A three game sweep of the Rockies, along with some slippage by the Brewers over that time, got a lot of fans fairly excited about this team and dreaming about the possibilities. With the trade deadline coming up, folks thought if the club made this move or that move, the Cardinals could be right there in the race for a weaker NL Central.
For some, those dreams and hopes took a hit last night as the Diamondbacks came in and shut out the Cardinals. The roller coaster dropped a bit, but we’ll have to wait and see how far down it goes.
Let’s also be clear–some people were hoping for a sweep of Arizona, but the odds of that were long to begin with. Putting together seven game winning streaks is tough in baseball. The Cardinals did it earlier in the year against Miami and Atlanta, but that’s a different story than doing it against two teams that are playoff contenders (and have better records than the Cards). If St. Louis could win three of four in this series, they’d be in good shape and that’s still a possibility. (Of course, they have to now beat Robbie Ray, Zack Greinke, and Taijuan Walker, so that’s its own sort of problem.)
However, there are people that are afraid that the Cards are going to be just good enough here at the end of July not to sell off anyone, especially Lance Lynn, but then not be good enough the rest of the way to actually compete, thus finding that sweet spot of “worst of both worlds”. Which is still a very legitimate issue. We’ll talk about this at length on Meet Me at Musial tonight, but you could make the argument that even though they are now 4.5 games out, which seems doable, that gap is really bigger than you think. How the front office views will be the key on how they approach the next few days.
I guess we should get to the game, but there’s really not much to get to. Folks started blasting Luke Weaver as not able to fill Lynn’s innings and perhaps there is something there, but if you go by last night you can see that he can go at least five and basically, save for that one inning where he lost his command, was very good. He gave up a grand slam to J.D. Martinez, but that’s why Arizona traded for him. He’s a big bat and that happens. The walks before it were more of an issue.
On the whole, though, Weaver allowed five hits and two walks in his five innings, but he also struck out five. While grand slams are crushing, especially when the offense isn’t getting any purchase against the opposing starter, it wasn’t like he was consistently beat around. He lost his command for a bit and it cost him. With a young guy, that’s going to happen. Again, if Lynn were traded I’d be OK putting Weaver in his spot for the next two months, but there is a drop-off. If you really think you can make a run, you have to factor that drop-off against whatever return you are going to get.
I’ll go ahead and give Luke Weaver the Goat, but the offense sure didn’t help him out any. Randal Grichuk and Harrison Bader both contended for the title. Grichuk went 0-4 and left five runners on base, which is big in a game that didn’t see but seven of them. Bader struck out three times, including to end the sixth when there were runners on the corners.
Gotta have a Hero. Let’s go with Paul DeJong, who didn’t hit any home runs last night, unfortunately, but did get two hits and a walk in his four plate appearances. That’s really out of character for DeJong, who has been more of a grip-it-and-rip-it type, but if he could combine a little patience with his power, that’d be pretty impressive.
While it didn’t matter because Zack Godley was complete in control, the bullpen did a nice job of keeping the game where it was at in case the offense did decide to wake up. Matthew Bowman (with his daily trip to the mound), John Brebbia, Kevin Siegrist, and Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons combined for four innings, three hits, and three strikeouts. If the bullpen had been doing THAT since the All-Star Break, the Cards might be a couple wins closer.
They’ll try it again tonight when Ray and Michael Wacha face off. Ray struggled last time out against Washington, allowing five runs (four earned) in five innings. On the season, he’s been pretty sharp and made the All-Star team this year. The Cardinals missed seeing Ray when they were in Arizona last month, so this limited data from the past may not be as relevant as it usually is (which is barely relevant at all).
Wacha has been on a roll of late, dropping his season ERA under 4 with five starts that saw him put up an ERA of 2.20. That ERA would be even better had it not been for his last start, when he allowed five runs (two homers) to the Cubs in Wrigley. Was that a blip? Was that a factor of facing the Cubs in a small ballpark? Honestly, the only real good team he’s faced over this stretch besides the Cubs was the Nationals and he was able to handle them pretty well, but you wonder. He’ll have a chance to put any of those questions to rest tonight and probably will need to pitch well for the Cards to have much of a chance.
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Still no trade rumors really touching the Cardinals. Apparently the shift from John Mozeliak to Michael Girsch (and I know that’s not been completely done yet) hasn’t loosened any lips in the organization. We’ll just have to wait and see if something happens or if Mo was wrong when he said they’d be active!