Rally cat, rally cat
What are they feeding you?
Rally cat, rally cat
Yadi’s bomb is your fault
They don’t want you at the K
The Royals wish you’d go away
It may not be a bed of roses
When you leave the field by your toeses
–“Rally Cat” by Phoebe Buffay (probably)
Let us first make all the fun-killing observations. One, a cat (or any other small animal that might run on the field) has minimal impact on the game and can not bring “luck”. Two, this is probably a pop-up fad that leaves in a day or so. I remember a couple of years back, there was another incident similar to this, with a squirrel or something, and the Cards rallied and won a game. Everyone was talking about “Rally Squirrel II”…..until the Cards lost the next night and the incident drifted off into those fuzzy edges of memory. So if you were planning on quitting your job to make “Rally Cat” merchandise, perhaps give that another think, then another.
That said, you do have to wonder if the delay of chasing down that cat (and kudos to Lucas Hackmann for not only doing the chasing but having the Herculean amount of focus and pain tolerance to not drop that feline after it did a number scratching him up) affected Peter Moylan. He’s in a decent rhythm, striking out Paul DeJong before doing the no-pitch intentional walk thing to Dexter Fowler to load up the bases. He gets one pitch in on Yadier Molina (a ball) before the delay. He probably initially thought Yadi was calling his shot, what with him stepping out to point his bat like that. After all the hoopla, Moylan comes back to the mound. I don’t know if he was out of sync or what, but leaving a pitch right down the middle is not usually a good idea. Molina smoked it over the wall and that grand slam made him the Hero of the game. (To all those Rally Cat accounts perhaps reading this, the rule is only giving Hero or Goat to a player, otherwise you’d have been right in the mix.)
The cat and the slam helped distract from the fact that this game almost got away from the Cardinals. Mike Leake, our Goat, gave up three runs before the end of the second. The Cardinals, in a fashion that we’ve seen over the last week or so that’s counter to most of what 2017 has taught us, rallied with two in the second and one in the third to tie it, then Jose Martinez untied it in the fourth with a blast to center field. Jose’s been hot this week, starting with his slam in Cincinnati. He’s hitting .412/.474/.824 over the past four games with the two home runs. Given Mike Matheny‘s preference of riding the hot hand, he may stay in the lineup today and give someone else like Randal Grichuk a night off. Tough to bench him right now. I’d say hitting him places like second and fourth is a pretty crazy idea, but so far it’s panned out so what can you do?
Anyway, the Cardinals get the lead, but immediately Leake gives it back on a single by Eric Hosmer and a homer by Melky Cabrera, his second since coming back to KC at the trade deadline. It felt like that could be a deciding blow, at least until The Cat Not Known As Jim Hayes got involved. Leake wound up allowing five runs on 11 hits, including the big home run. One of the runs was unearned due to a throwing error by Molina, but still, 12 baserunners in five innings isn’t a great way to keep your team in a game. Leake is obviously finding his natural equilibrium, countering that strong start with some rough outings.
The bullpen did a great job. Four innings spread over five pitchers (including the Patron–or is that Pawtron–Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons coming in for a key out in the eighth) and only four hits and no walks. Trevor Rosenthal allowed a hit but struck out two and locked down the win for the Cardinals, which put them two games over .500 and, thanks to losses by the Cubs and Brewers and Diamondbacks, 1.5 games out of the division lead and now tied for second and 6.5 games out of the second wild card.
It was a pretty strong offensive night all the way around. I said yesterday that they wouldn’t score double digits at home, but they came close with eight. It was spread out as well–Martinez and Grichuk were the only folks to get two hits. Fowler, pressed into cleanup duty, didn’t lose his eye in the process, drawing three walks to go along with his one hit. Kolten Wong and Matt Carpenter also walked twice. The only guy that really didn’t do much was Paul DeJong, who went 0-5 and struck out twice, leaving seven on base.
It’s been a wonderful week and a great run so far and there’s no doubt that getting over .500 makes you feel a little better about St. Louis’s chances. The Cubs were great right out of the gate when the second half started, making me think that they were going to finally find that extra gear and start pulling away from the rest of the division. Instead, they are 4-6 in their last 10, just lost a series to the Giants, and now go play Arizona starting Friday while the Cardinals, after today’s matchup with the Royals, get the Braves. Nothing about this season has been normal, but you could see the Redbirds picking up a game this weekend, putting them even closer to the top. With those September games looming, maybe we are going to see a pennant race after all.
It’s still a little hard to buy into the fact that this same roster that has baffled and befuddled us all year long is now going to make a run. The skepticism is still there but it’s impossible to ignore the excitement and the fun that this week has been. I was going to write a post Sunday about why this team wasn’t the 2006 Cardinals or the 2011 Cardinals and it is still true, they aren’t those teams. The connections are minuscule at best. That said, you start to wonder if maybe, in a few years, we’ll be trying to draw comparisons to the 2017 Cardinals like we do those other teams. Because if they win–which is still a huge if, even for the division–they’ll be doing it in their own unique way that will get stories told about them.
Can they make their winning streak serious? They’ve got a good one going to try, as Lance Lynn takes the mound for the Redbirds, going up against Jason Hammel. Lynn, master of the post-game soundbite, has gone six or more innings in his past six starts. In that time, he has a 1.21 ERA and opponents are hitting .188 against him. If he keeps that up and the offense can keep clicking, there’s a good chance of knocking another half-game off that Chicago lead tonight.
The Cards saw Hammel a decent amount the last couple of years when he was with the Cubs. His move to the AL hasn’t been all that successful for him, as he has an ERA of 4.73 and a WHIP of 1.377 on the season. He’s been solid as of late, as in almost the definition of quality start solid. He’s allowed three runs exactly in five of his last six starts, with the innings varying from 5.2 to 7.0. He’s coming off a three-run, 6.1 inning start against Seattle where he took the loss. St. Louis saw him last in September of 2016, his final regular season start, when he allowed six runs to them in 2.1 innings. We’d take that again tonight, I think.
For those of you that have made it this far, there won’t be a post tomorrow, as my wife and I are headed up to St. Louis. The folks at the Marriott St. Louis Grand are hosting us and letting us experience the Grand Slam Package, which includes tickets to Friday night’s game. You’ll be seeing some tweets and such about it–that’s my side of the bargain–but any reviews will be honest ones. If you are up in the area and want to say hi, I’ll be the guy with the Lyons jersey in Section 134. Hopefully it’s a great weekend and we’ll have a lot to talk about on Monday!