Sorry for the long gap in posts, but it was a fairly unusual week around my house and, as such, I didn’t get in front of the computer much. Sadly, I’ve kinda mastered these recap posts this season, so let’s dive in.
Wednesday (4-2 win vs. Pittsburgh)
Hero: Yadier Molina. It took a mistimed dive, but Yadi wound up with the go-ahead triple and then scored on Stephen Piscotty‘s base hit right after. He also doubled and stole a base, which meant he was all sorts of wonderful in this one. He even caught Gregory Polanco stealing to make it an all-around great night. How do you top that?
Goat: It was a rough night for Brandon Moss. 0-3 with three strikeouts is a terrible burden when you are trying oh-so-hard to make a good impression on a new organization. The swing may come, but right now the Cards aren’t getting a whole lot out of that deal.
Notes: Not exactly a dominating start by Michael Wacha, but he limited the damage from the nine hits he allowed and put together a start that would be noteworthy—on any staff but the 2015 Cardinals. Two runs in six innings on this team, though, is pretty ho-hum. He did wind up with seven strikeouts, but Andrew McCutchen struck for a homer and a triple. No shame there, though, given his talent.
Not a lot of offense in this one–the first two runs scored on a groundout by Jason Heyward, which was augmented by a throwing error by Neil Walker. Still, all you have to do is score one more than the opponent, which is a little easier to do with this pitching staff.
Thursday (10-5 loss vs. Pittsburgh)
Hero: Call me biased–it wouldn’t be the first time–but Tyler Lyons deserved this tag. Not necessarily planning to pitch in this game, he came into a two-out, first-and-second situation….in the first inning, already down 6-0. The first batter he saw was Walker, who smacked a single and drove in a run. After that, only three more batters reached over the next 5.1 innings and two of those were hits by Pedro Alvarez, who–as we know–is a Sith Lord in training. Lyons kept the Pirates off the board and that allowed for the offense to make a comeback. While it wound up to be a futile one, the fact that the go-ahead run ever came to the plate is a testament to how well the Patron Pitcher did his job.
Goat: Lance Lynn. There’s no doubting this one. Lynn took 40 pitches to get two outs and was just strafed in this one. (For comparison sake, I don’t think Lyons hit the 40-pitch mark until the fourth.) He had nothing other than his fastball and the Pirates figured that out very, very quickly. It’s really frustrating (though perhaps somewhat due to the large gap) that the one night the Cards hit Francisco Liriano, they are in such a hole it doesn’t really matter. Lynn had some bad luck, true, but even if he’d escaped the first, I’m not sure the rest of the night would have gone any better for him.
Notes: The Cards did get five off of Liriano and Joakim Soria, but Tony Watson kept it from being worse. Molina came up with the bases loaded and one out and the score 7-4, meaning a grand slam would have put them on top. His sacrifice fly did cut the gap a bit, but that seemed to stop the momentum of the inning and Pittsburgh wriggled away. Good nights for Jhonny Peralta (2-4, run, RBI), Heyward (2-3, BB), Molina (1-3, 3 RBI) and, save his throwing error in the first, Matt Carpenter (2-4, BB, 2 runs). Typical Cardinals, they scored all their runs on nine hits, all singles. It’d take a few days before the power really showed up.
Oh, and Seth Maness just got drilled in this one, allowing three in the ninth to make sure there was no chance at a late comeback (though it kept Mark Melancon from taking back the saves lead for another day or so). We didn’t even have the usual “Maness has pitched too much lately” excuse as it’d been 3-4 days since he last got out there. He did throw a scoreless inning in the Miami series, though, so right now we’ll just chalk it up to a bad day.
Friday (3-1 win vs. Miami)
Hero: You don’t really carve fish, but that’s pretty much what Jaime Garcia did in this one. He took a shutout into the ninth inning before putting a couple of runners on and turning it over to Trevor Rosenthal. Six hits, six strikeouts, the one run that did score on his mark was unearned after a Heyward error–you wouldn’t think someone with a sub-2 ERA could lower it very easily, but Garcia dropped his to 1.57. Outstanding work all the way around.
Goat: A quiet night for a few folks, but we’ll give this one to Kolten Wong, who was batting second and went 0-4. Molina and Heyward also had hitless nights as, well, you pretty much needed Garcia to be as dominant as he was to get a win here.
Notes: As he so often does, Carpenter crafted the offense in this one, getting two RBI in very different ways. How often do you see someone bunt a runner home and then crack a home run in the same game? It’s not an everyday occurrence. Randal Grichuk and Mark Reynolds also had two hits, with both of them having a double as part of their portfolio.
Saturday (6-2 win vs. Miami)
Hero: John Lackey. For the second straight night, a Cardinal starter tried for a complete game. Lackey had been touched a little more than Garcia, but he still got one out in the ninth before a single sent Mike Matheny out there to bring in Steve Cishek. It’s pretty interesting, in fact, that as great as this pitching staff has been this season, no starter has a complete game. That’s partly a function of some young pitchers and no Adam Wainwright, but it’s still a little surprising. Lackey allowed two runs (including a rare balked-in one) and actually mustered two hits of his own, which is quite impressive from the career American Leaguer.
Goat: Matt Carpenter. He can’t be Superman every night, but it’s a touch more frustrating when the pitcher gets two hits and turns over the lineup and the leadoff guy can’t do anything with it. 0-4 in this one, leaving three on base.
