West Coast trips are always tough on a team, though sometimes the results are better than others. Going through Los Angeles, which has a quality team, and Colorado, who is leading the NL West, figured to be a tall order for the Cardinals. Even a split of those six games would have been fine. Instead, the Cards win just one of three in each place. Thank goodness the NL Central is so weak that not only did the Cards stay in the hunt, they actually gained a game on the Cubs this weekend.
Friday (10-0 loss)
Hero: It’s really a tough one here. The offense totaled five hits, only one for extra bases. That double by Randal Grichuk was the only baserunner not erased on a double play. The bullpen….oh, my. So even though it wasn’t necessarily one of his greatest games, we’ll give the tag to Carlos Martinez. He allowed just two runs in seven innings, but went out for the eighth and gave up a home run to Charlie Blackmon with one out. Nine strikeouts in his outing, so it definitely was a game the Cardinals could have won, especially in the thin air of Denver.
Goat: While it wasn’t likely, given the offense’s inability to do much of anything, a 3-0 lead in Colorado isn’t necessarily insurmountable. Matthew Bowman, though, is paying the price for his early season scoreless streak. Bowman faced four batters, allowed three hits, all of which scored on his watch. He left the game at 6-0 and Miguel Socolovich, in his final work for the Cards (as of right now) finished dumping out the gas can.
Notes: Again, the bullpen made this to be a moot point, but five hits in Colorado? There’s often talk about how the Cardinals’ seemingly inability to hit new pitchers is just that–talk–but it really seems to happen more often than can be chalked up to observation bias. This time it was Antonio Senzatela mesmerizing the Cards for eight innings. Senzatela’s off to a good start this season, but a pitcher going eight scoreless innings in Colorado, while only striking out three? That’s amazingly unexpected.
Other than that, there’s not much to say about this game. Grichuk had the double. Everyone else seemed to be part of a double play one way or another. Oh, and the Rockies scored more in the eighth inning of this game than the Cards did in the entire series. That’s some food for thought.
Saturday (3-0 win)
Hero: Tommy Pham. Three hits, including the two-run homer that gave the club a bit of breathing room. Pham also played some nice defense and while he didn’t do it all by himself, he definitely was the largest reason the Cardinals were able to pull out a victory.
Goat: It has been a tough run for Randal Grichuk. In this one, he went 0-4, striking out three times and leaving four on base. Since the beginning of the Miami series, he’s played in 16 games (14 starts) and is hitting .161/.213/.304 with 18 strikeouts in 56 at bats. That’s a rough run. He’ll have a good game or two here or there–that stretch includes a 3-4 against the Cubs and a 2-4 against the Giants, both with two doubles–but he’s never been able to establish a constant level of performance that rises above mediocre. Tara and I talked about this last night on Gateway and given the club hasn’t committed to him like they have with Dexter Fowler and Stephen Piscotty, you have to wonder how secure his position is.
Notes: Adam Wainwright continues to take the words of those that thought he was done, put them on a plate of crow, add salt, and serve it back to them. The night before, everyone was wondering what kind of team goes scoreless in Coors Field. Wainwright just proved that even good teams–like the division leaders–can do it when they face the right pitcher. Uncle Charlie only allowed three hits in seven frames and tossed in six strikeouts. In his last three starts, Waino has a 0.44 ERA in 20.1 innings. His K/BB rate still isn’t superb–15 K to 8 BB in those 20 innings–but it’s manageable. His ERA is at the lowest point it’s been this season after his first start. I don’t know if you can really expect Wainwright to keep this up, but it definitely makes it feel like, for once, he has figured it out somewhat.
Nice game for Fowler, who went two for four and drew a walk, scoring two of the three runs. Aledmys Diaz also had two hits on the night. Matt Carpenter had the night off (though he pinch-hit in the ninth) so Yadier Molina batted third. Not exactly where I would have put him and he did leave four men on base, but it worked overall, I guess.
Sunday (8-4 loss)
Hero: While he didn’t hit any of the solo homers that accounted for the scoring, Dexter Fowler did go three for five. He had two strikeouts and no walks, but it’s good to see the leadoff guy get a couple of multi-hit games in a row.
Goat: It’s a bad sign when you are the Goat twice in a three game span, but it’s hard not to give it to Matt Bowman here. With the Cards just down one in the bottom of the eighth, Bowman came in and promptly allowed four runs. I didn’t see the inning but looking at the plays, it doesn’t look like anything was hit all that hard, it was just numerous nicks and cuts that led to a huge inning. These losses loom large and Bowman does have a 9.49 ERA since his scoreless inning streak to start the season was snapped at the end of April, but that’s 13 earned runs in 12.1 innings, seven of which came in these two games and six of which game in the first four appearances in this span. In between, he pitched 7.1 innings and only gave up two unearned runs. I don’t know what this means, if anything, but it sounds like Bowman isn’t completely broken, he’s just going to run into spurts where he can’t get hitters out.
Notes: Paul Dejong was called up before the game when Kolten Wong was placed on the disabled list and made the most of his first appearance, cracking a home run when he pinch hit in the ninth. While there’s no guarantee that Dejong stays up here whenever Wong returns, this is a different situation than Magneuris Sierra was. Dejong is right on the cusp of the majors anyway–he might be able to develop a little more in Memphis, but that development doesn’t obviously outweigh what he can do in the bigs, even if he’s not starting every day. It’ll be interesting to see how he’s used over the next couple of weeks. The good thing about writing this later in the morning of an afternoon game is that I can already see he’s in the starting lineup today, playing second base and hitting seventh.
Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons did a fine job of keeping the Cardinals in the game after Lance Lynn had some struggles, allowing four runs in five innings. Lyons threw two scoreless frames and saw the Cards put up three home runs, getting it back to a close game. Lyons continues to prove his worth to this team and should be able to help stabilize a bullpen that’s been kinda rocky, no pun intended.
Lynn’s work might have looked better had he not been dealing with a blister throughout the game. Given that, I don’t think we’ll get too worked up about another rough start, but Lynn does have a 4.30 ERA over his last four, with two unearned runs keeping that total down a bit more than it could/should be. It’s still something to look at, especially since his next start will be at Wrigley Field. If he can have a good one there, that should help calm folks down.
Looks like there’s going to be another roster move today as Jose Martinez returns from the disabled list and, apparently, Grichuk is heading to Memphis. As we said above, Grichuk is really struggling and a trip to Memphis worked last year for him. Again, though, the club continues to carry just 12 hitters and Jonathan Broxton gets another reprieve. Actually, Broxton might not be in as much danger anyway now that John Brebbia is up and, as such, has options. Even if St. Louis did decide to go to 13 hitters (which seems unlikely any time soon), Brebbia could be the one that is the odd man out.
Mike Leake and Rich Hill both made their last starts against the Dodgers and Cardinals respectively and will do so again today. Hill struggled against the Cardinals with limited command, while Leake did what Leake has done all year. Hopefully both of those things continue today and the Cards can celebrate the holiday with a win!