Four games. Two opponents. Two locations. One result. Let’s get to it.
Thursday (5-1 at Miami)
Hero: I honestly can’t believe I’m saying this, but Pete Kozma got his moment in the sun. A late addition to the lineup when manager and player decided to give Jhonny Peralta a night off, most folks were screaming about not letting Greg Garcia get a shot. Of course, that meant Kozma went 3-3, drew a walk, and scored two runs, one of them off a sacrifice fly to second base (OK, the second baseman ranged all the way to the outfield, but still, impressive). Mike Matheny may know what he’s doing at times or he’s the luckiest manager that ever managed.
Goat: Another rough night for Matt Carpenter. He did draw a walk, but otherwise was 0-4 with three strikeouts and six left on base. The strikeouts seem high, but he’s struck out 22 times in June and struck out 27 in May, albeit in 13 more plate appearances. Still, a .190 mark for the month isn’t quite what we are used to seeing out of Marp.
Notes: Lance Lynn came off the DL (sending Patron Pitcher Tyler Lyons to Memphis, where he struggled in his return but I believe is already set to rejoin the team for the doubleheader in Chicago) and pretty much picked up where he left off before the forearm cramping. No runs in six innings with only two hits allowed. He did walk four, but there’s a good chance that was a function of being a little rusty after a couple of weeks off.
Kolten Wong had two hits, which is something we have been able to say a lot lately, and drove in two runs–one with a double, one with a walk. Randal Grichuk also had two hits in this one. The offense wasn’t just overwhelming, but it was whelming enough to finish off sweeping a Miami team that got worse after St. Louis left when they lost Giancarlo Stanton for a few weeks. There wasn’t anyone else in that lineup that really seemed to be a factor in these three games, so you have to wonder how they’ll get by in the near future.
Carlos Villanueva threw an inning in this one and got dinged for a two-out homer in the ninth that clanged off the foul pole. He hadn’t pitched since June 19th, so it’s not surprising that Matheny got him some work, though this won’t be the only time we see Villanueva in this recap.
Friday (3-2 win in 10 vs. Chicago)
Hero: Greg Garcia. It looked like the Cards were going to have a problem when they stepped up in competition. Sure, they had blitzed their way through Philadelphia and Miami, but those are clubs that sit well under .500. Playing a contender in the Cubs, St. Louis was down 2-1 as they played the top of the eighth. John Lackey had done a superb job, Kevin Siegrist had thrown a scoreless inning, and it was time for the pinch-hitter. Garcia had been hitting well since his callup, though in limited at-bats, but no one expected him to blast a game-tying circuit shot. It was his first major league home run and it couldn’t have come at a better time. When things are going your way, they are going your way.
Goat: The reason that this was a struggle was the fact that the lines for hitters 2-4 was almost identical, and not in a good way. Lots of 0-4 there which makes it tough to pick an individual for this spot, but I’ll give it to Mark Reynolds. His 0-fer included a strikeout and he left one more on base than Jason Heyward did.
Notes: As mentioned, another solid home game for Lackey, going seven innings and allowing just two runs. He had to work out of trouble a bit–eight hits and three walks in that span–but he got the job done and then Garcia bailed him out. The bullpen held the Cubs, with Trevor Rosenthal, Randy Choate, and Seth Maness holding the line until the offense could actually scratch together another run.
They did that thanks to Peter Bourjos. His leadoff double in the tenth (he came in as part of a double switch with Maness in the top of the inning) put the winning rally in motion. The Cubs, as expected with Joe Maddon, got a little unorthodox when they loaded the bases with one out, bringing in an outfielder to add to their infield. It almost worked, but Mike Baxter‘s throw to the plate was high and Bourjos scored the winning run. He paid for it as well, as David Ross‘s knee seemed to catch him upside the head, but he was eventually OK. (I was following this one by GameDay and honestly could not figure out how they could win on a throwing error by an outfielder in that situation. Thank goodness I found the video when I got home!)
Saturday (8-1 win vs. Chicago)
Hero: Xavier Scruggs. Back-to-back games where last week’s Memphis callups made a huge impact. Scruggs went 3-4, drove in two and scored two, mixing in a double in all that production. I spent this game with the other Best Dan in Baseball watching Springfield beat the Arkansas Travelers twice and I told him (and I believe I mentioned it as part of Gateway with Tara on Sunday) that if Scruggs keeps doing this work, John Mozeliak really may not have to do anything at the trade deadline. At the least, it gives him the option of not doing anything, which could be huge leverage when he talks to other GMs. The trade chips aren’t so gaudy this time around, so he’ll have to do some significant bargaining if he wants to make a deal. Scruggs producing can only help in that regard.
Goat: Every starter had a hit and the pitching staff was fine, so it’s tough to pick out a Goat. I guess, because I really can’t find one that is very rational at all, we’ll go with Jhonny Peralta. 1-3, but he didn’t score a run or drive one in. It’s weak, I know, but I’ve often said not all Goats (or Heroes) are created equal.
