Many of you may have thought that it was the Cardinals’ weak play against the Reds that has kept me away from the computer, but that’s not quite the truth. (That said, it’s hard to get too motivated about writing about yet more losses.) There have been a few things going on, most notably my grandmother being fairly ill. Thankfully she’s out of the hospital and looking like she’s improving, but prayers still wouldn’t go amiss. We’ve got some time before today’s final game in Cincinnati, though, so let’s see what we can do.
Monday (4-2 loss)
Hero: Yadier Molina, I guess? He had two hits–as is a recurring refrain, only one person got two hits in the game–and I still wonder how the game goes if he fields Billy Hamilton‘s bunt in the seventh instead of Carlos Martinez trying to. Molina gave Martinez quite a look because it appeared he could come up and throw and hopefully nip Hamilton at first. If that inning starts with an out, perhaps we’re not talking about a six-game losing streak. (Just five of six, which is so much better, you know.)
Goat: You can blame some of the pitching, which is legitimate, but let’s also note the Cardinals scored two runs in Great American Ball Park. Part of that was due to the cleanup hitter. Jedd Gyorko went 0-4, struck out three times, and the time he didn’t strike out, he hit into a double play. That’s pretty much a textbook bad night at the ballpark.
Notes: Martinez’s line looks like he had a much worse game than he did. He allowed a total of six baserunners by hit or walk. Four of them came in the seventh inning. Before then, he was in lockdown mode, giving the Reds nothing and making it look like two runs would be fine in GABP. Then, like I said, he misplayed Hamilton’s bunt and everything quickly went downhill.
Two of the runs scored on his watch and two were let in by Kevin Siegrist, who allowed a double to the left-handed Scooter Gennett (which, given the next night, could have been much worse), allowing the other two runners to score. Siegrist still has trouble with lefties (a .915 OPS against this year) and given how Brett Cecil is doing this season (another topic for later on), you wonder if Mike Matheny wouldn’t just be wiser to give up on the matchups. Of course, that means letting your best relievers go in the best situations, but the Cardinals don’t necessarily have “best relievers” right now.
Dexter Fowler had a hit and a walk, which continues to make you think that he’s going to get clicking on offense soon, but dropped a ball in the outfield that led to the two runs Martinez gave up. While the current stats rated that as a 75% catch probability, Fowler afterwards said it was a hard catch and I imagine it was. It was in the glove, so he should have made the catch, but it’s not like it was an easy fly ball that he let go. Even if he catches it, one run is coming in anyway given the bases were loaded. Maybe Martinez could have gotten out of it, but he wasn’t having much success that inning.
When you lose a game with your ace pitching after a series sweep, it’s pretty demoralizing. It wasn’t going to get any better.
Tuesday (13-1 loss)
Hero: Stephen Piscotty. Two for three with a walk and a solo homer to make sure that the Cards didn’t get shut out. Piscotty’s approach and results since returning from his family sabbatical have been significantly better than what we saw earlier in the year. It’s not perfect, but Piscotty might be one of the few bats you can at least somewhat rely on in this lineup right now.
Tara and I have noted on Gateway before that he had a few good stretches last year even as the year as a whole was pretty miserable, but it’s tough to find something that really compares to this. July of 2016 he had an ERA of 1.77 in five games due to that complete game shutout he threw against the Marlins and his first game in August was pretty good as well, but that stretch was bookended by six run outings. It does feel like this is a different Wainwright than what we saw earlier in the season–I mean, it really is given the results and how deep he’s going into games–but there’s no guarantee those struggles won’t return.
I’m so glad I put that last qualifier in there. The Wainwright that took the hill got results that the bad Waino from earlier in the year would have sent back as not good enough. Nine runs in less than four innings, punctuated by the first of Gennett’s four homers, the grand slam.
Now, in fairness, Waino throughout his career has had blowups that register on the Richter scale. He’s had 20 games in his career where he’s allowed six runs or more. He’s had 266 starts, which means 7.5% of the time, he lays one of these stinkers. So it’s very possible that the good Wainwright that we saw before this game will resurface next time out. (Probably helps that he’ll be facing the Phillies, one of the few teams worse offensively than the Cardinals.) Given how the early part of his season went, I think folks will be forgiven for not expecting anything out of a Wainwright start for a long while.
Notes: After being with the club almost a week, John Gant finally got to make his debut with the Cardinals. It actually went pretty well. He gave up two homers to Gennett (the first of which helped close the book on Wainwright) but went 3.1 innings with only one other hit allowed. Given how much he worked, though, it wasn’t terribly surprising to see him sent to Memphis on Wednesday. He wasn’t going to be able to do anything for 3-4 days, you wouldn’t think, so they might as well not play with a short roster. It’s a novel idea, I know, but they figured it was time to try anything. Whether Chad Huffman really is worth trying, we’ll find out. The roster shenanigans this weekend when Kolten Wong comes back should be interesting.
John Brebbia got into this history books by allowing Gennett’s fourth homer. Unfortunately he walked someone before that, so one inning and two earned runs, which doesn’t help the ERA. Well, I guess it helps it fit in with all the rest of the reliever ERAs out there.
