There was excitement, momentum, and a sense of optimism after the Cardinals swept the Pirates in Busch on Wednesday afternoon. There was this idea that things had turned the corner and that everything might just be all right after all.
I really should have written yesterday morning.
Instead, the Cards go off to Milwaukee, a place where they’ve had a lot of success, with Carlos Martinez on the mound, and immediately squander a lot of that goodwill engendered by three straight wins. Before we get into that, though, let’s take a moment to relieve the good times.
Wednesday (2-1 win)
Hero: Dexter Fowler. When a guy basically provides all the offense and literally all the scoring, that’s likely to get him a Hero tag. We commented after Tuesday’s game, where he took a walk and got a hit, that he might be coming out of his season-opening funk. That surely seemed the case here, with his two homers providing all the scoring and he tossed in another hit to boot. I’d say that’s the kind of day we thought we were getting when the Cards signed him, but I don’t think anyone really thought that two-homer days were going to be the norm.
Goat: Greg Garcia. Good thing Fowler hit homers, because Garcia wasn’t going to be driving him in. Slipped into the two spot perhaps in part because he was playing shortstop and that’s where Aledmys Diaz bats, Garcia went 0-4 with two strikeouts and had an error in the field. Not the greatest way to earn playing time, but it seems like that talk John Mozeliak and Mike Matheny had is still holding, so he’ll probably see a few starts in Milwaukee.
Notes: Another great outing by the starter, this time Michael Wacha. Wacha allowed a solo homer to Josh Bell, but otherwise was pretty effective, getting within one out of seven full innings. He didn’t strike out many (three) but he didn’t allow many hits either (four). I don’t know when we’ll completely feel comfortable with Wacha, if we ever will given the way that injury can flare up at any time, but we’re at least feeling a lot less anxious when he takes the mound than we did last season.
Give some credit to Kevin Siegrist (in part because we’re going to do some critiquing later). He threw a scoreless inning but had to get five outs in the frame, as Matt Carpenter missed a throw and then Garcia botched what could have been a double play ball. Toss in the standard walk that you get from Siegrist these days and, in a one-run game, disaster looked imminent. Instead, he got Gregory Polanco (who’s been a thorn in the Cardinals side often) to ground out and the damage was avoided. Trevor Rosenthal gave Seung-hwan Oh the day off and closed things down with two strikeouts, letting folks know that, if necessary, he could probably slide back into his old role.
So everyone left St. Louis upbeat and excited. That just doesn’t last long these days.
Thursday (7-5 loss)
Hero: Kolten Wong. Jedd Gyorko had the best night, but Wong might have had the biggest moment. Already down 3-0 in the second inning, the Cardinals loaded the bases with nobody out. Wong then laced a triple down the right-field line, tying up the ballgame. While things bounced around after that, that was a key moment in getting the club to at least have a chance. If the Cards didn’t score there or even got just one, I think it could have snowballed. Instead, they were right back in it and, when Matt Carpenter homered a few innings later, actually had the lead. (Briefly, because leads have a short shelf life this season, it seems.)
Goat: It’s tough not to say Carlos Martinez, since he gave up five runs in five innings, and I am going that way, but I don’t think it’s as clear-cut as maybe the line would indicate. Martinez had nothing in the first inning, giving up a three-run bomb to Travis Shaw. After that frame, though, he seemed to find his rhythm and looked more like the Martinez we remember, setting down I think 11 in a row before giving up a hit and being burned by possibly the most dangerous hitter in baseball at the moment. Take out that first and it looks like a fairly good start (and if he’d not thrown 25 pitches then, he might have gone deeper in the game). That said, you can’t just not count the first inning, unfortunately.
Notes: Gyorko did have an excellent night, going 3-3 with a walk, two doubles, and a homer. Some nights, that’s enough to win the game right there, but this just wasn’t one of those nights. Still, it proves that the third base mix-and-match with him and Garcia is likely to pay a lot of dividends and right now we don’t have to worry about a Matheny reversion in that area with Jhonny Peralta on the disabled list with some upper respiratory issue that was conveniently aggravated by the medicine they’d given him. Lucky thing for the team, that.
Siegrist pitched in back-to-back games and, well, it turned out like you’d think. This was actually the first time that he’d gone on consecutive days and he allowed a walk and a two-run homer to put the game out of reach. He did wind up striking out the last two batters, but the damage was done. Siegrist isn’t really fooling anyone this year–or, at least, he’s not when the ball is actually in the strike zone. He now has 10 walks in 6.1 innings, which means he’s basically walked one person for every two outs he’s gotten this year. He’s also given up five hits in that span, so you mix all that together and, well, it’s no surprise his ERA is about 10.
Al Hrabosky talked a lot last night about Siegrist just needing to get some work, but it’s hard to stomach that when most of that work is going to wind up coming when games are hanging in the balance. Last night did snap a string of three straight scoreless outings for the reliever, but even in those games he walked a total of five. He has had seven appearances and none of them have been “clean” outings. The best one was the one we talked about above, against Pittsburgh, when at least two of the three runners he allowed weren’t really his fault.
