There really isn’t such a thing as momentum going into the playoffs, I don’t think. Especially if you aren’t playing in the wild card game, these days there are so many off days between the end of the season and the start of the LDS that it doesn’t seem to have much bearing. Last year’s Giants went 4-6 in their last 10 games, though they did win the last two. Boston in 2013? 5-5 and they dropped the last two of the season. We know just from Cardinal history how strange momentum can be–2006 limped to the finish line, 2011 rushed to it, and they both wound up in the same place.
That being said, being outscored 12-0 in an entire series isn’t exactly the last memory you’d like to have of the regular season. After going two-plus years since being swept in a three-game series (ironically, the last was also at Turner Field), the makeshift lineups and spring training atmosphere wound up finally doing in the Redbirds. There’s no doubt that they could have been more competitive if they tried, but it’s hard to argue that they really should have tried much more than they did.
It was a pretty forgettable end to the season that was so anticlimatic after Wednesday night’s clincher that you had to be almost reminded that there were more games to be played. Perhaps someone should have reminded the players as well. It’s not fun, but let’s look at this one.
Friday (4-0 loss)
Hero: Brandon Moss. If there was anything going on this weekend, it was the fact that certain fringe folks were auditioning for the postseason roster. Moss was one of them and seized his opportunity in this one, going two for two with a double and two walks. When the whole team can muster up only five hits, it’s pretty clear Moss stood out from the rest.
Goat: Lots of folks with nothing to show for their night, but I’ll give it to Tommy Pham because 1) he was the leadoff guy and everyone by now knows the “tie goes to the leadoff man” rule here and 2) Pham had to have a good weekend to hopefully supplant Jon Jay on the postseason roster. He didn’t and, fair or not (probably not), it’s likely that’ll be held against him.
Notes: The only “regular” you could probably claim in this one was Tony Cruz, though Matt Adams and Randal Grichuk would probably also count but they were in there doing rehab more than anything. So it wasn’t surprising that Jaime Garcia got saddled with a loss, going just four innings and allowing six hits and two runs. It’s really hard to know how to judge the pitching performances from this weekend. Were they just going through the motions? Were they really just trying to get their work in and not worry about the results? If it was any other time, we’d be concerned about that many hits, I think (though Garcia would have gone longer than four innings, so they may have evened out). Five strikeouts and two walks and really nothing that would force us to reconsider him in either of the first two games of the NLDS.
Adam Wainwright got back out there in this one, right on schedule, and was as effective as always, with his only runner reaching on an error by Mark Reynolds. If there was a bit of auditioning in his work this weekend, it came out just the way everyone would have wanted. There seems little doubt he’ll be on the postseason roster, though how he’ll be used is a different story.
Surprisingly, this one took about three hours to play. Given the lack of desire on both sides, I can’t believe it took that long.
Sunday Game 1 (6-0 loss)
Hero: Adam Wainwright. Look, the team had three hits, the two pitchers before Waino each gave up three runs, what else do you want? Besides, I finally got to see him in action and I was almost giddy seeing those last two curveballs to Cameron Maybin. When you see the Uncle Charlie going that well, you really hope they’ll expand him out past just one inning in the playoffs. He could be such a weapon for this team.
Goat: Stephen Piscotty. Give him the caveat that he was perhaps a bit rusty after being, you know, completely knocked out and in the hospital a few days ago, but he still went 0-4 with a double play. He didn’t lose the game–there was plenty of that going around–but it wasn’t his best game either.
Notes: John Lackey took the mound and, like most everyone else this weekend, wasn’t exactly dominating. Three runs in four innings is not really what you want to see, though he did strike out four and walk none. Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons followed him, trying to strengthen his postseason roster case. Lyons allowed two homers in his three innings, but struck out six (including four in a row) and his newly found command (only three walks in the second half of the season, compared to 12 in similar innings in the first half) is probably going to have him get touched for the long ball occasionally. I think he’s still on the roster, but if the club does go 14 hitters/11 pitchers as they should and are apparently considering, I don’t know if he becomes a late cut or not.
As for the offense….there really wasn’t any. Three hits, all singles, by Matt Carpenter, Jason Heyward, and Moss. They got more walks (four) than hits, which is never exactly the way you want to draw it up. Shelby Miller finally snapped that crazy non-winning streak, though, and I think that’s a good thing for the former Redbird. I always figured he’d win his start against the Cards, though I didn’t think that it’d be quite that easy.
Sunday Game 2 (2-0 loss)
Hero: Lance Lynn. Seven hits in five innings isn’t great and you’d probably like to see more than two strikeouts, but Lynn limited the Braves to one run and zero walks, which helps revive a little bit of confidence in him as the club goes into the postseason. Not enough to start him in one of the first two games, I don’t think, especially since his home/road splits aren’t significantly different, but you don’t worry quite as much about him taking the ball in Game 3 against either Jake Arrieta or Gerrit Cole (or, perhaps, going in Game 4 and sending Michael Wacha to be the sacrificial lamb against those guys).
Goat: Jon Jay. Again, leadoff guy in a mess of a game tends to get the tag. We’ve talked about Pham’s struggles down the stretch, but it’s not like Jay’s a house afire. 0 for his last 9 (though he had that wild clincher where he was hit twice and walked twice in that span) and two for his last 20. Experience is great, but this isn’t the Jay from 2011. Even with Pham scuffling, I think most fans would still take him over a hampered Jay any day of the week. However, Mike Matheny isn’t most fans.
Notes: Pham did get a hit in this one, so he’s got a more recent knock than Jay, if that means anything to the roster-setting decision making. Moss had a pinch-hit double, which meant that he had four hits this weekend while the entire rest of the squad had eight. It’s possible he wanted to make an impression. Whether he did or not will depend on how they want to deal with center field, I expect. Steve Cishek gave up a run in his outing and, with the return of Wainwright and the possibility of just 11 pitchers, I think he might be on the outside looking in given the way Matheny has used him over the past few weeks.
Overall, we saw Kevin Siegrist for just one inning since Wednesday, Seth Maness the same, and Trevor Rosenthal hasn’t gone since he threw on Monday. Matheny wanted to rest his horses and that’s exactly what he did. When you factor in the four off days before the NLDS starts on Friday, those three will have thrown a total of two innings in 10 days, with Rosenthal getting close to two weeks since his last outing. There may be a rust factor, but the arms should be fully recharged (or, at least, as much as you can at the end of a 162-game season).
We’ll have time to talk about the postseason roster and the other things that go along with it, like the fact that Grichuk may not play much center the rest of the way, which may be a sign we’ve not seen the last of Jay. Those are discussions for later in the week. Right now, the regular season is over and, even though there is more baseball, there should be a little mourning. I’ve often said I prefer regular season baseball to postseason baseball because I get so terribly stressed in October, but it’s also because I enjoy coming home from work, turning on the TV, and seeing the ballgame. I never know what to do with myself after the season is over, though getting MLB Network has helped.
Another season is in the books. Let’s hope it gets a great crown to go on top of it.
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