Frustrating Night In Houston

After two pitches, the Cardinals led 2-0.  After four pitches, the first three batters had gotten a hit.  Since it was against the cellar-dwelling Houston Astros, you’d been forgiven if you figured St. Louis was on their way to yet another runaway win against their former rivals.

Unfortunately, that (save for an Allen Craig home run in the fourth) was pretty much all the Cardinals could muster as they again fell victim to a mediocre left-hander.  That’s not a slight against Eric Bedard, it’s a fact: even after this game, where he gave up three runs in six innings–a quality start, but still nothing special–his ERA was 4.44.  The Cards have hit him well before, but whatever the kryptonite is this year that lefties have, Bedard must have gotten his hands on some of it.

All of this would have been just mildly frustrating had Lance Lynn not had a major hiccup in the fourth inning.  Back-to-back hits followed by back-to-back walks put Lynn in a hole that was going to be tough to work out of and he wasn’t able to do it.  All four runs scored that inning, so while he would go into the eighth and not allow anything else, that inning was enough to give St. Louis the loss and him the Goat.

Our Hero will be, as it often is, Yadier Molina.  Only this time, it’s first baseman Yadier Molina as Yadi got a partial day off, starting at first for only the second time in his career.  Molina had two hits, including that first inning home run, and was one of the few batters not to strike out on the evening.

Nobody else was able to muster more than one hit.  Matt Holliday almost had a home run and then stole third after his double, but nobody could bring him in.  It’s a rough night when a team with such a vaunted record with runners in scoring position goes 0-5 in those situations.

There’s a general piece of baseball wisdom that says you are going to win 50 games in a season, no matter what you do.  Unless you are historically bad, you’ll have at least 50 in your win column at the end of the year.  On the flip side of that, you are going to lose 50 on a season as well.  Whatever the reason, whether cold bats or a hot pitcher, no team gets through a season without at least 50 losses.

The determination of what kind of team you are going to be is in the middle 50 (or, to be technical, 62).  Those are the games that you win if you are good, lose if you aren’t going to be good.  That may be why last night’s game is so frustrating–it felt like it was one of those middle games.  (Honestly, it felt like it should be in that 50-win category, but let’s give it the benefit of the doubt.)  A good team, a team with the best record in baseball, should win those kind of games, especially when the opposing pitcher isn’t anything special and isn’t having a game where he pitches out of his mind.

They didn’t, though, and now not only are they tied for the best record in baseball, they are tied for the division lead.  Tell me THAT’S not frustrating!  The Pirates are playing some good baseball and have chased the Cardinals down.  Given the fact that at the end of June they have the best record in the game, it seems quite unlikely that this Pirates team is going to fade hard enough to finish under .500, doesn’t it?

Pittsburgh isn’t going away, so this is likely to be a three-team race all the way to the end.  In fact, the way they are winning lately, it’s almost like they are this year’s “team of destiny”.  Cincinnati needs to be careful or that 3.5 game deficit is going to seem very large very soon.  The news gets better for the Bucs: they have Milwaukee this weekend while the Cards are in Oakland.  A cellar dweller versus a first place team?  Yeah, I’d say Pittsburgh got the better end of that deal.  (And the Reds are playing in Texas, which doesn’t necessarily help them out either.)

Given the number of off days–besides this past Monday and today, next Monday is also a break–the Cards are going with a four man rotation for a little while.  Joe Kelly will start on July 6, which is a week from Saturday, but until then will be used out of the bullpen if necessary.  I’m a little surprised that they went this direction, given all the talk about limiting innings for the younger pitchers.  It would seem a good chance to give Shelby Miller a little breather while not facing any divisional rivals.  Then again, Miller’s been one of the best pitchers out there and given this tight race, the Redbirds need him out there.

They’ll have him out there Friday when they go out to Oakland for another interleague tilt.  You’d have to expect there will be plenty of talk about Tony La Russa (who likely will be in attendance) and Walt Jocketty.  Heck, in 1996 you could have just about put an elephant on the Cardinals’ sleeves, given the number of ex-A’s that they had on that squad.  I’ve always been somewhat of a fan of the A’s and it should be neat to see the two teams match up.

Obviously, Miller has extremely limited experience with any of the Athletics.  Jed Lowrie has one at-bat against him and that’s the whole of the personal knowledge the Oakland batters will have.

Oakland will send out Bartolo Colon.  Even though Colon is older than the hills and played with Babe Ruth (note: potential exaggeration), he’s spent almost all of his time in the American League and, as such, hasn’t faced many of these young Cardinal players.  However, the ones that have faced him haven’t exactly struggled.

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP
Carlos Beltran 46 41 13 3 0 4 7 5 11 .317 .391 .683 1.074 0 0 0 0
Ty Wigginton 8 8 3 1 0 1 2 0 1 .375 .375 .875 1.250 0 0 0 0
Matt Holliday 3 3 2 1 0 0 3 0 1 .667 .667 1.000 1.667 0 0 0 0
Total 57 52 18 5 0 5 12 5 13 .346 .404 .731 1.134 0 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/27/2013.

Will a home run on the ledger get Ty Wigginton a start?  Even with the DH, I don’t think Mike Matheny would….go….that…yes, with more though, I’d totally expect the Cards will be getting Wiggy with it in tomorrow’s game.  Hopefully not, but we’ve seen Matheny do this in the past and, given the extra batter you can plug in there, it’s at least a 70% possibility.  Should be a good game and at least Colon’s not a lefty!

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