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?
On Monday, my blog post outlined out the David Freese situation assuming that he was going on the disabled list. On Monday afternoon, the team and Freese come out and say they are encouraged by the MRI and that he might be ready for Opening Day.
I think I'll write today about how nobody ever gives me a million dollars. Can't hurt, can it?
While Freese hasn't taken a turn for the worse or anything, the fact that they wouldn't be able to evaluate him until at least Thursday put a crimp in some plans. Freese still isn't in "baseball shape" and he wasn't going to have time to get that way with games ending Friday. According to John Mozeliak, it was a "practical" decision and since the move can be backdated, Freese's first game may be the home opener a week from Monday. Ryan Jackson gets to go with the team for that first week, though it seems doubtful given his usage last year and this spring that he'll see much if any time on the field.
The good news on the injury front is that Carlos Beltran played yesterday and seemed to have no ill effects from his fractured toe. He played into the seventh inning, got on base three times and even stole a base, so it sounds like he's feeling good and won't be a major concern going into the season. Unless it flares up today because that's the way things have been going, of course!
With Holliday not seriously hurt and Beltran improving, that small crack of a door for Oscar Taveras making the roster seems to have shut. Taveras went 1-4 in yesterday's game, but one of his outs was one of the hardest hit balls I've heard in a while. He lined out to right in the third, but the crack of the bat when he hit it was noteworthy. I look forward to following his progress in Memphis, because it would seem very likely he'll make his debut sometime this year in the bigs.
The wind was blowing in yesterday's game against the Mets, but I don't know that you can credit the Cardinals' offensive exploits only to that. Pete Kozma, who is continuing to have an outstanding spring, hit a grand slam to put the Cardinals on the road to victory. It was his only hit of the day, but he's still hitting .339 this spring. You can't take too much out of spring training stats, we know that, and the wind was blowing, but still it's an encouraging sign to see him producing at this level. Even if he only does half as much during the regular season, he's going to be an asset.
Then there was Yadier Molina. Some Mets fans, still bitter about 2006 and the curse he seems to have laid on their organization, began chanting "over-rated" during his last at bat. Molina then put one over the wall, unleashing some boos but also pointing out that you aren't overrated if you can back it up.
I got a chance to watch just an inning or so of the game at lunch yesterday and heard the ESPN guys talking about how Adam Wainwright used to be a good hitter but he's not anymore. I was in the middle of strongly disagreeing with them--you can't use 2012 as a basis for his hitting after he'd missed the season before--when Waino took care of it, smoking a double and then coming around to score the Cards' first run. I'm betting Wainwright puts at least one out of the park this season, maybe two.
Of course, what we really want to see out of Wainwright is solid pitching and we got that yesterday in his final tuneup before Opening Day. He got to 97 pitches and while he was a little erratic early, he found his groove and just started mowing down hitters. He's ready for the opening bell and I really look forward to watching Waino all season long, without the injury or rust concerns that we had last season.
And what we REALLY want to see out of Wainwright is him sitting down to sign a new contract. Both sides seem to be more optimistic every report that he can have that happen before his next start in Arizona. Until he puts pen to paper, there's always going to be some concern, but right now the odds of Waino sticking with the Cardinals seem to be around the 90% mark, which is great to hear.
It looks like one of the assignments for special assistant Cal Eldred is to see if he can fix assorted pitchers. He's been working with Randy Choate, helping him make some mechanical adjustments to his delivery. It's working against minor leaguers in the bullpen, which is a start. Choate is supposed to pitch in today's game against the Nationals, so we'll see if he can snap that string of six consecutive batters faced with no outs. He has to get on track because the left side of that bullpen is a bit wobbly, though Marc Rzepczynski threw a solid inning in yesterday's game. Still, I think most fans would like to not have to hold their breath whenever Mike Matheny goes to the mound and touches his left arm.
Speaking of lefties, Jaime Garcia gets his last start of the spring today against Washington. Garcia's had a good spring, with an ERA of 3.00 and a K/BB ratio just over that mark. In some regards, could you consider all spring games road games for Jaime, since they aren't in Busch? If he is able to get past those home/road splits this year, he could really take a big step toward being an ace.
