Five games to recap, so let’s forget the attempt at witty banter and get right to it, shall we?
Wednesday (7-4 win vs. Milwaukee)
Hero: Matt Carpenter. Two for four with a couple of RBI and a run scored.
Goat: Randal Grichuk. 0-4 with two strikeouts and a double play.
Notes: There’s a baseball saying that winning teams can often score more in one inning than their opponent will score all day long. That was the case in this one, as the Cards ran out to a quick 5-0 lead after the first inning, then did just enough to make that lead stand up. John Lackey threw a good game, if not as dominant as some of his other Busch outings, allowing three runs and 10 hits in seven innings. There was a general lack of urgency after being staked to that sort of lead, so it’s not surprising that perhaps he didn’t throw his A stuff all the time, but experimented or at least didn’t get too worked up about a run scoring.
Also nice to see the Cards bring in a couple extra runs as the game progressed. We’ve often seen this team over the years score a lot of runs in the first, then go completely quiet and see that lead evaporate. Carpenter’s two RBI came in the fourth and added on to the lead, which became very important once the ninth rolled around.
We had a debate on Twitter earlier in the week about whether Mitch Harris needed to be sent back to Memphis or if he was doing OK in the big leagues. It seems to depend on the outing, but on the whole, Harris isn’t fooling many of the folks he faces. In this one, he faced three batters, two of them got hits, and one scored, though the run was unearned due to a dropped foul ball by Mark Reynolds. You have to go back to May 2 to find a time when he came into the ballgame and didn’t allow a hit and in that game, he only pitched to one batter. Then again, he went two innings on May 27 and allowed just one hit, so that’s not completely telling. Right now his WHIP stands at 2.02 and that’s a troubling sign.
Two hits from Jhonny Peralta and Yadier Molina in this one. The Cards scored seven runs and had 10 hits, but the only one that wasn’t a single was Kolten Wong‘s double to lead off the game. Singles aren’t the best way to develop an offense, but if you bunch them together, good things can happen.
Thursday (7-1 win at Los Angeles)
Hero: Lots of choices in this one. As much as I probably should go with a hitter here, Michael Wacha‘s ability to shut down a Dodgers team that had handed him his first loss the last time out was really impressive. Seven innings with just one run allowed. Seven hits, no walks, and five strikeouts, which strikes a good balance between not a lot and so many the pitch count runs up. Wacha’s season has been incredible so far and, while he gets a tough draw next time out by having to pitch in Colorado, if anyone can master Coors, it’s probably him.
Goat: With everything clicking, you have to choose Yadier Molina here because he was the only one without a hit. We continue to wonder about Molina’s offensive issues, even though the average is there (.278 after Sunday’s game). Only nine extra-base hits, though, and they are all doubles. Is he still recovering from the thumb surgery? Did he rush back and it’ll never be what it was? Or is it just Father Time catching up with Molina? (Hey, given Yadi’s speed, that never was going to be a long race.) Perhaps we’ll see some power in the second half and we can make this discussion moot. I’m just not convinced that will be the case.
Notes: Lots of offense in this one. Wong had two hits (one a double) and continues to be comfortable in that leadoff role. Peralta had another stellar day, with three hits in four tries, a run and an RBI. We’re not even to the halfway point of his contract yet and I think we can say that’s been a huge win for John Mozeliak. Two hits for Matt Holliday also as the Cards won a decisive game against a quality opponent.
Friday (2-1 win at Los Angeles)
Hero: Carlos Martinez. If it wasn’t for his own lapse, walking in the only Dodger run in the second, this would have been an almost perfect outing. Three hits in seven innings. 11 strikeouts. He had one bad inning, where he walked two and gave up two hits, and got out of that with a slick double play. He focused, regrouped, and rolled through the Dodgers after that, allowing no hits and just one walk between the start of the third and when he left after seven. We’ve said it before, but if the Cards had to keep just one of him and Shelby Miller, you can see why they made the choice they did, even as good as Miller is.
Goat: Another tough night for Randal Grichuk, who again went 0-4 with two strikeouts. Grichuk’s a hard guy to figure out. Just when you think the league has a book on him, he’ll have a strong offensive spurt, then have some games where he’s struggling. He’s a young guy so folks probably should be patient with him, though it might be wise if Mike Matheny didn’t hit him fifth very often.
Notes: When you have great pitching, the offense doesn’t have to do much. That’s good, because this one didn’t. Five singles and, honestly, a lot of that two-run rally came at the behest of the Dodgers, who didn’t play the infield in even with runners on second and third and just one out. Wong’s grounder to Adrian Gonzalez could have been an out if Brett Anderson had been able to cover first or if Gonzalez had noted that the second baseman had come behind him to cover the bag. Thankfully he didn’t, which meant a run scored, a runner moved to third, and there was still just one out, something Carpenter took advantage of next with a sacrifice fly that proved to be the difference. The Dodgers play that inning better, the Cards probably don’t get a win there.
Saturday (2-0 loss at Los Angeles)
Hero: Jaime Garcia. Until he scuffled at the beginning of the seventh, giving up three straight hits and two runs, Garcia matched Clayton Kershaw pitch-for-pitch in this one. And this wasn’t the “versus the Cardinals” version, the one that actually looks human at times. This was “top of his Cy Young game” Kershaw. Garcia went seven innings, allowing just six hits (again, three of them bunched together in the seventh) and striking out six. Tara pointed out last night on Gateway that he’s not walked a batter since that first start against the Mets and he’s had no luck either, as three of his four starts the Cards have scored zero while he was in there. You continue to hold your breath and worry about that shoulder, but right now when he’s on the mound, Garcia’s the equal to anyone else in the rotation, and that’s really saying something.
