Computer glitches this morning have already cost me a good chunk of my blogging time, so let's jump straight into this and see how far we can get. There's plenty to talk about in relation to the last three games, but let's do the quick recap version. (Insert Wayne's World noises here.)
Hero:Carlos Beltran. When the team only gets two hits, pretty easy to go with the guy with the homer.
Goat:Jaime Garcia. Just when you thought it was safe to trust Jaime on the road, he unravels faster than Dennis Lawson trying to play nice.
Notes: While a Ty Wigginton error didn't help Garcia, giving up five in the first is just unacceptable. To come out and compound it in the next two innings is, well, not "big boy" baseball, as Derek Lilliquist might put it. And obviously it doesn't take much for Roy Halladay to shut down a team, so give them that kind of cushion and this was going to be a short night anyway, even if the rain hadn't ended it in the seventh.
Goat:Daniel Descalso. 0-4 plus an error is not the way Dirty Dan would like to see his night go.
Notes: Are we going to alternate between good Lynn and bad Lynn? So far he has this year. Eight strikeouts and seven scoreless innings is an outing we'll take every time and was quite welcome coming on the heels of his performance in Pittsburgh. A nice night for Trevor Rosenthal as well, getting two strikeouts and a scoreless inning. It'll seem he'll have some chances to prove if he's getting the hang of this late inning bit and, if so, he might get to come in a little bit later.
Hero:Allen Craig. Two for five with a run and an RBI, breaking a 2-2 tie by driving in a run that could have won the game for the Cardinals if there'd been a better bullpen.
Goat: Mitchell Boggs. More on him in a bit, but giving up four runs in a tie game isn't exactly the way to rebuild confidence in your abilities.
Notes: Strong game for Jake Westbrook, but it was telling that he batted with two on and two out in the sixth instead of being lifted for a pinch hitter there. Why he tried to bunt his way on, that's a completely different discussion. Nice game for Matt Adams, going two for three and keeping his average over the .500 mark.
Up, down. Up, down. Garcia, Lynn, the bullpen, this team continues to lurch from highlight to lowlight. They've not won back to back games since last Friday and Saturday. They sit tied for second in the division when they could easily be 2-3 games up. What does it take for this team to get on a consistent roll?
Probably the biggest answer to that is sorting out the bullpen. Our friend Justin Adams, who tweets over @Intangiball, pointed out that in save and tied situations Boggs was giving up almost a run for every out. On the season, it looks like Boggs has allowed 13 runs and gotten 26 outs. When you can only get two batters out before you allow a run, it's not conducive to your baseball well-being.
That's a bit overstated, of course. Boggs has actually had six scoreless outings this season, the problem is only two of them have resulted in saves. (Of course, he also had an outing when he gave up a run without getting an out.) 11 of those 13 runs came in the home opener and last night, so the numbers are skewed, but the problem is not. A team has to have confidence in someone that they bring into a tie game or a game with a late lead. If they don't, there's not a high rate of success.
While the bullpen is in flux, there's one guy that seems to be unable to get into the mix and that's Joe Kelly. You know how college baseball has their "Friday pitchers" or "Sunday pitchers?" Kelly seems to be the Cardinals' Monday pitcher as his last two outings were a week ago today and two weeks ago today. Fernando Salas can get into tie games and blowouts but Kelly needs to be saved? How was it that Kelly didn't get into the game on Friday, when Garcia blew up and numerous bullpen innings were going to be needed? You could say he was too valuable to use in that situation and I might agree, if he hadn't gone so long between outings. If nothing else, he needs the work.
Now that everyone's talking about it we'll likely see Kelly more, but it's just another way that Mike Matheny has puzzled everyone with some of his bullpen usage. At least he's being flexible with Boggs and not necessarily running him out there in every save situation, but there are still some other options he doesn't seem to be exploring and the rationale for that lack doesn't seem to be obvious to outside observers.
Of course, if the offense was clicking, at least last night there's less of a chance that the bullpen becomes and issue. Pete Kozma is in a tough spot. If he's just in a slump, most people are ready to write him off as the league catching up to him based on his minor league career. Honestly, though, that would seem to be the most reasonable explanation. He went two for 15 over the last week and only his hot start is keeping him above the Mendoza line. Since his three-for-four game in San Francisco on the first weekend of the season, Kozma's gone 6-for-36 (.083). That's rough. And, sadly, that's in line with what we were thinking Kozma's likely to do. Well, not the .083, but the .230 or so average. It's possible it could turn around, but I think of Kozma a bit like the underdogs of a college football or basketball game--they've got a chance as long as they can push out that lead, but once they get behind, they're done. Kozma had his lead and he's lost it. It'd be surprising to see him get it back.
However, if the rest of the offense was rolling, that might not be a big deal. In truth, much of it is going better. Craig is starting to push his numbers upwards, Beltran hit home runs in three straight games, and Molina is Molina. The problem, or at least one of them, is the team isn't getting anything offensively out of Jon Jay. After last night's 0-5 (and, if Boggs hadn't collapsed, Jay would have gotten yet another Goat on the season), he's hitting .208/.250/.333. Being that so often he is in the leadoff role, that's a major issue. The offense needs to be primed by a good result at the top of the order and it's not happening.
It probably helps Jay that Oscar Taveras isn't tearing up AAA just yet. He's doing well enough (.289/.386/.675 with one home run) but not so much that more time down in Memphis is superfluous. I'd say Jay should probably keep an eye on the Memphis boxscores, but I doubt that'd help his situation any. It's a long slump, but Jay has more of a background to expect a return to normalcy than Kozma does. Let's hope that return happens shortly.
