Thankfully, they kept to the pattern. Hopefully tonight, they’ll break it.
As someone pointed out on Twitter Sunday night, the Cardinals have had three sets of games where they had a win followed by three losses. After being swept by the Yankees this weekend, the pattern said they were due for a win. It didn’t come easy, but they got it.
That win would not have been possible without the stellar work of Lance Lynn, our Hero for the night. Lynn allowed just three hits in seven innings and made the solo home run by Kolten Wong stand up until a little insurance could be gathered in the bottom of the eighth. (Insurance that was sorely needed, as it turned out.) Save for hitting Josh Harrison twice (and I swear Harrison moved his leg back into the danger zone on that second one), Lynn had no problems keeping the Pirate offense quiet.
We’ve often talked about the difference in Lynn coming back than others that had Tommy John surgery, probably including Alex Reyes next season. With Lynn having his so early in the offseason instead of as people wind up back in spring camp, that gave him about five months’ head start on rehab, letting him get back into minor league games last year before the season was over and allowing a full regular offseason. So far, that seems to be a pretty key thing as Lynn’s had two good starts and one marred by home runs. When you look at Adam Wainwright‘s first three starts of 2012, for instance, there’s a lot of runs and not a lot of innings as he started to build up to what he needed to be. Lynn’s there and while we’ll still see a little inconsistency, I think we can rely more on “regular Lynn” than even we expected.
The offense, though, is still not clicking. It was great to see Wong get that big home run and I’m sure he was excited about it. That hit was 20% of the hits and 50% of the runs, though. That’s not exactly where you want to see things. I know Mike Leake has been going very well, but I still think asking him to throw shutout ball is a big ask. The team’s going to have to put some runs on the board if they want to break the pattern we talked about above.
If that’s going to happen, it’s going to have to happen at the top. Dexter Fowler gets the Goat again for an 0-4 night, a line that is becoming depressingly familiar from the leadoff hitter. Nobody’s writing off that contract and I don’t think folks have turned on Fowler yet, but we are starting to see (in the opposite vein) why the Cubs felt their offense only clicked when he was going. This dream Cardinal fans had of Fowler and Aledmys Diaz getting on for Carpenter and some big early innings just really hasn’t come to fruition yet. If and when it does, things will start to turn around, but Fowler is the key.
With Lynn going seven innings, he left limited chances for the bullpen to cause problems, yet they almost did. I say they, but Trevor Rosenthal was just fine in his inning of work, pitching a clean frame and striking out a batter. Thankfully Randal Grichuk (who had two of the five hits, so perhaps moving up to cleanup suited him) and Jose Martinez (playing first since Matt Carpenter‘s finger was still iffy) combined on an insurance run in the bottom of the seventh, because Seung-hwan Oh allowed one run and had the tying run on second before getting a groundout from John Jaso to end the game. What is it about returning folks to the ninth inning? Do the Cardinals just need to have a new closer every year?
While the game was enjoyable, the media scrum before the game might have been even more interesting. John Mozeliak met the media and in his subtle, understated way, kinda laid down the law. Mo noted that there’s no one button to push to fix things and, honestly, there weren’t going to be many personnel changes as the folks at AAA really aren’t ready to provide that spark, though the Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons will be coming to St. Louis this week after his outing in Memphis yesterday (4.2 innings, six hits, two runs). Obviously, since it’s going to be a release situation no matter who is chosen (because Matthew Bowman isn’t heading down I-55), Mozeliak didn’t give any details of the other side of the transaction.
In what might have been a rebuke to his manager, Mozeliak also basically declared the Matt Adams Experiment over, saying that he didn’t feel it fit with their offseason plan of defense and that it was very tough to learn that at the big league level. While Mike Matheny could still run him out there, I guess, it would seem unwise to upset a Wookiee….wait, sorry, how did that get in there?…to upset his boss with a pretty flagrant display of insubordination. I am not saying we won’t see Adams in the outfield ever again, but I’d been very stunned if he ever started there and you probably could count the number of innings he’ll play the rest of the year and not run out of fingers.
Mozeliak also commented on Jhonny Peralta, who was not in the lineup again yesterday, saying that the production hasn’t been there, which is nothing we didn’t know but it’s always good to hear that management is aware of it. He also said they’d be willing to move Carpenter off of first if necessary, which is not something that has come across in the first two weeks (though, again, Mo made that sound like it was a last resort kinda thing.)
With all these comments, you have to wonder if Mo and Matheny didn’t have a little sit-down Monday morning. So many of these issues are ones that at least the fans have felt Matheny has dug in his heels over, so to see Mo come out and basically overrule Matheny’s philosophy is interesting. I’m not saying they aren’t on the same page or Matheny’s in any kind of jeopardy, but it is interesting that Mozeliak made a point to address all of these things. If you want to read into it, you could wonder if Mo was trying to insure Matheny’s cooperation by leaving him no room to disagree without getting some very pointed media questions about why he was doing things different than his boss had indicated. It might have been more cordial, more of a meeting of the minds than we as outsiders perceive it to be, but I do think it’s an interesting dynamic. One that I expect Mo will be asked about come Blogger Day, whenever that might be.
Carpenter should be back tonight, you’d think, and Leake is on the mound hoping to put together the first winning streak of the season as he matches up against Chad Kuhl. Leake has given up just one run this season, though if the offense doesn’t come together, even giving up one run could spell doom.
Leake’s had his issues with the Pirate hitters in the past, especially the Hero of Game 6 (who is off to a good start with the Pirates anyway). It’s also nice to see that the standing ovations for David Freese have stopped. Still gets a round of applause, which is fine, but the ovations were going to be a little tough to sustain.
Kuhl faced the Cards twice in September last year, allowing a total of five runs in seven innings. It’d be nice to see some of that offensive explosion tonight, though Kuhl is coming off allowing just one run in 6.1 innings against the Red Sox in Fenway.
A winning streak. Sounds nice. Let’s try that.