Listen, I know the general realities of baseball slogans, at least the ones that get the official stamp of approval. Marketing teams come up with them and they have to put them in place before the beginning of the season to go on tickets, merchandise, advertising, etc. You can’t wait and see how the team is going and then craft a campaign around that. You just have to hope that the team doesn’t make a mockery of whatever you pick out by their play.
So, with that general caveat, #ThatsCub? Really? You went with that?
First off, if you are in the marketing team there, don’t you have to realize that while a World Series Championship is a big weight on one side of the scale, the entire history of the Cubs as lovable losers–or at least the latter part–is on the other? While everyone was rushing to anoint the baby bears the Next Big Thing, a dynasty in the making, remember that being a Cub fan means having to, as the Dread Pirate Roberts would say, get used to disappointment.
Secondly, can you not see how easily that kind of phrase could be turned and used in the exact opposite way you wanted? If not, you have actually never been on the Internet. I mean, the Cardinals’ marking phrase for this season–There’s Only One Cardinals Baseball–is no great marketing achievement itself, but like Tara said as we prepared for this week’s Gateway, at least you can’t use it as a hashtag. The closest thing the Cards have in this regard is “The Cardinal Way” but at least the club’s use of the phrase is not a marketing tool but a culture thing, a way to describe how players are instructed and taught. Others may have spun it on its head, but you won’t find “The Cardinal Way” on tickets or anything of that nature.
Given the fact that Chicago came into town in better shape than they left town, maybe #ThatsCub really is the best slogan for this team this year. Odds are they’ll improve and be a threat, but right now, it’s good to see them down in the standings. Let’s get into the games.
Friday (3-2 loss)
Hero: Aledmys Diaz. When you get two of the four hits the club musters, odds are you are going to be here. Neither of Diaz’s hits got out of the infield, but for some reason Eddie Butler really had the team stymied.
Goat: Dexter Fowler. There were a few choices here, but in a tight game like this, mistakes can really be magnified and Fowler pulled off a doozy. With two outs and a run in on Randal Grichuk‘s home run, Greg Garcia and then Fowler walked. Two runners on, two outs, Tommy Pham at the plate. The Cubs did take out Carl Edwards Jr. and bring in Hector Rondon, so it’s possible the rally would have fizzled anyway. Fowler, however, wound up getting picked off of third by Willson Contreras, who did basically everything in this one. Given the situation and the fact there was a runner on second keeping him from going too far, it was the worst possible time for Fowler to stray off the bag. The Cards threatened a little in the ninth, but this really was their best chance to at least tie.
Notes: Contreras tagged Mike Leake for two homers and the Cardinal hurler walked three, so this wasn’t a typical Leake game. Still, if all you are going to give up is two runs over six when going against a fairly inexperienced starter on the other side, you’d expect a better outcome. Leake is going to have more games like this–his ERA isn’t going to stay under 2.00 all year long–but it’s still nice to see the Cardinals getting what they paid for (and then some!) out of him.
Leake might not have been tagged with the loss had Brett Cecil not failed in his job again. Cecil started the seventh and got lefty Kyle Schwarber out, but then allowed a home run to lefty Tommy La Stella and then walked lefty Anthony Rizzo. Again, the main reason the Cardinals pursued Cecil in the offseason was that they wanted him to get the big lefties like Rizzo out in tough situations. Right now, there’s no trust that Cecil can get the big outs. To his credit, Mike Matheny didn’t let him try to work out of it or see what he’d do against switch-hitter Ben Zobrist, he went to Matthew Bowman to stifle the rally, which Bowman did. Cecil’s now been charged with a run in his last four outings and that’s not even including the inherited runners that he’s allowed to score, a discussion Allen, Kyle, and I had on Meet Me At Musial this week. By now, you almost hope it’s a medical issue because it’s difficult to see how he gets better otherwise. That said, Kevin Siegrist struggled enough earlier that we thought he might be hurt and he’s turned it around. Cecil’s been worse, but maybe something will click soon.
As noted, Grichuk went deep and drew a walk. A lot of folks were disappointed Magneuris Sierra wasn’t starting as the club returned from the road trip, but as fun as Sierra has been, they can’t just bury Grichuk. He’s streaky, I know, and he had a rough Marlins series, but there’s still talent there and the club doesn’t seem to want to move on from that just yet. As we’ve discussed, Grichuk is going to be around longer this year than Sierra is, so you don’t want him sitting too often.
Tommy Pham struggled in his return to Busch, going 0-4 with three strikeouts. For his great start to his major league season, through Sunday he has almost as many strikeouts (12) as hits (13). I don’t know if that’s a sign things are going to level out or if that’s just a byproduct of what he’s producing. Something perhaps people will enlighten me on in the comments.
Saturday (5-3 win)
Hero: Tommy Pham. After his rough Friday, Pham led the 7-9 Brigade with two hits, two runs, and two RBI. He also stole a base off of Lester, though he was caught one other time, which means you know Contreras made a heck of a throw because Lester sure didn’t give him any help.
