Who knew that the stellar play by Alcides Escobar on Wednesday night's game won a game for the Royals on Thursday?
With Edward Mujica and Trevor Rosenthal off-limits due to their recent usage (and, in Rosenthal's case, warming up even when he wasn't used), Mitchell Boggs got the call last night with a one-run game in the ninth inning. If Escobar doesn't make that diving stop, most likely Michael Blazek pitches the ninth yesterday, perhaps making Mujica available for this one. Maybe not--both pitchers were warming at the same time--but knowing that Michael Wacha was three outs from a well-deserved win, he might have used the big guns to secure it.
However, that's a case of parallel universe baseball. In this one, the regulars weren't available and Boggs came in. While Boggs had done OK in Memphis, he'd struggled after his return. Then again, there wasn't anyone else down there that immediately inspired more confidence, so Mike Matheny didn't seem to have many options.
Boggs had a large part of the fan base against him due to his early struggles. After last night, giving up a home run to blow the win for an already-beloved Wacha? That portion grew significantly. When you realize just how limited the Royals power has been, that they'd only stroked two home runs in like 15 games, both by Miguel Tejada, it stings even more.
That said, the behavior of some of the on-line fan base last night was shameful. Boggs's wife Lele is on Twitter and had some extremely hateful and detestable things directed her way as her husband's surrogate. That's ridiculous and unacceptable. We don't like the results, we can argue whether Boggs should have been in or if he should be on the roster, but there's no doubt that he is trying to get outs as hard as he can. Adding on to that, the worth of a person is not determined by whether they succeed on the baseball field. Did hitting that home run make Jeff Francoeur a better person? Sure, it made Royal fans happier with him, but would he have been a different person if he struck out? Of course not. The anonymity of the Internet has allowed a lot of people to spout off when they wouldn't in person. And if you would say such terrible things to Boggs or his wife in person, you really need to reevaluate your life.
Before we leave the bullpen, can anyone tell me why Victor Marte stayed up when Wacha was activated instead of Blazek? Blazek, who didn't get any major league time, just a little bullpen warmup, might have done just as badly last night. Then again, he might have done better, as we've seen with a lot of these rookie arms. With Marte, we know what we are going to get, and it's not going to be pretty. I thought Marte was up just as an insurance policy in case there was one of those games where all the bullpen guys got used. Blazek could have filled that role and likely filled it much better. There has to be an injury to get him back on the roster before 10 days are up, but I can't imagine Marte is up past that, even if Mike Matheny tends to really enjoy running him out there.
While I'm giving Boggs the Goat because, well, it's tough not to given the situation, strong consideration has to be given to Matt Holliday. First inning, runner on second with one out, Holliday is obviously trying to go the other way and lines out to second. OK, understand the idea, just didn't work out. Second time up, bases loaded with one out. Wacha's on third after getting a hit in his first at-bat, but had been held up by Jose Oquendo after Carlos Beltran's hit. It was reasonable of Oquendo, not wanting the young gun to risk a play at the plate, but it became a big play when Holliday hit a little tapper back to the mound, allowing Jeremy Guthrie to go home and get the force there. Third time up, two outs and two on, he hits a grounder to second, ending the inning. A hit in just one of those times and we are probably talking about the Cardinals sweeping all their meetings against Kansas City this morning.
So what went right? Michael Wacha went right. With all the hype going into this game, I was sure that there was going to be a letdown in his performance, that he'd give up a few runs, maybe allow that elusive home run that the Royals had been looking for, things like that. Instead, Wacha gets a hit before he gives one up (shades of Shelby Miller in his first start last year) and retires the first 13 batters he faced. After a "rough patch" in the fifth, where he allowed the double to break up the perfecto and a single that snapped the shutout, he threw two more perfect innings. He struck out six in his time out and generally did everything people were expecting. The biggest test might not be his next start, at home against the Diamondbacks, but if I'm reading the schedule right, he'd get the final game of the Reds series in Cincinnati, which oh-by-the-way would be ESPN's Sunday Night game. One start at a time, though.
Kudos also to Joe Kelly, who came into a bases-loaded, no-out situation after the extensive rain delay and got three outs without allowing a run. Even though Kelly has struggled, you wonder if the results of the game would have been different had he come in instead of Boggs. No telling.
Offensively, Matt Carpenter and Beltran both had two hits but the rest of the offense couldn't quite get into gear. So often they'd put together a two-out rally, but never be able to bring it to fruition. Allen Craig and David Freese drove in runs in the first with two outs, but other than that, there just wasn't anything to get excited about as Guthrie got back on track.
Speaking of getting back on track, Jake Westbrookthrew a bullpen yesterday and felt good enough to start talking about rehab starts. He could go out as early of Tuesday of next week and start his rehab clock ticking. While the youngsters are obviously holding their own, getting a little veteran leadership back in the rotation wouldn't be a bad thing, especially since those innings are going to start piling up on young arms quickly.
