Cards Win Battle of the Best

Well, it wasn’t exactly easy to finish off, but the St. Louis Cardinals proved again last night they can take on all comers and come out victorious.  Some good conditions and a little bit of luck didn’t hurt either.

When John Lackey gives up two runs in the first inning of a home game, you start to wonder whether it is going to be your night.  After all, the guy had a 1.91 ERA at Busch Stadium this season going into yesterday’s game.  Two runs is basically unheard of.  Given the general state of the Cardinal offense, two runs could have been disastrous.

Thankfully, that wasn’t the case, because of two reasons.  One, Lackey didn’t allow anything more, putting up seven innings of quality baseball.  Two, the offense kicked in a bit, though it seemed to get a little help from the atmospheric conditions.

I missed Randal Grichuk‘s home run (and I’m giving him the Hero tag, by the way, because tying the game up early on Chris Young was big) but I watched Matt Carpenter’s.  Carp’s looked like a pretty lazy fly ball off the bat, but it just continued to carry and carry until it fell over the fence, putting the Cards up 4-2.  Apparently it was a pretty humid night and I think that played a part in that ball not being yet another Carpenter out.

The Cards caught their luck in the third.  For many years, I can’t remember debate on balls around the first base bag and foul line, yet the Cardinals have now been involved in two of those.  Everyone is going to remember the one against the Cubs in Chicago but this one may have been helpful as well.  With one out, Lorenzo Cain singles (after replay overturned the out call, provoking many thoughts of a different Game 6 than we usually want to recall) and then Eric Hosmer hits one right down the line.  The first base ump calls it fair, Dan Johnson steps on first, throws to second, and then wind up running and tagging Cain out for an inning-ending double play.  Hosmer spends the whole time arguing with the home plate ump that it was foul and replays showed that he was probably right.  However, as we all know how, you can’t review fair/foul balls in the infield.  Not often you see the baseball scales balance that quickly!

Given that the offense was concentrated into two home runs and Lackey did such a great job, it’s not surprising that most folks will focus on the ninth inning when they talk about this game today.  There was a lot of first-guessing on Twitter last night when Trevor Rosenthal was called on for the third straight day, even before he allowed a single and a triple to cut the lead to one with nobody out, then followed that with a walk.  While folks had expected things to get dire, I’m not sure we expected them to get that dire that soon.

Let’s give credit to Rosenthal.  He struck out the next batter, then got a grounder to third that turned into the out at home.  (I’ve never liked go on contact because that always happens when St. Louis does it.  Glad to see it work the same way for someone else.  And I know, if he hadn’t, the Cards might have gotten a double play and ended the game anyway, but still, it’s tough to see a runner from third cut down.)  With two outs and runners on first and second, it’s a lot easier to get out of things and he did with a grounder off the bat of Mike Moustakas.

The bigger question is, why was Rosenthal in the game in the first place?  Mike Matheny was asked about that after the game and basically said that he wasn’t going to use Rosenthal, but Rosie told him before the game he was fine.

You know what, Mike?  Rosie’s going to tell you he is fine pretty much any time you ask.  I know, I know, there’s been this big push about the guys being honest about how they feel, about trying to deal with injuries proactively by limiting them when they feel a soreness or a tightness.  There’s also being proactive by not putting them into situations where they might get sore or tight or worse.  We’ve just seen Rosenthal struggle over the last couple of weeks in part to overuse.  Do we really want to run that gauntlet again?

Now, I’m not sure who they’d have used if they didn’t use Rosenthal.  Kevin Siegrist wasn’t supposed to be used Wednesday night against the White Sox, but he came in to get that one out.  I’m guessing he wasn’t pitching last night without long extra innings.  Seth Maness had already been used.  Do you want to turn over a two-run lead against the second-best team in baseball to Miguel Socolovich or Sam Tuivailala?  I know some have talked about giving Tui some higher-leverage innings (and we saw in Chicago that the team may be leaning that way as well) but this might have been a bit much to put on their plate.

I assume Rosenthal, no matter what his silver tongue says today, will be unavailable tonight and Siegrist will get any save opportunities.  I don’t think Jordan Walden can get back too soon, though, and hopefully he can pick up where he left off and be that late inning alternative the club needs.  By the way, if you missed it (and I did) Walden threw a scoreless inning in Springfield yesterday and is expected to go again on Saturday before moving to Memphis.  I’d think one, maybe two outings in Memphis and he’ll be ready to get back to the Cards, assuming no setbacks.

Gotta have a Goat before we leave this discussion.  I think we’ll have to go with Jhonny Peralta since Rosenthal didn’t actually blow the game.  Peralta went 0-4, left five on, and had that play with Cain that many thought he could have gotten the out originally had he not half-heartedly gone about the play.  (I missed it, just what I gathered from Twitter.)

Stephen Piscotty was a late scratch last night since he showed up at the ballpark with a stiff neck.  Lots of folks came down on Piscotty, saying that this is your shot at the bigs and you have to be ready or need to play through things like that.  That’s understandable, but look, we continue to have this discussion about players being honest about their health and well-being.  From what I can tell, Piscotty didn’t ask not to play, he just was honest about his neck bothering him and Matheny went with the scratch.  There’s no doubt that learning first base on the fly in the big leagues would be even harder if you couldn’t move your neck.  I don’t fault him for telling Matheny nor Matheny for making the move, though it does leave one less data point for John Mozeliak in his quest to collect enough info on Piscotty before the trading deadline.

Jaime Garcia had a rehab assignment last night and you could say that it went well.  Obviously when Garcia’s on he’s no match for A ball guys, so the dominance is not surprising (though it’s amazing how often big leaguers do get touched up some by the youngsters in this situation) but it’s still very nice to see.  Jenifer Langosch says that Garcia could be back in the rotation next week which is very good to know.  Given that it was a leg issue, I don’t figure he needs much time in rehab as he’s not been gone that long.  It would seem possible that he’d go next Wednesday against the Reds in Busch, which would be fine with me since I’ll be there for that game.

The seal on the trade market was broken yesterday and one of those that we’d talked about as a target for the Cardinals, Sith Lord Aramis Ramirez, was on the move back to his original home in Pittsburgh.  So the Cardinals will see him nine more times in games that will probably be very important.  I can’t say that thrills me a whole lot.  Ramirez was acquired for a AA pitcher–I was pretty sure the cost for him wasn’t very high–so you wonder if Mozeliak asked in on him.  Assuming the cost was the same for the Cardinals, which it well may not have been, that seems like a price they could have paid.

Battle of rookies tonight as Tim Cooney faces the Braves and Manny Banuelos.  No nice little charts here as neither has faced the other’s team.  We know about Cooney, who has looked somewhat better of late even though he still can’t go real deep into games.  Banuelos will be making his fifth MLB appearance and fourth start.  What he’s done with the others is pretty impressive as he has a 1.08 ERA heading into this one.  That said, Banuelos doesn’t go deep either, as his longest outing was his first, when he went 5.2 innings against the Nationals.  His last start, he didn’t make it through the fifth and six hits and two runs (only one earned) to the Cubs.  He’s a lefty the Cards haven’t seen before, but they’ve already had that this week and it worked out OK when they faced Carlos Rondon.

Plan to hear much about Jason Heyward and Shelby Miller this weekend, especially tomorrow when Miller goes against Carlos Martinez.  May want to keep the mute button available!

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