I mean, technically I don’t have to do anything here at the blog. Nobody’s paying me, nobody’s made that a requirement besides myself. Heck, there’s no guarantee anyone’s even reading. However, we’ve been doing Heroes and Goats for almost nine seasons now and even at this low point, we’re not going to give that up. So hold your nose and jump in.
Thursday (7-0 loss at Cincinnati)
Hero: Tommy Pham. True, one of his two hits came as he was getting on the plane to go home (the official scorer changed his leadoff at-bat from an error) but still, when the club has five total hits and the starter is a mess, where else are you going to go with this one?
Goat: Mike Leake. Leake has now faced his former team twice this season. His combined line? 11.1 IP, 18 H, 13 ER for an ERA of 10.32 and a WHIP of 1.676. And, lo and behold, he gets to face them again this week! Be excited folks! This one wasn’t terrible until a four-run sixth all charged to him, though Seth Maness allowed two of his runners to score.
Notes: Really nothing to say about this one without delving into insults and perhaps questionable language. It had all the makings of a mailed-in getaway game, which this team can’t afford at all going forward but especially when it means you lose a series to a team that just traded off its best player. The Reds have done a lot of winning since the All-Star Break, there is that, but still, if you want to stay in the wild-card race, these are games you have to win. If you want your fan base to keep from rioting, these are games that you need to win, but at least make a showing in.
Friday (1-0 win vs. Atlanta)
Hero: Jaime Garcia. Perhaps the easiest Hero selection of the entire year. Not only did Jaime throw eight scoreless innings, and do so in efficient enough manner that he could have thrown the ninth, he had one of the team’s two hits and drove in the only run. Talk about taking a game into your own hands!
Goat: Jedd Gyorko. Matt Carpenter went 0-4 instead of Gyorko’s 0-3, but we’ll cut him a bit of slack given this was his first game back from a very short rehab assignment. Gyorko also left four men on base and was one of the rare Cardinals not to receive a walk from an erratic Braves staff.
Notes: Seven walks! The Cardinals walked seven times in this one and only one of them wound up scoring, when Matt Holliday came around on Garcia’s single. You’d think almost by accident you’d get two or three runs out of the deal, especially when you are playing the worst team, by record, in the National League. Instead, it took a pitcher’s RBI not to match zeroes with them and perhaps wind up in extra innings. Stephen Piscotty had the other hit.
Let’s give Mike Matheny a little credit, because it doesn’t come his way often. First, he had Holliday batting fifth, which is much more in line with where Holliday should be given all the factors, I think. He’s not a .300 hitter anymore and even Matheny has recognized he needs to be moved out of the third spot. Cleanup is OK, given his 18 homers, but I think his entire game right now really suits fifth or maybe sixth.
Also, he didn’t leave Garcia in to get a personal achievement, letting Seung-hwan Oh come in and lock down the game in the ninth. Part of his reasoning included the fact that the lineup was rolling over for the fourth time, which is a very legitimate way of looking at it. Now, some pointed out on Twitter that he let Adam Wainwright go over 100 pitches looking for a shutout recently, so Matheny opens himself up for unequal criticism there, but I think you have to trust that he knows his players and, honestly, the team situation was a little different as well. As Matheny said, they really needed a win there, not a demoralizing late loss.
Did we say demoralizing late loss?
Saturday (11-5 loss to Atlanta)
Hero: Matt Holliday. Three hits (though he was back in the cleanup spot) and a run. The Cards wound up with more hits in this one (11) but they were fairly spread out and Holliday had the largest concentration.
Goat: Jonathan Broxton. It was a pretty terrible night for Carlos Martinez, but the Cards did pull within two late and, given the lineup, at least had a shot going into the ninth. Broxton took that shot and heaved it a long, long way away. Two two-run homers in the ninth, with another run mixed in for added badness. Again, the Cards probably don’t win anyway, but having that mess happen late was just, well, demoralizing.
Notes: While I don’t think it really was pivotal, Tommy Pham was called out in the eighth after driving in the fifth run. Replays appeared to show he was safe, but the umpiring crew did not reverse the call when they looked at it. Obviously runners on the corners with one out is better than a runner at third and two outs, but the Cards still needed to keep that inning going to get the game tied. Kolten Wong struck out to end the inning and, while he may not have done that with a different situation, assuming that he and/or a pinch hitter (probably Jeremy Hazelbaker) would get those runs in is maybe a stretch.
And, as noted, St. Louis wouldn’t have been in this mess had they gotten a regular start out of Martinez. Two three-run homers are hard to overcome, especially when the second one comes right after the team had shrank the gap to 4-2. It’s been a while since Martinez had a blowout, so hopefully it’s just a bump in the road.
Jhonny Peralta had two hits and Wong had a homer. Five runs isn’t a bad day, but it just looks paltry against 11.
Sunday (6-3 loss to Atlanta)
Hero: Yadier Molina. Three hits and an RBI. Molina’s been on a tear in the second half of the season. Perhaps sitting out the All-Star Game did him a world of good.
Goat: Adam Wainwright. What were the odds that both of the top pitchers would give up at least six to the worst team in the National League? While Wainwright got a lot of credit from the broadcast teams for staying in the game, settling in, saving the bullpen, etc., the fact is that he gave up six runs in the first two innings and the game was over. I doubt many fans stuck around to watch the end of this one on a Sunday afternoon, especially with the Olympics also on. Wainwright’s the ace, the stopper, the guy that the team is going to rely on. That just can’t happen if this team wants to contend.
Notes: As someone pointed out on Twitter, Jerome Williams still hasn’t let any of his own runners score, which is something. Of course, he only pitches in these kind of games, where the pressure is not exactly notable, but we’ll see if the Cardinals start trusting him with higher-leverage appearances. (My guess, not really.) Again, a scattering of hits, but nothing that just jumps out.
So in a week the Cardinals went from almost closing the division gap to 5.5 games to being 11.5 games out. The Cubs gave them opportunity after opportunity and St. Louis refused to take them, so it can’t be surprising that those opportunities finally dried up. While the division was going to be a long shot even with a closer race, putting it into double digits, even with 10 games remaining against the two teams, pretty much sews things up for the baby bears. (And even a split this weekend against the Cards in Wrigley will hammer in more nails.)
The wild card is still up for grabs, with the Marlins just a game up on the Redbirds. However, that’s more a function of the fact nobody in that race has gotten on a run. Heck, the Rockies are a game under .500 but are just four out of the wild card. If someone between the Mets, Marlins, Pirates, and Rockies starts putting wins together, the Cardinals could be left behind.
Of course, there’s still no reason that the Cardinals can’t be the team that starts to pull away. Everything John Nagel and I said on this week’s Meet Me At Musial still applies–the schedule is favorable, the talent is there, if they get better pitching they could take off. It’s just…..losing four out of six to the cellar dwellers is tough to swallow when you are supposed to be a playoff team, you know? And, honestly, with a very few things going differently, we could be talking about an eight game losing streak. To say this was not a good week is a significant understatement.
It’s a new week, though, and hopefully some new results. The Cards had trouble beating the Reds in Cincinnati and they’ve struggled at home all year long, but maybe two negatives make a positive. Michael Wacha goes for the Cardinals tonight, looking to improve upon the two runs in five innings he gave up to the Reds in Great American. (More the innings, I think–would be nice for Wacha to go six at least.)
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Cody Reed gave up four in the first last week when the teams met, but settled in a bit after that, giving up just one more run in his five innings as the Reds almost came back to get him off the hook. Hopefully he can live up to that 7.30 ERA a little bit more.
Last week had to be the low point of the season, right? Everything’s looking up from here? I sincerely hope so!