The Return of an Old Friend

It had been a long time, almost a year in fact, but an old friend returned to Busch Stadium last night.  The Yadi-bomb.*

*(I had planned to open the post with the highlight clip, but MLB doesn’t let you embed such things the day after.  Far be it for you to find the video anywhere but their site.)

Yadier Molina brought the bat last night and gets the Hero tag.  Three hits might have done it on its own, but when he went yard for the first time since June 27 of last year, that was the clincher.  Molina seemed to have the best approach at the plate that he’s had this season and perhaps the lack of power was due more to the lingering effects of the thumb surgery than age and wear.  Now, of course, it’s just one home run and for all we know it’s the only one he’s going to hit this season, but he looked more like the Molina of old last night.

It wasn’t just last night, either.  Since the beginning of the Colorado series, which means the last six games, Molina’s 8-22 with a double and a homer.  With all the losses this team has had, especially to the offense, getting Molina on track would be huge to continuing to be viable in games.

It was nice to see the paired home runs of Molina and Mark Reynolds.  There’s something extra exciting about back-to-back shots, especially for a team that can go a week without hitting two long balls.  That’s two in two days for Reynolds, who perhaps, instead of being exposed by playing all the time, is just getting better with the regular reps.  I’m still not sure that can hold up, but we’ll take it for now.

Another great outing for John Lackey in Busch Stadium, which is becoming old hat by now.  Two runs in eight innings, saving a bullpen that (apparently) was a little light last night.  (More on that in a bit.)  Lackey scattered just five hits, though two were doubles and one was a triple, which is why he wound up giving up the two runs late.  Five singles and he might have had a shutout.  For some reason, though, Lackey and Molina got into it a little bit in the dugout, which seems strange as good as the outing was.  It sounds like it might have been a little bit of a misunderstanding, as Lackey was griping at himself and Molina thought Lackey was griping at Molina, but you’d think Molina would be used to that having caught Chris Carpenter for a number of years.  No punches were thrown, thankfully, and the players say they are good, so we’ll assume that’s the case.

It’s a good thing Lackey was so strong, though, because besides the home runs, there wasn’t much going on with this offense.  Kolten Wong gets the Goat with an 0-4 day in the leadoff role, but Matt Carpenter continued his slide with an 0-3 night.  He struck out once, though he did also draw a walk.  I don’t know how you do it, but Carpenter really would seem to benefit from some rest.  Then again, he’s had two days off recently, with Thursday’s off day and Sunday’s rainout, so maybe that’s not the answer.  Something needs to be, though, because this offense isn’t going to ever catch if he’s scuffling.

Randal Grichuk had a Randal Grichuk night, getting two hits (including a triple that led to him scoring the first run) but striking out twice.  I think we’d take the strikeouts if it meant the hitting as well, though.  The Cardinals actually scattered nine hits around, including Jon Jay‘s bloop that drove in Grichuk.

We had anticipated seeing more of Peter Bourjos after Matt Holliday went down, but that doesn’t seem to be an opinion shared by Mike Matheny.  It’s not even that Jay, who is hitting .228 on the season, has been upping that average recently and that leads to his playing time.  He was hitting .129/.222/.290 in 36 June plate appearances before last night’s 1-3.  Couple that with the double hit early in the game that seemed catchable for other center fielders like Bourjos (who, I will admit, I’ve heard people state that they think Bourjos is being hesitant in the field lately, so maybe he wouldn’t have either) and you wonder just what Matheny is basing his selection of Jay on.  By the way, Bourjos is .200/.385/.500 in June, though in only 14 plate appearances.

When it rains it pours, of course, and that doesn’t just refer to the weather forecast for St. Louis over the next few days.  Kevin Siegrist got the save last night, which was a nice thing to see, but the reasoning wasn’t so much.  Trevor Rosenthal was unavailable with “tightness” and while Matheny and the coaching staff aren’t concerned, at least publicly, when your closer can’t go after a day off (and only throwing once in the last four days), that raises some red flags.  The only medical issue that’s gone the Cardinals way this year is Carpenter’s dehydration, but you could argue there could be some lingering effects of that going on right now, leading to the offensive struggles.  (Not sure there’s much of a link, but that doesn’t stop people from arguing on the Internet.)  We’ll see if Rosenthal can go today.  If he can’t, this might be yet another obstacle for this Redbird team to overcome.

That’s what they’ve done all season, though, and stand at 42-21.  When you are literally winning two out of every three games, it’s a good season.  They are six games ahead of the Pirates for the divisional lead, 5.5 games ahead of the Dodgers for the best record in the NL, and also 5.5 games ahead of KC for the best record in baseball.  To do all of this with the injuries they’ve accumulated is a remarkable thing.

That said, I do think the whole “imagine where Team X would be if they didn’t have their two top pitchers, their 3-4 hitters, their setup man, etc.” talking point is a bit overblown.  Dan McLaughlin and Ricky Horton had that as part of the broadcast last night, but I figure that many teams would be close to where they were at now with those losses for the same amount of time as the Cardinals have been without them.  Would the Pirates miss Andrew McCutchen?  Surely.  But if he’d only been out two weeks like Matt Holliday, the record probably wouldn’t be much different.  The only real difference maker would be losing their ace in April.  Many teams would have problems there.  Again, I don’t want to discount what the Cards have done because it has made it significantly harder on them (not that you can tell), but it’s not like they’ve been missing all these pieces since Day 1 and that should be factored in when trying to apply that to other squads.

Michael Wacha goes this afternoon, assuming the rain clouds will let him.  Given how Wacha seems to attract the rain even when there’s not a lot of it around, that could be problematic.  Wacha has been outstanding, of course, but he’s never faced the Twins.  (Not only the organization, but none of the players in the lineup.)  That could go in his favor, of course, and we hope that it will.  Wacha’s given up four runs twice in his last three starts, though one was at Colorado and the other against the Dodgers.  He lost both of those, though, so he’ll have to keep the runs down if he wants this minimal offense to get him a win.

Kyle Gibson has also never faced the Cardinals as a group, though Reynolds has two at-bats against him and has a stereotypical Reynolds line–two at-bats, one strikeout, one two-run homer.  The Cards did OK against Trevor May last night even though they’d never seen him, so perhaps that success can continue here.  In his last two starts, he gave up five runs (four earned) to Kansas City in six innings and five runs (all earned) to Milwaukee in seven.  Besides his first start of the season, those are his worst outings, so we’ll see if St. Louis continues the downward trend or if he bounces back to something more in line with the rest of his season.

Supposed to be an afternoon affair at Busch and it looks like they’ll get it in.  We’ll see if the Cards can get the sweep before heading to Target Field!

 

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