Flying High and Returning Home

Does anyone remember those two brutal games in San Diego?  That was the start of this 10-game road trip and we were sure the sky was falling.  Apparently, the sky was closer than normal, but that’s just because the Cardinals were sailing into it.

A win to salvage something in Petco.  Four straight wins in Arizona.  A heartbreaker on Friday night followed up by two wins against that Giants team that tends to have Cardinal fans waking up in sheer terror in the middle of the night.  7-1 in the eight games after being blown out by the Padres.  Who saw that coming?  (Put your hand down, nobody believes you.)

Saturday (6-0 win)

Hero: Stephen Piscotty.  Piscotty, which as you may have heard this weekend hails from the area, was just remarkable this weekend.  In this one, his first four-hit day and he tossed in a walk to go along with it.  Three singles and a triple, two runs, one RBI….that’ll do, my friend, that’ll do.

Goat: Jhonny Peralta.  Boy, if anyone had a terrible day, it was Mr. Peralta.  He hit into a double play his first, second, and fourth time up, only avoiding one the third time because the ball he hit to short wasn’t hard enough.  A little more oomph on that and we’d be talking about The Octopus (eight outs, get it? Hey, I liked it).

Notes: Matt Carpenter struck out the first two times he came up in this one, but wound up going 2-5 with a double.  It seems like Carp at times has too much of an uppercut on his swing, but when he gets a hold of one, it goes.  Since leaving Arizona and through this game, Carpenter was hitting at a more reasonable .261/.370/.478 clip, much better than what we’d seen out of him for most of the month.  It’s probably not a coincidence that the runs per game have been increasing over that span as well.

Solid days out of the middle of the lineup as well.  Jason Heyward, Yadier Molina and Kolten Wong all had two hits, with one of Wong’s going for three bases.  Three RBI came out of that mix and it was somewhat strange to see all these baserunners moving around wearing red, but there’s no doubt we’d take it.

Given how his season has gone, Lance Lynn probably didn’t know what to do with all these guys crossing home plate either.  Lynn did his normal job of keeping the team in it, having his second scoreless outing of the month before leaving in the eighth after rolling his ankle.  While it looked really bad at the time, especially since he’d favored his knee a couple innings before, from all accounts he woke up fine the next day and likely will make his next start.  Which is good, because even though the Cardinals are starting to get healthy and they do need to figure out the postseason rotation, this isn’t the way they’d want to do it.

Sunday (7-5 win)

Hero: Jason Heyward.  For the second Sunday in a row, he came just a home run short of the cycle.  He drove in one run and scored two and basically kept the line moving in all aspects, which worked because Molina had another two-hit day and there were often people on in front of him.  As always, we say sign Jason Heyward.

Goat: It really wasn’t a stellar game for Jaime Garcia.  Staked to a 3-0 lead before he ever made it to the mound, he immediately gave two of those back (though some of that was bad BABIP luck) and wound up allowing 10 hits and four runs in 6.1 innings.  It might have been worse, but Steve Cishek came in with one on in the seventh and did his best Seth Maness impression, getting a double play with just one pitch.

Notes: If it wasn’t for the middle of the Giants lineup, this would have been a blowout.  Brandon Belt went 4-4, Buster Posey 3-4 and Marlon Byrd did the same, including two almost identical doubles down the right field line that hit the little screens in the brick.  Four RBI for Byrd on the day–without him, things would have been a little less tense.

So it’s good that the Cardinals got some offense from a few unexpected sources.  Brandon Moss hit his second homer as a Cardinal in a 1-3 day.  It does seem like that first home run in Arizona triggered something for Moss.  He’s 4-12 counting that game with two homers and a triple.  He also probably would have had another hit yesterday but Gregor Blanco was able to get back just far enough to stick the glove out and make sure it didn’t go over his head.  Moss’s BABIP since coming to St. Louis is around .250, but I’d have honestly thought it was lower than that given the number of well-hit balls that have found gloves.

And if a Moss homer wasn’t enough, Mark Reynolds went yard as well.  Not only are these two competing against themselves somewhat for playing time at first (though we’ve seen a lot of Moss in the outfield), they are also competing to be Piscotty’s regular backup at first once Matt Holliday returns.  Because there’s no getting Piscotty out of this lineup, right?  Also, it’s unlikely both of them are on the postseason roster, though I guess it’s possible.  If that’s the case, Reynolds would seem to have the leg up, but September can change a lot of minds.

Carpenter hit his 20th home run to lead off this game and earned himself a new golf cart from Adam Wainwright in the process.  There’s no doubt Carpenter’s power has been a welcome addition to this club this year, but it’s a bit disconcerting to see all of those strikeouts, especially lately.  I know, I know, a strikeout’s just like any other out, etc. but given how effective Carp’s been with the doubles game in the past while not having the high strikeout numbers, I wonder if there couldn’t be a happy medium in there.  Still, given the way this offense has been for much of the year, homers were pretty useful!

