We talked yesterday about how the Cardinals were following the pattern (not The Pattern, for you Fringe folks) of one up, one down lately. They kept to that last night, using strong pitching and a bolt from the catcher to take down the Cubs 4-1 and make sure they’d at least split this four-game series.
Before there was input on my selection, I was going to go with Yadier Molina as our Hero. After all, it was Molina’s one hit on the night that was the difference in the ball game. He took a one-out, down and in pitch from Edwin Jackson and turned it into a two-run home run. I’ll honestly say I half-expected that as I watched from my couch, because a blast like that is what MVPs do and Molina is having an MVP-type season.
However, that was his only hit and his error led to the Cubs’ only run. Factor that in and the case for Jake Westbrook as Hero becomes overwhelming. (Never let it be said I don’t listen to the people.) Westbrook gave us a fairly typical Westbrook game–14 ground balls, two strikeouts, three walks. The difference in this game and some of his others was that the ground balls didn’t get through the infield. He only gave up two hits, easily his lowest total of the season, and two of his five baserunners were erased on double plays. You can’t even discount for the competition level, not after they put up four runs on Adam Wainwright last night and how rough Westbrook’s start against the even-worse Marlins was.
It was another one of those nights where the Cardinals scattered hits all over the ballpark. If Jon Jay (who thus gets the Goat tag) had been able to get a base knock, it would have been yet another outing where the entire starting lineup hits safely. You’d think that’d be rare, but I think the Cards have already done that 4-5 times this year, which speaks to the depth of this lineup, I think. The Matts–Matt Carpenter and Matt Holliday–led the way with two hits each, though Holliday did hit into his 18th double play.
Still, they weren’t able to do much against Jackson, which shows that while the offense might be able to put runners on, they are struggling to bring people in. Dennis Lawson noted on BonFyre last night (and if you’ve not gotten the app to join in on our discussions, you really should–it’s like Twitter with no character limitations and less crazy people) that the club had been outscored 31-29 over the last seven games. I believe that was before the three-run sixth, so that means they are up 32-31, but there’s a 13-run outburst in that mix as well. Take out that big game and they are averaging just over three runs a game, something that is on the low side of what this offense should be able to do. Still, it’s more likely just a temporary lull than anything structurally wrong, so there’s not much to do but wait it out.
The Cards officially signed first pick Marco Gonzales yesterday and let him throw in front of Wainwright and Shelby Miller, which just might have made him a bit nervous. It’s one thing to throw a meaningless bullpen, it’s another to have guys like that watching you. Gonzales will start at the Gulf Coast League level, as will their other first-rounder Rob Kaminsky, who also signed, and second round pick Oscar Mercado, who is already in the fold. All in all, it looks like the Cards are going to sign almost all their picks, as they expect to announce an agreement with their fourth rounder shortly.
Hopefully St. Louis is able to win the series tonight, sending out Lance Lynn to do just that. Lynn allowed Chicago only two runs in seven innings when he faced them in Wrigley earlier this year, which is in line with these career numbers.
Alfonso Soriano has been a bit of a thorn, but only Anthony Rizzo has taken him deep. Lynn got destroyed against the Marlins (seven runs in five innings, though he was able to get the win) and was a little rough against the Reds in the start before that. However, he’s 5-0 with a 2.64 ERA in home games this season, so hopefully that will carry the day.
Cubbies counter with Scott Feldman. The last time the Cardinals saw Feldman, he was on the mound for the Texas Rangers in October of 2011. (Ironically, the Rangers come into town tomorrow.) Feldman pitched out of the bullpen then and gave up five runs in five innings over five appearances. He got through Game 6 unscathed but gave up two runs in less than an inning (on no hits–but three walks and a hit batter) in Game 7. Which is why the following chart looks the way it does.
I’m up for an early start to the 2011 World Series Celebration Weekend, aren’t you?