Actually, the Wins DO Stop Coming

It’s been a bit, hasn’t it?

One of the few things I pride myself on is regular blogging.  It might not be every day, but during the season we rarely go more than a weekend without catching up.  However, since we last got together, there’s been an involved process of moving my mother-in-law from Ohio to an apartment here in town.  While I didn’t have to go on the trip, having my wife away obviously changed some routines.  Then, in this process, we had to take on one of her dogs and we’ve still not adjusted to having a little yippy thing running around.  (Neither has our current dog, it seems.)  All in all, it’s gotten me pretty out of sorts–not only have I not written about the games, I feel like I’ve not seen much of them either.

Which starts me pondering just how much more I should be doing this.  After all, I often say blogging is a young man’s game and I’m not quite in that demographic now.  Is it time to step away, either temporarily or permanently?  Does anyone read this anyway?  (Odds are nobody’s making it to the end of this post, for sure.)  It’s something to ponder, I guess, but as I told my son when he did little league, you don’t have to play, but if you start a season, you are finishing it.  I’ve started 2019, so I’ve got to finish it.

(And, in truth, the disconnect from watching is part of the malaise I’m in.  Usually when I get a chance to really watch, I’ve got things to write about and get reinvigorated.  Maybe that’ll happen this weekend.)

You are probably thinking, “What do you think this is, some personal writing spot for you to muse about whatever is running through your head?  Get on with the recaps!”  Then you remember how miserable this last week was and you probably have moved on to see what kind of pretty pictures cardinalsgifs is using to illustrate whatever random words Joe Schwarz is putting down.  That’s completely fair.  However, we’ve got Heroes and Goats to assign.  I’ll see if I can’t save the discussion for more the series in general instead of each individual game to keep the word count down.

Thursday (2-1 loss in Washington)

Hero: Dakota Hudson.  He took the loss, but that’s a much better overall result for Hudson than what we’d been seeing.  Two runs allowed (only one earned) on four hits in six innings and he threw in seven strikeouts to boot.  That’s more of what we’d think last year’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year to look like.

Goat: Tyler O’Neill.  The golden sombrero is never a great look, but O’Neill managed it, striking out four times and leaving four men on in the process.  It makes sense that they moved him to Memphis, honestly.  He’s not going to get regular time with the outfield clicking the way it does and it seems pretty clear spot starts aren’t cutting it.

Notes: Yairo Munoz, who I always have to stop and think whether he’s on the major league roster or not, had three hits.  Jedd Gyorko had two, getting his average over .150.  While there were opportunities–I didn’t see it, but there was a lot of controversy over Paul Goldschmidt‘s check swing with the bases loaded and two outs in the eighth–the offense that had been doing just enough to win didn’t here.  Which is going to happen and sweeping a team in a four game series is hard to do.  Fashioning two of those sweeps in a month (even over two different teams) is asking way too much, probably.

When Dominic Leone is on, he’s cooking with gas.  Four strikeouts in an inning and 2/3 in this one.  When he’s not….well, we’ll get to that.

Friday (4-0 loss in Chicago)

Hero: This is a tough one.  I guess Yadier Molina?  There were three folks that went 1-3, but Molina (by fashion of no one else ahead of him reaching base) gets the tiebreaker because he left nobody on.  But in a game where there were four hits and no walks and the pitching wasn’t remarkable, it’s tough to figure out who should go here.

Goat: Flip a coin.  We’ll go with Matt Carpenter because he left a couple of men on and invokes our general “leadoff hitter breaks ties” rule that we use.  Really, though, nobody showed up in this one.

Notes: I guess that might be underselling Jack Flaherty a bit, given that the only real damage he allowed was a three-run homer to Anthony Rizzo, who hits a lot of those.  (Flaherty also stole a base, which should get mention.)  Flaherty struck out nine but wasn’t able to complete the sixth, unintentionally walking Kyle Schwarber to load the bases.  (A situation that, sadly, would have echoes the next day).  Giovanny Gallegos got them out of that jam but gave up another run in the eighth.  The story was Kyle Hendricks, however, and his ability to completely shut the game down, throwing a Maddux and it wasn’t even close.  There ought to be another term for getting a complete game under 85 pitches.

Saturday (6-5 loss in Chicago)

Hero: Matt Carpenter.  It’s possible we are starting to see some warming of Carpenter.  Three hits and two RBI in this one, including a double.  One of the other hits drove in the fifth run of the day for the Cards, which made them seem to be sitting pretty up 5-1 in the fourth.  Not so much.  Over the span of games this post is going to cover, Carpenter hit .258/.361/.387.  It’s not exactly a tear, but it’s more of what you might expect from the leadoff man.

Goat: Michael Wacha.  I know that Wacha had two hits and drove in two runs.  I know that the offense had a ton of opportunities.  But when you are given a 5-1 lead, even if you participated, you can’t immediately give it back the next inning.  You especially can’t serve up a meatball to a backup catcher that’s 0-5 on the season and had only five major league hits (none homers) before this.  A lot of people bashed Mike Shildt for walking Kyle Schwarber with runners on second and third and two outs.  And there’s no doubt that Schwarber is a guy that you can get out, which makes automatically putting him on iffy.  But if the pitcher was up next, would anyone have worried about the intentional pass?  They’d have said, sure, can’t let Schwarber beat you.  Tyler Davis (that’s the guy’s name, right?) was hitting like a pitcher.  Doctor Strange probably saw that scenario 14,000,605 times and this is the only time that it paid off like that.

