Yesterday was filled with so much negative pitching news off the field, it was great to get some good news on it. That's exactly what the Cardinals got in another late night (for us) in San Diego, as Tyler Lyons made his debut and stated his case for staying around a while.
First off, even before he took the mound, he became the Patron Pitcher for this blog.
I'll admit, after I got done hosting UCB Radio Hour with Kevin Reynolds last night, I turned on the game and was fascinated to see that big 70 out there on the field. The number has only been worn twice in Cardinal history, the other time when little-known Miguel Mejia donned it in Tony LaRussa's first season under the Arch. Mejia played in 45 games, got 23 plate appearances, and hit .087. Something tells me we can easily say that Lyons is the best player in Cardinal history ever to wear 70 and all it took was one game.
Lyons, who probably didn't get a lot of say in his number but likely would have been the Hero just for wearing it, went out and earned the title as well, giving up just a solo home run to Jedd Gyorko in the seventh. Gave up four hits, struck out four, and did it all in 81 pitches. Unlike his other rookie counterpart (no, not that one, the other one), he didn't tire in the sixth and let the Padres have some life. Whether he'll be able to do that when teams are more patient with him, we don't know, but for a major league debut it's tough to do much better.
Of course, it helped that the Cards gave him a nice cushion so he didn't have to get nervous. Lyons came to bat in the top of the first, which means that your day is off to a rousing start. Burch Smith probably pitched his way back to the minors after giving up four runs in an inning-plus of work, allowing five hits and three walks in that span. The Cards tacked on another later in the game but were quieted by Tim Stauffer, so I'm glad the Padres didn't start him last night.
Offensively, you give kudos to Yadier Molina, who snapped out of his brief slump by going four-for-five (though he did get caught stealing once), to Matt Carpenter (2-3, two walks in the leadoff role), Carlos Beltran (3-5) and Matt Holliday (2-5, RBI, though he struck out with the bases loaded in the sixth and hit into a double play in the second, driving in the fourth run).
While Edward Mujica did give up two runs in his first non-save appearance in a while, I think I'll go with Jon Jay as our Goat. Both he and Pete Kozma went 0-fer, but Jay did have an extra at-bat and struck out an extra time. Rough night for both those guys after being so hot for the last few days.
There was a lot of skepticism when the team put Salas on the DL, thinking this was just a made-up injury to get Lyons on the 25-man roster. However, that doesn't seem to track. Both Salas and Kelly had options, so it's not like their hands were tied there. The team has shown they have no compunction about sending people down (see Salas last year, Mitchell Boggs and Marc Rzepczynski this season), and, with starters dropping like the Cubs' playoff chances, it was easily justifiable to send Kelly down to get stretched out, thus solving the problem. So there's no real reason to fake an injury here, so it would seem Salas is going to have some examinations to go through.
If Salas is out for an extended period of time--and if it's the shoulder, that can be pretty tricky--that won't necessarily affect things too much in St. Louis. Salas hasn't been quite as bad as he gets the blame for, but it's true he's not a high-leverage pitcher in the Cardinal bullpen now. They could do a number of things with that position and it wouldn't likely have a significant impact on the team. (In other words, this is not the place for Michael Wacha to come up.)
Westbrook is a bit more problematic. With him out for at least another couple of starts and perhaps more, it would seem that Lyons and John Gast are going to be starters for the time being. That means that, besides Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn is the grizzled veteran of the rotation, what with about a season and a half of major league time and just one-plus season in the rotation. You can win with young pitching--look at the Braves of the '90s or the A's with Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito--but that's really young pitching. There become a lot of questions when you have that many youngsters running around. Do you try to limit their innings? Can they be consistent? What's it going to be like the second time around the league?
Then there's Garcia. We knew in the winter that surgery was a possibility and many of us thought that he should have gone through with it then. That said, he put together six weeks of pretty good pitching (well, five maybe, since his last two starts--when he admits he was feeling pain--were pretty shaky) and helped the Cardinals get to where they are today. Would things be different if Garcia had done the surgery and been out for the year? Would they have made a move for another veteran to go in the rotation? I don't think so. Odds are that if Garcia had been out from the beginning of spring training, we'd possibly have seen Trevor Rosenthal stretched out to be a starter, but that means right now there'd be no eighth inning guy. Would the bullpen have been even a bigger mess with Rosenthal out?
The team is hopeful Garcia will be ready by spring training next year. That seems pretty optimistic to me, especially the track record the Cards have with injuries. Even if he returns, you have to wonder about the command and the health that we'll see going forward with Garcia. Johan Santana may be the biggest name with shoulder problems and, barring that no-hitter, hasn't really been the same since his first surgery and is now out with a second. The idea that we'll see the Jaime Garcia that we've been intrigued with the last few years seems more farfetched than I'd like.
All of this likely means that John Mozeliak will be hunting around the pitching market as we get closer to the trade deadline. I don't think he wants to expose Wacha too much if he doesn't have to and he's going to want to limit innings by Gast and Lyons and Shelby Miller. If there is a Westbrook-like veteran who isn't going to cost much and is a free agent at the end of the year out there, I think Mo would take a look at that, even if it does look like Chris Carpenter can make a return to the rotation. Problem is, there's not a lot of those kind of guys out there.