After being out late last night/this morning (that rain delay really came at the wrong time), the Cards host the defending champs this evening. St. Louis won two of three out in San Francisco at the beginning of the season, including a 14-3 pounding in the final game of the series. That game was started by Matt Cain, who will go tonight for the Giants. Cain has had his struggles with the Redbirds in the past.
Holliday has struggled and you probably won't see Daniel Descalso in this one, but otherwise Cain hasn't fooled a lot of St. Louis hitters. Here's hoping he's not learned any new tricks. It's been a rough season so far for him anyway, with a 5.00 ERA even going into this one. His last two outings at home have been fairly good (though he only went five innings in his last one) but away from AT&T Park, it's been a different story.
The Cards send one of the youngsters to the mound to deal with the champs. Well, that doesn't narrow things down, I know, and honestly Shelby Miller feels like a grizzled vet compared to people like Wacha and Tyler Lyons. Miller gave up just two runs in 5.1 innings back in that April series and, in limited action, has done OK against the G-men.
Miller pitched well against the Giants in the NLCS last year as well, so he's got a bit of familiarity with them.
It's possible I'll post this weekend--as you know, Saturday posts aren't unheard of from me, though they aren't regular--but if not, this is the last post before everything changes. Be sure to check here Monday to see what I mean, but I promise you, reading C70 At The Bat will never be the same!
"Never give up, never surrender" was the catchphrase of Captain Quincy Taggart of the fictional show (and real movie) Galaxy Quest. Since it was set in the future, it's obvious Taggart grew up a Cardinals fan.
We've not seen a lot of dramatic comebacks this season--being up early and having pitching that keep the opposition's scoring low will tend to do that--but obviously we know the postseason history of the club. Last night's comeback didn't have the drama or the high stakes of 2011 or 2012, but it was a nice thing to see nonetheless.
With the Reds finally losing a game, it looked like the Cards were going to squander an opportunity when they were down 3-1 in the eighth inning. These are the Cardinals, though (and, on the flip side, these were the Royals they were playing). They got into the Royals bullpen and made some hay, capped off by a key two-out hit by Daniel Descalso. The Cards really should have gotten more, but this happened. I don't care that it was a Royal making the play, that was incredible. As I said on Twitter, if Ozzie Smith saw that play, he's suing for copyright infringement. It's been a long time since that much range and that kind of athleticism has been shown at that position in Busch. That's not a slam on Pete Kozma or anything like that--Kozma makes some nice plays and does well with what he gets to--but a real tip of the cap to Alcides Escobar.
While Descalso got player of the game and his hit was huge, I'm going with Carlos Beltran for my Hero of the game. Not only did Beltran's home run start the scoring in the eighth, giving the team a jolt, but his sliding catch at the end of the seventh inning saved at least one run, possibly two, and kept the bullpen out of the game.
Some great stuff again by Yadier Molina. Not only did he go 3-4, bringing his average up to .355 (putting him second behind Milwaukee shortstop Jean Segura, who pumped up his numbers with a six-hit performance on Tuesday), but he made an outstanding play in the field, grabbing a ball just as it was rolling foul and throwing out the runner, plus was coaching on the basepaths, telling Allen Craig to get a bigger lead, something that was key when David Freese singled and Craig was able to score the tying run by a step or two. I fully expect one day they are going to mike Yadi up and he's going to do the Fox Sports Midwest commentary while he's playing the game. He and Dan McLaughlin would make a great team, wouldn't they?
Craig also had a good night, going three for four. Freese had his RBI hit plus drew two walks, though he hit into a double play in the second after Craig and Molina had reached with no outs, snuffing out a rally. On the downside, Jon Jay was 0-3 but got an intentional walk, which means Pete Kozma is our Goat. Kozma went 0-4 and struck out looking on three pitches with the bases loaded in the eighth, something that was overlooked when Descalso got his big hit right afterwards.
On the pitching side of the ledger, Lance Lynn had a solid game. It wasn't one of his best, but it was easily good enough to win most nights. He gave up eight hits, but it was the one to his opposite number Luis Mendoza that was probably the most painful. After allowing a leadoff triple, Lynn had stranded the runner at third with two outs before not bearing down on the American League pitcher, who made him pay with a solid single over second base. If the Cards had lost on that run, it would have really been a tough thing to swallow.
Seth Maness struggled a bit, allowing a run in two-thirds of an inning, but darned if he didn't just about vulture another win. Only the fact that Mike Matheny went to Randy Choate to get the left-hander out to finish the eighth separated Maness from yet another win. Instead, Choate got his first decision in over 100 times out. Edward Mujica continues to prove that, yes, closing is fine with him, getting three outs in five pitches and putting up his 17th save.
