There are some days that it’s tough to know what to talk about in this space. The games, sadly, are often very similar and somewhat depressing to relive. There’s nothing happening off the field. Things seem stagnant.
Then there are days like yesterday, when everything happens.
Let’s get the game out of the way first, because there are more interesting things to talk about. There were some–perhaps not many, but some–that thought Monday night’s ninth-inning rally could be yet another catalyst for this team, a spark that got them going, yada yada yada. Even those that realized that the Reds were 90% or more responsible for that loss harbored a bit of hope that we’d see something out of this squad with that bit of excitement.
As we noted yesterday, as we’ve noted many times before, momentum is tomorrow’s starting pitcher. In this case, it was Mike Leake. To be fair, Leake had a better outing than most of his other confrontations with his former team, but it still wasn’t anything special. At one time, my Gateway cohost Tara Wellman was keeping track of how often the Cardinals allowed the other team to score in the half-inning after they had put on a tally. She can add to that total as Leake allowed two runs in the fourth right after a Yadier Molina (again, the Hero of the evening) homer that gave the Cards their first in-game lead since Jaime Garcia‘s RBI single on Friday.
Basically, this game boiled down to keeping Billy Hamilton off the bases. The Cardinals, whether it was Leake or Kevin Siegrist or Matthew Bowman, couldn’t do that. Hamilton reached four times in five at-bats and did what Hamilton does, either stealing bases (three) or causing disruptions, such as Leake’s throwing error trying to pick him off in the first. (To be fair, Leake did eventually pick him off second, but it was the rare misstep by the Cincinnati speedster.) Hamilton is hitting .423 with a 1.077 OPS against the Cardinals this year with 11 of his 48 steals coming against them. 11! The next highest team is seven against Pittsburgh and he’s played in two fewer games against them. Hamilton is hitting .258 overall this season, but without the Cardinals he’d probably be in the .240s. Whatever their approach is to him, it needs to change if they want to have a shot at winning these games.
Leake did go six innings and give up just three runs, which is the technical definition of a quality start. Matt Holliday homered in the fifth, tying the game up, so the game was turned over to the bullpen and the bullpen, well, I don’t think it surprises anyone that they weren’t able to really get the job done.
Siegrist came in and immediately walked Hamilton, then let him steal second base. John Rooney on the radio tends to defend Molina’s lack of catching baserunners by blaming it on the pitchers. While Molina’s defensive game does seem to have slipped this year (Scott Schebler stole one that was completely on Yadi), Hamilton was at least halfway to second, if not more, before Siegrist let go of the ball. It was a terrible job of keeping Hamilton close and when Joey Votto continued to even the scales against Siegrist with a single, the Reds were back on top.
That lead didn’t last long, with Holliday doubling and Brandon Moss driving him in during the bottom of that frame, but they weren’t so lucky in the eighth. Someone on Twitter noted last night that the last three times Bowman has gone on back-to-back days, he’s been scored on in the second outing. He’s only done that five times this year, but three have come since the beginning of July. There is likely a fatigue factor there that Mike Matheny should pay attention to, but Bowman has earned the manager’s trust and given the rest of that bullpen, he’s likely to see more and more action.
And there weren’t many other options. Jonathan Broxton was rested, but nobody wants to see him come into a tied game late right now. I guess in theory you could have gone with Seung-hwan Oh, but then that means you don’t have him for the ninth (likely). Then there was the new guy in the bullpen, but we’ll talk more about him later.
No, Bowman was really it save for maybe Zach Duke, who could have used the night off (but wound up having to come in to finish the inning anyway). The frustrating thing was that he got the first two outs of the inning. I actually looked down at my phone for a while (with the TV on mute) because I figured things were in hand, only to look back up a few seconds later to see the Reds scoring. Double, double, infield single to Hamilton plus error (Matt Carpenter completely had a brain lapse there, forgetting there was a runner on third and giving up after he missed the barehanded stab), stolen base, single and the game was done. The Reds had run out of ninth-inning gifts to give and the Cardinals again proved mediocre.
Bowman has to get the Goat in this one, given that he just couldn’t finish the frame. I’d like to say if Carpenter gets a handle on that ball the Cards might have been down just one run in the ninth, but it was Hamilton, so he probably beats that out, then steals second anyway. In other words, it might not have been much different. Also, even with the top of the lineup coming up, there’s no guarantee it would have been any more dramatic than the 1-2-3 we got.
Before the game, though, there was ALL OF THE NEWS:
—Alex Reyes was promoted from Memphis to the big leagues. This was the first piece of news to leak out, which caused plenty of speculation about how it was all going to come about. That cleared up later, but no matter, it was quite exciting to know that the future was now. Reyes, as expected, will slot into the bullpen. He pitched the ninth inning last night and was outstanding. He was hitting 101 with apparently minimal effort. As one of my followers noted this morning on Twitter, it “looked like he was playing catch.” His curveball looked sharp as well and he had a perfect inning, striking out the first batter he faced.
