There comes a point when this season just defies a person to find the words to describe it. We’re pretty much there and we’re not even halfway through May yet. (That doesn’t mean, unfortunately for you, that I’m retiring this corner of the Internet until October, however.) Last night, the Cardinals were down again. Last night, they proved it really didn’t matter.
Ricky Horton had just said on the telecast that the 4-1 deficit the Cards were facing felt different than the gap they faced the night before and he had a point. On Monday, the bats had been swinging and you could kind of see a way they would rally, though it still seemed pretty impossible. Last night, beyond the fact that you don’t often see such rallies two nights in a row, things were a little quieter, seemingly heading toward a more staid finish.
Carpenter’s three-run blast tied the game, took Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons off the hook, and pretty much made everyone think this was going to be another Cardinal victory. Sure enough, Mark Reynolds came through for the second straight night with an extra-base hit, this time a two-run double that gave the Redbirds the lead they wouldn’t relinquish. If you aren’t having fun watching this team win in the myriad of ways they are doing it, perhaps you are watching the wrong team.
Big nights for Matt Holliday and Kolten Wong at the plate, each tallying three hits. Holliday’s were a bit more empty because Matt Adams went 0-3 behind him, though he did draw a walk. I almost went with Adams as our Goat, but instead am going with Jon Jay, who was the leadoff guy and went 0-3, though he was hit twice because he’s Jon Jay and the baseball apparently has a magnetic attraction to him.
We do need to talk about the Patron Pitcher, of course. Now as you know, I’m the driver of the Lyons bandwagon and perhaps sole occupant of said bandwagon, so take whatever I’m saying with a grain of salt. Was last night’s outing what we wanted to see? Not quite. To get to 100 pitches before you finish the fifth is less than optimal. He wasn’t able until late in the game to be consistently in the zone, which cost him. That said, he did have seven strikeouts and would have only allowed two runs in his time on the mound had Wong not shortarmed a throw to first on the double play ball Seth Maness induced. One of those runs scored on in an inning that he struck out the first batter, Starlin Castro, only to see him reach base on a wild pitch. If that inning starts with an out, maybe things go differently.
I think there was enough there to let Lyons take the next start, which would be against the Pirates in Pittsburgh on Sunday. You could send him down, of course, but I’m not sure who you bring up. Sam Tuivailala can’t return for another nine days so I’m not sure who you’d bring up for the bullpen (assuming that’s the direction you want to go) and Tim Cooney couldn’t return until right before the start and, given the two outings, I think you’d go with Lyons over Cooney anyway. I’m not seeing that there’s a move that needs to be made here, at least right now.
Of course, eventually Lyons is going to lose that spot in the rotation. Marco Gonzales will throw Saturday for Memphis and Jaime Garcia will start a rehab assignment somewhere on Sunday. With them both starting their return at the same time, it’s going to be interesting to see how the Cards play this. Obviously, for all the reasons we saw in the spring, Garcia’s going to get that last rotation spot when he’s healthy. However, do you use Gonzales for a start or two in the bigs if he gets ready before Garcia, then ship him down when Garcia’s ready? Do you just let Gonzales stay at Memphis to continue to strengthen and let Garcia be the one to replace Lyons? I guess a lot of the answer depends on how Garcia looks (whether it appears he can be ready quickly or not) and how Lyons does as the fifth man. At least both will be back out on the field this weekend, though. With them both going this weekend, however, they can’t make that Pittsburgh start, which is why I think Lyons is here for a bit.
Kudos to the entire bullpen last night, including Mitch Harris, who got his first win in the big leagues, and apparent good luck charm Miguel Socolovich, who got into his third game and for the first time DIDN’T wind up with a win, but still had a scoreless outing. Trevor Rosenthal bounced back from that blown save to tally his ninth save of the season. The Cards again used more pitchers than they’d like, though, and hopefully we’ll get a nice long start out of someone soon.
My friend James, who runs Astros County, recently put up on his Facebook page a picture of the AL West standings, which showed Houston leading their division by seven games. I commented that the cushion was the big thing. Gaudy records are one thing, but if gaudy records only get you a couple of games up in the standings, they aren’t worth much. Right now, the Cards have used their 20-6 record to get out to a 6.5 game lead in the NL Central. While there are no guarantees, of course, you have to like the fact that if the Cardinals play .500 baseball, they get 88 wins. Here’s what the other teams have to play to get to 89:
Can those teams do that? Well, save Milwaukee, sure. And there’s no guarantee that the Cards will play .500 the rest of the way. We remember a few years ago (I believe 2010) when they had a five game lead at the beginning of May, then they frittered it all away and didn’t make the playoffs. You still have to play the rest of the season. That said, it’s a very nice position that the Cardinals have themselves in. Odds are this team won’t be satisfied with .500 over that stretch, either. Barring injury or something strange, they’d look like a 92-95 win team, which even then allows for them some stumbles (right now they are on pace for 125 wins, which seems unlikely).
Jordan Walden is looking for a second opinion on his arm, which may actually be worse than expected and need surgery. That is unfortunate, because Walden has been a great asset to the bullpen in the early going and I was hoping he wouldn’t miss much time. Then again, that’s allowing for a young bullpen to develop, something that has played a big role in the last two World Series titles and the 2013 Series appearance as well. Walden is also probably really glad he signed that extension before the season.
The Cards get another crack at that big Cub free agent acquisition tonight as Jon Lester takes the mound. The Cards were able to beat him on Opening Night, of course, getting three runs off of him in 4.1 innings. Lester’s not exactly dominated since the Redbirds saw him last, but he is coming off of his first win as a Cubbie, shutting out Milwaukee over seven innings. Of course, that was Milwaukee so take it for what it’s worth.
Many of these hitters have been able to handle Lester in the past and, if the streak is going to reach nine, they’ll need to do so again this evening.
Lance Lynn hopefully will be able to rest the bullpen as he takes the mound tonight and odds are he will, as no matter what the results are, it’s unlikely he’ll leave before six innings are complete. Lynn lost to the Cubs in his first outing, but it was a hard-luck loss as he carried a scoreless game into the seventh before allowing two runs. The man once noted for his run support isn’t getting a lot of it this year, but maybe that’ll change tonight.
Lynn’s done OK against these guys in the past, though most of them don’t have much of a history against him. Hopefully everything continues tonight and the Cards can take yet another series!