I don’t want to complain, because a win is a win and the Cardinals needed their victories the last couple of nights in Milwaukee. It helped them get a little more breathing room in the wild card race as Chicago has beaten Pittsburgh twice in a row as well. Everything is good here, situation normal….but don’t you think it should have been, well, easier? The Cards may be 11-3 against the Brew Crew this season, but these last two games were like squeaking out victories against a comparable team, not a team 20 games under .500. Again, a win is a win, so we won’t focus on that too much as we recap.
Monday (6-5 win)
Hero: Randal Grichuk. Grichuk only had one hit, but it was probably the biggest one of the night. After having squandered a 3-1 lead, the Cards trailed by two in the eighth before Jhonny Peralta singled and Grichuk did that home run thing that he does. Instead of going into the ninth having a tough mountain to climb, Grichuk tied it up and helped set the stage for, well, whatever that was.
Goat: Matthew Bowman. I’ve been thinking it recently, but the last two days seem to confirm it for me–Bowman is running out of gas. While as a minor league starter he obviously threw more innings, he’s not been in as many games as he has this year and the constant use seems to be wearing on him. The month of August has seen him give up 10 runs in 11.2 innings, an amount that could have climbed had Zach Duke not helped him escape from the bases-loaded jam he got himself into (to be fair, the last runner was intentionally passed, but I’m getting Tuesday’s talk into Monday’s recap). For comparison’s sake, he gave up only 17 (15 earned) the rest of the year. Even when he tried to throw an intentional walk Tuesday night, all the pitches were extremely low and I was afraid that they’d wind up bouncing away. Bowman’s been outstanding all year long and it would be understandable if he’s hit a wall, but the Cards are going to need to figure out how to get him through it.
Notes: After all the Kolten Wong drama–and I thank everyone who made my post one of the most-read posts in the history of the Conclave–he actually had the chance to start on Monday and took advantage of it, hitting a home run to push the lead to two runs, stealing a base (after about six pickoff throws) in the eighth and going to third on an error, and making at least two strong defensive plays. When he said he wanted to make the club play him, he wasn’t kidding.
Let’s talk about the ninth inning a bit. I wasn’t on Twitter at the time, I don’t believe, but afterwards I got the impression there was quite a bit of shade thrown Mike Matheny‘s way for having Yadier Molina bunt with two on and one out. (Though, as some noted, that could have Yadi’s call all the way–it wouldn’t be the first time.) I’m no fan of extraneous bunting, but I think it’s a bit more warranted in this situation. Sure, you cut down on your chances of scoring multiple runs, but you are in the ninth and hopefully only one run is necessary. Yadi is a double play threat, obviously, and I’d rather have runners at second and third with one out than a runner at third with two down. While I wouldn’t argue with those that say Yadi’s been one of the best hitters of late and he should swing away, I’m not going to complain about a bunt there.
That assumes a good bunt, of course, and Molina should have bunted into the absolute worst scenario, which would have been a runner at second and two outs. Thankfully, in trying to rocket the ball across the infield in time Jonathan Villar put a little too much on it and the ball got past the second baseman, allowing Stephen Piscotty to come around with the go-ahead run.
The seventh also seemed to bring some criticism for the manager as he double-switched into the game Kevin Siegrist after Bowman had given up a homer and put two runners on. That made some sense, though expecting Siegrist to get the two outs in the seventh and pitch the eighth might have been asking too much of a guy that recently had a dead arm. The problem was that, to get that double switch, Matheny took out Brandon Moss, because he was hitting third and that’s what Matheny does. That’s not entirely true, as Moss had just batted (though Piscotty had made the last out of the seventh), but removing your biggest power bat in a one-run game just doesn’t ever seem to bode well. While I don’t know who else you’d remove, the simple fact is that there really wasn’t much need to double-switch at all since Siegrist would have hit fifth in the upcoming inning. Matheny being Matheny, to some degree.