Notes: Michael Wacha scuffled a bit to begin this one, needing double plays in three straight innings to limit the Cubs to just one run. After walking the pitcher to start the fifth, though, he retired the last six men he faced, two via strikeout. It wasn’t vintage Wacha, but it was enough to get by, especially after the bats came alive. Dan and I were surprised that Villanueva went the last three innings, especially when you have a guy out in the pen in Miguel Socolovich who hadn’t pitched until Sunday. That could have really bitten Matheny on Sunday, as we’ll see. Why Socolovich didn’t at least get the ninth is fairly inscrutable, but Matheny was still riding that Kozma three hit thing and so he gets a little grace on questioning strange decisions for a bit.
Two hits for Heyward, who continues to pound the ball, to go along with two walks. Bourjos got a chance to start and went 1-3 and scored two runs. Yadier Molina had an RBI double, which was good to see. All in all, this was an enjoyable game and showed that, even though they were facing perhaps a lesser quality part of their pitching staff, the offense could show up against a plus-.500 team.
Sunday (5-1 win vs. Chicago)
Hero: Carlos Martinez. He had to wait for an hour while no rain actually fell. Then, after pitching two innings, he had to wait over an hour while tornadoes and such were circling the area. And through all of that, Martinez was fairly dominant. Six innings–which had less to do with pitch count and results than what it took to keep him warm during the second delay–and just two hits allowed. If it hadn’t been for a wild pitch, letting Dexter Fowler move from second to third and thus being able to score on Anthony Rizzo‘s fly ball, Martinez could have easily kept the Cubs completely off the board. The more we see of Martinez, the more I’m glad Mozeliak hung on to him.
Goat: Tough night for Randal Grichuk. 0-4 with three strikeouts. It can be boom or bust with Grichuk. He’s not exactly Reynolds, not quite yet, but in a few years without some adjustments he could be. We’ll see if he can make those adjustments.
Notes: Doubles were the story of the night as Molina (twice, including a ball that looked like it might leave the park), Heyward, Wong, Peralta and Carpenter all did that and, very often, followed each other up doing it. As Jason Hammel said after the game, “It’s hard to beat a team when you have guys trading places at second base all night long.” We talk about the lack of home runs out of this team (still 25th in MLB and only ahead of Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Atlanta in the NL) but enough doubles can help make up for that and they sit at the top of the NL leaderboard in that category (though 13 behind MLB leader Toronto). That’s the way the offense worked so well in 2013 (plus the whole insane RISP bit) and there’s no reason it can’t be effective again.
The Cardinals reached 50 wins over the weekend and then continued onward. They’ve won eight of nine and six in a row. There are 87 more games in the season. Let’s just break down the possibilities.
|To Get||Need To Go||WP|
OK, so they aren’t going to set the major league record for wins this season, but triple digits wouldn’t be surprising at all. They’d only have to play at a rate 100 points less than they are right now! They are on a pace for 110 wins, which is just mindboggling. Things will slow down, of course. Unless they don’t.
Hopefully they rested well on their off day yesterday, because not only was it their last one in the first half of the season (they’ll play 14 games in 13 days starting tonight) but they have to face Chris Sale this evening as the White Sox come into Busch. If you are completely baseball-myopic, focusing only on the Cardinals (a condition I often have as well), you may not realize that Sale is one of the most dominant pitchers in the American League. However, I imagine most of you realize that and know exactly how tough tonight’s game will be for our favorite team. Sale started off a little sluggish, but in his last seven games he has a 1.90 ERA and has struck out 85 (in 52 innings) and walked eight. Eight! Apparently the White Sox have no offense because he is 3-3 in that span.
Given that the Cards and White Sox haven’t matched up in a while (after seeing each other every year when interleague play started way back when), it’s not surprising the only folks with any experience against him have spent some time in the AL.
You wonder if a 1-3 will get Bourjos some time tonight. Given that Sale is a lefty, I’d say it’s a strong possibility, especially given Bourjos’s play in limited time recently. Interestingly enough, Sale’s splits differ against righties and lefties. Lefties, if they can hit the ball, put it on the ground while righties put it in the air. Lefties also walk more against Sale, though he allows them fewer hits. All in all, you worry about another game like the one Corey Kluber had against the Cards.
Lynn goes for the Redbirds, taking Jaime Garcia’s spot in the rotation as Garcia’s groin injury still hasn’t cleared up. (There would seem to be a reasonable chance Garcia would go on the disabled list backdated to Thursday, which would allow him to return during that Pittsburgh series next week. Tim Cooney was pulled after two innings in his start on Sunday to be ready to come up if necessary.) As we’ve seen, the stint on the DL didn’t seem to affect Lynn and there’s no reason to think he won’t have another great start tonight.
He’s had good historical success against these guys as well (when they were with other organizations, mainly) and the White Sox sit next to last in the AL in batting average and last in the AL in home runs (they even have eight less than the Cards). All signs point to a tight pitching duel tonight, which could go in the Cardinals’ favor as the White Sox have one of the worst bullpen ERAs in the majors. Let’s hope the Cards can survive sale and win it late!