Cards’ Bats Wake Up And So Does Mo

There’s a lot to get to.  Four games to cover and a late-night move by John Mozeliak that is, in part, the reason I’m yawning this morning.  We’ll get to all of that in a bit.

First, though, most of you know that I’m from Arkansas.  In fact, I’m about 60 miles northwest of Mayflower and Vilonia, which were both devastated by a huge tornado last night.  The family I have down that way was spared, but so many weren’t.  Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers today as those communities spend the day digging out and seeing what pieces are left to put together.

Thursday (4-1 loss to the Mets)

Hero: Kolten Wong.  Two for three with the only run scored.

Goat: Matt Carpenter.  The same line as Matt Adams (0-4, 2K, 3 left on) but the tiebreaker goes to the leadoff guy.

Notes: It does seem like Tony Cruz has figured out Lance Lynn, as he easily could have gotten a win on Thursday with any sort of run support.  Four hits and nine strikeouts in 6.1 innings is a pretty good day, though Lynn did respond to his early 1-0 lead by immediately allowing a tying homer.  Still, what we’ve seen out of the Lynn/Cruz combo has only been positive and hopefully Mike Matheny will stick to that.

Otherwise, it was another wash of a day.  Until Sunday’s outburst, I was planning to call this recap entry “One Is The Loneliest Number” because that’s all the Cards seemed to be able to put together.  And why a double in the ninth inning on Wednesday gave Matheny the idea to bat Daniel Descalso sixth on Thursday is beyond me.  Unsurprisingly, he went 0-4 as well.

Friday (1-0 win vs. Pittsburgh)

Hero: Matt Holliday.  3-3 and drove in the only run with a double in the first.

Goat: Allen Craig.  0-4 and left three men on.

Notes:  An all around great effort by Shelby Miller and the bullpen.  Even though Miller wasn’t perhaps quite as good as a zero in the runs column would indicate, given his struggles against the Pirates last year, this was a masterpiece.  A little more command (four walks in 5.2 innings) and we might not even have to put in the qualifier.  Miller still needs to be efficient with his pitches, but he’s done pretty well in his last few starts.  The bullpen was stellar behind him as well, which is what we’ve come to expect, especially from the big three.

Saturday (6-1 loss vs. Pittsburgh)

Hero: Matt Adams.  Two for four might not sound like much, but it is when the team only gets five hits.

Goat: Yadier Molina.  0-4, two strikeouts, six left on.  Ugly.

Notes: I listened to some of this on the radio coming back from a family gathering and it sounded like the one bad inning that Tyler Lyons had hinged on a questionable call to Andrew McCutchen.  On a 2-2 pitch, John Rooney was certain Lyons had McCutchen struck out, only to see it called a ball and worked to a full count.  McCutchen singled in a run with the new life and the floodgates opened.  While that was a tough inning, Lyons did recover to throw two more scoreless frames and, given the Cards were only going to score one in the game, didn’t have much room for error.

While there are a number of things about Matheny’s management that I don’t understand, here’s one to add to the pile.  Cards down 4-1 in the ninth, Eric Fornataro gets into a bit of trouble, putting two on with two out.  Now, if you don’t go to a reliever here (which is perfectly fine), you are probably wondering if the young guy can get through the fire.  Fornataro then gives up a two-run single for the final margin.  OK, you weren’t likely to come back anyway, you got a little more data and feel for the guy.  All good so far.

So why then do you, with two outs and a runner on, the game basically out of reach, do you make a meaningless pitching change to bring in Randy Choate to face Pedro Alvarez?  I guess the argument could be he needed the work, since he hadn’t pitched since Wednesday, but if that’s the case why didn’t he come in before the RBI single?  If Fornataro had gotten out Tony Sanchez, the inning would have been over and Choate again wouldn’t have pitched.  Just seems to me that Fornataro should have stayed in the game to complete the inning.

Sunday (7-0 win vs. Pittsburgh)

Hero: Jhonny Peralta.  You have to have a day to beat Adam Wainwright for this honor the way he’s pitching, so Peralta did–three hits, a walk, two home runs, 4 RBI.  That’s basically a week’s worth of team offense all packed into one line.

