The Fleet Sweep

Winning all the games of a road trip is hard.  Winning a game when you are down four runs in the first is hard.  Put a team down four in the last game of a six game road trip in which they’d won the first five games and you’d almost forgive them for going through the motions and hurrying toward their flight home.

This Cardinals team, though, again believes in a Happy Flight.  And they are soaring due to more speedsters than your average episode of The Flash.

While I’m not going to tag any of them tonight as the actual Hero, there’s no doubt that Tommy Pham and Magneuris Sierra have sparked this team and given it a sense of excitement and fun that has been lacking on the club in quite some time.  They both had hits in the sixth inning with one out, which allowed Dexter Fowler, another fleet of foot guy, to pinch-hit and rope one into the gap.  The only downside to his triple that put the Cardinals ahead was that Sierra really didn’t have to burn his way from first to home.  I mean, he still went faster than StlCardsCards can offend half of Twitter, but he never had to find that extra gear he has.

Sierra has a four game hitting streak since he was brought up to the big leagues.  Pham is hitting .417 with a 1.434 OPS courtesy of that huge weekend in Atlanta.  Both of these guys bring an extra dimension that is fun to watch, but how much longer will it happen?

With the off day today and the fact that Fowler has pinch-hit the last two nights, the odds are he’ll be back in the outfield on Friday night when the Cardinals take on the Cubs.  Given that Randal Grichuk went 0-12 in Miami (though, to be fair, he went 6-17 with three doubles in Atlanta), it might be that he gets a night or two off while Sierra stays in center and Pham and Fowler man the corners.  That can’t last too long, though, and if nothing else one of Pham or Sierra is going to have to sit while the other plays with Fowler and Grichuk.

Of course, the injured are returning soon, at least in theory.  As we said yesterday, there have been no real updates on Stephen Piscotty or Jose Martinez.  By rule, both of them could be back by the middle of next week.  Moves will have to be made and none of them are going to be real pleasant.  While sending Sierra back down, maybe to AA this time, maybe just back to Palm Beach, is the right call given his need to continue to develop, we’re going to miss out on watching him and there will be some that are irrationally irritated by this, even as they know it’s the best thing in the long run.  You can probably put me in that category.

Pham, however, is a different story.  He doesn’t need more development.  The man’s 29, this is what he is.  He’ll go through ups and downs but he does bring that element that the Cards need.  When the second roster spot is needed, what do you do?  We talked before that you could perhaps make a corresponding move with the pitching staff.  The easiest call, I guess, would be to demote Sam Tuivailala.  Tui, who got the win last night after Lynn’s short outing, has been pretty effective this year especially since his recall after Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons went on the DL and they were talking on the broadcast last night how he has made some changes and is more effective right now.  I’m not saying Tui doesn’t belong in the big leagues, but sometimes the guy with options is the guy that goes down.

So we could have Piscotty and Martinez return with minimal disruption and angst.  However, there are two other folks that will also probably be ready to go soon.  Lyons had a rehab start yesterday and while the line wasn’t too bad, reports from Tom Knuppel on scene said even the outs were hit hard. I think you could get by with him making another start somewhere in the minors, but unless those results are terrible you are going to have to find room for him on the roster.  How?

In our hypothetical, we’re already at 13 hitters and 12 pitchers, so likely you’d have to look at the pitching staff.  Waiving Jonathan Broxton would seem to be the obvious choice, but as Brendan Schaeffer pointed out in discussing his Twitter poll last night, Broxton’s been pretty effective of late.  He’s had five scoreless outings in a row and last night, after walking the first batter he faced to load the bases, he got Giancarlo Stanton out on a comebacker to get out of a mess Brett Cecil had created.  There’s probably more value there than we tend to think.

That said, I’m pretty sure that’s been the pattern for Broxton as his time as a Cardinal.  A good run of games, followed by times that you never want to see him.  Rinse and repeat.  After all, remember his ERA was 11.12 on April 23, before this current run.  I feel like Broxton is just a yo-yo that bounces around replacement level, first above it, then below it.

And if it’s not Broxton, who?  Brendan indicated he wasn’t big on Miguel Socolovich, but that doesn’t make much sense to me.  He’s had two real bad outings–the five runs against the Yankees and then four runs against the Reds–but other than that has been very effective.  He allowed a Stanton homer (not an exclusive club) but that was it in three innings in his last outing.  He had the 2.2 innings against Toronto that kept the Cardinals alive in the extra inning game until Matt Carpenter could walk it off.  If you are going to need a guy to cover innings, he might be the best option.  Given that he is out of options, I don’t really want to see him go just yet.

