I apologize for any rust in this full-fledged post. After a week of being out of the Cardinal loop, checking box scores and dropping just a line or two on the run, it’s a bit different to be back at my home computer and talking about games I actually saw. My thanks to Nick for describing many of the games in the past ten days in more detail than just Hero and Goat. This means that I don’t have to do my regular “here’s everything the Cards did during my vacation” post, thankfully, and we can just do our regular Monday recap-the-weekend bit.
Friday (3-0 loss)
You know things are not going your way when even a visit by the Cubs doesn’t lift you out of the doldrums. The Cards, who had a 32-17 record at home before this homestand, could not get anything going against Chris Rusin. Of course, that’s not exactly newsworthy when you factor in that he was an unknown left-hander, something that always seems to baffle the Cardinal hitters.
Still, a team that put up double digits three times in four games at the beginning of the month shouldn’t look quite so helpless against any hurler. That’s what happened, though, as they not only couldn’t break through against Rusin, but also were anemic against the Cub bullpen, drawing only a ninth-inning walk in three innings after the starter left.
Which means that it makes it difficult to come up with a Hero and a Goat, since there weren’t exactly many stand outs in either direction. We’ll go with Jon Jay, who went three for four. Matt Holliday was the only other person with multiple hits, keeping his bat warm with two of them.
On the downside, we’ll go with Matt Carpenter, who went 0-5 in the leadoff role. I was tempted to go with Randy Choate, who came in to face a lefty and instead gave up a two-run single to Anthony Rizzo, but Lance Lynn had already allowed one run and put those runners on, plus reading the recap it sounds like that ball wasn’t hit all that hard, just in the right place, which seemed to be the story of the weekend at times.
Saturday (6-5 loss)
I get back after driving 14 hours and this is the game I get to see? That’s not a reward, folks.
It looked like it was going to be one, of course. After getting down early, Hero Matt Holliday hit a three-run home run to get the Cards in front and, though they immediately give one back, they get another to take a 4-2 lead, setting it up perfectly for the back end of the bullpen. It’s been a while since those guys had come into a game in this manner, but surely they remembered how to do it.
Apparently not. And while I’ll give the Goat to Trevor Rosenthal, who had just a terrible outing, you have to wonder what Rob Johnson was thinking behind the plate. 31 straight fastballs? It’d been one thing if Rosenthal had pinpoint control or they weren’t catching up to it. Instead, he walked two guys to start the inning and, while he did strike out two batters to almost get out of it, they weren’t just being blown away. Starlin Castro struck out on four pitches, but Cody Ransom took seven to be put away. Both of them fouled off 100-mph pitches as well, showing that Rosenthal’s stuff was good, but not necessarily truckload-full of ice cream good.
Then you have the Darwin Barney at-bat. One called strike, but Rosenthal throws two balls and Barney fouls off two pitches again in the upper register of speed. So, if you aren’t fooling him with the heat, why not a changeup or an offspeed pitch? At worst, it’s a ball and you come back with a heater that he might not be sitting on. Instead, Barney doubles in those two walks to tie the game, then comes around himself on another double by Dioner Navarro, who got to see the only off-speed pitch of the night.
I’m not sure how much Johnson had to play into it or if it was the umpire’s zone or if the Cardinal pitchers were just that wild, but the Cards walked seven Cubs on the night. Michael Wacha walked three of them and seemed to not get the benefit of a few calls, at least. Whether that could be blamed on Johnson’s pitch framing or just rookie inconsistency not leading to getting pitches others would get, I don’t know. Suffice it to say that, even though Johnson did get two hits in this one, he wasn’t really in the running for the Hero tag, especially when Holliday goes yard twice.
That second homer might have tied up the game had not Michael Blazek not allowed a run in the top of the ninth. There was a lot of discussion about why Mike Matheny didn’t go ahead and bring Edward Mujica into this one, trying to keep the lead at just one and having a better chance in the ninth. Matheny’s logic was to save Mujica for extras, which makes a bit of sense given the young arms down there, but you do actually have to get to extras first and, since there could be no save situation, it seemed a good spot for him. Mujica had thrown the night before, though he’d not thrown a lot of innings in the past couple of weeks. I expected Mujica to come in, but given all the variables, it’s not an unjustifiable decision by Matheny.
Sunday (8-4 win)
The offense revived some against old friend Edwin Jackson and the Cardinal bullpen didn’t let this one get away. While it doesn’t make up for a 2-5 homestand (so far) or losing a series to the Cubs, going into the off day with a win beats the alternative.
