I’ve done two podcasts this weekend (Meet Me at Musial and Gateway To Baseball Heaven) that totaled close to three hours and it’s still hard to come up with words to describe how the Cardinals are playing right now. Especially if you, like myself, limit yourself only to words that don’t get you an explicit rating on iTunes. Let’s quickly sum up the weekend in New York and then maybe discuss more of the issues, if we can figure out exactly how to do so.
Friday (4-3 loss)
Hero: Matt Carpenter. He only had one hit, but it was a two-run homer in the first inning that looked to kick the weekend off right. Unfortunately, the lead didn’t get past the first two Yankee hitters.
Goat: Dexter Fowler. 0-5 and left four men on base. Fowler’s really been struggling of late and, as Tara and I noted last night, you don’t see that smile nearly as much anymore, which is too bad.
Notes: Michael Wacha wasn’t terrible, but again, it’d be nice if the Cardinals could hold a lead for more than three batters. He gave up another run on a homer, but both of those (while well struck) might have been a factor of playing in Yankee Stadium, which isn’t necessarily known as a pitcher’s park. The fourth run was unearned and costly as Kolten Wong threw a bit wildly to the plate and Yadier Molina didn’t pick it up. Some blame on both sides there, really.
Of course, this game was notable for how close the Cardinals got to tying the game and, more amazingly, scoring off of Aroldis Chapman. The Cardinals haven’t scored on Chapman since 2011, if my rough research is correct, but had Randal Grichuk on first when Jose Martinez does what he does against Chapman, doubling into the gap. Chris Maloney didn’t send Grichuk, which was probably the right play since Grichuk had been watching the outfielders instead of his coach. If he’s focused on his baserunning, he probably at least can make an attempt at home. Unsurprisingly, the rally died and the game was over with the next batter.
Saturday (3-2 loss)
Hero: Jedd Gyorko. Gyorko and Stephen Piscotty provided the only offense, both hitting solo homers late after the Cards had gone down by three. Gyorko gets the nod because the only difference in their lines was that Piscotty left a man on. Still, there wasn’t much going on in this one that was worth noting here.
Goat: Carlos Martinez. It’s pretty interesting to put a guy that was working on a no-hitter for a little while in this spot, but when that said no-hitter has more runners on the bases than bloggers in the buffet line in a suite at Busch Stadium on Blogger Day (that’s a lot), it kinda loses its impact. Martinez threw 118 pitches in 5.1 innings, which is basically insane and might not have happened if Mike Matheny thought he could trust his bullpen. (This would be the kind of game it’d be nice if Trevor Rosenthal was stretched out like he was supposed to be. Though that might be overrated a bit–he threw three innings at the end of last season with no prior workup to that level.) Martinez struck out eight but walked 11 and according to my Gateway cohost (because I didn’t get to see this one) didn’t seem focused or concerned at all. What most amazed me was reading that in the first two innings, Martinez struck out six…..and walked six. That’s a tough way to keep a scoreless game.
Notes: A decent enough outing by the bullpen. Brett Cecil struck out the two batters he faced and Miguel Socolovich and Jonathan Broxton finished it up with two scoreless innings. Had the offense been able to rally, that could have been a huge boost for the team.
Sunday (9-3 loss)
Hero: Greg Garcia. Getting his first start of the year, Garcia had two hits and drove in the first Cardinal run, again a lead that evaporated by the end of the inning. Garcia did drop an easy throw at second, but was part of two of the four double plays the team turned.
Goat: Adam Wainwright. For a while there, it felt like some of the Twitter carping might have been a bit overblown. Wainwright, staked to that 1-0 lead, gave up a single, a home run that wasn’t, then a home run that was and it was suddenly 3-1. He settled a bit after that and threw two scoreless frames, but he couldn’t get out of the fifth, allowing another run and leaving two runners on for Matthew Bowman to clean up.
As much as we all love Wainwright, 100 pitches in five innings, which is pretty much where he’s been in all three starts, isn’t going to cut it. The only good game he had was in Busch and even then there were a number of fly balls that might have been much more trouble in a smaller ballpark. To his credit, Wainwright didn’t admit to any easy answers after the game, saying he thought he threw well–much better than against Washington–but didn’t really know what the problem was. Hopefully he can come up with something. That said, it’s Adam Wainwright. The club is going to run him out there as often as they can to see if he can fix it and I don’t think most of us have a problem with that. The question is going to come if and when it is obvious that fix isn’t coming.
Roy Halladay‘s name got bandied about on Twitter last night as a bit of a cautionary tale. Halladay had sub-3 ERAs all the way to 2011, and we all remember that legendary Game 5 matchup against Chris Carpenter. In 2012, he strained his shoulder and had an ERA around 4.50. The next year, he got hurt again, threw 60 innings, had an ERA of almost 7, and retired. Life comes at you fast. Halladay was 35 and 36 those last two seasons. Wainwright is 35 now. Sometimes pitchers just drop off a cliff, not gradually ride off into the sunset. Wainwright’s going to have to work to prove that’s not the case for him.
Notes: Oh, Soco. Socolovich had been so effective this season, but for whatever reason, maybe coming out of the pen on back-to-back days, he didn’t have it last night, allowing five runners in the eighth, all of which scored. A lot of people feel like he just gave the club a rationale for cutting him (and not Broxton) loose when Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons returns shortly. I still believe the club wouldn’t cut him over that, but I will admit the front office has never been all that enamored with him for whatever reason, letting him languish in Memphis last season for instance. Again, my feeling is the club would like to keep control of him, but there’s no guarantee.
I do feel like the roster is going to get a shakeup soon. From the fan’s perspective, there’s a listlessness and plodding that you see out of teams in the middle of the second half of the season, not right out of the gate. As we saw last year, every game counts and it is hard to believe that John Mozeliak will let this team get much further without some sort of kick in the pants. My guess was that we’d see Lyons activated today instead of him starting at Memphis, but given that the Redbirds’ game starts at 11 and Lyons is still listed as the starter, that seems like it’s not going to happen. Why not, I couldn’t tell you. It definitely doesn’t look like he needs any more time down there.
The two evaporated leads this weekend made me curious. Just how long have leads lasted this year? Not long, obviously, but let’s quantify:
|Game||Lead Acquired||Lead Lost|
So it’s not quite as bad as I thought, but five of the 11 leads this season lasted less than two innings and a sixth was gone after three. Three time so far they’ve given the lead immediately up after taking it. It’s tough to build a winning feeling that way. It always feels like doom is right around the corner. Also, I don’t believe they’ve come from more than one run down this season. I didn’t mark that in my look and I don’t have time to revisit, but it feels like when they are down, they are down, and when they are up, they are going to be down. It’s not a pleasant way to go.
Hopefully returning home (where the Cards have two of their three wins, so they are doing better at home just like we thought they would!) will help out. Pittsburgh just swept the Cubs, which is nice in a lot of ways, but they’ll be coming in with momentum. Lance Lynn will go for the Cardinals, looking to be more like his first start than his second, and Ivan Nova will be on the bump for the Pirates. Cards have a total of 17 plate appearances against Nova, 11 of which have come from Jhonny Peralta, who is 3-11 with a double and three strikeouts. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions on whether he’ll be in the lineup today.
Lynn, on the other hand, is very familiar with the Pirates hitters and vice versa. Pittsburgh’s done all right against him in the past, it seems.
It would be really nice to see a sharp, well-played, Cardinal win tonight. I think Cardinal Nation needs it for their mental health!