tear of joy while watching all of this minor league talent mesh together at the big league level.
While all of those guys did a wonderful job, you have to give the Hero tag to Matt Holliday. Holliday had three hits, including a two-run homer that got the scoring started off of old friend Kyle Lohse. It's extremely hard to pick a Goat in this one since everyone had a hit and all of the pitchers went well, but we'll go with Pete Kozma since Carlos Beltran won the tiebreaker since his hit was a home run.
Martinez and Maness both looked very good in their first appearances in the bigs. Martinez gave up an infield single to his first batter, but then got a double play to erase him. Maness came in and threw the Dave Duncan special--three ground ball outs. It may be the newness of the players or the fact they were up against the Brewers, but I have a feeling confidence in the bullpen is at possibly the highest point it has been at all season long.
It didn't take long for this one to get out of hand. The second six-run inning that the Cards had while spending time in Milwaukee gave Jaime Garcia all that he was going to need. Even Bad Jaime might have had trouble squandering that lead, but he didn't show up yesterday. Garcia went eight innings, striking out three and allowing just one run. He did all of that in just under 100 pitches as well, meaning he was unusually efficient. No doubt that he was Hero of the action.
There were plenty of other people to make their claim on the Hero action, though. Allen Craig drove in three in that six-run second and added another RBI later on. Matt Holliday went 2-3 with a home run and three RBI. Jon Jay, back in the leadoff slot as his average is getting back to reasonable levels, got two hits and scored two runs. Pete Kozma had a multi-hit game. Lots of fun at the old ballpark for the Cardinal hitters yesterday.
There were a couple of hitters that didn't get into the fun. Daniel Descalso didn't get a hit, though he did draw two walks. However, the Goat of the action is David Freese, who had multiple hits in each of the first three games, but went 0-5 with three strikeouts and six left on base. Freese was starting to look much better, so hopefully that's just an off day rather than the reemergence of whatever had him in that slump.
In the middle of this series, there were a couple of pieces of news--one expected, one not-so-much. The first was that Jason Motte was going to have Tommy John surgery after all. Even with the news last week that Motte was feeling better and was throwing, few believed that the Redbirds were going to dodge that bullet. Some will say that Motte should have gone under the knife as soon as the irritation showed up at the end of March, but that seems a bit extreme to me. For one thing, they didn't even a clearer picture of the problem until the exam on April 9. Which means that, at most, they lost less than a month. Sure, the odds weren't good for them, but three weeks in the long run isn't likely to affect Motte's return all that much.
Frankly, I think we've seen the end of Motte closing for the Cardinals anyway. Assume that Motte isn't able to come back until early June next year, which would seem reasonable. We don't know that he can heal up and return as quickly as Adam Wainwright did, though he does have the advantage that he doesn't have to build up as much stamina being a reliever. If the Cardinals don't have an established closer by then, they've got bigger problems than a couple of weeks on Motte's recovery. You'd figure someone was locked into that role and even if they weren't, we saw the erratic nature of Wainwright when he returned. By time Motte really gets back to full strength, the '14 season is likely over and Motte's a free agent. Would the Cards resign him to be the closer? Guess that depends on the situation at the time, but it would seem a bit unlikely.
The other news was that Chris Carpenterwas throwing again, with the idea of returning to the club as a reliever. The words "Chris Carpenter" and "throwing again" are going to make any Cardinal fan giddy with dreams of yet another comeback. There's nothing wrong with that and, indeed, this seems to have more substance than just a columnist's flight of fancy. Having Carpenter back in uniform would be a huge boost to this team psychologically if nothing else, plus you'd figure his veteran wiles would be handy in the sixth or seventh inning or wherever trouble might strike.
That said, even though John Mozeliak is quoted that he was optimistic and excited about the idea and putting a late June/early July timetable on a possible return, we've seen this before. We've seen Carpenter start to look good and plans be made for him to go out on a rehab start or something of that nature, only to have a setback. That seemed to be the order of the day last year, as he'd be good until he hit a throwing level that brought him back down. Until we see him on a minor league assignment and having success, I don't think we can count too many chickens.
