I’ve never been a big Simpsons fan. Honestly, I think I could probably count on both hands the number of episodes I’ve seen in their entirety. One of those, of course, was when Mark McGwire made a cameo in Springfield. (The relevant bit begins at 1:22 below.)
I thought about that this morning as I started to recap this weekend’s series in Baltimore. Because no matter how many dingers were hit–and I think somebody just hit another one–there’s still the terrifying truth.
The terrifying truth that the Cardinals lost another series.
The terrifying truth that they now sit 5.5 games behind the Brewers.
The terrifying truth that four of the five starters just laid an egg.
The terrifying truth that, like in 2007 and somewhat like in 1997 (when the Cardinals made a trade for a certain red-haired slugger), this team may hang around the fringes of a race but it’s not because they are any good.
The terrifying truth that it’s hard to hold out hope things are going to get any better.
So now that we’re fully depressed on a Monday morning, let’s go to the games!
Friday (11-2 win)
Hero: Paul DeJong. Hitting out of the ninth spot since the DH was employed, DeJong made a case for not returning to Memphis with three hits, including a home run, and three RBI. I had an Orioles fan tell me after watching this team this weekend that DeJong belongs in the bigs and it’s hard to deny that after these performances.
Goat: Stephen Piscotty. The only starter without a hit in this game, though he did drive in a run with a sacrifice fly.
Homers hit (both teams): 6
Notes: Give Carlos Martinez a couple of runs to work with and he’s probably going to make them stand up. Give him 11 and you can just watch him cruise. Martinez was touched for a home run in the third, ending his scoreless inning streak, but other than that didn’t give Baltimore much to deal with. Four hits in six innings, striking out eight. He did throw 92 pitches, so he might have been able to go another frame if the Cards were in a tighter game but probably not. Still, given the state of the rotation lately, six outstanding innings from Martinez is an oasis of wonderfulness.
Matt Carpenter and Dexter Fowler continue to produce at the top of the lineup, both going two for three with a home run in this one. Earlier in the season, all the offense was concentrated at the bottom of the lineup. Now Carp and Fowler are getting in on the fun, which is helping the run total if nothing else.
You also (well, I did last night on Gateway) wonder about the connection between the promotion of Mark Budeska and the fact that the offense is starting to click more. In the 10 games since John Mozeliak’s “shuffle the coaches” press conference, the team is hitting .282/.361/.521 and is averaging six runs a game. The 10 games immediately before? .219/.284/.342 and 2.8 runs a game. Correlation does not equal causation, of course, and there are other factors such as lesser pitching staffs (the Phillies and Orioles are probably not going to be confused with the Dodgers or even the Cubs anytime soon, though that earlier stretch did include four games with the Reds) going into this as well. It would seem pretty strange if Budeska could come in and make that sort of immediate impact. Maybe the lineup switch of Carpenter and Fowler was more of a key. Whatever the case, the hitters are hitting. If only there was some pitching to go with it.
Brett Cecil did appear in this one wearing his new number, going to 27 now that Jhonny Peralta isn’t using it. Maybe that’s working out for him or maybe being back in the AL East helped, because he threw a perfect inning with one strikeout. I hope it’s not just the AL East, since we don’t see much more of them this season.
Tommy Pham and Jose Martinez both had two hits and Pham made one of his a longball special. It was a beautiful night for baseball. It wasn’t too last.
Saturday (15-7 loss)
Hero: Dexter Fowler. Two hits, three RBI, and yet another home run. I don’t know when Fowler became the team slugger, but he seems to be running with the role.
Goat: Adam Wainwright. The recent era of good feelings toward Waino’s performances is again in the rearview mirror. Someone pointed out what Wainwright’s season has looked like by ERA on Twitter Saturday afternoon. It was something like this:
Starts 1-7: 6.37 ERA
Starts 8-11: 0.34 ERA
Starts 12-14: 17.42 ERA
Over his last three starts, he’s put up a total of 10.1 innings. Similar to last year, when he had a small respite from terrible outings, he had a stretch that made you remember the good Adam Wainwright can do. The problem is, it’s becoming harder and harder to believe that that Adam Wainwright still exists, for the most part. Wainwright has a 4.92 ERA over the last two years. That’s not a small sample size, that’s 14% of his career starts.