A little bit of housekeeping. Our good friend Bill Ivie is branching out into the T-shirt world, staking out his claim to Kozmamania. If you want to get into the driver's seat of the Kozma bandwagon, go ahead and put your order in today!
We've got a new member to the UCB to tell you about. Mike writes the Tumblr blog St. Louis Perfectos. He's fairly new at it, but he looks to be mixing some sabermetric talk with some fine writing. Take a look at that when you've got some time, because I think it's really worth your while.
Daily reminders: The Egraphs contest is still going on. Get your picks in by first pitch on Monday and, right now, you've got a strong chance to win. Also, we've got a good subscriber base going for The Bird's Eye View, the UCB email newsletter that will come to you before each series, but if you've not gotten in on that yet, I encourage you to do so.
Tonight is the UCB Radio Hour, of course, with Jon Doble and Kevin Reynolds. On Friday, I'll be doing a special edition of that, a 2-hour preview show on the NL Central. I'll be talking to bloggers from around the division as we preview their teams and talk about the division in general. This is the fourth year I've done this and it's really a lot of fun. 9-11 PM Central if you are free on Friday, it'll be available to download if you aren't.
Remember you can vote on the caps you'd like to see the Cardinals wear this year on the road. I'm kinda surprise to see the All Blue option with such strong support. I thought more people would want to see them go back to the red, though I like the blue caps myself. I actually voted Blue vs. Red, at least for my first vote.
NL Central predictions and Playing Pepper with the Blue Jays this afternoon, so keep coming back!
OK, we took care of the American League yesterday. Now it's time to move on to real baseball and tackle the National League East. Remember, the United Cardinal Bloggers are doing this all week long and you can keep up with everyone's posts right over here.
The NL East promises to be an interesting division this year, with a lot of young talent and some changing of the guard. Oh, and the Marlins are there as well.
As we expected before the spring (though not necessarily throughout the camp), Shelby Miller will be the fifth starter in the Cardinal rotation. While the loss of Jason Motte, freeing up a bullpen spot, didn't hurt Miller's case (as Joe Kelly was probably better suited to the 'pen than Miller was), Miller came out and earned it on his own, putting a capper on it yesterday.
Getting the start against the Twins, Miller wasn't dominant--six hits in 4.1 innings--but did strike out two and only allowed one run to cross the plate. His main competition, Kelly, wasn't as fortunate, allowing two runs in two innings and putting the Cards in a hole that they were a bit lucky to be able to climb out of.
We also got a chance to see the new-look late inning bullpen, as Trevor Rosenthal worked a scoreless eighth (though he did walk two) and Mitchell Boggs got the save in the ninth in Jason Isringhausen-esqe fashion, allowing two hits in the process. It might not have been good for the heart, but it did get the job done.
Miller really seems to appreciate his role, something that he might not have done a year or so ago. His struggles in Memphis last year seem to have focused him on the right path, which seems to bode well for the real start of his major league career.
Offensively yesterday it was Matt Adams and Oscar Taveras. Adams drove in three of the four runs and had the only extra-base hit. Two of those RBI came in the ninth, when the Cards rallied for three to win the ballgame. It's hitting abilities like that that will have Adams riding in a red convertible a week from Monday.
Taveras, perhaps sensing an opportunity if Carlos Beltran's broken toe doesn't heal up quickly, went four-for-five with a stolen base, his second of the spring. While it does appear that Beltran will likely start the season in St. Louis (though that really will depend on how well he handles the pain of his toe in a game, probably today against the Mets), Taveras can't hurt his stock with games like that.
The injury situation in general doesn't seem to be nearly as dire as it was just 24 hours ago. Beltran we've alluded two, though the fact that it was a hairline fracture rather than a bruised toe was made clearer yesterday. He's been told he can't make it worse--which hopefully he doesn't take as a challenge--and it's completely up to him. If he does play in today's game, that'll give him and the Cardinals a much better idea if he can handle playing in Arizona on Monday. Even if he can't, this doesn't sound like a long-term enough issue to warrant Taveras. Just don't tell him that.
