There haven’t been too many games this season where the pitching staff of the Cardinals has been able to blow one lead, much less two, and still wind up with a victory. After all, if the Cardinal bats were able to produce a lead, it seems to be asking a bit much these days for them to battle back and score again. As they say at my kids’ elementary school, “You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.” Seems so often the offense will say, “We got you three runs–be careful with them, you aren’t getting any more.”
Last night, though, the Cards rallied to tie the game, then took the lead, gave it back, then finally put us all out of our misery in the 10th. It was a game St. Louis really, really had to win to continue to look like a divisional threat. (With Milwaukee’s off day, they did gain 1/2 game to move to 2.5 game out.) The Reds were running on fumes but still almost managed to win that ballgame, which would have been pretty tough to swallow.
The biggest reason they didn’t was our Hero, Jhonny Peralta. Peralta had three hits, including one with runners on the corners and one out in the tenth frame. I think it speaks volumes about this season when a good portion of the folks on Twitter (and probably those watching on FOX Sports Midwest) were more-than-half expecting a double play. Nothing against Peralta, who isn’t necessarily known for them, but more about how this season has gone on a whole. Instead, Peralta stroked a long single that might have been caught had the outfielders been playing at regular depth, but would have been a sac fly anyway. That was his second RBI of the night after singling in Matt Adams in the first.
Adams also had a claim for Hero, also having three hits but only driving in one. He also made some fine defensive plays at first base last night. Adams has been very good over there all year long, which is a surprise given where he stood last year and, to some degree, his size. Adams doesn’t move like a big man, though. I noted on Twitter that, via the eye test, Adams has looked exceptional this year and some followers pointed out that he leads first basemen in Defensive Runs Saved. It’s always good when there is some backup for what these old eyes are seeing.
Also a good night for Matt Holliday, who came back from his day off dealing with his knee to put up two hits and a walk and to drive in a run. The Reds have often been a good tonic for Holliday, who has close to a .330 career average against them, and that proved to be the case again last night. Given the knee issue, it’s a bit surprising that Holliday wasn’t the one that was removed from the game when Peter Bourjos came in as a defensive replacement, but even though Oscar Taveras made a sensational play in right earlier in the game, removing him for defensive purposes wasn’t terribly surprising.
Even though Kolten Wong went 0-5, the only starter without a hit, the Goat has to come from the pitching staff. Normally, you’d be looking at Trevor Rosenthal here. After all, he did blow another save and send the game into extras. However, there’s some extenuating circumstances here.
With one out, Rosenthal walked Billy Hamilton on a 3-2 count. At the least, Ball 4 seemed to be Strike 3 on all the pitch trackers. (Some had many more of the ones called balls in the strike zone.) While Rosenthal–depending on your opinion of the ump’s zone–bears some responsibility for getting the count to that point, it’s tough to blame him for throwing a strike that doesn’t get called.
After that, well, those of you that have kids probably know about the “If You Give A Mouse A Cookie” series of books. They basically walk you through a cause and effect scenario. In the books, they always tend to wind up in a circle, but it can definitely be applied to last night’s game anyway.
If Hamilton doesn’t walk, he’s not on first base.
If he’s not on first base, he doesn’t try to steal second.
If he doesn’t try to steal second, A.J. Pierzynski doesn’t try to catch him.
If Pierzynski doesn’t try to catch him, he doesn’t throw the ball into center field.
If he doesn’t throw the ball into center field, Hamilton doesn’t wind up on third.
If Hamilton doesn’t wind up on third, the infield does not play in to keep the run from scoring.
If the infield doesn’t play in, Jay Bruce doesn’t double past Adams (more than likely, it’s a groundball out).
If Bruce doesn’t double past Adams, the run doesn’t score and the game isn’t tied.
