For as long as baseball has been an organized sport, three has been the focal point of the game. Three strikes. Three times three innings. And, of course, three outs. Last night, the Cardinals learned all about the fact that you can’t switch sides until that third out is made, mainly to their detriment.
In the top of the first, with a runner on second and two outs, Mike Leake couldn’t finish the inning cleanly and allowed an RBI double to Jonathan Lucroy. That seemed mitigated by the fact that the Cardinals scored their three runs after a two-out error allowed Stephen Piscotty to reach and the inning to continue, but then Leake allowed two-out RBI hits in the fourth and the fifth, putting the Brewers on top. An out in any of those spots might have been the difference between a win and, well, what did happen.
Part of me would like to give the Goat to Leake for three times being unable to close out an inning, but he did pitch fairly well overall, striking out six and walking just one. He wasn’t hard hit, save for the doubles in the first by Domingo Santana and Lucroy, but four runs still isn’t the prettiest thing to see on your linescore. We’ve still not seen Leake put together a start that justifies him in the middle of this rotation, but since we’ve not seen one that justifies Adam Wainwright at the top of it, I think we can wait a little bit.
Unfortunately, the Goat really has to go to Trevor Rosenthal. It’s a tough position for the closer–do your job and you don’t get a lot of extra notice, because it’s your job. Fail to do your job and you are automatically the brunt of many complaints and criticisms. That said, when you are brought into a game that just got dramatically tied up and immediately allow the opponent to regain the lead, that’s going to get you this tag. Frustratingly, Rosenthal had two outs with nobody on before walking pinch-hitter Kirk Nieuwenhuis and allowing a homer to Santana. Given that it’d taken the Cardinals seven innings to put up another run, the odds of them coming up with at least two in the ninth were pretty much nil, even with the heart of the order coming up.
When we saw bad Rosie a couple of years ago, control was his major issue. That was the case again last night, as he threw a lot of pitches before being pulled after another walk followed Santana’s shot. We can hope that it’s just a little bit of early season blues and the more he gets into the rhythm the better it’ll be. That’s not an unreasonable hope, but it does take a lot on faith. If there are any mechanical issues, Rosenthal’s not talking about them. We’re not hearing about release points or shoulder flying open or any of those things, which may or may not be the cause of any ugly results. So I don’t know what he’s going to do differently going forward to make sure the results are better. Maybe he doesn’t need anything–maybe he’s just not gotten some calls or had a couple of bad nights. Still, after feeling like the Cards had this lock down bullpen, it seems to be taking on a little water at the back end.
(Perhaps someone should tell Rosenthal that he’s already probably ruined any thought of reaching 60 saves and getting that golf cart from Wainwright. 60 was a crazy amount anyway and we’d have complained muchly if Mike Matheny had run him out there that often, but two saves in eight games isn’t the pace you’d want to be on if you were really aiming for 60. Not saying that’s having an impact on him, but since there’s nothing that is being noted that IS having an impact on him, it couldn’t hurt.)
Let’s give the Hero to Brandon Moss. Pinch-hitting isn’t an easy thing to do, though the Cardinals now have four pinch-hit home runs, which is amazing for this franchise. Moss not only slammed a homer in his only at-bat, he did so late in the game when the club was behind. If that’s not a Hero, I’m not sure what is. Randal Grichuk got consideration for a good AB in the first that led to his two-run double, but all in all the offense was so concentrated into that inning that it’s tough to go with a hitter besides Moss for the tag.
We saw a questionable decision in the sixth, when Jeremy Hazelbaker, who had blooped in a double to start the frame and provide the first hit since the end of the first, tried to steal third with one out. While I’m not sure that was the wisest idea, I can at least see the reasoning behind it. The club was down by just a run, so a sacrifice fly could tie it up and you like your chances with the Cardinal bullpen. Stealing third, the throw for the catcher is somewhat obstructed by Piscotty standing in the batter’s box. Hazelbaker has good speed and I remember Tony La Russa saying in Men At Work a long time ago that it’s easier to steal third than second. Factor all that in and I can see why the decision was made, even if I wouldn’t necessarily have made it myself. A base hit from Piscotty probably scores Hazelbaker from second, though given the way the offense had shut down for the night, maybe playing for the sac fly was the smarter option.
Matt Holliday played first base last night and had some interesting things happen to him. I don’t say that he did anything wrong, though you could argue he maybe could have come off the bag more on Matt Carpenter‘s errant throw on a Ryan Braun grounder, keeping it from going into the dugout and giving Braun an extra base (something the Brewers would capitalize on) but looking at the replays it was tough to see if he could have done that and not run into Braun coming down the line. Holliday still is learning at first, of course, but it’s not been a horror show like Pedro Alvarez was for the Pirates last year. I didn’t expect Holliday to play this much at first, but with the emergence of Hazelbaker, it’s not as surprising. We’ll see if that changes if Hazelbaker slows down or when Tommy Pham returns.
Off the field, Marco Gonzales has decided to have Tommy John surgery. As we said Monday, if TJ surgery is on the table, almost always it’s going to eventually be necessary. That’s going to put a lot of question marks around Gonzales, though, as he’ll basically have two lost seasons–2015 and 2016–plus whatever it takes in 2017 to get back to where he’s been. Gonzales is still young–he’s just 22 now, which means he’ll be 23, 23 and a half by time he could be ready to return to the bigs–but losing two seasons of development can’t be good for him. If nothing else, though, he can stay in touch with Lance Lynn and have someone who is also going through the rehab help him out.
Gonzales is out and apparently Tim Cooney also isn’t feeling it, though they can’t seem to narrow down what the problem is. Remember when this team had pitching just running out every crevasse? Now, not so much. It’s to the point that Alex Reyes might get to the majors sooner than we expected, especially with that suspension. Hopefully the starters in the bigs won’t need reinforcement for a while, though I was disappointed to see that Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons wasn’t considered as an option. I’m sure they like him in the pen, but it would seem easier to find a bullpen arm to come up and fill in than a starter, especially since the options noted aren’t on the 40-man.
Ruben Tejada is going out on a rehab assignment and will be in Springfield today. He could come off the DL on Sunday, but it seems likely that the club isn’t going to rush him. The landscape has changed a lot since Tejada went down at the end of spring, with Aledmys Diaz coming up and providing an offensive spark. Diaz went 0-3 last night, though he was robbed of probably a double in his first at-bat. It’s difficult to take Diaz out of the lineup just yet. If he starts to struggle, you could send him to Memphis to work on some things, but right now that’s not happening. If Tejada does return, there’s really no obvious move to make to put him on the roster except to demote Diaz (or Hazelbaker, which also isn’t likely) so we’ll have to see what happens. I believe Tejada could stay on a rehab assignment as long as 20 days, so they may try to take their time there.
Afternoon baseball today as the series with the Brewers comes to a close. Jaime Garcia had one bad inning in his first start and hopes to improve on that against Milwaukee, whom he’s had good success against in his career. Garcia’s 9-4 with a 2.90 ERA in almost 106 innings against the Brew Crew and I believe it was against them that he had his longest no-hit bid ever. Add in the fact that he’s pitching at home and you like the Redbirds’ chances today.
He’s up against Wily Peralta. It’s a mixed bag when it comes to Peralta. Sometimes he can be an effective pitcher, sometimes he gets lit up. Last year, against St. Louis he had one start of four runs in five innings, one of two in six, one of three in seven, one of five in four. So which Peralta will show up today?
We’ve had a good bit of afternoon baseball so far this season, but that doesn’t make it any less fun. Let’s hope for another series win today!