As I ease my blood pressure back to normal and stretch out my folded shut arms, let me tell you how the Cards won #77, which was their season high sixth in a row and put them four games up on the Brewers.
BOURJOS & JAY
This team has played some of the best defense in the league thus far. Jon Jay made two spectacular catches in right field. When Bernie Miklasz pointed this out two weeks ago, I agreed with him. Mike Matheny has to play the hot hand, and if Peter Bourjos and Jon Jay win you games with their defense, you must start them. Jay dove in for a catch to save a run and lunged down the right field corner to save a run in the 7th. Bourjos sprinted to the track in the 8th and made a fantastic highlight reel catch. Both these guys are doing their part on the field to produce victories. They also combined to reach base 5 times. These two aren’t just lunging into each other’s arms after dramatic walkoffs. They are each playing great baseball at the right time.
WACHA AND GONZO
Michael Wacha returned and pitched an effective three innings. 50 pitches, 3 strikeouts, and one run. A satisfying outing for the kid. Wacha hit 97 mph and routinely touched 94 mph. His velocity was a plus and surprising for a kid who hadn’t seen a mound in a game before Sunday in over two months. Hopefully, he rises with a good feeling tomorrow and gets stretched to 70-80 next time. As John Mozeliak said after the outing, it’s nice to be able to throw quality arms behind Wacha until he gets his endurance back. Marco Gonzales followed Wacha with 2.1 innings of work. He surrendered a solo home run to Richie Weeks and got into some trouble in the 6th, but pitched effectively. Together, the young rookies provided 5.1 innings of work with 2 runs allowed. I’ll take it in a big September playoff type game.
THE MATT ATTACK
Matt Carpenter and Matt Holliday each collect three hits apiece. Looking at their batting averages may be deceiving for some folks. Carpenter is hitting .277 while Holliday reached .270 tonight. However, they are top of the lineup guys. Look at their on base percentage. Carp is at .375 and Holliday sits at .368. These guys are experts who find different ways to reach base and collect big hits. Holliday is 10 for his last 20. Still red hot.
ROSENTHAL AND COMPANY
They weren’t 1-2-3 gliding into safety innings, but Seth Maness, Pat Neshek, Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal delivered the closing touch to a close gritty ballgame. Maness cleaned up after Jason Motte threw more fire on the mound in handling Gonzales’ last baserunner. Maness has quietly been the hero of the second half, reclaiming a shutdown relief role he crafted so sharply in 2013. Martinez came on in relief of Maness and got his 14th hold of the season with a popup. Neshek didn’t make it easy in the 8th inning but he benefited from some great defense in getting three outs. Neshek isn’t as sharp as he once was, and that was expected. The man hasn’t allowed his defense to get in on the action all year. These days, he is leaving a few balls over the plate. An error by rookie first baseman Xavier Scruggs didn’t help with the start of the inning, but Neshek pitched around it. Rosenthal came on and looked sharp in the 9th. He featured a curveball with nearly too much break that resulted in a pair of walks but struck out a batter and ended the game on a fly out to right. All in all, hard to watch, but effective. The 2014 Cardinals bullpen heroics.
Confession. Jason Motte should be shut down. He doesn’t have the velocity he needs to be be effective. That is Motte’s bread and butter. An upper 90’s fastball. It’s not there. His cutter is alright, but hitters are teeing up on the fastball. 7 HR in 22.1 innings and he isn’t fooling anybody. Motte said himself he wouldn’t be 100 percent until the spring of 2015. That means shut him down, get him right and don’t dangle him in high pressured situations. Sad but true.
The Cards won, and a few more nerve endings were twisted in the process. With the exception of the 13-2 drubbing of the Cubs Saturday that started the good times, the past 5 wins have been close and tight. That’s September baseball for you. Nail biting maddening games that drive one insane.
More action tomorrow. John Lackey takes the mound after a rough outing against Chicago Monday where he still soaked up 6 innings. It’s time for Lackey to pick up the pen in a big way and deliver a 7-8 inning outing. Get on the horse, John and do your thing.
The Cards go for win #7 in a row tomorrow, and it would push their lead to 5 games. As I advised earlier today, keep the sleeping giant down and pound away. Increase the lead and don’t look back. Pittsburgh didn’t play so the lead over them increases to 5.5 games. Suddenly, the Cards are in control.
They are 77-63 on September 5th. Who called that a month ago?
Thanks for reading folks and goodnight.