Every year, every team (save those that are already out that way) has to make The West Coast Trip. Usually 10 days or more in a strange time zone playing games when your body says you should be getting ready for bed. It makes for a tough grind most of the time, no matter what the level of competition is. As we’ve seen so far this season, level of competition doesn’t matter for the Cardinals. They’ll play on whatever level their opponent is at, good or bad. With Pittsburgh and, increasingly, Chicago breathing down their necks, each game is important. So far, well, mixed results…..
Friday (9-3 loss at San Diego)
Hero: Tommy Pham. Two for four with both a run and an RBI. They came when the Cards were behind, but it got them within striking distance late in the game before the bullpen melted down.
Goat: John Lackey. As I look through the play-by-play of that terrible fifth inning, there were errors made behind him, but Lackey had a number of opportunities to make that situation better than it was. After the errors, a single, home run, walk, wild pitch, strikeout and single. That’s not exactly what you want to see when you are looking to contain the damage. It was a night not helped by his defense, but it wasn’t Lackey’s night either.
Notes: While the Cardinals weren’t likely to rally even the two runs they were down in the ninth, seeing Carlos Villanueva touched for two different two-run homers in one inning wasn’t a good feeling, especially when one was from former Cardinal farmhand Brett Wallace. Villanueva’s been good most of the year, but this is the second outing in a row where he’s allowed a run. Hopefully it’s just a temporary dropoff.
Jhonny Peralta had three hits in this one but no one around him could help out. The two hitters in front of him went 0-8 and the one behind him 0-3 with a walk. It’s what we talk about when we say the club can often get hits, they just can’t put them together in any fashion that equals a good number of runs.
Two hits, including a double, and no strikeouts for Mark Reynolds. Perhaps he’s pushing for more regular playing time, though I think most of us would be content with him just playing semi-regularly if there were any other options at first base. When Matt Holliday returns and Stephen Piscotty moves to first, that’ll probably be what happens.
Saturday (8-0 loss at San Diego)
Hero: If there can be one in a game like this, it’d have to again be Tommy Pham. Three for four, made even more frustrating by the fact Carlos Martinez was hitting behind him and went 2-3. When your eighth and ninth place hitters combine for five hits, you should really do something with that. Sadly, the club only had eight hits overall, so a lot of their offense was concentrated on those two guys.
Goat: Matt Carpenter. Carpenter is (maybe was after last night’s game) in the midst of an ugly streak. After Sunday’s game, he was 0 for his last 20 with 10 strikeouts. So 0-3 with two K in this one out of the leadoff spot was enough for a Goat tag. Add in the fact that he got himself tossed arguing balls and strikes, forcing a supposed-to-be-my-day-off Kolten Wong into the game (since Carp was covering second for Wong in this one) was unacceptable as well. Yes, it was a terrible pitch. Yes, Carpenter should have been frustrated. I believe I saw that Carp’s been rung up on more pitches out of the strike zone than anyone else in baseball. It’s not good, but there are times you’ve got to contain yourself. I think that was one of them.
Notes: Martinez didn’t have a great outing, though it was better than the line indicated as both of the runners he left on were let in by Seth Maness. Until then, he’d limited the Padres to one run on five hits, which is pretty passable. Perhaps the base running he had to do finally caught up with him, though he struck out in the top of the seventh for his final at bat.
This was the second time in four outings that Maness had come in and completely melted down, allowing three or more runs in his inning of work. To be fair, in between those outings he came in with the bases loaded against the Giants and struck out the only batter he faced, so it’s not like he’s completely broken or anything. Even though he’s not been terribly overworked of late, maybe a deeper bullpen in September will help him recover hsi normal form. There are going to be a lot of options for the postseason bullpen. It would be a surprise if Maness isn’t in there, but there’s no guarantees.
Shoutout to the Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons, who came in after Maness had lit the place on fire and managed the flames, finishing the game by retiring four batters, two via strikeout, while only allowing one hit. Lyons was demoted after the game for Greg Garcia, who was needed if Wong was ever actually going to rest, but he’ll be back next week as the rosters expand. Hopefully the larger bullpen won’t keep us from seeing #70 on the mound regularly!
Sunday (10-3 win at San Diego)
Hero: Stephen Piscotty. When you have a better day than a guy that almost hit for the cycle, you had a good day. Piscotty smashed two home runs and tossed in a triple to boot. There was a lot of talk about Piscotty retooling his swing for power this year and we hadn’t seen a lot of that in the early going (though nobody was complaining about his regular offense). In the seven games ending with this one, he had two triples and four homers (surprisingly enough, no doubles, though he had nine of them before this time period). Piscotty’s given a nice jolt of offense to the club, one they don’t always take advantage of but one that, if he can sustain it, may help a lot when the injured Cardinals return.
