Well, at least they took one?
The Cardinals started off a road trip against the top teams in the NL West and looked a lot like the team that just had a miserable home stand. All those that thought the 6-0 record on the trip to Atlanta and Miami was mainly due to the quality of the teams they were playing against still have a strong point. Save for that nice series win against the Cubs, they’ve been flailing about trying to find purchase. The club is 2-6 since Mother’s Day and have gone from first to third, now behind the Cubs by a game. With Chicago now in first, it has a feeling like a basketball game where the underdog led for a long time, but the favorite finally took the lead. Very rarely, it feels, does that underdog get the lead back. Let’s hope it’s different here.
We talked about the first game in Dodger Stadium already, so let’s take a look at the last two.
Wednesday (6-1 win)
Hero: Mike Leake. Just when you started to think maybe the great run of Leake could be coming to a close, he goes out and throws eight innings of one run ball. No walks, five strikeouts, and only four hits. We knew Leake’s traditional numbers might get better since the defense was supposed to improve, but that improvement hasn’t been as much as some thought and he’s still been outstanding. If the season ended today, it would probably because of a major calamity and nobody would care about awards, but notwithstanding that he would be a frontrunner for the Cy Young Award.
Goat: Randal Grichuk. Grichuk is such a streaky hitter. Two games before he had two doubles, but in this one he’s 0-4 with three strikeouts and five left on base. There’s a lot of talent there and he’s a fine player to have on a squad, but you have to start wondering if the outfield isn’t where John Mozeliak winds up improving this team. You can’t do much with those under contract, but you could swap Grichuk and see if you could upgrade there.
Notes: Nice night for Kolten Wong. He only had one hit, but it was a double in the second that put the Cards up 2-0. An inning later, he started a smooth double play, the only one of the night for the Redbirds. He also drew a walk and is hitting .281 on the season. While he may have tailed off from some earlier heights, he’s proving to be a reliable, solid option at second base.
What is the club going to do about the top of the lineup? You’ve seen the stats, you know that the top three positions have been some of the worst in baseball. Dexter Fowler in this one went 0-4, struck out twice (though he did draw a walk), and left three on. Maybe it’s the shoulder, though we’d feel better about that answer if he hadn’t struggled in April. Stephen Piscotty, batting second and also going 0-4, struck out just once and actually scored a run, though he left four on. In other words, it’s a little surprising this team could make it a serious game with the top of their lineup again sputtering.
Another good night for Jedd Gyorko, who really doesn’t want to be replaced by Josh Donaldson or anyone. Three hits, two runs scored. Matt Carpenter was the only other person with multiple hits, though with Rich Hill‘s control issues, most everyone got on base one way or another. Yadier Molina went yard and Aledmys Diaz doubled for the only extra base hits on the night.
Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons got into this one, working a scoreless ninth. Always good to see 70 back and contributing.
Thursday (7-3 loss)
Hero: Jedd Gyorko. Two hits, two RBI. Gyorko just keeps plugging along, showing that last year wasn’t quite the fluke we thought it might have been. He’s not far off of being on pace for 30 homers yet again.
Goat: There were a few options, but I think you have to go with Michael Wacha. Six runs in four innings, two of which come off the bat of the pitcher who is up with two outs in the inning, makes for a bad night. Yaisel Puig hit a pitch in the dirt to bring Kenta Maeda to the plate, but Wacha had to be able to finish that off. And, granted, a couple of those runs were allowed after he left the ballgame, but he put the runners on.
Notes: I do think Mike Matheny has done a better job over the last month or so, but that doesn’t mean that there still aren’t questions. For instance, Wacha had given up four runs in four innings, letting that 3-0 lead get past him. The last batter he faced was Maeda, who hit it hard enough that he tried for second. Wacha’s close to 90 pitches. Bullpen basically wasn’t used the night before, so pretty much everyone should be available. However, Matheny runs him back out there. Wacha allows a single and a walk, then gets pulled.
Now, I know that Brett Cecil had retired the last three men he’d faced. I know that you have to use him sometimes if he’s going to stay on the roster. I know that bringing him in with a deficit might be better than bringing him in with a lead and watching that lead slip away. But if you think that you can win this game, you have to keep it at one run and bringing in Cecil’s not the best way to guarantee that. Now, it wound up not mattering because the offense couldn’t do a lick more, but how much of that was a factor of it being a three (and then four) run game instead of one? If nothing else, the Dodgers’ pitching decisions would have likely been different.
The Cards had four hits and two walks (one intentional) in the first frame. They got five hits and one walk the rest of the way. Two of those hits came in the third, when Gyorko and Molina singled to lead off the frame. Two on, nobody out, your sixth place hitter up. This should be a great spot to put some runs up. Instead, inexplicably, Stephen Piscotty tried to bunt the runners over. I know Piscotty is struggling, but really? The team is up 3-1 trying to put Maeda on the ropes and instead you try to hand him an out. And that doesn’t even work! Piscotty winds up popping out, Diaz struck out, and Wong grounded out. The runners never really moved.
There’s a lot of folks talking about how this team has regressed with Magneuris Sierra off the roster. That seems a lot of weight to put on a guy that only played a couple of weeks, but it is interesting how things dropped off when the roster makeup wound up more like the beginning of the season when things weren’t going so well. I don’t know if correlation is causation–again, we’ve talked about how the schedule is different as well–but maybe there’s something to it. Again, the move with Sierra made sense and he’s doing well in Springfield, but you wonder if things continue to sputter if they won’t try to get him back up here one way or another.
Out of the frying pan and into the fire. The Cards leave Los Angeles to go take on a team that is 2.5 games better in the standings, the NL West-leading Colorado Rockies. Playing out in Coors Field is always an interesting task, of course, and we’ll see what the Cardinal hurlers are able to do with it. Carlos Martinez will go up against a rookie in Antonio Senzatela, who seems to be having a good season. His ERA of 3.67 has gone up about a run over his last two starts, though, so maybe the book is getting out on him. As for Carlos, here’s his history against the Rockie hitters:
That’s, uh, well not really what you want to see. Small sample size, etc. and you just hope this is the time he turns it around against these guys. Should be an interesting weekend!