This has been a frustrating week for folks that like to see the Cardinals dent the plate on a regular basis. The Mobil On The Run folks are pretty happy, since it sometimes takes three games for this offense to reach the serious mark instead of just one, but other than that, it’s been a bit agonizing. Thank goodness for a bit of a spark–actually, make that the entire fire–later in the series or the Cards might have dropped these four-gamer to the Padres and that’s not something a team on pace for 100+ wins should be doing.
Thursday (5-3 loss in 11 to San Diego)
Hero: Matt Carpenter. After a rough June (and, honestly, it probably goes back further than that), Carpenter showed a bit of that old Marp style, getting two hits, walking two batters, scoring two runs and driving in one. That accounted for all three of the Cardinal runs, so if he’d had a bit more support, perhaps we’re not seeing extra innings.
Goat: Mark Reynolds. Many of us weren’t sure that Xavier Scruggs would get much of a look in a Mike Matheny system, but when Reynolds goes 0-5 with four strikeouts (and this isn’t an outlying example) it makes it much easier to put him on the bench and see what Scruggs can get you. ‘Course, it could be worse–Reynolds only left one on base, while Randal Grichuk left four on and Yadier Molina left eight stranded, avoiding the Goat only because he drove in a run.
Notes: I said on the Best Dans in Baseball podcast (which should be up soon–with technical difficulties our schedule got thrown out of whack) that the Cards had been facing some good pitching in this run and while Tyson Ross is no All-Star, he’s had some success and has done well against the Cardinals in the past. That said, he left after six innings and the Padres bullpen, while strong at the end with Craig Kimbrel, isn’t necessarily world-beaters. Still they were unable to put together any sort of consistent offensive attack, which has been par for the course lately.
Jhonny Peralta and Jason Heyward both had two hits as well, but when the only extra-base hits come from a pinch-hitter (Scruggs) and your pitcher, well, nine hits just doesn’t go as far as it used to. As was noted after Sunday’s game, the Cards are fourth in batting average and 11th in runs per game, which shows you that the hits aren’t being bunched together and there’s not much pop in them either.
Tim Cooney, who did get a double (it was only fair after allowing Ross to tag him for a home run) pitched much better than he did in his first start against the Phillies. He allowed a couple of solo homers and looked shaky after Ross got his and then the next batter immediately launched one that almost left the yard as well (bouncing off Grichuk’s glove for a two-base error), but he settled in and got out of that jam. He did well enough that, after being demoted to Peoria in a legalese-type manuever, he’ll be back up against the Cubs as Jaime Garcia hits the DL. (We’ll get to that.) The bullpen did fine work as well, though Carlos Villanueva gave up a two-out homer for the second time and three outings. The first one was against Miami in a 5-0 game, so no big deal. This one, well, it did a little more damage. Hopefully this isn’t a sign of him regressing to his normal stats.
Friday (2-1 loss to San Diego)
Hero: Michael Wacha. No run support? Well, not that much of a problem for Mr. Wacha. All he does is go seven innings, allow one run, strike out six and walk just one. Had it not been for Jedd Gyorko, a name we came to despise over this series, taking one over the wall, he well might have used that one meager run of support (as Mike Shannon would say, “There’s your run, big boy”) and turned it into his 11th win.
Goat: Trevor Rosenthal. I don’t like it much, but not only did he give up the triple, it was an interesting pitch selection to Gyorko, throwing a slider (that wound up hanging up a bit) rather than another almost-100 fastball. Maybe he and Molina saw something in the previous pitch that made it seem Gyorko was cheating on the fastball, I don’t know, but if Rosenthal gets the strikeout there, he might have gotten out of the inning unscathed. Then again, maybe he didn’t want to pitch all night.
Notes: Kolten Wong went 0-4 in the leadoff spot and perhaps that’s what led to Matheny shaking up the lineup a little bit. I don’t have a problem with Wong up there, but obviously his OBP could be better. Putting him down in the order does allow for his pop and contact to hopefully drive in runs. It’s not paid huge dividends yet, but we’ll see how it goes as time goes by, especially this week.
Greg Garcia went 0-1 pinch-hitting and after the game was sent to Memphis for Mitch Harris. That’s one way to tinker with an offense, though not one I would have suggested. Sure, it’s a nice story to have the Navy guy in the bigs for the Fourth, but surely that’s not why they did it. The bullpen hasn’t been taxed and having more options that aren’t Pete Kozma on the bench is always a nice thing. However, there’s always a method in the roster madness, even if it doesn’t seem apparent.
Thomas Pham (I think I have to write it that way for the Baseball-Reference linker to find him) went 0-3 in his first major league start. It was the last time he was quiet this weekend.
