We’ve hit the traditional beginning of summer. The temperatures are rising, schools are starting to wrap up, and the Cardinals have played just over a quarter of their schedule. Memorial Day marks a lot of things, most importantly the sacrifice made by many so we could sit here talking baseball, but it also means it’s time for things to get serious in St. Louis.
The Cards fashioned a split over the holiday weekend and it’s telling that this was a disappointment, rather than an expected consequence. With the improved play of late, you’d have thought three of four was coming and, honestly, it should have.
Friday (5-3 loss at Cincinnati)
Hero: Allen Craig. Two for four and drove in two of the three runs the Cardinals scored, coming around himself for the other one. He wasn’t the entire offense, he just looked like it.
Goat: Matt Holliday. Shelby Miller‘s got a strong case here, but Holliday went 0-4 in front of Craig, hitting into a double play and leaving five men on. If he’d had a hit or two, the game might have gone a different way.
Notes: Just when you think that Miller’s getting his legs under him and on his way to that season that some of us expected out of him, he slips yet again. Four runs in five innings isn’t atrocious, especially when there was just one big blow that accounted for most of them, Todd Frazier‘s three-run shot, but it’s enough to lose a game. The home run has been a major issue with Miller this year and if he can limit them to solo shots, it’s tolerable. Three-run homers, not so much.
We also saw good work out of Kevin Siegrist–1.1 scoreless–but that will be the last we’ll see of him for a while as he went on the disabled list the next day. He says the forearm tightness is not of huge concern to him and right now it’s a rest thing, but the Cards have seen enough different pitching injuries over the last few years that we’ll believe it’s not a huge deal when he’s back on the mound.
Also before this game, Joey Butler was sold to Japan, moving him off the 40-man roster and out of the organization. Given the absolute glut of outfielders, this made a lot of sense. Butler was going to have to struggle for at-bats in AAA, much less getting any regular time in the big leagues. It’s still astounding to me that teams can ship a player off to Japan, though. I assume he has to give permission or has that in his contract, because that’s a huge change in a person’s life!
Saturday (6-3 win at Cincinnati)
Hero: Matt Holliday. Talk about a swing. A night after doing absolutely nothing at the plate, Holliday goes three for four and drives in the first run of the game, scoring later in the contest. It was a good night for the offense–Jon Jay almost got the nod here with three hits and two RBI–but Holliday was the biggest bat.
Goat: Shane Robinson. Peter Bourjos was scratched right before game time with a stomach bug, which meant Mike Matheny didn’t rework the lineup, just slid Robinson into the second spot where he had Bourjos hitting and moved Jay to center. It’s a good thing the rest of the offense was clicking, because Robinson went 0-5 and left five men on base.
Notes: I didn’t have the time, but soon I hope to go through Jaime Garcia‘s recent road starts and see if maybe we are starting to overemphasize his struggles away from Busch. (Couple that with the Lance Lynn work and it’s almost a Cardinals Mythbusters theme.) Cincinnati didn’t do much damage to Garcia’s psyche this time around, at least. While he didn’t quite make it through the sixth, he struck out seven and allowed only two runs.
Some good work by Carlos Martinez, who might be starting to come around some. Martinez worked an inning and a third and struck out three of the four outs he got while allowing no runs. He did give up two hits, so it wasn’t completely seamless, but it’s much better than the results we have been seeing from him.
There’s a reason the Cards didn’t immediately install Jason Motte into the closer role and it wasn’t completely because Trevor Rosenthal was currently in the position. Motte’s going to struggle at times and he did a little in this one, giving up a home run to Ryan Ludwick to start the inning and allowing a walk to Skip Schumaker to finish his evening. It’s good to have him back, but it’s not going to be a completely smooth road.
Back-to-back two-hit games for Matt Carpenter. Two hits, including a home run, from Yadier Molina. A pinch-hit single for Matt Adams off a lefty. Things are fun with the offense is going, aren’t they?
Sunday (4-0 win at Cincinnati)
Hero: Adam Wainwright. I know Johnny Cueto is having a good year, with a better WHIP and BAA against than Waino and a K/BB ratio that’s roughly similar. However, if the voting was today, I’d have to think Wainwright would get the call. After another scoreless outing, this time “just” eight innings, Wainwright is sitting on the following line: 8-2, 1.67 ERA, 77 K, 0.85 WHIP, two shutouts and a .506 OPS against. That’s good stuff right there. Oh, in this one, all he did in those eight scoreless was strike out 12 while allowing just five hits, all singles. He’s pretty good.
Goat: Jhonny Peralta. Rough day for the shortstop, as it was his turn to go 0-5 and leave six men on base. He struck out three times in that mix as well, something Jay could identify with, as he did the same.
