The Big Good

Die by the big inning, live by the big inning.

A night after giving up five in the second, the Cardinals went out and scored seven in the second.  Unlike the Angels on Tuesday, though, the Cards didn’t stop there, scoring smaller amounts in four other innings to wind up with a 12-2 runaway.

While it was good to see the offense and our Hero will come from that part of the game in a bit, the most encouraging thing was the outing of Shelby Miller.  Miller had said during the interim between starts that he had figured out an adjustment he needed to make, so these results helped confirm that he’d done the right thing.  Save a two-run home run to Hank Conger, Miller didn’t have a lot of trouble all evening.

However, even in his good there are still things to work on.  Miller took 102 pitches to get through six innings.  A number of times, he ran the count full before dispatching a hitter.  For instance, it took him 13 pitches to get through the first two batters of the game.  While his fastball was obviously back and he did strike out six, he wasn’t able to completely blow it by people.

It’d be nice to see a little more efficiency out of him, though the bullpen was easily able to absorb three innings last night.  Only one hit allowed in the three innings is a nice night from the pen.  Kevin Siegrist continued his amazing start to his major league career.  In 11 innings, he’s given up two hits and three walks (one intentional) while striking out 15.  If this continues, the late season games may end Siegrist-Trevor RosenthalEdward Mujica and help the Cards make them six inning affairs.

Now let’s talk about the offense.  For so long, we’ve been talking about it sputtering or failing in big situation.  It was good to see it all click last night.  Everybody (save two, which will get to in a moment) got at least one hit and six hitters drove in at least one run.  On a night where it wasn’t easy to hit home runs (Yadier Molina hit one that looked good, but died right before the warning track) the Cards slugged two. Everything was rocking and rolling and the only problem was that the game was so late some Cardinal fans missed the last bits.

Our Hero will be Matt Carpenter, who hit one of those home runs, had three hits, drove in three runs, and generally was Matt Carpenter.  He did get caught stealing, but reached on an error before that by the pitcher in what is the weirdest description I’ve ever seen in a play-by-play.

Matt Carpenter reaches on a missed catch error by pitcher Garrett Richards, assist to first baseman Mark Trumbo. David Freese scores.

It wasn’t until just now that I was able to wrap my head around what happened out of that description.  It wasn’t as exotic as I figured, but still not something I’ve seen written out that often.

Jon Jay got moved up to the second spot in the lineup.  This could have backfired on Mike Matheny, as Jay’s bat could have shortcircuited the gains by Carpenter.  However, Jay snapped out of his funk with two hits, including a Mike Trout-aided home run.  Watching the replay, I’m not sure Jay’s ball doesn’t hit off the wall if Trout isn’t there, but you can’t fault a man who robs home runs regularly for trying to pull that down.  Jay drove in another run with a single later on and probably earned himself another night in the second spot this evening, assuming Matt Holliday‘s pinched nerve isn’t healed up.

Dropping Molina down in the lineup worked as well, as Yadi went 3-4 with a walk.  Of course, Molina was likely to bust out anyway, but it lends credence to my not-at-all-researched belief that, for some reason, the lineup doesn’t work as well with Molina in the two slot as it should.

When you are looking at a Goat, you typically look at the guys that didn’t get a hit, especially when the pitching staff performs.  There were two options for that last night, but Carlos Beltran drew a walk in his 0-3 night and scored a run.  That means that Pete Kozma gets the title.  Not only was he 0-5, that night included a strikeout that could have dampened that big second inning and a double play that, save for the error Carpenter received, could have kept the Cards from adding on in the third.

Kozma is still playing pretty solid defense, this is true, but he’s now hitting .236.  Since his big game against Clayton Kershaw during Memorial Day weekend, he’s put up a .177/.191/.230 mark.  Given his career minor league history, it’s pretty apparent this is the real Pete Kozma, not the one we saw last year down the stretch.  This also is not a surprise to Cardinal fans and not to the front office either.

It seems likely that Ryan Jackson wouldn’t play defense as well as Kozma.  It’s also unlikely that he’d post the .306 mark that he’s doing down in Memphis.  However, it seems to be getting to the point where the Cards should at least try him in the bigs for a bit and see if the increase in hitting would counteract any decrease in fielding that Jackson would bring.  We’ve said all year that St. Louis’s lineup is strong enough to carry Kozma’s bat as long as he fields.  That’s still true, but there comes a point where you wonder how much you want to handicap yourself.  Kozma’s not Ozzie Smith and even the Wizard brought more to the table offensively than Kozma.

