On June 7, the Cincinnati Reds beat the Cardinals. The following night, the Redbirds returned the favor and won the next night as well. Since then, for St. Louis it’s been sweep or be swept. They cleaned out the Pirates, were whisked away by the Astros and Rangers, then took care of the Cubs (as we well remember). Going into Sunday, even the later innings on Sunday, it looked like the pattern would stay the same. Thankfully, things can change.
Saturday (5-4 loss)
Hero: Tyler Lyons. The Patron Pitcher of the Blog came through with flying colors, doing everything he could to give the team a chance to win. He came into the game with a runner on in the fourth and immediately got a double play, then threw four more innings and allowed just one hit and two walks. Not only did he save the bullpen from being worn out, he kept the team close enough that they could rally. They did get it to one run, but never could put together that rally that would give him the win. Still, it was an incredible outing for #70.
Goat: Mike Leake. When your long man throws more innings in a game than the starter, it’s usually not a good thing. Leake never found any sort of footing in this one, getting the first two batters of the game before hit after hit made it 3-0 before the end of the first inning. Seattle tacked on two more in the second off of Leake, who did have a few defensive misplays behind him but not enough to really redeem his outing.
Notes: Aledmys Diaz seems to be making the adjustments needed to continue to be a good shortstop. After hitting .222/.288/.299 with two homers in the 30 games prior to the Chicago series, he hit .455/.586/.864 with two homers against the Cubs and the Mariners. His three-run shot in this one pulled the Cards to within one and it made it look like the momentum had shifted, but the club never could get another run in.
Two hit games by Yadier Molina and Kolten Wong, but Brandon Moss and Jhonny Peralta were both 0-4 with two strikeouts. They were hitting back-to-back as well, which didn’t do much for extending rallies.
Sunday (11-6 win)
Hero: With what probably was a historic offensive surge for the Redbirds, it’s difficult in a good way to narrow down a Hero. I mean, usually two home run games will get it for you, but there were two of them in this one! We’ll give the tag to Matt Carpenter, who had one of those multi-HR outings and mixed in a triple as well. Three hits, three runs, two RBI…..that’s a pretty good Sunday afternoon.
Goat: The bullpen news of the weekend may have been that Mike Matheny announced Trevor Rosenthal was, at least for the moment, no longer the closer, but Kevin Siegrist is starting to get some folks a little concerned as well. Siegrist came into the sixth with two on and two outs and the Cardinals up 6-3. A few pitches later, it was 6-6 and St. Louis fans would have been excused if they saw this game ending in a similar fashion to the first two in the set.
If you look at Siegrist’s career numbers on Baseball-Reference, this season is somewhat tracking with his 2014 year. The ERAs are wildly different (6.82 vs. 2.97) but the FIP is almost identical (4.62 vs. 4.52) and Siegrist allowed five homers that year in 30.1 innings, while he’s allowed a career-high six this season in 30.1 innings. (Of course, that was all he pitched in 2014. We hope that’s not the case this season.) Siegrist only allowed four big flies last season in over double the number of innings. Tara said last night that she thought he might be getting beat on his secondary pitches, which might be part of it.
Perhaps it’s just one of those things we are going to have to live with. Siegrist has only been charged with 10 runs this year, so pretty much if he keeps it in the park, he’s fine. Still, it’s disconcerting to have to worry about a three-run homer tying the game when he comes into the game. Three of the six home runs have come in June, so it’s something to watch, seeing if it was just a fluke or if he’s trending in the wrong way.
Notes: Before we get into all that glorious offense, let’s not overlook Jaime Garcia‘s start. It wasn’t necessarily anything great, as he allowed single runs in each of the first three innings, and it could have been worse as there were a lot of baserunners stranded in the first few innings. That said, if Matheny pulls him after five, he allows just three runs and it’s reasonable. Not that Matheny should have pulled him there, mind you, as he was only at 88 pitchers or so going into the frame. Garcia got two outs in the sixth and you know Matheny really wanted him to get through it all, letting the pitch count run up to 109, but bringing the tying run to the plate and you have to go to the bullpen. It just didn’t work out the way it was supposed to this time.
