The Cardinals spent the off day Monday visiting NASA (a different Ground Control than the one Chris Correa visited) and apparently charged up their bats while they were at it. Even though the offense generally hasn’t been a problem this season, after this series the Cards are riding their first four-game “serious” streak since the first of June, when they did it against the Giants and the Reds. They had put up six or more only five times since the All-Star Break before the last two with Chicago and this short series in Houston. (The ballparks they visited, well, they couldn’t have hurt.) Let’s get into these series. Grab your brooms!
Tuesday (8-5 win)
Hero: Tommy Pham. Lots of extra-base hits in this one, but Pham’s two-run homer in the fifth brought the Cards back even. He had another base hit as well, though he did strike out three times.
Goat: Jaime Garcia. It tells you all that you need to know about the win statistic that Garcia allowed seven hits, five homers, three walks and three home runs in five innings…..and got the W next to his name. He was fortunate that the Cards exploded for four runs in the top of the sixth, but then he allowed a homer to Jason Castro as soon as he got the lead, which got him yanked for Alex Reyes. It could have been much worse, as Garcia threaded his way through a lot of base traffic.
Notes: Before we get into the offense, Alex Reyes came out and was outstanding yet again. It’s still amazing to me how little effort he seems to have to put into getting a ball to go that fast, plus his breaking pitches were not really fair either. I seriously can’t wait until next year when he’ll be in the same rotation with Adam Wainwright and Carlos Martinez. It should be a whole lot of fun.
Randal Grichuk had a double and a triple. We’ll see how this newfound “you are going to play no matter” freedom works for him. He’s been on a tear since coming back from Memphis, but I want to say the last time he returned he had some strong games as well. Will Mike Matheny actually keep him out there all the time? What will that mean for Tommy Pham? In theory (as in this one) you could have them both out there, but that requires Brandon Moss to play first and Matt Carpenter to go somewhere other than first. Do you bench Jedd Gyorko, the National Leaguer with the most homers since the break? (He had another one in this one, a three-run shot that broke it wide open.) And that’s just assuming Matt Holliday doesn’t make it back, an assumption that Mr. Holliday would fight you on if his thumb wasn’t in a cast. There are a lot of interesting options, but we’ll see how Matheny plays it.
All that offense and you still had Yadier Molina, Stephen Piscotty, and Greg Garcia with hitless nights, but Molina drove in two with groundouts. I often complain about running on contact with the man on third, because it seems so very often the man runs into an out. So I need to give credit when it works. In the sixth, with the game tied and runners on the corners, Yadi hits one pretty directly to first. If Carpenter isn’t going, he might have been dead at home when the first baseman forced Yadi then threw home. As it was, Carpenter scored without much drama. It doesn’t seem to happen often, but I’m glad to know it does occasionally work.
It wasn’t the prettiest game, but the power display and Reyes’s pitching made it for a fun night, especially when Seung-hwan Oh struck out the side to nail it down.
Wednesday (8-2 win)
Hero: Carlos Martinez. The offense didn’t have to do a lot since Car Mart was dealing like a guy trying to make quota. Martinez didn’t give up his first hit until the sixth, allowed just three hits in his seven innings, and struck out an average of one per frame. This is the Martinez that everyone points to when they talk about him being the ace of the staff. Put him and Reyes back-to-back in a rotation and….goodness.
Goat: Jedd Gyorko. Gyorko didn’t get any hits, though he did draw a walk and score a run. Everyone in the lineup reached base and Jeremy Hazelbaker and Brandon Moss kept the multiple-HR-game streak going. (I believe it’s at eight now, a new team record.) So it was a case of just not quite keeping up with the rest of the pack for Mr. Gyorko in this one.
Notes: As noted, the offense did some wonderful things. Piscotty rebounded to have two hits, including a single that drove in the first two runs of the game. Moss and Molina both had two hits, with Moss chipping in three RBI with his long ball. Hazelbaker also got two knocks, including his ninth homer of the year. Not bad for a guy that’s bounced from starter to bench to Memphis to bench.
Sam Tuivailala struggled in this one, loading the bases on an error, a hit, and a walk in the ninth before being pulled for Matthew Bowman. Remember when Seth Maness‘s trick was always getting double plays? Bowman is apparently our bases loaded, nobody out specialist. For the third time this season he faced that situation and allowed no runs to come across the plate. That’s incredibly hard to do, but Bowman makes it look relatively easy. In this one, he got two strikeouts and a groundout to end the ballgame.
After all the dust has settled, the Cards find themselves riding a four game winning streak and have a one game lead on Pittsburgh for the last wild card slot, two up on Miami. In fact, they are only just two games behind San Francisco now for the first wild card, though given the team’s home record I don’t know if that’s anything they really want to push for. Someone on Twitter posited the best possible postseason would be to beat the Dodgers in the wild card, the Cubs in the LDS, the Giants in the LCS, and the Red Sox in the WS. That wouldn’t be a bad road, no matter what order you dealt with LA and SF. Talk about exorcising some demons!
Kevin Siegrist wasn’t available in this series and we’ll have to wait and see how he feels when the club gets to Philadelphia. Playing shorthanded is, of course, nothing new for these guys, but there are a couple of options in Memphis if you want to go that route. Of course, that keeps the hitter/pitcher ratio pitcher-heavy, but it’s not like there’s any hitters down there that just need to be heading north. It’s understandable to hold him out this series to see if he can recover, but if he’s not better by Friday, you’d hope they’d go ahead and put him on the DL.
Adam Wainwright will try to turn around his recent funk in Philadelphia Friday night. Waino gave up three runs in six innings back in May, back when he was still struggling with his recovery from missing last season. He’s done pretty well at Citizens Bank Park over his career, a 2-1 record with a 2.48 ERA. If he does that again Friday, I think things will be OK.
Adam Morgan takes the mound for the Phillies. The Cardinals saw him in May, when they tagged him for three runs in four innings. Morgan’s struggled most of the season and he’s not gotten an out in the sixth since mid-June. In his last start, he lasted just three innings against the Rockies, allowing two runs while throwing almost 60 pitches. Which means, of course, that he’ll wind up having his best start of the year and cooling these bats if this season has been any indication.
An off day today, an off day Monday, and then just two more off days the rest of the season. It’s amazing to think that September is almost upon us, isn’t it?