Looking for Something Better

A day removed from the loss to the Royals, things are still disappointing but not quite as frustrating and aggravating as they were in the moment.  Wednesday afternoon was full of snarky remarks, invective hurled, and doomsaying.  Now, while it’s still not a game to really want to revisit, it’s not quite as immediate.

I guess what I’m trying to say is I’ve slept on it.

That’s probably where we should start, huh?  Marcell Ozuna was a late scratch and for a while nobody knew why.  It only came out after the game that Ozuna had wound up oversleeping and was late to the ballpark.  He must have come in soon after first pitch or maybe right before it, but obviously much later than he was supposed to be there.

I know my cohost Allen Medlock will have plenty to say about this on Meet Me at Musial tonight and Ben Fredrickson wrote a column going off about it, but while it’s frustrating and not anything you want to see, I can’t really get as worked up about this because mistakes do happen.  If Ozuna was seen at 4 AM at a club and then didn’t make it to the game, that would make me pretty upset and there’d be some questions.  However, there’s nothing out there that contradicts that the guy went home after a night game, probably getting home after midnight, and then wound up oversleeping due to an early (and even earlier than normal–usually afternoon games are 1:15, not 12:15) start time.

As some have pointed out, if Ozuna had 12 homers right now instead of three, this probably gets passed over by a lot more people.  As with so many things in baseball, how things are going on the field determines the narrative off of it.  A winning team is “loose”, a losing team “has no discipline”.  A guy hitting .340 using unorthodox methods is “creative”, a guy hitting .140 the same way needs to “get back to basics”.  Look no farther than Manny Ramirez.  It was “Manny being Manny” when he was a force in the middle of the lineup, a liability when he wasn’t.

Fredrickson says that Ozuna basically ended his honeymoon period with this stunt.  My feeling is, if you were still on the Ozuna train by this point, you didn’t get off at this station.  If this was the deal-breaker, you probably were pretty much done with the honeymoon period anyway.

What surprises me is that nobody seems to have worried about Ozuna’s health in all this.  Maybe they did and I’ve not seen the quotes, but it was noted the last time this happened was with Felipe Lopez in 2010 and I remember the talk that the players were all concerned and worried because they remembered Darryl Kile.  They remembered him not showing up and what the results were of that.  This clubhouse doesn’t have anyone left that played with Kile and very few that even were around for the Lopez incident.  So maybe that wasn’t their first reaction but I think, if the fans had known why the scratch, a lot of us would have had concern very quickly.

Oh, and then there was the game, which most of the Cardinals actually slept through.

The Hero has to be Michael Wacha, basically because there’s such a limited pool to choose from.  Wacha continues to be a rock in the rotation this year, which is a bit surprising to some of us that worried about his injury history and what we’d get from him.  Wacha went 6.2 innings, allowed just four hits and two runs (one of which was unearned) and struck out six.  Not that he was really the one in the rotation that has the most to worry about with the return of Alex Reyes, but it’s possible that motivation is there as well.  Wacha deserved better than a no-decision in this one.

The Goat could be a wide variety of folks.  Bud Norris gave up the runs that lost the game, so he’d be a fair target, but he was in his second inning of work and while he did have a few days of rest, last appearing on Saturday, he has 10 recorded innings this month after having 12 in April.  The last two times he had to get over three outs and was trying to do the same here.  If fatigue is starting to get to Norris, the club is going to go south pretty quickly, I’m afraid.  That said, he last gave up runs May 4, so these things do happen, and he wasn’t hit all that hard.  Though the fielding error on his part didn’t help matters.

Still, the game never should have gotten to that point.  This was a Royals team well under .500 and last in a weak AL Central.  After barely putting a run on them Tuesday night, the offense should have come out and put something together on Wednesday and just didn’t.  When a third of your hits come from Francisco Pena, it’s not a good day, though kudos to Pena for two more hits.  Carson Kelly is going to return Saturday it appears but the way that Pena has been going, I’d be surprised if he got an extended run of starts.  Maybe they will, and they should, but Pena has forced himself into that conversation.

A bit of a tangent there, sorry.  Anyway, Tommy Pham gets our Goat again because of an 0-5 with three strikeout day at the plate, but it could have been plenty of others.  Pham is in a rut, going 0-13 with nine strikeouts over his past three starts.  Even the day off Tuesday didn’t help.  Maybe when he gets to Pittsburgh and a team he’s more familiar with, he’ll break back out.  With Pham, you always worry about the contacts and his vision (especially with this high number of strikeouts) so if that was the case maybe he got them adjusted during the off day.

Matt Carpenter went 0-4 to drop back below .200 with his average.  It’s not surprising that he dropped off from that torrid pace that saw him hitting almost .600 for a week, but hopefully he’s not returning to what we saw the first six weeks.  It doesn’t feel likely but, again, let’s see what this weekend holds.  If he’s 1-for-Pittsburgh, we may need to up the worry level.

The other reason that this game doesn’t reside in the same place in our consciousness?  Alex Reyes pitched last night.  Oh, boy, did he pitch.  Josh kept you posted last night but the final line was seven innings, zero runs, 13 strikeouts, including an amazing nine in a row.  Nine in a row!  If that’s not dominance, what in the world is?  In the fifth inning, he struck out the side on nine swinging strikes.  From all accounts, it may have been the most dominant game folks have seen in Memphis ever.

You look at Reyes’s combined line for his rehab starts: 23 IP, 0 ER, 44 K, 7 BB.  Yes, it was against minor league competition but by time you get to Memphis especially, you are seeing some major league caliber players.  While Breyvic Valera wasn’t any great shakes with the Cards last year, he did get some playing time in the bigs.  He was on the opposing side last night and probably really wished he wasn’t.  We’re always supposed to temper expectations, to believe that Reyes isn’t going to be as good as our fevered imaginations want to make him out to be.  Be reasonable, we tell ourselves.  Then he strikes out 13 at Memphis and it becomes impossible to be rational about what could happen.  Heck, you start to wonder if he could win the Cy Young even after spotting the league two months!  (No, no he can’t.  Calm down, Daniel.)

Besides the need for innings, it’s pretty clear why this arm needs to be in the rotation and he will be starting Tuesday in Milwaukee.  There’s no telling how the club will make this work, but they’ll make it work.  There’s a lot of talent in the rotation, but none of it–save Carlos Martinez, maybe–tops what Alex Reyes can bring to the table and we are finally, after years of anticipation, going to see that on a regular basis for a while.

Cards are in Pittsburgh for the weekend, as mentioned.  John Gant, in what should be his last start for the big club, goes up against Joe Musgrove, who is making his season debut after some shoulder problems.  He was a starter and reliever for Houston the last two years so the Cards have barely, if ever, seen him.  That’s just great.  Don’t forget to fill out your Cardinal Six for the series!

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