Goat: When you go up against Kershaw when he is clicking, it’s tough to say anyone’s a Goat because no one really has a chance. With the Dodger starter only allowing one hit, finding 0-fers for this spot is like finding dollar bills in a bank vault. We’ll invoke the normal tiebreaker and give it to Peter Bourjos because he was the leadoff man, but again, it wasn’t like he was any worse than most of the hitters that night.
Notes: Thank goodness for Grichuk in this one with his lone single. After all, the last time the Cardinals were truly no-hit* was 25 years ago in Los Angeles, when Fernando Valenzuela followed up Dave Stewart‘s no-no in Toronto earlier that night with one of his own against the Redbirds. (While I didn’t stay up to watch that game, I still remember the end of Stewart’s gem and then getting up the next morning to see the clip of Pedro Guerrero hitting into a game-ending double play.) Man, 1990 wasn’t much fun for a Cardinal fan, was it?
Sunday (3-2 win at Los Angeles)
Hero: Jhonny Peralta. Three hits, including the first Cardinal home run since he went deep a week ago which got them on the board and a single in the three-run eighth that gave the Redbirds the lead. They don’t win it without Peralta in this one. There’s no doubt about that.
Goat: Jon Jay. 0-4 with a strikeout and he left three men on. Jay was the only one not to reach base last night, as the only other hitless man was Carpenter, who drew two free passes. Jay is 3-22 since his return from the disabled list. Given that he was 0-10 in his rehab assignment, it’s possible he wasn’t quite ready to return to the big leagues. While Matheny does have to juggle a lot of outfielders and Jay should get some time to try to get his timing, he’s started five of the 10 games since he was activated. The offense isn’t justifying that yet. Given the expansive outfield of Coors Field, we shouldn’t see him start in Colorado. Doesn’t mean we won’t.
Notes: The difference between Kershaw on Saturday and Zack Greinke on Sunday was the Cardinals were able to do just enough against Greinke to run up his pitch count and get him out of the game. I’m not saying that the Dodger bullpen is bad, not at all. They actually have better stats than the Dodger starters do overall. However, you have to feel better about facing them than one of those aces of the rotation. The Cards were able to pounce on Juan Nicasio perhaps in part because they’d seen him for 1.1 innings on Friday night. There was some familiarity there and they were able to use it to their advantage.
Tony Cruz had a nice night filling in for Molina, getting two hits. Since both of those were off Greinke, that’s even more impressive. Jason Heyward may have been 0-4, but he may have saved the game in the sixth, when he kept it at 2-1 by throwing out Andre Ethier at home plate and doing so in a manner that left no doubt Ethier was out. Heyward’s got all around game, something we can tend to forget when we focus on why his power numbers aren’t where we’d like them to be.
Harris was the beneficiary of that throw, having allowed a walk and a Jimmy Rollins single (that turned into the out at home) in his inning of work. It was surprising to see Matheny throw him into such a high-leverage situation and I’m not sure I’d say he succeeded, walking the leadoff man and letting him steal second (which was a shock to the ESPN crew, which was probably fair since it was his first one all year). It’s one thing to keep Harris on this team when he throws in games that the Cards have in hand or are down by a lot (the latter doesn’t happen very often) but having him come into a game you need to keep close? That’s not his forte right now. As we said above, he’s averaging two runners on per inning. That’s a darn good way to be out of a game quickly.
We wondered how the excessive pitch count in Lance Lynn‘s last outing would affect him in the next start. Overtly, it didn’t seem to, as Lynn went almost 100 pitches in this one and allowed just the two runs. That said, Lynn was also out after five and dealt with forearm tightness during the game, something the ESPN analysts (while not knowing the cause) continued to dwell on in his latter innings. Was that due to the work he put in during the Milwaukee series? Something totally unrelated? With Lynn’s back cramps and now a forearm issue, it seems like something big might be just around the corner. Which would not be good for the Cardinals, so let’s hope either 1) there’s nothing there or 2) that corner is pretty far away.
The Cardinal bullpen was impressive this whole series, not allowing a single run (thanks to Heyward) while they were in there. True, the Cardinal starters didn’t leave them a lot of innings, but what innings they did leave were eaten with aplomb. It’s to the point where you might talk about the offense, you might want them to do more, but you feel comfortable with them scoring 2-3 runs because this pitching staff is not going to allow more than that. Look, they went into Los Angeles, where the Dodgers hadn’t lost a series all year, where they’d lost only seven games total before Thursday, and took three of four while allowing six runs. That’s borderline insane, especially when you don’t have a guy like Adam Wainwright even on the roster.
Of course, as fun as these gaudy pitching numbers are, they may not last the week. When you go into Colorado, you don’t expect your pitchers to give up just six runs in a series. If they can get away without giving up six runs in a game, you feel all right. Hopefully the Cardinal bats can come around while they are playing in a hitter’s park against a last place team.
The first pitcher they’ll try to solve is David Hale. Hale has started two games for the Rockies this year, allowing seven runs (six earned) in 12.2 innings. Both of those games came at Coors Field and the most recent one was against the Dodgers, where he allowed seven hits, four runs, and three home runs in six innings…..and took a no-decision. Coors is wild, man.
Cardinals saw him a bit last year, when he was a reliever for the Braves. Not enough to really draw any conclusions, though we shouldn’t draw any conclusions from any of the charts I put up here, really.
Lackey gets to take the ball for the Cards. We know the road hasn’t been a great place for him, going 0-2 with a 4.66 ERA in five starts away from Busch. Mix that with his career mark at Coors (0-1, 6.39 ERA, four homers in 12.2 innings) and you hope the offense can bail him out tonight.
We’ve probably seen our last pitching duel until the weekend. Then again, this is a really good pitching staff, so maybe the results won’t be as gory as we expect!