Lots of folks go to Arizona for a nice change of pace. The Cardinals just did it in the summer instead of the winter.
To win four games in a row is a tough chore, but to sweep a four game series (which actually runs their winning streak to five) is incredible, especially given the fact that Tony Cruz, Greg Garcia, and Brandon Moss were in the lineup last night. When you see a mix like that, you aren’t thinking they are going to put up many runs. To be fair, with the injuries the Cardinals have sustained it’s not too much off their regular lineup, but the margin of error for a productive 1 to 9 is pretty slim.
So what happens? Cruz goes yard and Moss almost got to be the Hero with a two-run homer that gave the Cardinals the lead. Surprisingly enough, he didn’t float to the top of Chase Field after that huge weight was lifted off his back. I’ve been wanting to see Moss pick it up a bit and maybe this will help, though not sure if the confidence boost was hampered by being double-switched out before he could hit again or if it left him with a positive feel coming out of the game. I guess it could go either way. No matter, to see these two guys that haven’t contributed a lot go yard in key spots was huge. We’ve talked much about #nextmanup this year and that’s a good way to illustrate it.
The Hero, however, goes to the man that, to basically quote Captain Reynolds, did the impossible and that makes him mighty. After Steve Cishek became our Goat by walking the bases loaded to start the eighth inning of a two-run game, Seth Maness came in and struck out two batters and got the last to ground out. To get out of that situation without giving up one run, much less the lead, is almost incomprehensible. I mean, look at this:
Wow. The leverage index when Seth Maness entered the game (gmLI) was 5.32. Anything above 2.0 is considered “high” leverage.
— stlCupofJoe (@stlCupofJoe) August 28, 2015
That’s the kind of situation it was and Maness handled it like it was no big deal. We’ve seen Maness implode a few times recently, but it’s good to know that the reliever we’ve been so confident in for the past couple of years is still in there. Though perhaps one strange thing–no double play in that situation. I mean, the man got out of it without his favorite weapon. That’s even more impressive, right?
Carlos Martinez‘s line doesn’t look like anything special–three earned runs in six–but he basically had one bad inning, with the last two runs scoring on a ball that Kolten Wong just couldn’t quite get to. Dan Buffa and I recorded episode 12 of Best Dans in Baseball last night (probably up later today, maybe tomorrow) and I stated that I thought Martinez would be the one left out of the postseason roster because, looking at the surface results from his last six starts, it looked like he might be wearing down. This morning, though, Bernie Miklasz pointed out on Twitter numerous secondary stats that indicate it’s been more bad luck than him getting tired. It seems more that his results with runners in scoring position was so low that it had to correct at some time. He’s actually had a better FIP over these last six than he did earlier in the year, so it doesn’t seem like fatigue is a factor.
All that said, I’m still not sure that I would change my answer on who is left out of the rotation. Given the way he can pitch out of the bullpen, he seems to be the most logical one to get bumped. I can’t see Michael Wacha being pushed out and it’s pretty much a given that Lance Lynn, Jaime Garcia (as always, if healthy) and John Lackey will be making starts. It could be that this is a fluctuating thing, that Martinez might get a start in the NLCS to get the rotation back on track, but on the whole, I think that’s the tough call that Mike Matheny will make.
Matt Carpenter got a big double last night, driving in the third run, but Carp is still scuffling. Over his last 10 games, he’s hitting .114/.256/.229 with 17 strikeouts in 35 at-bats. Twice in that span he’s struck out three times in a game and four other times he’s whiffed twice. Compare that to the entire month of April, when he struck out just 11 times. In fact, it took him until May 4 (and 101 at-bats) to reach 17 for the season. While he may not be as completely broken as he was during the summer, he’s still not the Carpenter we are used to seeing.
We saw with Wong that a couple of days off did wonders for his approach and his results. While Carpenter is obviously a very different player than Wong, a guy that’s not quite as mercurial or apparently affected by past games, it still wouldn’t hurt to give this guy a break every now and again. The last time he missed a game was June 23. Save for those games he missed with fatigue (hey, red flag here!), he’s only had one other game off all year long. I know Carpenter is a key part of this offense, but for him to continue to be a key part, he’s got to rest up. He’s only missed 13 games over the past three years which includes the playoffs. You’d think it’s got to be getting to him. There are plenty of options for replacing him for a game or two (I thought it was strange last night that he started at first when there are a slew of other first basemen on this team) and he’s not really helping the team a whole lot right now as well. Give him a break in San Francisco, Mike.
Cardinals won #82 last night, which means that they are guaranteed another winning season. It’s pretty amazing for this to happen in August, at least to my mind. If they go 18-17 over their last 35 games, they win 100. This is going to go down as one of the great Cardinal teams, which is mind-boggling when you are focused on the day to day. Big picture, though, these guys are good.
Injury report, which should be a regular feature of any Cardinal discussion. Really sounds like Jon Jay will be back on September 1, with Matt Adams a little bit behind him. Matt Belisle is pumped to return and wants to be part of the postseason, but I can’t see that happening even with a strong September, not unless Cishek blows up a couple more times and even then, it’s iffy. Matt Holliday gets looked at again this weekend, hopefully with a positive result that has him back in early September as well. This should be a pretty interesting team over the last couple of weeks of the season. Lots of faces in that dugout.
Race recap: Pittsburgh won (unsurprisingly) but the Giants took care of the Cubs. Cardinals now sit 4.5 ahead of Pittsburgh and 8.5 ahead of Chicago. While the playoffs are almost assured, there’s still a risk of the wild-card game. It’s probably going to come down to those games head-to-head with Pittsburgh. Even splitting those six and I’ll feel much better about the division, given the schedule the rest of the way. Anyway, tonight the Pirates host the Rockies with phenom Jon Gray going against Cardinal killer Francisco Liriano. The Cubs go over to LA where they get Clayton Kershaw (a day after Madison Bumgarner, so that’s fun for them) while Jason Hammel goes for them.
For St. Louis’s part, they head to the ‘Frisco bay and match up with the Giants again. (Shout out to my friends at THE San Francisco Giants Blog, who always make these matchups fun.) We missed Mike Leake when the G-Men came into Busch last week, but no such luck this time. Leake’s battled injury since being traded from the Reds and has only made two starts for San Francisco, but both of those were strong ones as he combined to allow three runs in 12.1 innings. Leake has faced St. Louis twice this year and both times was very good, allowing two runs in eight innings under the Arch in April and no runs in eight innings when the Reds came to town in July (a game I actually was present for.) In other words, this offensive surge we’ve seen this week might get tamped down.
Mr. Wacha will take the hill for the Cardinals. He faced the Giants last week and allowed one run over seven innings. There may be some talk about how this is his first time in AT&T Park since last year’s final inning, but pretty much ignore all that. I can’t imagine that inning haunted Wacha all year long. It’d have been different if he’d started the game and melted down or something, but coming into that situation? You chalk it up and move on.
I expect it’ll be a low scoring affair tonight, but it’s not like we aren’t used to that!