That probably was the most nail-biting, dramatic early-May sweep of a division rival we’ve ever seen. Let’s get right to it.
Friday (2-1 win in 10)
Hero: Lance Lynn. It used to be that Lynn was the guy that would win no matter how he pitched because he got plenty of run support. Then he pitched well, but still got a lot of run support. Now, he pitches well and wishes he could get run support. Seven innings, four hits, one run, one walk, 10 strikeouts. That’s a line that should have a W next to it in a just world. He also pitched out of a bases-loaded, nobody-out, heart of the order up situation, which kept the Cardinals close enough to eventually rally and win.
Goat: Matt Holliday. Holliday has always been streaky and it’s possible he’s now on the downside of those streaks. 0-4 in this one with two strikeouts, though he did draw a walk, an intentional one in the 10th. Holliday really didn’t like seeing the Pirates this weekend, as he was hitless in the series.
Notes: Matt Adams comes through with the game-winning hit, a solid stroke down the third base line. Adams seemed to take some offense at them walking Holliday to get to him, though with the winning run already at third it just set up all the force plays. I don’t think it was personal, though it’s true they might have pitched to Adams if the situations were reversed. I’m just assuming Pittsburgh didn’t have a lefty in the pen to bring in to try to get him, which is what I was expecting. Lots of credit due him for getting that hit, though. Adams has had a pretty good week and is showing why the Cards stick with him, even when he’s struggling.
This game and the ones after it kinda proved that the explosion that came after the lineup shakeup was probably more because of the weak Philadelphia pitching than the change in how folks went to the plate. Still, I’m liking this lineup and I don’t really see any reason why Mike Matheny should shake it up again. They ran into some pitchers that have dominated them in the past–in this case, A.J. Burnett–and it didn’t matter who or in what order you sent them up there, they were likely to struggle.
Kudos to the bullpen, who kept the game tied until the offense could win it. Randy Choate HAD ONE JOB and did it, did it well enough to get a win when the Cards scored in the bottom of that inning. That’s 5 of 9 that he’s converted and, if he keeps it going, we may be able to retire this tally soon.
Saturday (2-1 win in 11)
Hero: Matt Carpenter. On a day when the offense didn’t show up until the sixth inning, nobody shone much in the box score. Carpenter himself was 0-3, but the sac fly in the 11th that won the game was enough to get listed here. Call it a makeup for some of those games that he was great but didn’t get the Hero tag.
Goat: A number of hitless games to choose from, but I’ll go with Mark Reynolds, who livened up his 0-4 with two strikeouts. Shocking, I know.
Notes: John Lackey continued to have great games at Busch, allowing one run in six innings. He wasn’t as dominant as Lynn was–three walks and four strikeouts–but he got the job done. Given his opponent, that’s all you can ask for.
If Francisco Liriano ever throws a no-hitter, you know it’ll be against the Cardinals. (Wait, what, he already has one? Not against St. Louis?) He was working on one in this one, going five innings before cracking. If the Pirates hadn’t left a small village on the bases (12, which is larger than some Arkansas communities, I’m pretty sure) he’d have easily brought home the win. Instead, it’s eight innings of no-decision for him.
Again, the Cardinal bullpen was stellar. Choate moved his ONE JOB total to 6 of 10 and in five innings of work, the bullpen allowed six hits and two walks, three of the hits from Seth Maness. Mitch Harris only got one out, but it’s interesting to see that Matheny is trusting him more and more with higher leverage work. Carlos Villanueva got the win with an inning of work, which guaranteed that the Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons was returning to the majors. Which is always a good thing around here and we look forward to seeing him take the mound Tuesday.
Sunday (3-2 win in 14)
Hero: Kolten Wong. Wong didn’t start this game and I was a bit concerned that his elbow was bothering him after the play on Saturday when he went to catch a throw from Yadier Molina with the runner stealing and wound up with the runner hitting his arm instead. Apparently those worries were unfounded. Wong got three hits after coming into the game, including the dramatic game-winning home run and a bat flip for the ages.
