There were a lot of things that didn’t go according to plan this weekend. A stormy Friday night, complete with rumors (thankfully unfounded) that there were fans at the stadium trapped under debris, for instance. Or the storm that erupted on Sunday when Yadier Molina was out on a close play. Between the thunder and the tantrum (and we’ll discuss who actually had the tantrum in a bit), there were some pretty impressive pitching performances and another series win for the Redbirds.
(A quick primer for those that aren’t familiar with my Heroes and Goats conceit. Every game I pick a Cardinal player that was the Hero and one that was the Goat. The Hero might have had the best game or might have come through at the right time. The Goat might have blown the game from the pen or left a lot of guys on. I do tend to get biased on the Goat against leadoff hitters that don’t get on base, so if there’s a tie, that’s who is likely to get stuck with it. These get tabulated over the season with serious repercussions: until this year, no Top Goat had ever been on the roster again the next year, and last year’s goat was Rafael Furcal, who won’t play an inning for St. Louis this season. You can keep track of these all season long below the links on this page.)
Saturday (Game 1, 8-0 win)
It’s got to be somewhat frustrating for Matt Cain to pitch against the Cardinals. That one misstep snowballs into a huge problem and, even though he can right himself afterwards, that’s all it takes. Back in April, he cruised along until he gave up nine in the fourth. He wasn’t allowed to finish the inning back then, but given the double header in St. Louis this time around, he stumbled and gave up seven in the third. He didn’t allow a hit in any other inning that he threw, but that didn’t really matter given that sort of deficit.
I’m going to give the Hero tag to Shelby Miller, due to his stellar work on the mound, but I could have easily gone to Daniel Descalso. Descalso started off the third with a double, singled in two runs later in that inning, and drove in a run with a sacrifice fly in the eighth. It’s good to see Descalso’s bat waking up to the point where he’s not an automatic out when he’s up at bat.
You also have to give credit to Pete Kozma and Tony Cruz, especially Cruz who so rarely gets a chance to play. To step up with two doubles and two RBI when you’ve only had 15 at-bats all year is a pretty good day no matter how you slice it.
Miller looked quite sharp and much more efficient than we’ve seen out of him recently. That said, given that we continue to hear the club talk about saving the young arms and limiting the innings of these rookies, I’m pretty surprised Mike Matheny left him out there for the seventh inning. It wasn’t that he was struggling or anything like that, it was the fact that he had a 7-0 lead and could have saved 15-20 pitches on his arm by leaving after six with no change in the game. I mean, if it’s a game where you can put Victor Marte in without worry, it’s a game well in hand.
Also nice to see Keith Butler get his major league debut under his belt. Butler looked like he might ruin the shutout after giving up a hit and a walk, but got out of the jam without incident. Just another young, exciting arm out in the Cardinal pen!
On the downside, it was another rough game for Matt Holliday. 0-4 with two strikeouts, including the only person besides the pitcher to make an out in that big seventh inning.
Saturday (Game 2, 7-1 win)
What do you hear so much about doubleheaders? Mainly the idea that the bullpen is going to be taxed from throwing so many innings in one day, right? So, on Bonfyre, I jokingly suggested on Friday night that Miller and Adam Wainwright just throw complete games to solve that problem. Apparently, that wasn’t as much of a joke as I thought.
As Wainwright, who has to be the Hero of the nightcap, pointed out, while Miller didn’t allow any runs, Wainwright went nine innings and just gave up one, so it’s tough to say one was any better than the other. Wainwright did strike out 10 and throw exactly as many pitches as Miller did, though in two more innings. You know, your regular everyday Waino start.
Of course, even if Wainwright had thrown a shutout, he couldn’t have won without some offensive support. A little came from himself (a double and a run scored) but more came from Ty Wigginton–that is not a typo–and Carlos Beltran, who each had two hits and two RBI. David Freese chipped in with two hits as well, which kept his hitting streak alive.
It must be something about left field right now, because Shane Robinson gets the Goat in this one. He did drive in a run, but went 0-3 with a strikeout.
Sunday (4-2 loss)
It’s not easy to get Yadier Molina to leave a game. It’s even harder to get Mike Matheny tossed. So if those both happen on the same play, you have to take a close look at what the heck is going on here.
