I think my Gateway cohost Tara Wellman said it best after the game last night:
Nicely done, Birds. I don’t know what anything means anymore, but that was fun for a night.
— Tara Wellman (@tarawellman) July 25, 2017
This season has had too many ups and downs, twists and turns for us to say that a win “is a turning point” or “gets them on track” or “when we look back, that’ll be the game that got them to the playoffs”. The Cardinals are just as likely to take a loss this evening and put us right back where we started.
That said, it’s another point in a frustrating season. The club loses two of three to Pittsburgh, who is at .500 now but was under it then. They split a four-gamer with the Mets, who are under .500, and they lose two of three to a Chicago Cubs team that, while they moved into first in that series, still is less than five up on that break-even mark. So when a team like Colorado comes into town, 16 games over .500 and a playoff team as of right now, you’d think that there’d be no chance. Instead, the home team wins 8-2 and made the Rockies look more like pebbles.
Which is what I’ve said about this team. They obviously CAN be good. They are 3-4 against the Dodgers this year and those three wins are like 10% of LA’s season losses. They are 3-3 against the Nationals. They are 2-1 against the Diamondbacks and now 2-2 against the Rockies. While those are all small sample sizes, it does seem to show that they can play with the big boys. They just can’t play at that level consistently, which is the problem.
So while it may not mean anything, it may just be another marker on our way to a quiet October, it was still fun to see the team play last night. (It was even fun to see the other side as well–my goodness Nolan Arenado is so great to watch fielding third base.) There were some home runs, some great pitching, even a little humor. What else could you ask for?
Given the Rockies’ propensity for scoring, even on the road, our Hero for the night is Mike Leake. I mentioned at the end of yesterday’s post (and by the way, thanks everyone for their thoughts and comments on that piece) that Leake had been alternating good and bad starts and hopefully we’d get a good one. We surely did. Leake went seven innings, allowed no runs, and struck out six. It probably helped that he got an early lead, but he was on his game last night and he looked more like that Leake we saw earlier in the year. Again, not likely a turning point or anything, but it was nice to see.
For the Goat, we’ll go with Zach Duke. You definitely have the mitigating circumstances of coming back from Tommy John surgery and even though Duke tore through the minors, it’s probably not unexpected for him to hit a bump or two as he gets back to major league life. Duke walked left-handed Tony Wolters before allowing a pinch-hit homer to Pat Valaika. Charlie Blackmon, another lefty, followed that up with a single and Duke’s night was done. The rest of the bullpen limited the damage, though Mike Matheny had to do his best Tony La Russa imitation and use a total of three pitchers that inning, and then Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons finished up the ninth in style, striking out the side.
The offense was sharp as well last night, scoring two runs in four separate innings. Randal Grichuk homered for the fourth straight game, a two-run blast that made it 4-0. Tommy Pham and Jose Martinez also homered, both solo shots. Four batters (Yadier Molina, Kolten Wong, Paul DeJong and Pham) had two hits each. When the offense gets moving and the pitching is fine, it’s a nice night at the ballpark.
Molina brought the fun at the end of the game, showing some of that lightheartedness we saw in the World Baseball Classic and the All-Star Game. In the eighth, Molina hit a blast that got away from the outfielder. Pretty much anyone else would have been standing on third, but Molina just had a double. As he was running into second, Mark Reynolds (the former Cardinal) was trailing him and obviously teasing Molina, probably encouraging him to go to third. Molina was laughing and playfully pushed Reynolds once he stopped at second. Of course, then Yadi stole third, so who knows what he told Reynolds after the game!
Overall, it was a good night. Nothing special. Nothing defining. Nothing that makes you get all inspired and fired up. It was just a good night of baseball for the Cardinals. Sometimes that’s all you can ask for.
Assuming no last minute maneuvering, Lance Lynn will make his start today at Busch. When he did this last, before the All-Star Break, there was no guarantee he’d still be a Cardinal when they returned home. Given that there is demand for him, though whether it is enough demand still remains to be seen, there’s a strong chance this is his last time in Cardinal red. If it is, he should be roundly applauded as much as possible. Lynn’s been a great performer for the Cardinals and someone that fans have come to appreciate in his time in St. Louis. It’d be great if he went out with a win and some sardonic, dry comment in the post-game interview.
The Rockies will put their nominal ace on the mound tonight in Jon Gray. Gray has dealt with injuries this year and has made only seven starts, putting up a 6.19 ERA. Most of that came two starts ago, when the Mets scored eight off of him in two innings, raising his ERA from 3.75. Last time out, he had a more reasonable six innings, four runs against the Padres. Gray definitely could be one that could dominate the Cardinals and if he does, it shouldn’t be another “pitcher with high ERA has great game” type of thing. Gray’s better than that.