All’s Well That Doesn’t End Well

It seems hard to believe now, but eventually winter is going to come.  News about the Cardinals will be scarce and this blog will be tough to write.  When those days come, we are going to remember days like yesterday when the news was overflowing and wish we could have canned some and put it on the shelf, to bring down when the cold winds blow.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that, so we gorge today and starve down the line.  That’s the way of things.

Let’s start with the game and then we’ll get to all the extra bonus stuff after that.  The Cards looked to have a tough battle last night.  Sure, you’ve got the staff ace on your side, but you are also facing the guy that has inspired legends and a whole nickname of BudChuck.  The guy that when you see him on the schedule, you start wondering if a series split is really that bad.

And yet, as the song says, I’ve got to admit the Cards have been getting better, getting better all the time.  Look at his 2012 against the club, for instance.

9/26: 0 runs in 7.1 innings, 7 K, 0 BB, Cards lose
9/20: 5 runs in 5.1 innings, 7 K, 5 BB, Cards win
8/22: 3 runs in 6.0 innings, 1 K, 1 BB, Cards win
6/6: 4 runs in 6.0 innings, 12 K, 0 BB, Cards win
5/5: 1 run (o earned) in 6.0 innings, 4 K, 4 BB, Cards lose

While Norris can still shut the team down, I think we can put to rest the legend of Bud Norris, Cardinal-killer.  He’s dropped down to the level of “good pitcher” against the club and sometimes the good pitchers get you, sometimes you get them.  Last night was one of the latter.

Adam Wainwright was on his game last night and when that happens, even the best teams don’t have much of a chance and Houston is far from one of the best teams.  Wainwright’s always been able to dominate them (one loss in his career against the club, and I believe that was a 2-0 game) and he’ll miss seeing them on a regular basis.  Seven innings, one run, nine strikeouts–that’ll play most every night.

As good as Waino was, he’s not going to be our Hero.  After all, the Cards were able to run up that big score for him to make it a little easier on him and seven innings, pshaw, that’s like a half day for the Wagonmaker at the office.  Plus there are plenty of offensive heroes to choose from.

Before I do that, though, I want to nominate, for the first time ever, an Honorary Hero of the ballgame.  There’s a line of thought/inside joke on Twitter about calling Matt Adams “Big Mayo”.  It comes mainly from Alex Fritz, known far and wide as the best Cardinal Lego guy out there.  Last night, he was Tweeting at Dan McLaughlin about calling Adams that.  Dan replied that Matt’s mom calls him Matt, so he’s going with Matt.  However, he did subtly acknowledge the line of discussion later on.

Dan was a latecomer to Twitter, but there’s no rookie jitters or uneven performances from him.  He’s personable, has his own hashtag (#scoops), and is great at interacting with the fan base.  If they gave out such awards, Dan would be running away with Twitter Rookie of the Year and giving strong consideration to Twitter MVP.  In other words, he’s Mike Trout.  If you aren’t following Danny Mac yet, fix that today.  If you aren’t on Twitter, you might get on there just to follow him.

OK, back to our recorded Heroes.  It’s fun to see three people with three hits in the boxscore, but Matt Carpenter made the most out of his hits, driving in three runs as well as scoring three.  He gets the nod, but mention must be made of Allen Craig and David Freese who also put up a 3 in the hit column.  Craig drove in two while Freese scored a run.

Yadier Molina was back in the lineup and went 0-2 with a run scored.  Yet he worked through the seventh inning, even though the Redbirds were up 8-1 at the time.  It seemed, now that there are three catchers on the roster and Yadi’s knee is questionable, plus the fact that he is easily the most important position player out there, like Mike Matheny really should have pulled him earlier.  Instead, he let Yadi stay out there as long as Wainwright did, even letting him run the bases after being intentionally walked in the bottom of the sixth.  That seemed like the perfect time to let Shane Robinson trot in and take over at first, but it didn’t happen.  I know Molina is tough and I know Matheny is going to want to let him play, but he’s got to have a firmer hand there and get Yadi out when the game is apparently in hand.

I say apparently because baseball is that beautiful game with no clock and the ability for huge comebacks.  That beauty almost bit the Cards in the backside last night.

