We so often talk about the impact of a signature win. A big win that can spur a team on to greater heights because they dug deep and did the improbable. A huge outing that let them know what they are possible of and they ride the crest of that for a week or so if not more.
If that’s something that is real, if it’s not something that we just try to tie some narrative to, it’s not something the Cardinals are really able to do.
This has been the case for quite some while now. Even way back in 2013, I wrote a post entitled “Laughing in the Face of Momentum“. Momentum isn’t something they typically do well and they didn’t do it well here either.
Before we get into the aftermath, though, we should probably get to the math. Wait, that doesn’t work. Anyway, let’s talk about Tuesday’s game.
Tuesday (5-3 win)
Hero: There aren’t many easier calls on this than a guy who hits a walkoff homer. Matt Carpenter not only had the two-run blast that sent everyone home but had another hit and two walks as well. That kind of night makes you think that Carpenter is getting closer to being on track.
Of course, that almost didn’t happen because Carpenter squared to bunt before smashing his long ball. I’m not completely anti-bunt–there are situations where you need one run and a bunt, while giving away an out, can increase the odds of getting one tally (while lowering the odds of a big inning)–but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have been happy to see that. (I’m old, folks, and it’d been a long day. I was asleep by time this finished up.) I don’t think you can place the blame for that idea anywhere but Carpenter and that’s more of how he’s been brought up. But when J.J. Hoover is on the mound, don’t give him any outs. It’s going to be hard enough for him to earn them–even harder now since the Brewers released him after the game.
Goat: I think I’ll go with Yadier Molina, who went 0-5 with two strikeouts. You could talk about some of the bullpen guys here–and they won’t escape our eye, don’t worry–but if the Cards had put up more than one run before the ninth inning maybe some of these dramatics wouldn’t have been necessary.
Notes: Carlos Martinez had a fine start, going six innings and allowing just one run. Two out of three starts have been good to great, two of three starts have been against the Brewers, who he now has a career 1.95 ERA against. So it’s hard to know if Opening Day was the outlier or the Brewers really just don’t match up well against the Cardinal ace. Most likely it’s some of both but we’ll find out when he takes on the Reds on Sunday.
Jordan Hicks came in and threw two scoreless innings, striking out two but walking two as well. I know I’ve heard Bernie Miklasz rail about not bringing Hicks in for more than one frame and I imagine Twitter had a few things to say about that as well. This worries me now because Mike Matheny‘s broken the seal. Now that Hicks had a good two innings, it’ll be easier for Mike to go to him for longer stints. Nobody wants Hicks to become the next Matthew Bowman. Or, even worse, the next Trevor Rosenthal.
We’ve talked positively about Bud Norris in this space but we do have to note when he doesn’t get the job done as well. Coming into the top of the ninth, the game was tied up at 1 and Norris quickly got the first two outs. It looked like the Cardinals were going to have a chance in the bottom of the frame to walk it off, but then Eric Thames doubled and Domingo Santana singled and suddenly it was 2-1. It’s hard to fault giving up something to Thames, who is pretty hot right now and a fine hitter in his own right. Santana’s not been bad in the early going either, so while you still don’t to see it, that combination is somewhat understandable if frustrating.
After the Cards tied it up in the ninth (I want to go through the bullpen in order, so we’ll come back to how the Cards kept the game going later), Bowman got his regular call. However, I can’t even complain about that. We just said in this space that Bowman should come into clean innings. He’d had Sunday off and while that might not be enough given his usage, at least it was something. Bowman allowed an infield single to Ryan Braun to start the frame but got the next two out (though one was a bunt that moved Braun over). He then walked Jett Bandy, but that did put a force into effect. Unfortunately, Orlando Arcia roped one back up the middle to score Braun. Maybe Bowman could have used more rest but it’s not the most egregious use of him. Sometimes it just doesn’t work.
When the game moved to the 11th, Dominic Leone took over and looked like the guy we were hoping we’d see. Two strikeouts and three straight outs and he got rewarded with a win when Carpenter went yard. With Greg Holland still not completely ready, Leone might get a chance or two again for a save, though I expect Norris would get the call before Leone does.
Let’s talk about the hitters. After doing a lot of nothing in the first eight frames, they did just enough in the ninth and tenth to keep the game alive. Well, in the ninth, they didn’t even really do that as Tommy Pham walked, moved to second on a Greg Garcia sacrifice, then scored after Jacob Barnes threw not one but two wild pitches. Dexter Fowler walked, but Paul DeJong–as he alarmingly has done a lot–struck out. Fowler stole second, though, and Carpenter got intentionally passed to get to Marcell Ozuna, which is slightly ironic since part of the reason the Cards got Ozuna was for him to be that fear factor that made pitchers go after their other hitters. It worked, though, as Ozuna grounded out.