That said, Garcia’s about doing a reverse of last season. Last year, everyone knew in spring that Garcia’s option wouldn’t be picked up, but slowly through the year it became a discussion, a toss up, more likely than not, then a no-brainer. This year, everyone started off the year thinking that Garcia’s option for 2017 was likely to be exercised, but it’s become more of an issue throughout the season. Garcia has seven starts this year where he’s allowed four or more runs. That’s right about half of the times he’s been out there. You have to go back to the end of May against the Nationals (seven innings, two runs) to find a really strong start by the left-hander. If the Cardinals were to upgrade the rotation at the trading deadline, it’s looking more like Garcia’s the spot where they’d do that. With that option still being below market price for a starter, he’s also a trade chip to someone that might want him in their plans for next season.
Now to that gluttony that was the Cardinal offense on Sunday. We don’t see many of these games, even with the improved production from the hitters. Four singles would seem to be a meager amount, but when you have 13 extra-base hits, that tends to be OK. Two home runs from Tommy Pham, who matched Carpenter in that regard. Three hits, including some insurance with a home run, by Matt Holliday. Three doubles by Diaz. A triple and a single by Moss. Jedd Gyorko only had one hit, but it was the tie-breaking homer in the seventh to make sure Seattle’s momentum didn’t last very long. Stephen Piscotty had a double. Every hitter scored a run and drove in a run except for Wong and Eric Fryer at the bottom of the lineup, and they both had a single as well. There always seems to be someone that gets completely left out in a game like this, but not this time.
Seung-hwan Oh was warming in the bullpen until the Cards tacked on two more (Pham and Carpenter hitting their second homers of the day) in the ninth. It would have been interesting to see Oh get in there to get a save, especially one with a little padding, but when it turned into a non-save situation Matheny went with Matt Bowman instead. Honestly, I was a little surprised that he didn’t at least try Rosenthal there with a five run lead. Short leash and all that, but it would seem like a good spot to start getting him adjusted to the lack of closing responsibilities. Odds are, though, Matheny told him to take a couple of days and get his head right and they’d start looking for opportunities for him after the weekend.
What those opportunities are is still up for debate. It was good to see Matheny come to the same conclusion that pretty much everyone else, including this space, already had, but it opens up another can of worms. When can you use Rosie? At least to start with, you can’t use him in a close game, right? So you’ve got the Patron Pitcher, whom you really can only use in long relief, Bowman, who is often a multiple-inning guy, and Rosie who you can right now only use in specific situations, like when the club is up four or down two, something like that. This bullpen is becoming more and more specialized and unless some of those roles change, there’s a good chance of overwork or being short-handed. It’s possible that they’ll use Bowman more as a seventh inning guy and we’ll see how Seth Maness continues to develop (it’s hard to believe he’s only had two-thirds of an inning since his return), but that bullpen depth is being whittled away by how the folks are needing to be used.
Brayan Pena should be activated today as Fryer will wind up in Memphis. There was a lot of outcry when Ruben Tejada forced Greg Garcia down to the minors, but in this similar situation, there probably won’t be as much angst. Of course, it helps that Fryer is a well-worn vet himself and not a product of the minor leagues with a ceiling, but if the Cardinals had to choose today between signing Pena and keeping Fryer, my feeling is they’d just stick with what they have. Fryer has been much better offensively than anyone expected. It’s true he got off to that ridiculously hot start and his limited number of at bats are keeping his average somewhat artificially inflated (he’s not a .368 hitter, for sure), but he has a hit in five of his last six starts and has produced a bit off the bench as well. He’s actually started three times over the past two-plus weeks, and when you factor in that there have been three off days in that time span as well, that’s a lot of rest for Yadi.
However, like Tejada, the Cards signed Pena and they are going to see what they have out of him. It’s probably telling that they used all 20 days of the rehab assignment on him, as they really wanted him to be right before making the move with Fryer. He played 14 games in the rehab assignment and hit just .192/.218/.192, so there are questions on whether he’s truly ready to go, but the rules of baseball say that you’ve got to make the call and there’s no way St. Louis is going to just cut him loose. Hopefully Fryer can go to Memphis and be ready if there is an injury or when September rolls around.
It’s time for that gimmicky little back-to-back home-and-home series against the Royals, starting out in KC the next two nights before shifting across the state. Could be worse, I guess, as baseball does this to a number of interleague “rivals” that aren’t necessarily as close together as the two teams are. Adam Wainwright will be back on the mound tonight, looking to continue his string of strong starts. He’s seen a few of these guys before and done pretty well against them.
Danny Duffy is having a fine year, with a 3.38 ERA and more than a strikeout an inning. He’s been in a little bit of a run, not getting past the fifth in his last two starts and allowing three runs in each, but he’s a good left-handed pitcher, so you have to figure that offensive explosion from Sunday is not going to carry over.
The battle of Missouri begins tonight!