Through a combination of not wanting to get up early during the beginning of the week and a stomach bug at the end of it, we’ve got five games to review this morning on this rare Saturday post. Now, if you told me at the beginning of the stretch that the Cards would score 20 runs over that span, I’d think it wouldn’t be such a bad thing. That’s four runs a game, with good pitching you probably go 4-1 over that span. That’s the deceiving thing about averages, though. When you score 19 of those 20 in two games, it makes you look more potent than perhaps you are.
Monday (2-1 loss at New York in 14)
Hero: John Lackey. After a run of starts that had folks (including me) discussing whether John Mozeliak needed to make a move for an innings-eating veteran, Lackey turned in a fine performance, going seven innings and allowing just one run. Even more impressive was that this was on the road, where Lackey had struggled often since becoming a Cardinal. (Perhaps he pretended he was still a Red Sox and was in the other New York stadium.) It was a great effort and, if it hadn’t been for the ninth-inning sac fly that tied it up, would have rested the bullpen quite nicely.
Goat: Randal Grichuk. Going 0-6 with five strikeouts is a night you’d really like to forget. (Fortunately for St. Louis, he obviously did just that.)
Notes: Tough night for a lot of people, but when Matt Harvey is on his game, that’s to be expected. Matt Carpenter went 0-6 with three strikeouts, which is completely un-Carp-like. A couple of hits scattered throughout, but not a lot of real opportunities. Yadier Molina went 3-5 and Matt Adams, looking more like the Matt Adams we are used to, garnered a couple of hits. And, of course, Jason Heyward got the game-tying sac fly as well as a base hit.
The bullpen pretty much did its job (including Randy Choate, who upped his YOU HAD ONE JOB numbers by striking out the only guy he faced) until they got to Sam Tuivailala. Whether it was nerves or the fact that he still needs to work on his command, he walked the first two batters of the 14th on 11 pitches, which pretty much doomed the team. Yes, you can get out of those kind of jams–heaven knows the Cards strand runners on first and second with no outs ALL THE TIME–but in extras on the road? Yet Trevor Rosenthal almost did it, getting a ground ball that couldn’t quite be turned into a double play and then, after intentionally walking Daniel Murphy to set up the force, got another one that had a chance to do the same. Kudos to Rosenthal for a strong effort.
Tuesday (10-2 win at New York)
Hero: Randal Grichuk. What a turn around from the game before! Three hits, all of the extra-base variety, and three RBI. It’s pretty impressive when a young player can shake off a tough game in the manner he did. Plus he brought the defense as well, which was astounding. All in all, Jon Jay had to be watching and getting a little nervous about his spot when he returns.
Goat: When the offense and pitching are clicking, it’s tough to pick a person here. We’ll go with Matt Holliday, who went 0-2, but he did walk once and drove in a run with a sacrifice fly. When that’s your Goat, it’s a good game.
Notes: Offense, offense everywhere. Mark Reynolds had three hits, including a home run. Peter Bourjos had two hits, which was huge batting in front of Grichuk in this game. (Yes, this offensive explosion was brought to you with Carpenter sitting on the bench, which makes it even more astounding.) Jhonny Peralta also chipped in with a couple of knocks.
The pitching was great as well, but that’s what you get when Michael Wacha is on the bump. The second straight seven-inning outing by a starter, Wacha allowed just two runs and four hits. Perhaps more encouragingly, he struck out five. That’s still not to the levels we’ve seen out of Wacha, but it’s better than the one or two that he’s done over his last few starts. Choate pitched an entire innings (so YHOJ is not affected) and Tuivailala got back on the horse and threw a scoreless frame. That’s one thing that you can say about Mike Matheny, he’s going to try to help the psyche of his players as much as possible. Letting Tui get back out there without having to stew on that 14th inning for a week helped him a lot, I imagine. Just glad he didn’t have to do it in a 3-2 game.
