You remember last year, of course. That rough season where every time the Cardinals tried to get to 10 games over .500, they’d wind up losing. I don’t remember what the mark was and I can’t find it in a quick search, but I want to say that when they won the season finale against Pittsburgh and finished the year 86-76, that marked the first time in ten tries they succeeded in their quest.
Man, those were the days.
This year, the standard has dropped by 10 games. Ever since the Cardinals fell below .500 on June 3, they’ve had five chances to get back to break even (and most of those feel like they’ve been in the last couple of weeks). Five times they’ve failed. Last night, you had to figure they were going to break that streak, what with Carlos Martinez on the mound. Perhaps this curse is a bit stronger than we first came to realize.
The problem with Carlos so far has been that he can’t seem to settle in on the mound. The first inning has been terrible for him this year, seeing him put up a 6.55 ERA in 22 innings. The only inning that sees a worse mark for him is the seventh, and he’s only thrown eight of those. You can understand him wearing down a bit around the sixth or seventh, but what is it about the first inning that’s getting to him? Again, the standard idea on an ace is “get to him early or you won’t get to him” and I guess that’s somewhat true of Martinez, but it doesn’t make it any easier to swallow.
Last night, he had runners on the corners before he got anybody out, so allowing one run wasn’t a surprise. He got a groundout (which drove in that run) and a strikeout, so he could have escaped with just one run. Instead, he gave up a single and a double and it was quickly 3-0. Unlike when the Cardinals do all their scoring in the first, those three runs held up.
I’m not going to give the Goat to Martinez, though when you give up three runs in five and walk five batters in that span, you are in the running. Still, if the offense is clicking at all, three runs against Jimmy Nelson, whom they have dominated in the past, shouldn’t be insurmountable. The offense struggled, though, and when they tried to make something happen, such as Kolten Wong trying to score from first on a double by Randal Grichuk, Milwaukee made some perfect relays and got him nailed at the plate.
(That play really was in the eye of the beholder. Some on Twitter thought it was ridiculous to send him, especially since there were no outs. Some saw it like I did, where 9 times out of 10 he’s safe. Plus, given how this team squanders scoring opportunities, there’s no guarantee they’d have gotten Wong in anyway, though second and third no outs is a nice situation to be in.)
The Goat will go to Jedd Gyorko, who may have used up all of his season magic already. He was 0-4 with three strikeouts and two left on in this one, continuing a stretch that has seen him hit .169 with a .504 OPS since the All-Star Break. Run it back to the beginning of July, it’s .199 with a .582 OPS. It’s not a Brandon Moss-like run yet–Gyorko does have a couple of home runs in that span as well–but it’s not surprising that when your fourth place hitter is doing this, the offense sputters. Having Yadier Molina behind him doesn’t help a whole lot, though Yadi is .273/.301/.364 since July 1. So he’s getting singles but not much else. He can help the offense, but not at that spot in the lineup. However, arguing lineup construction with the Mike Matheny era is like me dating in high school. You can try, but it’s never going to happen.
Our Hero of the piece will be Tommy Pham yet again. Two hits, scored one of the runs, drove in the other. Seriously, thinking about what this team like without Pham feels like a story by Stephen King. Would they be ahead of the Reds? I honestly don’t know. He’s one of the only ones that seems to be able to produce on a regular basis. Wong also had two hits and Matt Carpenter walked twice, but that’s pretty much the extent of the offense.
With the Cubs winning, that pushes the Cardinals 5.5 back in the divisional race (and, seriously, that Cubs team is clicking. Nobody’s going to chase them down) and eight back in the wild card, needing to pass up Milwaukee (who is three games ahead of them) as well as one of Colorado or Arizona. Things didn’t feel good at the trade deadline, but adding another loss on top of that just makes it even worse. All we can do now is enjoy the time we have left before the season wraps up, though winning baseball would help that. I just want them to win more than they lose on this season. The Race for 82 is on.
The Cardinals are 52-54 right now. That means they have 56 games to play. They’ll need to go 29-27 to make it to .500, 30-26 to finish above break even. That’s a .536 winning percentage, which is basically the equivalent of winning 87 games in the regular season. This, honestly, is not going to be easy. Since John Mozeliak’s “shake up” press conference, they’ve gone 26-22. That’s a .542 mark, so I guess if they keep doing what they’ve been doing for the past two months, they can get to 82 wins. It’s sad when this is the focus, but that’s what it’s come to.
They’ll try to mark one of those wins off tonight when Luke Weaver goes against Brent Suter. Weaver, of course, had a pretty solid outing against Arizona last time out, save the grand slam he allowed. Weaver’s seen the Brewers a little bit and had success in that small sample.
Suter, on the other hand, has seen the Cardinals a bit this year. He had two scoreless relief outings against them in April (a total of four innings) but then started against them in June and allowed three runs in 4.2 innings. He shut out the Cubs over seven innings last time, so he may not have much trouble with a lineup that’s significantly worse than that one.
Again, I’m under no illusions that this team can make a run, but it’d be nice to see a win tonight to stop falling into that hole completely. Let’s see what they can do!