Besting The Best

First, it was Noah Syndergaard.  Then it was snapping Jeurys Famila’s save streak.  Something about facing the top guys, dealing with the long odds, brings out the best in this team.  It’s something I’ve noticed in years past as well.  I don’t know if it’s a mental toughness or what, but it seems to happen semi-regularly.  (Ask Clayton Kershaw.)

Last night, it was Jose Fernandez‘s turn.

A guy that had never given up two home runs in a home game did so in one inning.  A guy that had only lost once in his career at home got saddle with an L.  A guy with a 1.62 ERA AFTER last night in Marlins Park gave up five runs in five innings.  If this happened in a video game, your friends would tell you to turn the difficulty up.

The Hero tag goes to Aledmys Diaz, given his huge two-run homer to get the Cards on the board (again, after that balk call that would have scored Jedd Gyorko was reversed) and his RBI double.  It had to be a lot of fun for him to go up against his childhood friend, especially when you think of what all they had gone through to get to that moment.  Diaz, as we discussed last night on the latest Meet Me At Musial (check it out!) has really come into his own this season.  He’s made the adjustments and there’s no particular reason to think he can’t be the starting shortstop for the next few years. That’s what John Mozeliak has pointed toward and, again, it seems like Mo knows what he’s talking about.

While Diaz gets the Hero badge for this one, I gave serious consideration to Matt Adams.  Not only did he have an RBI single, which turned out to plate the winning run, but he made a sensational grab at first base in the seventh with runners on second and third representing the tying runs.  While the runner on third was still able to score, without that stop Ichiro Suzuki (fresh off hit #2998) would have tied the game up and then where would we be?  We already know that the bullpen is in an interesting place right now.  Maybe they’d have been able to score again, maybe we’re looking at extra innings.  Adams’s play saved the game just as much as Seung-hwan Oh did.

Our Goat has to be Stephen Piscotty, who went 0-5 with three strikeouts, including one that had him yelling in displeasure at himself quite strongly.  I know I said yesterday that Piscotty’s numbers since the break had been better than I’d thought, since it seemed like every time I saw him he was unable to get anything going.  Since the start of the San Diego series, though, he’s hitting .214/.233/.381 with three extra-base hits, and that includes his three-hit, one-homer game to start off against the Padres.  He’s scuffling right now and maybe a couple of days off are what he needs.  Better do it quickly, though, since Diaz will be out of the lineup soon for a couple of days welcoming his new child to the world.

Michael Wacha was staked to a 5-0 lead and just about gave it all back in one fell swoop.  Single, double, groundout, homer and you have Giancarlo Stanton looming on the on-deck circle.  Wacha was able to get the next two, including Stanton, but it was a scary moment in a game that just seemed to be swimming along.  As I read over on stlcardinalsminimo’s blog, Wacha’s BAA the third time around is .309.  Still, he’s gone at least six innings in seven of his 10 starts since June 1 and has an ERA of 3.75 over that span.  It’s not spectacular, but it’s enough to keep the Cardinals in the game most of the time (they are 7-3 in that span).

A home run for Matt Holliday in this one as well, his 18th of the year.  Even so, as my podcast partner pointed out on Twitter and on the show, it’s one of his worst seasons so far.  He’s not walking, he’s striking out a good bit, and even his doubles seem to be down from where they were two years ago.  There’s still value in Holliday, but it seems like he should be hitting fifth or sixth instead of at the top of the order.  I know he’s finally been bumped from the third spot, but I’m not sure a spot or two lower wouldn’t be best.

The big news before the game yesterday was that Jaime Garcia will be taking the mound Thursday, even though it’s on just three days’ rest.  Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons threw a bullpen yesterday and it appeared he’d be the starter, just like the plan has been all week, but Matheny went a different way.  Why?  Well, that’s a really good question.

Garcia, as many have noted, seems to be the one pitcher in the rotation that needs his routine to be effective.  We’ve gone past the point of the “pillow was wrong, room service delivered late” standard that defined him early in his career, especially on the road, but he still wouldn’t seem to be the guy you want to go on short rest, especially given his injury history.

Now, Garcia’s probably only going to go three or four innings and there’s a good chance that Lyons will follow him into the game, but it’s surprising that you’d have Lyons throw a bullpen in that case.  After all, as far as I know Lyons isn’t regularly throwing bullpens and he’s still able to go three to four innings without issue.  Lyons also threw two innings on Tuesday, so it’s not like he’s been sitting for a long time.  Why they would then decide on Garcia is a strange idea, though I’m sure the off day coming up on Monday helped Matheny go in that direction, figuring Garcia will get an extra day of rest between this start and his next one against the Braves.