Wednesday (9-0 win at New York)
Hero: This is a toss-up, but I’m going with Jason Heyward in this game. 2-4, scored two runs, and put one over the wall to start the big six-run fourth inning that didn’t quite do Bartolo Colon in, but put him on the ropes (and put the game out of reach, for all intents and purposes). Adams was the other choice, going 2-5 with a three-run blast in the same inning.
Goat: Tough night for Yadier Molina, who went 0-3 with a walk before being pulled for a little rest and a little playing time for Tony Cruz.
Notes: Again, the bats got going in this one. Colon has struggled in his last few starts and the Redbirds made sure that streak continued. Kolten Wong led off in this one and had three hits. Holliday also had three hits. If we’d known that the fifth inning of this game would be the last time the Cardinals scored in the games I’m covering, I’m thinking they’d have applied to be allowed to carry a few over.
Carlos Martinez got into the seventh, but unlike Lackey and Wacha, couldn’t quite finish it. Still, 6.1 scoreless innings with only four hits allowed? I’ll take that every time, I don’t know about you. Then Choate, tired of the whole YHOJ thing, comes in and does a Seth Maness, getting a double play out of his one batter faced. That’ll work, my friend, that’ll work. Miguel Socolovich, whom we’d not seen in a little while, threw two scoreless innings to wrap it up. I’ve got to say, I didn’t know much about Socolovich but he’s done nothing but be effective at the big league level. Maybe that’s a newness factor, I don’t know, but it could be that he starts seeing a little more high-leverage work on a more regular basis.
Thursday (5-0 loss at New York)
Hero: After games with plenty of options, this one didn’t have many. Let’s go with Jaime Garcia, though. In his first start in the bigs in close to a year, Garcia threw seven innings and allowed just two runs. His command wasn’t there (five walks) but that’s to be expected with the layoff. In a just world, or in a world where he’d gone one of the past two days, he’d have come away with a win and a great feeling. Instead, they got one hit while he was in the game. Tough to win that way.
Goat: Pick a hitter. Or pick a reliever. Chances are you’d make a justifiable choice. I’m going to say Randy Choate. He followed Mitch Harris, who had left him two runners on and two outs to get. Perhaps because he got two outs the day before on one batter he felt he needed to even the ledger, but he spectacularly failed in the YOU HAD ONE JOB department, allowing a three-run homer to Lucas Duda (his second of the day–a theme that will be repeated on Friday) that put the game completely out of reach.
Notes: The Cards got a hit in the second hitter of the game….and the next-to-last hitter of the game. You can win a game with two hits, but not likely if they are spread out like that. A ton of strikeouts as well in this one, making it quite reminiscent of the Corey Kluber game from a week ago. Granted they both won hardware last offseason (Kluber Cy Young, Jacob DeGrom ROY) but I don’t know that DeGrom should be in Kluber’s class. You couldn’t have told it by the Cardinal hitters, though.
Friday (5-0 loss at Kansas City)
Hero: Matt Carpenter. Three for four. It’s tough to get shut out when your leadoff guy reaches three times and the guy behind him gets three hits, but this Cardinal team is talented in so many ways.
Goat: Lance Lynn. Yes, there were possibly some physical issues that played into it and yes, if Kendrys Morales doesn’t play last night that game might still be going on. It doesn’t remove the fact that Lynn allowed five runs in the first three innings and put the team in a significant hole. The second home run was exceptionally crushing to the Cardinals, as they’d had runners on first and second in the top of the inning and Holliday hit into the 5-3 double play, so nobody scored. (It’s a gift with this team the past few years. I seriously wonder how many times they’ve done that and how it compares to the league average, but I don’t know that Baseball-Reference’s Play Index could give me that info.) To go from a chance to cut the lead to immediately seeing it get bigger was quite deflating.
