We’ll get to the interesting stuff about the promotion of Stephen Piscotty shortly, but let’s quickly recap this weekend’s series against the Mets. This series saw the return of the team we’d seen much of the first half–somewhat frustratingly so–and thanks to a little help from our friends (at least for the weekend; I don’t expect the Brewers would term themselves that regularly) there’s a little more breathing room in the division.
Friday (3-2 win)
Hero: Lance Lynn. There were some offensive performances that could be considered here, but you have to appreciate what Lynn did. The first batter of the game, Curtis Granderson, goes deep. You know that, with this offense, you can’t give up any more runs and have a legitimate chance to win. So Lynn didn’t. Seven innings, no more runs, only two more hits, and struck out nine. The Cardinals rallied with the bats, but they wouldn’t have had a chance to if Lynn didn’t work his magic.
Notes: While there were some great things about this game, like Kolten Wong going 2-4 with a stolen base, Jason Heyward with a triple, and Jhonny Peralta breaking the tie in the sixth with a home run, the lasting impression from this one was the continued struggles of Trevor Rosenthal. To be fair, Rosenthal shouldn’t bear all the blame. If Wong and Heyward communicate better and Heyward takes charge of a deep popup, Rosie has one on, two out, and probably gets through with limited damage.
That said, there were some balls hit pretty solidly against him, though at least one of those was turned into an out while a soft dribbler wound up scoring a run. Baseball, man. What bothered me the most about Rosenthal’s outing was that, even though he wound up striking out two of the last three guys, he had trouble putting anyone away. Look at the number of pitches per at-bat in that inning:
That last AB was particularly frustrating as a lot of people on Twitter, including Mets fans, were saying how Mayberry had absolutely no chance against Rosenthal. He did strike out, but he pushed that AB out as far as he could. Nobody was blown away by Rosenthal’s fastball in that inning, as he only got one swinging strike on the fastball at all. Everything else was either a ball or a foul. It took the changeups to retire the last two outs. Changeups are good, I like changeups, but if folks are sitting on and not missing your 99 mph heat, that seems important.
Rosenthal threw 30+ pitches in that game and was still feeling soreness on Sunday, leading him not to be used in that marathon. This soreness is starting to become a concern, though. If Rosenthal can’t go on back-to-back days (assuming a regular pitch count; I didn’t expect him to return this weekend after this outing) then that’s a problem. It’s definitely something to monitor over the next week or so.
Saturday (12-2 win)
Hero: Jason Heyward. Five hits, two runs, two RBI. That’s the kinda night we hoped to see more often out of Heyward (well, to the extreme, probably) and it was great to see it. Heyward left this one with cramping after the fifth hit and didn’t do more than pinch-hit Sunday, but it shouldn’t be a long-term issue.
Goat: Kolten Wong. All this offense and the leadoff man was 0-4. He did draw a walk, but otherwise didn’t really contribute. Of course, when the offense was clumped into three four-run innings, that’s not quite as surprising as it could be, I guess.
You once wrote, there comes a time when all the cosmic tumblers have clicked into place and the universe opens itself up for a few seconds to show you what’s possible.–Ray Kinsella to Terrance Mann, Field of Dreams
This game showed what could happen when the offense completely clicks. Actually, that’s not entirely true. Wong and Carpenter at the top of the lineup combined to go 0-9. If they had been involved, that would have been completely. As it was, though, it was a wonderful showing and a great reprieve from playing so many tight games. The last time the Cards had won by four or more was that 6-0 game to start the Chicago series, and even that was four runs in the ninth. You’d probably have to go back to that June 27 game against Chicago in Busch, where the Cards won 8-1 after some early runs, to find a game that was relaxing to watch.
Randal Grichuk had two home runs in this one, which was incredible as well. When you go 3-3 with 6 RBI, you are having quite an evening. We didn’t expect Grichuk to be short-changed when Matt Holliday returned and that’s proven to be the case. While he may be streaky, he brings thump like nobody else on this squad.
With all this offense the pitching could be overlooked, but John Lackey had another fine home start. He did allow 10 hits in his seven innings (the Mets just had three hits less than the Cards, but 10 fewer runs) but was able to work out of jams. It probably helped that the Mets seem to have made an art form out of leaving runners on base, though.
Sunday (3-1 loss in 18)
Hero: Mark Reynolds. It really was tough to figure out who to use here. I mean, Wong hit the HR that let them keep playing, but that was also his only hit in eight at bats. The pitching staff did well, but Tim Cooney didn’t get through the sixth and both Carlos Villanueva and Carlos Martinez allowed runs, though in four innings of work. I’ll go with Reynolds, who went 3-8 in this marathon, though some of his work was undone by Molina.