While we might not be as enamored with Matthew Bowman right now as we were earlier in the year and are frustrated as all get out with Cecil, neither of them are going anywhere.  There’s no way the Cardinals cut bait on a four-year deal after a month of results and Bowman still has a role here, even if he’s stumbled of late.  So besides Broxton, I don’t know how you get Lyons on the roster.

Then there’s Jhonny Peralta.  I think I just heard the massive groan that came up from the two people reading this.  There’s no doubt that, given a choice between Pham and Peralta, especially given their recent production, folks would keep Pham and drive Peralta to the airport.  That said, at some point Peralta is going to have to come off the DL from his respiratory problem.  I’ll admit, I was one of those that was going to give him the benefit of the doubt that, like the club said, the medicine he was on drained him and once he built up his strength, he’d be OK.  After all, his spring training wasn’t a bad one at all–even though he didn’t homer, he led the team in doubles.  I didn’t think he should (or would) supplant Jedd Gyorko at third, but I thought he could probably contribute to the big league roster.

That said, I do find it interesting that late last week the reports were that Peralta would join the team in Miami (since he’s in the area anyway) on Monday.  Monday came and went.  The entire series came and went.  And Peralta is still with Palm Beach, at least as far as I know.  He’s not played in a game there since Sunday, when he went 0-3 with two strikeouts.  Those last three were on the road at Fort Myers, but it seems a bit strange that he didn’t travel with them.  Maybe he’s stayed back, gone down to extended spring training in Jupiter.  I don’t really know where Peralta is, but it doesn’t seem like his return is as imminent as it appeared before the Atlanta series.  Maybe with the outbursts of Pham and Sierra they decided not to rush him, which would make sense, though I’d think his 20 day clock is ticking.

When Peralta comes back, assuming he’s the last one and all the moves above have been made, I think Pham will have to go to the minors for a bit.  Perhaps by then he’s cooled off anyway and the loss isn’t as great, but unless the Cardinals are going to release Peralta, which seems unlikely at the moment, they are going to want to see if he can hit major league pitching so they can spin him off to an American League team hopefully.  Better results on the rehab would help that out a lot.  He has to be on the field, though.  I don’t think working in Jupiter is going to be the same thing.  (Again, if that’s where he is.  Where in the world is Jhonny Peralta?)

All this and we’ve really not done much talking about the game!  Jedd Gyorko gets the Hero tag for his three hit, two RBI performance.  Gyorko even got a stolen base, which was one of the most clueless pitcher responses than I’ve ever seen.  Gyorko was two-thirds of the way to second before the pitcher even reacts, and then Dee Gordon has to lunge to catch the ball around second because he wasn’t expecting anything.  Gyorko wound up getting stranded on third, but it was good to see something like that not totally backfire on the Cardinals, which is normally what would have happened.

Two hits each by Yadier Molina and Aledmys Diaz, meaning that it wasn’t entirely the bottom of the lineup carrying the game like it feels like it’s been over the past few days.  Imagine how much more damage could have been done if Grichuk hadn’t been in a slump this series!  I don’t know if he is taking to second in the lineup real well, but I don’t know that there are a lot of other options save maybe moving Pham up, but having him and Sierra back to back has been all sorts of fun.

We’ll give Lance Lynn the Goat, giving up four runs in the first and only pitching four innings in his worst outing of the year.  Kevin Reynolds mentioned on Twitter he thought Lynn struggled last time out, which is possible–I don’t remember watching that, but you can get away with a lot when you have a huge lead.  It wouldn’t be surprising as Kevin notes if Lynn’s not hitting a bit of a valley in his recovery.  It would be stunning if he could take a year off from injury and pitch the entire next season without some setbacks.  His next outing will be against the Red Sox, though, so hopefully whatever he’s dealing with he can work through and be on his game then.

