Not a bad weekend for the Cardinals. Two of three and they had a shot at the third in the late innings, which is probably all you can really ask without getting pretty greedy. Let’s take a look.
Friday (4-2 win)
Hero: Randal Grichuk. Two for three with a two-run home run that started the scoring and gave Tim Cooney a chance to pitch from ahead. He also drew a walk, stole a base, and scored another run. Somewhere along the way this weekend I heard someone say that Grichuk is the most exciting player on the Cardinals right now and I might have to agree. Not the best, of course, but there’s really no one else right now that you think can go yard when they come up or can use their speed either on the basepaths or in the field. He’s flawed, but right now he’s a lot of fun to watch.
Goat: Matt Holliday. The only starter not to get a hit, though he did draw a walk. Holliday’s not been super since his return, but he’s been pretty good and this felt like one of the few games that he didn’t contribute in a notable fashion.
Notes: I noted this on this week’s Best Dans in Baseball (go check it out if you haven’t already) but Cooney has finally passed Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons definitively on the depth chart. Cooney, who was sent down after this game to make room for Steve Cishek, whom we’ll talk about soon, had a pretty effective stint after his return from Memphis. In five games, the team only went 1-4 but he had a 2.48 ERA over that span. Going deep is still an issue–this was only the second game where he completed six innings–but he proved that he can pitch on the big league level. The problem is, there’s not just an obvious place for him in St. Louis. We’ll see if this stint in the bigs was enough to enhance his trade value.
Anyway, Cooney went seven in this one and just had one hiccup, allowing two runs in the sixth. He did all that in 74 pitches, which was pretty notable as well. If the game had still been 4-0, you wonder if he’d have stayed in for the eighth instead of being pinch-hit for by Stephen Piscotty. It was actually the fewest pitches he had ever thrown in a big league start (save his disastrous first one) and it easily was his best.
Two hits for Yadier Molina in this one as that average continues to work its way toward .300. The power isn’t quite there, but it’s probably never going to be what it once was. If we can get 8-10 homers and a decent amount of doubles out of Yadi, we should probably count our blessings.
I’m not quite sure why Piscotty didn’t start in this one unless the neck was still bothering him. He looked fine pinch-hitting and running the bases, though, so if it was still lingering, it wasn’t impacting him much. He didn’t start on Saturday as well, which would seem to really be hampering the data collection John Mozeliak might have been wanting before he got into the last week before the trade deadline.
Saturday (1-0 win)
Hero: Carlos Martinez. Matched up in a well-hyped duel with Shelby Miller, both sides showed why the Cardinals had to make an extremely tough decision this offseason. Miller blinked first, but it took until the eighth for it to happen. Martinez, though, was scoreless through eight, allowing just six hits while striking out six as well. Most of those hits were followed by double plays as his teammates turned three behind him and one behind Randy Choate, who wound up with the save. Martinez was just this much better than Miller, which is probably what Mozeliak was thinking when he dealt Miller to the Braves.
Goat: The Cardinals won this game managing only two hits, so there are plenty of o-fers to pick from in this category. We’ll give it to Matt Holliday again, unfortunately, because he and Jhonny Peralta both went 0-3 and left two on, but Holliday had a strikeout as well. Small thing to use as a tiebreaker, but there you have it.
Notes: Again, stellar work by Miller who for a while there looked like he’d repeat his one-hit work that he did against the Rockies a couple of years ago. He’s just getting no support by the Braves or he’d be probably talked about in the Cy Young discussion. It was very cool to see him get a standing ovation when he left the field in the eighth inning, with the crowd acknowledging that one of theirs had pitched a gem. It’s really tough to leave the Cardinal family, even if you aren’t wearing the birds on the bat anymore.
It looked like it was going to be three pitchers for three outs in the ninth as Mike Matheny, interestingly and probably correctly, decided to give Trevor Rosenthal another night off after going three in a row before this series. Seth Maness got his man, then Choate came in and allowed a hit, but got the double play that ended the game. If he hadn’t, I imagine Cishek would have made his debut in pretty much the hottest pan on the stove you could ask for in your first appearance for a team. Probably a good thing it didn’t come to that.
Sunday (3-2 loss)
Hero: Stephen Piscotty. Kolten Wong had more hits (nice to see Kolten get three, wasn’t it? Been a while) but you have to credit Piscotty making his first start at first base. He had two hits plus a walk and had a nice play at first, stretching out as far as he could to get a wide throw from Matt Carpenter. For a guy that’s only been playing the position a couple of weeks, for him to not only catch the ball but stay on the bag and get the out was amazing. That’s just one play, but it makes you feel better about him taking over that role if Mo decides to that way. I’m not saying he should stop looking for help, but that if the price gets too high maybe Piscotty will be able to handle the job.
Goat: Tony Cruz. You hate to pick on Cruz because it’s not like we expect much out of him, but an 0-4 day that includes a strikeout in the eighth with the tying run on second will typically get you here. Matheny didn’t pinch-hit Molina there, which was a little surprising given that he then ran Molina out there to hit for Kozma in the ninth. If you were going to use him, I’d think that letting him catch an inning probably wasn’t a huge deal. I’m sure Matheny figured they wanted to rest Molina as much as possible, even if that meant going with Cruz in that key situation. And, to be fair, it was a runner on first when Cruz started the AB, with Piscotty moving up on a wild pitch. You probably don’t want to bring Molina into a 1-2 count and if he hits with a runner on first, a ground ball ends it anyway. Still, it was frustrating to watch Cruz flail when there were big bats on the bench.
