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Better Than The Alternative

Posted on August 27, 2012 at 7:30 AM
Filed Under: Cincinnati Reds | Heroes and Goats | Pittsburgh Pirates | St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals were able to take two of three this weekend from the Reds. While that's a good thing for their playoff hopes, it's more like a mosquito bite to the chances of actually taking the division.  Whether that matters or not depends on your point of view, but I know I'd have much rather left Cincinnati four back rather than six back and it easily could have happened.  Let's recap.

Saturday (8-2 loss)
Hero: Tony Cruz.  The Cardinals never quite got on track, but it was never the fault of Cruz.  Filling in because Yadier Molina's ankle was bothering him, Cruz got two hits and scored the only two runs of the game.  He had the misfortune of leading off innings and his hits couldn't be productive in driving in runs, but Cruz did a great job all around.

Goat: Brandon Dickson.  It's more on Mike Matheny on putting a guy that hasn't pitched much in the bigs and had just been recalled into a game that was still winnable.  Sure, it was getting tight because you knew that the Reds had Jonathan Broxton and Aroldis Chapman in the pen, but Broxton's not been impervious to being hit since moving to Cincy.  There was still a chance this team could come back until Dickson allowed four more runs and put the game out of reach.  What Matheny was thinking there (and why he was slow to go get him) is debatable.

Notes: Nice to know that the rehab hasn't changed Jaime Garcia much.  Garcia was rolling along pitching a very good game until the sixth.  It looked to me that he had Todd Frazier struck out with runners on the corners, but the pitch was called a ball.  The next pitch was a grounder that could have been called a double play, but Frazier beat it out.  That didn't seem to sit well with Garcia, and as we've seen before, when he gets unsettled, bad things happen.  This bad thing was a home run by Jay Bruce that added on to the Reds' lead, only the fourth home run by a lefty off of Garcia in his career.

It's surprising that Matheny didn't go out to settle Garcia down before he faced Bruce.  Knowing Garcia's temperamental history, you'd have thought that would have been high on his list of things to do.  It also may not have served Garcia well there to have Cruz as the catcher instead of Molina, as Cruz might not know or have the weight to go out and get Garcia's head on straight.

Sunday (8-2 win)
Hero: Matt Holliday.  Huge all-around day for Holliday, needing only a home run in his last at-bat to reach the cycle.  While he didn't get it, he did get his fourth hit and fourth RBI, pacing the attack that was tempered somewhat by Homer Bailey, but not enough.

Goat: He was playing on a bad ankle, one that was obviously causing him a lot of pain in his last at-bat (and may have kept him from a home run, as he still launched a pitch to the warning track), but with an 0-5 day, I have to go with Molina here.  Again, it was impressive that he crouched on that ankle for as long as he could, but it got so bad that they had to double-switch him out when the game got out of hand.  Of course, it's possible Matheny did that just so he could warm up the pitcher.

Notes: Allen Craig continues to be the Amazing Whacker Guy, wrenching another home run that gave the Cards a 5-0 lead, something that proved big in the bottom of the sixth.  Adam Wainwright cruised through five innings, but stumbled a bit in the sixth.  Then again, it wasn't entirely his fault as he got not one but two double play grounders and both times Rafael Furcal botched the play just enough to get only one out.  Wainwright wasn't as sharp in the inning, it's true, but the difference between him and Garcia (besides the fact Waino was pitching with a comfortable lead) was that Wainwright didn't give up, continued to battle and gave up some flares and grounders instead of a big fly that would tie the game.

Speaking of tying the game, the bullpen did an outstanding job overall, but Marc Rzepczynski did his darndest to give everyone heart attacks.  Coming in after Wainwright left two on and a three-run lead, Scrabble ran the count to 3-0 on the lefty he was supposed to get out before getting him to fly out to medium left field.  Thankfully the rest of the relief crew did their jobs with more aplomb.  The fact that the Cards immediately answered with two runs of their own helped as well.

So the Cards are six games back of the Reds.  Now, if your goal is a divisional title, you have to be a bit disappointed about how Saturday's game turned out.  If the Cards had swept this series, that would have put some pressure on Cincinnati.  With a three-game series to end the season in St. Louis, the Cards would have only had to pick up one game along the way to have a chance of controlling their fate.  Instead, they have to gain three on the Reds, which would take a lot of consistent play from St. Louis and a pretty good stumble by Cincinnati.  The Reds don't have that tough of a schedule from here on out, with only the Dodgers and Pirates being teams that stand out.

