In his first start in the majors, Shelby Miller went five and two-thirds innings before finally allowing a flare off the bat of Wilson Valdez that went over the head of a leaping Ryan Jackson and landed in the outfield grass. Miller finished up with a groundout and left after six innings of one-hit shutout ball, a remarkable accomplishment for his first time out.
Not only did Miller only allow one hit, he garnered two of his own. He smoked a double in his first time up, hitting the wall on a screaming line drive, then singled his next time up. The noted rivalry between Cardinal pitchers on their hitting prowess must have inspired Miller, who had no hits at all in 27 at-bats in Memphis this season. In fact, he had all of two hits in his entire minor league experience, going 2-11 in Springfield during 2010. (Lower levels use the DH more, I believe, as he didn't record any plate appearances before then.)
All in all, Miller made a case for his being in the Cardinal rotation next season. He wound up giving up two runs in 13.2 innings during his time in the majors (1.32 ERA) and both of those came in the same inning against the Padres. Other than that, he hasn't allowed much of anything. Last night, not only did he face a team that almost had the best record in the National League, he faced them with their starters in the lineup. Unlike the Cardinals, who ran out a lineup that you wouldn't even see in spring training, Cincinnati had their regular lineup out there to begin the game. Now, I can't say how focused they were or anything, being that there was nothing for them to play for, but it's not like he flirted with a no-hitter against the Astros or Cubs.
It's tough to see Miller going to Memphis next season. Then again, it's a very full rotation, with Lance Lynn and Joe Kelly competing with Miller for that last slot barring any sort of trade. It's something to keep an eye on this offseason and next spring down in Jupiter.
It's a good thing Miller was working on the no-hitter because he wasn't getting any support behind him. When your third-place hitter is Skip Schumaker, I don't think that's unexpected. Tony La Russa got a lot of grief for some getaway lineups, but as far as I can see, he never did anything like this. Here are the lineups for (as far as I can tell) the day after they clinched a division or wild card slot.
1996: Pretty similar to this one, though a lot of the backups that played were more than bit players. Only starter I see was Luis Alicia. This game was also played on the road, it should be noted.
2005: Again on the road in Wrigley, with David Eckstein and Pujols being really the only regulars in there.
2006: Clinched on the last day of the season.
2009: Another road game (what is up with the team clinching away from Busch?) that had Pujols and Ryan Ludwick in the lineup.
2011: Clinched their wild-card slot on the last day. You may have heard that story.
I wouldn't say that there was a high level of outrage over last night's lineup, but it did raise some eyebrows. Obviously you want the players to get a little rest, to not get even more banged up in a game that doesn't mean anything. That said, giving them a chance to get an at-bat and maybe an ovation from the fans isn't a bad thing either. There was only one batter used as a pinch-hitter last night and that was Lance Berkman, who got a well-deserved, tear-inducing response from the fans who likely witnessed his last at-bat in a major league uniform. It'd have been nice for the paying fans to have a chance to honor some of the other players in a similar fashion, since there's no guarantee of another home game. I believe they came out after the game onto the field, which is something.
Long way of saying that it was tough to pick out a Goat for last night's game. Obviously Matt Carpenter is exempt due to the fact he drove in the only run of the game. The Cards also did wind up putting together nine hits, so we'll give the tag to Schumaker, who went 0-3 in his debut in the three hole, though he did draw a walk.
The Cardinals are now in Atlanta, having flown there after the game to prepare for the first-ever play-in game. To use a poker term (and no pun really intended), both sides have gone all-in and turned over their cards and they are just waiting to see what the flop brings.
Atlanta has an ace in their hand, sending out Kris Medlen to combat St. Louis. Medlen has had an outstanding season, going 10-1 with a 1.57 ERA in 50 games (but only 12 starts). You've all heard that the Braves have won 23 straight when Medlen has started a game, which has to give them a lot of confidence going into this one-game playoff. The numbers don't do anything to diminish that either.
Limited sample size may be the best lifeline Cardinal fans can hold on to. He hasn't started against St. Louis this year and, interestingly enough from these numbers, he didn't exactly dominate. A scoreless inning on May 11 with two strikeouts, but he gave up a run in two innings on the next day. Finally, he faced them on May 28 and gave up two runs in 2.2 innings, after which it looks like he went down to the minors to get ready for a starting role.
That said, Medlen is coming off of back-to-back Pitcher of the Month Awards. He'll be a tough nut to crack but the Cards have to get to the Braves early, because they don't want to get behind and have to worry about Craig Kimbrel with their playoff lives on the line. Kimbrel may have stumbled last year, but looks even better this year and that's not a gamble I'd like to take.
There's been some talk about Kyle Lohse and him getting the start for this game, with some wondering if Adam Wainwright shouldn't take the hill. There is always going to be second-guessing (if St. Louis wins this game, you think there will be Atlanta fans that wonder why they sent out untested Medlen instead of reliable Tim Hudson?) but Lohse has been the most consistently good pitcher on the Cardinal staff all season. It's a no-brainer that he should take the mound in this game, especially given its import. Because Wainwright might give you a better game, but we've seen he might not and the odds are close to 50/50 either way. The chances of Lohse getting lit up seem smaller given their 2012 seasons.
That's not to say it's going to be easy by any means.
These Brave hitters know Lohse and have done well against him in the past. I was hoping that, if you filtered those numbers to just show the last couple of years when Lohse has been so good that things would be different but, well, not so much. However, that's a very small sample size as it looks like Lohse may have only faced the Braves once in that span. He faced them once this year and had one of his worst starts of the year, giving up five runs in five innings on May 30. That doesn't necessarily add to the confidence factor.
Like last year, the toughest test for the Cardinals may be their first one. If they are able to get past Atlanta on Friday, they could be set for a nice long run. That's a big if, though. We'll have to tune in tomorrow afternoon and find out!
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