Bobbing Around Break Even

The last time we looked at a game, the Cardinals were a game under .500.  Five games later, they are….at .500.  The inability so far of this team to get some traction and start piling up more wins than losses is quite frustrating and something Cardinal fans aren’t that used to.

Wednesday (5-4 win vs. Philadelphia)

Hero: Matt Holliday.  Stephen Piscotty had the better batting line, but it’s tough to go against the guy that gave St. Louis its first walk-off win of the season.  Holliday had two hits, including the one past the shortstop that drove in Aledmys Diaz with two outs in the ninth.  There’s not been very many come-from-behind-late games this season, so when you get one it’s special.

Goat: Yadier Molina.  Molina and Randal Grichuk had almost identical batting lines (0-3, one walk) but Molina left an extra man on so we’ll give it to him on that thin tiebreaker.

Notes: Another Mike Leake start that didn’t turn out very well.  I mean, I guess you give him a little credit, because Ryan Howard accounted for two of the four runs he allowed in five innings with a home run and we know what Howard does to anyone wearing Cardinal red.  Howard is going to come to some sort of alumni game when he’s 60 and hit two balls out of the park.  Still, Leake has yet to allow fewer than four runs in any start this year and this was the third time (out of six) that he’d gone five innings or fewer.  We continue to look for Leake to turn it around, but so far, it’s not happening.

Piscotty had three hits, including the game-tying RBI in the ninth.  If there’s a consistent part of this offense, it seems to be Piscotty (and Diaz, really).  He’s got a chance to be one of those overlooked cogs for a long time, as he quietly puts up solid numbers across the board.

Solid work out of Matt Bowman in this one, going two innings and striking out two while allowing nothing.  It was a one-run game when he came in and a one-run game when he left, showing that he’s starting to be able to handle more high leverage innings.  (Of course, he had a rough one this weekend, but that’s not surprising either.  Every pitcher gets lit up occasionally.)  We wondered what the Cardinals were thinking taking a Rule 5 pitcher when there seemed to be so many arms that needed to be on this roster, but he’s proven that the front office (as usual) knew what they were doing, so much so that if Jordan Walden ever did come back (given the lack of chatter about him, that seems to be a very solid if), the other side of the transaction entry wouldn’t be as easy as it appeared coming out of spring training.

Thursday (4-0 win vs. Philadelphia)

Hero: Jaime Garcia.  While Leake’s been a struggling disappointment, Garcia’s continued to show that 2015 wasn’t a fluke but what you get when he’s healthy.  In this one, he went seven innings, striking out 5 and allowing just two hits, bouncing back from a couple of lesser starts against the Diamondbacks and the Nationals.  When Garcia’s on, there aren’t many better and the Phillies found that out here.  Garcia also just went 82 pitches, only coming out because St. Louis had runners on second and third with one out when his turn came up in the bottom of the seventh.  Otherwise, he easily could have pitched another complete game shutout.

Goat: Another tough day for Kolten Wong, the only starter not to get a hit.  Wong went 0-2 and was replaced by Jedd Gyorko in the seventh.  When we talk about the offense and how the drop from those that are overachieving will hopefully be balanced out by an uptick by those that are underachieving, Wong is right at the top of that list.  Giving him that contract and allowing that security to let him relax and play baseball apparently hasn’t been as effective as the club hoped.

Notes: Grichuk continues to struggle, striking out twice after coming into the game in the top of the fifth when Matt Adams had to leave due to a contusion.  The club isn’t likely to write him off any time soon, nor should they, really, but it becomes difficult to let him continue to go out there and try to figure it out when the gap between St. Louis and first place continues to widen.  There doesn’t seem to be an easy solution here, though perhaps the return of Tommy Pham soon will at least give some different options.

Matt Carpenter had a two hit day, though his average is still lingering around the .240 mark.  His OBP is strong, though, so when you look at offensive worries, you can go a little ways down the list before you run into Mr. Carpenter.

Friday (4-2 loss vs. Pittsburgh)

Hero: Aledmys Diaz.  Three hits when the team as a whole could only come up with seven.  At least someone was able to do something against Francisco Liriano.  Diaz also scored one of the two runs and had the only extra-base hit, a double in the ninth to at least give the fans a little late hope.

