It took over two months, but finally these Cardinals went where they’ve never been before this season, four games over .500. Then they went out and took the next step, albeit in pretty interesting fashion. We’ve got a three game winning streak to talk about! If this keeps up, we won’t have to debate which STL-FIL we are at!
Wednesday (12-7 win at Cincinnati)
Hero: Brandon Moss. Two home runs and they weren’t garbage time ones either. His first two-run shot broke the 4-4 tie, while his second two-run blast padded out a one-run lead. There’s no doubt Moss’s power has returned and if the Cards got to where they needed to deal, he would be an attractive asset for another contender. That said, if they continue to be in a race for the wild card, they may need to keep him around!
Goat: Jaime Garcia. Garcia had a three-run lead before he even took the mound, but he immediately gave up one and could have been worse. The club went out and got him another run to make up for that, but he then allowed two in the second and one in the fourth. Garcia gave up 13 hits and a walk in just under five innings, which means that Cincinnati had no problems dealing with whatever he was throwing. After a stretch of games where Garcia was looking like one of the most consistently good starters in this rotation, he has a 6.38 ERA over his last five starts and opponents are hitting .374 against him over that span. I don’t know if it’s mechanical or what, but Garcia needs to get back to that swing and miss stuff we have seen in the past. In those five starts, he’s thrown 24 innings and struck out 13. In the five starts before, he struck out 29 in 30.1 frames.
Notes: For a while there, it looked like the Cardinals might lose to Alfredo Simon, which honestly is one of the things that led to the thinking behind the Frustration Index. There would be nothing more frustrating than to be shut down by a guy with an ERA around 9. Thankfully, that didn’t really happen–the Cards hung six on him in five innings–but it was in the picture until Moss’s first homer, which is just wrong.
Matt Adams started the scoring, getting Garcia that early lead with a homer in the first. Two hits for Adams, who continues to show that he’s perfectly capable of producing at the big league level. Two hits also for Jhonny Peralta and Yadier Molina as well as Randal Grichuk, who really needed a little good offensive news. Again, this was Simon and the Reds bullpen so you have to discount it a little bit, but it was really nice to see the combination of this club that can score late against the flammable material that is Cincy’s relievers.
Thursday (3-2 win at Cincinnati)
Hero: Yadier Molina. We’ve complained in this space a lot lately about Molina needing a day off (something that he at least got in part on Friday), but obviously the catcher still had a little oomph in him. Three hits, including a one-out single in the eighth to bring in the eventual winning run. I still think that he could use a little more rest, but it’s good to see that there’s still life there.
Goat: Stephen Piscotty. Speaking of folks that are looking worn down (and also got a breather on Friday), Piscotty went 0-4 with two strikeouts and four left on, keeping his June average under the .200 level. For the 14 games ending with this one, he hit .212/.305/.327, which is not the Piscotty we’ve come to rely on.
Notes: Adam Wainwright came out and immediately gave up two runs in the first inning, causing more angst and worry that any progress he’d been making was ephemeral. Instead, he shut down the Reds going forward and his final line of two runs in six innings (with nine K and only one walk) is much more in line with the Good Wainwright that we always want to see. If he’d gone seven, it might have been in contention for his best start of the season. He only threw 78 pitches and, given Friday night’s heroics, it might be harder for Mike Matheny to pinch-hit for him in these situations going forward.
Cardinal offense had significant trouble with Brandon Finnegan, which isn’t as embarrassing as being limited by many of the Reds starters. Finnegan’s had a pretty good season and is a lefty to boot, so it’s not surprising he made it through seven with just two runs allowed. Brandon Moss was the only person save Molina that had multiple hits. Moss has really been swinging the bat better as of late. It’s like he and Matt Adams are just feeding off of each other, spurring each other to better production. I’m all for that!
Great night for the bullpen. Seung-hwan Oh got the win with Kevin Siegrist and Trevor Rosenthal doing exactly what they are supposed to do, shut down the opposition with limited heart problems for the fans.
