Breaking Out or Breaking the Monotony?

The St. Louis Cardinals scored nine runs yesterday.  They hit two home runs in the process.  I believe local schools are closed today to celebrate the historic nature of this achievement in relation to what the 2014 squad has accomplished this year.

That’s not fair, though.  The Cardinals have had a few other games this season where the offense was clicking.  They scored eight against Washington, ten against the Cubs, seven a couple of times.  They’ve teased breakouts before, looking like the team we all expected, the team that could go on a run and tear up the competition.

But that eight was followed up by one.  The ten was followed up by six, true, but it was the Cubs.  It’s been hard enough to have the offense show up two out of three games, much less for an extended run.  Will yesterday be any different?  Why should it be?

Well, for one thing, the Cardinals play the Cubs this weekend, so that’s usually a good way to keep a roll going, especially since they won’t face Jeff Samardzija over the three games.  You’ve also seen a resurgence of balls going over the wall, whether because the batters or the weather is heating up remains to be seen.  However, being able to put some home runs on the board is a great way to get the offense clicking.

The most important reason to think this outbreak could be what gets the wheels to catch is the fact that Allen Craig is starting to turn into the Allen Craig we all know and love.  Yesterday’s Hero put up a home run and two doubles as part of his four-hit day.  In the six games before this recent five-game hitting streak, he put up four hits.  He raised his average close to 30 points just yesterday.  We always felt Craig would hit eventually.  It looks like eventually is now.

You also have to give some kudos to the Big Fill In The Blank.  Matt Adams only had one hit, but it was a bomb that put the Cardinals on top to stay.  I know Adams has hit .300 in the minors and can probably do more than a .260 or so average, but as long as he can keep strafing the outfield seats, I’ll take the tradeoff.  His raw power may be more than anyone else on the team and that kind of pop is important to have in the lineup.

Jon Jay had three hits, which not only didn’t appease our friend Ben but also may have kept Oscar Taveras in Memphis for a bit longer.  Taveras is raking down in AAA (.322/.378/.544) and, if the offense sputters much longer, it’s going to be almost impossible to keep him there.  It’s getting tough as it is, since the idea has always been that Taveras’s bat is ready for the bigs, you just had to worry about his health.  That’s not a concern right now, as he’s riding a 14-game hitting streak and in the last 10 games has only put up a .400/.462/.714 line.

Most of us would like to see Jay not be the starter in center, given his defense and his streaky bat.  However, if he’s on the upward part of the streak, Taveras isn’t going to get the call.  Once he scuffles–and if Randal Grichuk doesn’t catch fire–then this discussion becomes a lot more immediate.

Not the best game from Shelby Miller, but we’ll take it.  He’s always going to struggle with the home run, most likely, and if he could keep it to a solo shot, I think we’d handle it fairly well.  Yesterday, he gave up the solo and the two-run version, which gets you a little antsy, especially since three runs has been a tough barrier for the Cards to clear.  It turned out not to be an issue, but for a while there, you were envisioning brooms.  His control wasn’t there either–three walks to just one strikeout–which is disappointing given how he’s been able to tear up the Brewers in the past.

If we have to give out a Goat–and we do, them’s the rules–I believe it’s going to Jhonny Peralta.  0-4 yesterday (though he did draw a walk) and three left on.  Tony Cruz also went hitless, but he threw out a runner as well as working (and I mean working) a walk, so Peralta gets the nod.

Cards get the day off today before opening up in Wrigley Field Friday afternoon.  St. Louis sends out Adam Wainwright, who well may be the best pitcher in baseball right now–I would not be surprised to hear he wins NL Pitcher of the Month today–in what would seem to be a mismatch, given the Cubs’ struggles.

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Starlin Castro 32 28 8 1 1 0 4 2 3 .286 .344 .393 .737 0 1 1 1 2
Darwin Barney 29 29 8 2 0 1 5 0 5 .276 .276 .448 .724 0 0 0 0 0
Nate Schierholtz 19 19 6 4 0 0 1 0 5 .316 .316 .526 .842 0 0 0 0 0
Anthony Rizzo 17 16 4 0 0 0 0 1 3 .250 .294 .250 .544 0 0 0 0 2
Luis Valbuena 12 11 4 3 0 0 0 1 0 .364 .417 .636 1.053 0 0 0 0 0
John Baker 10 10 1 1 0 0 0 0 2 .100 .100 .200 .300 0 0 0 0 1
Welington Castillo 9 8 1 0 0 0 1 0 2 .125 .111 .125 .236 0 1 0 0 0
Junior Lake 9 9 3 1 0 1 2 0 4 .333 .333 .778 1.111 0 0 0 0 0
Ryan Sweeney 9 9 3 2 0 1 3 0 3 .333 .333 .889 1.222 0 0 0 0 0
Emilio Bonifacio 8 7 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 .143 .250 .143 .393 0 0 0 0 0
Jeff Samardzija 7 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 1 0 0 0 0
Carlos Villanueva 7 7 0 0 0 0 0 0 5 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Travis Wood 6 5 2 0 0 1 1 0 1 .400 .400 1.000 1.400 1 0 0 0 0
Edwin Jackson 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .500 .000 .500 1 0 0 0 0
Total 177 165 41 14 1 4 17 6 36 .248 .276 .418 .694 3 2 1 1 5
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/1/2014.

While Chicago hasn’t owned Wainwright by any means, it’s interesting to see that there are a few players–perhaps even players that you wouldn’t think about–that have done pretty well against him.  That said, unless his approach changes when the calendar flips, this is a level that these guys have not seen Wainwright on and it likely will be a long afternoon.

Travis Wood goes for the baby bears, coming off an outing where he allowed five runs in 5.2 innings to the Brewers.  Wood, who have a bit of a soft spot for given he’s an Arkansas boy as well, hasn’t faced the Redbirds this season, but has been hit-or-miss against them in the past.

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Matt Holliday 28 26 8 2 0 2 4 1 7 .308 .357 .615 .973 0 0 0 1 0
Yadier Molina 28 27 11 3 0 3 11 0 6 .407 .393 .852 1.245 0 1 0 0 0
Jon Jay 26 22 10 2 0 0 3 3 1 .455 .520 .545 1.065 1 0 0 0 0
Allen Craig 23 22 7 1 0 2 2 1 4 .318 .348 .636 .984 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Carpenter 19 16 4 1 0 1 2 2 3 .250 .316 .500 .816 0 1 0 0 0
Mark Ellis 10 9 2 1 0 0 0 1 1 .222 .300 .333 .633 0 0 0 0 0
Lance Lynn 8 5 0 0 0 0 1 1 5 .000 .143 .000 .143 1 1 0 0 0
Daniel Descalso 7 7 3 0 1 0 1 0 1 .429 .429 .714 1.143 0 0 0 0 0
Adam Wainwright 6 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 1 0 0 0 0
Matt Adams 4 4 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Tony Cruz 3 3 1 1 0 0 2 0 0 .333 .333 .667 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Jhonny Peralta 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 2
Shelby Miller 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 166 150 49 11 1 8 26 9 30 .327 .362 .573 .935 3 3 0 1 2
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/1/2014.

OK, I guess more hit. I keep thinking of the one or two games that Wood was really sharp against the Cardinals, but they must be the exception.  On the face of it, this looks like a great place for the offense to keep that mojo rolling.  We’ll see if it turns out that way.

Enjoy the off day!  As you can tell, we’ve got some great new writers here at The Conclave so even if I don’t write tomorrow, there will still be plenty to read and discuss.  I’m kicking around a Star Wars post for Sunday, so maybe you’ll see me again before the weekend is through!

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