Goat: Matt Carpenter. The rest of the club is hitting (save Pham–it was another one of those games we’ve seen this year where big numbers are put up in spite of the first two hitters in the order going o-fer) so seeing Carp go 0-4 with three strikeouts is a pretty easy choice here. He did drive in a run the one time he put the ball in play, so he had that going for him.
Notes: The Mobil On-The-Run folks must be thinking they’ve got it made in the shade this year, as reaching six runs to trigger the 50 cent drinks is an herculean task at times. This was the first time the Cards had reached that level since the Saturday before against the Marlins and only the third time this month. Go ahead and drink up, Cardinals. You’ve earned it!
As noted, Jason Heyward had a single, double, triple and had a walk as well. There was a lot of talk about him going for the cycle in his last at bat, but 1) if you need a home run or triple for the cycle, you probably aren’t getting it and 2) getting a home run in Petco Park off of Craig Kimbrel would seem to be way down there on the likely result chart, except that Piscotty then did it two batters later. Still, Heyward continues to show why the Cardinals need to lock him up to a long-term deal.
Another two-hit game for Reynolds, who started his career in the West and perhaps taps into that power when he returns to the area. It’s as good a reason as any other, right?
Monday (5-3 win at Arizona)
Hero: While the Post-Dispatch game story focused on Greg Garcia and his baserunning in the seventh, given his flubs in the field and the stress he put his pitcher through I can’t go in that direction. We’ll go with Yadier Molina, who had two hits and two RBI, the latter of which gave the Cards a nice three-run cushion that probably helped those that were still up watching it feel better. (I was not one of those number, knowing I needed to get up and write this post today.)
Goat: There’s no obvious selection here. Everyone in the starting lineup got a hit and the pitching wasn’t bad at all. It was a little concerning to see Trevor Rosenthal gave up a run in the ninth after being rested throughout the Padres series, but it looks like it wasn’t as cringe-inducing as we sometimes see. I guess we’ll go with Jhonny Peralta, who didn’t drive in a run or score one, but I don’t feel great about it.
Notes: Lance Lynn wasn’t the ace-like Lynn we’d like to see, but he made some big pitches when he had to. I turned the game off after the fifth and I thought I was going to be doing so in disgust after the Cards got the first two runners on in the top of the frame and didn’t score, then allowed the Diamondbacks to load up the bases (in part due to one of Garcia’s errors) with Paul Goldschmidt up. Instead, Lynn got a liner to Carpenter who turned the double play and they escaped another jam. Four double plays were turned by the Redbirds last night, meaning there were a lot of Arizona players on the basepaths, but they also earned a lot of money for Cardinals Care from the American Equity Mortgage folks.
Meanwhile, the Pirates and the Cubs just continue to win. Pittsburgh’s won three in a row and eight of their last 10, while the Cubs are on a five game winning streak thanks to a Kris Bryant walkoff homer yesterday. The Cards are 6-4 over their last 10 and that’s the weakling in the group. You would be forgiven to wonder when the competition would lose again. (Just for scoreboard watching, Pittsburgh is in Miami again tonight–Charlie Morton vs. Brad Hand–while the Cubs start their own West Coast run in San Francisco–Jake Arrieta vs. Matt Cain.)
At least the club may be finally getting healthy. Last night on the broadcast, Mike Matheny was quoted as saying that Matt Adams could be up by September 1 when the rosters expand. He’s going to start playing in some minor league games tonight and, as they say, he’s on the fast track. (One of the few times fast and Adams are used in the same sentence.) Jon Jay was taking some batting practice yesterday and the club says he’ll have a rehab assignment as well, which would have to be done in the next week given the fact that the minor league seasons end on Labor Day. The other folks are a little bit farther off, though I raised my eyebrow when I saw that Matt Belisle plans to be on the roster in September. Though in the same story it says that he’s seeking another medical opinion on his elbow and it’s a puzzling injury, so whether he can actually effectively pitch is still up for some debate.
Another late game this evening, though at least it’s 1/2 hour earlier than last night. Jaime Garcia will face off against Robbie Ray. We know how good Garcia’s been this season but that won’t be any surprise to the Arizona club. In his career, Garcia is 4-0 in four starts against the D-Backs with a 2.78 ERA. Half those starts have come in Chase Field and his ERA is an even-better 1.69 there.
Ray, on the other hand, has never faced the Cardinals in his two years in the major leagues. Ray has had a strong season for the Snakes, though his ERA has steadily crept up all season long. He’s allowed at least three runs in his last four starts and hasn’t gone past the sixth inning in any of them. Even though he’s a lefty, he doesn’t have a real noticeable platoon split, but I’d still expect Wong to get another day off. Hopefully this break has helped clear his head and we’ll see him back out there Wednesday.
Rest up. It’ll be another late night!