The end of this stretch of 13 games in a row starts tonight in Washington. Shelby Miller has been outstanding in the early going, not allowing more than two runs in any start and putting his name into the discussion for Rookie of the Month. Miller has never faced any of the Nationals, though, as he wasn't used in the NLDS last year. It's a potent lineup, though, and he'll have to be careful with it. We'll see how long Matheny goes with him....and who he goes to when he calls for the pen.
Old friend Dan Haren takes the hill against his former team. Haren's off to a rough start this season. His first outing in Cincinnati--six earned runs in four innings--is still the primary driver of his 8.10 ERA, but he allowed seven runs (though just three earned) in less than five innings in his last start against Miami. He's getting a lot more fly balls than ground balls, but save for that Cincy game (four long balls) they are staying in the yard. Here's what the current Redbird hitters have done against him,
Not that bad, Matt Holliday and Beltran have done especially well. There's not a lot of exposure to him, but there shouldn't be an overwhelming sense of intimidation either. Both teams have something to prove this series and I don't think Washington's forgotten that last inning the two teams played just yet. Should be fun!
[Mal jumps four marbles] Zoë: That's a bold move. Mal: I live on the edge. [Zoe jumps six of his marbles] Jayne: Nice work [idiot]. Mal: [as Zoe chuckles] I've given some thought to moving off the edge. Not an ideal location. Might get a place in the middle.
--Firefly, "The Train Job"
Last night in Philadelphia, the Cardinal bullpen again sat up shop right on the edge. While they got the job done, it does make you long for that place in the middle. There's a reason they call it bleeding edge at times.
Now, to be fair, it really wasn't the bullpen's doing. Adam Wainwright had a solid night and was cruising along to his second consecutive shutout when he ran into trouble in the sixth. A one-out double by Jimmy Rollins was followed by a double by Freddy Galvis and a single by Chase Utley. Thankfully, the offense had been able to put up a couple of runs against Cole Hamels, meaning that the game was tied instead of the Redbirds needing to rally.
After the Cards took another lead on a Pete Kozma sacrifice fly, Wainwright gave up the lead again though it was more to the Phillies' credit than his debit. John Mayberry had an infield hit that David Freese just couldn't pick up, was bunted to second and then went to third on a wild pitch that stayed in front of Yadier Molina but he just couldn't get a handle on. The infield came in, but Erik Kratz basically threw his bat out, made contact, and the ball went through those closer players.
It could have been much worse, but the Hero stepped in to make a difference. Not only did he catch Jimmy Rollins's liner that would have put the Philadelphia squad on top to end the seventh, but then Carlos Beltran hit a one-out opposite field home run that put the Cardinals back in the lead for the third time that evening. This one would hold, but not without some high-wire activity.
It looked like Trevor Rosenthal was going to get it done this time. He retired the first two batters he faced on a fly ball and a ground out. Just one more batter and he could have a confidence-building inning, both for him and for those of us that watch the games. Instead, he gave up singles to Ryan Howard and Michael Young, forcing Mike Matheny to go to Edward Mujica for a four-out save.
Mujica finished the eighth with no problem, but it looked like the same old story in the ninth when he allowed back-to-back singles to start off the game, meaning there were runners at the corners with one out. A ground ball moved up Kratz from first, but Ben Rivere wasn't able to score on it. Mujica then came up with a huge strikeout before getting a grounder to end it. It was a tight-wire act worth of Jason Isringhausen, but at the end of the game the Cardinals had the bigger score, which is what you want to see. It also means that this year won't be like last year, when Jason Motte got all the saves. Mujica now has half as many as Mitchell Boggs does and with a much better percentage.
Even with last night's successful resolution to the game, I don't think Matheny is going to be slapping the closer label on Mujica. It's going to be matchups, just like he's said recently. Sometimes the manager might say matchups just to ease the sting of the usurped closer, but I think it's true this time. Boggs is likely to still be out there in the ninth sometimes. If Rosenthal ever gets a handle on things, he might as well. (Though you wonder if Rosenthal may wind up in Memphis shortly--which would be no slight on him, since he barely pitched there last year.) Randy Choate may get a few opportunities as well, depending on who is due up in the ninth.
Wainwright really had a pretty good outing, even though it was three runs in seven. He kept his pitch count down, still hasn't walked anyone this season, and just really had that one glitch in the sixth. It's so great to see Waino on his game like that, isn't it?
Offensively, there wasn't just anything to gush over, but that's to be expected when you are facing Hamels. Molina did get three hits and stole a base, meaning that apparently Tony Cruz really isn't needed because Molina is an actual machine. Allen Craig and David Freese had a hit each as well, with Freese scoring on that sacrifice fly by Kozma.
The Goat of the evening will be Matt Carpenter. Matheny slid him into the leadoff slot last night, bumping Jon Jay down in the lineup, but he went 0-4 with a strikeout. Obviously that doesn't mean that the idea is doomed to failure, but it didn't work out last night. We'll see how often Matheny goes to that well and whether it'll turn out to be a boon to the offense.
If you are keeping an eye on the spring training phenom now that the calendar has shifted, Michael Wacha had a strong night for Memphis, allowing three hits and no runs in seven innings. He's now 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA down there, though this was the longest outing he's had yet. If the bullpen continues to struggle and if Lance Lynn doesn't consistently get it right, there's going to be a lot of clamor for Wacha to replace Lynn and Lynn to bring his stuff to the bullpen. I don't think that's going to happen and it probably shouldn't happen, but that doesn't mean you can't keep an eye on Fozzie Bear as he pitches down on the Mississippi.