Otherwise, either something didn’t look right in Lyons’s bullpen or (gulp) it’s possible that Lyons is in trade talks and Matheny wanted to plan for him not to be here on Saturday.  I obviously hope the latter isn’t the case, but you’ve got a left-handed pitcher that’s proven he can go multiple innings and likely could start for a lot of teams.  There’s value there.  Again, I would sorely hate to lose #70, but it’s still an option.

It also reiterates quite soundly that the Cardinals want nothing to do with using Jerome Williams unless it is an absolute emergency.  While you don’t know what today will bring (or what yesterday would have), you could have at least planned for a Lyons-Williams game if you didn’t want to tax the bullpen too hard.  Williams has been up since Monday and has yet to make the field, even with a doubleheader.  I just feel like if they were comfortable with him, they’d have set Lyons aside for Saturday.  They aren’t.  Which, of course, brings up the question why is he even here, but we’ve been down that road.

Speaking of trades, apparently Tampa Bay had scouts in Springfield last night, perhaps looking at Luke Weaver.  This is another point that John and I discussed and we both came to the conclusion that you can’t be trading Weaver for a reliever.  If Weaver was to be part of a package going to Tampa Bay, there’d have to be something else big coming back other than something like Jesus Colome, who isn’t having that good of a year anyway.

The good thing about John Mozeliak is that, for the most part, he never gets burned in a trade.  He may not get what he thinks he’s getting, such as in Justin Masterson‘s case, but he rarely if ever gives up an asset that is going to come back and haunt him.  Yes, Shelby Miller had a good year for Atlanta last year, but Jason Heyward was good for St. Louis, Miller’s no longer good, and starting pitching is the one thing this team can afford to give away.  Again, where does Miller play on the 2015 Cardinals?

Other than that, what other asset has Mo given away?  David Carpenter went for Pedro Feliz and he’s stayed in the league a while, but we’re talking about a relief arm that had a solid if unspectacular career.  James Ramsey went for Masterson and he’s bouncing around the minors.  Rob Kaminsky has gotten better but still has a 4.00 ERA in AA and may eventually be an issue, but what the Cards have gotten out of Brandon Moss will help ease that a bit.  Mo’s a fairly good judge of what the club has and he likely knows that Weaver could be helping the big leaguers as early as September.  If Chris Archer is coming back, that’s one thing, but if it’s just a bullpen arm as the club tries for the wild card, that wouldn’t seem to fit his methods.

Cards try to break this wild-card tie with their spring training partners tonight as Ichiro goes for #3000 against Mike Leake.  Leake got roughed around last time by the Dodgers, but has been pretty solid overall this season.  He missed the Marlins last time out but he’s seen some of them before.

Chris Johnson 23 20 5 1 0 2 3 2 2 .250 .348 .600 .948 0 0 0 1 1
Martin Prado 21 19 4 1 0 0 0 2 0 .211 .286 .263 .549 0 0 0 0 1
Adeiny Hechavarria 15 14 1 1 0 0 0 1 2 .071 .133 .143 .276 0 0 1 0 2
Dee Gordon 14 13 3 2 0 0 1 0 4 .231 .231 .385 .615 1 0 0 0 1
Giancarlo Stanton 13 12 2 0 0 1 1 1 5 .167 .231 .417 .647 0 0 0 0 0
Christian Yelich 13 10 1 0 0 0 0 3 3 .100 .308 .100 .408 0 0 0 0 0
Marcell Ozuna 12 9 3 0 0 0 0 2 5 .333 .500 .333 .833 0 0 0 1 0
Derek Dietrich 9 8 3 1 0 0 0 0 3 .375 .444 .500 .944 0 0 0 1 0
J.T. Realmuto 6 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Ichiro Suzuki 4 4 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .250 .250 .250 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Jeff Mathis 2 2 2 1 0 0 1 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.500 2.500 0 0 0 0 0
David Phelps 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 133 118 25 7 0 3 6 11 26 .212 .295 .347 .643 1 0 1 3 5
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/29/2016.

Jose Urena just recently moved into the starting rotation (and, given the Marlins acquired Andrew Cashner and Colin Rea this morning, may be soon moved back out) but in both starts he’s allowed just one run in around six innings.  He spent some time in the minors before resurfacing and taking his rotation spot after having some rough outings in the bullpen.  He’s a guy the Cards saw a little bit last year, but is also one of those guys that you could completely see them losing too after solving Fernandez.

Randal Grichuk 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .333 .000 .333 0 0 0 0 0
Kolten Wong 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .333 .000 .333 0 0 0 0 0
Jedd Gyorko 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Carlos Martinez 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 2 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 12 10 3 0 0 0 0 2 0 .300 .417 .300 .717 0 0 0 0 0
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/29/2016.

If you are already keeping an eye around the league, the Cubs are hosting the Mariners, the Mets continue their series with the Rockies, the Dodgers are at home against Arizona, and Pittsburgh and Milwaukee meet at PNC Park.  So, really, the Cards need some wins to keep pace!

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