Take a one-out single. Add in a hit-by-pitch. Wait another out, then mix in a catcher’s-interference. Then toss in a triple by a guy that hasn’t hit one since 2011. Get six more outs from the bullpen. Serves an entire Nation.
Yadier Molina gets the Hero tag for his fourth career triple and perhaps the first that saw him go in standing up. Molina’s eighth-inning drive was placed in the perfect spot and let the Cardinals rally from a 2-0 deficit with more offense than the rest of the game had combined. Molina was the offensive star even without that key hit–he had three hits, the rest of the team had four–but it was so good to see someone come through in a big situation like that. Too often this year it seems like rallies have died with a fly ball or a strikeout or a double play (though that wasn’t possible right there) and not often enough has the club taken advantage. This time they did and it was wonderful to see.
It got Miguel Socolovich another win, his fourth of the year. That puts him within shouting distance of last night’s starter, who has seven on the year and could have more if folks believed in scoring for him. Lance Lynn again did his best to keep the Cardinals in the game, throwing five shutout innings before buckling a bit in the sixth, allowing a few hits and two runs. As we’ve noted a number of times in the past, Lynn has completely turned his career narrative on its head, going from the guy who won mainly because he had run support to the guy who should win but can’t because he doesn’t have run support. It has to be frustrating somewhat for him, but as long as the team gets the win, the sting is a lot less.
Very good work out of the pen last night as well. Socolovich came in down two runs but was able to keep it that way, striking out two of the four batters he faced. It was notable that Mike Matheny turned to Sam Tuivailala after the Cards took the lead. We are so used to seeing him go to folks like Seth Maness or Kevin Siegrist there, but Siegrist wasn’t supposed to pitch last night (he did wind up getting the last guy in the eighth, though he did so seemingly without breaking a sweat) and Maness had pitched in the last two games as well. The options were a bit limited and you have to commend Matheny for going a different direction if you are going to gripe about him using all the same relievers all the time.
Plus, this lets John Mozeliak have a little more information. The rumors are that they are looking at Steve Cishek of the Marlins to add into the bullpen mix. Cishek would bring a veteran arm and a guy that’s had some success in the past. (Could be Mo is looking for a little Edward Mujica magic to strike again!) The Marlins’ asking price might not be where he wants it to be, however, and he may be seeing if the club can get along with a more pronounced role from Tuivailala as well as Socolovich. Tui did all right, though he did have to be bailed out by Siegrist. Neither ball hit off of him was that hard, but death by a thousand paper cuts is still death. If they’d had a bigger lead, I imagine Matheny would have let him try to get out of the jam, but a one-run lead just didn’t allow for that.
You have to go back to the top of the lineup and Kolten Wong to find our Goat for the evening. 0-5 is a tough thing to overcome and two of those were strikeouts. Wong is 1-21 in his last four games, and while that one was that game-tying homer on Sunday, it’s still not what you want to see from your leadoff guy. On the whole, July has been tough on him (.175/.268/.222) and having him leading things off isn’t really helping the offense click.
I’d say move him down, but who do you put in his place? Matt Carpenter still is scuffling, going 0-4 last night and still using that half-swing to protect with two strikes. John Redbird on Twitter said he noticed him doing that last year and my theory is that he’s just not confident with two strikes and so he goes to this extreme swing that will let him at least put the bat on the ball. Which is saying something given how successful he has been in the past with two strikes. He’s really flailing around in the dark trying to figure it out, it seems like.
It would seem the only real option (because I don’t think they should shift Jason Heyward back up there, given how he’s done since moving down in the order) would be Randal Grichuk, who is really not your typical leadoff guy. He doesn’t walk much, strikes out a bit, but he’s actually doing something with the bat, which could give you a jolt to start off an inning or game. I’m not wedded to that idea, but it seems like someone that is having some success should move up the order, at least until Wong gets going again.
Cardinals are the first team to 60 wins and now have a six game lead over the Pirates thanks in part to some great work by the Royals, who took two of three from the Bucs. Now the Royals come into Busch for a one-game makeup series and St. Louis would like to send them back across the state with a loss and increase their lead over the second-best team in baseball. To do that, they’ll need a typical home performance from John Lackey and the offense to help him out a bit. I feel OK about the one, not so sure about the other.
Lackey’s on a nice run with a 1.63 ERA over his last seven games. He faced the Royals in Kansas City in May and allowed three runs in five innings, taking the loss in that weird rain-shortened game. While he faced the Royals as a team fairly often during his tenure in the American League, it didn’t always bode well for him.
Chris Young will go for the Royals in a battle of grizzled old veterans. Young also pitched in that series in Kansas City, giving up no runs in six innings and frustrating Cardinal hitters and fans alike by serving up soft, hittable stuff that wasn’t hit. His last outing, he allowed two runs in five innings to the White Sox. He likely won’t go deep in the game–six innings seems to be his maximum–but with that Royal bullpen, it won’t matter much. The Cards need to get a lead early and avoid those flamethrowers in the ‘pen.
Cards haven’t done much with him in the past, but it’d be real nice if that changed this evening. Pittsburgh is hosting the Nationals, so a win tonight could potentially result in pushing that lead back out to seven games and making that whole “sky is falling” idea around the All-Star Break look pretty silly. We can hope!