Just enough. Whenever they come around to make a documentary about the 2015 Cardinals season, that’s what it should be titled. Just Enough.
We’ve pointed out before their record in one-run games and it only got better on Wednesday night, when Yadier Molina played the Hero and broke a 3-3 tie with his 100th career home run (coincidentally, it was also the team’s 100th of the season). Trevor Rosenthal worked a smooth ninth with two strikeouts and everyone went home happy. Just enough.
The sad thing is that just enough was all that we saw. Matt Cain came in struggling and started off this game shaky as well, but the offense couldn’t get anything going. (To be fair, they’d have had another run in the first had not Juan Perez not channeled Spider-Man on Stephen Piscotty‘s drive.) This was a situation where the bats should have been able to click a little bit, but yet the offense still stayed mired in its malaise. It took a dropped ball by the catcher in the seventh for the Cardinals to tie the game–if it’s Buster Posey there instead of Andrew Susac, it’s possible that the Cards would have again wasted two-on-and-nobody-out. There’s just nothing after the cleanup hitter that gives folks hope that a rally can be sustained.
Interestingly enough, all the starters save Matt Carpenter, who drove in that seventh-inning run with a groundout, actually got a hit in this game, but they were too spread out to do any good. It’s why the Cards are 16th in the majors in batting average but 22nd in runs–the hits may come, but they don’t come together. It takes two hits, maybe three to score a run and that’s posing some problems these days. These ain’t your 2013 St. Louis Cardinals.
It works because of the pitching, of course. We’ve gone over that time and time again. This game was no different, as Jaime Garcia looked devestating in the first few innings before faltering a bit at the end of his time in the game. Early on, I thought that Garcia might be able to throw a no-hitter and he allowed just one in the first four innings. Then the fifth inning came and while things didn’t fall apart, he did remind us how spoiled we’ve been. One in the fifth (on a sacrifice fly by the pitcher), one in the sixth (three hits, though he struck out the last two with two on) and one in the seventh (that scored when Steve Cishek allowed his inherited runner to score). Three runs in 6.1 innings is not a bad night by most standards. That’s a quality start right there. And yet we’ve come so used to shutouts and one run games that three runs seems like a stumble.
I’m really not sure who to pick for a Goat, since so many folks were pretty equally mediocre. Like I say, most everyone got a hit, but just one (Piscotty should have had two and at least his one was a long ball). I guess I’ll go ahead and give it to Steve Cishek because the run that he allowed put the Cards behind late and so often that would have been the death knell. Really a tough call, though.
Mike Matheny said that he’s put Peter Bourjos in a tough spot. Well, at least he recognizes it. While his rationale makes some sense, I’m still not sure that I’d have gone about it the way he has. The mantra around Bourjos is that he needs to play regularly to hit. The problem is, how regular is regularly? Can you really afford to let him play a couple of weeks in a row if he can’t hit until after that time? Are we sure that he really can hit if he gets that time? He had a strong season once, true, but there’s no guarantees that was anything more than a career year.
Still, Matheny’s strength is to be a leader of men. I can’t imagine it helps Bourjos feel like part of a team when you immediately throw the guy from Memphis ahead of him or the guy that was traded for and can’t hit a lick. It’s probably a guarantee that someone on a 25-man roster is going to get the short end of the stick–and, to be fair, he does play more than Pete Kozma, so he’s got that going for him–but it’s still got to be a tough pill to swallow for the guy.
Jordan Walden still says he doesn’t need surgery, but he’s still not ready to return and will be visiting with a doctor for the next steps in his rehab. I continue to think that we’re going to find out in this offseason that he really does need surgery and we’ll miss out on him for part of next season as well. Hopefully I’m wrong on this, but it seems like the rest and rehab bit aren’t working as well as folks would like. We’ve gone backwards, in fact, since he made some appearances and it looked like he’d be back in St. Louis by mid-August. Then he stopped throwing and we’re no closer to seeing him than we were before. Again, I hope I’m just being pessimistic on this and he’ll be able to contribute in September and October, but I’m having a hard time believing that.
I saw on the FOX Midwest postgame on Wednesday that Matheny had moved past Joe Torre on the all-time Cardinal managerial wins list. I’m not exactly sure what it says about either him, the teams he’s had, or the organization’s history, but that puts him ninth all time. In less than four seasons. 107 more wins and he moves into sixth on the list. Given he’ll probably get another 20 or so this year, it seems probable he’ll get that mark next year. It doesn’t seem out of the question that, sometime around 2018 if he’s still here (and do you really expect him not to be), he’ll be behind only Tony La Russa, Red Schoendienst and Whitey Herzog. Do you think Matheny will ever been regarded as well as those guys are? I don’t know. It’s just interesting to see him have so much success so early. Many would say that’s a function of good players and that’s true, but the others have had great players as well.
Cardinals start what could be a brutal 10-game road trip tonight. It’s not so much the level of competition as the fact that you are out on the West Coast and doing so with a depleted roster. You start in San Diego, which has always been a pitcher’s park, and end in San Francisco, another place where offense is not a large factor. So if you wanted the bats to get going, you probably better hope they click during the four games in Arizona. Otherwise we may see a lot more games where we’re hoping for just enough.
Mike’s done a great job rounding up info on the Padres series, so check that out if you’ve not already. John Lackey and Andrew Cashner meet up tonight in a late game from Petco Park. I’m surprised at Cashner’s rough numbers for this year, as I’ve always considered him a quality young starter. As Mike notes, he shut down the Cardinals pretty well when he faced them earlier in the year, so it’s likely going to be another struggle to get runs this evening, especially if Jason Heyward still isn’t in the lineup.
Lackey, of course, is coming off a stellar outing against the Marlins where he allowed two runs in 8.1 innings. He’s been strong enough this season that folks are talking about re-signing him at the end of this season. I appreciate what Lackey’s done, but I’m not sure that is the best use of the Cardinals’ resources. That’s a discussion for another time, though.
A good bottom line there, though it’s heavily weighted by beating up on Melvin Upton, which isn’t necessarily a stunning achievement. Hopefully he can continue his success against these hitters and get this road trip off to a great start!