Pitching update: Chris Carpenter threw about 20 pitches and felt good. The comeback isn't over, just might be a little slower than we'd hoped. I think I saw something about the All-Star Break recently? That'd be a good way to ease up on some of these rookies' work load. Jake Westbrook is going to throw a long session today and after that, there may be decisions on where and when he goes for a rehab assignment. Fernando Salas, however, still hasn't thrown since getting a cortisone shot, so we may not see him for a while. Which, if people like Westbrook return, won't be a big deal as there will be a lot of options for the bullpen.
So another series won (well, not lost) and the Giants coming to town, it could be easy to overlook today's last game with the Royals. Or it would be if it wasn't for the fact that Michael Wacha was making his major league debut. If it's up to him, he won't be seeing Memphis again, Odds are, though, it won't be up to him as the Cards still want to limit what he's doing and get him conditioned well. If Westbrook is close to returning, that might be all the time Wacha gets. Still, there's a lot of excitement about today's game and it should be fun to see what he has.
The Royals try to end their losing streak with Jeremy Guthrie on the hill. Guthrie's pitched pretty well for Kansas City, with an ERA just a shade under 4.00 and five wins to his credit. However, unlike Mendoza, he's been in a slump lately. Over his last three outings, he's allowed 17 earned runs in 19.1 innings. Not exactly the trend you want to see if you are wearing the blue.
In the past, he's done all right against these Cardinal hitters, though he's not seen them too much. Matt Holliday could continue his hot week (as predicted by Tara on Gateway last weekend) as he's got a favorable matchup.
It's Wacha time in St. Louis tonight. Here's hoping he gets off on the right foot!
(Proud parent alert: I missed all but the first inning of this one due to the boy's Little League game, which had much more drama than the Cards/Royals. Down 5-0, they rally to 5-3 before giving up another run. In the last inning before time would expire, one of the bottom of the lineup types--the ones that have trouble making contact, you know what I mean--beats out a hit, allowing the lineup to turn over.
Five batters later, there's two outs and a 6-6 game when my son comes up, takes three terrible hacks then hits a ball that the third baseman can't come up with. Run scores and they tack on another, which is good because the other team comes back to make it 8-7 with a runner on second and two outs. The game ends on a grounder the second baseman bobbles, but they throw the runner out when he tries to slide into first. No one feels worse about that than Skip Schumaker.)
The professionals weren't quite as dramatic, with Tyler Lyons just running through the Royals lineup (save Billy Butler) like he was a 10-year veteran. They keep saying that you don't want three rookies in your pitching rotation, but if the rookies are going to keep pitching games like this, I'm fine with it, personally.
Lyons gets the Hero tag again for his seven innings of two-hit, one-run ball, but there are some kudos due to the offense as well. I pointed out yesterday that Ervin Santana was susceptible to the long ball and it took all of two batters to figure that out as Carlos Beltran did what Yadier Molina did the day before, give the Cards a quick 2-0 lead. The Cardinals tacked on two more in the sixth when Matt Carpenter, who had an outstanding day at the plate, and Matt Holliday both left the yard.
Sadly, Matt Adams was not able to join them and winds up with our Goat again. The bottom of the lineup was pretty paltry last night, with 5 through 9 going 1-18. Adams stalled what could have been a huge inning in the first. After Beltran's home run, Holliday singled and Allen Craig walked, giving the Cards two on with two outs. Adams then grounded into a double play and Santana was able to strike out David Freese to get out of the inning. Since Lyons pitched so well those extra runs weren't needed, but they easily could have been.
Off the field, the Cards got some decent news on a couple of pitchers. First, John Gast just has a lat strain, so something that may take a while to heal but nothing structurally wrong. That's good to know, because the Cardinals don't get a discount on how many pitchers they send to Dr. Andrews. Secondly, there's now hope that Jake Westbrook could get out on a rehab assignment in the next week or so, which might help the club be able to alleviate a lot of these innings by the youngsters.
Speaking of youngsters, Carlos Martinezmade his first start in Memphis last night. Three innings, two hits, four strikeouts, no runs. Not bad for a guy that's been in the bullpen most of the year. Three or four more like that and he might be in the St. Louis rotation if there's a need.
Also in Memphis, Oscar Taveras finally went on the disabled list with that ankle injury. It just never has completely healed and getting some rest should help him get better, plus they can stop playing shorthanded in Memphis. Thankfully, the Cards aren't running through outfielders like they are pitchers!
Lynn's only faced the Royals once before, when he gave up six runs in 5.1 innings in Kansas City last June. The expectation is that he won't do that again. Not that it's completely out of the realm of possibility, but Lynn has looked much sharper this year and is coming off of six quick shutout innings in his last start.
Cardinals have to solve Luis Mendoza. Mendoza's been around longer than I thought, so a few of the Cardinal hitters have seen him before.