I love Wainwright, I really do. Everyone does, for the most part. He’s got a great attitude, he seems like a fun guy to be around, he’s got a sense of humor, and he’s been a huge part of this Cardinal era. All that said, I think if you can get a quality start out of him going forward it’s a cause for celebration. More often, it’s going to be a five inning start with three or four runs given up. When he’s got things working, it could be better, but I don’t think you can expect that. Which makes a discussion of what the future holds for Wainwright and the Cardinals a interesting, and possibly painful, one.
Homers hit (both teams): 8
Notes: I can’t fault Mike Matheny for starting to take out his starters down 12-4 in the fifth, but it did wind up possibly being a bit premature as the Cardinals put a few runs up in the sixth and got the game to 12-7 with the bases loaded and two out, only to see Eric Fryer strike out on three pitches. (That said, Mychal Givens, who came in to get Fryer and then went another couple of frames, looks like a big arm that would have retired most batters.) It would have been crazy to see the team rally from that deficit, but you can’t really expect that and, in fairness, some of those that he’d put into the game were a part of that rally.
Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons had a reasonable outing, though he got touched for three runs in the fourth and allowed Wainwright’s last run to score when he came into the game. Lyons left a pitch up to Jonathan Schoop, which left the yard, but otherwise did pretty well against the Orioles, striking out seven in just 3.1 innings. It’s unfortunate that those three runs (four, if you count the inherited runner that came in) actually made a bit of a difference when that rally came along. Then again, you figure the Orioles treat that rally differently if they are only up four rather than eight when it begins.
Jedd Gyorko had a couple of base hits, which was good to see out of him. He had a home run on Friday that just kinda carried until it went over the right-field wall, but other than that Gyorko’s been a bit quiet with the bat. He’s hitting .241 with one homer in the month of June, which would probably be drawing more attention had the rest of the bats not stepped up. Is Gyorko better in small doses? Is it just a slump? Does he need to have a few more days off? Who knows. It’s unlikely he’s not going to be out there hitting fourth most every day, though, so hopefully he can work through it and get the bat working again.
Sunday (8-5 loss)
Hero: Stephen Piscotty. Two hits, both homers. That was all the offense until late, when Fowler continued his homer streak and Yadier Molina chipped in his second of the weekend. Too little too late on those, unfortunately.
Goat: Lance Lynn. As the team scuffles, it seems more and more likely that Lynn is going to be on the trade block. If he is, he’s got to have better outings than this to up that trade value. I didn’t get to watch this game, what with Father’s Day activities and such, but it looks like they just kept nicking at Lynn until the fifth, where he couldn’t stop the bleeding. Throwing 110 pitches in less than five complete isn’t great either. When you face a fastball hitting team and you mainly throw fastballs, I guess this was going to happen and it’s definitely his worst start in a while. It’d just be nice if he could get past the fifth again–in his last five starts he’s just seen the sixth once and then only to record one out. Granted, he might have gone longer in one of those games, but still, it’s concerning to see the workhorse that Lynn has been not be able to really reach that level.
Homers hit (both teams): 8
Notes: Well, at least it was a good day for the bullpen. Kevin Siegrist allowed a run, but Matthew Bowman, Trevor Rosenthal, and Brett Cecil combined for 2.2 scoreless innings, which was tough to do this weekend. Cecil has now thrown five scoreless innings over his past four outings, striking out four and allowing just two hits. He’s had a few stretches like this before and none of what he’s done here has been in high leverage situations, but maybe there have been some adjustments and we can start to see him being used more in the manner the Cards thought they’d use him when they signed him.
When you are shut down by Ubaldo Jimenez, there’s really not much to say. It’s nice that the team made a little comeback, but I doubt the game ever really felt in jeopardy.
Again, we went over the terrifying truth earlier. Allen and I talked about it on Meet Me at Musial. Tara and I, as mentioned, talked about it on Gateway. It’s not good and folks are getting closer and closer to waving the white flag. It’s hard to fault them for it, because even given a weaker division, they are heading in the wrong direction.
What got them better, at least temporarily, last time was a visit by the Phillies. This time, they’ll head to Philadelphia to take on a team that should be worse than they are. Mike Leake gets a chance to get the six runs he allowed last time against the Brewers out of his head as he goes up against Jeremy Hellickson, who sees the Cards for the second time in about a week. Here’s Leake against the Phillies hitters:
And Hellickson against the Cards:
If the Cards don’t win this series, that well may be enough to have Mo give up on that 4-6 week timetable and start making the moves that he needs to make to prepare for 2018. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that!