The rematch of the 2011 World Series was looked forward to with a lot of anticipation by Cardinal fans. It’s always good to look back at that point in time and the club did a lot of that over the weekend. The problem is, those memories were the only highlight that St. Louis had over the last three days. When the Cards scored more in Game 6 than they did in this entire series, there’s an issue.
Friday (6-4 loss)
Ah, #70, we hardly knew ya. The problem is, what we did know didn’t leave a positive impression.
Tyler Lyons didn’t make it out of the second (and, when you have that quick of a hook, it’s not surprising you are the Goat of the game) after being staked to a 3-0 lead after one inning. Three hits and three walks, including yet again walking the pitcher, did him in quickly and ruined any momentum the club might have had from that first inning.
That said, and with the Goat tag established, the offense went into hiding this game. The first four batters reached base, three by hits. After Allen Craig‘s double the score was 3-0 and nobody was out. Then, in a prelude to the rest of the game, Craig never score. The Cardinals only managed three more hits the entire game, one of which came from Pete Kozma in the next inning. Kozma doubled and went to third on a sacrifice bunt, but you wonder if he’d have scored had not a wild pitch been thrown while Matt Carpenter was up.
While we’re dwelling on the negative–something that may be a running theme with this post, which is unfortunate but not unexpected after a sweep–you wonder if Trevor Rosenthal is working his way back into a funk. With the game tied in the ninth, Rosenthal came in and gave up a single, threw away a sac bunt to put runners on the corners, threw a wild pitch to move Elvis Andrus up, then gave up a single that allowed both runners to score. He settled down and got a double play and a groundout, but that was a pretty brutal inning. It wasn’t the only time this weekend he struggled, though.
It wasn’t all bad, however. Besides the fact that Craig had two hits (the only batter to do so), the reason that Rosenthal was even in the game in the ninth inning was due to the Heroic work of Joe Kelly. Kelly came into the game in the second after Lyons had been unable to get the final out of the second, having allowed two walks and a two-run single since getting out number two. Kelly allowed an RBI single immediately (the run was charged to Lyons) and nothing else. His line shows five innings, five hits, no runs, three strikeouts. It was an incredible performance for someone that had no clue whether he would be pitching that evening or not.
Kelly’s work was good enough to get him finally slotted into the rotation, as Lyons was sent down on Saturday with Michael Blazek getting the return call. With a couple of off days this week, there’s no guarantee when Kelly will get on the mound, but at least he’ll know a few days in advance this time.
Saturday (4-2 loss)
Shelby Miller might be human after all.
The presumptive leader in the Rookie of the Year race gave up four earned runs for the second time in three starts, fueling speculation that the off days this week will be used to give him a little breather in the rotation. Yet while the final result wasn’t too pretty, it wasn’t as bad as you’d think either. The four runs came on a pair of two-run homers, one in the second, one in the third. For me, I think I’d rather see that and chalk it up to a bad pitch or a good at-bat than to see Miller be hit all around the yard. He did give up eight hits and didn’t finish the sixth, but with a little more support he’d at least gotten a no-decision.
So the Goat for this one isn’t slapped on the pitcher but instead on Matt Holliday, who went 0-4 as part of a hitless weekend. Not only that, but he hit into double plays in the third and the eighth, the latter extra painful given the tying runs were on base and it was one of the last chances to get some runs. You wonder that, given the fact that Holliday leads the league in double plays, it might be worth it to move him in the lineup, either up or down. Yadier Molina also had a hitless day and struck out twice, showing that either Martin Perez was dealing or Molina was a bit off on that day. Given that Molina had just one hit this weekend, on Friday night, it might have been more on Molina.
The Cardinals had just seven hits, but two of them came from Matt Carpenter in the leadoff role so I’ll give him the Hero. It’s not his fault both times he was on base Holliday ended the threat with a double play. Also credit should be given to the young arms in the pen that only allowed one hit in 3.1 innings of work. Blazek even got into a game this time around and proceeded to strike out two of the three batters he faced. So right now the only person in that pen that will make fans a bit iffy if he’s called on is Rosenthal, and that’s just a temporary thing most likely. The bullpen is an amazing collection of arms right now.