Tonight, Jaime Garcia gets back out to a mound away from Busch. He's been strong in all of his starts, home and away, but his only win came out in Arizona as the bullpen melted down twice for him on the last homestand.
Garcia has been deadly against these guys. Howard has touched him for a home run--there's not many Cardinal pitchers that have avoided that fate--but that's about it. If he can keep this up, it likely will be a low scoring game tonight.
That's because Philadelphia will run out Roy Halladay this evening. I don't care that Halladay is 1-2 with a 7.63 ERA this year. This is Roy Halladay we are talking about! The Philly version of Chris Carpenter. He'll make do with his stuff, and if he doesn't have stuff, he'll make do with his smarts, and if he doesn't have smarts, he'll make do with his will. You underestimate Roy Halladay at your own peril.
As you'd expect, there aren't many good numbers here either. Beltran's done pretty well against him and, again, we see a positive result for Ty Wigginton, but other than that, if we see the real Halladay, it's going to be a long one for the hitters. But if you enjoy pitching duels, you might want to tune in tonight!
There have been some yucky games over the past few years, but last night's might have ranked right there at the top of them. Which is saying something, given that this team was no-hit last season.
At least with the no-hitter, there was a history aspect in play as well. It didn't make it any more fun, but at least you knew it was a game that was to be long remembered in minds of Mets fans. It was a game that most of their fans would take again, even as they traded in the Met career of Johan Santana for it.
I'd think last night was worse because, while A.J. Burnett is a fine pitcher that is a bit underrated at times, he doesn't have the cache that a Santana does. Plus there's no history in this one, as Burnett wasn't even going for his first no-hitter. All that aside, no hits is a historical night. One hit is a miserable offensive outing.
Again, it was Carlos Beltran who broke up* the no-hitter, but unlike the one in New York, this one was obviously fair. However, that and a hit batter was all this team, a team that has scored double digit twice already this year and beat around Burnett last season, could manage offensively.
That in itself would be bad enough, but there were a number of defensive woes as well. The Goat goes to Daniel Descalso because, even though he was one of the only two to get on base, he struggled last night at the shortstop position. He rushed a throw trying to do to much in the sixth when it was still 1-0, putting Andrew McCutchen on second base where he wound up coming in to score. He also was unable to come up with a couple of other balls hit toward him late in the game as well.
Nobody covered themselves in glory. David Freese had a throwing error that led to a run against Trevor Rosenthal, who allowed three hits and two runs in an inning plus. It's getting to the point where you wonder if Rosenthal might not benefit from a little more time in Memphis because he's not having much success in the big leagues. Randy Choate allowed one of Rosenthal's runners to score then gave up a run himself, which didn't endear him to the Cardinal faithful. When Fernando Salas is your most effective reliever, it's a rough night.
I say that nobody covered themselves in glory, but that's not quite true. If there was one person who lived up to expectations last night and actually had a good night (and, thus, gets the Hero bit) it was Shelby Miller. Miller deserved a much better fate than a loss out of his pitching last night. He allowed two runs in six innings, but one of those was in the first after a leadoff triple and one of those was in the sixth after Descalso's error let McCutchen move to second. He struck out six, including Pedro Alvarez to end the threat in the sixth, and walked just one (Garrett Jones in the sixth as well). Miller had a stretch where he sat down 15 in a row from the end of the first to McCutchen's at-bat in the sixth. Miller has had long stretches like that in each of his starts, proving that he can play at a high level. We'll see what adjustments the league will make to him shortly, I figure.
The Cards stay in Pennsylvania, moving on to Philadelphia to take on the Phillies in a four-game set. It's unlikely there will be much more offense in this one, as Cole Hamels goes for the Phillies. Hamels has struggled this year so far (0-2, 7.56 ERA) but you always know you are in for a battle when he's on the mound.
The Cards know full well what happens when Hamels is on. I can't imagine that small sample is enough to get Ty Wigginton in the lineup tonight, but hopefully he can share some of that knowledge with the rest of the lineup and they can have more success than they have historically.
The good thing about going up against Hamels tonight is that Adam Wainwright takes the mound for the Cardinals. We all know what Waino can do when healthy and there's no doubt he's back to that level.
Wainwright's done to the Phillies what Hamels has done to the Cardinals. He's been able to curtail Ryan Howard as well, which is pretty impressive given the fact that Howard seems to always do well against his hometown team.
There doesn't seem a strong likelihood that there will be much more offense tonight. However, that doesn't mean it will be as miserable of an evening. Let's hope the Cards are on the up side of this pitching duel!
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.
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.
81-81, third in the NL East
The fall is now complete.
In 2008, the Phillies won the World Series. The next season, they returned to the Fall Classic, only to be knocked aside by the New York Yankees. In 2010, the San Francisco Giants bumped them in the NLCS on their way to the title. As we all know, the Cardinals did the same in the 2011 NLDS. So it seemed inevitable that 2012 would finish completely out of the money, as they did. Patterns won't be denied (until they are).
Now the challenge is for the Phillies to reverse the downward slide and get back into October play. It's not the easiest of chores either, what with a resurgent Atlanta team and a young Washington team that looks here to stay. To find out if they could do it, I talked to Justin Klugh of That Ball's Outta Here from the FanSided network (and on Twitter @TBOHblog) and Rich Baxter of Fightin Phillies (Twitter: @fightinphllies) to see just how this season is going to play out.
