Four games to talk about and they are all over the map, pretty much. The only thing we didn’t have in these four games? One of those close, low-scoring wins. You know, the kind the Cardinals have had all year long.
Thursday (2-1 loss at Minnesota)
Hero: Matt Carpenter. Two of the five hits. After his 0-3 yesterday in Philly, he’s hitting .272 in his last 10 games, which is still not quite the level we expect from Carp, but much better than the .100 level that he was at. Sounds like whatever tuneup he might have gone through is paying off.
Goat: Kevin Siegrist. Holding a one-run lead in the eighth on the road isn’t easy, of course, but Siegrist got the first two outs and was facing Joe Mauer, a lefty that he should have been able to handle or at least keep in the park since Mauer only had two homers at that juncture. It was three a couple of pitches later, tying the game and putting the Cards in a tough spot. Interestingly, Siegrist has been much more effective on righties this year, with a K/BB ratio of 33/3 against right-handers and just 9/8 against lefties. Lefties have almost a 1.000 OPS against him, so we shouldn’t be surprised to see more of Randy Choate getting the tough left-handers out and Siegrist staying in that setup role until Jordan Walden returns, then sliding to the seventh inning.
Notes: Jason Heyward looked to be the hero in this one, cracking a home run in the seventh that broke the scoreless tie and might have held up the way the Cardinal pitching staff usually goes. Jaime Garcia had another stellar outing with limited run support, going six-plus and allowing just four hits and two walks. He put a couple of runners on in the seventh, so the Cards went to Seth Maness, who did what Seth Maness does (though it took him a batter longer than expected). Carlos Villanueva wound up finally taking the loss, allowing a two-out homer to Kennys Vargas, but when you get into that situation, you know a mistake ends the game. It’s a tough situation to be in and a little more offense against Mike Pelfrey would have come in handy. Pelfrey’s having a nice year, true, but he’s no Cy Young. Then again, sometimes it’s tough to know who is an All-Star and who isn’t when you judge by how the Cardinals handle them.
Friday (12-4 win at Philadelphia)
Hero: Could it be anyone but Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons? Well, yeah, there were some big offensive performances so I guess you could go with someone else, but it’s my blog and I’m going my own way. When you just look at the pitching line, it wasn’t anything special. Five innings, three runs, seven hits, one walk, five strikeouts. However, take away the three-run homer from Ryan Howard, who destroys anyone in a Cardinal uniform, and it looks better. (Yes, I know, you can’t do that, but you can toss that into mitigating circumstances.) However, the Hero tag comes from mixing his hitting in as well. Two hits, one walk, one RBI, three runs scored. He accounted for more runs than he let in! That’s gotta be Heroic. Plus that first hit came with two outs, allowing Kolten Wong to come up and smash a two-run homer that made it 4-0 and just starting things going downhill for the Phillies.
Goat: You score 12 runs and have 16 hits plus a solid bullpen and it’s tough to come up with a Goat. I guess we’ll give it to Tony Cruz, who came in to give Yadier Molina a rest when the game got out of hand and went 0-2, leaving three men on. Again, as I’ve said before, not all Goats are created equal.
Notes: Molina hit his second homer of the season, continuing to revive hopes that his power might not be completely gone. Yadi’s been on fire over his last nine games, hitting .412/.444/.647 with two doubles and the two homers. Even if it’s short-lived, it’s good to see flashes of the old Yadi and hopefully we’ll see more of them as the season progresses. Randal Grichuk had a good night, going three for five with a home run. (It wasn’t as good as his Saturday, though, which we’ll get to in a second.) Multiple hits from Heyward, including a double, and Greg Garcia, who was called up earlier in the day. Xavier Scruggs also got into this one, which we thought would give Mark Reynolds a rest, but instead it just shifted him over to third as Carpenter took the breather. Reynolds would have to wait until Saturday to see his innings-played streak come to a stop.
Saturday (10-1 win at Philadelphia)
Hero: Randal Grichuk. A double and two home runs, three runs scored and four RBI. That, my friends, is a good night. Grichuk can be frustrating with his strikeouts, but when he gets the power bat going, he really can add some pop to this squad. With Matt Holliday going down, he could easily have been exposed with two much playing time, but in the ten games before his 0-4 on Sunday, he was hitting .333 with an OPS of 1.111 with a double, two triples, and four homers. He’s holding his own against this league, which is a great testament to him.
Goat: Peter Bourjos. We clamor for Bourjos to get chances over Jon Jay, but when he does he goes 0-4 with two strikeouts. One game doesn’t a season make nor should it be necessarily heavily weighted into decision-making, but you know that Bourjos needs to make an impact to have a chance to get Mike Matheny to write him in a bit more often. That might be the last time Bourjos starts until next Saturday–he couldn’t get the start against a new lefty on Sunday, with Jay back out there in center–so it’s disappointing he couldn’t take some advantage.
