We knew, didn’t we? If this had been a network TV show, we’d have watched the first inning, said “This is a rerun” and turned it off. It’s rare when a game can be pretty much decided after the fifth at-bat, but that was the case last night against the Brewers.
I was on my way home from a church meeting during the bottom of the first and was quite excited when Matt Adams walked to force in a run. Bases were loaded, nobody out and the Cards were up 1-0. Wily Peralta was scuffling badly.
In steps Jhonny Peralta, who (even though there’s competition) gets the Goat for not only this at-bat, but his 0-5 night in general. B.J. Rains used to make a big deal about batters that swung on the first pitch after a walk. (To be fair, it might have been after a four-pitch walk mainly, but I think in general applied as well.) While there are good and sound arguments for offering at the first pitch in that situation–pitcher may be laying one in there to make sure he gets a strike, for instance–when Peralta was looking so out of sorts, maybe taking a pitch wouldn’t have been the worst thing in the world.
Instead, our Peralta hits into a double play. A run scores, of course, but instead of a hit, a walk, a sacrifice fly, anything keeping some options open, now there’s a runner on third with two out, a runner stranded when Yadier Molina grounded back to the pitcher.
And we all knew. We all knew that the scoring was probably over and this game had a good chance of not ending well.
The only reason that it took so long for that result to materialize was the quality work of Lance Lynn, who gets the Hero tag. Lynn continues to put those late-season woes of past years well out of mind, going seven innings and allowing just one run, a home run to Gerardo Parra that, honestly, looked like a fluke. (Given Lynn has one of the lowest home run rates in baseball, I guess any home run is a bit of a fluke.) Parra’s ball didn’t look like it was going to be any problem for Jon Jay, but it just kept carrying, apparently caught in some sort of breeze.
Normally, that’s no big deal. However, with the offense dormant (after three hits in their first three batters, the Cardinals only mustered four more hits the rest of the extra-inning affair), that one run could be significant, which it was in the ninth.
Trevor Rosenthal has been very good of late, enough that a lot of the tensions that used to go along with him being called into the game had eased. He hadn’t allowed a run since August 25 and while he was still often putting runners on, he was able to strike out his way through a lot of issues.
I think all of those worries probably flooded back after his first pitch went to the backstop. When Rosenthal is working well, his control is good. He didn’t have that at all last night. Walking the leadoff batter in a one-run game when your offense hasn’t scored since the first? That’s a classic setup for a disappointing outing. There’s no drama there, you know that it’s not going to work. Especially when Aramis Ramirez comes up next. If there is a way to hurt the Cardinals, the Sith Lord will find it.
Maybe if Matt Holliday had been able to put his throw from the outfield closer to the runner Molina could have tagged him out, but when you are relying on an outfield assist to keep the lead, you’ve already painted yourself into a corner and odds are you are going to have to stay there until it dries. Holliday’s throw was up the first base side, Hector Gomez scored, and the game played on.
From Matt Carpenter‘s at-bat with two on and one out in the eighth inning (Parra was such a force for Milwaukee in this one, making two good catches in the eighth to keep things at a run, plus he had a great moment with a fan after an inning, taking a ball to the child of the guy that had almost interfered with a catch earlier in the inning and had apologized to Parra for doing it), the Cardinals sent 15 men to the plate. One–ONE–of them reached base, when Carpenter singled in the 11th.
With that kind of offense, it’s not surprising that the Cardinal pen broke first. There was good work out of Carlos Martinez in the 10th, Seth Maness did well (save for a double by–yep, you guessed it, Frank Stallone, otherwise known as Parra) in the 11th, but Kevin Siegrist couldn’t get around a walk in the 12th, though he was almost able to escape. If the Brewers hadn’t scored there, who knows, they might still be playing.
This was the kind of game that the Cardinals we saw most of the summer played with depressing regularity. It’s not the kind of game that we’ve seen the Cardinals play much since the end of August. Perhaps the day off killed a little momentum, I don’t know, but they can’t play any more of these games if they want to take this division. The Pirates aren’t going to let up on them.
Unsurprisingly, the Red Sox were not able to help out the Cardinals last night, losing to Pittsburgh and helping keep the magic number at 10. The division lead is now just 2.5 games with 11 to play. Things are still in St. Louis’s favor, of course, but you never want to see that magic number get hung up. Those numbers are supposed to decline daily, one way or another!
The Cardinals are still sorting out their rotation as well, with John Lackey going sometime this weekend, we just don’t know when, and Michael Wacha throwing another bullpen today. It’s a bit disconcerting to have these kind of conversations with less than two weeks in the season, but with Lynn pitching the way he does, Shelby Miller coming on strong and the ace of the staff going out there as well, there could be worse issues to have to face.
Sir Adam Wainwright, the aforementioned ace, will take the mound tonight and try to knock the magic number into single digits. Wainwright was strong against the Brewers last time out, allowing only a single run in seven innings of work. (Lynn would like to point out that doesn’t mean squat at times.) He also allowed seven runs to them at the beginning of August during his dead arm phase. Let’s hope we get more of the former and less of the latter tonight.
There’s no doubt the Brewers have seen Wainwright plenty. Those numbers by Ramirez are just scary, but given that apparently the birds on the bat make the ball look three times its normal size to Ramirez, that’s not surprising. It won’t be a cakewalk tonight by any means.
Especially because the young Mike Fiers is going for the other side. Fiers allowed two runs in 6.2 innings when he faced the Cards last, which is actually a bad game for him when you realize his ERA for the year is 1.84 (11 games, seven starts). It will be interesting to see how his last start affects Fiers. While the numbers were fine–he threw five shutout innings against the Marlins–he also hit Giancarlo Stanton in the face, causing him to leave on a stretcher. (Then hit his replacement in the box, causing a brawl.) Will he be more tentative about pitching inside? We’ll have to see.
Not as much there and what is there isn’t encouraging. There’s a real good chance tonight’s game will be another 2-1 affair. Let’s just hope the end result is different!