Ugly Wins Need Love Too

Four total hits.  Two total runs.  The team walked more than they hit.  The tying run reached on an error.  The same player scored both runs, but neither in typical fashion.  When the United Cardinal Bloggers vote on their Game of the Year later in November, this one’s not likely to be on the ballot.

No matter how ugly it was on the field, it was very pretty in the standings.  With everyone in the best record and NL Central race losing, St. Louis gained a game on them all and got one step closer to avoiding the wild card game.  There are much worse things to look at.

We’re going to give Pete Kozma–yes, much-maligned Pete Kozma–our Hero tag.  He scored both runs, one as a pinch-runner and one after his own solid single.  The first run came as the Mariners botched a double play, throwing the ball where the first baseman couldn’t pick it and keeping the Cards alive.  This came after Kozma had stolen third while Matt Carpenter drew a walk, which became huge.  The second came in the tenth inning, when Kozma immediately analyzed the passed ball and took off, winning the game in scamper-off fashion.

There is no way you can say that the Mariners didn’t give the Cardinals that one, though.  Besides the missed opportunities above, the whole reason Kozma was able to pinch-run was that Brock Peterson‘s popup confounded Nick Franklin, who wound up letting it drop.  Major props (do the kids still say that these days?) to Peterson, who could have easily just trotted or been stuck at first, but wound up on second due to hustling while the ball was in the air.  That became the difference in the game.

It’s sad that this game knocked Adam Wainwright out of contention for 20 wins.  It might not mean as much as it did, but it’s a nice milestone that Waino could only achieve by winning all his remaining starts.  Wainwright allowed only six hits, but one of them was a home run to Mike Zunino and, with the magically disappearing offense, that almost was enough.  Still, it’s good to see Wainwright continue to put those Reds games well behind him as we get closer and closer to October.

Looking at the box score, I almost gave the Goat to Yadier Molina until I remembered the ninth inning and all he did to bail out Edward Mujica.  Mujica didn’t turn around any unease toward his recent outings when he gave up a leadoff single in the ninth after St. Louis had just tied it up.  However, it seems the Pacific Northwest is a sheltered place where news doesn’t travel, so Endy Chavez, who was pinch-running for Kendrys Morales, decided to run on Yadi.

You. Don’t. Run. On. Yadi.

Molina, perhaps with a relish given Chavez’s heroics against Scott Rolen in the 2006 NLCS, nailed Chavez with feet to spare as Michael Saunders struck out.  With two down, though, Dustin Ackley singled against Mujica.  Despite being the possessor of a fine beard, Mr. Ackley apparently is not a quick study, because he, too, decided to take off with a steal attempt.

You. Don’t. Run. On. Yadi.

I don’t know, perhaps Yadi’s sped up his processor to deal with Billy Hamilton.  Neither one of those attempts in the ninth were anywhere close and you have to think that, if anyone can figure stuff out in that Mariners clubhouse, those will be the last attempts made.  (Then again, Kyle Seager did steal a base in the sixth, so maybe Seattle figures one out of three ain’t bad.)

Still, Molina did go 0-4 and he’s hitting only .250/.273/.438 since the All-Star Break.  It’s not surprising that the buzz around Molina’s MVP candidacy has slowed somewhat while Carpenter’s is picking up.

If Molina doesn’t get the Goat, though, who does?  I’m going to give it to Jon Jay, who went 0-4.  He technically got an RBI, just because you can’t assume a double play.  I’ll admit I wasn’t feeling very charitable toward Jay when he hit that grounder in the eighth, because it looked like he had squandered a great chance for the club to tie the game up.  With any reasonable defense he probably would have, though Carpenter did do a good job of trying to break it up.

With everyone losing, our standings look like this:

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

You know Cincinnati’s got to be getting a little nervous.  I mean, they are pretty much locks for the postseason (though Washington has gotten hot, they still are 4.5 behind them with about 15 to play.  That’s a pretty big gap unless the Reds just collapse, which seems unlikely.  That said, 3.5 games is a pretty good-sized hole as well.  At least they have games against Pittsburgh, so they have opportunities to pass them up.  If the Cards keep winning, though, Cincy’s focus will shift to just hosting the play-in game soon.

Today’s matchups see Homer Bailey and the Reds facing Johnny Hellweg and the Brewers.  Gotta figure Cincy’s got a huge edge there.  That’s the only afternoon game, with Chicago and Scott Baker, making only his second start of the season due to injury, taking on Pittsburgh and Gerrit Cole.  Cole’s pitched well and the Bucs should have the edge there.

In the race for the best record, San Diego throws Robbie Erlin at Atlanta and Kris Medlin.  Can’t expect the Padres to win two in a row down there, though it’d be nice if they did.  Finally, San Francisco and Los Angeles meet up, with Tim Lincecum, who has been pitching much better of late, tangles with Ricky Nolasco.  That one should be an interesting one if you want to stay up late to check it out.

For our matchup, we’ll see Michael Wacha take the mound.  Wacha is obviously on a nice run, not allowing a run in 19.2 innings and taking over the last spot in the rotation while putting himself in line for some postseason starts.  Not surprisingly, Wacha’s not faced any of these Mariners.

And, by the same token, St. Louis has never faced James Paxton.  Wacha’s the veteran in this matchup as Paxton only has one major league start to his credit, though it was a solid one (one run and three strikeouts in six innings) against the Rays.

Might be another low-scoring, low-hit game.  The Cards do know how to win those, even if they aren’t always pretty in the process!

  • Ben Chambers

    The Pirates-Reds games can not only let the Reds pass them up and get the home game for the wild card game, it can also run the Reds out of the wild card game if they don’t win some of them. If the Pirates take more than half of the 6 games at the end of the season, the Nationals can pick up some games on the Reds pretty quickly, seeing as while they’re playing each other, the Nationals are playing the Marlins and D-backs. The Nationals do have to play the Braves and the Cardinals, though. I think it’s going to be an intriguing end to the season, and I think the second wild card spot will be close, but I don’t see the Reds losing it yet. If they can take 4 of 6 from the Pirates, this whole point is moot anyway.

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