Goat: Brandon Moss.  0-4 with three strikeouts and four men left on base.  Sure, Liriano’s a lefty and that didn’t make for a good matchup, but you’d still like to see a little more than that.  Last night on the Cardinal Insider show, during the “learn sabermetrics” portion, they said, “Using batting average, Moss would be a below average hitter.”  That’s an understatement.  His seven homers do help offset that .220 average pretty well, which is the only reason he still gets playing time now that Adams has started to hit a little more.

Notes: It was a Liriano game, so I don’t guess we were too terrible surprised at the outcome.  Liriano vs. Carlos Martinez would have seemed to be a game that would have been an exciting pitchers’ duel, but Martinez left in the fourth with the bases loaded.  At the time, a lot of us got real concerned, especially when the broadcast team speculated it was an oblique injury, but it turned out to be just fatigue from lingering flu symptoms.  (Though Tara mentioned last night on Gateway there were some other potential reasons.)  It was disappointing to see Martinez leave, but thankfully it doesn’t appear to be something that the Cardinals have to deal with long-term, which is good, because starting pitching depth just isn’t there right now.

Major kudos to Patron Pitcher Tyler Lyons in this one.  If it wasn’t for the home run he allowed to Jung Ho Kang, one of the two long balls Kang hit on the night, Lyons well would have been the Hero.  He came in to that bases loaded, one out situation and struck out both batters he faced, then went three more innings, striking out seven in total.  Unfortunately, that Kang homer was a two-run shot, though to be fair at the time, the way the hitters were scuffling, it didn’t seem more than just padding that 1-0 deficit they already had.  It turned out they rallied enough that that two-run shot was pretty key, but it still was a great performance from #70.

Saturday (6-4 win vs. Pittsburgh)

Hero: Matt Carpenter.  After a blown save, to get a big walk-off homer from Carpenter was just outstanding.  If that game goes into the 10th, who knows how it would have gone.  Carpenter made sure that a day that had seen some good performances didn’t get wasted.  Carp was also one of four batters to have two hits on the day.  The hits were clustered, because those four had eight and the other four starters had none.  Well, and then the pitcher got a hit, but you have to expect that Silver Slugger to show up.

Goat: Jedd Gyorko.  Gyorko gets the nod over the other o-fers because his 0-4 came with a strikeout and he left three men on.  After Sunday, Gyorko is hitting under .200 (though with four homers), meaning that neither he nor Kolten Wong are really laying that solid claim to second base.

Notes: Adam Wainwright, for the first time this season, really looked like Adam Wainwright.  He told Derrick Goold that he had figured out what he need to adjust and the last few starts have seemed to show that.  Waino allowed two in the first, though one was a sac fly and one apparently just eluded Diaz, but settled in nicely from there, going 6.1 and not allowing another run, though he was charged with it when Seung-hwan Oh allowed an inherited runner to score and tie the game up at 3.  Wainwright also made strides in improving his K/BB ratio, striking out five and walking none.  It would seem that the mechanical adjustments Wainwright needed to make have taken hold.  I would imagine, though, it’ll still be some time before we can pronounce him “cured”, as keeping those mechanics may take some more outings.  He’s on the right path though, which makes a lot of people breathe a lot easier.

It was a rough day for Trevor Rosenthal, though.  He probably should have gotten the Goat tag for blowing the save in the ninth and doing it in a way that gave us nightmares about the old Rosie.  To be fair, it wasn’t completely his fault, as Diaz made an error trying to get a hustling David Freese (possibly powered by that huge standing ovation he’d just gotten) to lead off the inning.  It was a tough play and probably if Diaz sets any more to make the throw, Freese beats it out anyway.  Then Rosie issued a walk before coming back to get the next two batters, but Starling Marte crushed a pitch and the Cards were lucky it bounced over the wall.  If it stays in, Gregory Polanco probably scores from first to give Pittsburgh the lead.  It could have easily carried a bit more and been a home run as well.  All in all, Rosenthal threw over 25 pitches after doing the same thing on Thursday, when the club just wanted him to get some work.  May have to keep an eye on Rosenthal going forward, though he should be rested by time he’s used in the upcoming Angels series.