9-1 lead with three outs to get and Michael Blazek trots in from the bullpen.  This is going to be a snap, right?  Even if the rookie is a little off, he’s got eight runs to play with.  What could go wrong?

Apparently, most everything.  A leadoff single followed by two walks and the bases were loaded before you could say, “That’s not good.”  A bloop single drove in one.  A ground out drove in another.  Jose Altuve drives one that Daniel Descalso almost came up with (would that have been a time Pete Kozma could have come in handy? I don’t know, looked tough for anyone) and two runs score.  Another groundout, then another walk, and Edward Mujica has to come in to get the last batter.  (Don’t know if Trevor Rosenthal was more rested, but it might have been a good chance to let him finish the game.)  Blazek hasn’t pitched much (2.1 innings in the close to three weeks he’s been in the bigs) so we’ll chalk it up to rust or one of those rookie things.  Still gets him the Goat for last night, though.

The Cards shuffled the roster a bit yesterday in ways that were a bit unexpected but completely reasonable and welcomed.  First off, the current whipping boy, Ty Wigginton, was given his unconditional release by the club and Rob Johnson, the catcher from Memphis, was brought up to allow Matheny to not use Molina as much, at least in theory.

I have no doubt that Wigginton was a great guy to have around and I do feel bad that he was the focus of so much abuse during his time in St. Louis.  However, he fell into that vortex of being an incomprehensible contract ($5 million was bad enough, but two years?  Why would you do that?  Was there a bidding war?) and serious lack of production (.158 in his 50+ AB).  I’m sure the idea was that Wigginton would play more first, but Adams kinda supplanted that.  Plus the idea was that Wigginton would bring pop off the bench and that, well, that never materialized.  I expected that Wigginton would accept a minor league assignment, but apparently he didn’t want to go that route, which I can’t blame him for.  He may get a call somewhere else this year, he may not.  We might see him resurface as a coach or another of John Mozeliak’s special assistants.  Right now, though, he can go home and take some time to figure out what he wants to do.

Wigginton’s release spurred the discussion of who would be the next whipping boy in St. Louis.  Because there’s always been one.  I think the first one I remember is J.D. Drew, though I’m sure there were many before then.  You had Tino Martinez, who wasn’t Mark McGwire and didn’t seem to want to be here, then Colby Rasmus.  Wigginton was a departure from the norm because he wasn’t a talented guy that didn’t show emotion or didn’t seem to play hard, he just wasn’t good.  I’m guessing Kozma will move into that line for a while, though no one will work up the angst Wigginton’s presence did.

Another option for that role would have been Mitchell Boggs if he ever returned to the bigs, but in a surprising (to me) move, the Cards went ahead and shipped him off to Colorado for some international signings pool money.  I honestly didn’t expect them to move Boggs during the year, though I didn’t necessarily hold out much hope that he’d return as an effective member of the bullpen.  Mo read the market, though, and figured it was better now than never.  This swapping for international money is becoming a trend in baseball and it’ll be interesting to see how that expands in the future.  Because if you can do it with your international pool, why can’t you do something like that for your draft pool of money?

Colorado is sending Boggs to AA, but hopefully he can rebound.  It’s hard to believe that it’s been just a few months ago that he was so well-regarded that he pitched in the World Baseball Classic for the American team.  Whether that was a career-altering mistake or not, I don’t know.  Most everyone else that has pitched in the WBC has been able to do OK, even if they don’t live up to past standards.  I don’t think you can fault that entirely, though it may have played a part.

It’s a battle of young pitchers tonight in St. Louis as Shelby Miller faced off against Jordan Lyles.  Miller has faced Altuve once (getting him out) and that’s the extent of the first-hand knowledge Houston has of him.  I was going to say that was more than the Cards knew about Lyles but it turns out that the just-called-up Johnson had two plate appearances against Lyles, being hit by a pitch as the only time he reached base.  That’s probably the real reason they called him up right now.

I’ve mentioned before that I have a soft spot for Lyles, as he tossed my son a baseball after warming up before a game between the Hooks and the Travelers down in Little Rock a couple of summers ago.  We’ve still got that one around the house and I’m glad to see Lyles in the big leagues.  That said, if Miller’s on like he was last time, the Cards should be sweeping this series.  We’ll find out!

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