Goat: Aledmys Diaz. It was close between Diaz and Matt Carpenter. Both went 0-4 with three strikeouts, but Diaz left one more man on. Besides, he followed a Fowler walk three times in this one and never was able to do anything with it. When your two-three-four guys combine to go 1-12, it’s not usually a recipe for success, even if that one is a Jedd Gyorko homer.
Notes: You want to talk about #ThatsCub? We can talk about #ThatsCub.
I can’t remember the last time a pitcher wound up on second on a bunt and it wasn’t because of a throwing error. Why basically everyone on the infield had to converge on a bunt, I’m not real sure, but it was great to see. Martinez was stranded at second, but it did bring in a run to tie things up.
This game allowed us to see the Fowler/Pham/Sierra outfield that we’d been wanting to see and it didn’t disappoint. I actually didn’t get to see the game, as we went down to Little Rock to see the Springfield Cardinals play, so I don’t know if it was the defensive spectacle we were hoping for. Offensively, though, we’ve talked about Pham and Fowler, but Sierra went two for three and drove in a run. The league still doesn’t have a book on Sierra and he’s not hitting for more than singles power, but it’s fun to watch him produce here as long as he’s on the roster.
Martinez got two hits and that somewhat overshadowed a fairly fine game on the mound. Somehow he gave up a double (that was almost a homer) to Lester to allow one run and he got touched in the seventh for a two-run homer from rookie Ian Happ, but in between he was pretty solid, working out of any small jams he might have gotten into and striking out seven in 6.2 innings. Pair this one with his last start and any lingering worries about Martinez are pretty much put to rest. Bowman, Trevor Rosenthal, and Seung-hwan Oh closed this one out with no drama, which is exactly what you want to see from the bullpen.
Sunday (5-0 win)
Hero: Adam Wainwright. We’ve talked a lot about the aging of Wainwright, how he seems to be just a five inning pitcher these days. I don’t think one starts proves that he’s not, but it’s nice to know that there are still outings like this in him. Even last year, in the midst of a terrible season, he had his last shutout and he could put together a nice three, four games before blowing up again. The good stretches may just be smaller than they used to be, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t exist. It wasn’t all perfect–Waino walked four and only struck out three–but seven scoreless innings out of the guy that had an ERA over 6 before the game? We’ll take that every day of the week. Glad to see you, old friend.
Goat: It’s one of those games where this Goat doesn’t equal other Goats. The pitching was great and every starter had a hit, so I guess you go with Tommy Pham again, who struck out twice and left two on. Again, he also went 1-4 so it wasn’t a completely wasted day at the park, but somebody’s got to get the tag.
Notes: Yadier Molina went deep twice, accounting for three of the five runs, and Carpenter got the other two on a blast of his own. Grichuk had a three-hit game as Fowler got another day off. (As someone noted on Twitter on Saturday, Pham might could use a day. I wasn’t around to hear why Fowler was the choice to sit in this one.) The only thing the Cardinals needed to make this a perfect game was one more run to make drinks cheap yesterday at On The Run.
Rosenthal pitched the eighth, but when the game became a five run affair, Siegrist got the ninth and retired the side, two by strikeout. Siegrist hasn’t been charged with a run since April 20 and in the month of May he’s allowed just five hits in seven innings and had eight strikeouts over that span. Joe Schwarz, as he’s prone to do, took a deeper look at Siegrist over at Viva El Birdos, if you are interested in finding out if this is the real Siegrist or just a mirage. Overall, my feeling about the bullpen is that it’s really not that bad, save Cecil’s struggles. Even Jonathan Broxton is currently on a nice run, though “confidence” is not a word that I’d use to describe my feelings when he comes into the game.
We’ve done this occasionally through the year and probably will continue to if they stay this way, but let’s take another gander at the standings.
Milwaukee was one of those sleeper teams, a team that folks thought might be a serious threat next year. Will they continue to be? The Reds have already started to fall off and their pitching would seem to indicate more regression is coming. Getting those extra games on the Cubs is vital. Plus it’s fun to put this up when they are under .500 and there’s no telling how long that will last.
The Cards get another tough test starting tonight when Boston is in town for a two game series, reliving plenty of World Series matchups but most recently 2013. Thankfully, David Ortiz won’t be around to torment Cardinal pitching this week, so maybe the Redbirds will have a chance. Lance Lynn versus Eduardo Rodriguez tonight will kick things off. Lynn had trouble last time out in Miami and a good start here would nip worries about a regression in the bud, at least for a while.
Rodriguez, on the other hand, is a left-handed pitcher that none of the Cardinals have seen. You don’t even have to know that he has a 2.80 ERA on the season or that he just limited Milwaukee to one run over six innings to know this could be a struggle for the bats tonight. Lynn better be on his game!
This series should help see how good this team really is. Boston may be just 19-18 (man, remember when 1918 meant something to Boston fans?) but it is a talented squad that is playing in a very tough division. Let’s see what happens!