I’ll be honest: I didn’t see the play live because I was out at church softball practice. That said, it seems from all indications (and from watching the video clip) that the only thing that Molina did that was out of the ordinary was to throw his helmet to the ground after a strong play got him out by a step. He didn’t question the play, he didn’t yell at the umpire, he just expressed a little frustration. Even if that frustration was at the ump, the fact that it 1) wasn’t conclusively directed to him and 2) nonverbal and short in its entirety should have meant that the umpire walked away and Molina turned toward the dugout, leaving his brother (who was filling in as first base coach) or a bat boy to pick it up and return it to the dugout. Molina didn’t look at the umpire at all and immediately turned toward the dugout, exasperated at being robbed at a time when the Cards could have had something going.
Instead, we have another situation where a thin-skinned umpire has to make an example out of a player. I don’t usually have too much beef with the umpires, because I think they do a thankless job and really are right most of the time. That said, too many of them have a hair-trigger out there. Too many are looking for confrontation, even when there isn’t any. If that ball gets through, the Cards are on the board. It’s not surprising that the frustration at being robbed by Brandon Crawford boiled over a little bit.
Now, did Molina’s ejection make the difference in the game? It’s hard to argue that. Looking at when Tony Cruz came up afterwards, there was only once that he came up with a runner on and even then it was with two outs. Perhaps Molina gets a hit to keep the inning alive, perhaps not.
Tyler Lyons–as noted before, due to his number the Patron Pitcher of this blog–wasn’t as spectacular as we’ve seen him be in his first two outings, but he was stepping up in weight class after facing the Padres and Royals. Even so, he was still pretty solid, allowing only two runs in six innings. Unfortunately, he pitched 6.1, but even so he doesn’t get the Goat. That goes to Randy Choate, who allowed those inherited runners to score when he made a mistake to Brandon Belt.
The offense didn’t get much going against Chad Gaudin, with that play in the third with Molina perhaps being the best chance to have an extended rally. The Hero gets to be David Freese, who smashed a two-run home run to keep his hitting streak alive again. Freese is up to .256 after spending so long in the sub-.200 area, so it looks like a lot of the doom and gloom surrounding him might have been a bit premature.
Before the weekend really kicked off, Mitchell Boggs was sent back to Memphis and Butler was called up. After the outcry over Boggs’s outing on Thursday, especially since he blew the save for Michael Wacha, this wasn’t a major surprise. What was a bit of a surprise was John Mozeliak talking frankly about how Boggs might need a change of scenery. Mo usually plays his cards close to the vest, so putting Boggs out there as a possible trade part is a little out of character. Couple that with the fact that the Cards would probably be selling low on Boggs and this just isn’t quite what we are used to out of the front office.
On the flip side, the front office is definitely considerate of how a player is treated and perceived in the fan base. While a deal might have been in the works for some time, it was unlikely a coincidence that Tyler Greene was dealt last year right after an error created a fan firestorm that made his situation in St. Louis untenable. If they feel that Boggs could never get back in the good graces of the fan base and if they feel that pitching on the mound at Busch Stadium would almost be a hostile work environment, they well might ship him out as part of a bigger deal. It seems very unlikely that he would go in a one-for-one trade, unless they were able to identify a prospect being undervalued in another organization, something like they did when they received Freese for Jim Edmonds.
The Cardinals get one of their rare chances at revenge this week when Arizona comes to town. The Diamondbacks beat them two of three in Chase Field, though at least the second one was one of the dreaded bullpen meltdowns that punctuated early April. The D-Backs still rule the NL West, leading the division by 2.5 games and will bring a healthy 16-12 road mark into Busch Stadium.
Trevor Cahill will go for the Snakes in the opener. The Cards got to him for three runs in 5.2 innings in that opening series, winning the game he started for their only such tally in the desert.
Even with that win, the Cards haven’t had a ton of success against Cahill in the past. Holliday has been very effective, with his three hits being home runs, so maybe that will get him out of the slump that sees his average sitting at .244 after a May (and early June) that saw him hit .225/.292/.412 before his 0-4 on Sunday.
It’s Lance Lynn‘s turn in the rotation, which usually means the Cards are in good shape. Lynn has seven wins in eight decisions, allowing a total of 18 runs in his last ten outings. Arizona did get him for four runs in four innings in his start against them, but he’s looked much more consistent since then.
Still, those numbers aren’t that reassuring. Not too many extra base hits there–more triples than home runs, surprisingly–but as the Cardinals have proven all year long, a string of singles can get you behind in a hurry.
Should be an exciting series with a great one to kick it off!