The Cardinals lost as many pitchers as they did games over this long holiday weekend. That seems to be about par for the course the season; no matter how many obstacles get thrown in their way, the Cards just throw in another piece to the puzzle and keep plowing along.
With a lefty on the mound, especially a lefty of no major import, you could have been forgiven if you thought things weren't lined up just great for St. Louis. After all, their struggles against those of the left-handed persuasion are legendary. While they'd beaten Chris Capuano in the past, there was no guarantee they'd do so again.
Instead, the Cards scored early, scored late, and didn't allow the Dodgers to score at all. Which seems to be a great way to make sure that left-handed storyline doesn't pop back up, doesn't it?
It was a tough battle for the Hero tag. Allen Craig made a strong push for it, going 2-4 with a home run and three RBI, but David Freese also got two hits, a home run, and three RBI, plus tossed in a walk as well. Freese does look to be getting healthy at the plate, now hitting people that aren't in Milwaukee Brewer outfits.
Those two did the bulk of the damage--Yadier Molina drove in the other run on a sacrifice fly--but that was more than enough for Lance Lynn. Lynn only went six innings, but that was more a function of the score than anything else. He allowed only two hits and struck out nine in his time out there and the bullpen allowed all of one hit in their three innings of work. Even Mitchell Boggs had a nice outing (one inning, nothing but a strikeout) which would have more encouraging had the next night not happened.
The Goat tag winds up on Matt Holliday, who went 0-4 with no runs or RBI, though he did draw a walk in the contest.
If we were giving out Hero tags for the entire game, not just what the Cardinals did, there's no doubt former Card Nick Punto would have gotten it. With the bases loaded and two outs in the sixth, Pete Kozma roped one down the third base line, but Punto makes an incredible diving stab of it. While Kozma was able to beat it out for an infield single and an RBI, that only tied the game and Matt Adams then popped up to end the threat. The Dodgers immediately came back to take the lead, something they wouldn't relinquish.
We don't let the other team have Heroes on this page, however, so we'll give the tag to Yadier Molina. Yadi had three of the team's seven hits and both scored and drove in a run. Otherwise, there wasn't any offensive standout as the other hits were scattered throughout the lineup.
While there weren't any offensive choices besides Yadi, there has to be some consideration given to the bullpen on the whole. John Gast started this game but left after just one inning plus with shoulder tightness, something that necessitated a trip to the disabled list after the game. That meant the bullpen had a lot of innings to absorb and, for the most part, they did OK. Joe Kelly gave up two runs in three innings but struck out six. Carlos Martinez looked sharp in his inning. Seth Maness got the loss when he gave up the run in the bottom of the sixth to the Dodgers. Randy Choate will probably need some serious down time after pitching a complete inning on back-to-back days.
Then there was Mitchell Boggs. I'm not giving him the Goat because the Cards were already down in the game, but when you are a pitcher trying to work your way back into the manager's confidence, coming into a game where you are down 4-3 and giving up two hits, two walks and a run is probably not the best way to go about it. Granted, one of those was intentional and he did get Skip Schumaker to hit into a double play, but that really isn't what you want to see out of the guy that used to be a closer.
Since we aren't giving the Goat to Boggs, we'll give it to Carlos Beltran, who went 0-4 with no walks (but also no strikeouts, if that means anything.)
I'll admit it, when the Cards got down immediately 2-0 to Clayton Kershaw on Sunday, I thought the "win the series" streak was history. I mean, it's one thing to beat up on a Capuano, but this was Clayton Kershaw, one of the few people in major league baseball with an ERA less than what Shelby Miller brought into this game. A guy that is always in the Cy Young conversation. Two runs is huge to a guy like that, right?
Apparently, not always. The Cards scored three runs of Kershaw in the second, tagged him for another in the seventh, and held on for a 5-3 win, keeping the streak of not losing a series since UCB Weekend going.
And why did they win? Well, a good bit had to do with Miller staying strong, though his three runs in 5.1 innings did push his ERA over 2 for the season. Miller struck out seven, but wasn't able to be efficient enough to get deeper into the game, throwing 105 pitches in that span. Miller has talked about trying to do more with less, but so far that lesson hasn't been learned. Since his near-perfect outing, he's not made it through the sixth after doing that four of six times before that game.
It also helped that Maness did what Maness does, getting a double play ball to end the sixth. I missed portions of this game, being at a couple of different Memorial Day get-togethers, but reading through the play-by-play it's interesting to see that, in the seventh, Mike Matheny pulled Maness after he intentionally walked Adrian Gonzalez after a Carl Crawford double to set up a potential double play. I mean, Maness could do that in his sleep, right?
Whatever the reasoning, Trevor Rosenthal came in, upped the level of difficulty by hitting Andre Ethier to load the bases, then struck out the next two guys, basically Rosenthal doing what Rosenthal does.
