You know, I was going to write after Wednesday’s game in New York. Great title (“If You Can Make It There…It Probably Doesn’t Mean Much”) and some great games to talk about. I didn’t and now, oh boy now momentum and excitement and optimism for this team has taken a complete 180. The sound you heard the last two days? Nails driving into a coffin. I’m not saying that the Cardinals WON’T be a playoff team, but if you put down money on it you are a braver person than me.
The silver lining about waiting to write is that at least we do get those two good games to mix into the post and make it not all sour. Let’s see what we can come up with.
Monday (6-3 win)
Hero: Tommy Pham. By now, that sounds like a broken record, doesn’t it? Pham went two for three with a home run (which capped the scoring and made the game serious) and three RBI. You know, just that normal Phamtastic night.
Goat: Magneuris Sierra. His beginning-of-the-career hitting streak ended, though he still did reach on a fielder’s choice and wound up scoring a run. He also made two errors on one play, turning Jose Reyes’s double into a Little League home run.
Notes: Do you get worried about the offense when it scores six, but they are all in one inning? This looked like it was going to be a tight, low-scoring affair until the Cards broke it open in the sixth. While it doesn’t matter on a game-by-game basis how the runs score–they all count the same–it would make some think that this was more on a tiring pitcher and some ineffective bullpen pieces than a successful attack. Again, it’s one game, but coming on the heels of Friday where they scored in the first and didn’t score again, you wonder about it being stop-and-start.
Adam Wainwright is a big New York fan and he continued his resurgence by pitching a good game on the road. He gave up a run in the fifth, then after getting the big lead, perhaps he got out of rhythm because he immediately came back and allowed two more in the sixth. That said, his defense didn’t help him there–Sierra’s misplays were the cause of one of those runs and Dexter Fowler then dropped a ball right after, putting a runner on–and Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons got him out of the jam by getting the last batter. (That was also the last time Lyons got into a game. After going five times in the first eight games this month, he’s gone twice in the last in the last seven.)
The bullpen was solid here, which is something we won’t always be saying in this series. Lyons, Matthew Bowman, Kevin Siegrist, and Brett Cecil combined for 3.1 innings, no runs, two hits, and a walk. The Mets never really got a chance to threaten once these guys came in. Siegrist was especially a revelation, striking out three of the four batters he faced. Given his struggles during rehab, that was completely unexpected. His outing on Wednesday was almost as good, so if this is more of the Siegrist we are going to see, it’s a welcome addition.
Paul DeJong again burned the Mets, hitting the two-run homer that put the Cards in the lead. Yadier Molina had two hits and Wainwright got in on the fun, doubling in a run himself. We had fun in this one. Ah, the memories.
Tuesday (5-0 win)
Hero: Michael Wacha. You can question the validity of letting a guy with a history of injury go out there and complete a game that costs him 120 pitches, but there’s no doubt it’s very good to see Wacha notch his first shutout. The extra rest around the All-Star Game helped and, while there’s no indication yet this would happen, skipping or at least shortening his next start might be a good thing. Still, Wacha looked like the Wacha we saw as he came up. Three total hits, eight strikeouts. Joe Schwarz wrote a nice piece of work (that’s an understatement) looking at Wacha and there’s reason to hope that he’ll be more in line with his historical norms. That said, the cloud of injury hangs over everything he does. Right now he’s healthy and we’ll be excited about that!
Goat: Everyone in the starting lineup had a hit (including Wacha, who also had a run and an RBI!) and the starting pitcher went nine scoreless. You are going to have to nitpick to find a Goat here, but we are expert nitpickers. Dexter Fowler had a hit, but he left six men on base and didn’t score nor drive in a run. Does Fowler really work in the three spot? There are times when I think yes, especially when you look at those 14 homers, but then there are nights like this and you wonder. He’s 5-27 since the All-Star Break (.185) with three walks (OBP .267) and no extra-base hits. I don’t know if it’s just a slump, it’s the foot, or what. Then again, if lineup theory says actually your fifth-best guy hits third, maybe there’s no reason to juggle Fowler right now.
Notes: Matt Carpenter spent the night swinging at the first pitch and went 4-5 with a two doubles, a run, and an RBI. That’s the kind of thing he can do every once in a while, when pitchers get lulled into him taking long at-bats. Wouldn’t probably work for him as a regular strategy and, indeed, it was a one night only deal.
