There was a bit of a mantra that sprung up around coverage of the Cardinals at the end of last week. It was pointed out that the Redbirds had the toughest schedule in almost 90 years when you are talking about the number of road games to this point of the year. Once they got home and in their own ballpark, the reasoning went, things would be much better.
Perhaps that’s the problem. The Cards had been away so long they didn’t recognize Busch. Either that or it’s not a flip-the-switch situation. Because last night was the ugliest thing I’ve seen since I last looked in the mirror.
Obviously, the Goat has to go to Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons. Anytime you give up a single, double, triple and home run in the first inning, you are likely in for a long night. Nothing was working for Lyons at all and, even though the Cubs haven’t been that good, they were able to hit most everything with authority.
I’m sure I have a more-than-usual attachment to Lyons, but I was a bit stunned at how fast Twitter turned against him. Lyons isn’t going to be an ace by any means, but he’s done a pretty solid job since taking over for Joe Kelly in the rotation. The worst game he had (before last night) was a four-run, six-inning affair against the Pirates last month when he had one bad inning that was exacerbated by a questionable call on Andrew McCutchen that kept him alive rather than striking him out.
It’s not even that Lyons winds up putting a lot of folks on base. He walked four in his first outing against the Mets, but only two more between then and last night. He gives up a little less than a hit an inning. Will the league adjust to him and have his number rise? Perhaps. But I don’t think his results have been all that different than Kelly’s would have been. Of course, he doesn’t wear goggles and come across as a fun-loving guy, which helps Kelly keep a portion of the fan base happy.
Was last night terrible for him? Sure. However, remember that just two weeks ago Adam Wainwright had an atrocious game against the Cubs as well. (Not this bad, but for Waino, it’s comparable.) The Cubs just may be one of those teams that are going to match up badly for the Cardinals this year.
Now, all of that said, there’s no guarantee that Lyons will make his next start. Jaime Garcia pitched in Memphis last night and gave up two runs in five innings. It’s possible that the club will figure that’s enough and bring up Garcia for the next time this spot comes up in the rotation. I’d probably like to see him throw one more rehab start, given that the first one was cut short and he probably needs to build up the stamina, but that outing does look positive for Garcia.
Of course, last night’s game would have been bad but not atrocious had it not been for the unexpected meltdown of Randy Choate. I’ll admit, I didn’t get to watch much of the game save the first couple of innings and when I got home from my church group and saw it was 11-5 in the eighth, I didn’t bother with the rest of it. So I was pretty stunned when I saw the Cubs had tacked on six more runs.
We argued earlier in the year that Choate shouldn’t be more than a LOOGY, but he’s actually done a fairly solid job at pitching complete innings this year. Last night, though, he fooled nobody. I think the Cubs sent up the batboy at one time and he got a hit. When you get relieved by Daniel Descalso, you know it’s been a rough night.
The one bright spot in all of this drek was Yadier Molina, who gets the Hero tag. Molina had two of the team’s six hits, scored a run, drove in a run, and even stole third base. He did have his second passed ball in as many nights, but a good bit of that was on Lyons. Molina set up low and away, Lyons threw it high and in. Yadi got his glove on it and could have caught it, but it was still a pretty big reach for him to even get close.
The good thing about baseball is that 1) a 17-5 loss counts for as much as a 1-0 loss and 2) unlike other sports, there’s no runs allowed tiebreaker to get into the playoffs. The Cards have to come out and play well tonight and put that game behind them, much like they didn’t let the momentum from Sunday night’s exciting win come with them to St. Louis. If it works in the negative, it’s gotta work in the positive, right?
It also helps that they get to run Adam Wainwright out there. Waino struggled last time against the Cubs, but has righted the ship since then and, given his competitive nature, won’t be allowing such a strafing again this time.
This is actually a fairly big game for Waino. If the Cards can’t do any more than split a series with the Cubs at home, it’s not a strong indicator that this is the team we thought it was. If he loses, though, that’s the best the Cards can manage. If he wins, they can still take the next two games, write off last night, and have a little momentum built up.
He’ll have to do it against Jake Arrieta. Arrieta threw 5.1 scoreless innings in his first start of the season, which of course was against the Cards. In his only other start this year, the White Sox got him for three runs in four innings. Let’s hope that St. Louis has that kind of success tonight.
Not a lot of success there, but there’s not a lot of exposure either. Hopefully the fact that they saw him recently will help them with their sense of familiarity and they can do more than they did last time out.
Shake it off, Cards fans. Today has to be better!