As I get older, something that surprisingly seems to happen daily, it’s becoming harder and harder to drag my lazy rear out of bed and get these posts done before work. Of course, after the first two games this week, who wanted to write about them? I’ll work on doing better so these aren’t series recaps all the time. If nothing else, we can hope that leads to better series than the one we just saw.
Monday (11-3 loss)
Hero: Mitch Harris. Hey, the offense did little and anything they did do came after the game was already well out of hand. Harris threw two scoreless, hitless innings in Colorado at a time when we’ve been wondering if he needs to go to Memphis. Kudos to him.
Goat: John Lackey. When you put the team down 5-0 after one, it’s bad. Not undoable in Colorado (though with this offense, I wouldn’t want to test it) but bad. Giving up another five three innings later? Ouch. Even in Coors, that’s unacceptable.
Notes: Between Lackey’s early meltdown (bad enough to give up Troy Tulowitzki‘s three-run bomb, but to give up two more runs AFTER that? Yikes.) and the fact that Matt Holliday left in the second with his quad injury, this never was much fun. Yes, Kolten Wong and Jon Jay went deep and Mark Reynolds got two hits, but the less said about this game the better.
Tuesday (4-3 loss)
Hero: Peter Bourjos. Two for three and a late home run that, had Randy Choate been able to get his man out, would have tied the game. Instead, it cut the gap and the Cards did try to rally, but were unsuccessful. With Holliday out, Bourjos should be playing quite often in center field. Should and will, though, are two different things.
Goat: I limit this to players, which is why Mike Matheny‘s not getting it here. More on that in a bit. Matt Carpenter has to get the tag here with an unfathomable four strikeouts. Carpenter looked terrible in a lot of those at-bats and, if it wasn’t for a stronger day on Wednesday, would have some folks concerned. I listened to the STL CardGals podcast yesterday while mowing and they tied it back to Carp getting plunked on the elbow by Clayton Kershaw. Given the stats, you wonder if that didn’t bother him more. Again, a good Wednesday means that we can hopefully put this behind us (especially when you mix in the off day in there), but we’ll have to see.
Notes: Michael Wacha was cruising along with his two run lead. I walk into the laundry room to get some laundry out of the dryer, come back, and it’s 2-2 just that quickly. He finished that inning up with 95 pitches. The bottom of the lineup is coming up, so I can see letting Wacha start the inning, but a tie game in Colorado, with a tiring pitcher and the top of the lineup looming means that you should probably have a quick hook.
Wacha gets the first batter to strike out on four pitches, but he allows the pinch-hitter to get a single. He’s at an even 100 pitches. The top of the lineup is coming up. It’s COLORADO. The bullpen save for Harris and Carlos Villanueva are rested. It might be time stop the bleeding.
Not so much. Wacha gets Charlie Blackmon to line out for the second out. 103 pitches. Up comes DJ LeMahieu. LeMahieu had a terrific series against the Cardinals. He was 2 for 3 already against Wacha, back when Wacha was fresher. You’ve got to come take the ball here, don’t you? I know you want to see if he can get through the inning, but you are really playing with fire here.
Matheny gets burned as LeMahieu doubles in the run. Wacha intentionally walks Tulowitzki. Finally he goes to Choate, but Choate doesn’t get it done against Carlos Gonzalez and that’s pretty much the ballgame.
I want to say, I do give Choate a hard time with the YOU HAVE ONE JOB. It’s frustrating to see a guy come in, give up a hit, and leave. That said, as someone noted on Twitter, we don’t expect everyone else to be perfect. There are going to be times when the batter wins. I guess I have less issue with a hit (though there’s still some, as Choate should succeed in this spot many more times than not if he wants to stay employed) than a walk. A walk to a lefty batter by Choate should be unheard of and that is a complete failure on his part.
In their first two games in the hitter’s paradise that is Coors Field, the Cardinal offense mustered 12 hits total. Not exactly the get-well tonic the bats needed.
Wednesday (4-2 win)
Hero: Carlos Martinez. Save for a Coors Field homer, Martinez was outstanding. 6.1 innings, eight hits (which is a little high for him lately, but also factor in the environment) and four strikeouts to just one walk. Martinez seems to either have low hits and high walks or vice versa, but he doesn’t put a ton of runners in total on. Just outstanding what he’s been able to do this season as he has moved into the rotation. Plus he got two hits, which means he gave a huge boost to this sputtering offense.
Goat: Peter Bourjos. It was another tough one to hand out, but Bourjos was the only starter without a hit, though he did draw a walk. If you have to go down to your eighth place hitter before you find a hitless day, it’s not a bad thing.