Cardinals get a nice day off in sunny California after having bussed from San Diego up to Chavez Ravine to take on Vin Scully and the Dodgers. OK, they don't "take on" Vin, but you know everybody that has the option will be listening to him call the action this weekend. If you have the option and don't take it, shame on you! Scully will start the series talking about the exploits of Lance Lynn, who has faced the Dodgers before.
Lynn's had success in limited action against the boys in blue, though he had a little trouble with Adrian Gonzalez the only time he's faced the first baseman.
The Dodgers counter with Chris Capuano. St. Louis faced Capuano a number of times when he was with the Brewers, and not only is he still in the league, he's doing fairly well save a couple of rough starts.
I don't think Capuano is all that excited about seeing those red (or blue, who knows) caps tonight. Molina's had a bit of trouble with him, but on the whole, it's a matchup that works well for the Cardinals. At least until first pitch!
As my closing note, I want to say happy birthday to my own red-topped offspring, as my daughter turns six today. I was going to wake her up with the following the morning, but she got up before I could. She's serious now!
There's no doubt that Dirty Dan is the Hero of last night's affair. His double in the fifth broke a 1-1 tie but his home run with the bases loaded in the eighth put the exclamation point on the 10-2 rout. Descalso had three hits, three runs and five RBI--a month's worth of production packed into nine innings, the main reason the Cardinals won their first game in San Diego since 2011. Descalso was so good at the plate that we'll forgive his sixth error in the field, though that is a concern for a guy that's supposed to be able to be used as a defensive replacement.
Of course, 10 runs is all well and good but it doesn't help if the pitching doesn't keep the opponent down. Wainwright did just that, limiting San Diego to one run over seven and a third, giving up four hits while striking out six. You know, pretty much vintage Wainwright. He left at exactly 100 pitches and Carlos Martinez got an extended chance to show what he could do. Martinez gave up a run on three hits and a walk, but got some good experience out of the deal.
Interestingly, Martinez isn't going to be the pitcher sent down for today's starter to get on the 25-man roster. There was some thought--and I would agree with the reasoning--that he might get sent down to continue developing in the rotation, getting his starting innings in Memphis rather than sitting around the Cardinal bullpen. Instead, it looks like either Joe Kelly or Fernando Salas will be going down and, if it's between those two, my bet is on Kelly. Salas has struggled at times but has been effective at other times. Kelly has sat a lot and, with his starter background, could fill that role in Memphis if they need him to do so.
They did have to make a 40-man move to get Tyler Lyons on the roster and they placed Eduardo Sanchez on waivers, where he was quickly snatched up by the Cubs. Sanchez had some great moments back in '11 with the club, but his command hasn't been there since his injury (and, to be fair, it wasn't necessarily a strong point before) and he'd fallen way down on the depth chart of relievers. Jon Doble points out he was out of options and had to be on the big league club in 2014, which wasn't likely to happen.
10 runs and 13 hits means that it is usually tough to find a Goat, as most everyone has contributed. But while I'm sure that he was his normal effective self behind the plate, Yadier Molina went 0-4 at it, the only regular not to get a hit. That's usually going to get you the Goat label and it does again here.
Pete Kozma had two hits, raising his average up to .271. You can have fun with arbitrary endpoints, of course, but over his last 10 games--which would probably coincide with the talk of bringing Ryan Jackson up--he's hitting .345 with four walks and only five strikeouts. Could be he's just running into a spate of good luck and there's no doubt the pitching staffs that he has been facing aren't as strong as some others the team has seen, but it's good to see him being productive. He continues to do a lot more than I ever thought we'd see out of him this year.
Short on time so let's get to the pitching matchups, which will be brought to you without tables because these guys, well, let's just say big league experience isn't their forte. Lyons comes up after having a higher ERA in Memphis, but his supporting numbers indicate he's pitched better than that. He gets to play in a nice pitcher's park today against a struggling team, so it's not a bad place for a MLB debut.
When I looked and saw the Padres were starting "B. Smith", well, I immediately thought of Bud Smith. I still remember watching the end of his no-hitter against the Padres back in 2001. That was the last no-hitter for the Cards and possibly the last highlight of his career. But no, this is Burch Smith, who is making his second big-league start (and third appearance), a worldly veteran compared to Lyons. Saying that Smith has been rocky is like saying sci-fi fans get upset when you tinker with their shows. He gave up six earned runs in one inning of relief against the Rays, then five in 5.1 innings in a start against Washington. He does have that "Cardinals have never seen him" thing going for him, but he's not a lefty and is not that much of a soft tosser. On paper, the Cards should get to him. They don't play them on paper, though.
Another late game in California, followed by an off-day. Let's hope the Cards can take yet another series!
That's probably a bit unfair to say--and I did watch a few innings before the late hour and the storm knocking out DirecTV did me in--but it'd have been tough to watch another good pitching performance spoiled by the bullpen. Not saying that Shelby Miller was all that and a bag of chips, but he did put his offensively-challenged team in a position to win. Unfortunately, he was just not very direct about doing it.
Miller threw 107 pitches in 5.2 innings, which is the reason Mike Matheny had to turn to Fernando Salas earlier in the game than he'd probably wanted to. He walked three, which is an acceptable number, but threw a few more balls than was optimal. If he's at even 90 pitches at that time, Matheny leaves him in to finish the inning and perhaps the game turns out differently.
