I hope that you and yours had a wonderful and meaningful Easter weekend. Even aside from the important religious aspects, it was one of the first warm and sunny weekends we’ve seen here in a while and I expect that was the case for you as well. If only the Cardinals had played as nicely as the weather!
Friday (3-1 loss)
Hero: Michael Wacha. It’s not often that the losing pitcher in a game gets the Hero tag, but there was little Wacha did to deserve having an L put next to his name. Wacha threw seven innings, allowed just four hits, struck out seven, and then saw his defense come apart at exactly the wrong time. When the winning runs score because Yadier Molina can’t handle a pitch, that’s something you just can’t plan for.
Goat: Matt Carpenter. Not only did he go 0-3 (with a walk) but he made two errors, including a key one in the Nationals’ seventh inning that led to the winning runs. If he catches Wacha’s throw (which was admittedly a bullet, but still very catchable), the Nationals have runners on first and second with one out instead of bases loaded and no outs. While Wacha almost pulled the Houdini anyway, most notably with a stellar play to get the second out at home, asking him to do that just isn’t fair.
Notes: All the success St. Louis had against Gio Gonzalez in the spring unsurprisingly didn’t carry over to the regular season, even though they’d been able to hit him in the past. The fourth inning was a turning point, because Mark Ellis drives in a run with one out and there are two runners on, but Shane Robinson and Peter Bourjos strike out, ending that threat. The Cards wouldn’t get another runner on until Jon Jay doubled in the eighth, giving them another chance especially after Carpenter walked, but Jhonny Peralta, Matt Holliday and Allen Craig couldn’t get anyone in.
Saturday (4-3 win)
Hero: Lance Lynn. Tough not to give it to a pitcher who helps out his own cause. Lynn again avoided the big first inning, whether because of his new pregame rituals or the fact Tony Cruz is starting to become his personal catcher. (I’d guess more the former, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Cruz starts playing a bit more as long as Lynn keeps it up.) Lynn also stroked an RBI double as part of the three-run third inning, which was kinda helpful (and important in what turned into a one-run game). Lynn didn’t go as long as you’d like to see, just shy of six innings, and he did put eight runners on via hit or walk, but for the most part got the job done.
Goat: While the bullpen wasn’t rock-solid, I think you have to give the label to Kolten Wong for his 0-3, 4 LOB day. Wong started off so solidly, but is two for his last 16, which isn’t fun to watch and, given the small number of at-bats so far in the season, has dropped his average precipitously. Hopefully not only will he turn it around quickly, but his struggles won’t give Mike Matheny the idea to overuse Ellis and bury Wong. We know Matheny likes the “hot hand”, though.
Notes: Trevor Rosenthal got the save, though not before allowing a run and putting the tying run in scoring position. Perhaps what Derek Lilliquist told him got through, since he finished off the game with some heat that we’ve not seen out of him much this season. It’s unsettling to see your closer with a 6.75 ERA this late in the season, though. I hope we’ll see more of that overpowering Rosenthal, the one that was so effective last year, because right now there’s not just a huge bunch of confidence when he comes in. We figure he’ll get the job done, but it’s more Jason Isringhausen and Ryan Franklin (and, sometimes, Jason Motte) than Mariano Rivera.
Two more hits by Jay in this one, playing center instead of Bourjos and raising his average over .300 before play Sunday. There’s the argument that Bourjos needs to play every day to get his stroke, which is a reasonable argument, although one we heard about Tyler Greene a lot and we see how that turned out. The problem is, right now the Cards can’t afford to let him work out his issues in game situations. If Allen Craig (who did show signs of coming around this weekend) was hitting .300 and driving in runs and Peralta was more like .260 than .170, perhaps the offense would be strong enough to support a weak bat and a great glove. That was the idea in the offseason, after all. However, they aren’t doing that and Jay is hitting the ball well. Maybe he responds to competition, I don’t know, but it’s difficult to sit one of the hotter bats when the offense as a whole is struggling.