(Side note: Rich also runs the site BaseballPodcasts.net, where you can hear Conversations With C70 as well as a number of other great baseball shows. Check it out when you've got the time!)
Late on Sunday afternoon, things looked pretty good. The Cards had had a test this week versus San Francisco and Philadelphia and after splitting with the Giants, they were looking to take two out of three from the Phillies. A three-run lead in the eighth, with the way this bullpen has been going, was a pretty solid thing, right?
Even after two walks, the Cards got a strikeout and then a scary-looking flyout as Jon Jay and Carlos Beltran collided. Even though the runner advanced, there were two outs and it really looked like the Redbirds were going to get out of it.
One swing can change a mood in a hurry.
Before we get to the rest of that game, though, let's take a look at the rest of the series.
Hero: Kyle Lohse. Lohse matched Roy Halladay pitch-for-pitch, which is saying something since Halladay was definitely on his game. Seven strikeouts in seven innings, allowing only one run. He deserved better than a no-decision for that one.
Goat: Barret Browning. Browning hasn't been as automatic as he was in July, and this one was especially tough as he allowed the big home run to a lefty. I mean, Chase Utley's not chopped liver and he's beaten a lot of pitchers, but that's a tough way to lose. Give him credit, though, he did battle back and get out of the rest of the inning, which gave the Cards a chance in the ninth.
Notes: Beltran would have been the Hero without Lohse's performance and if he wasn't caught on the basepaths to end the game. Everyone says that the look-to-third-throw-to-first move is a waste and baseball is supposed to be getting rid of it next year, but it works just often enough to be a legitimate move in my opinion. In a game like this one, though, you pretty much tip your cap to Halladay and figure if you got a win in it, it'd have been a stolen one anyway. Ryan Jackson made his debut and had an error along with another ball that could have been his in the first, leading to a run, but he also make his debut at second base instead of his regular shortstop position, which is a debatable decision as well.
Goat: David Freese. Rough night for Freese as he went 0-4 and left four men on base.
Notes: Cliff Lee pitched well but wasn't nearly as dominating as Halladay was the night before. Allen Craig also tallied three hits, including two doubles. Westbrook was outstanding, going 7.2 innings with just four hits allowed. I was surprised when Mike Matheny pulled him with one on and two outs in the eighth because it looked like Westbrook could have gone the distance, leaving a little shy of 100 pitches. However, if there's one thing that seems to get people talking, it's Matheny's bullpen management.
Hero: Jay. Three hits out of the leadoff slot and he was a wild man on the bases, continually pressing his advantage by taking the extra base. His baserunning in the eighth gave the Cards an extra run and directly led to them having the 7-4 lead going to the bottom of that inning.
Goat: Marc Rzepczynski. Scrabble's a left-handed specialist. When he's going he can get righties but if he wants to stay in baseball, he has to get lefties out. Instead, he walks both Utley and Ryan Howard, two lefties that he really needs to retire, and that comes back to haunt the Cards when Mitchell Boggs allows the game-tying home run. Get just one of those guys out and it's an entirely different ballgame.
Notes: Browning got another loss, but when you get to extra innings on the road, it's hard to call any losing pitcher a goat. He pitched a scoreless 10th and looked like he was going to be able to get around a leadoff double in the 11th when Erik Kratz was cut down at third. However, Jimmy Rollins stole third after reaching on the fielder's choice and moving along on a groundout and Juan Pierre beat out an infield hit to win the ballgame. Good baseball by the Phillies and a tough loss for the Redbirds.
On the positive side, Matt Carpenter got four hits and drove in three runs, which was a huge day for him as he gave Freese a breather. Tony Cruz had two hits as Yadier Molina sat, more because it was scheduled than any issues from Molina being hit on the hand in Saturday's game. Lance Lynn apparently needs to throw batting practice before the game, because again he struggled in the first, giving up three runs there this time and then settling in. Of course, he also allowed a Howard home run to tie the game at 4, but this may be the first time Howard hasn't completely obliterated Cardinal pitching in a series. Just one home run is a major achievement.
After a series like that, really after an entire week like that, it's hard to be optimistic about the Cardinals' chances. Down seven to Cincy (after cutting it to five) with 45 games to go pretty much writes that off, though they do have games left against the Reds. 2.5 behind Pittsburgh for the wild card is doable, but is still going to be difficult. The head-to-head games with them are going to be key as well.
That's why I found it a little odd that the Cards aren't going to use today's off-day to shuffle the rotation a bit and get Adam Wainwright on schedule to face the Reds and Pirates three times over the next month. There's no doubt that Wainwright is back to his dominant self and there doesn't seem to be any reason to be concerned about injuries or fatigue, so why wouldn't you use your best bullets against the teams directly in front of you, especially when it doesn't have him pitch on short rest? Derek Lilliquest is quoted as saying "any game is a win," which I guess means that you have to win games other than those against the leaders, but when you can directly make up ground by beating them, that win can mean more than a win on a night when they win as well.
Also in that link was an interesting discussion about the left-handers in the pen. It actually reads the exact opposite of how I thought it was supposed to work, as Brian Fuentes is apparently a more general reliever (i.e., facing righties as well) while Browning and Rzepczynski are the match-up guys. I was under the impression that Fuentes got torched by righties, but he was getting beat up by everyone in Oakland so maybe that's not a completely accurate point of view. When we get to the end of the year, if the Cards aren't in the playoffs there are going to be a lot of discussions about the bullpen, I think, when we look at what could have been.
