On August 25, 2011, the Cards hosted the Pittsburgh Pirates. As we all know by now, the win that night led to an incredible stretch run, where they went 23-9 to finish the season and capture the NL Wild Card on the greatest night of baseball in history.
On August 26, 2012, the Cards won at Cincinnati as Adam Wainwright outdueled Homer Bailey. St. Louis wasn’t nearly as dominant down that stretch, but they did go 19-17 to grab the first second wild card slot.
On August 27, 2013, the Reds again were the victim as the Cardinals won their fifth game in six tries, extending their overall lead to 1.5 games. It seems like that late August finishing kick has started yet again.
Last night was, in large part, a game of timing and of the Cardinals coming through while the Reds looked like they were sure what game they were playing. St. Louis was able to score two in the first off of Mat Latos, which turned out to be a major blessing when he got locked in and retired thirteen out of fourteen starting with the last out of the first.
The Reds also handed them a run when their third base coach, who apparently doesn’t read the Twitter reviews or watch game film on Jon Jay‘s arm, held up Jay Bruce from scoring while Zack Cozart kept running from first to third. At least it wasn’t as bad as the ’62 Mets who had three guys on third once, but it turned out to be huge once Shin-Soo Choo homered to lead off the next inning. What could have been at least a tie game was still a one-run deficit for the visitors.
Joe Kelly didn’t necessarily need all the help, but it definitely came in handy. Kelly seemed to miss his pitches by miles yesterday. He wasn’t missing the corners, he was missing enough that the batter could tell about the time he let the ball go that it wasn’t going to be close. When he kept his shoulder in and could get it around the plate, he was quite effective.
There’s no doubt that Kelly has been a great addition to the rotation and the Cards wouldn’t be where they were without him. It wasn’t the cleanest outing (eight hits, three walks) but it was good enough to keep the Cardinals in the game and, as long as you do that, there’s a good chance the bats will eventually come around.
No one hitter stood out in the game, though that doesn’t mean there weren’t some good nights. Carlos Beltran had two hits and scored two runs and had a very alert play in the sixth where he tagged up from first on a fly ball by Matt Holliday. That allowed him to score when Allen Craig got his one hit of the night. Holliday went 2-3 with two foul balls off his foot and a hit by pitch, so odds are he’s a bit sore today. I’d expect he’d be back out there tonight, but it might be Shane Robinson to give him a bit of a rest.
I’m going to go with Kevin Siegrist as the Hero. Siegrist came into a 3-1 game and struck out the side in the seventh. We’re not talking about the bottom of the order, either. Siegrist got 1-2-3 Choo, Todd Frazier, and Joey Votto. I know that two of them were left-handed and I’m sure that factored in to why Mike Matheny put him out there, but I’d be perfectly happy with seeing Siegrist being this year’s Edward Mujica, the guy that takes the seventh. Siegrist-Trevor Rosenthal-Mujica shortens a game up very quickly.
All the starters got a hit, so it makes finding a Goat pretty tough. The hits were scattered enough that almost all of them played a role in run-scoring as well. So being that I was a bit untraditional with my Hero selection, I’ll do the same and go with Matt Adams as the Goat. Yes, Adams just pinch-hit, but he did so with two runners on and only a two-run lead. A hit there could have been big, but Adams struck out, which has become a bit of a problem. From what I can see, he’s struck out in his last three pinch-hitting appearances and, overall, he’s got 12 strikeouts (to two walks) in 39 plate appearances in August. He only had 17 in 76 plate appearances in July, when he got to play a bit more regularly. It’s going to be hard for him to play regularly now with everyone healthy, so hopefully he can find his stroke in the cage and start being more of a factor off the bench.
As we talked about yesterday, the Cards sent down Tyler Lyons and brought up Fernando Salas. This was a curious move in a lot of respects. After all, it’s not like the bullpen has been overworked lately. Before last night, they’d worked four inning on Monday, but only two on Sunday, two on Saturday, and none on Friday. With Wainwright going today, you’d expect a limited number of innings there as well, plus there’s an off day on Thursday and you can bring up people like Keith Butler and Michael Blazek on Sunday. So is there really a demand for Salas right now? They did just rest Rosenthal due to workload and Matheny indicated they were trying to do that for some others, so maybe, but it seems a little strange.
However, our friend Josh put a bug in my head and, honestly, it does tend to fit what we know. What if the Cards are actually close to a deal for Dan Haren? Publicly, John Mozeliak has said it looks unlikely and it probably is. But, if you thought there was a strong chance you’d get Haren, you’d go ahead and get the bullpen arm up here now, figuring that Haren would be here before you had to juggle too much. It would also allow an extra day Shelby Miller as well, which has been one of the goals of the organization. Slide Haren into the rotation and then you could mix and match Miller, Lyons, whomever down the stretch, especially in the two weeks of facing teams with sub-.500 records.
Haren last pitched Sunday, meaning Friday–the first game of the Pittsburgh series–would be his next time out. Now, do I think this will actually happen? Probably not. Washington has just crept over .500 and, with the Cardinals continuing to beat the Reds, they actually are getting closer to the wild card, though they are still seven games out and have to pass the Diamondbacks as well. The Cards aren’t going to pay a ransom for Haren, but you have to figure the two sides are staying in touch, just in case Washington gets hit with a bolt of common sense.
It’s a rematch of that August 2012 game tonight as Bailey and Wainwright meet up again. Bailey has been strong all year long, but St. Louis has gotten to him a both times they’ve faced him, getting seven in five innings in April and four in 5.1 at the beginning of May. Last time out, Bailey gave up three runs in six innings to the Brewers after throwing eight innings of one-run ball at them the time before.
This really isn’t the matchup the Reds wanted to see in what well could be considered a must win game. They lose, they are 5.5 out of the divisional lead and even with a four-game set next week against the Cardinals, have to really start focusing on that wild card game.
If you are a Cardinal fan wanting a sweep, it doesn’t get any better than having Wainwright on the hill. Waino’s coming off the complete game against the Braves where he gave up just the one run and struck out nine. Wainwright has only faced Cincinnati twice this season, both times giving up two runs in seven innings.
They don’t play the games on paper, but if they did the Cards would be using the brooms. Let’s hope real life follows the script tonight!