The real estate agents are right. It’s all about location.
After winning just two of seven games against the Brewers and having Christian Yelich almost single-handedly destroy them, the Cardinals have now won two games against Milwaukee under the Arch in as many attempts and Yelich is proving to be actually mortal. While the difference in the results can’t entirely be put on the different stadium, it’s very good to see, right? We said before the series started that if the Cardinals could win at home, it indicated that maybe the gap between them and the Brewers, if there was one, was smaller than the game results indicated. That line of thought seems to be bearing fruit as the Cards now sit in first place, a game ahead of Pittsburgh and two games ahead of the Brewers, who are now actually percentage points behind the Cubs for fourth place. (I guess it was too much to hope for that the Cubs would continue to slide.)
Last night’s game wasn’t the rout that we saw on Monday night and probably was a better indication of the difference between the two clubs. However, it’s nice to see the Cardinals beat folks into submission with their bats one night then turn around and win a tight, low-scoring affair the next. It shows versatility.
Our Hero last night probably has to be Yadier Molina. Yadi drove in the first run with a single (that he tried to turn into a double), had a double later on, then drove in a key insurance run in the eighth with another double down the line. He even stole third after that and was in great position to make it a 5-2 game. Of course, the reason he didn’t score that extra run was on him, as he left a bit too early on Dexter Fowler‘s fly ball and couldn’t score. Then again, if either the ump or replay had said Fowler’s line drive the pitch before had been fair (it seemed to kick up chalk, though that could have been dirt beside it) then Molina could have walked in.
A lot of credit has to go to Paul DeJong as well. He had a double earlier in the game but it was his solo homer in the eighth that really stood out, breaking a 2-2 tie. DeJong also ended the game by spearing a liner from Orlando Arcia and doubling off Eric Thames. Given that Thames was the tying run, that was a huge play. DeJong’s overall game has been impressive this year, really. He’s done great work as the three hitter when I never was convinced that was the role for him and his defense seems to be improving as well, though it was never terrible. He’s a great guy to have up the middle for this club.
For the fact that there weren’t a lot of runs scored in this one, all the starters but one had a hit. Jose Martinez was the only other one with multiple hits, going 2-3 with a walk, but the fact that that hits were spread out shows they regularly put pressure on the Brewers. In fact, they went 1-2-3 in the third, which was the first time they’d done that since Sunday. They did it just one other time, in the seventh. Even if it is with two outs, getting a hit or a walk and extending the inning is a great way to add pitches to a pitcher. Plus you never know when that will turn into a rally–Molina’s first double was representative of that. Martinez was on first after reaching with two outs and Molina’s double was almost enough to get him to score.
Daniel Ponce de Leon came up for the spot start and turned in a fine one. Five innings might have been a little short, given all this bullpen is going through, but one run on two hits with seven strikeouts seems like everything you’d want out of a guy that was pitching in Memphis last week. Ponce de Leon is probably going down today when they activate Harrison Bader, but I bet we’ll see him again before too long, especially if there is another injury.
The bullpen wasn’t quite as good as it usually is. John Gant, staked to a 2-1 lead, got the first two outs in the sixth before letting Travis Shaw tie the game up with a blast. He pitched the seventh with no problems and Andrew Miller looked fairly sharp in the eighth. Jordan Hicks took the ninth and immediately used the insurance run Molina provided as Shaw hit his second of the night. Just when you think you can contain Yelich, Shaw takes over the bashing.
If we’ve got to give a Goat, and since we’ve been doing this for eleven years you know we have to, I guess we’ll go with Kolten Wong. Wong was the only starter without a hit and though he did reach base via walk, it was one of the intentional variety. He also made an error which didn’t turn out to hurt anything but was still strange to see. A ground ball to Wong and a throw to Paul Goldschmidt feels automatic, doesn’t it? It’s surprising when either side of that play messes up.
All in all, how can you complain about how the last week or so has gone? The Cardinals have won four in a row, five of six, and are in first place. The pitching is stepping up, the bullpen isn’t a problem, and the lineup is clicking. It’s been a while since baseball life has been this good.
There’s always a bit of a dark cloud, though, and Carlos Martinez may have provided it yesterday. The good news is that he is on the road back, but the bad news is that it will be as a reliever. That wasn’t the club’s choice, before you get too worked up. It seems the staff realizes that it is better to have Martinez in the rotation than in the bullpen if you can help it. The problem is, they can’t help it. Martinez physically, at least right now, isn’t able to sustain a starter’s workload. We’ll see if this is a short-term issue or if we’re starting to see the conversion of Martinez to a full-time bullpen asset. While he’ll be great there, no doubt, it’s better for the team if he’s handling more innings as a starter. But if he can’t do it, he can’t do it and you get the best you can out of him.
While there’s no doubt that a bullpen that has Hicks, Miller, John Brebbia, and Martinez in it will shorten a ton of games, that does leave some questions in the rotation. Alex Reyes had a start on Saturday in Memphis and looked good, so maybe he can work his way into filling a spot there. Otherwise, you wonder. You can use people like Ponce de Leon and Austin Gomber, but are they going to be able to cover the loss of Martinez there or are they just going to get by? Then again, if the offense keeps going, do you need anything more than getting by?
It’s a question we’ll find out the answer to as summer goes along. We’re almost to May and things are still in a positive shape. If they can get by until the trading deadline, maybe there will be some reinforcements out there that they can find for the stretch run. Completely relying on in house options might be dangerous unless Reyes shows that top prospect form and keeps it going.
Adam Wainwright goes for the sweep this afternoon against Jhoulys Chacin. Chacin gave up three runs in 5.1 innings on Opening Day to the Cardinals while hitting a home run himself. Since then, things have been about the same if you rule out a six run torching by the Dodgers. Hopefully the bats get going and then turn into brooms, bringing home the sweep!