When you looked at the matchup last night for the Cardinals versus the Brewers, you saw a Cardinal pitcher who had been very stingy against Milwaukee and a Brewer pitcher that had been blasted by the Redbirds.
Shelby Miller pitched an outstanding 6.2 innings last night. It was good to see him go deeper into the game, as he so often will leave before the sixth inning is completed. He might have finished the seventh, but the ten-pitch at-bat by Caleb Gindi to lead off the inning pushed his pitch count over 100. Of course, he might have left with one out in the inning instead of two, but the Brewers decided to have Wily Peralta bunt the runner over instead of pinch-hitting for him. Sure, Peralta was under 100 pitches, but it seemed like the best chance to make up the deficit, something that haunted the club by the end.
Peralta was anything but the pinata that St. Louis had seen the first couple of times they’d faced him. He took a no-hitter into the sixth inning and racked up seven strikeouts. He gave up more runs (three) than hits (two) in his 6.2 innings. He’d have left with one less of both had he been pinch-hit for. The Brewer bullpen was not anything special and the Cards had a 4-0 lead by the ninth.
Even as well as Miller pitched, and even though he ran the starters’ scoreless inning streak to 22.2 (starting with Joe Kelly‘s outing against Pittsburgh, the starters have a 0.34 ERA, which will work), I’m going to give the Hero tag to Matt Holliday. All of that great pitching could have been for naught had Holliday not pounded a two-run homer in the sixth to break up the no-hitter and shutout all in one swing. Holliday also drew a walk on the evening, though the only run he scored came on the long ball.
There were a couple of other offensive options as well, all with the same first name. Matt Carpenter did Matt Carpenter things, drawing a walk (and scoring on Holliday’s homer), getting a hit, and driving in a run. Matt Adams went 2-4, which was nice to see, and also drove one in while scoring one.
The Goat might have been Yadier Molina or David Freese, who both went 0-3 in the game (Molina drew a walk, Freese was pinch-hit for in his last at-bat) had the ninth played out differently. Instead, our Goat goes to Edward Mujica, who allowed a two-run homer in the final frame. He was able to recover and get the last two outs, but had the Cards not had those insurance runs, the tone of this post might be completely different this morning.
There was a lot of discussion on the internet during the season about the idea that, come September, an unsurprising move would be to flip Mujica and Trevor Rosenthal, using Rosenthal’s blazing speed and comfort with late inning situations to be a more effective closer. While that hasn’t happened yet, you wonder if the idea is floating around Mike Matheny‘s head as well.
We know that Mujica has had some arm issues. Even last night on the telecast, Dan McLaughlin noted that Mujica didn’t look right. He’s allowed at least one run in four of his last ten outings, with only three strikeouts during that time. (I didn’t quite realize how much control he had, though. Only three walks all season long, though one of those was also in this ten-game stretch.) Those ten games encompass 11 innings, in which time he’s given up 12 hits.
Mujica still has good numbers, but you wonder if that lack of dominance will come back to haunt the Cardinals in the postseason. For comparison, in Rosenthal’s last 10 appearances, he’s thrown 11.2 innings, allowed five hits and one run, while striking out 14 (and walking four, to be fair, though two of those came in a game against the Cubs). With so many power arms in that bullpen, are the Cardinals well served by making a swap? I don’t expect they will unless Mujica really falters down the stretch, given Matheny’s loyalty to his players, but it would be something to consider.
Jason Motte has started his throwing program in attempts to return from Tommy John surgery. Motte obviously has a long way to go and I do think it makes for an interesting discussion this offseason. It seems unlikely to me that Motte is going to be ready to be a closer until the middle of the season, at best. We’ve seen how erratic pitchers coming back can be for a while and that’s not what you want to see in the ninth. However, if someone else–if they resign Mujica or give Rosenthal the job, for example–takes control of the ninth, do you make a switch when Motte is ready? You can’t do nothing this offseason and try to limp by until he is, can you?
The 2014 schedule was released by MLB yesterday. In the early days of Cards Clubhouse, we always enjoyed trying to piece it together at this time of year, checking other team’s sites to see if they had theirs up, asking other teams’ beat writers if they had seen it yet, etc. Now, boom, one fell swoop and it’s sitting out there for everyone. I feel like those kids complaining in the AT&T U-Verse commercials.
Anyway, Cards get to host the Yankees and Red Sox, which are sure to be extremely hot tickets. They play the rest of the AL East on their turf–if he’s still there, the Redbirds will see former centerfielder Colby Rasmus in Toronto next June–and also have their games against the Royals.
I have made the argument time and again that baseball’s “crown jewels” should always start the season at home. Let the Yankees open the season at Yankee Stadium, the Red Sox at Fenway, the Cubs at Wrigley, the Reds (given their place in history and tradition) in Cincinnati, and the Cards should always start the season at Busch.
Yet, for the third straight year, St. Louis will be quiet on the first day of the season as the team will be in Cincinnati to kick things off. The Reds return the favor the next week, starting the Cardinals’ home schedule for the second straight year. If you are going to be somewhere besides St. Louis for the actual beginning of the season, Cincinnati is the place to be. It’s one of the only places with Opening Day traditions that rival the Gateway City. Hard to believe given the lack of attendance at their games recently, but it’s true nonetheless.
Speaking of the Reds, they were the only team the Cardinals are keeping an eye on that did the decent thing and lost last night. (How must Cub fans be feeling, with their team helping out the Cards on back-to-back nights?) So the relevant standings:
Los Angeles 2.0
St. Louis 3.0
Looking at the other games for today, the Cubs and Jeff Samardzija take on the Reds and Mike Leake in a lunch-time affair. Cubs have a tolerable chance of finishing off a sweep there. The Pirates send out A.J. Burnett against the Rangers and Matt Garza at 1:35 PM. You’d like to think Texas could get to Burnett but Garza’s been nothing special since the trade. The Braves have Mike Minor going against the Marlins and Jose Fernandez this evening, probably the best chance Miami has of winning a game against Atlanta. Finally, late tonight will see Arizona and Patrick Corbin try to fend off a sweep from Los Angeles and Hyun-Jin Ryu. I don’t much care for their odds.
All those games will give us something to scoreboard watch, but the main thing we’ll be focusing on is the battle with Milwaukee this evening. Lance Lynn goes to the mound and all that scoreless inning streak and low starter ERA recently goes with him. The odds of him keeping that up seem pretty slim the way he’s been pitching lately.
His numbers against the Brew Crew are fairly pedestrian. He’s been able to corral Aramis Ramirez, which is basically impossible for a Cardinal pitcher, and perhaps Jean Segura‘s recent cool play will be more relevant than the small sample of at-bats above. Lynn gave up four runs in six innings in Milwaukee the last time the two teams got together and will want better results tonight.
To be fair, the Cardinals have done OK against Marco Estrada, the pitcher for tonight’s contest. They’ve gotten four runs off of him in both of his last two starts against the club. That said, they owned Peralta until last night also, so take it with a grain of salt.
These are games that St. Louis really needs to win. Let’s hope it plays out more the way we expect than last night’s did, huh?