Salas gets the Goat because, even though he came into a tough situation, he should have been able to get out of it. Two were on, but two were out as well. Instead, he gives up a run-scoring single, a walk, and hits a man to force in another run. The Cards go from up one to down one while he's in and while his ERA doesn't get touched, it's still got to be on him this time.
Even though his throw apparently led to runners advancing in the sixth on the RBI single by Chris Denorfia, I'll give the Hero tag to Jon Jay, who was the only batter to get multiple hits against the Padre pitching staff last night. Not only that, he got half the team's total hits as well. I know San Diego has a strong bullpen and that Jason Marquis had been having a strong season, plus Petco is a pitcher's park even with the modifications, but that seems a little extreme to me. Just four hits? Of course, they did put together five walks, though two of those were to Pete Kozma, likely pitching around him to get to the pitcher's slot.
This is the sixth time the Cards have lost the opening game of a series, but (save for that two game series in Chicago) the first time they've done it in May. We've gotten used to the team going for the series win in the second game instead of having to rally to do it by winning two in a row.
This is also the second time I've talked about Matheny possibly starting Ty Wigginton due to his numbers against a pitcher, only to see him turn around and do it. However, Wiggy wasn't the first choice last night, but David Freese wound up being scratched because of a scratch. The cut he received on Sunday puffed up some and the trainers recommended pulling him as a precaution. We should see him back in the lineup tonight and find out if he's out of his slump or he just needs the Brewers on the other side of the field. On the positive side, some of the Padres jerseys do bear a resemblance to the Milwaukee ones.....
Wainwright's done well against the Padres too, which is even more encouraging. Nobody has taken him deep (which hopefully won't be an issue tonight either in the spacious ballpark) and only Yonder Alonso is hitting over .300 against him.
Cards get to try to solve Edinson Volquez. Volquez was on the other side of Wainwright's first shutout after returning from Tommy John surgery last year, but then won later in the year when Wainwright gave up five runs in an inning in San Diego. Strange how these two always seem to match up, isn't it?
The Cardinals have done OK against Volquez dating all the way back to his Cincinnati days, but it seems to be hit or miss. Some night they own him, some nights it is the other way around. Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday look like they'll be excited about tonight, though.
There are some significant changes coming to this blog in the next couple of weeks. Thankfully by then the Cards will be off of the West Coast. Another late one tonight!
The Cards have now played the Brewers 10 times this season. They wish they could play them 100 more.
After winning two of three against the Milwaukee squad, St. Louis has now won eight of 10 against them this season. David Freese loves to hit against the Brewers--even when he can't hit against anyone else--and pretty much everything has worked well in those games where the two teams get together.
Let's take a look at this weekend's games, then talk about what happened away from the field, as that might have more relevance to the rest of the season.
Even though Freese finally got into the home run column in grand fashion, giving the Cards a 5-0 lead, the Hero wasn't so clearly defined. If Freese had added another hit to that mix, I think I'd have gone with him and maybe I should anyway--after all, the Cardinals needed all of those runs. Matt Carpenter, though, had three hits in the leadoff role and scored two runs, which isn't a bad night either. Then again, Allen Craig went 3-3 plus added in a walk for a perfect night at the plate.
All are good choices, but I think I'm going to go with Matt Holliday. Not only did Holliday have a couple of hits, but he scored a run and drove in two, giving the most well-rounded performance on a night when there were a lot of offensive performances to choose from.
If I was one that chose more nebulous concepts for the tags, the bullpen in general might have gotten the nod. Coming into a one-run game in the sixth, Seth Maness, Trevor Rosenthal and Edward Mujica combined for 3.2 innings, two hits, no runs, no walks, and three strikeouts. In a game that became as tight as they come, those relief outings were huge.
Even tempered by the idea that he was hurting (something we'll discuss after the recaps), the Goat has to go to Jaime Garcia. Aramis Ramirez has been a Cardinal killer for a long time, but to serve up two three-run home runs to him is tough to swallow, and that's not because the crud has hit me and my throat is hurting this morning. Especially when you factor in that he was hurting badly through it but not letting anyone know. That's what we saw out of him in the NLDS last year (though someone--I think Bernie Miklasz--pointed out that it'd have been tough for him to walk past Chris Carpenter and all he represented then and ask out of a playoff game) and it doesn't help the team. It's understandable to want to grit it out when you are up 7-0, but when the game gets a little closer you have to say something.
Tough night for Carlos Beltran as well, who went 0-5 and struck out twice. Thankfully the offensive slack was picked up by others.
You hate to lay this one on Daniel Descalso. Sure, it'd have been nice if he could have gotten the winning hit in the ninth. It'd have been good if he could have laid off of pitches out of the zone. That said, he's a pinch hitter (and not necessarily the one you wanted up there, but there wasn't a lot of option by that time) coming off the bench cold with two outs. There were a lot of ways that could have ended badly and the odds of it working out were slim, really.
So I'm going to go with Joe Kelly on this one, even though part of me doesn't want to do that as well. Going into extra innings means it is always dicey, but it was Kelly's first inning of work and he's the one that created the jam. He faced some tough hitters in that inning, there's no doubt of that, but he didn't get enough of them out. This was the first time Kelly had given up runs in five outings, though, so he's gotten more reliable. He just didn't have it on Saturday.