Now, some would argue it would have been nice to see that in the eighth instead of Bowman’s issues. However, there was absolutely no pressure on Reyes in this scenario. You have to figure he’s fighting nerves and other things, so there was no way Matheny was going to let him make his debut with the game on the line. VEB’s Twitter account last night pointed out that it would show confidence in him, which is true, but I think Matheny is more about mitigating risk and damage than putting a youngster in a place where he could have a huge high but also a huge low. While you knew Matheny would get him into a game in St. Louis, he probably wouldn’t have last night unless it went into extras without that big eighth inning for Cincinnati.
Reyes isn’t going to go on back-to-back days, at least for a while. It’s going to be interesting to see how he adjusts to bullpen life. It worked fine for Carlos Martinez and Adam Wainwright, so I’m not really concerned there, but it has to be a different mindset for a guy that’s been a starter his whole career.
—Michael Wacha was placed on the DL, which necessitated Reyes’s promotion. When we heard that news, we thought Reyes might be in the bullpen tonight to get his feet wet, then put in the starting rotation, but that was not to be. Wacha’s dealing with a recurrence, it appears, of the stress reaction in his shoulder that derailed his 2014 season. John Mozeliak indicated this was a serious issue, one that might keep Wacha from being a starter going forward. However, as the broadcast noted last night, Wacha tends to do a lot of the things to work on the shoulder on a regular routine that goes along with starting, so there might be a catch-22 there. Wacha’s future could have a pretty significant impact on this offseason or at least on how things are constructed for 2017.
This also helps explain the short outings, the less-than-stellar results, the lack of dominance that we thought we’d see out of Wacha. We’ll always have 2013 (and the first part of 2014), but it sure sounds like Wacha might never reach those heights again. They are still trying to figure all this out and we’ll probably know more as the weeks go by, but Wacha’s future is pretty cloudy right now and that’s really sad to say.
—Luke Weaver will be brought up to start in Wacha’s slot on Saturday and beyond. So in a week the Cards will go from neither of their top prospects in the bigs to both of them. John Nagel and I had speculated that Weaver might make the big leagues before Reyes and that was almost the case. Weaver would seem to project as the better option to start right now, given Reyes’s control issues, which is why he’ll take Wacha’s spot. Weaver had a great outing in his first AAA appearance on Monday and that would seem to be the only one he’s going to get. Unfortunately for Weaver, he doesn’t have the option of being eased into things like Reyes was. He gets the Cubs at Wrigley on Saturday afternoon, though at least it won’t be a national audience.
I look forward to the comments if and when Weaver retires Jason Heyward this weekend. I imagine “aging core that!” will be a general refrain.
—Tyler Lyons may be done for the season. The Patron Pitcher of the Blog has seen a specialist in Chicago but it sounds like this knee issue is a big deal. Mozeliak said he hoped that Lyons would return and Lyons says he’ll keep planning and preparing like he is, but everyone involved seems to have that air about them that says, “It’d be great, but it’s probably not going to happen.” Lyons really had a breakout year this season–I’ve had to make a little room on the bandwagon–and I hate to see it end like this for him. Hopefully it’s an issue that, if it does require the rest of the year, can be healed up so he’s ready to go in spring training.
—Aledmys Diaz is still hurt. They are hoping to examine him tomorrow to have a better idea of the healing, but so far, it doesn’t sound like he’ll be back anytime soon. I think the idea is still around the first of September, but we may get more information on a possible return date today. It’d be nice to have a full squad going into the last month of the season, since I don’t think they’ll fall out of the wild card race in the meantime.
–Jordan Walden likely will not pitch this season. File that under “things we already knew”. Walden again proves the folly of long-term contracts to relievers. Walden and Jason Motte both barely pitched the two years they got and we’ve seen that Broxton being around for next year might not be an asset. It’s a rare reliever that should get multiple years, even though the market means they all get them.
—Trevor Rosenthal is dealing with a strained forearm as well as a shoulder issue. (That one was from a few days ago, but I never got around to talking about it.) Rosie thinks he’ll pitch again this season, but the strained forearm starts bringing up more concerns. Most specifically, that a strained forearm tends to be a precursor to Tommy John surgery. Which might explain a lot of Rosenthal’s issues this season, but you would hate to see him lose out on a whole 2017. When right, Rosenthal’s a huge asset to this team. He’s just not been right all year long.
Cardinals try, desperately try, to win a series from a cellar-dwelling team. Third time’s the charm, right? Jaime Garcia, looking to replicate what he did against the Braves, goes this evening. For some reason, Baseball-Reference only appears to have the current year’s stats in their database this morning, so there’s no chart because Garcia’s not faced them this season.
Anthony DeSclafani is having a fine year for Cincy, going 6-0 with a 2.94 ERA. And not having a loss on a team like the Reds is saying something! He’s not faced the Cardinals this year, in part because of not making his debut this year until June. They faced him last September, though, and only mustered one run in six innings against him. You’d like to think they could do better tonight, but there’s no telling.
The Cardinals have to win this one tonight. How can you take a team calling itself a playoff contender seriously if they go 3-6 against the Reds and Braves?