Goat: We’re going to go with Matt Holliday again, because an 0-5 is tough to ignore. Jason Heyward went 0-4, but he got double-switched out of the game so he couldn’t give Holliday a run for that. And, yes, some might expect we were going with Trevor Rosenthal here, but there’s a good number of caveats on his outing Sunday. He did allow the game-tying home run in the ninth inning, which is Goat material a lot of times, but 1) he was on his third day of work and fourth in the last five. If he didn’t have his best stuff, it was understandable. 2) He came back and got three of the next four batters, including two by strikeout. 3) It’s tough to fault him on a day when he should have had more than one run to work with.
Notes: The neighborhood play was the big talk in the middle of the game, as the Cards were victimized by a play where the shortstop was barely in the same ZIP code as second base as he tried to turn a double play. I get why we have the play (to make sure fewer middle infielders leave the game with broken legs) and I get why it can’t be reviewable (it’s a judgement call, tough to go to the tape and say “yeah, he missed it, but was he close enough”) but it’s frustrating nonetheless and Matheny had a point–when does it become a bad throw that pulled him off the bag instead of the neighborhood play? That’s a tough question to answer. If life were fair, we’d get a week of people weighing in on the neighborhood play like we got a week of “the NL needs the DH” after Adam Wainwright‘s injury, but I don’t think you’ll see it happen.
Kudos to the young guns in the bullpen. Harris, Sam Tuivailala and Miguel Socolovich were thrown into the fire yesterday, tasked with keeping Pittsburgh down in extra innings until the Cardinals could score. Tuivailala did allow a home run to Pedro Alvarez, but Alvarez is a Sith Lord in the line of Aramis Ramirez, who must have trained him or left some sort of Sith holocron when he was in Pittsburgh. He shook that off, though, and pitched the next two innings without a blemish. Socolovich was the last man standing in the pen and it paid off for him, as his scoreless inning as rewarded with a win.
Give the Cards credit for extending the game after Alvarez’s home run as well. Peter Bourjos drove in the tying run in the bottom of the 12th, which was huge. It also left bases-loaded with just one out, meaning St. Louis really should have won it there, but Holliday struck out (another reason he was the Goat) and Adams grounded out. Thankfully Wong made sure that wasn’t an inning folks looked back on with regret.
Another stellar outing by Michael Wacha. He’s still not striking a lot of guys out, just two yesterday, and that’s something to be a little concerned about, but he put up 6.2 scoreless frames and that you have to like. Wacha’s ERA for the year is under 2.00, which is more impressive when you realize he gave up four runs to the Phillies earlier in the week. The strikeouts are something to keep an eye on going forward, though.
Tuivailala was in the bigs to allow that home run because Jordan Walden was placed on the disabled list before the game. Walden tried to warm up Saturday and experienced pain and, after an exam, he was put on the DL with biceps inflammation. It doesn’t sound like it’s a serious issue, one that rest will hopefully take care of, but we’ll have to wait and see on that. Pitcher injuries sometimes have a lingering effect.
Speaking of scares, Carpenter left yesterday’s game after complaining of being lightheaded. As I said on Twitter, carrying a whole team on your back probably does get you feeling woozy. Carp says he’ll be fine. He could have been just angling for a Gatorade commercial for all we know.
Cards continue to hold the best record in baseball and are off to their best start since the 1940s. They’ve opened up a 4.5 game lead on the Cubs and can extend that tonight when Chicago comes to town. Travis Wood goes for the Cubbies and he’s struggled in the past against St. Louis.
While Matheny believes Molina needs a rest, it’s not likely to happen tonight given his career numbers against Wood. It would also seem to be a good chance for Holliday to get on the upward track of his streak with those kind of results in a fairly expansive sample size (for this kind of thing–it’s still a small sample). It would seem likely that we won’t see another one-run-in-nine-innings game tonight like we did this weekend.
Carlos Martinez will be on the mound for the Redbirds. Martinez has never started against the Cubs, though he’s faced them a few times in relief.
Pretty tiny sample there, but at least what’s there is in Martinez’s favor. If he can pitch like he has been so far this season and be able to get into the seventh inning, that’d be a huge boost for this team. If there’s one time where he can’t go out and run up his pitch count, it’s tonight with a tired bullpen. By the way, if you didn’t get The Bird’s Eye View on this series, you can sign up for it here. Should be a fun game to watch tonight!