Of course, Lance Lynn could have gotten into that conversation as well. After throwing 124 pitches in his last outing, he likely didn't quite have the reserves he has had before, only making it through the fifth and giving up eight hits and four runs in that span. Throw in two walks and it's pretty impressive he only gave up four runs. Hopefully with that early exit, he'll be more rested up for his next start. He'll have an extra day of rest as well with the off-day Thursday and be playing in a pitcher's park, so you'd expect his next time out against the Dodgers will go much better.
It was another one of those games that we've seen numerous times out of the Cardinals, whether this year or in years past where they score all of their runs in one inning. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn't. This time, it did, though not without some drama along the way.
If Maness had gotten out of a bases-loaded jam that wasn't of his own making, I'd have probably have considered him as yesterday's Hero. However, not really the spirit of the thing to award for something that could have gone horribly wrong, even if he did work his way out of it with some key pitching. No, I'm going to go with Jon Jay for the title, as he got two hits, scored a run and drove in another. Freese and Craig also had two hits on a day where the offense was just good enough but nothing spectacular.
Some kudos have to go to John Gast as well, picking up his second major league win in part because Mike Matheny didn't try to ride him too long. When he put a couple of runners on in the sixth--the same inning he struggled against the Mets in his first outing--Matheny yanked him and while Maness allowed those inherited runners to score, the Cards still had the lead. Gast hasn't shown yet that he can get past that wall of the sixth (or hitters are starting to adjust to him the third time around) but hopefully he'll be able to make the adjustments needed to start going a little deeper.
I guess I'll invoke my "leadoff man tiebreaker" rule and give the Goat to Matt Carpenter, since he had an 0-4 day at the dish yesterday. Weren't many that didn't get a least one knock, so he'll have to wear that tag.
Some drama as well yesterday, as Kyle Lohse (who very well may have been getting frustrated by continually getting beat by rookie Cardinal pitchers, thereby justifying them not resigning him) started complaining about Gast pulling back on his bunt and looking to swing. (I didn't get to see it, being at my daughter's sixth birthday party. And yes, we played this.) Perhaps this is some of those inside baseball unwritten rules, but I've never heard any complaints like this that I can remember. Again, from the outside looking in it looked like Lohse was irritated and frustrated and took it out on that situation, but maybe that's a bigger baseball breach than we are aware of.
The big news from this weekend was, of course, that Garcia was going on the disabled list with the surgery that he didn't have in the offseason a strong possibility now. It seemed like the Cardinals had finally won an injury gamble, but apparently not so much. Shoulder issues are so dicey as well--look at what's gone on with Johan Santana since he's had his--and you wonder what Garcia you'll get whenever he does return. When John Mozeliak is saying stuff like, "All indications are this is not good," it's not good. The only other time I remember Mo being so negative before all the tests were in was Adam Wainwright in the spring of 2011. We all know how that turned out.
Does that mean that Chris Carpenter, who might start making rehab starts next month and already was planned to be stretched out in the minors, could return to the rotation instead of the bullpen when he's ready? Tara and I talked about this last night on Gateway to Baseball Heaven and she's concerned about the workload of a starter on Carpenter, that he might make a couple of starts then go down for the count. That's a valid concern and that might be enough for the Cards to continue tapping their pitching depth to replace the innings lost by injuries.
That said, I wonder if bullpen usage might not be even more damaging to Carpenter. Sure, he's not out there for five or more innings like he would be as a starter, but he might be used more than once every five days in the pen, he's got to get ready on a shorter time frame, he's got to come in and be dominant from the get-go instead of easing his way into the game as you can with a longer stint. I've still never been sold that Carpenter's stuff and talents would translate as well to the 'pen as some think, so if he could return to the rotation, I think that'd be my preference. Of course, any idea that the number 29 is going to be back on the mound at all is probably a bit premature, but that's never stopped bloggers from speculating before!
Look, we all want to see Wacha. However, Mo was quite emphatic on the point (and it's a talking point that's been picked up at Fox Sports Midwest as well, I see) that this time last year Wacha was pitching in college. He's still not adjusted to a five-day schedule yet. Sure, he's dominating in Memphis right now, but let's see if that continues into June or July. He definitely doesn't work as a stopgap replacement--Bernie acknowledges this in his post--but I don't think we'll see him until August or September at best this year. There's no doubt that Wacha is close to his ceiling and Mo has agreed that he could probably pitch successfully in the big leagues right now, but there are a lot of other factors including keeping him healthy and getting him into regular condition.
Besides, it would seem likely (as likely as it gets with Cardinal injuries, at least) that Jake Westbrook will be back soon, meaning this could be a fairly moot point as Lyons might only get one or two starts. Of course, it is a Cardinal injury, so you never can be too sure.
Put a guy that has an ERA under 1.50 in Petco Park against a Padres offense that has been middle of the pack (though, interestingly, the Padres have more home runs than the Cardinals--then again, only the Dodgers and Marlins don't) and what do you get? We'll find out tonight when Shelby Miller takes the mound in San Diego. Miller hasn't faced these hitters much before, obviously, so I don't know that the sample tells us even as little as it usually does.
Some good numbers, but the most that anyone has seen him is two at bats, which really tells you little to nothing.