Saturday (2-1 win vs. San Diego)
Hero: As much as it could easily be Tommy Pham here, I want to go with Carlos Martinez, who continues to just be outstanding. One out short of going seven innings for the sixth time this season, Martinez struck out five and, even though he allowed eight hits, worked out of basically every jam. The only flaw was a home run by Yangervis Solarte, who caused some similar damage in the series opener. Martinez has a 1.74 ERA over his last seven games and would easily be going to Cincinnati were it not for those two seven-run glitches back in early May. As it is, he’s still a worthy candidate for the All-Star Game.
Goat: Kolten Wong. As noted, dropping him in the lineup didn’t do much in this game, as he went 0-3 and left three men on base. We’ve seen Wong be a streaky hitter in the past and it looks like the negative side of that is flaring up. Look at these splits:
June 30 to July 4: .111/.158/.111
June 24 to June 28: .450/.522/.800
June 17 to June 23: .100/.208/.250
June 10 to June 16: .200/.238/.350
Actually, without that stretch from June 24 to June 28 (which was the last two games against Miami and the series against the Cubs), his .694 OPS (before Sunday’s game) since June 1 would look even worse. If only we had a capable guy off the bench that could play second and give him a day off here and there…..
Notes: Nobody covered themselves in offensive glory here, with the club only mustering four hits. Pham, though, made the most of his times on the bases. He got his first major league hit in the sixth with a double and then scored on a Carpenter single. Then he reached on an error in the eighth, stole second, moved to third, and scored on a sacrifice fly. There’s no doubt Pham’s speed has been paying off so far and we’ll see if he can keep it up as the league starts to know about him.
The Cards faced Odrisamer Despaigne in this one. If the idea was that the club was being held down by top-notch pitchers, that theory took a pretty good hit with him completely handcuffing this lineup. (It’s basically the only hit that was saw that evening…………)
Nice work from Randy Choate to get his one man and for Seth Maness to keep it close enough for the offense to actually win it. If these kind of things keep happening, the relievers are going to get a lot more decisions.
Sunday (3-1 win vs. San Diego)
Hero: Tommy Pham. There’s no denying the rookie here. While Lance Lynn pitched (and hit) a darn good game and could have been the choice had the offense been spread out, when Pham not only hits his first home run, which gave the club the lead, but doubled in Lynn for the third run, you have to go with him. Out of the five runs the club scored in these two wins, Pham had a hand (either scoring or driving in) in all five. We thought he was being brought up to spark the offense, not to BE the offense!
Goat: Seven hits in this one and six of them were from Pham, Lynn and Molina. That means there were a lot of 0-fers to pick from for this label. I’ll go with Randal Grichuk, mainly because his 0-3 was accompanied by two strikeouts. No one else struck out more than once–Ian Kennedy and Kevin Quackenbush really didn’t fool anyone, they just got them to hit the ball to where the fielders were. Wee Willie Keeler would be so disappointed.
Notes: Maness and Kevin Siegrist wrapped this up for Lynn, who threw seven innings, allowed three hits and just one unearned run. Lynn’s not going to be an All-Star, but it’s not ridiculous to suggest that he could be considered. It’s pretty obvious that stint on the DL might have been just what he needed, as he’s been pretty stellar since his return. Of course, you pretty much have to be in on this club.
All right, let’s talk about a few other things that have happened in the last few days. I wanted to talk about the hacking situation in its own post instead of burying it here, but I’ve not had time since the news came out and it’s pretty old by now to warrant another full post today, so let’s break it down a little here.
As you know, Chris Correa was terminated in relation to the Astros hack last week. For all of us (and I’m in that number) that thought this was more of a prank or some lower-level folks just trying to see if the passwords changed, that theory (like the fact the Cards were struggling offensively because they are facing good pitching) seems to have fallen apart. While Correa was not the scouting director at the time of the breach, nor is he necessarily the one that did all the breaching or the leaking of the documents, it doesn’t really make the situation any less dire.
I think the Cardinals handled this well, though as the good folks at Viva El Birdos pointed out, there are still some questions to be answered. The biggest one, of course, is if the Cards knew Correa was involved when he was running the draft in June. It’d been a difficult situation for them to be in if they had suspicions but not proof. Remove Correa from dealing with the draft and you completely tip your hand or, at the very least, invite questions you don’t want being asked. It seems like they may have found out afterwards–John Mozeliak apparently did the final contract work with the last few signees rather than Correa–but the timeline is still vague.
Correa is pointing fingers at Houston, saying Jeff Luhnow took stuff and he was only seeing what it was. I’ve espoused my theory a couple of places, that Correa told Mo and Bill DeWitt what he thought, they declined to pursue the matter, and he went hunting for the smoking gun that would get them to go through the proper channels to find the same info. Correa obviously had seen a lot of Law & Order or Castle or something of that nature, where it doesn’t matter as much how you found the evidence, just that you found it. The folks that “find an unlocked door” or things like that never seem to be the ones going to jail. However, real life is a different story.