Given Rosenthal’s iffy stats on back-to-back days, I was very hesitant to see Mike Matheny call on him last night. That said, I don’t think you can put much blame on Rosenthal there. Baseball happens sometimes and, as shown above, one pitch can set off a chain reaction that ruins your night. Rosenthal did strand Bruce at second with one out, which is better than you’d expect if Bad Rosie was on the mound.
No, I think the Goat winds up going to Justin Masterson. It wasn’t the worst of outings, at least until the end, but one of the claims on Masterson was that he’d “eat innings” and yet, for the second time in four starts, he was done by the end of the fifth. One other start he made it through six innings. That’s not exactly the bullpen saving that you’d hope to get.
Last night, Masterson had one bad inning and might have gotten out of that with a better pitch to Bruce. Bruce’s three-run homer was the notable problem of the inning, but the turning point was when he faced his opposite number. After getting Mike Leake to swing at strike one, he threw three straight balls before plunking him. You’ve got to get the opposing pitcher out in a situation like that, because it so often comes back to bite you as it did in this one.
Some on Twitter (which, I’ll be fair, was where I was following this part of the game before getting a chance to turn it on) were blaming Matheny for not bringing someone in before Masterson threw to Bruce. Perhaps it’ll be explained more to me in the comments, but that seemed a bit extreme. My thought is that a starting pitcher has to be just plastered to leave before five innings are up, at least until September when the pennant races tighten and there are more arms available. I wouldn’t have even considered removing Masterson. After all, he did have a 3-1 lead when Bruce was batting. He might not have been dominant, but yanking a starter after 4 1/3 (and right after he’d gotten a groundout, so he wasn’t completely off the tracks) seems a bit extreme to me. Maybe it’d been the right thing, but that’s just hindsight talking.
We didn’t mention him above, but Seth Maness has to get some kudos. After Sam Freeman loaded the bases in the eighth, Maness came in, threw two pitches, and got a popup to end the threat. Rosenthal was warming for the ninth anyway, but if the game had stayed tied, I wonder if Matheny would have stayed with Maness. Two pitches is just almost a waste there. I guarantee that if Rosenthal had been more “off”, there’d be a lot more talking today about why Matheny didn’t stay with Maness.
Carlos Martinez also looked incredibly sharp. The one hit he did give up–to Mike Leake again, of all folks–was more of a “stick the bat out and let the velocity do the work” type rather than Martinez being figured out. Given the struggles at the end of the rotation–and at the end of the bullpen–more outings like that and Martinez is likely to move one way or another.
Michael Wacha did some more throwing yesterday and impressed his manager. While he’s still got some rehab work to do, you wonder if they’ll shorten up that timetable to get him back before the end of August. Actually, that’s probably not possible, but the sooner he can be back in the rotation, the better everyone will feel. As much trouble and turmoil as this team has caused fans this year, a playoff rotation of Adam Wainwright, John Lackey, Lance Lynn and Wacha will make for a team that can surprise some folks.
Cards need today’s win to take the series, as Johnny Cueto looms for Wednesday’s match and he’s pitching as well as anyone not named Clayton Kershaw–and he’s actually not far off of that either. Tonight, the Reds pitch Andrew Simon, who at one time was a league-leader in wins before sliding down the list lately. He still has 12 of them, though, and an ERA of 3.28. Simon’s not an overpowering guy, but given the way the Cardinal offense can produce grounder after grounder, that might not be encouraging.
Last time out, Simon gave up five in five innings to the Rockies, but if that table above holds true, he’s going to have better success tonight. Still, nobody has seen him all that much, so it’s hard to draw many conclusions. Adams did go deep against him once, which is nice to see.
Lackey tries to follow up a good start with another good start instead of a debacle this time. He gave up two runs in seven to the Padres the last time he pitched and most fans would take another one of those outings tonight.
The Reds haven’t seen a lot of him either, though you’d think that Lackey would be able to contain Bruce a little more than the club did last night. Hopefully this one won’t take any special heroics and we can all rest a little easier!