When you run out the pitcher with the highest winning percentage in baseball against a team that is on the verge of losing its 100th game, you would expect that there wouldn't be a lot of drama. Thankfully, this team did what was expected last night. You can't always say that, of course, but there was little edge-of-your-seat drama in the Cardinals' 4-1 over Houston.
There's no doubt to who the Hero of the piece was. Kyle Lohse continued to add to his off-season asking price by going seven scoreless, allowing only four hits over that span, and picking up his 15th win. He also had an RBI double in the two-run fifth that gave him some breathing room. (As per baseball writing regulations, I must say that he helped his own cause with that base hit.)
A lot has been made about the Cards not approaching Lohse for an extension, about him pitching so well but not getting any contract love. I'm still not sure why this is a surprise nor why it still seems to be a topic of discussion. Even if the Cardinals could afford him, which they debatably could though it'd probably mean waving goodbye to Adam Wainwright, there is just so much pitching coming up through the ranks that there's no spot for him in a year or so. While it'll be strange to see him elsewhere, there's just no room for him at any price, much less the one he will command.
Another good night for Jon Jay in the leadoff role. Two hits, including an RBI double that scored Lohse and a single in the seventh that scored Daniel Descalso. Yadier Molina also had two hits and Descalso drove in the first run with a single. Jason Motte pitched a perfect ninth for his 36th save, which is pretty impressive. If I'm doing the research right, it looks like there's only been five seasons of 40 saves in Cardinal history, the last being Jason Isringhausen in 2004. (The others: Lee Smith in 1991-1993 and Bruce Sutter in 1984, so not bad company.)
Let's see, I'll give the Goat to Mitchell Boggs because he gave up the shutout, even though it sounds like from the game story that there weren't many solid hits against him. Brett Wallace seems to be the Bud Norris of the Astros offense, always able to beat St. Louis in his at-bats. Also disappointing to see an 0-4, two K night out of Allen Craig, but I guess he's not a machine after all. Can't blame anyone for thinking he might have been, though.
The excitement continues to build for Friday, of course, as Chris Carpenter will take the mound for the first time this season. (Do you have your excuse ready to miss work?) Which, of course, means that the rotation is getting a little goofed up. Apparently a good outing or so (one of which was a start) was enough to get Lance Lynn back into the rotation, so Joe Kelly heads off to the bullpen. Jake Westbrook (surprisingly, since I really thought he was done for the year) isn't too far off either, so what happens then? Westbrook to the pen? Lynn to the pen? A six man rotation for the last week or so of the season?
If nothing else, you have to figure that Lohse, Carpenter and Wainwright are going to go on pretty regular rest. That allows some mixing and matching for the other two spots in the rotation, perhaps to make sure Jaime Garcia doesn't throw on the road. Earlier in the week over at CardsClubhouse, I sketched out the following that seemed to make sense:
Tues - Houston--Lohse
Wed - Houston--Lynn
Thurs - Houston--Garcia
Fri - @ Cubs--Carpenter
Sat - @ Cubs--Wainwright
Sun - @ Cubs--Lohse
Mon - @ Houston--Lynn
Tues - @ Houston--Kelly
Wed - @ Houston--Carpenter
Thurs - Off
Fri - Washington--Wainwright
Sat - Washington--Lohse
Sun - Washington--Garcia
Mon - Cincy--Carpenter
Tues - Cincy--Westbrook
Wed - Cincy--Wainwright (if necessary)
Instead of Kelly in Houston, you could roll the dice and go ahead and put Garcia in there. That'd have him pitching on the road (which is usually to be avoided) but he looked OK last time out and Houston is a 100-loss team. Then again, he's 0-3 with an 8.87 ERA in Minute Maid Park in his career. With such a small margin for error between making the playoffs and not, that's not a risk I think I'd want to take, especially with so many other arms available.
Obviously, if the team has clinched a slot before the last night, you save Wainwright and let him start the play-in game. Then you can have Lohse and Carpenter for the first two games of the NLDS, or maybe Lohse and Garcia (since the first two will be at home) and then Carpenter, Wainwright and Lohse on the road. That doesn't look too shabby, does it?
Of course, you've got to get there first. Thanks to the elements, the Cards stretched their lead over the Dodgers to 1.5 games when LA was rained out in Washington. Milwaukee beat Pittsburgh (which frustrates me because my preseason prediction of the Pirates breaking .500 and finishing third ahead of the Brewers was looking so good until recently) to stay 2.5 back, while the Pirates fall to 3.5 behind. Pirates and Brewers mix it up again tonight while the Nats and Dodgers have a twin-bill today starting at 1 this afternoon. So it's likely the Cards will know what they need to do tonight to stay in the WC lead before they take the field.
They'll take the field behind Lynn, who is coming off of back-to-back wins (though one was in relief) and a strong outing against LA.
Obviously it's a pretty small sample--a lot of the players Lynn has faced in a Houston uniform have moved on, plus he's really only faced them this year--but it goes in his favor. Wallace has hit him, but again, there's few in Cardinal red that he hasn't hit.
Houston counters with Lucas Harrell. Harrell gave up six runs in five innings the last time he saw St. Louis, which is reflected in the following numbers.
The BBA has, as a secondary aim, the goal of producing year-end
awards in a similar fashion to the Baseball Writers of America. These
awards can be found at the official site in October with links back to the voters,
ensuring transparency and, most likely, the onset of some good baseball