Old Home Week continues when the Redbirds face Jason Marquis tonight. Obviously it's been a while since Marquis was a Cardinal and he doesn't invoke the same general good feelings that Lohse does--mainly because people were ready for Marquis to leave St. Louis well before he actually did--but he was part of the deal that brought us Wainwright, so we have to appreciate him for that much, at least. His career table is interesting:
While we've seen tables before where the pitcher has only faced a couple of hitters, I don't know that I've seen a table like that where everyone on it has faced the pitcher more than 10 times. It's always a little disconcerting when Ty Wigginton has good numbers, because you know Matheny is going to be tempted to start him, but I think that we'll avoid that bullet tonight.
Late games this week on the West Coast, so get your nap in this afternoon or after work so you can be ready!
After hitting the AL and the other two NL divisions, we finally go out west, where the living is easy, but it surely isn't free. At least, not if you want to keep up with the Joneses in LA. Remember, if these don't float your boat, we've got others that will! Continue Reading
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.
San Diego Padres
76-86, fourth in the NL West
Pitching may win championships, but San Diego seems to think pitching ballparks don't.
After struggling for the last couple of years to break even in the NL West, the Padres are taking the notable step of bringing in the fences at Petco Park, one of the most notorious pitching stadiums in the major leagues. The thought process is, most likely, that they can score more runs than they will give up under the new configuration, though that remains to be seen.
What also remains to be seen is if this team has the talent to contend, being dealt a blow recently when Chase Headley hurt his thumb and will miss Opening Day. If you saw the collection of bloggers on Fox Sports San Diego last week, you know just how much a hurting Headley hurts them as well.
Ah, yes, the bloggers. San Diego has an exciting blogosphere and a large portion of that group came together recently under the Padres Public banner. All of the blogs kept their identities, though, so we have a couple of their number here with us today. Geoff Hancock writes the blog Left Coast Bias over there and can be found on Twitter @LeftCoastBias, while we all remember Mike Metzger, now of Padres Trail (and @Padres_Trail) from Episode 11 (has that really been 20 episodes ago?) of Conversations. Our final PP contributor is Rick Romero from RJ's Fro. You'll find him on Twitter @RJsFro.
So hang in there to find out their opinions of the walls closing in and how the offseason treated the club......
No, the best number that came out of last night was 3.5. That's the lead in the wild card race with eight games remaining over both Milwaukee (who lost to Washington yesterday afternoon) and Los Angeles (who was idle).
In some alternate universe, perhaps the results were flipped and the Cardinals only had a 1.5 game lead. That's when you start tugging at your collar and get really nervous about trying to hold off some hard-charging teams. Instead, if the Cards can split their last four games, they win 87. To get to 87 and force a one-game playoff, both the Brewers and the Dodgers would have to go 8-1. They'd have to be perfect to avoid the playoff entirely. Both of those things are a tall order for any team. Not saying that it can't happen, just that St. Louis is breathing a lot easier now than it was on Friday night.
As for the game, we'll give the Hero tag to Lynn for his great line, though he did cause some angst early on. However, the difference last night was that even when Lynn put runners on in the first couple of innings, he was able to work his way out of it. Part of that is due to the relative lack of strength to the Houston lineup, but it was still good to see him be able to get the outs and not put the Cardinals in a hole. Then he got some early support and started to roll, going seven innings and allowing just the one run, plus adding those nine strikeouts.
The Kozma Experience played another town last night as well, as the shortstop crushed a two-run home run in the second to push the Cardinal lead to 3-0, something that was big when Lynn allowed his only run in the bottom of that inning. He also added in another hit and a walk, leaving his batting average just shy of .300. It may be a small sample and the league may catch up with him, but it's an enjoyable ride while it lasts.
Of course, what everyone was talking about during the game was this play by Jon Jay.
An incredible example of sticking with the play. Of course, it's difficult to say that's the catch of the year when the reason it was so difficult is that Jay misread it to begin with. I've seen him have problems with those balls straight at him before, though I was told on Twitter those are the toughest ones to deal with and, as I have no experience in the matter, I'll go with that. That catch saved Jay from being the Goat, as he went 0-4 in the contest.
We'll give the Goat to Carlos Beltran for his 0-5, two strikeout night. Interestingly, for the fact that the Cards scored six runs, Jay, Beltran and Allen Craig all were hitless on the night. None of them even got on base, though that's not as surprising as the Cardinals only drew three walks. You wouldn't expect a win like this powered by the bottom of the lineup, but there you have it.
Matt Carpenter went two for three with a run and a walk, which was pretty impressive given that he wasn't in the starting lineup. Unfortunately, David Freese hurt his ankle in batting practice and likely will be out for a few days. It's hard to believe we almost made it through the entire season without a Freese injury. Thankfully 1) it shouldn't be a long-term deal and 2) Carpenter can fill in more than adequately. Getting his bat into the lineup is not a sacrifice on St. Louis's part.
Jason Motte didn't have to pitch last night, but he did pick up the Player of the Week award. I don't remember a reliever winning that award very often, but Motte did have five saves in the week. Hopefully he doesn't have to have five saves this week, that the Cardinals can win games without him having to close them down. Odds are he's going to be an important part of any postseason run.
