Baseball is a great game. You can have two games against the same opponent, in the same ballpark, finishing with the same score and yet they can be as different as myself and Dennis–and trust me, that’s VERY different. It was a quick series with the White Sox so let’s take a look at these same-yet-different outings.
Tuesday (3-2 win)
Hero: Matt Carpenter. Tuesday, Zach Gifford had a Tweet that showed Carpenter had been really unlucky so far this season with his batted ball outcome. Apparently, the front office analytical group was telling Carpenter about the same thing at about the same time. It’s a convenient narrative to say that all Carp needed was reassurance that he was going about things right to break out and one game does not a break out make, but Carp had a double to lead off the seventh (and was eventually thrown out at home, because it’d not due for you to think all of Carp’s issues would get cleared up) and then homered in the ninth to tie the game and set the stage for the eventual win.
I’ll admit that I don’t understand all the advanced statistics and it probably will all settle out soon with Carpenter going on a tear, but I also know (or think I do) that baseball takes a while to balance the scales. Someone can be very unlucky one year and much luckier the next. It doesn’t necessarily mean that Carp’s going to wind up with a 200 point OPS jump between now and the end of the season. Now, he might, don’t get me wrong! Seeing what should have happened gives us a good idea of what may happen going forward, but it doesn’t guarantee it. I don’t think any of us really expect Carpenter to hit .170 for the entire season, though based on 500 at bats he’ll have to hit .357 the rest of the way for his final mark to reach .270. Obviously we’re less concerned about batting average than a lot of things, but that is part of Carp’s game and it’s worth noting. It’s good that there’s some hope there and that there can be a reason for Mike Matheny continuing to play him. The “got to get him right” mantra works better when there’s statistical data like this that shows that he could start hitting at any time.
Goat: Between Tommy Pham‘s leadoff home run and the dramatics in the ninth, the Cardinals managed only three hits. We’ll go with Jose Martinez, he of the 0-4 and the only person to make an out in the ninth, as our Goat. Since leaving Cincinnati, Martinez is hitting .213 with no homers (but five doubles) in 47 at bats. That actually includes a three-hit game against the Reds when Cincinnati came to Busch. Martinez is in a bit of a slump right now, which would seem to be a chance to let Carpenter play first and Jedd Gyorko quit wasting away and get a little time at third. With all these starters, a lot of mention of “playing the hot hand” has been made. Martinez right now isn’t the hot hand. He probably will be again soon, but it doesn’t hurt for him to get a day off here and there.
Notes: There really is no reason that James Shields should have shut down this offense the way that he did. I mean, I guess every pitcher occasionally has a good night, but Shields has been bad for a long time. I don’t know if the club expected him to be bad and approached him in the wrong way or what, but especially after a leadoff homer, you’d not think that’d be the only runs they could get off of him.
Michael Wacha pitched fairly well, if not fairly long. Three walks and five hits meant that he reached the 100-pitch limit after five innings, necessitating a call to the bullpen. Right now his FIP and xFIP aren’t far out of line from what his ERA is and this was the first time in three starts that he didn’t go into the sixth. Wacha’s not going to be a workhorse–my bet is he’ll have more five inning or less starts than not by time it is all said and done–but hopefully he can continue to be effective while he’s out there.
Good work out of the bullpen as Luke Gregerson, Jordan Hicks, Dominic Leone, and Bud Norris combined for four innings of one hit, one walk baseball. The late rally doesn’t happen if these guys don’t lock down the door. It was good especially to see Gregerson and Hicks have a scoreless frame, though Hicks did (of course) walk a batter. Those two have been tagged a lot lately and it’s nice to see them be effective.
Let’s also talk a little about a play that almost cost the team the game. With runners on first and second, Shields strikes out but the runner on first (Adam Engel) took a huge lead off of first base with Martinez playing in due to the bunt. I don’t know if he was intentionally trying to bait Yadier Molina into throwing, but it worked and while Molina threw to first (and Martinez tried to scramble back to tag the runner), Trayce Thompson stole third. Then, while Yoan Moncada was batting, Engel stole second anyway. The runners moved up a base in part because of Yadi’s aggressiveness and they wound up both scoring on Moncada’s double. A lot of times that sort of thing works out for Yadi so it’s hard to say he shouldn’t be throwing, but that probably wasn’t the best decision overall.
Wednesday (3-2 win)
Hero: Carlos Martinez. Oh, boy, was it Carlos Martinez.
With the offense being quieted by Lucas Giolito, Martinez not only matched the zeros being put up but, well, did this.
His first career home run. According to Carlos, his first home run ever. It was awesome to see him on the receiving end of the water splash for once. It was a crazy thing to think he was the first Carlos Martinez to homer in the bigs since Jose Martinez’s dad did it. All in all, it was an incredible moment.
Then he went out and continued being an ace. Overall, 7.1 innings, one run (that scored after he left), five strikeouts. His ERA since Opening Day? 0.66 and he’s not gone less than six innings in any start that wasn’t in New York. It’s a great thing to watch him go out there every fifth day.
Goat: There were a lot of quiet bats again, but I’m going to go with Dominic Leone here. Leone came in when Martinez exited with a runner on second and it was a questionable decision (like we’ve never heard that before when it comes to the bullpen). Besides the fact that Leone had thrown an inning less than 24 hours before, Yoan Moncada is weaker from the right side (at least this season). So is Yolmer Sanchez, who batted after Moncada. Even Jose Abreu is a little worse against the lefties. So why not go to the Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons there? Lyons hasn’t pitched since Saturday so he was well rested. Going with anyone besides an arm from Tuesday night might have been a better play. Leone allowed a walk (which included a passed ball–this really wasn’t the best defensive series for Yadi), a single that drove in one, and a sacrifice fly that drove in another. Before it got away, Mike Matheny went and got Bud Norris, who got the four-out save.
I’d say there might be a physical issue but I believe I heard Lyons was warming up at one point in time, so that doesn’t seem to be the problem. (I’ve wondered about that knee occasionally.) Hopefully we’ll see the Patron Pitcher this weekend against the Cubs.
Notes: Dexter Fowler got out of a funk, at least temporarily, by blasting his 100th career homer at a great time. That made it 3-0 and gave the cushion that the Cardinals wound up needing. I don’t know if Carpenter’s night from Tuesday or Fowler’s homer here will get either of them “on track” but it’s at least good to see.
Two hits for Molina, who also had the walkoff RBI on Tuesday night. It might not have been his best defensive series but he still is hitting which is a remarkable achievement for him. That three-year extension is still likely to come out in the red when it comes to value, but every day Yadi is doing this the smaller that red ink gets. (Of course, he also tried to steal third and was out by a mile. Yadi being Yadi, you know.)
Day off today then the Cubs come to town for the weekend. Miles Mikolas goes Friday, Luke Weaver Saturday, and the big TBD on Sunday. Will that be the return of Adam Wainwright? It would seem to be, with Austin Gomber probably returning to Memphis. Gomber mainly got the call, I expect, because so many others weren’t eligible because they had to spend 10 days in the minors. Gomber’s probably also an option for Sunday if necessary. Whatever the case, I hope he gets to throw a big league pitch before returning.
The Cardinal Six for the Cubs series will be out soon. Be looking for it on Twitter!