It wound up being necessary because Siegrist, who also seems to be not as automatic as of late, allowed Bowman’s runners and one of his own to score, forcing Matheny to go to Miguel Socolovich, who put out the fire and pitched the eighth as well. Our good friend Joe Schwarz said on Twitter that he would put Soco as the second most trusted reliever out of the pen (behind Seung-hwan Oh, I assume). While some people scoffed, I started thinking about it and that’s really a low bar to clear.
I mean, who would trust Socolovich over Jonathan Broxton? We know Dean Kiekhefer has potential but he hasn’t been anything extraordinary when he’s been up with the club. Jerome Williams? Next. We’ve talked about the recent issues with Bowman and Siegrist, meaning that they can be better then Socolovich, but I don’t know that you trust they will be. That just leaves Zach Duke, who has had some of the same problems, though I worry a little less about him than others. So I definitely can see where Joe is coming from, even though that says more about the state of the pen than it does about Socolovich’s talent.
Jedd Gyorko went two for four and smashed another home run, his 23rd of the season, tying his career high in significantly less at bats. If you’d told any of us that Gyorko was going to hit 20 homers before the season, or even in April, I think folks would accuse you of excess homerism. (And not the long ball kind.)
All this and we’ve not talked about the dominance that was Carlos Martinez in this game. 13 strikeouts in six innings, with just four hits allowed. Before the sixth, all of the hits were infield variety and the way he started out, you were thinking no-hitter from the get-go. Unfortunately, the strikeouts ran up his pitch count, meaning that we only got to see him for six frames, but Martinez was on his game in a way that we haven’t really seen and we’ve seen a lot. His last four starts, he has a 2.00 ERA and a .188 BAA. We focused a lot on the circumstances around his hair and around Matheny getting on him for being late, but it’s possible that they’ve helped him focus his talent on being that ace pitcher we feel he’s going to be. Or, perhaps, it’s just coincidence.
Tuesday (2-1 win in 10)
Hero: Adam Wainwright. On a night when inexplicably Wily Peralta was able to dominate the Cardinal hitters, Waino did the same to the Brew Crew. Seven innings, three hits, one run is the kind of game we expect out of the actual (or at least nominal) ace of the staff and he delivered. Way to have a birthday, Waino.
Goat: Stephen Piscotty. Rough night for Piscotty, who went 0-4 with four strikeouts. You like to win a Gold Glove, but you never want to acquire the golden sombrero.
Notes: Seriously, guys, that was Wily Peralta. That’s not supposed to cause you do to anything but fight over who gets to come to the plate first. It’s been quite some time since he’s had success against St. Louis–by whatever low standard you want to deem a success. Yet last night he goes seven innings, allows one run, and strikes out 10. Ten! The highest he’d had all year was six. You have to go back to his last start in 2014 to find another double-digit strikeout game (13 against the Cubs). Now we know how the other teams felt when Mike Leake started striking out folks.
Molina was the only batter with two hits but Gyorko hit yet another home run. I hope this is the Gyorko we are going to see over the next four years of this contract and not a one-time blip that has us wondering forever when he’s going to be that guy again. To think that the club could have two guys reach 30 home runs (or at least very close) this season is astounding.
Siegrist pitched better here, Bowman didn’t (as mentioned above) and Duke got the save. It’s not exactly the plan against the Brewers but, again, you take what you can get.
Luke Weaver goes for the Cardinals tonight, trying to get the sweep. Our fresh-faced farmboy SkyWeaver has not faced the Brewers before, of course, but if his starts so far in the big leagues are any indication, he won’t be falling to the dark side here. Matt Garza, on the other hand, is an familiar face for the Redbirds, having seen him most of his career in one place or another. The results against him haven’t been bad either.
Last time out, Garza was touched for five runs in 5.1 innings against Pittsburgh. None of them were earned, though his start before against Seattle he allowed six runs in 3.2 innings and five of them counted against the ERA. Cardinals got to him for seven runs (four earned) in July and I’d like to think they could do that again tonight, but given the last couple of days, as long as the W goes up, I’ll be happy!
In closing, our good friend Dennis Lawson, who can be found from time to time at I70 Baseball, sent along this disabled list made up of United Cardinal Bloggers. Given this season and the injury bug that has surrounded it of late, this is entirely reasonable.