The Most Improbable Series Win of the Year

The Mets are a good team, neck and neck with the Cardinals in the wild card race.  They have their flaws, of course, but they are a quality team.  Yet if you were to tell folks that St. Louis would go in and take two of three, that probably wouldn’t have surprised many people.  The Cardinals do play better away from home, of course, and they had Carlos Martinez and Adam Wainwright going, so the pitching was going to be pretty good.

Tell those same people that same bit after Wainwright’s pitch to Yoenis Cespedes last night and I don’t think you’d have gotten the same reaction.

Before we do that game, we better take a look at Tuesday’s doubleheader.

Game 1 (3-2 win)

Hero: While we could go with Jedd Gyorko here, since he continued his power surge and drove in the key runs in the game, let’s go with Tommy Pham.  Not only did Pham get two hits in this one, his throw to get Curtis Granderson trying to advance to second in the ninth was a huge play.  The Cardinals may lead the league in errors, but every once in a while they have a beauty of a defensive play and this one proved it.

Goat: Stephen Piscotty.  0-4 with two strikeouts.  For some reason I was getting the feeling that Piscotty was struggling of late, but he’s hitting .273 with three homers since the All-Star Break, so it’s not a huge tailspin by any means.  It must be a factor of when I’m watching him, I guess.

Notes: Martinez held up his end of the bargain, though four walks meant that he wound up exiting after five innings, which isn’t exactly what the club wanted to see in the first game of a doubleheader (and with a start on Saturday still TBD).  On the whole, though, he looked pretty good save for his one mistake to Rene Rivera.

The Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons relieved Martinez, which in theory could put him getting the start on Saturday in jeopardy.  Then again, he only threw 29 pitches in two innings of work (efficient!) and would have three days of rest between the two outings, so I don’t think it’s completely ruled out.  Obviously I’d like to see Lyons, though the rumors about the starter being Alex Reyes won’t quite go away, especially since the Cardinal brain trust hasn’t ruled it out.  (Or, hey, maybe they’ll trade for Chris Sale and have him ready to go then!  OK, maybe not.)  If they need Lyons tonight in Miami, they’ll use him, but other than that I think he’ll be the starter.

The problem with Reyes coming up is, well, it would seem he’d need to stay up.  Top prospects, especially those already on the cusp of the big leagues, aren’t usually brought up for just one appearance.  Is he ready for that?  It seems like that’s a debatable question.  If you aren’t going to keep him up, I probably wouldn’t bother bringing him up, but I know I may be in the minority on that one.

Offensively Gyorko picked up where he left off last week with a two-run homer off of Noah Syndergaard, which is a fairly impressive feat in and of itself.  Syndergaard handed the Cards the other run when he threw high to home trying to get the lead runner when Martinez hit a ball back to him with the bases loaded.  In other words, this really was the pitching battle everyone thought it was going to be.  The only other Cardinal with multiple hits was Yadier Molina, who scored that run.

Game 2 (3-1 loss)

Hero: Jedd Gyorko.  The Cardinals only had four hits, with Greg Garcia tallying two of them, but Gyorko became the first Cardinal since Stan Musial to twice homer in both ends of a doubleheader in the same year and Gyorko’s came about a week apart.  I’m not really sure if it’s playing time or what that has gotten Gyorko going, but he has as many homers in the past 10 days as he did all year long up to that point and he’s hitting over .300 during that span to boot.  If he can keep this up, that’s a really great thing to have in the lineup.

Goat: Aledmys Diaz.  Not only did he go 0-4, not only did he leave three men on base, but he also hit into a double play.  Tough nightcap for the rookie, but as noted, he had a lot of company.

Notes: Jaime Garcia was solid, even though he ran a lot of deep counts which also had him exiting after the fifth inning.  He didn’t walk anyone and he only threw 77 pitches, which made for an interesting hook by Mike Matheny, especially given the pitching situation.  Garcia did get burned a bit by a Randal Grichuk error, leading to the go-ahead run.