The biggest reason they won, though, is because Pete Kozma had himself a game. He went 4-4, which is impressive enough for a guy that we expected to be an offensive liability all season long, but got a rare chance to relive history. In the second, he came up with the bases loaded, just like they were on Saturday. Just like on Saturday, he pulled the ball down the third base line. This time, though, Juan Uribe was playing third instead of Punto and the ball bounded past him, clearing the bases. Add to the offensive exploits a flawless game in the field and you've got one of the most obvious Heroes of the season.
Which was good, because only Matt Carpenter wound up with more than one hit in the lineup. He fashioned two, plus a walk, but never scored a run because the 2-3-4 hitters (save when Matt Adams pinch-hit in that spot and got an RBI single in the ninth) went 0-13. Jon Jay gets the Goat for striking out three times in his 0-4 day.
You look at the schedule and you see James Shields versus Adam Wainwright and you figure, "This is going to be good." This is also why they put the game on the field instead of a computer simulation or Strat-O-Matic game, because just because it looks good doesn't mean it is going to be good.
Wainwright went eight innings, but you'd have never have guessed that from early in the game. He allowed the three runs in the first three innings, but then did a lot of "bending but not breaking", often seeing Royal blue on the bases when he got out of jams. You'd say they were jams of his own causing, but the Royals were like the Israelites out there, because there was a whole lot of dying quail for them to feast on. I don't know if perhaps, being owned by Wal-Mart chair David Glass they got some cheaper bats on sale or what, but Kansas City broke a huge number of them, and so often that meant a little dying pop fly that'd land right in front of an onrushing Cardinal outfielder or over the head of a Cardinal infielder trying to make a play. Luckily, a lot of these came with two outs, so Waino had some options to get out of trouble.
While Wainwright wasn't necessarily his sharpest, Yadier Molina sure was. Batting up in the second slot for the first time that I can remember, Molina hit a two-run homer his first time up, doubled in a run the second time, hit a sacrifice fly the third time, and drew two walks (the last intentional). Yadi came to play (though, to be fair, he comes to play every day).
Molina's heroics overshadowed some big offensive days by others as well. Craig went 3-5 with an RBI, Carpenter went 2-4 with a walk, a run and an RBI, and Daniel Descalso, who has nothing personal against Ryan Jackson but likes him better in Memphis, turned in a wonderful 3-3, one walk, two runs line. Is Dirty Dan turning the corner and going to start producing offensively? It'd be nice to have a little more of an offensive threat coming off the bench, so let's hope so.
Tough day for Matt Adams, though. Slipped into the DH slot for the first time this year (the Cards were one of the few teams that hadn't hit interleague play yet), Adams went 0-5 with three strikeouts, though he did smash a drive to the warning track before it fell into the centerfielder's glove.
It seems like this team has been dealing with pitching all year long. From Chris Carpenter in spring training to Gast this weekend, it's like putting together an airplane while it's in the air. Parts continue to fly in from various locations like Tony Stark's armor. It's what you expect from a struggling team, not a team that leads major league baseball.
When Gast went down, the first move was to promote Michael Blazek from Springfield. Blazek, however, is a reliever that was there mainly to shore up the pen after they had to absorb seven innings on Saturday. The same theory applied to Monday's move, which was to send Carlos Martinez to Memphis so he could get stretched back out and be an option for the starting rotation. Victor Marte came back up in that move, though it would seem likely that's not going to last long. (At least, we can hope.)
With all of these moves, there still was a need for a starter on Thursday. That's been determined now as The Prospect, Michael Wacha, has gotten the call. He was dominant in the spring and he's got some nice numbers in Memphis (though some would point out his peripherals aren't quite in line with the wins and the ERA), but you know John Mozeliak is just cringing having to make this call. They really wanted Wacha to spend a significant time in Memphis and there's still a chance of that, as Wacha may only be up for a couple of starts. Still, when you've tried everyone else, sometimes you have to get into that insurance policy.
The reason Wacha might not be up terribly long (besides the general ideas of inning workload and development) is that Jake Westbrookcancelled his appointment with Dr. James Andrews due to his elbow feeling better. Does this mean that Westbrook will be returning soon? The jury is still out on that. Like he said, he can always reschedule and, given the Cardinal injury bug this year, that wouldn't be outside the realm of possibility. We'll see how things develop during the week, but if he could get back on track to return in a few weeks, that would be a nice boost to a team relying on three rookies in the rotation and some more in the bullpen.
Cards go for the sweep of the Royals in Kansas City tonight when Tyler Lyons, Patron Pitcher for this blog, gets his second major league start. We'll see how much the league has adjusted or how much throwing in San Diego's pitcher's park helped him out. Hopefully we'll get something approximating a repeat.
KC will send out Ervin Santana to try to avert that. Santana has been OK in the early going, though he did give up five runs in just shy of eight innings to the Angels last time out. Not a lot of experience for this team versus Santana either.
