By now, you’ve heard all about the next 17 games. The 17 games that will likely make or break the season. Sure, the Cards are almost guaranteed a playoff slot–after the Reds took care of the Diamondbacks, they are 8 1/2 games up on Arizona for the last wild card berth–but given the capricity of a one-game playoff, you’d much rather see the Redbirds take the division. So Braves (4), Reds (3), Pirates (3), Reds (4), Pirates (3).
If that’s the gauntlet, St. Louis got started running through it last night, taking a 6-2 win against Atlanta. There’s a lot of talk about the outing Joe Kelly had last night and, admittedly, it was a pretty nice piece of work. It’s not an easy thing to beat Atlanta and for a while last night’s game looked like it might be a rerun of Kelly’s start against them in July, when he threw scoreless innings and the offense couldn’t help him out. They got him some backing and he got the game to the bullpen. Solid outing all around.
That said, he’s not the Hero of the piece, at least not for me. Kelly ran up 109 pitches and only got through the sixth. He might not have gotten even that far had the only perfect inning he had been his final one. One runner on, given it was a 4-2 game at the time, and he’s probably pulled. 5.1 or 5.2 innings isn’t nearly a nice line in the boxscore as 6 is. Seriously.
Which, given the lack of perfect innings (and so many of them happened after two were out, which was fairly frustrating), meant that Kelly was just a bloop or a well-timed swing away from disaster. He didn’t get there and that’s at least somewhat a credit to the pitches he made, but it wasn’t by any means a dominant or smooth performance.
That said, they don’t grade games on style points and it’s great to get a win against a team that now has a better record than St. Louis, though given the fact that the rest of NL East is a combined 226-279 (.448) I have to feel like the variance in the Cards and the Braves isn’t that great.
Let’s give the Hero tag to Matt Holliday, given he went 2-3, doubled in a run, scored one and drew a walk. That’s a full day for the left fielder. Also strong nights from Carlos Beltran and Matt Carpenter. When the first three guys in your lineup get two hits, you are likely to put together some runs. Hat tip to David Freese for a hit and two RBI as well. Goat will go to Rob Johnson for his 0-4. I mean, even Pete Kozma drew a walk.
I posited yesterday that Jake Westbrook was going to go on the DL to get another pitcher up here. It didn’t happen yet, but it sounds like that’s still a possibility. Right now, the club hasn’t made any changes in the rotation, but it seems less and less likely that we’d see Westbrook take the mound against the Reds on Monday.
After berating Mike Matheny on his Yadier Molina usage yesterday, Yadi sat last night as John Mozeliak said the Molina Plan had already been rewritten. Not that Mo is throwing the manager under the bus at all; he says he understands and with a player like Molina you give a good bit of trust and weight to their feelings. That said, you feel like Mo might have nudged Matheny a bit and said, “Hey, remember what we talked about?”
Edward Mujica‘s shoulder issues are likely due to some fatigue. As Dathan pointed out in his post earlier in the week, that’s not necessarily the best of signs. He threw more innings last year than he has this year and has thrown many more in the past. Could it be the stress of the ninth versus coming into the game in the seventh? Maybe. Could it be that stretch of two-inning saves he had recently? Perhaps. It’s just, in general, not what you want to see. Then again, Adam Wainwright didn’t start getting saves until the last week of the 2006 season and Jason Motte didn’t get his first save until August 28 in 2011. So it’s not unheard of in Cardinal history to start making a closer move around this time.
Let’s wrap this up as I’m running way behind. (That’s what a day off will do for you!) Wainwright goes against the team….oh, you know the Waino/Braves connection by now. Let’s not rehash that again.
I can’t imagine too many Braves are looking forward to seeing Wainwright tonight, especially after how sharp he looked last time out. He did give up three runs in seven innings against Atlanta last month, but even that would be all right if the offense shows up.
To make sure it doesn’t, Atlanta puts out Kris Medlen, who gave up just two runs in six innings in July to the club after being the starting pitcher in last year’s Wild Card Game. Medlen has struggled over his last ten games, putting up an ERA about 5.00 but still going 6-4 over that span.
Cards haven’t had much more success against him than the Braves have against Wainwright. Should be an outstanding pitcher’s duel tonight!