Matt Bowman was probably a little excited to face his former organization in their home park, which led to him loading the bases with two outs.  Thankfully, the Mets decided that Bartolo Colon was worth more on the mound than pinch-hitting for him would get them, so Bowman was able to get out of it.  Since Colon only went one more inning, I’m not sure I’d have gone that route, but I will say the margin felt a lot wider than it actually was the way Colon was going.

The broadcast made mention that Colon was the starting pitcher in the first-ever interleague play the Cardinals had, when they faced the Indians in 1997.  I realized that he was also the pitcher the first game my now-wife and I went to in 1999.  He took a no-hitter into the seventh before Mark McGwire singled to break it up and the Indians went on to win.  It’s a testament to him that he’s still out there and still very effective.

Wednesday (5-4 win)

Hero:  Yadier Molina.  Jeurys Famila had a nice little save streak going, having not blown one (save, of course, for those World Series outings) in almost a year.  Honestly, once the Mets took the lead off of Wainwright, it felt like things were done, that it was all over but the shouting.

I will say, though, that give this team an impossible challenge, whether it’s an ace pitcher like Clayton Kershaw or a dominant reliever like Famila, they tend to be able to rise to the occasion.  I don’t know what it is, an increase in focus or selective memory, but so often when they are basically completely out of it, that’s when they’ll do something grand.

Molina’s double drove in Gyorko, who had walked, and it was possibly the second-greatest sight from Molina in New York, after this one:

Goat: As always, it’s only players allowed here, so Mike Matheny leaving Wainwright out there to face Cespedes having thrown about 115 pitches doesn’t get consideration.  (Though it won’t be ignored, trust me.)  It was a rough night for Greg Garcia, who drew a walk but was otherwise 0-4.  Piscotty went 0-3 but also drew a walk, as did Gyorko (and his walk was, of course, a key one!)

Notes: You could give Kolten Wong a Hero tag as well if you wanted, coming off the bench to work a double down the line and driving in Jeremy Hazelbaker from second after his stolen base.  It was a great moment for Wong, who hasn’t necessarily had a lot of those this season.  Given his reaction, he knew it as well.

Adam Wainwright pitched a fine game, at least until the seventh.  He looked like what we expect out of Waino, keeping the Mets at bay and giving up just one run in the first six frames.  The seventh was challenging, with the first two men of the inning getting hits before Waino struck out the next two.

With those two strikeouts, it’s easy to see why Matheny left Wainwright out there, even with his pitch count getting over 110.  With a somewhat limited bullpen (and the trust issues that go with them), if Waino could get through the seventh, it would help the team immensely.  Even when he wild-pitched in a run, if you keep Cespedes in the park you are at the worst tied.  It’s not the worst decision Matheny’s ever made, just one that didn’t work well.  Waino hung a curveball–the curve that had been working most of the night–and Cespedes didn’t miss it.  That’s baseball.  On the face of it, it feels like the wrong move, but the more we talk about it, the more I don’t think it was as terrible as the results made it out to be.

If, IF this team seemed to be susceptible to momentum, this was the kind of game you’d like to see.  A rally against a tough closer to win a key ballgame, with a series against a team ahead of you in the wild card standings coming up.  Momentum hasn’t meant much to this club all year long, though, so while we enjoy this win, it’s hard to say that there’s a corner that’s been turned.  Especially when you have to face Jose Fernandez tonight.

Trevor Rosenthal went on the disabled list on Tuesday.  There seem to be a few different ways to look at this.  One is that he’s been hurt all year and the medical staff hasn’t been able to find it.  One is that it’s a gimmick, a phony injury made up by the club to be able to send him to the minors without the stigma of a demotion.  One is that Rosenthal has been pitching through pain for a while and should have had things checked out sooner.  And, I guess you could just take it at face value, that Rosenthal recently felt something and asked for an exam, though that one doesn’t seem to carry much weight with the fan base.

