It’s not exactly accurate to call Magneuris Sierra a child. I mean, the man is 21 years old. However, not only is that ridiculously young for an old guy like me–I have clothes older than that–it’s also a pretty young baseball age. Couple that with the fact that he’s not had a lot of pro baseball experience and, if it wasn’t for all these injuries and the fact he was on the 40-man, he’d be plying his trade in Palm Beach right now, and it’s not an inappropriate term for him.
The rest of the phrase there should be no question about.
Sierra has had at least one hit in each of his three major league games. He’s had two hits in his last two games. His speed has paid dividends not only around the bases but in the outfield. As I said on Twitter recently, even when he hits a ground ball, it’s exciting. It’s hard to know if that comeback last night happens without his legs, honestly.
First, in the eighth, with Tommy Pham aboard, Sierra stroked a single into left field. Pham was able to go first to third–again, nice wheels–and Sierra was heads-up enough to take second when the throw came into the infield. It was a play I don’t know that anyone else could have made. It’s the aggressive baserunning that Mike Matheny talks about with, you know, actual speed involved.
Him being on second allowed him to move to third on a Matt Adams pinch-hit single and score when Randal Grichuk came up with the bases loaded and hit a sacrifice fly. Jedd Gyorko finished off the scoring with a two-RBI single, but you wonder how that inning would have unfolded with runners on first and third instead of second and third to start it all off.
Then, in the ninth, Sierra hit a dribbler that was going to be tough for A.J. Ramos to come off the mound and field in time anyway, but then Ramos either slipped or rushed his throw given Sierra’s speed or a combination of the two, because the ball sailed over the first baseman’s head and let Sierra take second. Dexter Fowler, who still is working on that shoulder, then singled to Giancarlo Stanton on a pitch Ramos said afterwards was a very good pitch. Given where the ball was and who it was hit to, I don’t know that anyone else could have scored from second and, in fairness, Sierra almost didn’t. Stanton’s throw was accurate, but it reached the catcher (who was up the line) about the same time Sierra did. Sierra evaded the tag and scored the game-winning run.
It’s possible the Cardinals would have won that game, had that comeback, even without Sierra. It just was a whole lot easier with him and his legs in the lineup. I honestly don’t think that Sierra has a chance of staying with the club as folks get healthy and it’s probably not the best thing for his development anyway, but if he keeps this up it’s going to be harder to send him back to Palm Beach, I’d think. He’s also already about guaranteed his September call-up as well.
(I guess we should mention that, for all his speed, some of his baserunning still needs some work, though it may be more about learning the pitchers in the league. He was picked off on Sunday and caught stealing last night. Still, the balance is in his favor.)
Of course, that nice rally and exciting comeback might not have been necessary had the other of the big free agent signings from this past winter been able to do his job. Adam Wainwright started the sixth having thrown five innings of one-run ball in about 87 pitches. There was the idea floated on Twitter that you take him out there, give him a positive outing, and turn it over to the bullpen. In retrospect, that might have been the best idea, but really Waino wasn’t bad in the sixth either.
He plunked J.T. Realmuto to start the frame, but that was hardly his fault. I really, REALLY wish that umpires would enforce the “must attempt to get out of the way” rule on hit-by-pitches. (Granted, the Cards might have lost some of Jon Jay‘s HBP in the past, but that’s OK.) More and more often these days the player either doesn’t budge, maybe flinches, or actually starts sticking parts in the way. The most generous reading of Realmuto’s at bat was that he flinched, but he sure didn’t move. Wainwright was worked up enough about it that he walked all the way to home plate to talk to the umpire. Obviously, nothing changed, but that’s something baseball really should work on. There’s enough clear HBP that little nicks and such aren’t necessary to be called. (The whole idea of using replay frame-by-frame to see if a ball hit a jersey is another level of ridiculousness.)
With Realmuto on first, Wainwright allowed a ground ball to Ichiro Suzuki, a ball right up the middle well-hit but one Wainwright was just inches from gloving and starting a double play with. He does that, the inning is so much different. Instead, runners on first and second and they moved over on a groundout by Marcell Ozuna. With Stanton coming up and Wainwright reaching 100 pitches (and his history this season), intentionally passing Stanton was the obvious move and going to the bullpen was a smart one.
Matheny went with Brett Cecil in this situation, which in a vacuum makes sense. There were a number of lefties coming up, you paid big money for Cecil to be at the minimum a lefty specialist, so he should come in and get those outs. The problem is that Cecil hasn’t been doing that consistently this year and completely blew up last night. The line will show Wainwright with four earned runs and Cecil one, but that’s hardly a fair representation. It is tough to come into a bases-loaded situation and get nobody out, which is why I noted it when Matthew Bowman did it last year. So if Cecil had allowed a run, maybe two, via sacrifice fly or bloop hit, it’d have been understandable. Instead, he allowed a rocket of a double to Derek Dietrich on his second pitch, which drove in two, a scorched single to Justin Bour to allow the last of Wainwright’s runs to score, and a sac fly that allowed Dietrich to come in. Forget putting out the fire, Cecil grabbed a few more logs and got out the marshmallows.
It’s still hard to write off Cecil given the fact that he’s got a four-year deal. Like Fowler, the other big expense this offseason, he’s off to a slow start. He does have potential to be a dominant guy out of the pen and usually is in the second half. The problem is that, last I checked, you have to play both halves of the season and it’s tough to hide a guy that you expect a lot out of in less-than-important situations. Cecil is going to have to get better. He’s had a few good appearances but so far this season he’s allowed 56% of his inherited runners to score. (That did go up 10% last night, but even around half seems like a lot.) Nobody has confidence when he comes into the game now and that’s something he needs to change in a hurry.
Sierra’s our Hero, Cecil’s our Goat. Pham had another good night, with a couple of singles, a run scored, and an RBI. He’s got a better chance of staying with the club, honestly. I don’t know that he will, but if the club doesn’t activate Jhonny Peralta soon (and for all the talk about him joining the team in Miami, that doesn’t look to happen) they can get back to 13 hitters and 12 pitchers if they need to activate two outfielders before Peralta’s return. When Peralta is healthy, that makes it a little less likely Pham stays, but he might return if they decide to cut ties with the veteran.
Thankfully the rest of the bullpen–Bowman, Trevor Rosenthal, and Seung-hwan Oh–did what you expect out of them. Surprisingly, none of them had any strikeouts, but only Rosenthal walked a batter and even that had a caveat, as he slipped throwing a 3-2 pitch. As long as they get outs, we don’t really care how they get them, but it was nice to see the Cardinals rally and not worry as much about them giving it right back. The overall bullpen is fairly good. It’s just certain members of it that worry folks.
With the win, the Cardinals continued their reign on top of the NL Central for another day. Lance Lynn will go tonight to try to keep that a true fact. We know how good Lynn has been this year and the idea is growing to go ahead and give him the extension that he wants. I’m still of two minds on that, given the roster construction and what other things might be done with the money, but an extension wouldn’t be anything that would make folks mad by any means.
Tom Koehler will be on the mound for the Marlins. He’s got a 5.40 ERA on the season and that’s not really inflated by any one start. Looking over his game log, it looks like a lot of three runs in four/five innings type of games. If the Cardinals can get three runs or more by the fifth, you have to like their chances.
When this road trip started, I hoped they’d go 4-2 at least, maybe 5-1. It’d be really nice to go back to Busch with a 6-0 mark, wouldn’t it?