All right, I’ve put this off long enough. I really don’t want to rehash the Pittsburgh series much, so I’m going to do a quick Heroes/Goats for them all (curse my collecting, must-have-one-of-everything mentality) and then some quick general notes. After all, I’ve talked about this series here, here, and here (Episode 6, which should be up later today), so if you really want more details, there are options.
Thursday (4-1 win)
Hero: Carlos Martinez. Martinez made a strong case for the Final Vote (which, as you know, he won) for the All-Star Game by going 7.1 innings, allowing just four hits, and striking out more batters than reached base. Given how the rest of the weekend went, having a game like this from a starter (while having enough backing behind him) was a wonderful sight.
Goat: Peter Bourjos. 0-4 in the leadoff spot, though he did score a run because he was able to be hit by a pitch in the four-run fifth inning.
Friday (5-2 loss)
Hero: Matt Carpenter. His two-run homer in the third looked like it might spark something or at least give enough of a lead for this world-class pitching staff. Turns out, not so much, but he tried.
Goat: Lance Lynn. It’s been a long time since we’ve really seen a stinker of an outing from Lynn, but this one qualified. He didn’t make it to the fifth, but allowed five runs on nine hits and a walk. Sometimes it happens, just too bad it had to happen when playing the team closest in the standings to you.
Saturday (6-5 loss in 14)
Hero: Mark Reynolds. Even if his first one was umpire-aided (boy, I think we’d have been hot if a guy had gone deep after a fairly obvious missed call like that against the Cards), he did hit two home runs and came ever-so-close to a third. Not much more you can ask out of a guy, is there?
Goat: Trevor Rosenthal. A one-run extra-innings lead is where you really need your closer to shine. Instead, the first batter triples, which really means it’s just a matter of time before he ties the game. Sure, Nick Greenwood gave up the losing homer to Andrew McCutchen, but it should have been over before it got there.
Sunday (6-5 loss in 10)
Hero: Randal Grichuk. Three hits, including what should have been the game-winner. Assuming the game hadn’t been won in one of the other opportunities.
Goat: Matt Carpenter. By all rights, this should be another Rosenthal spot. I mean, he did blow a two-run lead. But given the usage the night before and apparently he wasn’t completely healthy, it’s tough to fault him. (Not terribly tough, but just tough enough that I don’t want to do it.) Carpenter went 0-4 and struck out twice in the leadoff role, though he did walk once.
So pretty much that was an ugly series. The Cards could have easily taken three of four and put the Pirates in their place, cruising into the All-Star Game with a 6.5 game lead. Instead, the race is about as tight as it has been in quite some time and the Pirates are the ones that have the momentum, if you believe in such a thing. I’ve seen too many times where the Cardinals have had “momentum” games followed up by duds to really believe much in it. The baseball saying of “Momentum is tomorrow’s starting pitching” seems to apply much more. (Plus, if there was momentum, a four-day break probably dampened it.)
What’s more concerning out of all of this is the status of Rosenthal. We didn’t know anything was wrong until Tuesday, when it was announced he wouldn’t pitch in the All-Star Game due to soreness. (Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez didn’t pitch because of reasons, but I don’t think we’ll complain much.) Derrick Goold’s story on this notes that Rosenthal didn’t feel 100% on Saturday and, by extension, probably wasn’t up to snuff on Sunday as well.
Which begs the question: Did Mike Matheny know his closer wasn’t right? If he didn’t, that’s frustrating, because the club has time and again told these guys to let them know if there are issues. We saw what happened recently with Jaime Garcia when you aren’t up front with the manager and the training staff. You’ve got to figure out the difference between a normal ache or pain and something that’s a little more severe. By this time in basically everyone’s career, they should know that. I get you want to help the team, I get the team isn’t exactly in the best place to let you take a couple of days, but you tell the manager and let him deal with the issue.