It was a big day for a number of Cardinal hitters. Tony Cruz scored on a Pete Kozma single to break the 4-4 tie. Carpenter had three hits and Holliday continued his hot hitting with two more knocks. David Freese didn’t have a hit, but drove in two runs anyway (and was robbed on a great play at third with the bases loaded in the third, getting an RBI on a groundout but should have had much more if that ball had gone through as expected). It was good to see the offense get on track and especially Hero Allen Craig, who went 3-3 and walked twice, getting out of that slump he’d been in recently.
Joe Kelly has stepped up in the rotation, being one of the only guys who can consistently win a game. While he needed more offensive help in this one, his line was better than it looked. He gave up one unearned run and then our Goat Seth Maness, who came in to get one of his patented double plays, allowed back-to-back singles to allow inherited runners to score. Maness does what he usually does and Kelly allows one earned run on the day, which is a fine day’s work. Instead, he didn’t get the decision, but did give the Cards enough to win.
The bullpen held after getting the lead, the Cards tacked on some more, and Mujica got a two-inning save which, to be fair, he couldn’t have done if he’d pitched Saturday most likely. Just another example, it seems like, that Matheny might not make the smartest decisions at times, but it always seems to work out for him.
In other news, Oscar Taveras is about ready to resume playing. Taveras has had somewhat of a lost summer, having missed two months of games with his ankle sprain. You’d have to think that he’d already be in St. Louis if he’d been hitting this whole time, given the offensive doldrums that they’ve run into in those two months. It’s telling that, even with the amount of time he’s missed, he still should get a callup in September if he’s healthy. The injuries haven’t affected how the organization looks at him and they already believe he can be successful at the big league level. The next three weeks are big for him, because another relapse and he’s home after the month ends.
Carlos Beltran left Sunday’s game with a foot bruise, but he’s expected not to miss any time. It’s possible it could flare up again today, but having the off day will probably mean he can rest it and get back on the field Tuesday against Pittsburgh. Given that Beltran has been swinging a hot bat lately, it’d be best to have him in the lineup when the Cards go after the Pirates.
Before looking at the matchups for Tuesday’s game against the Bucs, I do want to take a brief moment to talk about the major controversy from the end of last week, the fact that Jack Clark accused Albert Pujols of taking steroids. Mike did an excellent job talking about this on Friday and I don’t have much to add to what he said. Bernie Miklasz did a good job laying out both sides as well, as you’d expect Bernie to do.
Can we be absolutely sure that Clark is running his mouth with no corroboration? Of course not. The sad fact is that, if you wear a major league uniform these days, you automatically are eligible for steroid speculation. Even clean tests aren’t an out, as we’ve seen in the Biogenesis case, where those that got suspended did so do to their relationship with that clinic and the documentation that they were taking, not because a drug test raised a red flag.
That said, I find it pretty convenient that Clark had this conversation 10+ years ago and only now, in his first weeks as a radio host, brings it up. He never mentioned it while Albert was tearing up the Cardinal record book? He never mentioned it when Albert was briefly (and incorrectly) tied to the Mitchell Report through his trainer? I could possibly see him not mentioning it on Fox Sports Midwest when he worked for them, given the network’s relationship with the Cards, but that didn’t stop him from ripping the team and calling them quitters, forcing his removal from that role.
What bothers me the most about these accusations, and it is something that Pujols touched on in his vehement denial of a statement, was that this is a religious issue for him as well. Pujols has said before that he would consider it an affront to God to abuse his talent and to do things like this which were illegal and immoral. Now, obviously, players hide behind a cloak of religion at times and are discovered, but Pujols’s faith is so central to who he is that by saying he’s taking steroids, you are saying he’s a phony in this regard, that his relationship to God isn’t as important as he says it is. Tearing into someone’s faith with a flimsy story of a decade-past conversation, which may or may not have gone down the way Clark remembered and/or interpreted it, seems very wrong. I’m glad to see Pujols being active in defending himself and I hope that he continues to do so.
All right, back to the field. Adam Wainwright gets to kick off what really is a big series for the Cardinals, one that hopefully they’ll treat better than the five-gamer in PNC Park two weeks ago. The Pirates just got swept in Colorado after a five-game win streak, so they are a little more down than they could be. The Cardinals need to take advantage, even though Waino has struggled against Pittsburgh at times. He gave up four runs in seven innings against them last time out, so he’s hoping for better results this time.
It’s not going to be easy, though, as there’s likely not aura of ADAM WAINWRIGHT for these Pirate hitters. They’ve beaten him before and they feel like they can beat him again.
Charlie Morton is going for Pittsburgh, meaning that on paper the matchup favors the Cards. Morton started the game the Cards won in the Steel City, allowing five runs in six innings. On the whole, though, he’s had a pretty good 2013, though his history against the Cards isn’t impressive.
Everything seems to be in the Cards’ favor in this one. Let’s hope it works like that!