When Rosenthal got bad last year, the command was an issue as well. We know now that Rosenthal was dealing with some arm pain and not telling anyone. Could Siegrist be having the same sort of problem? He did admit after the game that his shoulder isn’t quite where it should be. Or could it be that Matheny’s usage of Siegrist over the last few years (81 games in 2015, 67 games in 2016) is starting to take its toll? I don’t know what the problem is, but the Cardinals have to figure it out. With a 6-10 start, they can’t afford to give up too many more games while they are trying to see if Siegrist can get back to form.
With the Cardinals behind, it at least gave Matthew Bowman the night off. Jonathan Broxton and Miguel Socolovich (you’d have not expected to see both of them after the return of the Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons, but Peralta gave the club an out) threw two scoreless innings and at least gave the Cards a chance to rally.
I gave Martinez the Goat, but I could have probably given it to Fowler just as easily. Many opportunities passed Fowler by last night. After Wong tripled to tie the game (and a Martinez groundout), Fowler had a chance, with just a fly ball, to give the Cards a lead. He struck out. In the eighth, after Gyorko had homered, Garcia singled with two outs. Fowler struck out to end the inning. Fowler mixed another strikeout in there on his way to an 0-5 night. Honestly, I’m surprised the Cards got five runs with their leadoff man not contributing.
The Cards slipped back into last place with the loss and Pittsburgh not playing. They are tied with the Giants for the worst record in the National League and really only have the Blue Jays at 3-12 to thank for not having the worst record in baseball. Insert sigh here.
There was some interesting news yesterday as MLB finally declared Cuban uber-prospect Luis Robert a free agent. You’ve probably heard about Robert before–Kyle Reis has spoken about him some on the last couple of Meet Me at Musials–but if not, he’s a 19-year-old with power, speed, and everything else you could want in a player. He’s been impressive in Cuba and really is the kind of player that every team would love to have in their organization.
Not every team can get him, though, given the international spending rules. Some of the big guys–Boston, the Yankees, the Cubs–are on the sidelines for this one. The Cardinals, however, are considered one of the favorites along with teams like Cincinnati, the White Sox, Houston, and San Diego. If it comes down to what the organizations can afford, the Cards are in a real good position. There’s always other factors involved–whether one of these teams desperate for help will go way over the top, if Robert has some sort of preference for where he plays, things like that–but you have to at least like St. Louis’s chances.
What’s it going to cost? Bunches and bunches of money. The only comparable situation is probably Yoan Moncada, who signed two years ago with the Red Sox. Moncada received $31.5 million and the Red Sox also had to pay a dollar-for-dollar tax to MLB since they were over their spending limit for the period. (The Cardinals will have to do the same as will most of their competitors for Robert, which may also give them a leg up as whatever you give him will cost double.) However, in Moncada’s case, a lot of big-money teams were in the same competition, so it’s not surprising that the Red Sox had to go big to get him. The Yankees, for instance, apparently offered $25 million and were willing to go to $27 million.
In theory, not having those large market teams there to run up the bidding would help the Cardinals. That said, the Moncada signing is precedent. You have to figure Robert’s camp is looking for something in that price range. Maybe the price won’t be as high as it could have been, but it’s still going to cost the Cards quite a bit to lock him up. I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t sign for maybe a little more than Moncada, given the history and how things are continuing to grow in revenue for clubs.
Hopefully St. Louis is committed to that. They don’t pick until the third round of this year’s draft and aren’t likely to be able to get significant talent that way. (Perhaps they can take the almost $3 million they can’t spend on draft picks this year and put it toward this contract.) The international rules change going forward, so this is the best chance the Cards have at getting a prime talent. It’s like when Delvin Perez slipped to them last year in the draft. You have to take advantage of opportunities and this would be a huge one. (Can you imagine in a couple of years having Perez at short, Robert in center, and Manny Machado at third? That’s a lot of dreaming, but it’s a fun dream.)
All that’s the future, though. Robert can’t sign until May 20, which means that we’ll have to wait a bit to see how it all plays out. Until then, we have games to watch. It’s an interesting commentary that, right now, the fan base is more excited about starts from the 3-4-5 starters than the top two guys in the rotation. However, it’s Adam Wainwright‘s turn up and, given how he’s gone lately, putting him in Miller Park is such a worrying thing. I know he’s done well against these guys in the past, but the way the ball can fly in Milwaukee coupled with the way Waino is going right now is scary. Maybe facing a team he’s had success against will help him get on track, though.
Wily Peralta is going for the Brewers. Peralta’s been tough on the Cards at times and had mixed results against them last year. His first start, he gave up five runs in five innings. His second, three in five. His last, he gave up one run and struck out 10 in seven. Let’s hope for more of the former and less of the latter tonight, shall we?
If the Cardinals don’t at least split this series, things will be pretty bad. A win of the series would be much better, but that means taking tonight’s game. So let’s do that!