The other major offensive calamity also seemed more positive on Monday. David Freese had an MRI and the club was encouraged with what they saw and now won't rule out Opening Day. Sounds like there's just some inflammation and no actual damage, so with rest and the proper treatment, he could be back out there pretty shortly. More news in that vein should be available Wednesday or Thursday.
The Cardinals also got some good news off-the-field yesterday as Kyle Lohsefinally signed a deal, giving them an extra pick in this year's draft. That he signed it with the Brewers meant that the Cards are going to see a lot of their old friend, perhaps as early as the series against the two teams in a couple of weeks. There were a lot of knee-jerk reactions comparing Lohse to Jeff Suppan and that's completely understandable. Both had some great years in St. Louis, both seemed to develop under Dave Duncan, and now both take a long-term deal (Suppan's was four years, $42 million) to go to the Brewers. Of course, Suppan was cut by the Brew Crew during the last year of the contract and made his way back to St. Louis for a last hurrah. Perhaps that means if the club needs some help in the stretch run of 2015......
With the season coming close, a lot of stuff going on. Later this morning, the next UCB prediction week picks will be up, looking at the NL East. This afternoon, we play some pepper with the Texas Rangers. There's also the Egraphs contest still going on (only seven entries so far, so you're getting some good odds) and don't forget to sign up for The Bird's Eye View. Man, we need the season to get started just to take a breather!
Every spring, Derrick Goold follows what he calls Survivor: Jupiter. He keeps track of who is the last player not to appear in a spring training game. It's a neat diversion and I think Adron Chambers won this year, though I may be mistaken.
Is anybody going to be left to go out to Arizona next Monday?
Let's take them one at a time and talk about the ramifications. Anytime there is elbow trouble on a pitcher, especially one that deals with the heater as a major part of his repertoire, it gets you concerned. Motte had pitched better of late, including a scoreless inning against the Mets before the injury flared up, and you have to hope it's nothing that's going to keep him out long-term. Right now the ligament doesn't appear to be damaged--meaning that we don't have to have Tommy John surgery at the forefront of our concerns--but Motte isn't out of the woods yet.
Let's assume--it's dangerous, I know, given the Cardinal history with injuries, but go with the premise--that Motte will be fine and that he'll be back after a few weeks off. Right now, it looks like Mitchell Boggs is going to move from the eighth inning into the closer role that he held briefly back in 2011. That wasn't a surprise, but if Boggs stumbles or Motte is out a longer period of time, we may get a chance to see what Trevor Rosenthal can do in the role.
Rosenthal has always (save his stints last year with the big club) been a starter, so I don't know if he has the mindset to go into the ninth yet. There is no doubt he has the tools, though, and there's going to be a groundswell to get him into that role if Boggs has some rough outings early on. I would guess Rosenthal might move into the eighth inning unless the club would rather him in the seventh and Edward Mujica in the eighth. And that assumes they don't use Joe Kelly (because I think Shelby Miller will get the rotation slot) in one of those positions and keep Rosenthal available to be deployed in a host of situations.
While you don't want to see someone like Motte go down and I'm not saying that they'll do just as well without him, the pitching side of things does seem to be able to absorb issues more than the offense can. The club was trying to figure out what to do with the loser of the Kelly/Miller battle and now they can take them both north for a while and let the competition play out in more meaningful games. Baseball finds a way.
Baseball also can be a bit capricious. The old saying is "the ball will find you" if you put an inexperienced guy into the game or someone playing out of position. That's kinda what happened to the Cardinals this week as well. They cut Ronny Cedeno (who then went and displacedTyler Greene as Houston's starter, which tells you a lot about Greene's future) because they thought they had the middle infield taken care of, then the Freese injury flares up and suddenly the middle infield depth is no longer there. Matt Carpenter will have to move to third, Daniel Descalso will play second, Pete Kozma will be at short and, right now, there's nobody on the bench to back them up.
