After a stretch of easier teams and facing divisions that aren’t the one they are playing in, the Cardinals finally get back to the NL Central and take on one of their closest competitors. The fact that it is Cincinnati, who has been their strongest rival to the throne over the past few seasons and has engaged in some extra-curricular activities along the way, just adds to the excitement. Thankfully, the Cardinals were able to win the series and add some distance between the two clubs, but it was far from easy.
Friday (9-2 win)
Well, at least most of the weekend was far from easy. When you send out Adam Wainwright, chances are if the offense shows up, you are going to be fine. A three-run fourth was all the club needed, but they didn’t stop there, scoring four more in the sixth and a couple of solo runs in the next two innings.
It’s tough to decide who the Hero should be. Wainwright was his typically stellar self, giving up two runs in seven innings while striking out seven. That’s in the mix. Six Cardinal starters had two hits in the game, meaning the offense has a number of people to choose from as well.
For this one, let’s go with David Freese. Along with his two hits, he drew a walk and of the two RBI he had, one broke the scoring seal. You could have also made a strong case for Jon Jay, who went 2-5 with two RBI, and Pete Kozma, who went 2-4 with three of them.
Strong pitching and an offense that put up 16 hits means that it’s tough to find the cloud in the silver lining. All the starters got at least one hit, the bullpen was almost perfect, so where do you go for the Goat? I guess it’ll be Carlos Beltran, who “just” went 1-4 and didn’t score or drive in a run. High standards in this one.
Saturday (4-2 loss)
I had no idea Mat Latos was on such a roll. After winning on Saturday, he ran his streak to 20 straight appearances without a loss. That’s not bad at all for a guy that’s not necessarily considered the ace of the staff. Even though yet again every starter in the Cardinal lineup got a hit, they couldn’t clump them together enough to really get to Latos.
The team does get credit for not going quietly, though. When Aroldis Chapman comes into a game, it’s easy for a team to think that their day is done. Instead, Kozma doubled against him and Matt Carpenter was hit by a pitch, meaning Beltran had a chance to tie or take the lead with his last at-bat, but he was only able to ground out. At least, that’s according to the umpire. There was some debate on that point.
Tyler Lyons again was partially victimized by a bullpen that couldn’t keep the runners he left on stranded. Lyons was solid for most of his outing, though he only got one out in the sixth before leaving. He gave up two runs through the first five, then allowed back to back doubles that tied the game, the second compounded by an error by Kozma that allowed Joey Votto to move on to third. Randy Choate couldn’t get the left-handed Jay Bruce out and then Seth Maness, who gets the Goat for this game, allowed a walk and an RBI hit that finished up the Reds scoring. Maness also gave up a single and a double in the next inning before being bailed out by Kevin Siegrist.
Siegrist gets to be our Hero in this one. He has been a strikeout machine since he came to the bigs and this game was no different. With runners on second and third, he struck out Bruce then, after intentionally walking Brandon Phillips, struck out Todd Frazier to end the Cincinnati threat. The rookie showed no fear and that’s a good thing to see. Whether it’s pure stuff or a lot of unfamiliarity, Siegrist has struck out eight of the ten outs he’s gotten in the big leagues so far after Sunday. That works out to a K/9 of around 23, which is why small sample sizes are so fun.
Sunday (11-4 win in 10)
That meant it all came down to the final game of the series, the Sunday night Game of the Week on ESPN. If the Reds won, they’d be just two games back and feeling like they were on a roll. If the Cardinals won, they’d be four games up on both Cincinnati and Pittsburgh and have earned a bit of breathing room.
It was a game that showed that both teams are pretty evenly matched, but the difference is the Cardinals can explode at any time. That time just happened to be after regulation for the first time this season.
I don’t think the numbers reflect it, but it seems to me that the Cardinals always have some problems with Bronson Arroyo. (OK, they really don’t show it, as he’s 8-15 with a 4.49 ERA career against the Birds.) He was throwing his slop again last night and being very effective with it, with St. Louis only tagging him for two runs in six innings.
