One thing that we’ve said over and over about this year’s version of the Cardinals (and, indeed, many other years as well) is that they seem to be allergic to momentum. Big wins never spark long winning streaks. Thankfully, it goes both ways.
A day after completely not showing up, the Cardinals gave an early scare, then turned on that offense that has been missing for so much of the month of October. I tweeted the following yesterday:
Home runs per game for the Cardinals, by month:
— Cardinal70 (@C70) September 27, 2016
If you are going to try to improve your home run numbers, it surely helps to have the pitching staff that gives up more of them than any other in town. The Cardinals smashed five long balls and seemed to be much more invigorated than Monday night’s performance would have indicated. You started to wonder if the club had enough fireworks stored up to deal with this onslaught.
The biggest home run, both in the game and emotionally, came from our Hero Aledmys Diaz. Playing for the first time since losing his childhood friend Jose Fernandez so tragically, Diaz came up in the fourth with one out and the Cardinals down by one.
I wasn’t able to see the slam live, but I doubt there was a dry eye in the house after that. I know just watching the highlights makes you wonder where all those onions are being chopped. For him to be able to come out and have that kind of moment, it had to mean a lot to him as did the support of his teammates such as Yadier Molina, who was waiting to embrace him at home plate. That was absolutely incredible to watch. I guess sports in general can give us these kind of moments, but I feel like baseball tends to have those moments really have more meaning. Dee Gordon’s home run on Monday night was something even a cynic would tear up over. This was more of the same.
The slam was big as well because the Cardinals had already given up two runs and Goat Adam Wainwright again is showing that his ace days seem to be in the past. It’s the second straight start where he’s gotten plenty of support but yet still can’t get out of the sixth. Wainwright worked out of some jams early and the Cardinals were lucky to be down just 2-0 when Matt Carpenter got the home run parade started. Diaz’s homer made it 5-2, but as so often happens, Wainwright gave one back on a blast by Joey Votto, who is hitting .413/.500/.671 since the All-Star Break. (You could see that over a couple of weeks, maybe a month. But 240 at bats? That’s just insane.)
Luckily for Wainwright, the Cardinals weren’t done either. Jhonny Peralta, who is hitting .529 over his last week of games and has a hit in eight of his last 10, smashed a three-run homer as part of his three-hit night. (If Diaz’s slam didn’t have the emotional component, Peralta might have gotten the Hero tag.) Unfortunately, Wainwright is a giving guy and allowed a two-run homer to Scott Schebler, making it 8-5. After another hit, Wainwright was pulled for Zach Duke, meaning he allowed five runs in 5.2 innings. He should get the final start of the regular season on Sunday, but I hope that one will turn out to be much better than most of his September starts.
Matt Adams pinch-hit the Cardinals’ 16th homer off the bench, Randal Grichuk went yard, and the bullpen, save for Trevor Rosenthal, was basically untouchable. Rosenthal allowed two singles and had at least one ball hit deep, needing 24 pitches to complete the frame. It could be a lack of regular use, but it could be that Rosenthal just isn’t back to normal yet. Or this is the new normal, one of the two.
Before the game, Mike Matheny said that Kolten Wong was dealing with a shoulder issue from sprawling on the Wrigley outfield this weekend and might be back soon, but they weren’t sure. Which explains how Wong didn’t make it into Monday night’s debacle, at least. Matt Holliday has also basically been ruled out from returning, though you wonder if they’ll activate him Sunday and get him one more at-bat if the playoffs have already been decided. Especially if they aren’t planning to pick up his option.
All the wild card contenders scored 12 last night and the race remains unchanged, though with one day less to make up the slack. The Mets are up 1.5 and they send Seth Lugo against the Marlins and Jose Urena. San Francisco is up a game on the Cards and host Colorado with Jeff Samardzija going against Tyler Chatwood.
Just like last night, tonight’s a must-win for the Cardinals. Both of their competitors for the playoff spot will be favored and they can’t afford to get down two games going into the last four days of the season. Unfortunately for their chances, it’s Mike Leake’s turn in the rotation. Leake has struggled all season, much like most of the rotation, but he’s really not done well against his former club.
At least the last and best of those starts was the only one at Busch, where tonight’s affair is. Problem is, you wonder even if he limits them to three runs whether it’ll be enough. If the bats are going like last night, no problem. However, remember what we said about momentum….
Anthony DeSclafani is going for the Reds. DeSclafani has pitched well for the Reds since his season debut back in June, though the last two starts have been rough as he’s allowed 11 runs (nine earned) in 10 innings against the Pirates and the Brewers. The only time the Cardinals saw him this season, he went five innings and gave up three runs. It would seem that the Cards might be able to slug again tonight. Let’s hope so!