Continuing the Back and Forth

In the intro to the always excellent Bird Law podcast, the hosts (Rusty Groppel and Adam Butler of The Redbird Daily) overlay some music with various quotes from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.  One of them goes as follows:

We’re both men of the law. You know. We get after it. You know, we jabber jaw, we go tit for tat. We have our little differences. But at the end of the day, you win some, I win some, and there’s a mutual respect left over between us.

I don’t know about the “mutual respect” part, but right now that seems to encapsulate the Cardinals’ season.  They win one or two, the other team wins one or two.  We talked about the inability to get out of that orbit last week and these last two games against the Padres are another indication of that.  Until they play tonight, the Cards are 4-4 against the Marlins, Reds, and Padres.  That’s not what you want to see from a team that has postseason aspirations.

I’ll admit that I’ve not gotten to see much of these two games–one of the defining characteristics of being a United Methodist is a regular rotation of pastors and I’ve been helping get ready for our next one–but that’s never stopped me before.  And, if we’re being honest, the box scores really do tell the story.

Monday (5-2 win)

Hero: Jose Martinez.  Cafe Jr. had another three hit game and another home run, this one rallying the Cards from an early 1-0 deficit.  An 0-4 on Tuesday snapped his hitting streak, but even with that game he’s hitting .472 with a 1.497 OPS in June.  That’s smoking hot and over a good stretch of games.  It’s not his fault the club has been wallowing in mediocrity.

Goat: Matt Carpenter.  An 0-4 and three runners left on out of your leadoff man tends to be something that gets you this label.  Carpenter has slowed down from his blistering pace of late May, hitting .244/.306/.356 in June.  That’s still much better Carpenter than what we saw earlier in the year, obviously, but you hope that’s not really where he’s going to settle.  Batting leadoff hasn’t been a huge panacea either, as he has a .242/.327/.421 line in that role.  A lot of us, including myself, thought Carpenter was “fixed”.  And maybe he is, given that both of those lines look a lot like last year’s marks (.241/.384/.451) except in the on-base department.  It just may be that this is what Carp is these days and if so, that’s a problem for the club to have to address.

Notes: A strong outing by Jack Flaherty, bouncing back from a little bit of a rough start against the Marlins.  Flaherty went 6.1 innings, gave up just three hits and one run, and walked one while striking out six.  That last walk came in the seventh, when Flaherty was reaching 100 pitches and seemed to be obviously laboring.  I did get to watch this part and once he walked Cory Spangenberg, I felt like he should be pulled.  For a while there, it looked like the manager disagreed, but they were pulling out all the stalling tactics to get John Brebbia ready.

Overall, Mike Matheny did well with the bullpen here.  I’m still not enamored with the idea of Austin Gomber, this guy that’s always been a starter and that does fine against right-handed hitters, turning into your short LOOGY type of guy.  I realize that Brett Cecil isn’t getting the job done and there aren’t any other lefties down there since Tyler Lyons is on the DL and Ryan Sherriff got his elbow cut open, but you don’t have to have one either.  Gomber can do more than just lefties.  If you want to bring him in against one, fine, but there’s no reason to yank him after he gets through them.  That being said, apparently Hunter Renfroe hits lefties well, so it may have been more about the hitter’s strengths than the pitcher’s weaknesses in that move.  Otherwise, everything went well and Matheny didn’t even use Jordan Hicks.  But more on that later.

Lot of pop in this one as all five runs scored via the home run.  Martinez had his two-run shot, Marcell Ozuna had one as well as part of a two hit night, and Jedd Gyorko capped things in the eighth with a solo shot.  I think Bernie Miklasz has written about how over-reliant they are on the home run, especially for the fact that they play in a stadium that at best isn’t a home run park.  When it works, it works, but how often is it really going to work?  Which may be part of the up and down we see with this club.

By the way, Bud Norris had an uneventful ninth save for hitting a batter, which was good to see after some recent struggles.  The last thing this club needs is to not be able to trust Norris.

Tuesday (4-2 loss)

Hero: Jordan Hicks.  There really weren’t many to choose from here, so I’m going with Hicks who threw two scoreless innings and struck out four.  In part because that’s a really good performance, in part because again we need to discuss his usage.  The Cardinals were down 4-0 in the seventh when they were able to finally show a little life and get a couple of runs, cutting the lead in half.  Still, they are down by two and the Padres have Brad Hand to make that chore a little heavier.  Birds on the Black writer Chuck Brownson noted on Twitter that, after the seventh, the Cardinals had a 13% chance to win the game.

I get wanting to keep it close.  A bloop and a blast and you are tied.  I’m not saying that you should wave the white flag there.  I am saying be reasonable about your chances and don’t throw the amazing young right arm out there when he doesn’t need to be out there.  I’ll admit I initially lost a day and was thinking this was his fourth outing in five days, but it was actually four in six.  If the Cards were winning, that might make some sense.  In this situation, you are not only adding to his workload but you are–at least you SHOULD be–taking him out of play for Wednesday, a game you might need him in to win.

The club brought up Daniel Poncedeleon before Monday’s game and this felt like a good time to use him.  The Padre hitters wouldn’t be familiar with him.  He’s not really going to hurt the team if he winds up scuffling and he could give a boost if he holds the line.  He’s also a starter that can go two innings with no problem.

There’s no doubt that Hicks is dynamic and he’s young enough that he probably heals up quickly.  Still, it seems an unnecessary use of a great weapon and a handicap in trying to win the series tonight.  Then again, apparently in the post-game press conference Mike Matheny said he wouldn’t rule out using Hicks again tonight.  A quick search doesn’t show up five appearances in seven games even in Matthew Bowman‘s game logs.  I would guess that he’s just trying not to show his hand, but if he ran Hicks out there again tonight St. Louis area stores might run out of torches and pitchforks.

Goat: The Cardinals got all of five hits against San Diego’s bullpen game.  Pick one.  I’ll go with Yairo Munoz, who struck out and hit into a double play as part of his 0-3 night.  You could go with Jose Martinez and his 0-4, Yadier Molina and his 0-4, Jedd Gyorko and his 0-3….you get the picture.

Notes: Miles Mikolas had one bad inning, allowing a home run to Eric Hosmer and a bases loaded single to A.J. Ellis.  Otherwise, he looked like the Mikolas that we’ve come to expect.  He didn’t walk any, struck out five, and had a solid outing save for the fourth inning.  Mike Mayers gave up a run in his inning of work–in 9.1 innings since May 18, he’s got a 3.86 ERA.  Given some of the stats Zach Gifford is putting out there, you wonder if this is more likely what we’ll see out of Mayers than that stretch to start the season.  It’s still worth having around, especially in this bullpen, but putting him in high-leverage situations may not be the way to go.

We go back and forth.  You win some, I win some.  Until the Cardinals start being greedy and winning more than their fair share, as it were, this is going to be a team that doesn’t inspire confidence nor is it necessarily a lot of fun to watch.  Which means they’ll probably go sweep the Cubs because that’s just how this season seems to work.  Before that, though, they have one more with the Padres and Luke Weaver tries to make sure that the series isn’t a failure.  May the Force be with you, Luke!

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