Notes: Matheny did a Matheny and double-switched out Jhonny Peralta in a one-run game. I get that you’d probably like the defense, I get that you didn’t want to have to pinch-hit for Kevin Siegrist in the bottom of the seventh, I get that it makes more sense than you’d initially think, but still, losing a bat like that in a close game, especially where things can turn around so quickly, could have been huge. It also would have meant Carpenter wouldn’t have seen anything else to hit as the pitcher’s spot was now behind him. Fortunately Randal Grichuk hit a home run that gave some insurance and Siegrist and Trevor Rosenthal struck out six of the eight batters they faced, so it didn’t matter who was out there.
All right, let’s tackle the injuries. First off, Holliday. On the DL, so he’s out for two weeks at least. However, it’s a Grade 2 strain, not a Grade 3 tear like Matt Adams has. So it seems like he probably won’t be out the rest of the season, which is a very nice thing indeed. It could be, given the magical healing waters of the Mississippi around the Arch, that he’ll return in 15 days. (How else do you explain Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina‘s quick returns, huh?) He’s able to walk on it, so with the right healing and rehab he might not be missing long.
That’s the hope, at least, because otherwise this offense needs a bump. The outfield while he’s out should be Jason Heyward, Bourjos, and Grichuk with Jon Jay providing occasional breathers, but that seems unlikely to happen. I mean, the first game Holliday is out, Heyward is on the bench. There’s no lineup out yet for this evening, but there’s also no reason to think Heyward will be sitting. Guessing the lineups, though, is a fool’s errand at times.
John Mozeliak is likely looking for a bat, though more likely it’s one that can play first than the outfield. After all, we do have four guys that are capable of playing (at different levels of success, of course) and hopefully there’s no need to add another to the mix. He’s also possibly going to have to keep some powder dry because of the second injury.
Lance Lynn went back to St. Louis this week with forearm cramping, a report on which is scheduled to be out today. Lynn is not guaranteed right now to take Saturday’s start against the Royals and if he’s out for any length of time, things get dicey. After all, Marco Gonzales is still out, so you are back to relying on Tim Cooney and Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons and hoping the rest of the rotation can hold things together. It’s a strategy that can work, for sure. Even if Lynn was out a month, that might only be 5-6 starts. Cooney and Lyons would be a downgrade, but not enough that the Cards are a given to lose all those starts. There’s a cushion in the standings and it may have to be used.
If it’s longer than a month or if someone else in the rotation starts needing help, Mozeliak might have to use his few chips to get an arm in here instead of a bat. I think that’s unlikely to be necessary–both of these guys could be back, but my guess is Lynn will be OK–but it’s starting to be a case of too many needs and not enough in the cupboard to fill them. You gotta choose at times and hope that you choose right.
Cardinals host Kansas City tonight and, for once, Joe Strauss is making another fan base mad instead of the ones that pay his salary. To be fair, it’s been a long-held assumption that Strauss doesn’t want to see anyone happy, but this seems to take it to another level. The Royals have been terrible for as long as I can remember. They had a good year last year and they are having a good year this year. It would be a bit unreasonable to assume that their fan base is going to “act like they’ve been there before”. They are excited about what’s going on and they don’t know how long it is going to last. It’s understandable they’d be vocal about their happiness. As I told one Royals blogger on Twitter, perhaps one day they’ll get to the point where they can be as hated as Cardinal fans. He was all right with that.
Jaime Garcia hopes to keep his run going–heck, he hopes to GET a run–when he takes on the Royals tonight. Garcia has had three starts with zero runs scored while he’s in there, meaning he’s lost a number of hard-luck outings. Last time he matched Clayton Kershaw basically pitch for pitch. He shouldn’t need to do that tonight with Yordano Ventura going, but it wouldn’t hurt.
Kinda hit or miss there. Of course, that kinda happens in the small sample sizes. It was Garcia’s game against them last year (five innings, six earned runs) that made folks start wondering if there was something wrong (besides cursing Matheny for leaving him out there through it all). He had two good starts after that, so I don’t think we can blame the Royals for breaking Garcia, but it definitely didn’t help.
Ventura faced the Cards last weekend and took the loss in the Sunday game, giving up four runs in seven innings (on just five hits). He’s been alternating good and bad starts lately, and since his last one was four runs in three innings against Texas, he could be in line to be dominant tonight. Let’s hope that’s not the case.
As I write this, our producer John Nagel is uploading the first episode of Best Dans In Baseball to this site. Dan Buffa and I kicked off what we hope will be a weekly look at the Cards with a conversation last night and I’d hope that sometime this weekend you’ll get a chance to listen and tell us what you think. The Twitter account for the show is here and here’s the Facebook page. Let us know what you think!