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Picking Up Steam

Posted on August 28, 2012 at 7:00 AM
Filed Under: Heroes and Goats | Pittsburgh Pirates | St. Louis Cardinals
Are we sure that was the 2012 Cardinals playing last night?  I mean, it's a fair question.  So often this season we've seen the Cards have a strong series, only to come out flat in a game that matters.  Instead, they took two of three from Cincinnati and then continued to roll by taking the first game against the Pirates.  I'm not sure who these guys are, but I could come to like them!

The closer role is a difficult one.  When Jason Motte blows a save, he winds up with the Goat tag because he let a winnable game get away.  When he locks down the game, he doesn't necessarily get extra credit because, basically, he's doing his job.  

While there could be arguments made about others (and I will in a moment),  Motte was the Hero of last night's game.  Coming in with two on and two out in the eighth, with the game starting to feel like it was slipping away, Motte got Josh Harrison to ground out to shortstop then put away the Pirates in the ninth with little drama.  A loss last night would have been pretty devastating, but Motte made sure it didn't happen.

Of course, there might not have been a lead to protect if it wasn't for Matt Holliday.  Not only did Holliday hit the tie-breaking home run, he had limited some damage in the fourth when Pittsburgh scored two of their runs.  Harrison hit a fly ball with the bases loaded that Holliday made a nice play to track down, keeping it as a sacrifice fly rather than a double that cleared the bases.  That was key later when the Cardinals rallied.  Two runs was doable, four runs might have made for a different game.  The only downside to Holliday's night was that he struck out with Jon Jay at third when that insurance run would have felt really good to the fans watching.

That was the only bit of trouble Kyle Lohse ran into.  Well, save the elements of course, as the rain not only eventually knocked him out of the game but the mud may have slowed him down enough to get thrown out at the plate.  Still, I think we'll take five innings of two run ball and a game-tying RBI.  Pretty good night for Lohse and, again, it was the rain knocking him out of the game and not the Pirates, so you feel good about that.

Carlos Beltran gets the Goat for his 0-4 night.  It's been a rough stretch for Beltran, who is batting .149/.231/.213 over his last twelve games and hasn't hit a home run since August 10.  Whether it's nagging injuries or something else, he's not helping the team much right now and hopefully he can get back to his early season form.  It doesn't seem that there are many better alternatives right now, but you hate to have a dead spot in the lineup if you can help it.

It was a little interesting that Mike Matheny lifted Mitchell Boggs in the eighth, going with Marc Rzepczynski to face Pedro Alvarez with one on and two out.  Scrabble did have better numbers against Alvarez, though both had a very small sample.  I also think it might have been the right call because Alvarez has made his season against the Cardinals, it seems, and any little advantage might be key.  Of course, Rzep got him to ground to Furcal, but the shift was on and Furcal could only get to the ball, with no chance to make a play.  That set the stage for Motte, which is where we came in.

We also got to see Lance Lynn make his first relief appearance of the year, coming in after the rain delay to take over for Lohse.  Lynn got some help in the outfield, including a ball that Jay had to go a long way for to get, but he threw a scoreless frame.  We'll see if the bullpen adjustment takes and we see the Lynn we saw down the stretch last year.

Cincinnati won, staying six ahead of the Cards, but both Atlanta and Los Angeles lost, meaning that the Cards are now 2.5 ahead of LA and three ahead of Pittsburgh for the last wild card slot and only 1.5 games behind Atlanta for the first one.  Getting that home field advantage for the one game playoff sure would be a nice thing.

St. Louis looks to take the series early tonight and sends out Jake Westbrook to do it.  Westbrook struggled last time out against the Astros, but has been very consistent otherwise this season.  Westbrook has had trouble against the Pirates this season, though, going 1-3 with a tolerable 3.71 ERA.  

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS IBB HBP GDP
Andrew McCutchen 22 18 7 1 0 0 1 4 4 .389 .500 .444 .944 0 0 0
Neil Walker 21 17 6 0 1 0 3 4 3 .353 .476 .471 .947 0 0 0
Garrett Jones 20 16 3 0 0 0 0 4 3 .188 .350 .188 .538 1 0 0
Jose Tabata 20 19 8 2 1 0 4 1 2 .421 .450 .632 1.082 0 0 0
Clint Barmes 19 19 5 1 0 0 2 0 0 .263 .263 .316 .579 0 0 3
Pedro Alvarez 17 16 8 1 0 1 5 1 1 .500 .529 .750 1.279 0 0 0
Michael McKenry 9 9 1 0 0 1 3 0 4 .111 .111 .444 .556 0 0 1
Josh Harrison 8 6 1 0 0 0 1 1 0 .167 .250 .167 .417 0 0 0
James McDonald 7 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Gaby Sanchez 6 6 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 .167 .167 .167 .333 0 0 0
Travis Snider 6 5 2 1 0 0 0 1 0 .400 .500 .600 1.100 0 0 0
Erik Bedard 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Rod Barajas 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0
Jordy Mercer 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
A.J. Burnett 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .500 .000 .500 0 0 0
Total 167 148 43 6 2 2 19 17 24 .291 .361 .399 .760 1 0 4
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/28/2012.

Andrew McCutchen has done well against him, which could be a problem. The Cards held down McCutchen when they faced Pittsburgh in St. Louis a few series back, but that's not going to last long. Jose Tabata has done a number on him as well, so this doesn't look like the best matchup for Westbrook.

James McDonald has only thrown once against the Cardinals this year, but it was that Friday night game two weeks ago where the Cards didn't score until he was out of the game.  Historically, these Redbirds haven't done much against him either.

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS IBB HBP GDP
Carlos Beltran 16 14 3 0 0 0 1 2 2 .214 .313 .214 .527 1 0 0
Matt Holliday 13 12 2 2 0 0 0 1 4 .167 .231 .333 .564 0 0 0
Allen Craig 11 10 4 2 0 1 2 1 1 .400 .455 .900 1.355 0 0 1
David Freese 10 9 3 0 0 0 1 1 2 .333 .400 .333 .733 0 0 1
Rafael Furcal 8 8 3 1 0 0 1 0 2 .375 .375 .500 .875 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 8 7 3 1 0 1 3 1 0 .429 .500 1.000 1.500 0 0 0
Skip Schumaker 8 6 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 .000 .250 .000 .250 0 0 1
Jon Jay 6 5 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .167 .000 .167 0 0 0
Jake Westbrook 6 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Daniel Descalso 5 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Tony Cruz 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .500 .000 .500 0 0 0
Adam Wainwright 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Total 94 83 18 6 0 2 8 10 16 .217 .301 .361 .663 1 0 3
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/28/2012.

Of course, the Amazing Whacker Guy Allen Craig has hit him, but that's about it. While McDonald has been in a bad place for most of the second half of the season, this still isn't a great matchup for St. Louis.

Here's to bucking the numbers and taking home a win tonight.  Also, if you've not done it yet, be sure to enter the Egraphs giveaway.  A good number of entries so far but not enough that your odds are astronomical.  You've got until the UCB Radio Hour tomorrow night to enter!


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The Cardinals are taking over the wild card race. You are finally seeing the team play as it was meant to play.

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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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