Memo to Mike Matheny: this does not mean that Ty Wigginton should be your DH or first baseman tonight. Small sample size, Mike, small sample size. By the way, Santana may have only allowed 23 runs in his nine starts, but he's allowed 10 long balls. We might get to see a little power show tonight at The K!
It's that time of year again. When hope is new, the grass smells clean, and people foolishly put down what they think will happen in the baseball season to come. The United Cardinal Bloggers are no different.
Every year we take a crack at these things. Sometimes it goes pretty well--Pittsburgh's late fade last year kept me from nailing them being third and over the .500 mark. Sometimes it goes disastrously--I had Boston winning the AL East last year. Yeah, that was pretty much bad from the get-go.
However, terrible performances don't stop us from trying it again anyway. (Kinda like Mike Matheny continuing to use Victor Marte last year.) So we'll do it again on the same kinda schedule--the entire American League today, then each division in the National League gets a day before wrapping it up on Friday with postseason predictions and awards.
Since we hardly pay attention to the American League--we all know real baseball lets a pitcher hit, don't we?--let's try to make a quick pass through there today. If you want to use these as a guide, odds are you better figure the opposite is really going to happen!
For the fifth straight year, Playing Pepper returns to C70 At The Bat. If you aren't aware, this series helps get a feel for the other 29 teams in baseball by asking those that follow them the closest--their bloggers. We've got spring training action going, so it's time to play a little pepper.
Kansas City Royals
72-90, third in the AL Central
"Our Time" was delayed.
With the fruits of a much-vaunted farm system making their way to the big leagues, there were high expectations for Kansas City last year. It seemed quite reasonable that they would be a plus-.500 team with an eye on October. It was, as their marketing department termed it, "our time".
Instead, things went in the fashion that, unfortunately for Royals fans, you have come to expect out of Kansas City. The team was 6-15 after the first month of play and, to add insult to injury, didn't win a home game until May 3. While the team was able to finish in the middle of the division, that might say more about Minnesota and Cleveland than it did about the boys in blue.
So now what? The Royals definitely weren't quiet in the offseason, but will that be enough to get them back to where they thought they should be?
Kansas City is known for its baseball writing and the crew that has answered my call are no exception. First off, we have Brian McGannon, who can be found writing at Royals Kingdom and Tweeting @BrianMcGannon. Following him is Bill Ivie of I70 Baseball, who needs no introduction to Cardinal fans of this site as he's usually writing about the Redbirds, but can switch-hit from time to time. You'll find him on Twitter @poisonwilliam.
To paraphrase Mr. Twain, reports of the Cardinals' offensive demise have been greatly exaggerated.
The activation of Jon Jay and Matt Carpenter (or the pitching staff of the Royals) seemed to give this team a spark this weekend. After scoring only seven runs in the entire Detroit series, they had topped that by the second inning Friday night en route to a series sweep when they scored a total of 30 runs. Life was good this weekend, so let's take a look.
Hero: You can kinda take your pick when the offense piles up 17 hits, but I'll go with Carlos Beltran, who "only" had two hits, but drove in four when both of those were two-run doubles.
Goat: This kinda game doesn't lend itself to much of a Goat, so I'll go with Fernando Salas, just because he allowed a run in his only inning. It didn't make a difference in the final score, but everyone else was just so good.
Notes: Joe Kelly got his first major league win basically by not messing anything up. When you are given a 10-1 lead, it's tough to be too bad out there. No home runs in this game, which is pretty noteworthy given that many runs. David Freese and Matt Holliday both had three hits as well.
Hero: Matt Holliday. Four hits, including a double, and two RBI. Holliday had a wonderful weekend and has pushed his season numbers up to a level we expect out of him.
Goat: Tony Cruz. Again, a solid effort by almost everyone makes this tough, but Cruz did go 0-4, even though he scored a run.
Notes: If there was any doubt that Adam Wainwright was back, I think we can eliminate it. This was his third straight game of seven innings and two or fewer runs. It's a wonderful thing to see. Allen Craig went deep, the first home run since the Sunday before for the team. The team's 1-6 hitters all had at least two base knocks.
Hero: You wouldn't think I'd be singling out a middle reliever in a game that the Cards put up 11 runs, but Marc Rzepczynski made sure that there was a win to write about. He came in with the tying run at second base and nobody out and got two quick outs. He'd have gotten out of the inning had Mike Moustakas not hit against an exaggerated shift, as he grounded right to where the shortstop should have been. Great work out of a guy that's been sporadic at times this year.
Goat: Lance Lynn. Staked to 3-0 and 5-2 leads, Lynn couldn't hold them for long. That's two starts in a row that have been problematic for Lynn, seeing his ERA rise almost a full run, and that's not escaped the Cards' attention.