Sunday (3-2 loss)
Hero: Not a lot to choose from here, but I’ll go with Matt Adams. Adams was the only player to have more than one hit and both were doubles off of Stephen Strasburg. He did fail in his chance to break the tie in the eighth with two on and two out, but overall, he well may have had the best game.
Goat: When the Cards were up two and Carlos Martinez got the first out in the seventh, I was feeling pretty good and actually got up from the TV to take pictures of the kids hunting Easter eggs at my parents’. That done, I sat back down and saw that it was 2-2. Apparently, though, Martinez wasn’t to blame for that, at least not entirely. When you factor in a ball in the decisive ninth went through Matt Carpenter‘s legs and the fact he was 0-4 with three strikeouts in the leadoff role, I think you have to go with him as the Goat yet again. Nobody will be happier to see the Washington Monument in the rear-view mirror than Marp.
Notes: Shelby Miller pitched an interesting game, let’s put it that way. He didn’t allow any runs, which is a nice continuation of what he did in Milwaukee and, for what might be the first time in 2014, didn’t allow a home run. That said, he walked five batters, including three in one inning that he was lucky to escape from. It appears that he is starting to settle into a more effective form, but he’ll hopefully have better command against the Pirates on Friday. Plus he chipped in a double, the third Cardinals starter in this series to do so. You gotta figure they razzed Wacha, the only starting pitcher held hitless.
You wonder why Matheny swapped in Daniel Descalso instead of Wong when he did his double switch in the seventh. Desclaso’s not hitting better than Wong, not by a long shot, and if you are bringing someone into a close game, you might want to upgrade the defense instead of bringing in a questionable glove. Descalso’s better at second than short, of course, but Wong’s stellar in the field and he could have possibly gotten to the ball Descalso couldn’t in the seventh, preserving the lead.
You remember on Thursday when the Cards brought up two relievers, with the idea that they’d help out the pen until the next start Joe Kelly should be making if he wasn’t on the DL? Yeah, about that. Jorge Rondon goes back to Memphis having never taken the field for the Cards as Tyler Lyons gets called up to take today’s start. Eric Fornataro, who came up with him? Yeah, still waiting on that first call from the pen. I know it’s easy to say in general these guys need to get in and hard to point out the specific game that they should have appeared in, but it does seem at times that Matheny plays this game with a shorthanded roster, that it’s 23 or 24 against 25.
Game situations though sometimes conspire against the manager. If Adam Wainwright hadn’t given up just one hit in eight innings on Thursday, likely one of those guys would have pitched the ninth. Had Rosenthal not pitched since Tuesday, one of them might have pitched Friday night with the Cards down two in the late innings. Finding the time to get them in is a tough challenge, I’m sure, but I think Matheny’s got to do it. Surely there will be an opportunity against the Mets. You’d think, at least!
As noted, Lyons will take the mound tonight for the Cardinals against the National League New York team. Lyons, and I just checked the roster and he is still the Patron Pitcher of the Blog wearing the big 70, has done well in Memphis and looks to bring that approach to the big leagues. He’s not faced the Mets before, but the Mets have an OPS against lefties of just .619 (interestingly, they actually hit lefties a little better than righties–.239 to .220–but have significantly less pop against them) and that combined with unfamiliarity hopefully will give him an advantage.
New York trots out Jenrry Mejia, who is coming off a five inning, two hit performance against Arizona. Mejia hasn’t gone longer than six innings and that was in his first start of the season, so the Cards may get into the Mets bullpen fairly early.
That’s an interesting table there. Mejia has been up and down since 2010 and last faced the Cardinals April 16 and 17 of that year. Between the two appearances, he threw three innings and allowed four hits and no runs, but basically no one he faced is still in Cardinal red, so I’m not sure that will tell us much.
Last four games of the road trip before the Redbirds get back home this weekend. At least the earlier start times mean the games don’t take up quite as much of the evening!