I guess we should also talk about that interesting replay decision. A batter before Gennett started his assault on the record books and with runners on the corners, Eugenio Suarez hit a pop fly that was ruled a catch by Piscotty over in foul territory. The runner scored from third and it was 2-0. Matheny, with the rationale that his pitcher would want the chance to do that over, challenged the play because (as replay showed) the ball had bounced off the wall before Piscotty had gloved it. The umpires agreed, the run came off the board, and Votto came back to bat.
In theory, I understand that. You do have a chance to come back, get the double play, and keep it at 1-0. Perhaps if the offense wasn’t having trouble putting up two runs again, you wouldn’t worry about it, but they are. Like I said, it’s theoretically possible.
However we’ve seen with the defense this year that giving teams extra outs rarely works out for the club. It’s almost a little too cute and too cute things often wind up blowing up in someone’s face. Obviously this is a bit of hindsight and it really may not have made much difference anyway, but going down 2-0 is much better than going down 5-0.
For the first time in a while, the Cardinals didn’t let a lead slip away. They just never got the lead to begin with. It didn’t really help the mood of most fans.
Wednesday (6-4 loss)
Hero: Tommy Pham. Two for three with a walk and a run scored in the second spot in the lineup. He’s not going to be there very often, you wouldn’t think, but maybe this will help him bat fifth instead of sixth when Fowler comes back today.
Goat: It probably should be me, because when it was 3-0 I Tweeted this, knowing full well it might look bad later:
It may be a kiss of death, but I’m feeling optimistic about this one.
— Cardinal70 (@C70) June 8, 2017
I know, I know, what was I thinking. Actually, besides the fact that Lance Lynn was going well, I was thinking that so often in baseball, once the narrative gets loud enough, things change. Everyone’s talking about a streak? It snaps. People start talking about a no-hitter? Gone. The story line always seems to shift about the time folks are paying attention to it. So I figured the “blown leads” narrative would, for the moment, wind up taking a hit.
Not so much.
Brett Cecil, come collect your Goat. We talked recently about how Cecil was doing better as of late, but that all got undone in this one. He got just one out but allowed four hits, including a pinch-hit home run to whatever a Patrick Kivlehan is. Which is really frustrating because Kivelhan was a righty and Cecil has actually gotten righties out this year. It’s not what they paid him really to do, but since lefties have a 1.200 OPS against him, it’s really the least he could do given he’s not doing his main job. Yet that mean nothing when Kivelhan tied up the game with his three-run bomb.
Notes: Cecil left with Zack Cozart sitting on second base. Given that it’s tied and you really need to keep Cozart from scoring, Matheny went to perhaps the only reliable reliever out there. It was really the only thing he could do. Trevor Rosenthal would keep the team in the game, right?
Joey Votto took Rosie deep, the Cards were down two, and the game was over for all intents and purposes. Right now, I feel for Matheny because whatever decision he makes is going to be the wrong one. Whether it should be the right one or not, it’s going to be the wrong one.
Case in point, of course, is the main flareup last night, the removal of Lance Lynn after five scoreless innings and just 78 pitches. Obviously Lynn had at least another inning in him, but when his spot came up with two on and two out in the sixth, Matheny went to Fowler to pinch-hit. Something that looked to be good when Fowler doubled in a run (and of course Eric Fryer, running from first, was sent home with terrible results, though I wasn’t watching at the time to know if it was a bad Chris Maloney decision like it has been with Paul DeJong lately).
We often talk about Matheny staying with pitchers too long. I’ll admit on Sunday, when Michael Wacha came up with runners on in the fourth, I honestly thought pinch-hitting for him might have been a good idea to try to get a few more runs. (They didn’t, of course, and Wacha didn’t make it out of the bottom of that inning.)
It’s a tough decision. You do have to then try to cover those innings with an unreliable bullpen, so if it doesn’t work out, it looks bad. However, what if Lynn comes out in the bottom of the sixth and gives up runs? Are we saying that Matheny should have pinch-hit? I think, given how well Lynn seemed to be going, leaving him in was the better choice, but at some point and time you do have to turn it over to the relievers and you want the biggest lead possible when you do.
Right now, there’s really nothing going right for the Cardinals. Matt Carpenter took over the leadoff spot with Fowler getting a day off and smacked a home run, but I don’t know that we’ll see him stay there. Then again, it’s not like anything else is working. (And, as I write this, the lineup comes out with Carpenter one, Fowler two. If they win today, it might be that way throughout the weekend if not longer.) The starting pitching is starting to wobble, and that’s the only thing that was keeping them in games. The Cards are sitting in fourth and Pittsburgh’s not that far behind them.
Hopefully the streak ends today at six and the Cards can deal with a weaker Phillies team over the weekend. Mike Leake, who is coming back to form a little bit but still the second-best pitcher on the staff, takes on his old team. He had some problems with them last year and he’ll need to get those ground balls, but he should be able to pitch well enough for the club to win.
Whether they will or not will depend on how well St. Louis can hit Scott Feldman, who has scuffled as of late but who shut out the Cards over six innings back in April. If given a choice, which one do you think happens today?
It’s an early game today, so at least if the Cardinals lose we can do something better with our evening. Hopefully we’re talking about a #HappyFlight home, though!