Friday (9-3 win in 12 at Pittsburgh)
Hero: Matt Carpenter. There’s no doubt I appreciate Wainwright’s heroics in this one. To see a pitcher pinch-hit smash a double with two outs in extras to win the game (and, also, spark what might have been the most beautiful inning of the season) was incredible. However, without Carpenter’s home run in the eighth, we never get that moment. (On the down side…well, we’ll talk about that in a second.) Carpenter had two hits, one of only three folks to be able to do that (Moss and Jhonny Peralta the other two), which tells you that, despite the final score, this was a pretty good pitching duel until the end.
Goat: It’s a toss up who to give this to, because it depends on who you lay the blame for the ninth on. If Stephen Piscotty doesn’t dive for the leadoff hit by Starling Marte, it’s possible he plays that off the wall and keeps Marte to a double. However, Marte’s pretty fast and I think if that ball gets past Piscotty–and there was no doubt it was going to–Marte probably get a triple anyway, even if Piscotty stays on his feet. Given that, I’m giving the Goat to Trevor Rosenthal. Rosie’s had his issues with the Pirates, to be sure, but this shouldn’t be a case of “he’s not pitched enough”, given that he was perfect the night before after a couple of days off. The tying hit by Jordy Mercer isn’t a real slight to him–Mercer just flared it over the infield–but three walks, a triple, and a single in one frame in a game that the club really, really needed to win is just bad. Having Andrew McCutchen come up able to win the game with a hit is not what you want to see. Thankfully, Rosie got out of that one, but with so many options like Siegrist and Oh available, he’s going to have to much more consistent to keep folks off his back.
Notes: With Carpenter on in the 12th and two outs, you can’t blame Clint Hurdle for walking a regular hitter in Aledmys Diaz (even if he was 0-3 on the night) to face the pitcher’s spot. I came into this game a little late, but I was pretty stunned to see that Matheny had burned through the entire bench by the time extra innings started. He’s been caught short handed before, but usually he at least has one or two guys when the 10th rolls around. I’m not saying that it wasn’t necessary to use those folks and if Rosie does his job it wouldn’t have mattered, but it was strange to see. Anyway, it probably worked out for Matheny. If he still has a hitter left, they likely don’t walk Diaz and since he’s a been a little more mortal recently (.274 over his last fifteen games), there’s no telling how that would have panned out. That said, given how well the Cards hit Juan Nicasio after Waino’s heroics, it might have turned out just fine for St. Louis.
All in all, this has been a nice little run for the Redbirds. They got a come-from-behind win against a big opponent and actually moved into the wild-card game if the season ended today spot. They are 5-3 in June, but have won three series in a row and only have to split against the Pirates to take another. That may be easier said than done, but we’ll talk about that when we get to the preview part.
Before we talk about tonight’s game, though, we probably should do a little discussion about the draft that started Thursday and continues today. John Nagel and I will elaborate more on this when we record Meet Me At Musial tonight (sorry we didn’t get it done last night, but you’ll want to hear John’s analysis on this), but obviously the biggest news point is their first pick in the draft, Delvin Perez. Perez is a shortstop talent that might have gone in the top five had he not received a positive test for PED in the last week. Scared off by that (and not sure how much of his offensive prowess this season was due to that), Perez dropped to the Cardinals, who were willing to take the risk.
That didn’t set well with some folks. You’d expect some of that from the national media, because we’ve come to expect anything slightly controversial that the Cardinals do to be blown up and used as a cudgel against them, but criticism came from closer to home in the form of Jose de Jesus Ortiz, who tore into the club both on Twitter and at the Post-Dispatch.
(You’ll note that in both places, Ortiz tends to try to tie this into the hacking scandal. Which is a stretch of superheroic proportions, of course, until you realize that until he came to St. Louis this year, Ortiz covered the Astros, which means that he probably has that still stuck in his craw. If nothing else, it’s what he knows and you write what you know–or at least think you know. He thinks that pick should have been taken away from them and perhaps they’ll lose some next year when, you know, the actual investigation has happened. He’s a columnist, though–he gets to write opinions, fact-based or not.)