Obviously, that's going to change. But how? Ryan Jackson seems to have become a non-entity in the clubhouse. Are they going to bring him back to the major league camp after cutting him already? Greg Garcia hasn't played in Memphis yet--are they going to use him as the backup instead of getting his time in with the AAA club? Are they calling the Dodgers to work out some sort of time share on Skip Schumaker?
I guess it depends on what the MRI says today. If it looks like Freese will be out for any extended period of time--which would be the worst case scenario and I don't believe all that likely--then Jackson might get the call (but rarely play). That way Garcia could continue to develop in the minors. If they are only looking for a week or so, I could see them bringing up Garcia for a little taste of the big leagues. It would start his clock, but I don't see that being the issue that it would be for players like Kolten Wong and Oscar Taveras. If I'm reading it right, the Cards only have 38 players on their 40-man roster, so adding Garcia would be technically feasible.
Then there's Beltran. I think a lot of people would jump to the idea that, if Beltran has to go on the disabled list, that opens up a spot for Taveras. That's possible, but I'm not sure how likely that is. Taveras has had a nice spring, but hasn't been overwhelmingly dominant (two home runs, .270/.313/.429). Having him in the bigs might be nice, but I don't think they add him to the 40-man (as noted above) for just a week or two. Especially not when they can put Allen Craig in the outfield, Matt Adams at first, and add someone like Adron Chambers to the bench.
Now, if there was the thought that Beltran was going to miss significant time, that might change the equation. The Cards might think it is worth starting his clock if he's going to play about every day in the big leagues for a while. That just doesn't seem to be the case, though. It is difficult to fathom this injury would keep Beltran out of the lineup for more than a couple of regular season weeks.
So, that takes care of the injuries, hopefully. As deep as this team was starting the spring, it's used up a lot of that already and it can't really afford to tap into it much more. Perhaps some of these won't be that significant--it will be interesting to hear what the MRI shows today on Freese--but it's not the way you want to end camp.
Blowing a five-run lead in a game during the last week isn't the way you want to end camp either, but the Cards did just that against the Mets yesterday. Thankfully, though, none of the regular suspects were involved. The Cardinals finally got Mitch Harris to the mound after five years in the Navy and, as expected with someone that hasn't had a lot of development time, he struggled. The Cards have been pleased with his progress this spring and they look forward to continuing that in extended spring training this year.
Others involved in the bullpen meltdown were Sam Freeman, who is still recovering from his own shoulder issues and hasn't pitched much this spring, and Fernando Salas, who obviously will be on the club next week but only allowed one run and with the Mets already ahead. Not a perfect situation, but not the cause of the comeback.
Then there was Randy Choate. You know, the left-hander the Cards gave a three-year contract to pretty much only get out left-handers. That's what a LOOGY does. Except Choate lately has been a LNOOGY (Left-handed No Out GuY). Choate has allowed the last six batters he has faced to reach base, five of those left-handers. He's got no explanation for it and hopefully he can figure it out before the season starts. Otherwise, the left side of the bullpen is a bit scary.
Minor league rosters will be coming out today, but it certainly appears that Michael Wachahas pitched himself to Memphis. That's ridiculously impressive given the fact that he's not had a full year in the professional ranks yet. I know that he was drafted with the idea that he was close to his ceiling, but I didn't expect him to move this quickly. He still hasn't hit a speedbump, so we'll see how he reacts when he does. Even so, you have to tip your cap to him and, if he can pitch in Memphis in a similar fashion as he did last year in the minors and this year in the spring, he might be knocking on St. Louis's door sooner than we think.
There's an interesting article on how the Cards are following the "Musial model" when looking for players to bring into St. Louis. I've noticed how many strong and outspoken Christian people were in the clubhouse and asked both Barret Browning and Jamie Pogue about that during our Conversations. While the Christian outlook tends to produce those players, that's a by-product of what they are looking for. The Cards want quality players both on and off the field and it's tough to argue with that.
Shelby Miller and Joe Kelly get one last chance to face off for the fifth starter role today as they take on the Twins. Both will be trying to up their pitch counts so they may be the only players taking the mound today. I do think Miller has the inside track, but a good performance today would probably clinch that.