Goat: Jon Jay.  0-3 (though he did have a sacrifice, more on that in a second) right in the middle of a productive offensive day.  Only two starters didn’t get a hit, and Jay was one of them.

Notes: Wainwright is amazing right now.  25 scoreless innings and a good chance to add to that this weekend when he takes on the Cubs.  He’s just dominating in every facet of the game and it’s a wonderful thing to watch.

Apparently the offensive struggles have gotten to Matheny, as he followed up a leadoff double by Carpenter yesterday with a bunt by Jay.  If Jay’s hitting so well that 1) he’s playing over Peter Bourjos and 2) he’s hitting second in the order, you don’t bunt with no outs and a runner on second, especially in the first inning.  I thought we’d gotten past that, as Matheny hadn’t been doing things like this recently.  All in all, Matheny’s not necessarily covered himself in glory in the past few days.

Some of his issues may have led to last night’s moves, as John Mozeliak, having listened to folks saying perhaps there could be a little more offense, brought up Greg Garcia and Randal Grichuk, both of them getting their first calls to The Show, while sending down Shane Robinson and Wong.  Robinson made a lot of sense–too many other outfielders doing well while Robinson is scuffling around .100–but Wong got a lot of people worked up.

To be fair, I don’t think the club has given up on Wong and they want him to play every day.  Why he’s not been given that chance in St. Louis, that’s a different question.  Here’s a line of demarcation that was fairly interesting.

Before April 15: .255/.327/.319. He had a hitless game April 14 but before that had gotten hits in six straight games.

After April 15: .167/.167/.167. After almost always playing complete games before the split, he only had three in the seven games he got into afterwards.

What happened on April 15?  Mark Ellis was activated.  So while he was getting those everyday reps in the big leagues, he did fine.  Once he started getting jerked around in his playing time in favor of Ellis, the hitting slowed down.

Wong has nothing to prove at Memphis.  He hit over .300 there last year with 10 homers.  Success down there isn’t going to mean much of anything.  If the Cardinal offense was going well, we wouldn’t be having this discussion, as they’d be able to absorb Wong’s learning curve more.  I just think it’s interesting that we’re seeing the favoring of a veteran over a rookie.  Ellis was signed to be an insurance policy, not the main man.  If this was still a Tony La Russa team, I’d expect it.  That’s not really been the case under Matheny.

Of course, there was some that pointed out Descalso is hitting around the .100 mark and is still in St. Louis.  It’s a fair point, though I don’t think shipping Dirty Dan out would help Wong’s playing time.  Descalso ate into that a little, but not very much.  Now, why Descalso wasn’t swapped with Garcia with the idea that Wong would get regular work, I don’t know.  It’s been a while since we had to rely so heavily on the mantra, but In Mo We Trust.

It was an interesting quote by Mozeliak, though.  “We can give (Wong and Robinson) some at-bats. They weren’t getting a lot of playing time here in the last couple of weeks and, especially for Wong, that trend probably would continue.”  Why would that trend continue for Wong?  Is that a subtle jab at Matheny or do we as fans read into things too much.  I mean, it’s not like Mark Ellis is hitting like a house afire.  Two hits in 20 at bats does not a star make.  Ironically for a team that’s struggling, they pretty much sent their best-hitting second baseman down.  In Mo We Trust.

We’ll see if Garcia or Grichuk (and congrats to both of them, by the way) will make their way into tonight’s game with the first place Milwaukee Brewers.  We know that Michael Wacha will, of course, since he’ll take the ball to begin the game.

Khris Davis 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Scooter Gennett 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000 0 0 0 0 0
Jonathan Lucroy 1 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000 0 0 0 0 0
Aramis Ramirez 1 1 1 0 0 1 2 0 0 1.000 1.000 4.000 5.000 0 0 0 0 0
Jean Segura 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 5 5 4 0 0 1 3 0 0 .800 .800 1.400 2.200 0 0 0 0 0
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/28/2014.

Even in small samples, that’s not something you see all that often. It’s not surprising Aramis Ramirez roughed him up–he’s got some sort of reaction to Cardinal red–but the rest isn’t pretty. He faced them last August and it was one of the few blemishes on his ledger, though he did wind up getting the win out of a blown save.

