Labor Day is a day to honor the labor movement, not to labor yourself. Yet that’s what watching yesterday’s game was like. It felt like the Cardinals had taken the day off while the fans had to work to watch. Not a pleasant experience, especially coming after losing two of three from Pittsburgh. In fact, the Cards have now lost four of five after dropping the last game in the Nationals series. After such a wonderful West Coast road trip, they are now 3-4 under the Arch, which is incongruent with their overall stellar record at Busch.
That, of course, led many on Twitter to declare that this team is terrible and the world is ending. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those that sees the complaints on Twitter and immediately responds with, “They have the best record in baseball. It’s just one game. Get over it.” Often, those complaints, while somewhat overwrought, have merit. There’s optimism without being Pollyanna, there’s criticism without being Eeyore. Watching this team over the past few days, there has been concern about effort, about what will happen if they look like this in October. Any claims that they are going to wind up in the Wild Card Game are probably overdone, as the Cards kept their 5.5 game lead thanks to Cincinnati’s win and dropped their magic number to 21, but the good feelings we had about the offense a week or so ago aren’t there anymore. It’s easy to believe that might have been an oasis in the desert of this season.
Still, a 9-0 loss works the same as a 2-1 loss save for the effect on the psyche and the runs don’t carry over to tonight. We saw that two drubbings by San Diego didn’t have lasting effect on this team. There are going to be rough patches and I think it’s better for them to have that now, so they can get right and be clicking when October comes around, than to have it at the end of the season. I mean, we saw what a rough September did for the 2006 squad, right? Then they got healthy, got going, and got a title. (In case you don’t remember, the 2006 squad went 12-17 after August 31. They were sub-.500 in August as well.)
We’ve probably talked around this game enough, so let’s get to it. Obviously, our Goat is Lance Lynn. The broadcast stated that this was the fourth time in his career that he’d not gotten through four innings, but it was the second time in five starts. If it wasn’t for the fact that he just shut out the Diamondbacks the last time out, you’d start to wonder about him. Well, I think some are wondering about him anyway, but you’d be even more concerned. It’s troubling that this comes when he had extra rest as well. There’s going to be a significant gap between the end of the season and the beginning of the NLDS. If extra rest is a problem, I’m not sure how to fix that. However, that doesn’t seem to be the problem. Before yesterday, he’d had four starts with 6 or more days of rest and in them he was 3-1 with a 1.13 ERA. (His stats on the normal four days rest? 4-6, 3.66.) Lynn says he’s a creature of habit and needs his rhythm, though this small sample indicates that might not be as true as he thinks it is.
I know Rodney Knuppel of Saint Louis Sports has indicated on Twitter he’d leave Lynn out of the postseason rotation. While I can’t imagine that’d happen, given that Lynn is supposed to be the de facto ace while Adam Wainwright is out, the strength of the rest of the rotation coupled with starts like this does get you thinking. Still, in between this disaster and that blowup against the Pirates, he was 2-1 with a 1.83 ERA. Those games, though, were against Arizona and the Giants twice, not teams that he’s going to see in October most likely. Pittsburgh and Chicago, that’s a different story. While I don’t expect Mike Matheny will actually spend any time thinking about removing Lynn from October’s roster, it might not be something to dismiss out of hand.
If nothing else, the bullpen, save for Seth Maness who was called in way out of his comfort zone and it showed as he allowed a single to the opposing pitcher and then a three-run homer to Addison Russell, did a fairly good job. Then again, it was 8-0 when Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons came in and 9-0 when the rest of the parade of relievers appeared. Lyons did a pretty solid job overall, though his rushed throw on a swinging bunt resulted in an error and a runner on second that came around to score after a hit and a sacrifice fly by Dan Haren. When Randy Choate throwing a scoreless inning gets consideration for Hero status, you know it’s not a good game.
While you could probably go with a lot of those relievers for the Hero, I’ll go with Jason Heyward, who had two of the seven hits plus drew a walk. If anyone could have hit around him, maybe there wouldn’t have been a goose egg up there. Yadier Molina also had two hits, so the guys that couldn’t buy one against Pittsburgh at least turned it around. Too bad the rest of the squad didn’t.
Sam Tuivailala will be with the club today, though that’s the only promotion from Memphis expected. The only other name that you’d think might have come back up, save Marco Gonzales whom I’m guessing the club would rather get rested and heal after that outing against the Nationals, would have been Xavier Scruggs, but given that you right now have Brandon Moss and Mark Reynolds for first base, plus the potential return of Matt Adams and the fact Stephen Piscotty will probably be scooting to first when Matt Holliday returns, there’s not going to be a lot of chances for him to play. I know most of us would like to see him as a bat on the bench, but there are going to be a lot of those as well.
There seems to be more and more buzz around the return of Wainwright this season. Wainwright pitched off the bullpen mound on Monday and said he just lacks some strength in his calf. Dan McLaughlin and Tim McCarver were talking about it yesterday (because, when you are down 9-0, there’s not much else to do but some what if situations) and they said Matheny had made the comment that they weren’t ruling it out, that it was still a possibility. I can’t believe Wainwright will do more than make a start after the team has clinched, but I guess stranger things have happened. We’ve seen some remarkable healing with players in the past around here, so Wainwright could add his name to legend with a strong return. I’m still not sure how you get him on the postseason roster, but he’s a fresh arm if you do!
We talked about Jon Jay yesterday and I’d recommend you read this blog post by @StlCardCards on Twitter for another viewpoint. There’s a lot of good points and good history there and I don’t really disagree with much of what he is saying. My only concern is that I’m not sure how Tommy Pham handles the postseason, but you don’t know how anyone does until they get there and odds are Jay isn’t going to be any big shakes anyway. Give it a read, I think you’ll find it interesting.
Carlos Martinez got extra rest and was meh. Lance Lynn got extra rest and was yucky. Now Michael Wacha pitches tonight on extra rest, hoping to reverse the trend. His last outing, he gave up a grand slam in the first, though none of the runs were earned given some sloppy play behind him. That was in San Francisco last month, which seems a long time ago. Wacha’s not allowed three earned runs since July 26 against the Braves, so hopefully that continues tonight. Unfortunately, the Cubs are a team that has gotten to him this year, as he gave up five runs in six innings the last time he saw them, though just one in six the time before that.
Jason Hammel will go for the baby bears. St. Louis has seen him twice this year, once out of the bullpen (a one-inning stint on July 8) and a four-inning start on June 28 when they got four runs off of him. Hammel is 7-6 with a 3.55 ERA on the year, but that ERA has steadily grown since it was 2.82 on July 21. He’s had one quality start out of his last four and his most recent start he allowed four runs in five innings against the Reds. Then again, we saw how Haren was struggling and that didn’t seem to be relevant yesterday. We’ll see if this matters today.
Like those career numbers for Heyward. Maybe he can help this offense click tonight!