Playing Better, But Does It Matter?

The Cardinals had a homestand against two of the top teams in the NL West, two teams that are playing in the playoffs if the season ended this week, much less today.  They went 5-2, showing again that they CAN play with anyone.  And what do they get for their troubles?  Really, not much of anything.  St. Louis was 4.5 games behind the Cubs and Milwaukee last Sunday, they are 4.5 games behind the Cubs this Sunday.  A Cubs team that, we probably should point out, has not only started to click but also from all reports will be adding Justin Wilson and Alex Avila today to shore up what holes they have.

As Three Dog Night once sang, “What does it matter, what does it matter?”

The problem, of course, is that today is the trade deadline and the front office doesn’t seem to want to sell on a team that, in some years, would be considered still in the hunt down less than five games.  Intelligent fans, the fans that follow this team as their lifeblood, understand where they stand.  They know that the odds of them passing up a resurgent Chicago are slim.  (Fangraphs today has them at around 7% for the division, 16% for the wild card.)  They’d understand moving Lance Lynn, trading a few other pieces, and retrenching for 2018.  It makes plenty of sense.

They aren’t the issue.  It’s the casual fans, the ones that come down to Busch Stadium while the team is contending but are more likely to find other things to do if they aren’t, that ownership is worried about.  They still want that 3.4 million to come through the gates.  They want the 40,000 a night to be in the stadium.  Which are legitimate concerns, don’t get me wrong.  This is a business and the model they have kinda relies on it.

That being said, Bill DeWitt III pointed out on Blogger Day that their season ticket base is 22,000, which is one of the largest in baseball.  If I’m a season ticket holder, I’m going to renew tickets because it’s baseball and I want to be there.  But OTHER season ticket holders might not be so kind.  They may look right now at a 2018 team that doesn’t inspire confidence.  Sure, the front office may SAY that they are going to be active in the winter, but they’ve also said they were going to be active at the trade deadline and, as such, that hasn’t been fulfilled.  Do you put your money down for next year, money that you might need or want to go somewhere else, on the bet that this winter is going to fix the problems?

For those folks, selling might push them away.  Buying, however, seems like a futile chasing after the wind.  It seems unlikely you can bring in that big bat or transformative presence today.  I’ve been wrong before and I’d love for this to be another one of those times, but it’d be a huge surprise if they could bring in a big bat that would work for this year and next at the least.  It’s not a pleasant place for this front office to be in, this zone of too good to be bad and too bad to be good.  But like Tara said both last week and this week on Gateway, just pick something.  Being frozen is not a good look and it’s more frustrating than any bad trade is likely to be.  I get that the front office plays the long game, but right now the franchise is not on the right track and keeping on keeping on is likely going to keep on seeing this team as a sub-.500 team for the foreseeable future.

Really didn’t plan on it taking all this long to get to the games.  I guess I should get to it, huh?

Friday (1-0 win)

Hero: Jedd Gyorko.  Three hits, including the Cardinals’ only extra-base hit, and drove in the only run of the game.  Gyorko’s been slumping of late, so it was good to see him have a strong game.

Goat: Yadier Molina.  0-4 with five left on base.  At least we know he wasn’t tired.

Notes: Michael Wacha continued to show that he’s back on his game, throwing six scoreless innings against a pretty solid lineup.  Wacha allowed only three hits while striking out five and did so in just under 100 pitches.  It was very good to see that the Chicago games wasn’t a harbinger, more a blip on the radar.

Knock on wood, but Seung-hwan Oh is starting to look like the closer we were used to last year.  It may well be because Mike Matheny is keeping him away from left-handers, but he’s not been charged with an earned run since July 14.  Since then (and this counts Sunday), he’s gone six innings, has one unearned run on the ledger, has eight strikeouts and is limiting batters to a .217 average.  I’m not saying give him the closer role or that I’m still not holding my breath if he comes into a one-run game, but if he’s close to last season’s dominance, pairing him with Trevor Rosenthal at the end of games makes this bullpen much more of a threat.

Speaking of Rosie, he earned his save in this one.  After Brett Cecil put two runners on in the eighth, Rosenthal came in and shut the door, striking out four and allowing nothing in two innings of work.  Good Rosie is a lot of fun to watch.

Saturday (7-1 loss)

Hero: Paul DeJong.  Just one hit, but it drove in a run in the first and let people dream about beating Zack Greinke for an inning or two.

Goat: Jedd Gyorko.  I mentioned he’d been slumping.  0-4 with three left on base.  It was either him or Molina, who went 0-3 with two strikeouts and three left on before Carson Kelly replaced him.

Notes: If Mike Leake could corral the home runs, he might be able to get back to an approximation of what he was earlier in the year.  He’s allowed 14 long balls this season, eight of which have come since the calendar turned to June.  He gave up two of them here in his five innings of work and while three runs total in five isn’t great, when you are up against Greinke you can’t afford to have a game like that.  Honestly, this is the sort of game we probably should expect from Leake going forward, with maybe another inning added on.

Kevin Siegrist had done well since his return from the DL, but he blew up in this one.  He got one out, gave up three hits, walked three, and was charged with four earned runs.  Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons had to come in and get him out of that jam.  His next outing will be interesting to see.  Otherwise, the bullpen did pretty well, but Matheny ran through a lot of them while the game was close.