Interesting article about Lance Berkman over the weekend as well. Berkman's agreeing to go on the rehab assignment this time, saying he felt an urgency to get back into the lineup last time around which is why he argued against it. Now, he knows he's going to be a bench player/spot starter with the emergence of Craig, plus he'd rather be healthy when he's playing. There's not much time for a minor league rehab, though, as their seasons end three weeks from today.
It also sounds like Berkman is starting to give serious thought to retirement, which has to be tough. He acknowledges there comes a point where it's not worth the rehab and there comes a point where what the club wants to pay him isn't worth the work to keep playing. I'd like to see if there will be some discussions to keep Berkman as a bench bat with a salary comparable to that. I'd hate to see him playing somewhere else--for a guy that has only been here less than two years (and one of those injury prone) he's really become a favorite and a guy that would look strange elsewhere (though I guess Astro fans really know about that).
We'll look at the matchups for the opening game of the Arizona series tomorrow. Enjoy the off day!
If there's one truism for this season, it's this--it's so good to have Adam Wainwright back.
You have a Cardinal team still smarting from a fifteen-run smackdown and really needing a split against a contending team. Unfortunately, the Giants were running out a tough young lefty that wasn't likely to give up much to the Redbirds. The only thing Cardinal fans were holding to was Waino and he delivered.
It wasn't necessarily a classic Wainwright game. He did go seven innings, but it took him 119 pitches. He was so close to 100 after six that there was an expectation that he'd be pulled, that someone else would pitch the ninth. With those bulldog tendencies of his, though, he gutted through another inning and kept the Cardinals from having to deal with that tricky step between the sixth and the eighth.
He walked three, but struck out seven and only allowed one run on a sacrifice fly, though he had loaded the bases and it took a good catch by Jon Jay to keep the damage to just the one run. Basically, Wainwright said, as he often does, "We aren't losing today, boys." Waino is definitely back to his old self. His ERA has slipped under 4, which is a lot better than the 7+ one he had earlier in the year. Someone noted on Twitter that a lot of his peripherals are stronger now than in 2010, when he was the Cy Young runner up. It's always a lot of fun when Wainwright is on his game.
Of course, you do have to score some runs to win a ballgame, and Carlos Beltran took care of that in the first inning. His two-run blast looked like it was going to be all the game was going to see until the Giants got their sac fly and then the Cards answered with one of their own after Jay doubled and stole third with nobody out, being called safe on a questionable call. It's not a strategy I would recommend, especially with the heart of the order up, but since the next three guys went out quietly, I can understand the thought process. They wanted to make sure they got something out of that and there's a good chance that, the way things were going yesterday, getting a runner home from second and nobody out was still going to be a tough chore.
Speaking of questionable decisions (something that gets done a lot this year with the rookie managers), I was talking on Twitter with a Cardinal fan I follow and when Waino returned for the seventh, we figured he was doing it because Mitchell Boggs wasn't available after throwing 29 pitches the night before and thus they weren't confident about that transition. We speculated that we'd see Edward Mujica or Fernando Salas in the eighth, followed by Jason Motte in the ninth.
Instead, Matheny sent Boggs back out there. Now, I'm sure the thought process was that Boggs needed to get back on the horse after getting lit up in Wednesday night's game, that it was better that he not stew in that one. Which perhaps could be a motivation, but Boggs hadn't thrown that many pitches since May and only a couple of times all season. I'm not sure a two-run game against a quality opponent in what was almost a must-win game was the time to do that. However, it panned out, so you can't criticize too much. Still, though, with some bodies that hadn't thrown in a couple of days, it was surprising that Matheny made that move.
On the downside, there were a lot of batters with 0 in the hit column. The Cards mustered only four hits and two of those were by Jay, who has been on fire lately and has laid claim to the leadoff role for the time being. I'll give the Goat to Matt Holliday, who had one of his rare off days by going 0-3 with two strikeouts. Not what we've been used to seeing from Holliday, who has been one of the cornerstones of this team all year long.
Before we leave this game and get into the off-the-field stuff that happened yesterday, I was reading Waino's quote in the Post-Dispatch story about the team having to take the ball from his hands if they plan on limiting his innings. I wonder if that plan and that attitude are going to factor into John Mozeliak's ideas about signing Wainwright to an extension? If you plan to approach him in the offseason--which they should be--do you really want him ticked off at the organization about not getting to pitch? I think Waino would understand if it was necessary, but it's not looking necessary to him right now (and it doesn't seem necessary to the fans either). I wonder if the Cards will just scrap that plan, at least publicly, while perhaps making sure they have some spot starters to give him extra days of rest down the stretch.
As you should know by now, the Tyler Greene era came to an end yesterday morning, as he was traded off to the Houston Astros for a player to be named later or cash considerations. (If the Blue Jays deal from last year and Greene's value on the market is any indication, it'll be cash.) It's sad that it came down to this, with the fanbase turning on him very publicly and him struggling in his limited role. While the Astros aren't very good--36-77 and they only won four games in July and only once so far in August--that does mean that Greene should get the opportunity to play regularly and with little pressure.
I think there are a lot of Cardinal fans who are rooting for him to do well. It wasn't going to happen here, that much seems to be obvious, but perhaps in a different environment with different standards, he'll be able to show some of that talent that got him taken in the first round of the draft. And, if he does turn into a major offensive threat, the Cards don't have to face him much since the Astros will be in the American League. That's what we call a win-win!