If he did return, though, it would like be the past, present and future of the Cardinal pitching staff all in one spot. Carpenter, Wainwright, Miller, Martinez, Trevor Rosenthal all on the squad at the same time? That's an incredible sight. I really hope this happens and, of course, you never rule Chris Carpenter out or he actually comes to your house and beats you about the head and shoulders while spewing profanities. Matt Whitener had horror stories about it last weekend.
Off day today, then the Cards start a two-game series in the Friendly Confines on Tuesday. Lance Lynn puts his perfect record (and the Cards' six game winning streak) on the line against the Cubbies, who currently sit last in the division and are wishing that Houston had never left.
Wood's not been as successful as Lynn has and it's not all from that game last year. Molina and Holliday will be excited about this one and Jay looks to continue his fine hitting. Freese might be able to make yesterday's game an aberration and even Daniel Descalso has done pretty well against the hurler. Everything is in the Cards' favor here, but we know that doesn't always translate to the field.
In case you missed it (and you might have--I was unusually active here on the blog this weekend), I had Star Wars questions for the players and a recap of UCB Weekend posted, so be sure to check them out if you haven't already!
Welcome into the UCB studios as we recap what happened in today's game, the details of which are thoughtfully supplied by the whole crew, from Aaron Miles' Fastball to Cards Tied For First. There was plenty to keep people busy with!
I'm glad to report that the UCB Progressive Game Blog jinx seems to have been at least temporarily suspended, though it surely didn't look like it when Adam Wainwright looked un-Waino-like by giving up two runs in the first inning and having to work out of a bases-loaded jam to keep it at that.
As you know, the game went back and forth, with the Cards taking a lead, then giving it up to the Brewers before finally making the ninth the last time the lead changed. The Hero of the day has to be Jon Jay for his outstanding contributions, most notably a three-run home run to immediately get Wainwright back into good standing and then a run-scoring single in the ninth that put the Cards on top for good. It seems like Mike Matheny's policy of sitting slumping hitters down for a couple of days is working--Jay has raised his average around 50 points since his benching and David Freese is on fire right now, having multi-hit games in every one of the games held in Miller Park.
There's a reason that sabermetricians have tried to emphasize that decision stats aren't nearly as important as they used to be. For instance, look at the bullpen for the Cardinals today. Fernando Salas comes in and gets the last out of the seventh, then starts the eighth with two of his three batters getting hits, putting them at the corners. Randy Choate comes in and gives up a squeeze bunt that barely gets past Yadier Molina and ties the game. Then Seth Maness comes in and gets the double play ball. Yet Salas gets the hold and Choate gets the blown save. Fascinating how that works. (And, of course, congrats to Maness for getting his first major league win!)
As much as Wainwright struggled and as dicey as the bullpen made things, I'm going to give the Goat to Matt Carpenter. An 0-5 day is just so tough to overlook from your leadoff hitter. Sadly, Carlos Beltran in the two hole had the same line, but he only had one strikeout to Carpenter's two. Tiebreakers don't have to be large.
The biggest discussion point, of course, was Matheny's predilection for double switches. Swapping in Daniel Descalso to play second and removing David Freese looked really strange on the face of it. It worked out since Descalso hit the two-run homer that put the Cards on top for a bit, but as pointed out if Jon Jay hadn't gotten thrown out at third (what is with all the baserunning in this series?) Dirty Dan would have been bunting. And anyway, why not just pinch-hit Desclaso there if you want to? Freese was actually hitting over the last few days and losing a bat like that is normally going to cost you.
Matheny doubled down on the double switches later, taking out Matt Holliday (which, granted, was 0-4 but still is one of the biggest bats on the team, as evidenced by his home run last night) to put Maness in his spot so that Shane Robinson would be in the original Freese spot. Yes, Robinson doubled, stole third and scored the winning run, but is that the way you'd expect things to go? If the game had stayed tied, Ty Wigginton might have had to bat in a crucial spot and that's really not likely to go well. At least, we say that. Everything Matheny did today turned to gold, so maybe it would have. Wigginton might have hit his first homer today the rate things were working out. Expecting that to happen every day, though, is a recipe for disaster.
All's well that ends well and the Cards not only have a nice two-game lead on the Pirates, they have the best record in the National League. Doesn't seem possible, does it? Jaime Garcia versus Wily Peralta tomorrow as St. Louis tries to work a broom. Thanks for joining us on the Progressive Game Blog! Hope you enjoyed and we'll see you back here next year at this time!