There’s a fair discussion to be had here, but I do think that if Perez had gone many other places, it might have been less of a deal. I mean, if the Phillies had taken him first there’d been a huge outcry, but once he slipped out of the top 10, St. Louis might have been the only place that would have caused a lot of discussion. I commend the Cards for not factoring that into the equation. At the end of the day, the club is in existence to 1) make money and 2) win ballgames, which helps with 1. Perez should help them do that. It doesn’t matter if the media gets worked up, especially these days when fans can get information and knowledge about the team in so many ways. Perhaps in the past a crusading columnist could keep people away from the park on principle, but these days so many people can make up their own minds and have a lot of different ways of looking at PED usage.
That usage is a worthy discussion in its own right. Obviously you’d want everyone never to take them and baseball is doing a lot of things to help reduce that usage on a large scale. However, you are never going to get everyone–Marlon Byrd just got popped again, for instance–and how you handle the players that did such things is a key issue.
I think there’s a lot to be said for the forgiveness of the player, of giving them a second chance. People can get caught up in things at times that they regret. While that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be punished, assuming there are rules and laws that apply, that does mean that if they serve that punishment, they should be allowed to play and prove that they are better than their prior mistakes.
Not everyone thinks that way, of course. We have often had one commenter here at the Conclave that makes it her crusade to continue to denigrate Jhonny Peralta due to his PED use, even though there’s some indication that the banned substance for Peralta was perhaps more dietary than performance enhancing. Which is her prerogative, of course. There’s an argument that someone that cheated in the big leagues doesn’t deserve any second chances. It’s just not one I share and I think we are most all glad that John Mozeliak doesn’t share that either. Peralta’s been a huge help in the two years he was in the Lou and so far, in his limited time in 2016, is continuing to contribute.
Taking that extreme against a 17-year-old that hasn’t ever played, that may have succumbed to pressure of family, friends, or situation, seems unduly harsh in my book. Yes, he messed up. I’m fairly sure that all of us in our teenage years messed up in some form or fashion, whether big or small, and weren’t forced to deal with that the rest of their lives. (Some are, but for things that deal with violated laws for the most part.) Perez is going to be watched all the way up the minor leagues and in the majors. Most likely, even if he stays clean for 15 years, he’s still going to have those whispers and folks thinking that he must be still cheating. I mean, Albert Pujols could never dissuade those folks that thought he was older than he was, even when there was no indication that was the case. Imagine what Perez, who has given them ammunition, will face.
America is the land of second chances and there’s no doubt Perez should get one. The great thing about baseball is that if he is a PED creation, chances are he’ll never make the big leagues. Yes, he may get a couple of million out of it, but that’s nothing compared to what he will get if he’s a major league star. Perez has the chance to be a franchise defining shortstop in the mold of Carlos Correa or Francisco Lindor, which is amazing and exciting and something we never thought we’d see the Cardinals have a shot at without suffering through a couple of terrible years. Not only do I have no problem with Mozeliak and Randy Flores making this call, I’m extremely excited that they did.
The rest of the draft is looking pretty good, from all indications, but I look forward to hearing what John thinks tonight. Perez is going to be the one we’ll always be watching, though, and it’s going to be a long 3-4 years before he makes the bigs if he is what we think he is.
The Cardinals try to extend their winning streak to four, but they face possibly their toughest competition out there to do so. We know what Francisco Liriano has done to this club in the past. Even when he’s had rough patches or rough years, he’s always had the Cardinals’ number. He’s had back-to-back yucky starts and his ERA over his past five starts is 7.43, but you know, you just know, he’ll probably take a no-hitter into the fifth and the Cards will be lucky to put one across while he’s out there.
Carlos Martinez gets to match up with Liriano, providing a potential phenomenal pitching performance. His last two starts have been pretty solid, but he’ll have to be at the top of his game going against the Pirates and their potent pitcher.
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Game is on the big FOX this evening and it should be a good one!