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!
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