Notes: Cards put up a decent number of hits in this one. While four runs is nothing to sneeze at, you’d have almost thought they’d get more with 11 knocks and three walks. Makes me almost want to dig out that scoring efficiency formula I had a few years back to see how frustrating that was in comparison to some other games.
Cards won two of three against the Reds and really opened up ground between them and the then-third-place Cincinnati squad. Then again, since the Dodgers almost threw back-to-back no-hitters at them, perhaps just winning two of three isn’t as impressive as we thought. The NL Central isn’t looking as strong as we thought it was going to be and, in all honesty, if St. Louis doesn’t take over first in the next two weeks and keep it the rest of the season, I’ll be pretty surprised. With the way they’ve been playing and the way the rest of the NL Central is, this might not be a pennant race after all. Of course, it’s early and lots of things could change, but the Brewers are starting to come back to earth and no one else, save the Cardinals, is stepping up.
Monday (6-4 loss to Yankees in 12)
Hero: Carlos Martinez. I had trouble coming up with a Hero in this one. The Cards managed 10 hits and three people had two each, but given the extended opportunities in extra innings, that didn’t seem as impressive. Kolten Wong almost got the call, with two hits and an RBI that tied the game in the bottom of the first, but he did strike out to end the game and was caught stealing third (though I think you give an assist to the wet conditions there, since he had the bag stolen, he just couldn’t stop his slide), so that counted against him. Martinez, though, threw two innings, keeping the game tied and letting the Cards have a shot at winning in regulation, even though they didn’t capitalize. He allowed just one hit and has been scored on just once in his last seven outings.
Goat: Randy Choate. I’m not necessarily arguing with Mike Matheny leaving Choate out there in the 12th. Obviously, you don’t have many other options in the bullpen that late in the game. There were two lefties to start the inning and a number of batters coming up that had worse numbers against southpaws. All in all, it was the best place for him to be and I completely understand being hesitant to pull him quickly, though you do have Sam Freeman out there in the pen that also throws from the port side.
However, it was pretty obvious early on that Choate didn’t have much of anything yesterday. He was missing Molina’s glove by significant amounts and once he’d walked Jacoby Ellsbury and then hit Brian McCann with a 2-2 pitch, you could have made the case that his day should have been through and Motte could have come trotting in. Again, though, a lot of people coming up didn’t do well against lefties, so I understand the reasoning, but it cost the Redbirds dearly yesterday.
Of course, Motte allowed Brendan Ryan to get an RBI single, so perhaps they were pretty much doomed anyway. It was good to see Ryan back in St. Louis, though. I saw that the Yanks put him at first while they left Jeter at short–an understandable political move, though not necessarily the best baseball one–and I thought that they were wasting really Ryan’s only skill. Then he made a slick pickup of Wong’s hard-hit ball to first and turned it into a double play and I realized that perhaps it wasn’t entirely wasted.
All of it is moot, of course, if Molina has about another foot on a ball in the 11th inning. Brett Gardner made a nice leaping catch to take away what would have been the game-winning home run and a heck of a way to end a holiday ballgame. Unfortunate, that.
With the Yankees coming to town, the Jeter Retirement Tour makes a stop in St. Louis. I’m pretty much in agreement with Christine Coleman on the whole “gifts for Jeter” bit. I don’t think it’s a terrible thing that the Cards did that, but it seems awfully silly to give a gift to a player that you’ve seen six times in his lengthy career. I mean, if they gave gifts that were proportionate to how often they’d seen the player, the Cards would have been completely within their rights to give him a $20 gift card to Walmart.
Of course, the Cardinals are much too classy to do that and, even though it’s not a thing that they are all that tied to, they did it up right, having Ozzie Smith on hand to present Stan Musial cufflinks and a donation to Jeter’s charity. Nothing over the top, nothing dramatic, just their way of acknowledging some baseball history. And if it’s anything this town knows about, it’s baseball history.
As expected, given that these teams haven’t faced each other since 2005, there’s not much in the way of history between the starting pitchers and the other lineup. Lance Lynn goes for St. Louis in his first look at the famous New York gray uniforms. This is all he knows about them:
Alfonso Soriano has done well against Lynn, back when he was a Cub. We’ll see if that continues. Otherwise, most of the lineup is a fresh look for the Cardinal hurler.
Of course, that table is like a well-worn book compared to the Cardinals’ history against David Phelps. All of two Redbirds have faced him in combat before.
Hopefully Peralta can keep that tune going and the rest of the squad can pick it up quickly. Getting a series win here would really be nice and the only way that can happen is with a win tonight!