John Mozeliak did have a quote about all of this that was kind of interesting. He said, "This is a tough place to play. There are high expectations. Winning is demanded." A lot of that is true. Cardinal fans have been accustomed to winning teams and they want to see their team in the hunt every year. In fact, if the Cards were in first, the boobirds wouldn't have been out as strongly against Greene earlier this week, I don't think. It's the frustration of losing a chance to catch Cincinnati that added some fuel to that fire.
But I don't think you can call St. Louis "a tough place to play." Boston, New York, places like that are tough places to play. Places like that, Skip Schumaker or any other scrappy utility guy would have been run out of town already. Places like that, you have 10 papers trying to sell copies and stir up controversy. St. Louis isn't Philadelphia. It's "Baseball Heaven," for crying out loud. Players want to come to St. Louis precisely because it's not a tough place to play.
Greene filled the whipping boy slot that J.D. Drew, Scott Rolen, and Colby Rasmus are all alumni of. He got off on the wrong foot for whatever reason and never could do enough to get him out of that role. Getting a fresh start with a different fan base, a fan base that doesn't have extremely high expectations of him, can only be for the best.
The Cards played shorthanded yesterday, but they'll get back to full strength today as Ryan Jacksonwill don the major league uniform for the first time. Jackson is one of the stronger prospects in the organization and has had a major league glove for some time, according to reports. Jackson also has a solid bat--he has 10 homers in Memphis--and it'll be interesting to see what he can do. With Rafael Furcal's back still bothering him, Jackson should get a good bit of playing time, though I expect he'll be on the bench tonight in Philadelphia unless the flight tweaks Furcal's back.
Also, Jaime Garciathrew a rehab start last night. It wasn't an overwhelming success by any means--five runs in six innings, though at least one of the doubles he allowed was questionable--but it did allow him to throw 75 pitches, which is closer to his 100-pitch goal. I think he'll probably get another rehab start and then rejoin the club. Especially since the starting rotation is not an issue right now at all, there's no real reason to push him.
Big game tonight in Philadelphia. Though the Phillies aren't at all the team that the Cards faced in last year's NLDS, they aren't quite the team they faced earlier in the year as well. Ryan Howard and Chase Utley are healthy, Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence are gone. With the pitching they'll face this weekend, getting two out of three would be a good step for this team.
When we last saw Roy Halladay, the Cards were smacking him around and he left with the injury that kept him out for a couple of months. Halladay hasn't quite been the ace that we're used to seeing lately, but he still has the ability to get there--his last start was seven shutout innings against the Diamondbacks. Not surprisingly, there's really nobody excited about seeing him tonight.
Beltran's done OK and Yadier Molina hit a grand slam against him in the game earlier this year, but other than that, it's nothing that just stands out. Though you'd expect Schumaker to get another start at second.
Kyle Lohse takes to the mound, giving the Cards a great shot at keeping the game close even with Halladay there. Lohse has been rock-solid this season and is continuing to add to whatever new contract he gets at the end of the year. That said, there are some ugly numbers against these Philadelphia batters.
Howard has always been a thorn in the side of the Cardinals, no matter who is pitching, and it seems doubtful his recent injury will change that. That was one of the benefits of facing the Phillies early in the year, the fact that he was out of the lineup.
Cards need to have a strong showing in this quick road trip. With Cincinnati looking a bit more mortal, the division isn't quite out of reach yet if they can continue their recent good play. Looking forward to seeing if they can do it!
I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday weekend while pausing to reflect on just why we have such a holiday. If you missed it, yesterday I posted the schedule of bloggers that are going to fill in starting next Thursday. Go check that out and vote on the poll that's there as well.
Since we've talked about the games, the Cardinals have been a feast or famine type of team. They went hungry against the Phillies for the most part, then have lived large the last couple of days. Let's recap.
Goat: Jason Motte. Motte pitched a good ninth, but allowed the game-winning two-run homer to Hunter Pence in the tenth. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be a quick way to find the stats, but I believe Motte has had trouble before when he's asked to go another inning. While he's usually only going to have to be good for one frame, being able to get through another would be nice as well.
Notes: Mitchell Boggs pitched well on the whole, but couldn't keep the lead he was entrusted with. Kyle Lohse pitched a very good game and deserved better, especially since one run was unearned. Shane Robinson was the only other hitter with a multi-hit game, which was nice to see out of him. His days are likely numbered with the return to health of some players, so he's got to enjoy these while he can.
Hero: David Freese. Two of the seven Cardinal hits in a game that really didn't have many highlights.
Goat: Matt Holliday. 0-4 and two left on base.
Notes: Nice to see solid work out of Eduardo Sanchez, two scoreless innings. Jaime Garcia pitched fairly well, though buckled in the sixth and allowed three runs, which pretty much put the game out of reach the way that Kyle Kendrick was going about things. Chuckie Fick made his major league debut, having been swapped for Fernando Salas earlier in the day.
Hero: Yadier Molina. His grand slam in the first probably was all the Cardinals needed, even if Roy Halladay had stayed in and settled down.
Goat: Rafael Furcal. 0-3 from the leadoff slot, though he did draw a walk and score a run.
Notes: Great day all the way around for the Cards, snapping the three game skid in effective fashion. Adam Wainwright put together another very good outing, allowing only one run in six innings, pulled a little early likely due to the heat and the score. Marc Rzepczynski threw a clean frame, which was nice to see as well. Two hits from Adams, including his first career home run, Holliday and Skip Schumaker. All in all, a wonderfully fun game for St. Louis fans.
