Sure, there was a hiccup in yesterday’s game and they weren’t able to complete the sweep of the Atlanta Braves. However, it’s becoming more and more apparent that the St. Louis Cardinals that we were looking for to start the season have arrived. We had a week full of exciting games, winning baseball and the first real appearance of that “speed” thing people were talking about in the offseason. If this is Cardinal baseball, sign me up.
Friday (5-2 win)
Hero: Lance Lynn. It does figure that just as soon as I get it into my head to write about Lynn’s struggles with big innings, he allows two single runs and gets out of his one jam without too much of an incident. Not that I’m complaining, mind you. Lynn was exactly what the team needed and didn’t require his legendary run support, either.
Goat: It’s a tough one to pick, but since Peter Bourjos was the only person without a hit (struck out twice in his two AB), he’ll get the nod in this one. Kudos to Mike Matheny for putting him back out there again on Saturday anyway, something we wouldn’t have seen out of the manager earlier in the season. Of course, Bourjos might have done more if he hadn’t been ejected on a questionable decision by the home plate umpire, a decision that steamed Matheny enough to get tossed as well.
Notes: Great night for Allen Craig, who went three for four and started to look a little more like the Craig we have been expecting. When five players, including Craig, have multiple hits, you are doing something right and it’s a little surprising the club only mustered five runs. Three double plays would have something to do with that, I guess.
Saturday (4-1 win)
Hero: Shelby Miller. I’ve been waiting and waiting for the potential #2 starter Miller to show up and on Saturday, he made his first appearance. Miller kept the walks down, went after the Brave hitters, and made it through seven innings with barely a scratch. This could just be an aberration, but I sincerely hope it’s not. This is the Miller that I thought we’d see when we started talking about this team in the spring and I’d love to see more of it.
Goat: Jhonny Peralta had a rough day of it, going 0-3 with two strikeouts, but given his recent offensive production, he can be forgiven for the off day. I mean, I’m still giving him the tag, but we aren’t going to rag on him or anything. Matt Carpenter was the runner up with another hitless day in the leadoff role, but he did wind up scoring a run anyway.
Notes: The speed really came to play in this game. When was the last time we saw a true bunt single, much less four of them? Kolten Wong and Bourjos both used their wheels to great effect and Wong’s stolen base led to an overthrow by Evan Gattis and another run for the Redbirds. It might not have been the ’80s version of the club, but it was the closest thing we’ve seen to it in quite some time. I think everyone would agree, we’d like to see some more games like that one.
Another strong day for the bullpen, including a perfect inning by Trevor Rosenthal, which doesn’t happen all that often. Then again, counting this game he’d thrown 3.2 innings since blowing that save against the Cubs and had only one walk in that frame to mar the ledger, so maybe it wasn’t as surprising as you’d expect.
Sunday (6-5 loss)
Hero: Matt Carpenter. A perfect day at the plate for the leadoff hitter, with two hits and three walks. He only got one run out of the deal, but you can’t fault him for that. These are the kind of days that remind you just why Marp stays at the top of the lineup.
Goat: Trevor Rosenthal. I’m not saying it was all his fault–while I missed the last couple of innings, it sounds like a borderline ball call could have ended the game without the damage being done–it’s still tough to see your closer come in and blow a game that the team fought so hard to win.
Then again, some of this has to go on Matheny’s shoulders. I know that he talked to the player, Rosenthal felt good, etc., but the simple fact is that Rosenthal had pitched the last three days and four of the last five, with only the rainout giving him some rest. To add another day to that was probably pushing it. Perhaps Matheny should have tried to save Pat Neshek for that role or, looking longer term, maybe he could have lobbied to have Jason Motte activated today instead of Tuesday, knowing that Rosenthal needed the break. Not that they’d thrown Motte into the ninth on his first day back, but that might have given Matheny some other closing options.
Notes: I guess it’s only fair that the Braves won this one, because they did such a darn good job of trying to give it away. To give up three runs after a two-out strikeout is pretty hard to do, yet they did it. Allowing the go-ahead run to score when a routine fly ball gets lost in the sun would have been tough to swallow if you’d been of the Atlanta persuasion. I think it’s a good sign that we saw the Cards capitalize on some of those opportunities, though. Last week, two weeks ago, I don’t think they would have. For whatever reason, whether it’s the ability to win more than two in a row or just a jolt of excitement in the clubhouse, this team has seemed more likely to put the runs on the board that they need, more than we’d seen earlier in the season.
A couple of hits by Matt Adams, who also had a sacrifice fly as part of his day. He’s gotten his average back up over .300, but still hasn’t hit a home run since April 30. Then again, nobody on the team has gone deep since Peralta hit one out on May 9 against Pittsburgh. That was 74 innings ago, a significant drought. Given the return of speed, you’d about expect Whitey Herzog in the dugout and “The Heat Is On” to be playing at Busch as part of an ’80s revival.
Jaime Garcia returned to the mound yesterday and did a more than credible job for his first time facing major league hitters in a year. I don’t think anyone expected that he’d be able to go into the seventh, but if it hadn’t been for a disputable fair/foul call in the sixth that plated two runs, he might have gone even deeper on his 95 pitch limit. Garcia also allowed a couple of home runs, but on the whole was efficient and reminded folks that this is why the Cardinals still want to see him in their rotation. The talent is pretty obvious. The question will be whether he can stay healthy enough to use it.
Cards get an off day today and then host the Diamondbacks, who made news this weekend by hiring Tony LaRussa as team president. Given the D-Backs’ insistence on scrappy, gritty players, you’d think TLR would fit right in. It will be interesting to see how he does in the role, though, and as someone pointed out on Twitter, now a large portion of the braintrust from the powerhouse Cards teams of the mid-2000s are running teams: Walt Jocketty in Cincinnati, TLR in Arizona, Jeff Luhnow in Houston, and of course Mozeliak here in St. Louis.
The problem is that the hiring of TLR might be the highlight of Arizona’s season so far. Their gap in the NL West is already in double-digits and there doesn’t seem to be much chance of a revival. They have been scuffling, though they just strafed the Dodgers this weekend.
Bronson Arroyo, who has been a thorn in the Cardinals’ side before, will face them for the first time as a Diamondback. Arroyo threw a complete game last time out against the Nationals in which he allowed just one run and struck out seven. In fact, over his last four starts he’s thrown 29 2/3rds innings and allowed just three earned runs, an ERA of 0.91. Of course, the two starts before that, he was stroked for 14 runs in 8.2 frames, so you can’t be sure exactly what you’ll get.
Kinda middle of the road when it comes to the stats against him. Matt Holliday‘s taken him deep a few times, but much of the rest of the team has had their struggles with him. Jon Jay has good numbers, though, and given Bourjos has played a lot lately, he might get a breather here and let Jay keep sharp. That’s fine, but I hope that Matheny doesn’t necessarily use the same logic to get Daniel Descalso into the lineup, though DD hasn’t started in a while and Matheny may do it because of that.
It’s pretty nice that the Cards have had this great stretch of starting pitching and it hasn’t even included Adam Wainwright. Waino will see if he can keep the “let’s go seven” mentality alive as he takes the hill on Tuesday night.
It’s a little surprising to see such big numbers against the Cardinal ace, but he gave up four runs in six innings during last season’s Opening Day, which probably accounts for most of it. This well may be a close, well-pitched game. We’ll see if that new shiny speed can make the difference yet again!