Whatever Happened to Predictability?

I know, I know, you can’t predict baseball.  There’s a whole Twitter account based on that.  Still, there used to be at least a general expectation on Cardinal games.  For instance, last year you were pretty sure that it’d be a low-scoring, well-pitched game by the Redbirds.  In past years, it was that the MV3 would light up the night.  Or maybe that there’d be key hits with runners in scoring position.

This year, though?  It’s tough to find any thread that runs through it all.  I guess maybe the offense is closest, but we’ve seen them shut down for games at a time, just not as much as normal.  If I was asked to name one thing that I was sure we’d see in the game tonight, I don’t know exactly what it’d be.

Like the milkman, the paperboy, and non-Cardinal evening TV, predictability has kinda gone by the wayside.  For instance, we have the last two games in Kansas City……

Monday (6-2 loss)

Hero: Matt Holliday.  If his first inning home run had been six inches shorter, the Cardinals would have been shut out.  I was convinced for a moment or two that Lorenzo Cain had stolen it at the wall anyway.  When you get a two-run homer in the first inning (with just one out, even), you would expect something else to happen later in the game.  You wouldn’t think that two runs is all you are going to get, especially with this offense.  Your prediction would, again, be wrong.  Two hits for Holliday, which was a third of the team’s total.

Goat: Adam Wainwright.  The last time Waino pitched, I said that I didn’t worry about him taking the mound anymore, that he looks more like the ace we have gotten used to over the years.  So then, of course, he goes out and gives up six runs in the first two innings.  To be fair, even when Wainwright has been the ace of the staff, he’s had that propensity to ignore middling starts and go big either way.  He did strike out seven in his five innings of work, but 10 hits was killer, especially since they weren’t all singles.  Wainwright had chance after chance to get out of the jams, as all of the KC runs scored with two outs in the inning, but couldn’t make a pitch that would put folks away.  His curve wasn’t consistent and the Royals hitters are a good bunch of hitters, so they didn’t let such an opportunity pass them by.

Notes: Aledmys Diaz had two hits–three, if you count the foul ball off his eye.  Thankfully, he was OK and there was no lasting damage done, though after being hit by a foul ball in the dugout on Tuesday, you’ll forgive him if he thinks the baseballs are seeking their revenge for his solid season.  (You’d think they’d have tried to go after Matt Carpenter first, but I digress.)  Yadier Molina had the other two hits and with no walks in the mix, it’s difficult to score much when things are that concentrated.

On the pitching side, we saw two scoreless innings out of Seth Maness, reviving some hope that maybe he’ll be better going forward now that he’s dealt with his injury.  To be fair, that’s just two innings and he was mediocre last year as well, but it’s more than we’ve seen out of Maness so far this season.  I’m still not sure I’d put him into high-leverage situations, but he may be one that can be used in the sixth or seventh with limited fear that the game is going to get away while he’s in there.

We also had our first glimpse of Trevor Rosenthal out of the closer role, as he threw a scoreless eighth inning.  Of course, it wouldn’t be Rosenthal without a couple of hits mixed in there, which meant his WHIP didn’t really improve much and most of the issues that he’s dealing with are still there.  If we ever see Rosie have about five outings where he doesn’t allow a baserunner, then maybe we could start thinking about returning him to his ninth inning spot.  Until then, though, I think it’s still situations like this where the Cards are well behind or places where they can go get him before he does much damage.

Tuesday (8-4 win)

Hero: Matt Carpenter.  Two hits, both extra-base types (double and homer).  Two walks.  Carpenter said before the season that he wanted to blend the power he found last season with the eye and all-around hitting that he had in 2014.  So far, so good.  I shudder to think where this team would be without Carp.  If you are looking for predictability, this might be the only place to really find it.

Goat: I’ll go with Jhonny Peralta, who did draw a walk and score a run, but went 0-4 with two strikeouts as well.  Bit of a rough night for Stephen Piscotty as well, as he hit into a double play and made an error, though he did get a double at the plate.

Notes: It wasn’t an All-Star caliber start for Michael Wacha, but it’d do mainly because of the offense behind him.  Perhaps he relaxed with a lead, but the Cardinals got up 3-0 and he immediately gave up two runs in the bottom of that frame, able to escape before they tied it up.  Then the Cards get out to an 8-2 advantage and he makes it 8-4 with a runner on before settling in and getting out of the jam.  Control was good, just one walk, but nine hits in six innings can be an issue when the bats are quieter.

Eventually we made it to the first appearance of Seung-hwan Oh as the closer, coming into the ninth even though it wasn’t a save situation.  I think most of us expected that we’d see a relatively quick inning and we’d go on to the post-game show.  Instead, it appears that perhaps it’s just the ninth inning that is jinxed, not any particular player.  Oh allowed two hits and a walk, bringing up the tying run in Alex Gordon and Eric Hosmer.  He got both of them and locked the game down, but I think most of us were hoping that we were done with some of these ninth-inning high-wire acts.

Of course, that would mean the game was a little predictable.

Another good night for Matt Adams, with a couple of singles and a sacrifice fly.  He and Carpenter were the only ones with multiple hits–it’s pretty efficient to get eight runs out of nine hits, though five walks kinda help things along.

All in all, I guess you take a split on the road at the World Champions, right?  Unfortunately, a split just pushed the Cards further back in the division, as the Cubs took two from the Reds (the Reds did make them work for that second win, at least).  I just can’t see this team getting consistent enough to become a real threat to them.  Even as the Cubs are scuffling, the Cardinals are doing the exact same thing, losing out on any chances to make this a more manageable deficit.  It’s not a write off of the season by any means–I think the Cards will be in the wild-card race all the way to the end–but it would take an epic collapse on the part of the Chicago nine (or a scorching run by the Cards, or maybe both!) for St. Louis to avoid that play-in game in October.

I can’t say I’m fond of this home-and-home gimmick that MLB has decided it likes over the last couple of years, but at least if the Cards are going to be a part of that, their rival isn’t that far away.  (The Mariners and Padres had to do this earlier in the year, which couldn’t have been a lot of fun.)  The Redbirds are back under the Arch tonight, trying to figure out a way to improve that home record.  Edinson Volquez, who gave up 12 runs in an inning against the Astros last time out, goes against Carlos Martinez, who might be the most reliably good pitcher in the Cardinal rotation right now.  (That is, if you could predict such a thing.)  Volquez is well-known to the Cardinals, of course, and I think they’ve been OK against him for the most part.

It should be an interesting game.  Of course, we have no idea what’s going to happen!

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