The Cards ran aground on Saturday, but were able to right the ship Sunday. Their postseason goals might have taken on water, but they are still sailing toward that glorious horizon. (Yes, they played the Mariners this weekend, which means, yes, plenty of bad jokes and allegories. Just warning you now.)
Saturday (4-1 loss)
Day after day, day after day
We stuck, not breath or motion
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean
That seemed to be the case of the offense for much of this homestand. Stagnant, missing, a stifling stillness at least until the late innings. Most often, they’d been able to break out of those straits and pull out victories due to excellent starting pitching and capitalization on mistakes by the opponent.
Saturday, though, those mistakes just weren’t there. Michael Wacha did a Lance Lynn and had one rough inning, but that was enough to garner him his first major league loss. We knew that it was a strong possibility when Seattle sent a young, talented, never-before-seen lefty to the mound. The Cards just weren’t able to get into that bullpen early enough or do enough with it when the time came.
When the team only has three hits, it’s not hard to find candidates for the Goat tag. Wacha himself could be in the running, though two runs in five innings and seven strikeouts (though four walks) doesn’t put him close to the head of the pack. Likewise, Fernando Salas allowing a run in less than an inning might be the winner, save the fact that the Cards weren’t really that close when he did it.
We’ll give the Goat tag to Shane Robinson, who went 0-4 in the second spot of the lineup and left three runners on base. Driving in even one of those guys might have made a significant different in the lineup. Like I say, though, the competition for this was pretty stout.
Hero is Matt Carpenter, who not only had one of the three hits, but drew a walk and scored the only Cardinal run on a wild pitch in the eighth. Just your normal day at the park for Carp, of course, but it just continues to underline why he should be seriously considered for MVP.
Also, anytime Tyler Lyons pitches, I gotta give a shoutout, one 70 to another. Lyons came in and was quite effective save a home run to Kendrys Morales, which is nothing to be ashamed of. 2.2 innings, only one other hit, that’s not a bad night whatsoever. Nothing but love for the big 7-0.
Sunday (12-2 win)
Water, water every where
And all the boards did shrink
Water, water every where
Nor any drop to drink
Change water to runs in that stanza by Coleridge and you get a general feel for what the Mariners, ancient or otherwise, were feeling on Sunday afternoon. All the pent-up aggression that had been dammed up over the past week finally broke through, as the club posted 19 hits and 12 runs in a cleansing affair that sent St. Louis happily on their way to their next destination (though by plane, not boat).
While many batters put up lines that might have been considered Hero status in other games, there was really only one option for this affair. Yadier Molina came into the game with an 0-15 streak and had struggled mightily over the last few weeks to have much offensive production. That came to a halt today as he got hits in his first four plate appearances, including a home run that got the Cardinals on the board. The other three were singles, but he was able to score twice more before flying out in his last at-bat and being replace by Audry Perez, who got to get into his first major league game.
If it wasn’t for Molina, perhaps Carpenter would have gotten the nod. After all, he did go three for five and drove in two runs. Or maybe Matt Holliday, who had the same line. Or Matt Adams, who only had two hits, but one of them was a two-run homer. Or Daniel Descalso, who felt two was lucky and so got that number of hits (one of which was a double), runs, and RBI. It was so much of a blowout Ryan Jackson got into the game and got an AB. What does THAT tell you?
Out of all of this offensive production, you’d think that maybe the Goat would be on the pitching side. Instead, Carlos Beltran went 0-4 before singling in two runs in his last at-bat, when the game was already well in hand. He made the first and the last out in the fourth, with the only other out coming from the starting pitcher. It was nice to see him avoid the goose egg, but it was too little too late to miss out on being the Goat.
Shelby Miller didn’t have the most efficient of days, not making it past the fifth inning due to an elevated pitch count. Overall, it wasn’t a bad line–five innings, three hits, two walks, one strikeout, one earned run–but he was sunk by too many counts running silent and deep. Randy Choate, John Axford, Sam Freeman and Trevor Rosenthal all combined to send the Mariner bats to Davy Jones‘s locker, allowing only two hits between them.