Of course, as St. Louis proved last year (and many other teams have as well in the 15+ years of the wild card), you only have to get to the playoffs to make a difference.  The Dodgers are a game and a half behind the Cards and Pittsburgh is two out, meaning the Pirates come into this series starting today in a role reversal from a couple of weekends ago.  If the Cards are able to take two of three, that could be the end of Pittsburgh's postseason hopes.  St. Louis also has to keep an eye on Atlanta, because playing that one game wild-card play-in game at Busch would be much more palatable than playing it at Turner Field.

Joe Strauss spent some time in the land of blues and BBQ this weekend, which meant he got to report on both ends of the career spectrum.  We've talked about his interview with Lance Berkman, how Berkman is looking likely to retire at the end of this season.  He also chatted up Shelby Miller, who is rolling in Memphis right now.  In his last 10 games, he's 6-3 with a 3.40 ERA and 65 strikeouts to just 11 walks.  Miller seems to have matured after his rough stretch earlier this season, a stretch that will likely cost him seeing St. Louis this September.  

While it'd be intriguing to put Miller in the bullpen for the stretch run, he isn't on the 40-man roster at the moment which causes some logistical issues.  Besides that, the club has spent a lot of time trying to rework his thinking from "fastball only", but that's mainly what he'd be expected to do in the 'pen.  Now, if Kelly stumbles a couple of times?  Maybe Shelby gets the call for some spot starts.  I just don't think it's going to happen, though.

Good start to the road trip for the Redbirds and they hope to keep it going tonight in a good pitching matchup in Pittsburgh.  Kyle Lohse goes for the Cards and he's not gotten a loss on his record since June 15 in Kansas City.  Lohse has a 1.01 ERA--yes, barely over a run per nine innings--in the month of August and with a strong start tonight it will be the third month of the season where his ERA has been under two.  Lohse is clicking right now and hopefully that will continue this evening.

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS IBB HBP GDP
Andrew McCutchen 26 25 8 2 0 1 4 0 2 .320 .308 .520 .828 0 0 1
Garrett Jones 24 23 6 2 0 1 3 1 2 .261 .292 .478 .770 0 0 2
Neil Walker 24 20 8 3 1 0 5 4 7 .400 .500 .650 1.150 0 0 0
Jose Tabata 20 18 9 1 1 1 4 1 2 .500 .526 .833 1.360 0 0 0
Pedro Alvarez 17 16 4 2 0 1 4 1 5 .250 .294 .563 .857 0 0 0
Rod Barajas 13 13 2 0 0 1 3 0 3 .154 .154 .385 .538 0 0 0
Clint Barmes 10 9 1 1 0 0 1 1 1 .111 .200 .222 .422 0 0 0
Wandy Rodriguez 8 7 1 0 0 0 1 0 2 .143 .125 .143 .268 0 0 0
Gaby Sanchez 8 7 1 0 0 1 4 1 2 .143 .250 .571 .821 0 0 1
Michael McKenry 5 5 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 .400 .400 .800 1.200 0 0 0
Erik Bedard 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Josh Harrison 2 2 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 1.000 1.500 0 0 1
Jeff Karstens 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Total 161 149 43 14 2 6 29 9 29 .289 .325 .530 .855 0 0 5
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/27/2012.

The Pirates have hit him in the past, though. Andrew McCutchen has been strong against Lohse, but as we saw last time in St. Louis, he's been slumping lately, just hitting .190/.320/.190 in his last 10 games. Whether he's pressing or what, I don't know, but I know that he's too good for this to continue long-term. Hopefully he'll snap out of it once the Cards are out of town. (I know Christine surely feels the same way.)

The last time the Cards saw A.J. Burnett, they put up 12 runs against him in less than three innings.  The time before that, he shut them out over seven innings in his first Pittsburgh start.  Burnett's had a strong year, even factoring in that shellacking.  He's scuffled some since a shutout on the last day of July against the Cubs, but he's still 15-4 with a 3.63 ERA.

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS IBB HBP GDP
Rafael Furcal 43 36 13 0 0 0 2 4 5 .361 .429 .361 .790 0 1 0
Carlos Beltran 29 27 9 0 0 2 10 2 6 .333 .379 .556 .935 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 11 10 2 0 0 0 1 1 2 .200 .273 .200 .473 0 0 0
Matt Holliday 9 7 2 0 0 0 2 2 4 .286 .444 .286 .730 0 0 0
Matt Carpenter 5 5 3 0 0 0 0 0 1 .600 .600 .600 1.200 0 0 0
Daniel Descalso 5 5 2 0 1 0 1 0 2 .400 .400 .800 1.200 0 0 0
David Freese 5 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 1
Jon Jay 3 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000 0 1 0
Lance Lynn 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Shane Robinson 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 1
Jake Westbrook 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Total 116 103 33 0 1 2 16 9 22 .320 .383 .398 .781 0 2 2
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/27/2012.

