Testing The Seat Belts

Right now, the Cardinals are careening all over the place, like a teenage driver trying to find the right song while heading down a stretch of road.  Low-hit loss to the Mariners, followed up by 12 runs and a win against them.  Low-hit loss to the Rockies, followed up by an 11-run win.  Keep your restraints on and your seats in the full upright position, because we’re encountering some turbulence.

Last night was the up portion of the cycle and, goodness, was it fun.  Eighteen hits, plus five walks.  Eleven runs and, thankfully, most of them early enough to keep the suspense down.  Matt Holliday was the Hero of this offensively-laden piece, going 4-4 with a walk and a home run before being pinch-run for by Shane Robinson with the game comfortably in hand.  As you’ll read in either of those game stories, Holliday is outstanding at Coors, which makes it almost too bad that the Redbirds only go there once a year.

Of course, Holliday wasn’t the only one with a big night.  Matt Carpenter continued to add to his MVP case with three hits and three runs, including scoring the last run in the ninth on a wild pitch.  Jon Jay also had three hits and tacked on a walk as well.  Yadier Molina, David Freese and Daniel Descalso also had two hits, with Freese picking up two walks and Descalso two RBI on a triple.

The last person with multiple hits on the night was Matt Adams.  Someone made the comparison to Adam Dunn in Derrick Goold’s recent chat, indicating they thought Adams was a three true outcomes (walk, strikeout, home run) kinda guy.  Even Tara and I talked about that last week on Gateway, saying that we didn’t necessarily think Adams was going to be a guy you wanted up when you needed a single.

All that said, we do have to remember that Adams hit over .300 in every one of his minor league seasons and you don’t typically do that if power is all you have.  While Adams still does strike out more than we’d like to see, he’s going to be able to get some hits and not necessarily be an all-or-nothing guy at the plate.  In his last ten games, he’s hitting .333 with three home runs in his 12 hits.  Is he Allen Craig?  No.  But he’s a far sight better than what most teams would have to replace a key cog in their lineup.  I’m hopeful that the 2014 roster can be configured in a way to keep him on it, because I like what we are seeing out of Big Fill In The Blank.

Joe Kelly didn’t really have to work on his stopper reputation last night.  He had a 1-0 lead before he took the mound, a lead he maintained when Holliday robbed his old friend Todd Helton.  He was up 2-0 next time he went out there and 8-0 the third.  Kelly left after five partly because of a knee situation that the Cardinals wanted to manage before it got worse.  With a lead like that, you don’t take any chances with a guy that could be a significant part of the postseason rotation.  The only issue is that Kelly “has embraced a contact-oriented approach” according to Goold’s game story.  That’s well and good, but oftentimes in the playoffs that could come back to haunt you.  Especially with this defense.

There were a couple of options for Goat.  Carlos Martinez had one clean inning but then one inning that blew up on him, as he allowed the four runs the Rockies scored.  (There was an outfield error behind him, but I don’t know how big a role that played in the grand scheme of things.)  John Axford looked like he was going to have a good inning, striking out the first two, but gave up a hit and a walk and Mike Matheny went and got Kevin Siegrist to finish the eighth and pitch the ninth.

(Someone on Twitter did make the point that if Matheny is going to do all this with the bullpen, bringing in a guy to get an out when the score is six runs and there are only two on, why did Molina catch the entire game?  There are four catcher on that roster.  You telling me Tony Cruz didn’t want in?  That this wasn’t a great time to get Aubry Perez his first AB?)

My Goat, though, again goes to Carlos Beltran.  You know that you are in a slump when, for the second time in three days, you make the first and last outs in an inning.  To be fair, he ran into some bad BABIP luck early in the game, but an 0-4 on a night when the offense was busting out is tough to handle.  Beltran’s hitting just .118 in his last 10 games and as Ben pointed out in the Bonfyre last night, he’s played in every game since Craig went down.  Maybe giving him a night off would be beneficial, though it’s tough to do that in this tight pennant race.

Speaking of tight, the standings:

Atlanta —-
St. Louis 1.0
Los Angeles 2.0
Pittsburgh 2.0
Cincinnati 3.5

Atlanta lost a double header to the Nationals, allowing the Cardinals to make a major step toward claiming home field advantage throughout the playoffs.  Cincinnati and Los Angeles just destroyed Houston and Arizona, respectively, while we are all Padres fans today as they took their second in a row from the Bucs.  With 11 games left, any of those teams could reasonably wind up with the best record.  How crazy is that?

All of the relevant games today are under the lights.  Atlanta tries to cool down the red-hot Nationals.  (How hot, you ask? The Nats won a game in the ninth yesterday with Craig Kimbrel on the mound with an assist from an Andrelton Simmons error.  Those things don’t happen, people!)  It’s Alex Wood for the Braves versus Ross Ohlendorf for the Nationals.  Ohlendorf’s been a tolerable fill-in, Wood started strong but has struggled lately.