Other than that, for the fact the club had 12 hits, they were all spread out. Nobody else had more than one. Paul DeJong was the only one that had an extra-base hit besides Carp. It really was just enough for Wacha to get the shutout. Which is good!
Wednesday (7-3 loss)
Hero: Magneuris Sierra. The only player besides Kolten Wong with more than one hit, Sierra went 2-3 and drove in two of the three runs.
Goat: Mike Leake. Regression is….well, it’s language I don’t use, but it’s not good. Bernie Miklasz wrote about it after this game and while Leake probably isn’t as bad as we’ve seen of late, he’s still not been good by any stretch of the imagination. I went to eat dinner when it was 2-0 in the first. When I was done 20-25 minutes later, it was 7-0. Leake may have been spared by unearned runs a bit (only four were earned of his seven) but he still only threw two innings and allowed 10 hits, most of which were hit hard.
There’s nothing you can do, though. He’s not a bullpen guy, I don’t think, and he’s not going anywhere. He’s got to go out there every fifth day and we hope that the regression stops soon as we can see that average pitcher Leake probably is.
Notes: I will say it was nice, in some aspects, to see the Cardinals able to battle enough that Luke Voit came to the plate with a chance to tie the game if he could just hit a grand slam. (Spoiler alert–he couldn’t.) Other than that, there wasn’t much to say about this. With the huge early gap the reserves came in early, to the point that when the game did start to tighten up, there were no bench options so Adam Wainwright pinch-hit (and walked) and Matt Bowman pinch-ran for him. Still, it’s hard to fault Mike Matheny too much for that–it’s a stretch of 17 games in a row between the ASB and July 31st, the next off day. Getting some of the starters a little rest in what looked like a blowout is completely fair.
The bullpen did great and we got to see John Brebbia and Sam Tuivailala for the first time in the second half. Rob Rains tweeted that if Tui didn’t get into this game, why was he even here? After today’s roster moves (which we’ll get to), apparently someone else asked the same question.
Thursday (3-2 loss)
Hero: Tommy Pham, yet again. He drove in the tying run in the sixth, doubling in Matt Carpenter from first. He hit a home run in the eighth that gave the Cardinals the lead. If only he could pitch…..
Goat: It was going to be tough to be Brett Cecil here, but Trevor Rosenthal did it standing still. Literally.
Critical shot: pic.twitter.com/r8WMWsfjUf
— Gif Weaver (@SimulacruMusial) July 20, 2017
Cardinal fans get worked up about a lot of things, but not executing basic fundamentals is right at the top of the list. If Rosenthal takes off when the ball is hit, he gets the runner at first and the game goes into extras. Instead, Jose Reyes beats out a single, the runner on second–whom Rosenthal had walked to lead off the inning–scores, and it’s the third game lost by the bullpen since the All-Star Break. Which, again let me remind you, was just seven games ago. My suggestion to Tara on the special mid-week Gateway about getting Zach Britton seems smarter by the day.
Notes: Rosenthal gets the Goat, but Cecil didn’t fare any better. Pham had just given the Cardinals the lead, then two Mets batters later it is gone on a home run by Wilber Flores. Cecil had been pitching so well before the issue on Sunday. A home run is going to happen at times, I guess, but it is just frustrating for the team to fight into a great position to win, only to see it go out in a hurry. Then again, one mistake is better than being hit around for three-four hits or a walk or two mixed in. That’s ineffective.
Greg Garcia got two hits. That was one-third of the team’s total on the day. You tell me if that’s an issue with the offense.
It was a great start by Lance Lynn in what still may have been his final time out with the Cardinals. Six innings, three hits, one run, five strikeouts. Are you telling me a contender couldn’t use that in the middle of their rotation? Especially with his post-season experience? No matter what the Cardinals do, I really think they should get something for Lynn from a team that wants to make a push.
The Cardinals have made some moves today in preparation for this weekend series in Chicago that, frankly, is a must win and a sweep would be ideal. Let’s look at them in table form first.
In, Out, How
Carson Kelly, Eric Fryer, DFA
Randal Grichuk, Magneuris Sierra, demoted
Zach Duke, Sam Tuivailala, demoted
OK, in order:
Kelly for Fryer: Tara and I talked about this during Gateway as well, and basically we came to the agreement that Kelly has done all he can do in Memphis. Even if he sits behind Molina a lot up here in the bigs, he’s learning from Yadi and it’s not hampering his development too much. I do hope there’s some understand about a regular playing time for him. Make him somebody’s personal catcher–maybe Luke Weaver if Lynn is dealt–so he can get in at least every fifth day. Matheny also may want to try to use him as a pinch-hitter more often than you typically see the backup catcher used.
