Man, these days without baseball are rough, aren’t they? I mean, I know we’ve complained a lot about the Cardinals this year and some have said that they spend their evenings avoiding the team, but not having the option to turn on a game and pass 2 1/2 hours or so watching the Redbirds is pretty tough to swallow. Unfortunately, the winter will be here before you know it. We’re already technically past the halfway point of the season, assuming there’s no playoff baseball. Which isn’t completely ruled out yet, but it will be an uphill climb.
The players, save for Yadier Molina who had a full All-Star Game and Carlos Martinez who had the best pitching outing of any NL pitcher, have had four days of fun with their families. Some took mini-vacations, some just hung out and enjoyed being home. However, now they’ve all likely gathered and headed to Pittsburgh (or will on Friday morning) and are ready to get after it. They’ve got a 5.5 game gap to make up on the Brewers. Whether they’ll be able to do it alone is the question.
The Cubs didn’t waste time trying to cut their own 5.5 game gap, trading four prospects for Jose Quintana today. There’s no doubt that shoring up their pitching staff is a huge thing and they really needed to do that, but how long can they keep John Lackey on the DL and off the field? Quintana won’t be replacing Jake Arrieta and his 4.35 ERA. Nor will he bump Jon Lester, whose ERA is about that high. Quintana will help the team and definitely make them potent in a short playoff series, but I don’t think he solves all of the Cubs’ pitching woes. Maybe a deal like this snaps them back into this dynasty-in-the-making team we kept hearing they were, but it seems just as likely Quintana won’t be enough to get them over the hump.
The Cardinals made some internal moves over the break, sending down Luke Weaver and Alex Mejia for Kolten Wong and Kevin Siegrist, both coming off the disabled list. Wong for Mejia is unremarkable–we knew that Wong was about ready to go and Mejia wasn’t playing a whole lot in the bigs anyway. Nothing of note there. What is a bit surprising is the quickness that they went to get Siegrist, who hadn’t exactly looked like a major leaguer among boys in Springfield during his rehab. He got all of two innings, allowed four hits and two runs, and walked one while striking out two. If he’d been on a roll in the big leagues before his injury, maybe you could pass that off as a hitter’s league and he’s just trying to get his timing down. He’s had an up-and-down year in St. Louis, though, and on the face of it Weaver would make more sense for the bullpen than Siegrist would.
Then again, maybe they are hoping that Siegrist will show some flashes and they can package him in a deal. I was listening to the new podcast from the guys at The Redbird Daily and they pointed out that, with Zach Duke flying through his rehab–he’s thrown five innings over three levels, including two at Memphis, and allowed three hits, no runs, one walk and five strikeouts–the Cardinals could soon have four lefties on their roster. Duke, Siegrist, Brett Cecil, and Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons. That doesn’t sound like a situation that’s going to last. Duke will be the LOOGY, Cecil would probably be the seventh inning guy, and that puts it down to Lyons or Siegrist. You’d think Lyons has more trade cache right now (as much as it would hurt me to lose #70) but the fact that Siegrist still has a minor league option could be attractive. It would feel like something has to give here.
Speaking of something having to give, you’ll note that Luke Voit did not return to Memphis. Which means now the Cards and Mike Matheny have to juggle him and Matt Carpenter at first, or Carpenter and Wong at second, or Carpenter and Jedd Gyorko at third. While the rotating idea of always giving someone a day off is great in theory, there are two problems with it. One, Matheny’s never shown a knack or a real desire to have such a regular rotation. Two, the whole idea of moving Carpenter to first was to keep him from having to keep bouncing him around the infield. Given the number of errors Carpenter made in limited second base time, that was an idea with merit.
So does it just boil down to Voit being an occasional starter and a regular bat off the bench? It may have to be for a few weeks. We keep thinking that there’s going to be some new faces, that this can’t be one of those regularly quiet deadlines that we have become used to over the past five years. Yet every time I think John Mozeliak has to do something, he proves that he doesn’t have to do anything. Often it works out, but I don’t know that it will here with a team that is scuffling so much. Yes, the week before the break was encouraging, but there’s still so much work to be done. Whether it can be done with this group is very questionable.
These first three games against the Pirates actually could be very pivotal. Lose two of three (or worse) while the Brewers and Cubs are winning? That really might trigger the “sale” protocol in the front office. Win these games and go into New York on a roll? Maybe the club looks to add a piece instead of removing them. Every day may change the calculus of what this team needs to do and what position it will take. It’s not exactly an easy situation for a new GM to be thrown into. Good thing Mo is still around to help Michael Girsch out in these uncertain times.
It’s not going to be an easy start to the second half either, not with Gerrit Cole going for the Pirates right out of the gate. Cole may not be having one of his finest seasons–he sits at 7-7, 4.43 right now, with that ERA right in line with his FIP–but he’s still going to be a handful for St. Louis. He’s faced the Cardinals twice this season and both times has gone six innings. He’s combined to give up 11 hits, three runs, 13 strikeouts, and four walks in those 12 innings. Cole gave up seven runs three times in June and July, but in the other four starts he gave up a total of five. It seems to be feast or famine and the Redbirds rarely get anything to eat.
On the other side, Mike Leake had one of the better first halves we saw from the hometown team. While his record is under .500, that belies the 3.12 ERA that he posted over the first half. In fairness, his FIP is closer to 4.00 and his ERA is 4.57 since June 1 (and that doesn’t include the five unearned runs he gave up in his last start before the break) so it could be that the magic is starting to wear off and we’re going to get the Leake we expected for the rest of the way. The Cardinals have won both Leake’s starts against Pittsburgh this year, including one on June 25 when he allowed three runs (two earned) in six innings.
It’s a rare evening post because there’s something special coming in the morning and I didn’t want either post to conflict with each other. It’ll be good to have the ‘Birds back on the TV screen tomorrow night, with Danny Mac giving us the #scoops!