All right, it wasn’t great that the Cards lost Friday’s game to a Cubs team that spends most of its time getting shut out these days. That said, the goal usually is to win series and, to that end, mission accomplished.
Saturday (4-0 win)
Somewhere along the line, the storyline on Joe Kelly got written into a best seller. A guy that many of us (and I was firmly toward the front of that line) thought was going to be at best a solid reliever now is the guy that you start thinking about as the pitcher who is most likely to turn in a win for the Cardinals.
Now, again, the Cubs offense isn’t that swift right now. Counting this game, they’ve been shut out five times in August (in just 16 games). That being said, 1) Kelly was the only starter to not give up a run to the Cubs this series and 2) it’s not just this time out that he’s been effective.
You can’t argue that the season would be significantly different had Kelly beaten out Shelby Miller for the last spot in the rotation. Even knowing what we know now, there’s not many that would swap out Miller, especially his first couple of dominant months, for Kelly. Perhaps, seeing this coming, John Mozeliak might have made some sort of deal to get him into the rotation more, but even that’s fairly iffy.
Now that he’s there, though, he doesn’t look to go anywhere else. Our friend Joe over at stlcupofjoe’s Sports Page takes a look at what Kelly has done and what it means for his chances in the rotation next year. I’m still not sure he’s not going to be the odd man out, as the club isn’t likely to start either Carlos Martinez or Michael Wacha at Memphis after their major league experience this year and Jaime Garcia will likely have some say in it if and when he’s healthy (if only because of the contract he has), but there’s no doubt he’s forced his way into the conversation.
So Kelly gets the Hero, because there was just enough offense to get him a win. Yadier Molina crushed a hanging pitch from Travis Wood to push the cushion up to 4-0, but otherwise the Cards scored one run on back-to-back doubles and one run when Starlin Castro forgot what the infield fly rule meant. That’s all they could muster, which thankfully was enough against this team. Hat tips to Molina (who also got a double later on) as well as those guys in the pen, especially Wacha, who struck out the side in the ninth.
Even as good as Wood is, it’s fairly hard to believe that St. Louis only got five hits in this one. They only got one against the Cub bullpen, which really shouldn’t happen when you are a team in a pennant race, should it? We’ll go with Allen Craig as the Goat, with an 0-4, 2 K day. Craig hasn’t been himself in a while now. He’s got one home run in the past 28 days and has a slash line of .220/.324/.297 over that time. I don’t know what the issue might be, if he needs more rest or what, but that’s concerning.
Sunday (6-1 win)
It’s hard to believe it’s been a while since not only had Adam Wainwright won a game. It last occurred on July 21, when Waino went eight innings and gave up just two runs against the Padres. Since then, while Wainwright’s not been on the top of his game, he’s not been all that bad. A 4.18 ERA over four starts, but he went seven in each one of them. St. Louis won the last one (thanks to the help from Starling Marte) but Waino didn’t get the decision.
It looked like he was bound and determined to get one Sunday, though. Wainwright had most everything working and struck out 11 Cubs, passing Bob Forsch on the all-time Cardinal strikeout list. He had curveballs snapping and the Cubs about completely bewildered until he slipped in the sixth. He walked–and that’s unWainwrightlike right there–David DeJesus with two outs and then Junior Lake, who I’ll be honest, I don’t think I’d heard of until last weekend, doubled him home. Waino got out of that one and then, after allowing a couple of runners to reach in the seventh, struck out the side (slightly added by umpire Phil Cuzzi’s determination that Donnie Murphy had gone around for strike three, which seemed iffy at best) to get out of that threat.
As much as Wainwright deserves the Hero tag, though, I’m giving it to Jon Jay. Jay had two hits, drew a walk, scored two runs and, most importantly, popped a three-run homer that gave St. Louis much more breathing room and meant that when Trevor Rosenthal faltered in the ninth, Mike Matheny could stick with him instead of having to go to Edward Mujica. Jay’s been as hot as Craig’s been cold over the past few weeks. Too bad they couldn’t be clicking at the same time.
Molina, who caught both of these games this weekend, got two hits, both of which were doubles. The rest of the hits were scattered about and it was good to see Craig get one along with two walks. The Goat then goes to Carlos Beltran, who went 0-5 and left five runners on. In a closer game or a game that went the other way, those missed opportunities could have been huge.
Kolten Wong got to play Sunday and went 0-4, though he reached once on an error and scored his first major league run. One of his other at-bats ended with a wicked line drive being snared by the third baseman. Still looking for his first major league hit, but odds are it’s coming in Milwaukee.
Pittsburgh lost another extra-inning affair (this time 16, giving them 15 extra innings this week) and now the Cardinals sit just one game behind them, with a scant 1.5 game lead on Cincinnati, who has to be pretty fired up. It’s early for schedule examinations, but I’ll note that while the Cards play the Brewers the next three days, Cincinnati hosts Arizona (who just took two of three from Pittsburgh and are trying to stay in the wild card race) while Pittsburgh goes out to San Diego, adding a West Coast trip on top of all the innings played recently. The Padres and the Brewers have similar records, so St. Louis can’t afford to trip up much this week as they face Milwaukee for the first time since Ryan Braun‘s suspension was handed down.
They’ll have to start with Marco Estrada, which hasn’t been the worst thing in the world this season. The Cards got him for four runs in 5.2 innings in Busch back in May, a week after blowing him up for eight runs in 3.1 in Miller Park. Estrada just recently came back from a disabled list stint and has thrown well in both of those starts, giving up nothing in five to the Giants and one in six to the Rangers, both games on the road.
Still, the numbers favor the Cardinals in this one. That guarantees nothing, of course, but for Estrada to have a very good outing, he’s probably going to have to have picked something up during his time off.
Miller will go for St. Louis in this one, coming off his game against the Pirates where he gave up three runs (including two solo homers) in six innings. His elbow didn’t seem to be a factor in that one, though, so there seems to be little worry on that score. Miller has enjoyed seeing the Brewers this season, putting up seven scoreless innings against them in his second start of the season and following that up with with six innings of one-run ball in Milwaukee in May.
Given his success this year, it’s not surprising that the numbers don’t bode well for Milwaukee. Miller might not be as dominant as he was earlier in the season when he faced these guys, but without Braun, there’s little that inspires fear save perhaps Aramis Ramirez. Carlos Gomez might get there too, though he’s not hitting nearly as well as he was the first few times the Cardinals saw him.
Cards have worked their way back to shouting distance of first place. Let’s see if they can’t finish the job!