It wasn’t the kind of win we’ve come to expect out of these Cardinals last night, but they all count the same in the standings. Standings that the Cards are consistently at the top of.
We’ve come to expect a pitching-and-defense type of win, with enough offense to get by. Instead, St. Louis got serious while making three errors. Trailing 2-0 before they ever got to bat, they rallied to take the lead, then added on to keep the Diamondbacks at bay. As I say, it wasn’t the typical blueprint, but freestyling every once in a while isn’t a bad thing either. Keeps it fresh, you know.
A couple of folks made pretty good cases for the Hero of the night, but Randal Grichuk came out on top. Two hits–a home run in the second, a single in the fourth–that both times gave the Cardinals a two-run cushion, cushion that was well needed on the night. Grichuk continues to impress, now hitting .292 on the season with nine extra-base hits. He’s always going to be strikeout-prone, but this playing time he’s gathered while Jon Jay has been out has been a huge thing for his career. As we said yesterday, figuring out how everything is going to be juggled when Jay returns is going to be one of Mike Matheny‘s biggest challenges.
You could have also gone with Jhonny Peralta for the Hero tag, since he had two hits, including the two-run double that finished erasing that 2-0 lead. That was when you knew things were likely going to be a bit different last night. So often when the Cards get down, it takes a bit to climb out of the hole. Instead, they did it immediately, cashing in on back-to-back walks. (Runners on first and second with nobody out and they both score? That’s unheard of!) Great to see them get to Archie Bradley so quickly, though you wonder if Bradley won’t wind up back in the minors after his third real bad outing.
Also, Matt Holliday had a pretty nice evening. Besides the fact that he tied Albert Pujols for the team record of most games in a row to start a season reaching base, he drove in the first run, scored the third, and then almost had a triple later on, getting thrown out as he headed for third. Holliday has been seriously (or, as Stephen Amell would say, sinseriously) been impressive this year. After a couple of years where we thought he was starting to head (gracefully and slowly, but still head) down the hill, he’s come out of the gates strong this year and reminding us just how great he’s been and still can be. While Holliday will always be remembered fondly by the fan base, he’s also often been overshadowed. Hopefully tonight he gets the record and gets a little spotlight.
We’re going to have to go, yet again, with Jason Heyward as the Goat. 0-4, though he did reach on a fielder’s choice, steal a base, and score a run. He also made an error on the next-to-last batter of the game, though it was a strange hop the ball took. I keep waiting and waiting for Heyward to click. He shows flashes every once in a while, then he slips back toward mediocrity. It’s like Luke Skywalker trying to raise his X-Wing out of the Dagobah swamp. Just when you think it’s going to come out of the muck, it slides farther back into it. Not counting last night (because Baseball-Reference hasn’t updated yet), he’s hitting .264/.325/.403 in May, which wouldn’t be terrible overall numbers (though not exactly strong ones), but since the beginning of the Pittsburgh series he’s .220/.273/.420. Sliding back under the waters.
Who would have guessed that Jaime Garcia would have had a very strong road start, then struggle under the Arch? That’s like the exact opposite of the rep he’s had his entire career. That’s the case, though, as he allowed two runs in the first, gave up a home run in the second to cut his lead in half, then immediately gave back the run Grichuk’s homer provided him. He did throw three scoreless frames to end his time on the mound, which seems to show that he got into a groove as the game went along. We were fairly excited about Garcia being in the rotation after his last outing and I think we still are, knowing that a year off is going to create some inconsistencies, but that may be a bit more tempered after last night. Then again, given those that filled in for Adam Wainwright before Garcia, even last night is still an improvement.
Baseball likes to work itself out and it may have done it yet again. Jon Jay is expected back on Friday, but instead of sending down a pitcher, he may just swap places with Matt Adams. Adams visibly pulled something last night rounding first on a double and was removed from the game, with Mark Reynolds taking his place. We’d like to think that he’d be fine with a day or so of rest, but that seems pretty unrealistic, so we’ll hope that the 15 days will be all he needs. That also may provide opportunities for some of the outfielders to play first, though none of those seem to be obvious candidates for it.
That also means a higher level of exposure for Reynolds, who will be out there most every day. So far Reynolds has made more contact than most of us expected, but we’ll see if that continues if he’s playing every day. If it does, the loss of Adams might not be that noticeable, at least overall. Though Big City probably is a better defender, the bats for the two have been very similar this season.
Looks like Garcia better keep it together (and nobody else better get injured) because Marco Gonzales won’t be riding to the rescue any time soon. The Cards are shutting him down for three weeks after getting the results of his MRI. There was no structural damage, which would have been a whole ‘nother issue. It looks like something that they can work on with enough down time, so hopefully once they get it fixed this time, they’ll be able to do enough to make sure it doesn’t flare up again. That said, given he’ll need work after he returns in Memphis, he’s not going to be in St. Louis before July 1, I don’t think, and probably not until the All-Star Break. Hopefully that won’t be an issue.
The Cardinals were the first National League team to get to 30 wins last night (the Astros beat them to the mark by a few minutes) and still hold that 1/2 game edge for the best record in baseball. Tonight, we get to see if Lance Lynn is over whatever back cramping he had last time out.
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The Diamondbacks have done a number on him in the past, so he’ll probably need to be at top form. Both times he faced them last year (including the last start of the regular season) he allowed two runs in six innings, which would be acceptable, I think.
Josh Collmenter goes for Arizona. Collmenter has scuffled this year, putting up an ERA over 5.00, though most of that was in a disaster start against the Nationals where he allowed nine runs in 1.1 innings. His last time out, he limited the Cubs to two runs, though just over five innings.
Some not-so-pleasant numbers there. In his last start last year, he gave up one run in eight innings against the Cards. (That was the game where the Cards pulled Wainwright after learning they had clinched the division and still won 1-0.) Let’s hope he doesn’t have a repeat performance in him!