After scuffling in Cincinnati, the Cards came home to take on a Rockies team that doesn’t have to worry about .500, they have to worry about staying above .400. Putting a very bad team in front of your very good pitcher is a great way to end a losing streak.
Before we get to that one, though, we have to talk about Thursday’s loss to Cincinnati, which let the Reds take the last series between the two for 2014. We knew that it was going to be a pitchers’ duel, of course, what with Johnny Cueto and Lance Lynn taking the mound. It definitely was that, with the only run of the game not scoring until the eighth inning.
Of course, in a tight game like that, decisions (and lack thereof) are magnified greatly. Most of us squawked on Twitter when Mark Ellis came in for Matt Adams at the end of the game with the tying run on first base. Granted, Aroldis Chapman is a left-handed relief ace, but when you think about game-tying extra-base hits, Ellis’s name isn’t quite at the top of the list.
It was noted that, before this series, Ellis was 3-3 against Chapman in his career. That obviously factored heavily into Mike Matheny‘s thinking since he used Ellis in three straight games against the Reds’ fireballer. Ellis now is 3-6 against Chapman, which is a surprise to basically no one that doesn’t wear the number 22.
Look, I know that we look at the pitcher’s history against hitters every game here, so it’s a little disingenuous for me to complain about using it, but there’s really little predictive value in this matchups, especially when they are less than 10 at-bats. If you are making decisions on three AB, that’s a problem. Maybe it works as a tiebreaker between two equally good choices, but that’s about it. Our friend Marilyn Green pointed out this 2011 article on FanGraphs that states the reasons why. I think they are fun to look at and, again, could possibly be a feather on the stack of reasons why to use a player, but you can’t decide major choices that way.
If you are going to replace Adams, which I understand (though Adams does have three of his homers this year off left-handers and Matheny left him in against a left-hander in the eighth the night before), why not see if Xavier Scruggs can run into one? At least he’d have the advantage (such as it was) of Chapman having never seen him. Why not Yadier Molina? Was there a specific need to keep Molina away from Chapman, given he had been hit for in Wednesday’s game when Chapman came in?
Of course, 95% chance that ANYONE that came up there was going to end the game, so it’s tough to get terribly worked up about it save for the fact that the online fanbase has to get worked up about something. If Adams’s ball goes about six inches higher or further in the eighth, the Cards are the one with the 1-0 lead and probably approach their pitching a little differently then.
In fact, our former cohort in crime Josh Gilliam texted after Brandon Phillips singled to lead off the eighth that he’d have gone to the bullpen. (Let me be clear, he did this at the time, not in retrospect.) Two lefties were coming up and it’d have been a good time to go to Kevin Siegrist (if we are ready to trust him) or Sam Freeman (has anyone seen Randy Choate these days? Just checking.) instead of letting Lynn face them.
That would have been a tough sell, though. Phillips was the first batter to reach since the third inning and Lynn was still under 100 pitches and not laboring at all. Now, as we know, it turned out to be a key part of the game, but I think in the moment I’d have left Lynn in there as well. That said, the Cards might have won the game had Matheny had the same idea Josh did. (Of course, if Jon Jay comes up with the shallow fly ball Ramon Santiago hit, maybe Lynn is able to work out of it as well.)
Let’s name our Hero and Goat before we move on to Friday. The Hero has to be Lynn, even if he did take the loss. One run in eight innings with six strikeouts? I’d take that every time out. The Goat is tough to pick, given that the club only had three hits all day long. I’m going to go with Jay there, because he went 0-2 and he was key on that run scoring.
Thankfully Friday night got off to a much better start thanks to Hero Matt Holliday. Holliday’s three run home run surprisingly didn’t take out Big Mac Land, just landed in it, but it was stroked and the tone was set. Holliday was instrumental in the fourth run as well, stealing second and coming around to score on a base hit by Jhonny Peralta.
Of course, three was all that a good Adam Wainwright needs and last night was the good Adam Wainwright. As I said about Lynn’s outing, eight innings, one run, eight strikeouts is something you are going to win with most every time out and it was good to see out of him after some iffy work this summer. If Waino is rounding into shape, that makes the odds of going deep into October look much, much better.
It’s good that he was on, because yet again the offense really wasn’t giving him much to work with. They did walk (five) almost as many times as they got a base hit (six) but when three of those eleven batters come before an out is recorded in the game, that makes for a pretty quiet middle. Four of them (two walks, two hits) came in the eighth as well when they tacked on what proved to be a pretty helpful insurance run. You really hate to see quiet bats when the team is playing Colorado, so hopefully the rest of the weekend won’t be that way.
We’ll give the Goat to Peter Bourjos since he went 0-3 with no runs or RBI and left three on. He and Ellis had pretty similar nights when it comes down to it, with the extra AB he had to end the eighth the real difference.
The magic number dropped just to 13 since Pittsburgh (nor Milwaukee, which doesn’t impact the number, just the division race) would be so nice as to lose last night. 13 is, of course, currently worn by Matt Carpenter and unsurprisingly doesn’t have a great Cardinal history outside of him. I mean, when you start reading Jeff Fassero and Sidney Ponson on the list, you know it’s not one people want.
The bigger news from yesterday probably would be the fact that Michael Wacha is going to be skipped from his next start, with Marco Gonzales taking his place. There’s no indication yet that this is going to be a permanent thing or that there’s any more injury, but given how he looked in his last outing, this isn’t a terrible idea. I don’t think we can yet rule him out for the postseason, even though our friend Doug wants to have him shut down for the year.
Shutting him down isn’t the worst thing and it well may come to that, but given his injury is one of those things that is still fairly new to baseball, I’m willing to play it by ear a little bit. If the doctors say he’s going to be fine, let him try to get into baseball shape. Now, if they aren’t sure or they are afraid he’ll reaggrevate, of course you shut him down. This team is better with Wacha on it, even if he’s not to 2013 levels, and if there’s a chance they can take him on the postseason roster, I’d like for them to do it.
A lot of those feelings could be relieved, though, if Shelby Miller continues on his hot streak. If Miller can keep putting up strong outings, the need for Wacha probably diminishes. Miller brings a 14-inning scoreless streak into today’s game, having thrown seven innings his last three times out. If he really has turned it around, October is going to be fun for him and for us.
|Jorge De La Rosa||2||1||0||0||0||0||0||1||0||.000||.500||.000||.500||0||0||0||0||0|
I know, I know, we’ve talked above about how these don’t mean much, but they are still kind fun to look at. At least the Rockies haven’t beaten up on him much in the past and given their record away from Coors this year, today’s not likely to be the day they start.
Franklin Morales seems to have been with the Rockies since they started business in 1993. Not quite that long, though 2007 has been a while ago (he did bounce around a couple of years before returning to the Mile High City). Morales is struggling this year with an ERA over 5, an ERA that would have even been higher had he not thrown six scoreless innings last time out against the Padres (remarkably, he did that in Colorado, not Petco). Cards faced him in June and got three runs off of him with just one hit (an Adams home run after Morales had walked two batters) in two innings of relief. We’ll see if they can have some of that when he starts as well.
They’ve done well against him in the past, as much as you can say that about 15 plate appearances. Let’s hope that’s the kind of game we get this evening as well!