Yovani Gallardo has had a strong season so far, with an ERA in Wainwright’s neighborhood.  Cards didn’t see him two weeks ago when they were in Milwaukee, but at times he’s been good for what ails them.

Yadier Molina 45 36 8 4 0 2 6 8 5 .222 .378 .500 .878 0 0 0 1 2
Matt Holliday 37 32 8 0 1 3 8 5 9 .250 .351 .594 .945 0 0 2 0 0
Jon Jay 33 31 11 1 0 2 6 0 3 .355 .355 .581 .935 2 0 0 0 2
Matt Carpenter 14 13 4 3 0 0 3 0 3 .308 .357 .538 .896 0 0 0 1 0
Daniel Descalso 14 12 3 0 0 0 0 2 3 .250 .357 .250 .607 0 0 0 0 0
Allen Craig 11 10 3 0 0 1 3 0 3 .300 .273 .600 .873 0 1 0 0 0
Mark Ellis 9 9 2 0 0 0 1 0 2 .222 .222 .222 .444 0 0 0 0 0
Adam Wainwright 8 8 3 1 0 0 4 0 3 .375 .375 .500 .875 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Adams 3 3 1 0 0 1 2 0 1 .333 .333 1.333 1.667 0 0 0 0 0
Lance Lynn 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 1 0 0 0 0
Total 177 156 43 9 1 9 33 15 33 .276 .345 .519 .864 3 1 2 2 4
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/28/2014.

Lots of good results there.  It’s not always been a walk in the park against Gallardo, but more often than not they’ve been able to figure him out.  He did limit St. Louis to just two runs in seven innings last September, but took the loss anyway.

It’d be real nice to see the Cards take the first game of this series and get off on the right foot, wouldn’t it?

  • Buddhasillegitimatechild38

    I’m on the why not DD boat pretty hard. Wong was basically benched for struggling while being replaced by two guys doing WORSE and had a good, 3 hit day just a few days ago. I liked the Ellis signing this offseason, I like the callups and the Robinson send down. I have no idea why when you have a guy who isn’t a legitimate backup SS and is your utility IF and you call up someone who is a legitimate backup SS while the first guy is batting .100, why would you send down your mismanaged and still best performing second baseman whom you handed the job to in the offseason instead of the poor utility IF?

    • Ben Chambers

      Add me to the “Why the heck isn’t Wong getting those starts in St. Louis and not Memphis?” crowd. I know that the guy deserves regular starts, but choosing a 2-20 guy over a .225 guy just irks me to no end. Ellis is a 1-year rental anyway. Wong is the second baseman going forward.

      • Buddhasillegitimatechild38

        It just makes such little sense

        • Cardinal70

          If–IF–Mo knows that Matheny, for whatever reason, won’t start Wong regularly, then I think the Memphis move makes sense as he’ll play every day and get his swing back. That said, if Mo knows that, he should be able to require his hand-picked guy to play the guy he wants to see at second. I know Mo’s not much of a lineup meddler, but he could make his wishes known.

          • Buddhasillegitimatechild38

            Agreed. Either the organization has soured on Wong for no visible reason so badly that he isn’t given a chance over less talented player whom he’s outperforming when he’s struggling or he os saving Wong from Matheny. If it’s the second he should be able to step in without sending Wong to AAA. the whole situation is disheartening. We shouldn’t be getting this worked up about a struggling, 2 WAR or so rookie but this situation is just being handled that poorly

  • Shloz

    Count me in as a little indignant over the Wong move (pun intended).

    As a devil’s advocate, however, it occurred to me that DD’s salary is such to make optioning him a waste. Additionally, playing him more and showing confidence in him (especially if his numbers come up a bit more) could increase his trade potential. Trading Descalso this year is what would make the most organizational sense, so Mo needs him to have a market. Wong will still be around for many years and will get his dues one way or another.

    The same principle could apply to Jay, even if he weren’t hitting better than Bourjos/Grichuk.

    • Cardinal70

      There’s something to that, though there’s also the idea of sunk cost. I don’t think you’ll be able to trade DD, even with some regular exposure. You have to pay him the $1.5 or whatever it is anyway, whether he plays in Memphis or St. Louis. I would think salary and playing time do factor in, though.

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