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Closer Than It Had To Be

Posted on April 16, 2013 at 6:56 AM
Filed Under: Pittsburgh Pirates | St. Louis Cardinals
We've seen some good things out of this offense this season.  We've seen a few double-digit games and we've seen them adjust in mid-game, going the first four or five innings without denting the plate, then exploding to take over the game.  Those adjustments are something we didn't see last year and it's heartening to see them.

However, there are some bad habits that seem to persist and one of those is to have the bats explode early, then shut down.  Now, to be fair, when you get up 10-1 like the team did last night, you shouldn't need any more runs and, in fact, they did win 10-6.  Still, it got a little dicier in the ninth than most of us expected after the third.

There were a lot of offensive highlights in those first three innings, though.  Of course, there were some baserunning lowlights in the first which may have kept the Cardinals from scoring more, though whether they could have done the same amount of damage in the second had they piled on in the first is a matter of conjecture.  We'll give the Hero label to Jon Jay, who went two for four, knocked in two, and scored three.  That's a solid all-around day.  Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina both had two hits as well, with Molina's second being the infield version.  Molina's caught every inning this year and still has enough oomph to leg out an infield hit.  That's almost superhuman in my mind.

(My guess is that Yadi sits tonight, though.  You have the crafty veteran Jake Westbrook on the mound who needs his services less than Shelby Miller will tomorrow night.  Seems like the best shot Tony Cruz has had in a while to actually play.)

However, just about all 10 of those runs were needed because the pitching staff stumbled again. This time, however, it was the almost-impervious starting rotation that fell down on the job.  If you want to read into patterns, Lance Lynn has had a bad outing, a good outing, and a bad outing.  Either he's set up for another good one in Philadelphia or he's been taking lessons from Jaime Garcia and is only going to be good at home.  Either way, it's not a rhythm you like to see a starter get into.

Lynn was given a 1-0 lead after the top of the first and immediately snapped the starters' scoreless streak by giving it back to Pittsburgh.  Once he got his large margin, you could argue he was "pitching to the score" and not worrying too much about the repercussions, but that doesn't seem to be the case.  Lynn threw almost 100 pitches in five innings, showing he was laboring and not being efficient with getting his outs.

Lynn gets the Goat because an outing like that could have been a disaster.  If the Cardinals hadn't been pounding James McDonald, this would have been a closer game or a game where the Pirates might have held the lead.  Also, you know the bullpen has been struggling, yet on a night where they should be able to rest or come in with no pressure, you've turned it over to them very early.  Lynn has starts of four innings, six innings and now five innings--the team is going to need him to go deeper into games if he's going to be a productive member of the rotation.

Now, it also worked out for Lynn that some guys in the bullpen actually needed to work.  Joe Kelly reemerged from a week-long sabbatical to throw two scoreless innings, but Marc Rzepczynski wasn't nearly as lucky, allowing two runs in the eighth.  Scrabble did face a majority of right-handers, but he has had some perfect innings this year.  That's two rough outings in a row for Rzepczynski, though to be fair those two outings were a week apart.

Then there was Mitchell Boggs, the beleaguered closer who came into a non-save situation and forced the bullpen to start warming up.  Boggs walked the leadoff batter, then got a double play ball, then allowed a hit, then struck out the last batter.  It was scoreless, it got the job done, but that's not exactly what you want to see from that outing.  Mike Matheny said they were one batter away from going to Edward Mujica, which just shows how tight the leash is getting on Boggs right now.  Maybe that'll give him the confidence to get the job done, but with 20+ pitches there and having thrown on Sunday, it seems likely that any save situation this evening will be handled by someone else.

Even if Boggs was available, though, Matheny might look elsewhere for his ninth inning solution.  He's stated that those duties might be spread around for a while until they figure out exactly what they have and who will take over the job.  I'm personally going to be interested to see if Kelly gets a shot at closing out a game and what the results will be there.  Kelly, who was drafted as a closer out of college, doesn't look to be in the rotation anytime soon (unless Lynn struggles and they don't tap Trevor Rosenthal to replace him) so getting some regular work as the closer might be a way to get him more involved.

Cards try to win yet another series tonight, sending Westbrook to the mound with that mission.  The numbers are not in his favor.

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP
Andrew McCutchen 26 22 9 2 0 0 1 4 5 .409 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 0
Jose Tabata 24 21 9 2 1 0 4 3 2 .429 .500 .619 1.119 0 0 0 0
Garrett Jones 23 18 4 0 0 0 1 4 3 .222 .348 .222 .570 0 1 1 0
Clint Barmes 22 22 6 1 0 0 4 0 0 .273 .273 .318 .591 0 0 0 0
Neil Walker 21 17 6 0 1 0 3 4 3 .353 .476 .471 .947 0 0 0 0
Pedro Alvarez 20 19 11 2 0 2 8 1 1 .579 .600 1.000 1.600 0 0 0 0
Alex Presley 14 14 4 1 1 0 0 0 1 .286 .286 .500 .786 0 0 0 0
Michael McKenry 12 12 2 0 0 1 4 0 4 .167 .167 .417 .583 0 0 0 0
James McDonald 10 6 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .143 .000 .143 3 0 0 0
Travis Snider 10 8 3 1 0 0 0 2 1 .375 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 0
Gaby Sanchez 6 6 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 .167 .167 .167 .333 0 0 0 0
Starling Marte 4 4 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .250 .250 .250 .500 0 0 0 0
John McDonald 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0
A.J. Burnett 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .500 .000 .500 0 0 0 0
Jonathan Sanchez 2 2 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 1.000 1.500 0 0 0 0
Total 200 176 57 10 3 3 25 20 24 .324 .391 .466 .857 3 1 1 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/16/2013.

Andrew McCutchen, Jose Tabata and Pedro Alvarez, some of the usual suspects when it comes to Pittsburgh hitting Cardinal pitching, have worked over Westbrook in the past.  We'll have to hope Westbrook has a little magic from that last start left in his tank.

Cardinals get to face Jonathan Sanchez, who has struggled in the past few years since a dominating season in San Francisco.

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP
Matt Holliday 26 20 5 2 0 0 4 5 4 .250 .423 .350 .773 0 0 0 1
Carlos Beltran 16 15 4 0 0 2 5 1 5 .267 .313 .667 .979 0 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 13 8 2 0 0 1 1 5 0 .250 .538 .625 1.163 0 0 0 0
Ty Wigginton 13 11 4 2 0 0 3 2 1 .364 .462 .545 1.007 0 0 0 0
Allen Craig 8 6 2 2 0 0 1 2 3 .333 .500 .667 1.167 0 0 0 0
David Freese 5 4 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 .250 .400 .500 .900 0 0 0 0
Matt Carpenter 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0
Tony Cruz 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .333 .000 .333 0 0 1 0
Daniel Descalso 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .333 .000 .333 0 0 0 0
Jon Jay 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0
Shane Robinson 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .333 .000 .333 0 0 0 0
Lance Lynn 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .500 .000 .500 0 0 0 0
Adam Wainwright 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0
Jake Westbrook 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0
Total 102 81 18 7 0 3 14 20 18 .222 .382 .420 .802 0 0 1 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/16/2013.

Often a lefty will confound the Cardinals and Sanchez seems to be no exception.  When the best results come from Ty Wigginton, you know it's got a chance to be a rough night.  We'll see if Sanchez's recent struggles (he's 0-2 with a 12.96 ERA and a 2.28 WHIP) take more precedent than his historical dominance does.  Let's hope so!

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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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