Notes: We continue to wonder about Michael Wacha, even though he’s probably just catching some bad luck right now as Matheny explained. Even without explanation, three runs in six innings isn’t a bad outing–it’s a quality start, though I think many of us rightly question how quality such starts are–it’s just that it’s not up to his potential nor what we are seeing from the rest of the rotation. He’s 4-4 after going 7-0, but all the other numbers are staying pretty much in line. He’ll probably bounce back soon and start getting some breaks. We hope, at least!
Grichuk left this one with a groin injury, because of course. Is there anyone on this team that HASN’T had a groin injury yet? Maybe Adam Wainwright, just because he missed the memo and his issue went further south. It sounds like it was precautionary, but you can almost bet that he won’t be in the lineup Monday and maybe not Tuesday. Hopefully that’s all it will take to make him feel better, but we’ll have to wait and see. It’s been a tough year with these sorts of injuries and it’s about time St. Louis caught a break with one. (Though I guess you could argue Holliday’s not being a full tear was a break, but he was still out a month.)
So we’ve got Mo being Mo as he deals a middling prospect for Cishek, a coveted property on the free agent market. There’s some salary to absorb, about $2 million this year, but that’s nothing. Cishek is also arbitration-eligible for the next two years, so the Cardinals can have him in their bullpen for more than just a couple of months if they want. (He’s also a potential non-tender candidate, as his $6.6 million salary would probably get a bump in arbitration if the Cards went that far with him. They may, of course, sign him to some sort of contract in the offseason that precludes that.)
Cishek has been fairly strong since his return from the minors, though some of the side numbers indicate that might have been a little fluky. We saw him pitch Sunday and he had a scoreless inning but it took some help from his infielders, especially after he threw the ball away on a pickoff. Still, he looked pretty good in his initial outing and we’ll see if he can carry that forward. Even if he doesn’t, it’s a nice deal for the Cardinals because they gave up nothing that they were likely to use in any other deal, so this is textbook buy low from Mo.
Given the little we have seen so far from Piscotty, I do think Mozeliak is likely to go ahead and get some one that can play first, even if it’s some sort of strong bench/platoon type player instead of someone like Adam Lind who would be expected to play every day. I know there was some idea that the Cardinals would be looking at Chris Davis from Baltimore (I think that was a Jim Bowden idea, which means there’s likely less to it than the paper it is printed on) but that would seem to be probably more expensive than the club would like, plus you factor in that Davis is kinda a supersize version of Mark Reynolds. He’s got the power, sure enough (22 HR on the year, or about what any two Cardinals combined have), but he’s hitting .240 and already has 120 strikeouts. He has been better in the past, of course, and he’s a free agent at the end of the year, but Baltimore is just 3.5 out of the wild card. It would seem to take a lot to grab such a power source and a lot is not often in Mozeliak’s vocabulary. If you want another take on the idea, Rob Rains wrote about it as well.
St. Louis hosts Cincinnati as the two teams meet for the first time since April. It’s a bit emotional for me since this is the first series they’ve played against each other since the passing of my father-in-law. The Reds aren’t the same team that they were then, though the Cards had no trouble with that version either. Johnny Cueto has been kicked free and now is a Royal, meaning it’d take a World Series for the Redbirds to see him again this year. (And wouldn’t THAT be interesting!) They are scuffling, 10 games under .500 and just got blasted by the Rockies on Sunday.
Lance Lynn will take the bump for the Cardinals as they get the series underway. Lynn has, as we know, been struggling with getting any run support but he’s been good about keeping the team in the game until they can come around and score for him. You would think that wouldn’t be an issue with a Reds team that is scuffling, but their offense isn’t necessarily the reason why as they sit ninth in baseball in home runs. That’s helped by their home park, it’s true, but Lynn will probably need to deal carefully with a number of these hitters to make sure he doesn’t get in much of a hole.
Raisel Iglesias will be on the hill for the Reds. The Cardinals saw him earlier in the year when he gave up three runs in five innings in the series at Cincinnati. He was demoted after that, came back up for much of May, was demoted again and returned to make two starts in July. His last time out, he limited the Cubs to two runs over 5.2 innings. The time before that, well, let’s just say the Marlins had less trouble with him. In theory this should be a good matchup for St. Louis, but we know what good matchups have been worth in the past.
And with that, I bid you “so long for just a while”. As I may have mentioned before, I will be in attendance for Tuesday and Wednesday’s games before returning home on Thursday, which means no summary blog posts until at least Friday, most likely. I know, I know, you are crushed. To ease your pain, though, I should note that Wednesday night is Star Wars Night at Busch Stadium. I didn’t let that pass last year and I won’t let it pass this year either. Check back Wednesday for another trip to a galaxy not that far, far away. Here’s to hoping that the Cards have a successful week and I can almost guarantee a trade will go down when I have no ability to write about it!