Notes: Craig had another couple of hits, which put his struggles in Detroit further behind him. Beltran only had one hit, but it was a big three-run homer that got the Cards going in the first. Yadier Molina also put one out of the park as well. Along with Scrabble, Eduardo Sanchez got a big out to keep the game in the Cards' favor.
It's probably significant that Daniel Descalso started yesterday versus a left-hander instead of Tyler Greene. In fact, Descalso was left in there against lefty Tim Collins late instead of being pinch-hit for, and he came through with an RBI single. It looks like Nick's hat-eating might be put on pause and Tyler Greene might have run himself out of chances in the organization. Then again, it could be that he'll be back in there if Descalso struggles over the next week or so. I would still think second base is a position John Mozeliak is at least keeping in mind as he works on his trade possibilities.
Chris Perez has come out and said the Cards use stuff to get a grip on the ball. Well, Perez just said that they used substances, while Chris Carpenter and Wainwright explained that it's more rosin and sunscreen to keep a grip on the ball. On the one hand (no pun intended), that makes sense because the last thing you want if you are a batter is the ball leaving Carpenter or Wainwright's hand too early and flying straight at your head. On the other, I'd like to know if this is a fairly unwritten but widespread thing or more localized on the Cardinals. It doesn't sound like cheating, not like pine tar and scuffing the ball is, but I'd feel better about it if it wasn't just a team-specific issue. We'll see if more comes out about this in the coming days, though with Waino and Carp talking so openly about it, it can't be that big of a deal.
Speaking of Carpenter, he faced live hitters Friday and that went very well, so much so that he'll do it again today. If that goes well (and no reason to think it won't), he could be in line to start his minor league rehab starts. The timetable seems to have him back in St. Louis shortly after the All-Star Break. If so, that helps out immensely, as the Cards will have a fresh Carpenter for the home stretch.
Cards just two games out after all their struggles in May and June. If this offensive resurgence sticks and if the pitching continues to go well, the continued health of this club should give them an edge as they push into July and August. Keeping it close is the goal right now and it could be the Reds have had their chance to put this team away and weren't able to close the door.
Remember that one game series in Miami that started this season so many weeks ago? The Cards get a chance to visit the new Marlins park again starting tonight for a regular type of visit. Jake Westbrook is on the mound for the Cards. The numbers:
Some pretty decent historical numbers for Westbrook. Nobody's just tattooed him, though Hanley Ramirez has gone yard off of him. Ramirez isn't having his best season, but he's still showing his power so that's something to be careful of.
We'll quickly find out if this weekend's offensive explosion was due more from the health of the Cardinal players or the weakness of the Royals' staff. First up from the Marlins' stable of arms is Ricky Nolasco. His history against the Redbirds:
The Cards have actually done a lot of damage against him, especially Holliday and Beltran. Perhaps the bats can keep their heat going this evening after all. A strong showing tonight would be a welcome continuation of a trend, as the Cards haven't lost on Monday since the middle of May. (Granted, they had a couple of Mondays off in that stretch, but it still counts.) Look forward to seeing this offense continue!
Another day, another frustrating interleague experience.
The Cards have played 12 games now against the American League. In that span, they are 5-7, which is fairly fitting considering that this team has sat around .500 for quite some time. It's not that they've been getting blown out--a number of these games could have easily gone the other way--it's that there's really no offense going on.
Thirty-four runs in those dozen games, which is bad enough as it is (2.83 runs per game), but 10 of those came last Saturday against the Royals. Toss that out and you are looking at 24 over 11, which is 2.18 runs per game. It's a testament to the starting pitching that they've been doing as well as they have. They could have easily gone 2-10 during this span and have fallen completely out of the NL Central race.
Befitting the paragraph above, Thursday's Hero has to be Kyle Lohse. Lohse made one mistake--a hanging pitch that Prince Fielder put into the next county--but otherwise threw a masterful game. Four hits, one run, four strikeouts over seven innings? That should be a winning line score with this theoretical offense. Instead, it's a tough no-decision.
Rafael Furcal got two hits, but it was a missed sign that was his biggest "contribution". Daniel Descalso took off on a hit-and-run but Furcal, who was still showing bunt, never moved the bat. Descalso was out by a country mile and, when the rest of the inning unfolded into one that the Cards pushed across a run, that turned out to be a huge mistake.
Still, the Goat has to go to Victor Marte. It wasn't his fault that he was in that situation and, indeed, he's usually been able to handle it. But after getting one out in the 10th, he gave up two hits and hit a batter to load the bases, then allowed the game-winning single on the first pitch to Quintin Berry. Even the two outs he got in the ninth to keep the game tied were big blasts that might have left other ballparks, at least according to the KMOX broadcast team that I was listening to at the time.