The Cardinal batters were a bit more active in their fate in the 10th and, if replay actually worked the way it was supposed to, they might have ended the game there. With one out, Harrison Bader hit a ball that Domingo Santana appeared to trap after it bounced off the turf, but the umpire called Bader out and a long, long replay didn’t change their opinion. The two out rally of Yairo Munoz drawing a walk (between this one and the bases-loaded one he drew earlier, walking is the most offense he’s put up so far) and Jose Martinez and Greg Garcia singling could have been a little more potent had Bader been on base.
All right, that was probably more than we needed to go into. Let’s talk about Facebook Wednesday.
Wednesday (3-2 loss)
Hero: Tommy Pham. The only person with two hits and his home run in the ninth at least made it interesting, even if it was ultimately only good for hampering the Cardinals’ record in one-run games.
Goat: Kolten Wong. Moved up to the sixth spot on a day that saw Yadier Molina serve his one-game suspension and Paul DeJong and Dexter Fowler get needed days off, Wong went 0-4 and left four runners on, not counting a double play. The biggest failure came in the ninth, where after Pham’s homer Matt Carpenter struck out but Marcell Ozuna and Jose Martinez singled to put runners on first and second. A hit here would have tied the game in the ninth for the third straight day. Even a ground ball in the right spot would have at least moved the runners up. Instead, Wong fouled out and Fowler, pinch-hitting for Harrison Bader, struck out to end the game.
Notes: I couldn’t give him the Hero tag (though perhaps, if Bader had been able to pull back Eric Thames’s home run like it briefly looked like he had, the decision could have gone his way) but Adam Wainwright showed that he’s not completely done yet. First of all, I wasn’t sure we’d ever see him go seven innings in a game this season. Even if Waino was successful and contributing, I thought he’d be a six inning pitcher. Yet after his first outing saw him leave in the fourth with almost 90 pitches under his belt, he threw just 91 to get 3.1 more innings in this time.
The two solo homers weren’t great, but that’s probably what we are going to see on Waino’s best days now. Any mistake he makes has the real potential to be crushed because he so reliant on location and deception instead of power now. Yet no frame truly got away from him in this one. The fifth looked like it might be ugly, with Orlando Arcia singling and Jett Bandy doubling to start the frame. Runners on second and third with nobody out is not where you want any pitcher to be, especially with the top of the order lurking, but after striking out his opposite number in Junior Guerra, he allowed an RBI groundout to Jonathan Villar and popped up Thames. Given Wainwright’s limitations, that was a stellar recovery.
Of course, the fact that Mike Matheny left Waino in had some controversy as well, because in the bottom of the fifth, after Wong’s double play, Harrison Bader and Francisco Pena singled, putting two on with two out and Wainwright’s spot coming up. It’s 3-0 at this point but a solid hit would at least get you on the board and turn it over for the top of the lineup. However, instead of going for it right there, Matheny let Wainwright bat. And yes, I know, last year Wainwright was a Silver Slugger and maybe that played into it a bit. There was also a very short bench with Molina unavailable. The bullpen shouldn’t have been terribly worn down but asking them to cover four innings after two consecutive extra-inning affairs might have been tough. There were a lot of considerations here but especially at the time when no one expected Wainwright to give you more than one more inning it felt like you should take the chance when you had it.
So what’s next in the Wainwright saga? You have to figure he’ll make his next scheduled start, which is against the Cubs in Wrigley. If he can traverse that terrain with limited damage, we may have something here. That’s going to be a tough situation and it wouldn’t be surprising if he wasn’t up for it but I don’t see any real way we aren’t going to find out.
The Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons threw a scoreless eighth and Greg Holland walked the first guy he faced (giving him five walks in six batters as a Cardinal) before getting a fly out and a double play. Perhaps he’s finally knocked the rust off but there’s still going to be a little bit of queasiness until he gets his first uneventful save.
Cards sit at 5-7, which is better than last year’s 3-9 but we were hoping for more at this time. Then again, that’s nothing that a good weekend in Cincinnati can’t help. The Reds were pretty successful against St. Louis early last season but hopefully the bats will wake up against Reds pitching. Michael Wacha is going up against Sal Romano, who allowed four runs in five innings against the Pirates in his last outing. The Cardinals haven’t faced Romano before, but at least he’s not a lefty!