But what if Rosenthal did? What if Matheny knew that Saturday Rosie was not right? Even if the discomfort started then, Matheny would have known Sunday had it been reported. Yet both days Matheny sent his closer out there, letting him throw 27 pitches on Saturday and 29 on Sunday.
If Matheny knew Rosenthal was off, that’s a significant problem. Now, granted, Matheny doesn’t have a lot of wonderful options in place of Rosenthal, especially on Sunday after a 14-inning game. There just aren’t a lot of folks that are in the bullpen that you really trust with runners on in a tie game on the road. Kevin Siegrist and Seth Maness, probably. Randy Choate‘s got to be limited to lefties. Carlos Villanueva seems to be a guy that you want starting an inning. I like what Miguel Socolovich has done so far, but I’m not sure he’s a guy you’d go to unless you had to in extras (which, granted, was how he made his debut this season.) Sam Tuivailala? He might be able to do high-leverage, maybe not. There are worries there. And Greenwood, well, we saw what happened there.
Sunday’s game was especially problematic because Tim Cooney went and, as expected, really didn’t go deep into the game, which you hate to see after a long affair the night before. There’s some real questions about Matheny’s pitching usage–why he didn’t let Villanueva go more than an inning, which is exactly what you have him for, I don’t know–but I’m not sure who else he brings in for Rosenthal, even if he knew he wasn’t 100%. The only other option by that time on Sunday night was Greenwood, which wasn’t happening. You can question how he got there in both nights (reasonably so), but he painted himself into a corner, a corner he couldn’t have done much differently whether he knew his closer was off or not.
We’ll have to see how this soreness issue pans out. Having four days off will hopefully be enough for Rosie, though I expect we’ll get some reports soon. If he did have to join the half of the team that’s on the DL, I assume Siegrist would take over. I’m not sure I’m completely confident in that, either. It’s times like this that we really miss the presence of Jordan Walden and Matt Belisle. Some veteran guys that we have some trust in. Hopefully they’ll be back soon, though I’m not completely optimistic. A veteran bullpen arm might be on Mozeliak’s shopping list, right along with some thump at first base (or third base, if you want to move Carpenter).
There are reasons for optimism, as I’ve gone over in pretty much all the above podcasts. A very friendly schedule, the return to health of many folks (Matt Holliday should be back Friday night, which will give the offense a boost eventually), and a likely trade hopefully means that this is the bottom of the season for the Cardinals and they’ll bounce upward and onward from here, putting some distance between themselves and those pesky Pirates.
They’ll start off against a New York team that’s not quite the same team that the Cardinals split with in New York back in May. I had a chance to be on Mets Public Record last night (because the three chances to hear me ramble above weren’t enough) and the Mets fans look at their team a lot like we look at the Cards–great starting pitching, no real offense. The Mets offense has been even worse than the Cardinal hitters, which is saying something, so it looks like another low-scoring series. At least the games are in St. Louis, which has been a nice advantage for this team.
We come out of the break seeing Lance Lynn, who has had time to stew over his ugly outing in Pittsburgh. The good thing is that, as long as it’s been since he had a start like that, it’s been even longer since he put up back-to-back stinkers. Lynn actually missed the four-game series in New York earlier in the year, so this will be the first time he’s faced the Metropolitians since June 18 of last year, when he allowed two runs in six innings, though he walked four.
The man the Mets fans call Thor (not to be confused with this post in the slightest), Noah Syndergaard takes the hill for New York. For some reason, the Baseball-Reference Play Index can’t find him for me to put up a similar chart as above, but it’s a moot point as he’s never faced the Cardinals before, as like Lynn he just missed that previous series in CitiField. Syndergaard has been quite a bright spot for the Mets this season, putting up a 4-4 record with a 3.11 ERA since his debut on May 12. He’s given up just one run in each of his last three starts and two of those saw him pitch through the eighth inning.
It’ll be a tough challenge on both sides, but if Lynn is on, hopefully the Cards can steal Thor’s thunder. If nothing else, though, baseball is back!