“You get hit, hit ’em back. You get killed, walk it off.”–Captain America, Avengers: Age of Ultron
Modify that for a baseball setting and I think Cap would say, “You give up a run, get one back. You lose a game, walk it off.” That seems to be the Cardinals’ philosophy right now and it’s shown in the past couple of games.
Wednesday (6-5 loss)
Hero: Yadier Molina. The Cardinals’ Iron Man got two hits, drew a walk, and drove in two as the Cardinals tried to rally.
Goat: Lance Lynn. This is the second start in a row where Lynn has not been the lock-down starter that we’ve become accustomed to. It could be that it’s the first two starts in the post-Adam Wainwright part of the season, but it could be that Lynn feels like he has to do more now that the Cards’ ace is out for the year. Hopefully he’ll adjust to his new role quickly, because the last thing the Cards need right now is an ineffective Lynn.
Notes: So, so close to extending the streak here. Down one in the bottom of the ninth, Peter Bourjos stands on third and St. Louis’s Hulk, Matt Holliday, gets walked. Mark Reynolds is up. Now, since I’ve only been able to check the score here and there, I’m hoping that Thor (Matt Adams) can be used, but he’s already pinch-hit. Reynolds strikes out, as was not unexpected, and Jhonny Peralta‘s fly ball was the last out. If Reynolds can just put the ball in the air, who knows what happens?
Bourjos had another nice game, going two for five and in the ninth going first to third on a ground ball. We’ve seen a lot of good things out of him recently and hopefully that’ll mean a bit more playing time. If nothing else, he shouldn’t be completely buried on the bench like he was at times last year.
Jason Heyward might have only had one hit, but he scored three times. Sometimes it’s all about being in the right place at the right time.
Thursday (5-1 win)
Hero: John Lackey. It’s been a long while since a starter came in and just locked things down. With all the come-from-behinds and the extra innings, it’d been the third game of the Phillies series and Carlos Martinez since a starter had gotten a win. Lackey left nothing to chance, going 7.2 innings and allowing just one run while striking out 10. Not only was it a great performance to get a series win, but it also finally gave the entire bullpen a good breather, even if Mike Matheny did use three pitchers for the other four outs. He also drove in two runs with a double (one scored on an error so he only got credit for a single RBI) and was at the plate when a wild pitch scored another. An all-around Hero!
Goat: Tough day for Matt Adams. Thor must have left Mjolnir at home because he went 0-4 and struck out once, the only starter who did not manage to tally a hit.
Notes: When I saw the lineup, I thought this one was going to be tough for the Redbirds. No Hulk. No Captain America (Matt Carpenter). I mean, the Cubs aren’t Ultron by any means but this did seem to be a challenge for the group. Instead, the second stringers and non-headliners did their job. Heyward, who would work well as Falcon given the way he covers ground, got three hits and really is looking comfortable deeper in the lineup. Since the switch he’s now batting .344, though he still has no extra-base hits to show for it. Hopefully that will come as he continues to get adjusted to a more run-producing spot.
Other than Heyward, nobody else was just a dominant force in the lineup, but they all worked together to finally do some damage against Jake Arrieta. The hits came at the right time and Lackey made the most of what he received (and, as noted, helped his own cause). It was just a solid team win and a great bounce-back from the close loss the night before.
This team continues to win despite some of the hits it has taken. Another one of those came Tuesday when it was announced that Jordan Walden, far from that “hey, need a bit of a rest, should be back in 15 days” that we were thinking/hoping, will miss 6-10 weeks and that’s just if he doesn’t decide to have surgery. There’s no set plan for who replaces Walden in the eight and we’ll see if Matheny will stay flexible with that or will look to install a regular guy in that role. No one seems to be the overwhelming choice like Walden was when he was traded for, so flexibility would seem to be the best option for the club. Matheny has also seemed to handle his ‘pen a little better this year, so he may go in that direction.
Also in the notes is the fact that Matheny is likely to give Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons the next start in Pittsburgh. Carlos Villanueva pitched an inning Tuesday and while he’d probably be ready to go, it’d also likely disrupt a bullpen that could use him, especially if Lyons doesn’t go five or more like he did last time out. Anytime we get another chance to look at #70, though, it’s a good thing.
Cardinals are now up 6.5 on the Cubs, who are their closest competition. That’s the biggest lead in baseball. Their 21 wins is also the best in MLB, two better than the Astros, who have lost three more games than St. Louis. It’s a very nice place to be in and it’ll help paper over some rough spots to come, but nothing is guaranteed in this game. After seeing St. Louis come back from large deficits in the past few years, especially in 2011, I think none of us are going to be overconfident until we see a lead like this in September. Still, it’s fun to have some quantitative data for that “Best Team in Baseball” claim, isn’t it?
The club heads to Pittsburgh trying to continue that “no losing series in 2015” motif they have going. Pittsburgh is two games under .500 and snapped a five-game losing streak (which included that series in Busch last weekend) with a win against the Reds last night. The bats were working for them last night (though, to be fair, they got into the Reds bullpen and we know how flammable that is) and we’ll see if Michael Wacha can calm them down. Wacha faced the Bucs last time out, allowing no runs in 6.2 innings. Obviously, given how those games turned out, he didn’t get a decision, but we’d take that again.
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Wacha’s been very good against the Pirates in his career and no one will forget the fact that he took a no-hitter deep into a playoff game against them. He’s like Hawkeye out there, throwing precise arrows and a few trick ones to boot. The strikeout arrow hasn’t been in his quiver as much this year, but there’s still hope that’ll return.
We might need to see Wacha be dominant because there are strong odds Francisco Liriano is going to be. A constant thorn in the Cardinals’ side over the past few years, Liriano took a no-hitter into the sixth in his last start against the Cards before allowing a run. That run was all St. Louis needed to get into extra innings, but that won’t always be the case.
Peralta’s done OK against him, though I expect that was during his troublesome Twins years and not necessarily the Liriano we’ve seen in black and gold. There’s no reason we shouldn’t see all the big guys in the lineup tonight, which hopefully will be enough to keep the good times going.