The good news is, the Cardinals won the game last night. Some of you might not know that, since it took until about midnight. I myself fell asleep for about 20 minutes before waking up to catch the end of it. So the Redbirds make it to the quarter pole at .500.
They won the game, but they did it in the most difficult manner imaginable, I think. One, it was against the Cubs, who, Monday night notwithstanding, are not a good team. Two, Adam Wainwright was on the mound and made just one mistake, a long ball by Luis Valbuena. So, with any semblance of offense, this should have been a runaway game, right? At least one that was comfortable and not one that almost lasted until the early hours of this morning.
And there was the semblance of offense. The Cardinals put base runner after base runner on, piling up the opportunities. However, as we’ve unfortunately come to expect, no one wanted to come through with the key hit that might open the floodgates. The Cards left 10 men on in the first five innings, which is just tough to do. (As I write that, I can hear Jack Buck from the “Go Crazy” call we start every UCB Radio with: “The Cardinals have left 10 men on and they left a lot a men on early.”)
Pile all of this together, stir it around, and you’d normally have a comfortable lead. Instead, it took an infield hit from Matt Adams to get the first run in and a two-run rally in the sixth to get the lead. Even that rally almost got short-circuited as, with one out and runners on the corners, Matt Holliday hit a ground ball to Starlin Castro that might have been a double play and should have at least gotten Jon Jay running from second, but Castro made a terrible throw, everyone was safe, and the game was tied.
Our Hero from last night, while we’re talking about that rally, was Jhonny Peralta. He had three hits (the Cards only had nine in a 12 inning game) and one of them drove in Jay from second after that play, giving the Cardinals the lead that they wouldn’t expand but would carry into the ninth inning.
I said on Twitter in the eighth that the Cardinals needed to score another run because Trevor Rosenthal has been so shaky. The only reason he’d not blown a save yet was because he’d often come in with two or three run leads instead of the slimmest of margins. Last night, he immediately jumped into trouble, walking two batters with one out. He struck out Chris Coghlan and looked like he’d get out of the inning, but then Emilo Bonifacio singled in the tying run and the game continued. That’ll get you the Goat every time.
In the top of the eighth, Mike Matheny made his most questionable double-switch yet, and that’s really saying something. To bring in Carlos Martinez, he took out Adams and put Joey Butler ninth and Martinez in the sixth spot because the pitcher was due up second in the bottom of the inning. Which was debatable but not crazy until Martinez didn’t stay in the game. Butler is not a huge defensive upgrade from Allen Craig–in fact, he looked a little awkward trying to get to the tying single, though I don’t believe anyone would have gotten to it–so why not just pinch-hit for Martinez when he comes up and leave Adams in the game? I don’t know if anyone asked him about that but that’s just wasteful. A Dodger fan said that Don Mattingly has the same double-switch fever. Maybe it’s a symptom of ex-players wanting to show they really are smart enough to manage?
However, give Matheny some credit (though it’s probably more on how the game went along), he had players available for the extra frames. Twice he had to pinch-hit because the pitcher came up instead of having to leave the pitcher in there. That became quite important in the 12th, when the bases were loaded with one out and what would have been Adams’s spot came up, now being held by Seth Maness. Greg Garcia was able to pinch-hit and would up taking that literally, taking a ball off his body to force in the winning run. Thank goodness Justin Grimm was so wild (walked two batters to load the bases as well) or they might still be playing.
I can’t imagine that game eased any of the concerns of John Mozeliak, who chatted with the press yesterday and said this start was “concerning.” When your general manager gets concerned, as a player you should start getting a bit nervous. After all, he’s the guy that can ship you down or ship you out, and while Mo’s not going to do anything rash, he doesn’t shy away from the big moves, either. While he talked about July being a time where you can change the look of the club, I don’t think he’ll wait that long if necessary. The problem with waiting until the deadline is that you can keep digging a hole one player can’t get you out of.
Usually an extra-inning win could spur some excitement, but we’ve seen that this team doesn’t believe much in momentum. At least Michael Wacha is going tonight, which hopefully will lead to another victory. Wacha’s been a little shaky in his last four starts with a 4.22 ERA and only getting through six innings twice. He pitched well against the Cubs, though, allowing just a home run by Junior Lake and getting no support in return.
If he can stay out of the Lake, things probably will go OK. Lake’s working on being a Cardinal Killer, though, so it might be harder than it sounds.
Jason Hammel goes for the Cubbies. Hammel gave up two runs in seven innings to the Braves last time out and three runs in six to the Redbirds in the one game St. Louis one in that series in Wrigley.
With Peralta hitting pretty well, that’s a matchup he’s got to be excited for. There are a number of guys that have had success in a small sample against Hammel, so perhaps they can get a little easier win tonight!