Given that currently the Detroit Tigers are one of the best teams in the American League, at least via record, probably losing two of three to them, including one in extra innings, isn’t so bad. The Cardinals are finding stronger measuring sticks than the Reds and Brewers and they aren’t being found completely wanting, which would seem to bode well for the rest of the season.
Friday (10-4 loss)
Hero: Jason Heyward. It’s not often that we get to write about good games out of Heyward, at least not recently, so credit where it’s due. Two hits, including a two-run homer that brought the Cards within two going into the ninth. There’s no doubt that Heyward is not been all that we hoped for so far–and seeing Shelby Miller get one out away from a no-hitter while St. Louis is dealing with pitching issues makes some start revising their stance on that trade–but he’s still a valuable part of this offense that hopefully will get going soon. If nothing else, this at least brings up the possibility (however small) that Heyward, believing the market won’t be there this winter, signs a favorable extension mid-season. Again, not terribly likely, but more likely now than if he was rolling.
Goat: Mitch Harris. Down just 2-0 after another short night from Carlos Martinez and a scoreless inning from Matt Belisle, they turned the ball over to the rookie and he got his first “welcome to the majors” pasting. Three runs later the Cards are down five and his ERA had tripled. Harris has had a great start to his season and his next outing will be a big one, giving us some clue whether that was just an off night, a bad matchup, or if folks are starting to figure him out. Given the use of the bullpen and the likely need of it going forward, we surely hope it’s not the latter.
Notes: A reliance on the long ball over the weekend began here, as the four run scored on two blasts by Heyward and Jhonny Peralta. It’s obviously nice to see the power and it’s not something we’ve seen out of the Cardinals a lot over the past year or two, but hopefully they can mix in some other scoring as well. Then again, given how St. Louis moved around the basepaths this weekend, maybe it’s safer to just hit it over the wall….Another two-hit night for Matt Carpenter, but that’s like saying that it gets muggy this time of year….Seth Maness got torched for four runs, an outing that will likely tinge his ERA the rest of the season. However, he had to take one for the team there as so many arms have been worn down lately.
Saturday (4-3 loss in 10)
Hero: Carlos Villanueva. We’ll talk about the Patron Pitcher in a minute, but when he couldn’t finish the fourth, Villanueva was called on. All he did was go 3.1 innings of scoreless ball, keeping the Tigers close and allowing the Cards to eventually tie things up. He deserved to get a win after all that, but all we can grant is the Hero tag.
Goat: Mark Reynolds. 0-5 with three left on base, which was big in a game that went to extras. He struck out with two on in the first, wasting an opportunity to get to David Price right off the bat after Carpenter had gone yard, then struck out in the 10th with a runner on and one out. He also fouled into a double play, but that was more on Pete Kozma trying to advance on a ball caught by the seats. Good in theory, lousy in execution.
Notes: Tyler Lyons made his last start, at least for a while. That was going to be his last start no matter how he performed, since Jaime Garcia threw six very good innings for Springfield on Friday night and looked ready to return to the big leagues. That said, Lyons didn’t do anything to really make them reconsider that notion. His first two innings weren’t too bad, save the 400th home run of Miguel Cabrera‘s career (and even that was due to the great hitter that Cabrera is, as he fouled off a number of pitches to get to that one he could hit. Lyons might have struck out a lesser batter) but a triple and a double in the third got the bullpen warming and he allowed the third run on a Yoenis Cespedes single.
He did finish the inning and got two quick outs in the fourth before allowing a single to Ian Kinsler. With Cabrera coming up, Mike Matheny made the call and after 80 pitches, Lyons was done. He showed some good stuff (he struck out five in his 3.2 innings) but unfortunately he wasn’t consistent enough and Matheny couldn’t afford to let him keep going if they wanted to keep the game close. There’s a strong portion of the fan base that has soured on Lyons, but I’m still hoping we’ll see him again. I think he’s still got some potential, though perhaps he’ll have to be a reliever with this team if he does make it back up.
Peralta went yard again, tying the game up in the sixth. In fact, yet again were all the runs homers as Carpenter tied the game in the bottom of the first with a long ball and Peter Bourjos, who is going to be getting a lot of time and so far is doing well with it, cracked one in the second. Randal Grichuk was activated before this game and got two hits in the leadoff spot, which is two more than most people have had in that role this week. Yadier Molina also had two hits, though he still isn’t showing much power.
Sunday (2-1 win)
Hero: Lance Lynn. We’ve said often over the past week or more that we needed to see a starter step up and just throw seven or more quality innings. It’d been over a week since a starter had gone out there after six innings and the bullpen was showing it. Lynn did just that, getting into the eighth and allowing just the one run. It was a wonderful change of pace from what we’ve been seeing and Lynn deserves all the kudos he can get for it.