Matt Carpenter with two hits, the only player wearing red with multiple knocks.  (I think the Diamondback were wearing gray and teal in this one, but their wardrobe is eclectic and I can’t be sure.)

Sunday (3-2 win)

Hero: Jose Martinez.  Given a rare start, Martinez delivered big time, cracking a two-run home run that tied the game then driving in the go-ahead run with a sacrifice fly.  I said on Twitter before his homer that this team needed something, because it felt like they were going through the motions, and Martinez provided it.

Goat: Harrison Bader.  Moving him up to the second spot didn’t really help, as he went 0-4 with two strikeouts.  The big league pitchers are getting him out with the offspeed stuff and, if the Cardinals don’t do something relating to an outfielder today, it seems like he might be sent back to Memphis to work on it when Stephen Piscotty comes off the DL tomorrow.

Notes: The consensus was that if Lance Lynn started yesterday, he was staying in St. Louis.  That may not be the case still–Sonny Gray and Yu Darvish haven’t moved yet and they’d probably go before Lynn–but Lynn obviously didn’t allow it to affect him.  His command wasn’t quite there–five walks, including three in the second–but he went six innings and allowed just two runs.  A solid start that kept his team in the game.  Why wouldn’t another team be interested in that?

A lot of the same names for the bullpen showed up in this one.  I’m not sure it’s a sanctioned game unless Matthew Bowman shows up in the box score.  Tyler Lyons went for the third time in four days.  Oh and Rosenthal finished it up.  With all the arms that went on Saturday, it makes sense, it just feels like this pen is going to need some help, whether from a deal or a callup.  Or they could get some rest with the starters going a little deeper, but we probably shouldn’t count on that.

No game for the Cardinals today, so if they don’t make a move we have a lot more time to stew over it.  St. Louis goes on the road to Milwaukee for what could be a real key matchup, though probably a little less so now that the Brewers are a couple of games out of first.  Carlos Martinez will go up against Jimmy Nelson in the first game.  Martinez is Martinez, as you know, and seems to be on track if you get him past the first.

vs. Batters Table
Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Ryan Braun 23 21 5 0 0 0 1 2 10 .238 .304 .238 .542 0 0 1 0 1
Jonathan Villar 21 20 6 1 0 0 0 1 6 .300 .333 .350 .683 0 0 0 0 0
Hernan Perez 15 14 3 0 0 0 0 1 4 .214 .267 .214 .481 0 0 0 0 1
Kirk Nieuwenhuis 13 10 3 0 0 0 1 3 4 .300 .462 .300 .762 0 0 0 0 1
Domingo Santana 12 11 3 0 0 0 0 0 4 .273 .333 .273 .606 0 0 0 1 1
Orlando Arcia 8 8 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 .125 .125 .125 .250 0 0 0 0 0
Travis Shaw 6 6 3 0 0 1 3 0 0 .500 .500 1.000 1.500 0 0 0 0 0
Eric Thames 6 6 2 0 0 1 2 0 1 .333 .333 .833 1.167 0 0 0 0 0
Jett Bandy 5 4 1 0 0 0 1 1 1 .250 .400 .250 .650 0 0 0 0 0
Zach Davies 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Manny Pina 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 1
Jimmy Nelson 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Jesus Aguilar 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 119 110 29 1 0 2 8 8 35 .264 .319 .327 .647 0 0 1 1 5
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/31/2017.

Nelson, on the other hand, has been hittable in the past but this season is looking pretty good.  He’s got a 3.38 mark on the year, but both times St. Louis has seen him in 2017 he’s allowed four runs in less than six innings.  Let’s hope that holds up, but he’s coming off seven innings of two-run ball against a potent Nationals team.

vs. Batters Table
Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Kolten Wong 28 24 8 2 1 1 5 4 7 .333 .429 .625 1.054 0 0 1 0 0
Matt Carpenter 24 21 10 2 0 2 8 3 3 .476 .542 .857 1.399 0 0 0 0 0
Randal Grichuk 14 13 3 1 0 0 1 1 4 .231 .286 .308 .593 0 0 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 14 11 2 0 0 0 1 2 0 .182 .286 .182 .468 0 1 0 0 1
Greg Garcia 13 10 4 0 0 0 1 2 0 .400 .538 .400 .938 0 0 0 1 0
Jedd Gyorko 9 9 0 0 0 0 1 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Tommy Pham 8 7 3 1 1 0 2 0 1 .429 .500 .857 1.357 0 0 0 1 0
Jose Martinez 3 2 0 0 0 0 1 1 1 .000 .333 .000 .333 0 0 0 0 0
Michael Wacha 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 .000 .667 .000 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Mike Leake 2 2 1 0 0 0 2 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Carlos Martinez 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 0 1
Total 120 102 32 6 2 3 22 15 18 .314 .408 .500 .908 0 1 1 2 2
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/31/2017.

Will the roster look the same after 3 PM today?  We’ll have to wait and see.  If there’s a move, we’ll talk about it.  Come back anyway because the last matchups of the first round of the Greatest Cardinal Moment Tournament go up at 10 and 2!

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