Do I think Luhnow took some things when he left? It wouldn’t surprise me in the least. I know that Mozeliak finally had to put a foot down about how many folks he was taking with him out of the Cardinal front office. Did he take stuff out on a hard drive that he shouldn’t have? I don’t know. I wouldn’t be stunned, but I don’t know. It might have been more of him recreating what he did in St. Louis from memory in Houston, which becomes more of a gray area, especially if Luhnow had a hand in creating the Cardinal version of the system. In such a murky area, it’s easy to see why DeWitt and Mozeliak may have wanted to just let bygones be bygones.
So Correa is going to have a lot of trouble. It would seem that this is as high as things are going to go. The FBI has recommended that a Cardinal employee face charges, but there’s no indication if that is Correa or someone still employed by the organization. (My guess is the latter, given the fact that it’d be pretty easy for Correa’s name to get leaked given it was already out there in relation to this, but I don’t know.) Given that it’d probably have to touch Mo (or an assistant GM) to go any higher than Correa, I think we are safe there. It will be interesting to see who has these charges filed and how many folks may have been involved.
As noted above, Jaime Garcia has gone on the disabled list. Given Garcia’s medical history, this is not exactly going to be a huge font headline. I guess the most notable thing is that it isn’t his arm, it’s still that groin injury, and there’s every indication that he’ll be back after the All-Star Game. Then again, there was every indication that he wouldn’t miss a start, so we’ll believe it when we see it. Cooney gets recalled and he and Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons will pitch the double-header against the Cubs, so that could be a day that they’ll need those extra arms in the bullpen. That would mean one of them would need to pitch the first-half-ending game against the Pirates on Sunday night, so it may depend on who does the best on Tuesday to see who gets that draw. My feeling is that Cooney has a bit of an advantage, but it’s probably pretty small.
Anything else to pad out this ridiculously long post? Well, the All-Star starters were announced on Sunday. Matt Holliday and Peralta will be going, with Carpenter being edged out (and rightly so) by a late voting surge for Todd Frazier. Given his season and Carpenter’s struggles, that’s the right call. What might not be the right call is Holliday wanting to play in the game. Holliday, who expects to be back in the Cardinal lineup sometime this weekend in Pittsburgh, is obviously not going to get a lot of playing time before the exhibition. I am surprised that Mo hasn’t stepped in and asked if he could just go enjoy the festivities but be an injury replacement, letting him have a few days more to heal up. That said, Holliday is a vet and should know what he can and can’t do. You also hate to deny a guy a chance to play in the All-Star Game if you don’t have to. Perhaps Holliday can be one of the early replacements.
As for the rest of the National League team, we’ll find out about that today. You’d expect that Carpenter might be a backup, that Rosenthal will go as will one of Wacha and Martinez. Given that’d be four Cardinals, it might be difficult to see Wong on the squad, but it’s possible, I guess.
The Cards start on a big road trip tonight, with four in Chicago and four in Pittsburgh. Have a terrible week and we’ll see Pittsburgh leading the division at the break, even with such an historic first half. (How crazy is it that the second-best record in baseball is the Pirates?) Have an outstanding week and you could consider both of these teams pretty well buried. For the latter to be true, the offense is going to have to kick in and the pitching staff is going to have to continue its strong stuff.
That means that John Lackey is going to have to pitch well on the road, something that doesn’t always come easy to him. We know how he has struggled for the most part away from Busch (though he’s had a few tolerable starts) and while he’s dominated the Cubs twice this season, both times were under the Arch. Whether he can do the same in Wrigley is a different story. He doesn’t even get the benefit of it being one of those many day games (he’s 3-0 with a 1.63 ERA under the sun), as this one’s a 7:05 start. I wonder if there were any consideration to moving him to the first game of the doubleheader and letting Lyons or Cooney go in this one? Might be a good way to not tax the bullpen as much as well.
Jon Lester, Lackey’s old buddy from the Boston days, goes for the Cubbies. The Cards haven’t been terribly impressed by him since he put on the blue pinstripes, beating him on Opening Night and while he beat the Cards in May, he allowed four runs in seven innings (to be fair, three were unearned). Lester’s had his struggles but he is coming off of seven scoreless innings against the Mets. It wouldn’t be surprising if the Cardinal offense was hibernating for one night more.
For the fact that he had some postseason success against the Redbirds, those numbers aren’t overall that bad. Then again, it’s mainly Peralta and Heyward, who have faced him in other scenarios. Hopefully they can pass along their secrets and we can see games get serious this week!
Also, Dan Buffa and I did a podcast….twice. Episode 4 didn’t record the first time, but I hope you enjoy the version that did get released last night. Give it a listen before tonight’s ballgame!