Jon Jay went 0-3 in the start to his rehab assignment on Saturday and didn’t play in Sunday’s game, though I can’t seem to find any particular reason why he didn’t.  It would seem he’d need a few more days and, given the state of the Cardinal outfield, I’m pretty sure there’s no rush to have him on the roster September 1.  I’m sure the Cards will make some moves that day–there’s a good chance we’ll see the Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons, perhaps Miguel Socolovich–but a number of their September moves are going to come as folks get healthy enough to return to St. Louis.  (I knew Tim Cooney had had appendicitis, but I didn’t realize that was going to likely keep him from getting a callup.  Given the number of arms likely to be around, though, it’s probably not a big loss to St. Louis, though I’m sure Cooney is disappointed.)

No matter how you look at it, the Cardinals kick off a big homestand today.  The Nationals may be scuffling along as a .500 team, something basically none of us expected (they were my World Series pick as well as many others), but they are still dangerous, especially when they can roll out that pitching staff and their offense can click.  Then the Cards get to tackle their two biggest rivals this year, Pittsburgh and Chicago.  If the Cardinals can have a winning homestand, especially with some wins after Washington leaves, September could be a whole lot more comfortable.

It starts with John Lackey vs. Gio Gonzalez.  Lackey’s looking to continue what he did last time in Arizona, when he allowed just one run in seven innings.  He’s had a large number of quality starts this year, though he’s only gotten wins in about half of them.  If this offense continues like it did last week, a quality start should get him another victory.  However, Lackey didn’t have one of those against the Nationals earlier in the year, allowing five runs in 5.2 innings when the Redbirds visited Washington in April.  Of course, that was when Lackey was struggling on the road, something that isn’t relevant now since they’ll be at home (and Lackey’s done much better away from Busch of late).

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Yunel Escobar 34 30 12 4 0 0 5 3 5 .400 .441 .533 .975 0 1 0 0 0
Jayson Werth 13 12 6 3 0 1 3 0 3 .500 .462 1.000 1.462 0 1 0 0 0
Ian Desmond 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Danny Espinosa 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Bryce Harper 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .333 .000 .333 0 0 0 0 0
Jose Lobaton 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Wilson Ramos 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Ryan Zimmerman 3 3 2 0 0 0 1 0 1 .667 .667 .667 1.333 0 0 0 0 0
Doug Fister 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 67 61 23 7 0 1 9 4 12 .377 .403 .541 .944 0 2 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/31/2015.

A lot was expected from Gonzalez this season, but the further you get from his stellar 2012 (21-8, 2.89 ERA) the worse the numbers get.  This year, he’s got a 4.11 ERA and batters are hitting him at a .285 clip.  Four starts ago, he threw eight scoreless innings at the Dodgers (which, perhaps, should be tempered by the fact that’s the same Dodgers team that has now been no-hit twice in less than 10 days) but since then, he’s 0-3 with a 10.22 ERA after ugly defeats by the Giants, Milwaukee and San Diego.  The longest he went in that stretch was five innings and he gave up five or more runs in all of them.  He’s still a lefty, though, so if he’s going to have a good game, it just might be tonight.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Jason Heyward 30 28 6 1 0 0 4 2 4 .214 .267 .250 .517 0 0 0 0 1
Jhonny Peralta 25 19 4 1 0 1 2 5 6 .211 .360 .421 .781 0 1 0 0 1
Yadier Molina 17 16 5 3 0 0 1 1 1 .313 .353 .500 .853 0 0 0 0 0
Mark Reynolds 17 10 1 0 0 0 1 7 6 .100 .471 .100 .571 0 0 0 0 0
Peter Bourjos 16 16 2 0 0 0 0 0 5 .125 .125 .125 .250 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Carpenter 10 10 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 .100 .100 .200 .300 0 0 0 0 1
Pete Kozma 9 8 1 0 0 0 0 1 3 .125 .222 .125 .347 0 0 0 0 1
Michael Wacha 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Lance Lynn 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Brandon Moss 3 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 .667 .667 .667 1.333 0 0 0 0 0
Kolten Wong 3 2 2 0 0 0 0 1 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000 0 0 1 0 0
Tony Cruz 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Carlos Villanueva 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 139 121 24 6 0 1 8 17 33 .198 .295 .273 .568 0 1 1 0 4
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/31/2015.

You’d like to see better career numbers, but at least Wong’s 2-2 so Mike Matheny is less likely to bench him against the lefty.  Let’s hope they can spike those numbers with a good showing tonight!

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