When Duke Is a Hazard

Every time you find yourself pulled into this Cardinals team and this idea that they can be competitive, they do their best to push you back out.

That was the case again last night.  Coming home, facing a team well under .500 and stocked with names even Dan McLaughlin had trouble handling, this should have been a good series for the Cardinals, especially given their history with the Padres.  And while they can obviously still win it, since this was just one game, there’s no doubt this one left a mark on our collective psyche.

Matthew Bowman came into the game with it tied up at 4 in the seventh inning.  The Cardinals had rallied twice to tie things up, so seeing him immediately give up the lead was very disheartening.  Well, it would have been had it only been one run and he’d gotten out of the inning.  Instead, he got nobody out, giving up two hits and a walk.  To be fair, his final line showed three runs charged against him, but only one scored while he was in the game.  That’s the only silver lining available.

I wouldn’t be surprised if someone like Zach Gifford or Joe Schwarz starts looking at Bowman’s recent velocity or location or release point to look at what the issue is, but there’s no doubt Bowman’s struggling a bit right now.  Last night’s outing raised his August ERA to 9.00, which to be fair is basically on the back of this outing and his last one on Friday, when he was part of that bullpen meltdown that almost cost the Cardinals an 11-3 lead.  Those two outings combined: 0.1 IP, 5 ER.  Without them, the August ERA is 1.59.  Relievers and their small samples.

Bowman is already past his former career high in appearances.  His second-half WHIP is over 1.5.  For what it’s worth, since his scoreless inning streak to start the season, his ERA is 5.45.  That said, his ERA since July 1 not counting these last two bad outings was 1.84.  Is he wearing down or were these just a fluke?  There feels like data either way.  The problem is, these outings have taken away the idea that Bowman is a steady rock all the time, which is something this club doesn’t need at all with the current makeup of the non-starters.

I was going to give the Goat to Bowman, but that’s mainly because I missed what came next because the wife wanted to watch another episode of The Defenders.  (Which turned out to be much higher quality viewing.)  Zach Duke has been one of the arms that I’ve felt fairly good about as of late.  The bullpen is like walking a tightrope for the most part, but I felt like Duke was one of those that could at least do his job, which was to come in and get lefties, and he’s been able to do fairly well against right-handers as well, it feels like.  Last night, though…..well, to be charitable, it reminded us that he’s less than a year removed from Tommy John surgery.

Coming in with two on and one run already in, Duke proceeds to wild pitch the runners to second and third, get the first out, then give up a single, another wild pitch, then a home run to Austin Hedges.  He got the next two batters on a groundout and a strikeout, but the damage was well done.  It doesn’t look like Duke talked to the media last night, so I wonder if it was just the inconsistency that comes with recovering from surgery.  The two wild pitches would make it seem that way.

I’m not going to fault Mike Matheny for those bullpen choices, because most games I feel they probably would have worked.  Duke and Bowman probably need to be monitored going forward, but right now even with their current struggles, they are still some of the better options out of the bullpen.  It’s possible he could have gone to Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons, who hasn’t pitched since Thursday, but I’m sure they were saving him for the late game situation and by time that wasn’t really an option, the game was already out of hand.  Life comes at you fast.

Josh Lucas threw two more innings and again got touched for a home run, this time a two-run shot.  It sounds like Lucas might be heading back to Memphis since he’ll be out of commission for a day or so and the Cards will need a new arm to be available out of the pen.  It’s a telling comment on your pitchers, both starters and relievers, when a 13-man staff still needs a constant refresh.

Lance Lynn didn’t have his best game either.  He was completely unsuccessful at stopping the bleeding.  He gave up a bases-loaded double in the third, then saw his team get those runs right back in the bottom of the fourth.  So in the top of the fifth, he allows another run.  His quality start streak ended, but he again threw six innings.  Which seems to be about Lynn’s threshold.  He’s thrown exactly six innings in his last seven starts and the start before that he went 6.1.  He’s only recorded an out in the seventh four times this season in 26 starts.  While a consistent six innings is valuable, for sure, when we are factoring in the talk about Lynn and an extension, I think that’s got to be part of the discussion as well.  Then again, most of the starters on this team can’t do six innings regularly, so any drawback there is minor.

Let’s give the Hero to Stephen Piscotty.  A lot of people have wondered if his week in Memphis was enough (though when he had almost as many home runs in a week there as he’d had in a season in St. Louis, it’s clear there wasn’t much more he could do in AAA) and so far it seems like it has gotten him back on the right path.  Two hits in Sunday’s game and then two hits in this one, including a home run that tied things up at 3.  He also was a couple of feet away from a home run in the ninth, but the ball hooked foul.  Piscotty was the only person to get multiple hits in this one.

Credit also to Yadier Molina, whose home run tied it up at four, and Jedd Gyorko, who continued terrorizing his former team by blasting a two-run homer that got the Cardinals on the board.  All four runs coming via the longball and none of them by my pick in the Twitter #bombsaway game.  I’m terrible at this.

At one time, the Cubs were down to the Reds by three (actually, twice) and the Cardinals looked like they had a chance to pick up ground.  Instead, Chicago rallied and now the Redbirds sit at 4.5 games out, five back if you are looking at the wild card.  They are also back to just one game over .500, which means that we need to revisit our Race for 82.  Right now, they have 37 games left, so they’ll need to go 19-18 to stay above the break-even mark.  That’s pretty doable, given the weaker schedule, but asking for anything more still feels like a big ask.  I know they still have seven games head-to-head with Chicago, but right now they’d have to go 6-1 in those games to take a lead.  Given that the Cubs’ upcoming schedule is as weak if not more so than the Cardinals, I don’t think you can just hope to win more than you lose in those games and gain the rest of the ground elsewhere.

Trevor Rosenthal went to see Dr. ElAttrache, which is basically like seeing Dr. Andrews these days.  If you go to ElAttrache, there’s probably a 98% chance you are having Tommy John surgery.  Which may mean, given that Rosenthal’s contract is up at the end of 2018, he walked the last batter he faced in Cardinal red and gave up a homer to the guy before that.  Not exactly how you’d like to see his time end.  Hopefully he can get back at least by September next year and get an inning or so to try to put a better face on things.

The Cardinals send out Luke Weaver to make the start in the place of Adam Wainwright and right now that increases most fans’ confidence level.  Weaver has pitched pretty well in the bigs this year, though he doesn’t have much to show for it.  Weaver will face Jhoulys Chacin, who I remember more as a Rockie but hasn’t been there since 2014.  Chacin has a 3.98 ERA on the season and a 1.28 WHIP, so even factoring in that he calls Petco Park home it’s not been a bad year for him.  Last time out, he limited the Nationals to one run over five innings.  Hopefully the Cardinal bats are still active but Weaver can limit the damage!

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