It’s not often that a sweep doesn’t tell you much about a team, especially one with the flaws that this Cardinals team has. However, they went in and pounded on a team that now has lost six in a row and sits at the bottom of the AL West, a division that isn’t just covering itself in glory. That’s par for the course for this club and some of the same people that had been struggling on the mound continued to do that, even against an Angels offense that has Mike Trout and little else. So, basically, we know as much as we did before the Cards went out west, but at least they got three wins out of the deal.
Tuesday (8-1 win)
Hero: Matt Carpenter. There were a good number of folks to choose from here, but Carpenter did hit two home runs which should get some love. Both solo shots, to be true, but the first led off the game and that put the Cards on a good path. Again, you could have gone with Matt Holliday (three hits, one homer) or Mike Leake (eight innings, no runs) as well, but we’ll stick with Marp this time out.
Goat: Jeremy Hazelbaker. The only starter without a hit, the Baker of Hazel (the small tree that provides nuts, not an actual person) went 0-4 with two strikeouts and three left on base. At least he drew a walk to make sure the night wasn’t a total waste.
Notes: Beyond those mentioned above, you had Yadier Molina, Brandon Moss, and Jedd Gyorko all with two hits. 14 hits and four walks makes for a pretty good offensive night, especially when the pitching staff is on. (Patron Pitcher Tyler Lyons with two strikeouts in his scoreless frame, gotta note that!) We’ll see if this is a “turn the corner” start for Leake or he got the advantage of catching a weakened offense when they’ve never seen him before. (I mean, it didn’t really work for Adam Wainwright, but at least it’s a possibility.) Leake struck out five and did get more groundballs than flyballs, which is definitely what you’d want to see. I’d like to think this is a chance for some momentum for Leake, but we’ll just have to see how he does against the Dodgers Sunday before we get terribly excited.
Wednesday (5-2 win)
Hero: Jamie Garcia. The runs he gave up were unearned (though the fact they came off of a C.J. Cron home run should have made them feel a little earned, at least) and he pretty much was the Garcia we are really enjoying since he decided to stay healthy. Eight strikeouts, four hits, one walk. I’d take that every time out, how about you?
Goat: Matt Holliday. While Holliday on the whole enjoyed Anaheim, this was a downer for him, going 0-4 and leaving one man on base.
Notes: Trevor Rosenthal came in, scared everyone, and left with a save. We’ll talk about Trevor more in the next game section, but this is becoming a very scary trend. Two hits for Randal Grichuk, Molina (again), and Stephen Piscotty. Good to see Grichuk’s average north of .200 again, but this weekend may be a better test of whether he’s going to be more viable as a hitter going forward.
Thursday (12-10 win)
Hero: Matt Holliday. Told you he liked the West Coast. Four for five, two home runs, three RBI, three runs scored, and a walk tossed in for good measure. When the offense puts up 12 a line like this doesn’t stand out as much, but it’s still quite noticeable, especially for a guy that was being measured for his retirement papers a few weeks ago.
Goat: Adam Wainwright. If it had been anyone else, I don’t think Mike Matheny would have let them go five innings. He really shouldn’t have let the name on this jersey dictate that either. Wainwright, who was so good recently and looked to have finally made the adjustments that he needed to be a better starter, apparently had little to nothing, putting the Cards down two early, blowing a 3-2 lead the next inning, and almost erasing an 8-5 lead in the fifth. Maybe the only silver lining was that he only walked one, but given that he allowed 11 hits, four of which were for extra-bases, maybe he should have walked a couple of those guys.
Notes: While we are speaking of pitchers that appeared to be turning a corner only to apparently turn a different corner and return to where they started, Seth Maness came in and did his best to eliminate a 12-7 lead. Five runs in the ninth should be a walk in the park, not a hang-on-by-your-fingertips thrill ride, but that’s what Maness and Rosenthal made this into. Maness was coming off of four straight outings without being charged with a run, but hadn’t pitched since Sunday. While the argument has been that Maness needs to pitch more often to get his sinker really working, he can’t melt down after a few days of rest and expect to get a whole lot more shots at the mound. (Well, that’s typically what we’d think, but you never know when Matheny might think it’d give him a boost.) So Maness comes in and gives up a double, a single, and then an Albert Pujols home run (is that is first against his old team? I can’t remember.) I can’t imagine the odds of the one guy Maness retiring being Mike Trout, but they had to be astronomical. I hope you put some money on that!
Still, fine. It’s 12-10, but there’s one out and nobody on. I know there’s been a lot of sneering about home runs as rally killers, but it does seem to be a little harder to get that momentum back after clearing the bases. Also, that’s usually when a new pitcher comes in, everyone focuses more now that the game is close, and things go quietly.
Unless, of course, you bring in Trevor Rosenthal.
I don’t know what the issue is with Rosie. We saw him being erratic two years ago (while still piling up 40 saves), but last year he seemed to figure it out, getting the saves without a lot of the heartburn. It seemed to be that growth progression that you like to see. Instead, he’s regressed. Let’s look at the rate stats for the last three years, with all the caveats of comparing a partial year to the two full years.
We’ll stipulate that the BB/9 for 2016 is skewed somewhat by the last two games, where he walked five in a grand total of one inning, including three in this game without recording an out. (It wasn’t even a battle, as the three walks on Thursday came on 14 pitches.) Still, it’s a very ugly issue that’s raising its head right now. I’m not necessarily advocating for Rosenthal to lose the closer role just yet, but I do think Matheny needs to be pretty quick on the leash and perhaps give Kevin Siegrist (who came into this one and locked it down) or some of the other arms a chance in the ninth here and there as well. Perhaps there’s a reason the Cardinals didn’t get a long-term contract done with Rosenthal this winter.
Offensively, big home run from Matt Carpenter to put the Cards back ahead (Jered Weaver is having a year like Wainwright is, but with more folks expecting that) and three hits from Matt Adams (one off a lefty reliever) and Molina (who apparently is going to hit forever). Two hits from Aledmys Diaz, who has been quieter of late but still probably shouldn’t be hitting ninth in a major league lineup. At least today he’ll get the bump back to eighth, right?
Again, this series really didn’t tell us anything other than the Cardinal bats can hit against weak teams, which they’ve proven time and time again this year. The level of competition goes up this weekend as the Cards take on the NL West-leading Dodgers. However, the Dodgers themselves sit just a game over .500 and the Redbirds won’t have to face Clayton Kershaw (say what you will about St. Louis beating him in the postseason, it’s still a good series when you don’t see him), so even a solid win there won’t answer everything, but it’ll help get people feeling a lot better.
Michael Wacha goes tonight against Los Angeles. Wacha’s last start against Pittsburgh didn’t go the way he wanted it to, but the Pirates have been the only team to really get to him this year. (Which, given his history with the club, is a bit ironic.) The Dodgers haven’t seen him a lot, but they’ve done OK against him.
Ross Stripling is, apparently, Wacha’s college roommate, so that’s a story line for this evening. Stripling is in his first season in the bigs so he’s not faced St. Louis yet, but he’s had a fairly nice first few starts. The Padres beat him around a bit his next-to-last one, but he rebounded to hold a slugging Blue Jays team to one run in six innings up in Toronto. We’ll see if Wacha can give the hitters a few tips!