The Padres go for the unlikely sweep against the Pirates by matching up Tyson Ross versus Charlie Morton.  Ross was bad last time out but has been an effective pitcher for the Pads.  Morton is likely to be more than the San Diego offense can handle, though.

Cincinnati continues to gear up for playing Pittsburgh by feasting on the Astros.  Greg Reynolds will be a fill-in starter and will face Brad Peacock.  Pitching is not likely to be the story in this one.

Finally, the Dodgers are pushing back Clayton Kershaw and so Stephen Fife will go for them against Brandon McCarthy and the Diamondbacks.  Fife’s been pretty good in the rotation and McCarthy is on a run, so this one might be close and a good one to watch the last innings of after the Cardinal game.

With a game lead in the division, it’s nice to be able to send Adam Wainwright out to the mound.  Wainwright, whose latest goofy dance got him some TV time last night, has regained his Cy Young-level form and looks to continue that this evening.  He’s been very good against the Rockies in his career, both at home and in Colorado, so location shouldn’t matter today.  (Well, location of the game.  Location of his pitches is another thing!)

Todd Helton 19 18 5 2 0 0 1 1 3 .278 .316 .389 .705 0 0 0 0
Dexter Fowler 14 14 2 0 0 1 1 0 5 .143 .143 .357 .500 0 0 0 0
Yorvit Torrealba 13 13 3 0 0 0 0 0 3 .231 .231 .231 .462 0 0 0 0
Carlos Gonzalez 11 11 3 0 0 0 0 0 4 .273 .273 .273 .545 0 0 0 0
Troy Tulowitzki 11 11 1 0 0 0 0 0 3 .091 .091 .091 .182 0 0 0 0
Roy Oswalt 6 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 1 0 0 0
Nolan Arenado 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0
Michael Cuddyer 3 3 2 0 0 0 1 0 0 .667 .667 .667 1.333 0 0 0 0
Charlie Culberson 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0
Jonathan Herrera 3 3 1 0 1 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 1.000 1.333 0 0 0 0
Jorge De La Rosa 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0
Jhoulys Chacin 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0
Jeff Francis 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0
Jordan Pacheco 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0
Josh Rutledge 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0
Total 92 89 18 2 1 1 3 1 22 .202 .211 .281 .492 2 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/18/2013.

Not a lot of exposure there, of course, but enough on some of those top hitters.  Waino knows the Cards have a lead and he’ll know how Pittsburgh is doing before he takes the mound, so I expect he’ll be a bulldog out there and not give the Rockie hitters much.

The Cardinals will try to stop their oscillation and put some runs up against Tyler Chatwood.  Chatwood has some pretty good numbers for the season, though it was interrupted by some time in the minors.  Last time out he gave up just two runs in 4.2 innings against the Diamondbacks, but he did walk six batters.  The last time he pitched at home, Cincy got him for two runs in two innings, forcing him to leave in the third after a line drive struck his hand.

Carlos Beltran 5 3 1 1 0 0 3 2 1 .333 .600 .667 1.267 0 0 0 0
Daniel Descalso 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0
David Freese 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0
Allen Craig 2 2 1 0 0 1 3 0 0 .500 .500 2.000 2.500 0 0 0 0
Jon Jay 2 1 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 1.000 1.000 2.000 3.000 0 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0
Matt Carpenter 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1.000 0 0 0 0
Matt Holliday 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000 0 0 0 0
Total 19 15 5 2 0 1 6 4 2 .333 .474 .667 1.140 0 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/18/2013.

He’s not a total mystery to the Cardinals, who saw him out of the pen in a series in Busch in July of last year.  The first time they saw him, he gave up four runs in 2.1 innings.  Three days later, he shut the Cards out over 1.2 frames.  Yes, that does sound familiar, doesn’t it?

St. Louis got to see old friend Mitchell Boggs last night, as he came in and threw a scoreless frame aided by a double play.  Boggs puts a lot of the blame for his season on himself, though he noted by the end of it he wasn’t quite getting the encouragement from the Cardinal organization that he’s getting from the Rockies now.  Since he returned from the minors with the roster expansion, his lines look a lot like Axford’s for the Redbirds–at least one hit, often no runs.  You wonder if both of them will find themselves non-tendered this offseason and looking for new teams.

Cards have the divisional lead.  They have to stop the roller coaster and keep playing at this high level.  Let’s hope we have more runs and hits to talk about tomorrow!

  • Ben Chambers September 18, 2013, 8:42 am

    Thanks for the shout-out. I appreciate it.

    I had forgotten that Beltran sat out two games with back tightness on the 1st and 2nd, just before Craig left the game on the 4th. It’s still a brutal stretch right now, and being late in the season, it’s even harder. Alot of other guys have been playing alot, too, but he is the oldest position player on the team. Holliday is only 3 years younger, and he’s played every game since coming off the DL in July. I still think a day off or two would be great for Beltran, though.

    • Cardinal70 September 18, 2013, 9:44 am

      Beltran struggled last summer, then got better in September when he got some more days of rest. I don’t think it’s a stretch to think a few days off here and there could help him a bit.

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