Gored Again By the Bullpen

I really wanted to write an optimistic or at least somewhat happier post today.  Between the bullpen and Matt Carpenter‘s oblique, though, there’s really not a lot of joy to be found.

Let’s talk about the game first.  It looked like things were going to go well for a while.  Our Hero is Aledmys Diaz, who went 3-5 with a home run, which tied the game up, and an RBI single that capped the four-run fourth.  Even though Carpenter had left the game, which was a worrisome thing, overall everything looked bright.

The problem was the bullpen, or to be accurate both of them.  Pittsburgh’s bullpen has been almost untouchable for a while now.  St. Louis’s…..hasn’t.  The trends continued Wednesday night.

I wasn’t able to watch this portion of the game, but I’m a little surprised that Mike Matheny took out Jaime Garcia in the sixth.  I get that Garcia had just walked back-to-back batters and the go-ahead run was at the plate.  Still, Garcia was at 85 pitches and had six strikeouts in five plus innings.  He’d gotten out of trouble in the fourth and the fifth and, given the way this bullpen was going, I might have been more inclined to let him see if he couldn’t get out of this mess as well.

That said, bringing in Matthew Bowman made some sense.  After all, Bowman had worked out of Trevor Rosenthal‘s bases-loaded issues on Monday allowing just one run and that one came in part because Bowman forgot how many outs there were.  (Though, in all likelihood, that wouldn’t have changed things.)  Bowman has been steady for the most part this season, with results that are well above anything we thought we’d get from a guy taken in the Rule 5 draft.

Therein lies this year’s bullpen problem.  Last year, it was next man up and there could be a hero every night.  This year, it always seems to be next reliever up to blow the game.  Almost everyone in that bullpen (save perhaps the Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons) has melted down in a game recently and last night it was Bowman’s turn, as he turned a 5-2 game into a 5-4 one in the span of three batters.  He got out of the inning without more damage, but that’s not exactly what Matheny had in mind when he made the call to the pen.

Of course, as bad as Bowman’s outing was, he still doesn’t get the Goat tag.  We’ll leave that one for Jonathan Broxton, who got one out then allowed a walk, single, and double.  Another run scored on a ground ball hit to Diaz who was charged with an error but may have had trouble getting Josh Harrison out anyway.  Suddenly it was 7-5 and, for all intents and purposes, the game was over.

That was actually a rare outing for Broxton.  He allowed a run against the Royals, but you have to go back to the end of May to find another game where he was charged with a tally.  I don’t think he’s a shut down guy, but he’s doing a fairly good job in the seventh.  However, whatever dark cloud is hanging over the bullpen is not sparing anyone and it was Broxton’s turn to be bad last night.

Randal Grichuk, getting his first start since returning from Memphis, was the only non-Diaz player to have multiple hits last night.  They were both singles, but given Grichuk’s struggles at the plate, they were good to see.  Grichuk has gone back to his old batting stance and it seems to be paying off.  Something needs to go right for the Cardinals, because there’s very few positive indicators right now.

Which brings us to Carpenter.  He left in the bottom of the third after trying to hold up on a swing and immediately grabbing his back.  It turned out to be an oblique issue, which is never a good thing.  Obliques take a while to heal and they can be nagging things as well.  Matheny said after the game that there’s a “high level of concern” around it, so it seems quite unlikely that Carpenter will avoid the disabled list.

If Carpenter is out an extended period of time, it’s harder not to write this season off.  Even with his MVP-level play, the Cards are just swimming in the .500 pool.  Now in third place and even farther out of the wild card, the idea that this team could run off a number of wins without him in the lineup is just about unfathomable.  Even if they got the bullpen fixed, which is an if right now, the offense would take such a hit that things would seem pretty bleak.  They could stay above .500, probably, but it wouldn’t seem they’d be a serious contender unless John Mozeliak was able to find a Will Clarkian replacement, someone to come in and immediately start hitting like Clark did when Mark McGwire was hurt in 2000.  I don’t think such a player is out there, though.

This also affects Carpenter’s All-Star plans, which is disappointing for him especially, but for the fans as well.  Last night, the broadcasters were saying that each team has to have a representative and that’s true, but that representative doesn’t have to be on the active roster.  In 2002, Matt Morris was the Cardinals’ only representative, but was unable to pitch (which, given that was the All-Star Game that wound up in a tie because both teams ran out of arms, was an issue) and so was replaced on the active roster.  He was not replaced with a Cardinal, however, and so there was no chance of seeing a St. Louis player in that ASG.  I would like to think that someone from St. Louis would go in Carpenter’s spot, but if they want to keep the hitter/pitcher balance the only one that could would be Diaz.  Maybe that’ll happen, I don’t know.  It’s a minor issue for us to be sure, though I know Carpenter has to be disappointed that he might miss the game.

This also changes the trading deadline calculus.  If Carpenter’s healthy, it would seem that Mozeliak probably deals for a bullpen arm.  I’m not sure that would have completely fixed the problem, but it made sense.  Now, if Carpenter’s out, do you worry about it?  Do you perhaps deal off a veteran for a prospect?  Of course, that would require a veteran to be healthy.  Brandon Moss is on the DL and Jhonny Peralta is nursing an injury that might put him there.  It seems like every day this week someone else is getting hurt.

Speaking of being hurt, Brayan Pena went on the disabled list yesterday, which made the whole Eric Fryer thing even more painful, something we didn’t think was possible after he torched the Cards on Tuesday night.  Instead of the veteran Michael McKenry, who is doing very well in Memphis, the club pulled up Alberto Rosario, who will make his major league debut if he ever sees the field.  The thinking here is that Pena won’t be out very long and McKenry is out of options, forcing them to send him through waivers like they did Fryer.  That said, McKenry was a free agent just a few weeks ago and it seems unlikely another team would take a stab at him if he did go through waivers, though I can see somewhat not taking that risk.  On the flip side, you still have Michael Ohlman, who was serviceable at AAA before going down when McKenry was selected.  If you lost McKenry, you’d still have Rosario and Ohlman.

Of course, that’s a lot of thinking for a guy that might not get 10 AB in the bigs, depending on how quickly Pena returns, but McHenry would seem to give you the best option to actually rest Yadier Molina occasionally, assuming Matheny would do that.  Which, as always, is a big assumption.  Hopefully Pena returns right after the break and it’s all a fairly moot point.

Being swept at home in a four game series is fairly inconceivable, yet that has a fairly strong chance of happening today if Tyler Glasnow is as good as his minor league record says that he is.  Glasnow, the Pirates’ top prospect and on all the prospect lists around baseball, has a sub-2 ERA at AAA and basically is striking everyone out.  He is right-handed, which gives the Cardinals some hope, because if they were facing a lefty they’d never seen before, well….you know how that typically resolves itself.  It’s the second major league debut of a Pirates starter this series and while the Cards were able to do a little bit against Stephen Brauit, it wasn’t much and, thanks to the bullpen, not enough.  We’ll see if things are different today.

Assuming good Adam Wainwright, which is a fair assumption these days, the offense won’t likely have to do just a ton anyway.  Wainwright, who gave up three runs in 6.1 innings against Pittsburgh in May, is coming off seven scoreless against the Brewers.  It’s an afternoon affair that hopefully gives the Cards a little good news in a week where there hasn’t been really any.  Give us something to cheer about, guys!

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