It’s not been an easy road for the Cardinals as of late. The offense has struggled, the bullpen has struggled, and the starting pitching can only do so much. Things looked up a little bit yesterday, but before we get to all of that, we’ve got to tackle Tuesday night’s game.
Tuesday (9-4 loss)
Hero: Yadier Molina. He drove in two runs in the “woo hoo, early lead” three run first, then hit a solo shot later on after the game was pretty much out of reach. I’m glad Yadi is doing well at the plate, but sometimes I think some folks (perhaps the manager) get carried away. For May, Yadi’s hitting .257/.278/.378, which is actually under what he did in April. He’s hitting .236 over his last 13 games. I’m not saying he doesn’t need to be in there, but hitting him about sixth isn’t exactly prime lineup construction. It worked out in this one, I guess.
Goat: As folks on Twitter told me, you could pretty much throw a dart and find a Goat here. Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons came in and had his issues, though it’d be nice if MLB enforced the “you have to try to get out of the way” rule. It would have been interesting to see how that inning would have gone had Lyons gotten Chase Utley out instead of him standing right in the way of a pitch that nicked him. Tommy Pham, Paul Dejong, and Aledmys Diaz combined to go 0-10 with a walk and a run by Pham. Jonathan Broxton‘s last stand was pretty ugly as well.
All of those folks were worthy of the title, but I’m going to go with the main cause, which was Michael Wacha and him being unable to keep that 3-0 lead past the third. Five hits and three walks (and an error behind) doesn’t make for a very great outing. Wacha did only throw 77 pitches so he could have gone back out there for the fourth, but he wouldn’t have gone much further. It could be the Dodgers have just figured him out, but there was a Tweet out there that showed that Wacha’s first seven starts of last year were very similar to his first seven starts this year, and after that the bottom fell out. Hopefully that’s not the case. His next outing is against a Cubs team that has been struggling offensively, so we’ll see if he wakes them up or he can keep them snoozing.
Notes: Dexter Fowler had two hits, which is nice to see from the top of the lineup. However, he’s only walked twice since May 20 (with 11 strikeouts in that time). The hits and the power–which we all saw was great in last night’s game–are nice, but Fowler’s not a .300 hitter. To make this offense go, he needs to be drawing walks and getting on base. Doesn’t much look like he’s doing that right now.
Another good outing from Brett Cecil when there was nothing on the line. I’m not saying that as a snarky critique, mind you. Cecil is going to have to work through whatever problems he’s having and he’s going to have to do that on a major league stage. If he was blowing up in these situations as well, there’d be a lot more issues to deal with. Over his last five appearances, he’s not been charged with any runs, allowed just two hits in a total of four innings, and stranded two-thirds of his inherited runners. I’m not saying give him the eighth in a one-run game yet, but it’s starting to look like he’s making some progress. If you can get him on some sort of reliable path, plus the recent bullpen shakeups, perhaps one of the weaknesses to the team as of late can become at least an average or not-hurtful part of the squad.
The same optimism can not be held for Kevin Siegrist, but he did strike out the side in this one, which is nice. Irrelevant, given the four-run deficit, but nice. Siegrist needs a few more outings like this before we start thinking he’s turned a corner, if he can turn one. Some folks, like our pitching expert Mr. Schwartz, don’t believe he can.
All right, before the game Wednesday, as you all know by now, John Mozeliak announced the release of Broxton and the promotion of John Gant, who will make his Cardinal debut whenever he gets into a game. There was a lot of stuff dumped on Broxton, but unfortunately most all of it was warranted. When a reliever puts up an ERA close to seven and a WHIP of 2.17, it’s hard to say anything but that he wasn’t fooling anyone. Broxton would have his occasional good game–did you know that 13 of his 20 appearances with the Cards he either didn’t allow a run or allow an inherited runner to score?–but when he was bad, he was bad. Five of the six times he was charged with a run, it was a crooked number. Even the scoreless outings weren’t always easy to watch. It’s pretty clear that if Broxton has anything left in his tank, it’s not much. He’s limping along with the E light lit up, trying to squeeze a few more miles out.
Mozeliak also pointed out that with this move, there’s more option flexibility with the bullpen. Matthew Bowman, John Brebbia, and now Gant will all be able to be sent to Memphis without having to go through waivers, so you can send a tired arm down and bring up a fresh one a little easier than you could before. Mo said that he “boxed in” the team with the contracts and the out-of-options guys, though I don’t know what else you could have done (besides not signing Broxton to a long-term deal a couple of years ago). The bullpen, as constructed, seemed to be a pretty solid unit coming out of spring. That just didn’t turn out to be the case.
OK, let’s look at last night’s game now.
Wednesday (2-1 win)
Hero: Carlos Martinez. It’s pretty clear now that Carlos hasn’t pitched all year. That guy with the hair extensions? That was Larry Bartinez. Martinez had another stellar outing last night, giving up just one run on a sacrifice fly in eight innings of work, reaching 100 in his final frame. Thankfully, unlike some of his past outings, this one wasn’t wasted like it looked like it was going to be. The month of May was a good one for Carlos, as he put up a 2.03 ERA, 41 K in 44 innings, and walked just 13. This is the ace we thought the Cardinals had. Let’s not bring back Bartinez anytime soon, all right?
Goat: Matt Carpenter. The lineup got a little shakeup with Carpenter moving into that second spot than many of us thought we’d see all the time after Fowler was acquired. Instead, Carp went 0-4 again in this one. Fowler’s home run was the only hit from the top four of the lineup, which is a strong reason why they only got two runs.
Notes: Stephen Piscotty was back in the lineup after being home with his mother who had been diagnosed last week with ALS. That’s a tough thing to have to deal with and our thoughts and prayers are with the family. I don’t know how Piscotty was able to get back and focus on baseball, but he had two hits in this one, his first multi-hit game since May 2 before his DL stint. This team really needs a reliable Piscotty in the lineup and it’d be nice if we’d start to see that going forward.
Tommy Pham and Paul Dejong had the other hits and thankfully they had them close together, putting the first Cardinal run on the board. Over the past 11 games, the Cards are hitting .227 as a team, so you better put those hits together because there aren’t many more of them coming.
The Cards look to wrap this series up on a high note today, sending Adam Wainwright to the mound while facing Brandon McCarthy. Waino’s been close to vintage Waino over the past few starts, so you start to like your chances with him on the mound.
I’d have thought Wainwright would have seen more of the Dodgers, but I guess they have had a little roster turnover recently and it doesn’t look like he faced them last year at all. That’ll do it.
McCarthy is having a fine season (5-1, 3.28 ERA) but is dealing with some patella tendonitis in his knee. In his last start, he threw six scoreless innings against the Cubs, which might be a pretty solid indicator of how he’ll do this afternoon.
The Cardinals really need a win today. The Cubs have lost six straight, which pretty much means they’ll win at least one this weekend as the Redbirds head to Wrigley. Getting another half-game on them while they are idle would help in the goal of leaving Wrigley the way they arrived–ahead of those baby bears!