Well, if nothing else, Cincinnati’s not been able to shut out the Cardinals this time. A small comfort, to be sure. The Cards have also not lost any ground to the Pirates, winning when they win, losing when they lose, and just continuing to click off games on the calendar. Could be a whole lot worse.
Tuesday (3-2 loss)
Hero: Matt Carpenter. Carp’s on a roll and, while Randal Grichuk and Jhonny Peralta both had two hits, Carpenter was the only one to make them count, driving in both runs with a home run in the fourth. Unfortunately, that was all the Cards could muster.
Goat: Yadier Molina. 0-4 with four men left on, which really hurts in a one run game. Yadi’s been a bit quiet of late with the bat, dropping 10 points of average in about a week. Hopefully it’s not the season getting to him.
Notes: I listened to part of the first inning on the radio and was hopeful that John Lackey was going to get out of the jam he created by putting the first two runners on after he got the double play. Even when Jay Bruce drove in the first run, I expected that would be it. Instead, Lackey gave up a double, walk, and single and was suddenly down 3-0. He settled in after that, of course, and put up five more scoreless innings and, especially in that ballpark, three runs should have been surmountable. This offense, though….. You don’t want to give them a hole to dig out of because their shovels seem to be pretty small.
Of course, Lackey didn’t help things when he bunted into a double play after Grichuk had led off the fifth with a single. If that bunt gets down, maybe the Cards are able to manufacture a tying run. Instead, everything is wiped clean and Carp couldn’t do anything with two outs. Lackey can occasionally do something with the bat, but a lifetime in the American League probably hasn’t done him any favors in that category.
So often when watching games like this I think, well, maybe they can get to the closer in the ninth. With Aroldis Chapman, I don’t even bother thinking that. The Cards haven’t scored on him since 2011. Now, granted, they’ve probably faced him a lot less than some folks since they have beaten the Reds quite regularly in that span and, as such, wouldn’t face Chapman in a save situation. Still, when you see him whipping the ball up there at 102, it’s not surprising you just hope for a walk. It’s relatively surprising that Mark Reynolds, who has been known to strike out, was the only one to get an out by a means other than K.
After this game, I saw this Tweet that really stood out:
#STLCards have played 11 straight vs teams below .500…and have gone 6-5 while averaging 3.1 runs per game
— Brian Hoffman (@b_hoffman11) August 5, 2015
To some degree that’s troubling. If they are playing like this against lesser competition, what will they do against teams in the playoffs? That said, the pitching staff of the Cardinals should be able to limit folks in the offseason as well, so if they can muster 3-4 runs in October, they may be better off than many would think. It’d give everyone in Cardinal Nation heart attacks, but it’s doable. Still, not exactly what you want to rely on, I don’t think.
Wednesday (4-3 win in 13)
Hero: Matt Carpenter. Yes, Grichuk won the game, but Carpenter tied it up and made sure that when Chapman came in, he couldn’t lock down the win. That’s huge because, until Carp went yard, it looked like we were going to get a repeat of Tuesday night, with Chapman coming in and blowing everyone away. We still did–Chapman struck out three of the four batters he faced–but at least the game continued this time.
Goat: Brandon Moss. 0-4 with three strikeouts. Moss looked like he might come around after his first couple of games in St. Louis and he did have a hit in each of the three games before this one, but we still haven’t seen any extra-base pop from him. Perhaps John Mabry is already working with him!
Notes: Not exactly the game we’ve come to expect from Carlos Martinez, though if Peralta gets Marlon Byrd out in the 3rd instead of making an error, he only allows one run and that’d been more like it. Still, six hits and three walks in five innings isn’t quite Tsunami material and I didn’t get to see enough of the early part of the game to know what he looked like. It’s not surprising that he might be hitting a bit of a wall right now and that’s exactly why the Cards went out to strengthen the bullpen, so Matheny wasn’t tempted to send him out for the sixth inning when he had 93 pitches under his belt.
The bullpen was outstanding in this one. Jonathan Broxton struck out the side. Carlos Villanueva struck out two of three (and, even with all these arms, why did he not go an extra frame? Granted, Matheny didn’t know there’d be extras, but if you are going to use Villanueva, especially since he only gets in to a game like once a week, shouldn’t he go at least two innings?) and Kevin Siegrist took on a load, going 1.2 innings and striking out three. Even though Seth Maness walked a couple in his two innings (both in the 12th, leading to a walk-DP-walk-GO inning), he got out of their without being terribly challenged. There’s a reason why folks consider the ‘pen a strength these days.
Grichuk was very close to two homers on the night, getting an RBI double for the first run, then sending everyone home (eventually) with his long ball in the 13th. He’s streaky, but when he’s hitting, nobody brings more thump than he does, I don’t think. At least not regularly.
Lots of strikeouts by the hitters, though. Chapman struck out the side, as noted, and then Jumbo Diaz (who wears number 70 for the Reds, but we’ll not start an obsessive watch on his career) struck out five in two innings. Given Diaz’s season numbers, that really wasn’t what I was expecting. He did dial it up into the mid-90s, but that should have been a breeze after Chapman being out there. Whatever the case, the Redbirds couldn’t figure him out at all. At least the bullpen kept it tied until they could get into some softer parts of the Cincinnati ‘pen.
Jordan Walden is going to be taken off his rehab assignment and try to get his arm strengthened up. He’s still throwing OK, but it sounds like they want to work on his stamina and such without having that 30-day clock ticking. That’s a little disturbing, even if the club isn’t calling it a setback, just because it seems like the “rest and rehab” option never works quite as well as folks hope it will. Besides, I think we’ve all been wanting to see a healthy Walden join the Bullpen Avengers and see what he can do in that mix. Can you imagine Steve Cishek in the sixth, Broxton in the seventh, Walden in the eighth and Trevor Rosenthal in the ninth for many games? And that doesn’t even count Siegrist. If you can get six innings out of the starters, you could almost have two sets of late-inning workers, Cishek/Walden and Broxton/Siegrist. The only question is who would get dumped out of the pen to bring in Walden. That’s five folks right there, plus Villanueva and Randy Choate. That’s 12 with the five starters, but that doesn’t count Maness. Do you drop Villanueva? That wouldn’t work well, at least not now. (And from a human aspect, how tough would it be to have Villanueva do good work all year long then have him not make the playoff roster? It could happen, given there’s less need for him in October, but that’d suck for him.) Maybe it’s a good thing Walden might not be ready until rosters expand in September!
Cardinals have the afternoon getaway game today as the game’s first pitch is right about noon Central. Well, assuming the weather cooperates, which is always an issue when Michael Wacha takes the mound. Right now, the tarp is on the field and there’s a strong chance of thunderstorms until well into the afternoon. The only time the team returns to Cincinnati is September 10-13, which is already a four-game series in the last month of the season. I’m pretty sure they’ll wait this one out as long as possible.
Wacha had better results last time out, throwing seven scoreless innings against the Rockies. His first two starts of the season were against the Reds and he allowed one run in each of them, both times a solo home run (once Todd Frazier, once Joey Votto). Even though it’s been a while since he’s seen them, hopefully he’ll be just as effective today.
St. Louis will have to try to hit against Michael Lorenzen. Lorenzen has scuffled this year, posting a 3-6 record and a 4.80 ERA. Of course, as we’ve seen, you can often throw out the statistics when it comes to this offense. Lorenzen is also in the midst of a bad run of games, allowing four or more runs in each of his last three games and not finishing the sixth in any of them. However, the Cardinals have never faced him, so you know how that goes. At least he’s a righty!
Let’s hope the Cards put some runs up today and then head off to Milwaukee on a winning streak!