Notes: Molina had two hits in this one and Carlos Villanueva did a nice job taking care of the two innings that Lynn didn’t pitch. If nothing else, the bullpen is catching their breath this week, which helps Mozeliak out immensely. The club just didn’t cash in on opportunities and some of that is a credit to Chris Young, whose style had to be a huge contrast to what they saw out of DeGrom the night before. Hopefully it doesn’t throw them off for the rest of this series.
If I’d felt well enough to write on Thursday morning, I’d have noted that I was going to be on The Red Zone in Fayetteville that morning talking about the Cardinals. When I talked with those guys, I said that this weekend is the biggest series between these two teams since 1985. While I’m not sure that my point got across (when they put that quote on Twitter, it made it sound like it was the biggest games in Missouri since 1985, which isn’t true given the World Series games that have been played there), it’s the first time since interleague play came along that the Royals really feel relevant. Even last year, they struggled to start the year and it was tough to see them as a contender. Now, they have a 1/2 game better record than the Cardinals for the best record in baseball after the win last night. It’s the first time in a long time Kauffman Stadium has looked more blue than red for this series. It’s a different thing.
It’s good for the state and it’s good for the rivalry that the Royals are at this level and I think many of us wish them well when they aren’t playing St. Louis. One of my good friends, whom I’ve known a long time, has been a Royals fan forever. He’s been through the crushing years and now gets to enjoy good baseball, which is great. Just hopefully not for the rest of the weekend.
Let’s talk a little about that rotation. Right now, with the return of Garcia, things look pretty stable. However, it’s Garcia and nobody gambles on his health if they want to keep their money. That plus the desire not to overextended Wacha or Martinez might get Mo looking at veteran starters. That said, if Garcia stays healthy, who do you take out of the rotation? Do you slide Martinez back to the pen? As Bernie Miklasz noted, Martinez is doing about as well as the big guys in the rotation. Do you want to lose that?
Let’s assume Mo figures that out and decides to get a veteran arm instead of trying the Tim Cooney/Tyler Lyons route again (though the Patron Pitcher did throw a complete game in Memphis Thursday). You’ve seen the names like Kyle Lohse and Aaron Harang, but there’s a name that so far has surprisingly flown under the radar, even though it would seem to be the culmination of a long-time rumor. That name is Mark Buehrle.
As you know, Buehrle is a St. Louis native who has always said he would like to play for the Cardinals. He’s as veteran as it gets, he’s an innings-eater, and his contract is up at the end of the year, meaning it’s a short-term commitment. While Buehrle hasn’t been his dominant self this year, which is understandable given that he’s 36, moving to the National League should help that a little bit. He went eight innings in his last start, but that was the longest he’d had this year. Really one of the only things that’s notable about Buehrle this year is that his HR/FB rate is up, which easily could come back to normal, especially moving into Busch Stadium, which tends to favor pitchers.
Am I saying you break the bank for him? Of course not. However, with Toronto sitting in last place (only 5.5 out of first, but a lot of teams to pass) and Buehrle being a free agent (and having considered retiring) at the end of the year, you’d think you could pay the rest of his contract this year and get him for a couple of A ball players. I think he should be considered as a possibility, even if I’m not completely wedded to the idea.
We’ve rambled too long (that’s what five games off without writing gets you) so let’s quickly look at tonight’s game. Lackey gets to try his luck on the road again, facing a Royals team that he’s familiar with given his time in the American League.
Even though he’s faced KC, he’s not got a lot of history with some of these batters, as they’ve only emerged in the last year or so. With Lackey’s problems on the road and these numbers, I’m not sure we can expect one run in seven innings again.
The Cards are all too familiar with Edinson Volquez as well. While I feel they’ve done well against him, the numbers don’t quite bear that out.
Volquez, in his career, is 4-6 with a 4.69 ERA, so I guess there’s some basis for me thinking that the Cards have handled him all right in the past, but it might not have been with this group. Volquez is off to a strong start in Kansas City so this might be another tough one for the Cardinals to win.
The last two weekends, the Cardinals have been on the short end of the series. Let’s hope that turns around starting tonight!