A young hero, pressed into difficult situations, becoming the backbone of an uprising. No, I’m for once not talking about The Force Awakens, I’m talking about the Cardinals’ Rey(es). Before we get there, though, we need to look at the other two games of the series.
Friday (8-2 loss)
Hero: Matt Carpenter, I guess. Carp had two hits, which is more than anyone else had. Yadier Molina drove in the only two runs for St. Louis, but it was his error that opened the floodgates for that six-run third.
Goat: Luke Weaver. Placing the hopes of an organization on a young man’s shoulder is a big ask of anyone. Our SkyWeaver has done so well in most of his starts, but it all came unraveled here. Nothing was struck terribly hard, save for perhaps Brandon Belt‘s double, but he couldn’t plug the leak and the mess continued to worsen.
Notes: A storm came through my area about the time this game started, one strong enough to knock out my DirecTV reception. By time it cleared, I had no interest in turning the game on. This was a tough game to have at any time of the year, but against the team you are chasing for the wild card with just a couple of weeks left? It felt like a dagger to the hopes of Cardinal fans everywhere. There have been a few lows this year, but this might have been the time when the largest swath of the fanbase believed October was out of reach.
Jaime Garcia came out of the bullpen in this one for the first time, I believe, since his rookie year of 2008. Besides the fact that he gave up Buster Posey‘s first home run in two months, it wasn’t a terrible outing for him. Garcia went two innings, striking out five. Judging by the numbers, it was a pretty good outing. We’ll see how he is used over the next couple of weeks. I thought that it might just be a temporary drop to the bullpen, but Sunday probably made that permanent for 2016.
Also, Trevor Rosenthal pitched a scoreless inning, striking out two batters while he did so and looking much more like the Rosenthal we remembered from last year. If that continues, it can only help either hunt San Francisco down or aid in their quest to overthrow Chicago in the playoffs.
Saturday (3-2 win)
Hero: Randal Grichuk. The offense didn’t do much, but it came together when it counted. Down 2-1 in the ninth, just two outs away from facing almost a sheer cliff to get back to October, Grichuk’s single tied it up and set the stage for Kolten Wong‘s sacrifice fly. Grichuk also stole a base in the ninth and wound up on third, but thankfully the fact that Seung-hwan Oh was batting for himself and struck out didn’t come back to bite the Cards.
Notes: Wong was strong in this one, with a hit, two walks, and the game winning sacrifice fly. It’s great to see him playing with such intensity throughout this stretch. Also good offensively was Brandon Moss, who only had one hit, but it was a home run in the first to give the Cardinals their first lead since his home run on Tuesday put them ahead of Chicago. If they want to do anything in the postseason (assuming they get there) St. Louis is going to need Moss to be swinging his power bat.
A solid game from Mike Leake, allowing two runs in six innings. It could have been a little worse had not his opposite number, Jeff Samardzija, flown into a sacrifice double play. The only other time I’ve seen such a notation was earlier this year, when the Cardinals did it. I thought at the time that only the Cardinals, with their terrible baserunning, could make such a play happen. I guess I was wrong. Anyway, if anyone had said Leake was going to step up and perhaps give you the best start of the week, I don’t think many would have believed them. Without him keeping the Giants in check, though, the ninth inning rally couldn’t happen.
Kudos to Jedd Gyorko for the single that started it all in the ninth. After that ridiculously hot stretch where he was homering every other night (and that wasn’t an exaggeration), he’s hitting .219 with a double as his only extra-base hit. It’s not surprising that he’d cool after that stretch, but hopefully we’ll see a little more of the Gyorko we’d come to know during the next couple of weeks.
Sunday (3-0 win)
Hero: Alex Reyes. What more can you say about the rookie? He came into the biggest start of his career and treated it like a showcase for scouts. Seven innings, his longest at any level this season, and all scoreless. The knock on Reyes has always been his control, but he got through seven with just 84 pitches. Had his turn in the lineup not come up, he easily could have been sent out there for the eighth. The only jams he really got into basically dealt with him throwing to first, as Matt Carpenter didn’t see a pickoff move and then Reyes threw away a little dribbler that Molina tried to tell him to eat. With runners on second and third, one out, Hunter Pence up, what does he do? Just strike out Pence, that notorious Cardinal killer, then get Eduardo Nunez to fly out to end the inning after walking Brandon Belt on a questionable call. No big thing, y’all.
Yesterday was why the Cardinals are so excited about him and why Cardinal fans dream of a rotation fronted by him and Carlos Martinez. Add in a normally solid Luke Weaver, Adam Wainwright to mentor and hopefully be a Chris Carpenter type, and you have to think that this year’s pitching woes are more the anomaly rather than the shape of things to come.
Goat: Jedd Gyorko. Was going to go with Stephen Piscotty, but Piscotty did draw a walk. Gyorko, on the other hand, went 0-4 and struck out twice.
Notes: Aledmys Diaz provided basically all the punch Reyes needed, socking a two-run homer in the third. The Cardinals couldn’t do a lot more with Albert Suarez or that supposedly shaky Giants bullpen, especially Cory Gearrin, who struck out five Cardinals in two perfect innings. Thankfully they didn’t need any more than what they got, though as fans we’d have been fine with a little insurance at times.
Two hits for Molina in this one and a big pinch-hit for Jhonny Peralta, who hit the ball extremely hard and drove in the third run of the game. Many couldn’t figure out why Peralta only got a single out of that, but the ball did get off the wall in a hurry and the Giants got it back in quickly. That said, Peralta may have thought he got more of it than he did (I initially thought it might be a homer) and I don’t know how fast he got out of the box. Anyway, when it comes to Cardinal baserunning, the more cautious they are, the less likely they are to run into an out, right? I mean, look at Molina and his ability to be caught stealing twice yesterday. Maybe the second time he was trying to get into a rundown so Moss could score, but 1) that hardly ever works and 2) Moss had no idea and never left third. Baserunning, folks. Baserunning.
The Cardinals go to Colorado as Martinez matches up against Tyler Anderson. Anderson is having a pretty good season, especially by the standards of Rockies pitching. Heck, you could use the standards of the Cardinal rotation this year, as Anderson has a 3.65 ERA in 17 starts. He struggled last time, giving up six runs (five earned) in Arizona over 4.1 innings, but he had three solid starts before that. He’s actually much better at Coors Field (3.04 ERA) than on the road (5.10 ERA), which isn’t something you see every day. Cardinals haven’t faced him before, so take that for what it’s worth.
The Rockies have seen Martinez and Carlos hasn’t gotten the better end of the deal. He hasn’t faced them this year, but last year when he saw them in Busch Stadium in July, they got five runs in five innings off of him. He’s pitched two games (one start) in Coors and has a 6.75 ERA. Martinez is definitely better than he was in the past, but that ballpark can get a lot of good pitchers.
Mets host the Braves while the Giants go up to LA. If all goes as planned, the Cards could tie for that last spot and keep pace with the Mets, but we’ll have to wait and see, because baseball doesn’t care for plans!