Goat: Yadier Molina. Three double plays in a game like this are just killer, but the last one was the most devastating. Grichuk doubled to start the 11th and Peralta walked. Two on, nobody out, bottom of the 11th. You have got to get a run in here. Reynolds did his part, lifting a fly ball that move Grichuk to third, though unfortunately not Peralta to second. That proved vital when Molina hit the ball on the ground again and two were turned. Molina did get two hits in this one, but not when they were needed.
Notes: Doesn’t it seem like every time the Mets come to Busch Stadium, there’s a game like this? Dan McLaughlin early on in extras referenced the 20-inning affair in 2010. I’m not expert enough or fully subscribed to Baseball Reference to come up with how often these two teams do go longer, though I see they went 13 innings later in 2010 as well. I don’t know why I feel like that, but it does seem like these two squads are always going to give some free baseball.
Martinez pitched four innings and, if he was able to field a bunt in the 18th, could possibly still be out there. It looked like he could have gotten the lead runner at third, but he flubbed it a bit and everyone was safe. That said, he did a heck of a job for the fact that in no universe did he wake up that morning and expect to be pitching. Relievers always are expecting it, starters never are. Thankfully with the off day it’s not going to goof up the entire rotation, as Michael Wacha moves up a day to take today’s game and Lance Lynn will take Wednesday, both on regular rest. Looks like Martinez will go Friday against Atlanta now. It surely wasn’t part of the plan of resting these guys and not adding to their innings, though.
Cardinals headed to Chicago yesterday to prepare for the White Sox and they found a stowaway in their luggage. Piscotty will make his debut tonight, most likely starting at first base. While he’s only been a first baseman for about a week, there was no time left to let him learn the position. John Mozeliak has 10 days to make a deal to help this club. He needs to know if Piscotty can be the guy at first or he needs to go get someone else. They can’t lollygag around with him, a point that I’m sure has been made with Mike Matheny. Then again, given how weak first base has been, I don’t think Matheny is emotionally tied to any of those guys like he is to folks like Jon Jay.
It looks like the other side of the 25-man roster will be the demotion of Tommy Pham, who is no longer listed on the active Cardinal roster. Pham’s demotion made sense anyway, given that, after those two stellar games at the beginning of his time in St. Louis, he’s gone 5-33 with eight strikeouts. Holliday’s return meant there was even less time for him in the big leagues and, if something happens and a fifth outfielder is needed, Piscotty can do that as well. We’ll have to see who is removed from the 40-man to make room for the new guy, but I’d think Dean Anna or Ty Kelly probably shouldn’t get too comfortable, unless they decide Jon Jay’s wrist is worse than expected and move him to the 60-day DL. That would keep him out until September, when the rosters expanded. I don’t think they’ll go that route, but the more I think about it, the less confident I am in that assessment.
What to expect from Piscotty? Nothing less than the saving of the offense, right? If he’s not hit a home run in his first three games, what’s the point? (And yes, for those of you reading this incredulously, I am being sarcastic.) I don’t know what Piscotty will show us. He could start off hot and then tail off, like Pham did. He could take a while to find his footing. All in all, I’m not sure that whatever he does these next few games influences Mozeliak’s move a whole lot, but it could give him a lot stronger hand when dealing with other clubs and it might be that Piscotty shows enough that he can focus elsewhere on a move, perhaps the bullpen.
(Speaking of, I was watching Ant-Man last night when apparently I got swept into a Twitter conversation between our Prospect Preacher and my podcast partner. Dan Buffa seemed to be advocating Edwin Jackson as a free and easy move for the bullpen. While I’d admit Jackson is doing OK out of the pen, I’m with Josh on this one. Even if there was a need for a long relief guy, which there’s not–Villanueva seems to be holding that down fine–we’ve got enough starters like Cooney and the Patron Pitcher Tyler Lyons that we could make do there, especially after Jaime Garcia returns, which will hopefully be this week. I’m also not comfortable betting that the last 30 innings from Jackson are more relevant than the years of mediocrity that came before. But that’s my two cents. Isn’t this where I’m supposed to insert Kermit the Frog?)
When last we saw the White Sox, they used Chris Sale and Jose Quintana to sweep the Cards in Busch. They’ll miss both those guys this time and hopefully will have a much better result. The White Sox will send out Carlos Rondon tonight to face the Redbirds. He’s 3-2 with a 3.80 ERA in 11 starts and 14 appearances. Last time out, he shut out the Cubs over six innings, but both games before that he allowed four runs in five innings. He strikes out a batter an inning but his walk rate is a bit high. He’s also a rookie lefty the Cards haven’t seen before. You know how much that fills us with confidence.
Michael Wacha’s on the other side. Wacha has had plenty of rest, last being seen almost two weeks ago against the Cubs, where he allowed five runs in five innings. That’s not typical Wacha, of course, and with the White Sox also struggling on offense, I’m hopeful that we’ll see a return to form by the burgeoning ace. The Sox haven’t seen much of him, but the little they have they’ve not liked.
Let’s hope tonight’s game is more like Saturday’s and less like Sunday’s!