Sunday (2-1 loss)
After waiting through a rain delay before Saturday’s game, the Cards did the same on Sunday, not starting the final game of the series until 10:00 PM. It’s one of the times where playing on ESPN really hurt the Cards, as I’m guessing (as I wasn’t in St. Louis, I can’t be sure) that an afternoon game might have gotten in before the rain started.
If the late start didn’t put you to sleep, the offense probably would have finished the job. The Cards scored three runs before anyone was out in this series. They scored four more the entire rest of the way. With this pattern, if they had another game in the series the Cards would wind up losing 1 to -1.
This one looked to go St. Louis’s way, though. You have the ace on the hill and, while there was a young struggling pitcher the Cards hadn’t seen before on the other side, at least he wasn’t a lefthander. Instead, the Redbirds didn’t get a hit until the fifth inning and their only run came on a Matt Carpenter home run in the bottom of the sixth, giving him the Hero tag two days in a row since he again had two of seven hits.
That one run was almost enough for Adam Wainwright. He got the first two outs in the seventh, then a double and a game-tying single. And that, my friends, is apparently when it got interesting. (I say apparently because I was well asleep by that time. If I had stayed up, there’s no way you’d be getting this report now. Your appreciation of that dedication may vary.)
Mike Matheny looked at 105 pitches from Wainwright, looked at the fact that he had just allowed the game to be tied up, looked at the fact that his offense was having trouble hitting water even when it was falling on them, and decided to make his move, going to Rosenthal. This did not sit well with Wainwright, perhaps the first time we have heard a player criticize Matheny in the press during his tenure in St. Louis. Wainwright felt that he was still strong and that he deserved the finish the inning.
I can understand what Matheny was thinking and I can’t honestly say I wouldn’t have made the same call. If you leave Wainwright out there and he can’t get the next guy out, people are wondering what you were doing not making a move on an obviously-spent Waino. However, Wainwright routinely goes past 105 pitches (though maybe not in seven innings) and is your big gun. Rosenthal was coming off a rough outing against these same Rangers and would be coming into the game in a spot that he’s not been used to much this season. He’s usually starting the inning, though he definitely has had success in a fireman role before. I think I’d have left Wainwright out there for one more batter, but it’s a coin flip call in my mind.
If it had worked, we probably wouldn’t have heard as much about it (and it hadn’t been the early morning hours when the press was asking the questions, Wainwright might have been more circumspect). Unfortunately, Pete Kozma dropped a line drive to him, allowing Jurickson Profar to reach base and prolonged the inning. Of course, Ian Kinsler then singled in the go-ahead run. Couple that key error with an 0-4 night that saw him strand four batters, plus hitting into the game-ending double play (though Adrian Beltre deserves some credit there) and Kozma winds up with the Goat in this one.
For the first time this season, the Cards didn’t win a game against an opponent. It’s one of the rare times they’ve lost three in a row. The offense was exposed a little bit this weekend, as Bernie Miklasz points out some of the places where we should be concerned even though, on the whole, this is a good lineup. Perhaps an off day, followed by two games in Houston, will be just what the doctor ordered.
There was some talk (though not much, admittedly) about Michael Wacha returning to the big leagues to take Lyons’s spot in the rotation. Not only did that not happen, but Wacha is going to get some time off from the Memphis rotation as well. It’s not a surprise they are going to limit his innings and keep a close eye on him. Besides, with this kind of rest, it’s possible that when it comes to make out the October roster, Wacha could find himself on it.
When the Cards do take the field again, they’ll do so behind Jake Westbrook. Westbrook is coming off a stellar game against the Cubs and hopefully can continue that against one of the weaker teams in the bigs.
Carlos Pena has had a good bit of success against Westbrook over the years and the others that have actually seen him have done OK. The offense might need to give Westy more than a couple of tallies to have him win this one.
They’ll have to do that against Erik Bedard. The Cards faced Bedard some last year when he was a member of the Pirates and the knock on him (well, one of them, at least) is the fact that he works sooooo slow. Like get a sandwich between pitches slow. Not make a sandwich, but get in your car, drive to Subway, place your order and come back between pitches slow.
The Cards have been able to deal with the sluggishness and put some numbers up against him, but being how they’ve struggled against lefties this year, that might not be as predictive as we’d like. Bedard’s coming off two strong starts, so the Redbirds can’t assume anything here. Hopefully they’ll not run the streak to four!