So the Cards won seven on the home stand, but still leave St. Louis just tied with Pittsburgh for the divisional lead instead of with a lead due to Saturday’s shipwreck. The Cards gave back a lot of the ground they gained on Friday, but after Sunday’s action, here’s where everything stands:
St. Louis 2.0
Los Angeles 3.0
Tough game for Cincy on Sunday, up 5-1 going to the seventh inning before allowing the Brewers to tie it in the eighth and win it on a walk-off in the ninth. Games like that have to make you start focusing a little harder on that wild-card game, since the Nationals are just one more game behind the Reds than the Reds are behind the Pirates and Cardinals.
Wasn’t the best weekend for the Dodgers or Braves, either. Burch Smith, who St. Louis drilled earlier in the year, took a no-hitter into the sixth and got his first major league win, meaning the lowly Padres took two of three. The Giants also won the series from their heated rivals, who are now 3-7 in their last 10 games. There are a lot of things left to be decided in the last two weeks.
Before we look at all the pitching matchups for Monday, let’s first discuss a few bits of Cardinal news. First, Chris Carpenter isn’t really looking at coming back in 2014. He’ll do some work in the offseason and see how he feels, but I think this last attempt really burned him. He’d have to feel extremely good to give it another go in spring training and even then, there’d be a lot of caution about getting hopes up. No, I think we actually have seen Carp for the last time, sad to say.
One person we probably haven’t seen the end of, though, is Jaime Garcia. Garcia is trying to go the Adam Wainwright route and get back on the mound in 2013 after surgery. While those are long odds, it’s a motivating goal that should help him be ready to go come February of next year. Even if there are some questions about how Garcia fits into the rotation mix for next season, it’s good to see that he’s working exceptionally hard to be ready to return as soon as possible.
Allen Craig isn’t going to Colorado with the team. That would seem to indicate that, barring some amazing recovery, we won’t see him until at least the Nationals series when the Cards return home on September 23. Could be a couple of returns that day, as Mike Shannon is supposed to get back behind the mike for that one. Could be later than that, though, and it seems still a possibility we won’t see Craig again this season.
The rotation is set for the next two weeks. It lines up that Wainwright can pitch the last game of the season or, if things are already clinched, the first game of the postseason. So there’s no need to really tinker with that, is there? Of course, if the Cards don’t get a chance to clinch and adjust the rotation with rest, you could see Waino go in the wild-card game and then Joe Kelly to open up the LDS, if they move on. Could be worse things, I guess.
All right, Monday’s action, all of which is under the lights. Atlanta goes up the coast to our nation’s capital to deal with the suddenly red-hot Nationals. Mike Minor for the Braves, a resurgent Dan Haren for the Nats. Should be a good one with the Nats perhaps having a slight edge. In Pittsburgh, the Padres that just took two of three from the best record in the NL set their sights on the Bucs, with one of their best in Andrew Cashner going up against the potentially devastating, potentially combustible A.J. Burnett (or is that just when he faces St. Louis?)
The Reds should be able to get that finishing kick started with Johnny Cueto on the mound against the Astros and Erik Bedard. (Yes, I meant to do that.) Finally, the Dodgers head to Arizona in a rematch of last week’s series that the Dodgers won, with Hyun-Jin Ryu going against Trevor Cahill.
As for the team we all focus on, they time-shift one hour and spend some time in the Rockies, hopefully away from all the flooding that is going on up in that area. Lance Lynn takes on the difficult assignment of thin air and a large outfield, hoping to build on his much more encouraging outing last time. It seems unlikely he’d lose his starting spot now with just a couple of weeks left in the season, though a quick hook might mean Lyons would return or, if Lynn completely bombs, Jake Westbrook might soak up some innings. (Honestly, I don’t know that we’ll see Westy again this season.)
Small samples, but they aren’t encouraging. He’s not faced them this season, though, which could be a point in his favor.
Colorado has Collin McHugh on the schedule, which sounds like an Irish character on a TV show or something. McHugh hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since the end of July and has given up 14 earned runs in 10 innings in his four starts this season.
Interestingly, the Cards have seen him once, though not this season. That’s not going to give him much confidence either, seeing how they didn’t have much trouble with him last year when he was with the Mets (4 IP, 4 ER). He’s also a righty, so he doesn’t even have that going for him.
This is the kind of game the Cardinals should win if they want to be divisional champs. We’ll have to wait and see if it is one they will win.