Furcal has seen him the most and done well in those outings. This would also be a good time for Carlos Beltran to get healthy, as he's gone deep twice against Burnett. Should be a fun game to watch!

Come back later this morning as I talk about a new autograph service and give you a chance to win a free one!


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1 Comments

1 Comment | Leave a comment

Not surprising that the Cardinals have climbed all the way to the top of the wild card board. Though the division title would be better. That seems out of reach though. Allen Craig is awesome.

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Heroes
Carlos Beltran (6)
Yadier Molina (5)
Matt Holliday (4)
Jon Jay (4)
Matt Carpenter (3)
Daniel Descalso (3)
Jaime Garcia (3)
Pete Kozma (3)
Shelby Miller (3)
Adam Wainwright (3)
Allen Craig (2)
Lance Lynn (2)
Tyler Lyons (2)
Edward Mujica (2)
Jake Westbrook (2)
David Freese (1)
Joe Kelly (1)
Seth Maness (1)
Trevor Rosenthal (1)
Michael Wacha (1)
Ty Wigginton (1)

2012 Top Hero: Matt Holliday (17)
2011 Top Hero: Lance Berkman (24)
2010 Top Heroes: Matt Holliday and Albert Pujols (24)
2009 Top Hero: Albert Pujols (28)
2008 Top Hero: Albert Pujols (25)

Goats
Jon Jay (6)
David Freese (5)
Mitchell Boggs (4)
Joe Kelly (4)
Pete Kozma (4)
Matt Carpenter (3)
Allen Craig (3)
Daniel Descalso (3)
Jaime Garcia (3)
Yadier Molina (3)
Matt Adams (2)
Carlos Beltran (2)
Matt Carpenter (2)
Matt Holliday (2)
Lance Lynn (2)
Seth Maness (1)
Shane Robinson (1)
Fernando Salas (1)
Adam Wainwright (1)
Jake Westbrook (1)

2012 Top Goat: Rafael Furcal (11)
2011 Top Goat: Ryan Theriot (12)
2010 Top Goat: Brendan Ryan (14)
2009 Top Goats: Rick Ankiel and Todd Wellemeyer (13)
2008 Top Goat: Troy Glaus (13)

Cardinal Nation Approval Ratings (March 2013)
Yadier Molina 96.2% (up 8.8%)
Chris Carpenter 89.8% (down 0.3%)
Derrick Goold 89.1% (up 6.3%)
Matt Holliday 88.4% (up 0.9%)
Allen Craig 88.3%
Adam Wainwright 88.2% (down 3.7%)
Jose Oquendo 87.1% (up 2.4%)
Jason Motte 86.9%
John Mozeliak 86.5% (up 1.1%)
United Cardinal Bloggers 85.2% (up 6.3%)
Bill DeWitt 85.1% (up 5.3%)
Mike Shannon 85.1% (down 0.2%)
John Rooney 84.5% (up 3.0%)
Mike Matheny 84.4% (up 3.3%)
David Freese 82.9% (down 2.6%)
Jon Jay 81.8% (up 10.7%)
Lance Berkman 80.6% (down 8.0%)
Jenifer Langosch 79.5%
Lance Lynn 79.5%
Dan McLaughlin 76.0% (up 8.0%)
Jim Hayes 73.0% (up 1.1%)
Ricky Horton 65.5% (down 2.0%)
Jaime Garcia 64.1%
Albert Pujols 59.2% (up 4.3%)
Ballpark Village 58.3%
Joe Strauss 54.3% (down 13.4%)

2012
Tony La Russa 88.2% (up 17.4%)
Mark McGwire 82.6% (up 20.1%)
Skip Schumaker 73.3% (up 9.2%)
B.J. Rains 69.5% (down 0.9%)
Kyle Lohse 68.9% (up 13.8%)
Al Hrabosky 66.4% (up 3.2%)
Colby Rasmus 46.5% (down 35.3%)

2011
Dave Duncan 87.9% (up 0.9%)
Matthew Leach 85.5%
Pop Warner 76.7%
Ryan Franklin 72.8% (up 3.1%)
John Vuch 68.9%
Jeff Luhnow 66.4%
Dan Lozano 58.7%

2009
Rick Ankiel 83.9%
Chris Duncan 69.1%


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