Oscar Taveras‘s home run on Saturday not only brought the rain, but apparently put a seal on the Cardinal offense.
Since that goose-bump moment, the Cardinals have pretty much just put up goose eggs, with a Jhonny Peralta RBI double being the only blemish on that line of zeros. It’s not even that they’ve lacked runs, but they’ve lacked hits as well: a grand total of nine hits over 21 innings.
As Obi-Wan screamed to Anakin, “You were supposed to destroy the hitting woes, not join them!” (Or something like that.) The guy that everyone thought would give a spark to the offense has shown up and seen the one of the worst offensive runs of the year.
Not that I’m blaming Taveras for this, not at all. (I thought about the click-bait title of “Oscar Taveras: Offense Killer” for this post, but decided that was a bit much.) After all, he did have that home run and he had one of those nine hits with a single yesterday. He’s done as much or more than anyone else individually and more than some combinations of players.
Yet over the last week, the only two games that the Cardinals have won have come via shutout. Even though the offense didn’t struggle this much earlier in the week, it might not have been as robust as it appeared. That’s what happens when you get big deficits–you get a chance to score runs when the other team doesn’t worry about getting fancy. For instance, the four runs they scored Friday night, which looks like a feast right now, only came when they were down 9-0. A closer game, the pitches are different, the approaches are different by the opponent and perhaps those runs don’t score.
I’ll admit, I didn’t see a moment of last night’s game. I went straight from work to a meeting to a Bible study and didn’t get home until the game was functionally over. (Which means I was probably spared another ugly night on Twitter.) I guess we should have seen something like this coming, though, at least the first part. After all, Kansas City is the only team in the majors with fewer home runs than St. Louis and their offense hasn’t clicked much at all.
I don’t really want to put the Goat on Shelby Miller here. This was a much better start, at least for the most part, than we’ve seen out of Miller in a while. He still didn’t strike anyone out (just two) but he limited the walks to a single free pass and kept the Royals off the board. They finally got to him in the seventh, but by then the Cards should have had a few runs to help cushion that blow. Though I guess it’s not surprising that the first run was a home run–even with the Royals’ lack of power, Miller’s home run tendencies won out.
What I’m not sure about is why Mike Matheny sent him out there again in the eighth. Your starter is at 94 pitches and just gave up three runs. He’s already spared the bullpen and it would seem like you are playing with fire if he continues. It’s especially frustrating when Miller throws one pitch, allows a hit, and gets yanked. If he was on that short of a rope, why did he even return? It’s a minor point, though it’s true that three runs in seven innings looks better on the linescore than four in seven.
The bullpen failed Matheny as well. He deployed people in the right way–Randy Choate to go after the two lefties, Jason Motte then for the righties–and it still didn’t work. Choate got one but walked one, and it’s always frustrating when the lefty specialist walks a left-handed batter. It’s your one job. A hit is bad enough, but go after the guy! Then Motte gave up a base hit and more runs scored when Randal Grichuk botched it. You name it, it didn’t work for the Redbirds last night.
The Hero is obvious, with Matt Holliday getting two of the three hits on the night (plus a walk). I thought about Grichuk for the Goat, since he made that error and he struck out three times, but he did get the other hit so we’ll pass over him. There’s a slew of hitters that we could choose, but we’ll have to go with Allen Craig. Not only was he hitless, but he had better opportunities than most, with Holliday on in front of him twice. All in all, though, the entire offense was pretty worth of this award.
Lance Lynn had his knee checked out yesterday and it looks like that isn’t going to be an issue for him. It looks like he’ll be able to make his next start, which is good, because I’m not sure exactly who would take it if he didn’t. I know Carlos Martinez went close to three innings this weekend, but I’m pretty sure that doesn’t count as “stretching him out.”
So the Cards get to add to their collection of deficits on this homestand. We’ve now seen 6-0, 7-0, 8-0, and 9-0. Let’s hope they don’t add to either side of that pattern this evening. A two-run first might do wonders for this squad.
Of course, a two-run first could be a little difficult when you are facing James Shields. Shields has been, for the most part, very effective for Kansas City, posting a 6-3 mark and a 3.36 ERA. That ERA is more impressive when you realize it contains two outings on the season where he gave up six or more runs (similar to what Adam Wainwright has done this year). One of those was the last time out against Toronto, where he allowed six runs in seven innings. Of course, he allowed three home runs in that game, which isn’t likely to happen here, since it’s taken a week for St. Louis to get that many.
The good news is that those that have seen Shields have been able to get to him. It’s possible we’ll see Mark Ellis tonight given his familiarity with Shields, though that’s not a guarantee. Hopefully these past marks will carry forward into tonight’s game and help the Redbirds get their feet under them.
Jaime Garcia looks to continue his strong return from the disabled list this evening at Busch. Garcia hasn’t been unhittable, giving up at least two runs each time out, but he’s averaging a strikeout an inning and hasn’t walked anyone yet. Put those together and that gives you a real good chance to win.
He’s had success against the Kansas City hitters as well. Of course, save for those former Brewers, they’ve not seen him much, but even they haven’t just owned him. We’ll see if he can make those numbers improve in his favor this evening.
The Cardinals are now just as far behind the Brewers as they were before they returned home for this long stretch of games (mainly) at Busch. I postulated that these games were vital for the Cardinals to get back into things and really kick start the season. Instead, they have sunk back into mediocrity. Let’s see if they can at least end the homestand on an up note!