What a difference a few miles makes.
Two weeks ago, the Cardinals struggled in Kansas City, needing to win Sunday’s finale to salvage anything in the series. This weekend, Sunday’s game could have given them a three-game sweep had the rains cooperated. It was a sweep nonetheless and, given Kansas City’s position not only in the standings but in the All-Star voting, a fulfilling one at that.
Friday (4-0 win)
Hero: Jaime Garcia. Figuring that he wasn’t going to get any run support, Garcia made sure that anything he did get would matter. Eight innings of scoreless baseball, with just four hits allowed and, again, no walks, continuing his streak that started with his second outing. It was a masterful performance and one that gets you excited about what Garcia can bring when he is healthy. There’s still an inability to go all-in emotionally with Garcia, given his injury history, but the more outings he has like this, the harder that’s going to be. Having him in the rotation, especially as the offense struggles, is a wonderful thing.
Goat: Somebody go find the real Matt Carpenter. Another 0-4 with two strikeouts, which is just so unlike the Carpenter we are used to seeing. I noted before that the STL Card Gals traced this downward spiral to Clayton Kershaw hitting him on the elbow. Actually, it started before that. Carp’s made six starts since then (counting Saturday’s game against KC) and is hitting .136/.208/.136 with nine strikeouts and two walks in 24 plate appearances. The six game before and counting that Kershaw plunk: .188/.364/.250, four strikeouts, four walks, 22 plate appearances. He’s hitting .203 in his last 18 games. Whatever the issue is, Carp needs to figure it out. He’s too vital to this offense for it to go on much longer.
Notes: While Carpenter may be struggling, Jhonny Peralta is picking up the slack. Three for four in this game, though he didn’t drive in or score a run. Over that same span where Carp’s hitting .203, Peralta’s hitting .364 with four home runs. Maybe there’s some kind of conservation of offense law of nature we don’t know about. Two hits for Randal Grichuk, who also scored twice, and Jon Jay drove in two. Both of those guys got a triple, which is a pretty rare thing for any squad these days, really. You don’t often see two triples in a game.
Saturday (3-2 win)
Hero: Mark Reynolds. As tempting as it is to go with the Patron Pitcher here, when you break a tie with a home run and that stands up, you tend to get to be the Hero. Reynolds had another hit and run to go along with the long ball, which makes him an easy choice. It was good to see some power out of Reynolds, since that’s what the Cards signed him for. I thought we’d see some exposure with Reynolds having played every inning of every game since Matt Adams went down, but so far during that span he’s hitting ..268/.349/.357. Saturday’s homer was his first, though, and he does only have seven RBI in the 17 game span, but he’s not been a liability as I thought he might be with regular playing time. That said, John Mozeliak should still be looking for someone to spell him, if only because he can’t play every single day.
Goat: We’ll go with Randal Grichuk, though Peralta was also in the running. Peralta had one more hitless at-bat, but Grichuk left four men on during his 0-3 day, which could have been pretty big had Kansas City been able to do anything against the bullpen.
Notes: The Patron Pitcher Tyler Lyons returned due to Lance Lynn‘s forearm soreness and threw five nice innings against a really good team. He could have gone six (at least looking at pitch count) if it hadn’t been for the rain delay. He also got a hit of his own, which was good to see. The home run bug got him, but he made sure they were solo shots and only gave up one other hit. He only walked one batter as well while striking out six. It was good enough to get him another start, this time in Philadelphia which is less forgiving to fly balls. Hopefully the good pitching that we heard about in Memphis (where he was recently PCL Pitcher of the Week) will continue up here in the big leagues.
The bullpen did its normal outstanding job. I think I heard on the radio that the collective ERA of the bullpen is under 1.00 for a span of time that I’m not sure of, but it probably runs out a while. I can’t remember the last time a bullpen pitcher really got nicked–I think Carlos Villanueva gave up a couple in Colorado, but that was over a couple of innings as well. Overall, though, we as fans can feel pretty confident when almost anyone comes into a close game that they are going to get the job done. (Maybe not as much Mitch Harris, but he’s not likely to be in a high leverage situation.) In this one Matt Belisle, Randy Choate, Seth Maness, Kevin Siegrist and Trevor Rosenthal combined for four innings and allowed just one hit. Strong bullpens are key for an October run and right now that’s exactly what the Cardinals have.
Sunday’s game was rained out and they’ll make it up probably on August 3. It’d be a bit of a pain for the Royals, as it’s between series for them, but that seems more reasonable than the other off-date the teams have in common, July 23. Cards would lose their travel day to Cincinnati, but that’s not a huge issue.
As noted above, Lynn went on the DL on Friday, retroactive to June 8, which means he can return June 24 and the Cards would only miss one more start from him. That’s the optimistic view, of course, but it looks like it might be reasonable. There doesn’t seem to be any structural damage and the rest should calm the inflammation down quite a bit. We’ll know more in a few days, seeing if the Cardinals give him the OK to start getting ready for his start after Lyons makes his next one.
John Lackey gets to go against an American League team, just not the one he was expecting. Pushed back because of yesterday’s rain, he’ll take on the Twins tonight in Busch Stadium. Hopefully that home cooking continues to be with him. This season, he’s 4-1 with a 1.73 under the Arch, even including the three runs in seven he allowed to the Brewers last time out.
Looks a little hit or miss with Lackey there, though to be fair Joe Mauer’s not what he used to be and not what he was when he was putting up a lot of those numbers against the Cardinal hurler. Top prospect Byron Buxton made his debut yesterday and likely will get his first major league hit in St. Louis, which is a fine place for it.
Trevor May goes for the Twins. He handled the Royals last time out, giving up just one run in six innings, and before that threw seven scoreless innings against the Red Sox, so he’s going better than the 4.16 ERA might indicate. Nobody on the Cardinals has ever faced him, which could make for a long night if history holds. Should be a fun one to watch!