Not all series wins are created equal.
If your team drops the first game of a three-game set and wins the last two, you are pretty happy to have come back and taken the series. If your team splits the first two then wins the rubber match, you might rue a few opportunities, but probably you enjoy the fact that you took the grouping of games.
However, when you win the first two and then drop the last, especially in excruciating fashion, it leaves a bad taste in your mouth. Once you’ve laid hands on a broom, not being able to use it is a frustrating thing.
That’s where we sit this morning. Two wins against the Dodgers and then a game that was oh-so-close to the Redbirds doing some cleaning, but instead Los Angeles escapes with their lives (if by lives you mean a continued share of first place in the NL West). We’ve already looked at Saturday’s game as part of the United Cardinal Bloggers’ Progressive Game Blog, but let’s do our recap of the bookending games.
Friday (3-2 win)
Hero: Matt Holliday. Holliday got the “second half” kicked off with a bang, going two for four with a home run. While the “Holliday lights it up in the second half” meme might not be as accurate as we’d like, it was definitely nice to see a little production after the break.
Goat: Matt Carpenter. 0-4 with two strikeouts in the leadoff role is not exactly conducive to a great offensive night by the team. Perhaps the All-Star Game travel got to Carpenter a little bit. (I had to go look it up, but I didn’t realize until now that Carpenter didn’t actually get to play in the game in Minnesota. I’m sure Mike Matheny was holding him back in case of a tie since he could play many positions, but this is the second time in a decade a Cardinal manager hasn’t played a Cardinal player in the All-Star Game.)
Notes: Another good start by Lance Lynn, though he only went six innings (well, two batters into the seventh). Four walks inflated his pitch count, but he struck out nine and while he’s charged with two runs, one of those was a runner Seth Maness allowed to score. Given the state of the rotation right now, Lynn is about the only sure thing behind Adam Wainwright and it’s good to see it stay that way…..The ASB didn’t slow down Kolten Wong any, as he got two hits, even if they both stayed in the park. It would seem any trade that sent Wong away or cut into his playing time would likely not be in the best interest of the club. Wong seems to be making his way pretty well in the majors right now. Will pitchers adjust to him? Probably. Will he adjust back? His track record would seem to indicate he would…..Jon Jay with a two-hit game, plus a stolen base. Whatever small slump he might have been in seems to be over now.
Sunday (4-3 loss)
Hero: Peter Bourjos. You can put Peter Bourjos and Troy Tulowitzki in the same sentence now and not have it be some fevered trade imagining from a delusional fan. Bourjos and Tulowitzki are the only players this season to hit a home run off of Clayton Kershaw in their home ballparks. In fact, Bourjos is in a pretty select company of folks that have taken Kershaw yard this season:
I don’t think you could come up with a more unlikely person to tie up a ballgame against Kershaw. (OK, Brandon Hicks is a bit unlikely as well, though he does have eight longballs this season.) When you see things like this–or the fact that Allen Craig tied up the game the first time with an RBI double–you think that the Cards are destined to win this one. Apparently, not so much.
Goat: Trevor Rosenthal. I kinda hate to give this to Rosie. After all, he was so close to getting out of the ninth inning unscathed. He struck out the side, after all. The problem is, he started the inning by allowing a double, which puts you behind the eight ball really quickly. Any kind of base hit is likely to score the tie-breaking run, especially after they pinch-run.
But after striking out two, he goes 0-2 on Hanley Ramirez. One more pitch and the Cards get a chance to win it in the ninth or at least go into extra innings. Instead, it gets away and hits him, leading to the RBI single by Adrian Gonzalez that put the brooms away.
I’m not sure what it is about Ramirez’s stance that gets him plunked so often by the Cardinals. Twice last night, of course, and we all remember the one in the playoffs last year. He’s been hit nine times since the beginning of 2013 and St. Louis has done it three of them. While I’m sure all have been painful for Ramirez, last night’s was the most painful of all for Cardinal fans.
Notes: To get three runs off of Kershaw is an achievement in itself, though one that doesn’t show up in the win/loss column. The Cards didn’t have a ton of opportunities–only nine base runners all night, one of which (Mark Ellis) had a devastating TOOTBLAN in the bottom of the seventh with Carpenter up and two outs…..Carlos Martinez only made it through four and had trouble controlling his stuff, putting nine runners on in that span. He did strike out five batters and lit up the radar gun at close to 100 at times, but that only gets you so far, especially against a good, veteran team like the Dodgers…..Interesting to see Jason Motte come into the game in the fifth. Matheny has said Motte has no specific role and he definitely did his job there, but it was a decision that I don’t think anyone would have expected…..Shelby Miller made his reliever debut in this game. In theory, this is going to be a short assignment and he’ll be back in the rotation when they need a fifth guy. In fact, my hunch is that they’ll make a deal for a starter and either have Miller as part of that deal or send him to Memphis to try to get right. Miller had a scoreless sixth but then, after Bourjos had tied it up, immediately put two runners on and had to be bailed out by Randy Choate and Maness, who kept the tie preserved. I figure I was like most folks, once it was tied up, you didn’t want to see Miller out there because you knew it wasn’t going to end well.
So St. Louis loses out on the chance to take first place all by their lonesome, staying in a tie with Milwaukee for the NL Central lead. (Interestingly, all three NL divisions are in the same state–the Dodgers and Giants out West, the Nationals and Braves in the East.) While today may be an off day, it could still be a day that really impacts this race or at least the rest of the season. Michael Wacha is supposed to be examined today and while he’s optimistic that he’ll get a good report, it’s the Cardinals and injuries. None of us are going to actually breathe until the results come back. There’s no actual timetable, but being that he’s not thrown a pitch in a month, it would seem that he’d need a little rehab time before jumping back into the rotation (so even if Miller does return to the five-man crew, it might not be for long). If he pitches before August 15, I think we are happy. Honestly, if he pitches again this season, we’re probably much better off mentally than we have been.
Day off today, one of three in the next week. Can I say, that’s not optimal for us fans, especially after four days off last week for the All-Star Break? Sure, the players like it and can use it, but we demand to be catered to! When they return Tuesday night, Wainwright will make his first start in 10 days (that business in Minnesota, like the one on Cato Neimoidia, doesn’t, doesn’t count). The last time Waino took on the Rays, he threw seven scoreless innings in their dome last month.
If Wainwright can somehow keep James Loney from being Ted Williams, he might have a pretty nice night. You don’t see folks with that kinda line against Waino often, especially with that many plate appearances.
Jake Odorizzi will go for the Rays. Odorizzi shut down the Redbirds when he saw them in June, allowing just one run in 7.1 innings. The Illinois native will have plenty of friends and family on hand to see if he can do that again this time around.
This will be one of the rare early chances for Oscar Taveras to get to face a pitcher he’s already seen in the big leagues, which will be something to watch for, to see if he’s making adjustments. That is, if Matheny will play him, which is always an iffy proposition.
Programming note: I’ll be back with you Wednesday morning for a full post, but then I’ll be heading out on my yearly trip to the in-laws in Ohio. I will try to post short hits from the trip, outlining the Heroes and Goats, mainly so I don’t have to try to have an extensive catch-up when I return. I know the other writers of the Conclave will keep you entertained, however!