Notes: John Lackey finally got a win on the road this season and in the process brought down that unsightly road ERA inflated by the Coors Field debacle. Seven innings of one-run ball will often win you games in any park (unless you are Garcia) but it’s extremely nice to see in a hitter’s locale like Citizens Bank Park. It’s nice to have a guy like Lackey as a fifth starter, when most teams would have him at least in the middle of their rotation. Three hits for Jhonny Peralta as he drove in and scored a run. Another three hits for Heyward, with a double and two RBI mixed into his line. We also saw the return of Trevor Rosenthal, who apparently is actually OK after some rest. That’s not always the case with Cardinal injuries–in fact, that’s rarely the case–and it was good to see him throw a scoreless inning, even if it wasn’t at all a save situation.
Sunday (9-2 loss to Philadelphia)
Hero: Jason Heyward. Three for four (club only had seven hits, so he pretty much was the offense) with a home run in the ninth off of Jonathan Papelbon. The homer didn’t mean anything, but it’s good to see Heyward swinging the bat better.
Goat: Michael Wacha. It just wasn’t Wacha’s day yesterday as he didn’t have his best stuff and the Phillies made him pay. Five runs in five innings is really un-Wachalike, though he did strike out seven. In fact, as much as we worried about his low strikeout numbers earlier in the year, it might be a good thing when he doesn’t strike out as many. Here are his top strikeout games this year, along with the number of runs he allowed.
So obviously when he’s getting the strikeouts, it’s not necessarily a good thing, which is a little strange. I’m sure one of the sabermetric types over at Viva El Birdos could or has explained it, but typically more strikeouts has been a good thing. It looks like we’d prefer Wacha to have in the 4-6 range, though, rather than fanning many folks he faces.
Notes: Maness may have given up the cheapest run possible, but it was an indication of what speed does. It must have been what it was like against Vince Coleman back in the day. Odubel Herrera beat out an infield hit, stole second, then scored when a dying quail landed with two outs. He could not be stopped on the basepaths, though thankfully that wasn’t the deciding run or anything. Matt Belisle, who has been so effective for the most part this season, wound up allowing a three-run home run but, again, this one was pretty much out of hand by time Wacha left, as there didn’t seem to be any offense left in the bats after 22 runs in two days. Peralta did crack a homer earlier in the game to break up the shutout, but you have to give credit to Adam Morgan in his major league debut. (His family was there, it was Father’s Day, just a good story all the way around if you aren’t on the other side.)
You’ll notice that Heyward’s name is all through these recaps. After watching him scuffle for a while, he finally seems to have found his legs and is starting to hit at a rate comparable to what we expected when he was acquired. In the month of June (and this doesn’t count his day on Sunday, as Baseball-Reference hasn’t updated yet and I don’t have time to try to do the math), he’s hitting .355/.369/.516. He’s not walking much–just two all month–but he’s being aggressive at the plate and it’s paying off. Which, when you look at it, tracks well with his career. His OPS in April is .722, but that basically increases until he reaches an .872 mark in August. It would seem that Heyward is a warm-weather hitter and the best is likely yet to come from him. He’s already approaching what we saw out of him last season, a mark that we said at the time of the trade would be a nice upgrade for St. Louis given the dearth of offense out of the right field position in 2014. Heyward’s well on his way to evening up this deal, even with Shelby Miller doing so well for Atlanta.
The rest was what Lance Lynn needed and he should be activated in time to start Thursday. While he’s eligible before that, the club didn’t want to add another day into the rotation for Garcia and Carlos Martinez, who will benefit from today’s off day anyway. Lyons may have made an impression, as the club isn’t ruling out keeping him up as a reliever, but given the roster moves they made this weekend, bringing up Scruggs and Garcia and sending out Mitch Harris, I don’t see them really adding another arm. They could send down Miguel Socolovich and keep Lyons, but my feeling is they’ll want the Patron Pitcher to stay on a starter’s routine in case they need him again. Lyons got two wins while Lynn was out, so he kept the seat warm well.
After today’s off day, Martinez will take on the Miami Marlins in that lime-green monstrosity they call a ballpark. We know how dominant Martinez has been, but it’s mind-boggling to think that, besides those two bad starts, he’s had a 1.39 ERA for the season. How amazing is that? There’s a reason the Cardinals want to hang on to him and he’s proving it quickly. The only Marlin that has seen him is Dee Gordon, who has done well against the Redbird hurler, going 4-9 with an RBI and a strikeout.
St. Louis will see another pitcher they’ve never seen before in Jose Urena, which will be back-to-back games with rookies and three of the four games with unknown hurlers. Hopefully it’ll be more like Friday than Sunday against Urena, who is 1-3 with a 4.18 ERA in seven games this season. He’s coming off pitching in Yankee Stadium, which has to be a high point for any young pitcher. He limited the Yankees to two runs in six innings, though he walked four and only struck out one. On the year, though, he doesn’t do much of either (13 K, 10 BB in 32.1 innings). We’ll see what the Cards can do with him!