Let's take a look at tonight in the WC race. The Brewers travel to Cincinnati as Mike Fiers takes on our old friend Johnny Cueto. Cueto was talked about in the mix for the Cy Young earlier this year, but that talk cooled after three really rough starts. He looked good against Chicago his last time out, though, and has dominated Milwaukee this season, going 1-1 with a 1.71 ERA and a 11.50 K/BB ratio. Could be a tough one for the Brew Crew this evening, especially since Cincinnati hasn't said they'd shut people down like Washington did.
That game starts an hour before the Cardinals' matchup with Houston does, while the Dodgers and the Padres start two hours later. Josh Beckett goes up against Edinson Volquez in Petco Park, and while Beckett has been serviceable if not much better since he trade from Boston, Volquez is 0-2 with a 6.30 ERA in four starts against Los Angeles. Could be a higher-scoring game than you'd expect out of Petco, but the Dodgers seem to hold the advantage.
While all of that's nice, the important game will be in Houston. This one is going to be tricky, because Jaime Garcia is going for the Redbirds. Garcia's road issues are well-documented, though he pitched a little better in LA a couple of weeks ago than expected. The bigger thing is, for some reason, Garcia has a lot of trouble with Houston. He struggled with them in Busch last week and in his career is 1-5 with a 7.55 ERA against the 'Stros. Little known fact: it was Garcia that gave Bud Selig the idea about moving Houston to the American League.
Surprisingly given his results, the numbers aren't that bad. I mean, he doesn't want to see Jose Altuve or Justin Maxwell, but other than that he could probably get by. We'll see how that works tonight.
Cards get another crack at Lucas Harrell, who gave up three runs in just under six innings last week in Busch. Harrell's had a pretty solid season, especially when you look at what surrounds him.
Hey, I was trying to set the table and I'm missing something. I've got the spoon, I've got the knife....
Oh, there the fork is. Sticking out of the back of the Cardinals.
OK, that's an overexaggeration. The point still holds, though. The Cards got swept in San Diego, which can't happen to a team that's supposed to be trying to get into the postseason. If it wasn't for the magic of the UCB, we'd be staring at a seven-game losing streak. It doesn't really matter that the Dodgers have been equally bad. This is not a playoff team right now.
Matt Carpenterhad an interesting game, what with misplaying a double and letting a run score with his errant throw back in, then making up for that run with a two-run home run. There was too much good for him to be the Goat, too much bad for him to be the Hero.
We'll give the Hero tag to Kyle Lohse, who is understandably frustrated about how little support he's getting and the downward spiral of this squad. Lohse gave up three runs (only two earned) in six innings of work. While that's not a dominant result by any means, it still should be a winning proposition, especially with this offense.
We often say that--with this offense. And yet, perhaps the offense we have isn't the offense we remember. The Cards haven't had a "serious" game (i.e. six runs or more) since September 1. Before that, August 26. They did have 10 of those games in August, which was more than I remembered (one of them was a loss), but still they are scuffling at the plate as well as in most other facets of the game.
I was fully prepared to give the Goat to Yadier Molina in this one. Bunting a runner to third with nobody out was exactly what I was tearing into Mike Matheny for earlier this season and even with Yadi's explanation that he wasn't comfortable facing Luke Gregerson's slider, I'm still not fond of it. You have Adron Chambers on second, so a base hit scores him. You have David Freese behind you, sure, but then it's Daniel Descalso scheduled, so if Freese can't get Chambers in (which he didn't), you have to hope Descalso can get a hit (Matheny did pinch-hit with Carlos Beltran, but the odds were pretty similar) or, if he walks (which Beltran did) that Pete Kozma (or, as it turned out, Skip Schumaker) can get a two-out hit (which he couldn't).
It just seems to me that the team was better served with Molina trying to get the hit himself. If he grounded out, hopefully that moved Chambers over. If he struck out, the situation was a little worse but not much. Molina's always been one of the best clutch hitters on this team and I'd much rather have seen him take a rip there instead of sacrificing himself.
I can't give him the Goat if he used the "uncomfortable against the pitcher" bit instead of "fundamental baseball" line (which, basically, Matheny used after the game--no, it's not good baseball there, Mike. Besides the issues with playing for a tie on the road, you only have three outs left at that time. Voluntarily giving one up doesn't pay the best of returns.) At least there was something rational to Molina's mindset. Which is why I'm going with Freese as the Goat. 0-4 plus he didn't get that fly ball, so Molina's sacrifice was in vain.
Four hits on the day is pretty sad, even more so when Carpenter has two of them. Jon Jay got one in front of Carpenter's home run (so half the hits came in the span of two at-bats) and Allen Craig had the double in the ninth which caused all the controversy (he was pinch-run for with Chambers). Clayton Richard is a good pitcher, but he's not that good.
I've started in on my review copy of One Last Strike, Tony La Russa's book, and I am struck by his talk of intensity, of focus. While that shouldn't be a surprise, knowing TLR and watching him and his teams, it just seems like that's missing from this team. I don't know that it is--sometimes it seems easy to attribute lack of intensity to lack of results--but it does seem a very plodding team from a distance.
