Stumbling At The Summit

If the Cardinals wind up in the wild card game instead of as divisional champions, this is the game they will point to.

I know all losses count the same and they could easily point to a game in July that was a winnable game, but forget all of that, because given the situation, given how it happened, and given the timing, this may be the most frustrating of all losses.

Before this game is very deep, the Pirates have already taken a huge lead, so St. Louis knows that they have to win to keep their two-game cushion.  Of course, at the time they are staring down a 4-0 deficit, but watching Roy Oswalt yesterday, you knew that it was only a matter of time before either they hit him or they waited long enough so that he could walk the ballpark.  They did and were tied up at 4 at the traditional halfway point in the game.  So far, so good.

Things got even better in the eighth, when David Freese doubled in the go-ahead run.  Just got to turn it over to the bullpen and let them lock it down, right?

That’s normally the case, but Trevor Rosenthal, in between striking out batters, gave up a double and a triple and the game was tied again.

There’s no doubt that Matt Holliday was the Hero of this game–and Colorado knew it.  Holliday tied the game up in the fifth, then put the Cardinals ahead in the ninth with an RBI single.  On the day, Holliday was 3-4 with two runs and two huge RBI, along with three walks as the Rockies wanted no part of him.

Unfortunately, Edward Mujica gets the Goat for this one.  After being staked to that 6-5 lead, all Mujica has to do is get three outs.  He couldn’t even get through three pitches.  Todd Helton paid him back for that strikeout on Wednesday night, clubbing a game-tying homer that had to have the Rockie faithful going nuts.

Our friend Joe did an outstanding look at Mujica yesterday.  There was a lot of talk early in the season about flipping Mujica and Rosenthal when it came to September.  Even though Rosenthal has allowed runs in two of his last three outings, those both came against the Rockies and came at the end of a stretch when he hadn’t given up a run since August 15 against the Pirates.  Something really needs to be considered, though.  With Mujica almost regularly giving two hits an appearance, that’s a recipe for disaster with a closer coming into close games.

Once you get into extra innings, it’s tough to blame pitchers since one mistake can end a ball game.  Fernando Salas gave up the winning runs, but he did pitch almost two complete innings before doing so.  It’s also a bit of a consideration that he gave up the triple to Corey Dickerson, because it seemed like constantly he and Charlie Blackmon were tormenting St. Louis in this series.  Here are their lines for the four games:

Blackmon: 10-20 (.500), 4 2B, 3 RBI
Dickerson: 5-18 (.278), 2 3B, 2 RBI

OK, maybe Blackmon was more of a pest than Dickerson, save yesterday.  Still, it seemed like those guys were always in the mix of whatever mischief the Rockies were up to.

There’s a lot of blame to be put on Pete Kozma as well, grounding into the double play with bases loaded in the 15th.  However, let’s really look at it.  It’d have been nice to have a hit out of him, and he was hitting over .300 in scoring position.  Still, the odds were slim he was going to get a hit.  A fly ball would have been nice, but would have been enough to score Holliday from first?  If Kozma just makes one out there and the bases are still loaded, the pitcher’s spot was due up next.  That’d have likely meant Brock Peterson, which with two outs doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence either.

It was a huge letdown to see Kozma hit into that double play, but I’m not sold on the fact that the results were going to be any different.  Then again, on a day when only Holliday was a person you expected to get results out of, maybe that’s not a surprise.

If Mujica had held the lead, Matt Carpenter would have been in line for a Goat.  Carpenter had maybe his worst day on the season, walking in the first before becoming a national joke by being picked off with the hidden ball trick.  After that, he went 0-6 and left two men on base.  Not the kind of day he’s going to use to headline his MVP case.

Pittsburgh and Los Angeles won, Atlanta and Cincinnati didn’t play.  This is what the standings look like with just nine games left to play in the 2013 season:

Atlanta —–
St. Louis 1.5
Los Angeles 2.0
Pittsburgh 2.0
Cincinnati 3.0

That at least clears up what we want to see out of the Pittsburgh/Cincinnati series this weekend.  We want Cincy to win the first, it’s a tossup on the second, and whoever lost the second to win the third.  All while, we hope, the Cardinals are sweeping the Brewers.

