It’s amazing what Adam Wainwright will do for this team.
I mean, that’s gotta be what happened last night, right? Wainwright got a heads up that, during the game, news would break about Oscar Taveras and knew that Cardinal Nation would have trouble dealing with that plus a tight, well-pitched game. So he went out, took all the drama out of things, and left the fanbase free to talk about Oscar without having to look too much at the TV or wonder about how the contest was going to turn out.
Let’s quickly dispense (no pun intended) with a game that none of us cared much about after Hunter Pence launched a ball into Big Mac Land. Wainwright, who gets the Goat because seven runs in 4.2 innings, even if a couple come in after you leave, isn’t going to win you any awards, lost his scoreless inning streak in the first even while pitching well. Angel Pagan reached out and poked a double off the end of his bat on a pitch well outside, then scored on a broken bat single by Mike Morse. Even though the streak was over, there was no indication this was going to be that kind of night.
Then the second happened. A two-out walk was the killer, especially when it was to the eighth-place hitter. If Waino gets him out, things might have been different. It just snowballed after that, with the opposing pitcher getting a single, Pagan singling back up the middle, and then Pence hitting a hanging breaking ball to the seats. Amazing how a close game can break open on a two-out walk.
After that, it was pretty much blah. Waino left a couple of runners on in the fifth, Seth Maness let them score and gave up two of his own in the seventh. The Cards scored four in one inning, but the odds of them coming back from a nine-run deficit were such that nobody really gave it much thought. We’ll give the Hero tag to Jon Jay, who made the most of his one at-bat by driving in three. Good job, good effort.
And, again, it was all overshadowed by Rob Rains’s report that Taveras was coming up, a report that never was contradicted and was eventually confirmed. The most hyped prospect since…..you know, I don’t know. Albert Pujols wasn’t really hyped and only spent a year in the minors. Michael Wacha had some buzz, but again, less than a year down there. J.D. Drew was in the minors two months. Maybe Rick Ankiel? He spent two years in the minors before getting the call and I remember the buzz around him, even in the early Internet days. You could make the case that, given the circumstances, Taveras is the most anticipated prospect in the history of Cardinal baseball.
Which means that there’s a ton of expectations already built up on the guy that will turn 22 in the big leagues, it appears (his birthday is in three weeks). There were already Tweets about him being the savior of this team (complete with religious references) that may have been tongue in cheek, may not have been. It seems a lot of folks expect him to hit 30 home runs and hit around .400 for the rest of the season. Maybe not overtly, but the expectation still resides that, if he struggles, he’s not the player we thought he’d be.
Viva El Birdos has a nice writeup on what you might be able to expect from Taveras, but let’s remember, not everyone is a Stan Musial, able to come up and immediately have it click in the big leagues. For instance, there was a recent callup that, in his first 40 games, hit .220/.281/.390 with just five home runs. Today, Mike Trout is considered the best in the game. However, you know Angels fans, after those 40 games in 2011, wondered what they really had.
So patience. Patience is the key word. Taveras isn’t going to be the complete answer, as Wes wrote about earlier today. He’s not always going to be up with the tying run on second. He’s not going to get a hit every time there’s someone in scoring position. And I can guarantee you he’s not coming out of the bullpen to protect a one-run lead. The Cards may still struggle, but if Taveras is what everyone says it is, that struggle might be lessened and, at worst, might be more fun to watch.
Taveras is batting sixth today and wearing #18, a number not worn by a player since Chris Sabo in 1995 and probably most associated with Keith Hernandez (or maybe Mike Shannon). He’ll get to see Yusmeiro Petit for his first at-bats in the big leagues. Petit is the one Giants pitcher that has scuffled this year, putting up an ERA over 5.00 and gave up four runs in five innings in his last start, which was against the Cubs.
Taveras won’t be the only one with a fresh slate against Petit, as you can see. Yadier Molina‘s done OK in the handful of at-bats against him, but really, no one has a handle on him and most haven’t actually faced him. That’s not been as much of an issue this season as it has been in the past, so hopefully the bats come out strong.
You would expect they wouldn’t have to do a lot with Wacha on the mound. Wacha’s only had a couple of games where he hasn’t put up at least a quality start and most of the time he’s much better than that. Of course, that’s kinda what we said about Wainwright before last night’s game as well…..
Wacha has never faced the Giants, so he is even more unknown to them than Petit is to the Redbirds. Let’s hope for the Cardinal bats to get working and for the game not to rest in the phenom’s hands in his first game up. Let the Age of Oscar begin!