If the Cardinals don't want the wild-card, neither do the Dodgers or Pirates. Both lost again last night (Pittsburgh now is just two games over .500, running the risk of not snapping their streak after all) to keep the Cards with a one game lead in the race. However, two teams that do want the position are coming on strong. Milwaukee and Philadelphia are now just three games out and coming on strong, with Philly winning seven in a row. Arizona's still in the picture as well, only four out. If the Cards could have just played .500 baseball recently, those leads would be large enough to doubt any charges. Now, though, it seems not if St. Louis will give up the lead, but when.
While we are in the neighborhood of questionable decisions, it seems like the braintrust has gone ahead and decided Jaime Garcia will take the mound Saturday in Dodger Stadium. Talk about a roll of the dice. I know the Dodgers have been going poorly lately, but there's no reason to run Garcia out there in a pressure situation given his road history. Do you really think that is going to help his focus and outlook? The rationale given for Lance Lynn making the start today was because you didn't want the rookie pitchers to make their first start in the cauldron that is the pennant race. But running Garcia out there is better? He'll be under a ton of pressure to show he can do something on the road and we know that it seems he doesn't stand up well to that. Hopefully Garcia will justify Matheny's trust in him on Saturday.
Lynn gets back into the rotation tonight, however briefly, to open up a crucial four-game set against Los Angeles. Of course, if there was any way for both teams to lose these games, I think they'd find it.
Lynn was actually roughed up by the Dodgers earlier in the year there in LA, giving up four runs in six innings. This Dodger team looks a lot different than that one did, of course. Whether that's good or bad still remains to be seen.
Part of that different look is Josh Beckett, who goes up against St. Louis tonight. Beckett hasn't faced the Cardinals since 2005, which is why this table looks as it does:
Sadly, we'll have no Lance Berkman in tonight's game and these numbers, coupled with Beltran's .200 average since the beginning of July, tend to argue he should be on the bench as well. We'll see if Matt Holliday remembers anything about Beckett and can share with the rest of the group.
As hard as it is to grasp, the Cardinals still are the wild-card race leader right now. All it takes is a strong series out in LA and they could tighten that grip. Hopefully that starts tonight!
And there's no magic clue inside these dugout walls
'Cause all I see is a lackluster team
Water leaking out of every seam
As days go by
There's just not much happiness
As days go by
It seems like a big mess
As days go by
The wild card lead, seems a thin read
For other teams an opportunity
As days go by
They are ugly ones for the family
I knew the law of averages would want to collect from last year's September run. I just didn't expect it to be this vindictive.
It was another disappointing outing for St. Louis last night, in some ways handing the Padres a 6-4 win and making a return trip to October that much harder. They kept their one game lead on the Dodgers and 2.5 on the Pirates because those teams are playing about as well as the Cards, but Milwaukee and Philadelphia both crept to .500 and just four games out. The Cardinals could have had this thing almost locked up with adequate play lately. Instead, they've lost five of six and 5-10 since beating the Reds two of three in Cincinnati.
They can only stumble so long as the wild card before, well, they won't be the wild card anymore. Even if none of the top teams are playing well enough to grab ahold of that final berth, eventually someone will and if it is the Brewers or the Phillies, the Cards will get to see how the other half lives, playing the 2011 Braves in 2012 to a certain degree.
What can you say about last night? It was a perfect storm of the problems we've seen. The biggest, of course, was the fourth, when Adam Wainwright loaded the bases on three infield ground balls. I say Wainwright did it, but of course it was the defense letting him down. Pete Kozma made an error and then Skip Schumaker and David Freese knocked down balls but couldn't pick them up. Schumaker's may have been more defensible--he ranged a good way over to his left to get to the ball--but that really just served to highlight his range issues.
Nonetheless, you still have to give the Goat to Wainwright because he couldn't put the Padres away after that. He walked in a run, allowed a two-run single, then the #8 hitter tripled in two more runs off of him. Wainwright took a no-hitter into that fourth inning, but it still seemed like his fastball wasn't quite where he wanted it, even if it was better than last time out.
Offensively, well, I don't think you'll be too surprised with a stat of 1 for 14 with RISP and 13 men left on base. That just seems right for this club, doesn't it? Nobody had more than one hit on the night, which is a little bit rare, so I'll give the Hero tag to Allen Craig, who went 1-3 with a run and two walks. Freese hit a homer and Schumaker walked three times, but their part in the fourth inning rules them out. Nice night for Trevor Rosenthal, though, who struck out the side in the seventh.
Of course, yesterday could have been worse. A fake Cardinals Twitter account (which, in all honesty, was really well done--they copied past Tweets to be less obvious in their feed and added a underscore to the end of the Twitter name) put out there that Matt Hollidayhad hurt himself on the hotel steps and might have a torn ACL. It wasn't a long-lasting hoax, but it was an effective one. Because the way this season has been going lately, it was completely believable something like that could have happened.
Apparently, after first reiterating that Jaime Garcia would make his next start against the Dodgers in Los Angeles, there's now consideration being given to have him skip that start. I'm still not sure why Mike Matheny and John Mozeliak are so adamant that Chris Carpenter not start that game, but I'm hopeful that either Rosenthal or Shelby Miller will. Whatever the reason, Garcia on the road right now would be just another demoralizing blow and this team can't take many more of those.
Also in that link is the sad news that the Cards are likely to sever their relationships with Quad Cities and Batavia. While Batavia doesn't mean much personally (though I'm sure the Cards will be looking closer to home than New York), Quad Cities is the home team for the Aaron Miles' Fastball ladies Christine and Tara. I know that they are going to be very sad not to be able to see the future Cardinals on such a regular basis.