Hero: Lance Lynn. Lots of great offensive performances, but Lynn made them all worthwhile with a performance more like April than what we've seen out of him the last couple of weeks. Only two runs and eight strikeouts in seven innings, meaning that the idea that the league is catching up to Lynn might be a bit premature. (Then again, Atlanta has been struggling offensively, so this might not be the best test of that.)
Goat: Wow, when everyone is getting hits--multiple hits, at that--it makes for a tough call. The only person not to get a hit was Carlos Beltran, so we'll go with him even though he had a couple of walks. He also got picked off at third at a time when it looked like that might be a big play. Turned out not so much, but it still counts.
Notes: Another big game by Matt Adams, driving in three on three hits and finding himself higher in the order since David Freese sat out with a wrist issue. Furcal had three hits as well and Daniel Descalso not only had two hits, but one of those was the game-breaking home run.
With the Reds finally figuring out a way to lose on the same day the Cards win, St. Louis finds itself a half-game back from retaking the divisional lead. With the fact that the team is looking to get healthy, that lead could be short lived. Allen Craig says he'll be back from the disabled list on Friday, his first eligible day, and Jon Jay has been sent to Florida to get ready for his return. Jay is eligible on Wednesday, but it doesn't sound like he'll be quite ready at that time, though it shouldn't be much longer than that.
The Cardinals got a couple of other pieces of good injury news since we last spoke. First off, Lance Berkman's knee surgery went well and Berkman turned out to be overly pessimistic. There was no issue with the actual ACL and just the meniscus and cleanup work was done. 8-10 weeks is the time frame, making him likely to return sometime around August 1.
If everything goes right, Berkman's return will be shortly after Chris Carpenter returns to this team. Carp should start a throwing program soon, most likely in the next couple of days, as they work to get him back in late July or early August. Carp still sounds very guarded, which is not surprising given the fact that he wasn't supposed to be here and that he's had issues in the past, but just hearing news is a good thing for Cardinal fans. Hopefully the rehab works well and we'll see him on the mound for the stretch run this season.
Cards tackle the Braves again tonight and we'll see if their anemic offense of the past few days continues when they go up against Jake Westbrook. Westbrook has been hit around some in his last outings and the Braves aren't a team he's dominated in the past.
The Cardinals had been living dangerously the last few days. Having never trailed in the division this year, they played their way into just a half-game lead with their stumbles in Los Angeles. Tyler Greene saved them from second place earlier in the week, but with the Reds refusing to lose, it was going to be tough to keep that wire-to-wire dream alive.
If you are looking for a Goat from Thursday's game, it seems reasonable enough to look toward the center of the diamond. However, picking just one does become difficult. After all, only Mitchell Boggs pitched and came away unscathed, giving up just one hit in an inning and a third. You could make a strong case that starter Jake Westbrook should get the award because, after all, it was his disastrous outing that got the Cards in a 6-0 hole to start with. There's a solid case there. Perhaps you note that the home run given up by Victor Marte turned out to be the difference in the game, though Marte did strike out three in his 1.2 innings.
No, I think the best case for the Goat can be made against Fernando Salas. Salas came into the game after two furious rallies had tied the game at 7. Momentum was swinging in the direction of St. Louis and it looked like this was going to be one of those games that we talked about with a glow for the rest of the season, showing how you are never out of it, that this team is a battling team.
All that is still true, of course, but Salas splashed cold water on our fevered imaginings. With one out, he gave up back-to-back singles. After another out, it looked like he could wiggle free, but then again gave up back-to-back singles, which allowed two runs to score. The Cards went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the sixth and Philadelphia was back in control.
That doesn't mean the offense was completely blameless--Carlos Beltran struck out with the tying run at second and the go-ahead run at first in the eighth--but when they put up 9 runs, it's tough to say that it was their fault the Cards lost this one.
Hero tag has to go to Yadier Molina. Four hits, including a big home run that tied the game in the fifth, three RBI and a run scored. We thought last year was an outlying year for Molina's offense, but he's hitting .314 with six home runs right now, showing that he really has developed into a very solid offensive force.
Other positives were Matt Holliday and David Freese both going yard. Freese had a couple of hits, making it look like he really is coming out of that slump. Beltran had three hits to chip in to the offensive fun, though unfortunately couldn't get a fourth at the end of the game.
You wonder how long the Cardinals can afford to keep running Salas out there. I guess with that almost three innings of scoreless ball against the Braves two weekends ago, he's still got some rope, but even with that he has an 8.22 ERA for the month and has given up 11 hits in 7.2 innings. (Without the Braves outing, the ERA would be 12.60 and it'd be 11 hits in five innings. Very, very ugly.) Apparently Maikel Cleto is pitching well recently in Memphis (he has a 1.38 ERA with 18 strikeouts in 13 innings for the month of May) and swapping those two for a bit might be a wise idea.
Some other people may be heading to Memphis soon as well as there are some positive reports on a few disabled guys. Allen Craig took some ground balls--at second base, of all places, though the club has continually denied since Mike Matheny took over that Craig would be back in the middle of the infield and it's not exactly the safest place for a guy with some leg issues--and hopefully will be ready to come off the DL a week from today. Jon Jay can come off on Wednesday, so if he's going to need a rehab assignment he hopefully will be going out on it soon.
The same story notes that Chris Carpenter is doing better with his shoulder, but he won't start a throwing program for another month. Factor in following that program and a stint in the minors and Carp may not be with the big club until the middle of August. A nice stretch run pickup, I guess. (Let's all say it in unison, shall we? "It's like a big trade without giving up anybody!")
