We’ve talked often this season about the ability of the Cardinals to win games without the long ball. It’s a consistent attack that can use the water torture of one hit after another after another to put up runs and win games. They are the league leader in doubles by 20. They usually don’t need the home run to win games.
But oh, is it nice when they pull it out of mothballs.
Most of the time, the Hero is a tag I give to someone with the best game. Sometimes it is to the person who had the best moment. No matter how you look at it, Allen Craig earned that title. Three hits on the night, though the one everyone is talking about is his last.
Of course, Craig’s home run might have been irrelevant without the earlier work of Matt Holliday. Holliday smoked a three-run shot in the third to get the Cardinals to within one run (at the time). Holliday’s walk also led to Craig coming up with the bases loaded.
So what about our last Cardinal Glennon spokesman? Well, David Freese didn’t hit any homers or have a splashy game, but he did lead off the decisive seventh inning with a base hit and eventually came around to score on Jon Jay‘s groundout. Without that, Craig never is able to come up.
All in all, it might have been the most exciting game of the Cardinal season. It sure didn’t look like it that way when Tyler Lyons gave up four runs in the first, however.
If you look at Lyons’ line–five innings, three hits, one earned run, seven strikeouts–you’d have thought he did pretty well. He did, though allowing three unearned runs means he didn’t do as well as the line looked. While he did have a significant flub behind him, he wasn’t able to pitch around that as well as we’d see a veteran do. He also walked the pitcher, which has been a bugaboo for him in a few starts and it’s rarely turned out well.
That said, Twitter was all over him during the inning last night, apparently forgetting that the game is nine innings long. We’ve seen it often with Lance Lynn this season, how everything can snowball in one inning and then correct itself for the rest of the game. Sure, that bad inning has done in Lynn often and it easily could have done in Lyons as well, but saying that he was an unacceptable choice and that he had no business on the mound was obviously a large embellishment.
Is Lyons going to be an Adam Wainwright or a Clayton Kershaw or a Matt Harvey (before yesterday’s news)? No, that’s not what his skill set is. Can he be an adequate fourth or fifth starter on a good team? It seems like that’s in his range. I wouldn’t expect to see him yanked from the rotation after this, so we’ll see how he can do against the Pirates in Pittsburgh. I, for one, will be looking forward to it. (Besides, we 70s must stick together.)
If you are going to give the Goat to anyone, it’s got to be Daniel Descalso. Besides going 0-4 on the evening and deepening his hitting slump (is this in part to his increase in playing time? More exposed or a little worn down?), he made the big error behind Lyons, being unable to come up with a ball that was going to most likely be a double play. Instead of Lyons being out of the inning, he had two on with one out. To be fair, he did have the bottom of the lineup coming up and he didn’t necessarily make the best of that situation, but he shouldn’t have had to face it.
With the win, the Cards move 1/2 game ahead of the idle Pirates to be in sole possession of first place for the first time in a while. Cincinnati falls 3.5 games back and has to be feeling the pressure to win the next two games so as to not slip any farther out of the race. If St. Louis is going to play at this level the rest of the year and Pittsburgh is going to pretty much do the same, the Reds can’t afford to fall much farther back as they are clinging to the fringes of the divisional race as it is.
Jaime Garcia. Now that’s a name I’ve not heard in a long time. We’ve kinda had that “out of sight, out of mind” idea with him since he had his shoulder surgery. It’s been so long that it’s hard to remember that he actually pitched this season. Jaime’s back in the news as he’s starting throwing again. He’s a long way away from anything, but that may mean he’s at least close to ready by spring training next year. While we can debate how valuable he is or where he fits into a crowded St. Louis rotation, having him as an option in 2014 would be a good thing and we cheer this step in his recovery.
Sounds like Tony Cruz won’t be ready to go when the rosters expand on Sunday. He’s still up to 10 days away from starting to swing a bat which means that Yadier Molina and Rob Johnson are going to be the only alternatives behind the plate. The Cards could add a minor league catcher to the 40-man and bring him up, but it seems fairly unlikely they’d do that unless they were already going to add him to the 40-man this offseason and I don’t know that they have any plans for that.
The Redbirds will have their work cut out for them tonight. They’ve beaten up on Mat Latos before, but he’s having one of his best seasons this year. Last time out, he threw eight innings of one-run ball against the Diamondbacks (and, apparently, often threw his lunch into a porcelain receptacle as well). The Cards missed him on their rampage through Cincinnati earlier in the month, which means the last time they saw him was June, when he pitched seven innings and allowed only two run. He’s pitched twice at Busch, one iffy (four runs in six innings), one good (scoreless six innings).
Before this year, the Cardinals have really beaten up on Latos, which reflects in the stats. No doubt Carlos Beltran will be starting this game, as the matchup works much better for him than Mike Leake did.
To continue their roll, St. Louis will enlist Joe Kelly. Kelly’s been kinda the good luck charm of the second half, stepping into the rotation and giving solid outings. The Cards have won his last five starts and he pitched well enough in the sixth to win most games. He actually hasn’t seen the Reds this year, which also likely plays into his advantage.
There’s not a lot for Cincinnati to grab a hold of in the career stats either. Cesar Izturis isn’t likely to make a start, no matter that .400 average. Hopefully Kelly can parley that lack of familiarity into another win and the Cards can keep first for another day. Pittsburgh hosts Milwaukee with Kyle Lohse going against Jeff Locke, so this might be a game that Milwaukee can steal given Locke’s struggles of late. Let’s hope so!