Furcal had two hits and the bottom of the lineup had three, but the middle of the order was completely punchless. Carlos Beltran walked twice, but his small hitting streak came to an end. Matt Holliday drove in the only run on a sacrifice fly. That was it for three through six. On those kinda days, well, odds are you aren't winning unless you have a guy hitting eighth who just goes off.
Right now, nobody's going off. We tend to have these discussions about the home-run centricity of the offense and Bernie Miklasz talks about that today as well as the yucky running stats. Nothing is clicking at all at the moment, which is causing some terrible days and nights at the yard. Can things get better? Surely. However, it's almost like last year, needing that big shakeup to get people focused. What John Mozeliak can do this year for an encore, though, is pretty hard to see.
It's a tough time right now, as those parallels to 2010 just keep getting stronger. At least in '10 the Cards stayed close enough to take the lead back in August for a little while. If they can stay that close again, I like their chances. I'm just not sure how easily they can stay that close.
Second half of the home-and-home series with the Royals opens tomorrow night with Joe Kelly going against Vin Mazzaro. Kelly took on these guys in his last start, so this will be the first team that will be seeing him for the second time. Cards get another whack at Mazzaro, who has the following lines after seeing the Redbirds last weekend as well:
Holliday looks like he should be ready to go and it'll be interesting to see if Tyler Greene gets a start based on these small numbers. Also, while nothing's been officially determined, I'm expecting Matt Carpenter and Jon Jay to be activated sometime this weekend; Carpenter might be available for tomorrow's game.
Hopefully St. Louis can go across the state and put together some wins to finish up interleague play. We can hope, at least!
Tomorrow is the 10th anniversary of the passing of Darryl Kile. I'll have a memorial post up sometime during the day, so please check back for that as well. If you missed it earlier, below is a post about Josh Hancock that I think is worth reading as well. Have a great weekend!
Before I get into starting a recap of the last almost week and a half, I want to again thank those that took the time to put up quality work here at my blog while I was vacationing. I read through a number of them the few times I had wifi or cell service and appreciated the time and quality that those posts represented. I am in your debt, my friends.
Now, to the games. Unlike last year, when the Cards didn't win while I was on the wrong side of the Mississippi, this year the club was able to win a few games. However, for the most part, they did it by dominating on the mound and squeaking by at the plate, indicating that there is something still wrong with this team. The win one/lose one mentality doesn't help either. Let's take a look after the jump.
I'm safely back in Arkansas and look forward to taking up the blogging reins soon, perhaps tomorrow. Lots of stuff to cover! Until then, though, Rodney and Ryan had a bit of trouble getting their post up and so I didn't want you to be deprived. Enjoy, even if it's a bit late now!
I want to thank Daniel for allowing us the opportunity to do a guest post here. I've enjoyed reading everyone else's to this point. I was at Thursday night's game, so I was unable to come up with an early morning post for Friday. We are SaintLouisSports, and you can find us at www.saintlouissports.com.
After completing the series with the White Sox, I came to the realization that no matter what happened during that season; both teams had to be elated that they were not the Chicago Cubs. Regardless, after going to the game Thursday night, I also garnered a little more respect for White Sox fans. They were very congenial during their stay last night in Baseball Heaven. The several I spoke to were very knowledgeable regarding their team, and the game of baseball. Unfortunately, the more I go to Busch Stadium, the less I can stay about Cardinals fans. Sure, there are a ton of great Cardinals fans, and I know many of them. But more and more, fans are leaving the game way early. Last night, several groups from our section elected to leave at the start of the 8th inning. Come on guys! Let's move on to the next series:
The Cardinals wrap up a nine game home stand this weekend with three games against the Kansas City Royals. St. Louis is 3-3 on the home stand to this point. The Cardinals are tied with the Pittsburgh Pirates for second place in the National League Central, while Kansas City is six games back, and in fourth place within the American League Central. The Cardinals are coming off winning two out of three to the Chicago White Sox at home, while Kansas City swept the Milwaukee Brewers over the weekend.
The Royals have scored 234 runs and allowed 261 on the season. For St. Louis, they are totaled 314 runs, while also allowing 261. Kansas City actually plays better on the road, then they do at home. The Royals have won 16 of 30 at home. St. Louis is also 16-14 when playing at home.
The top offensive player for the Royals has been Billy Butler. Butler is batting just shy of .300 on the season, and has blasted 11 homeruns and drove in 37 runs. The Royals closer Jonathan Broxton has recorded 15 saves on the season. St. Louis will look to get Carlos Beltran back, after he missed the game on Thursday. Kansas City is where Beltran started his Major League Baseball career.
Here are the pitching match-ups for the weekend series between the two teams from Missouri:
Vin Mazzaro against Kyle Lohse on Friday night. Bruce Chen against Joe Kelly on Saturday afternoon. Luis Mendoza against Adam Wainwright on Sunday afternoon. Go Cardinals! Again - thank you Daniel for allowing us to post in your absence!