Lance Berkman's surgery got pushed off until today due to a scheduling conflict on the part of the surgeon. Berkman continues to maintain that there's going to be more damage in there than the initial tests indicated, so we'll have to wait and see how good Berkman is at diagnosing himself. (Honestly, I'm expecting he's pretty good, but hopefully his years of watching House haven't paid off.) I'm sure there will be a lot of discussion about it on Twitter today if you are on there, so keep an eye out.
Cards have another battle on their hands tonight. Cliff Lee (a fellow Arkansan, so I can't dislike him too much) takes the mound for the Phillies and, though the Cards were able to get to him in last year's NLDS, doesn't mean it's any easier to have him on the docket. Here are the stats:
Kyle Lohse gets to go up against Mr. Lee. Lohse has not had the same success lately that he did earlier in the season, but he's still not given up more than three runs in a game save once. Of course, he's only finished the sixth once in his last four starts as well, so the bullpen may get an early call this evening. The numbers:
I tend to forget that Lohse actually was a Phillie briefly. I don't think that factors into his preparation at all, though. They've hit him in the past, especially Hunter Pence and Ty Wigginton, so he's going to really have to be on his game tonight.
Remember, tonight's game is Fox Sports Midwest's "This One's For You" as they (and we) honor those that sacrifice for our freedom. As always, my thanks goes out to those actively serving and those that have served in the past. I'm not sitting here playing with this silly little blog without your sacrifice.
Have a great holiday weekend, everyone! I hope to publish the guest posting schedule this weekend, just waiting on one more confirmation. Enjoy!
The Cardinals got to see an old friend last night. Then they showed him why he was an old friend and not a current one.
I think it was key that the Cards were able to bounce back from that three-run deficit in the first to immediately tie it up. Lance Lynn had a very rough first--indeed, though he didn't give up any more runs, he struggled quite a bit all night long--but the Redbirds didn't allow Jeff Suppan to settle in. They got one run before any were out, then two more when they were down to their final out of the inning.
Those two-out runs were huge, in my opinion. We've seen in the past pitchers like Suppan get settled in and become hard to hit. Indeed, the Cards really weren't able to do anything more with Soup until the fifth, when Matt Holliday singled and Carlos Beltran homered. Suppan was eventually forced out of the game then, but it might have been a different story had he gone into that inning with a 3-1 lead.
Hero goes to David Freese, for his RBI single in the first and his home run in the seventh. Great to see Freese actually hitting the ball and hitting it well. He'd been in such a slump that he got a couple of days off to clear his head. Apparently, that was pretty effective, though we'll have to wait and see if he continues to produce or this was just one good game.
I was glad to see Matt Adams getting a couple of hits and he was achingly close to getting his first home run on a couple of occasions. This game is all about making adjustments and apparently Adams noted how people were pitching him the last couple of games and modified his approach quite successfully. I look forward to seeing how he's able to do against some of the better pitching we'll see this weekend.
Every starter got a hit last night and the bullpen did its job as well, so it makes it difficult to pick out a Goat. (By the way, really glad to see Marc Rzepczynski come in and have a fairly clean inning. He's been struggling lately as well and the Cards need him to be strong.) I guess I'll go with Rafael Furcal. He got a hit in his first at-bat, but then went 0-4 afterwards including two strikeouts. Again, it's a tough call.
Another day, another DL stint. This time it's Matt Carpenter, whose side was more damaged than he thought from yesterday's injury. It's been a rough few days for the Cardinals, having to consistently put players on the disabled list, but hopefully they are through it and they'll still be able to play good baseball. If nothing else, it's given us a chance to see Adams, which is a silver lining. Steven Hill got the callup, so that may free up Tony Cruz to play some first base or outfield if necessary.
Speaking of hurt people, Lance Berkman has his knee surgery today and we'll find out whether it will be just meniscus or if the ACL needs work as well. Berkman's having the surgery in Houston, which Joe Strauss gives a lot of import to since it was originally planned for Colorado. I'm not sure what Strauss is getting at, though. Berkman lives in Houston, so it makes it reasonable that he'd want to do it close to home if possible. Maybe Strauss is implying a rift between Berkman and the organization (which, honestly, wouldn't be the first time a player and the club have had a difference of opinion on a medical procedure--see Scott Rolen) or if Berkman is looking to maybe rejoin the Astros next year as a DH. Or, always a possibility, Strauss is just trying to rile up the fan base.
The first four game series of the year starts tonight in Busch Stadium as the Cardinals welcome in the Philadelphia Phillies. The Phillies have not been the team that we are used to or the team most expected them to be this season. Instead of cruising along in first place, they sit in last in the NL East, though granted just a game under .500. While they hit for a high average, most of the other offensive stats place them in the middle of the National League.
Kinda middling results. Placido Polanco has done some damage, but Polanco's been having a rough year. Keeping Hunter Pence in check might be the biggest key toward winning this ballgame.
Phillies counter with Joe Blanton. Blanton is 4-4 with a nice 3.74 ERA this season and has seemingly traded good starts with bad starts. Which, if the pattern keeps up, doesn't bode well for the Cards since he gave up six runs in 4.1 innings against Boston last time out. The career numbers:
He's one of those pitchers that the Cards have struggled with in the past. Holliday's about the only one that's hit him real hard, so we'll see if that continues tonight. Cards need a win to make sure they stay in first place. Here's hoping they get it!