That said, there’s gotta be some questions about Matheny letting him do that. In the sixth, after Kolten Wong had cranked a home run to give the Cards the lead, Lynn comes up with a runner on and one out. It’s a situation where a pinch-hitter might have been able to add to the lead. However, given the state of the bullpen and the state of the bench, I don’t have any problem letting Lynn bunt there and hoping that Heyward could drive in the runner with a two-out hit. It didn’t happen, but I can live with that and I’d probably make the same decision.
Lynn gets through the seventh at about 108 pitches. Apparently as he comes into the dugout, he tells Matheny “I’ve got this”. Which is right out of the Adam Wainwright School of Pitching and Managing Managers. There’s little chance that Matheny would take out a guy with such determination when he’s pitching so well, pitch count or no pitch count. In the words of one of his predecessors, he had a commitment to his heart.
Even so, you knew that Cabrera was lurking in the bottom of the eighth. At best, he’d come up with bases empty and two outs. Would you really want him to face a tired Lynn with the game on the line? I understand the bullpen has been worn, but they could cover two innings. The smarter play there was to pull him out. However, Matheny went with him and, after Lynn got the first out, he walked Kinsler and Cabrera on a total of eight pitches. Which would have been bigger if we didn’t have Mr. Efficient in the bullpen, as Maness came in, threw a pitch, got a double play, and the mess was cleaned. Still, that was a huge gamble by Matheny, one that almost let the Tigers get their brooms out.
Goat: Jason Heyward. For some reason, Matheny moved him up to the revolving leadoff spot last night. That seemed strange given how Heyward talked about how he struggled with that mindset and how that is so different than his low-order position of late. Heyward went 0-4 with two strikeouts, which hopefully means we’ll see him back down in the lineup today against the Mets.
The leadoff role has been an issue since Carpenter slid into the second spot. Jon Jay had it for a while, but with him on the DL there’s nobody that’s claimed it. Bourjos, Wong, Grichuk and now Heyward have all given it a try but only Grichuk has really shown anything and that was just one game. Given that he’s going to be the fourth outfielder, it’s not like he’s a regular solution to the issue. Matheny may just have to pick a player and stick with it for a few games, seeing if they can adjust.
Notes: Another two-hit night for Molina, which was great to see. Wong crushed the go-ahead homer in the sixth and it was a thing of beauty. I don’t know if anyone has the bat speed that he does. When he gets those inside pitches he whips around and deposits them into the right field bleachers. It’s a wondrous thing and a lot of fun to watch. Another two-hit night for Carpenter, because they played and that’s what happens.
Matt Adams continues to struggle, going 0-3 last night and being pinch-hit for in the seventh. Honestly, that was a situation where you wonder if Brad Ausmus didn’t overthink things. With a runner on and two outs, Ausmus went to a lefty reliever, which meant Matheny countered with Reynolds. The way Adams is going, you’d almost think you’d rather face him no matter the pitcher than Reynolds and, in fact, Reynolds slapped a single to put two on for Molina, who got a hit but saw Peralta thrown out at the plate.
What’s up with Adams is hard for the untrained to figure out. He ended April hitting over .300 but is hitting .143 since that time. There’s got to be something that he can work on, because I don’t believe the league has just figured him out and the last two years were flukes. Adams can hit in this league and he will hit, but it’s been a rough few weeks and he needs a good game or two for his mental well-being.
Bernie Miklasz wrote this weekend that he believes the Cardinals really need to trade for some sort of starting pitcher, even if it’s the inning-eater rather than the ace. If we knew Lynn and folks like John Lackey could get into the seventh regularly, this might be a moot point. It’s been a bad stretch for the starters, definitely, but it’s also one that could turn around quickly and see some longer outings, letting the bullpen catch their breath. We’ll see if that’s the case. I don’t disagree with Bernie that a veteran arm could be a very good thing for this team, because there are likely to be a lot of innings that need to be covered. I’m not sure what John Mozeliak would give up nor do I know where you’d slot them into the rotation, but I imagine Mo’s giving those issues some thought. As Tara said last night on Gateway, it’s not likely to be any time soon, what with Garcia just returning, but it may be before the trade deadline and earlier than Mo has made moves in the recent past.
Cards are in New York tonight and they get to face The Dark Knight. I’m not sure if that makes St. Louis the Joker or the Riddler or what. Hopefully they’ll be a Bane to Matt Harvey‘s existence, though. Not a lot of experience with Harvey for these Redbirds, so maybe he won’t have the right equipment in his utility belt.
Lackey will take the mound for the Cards, hoping to keep the momentum of good starting pitching going. Given the majority of his service in the American League, he’s not faced many of the guys, but the ones he has have seen him quite a bit.
The Mets have struggled of late, now just 1/2 game ahead of a Washington team that looks like the team we’d thought they’d be. However, New York plays better in the Big Apple, so this could be a tough four games. Hopefully good starting pitching for the Redbirds and plenty of wins are on the schedule!