The broadcast team made the comment that Tony La Russa would always want to get a guy back out there after having a rough game the night before.  I don’t remember Tony doing that–though I completely believe it–but it’s definitely been a hallmark of Mike Matheny‘s tenure as manager.  I appreciate what Mike is trying to accomplish there and I think oftentimes it is a good thing.  However, I’m not sure I’d want a mental rehab outing when the team has just rallied to take a lead.  Cecil came in with a two run lead and got the first man out, then gave up double-single-single and the lead was cut in half.  He struck out Christian Yelich (I’ll admit I was expecting Yelich to at least tie the game) before Broxton took over.  Given how early Lynn went out and the bullpen usage both earlier in this game and yesterday with Wainwright only going five-plus, I don’t know that there were a lot of other options for Matheny, so I won’t ding him too hard on it this time.

I will say it was a little surprising he didn’t go with Bowman over Broxton.  Not that he should have, mind you, but that’s the kind of usage we were seeing on Bowman last month.  Either Matheny started trusting some other folks or he got the memo, but Bowman has only pitched three times in May.  Of course, that’s the factor we didn’t talk about up above in the roster discussion–baseball tends to find a way to fix issues.  Someone could go on the disabled list, freeing up a spot for a returning player.  There was a lot of thought that Bowman could be that guy the way that Matheny was throwing him late in April, but he’s getting a little more rest and his last few outings have been good enough that there doesn’t seem to be a physical problem in there.

The Cardinals have won six in a row and seven of nine since the calendar turned.  Which means that we wake up to this beautiful sight this morning:

Not only are the Cardinals a full game in the lead, meaning that with the off day today they’ll go into the weekend in first as well, but look who is down there in fourth place.  It’s not likely to last, which means we have to enjoy all of these opportunities when we can, right?  It’s a pretty good day in Cardinal Nation.

The Redbirds head back to Busch to face those rivals from the north on Friday night.  Mike Leake, coming off his worst start of the year (and it was still pretty darn good, save that homer) goes up against Eddie Butler, called up from AAA after all the extra innings and double headers the poor Cubbies have had to deal with this week.  Also, the Cubs have to sweep the weekend to leave Busch ahead of the Cards, which is also kinda nice.  Not saying it can’t happen, but road sweeps are hard.

Here’s Leake versus the Cubs, for entertainment purposes only:

vs. Batters Table
Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Anthony Rizzo 44 40 15 4 0 2 9 3 5 .375 .432 .625 1.057 0 0 0 1 3
Jon Jay 41 37 8 2 0 0 1 2 10 .216 .293 .270 .563 0 0 0 2 2
Kris Bryant 20 20 9 1 1 0 0 0 1 .450 .450 .600 1.050 0 0 0 0 0
Miguel Montero 20 18 4 0 0 1 2 1 3 .222 .300 .389 .689 0 0 0 1 0
Addison Russell 18 16 2 1 0 0 1 1 4 .125 .167 .188 .354 0 1 0 0 1
Ben Zobrist 14 13 4 2 0 1 3 0 2 .308 .286 .692 .978 0 1 0 0 0
Kyle Hendricks 6 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 2 0 0 0 0
John Lackey 5 5 1 0 0 0 1 0 3 .200 .200 .200 .400 0 0 0 0 0
Jon Lester 5 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Kyle Schwarber 3 3 2 0 0 0 1 0 0 .667 .667 .667 1.333 0 0 0 0 0
Jake Arrieta 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Javier Baez 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Willson Contreras 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Tommy La Stella 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 184 169 47 10 1 4 18 7 34 .278 .319 .420 .739 2 2 0 4 6
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/11/2017.

And Mr. Butler vs. the Cardinals:

vs. Batters Table
Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Dexter Fowler 3 1 1 0 0 1 1 2 0 1.000 1.000 4.000 5.000 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Adams 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Randal Grichuk 1 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 1.000 1.000 2.000 3.000 0 0 0 0 0
Jedd Gyorko 1 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 1.000 1.000 2.000 3.000 0 0 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000 0 0 0 0 0
Adam Wainwright 1 1 1 0 0 0 2 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000 0 0 0 0 0
Kolten Wong 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 9 6 5 2 0 1 3 3 0 .833 .889 1.667 2.556 0 0 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/11/2017.

Smallest of samples, but you have to like when you see they are 5-6 with three walks against a guy, right?  Let’s hope that continues Friday night!

  • Alan in Sarasota

    Lynn showed serious grit — the kind lacking early in his career. Good for him.

    • Cardinal70

      I can agree with that. Been easy to let the game just get away from him but after those first homers, he didn’t allow anything more.

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