The beginning and the end of last night’s game were a big problem for the Cardinals. The middle, though, was more impressive than I expected.
Let’s be honest. With their recent issues against Mike Leake, who among us figured the game was pretty much over in the third when Marlon Byrd hit that grand slam? Down 4-0, this lineup has had its problems rallying on anyone, much less a pitcher that’d faced them twice and not given up half of that total. I honestly thought I’d be able to get to bed a little early and not miss out on anything.
Then we saw some glimmers of the Cardinal teams of the past few seasons. Those teams that would take a hit and get that look in their eye, determined to get those runs back. After allowing that slam in the third, the top of the fourth showed that this batch of St. Louis folks could do that as well. Two singles, a walk, and a double gave the Cards three runs, putting them in a position to tie with one swing of the bat.
It took four swings, but the Cardinals did tie it up in the sixth. Tommy Pham singled, then moved around the bases on two deep fly balls and a wild pitch by Leake. Whitey Herzog would have been so proud. There’s no doubt that momentum was going the Cardinals’ way and it seemed to stay that way when they put two runners on in the seventh with one out. (Those two runners: Brandon Moss and Mark Reynolds. Can you find another inning this year where both of those guys have gotten a hit? I doubt it!) Unfortunately, neither Jason Heyward (pinch-hitting for Michael Wacha) nor Matt Carpenter could get the go-ahead run in. That was really their last chance, though Stephen Piscotty did single in the ninth but then was doubled off first to end the inning.
The Hero is going to Piscotty, though, for getting two hits including that two-run double in the fourth that made things interesting. To see this team make that sort of comeback was encouraging and makes you think that the offense truly is coming around.
It’s kind of the inverse of a typical Cardinal game of 2015, because the offense made noise while the defense and pitching scuffled. Not blaming much on Wacha, mind you. If Kolten Wong has a better turn to Jhonny Peralta or if Carpenter cleanly fields Nori Aoki‘s chopper (which, to be fair, was a tough play), that inning is entirely different. He’s not blameless–he did throw the pitch that Byrd hammered–but it could have easily not gotten to that point. Other than that inning, he did pretty well. His pitch count climbed a bit, but he went six and didn’t give the Giants anything.
I did have to turn it off after the unsuccessful top of the seventh, so apparently I missed the bullpen bending but not breaking–at least until the end. Kevin Siegrist has to get the Goat tag, having nobody to blame but himself for that ugly outing. It’s rough when we see relievers walk someone, but two walks after a leadoff hit? What, did he want to try out a Seth Maness impression? If so, he’s not good at it. It could be we are seeing some of his usage coming back to haunt him. In the two years before this season, he combined to throw 70 innings in the majors. (In 2013, he had some minor league innings as well.) This year, he’s at 58.2 and has been used in 64 games, the most in the big leagues. I wonder if we’ll see a different bullpen configuration the next couple of days while Trevor Rosenthal is out on paternity leave. (Sam Tuivailala was called up to fill out the roster while Rosie was being a proud pappa.)
Let’s talk about Randy Choate, though. We’ve done a lot of that this year, what with his ONE JOB and all. Earlier in the season, we kept track of how often he came in for one batter and didn’t retire him. That went by the wayside as he got more reliable and, because he’s often setting up the logs for the fire instead of actually starting it, he sometimes gets overlooked when we talk about the bullpen and who is doing well and who isn’t.
On August 1, Choate went 1.2 innings against the Rockies, giving up one hit that came around to score after he left the game. Since that time, he’s come into 10 games and faced 11 batters. He’s retired six of them. Five times this month, including his last two times, he’s come in and given up a hit or a walk, then left the game. If you run that out to the beginning of July, he’s faced 40 batters and retired 25 of them (62.5%). A little better percentage but still a tough thing to swallow out of your LOOGY. For comparison sake, since July 1 Maness has faced 98 batters and retired 66 of them (67.3%) and we know that he’s been struggling. No matter your measure, it would seem Choate isn’t effective. Not that I expect that to change how Mike Matheny uses him or his position on the postseason roster.
The Cards made news during the day as well, hiring Randy Flores to fill the scouting director role vacated by Chris Correa in relation to the hacking scandal. It is interesting that Flores doesn’t have any scouting work on his resume, but he’s not going to be the guy going out and writing the reports but the guy evaluating the reports. In other words, they are going to trust the scouts a bit more to be providing solid information. Flores went back to school after his playing days and has been quite the businessman since then. Given that Jeff Luhnow had a similar background, perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised.
We’re done with the late nights as the Redbirds and Giants play afternoon affairs the next two days to finish up St. Louis’s stretch in the later time zones. Today, Lance Lynn will take the mound, hoping for a different overall result than the last time he faced the Giants, when he gave up two runs and got nothing in support, taking the hard-luck loss.
Opposing him, like he did last week, his Ryan Vogelsong. Vogelsong’s stats for the year would seem to make it unlikely he could throw two strong games in a row at the Cardinals, but we know better than to completely believe the stats with this team, right? The Pirates got him for three runs in 3.1 innings on Sunday Night Baseball in his last start, so we’ll hope for more like that than what we saw in Busch.
Pittsburgh cut the lead back to 3.5 because, as we know, they just don’t lose. Cubs stay at 8.5 after losing to the Dodgers. Today, Chris Rusin of the Rockies goes against J.A. Happ of the Pirates and Jon Lester of the Cubs takes on Mat Latos of the Dodgers. While we can probably stop looking at Chicago on a regular basis, the Pirates are making things way more interesting than they need to be. We’re all Rockies fans tonight!