There’s no doubt that the Reds and Pirates tonight is going to be a war.  It starts off with a doozy of a matchup as well, with Mat Latos going against Francisco Liriano.  Latos hasn’t faced Pittsburgh since July, when he gave up two runs in five innings at Great American Ball Park.  His last time at PNC was at the beginning of June, when he gave up one earned in six.  Liriano, on the other had, has an ERA of 1.37 at home, but got rocked when he faced the Reds last in Cincy, giving up five runs in 4.1 innings.  Last time he faced the Reds in his home park, it was a one-earned-in-six outing as well.  Good chance there will be a lot of questionable bunting tonight!

In the other games, Atlanta plays in Wrigley this afternoon as Paul Maholm faced the Cubs and Scott Baker.  Baker’s been dominant since coming off the disabled list, but you won’t see him go terribly deep into the game.  If Maholm can keep Chicago from scoring a lot early, the Braves have to like their chances.

Los Angeles punched their ticket into the playoffs yesterday by clinching the NL West.  They can now feel less than worried about sending Edinson Volquez to the mound in his most recent former home, Petco Park.  The Padres, who have done such great work for the Cardinals in beating up on the Braves and Pirates recently, try to continue that with Robbie Erlin on the mound.  Erlin’s numbers aren’t impressive, but he does have a 2.60 ERA in his last three starts and he’s not Edinson Volquez.

We got to see Matt Adams pinch-hit (and single) in the ninth yesterday after playing first base in the bottom of the eighth.  (Mike Matheny‘s machinations again come back to haunt him when it goes to extra innings.  I know Freese isn’t tearing it up, but he did have a double and he’d have been up in Kozma’s spot.  Maybe pinch-running for him with two outs and Tony Cruz up really wasn’t necessary.)  Adams seems to be still hurting with the elbow, but it’s better and he can play through it.  We’ll see how much it affects his production.  The Cards will need his power more than anything and I’d guess the elbow issue could sap that a bit.  Good thing Big Fill-In-The-Blank has plenty of it.

Tonight, the Cardinals have an easier opponent and they must take advantage of the situation.  They are facing Johnny Hellweg, a pitcher that comes into the game with an 8.31 ERA.  He’s not faced the Cardinals, but has had only one outing where he gave up less than three earned runs, and that was a one-inning stint where he still allowed a tally.  He gave up four in five innings to Cincinnati in his last appearance.  Hellweg is a righty, but he’s a guy the Cards haven’t seen before.  They can’t fall for that trap again like they did in the first game against Colorado.  They have to hit him and get that run tally rolling.

Shelby Miller goes for St. Louis.  Miller has done pretty well in the park that is named after him. (Hang on, it’s named after something else?)  So far this season in Milwaukee he’s thrown 11.1 innings and allowed three runs, sporting a 1-0 record there in two starts.  Last time against the Brewers, in Busch Stadium, he went 6.2 scoreless.  It’s lined up well for the Cardinals today, but as we have had beaten over our heads the last few weeks, that’s not quite worth the paper it’s printed on, and being that it’s an electronic medium you are using…..

Norichika Aoki 12 12 5 0 0 1 1 0 2 .417 .417 .667 1.083 0 0 0 0
Jonathan Lucroy 12 10 3 0 0 0 2 1 0 .300 .333 .300 .633 0 1 0 0
Jean Segura 12 12 0 0 0 0 0 0 5 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0
Aramis Ramirez 9 8 4 0 0 0 0 1 1 .500 .556 .500 1.056 0 0 0 0
Carlos Gomez 8 8 1 0 0 0 0 0 4 .125 .125 .125 .250 0 0 0 0
Scooter Gennett 6 5 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 .400 .400 .400 .800 1 0 0 0
Yuniesky Betancourt 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0
Khris Davis 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .333 .000 .333 0 0 0 1
Juan Francisco 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0
Caleb Gindl 3 3 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .667 1.000 0 0 0 0
Kyle Lohse 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0
Martin Maldonado 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 .000 .667 .000 .667 0 0 0 0
Wily Peralta 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 1 0 0 0
Logan Schafer 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .333 .000 .333 0 0 0 0
Marco Estrada 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .500 .000 .500 0 0 0 0
Total 86 76 16 1 0 1 3 6 21 .211 .274 .263 .537 2 1 0 1
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/20/2013.

I guess a pure baseball fan would find it intriguing to note that if the Cards get swept this series and Cincinnati wins the series against Pittsburgh, you’d have a three-way tie for the divisional title on Sunday with just a week of baseball left.  I’m not a pure enough fan for that.  Let’s get to work, Redbirds!

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