As you know if you read this blog much, I’ve never understood this huge hoopla for Fryer’s return anyway. I mean, he seems like a nice guy and yes, he did well in St. Louis last year, but that really felt more like a fluke and his time in Pittsburgh seemed to prove it. Fryer was never going to be much more than what we’ve seen in the long line of backup catchers, I don’t think. Kelly, he could be different.
Grichuk for Sierra: This one kinda surprised me, even more so when you see Grichuk in the starting lineup today. I know, I know, everyone on Twitter has this insane fear that Grichuk is coming for the outfield spot and nobody is going to be able to stop Matheny from putting him out there (usually at Pham’s expense). I still think it’s overblown–we’ve seen Grichuk on the bench more of late and there’s no denying what Pham has done has made an impact–but moves like this makes it harder to completely dismiss it.
Grichuk had one game in his rehab assignment. One. The only reason I can really even stretch to explain this is that they are trying to prove that Grichuk is healthy and can play because he’s in some sort of trade talk discussions. I mean, if you believe that Miami has scouted Austin Gomber and Dakota Hudson for a specific deadline-deal reason, maybe Grichuk goes back in that deal as well. I don’t know, but rushing Grichuk when you have Pham, Fowler, and Sierra seems like there should be more to the story.
As for Sierra, he’s still living on the infield hits to some degree. It does send him down when he had a pretty good game in recent memory, so he continues to know that he can be successful in the bigs, but there’s still things to work on. We know we’ll see Sierra in September and I wouldn’t be surprised if it is before that depending on the trade deadline and the health of Stephen Piscotty. You can rationalize this move, but just barely.
Duke for Tuivailala: We’ve seen that, for whatever reason, Tui’s not getting a whole lot of playing time up here and, even with that, Matheny still won’t let go of 13 pitchers. If you are going to get anything out of Duke, though, you have to send down someone and Tui’s the most logical one to go down. This also would seem to play into the trade deadline talks, because like we discussed on Talking About Birds when I guested on Monday, the Cardinals now have four lefthanders in the pen, and that’s just not normal (and somewhat overkill). Given that the Patron Pitcher hasn’t been used a lot as it is since the break, I have a bad feeling #70 might not be in use after the calendar flips. At least not by the same person.
If the Cardinals could have won just two of the three late-inning meltdown games, they’d be 2.5 games out behind a Brewers team that has stumbled as some expected since the break. Instead, they sit in fourth place, a game and a half behind the Pirates and 4.5 behind the Brewers, with the Cubs poised to take over the top spot with a good weekend.
The positive thing, if you want to look at it like this, is the Cubs have won six in a row against weaker competition. Winning streaks (Los Angeles notwithstanding) don’t often get much longer than that. If the Cardinals could actually take two of three this weekend, that new found confidence by the Cubs might get questioned a bit, much like what happened when St. Louis went 7-0 against Miami and Atlanta, then fell on their faces against good teams. Let’s see if we can make that happen, shall we?
If nothing else, the Cards are in good position to draw first blood as Carlos Martinez goes this afternoon in Wrigley, matched up against a Jake Arrieta that has been better of late but has struggled on the season. Martinez seems to be back to form after a great outing against Pittsburgh and two superb innings against the American League.
|Tommy La Stella||17||14||3||1||0||0||1||3||3||.214||.353||.286||.639||0||0||0||0||0|
He’ll need to be on his game because Arrieta is always tough on the Cardinals, it feels like. That said, St. Louis did put four runs on him in six innings the last time they saw him. That’d be great to see again.
I know this is long, but while I was typing it the Cardinals made a deal, sending Marco Gonzales to Seattle for outfield prospect Tyler O’Neill. Here’s an article from the Seattle blog Lookout Landing talking about how the Mariners shouldn’t deal O’Neill, who apparently was their second-best prospect according to MLB.com. That being said, he’s an outfielder. My feeling is that John Mozeliak and Michael Girsch are beefing up a trade package with this one. I mean, seriously, he sounds great but he also sounds ready for the bigs maybe next year. With the backlog of outfielders already, where does he go?
Unless, of course, Mo/Girsch are dealing one or two of the current outfielders and O’Neill will get a shot that way. I don’t know, it seems strange but it’s a nice addition in a vacuum, it appears. Something to mull over before Allen and I do Meet Me at Musial tonight!