Since we’ve last spoken, we’ve seen the Cardinals move into first place, only to fall immediately out. We’ve seen them beat up on the Brewers, only to see the team from Milwaukee return the favor. We’ve seen a stellar pitching performance and something that, well, didn’t quite live up to that title.
In other words, same old same old.
That’s painting with a broad brush, of course. Since the beginning of the month, St. Louis is 8-5 with wins in three of the last four series. Even though they don’t seem to be able to go on a long run, they are winning more consistently than they did. They’ve gotten a lot of help from a Brewers team that stumbled more than a frat boy walking down the street on a Saturday night, but this time around they’ve taken some advantage.
That said, they’ve left some opportunities on the table. And it’s not that they’ve just missed grabbing them, but more like they were looking at a completely different table. Let’s recap.
Saturday (10-2 win)
Hero: There were a lot of offensive fireworks in this one, but with Adam Wainwright on the mound, they were hardly needed. Wainwright gave up two runs, which is a lot for him and it actually raised his ERA, but the first one didn’t come until the Cards were up 8-0. Wainwright cruised for the most part, not even reaching 100 pitches when he came out at the end of the seventh.
Mike Matheny says the All-Star Game start is between two guys and, to be frank, if it’s this close you better go with your own guy. Matheny has riled up the fan base plenty in the past few months. It’d be nice not to have to beat up on him during the break. Not giving the nod to Wainwright here would be like Tony La Russa leaving Albert Pujols on the bench in 2007. It’s the All-Star Game, Mike, not a game for your very life. (Even if it was, picking Waino over Clayton Kershaw wouldn’t be the worst decision.)
Goat: With such a hitting display and with Waino going deep in the ballgame, it’s tough to pick out a Goat, really. Matt Holliday went 0-3, but he scored two runs. I guess I’ll go with Matt Adams, who also went 0-3 and scored just one run, plus he left three runners on. As I often say in these situations, though, not all Goats are created equal.
Notes: Kolten Wong with yet another home run. I’d say the shoulder is doing just fine and it’s great to see him break out at just the right time. If there were any thoughts by John Mozeliak about making a deal for a second baseman or a third baseman (and moving Matt Carpenter over to his position from last year), I think Wong’s put them to rest.
Jhonny Peralta went 2-3, scored two runs, drove in two runs, and bumped his average over the .250 mark. It’s easy to think he’s still hitting in the .220 area, but he’s not. His average is acceptable, his power leads the team, and his defense has been much better than expected. You could make the argument that he’s the first half team MVP, at least out of the everyday players.
Two hits for Tony Cruz and three RBI. You think that might have lifted a bit of a weight off his shoulders? It’s going to be interesting to see how Cruz does now that teams will be planning for him instead of treating him as an afterthought. Will he be able to adjust? Will the regular schedule of catching wear him down any? The good thing is he has this break plus the Cards have three days off between the 18th and the 31st of the month. That should help him ease into being the regular catcher.
Jon Jay with three hits, helping to work his way out of a slump and helping keep the centerfield controversy from rearing its head again. Over his past ten games (counting Sunday) he has nine hits, and while they tend to come in clumps, he still is providing enough offense to make it difficult (but not impossible) for some to claim Peter Bourjos should still be out there. I still wonder how things would have been different had Bourjos hit from the get-go, but it seems difficult to reverse course now.
Sunday (11-2 loss)
Hero: Five total hits. A starter and a bullpen that got shelled. Digging out a Hero from all this rubble is a tough job. I’ll give it to Matt Adams, because even though he went 1-4 while a couple of others went 1-3, he did drive in a run. Really, though, it’s a barren landscape.
Goat: While the Goat area is what they call a target-rich environment. Do you go with one of the numerous hitters that went 0-fer the day? A starter in Carlos Martinez that had little command of either his pitches or his bat? The mop up reliever, Nick Greenwood, who allowed three runs and let the Brewers go into the break with double digits on the scoreboard?
All of those are reasonable, but I’m going to give it to Seth Maness here. He came into the game when it was 4-1. Now, given the way the offense was going against Wily Peralta, that well might have been enough, but as we saw earlier in this series, comebacks happen. Instead, Maness gives up a two-out homer in the fifth and then just melts down in the sixth, with a sacrifice bunt being the only out he can muster. Jason Motte let one of the inherited runners score and it was 8-1. That’s the ballgame, folks, especially when the All-Star Break beckons.
Notes: Martinez had probably his worst start since joining the rotation. Four innings by itself isn’t good, though given the long break using the bullpen shouldn’t have been much of an issue. Seven hits, three walks and a hit batsman in that time, though, is an even larger problem. Martinez threw almost 70 pitches in the four frames, though he did rack up five strikeouts. The frustration apparently spilled over into an at-bat, when Martinez flung his bat after hitting a ground ball, almost taking out the umpire. Martinez is a guy that apparently lives with his emotions right at the surface–his dancing when Holliday hit the homer on Friday night was classic–but he’s got to be able to keep them somewhat in check. I don’t think anyone wants him to rein in that personality per se, because that can be a great thing for the clubhouse. He’s just got to deal with adversity a little better.
Wong with a hit and his 12th stolen base. He said he wanted to get to 40 when the year started and while that seems out of reach, he’s bringing an element to this team that we’ve not seen in a long, long time. It’s a lot of fun, isn’t it?
So what’s the deal with Oscar Taveras? I don’t figure there’s a injury issue here since he played all of the game Saturday, but both Friday and Sunday, he just pinch-hit. Disregard the fact that he’s not starting (I don’t think there’s ever a series where Taveras should be on the bench for a majority of the game) but why didn’t Matheny use his patented double switch to leave him in? Especially on Sunday, with the game well out of reach anyway. Again, maybe there’s a lingering issue that they are being careful with that I’m not aware of, which would be quite likely. After all, I was away from the broadcasts much of the weekend.
We reach the All-Star Break with the Cards a game out of first….and half a game out of third. The Pirates are just 3.5 games back, so this race could be interesting going down the stretch. That also means there will be a ton of trade rumors for all these teams in the next couple of weeks. We’ll see who pulls the trigger and for what. Until then, enjoy the All-Star festivities!