Notes: Great night for Piscotty, who had three hits (two doubles) and scored two runs. Reynolds finally hit one over the wall, becoming the first person not named Carpenter or Grichuk to hit a home run since Peralta did it on August 1. (Carp had 5 and Grichuk 4 long balls in that span.) Molina also had a couple of hits as the Cards got their biggest win since the 6-0 victory over Milwaukee eight days before.
Sunday (6-4 loss vs. Miami)
Hero: Jason Heyward. Dan and I talked on the most recent Best Dans In Baseball about Heyward’s lack of power. That went up Sunday morning. Apparently Mr. Heyward didn’t care much for our discussion (though we did say he was valuable even without the home runs!) and went deep twice, the second time giving the team a 3-1 lead that, with Carlos Martinez on the mound, seemed pretty solid. It was not to be, however.
Goat: Kolten Wong. An 0-4 day is going to put you in the Goat discussion anytime, but when you make two errors, including a key one that opened some floodgates, you’ve pretty much got this award locked up. As it was noted on Twitter, Wong’s played every day for about a month. With Greg Garcia in Memphis, you wonder if Matheny might run out one of those Carpenter to second lineups during this upcoming series to give Wong a bit of a breather.
Notes: I’ve been waiting for Piscotty to break the seal and he finally got his first homer of his career in this one. Unfortunately, he had an ugly strikeout late in the game with runners on so it wasn’t a perfect day by any means. Carpenter had a couple of hits, because that’s pretty much what Carpenter does now. It’s a surprise when none of them go for extra bases.
As for Martinez, he didn’t get a lot going his way and his ERA didn’t take a hit with four unearned runs, but allowing a bases-loaded triple isn’t a great way to battle back. I didn’t get to see any of this game, so I don’t know if he was pitching well and it was a good bit of hitting by Derek Dietrich or Martinez got frustrated and tried to overthrow his way out of the jam, but you never want to see Martinez scuffle like that. In his last four starts, he’s given up 16 runs (though only 10 of them were earned) and you start to wonder when fatigue will set in. He’s definitely someone to keep an eye on as we get into September.
It’s telling that the Cardinals have gone 7-3 over their last 10 games, yet have lost a game on their lead to the Pirates and two on the lead to the Cubs. The NL Central is a crazy place right now with three of the best NL teams all battling it out. It’s amazing to think that if the Cards were immediately transplanted in almost any other division, they’d be up by double digits. A five game lead is nice, but it’s not something that would be set in stone, especially since there are more games coming with Pittsburgh and Chicago.
Will there be folks coming in September to help? We know that Matt Holliday hopefully will be there then, though there’s no real timetable. The club continues to say that it’s impressed with how Matt Adams is coming along and those comments start allowing for speculation he’d be at least a bench bat once rosters expand at the beginning of next month. And, as we’ve noted before, Wainwright continues to say he’ll be back this season, though it would seem at best as a reliever. He’s been playing catch and would begin mound work in September. If the Cards could get some spacing between themselves and the Pirates, they might try to run Waino out there a few times, see what he has. Even so, putting him on a postseason roster would make for some very difficult decisions as there are already too many quality options for the spots that are going to be available. So I don’t think we’ll see Wainwright in October, even if he cameos in September.
After Sunday’s game, the club announced Grichuk was going to get an MRI on his elbow, which forced him to leave the game early. Hopefully this is just precautionary because, as noted above, he’s a huge part of the limited long ball attack for this club. If he does have to go on the DL, Tommy Pham might get another chance to show that he belongs at the big league level, but as much as our friend Bob Netherton might relish that opportunity, I think I’m hoping Grichuk doesn’t provide it.
Also in that link is the fact that the tentative schedule is being worked on and it appears not only that Albert Pujols isn’t going to be coming back with the Angels next year, like folks had expected, but the Cards would start the season on the road for the fifth straight year. Now, I know that the club tends to like to start away from home for financial reasons (it means more home dates in the summer when school is out, plus can help have more home games down the stretch) but it still seems wrong when one of the crown jewels of baseball is wearing the grays on Opening Day. It’s not a huge thing, but I think the home opener is a little diminished when it’s not the season opener. Then again, I’ve never been to Opening Day, so maybe I’m quite mistaken.
Cardinals and Giants get together for the first time this season starting tonight. The last time we saw that club, Travis Ishikawa was taking Michael Wacha yard. It’s quite a different Wacha that goes tonight versus that game, when he was making his first appearance in the playoffs. Wacha’s scoreless streak was snapped by the Pirates, but he’s perfectly capable of extending whatever small one he had at the end of that game. Wacha’s not seen the Giants a lot, but he’s done a pretty good job against them when he has faced them.
San Francisco will counter with Chris Heston, a young righthander who has yet to face the Redbirds. Heston is 11-7 on the year with a 3.38 ERA, nice numbers for a guy that seems to be flying under the radar. (The West Coast will do that to a player.) Last time out he limited the Astros to one run in 6.1 innings but wound up taking the loss anyway. This might be an interesting challenge for the Cardinal lineup.
As always, if you want to see the series from the other side, be sure to check out our friends at THE San Francisco Giants Blog. Craig and the gang know their stuff and were nothing less than welcoming to me whenever I’ve interacted with them, even last year in the NLCS. Should be a fun series!