For the third straight day, the Cardinals and Reds played a one-run ballgame. However, save for the rain, Thursday’s affair had little in common with the taut, pitching-dominated games we saw during the rest of the series.
There is a school of thought, given his stuff and some of the peripherals, that Lance Lynn is much better than fans give him credit for. I’m not discounting that is the case, but there’s absolutely no doubt that Lynn is perhaps the most frustrating pitcher to come through the organization in years. Well, maybe Jaime Garcia might get that title when healthy, but Lynn is right up there.
After two outstanding pitching performances from Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha and going up against a guy in Homer Bailey that you know can be dominant, what does Lynn do but give up three runs, including two home runs, in the bottom of the first, with all the hits coming with two are out. Granted, you are going up against the heart of the order, but allowing a double, homer, homer, single is not what you want to see when you are expecting a tight game.
The first was his worst inning and he wound up going five, but the only frame that was clean was the last one. There were plenty of runners on base, plenty of opportunities for the Reds to impact the game, and he was able to keep them from doing so in a bend-but-not-break fashion. Which meant 107 pitches, which had a domino effect into the bullpen. Lynn’s not our Goat, but he’s going to have to have better outings than this.
Back in the winter, when Bailey signed his extension, there were a number of people comparing him to Lynn and showing how the Cardinals got similar production for much less. That was the case on Thursday as well, as Bailey’s sharp first inning was not indicative of the way his day was going to go. In fact, while their lines are similar, this battle obviously went to Lynn.
Bailey: 4.1 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 1 HR
Lynn: 5.0 IP, 8 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, 2 HR
Figuring out a Hero for this game is not that cut and dried and I expect Mr. Chambers and I will be differing on this again. I wanted to go with Big Fill in the Blank Matt Adams, since he had three hits including a double and was able to fight against the shift well early on. However, he came up with the bases loaded in the three-run seventh and popped out. While it seemed innocuous at the time, given the four run lead, it became a big deal.
Jhonny Peralta only had one hit, but it was a big two-run home run that got the Cardinals back in the game and started the offense stirring. If Bailey gets on a roll, the game might have turned out very differently. Strong consideration there for the Hero.
Jon Jay, who made history by being the first Top Goat ever to play for the Cards the next year, did have a game-tying RBI double, but he also was immediately caught stealing trying for third and had an error in the outfield to boot. (Pun not intended.) Obviously not a Hero-worthy game.
I’m not going to do this every time he locks down the game, but I’m going to give the Hero tag to Trevor Rosenthal. Given Lynn’s less-than-lengthy outing, the bullpen got a bit out of sorts. Rosenthal was able to come in for a four-out save, getting Joey Votto and Jay Bruce, and do so with a minimum of fuss and bother. He was truly a closer yesterday and for that, we tip our caps.
The flip side of this argument, the Goat, is also worthy of discussion. The obvious choice, and who I believe I’ll go with, is Pat Neshek, who allowed the three-run home run to Todd Frazier, the first batter he faced, and also allowed Billy Hamilton to reach base for the first time this year. That said, those factors are mitigated by the fact he threw 1.1 innings in between those two events with no one else reaching base. So while I’ll go with Neshek, I’m not convinced it’s cut-and-dried.
I really want to give it to Kevin Siegrist, actually. I mean, here’s a guy that should be able to get out hitters of either persuasion but really should be able to shut down lefties. So, of course, he strikes out Brandon Phillips but walks lefty Votto and gives up a hit to lefty Bruce before he is pulled for Neshek. That said, Siegrist was working his third straight game, which wasn’t optimal and worth factoring into the equation. Thankfully the only real left-handed threat the Pirates have for this weekend series is Pedro Alvarez and you can get him out with righties as well. (When you can get him out, of course–Alvarez is on that list of Cardinal Killers that is posted in the Ballpark Village post office.)
On the whole, it was a great game for the offense. Eleven hits, six walks, and seven runs which could have been more. We’ll see as weekend goes on whether this was an awakening or it was just a momentary spurt.
The other thing that probably will get some discussion out of yesterday’s game was Adams’s interaction with a fan. After sprawling over the rolled-up tarp next to the stands in pursuit of a foul ball, Adams seemed to use a fan to brace himself getting up. Some interpreted that as a shove of the fan, but Adams said that he wasn’t trying to do that, he was just trying to get his balance.
The video at MLB’s site in relation to this incident isn’t very conclusive, not as much so as the Vine that popped up during the game. I have to say, while I don’t think there was any ill intent by Adams, that doesn’t really look like a by-product of him getting to his feet. There’s no reason to question Adams and it doesn’t look like it was a playful push on a rival fan, which is how I kinda took it the first time I saw the Vine. I’m sure he’ll be more cognizant of that going forward. No need to give Reds fans any more reason to start booing.
We had Wacha versus Tony Cingrani Wednesday, now we get Shelby Miller versus Gerrit Cole in another matchup of outstanding young pitchers. Miller, who missed basically the entire postseason because the Cards didn’t want to match him up against the Pirates, causing a snowball effect, of course will face the Pirates for his first game in 2014. Because that’s just how baseball works. It loves its irony (assuming I’m using that right, which always is a major debate on the internet).
Overall, the numbers aren’t outstanding, but we’ve seen worse tables. The heart of the order has had a lot of success against him (Five home runs? Given the fact he had some problems with the long ball in spring, that’s not encouraging) and he’ll have to figure a way around those. On the plus side, there’s no way Russell Martin can destroy the Cards like he did last year, right? I mean, that was above and beyond. I’ve got a good feeling about Miller’s season and a strong start tonight would go a long way toward validating that feeling.
Cole was very tough last year, though they figured him out a bit when they had to in Game 5 of the NLDS, at least enough to win. Those two playoff games were the only time they saw Cole, so perhaps more exposure is only going to be good for the Redbirds.
Not a lot of success in the small sample size. Cole didn’t pitch any regular season games against the Cards so it’ll be interesting to see how a game with significantly less stakes affects him. Probably not much at all, I wouldn’t think–if you can pitch in the postseason, you aren’t going to have problems with an opening week game.
Of course, there’s a 90% chance of rain in Pittsburgh today as the storm system moves that direction. The good news is that, if the hourly forecast on the Weather Channel’s site holds, the rain should start clearing out around game time and hopefully if there is a delay–again–it won’t be an extensive one. Enjoy your first weekend with baseball!