The Admiral Ackbar Game

There were a lot of reasons to have an uneasy feeling in your gut before last night’s game that didn’t have to do with your dinner.  To start with, the Cardinals had always failed to push their record to 26 games above .500, but were at 25 before they matched up with the Brewers.  A win would push their streak to six, which is a fairly long one for this club and, given a relatively weaker team in Seattle was coming in, could stretch out longer.

Then you had the fact that Yadier Molina and Trevor Rosenthal were both unavailable, Molina due to his mother recovering from surgery and Rosenthal because he was awaiting his daughter’s birth.  Not that they were essential to victory, but you had a bit of unease going into battle without them, especially since St. Louis’s record with Yadi is significantly better than theirs without him.

You had a young, unknown pitcher going for the Brewers, a pitcher that had done pretty well his first time around through the league.  You had Joe Kelly going for the Redbirds, who hadn’t lost since moving into the rotation though some of the advanced metrics said he was heading for a course correction.

Add all that up and, in the words of a famous military strategist,

And it was. Kelly gave up as many runs on one swing as the starters had done in the last run through the rotation, some 32.2 innings.  The offense, which had waited until late to burst through in the first two games, couldn’t quite muster the same sort of late inning heroics.  Which meant the Cards then fell back into a tie for first place with the Pirates, who have won four in a row.

Kelly has to get the Goat for this game.  Not only did he give up four runs (three earned) in five innings, he made two errors and threw a wild pitch, all of which cost him.  If he’d been able to make it through the first couple of innings unscathed, would it have been a different story?  We’ll never know.

There’s always going to be some correction, though.  Joe Kelly is not going to always pitch like Adam Wainwright.  Just like when we saw Jon Jay regress (upwards) after his terrible early summer, Kelly is going to come somewhat down to earth.  You just hope that the worst part of the regression happens next year instead of the pennant race and the postseason.

The offense, which granted hasn’t been extremely prolific since the Pirates left town, was fairly quiet last night as well.  Six total hits, just three off of the starter Tyler Thornburg.  Carlos Beltran had a rough night, leaving three on and going 0-4.  At least David Freese picked up an RBI, even if he didn’t get a hit.

I’ll go with Matt Adams as our Hero.  Adams had two hits, which was more than anyone else managed, and one of them was a home run in the ninth.  That might have been more potent had Seth Maness not allowed an extra run in his outing, but you never know how the game would play out with different results.  Kudos also to Carlos Martinez, who threw two scoreless innings with two strikeouts.

So let’s take our daily look at the standings:

Atlanta —-
Los Angeles 2.0
Pittsburgh 3.0
St. Louis 3.0
Cincinnati 5.5

Everybody’s in action tonight, of course.  Jake Arrieta, who shut down the Cardinals earlier this year (but really not many others), goes for Chicago against Charlie Morton and the Pirates.  Ian Kennedy, acquired at the trading deadline by the Padres, takes on Atlanta, who will start David Hale, making his major league debut.  A good matchup in Milwaukee, as Mat Latos and the Reds take on old friend Kyle Lohse.  That pales to the one in Los Angeles, though, as Madison Bumgarner leads the Giants against the Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw.

St. Louis got a little good news yesterday in that Allen Craig got an encouraging report on his foot.  He’s still wearing the protective boot for protection and there’s no timetable on his return, but it does seem to be that he’d be back this season.  Still, with just two weeks to go (roughly), he’s obviously not going to get a lot of time to get back into the swing of things before the postseason.  Any time is better than none, though!

The Cardinals step out of NL Central–heck, out of NL!–play tonight as they start a three-game series against the Seattle Mariners.  Some will be disappointed that Brendan Ryan got shipped to the Yankees right before this matchup.  More, like myself, will be disappointed that Felix Hernandez isn’t scheduled to pitch in this series.  My son is a huge King Felix fan and I was hoping we’d at least get to see him on TV if not make the trek up the hills to St. Louis.

What we do have, however, is the top of the rotation going in the series.  Adam Wainwright, who needs to win all of his remaining starts to get to 20 wins (a neat milestone even if the luster isn’t quite as strong anymore), goes to the mound for the Cards.  He’s coming off a stellar outing against the Pirates in which he threw seven scoreless innings and seemed to put those meltdowns against the Reds to rest.

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP
Humberto Quintero 13 12 3 0 0 0 2 1 4 .250 .308 .250 .558 0 0 0 0
Raul Ibanez 9 7 3 0 1 0 0 2 1 .429 .556 .714 1.270 0 0 0 0
Henry Blanco 7 7 4 2 0 0 1 0 1 .571 .571 .857 1.429 0 0 0 0
Franklin Gutierrez 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0
Endy Chavez 3 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 .667 .667 .667 1.333 0 0 0 0
Joe Saunders 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 1 0 0 0
Michael Saunders 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000 0 0 0 0
Total 39 35 13 2 1 0 3 3 6 .371 .421 .486 .907 1 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/13/2013.

Interestingly, Wainwright has faced a few Mariners before, though likely when they were wearing different uniforms.  He has only faced the Mariners once in his career, back in 2010 when he got a win by throwing seven innings, allowing three runs.  These few that have faced him have done OK, but it’s a very small sample size to talk about.

Of course, that sample is huge compared to the book there is on Hisashi Iwakuma, who will go for the Mariners.  No Cardinal has ever faced him (alert, alert!) so it’s hard to know what to expect.  Iwakuma is having a good year, posting a sub-3 ERA in 30 starts so far.  Granted, he plays half his games in a pitchers’ park, but he also plays against some strong lineups in the American League.  His K/BB is 4.5 so there’s a darn good chance it’s going to be a low-scoring affair at Busch tonight.  For a look at Iwakuma and the other starters in this series, be sure to check out Aaron Miles’ Fastball today.

Cards can’t afford to stub their toes this weekend, not with Pittsburgh getting the Cubs.  Here’s to a strong series by the Redbirds!

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