Good to see Grichuk at least temporarily awaken from his slump, getting two hits and driving in three.  Piscotty and Diaz were the other two multi-hit guys, which you’d probably have guessed if you had to, right?

Sunday (10-5 loss vs. Pittsburgh)

Hero: Stephen Piscotty.  Four hits and a run scored, though none of those hits were of the extra-base variety.  Matt Carpenter was also on base four times with two hits and two walks.

Goat: Matt Bowman.  While it’s true the game wasn’t in the best of shape when he arrived in it, with Michael Wacha having allowed four runs in six innings, the Cards were only down by two at the time.  It wasn’t Bowman’s day at all, though, getting nobody out and allowing four runs before Seth Maness came in and put out the fire.  Walk, double, single, homer and Bowman hit the showers.  Again, it happens, and better to happen in a game the club is already trailing than to cough up a lead in that manner.

Notes: One of the few good outings we’ve seen from Maness this year, two scoreless innings.  He’s actually not been charged with a run in his last four appearances, which may mean we won’t have to panic every time he’s warming up in the bullpen.  (That said, there’s still going to be some worry.)  Other than that, there wasn’t much more out of this one to talk about, I don’t think.

Last night, Tara and I were trying to figure out how far over .500 this team has been able to get this season.  Per Baseball-Reference, three games up and three games down is the range.  It’s not impossible to break out of that–the second Sunday of May last year saw the Pirates one game under .500 and seven games out and we know how that turned out–but it’d be nice to see that inertia snapped sometime soon.

The Cardinals, as we know, have done better against lesser teams (J.J. Bailey has a nice article detailing the differences between weak and strong opponents) and at least they’ll get one (after today’s off day) next in the Los Angeles Angels.  The Angels sit at 13-17 and have lost their ace pitcher, Garrett Richards, to Tommy John surgery and have another pitcher out as well.  You’d think this would be a time to put up some good numbers and hopefully get on a roll before going into the Dodgers series this weekend.  (Plus it’s a nice chance to see Albert Pujols again, even if he’s not Albert Pujols.)

Mike Leake will try to get that first quality start Tuesday night, going against a team that he’s never actually faced in his career.  With the way interleague play has become common, I was a little surprised to see that, but I guess he always missed it when the Reds faced the Angels.  Of course, he’s faced some of their hitters in other situations.

Andrelton Simmons 16 16 7 2 0 1 1 0 1 .438 .438 .750 1.188 0 0 0 0 2
Geovany Soto 15 12 1 0 0 0 0 3 2 .083 .267 .083 .350 0 0 0 0 1
Yunel Escobar 6 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 1
Albert Pujols 6 4 3 0 0 0 0 2 0 .750 .833 .750 1.583 0 0 1 0 0
Daniel Nava 3 3 2 0 0 0 1 0 0 .667 .667 .667 1.333 0 0 0 0 0
Cliff Pennington 2 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000 0 0 0 0 0
Shane Robinson 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 1
Total 50 44 14 2 0 1 2 6 3 .318 .400 .432 .832 0 0 1 0 5
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/9/2016.

If you believe in small sample sizes, that’s not encouraging.  Hopefully that’s just what it is, a small sample, and it won’t have any bearing on his outing.

Hector Santiago will go for the Angels.  He’s off to a pretty nice start to 2016, with a 2-1 mark and a 3.58 ERA in six starts.  That ERA is a little depressed by the seven scoreless innings he threw against the White Sox in his third start.  Not to discount that, of course, as the White Sox are a strong team, but without that game his ERA is 4.40, which might be more in line with what we could expect to see.  Last time out, he allowed three runs in 5.1 innings to the Brewers, for instance.

Brandon Moss 4 3 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .250 .000 .250 0 0 0 0 0
Ruben Tejada 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Total 7 6 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 .167 .286 .167 .452 0 0 0 0 0
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/9/2016.

Pretty much a clean slate.  The Cardinals have done better against those guys this year, but that’s still a point of concern.  We’ll have to see if they’ll be able to hit him anyway.

If you missed it, John Nagel and I released the first episode of Meet Me At Musial last week.  Give it a listen and let us know how we did!

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