You’ve just won two of three against the team that you are chasing in the division. Two hard-fought victories that, in great sportswriting fashion, would have shown what the team was made of and spurred them on to an epic run. Add to that the spark, the buzz, the impact that bringing up one of the top prospects usually has. Everything was in place to finally shake off the rust and put together some wins.
Can you imagine anything more deflating than that? You are trying to ride the small wave that you’ve started, trying to get back to that team that dominated baseball for so much of this season, and before you know it the bases are loaded with nobody out and, as was shown, odds are you aren’t getting out of it.
Westbrook allowed all three of those runners to score. Even though he’s our Goat of the game, you do have to give him a smidgen of credit for holding the Cubs there until the fifth. Just nothing was going on behind him. Whether it was because they were quickly deflated from the first or the Cub pitching was just that good, St. Louis hitters did nothing to help alleviate Westbrook’s misery.
And when I say nothing, I just about literally mean nothing. On the day Carlos Beltran got two hits, which will make him the Hero because he was the entire offense. Seriously. He got the only hits of the game for a player in Cardinal red. The hitters were able to draw three walks (one by Westbrook himself) and Allen Craig got plunked. So six base runners in nine innings. Difficult to get three runs from that, much less the seven eventually needed.
There’s now talk about him losing his spot in the rotation. It’s fairly easy to see why. For the season, he’s not closing innings: batters are hitting .302/.388/.380 with two outs in the frame. They have a .909 OPS in high-leverage situations and he’s got an ERA of 7.41 in the first frame.
We talked about it yesterday, but Westbrook is trending down. First half ERA: 2.88. Second half ERA: 7.53. That’s quite skewed by the relief appearance, of course, and July’s ERA as a whole was 3.62 which would be OK, but it is still a trend. Westbrook hasn’t had a really good game since July 5, when allowed one run in seven innings against the Marlins. (I’d say factor in the competition there, but the Cards keep losing to the Cubs, so just because it’s a bad team doesn’t detract from the fact he got the job done.) Since then, he’s 2-5 with an ERA of 6.91 and an OPS against of .802.
So does Westbrook get pulled from the rotation in favor of Michael Wacha or Carlos Martinez? If so, what do you do with him? If he’s having this much trouble getting people out when he first comes into games, do you want him to be a regular reliever? It’s not like the shorter span will have him coming out throwing bullets. He’s going to be the same pitcher in the pen as he is in the rotation, for the most part.
I do think there’s a sense of urgency around the team right now, which is a nice way of saying that the panic button hasn’t been hit, but they are thinking about removing the glass case from around it. We saw that with the promotion of Kolten Wong, trying to do something to spark the team. That obviously didn’t pay immediate dividends, but it was just one game. We’ll see if the team looks better this afternoon.
I was going to say that things should get better this afternoon, then I saw the Cubs have altered the expected pitching rotation and Travis Wood is going instead of Edwin Jackson. Oh, yes, that’s just what the Cardinals need. He did give up three runs to them in 5.2 innings last time the teams met at Wrigley, so there’s a bit of optimism, but Wood’s been quite good all year long and this could be a struggle again today.
The career numbers are better than I expected, though I’d guess a fairly good portion of that comes from when he was a Red and still figuring things out.
At least if you have to go up against what could be considered the Cubs ace, you are doing it with the pitcher that has made the most positive impact in the second half. The team has won the last three games Joe Kelly has started and that’s usually because he’s giving them every opportunity to do so. He pitched against the Cubs last weekend and started the only game St. Louis won, though he did give up four runs in just under six innings.
The Cards lost that game they gained yesterday, sitting three back of the Pirates. Thankfully the Reds lost, so they are still 1/2 game ahead of them. That could change by this evening–let’s just hope the gap gets wider on one end and smaller on the other!