You’d think John Mozeliak might want to bring Jackson up for a couple of weeks to see if he has any leverage in looking for a shortstop on the open market.  Shortstop is a position the Cards haven’t been able to develop anyone at and don’t necessarily have anyone coming up that would be blocked by getting a guy that has a couple of years left on his contract.  Of course, the market isn’t chock full of them either.  Jimmy Rollins might be someone that draws interest and his contract (the rest of this year’s $11 million, plus $11 million next year and a vesting option for ’15) isn’t necessarily out of the realm of possibility.  That said, Philadelphia hasn’t shown signs of wanting to blow their team up, so Rollins might be unavailable.  He also has a full no-trade clause, which might gum up the works as well.

Adam Wainwright won the National League Pitcher of the Month Award yesterday, because he’s good.  A 1.77 ERA, a .220 BAA, four wins, 40 K, six walks in 45.2 innings?  Looks like an award winner to me.

There’s a great story in the Post-Dispatch about Seth Maness and what it’s like to be a rookie in the big leagues.  Not necessarily on the field, but in the clubhouse and figuring out all the social protocols and what it’s like leaving friends behind or having them sent down.  It’s an interesting behind-the-scenes look but a word of advice to Mr. Maness–never think you are here to stay.  Do you think Mitchell Boggs expected to be back in Memphis this year unless he got hurt?  You have to keep earning your place in the bigs.  Maness has done that and hopefully will continue to do that as the season goes on.

Cards get a chance to end what has been a disappointing swing through American League teams on a high note by winning the series behind Wainwright.  When you have a chance to win a series, that’s the guy you want out there.

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP
Brad Hawpe 13 11 4 3 0 1 3 2 4 .364 .462 .909 1.371 0 0 0 0
Josh Hamilton 9 7 3 0 0 0 1 2 2 .429 .556 .429 .984 0 0 1 0
Chris Iannetta 6 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .167 .000 .167 0 0 0 1
Brendan Harris 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0
Total 32 27 7 3 0 1 4 4 11 .259 .375 .481 .856 0 0 1 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/4/2013.

As expected, not a lot of looks at Waino by these Angels hitters. Josh Hamilton has done well in his career against him, but that was just the World Series and Hamilton doesn’t look like the same player now that he did then.

St. Louis will face Joe Blanton, who has spent enough time in the National League to not be a complete stranger to these guys.  Blanton has not been the answer the Angels were looking for this season, putting up a 2-10 record with an ERA over 5.  He’s pitched better of late, though, giving up just two runs in seven to Houston last time out and not giving up more than that in his last three starts.

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP
Carlos Beltran 21 19 6 1 0 0 2 1 2 .316 .381 .368 .749 0 0 0 1
Yadier Molina 17 15 5 0 0 1 3 2 1 .333 .412 .533 .945 0 0 1 0
Matt Holliday 16 13 5 2 0 2 4 2 4 .385 .438 1.000 1.438 0 1 0 0
David Freese 9 9 2 1 0 0 1 0 2 .222 .222 .333 .556 0 0 0 0
Ty Wigginton 7 6 3 0 0 0 1 1 2 .500 .571 .500 1.071 0 0 0 0
Jon Jay 6 6 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 .667 1.167 0 0 0 0
Allen Craig 4 4 3 0 0 2 4 0 1 .750 .750 2.250 3.000 0 0 0 0
Matt Carpenter 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0
Daniel Descalso 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0
Matt Adams 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0
Jake Westbrook 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000 0 0 0 0
Total 89 81 28 5 0 5 15 6 16 .346 .393 .593 .986 0 1 1 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/4/2013.

On paper, this looks like an extremely lopsided game.  The pitcher of the month versus a guy struggling this year and who has struggled against these hitters in the past?  This is no contest when you crunch the numbers.

Which is why I’m going to be concerned about this game.  The Cards have the ability to turn whatever the scripted story should be on its head at times.  Hopefully we’ll see plenty of fireworks and have a happy flight back to St. Louis.

Best wishes to you on this Fourth of July.  Enjoy it with friends and family and stay safe.  We’ll see you back here tomorrow!

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