It’s such a good thing, at least in this situation, that this Cardinals team doesn’t believe in momentum.
Going into Chicago and facing the best team in baseball (and, if you believe the press clippings, one of the best teams of all time, perhaps only challenged by the 1927 Yankees), St. Louis could have seen their five game losing streak stretch out to a serious number. After all, they were facing John Lackey, who had really had his way with the club this year, even if he did wind up with a no-decision the last time he faced his old team. The Cubs had been even better at home, so there was little that was going the Cardinals’ way.
However, if there’s one thing Wrigley Field is known for, it’s the ivy. If there are TWO things that Wrigley Field is known for, it’s the ivy and being a place that hitters like to launch balls out of the yard. Last night, the Redbirds did just that, with Brandon Moss and Jhonny Peralta providing two of the three runs the Cards received via the long ball. We’ll give the Hero tag to Aledmys Diaz, because he had two hits including driving in the only non-HR related run, but there were contributions up and down the lineup. (Literally, as Kolten Wong batted eighth and had two hits, while leadoff man Matt Carpenter drew two walks.)
Honestly though, the Hero of the game really should be the right leg of the home plate umpire, Pat Hoberg. I’m going to give the Goat to Matt Holliday because he was 0-3 with two strikeouts, but boy, I really should give it to Trevor Rosenthal, even though he got a save for his efforts. A strikeout of Addison Russell to start the inning was good, even if Rosenthal ran it out to 3-1 before coming back to get him. Then a double by Albert Almora and a hit batsman in Chris Coghlan put the tying and winning runs on with just one out. After this weekend, you wouldn’t blame Cardinal fans for figuring the jig was up again and we were in for another heartbreak.
If it wasn’t for Hoberg’s limb, that likely would have been the case. Instead of Rosenthal’s wild pitch getting to the backstop, advancing both runners, it hit Hoberg and Yadier Molina alertly recognized that, grabbed the ball, and threw to third to nab Almora. Coghlan, being in a better position, could see it didn’t get far and didn’t take off, so Rosenthal wound up with two outs and a runner on first instead of one out and second and third. Ben Zobrist then singled, a hit that if he’d gotten it in the latter situation likely would have given the Cubs the win. Thankfully, Jason Heyward‘s miserable season continued and Rosie got out of it.
That being said, Derrick Goold’s line of “ending an unsettling stretch” is quite an overstatement. I don’t think anyone that had concerns about Rosenthal going into last night’s game is going to feel any better about him as the closer just because he wound up not blowing things. His ERA dropped, he got another save, but his WHIP this year was 1.913, a mark that crept up with his performance yesterday. When your closer is putting two runners on per outing, it’s not a comforting thing. For comparison’s sake, the worst WHIP Jason Isringhausen ever had in St. Louis was 1.457 in 2005, and you know Izzy’s reputation as a tightrope walker.
Of course, perhaps things would have been a little less tense had the Cardinals not continued their efforts to lose more men on the basepaths this season than the population of a small town. The ninth alone saw Carpenter thrown out at second trying to steal and Diaz tossed out at home plate. I was recording with Nate and Ben of Talking About Birds at the time (look for that today!) so I didn’t actually see them, but in theory I understand the Diaz move much more than Carpenter. I know he wanted to get into scoring position, but I feel like Carpenter gets burned on the basepaths more than just about anyone. With a one run game, I’m sure the club wanted to get him into scoring position, but he has zero stolen bases on the year and that’s not exactly because it’s an oversight.
The starting rotation continues to do its job, as Jaime Garcia turned in another solid performance. Two runs in just shy of seven innings with six strikeouts is something I think we’d all take anytime out there. Garcia’s actually had just two ugly starts since the beginning of May (with a couple of other middling ones) so while he may not be the dominant force he was last year, more often than not he’s going to keep the team in the game and that’s really all you ask when the offense is doing what it has been doing this season.
All in all, it was a good night. It might not have done much to ease the pain of being behind the Cubs by double digits, but there is something sorta satisfying about getting Lackey all worked up, isn’t there? He’s been much better for Chicago than I expected him to be, so putting a loss on him won’t be an issue for anyone, I don’t believe.
With a win in the first game, that means the Cards have a chance to win the series tonight and, in theory, get some confidence and momentum going. However, we know what momentum has been worth to this club in the past. Adam Wainwright will look to continue his return to form tonight. Waino’s been much more like the Wainwright we remember as of late (a 2.50 ERA over his last six starts) and there’s no particular reason to think that he won’t be able to keep that going this evening. He did give up three runs in six innings the last time he faced the baby bears (which is included in that 2.50 mark) but hopefully he can do a little better than that tonight.
Jason Hammel has killed the Cardinals this year not only on the mound but at the plate, driving in two runs in each of his two starts against the club. One of those games, the two runs were all the Cubs scored, but that was enough for the win. Hammel has allowed just two runs in 13.1 innings against St. Louis this year and is coming off a one-run, seven-inning affair against the Nationals. Hammel really hasn’t had a terrible start all year, with four runs in six innings being his worst. He’s also been a little better at home, which basically means that tonight is going to be another tight one, if the numbers are any indication.
Locking down a series win against the Cubs would be a wonderful way to spend the evening, especially with Jake Arrieta (who, ’tis true, the Cardinals have done better against than some) looming tomorrow. Go get it, boys!