Cards have a different start time today, getting out on the field at 5:35 local time. Maybe the change in the routine will have some different results on the field as well. If that's the case, the Redbirds are going to need a strong outing from Kyle Lohse today.
While we've seen lately that these pitcher-batter matchups don't necessarily tell us what's going to happen, you'd rather see these numbers than the reverse. There are a lot of small samples, but the ones that have seen Lohse the most have done the worst, so we'll take what little bit of good news we can while hoping Lohse doesn't have to pitch to Will Venable in a tough spot.
San Diego will have Clayton Richard on the bump looking for the sweep. Richard was a name that came up in trade rumors around the July deadline as someone the Cards might be interested in and has had a solid season overall, though he struggled last time out against the Dodgers.
These numbers don't generate much optimism for the red-clad fans. When the top performer against a pitcher is his opposing number, you might have to manufacture some runs today. Then again, like I said before, these matchups haven't panned out for the Cards lately. Maybe it'll work both ways.
Let's hope the Cardinals can get back on the winning track and take some momentum into Los Angeles!
First off, UCB weekend was a major success. Lots of great times with some great people and I can't wait to write it all up for you. That said, a proper post on the weekend will take some time that I haven't quite found yet and since they won't stop playing games until I'm ready for them to continue, I'm forced into the normal routine and that post will come later in the week.
Besides, there has been so many positive things since last I wrote! I mean, there's.....
Well, of course.....
Hey, Carlos Beltran hit a home run! That's something. And Matt Carpenter did some home repair on his hands and scored the winning run Sunday!
Other than that, yeah, not so much. Let's recap them quickly before getting into some of the other surrounding issues on the Cardinals.
Hero: Yadier Molina. One of the few times recently where the Cards have gotten down and then been able to make a rally. Molina's two-run homer in the eighth may have postponed the inevitable (and caused some sleepless nights by sending it to extra innings) but it was also the biggest moment of the game.
Goat: Mitchell Boggs. Tie game in the eighth, Boggs needs to come through and keep it that way. Instead, he gives up three hits and two runs to put St. Louis in a hole that, honestly, they were lucky to get out of.
Notes: Mike Matheny is seemingly very fond of Lance Lynn, as we'll discuss later on. And to Lynn's credit, Ryan Braun has victimized a lot of Cardinal (and MLB) pitchers and you want a starter-type in there in extra innings so he can save the bullpen somewhat. Still, tough to battle that long and lose in that manner. Jon Jay continues to produce at leadoff, garnering three hits in this contest. Lance Berkman drew a walk in his pinch-hitting role, which may be the last time anyone sees him in uniform.
Hero: There's got to be one, doesn't there? This was about as uninspiring of a loss as there is, though to be fair we watched this at the restaurant and were busier talking to each other and eating dinner than poring over the game. We'll give it to David Freese, who got two hits, even though he also committed an error.
Goat: You can just about draw a name out of a hat for this one, but I'll go with Jake Westbrook, who struggled yet again, making it three straight starts since his extension that he has been ineffective. He did have a bit of an excuse in this one, as he apparently strained his oblique during the game. More on that in a bit, but Westbrook dug the team a hole and, as noted, they don't dig out of them often.
Hero: Matt Carpenter. Two hits and he scored the winning run just hours after having a bat shatter in his hand and being forced to glue them (the hands, not the bat) back together. You want gritty? He'll show you gritty.
Goat: Jason Motte. UCB magic looked like it was going strong until Motte came along and gave up the game-tying home run to Norichika Aoki. Which just was fitting given how the rest of this weekend was going. Thankfully we still had a little magic left.
Notes: Nice to see Matt Holliday and Beltran both go yard. Home runs seem to be at a bit of a premium out of this team recently, so anytime the fireworks can go off, it's a good thing. Another three-hit day for Jay and, save for Motte, good pitching all around by Joe Kelly and the following relievers. Why Lynn came into the game in the 10th instead of others, I don't know. Seems like Matheny was playing with fire there.
Hero: Pete Kozma. Now there's something I wasn't sure I'd ever say. Kozma drove in two of the three runs with a triple (giving the Cards a short-lived lead, even) and tallied three hits on the night. As Kevin Reynolds said on Twitter, I'm still not sure how Kozma passed Ryan Jackson on the play list, but for last night at least, I'm glad he did.
Goat: Ugh, pick a pitcher. Still, it seems like it starts at the top and that is Jaime Garcia, who continued his inexplicable road issues with a short but ugly outing last night. Three innings, four runs, seven hits, three walks. All of this in a pitcher's ballpark which should have given some confidence to him as he took the mound. While the Padres have been playing better and actually have a better offense than I gave them credit for, there's still no excuse for that kind of production.
Notes: Shelby Miller got a real welcome to the bigs, allowing two runs in three innings (which was better than the starter, you'll note). Miller had a chance to get out of it, but couldn't put hitters away after getting two outs. Still, wasn't a terrible outing by any means. Salas, Freeman and Marte? Yeah, that's a different story. Cards tally nine hits, three by Kozma and two by Holliday. So it was a pitcher's park for one team, at least.
So there are a few things out there to discuss. We'll do that after the jump.