This was a problem because the Reds were doing more with Lance Lynn than vice versa. Lynn allowed two runs in the first then, after the Cards had tied it in the fourth, gave up two more in the fifth that looked like it could be a tough thing to overcome. Lynn gets the Goat for this one, though he really didn’t pitch too badly. Anytime you can get away with just four runs (and no homers) in Great American Ball Park, you are doing something right.
Once Arroyo left, the Cards were able to make some noise. Sam LeCure was…you know what, you’ve heard all the puns relating to his last name, so we won’t go there. The Redbirds tied it up off of LeCure with a single, double, single, sacrifice fly. St. Louis doesn’t always pound you into submission. It’s much more of the water torture variety…drop…drop…drop…drop…
As the Post-Dispatch gamer notes, the Cardinals, besides having the better bullpen, managed it more effectively. Trevor Rosenthal, who I didn’t realize didn’t have a major league win yet, came in and threw two dominating innings. (Maness redeemed himself before that by doing what he does best, throwing one pitch and getting two outs.) On the flip side, Dusty Baker only used Chapman for one inning. That bit him as hard as anything could possibly bite in the tenth.
The grinding nature of St. Louis played out so well in the tenth. A walk by Allen Craig, followed one out later by a Freese single. Daniel Descalso then doubles off the wall (it probably helped that the wind had shifted directions by then) to break the tie. Kozma pinch-hits and strikes out, but as you know, that just means the Cards are right where they want to be–two outs and runners on. Carpenter’s broken bat flare brings in two more and then the bases get loaded for Matt Holliday.
In some ways, you feel sorry for Curtis Partch. He’s been in the minors since 2007, battling his way up the ladder and finally he’s in the big leagues. His manager calls on him in a game that, to be fair, was probably over anyway, but he’s got a chance to put out a fire and earn some points with the big guy. All he has to do is get the first batter in his career out.
Well, the first batter went out–way out of the yard. Holliday’s grand slam sent the last few Reds fans that hadn’t left after Carpenter’s flare home for the night and meant another day of rest for Edward Mujica. Partch got Craig to ground out afterwards, bringing his ERA down from infinity, but he’ll never forget his welcome to the big leagues moment.
Let’s give the Hero tag to Carlos Beltran. Not only did he get a home run that started the scoring for the Cardinals, plus got an infield single right before Holliday’s monster blast, but he was involved in a stellar play throwing out Joey Votto at third base. Freese sold the play as being not even close, allowing him to slap the tag on Votto easily, as Votto believed he didn’t have to slide.
Cardinals have an off day today, then take the Big Apple tomorrow in a series against the struggling Mets. The Mets played 30 innings in two days this weekend, so it’s possible their bullpen still won’t be quite recovered by time first pitch starts the series off. Michael Wacha will make his third major league start, trying to rebound from that tough game against the Diamondbacks.
On the flip side, Jonathon Niese will go for the Mets. Niese was quite effective when he faced the Cards last month, giving up just two runs in six innings as the Mets took the final game of the four game series.
Individually, the Cards have done OK against him, though hopefully a day off and the first game of a series is enough not to start Ty Wigginton.
Since I last wrote, the Cardinals have announced the passing of Jeanine Duncan, the wife of long-time pitching coach Dave Duncan. You remember that Duncan left the team in 2011 to take care of her after her brain tumor was discovered. You would hope for a better ending to this story and our condolences go out to the Duncan family.
Unrelated to the Cardinals, a blogger friend of mine is continuing to work on fundraising for Bryan Stow, the Giants fan that was brutally attacked in the Dodger Stadium parking lot a couple of years back. While the event has passed from the headlines, that doesn’t mean Stow isn’t still struggling to recover. If you’d like to help, check out The Grubby Glove’s post on the matter and get involved.
Enjoy the off day!