Come back later this morning for the first in the UCB prediction series, taking on the American League. Then this afternoon, we've got the Tampa Bay Rays as part of Playing Pepper. Lots to read today!
The day back from an off-day and Adam Wainwright decided he'd dominate the news.
First, he took on the Mets and looked pretty much like the Wainwright we hope to see once the season starts. He did walk three in his 4.2 innings (and you'd have probably liked to see him get a little deeper into the game as well) but he struck out three and only allowed two runs, both on a triple by a guy named Matthew den Dekker. I'm betting Wainwright didn't have a scouting report on that guy and Yadier Molina wasn't behind the plate to help him figure one out. Plus he drove in the first run with a long single, so he helped his own cause.
Wainwright made an interesting analogy when talking about his stuff this year versus last year. Last year, according to Waino, his arm was like a brand-new glove. If you start trying to catch with a new glove, "you'll be clanking balls all over the place," which is what he felt like he was doing last year. Now, the arm is "broken in" and he feels much better about where he is now. It really sounds like we'll see more of the '09-'10 Wainwright pitching this season, which is outstanding.
While it was fun to see Wainwright on the mound and pitching fairly effectively, the real news came off the field back in Jupiter, where Wainwright's agent met with the Cardinal ownership. Both sides agree that they want to get a deal done in the next 10 days (before the season starts) and that both sides are motivated to make that happen. Actually, even quicker than that, because Waino would like to know either way before his next start, which is scheduled to be Tuesday the 26th against the Mets again.
Can a deal get done? It sounds like it. Wainwright's agent felt like there was some momentum started in this batch of discussions and neither side has made it personal or added any bitterness into the mix. If they are as close as it sounds like they are, I would expect that a deal will get done in the next couple of days, which will be a relief to Cardinal Nation. There's few that want to see this whole thing go into the regular season and there's no better time for both sides to come together and get it done.
Some solid relief work in this one as well. You saw Seth Maness, Maikel Cleto, Fernando Salas and Jason Motte combine to shut down the Mets the rest of the way. It does seem that since Motte has moved back into pitching later in the games and the season is getting closer, he's back to his dominant closer self, which is good to see. Spring training can make for some ugly ERAs, but thankfully everything starts over with that first pitch in Arizona a week from Monday.
Looking at Cleto's numbers, his spring hasn't been terribly bad. He's got a nice ERA, he's struck out more than one an inning, you start thinking maybe this guy is making some progress. Then you note he's walking one per inning, basically, and you put a lot of those thoughts away. Command has always been the biggest bugaboo in translating Cleto's stuff to the majors, because if he doesn't have command, it doesn't matter what else he does have.
Just looking at the box score, you have to be a bit concerned with Randy Choate's outing. He gave up two hits and walked a batter, which is not something you want to see out of your lefty specialist. Could be just a bad game, probably is, especially since Choate's had a pretty tolerable spring.
In other news, it looks like if you don't care for Al Hrabosky and Rick Horton in your game experience, well, you are going to have to work a bit harder to avoid them. Mike Shannon is acknowledging that, surprisingly, he's not getting any younger (he honestly doesn't look like he's getting much older!) and will ease up on the broadcasting this year, missing about 30 games instead of the 15 in the past. That means Al and Rick will be filling in for him instead of Mike Claiborne, who will tend to fill in when John Rooney gets a break.
Finally, it looks like former Cardinal shortstop Edgar Renteriahas called it quits. I didn't realize that he didn't play last year, but I still remember not only his time with the Cardinals (I seriously hated the way he left here--it's a bit surprising he didn't get more grief for that) but him as a young kid in Florida. Of course, he debuted while I was in college, so I'm going to spend the rest of the day mourning the passing of my youth, if you don't mind.
If you missed it yesterday, I've got a contest going for you to win a free Egraph. It'll be a lot of fun, so I hope you'll participate.
Jaime Garcia goes for the Cards today against the Astros, trying to keep his great spring going. That's something to look forward to, isn't it? Enjoy the weekend!