If I was to lean toward any camp, I’d say it’d be the one where Rosie’s been hurting but hasn’t told anyone.  I wonder if this was a Seth Maness situation, where they suggested a trip to Memphis and that got him to speak up and ask for an examination.  I don’t know that it was, but I could well imagine that if you are going to lose major league time anyway, you might as well tell them that you’ve been hurting more than normal recently.  There’s talk, as there has been for a long time, of him being a starter in Memphis so that he can get regular innings.  That’s not to say that they are trying to convert him back to being a starter, no matter what some reporters might say.  With a full rotation, Alex Reyes on the way, Lance Lynn returning next year, and Luke Weaver knocking on the door (plus folks like Lyons and pitchers like Tim Cooney and Marco Gonzales who could be in the mix next year), why would you take him from where he’s been successful and try to slot him into an already overstuffed position?

I will say that my thought is there’s no real fixing Rosenthal this year, unless this injury is more significant to the problem than we thought.  (Again, like Maness, who has done significantly better since returning from the disabled list.)  I think it’s going to take the offseason to clear the head, get things right, and hopefully the old Rosie will show up to Jupiter next year.  Of course, there’s no guarantee that he’d ever return to form–Mitchell Boggs would let you know that, if you can catch him between practices at the University of Georgia.

Brandon Moss begins his rehab at Springfield tonight.  Given the way most rehab stints go, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him in Cincinnati next week assuming no setbacks.  I’m sure he’ll definitely be back in the lineup for the homestand that starts a week from Friday.

As noted above, St. Louis has to face Jose Fernandez tonight for the first time in a while.  In fact, if you don’t count spring training (and you shouldn’t), the Cards haven’t seen much of Fernandez.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Jedd Gyorko 8 8 2 0 0 2 6 0 4 .250 .250 1.000 1.250 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Holliday 6 5 1 0 0 1 1 1 1 .200 .333 .800 1.133 0 0 0 0 2
Yadier Molina 3 3 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Total 17 16 4 0 0 3 8 1 5 .250 .294 .813 1.107 0 0 0 0 2
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/28/2016.

Fernandez shut down the Mets last time out, allowing two runs in seven innings.  Save for an inexplicable blowup against the Braves at the beginning of the month, he’s been exceptionally strong pretty much all year long.  He has seven starts of double-digit strikeouts, so the fans may be out this evening.

Michael Wacha gets the nod for the Redbirds.  The Marlins have seen him a little more than the Cards Fernandez, but not a significant amount.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Martin Prado 8 8 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 .375 .375 .500 .875 0 0 0 0 0
Ichiro Suzuki 6 4 1 0 0 0 0 2 0 .250 .500 .250 .750 0 0 0 0 0
Christian Yelich 3 3 1 0 0 0 2 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Adam Conley 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Derek Dietrich 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Adeiny Hechavarria 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .500 .000 .500 0 0 1 0 0
Don Kelly 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Jeff Mathis 2 2 2 0 0 0 1 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000 0 0 0 0 0
Giancarlo Stanton 2 2 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 .500 .500 1.000 1.500 0 0 0 0 0
Chris Johnson 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 30 27 9 2 0 0 3 3 4 .333 .400 .407 .807 0 0 1 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/28/2016.

Wacha went just four innings and allowed three runs when he faced Miami last week, so let’s hope he can do better in their ballpark.  Also, we’re on history watch this weekend as Ichiro Suzuki is just three hits away from 3000.  I remember when the Cards were on the other side of Roger Clemens’s milestones (300 W and 4000 K) and I remember Tony Gwynn getting 2999 against St. Louis before hitting the milestone the next night.  It’s always cool to be part of that kind of history, even if it’s the other side, so we’ll be rooting for Ichiro–in non-RBI situations, of course!

  • Debra Kenny Sweeney

    Thanks for the recap. Because watching it live last night wasn’t painful enough. (Hi C!)

    • Cardinal70

      Deb! So wonderful to see you. Look at us, talking about baseball like the old days.

      Hopefully this weekend will ease that sting a little bit and the Cards can take care of the Marlins for you!

      • Debra Kenny Sweeney

        It’s like we’re back in The Lounge. You with your milkshake and me with my martini. lol Go get the Fish! We need all the help we can get.

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