Then again, this is starting to be par for the course for Wacha and, indeed, Cardinal starting pitching in general.  Too many walks, too many home runs.  I’m sure you’ve heard enough about that (though Allen and I will probably touch on it during Musial tonight) but it’s extremely true.  For all the potential and all the track record, this rotation is scuffling.  After this game and last night’s outing, Wacha’s ERA factoring out his first two starts is 7.11.  He’s given up six homers in 25 innings.  Batters are hitting .308 against him.  His WHIP is 1.65.  Given that nobody else is really stepping up, numbers like this are really hard to swallow.

Notes: Cardinals left 11 men on base in this one and while you never want to see another homer, especially not by Javy Baez (who probably ranks the highest on the “Cubs that irritate Cardinals fans” list), it almost felt inevitable the game was going to end like that.  John Gant, Andrew Miller, and John Brebbia did their best, but eventually a ball was going to get up in the air and find the seats and, unfortunately for Brebbia, it did.

Sunday (13-5 loss in Chicago)

Hero: Paul DeJong.  The quiet MVP of the team so far this season had three hits, including a two-run homer in the ninth which had to be as anti-climatic as any two-run home run in the ninth can be.

Goat: Adam Wainwright.  In all fairness, Mike Shildt really should have had a quicker hook.  As Will Leitch said on this week’s Seeing Red podcast, anytime you get Wainwright through five and looking good, it’s a win.  You need to be really careful about pushing your luck, especially on the road.  Wainwright had given up three runs in five innings, but the Cardinals scored twice in the top of the sixth to pull within one and give themselves a fighting chance.  I know that Wainwright was barely over 70 pitches and I understand that this is May, not September or October.  If the Cardinals had won both of the first two games, maybe I could see giving him a bit more leash.  However, it’d have been really good to leave Wrigley salvaging something, so play like it means something.

Wainwright threw five more pitches, gave up three hits and two runs, and was removed with the end of the game no closer but the gap in the game much wider.  Things got ugly later on but we all know that’s where the game was really decided.

Notes: You gotta feel for Dominic Leone.  It’s bad enough to have one outing where you give up six runs as a reliever, but two of them? Within 10 days?  That ERA will never look good.  As we said above, Leone seems to be really, really good when he’s going.  Without those two games, his ERA is 2.60 and nobody’s probably talking much about him heading to Memphis.  His walk rate is a little high (but there are few on the staff that DON’T have that problem) but he’s striking out 12 per nine innings and has a 29.1% K rate this season.  I realize that, with Carlos Martinez coming, some difficult decisions need to be made but I’m not necessarily bringing out the pitchforks for Leone just yet.

Oh, Luke Gregerson returned in this one and didn’t do anything to impress folks.  He wasn’t hitting 90, he gave up a run in two-thirds of an inning, and generally didn’t do much to get anyone excited.  In fairness, it was his first time back in the bigs in a while and he had looked pretty solid in the minors on his rehab, but if you are asking me to pick a casualty for Martinez, Gregerson is high on the list.

Marcell Ozuna and DeJong went deep in the ninth, which only highlighted the Cubs have their own pitchers that they don’t want to ever see on the field.  Unfortunately for them, they paid Tyler Chatwood a lot of money so they have to pitch him occasionally.

Monday (6-0 win vs. Philadelphia)

Hero: Miles Mikolas.  We’ve talked about needing pitching, needing to see a starter do what we expect him to do, needing to have that starting swagger again.  Mikolas did all of that in this one, shutting the Phillies out for seven innings on just three hits.  Three of the last four Mikolas starts have been solid ones, indicating that whatever adjustments he needed to make, he’s been making them.  2.42 ERA over those four starts, with 17 strikeouts and just four walks.  Another good outing and we’ll probably get back to feeling confident whenever Mikolas shows up on the schedule.

Goat: Marcell Ozuna.  0-4 and the only Cardinal starter without a hit or a walk.  Not bad to score six when your cleanup guy isn’t contributing, huh?

Notes: A home run for Matt Carpenter, which is nice.  Honestly, I missed probably the first half of this due to meetings and listened to the last part while going to the airport to pick up said mother-in-law, so I have no feel for it at all.  The whole Philly series is a blur, honestly.

Tuesday (11-1 loss vs. Philadelphia)

Hero: Matt Wieters.  His home run kept the Cardinals from being shut out and was one of only four hits.  Talk about a game that had nothing going for it…..

Goat: Paul Goldschmidt.  Folks, seriously, you could put all the names in a hat, randomly select one, and that’s probably going to be a fair Goat here.  Goldschmidt went 0-4, struck out twice, and had a key error in the big six run inning that put this game away before a lot of people had reached the seats.

Notes: You can’t take all the blame off of Dakota Hudson, but when Yadier Molina, Kolten Wong, and Goldschmidt all make misplays behind you?  It’s not your night, kid.  The odds of them all having a miscue (Molina’s was a passed ball, the other two official errors) in one game has to be much greater than 3,720 to one.  With that inning out of the way, Hudson’s line looked OK.  Sometimes I think that’s overblown–you have to be able to work around your fielders at times–but when it’s that much in a concentrated spot, that’s not fair to anyone, much less a guy in his first full season.

Luke Gregerson came in, threw an inning and a third, gave up two runs and three hits.  Seriously, that contract now is pretty much chump change.  When you need a spot, take it.

Four hits, 12 strikeouts.  The offense packed it up early as well.  I mean, Aaron Nola is obviously quite good, but they’ve beaten quite good pitchers this year.  Tough to get six or more off of him, though.

Wednesday (5-0 loss vs. Philadelphia)

Hero: Yairo Munoz.  Two of the three hits means that, even with a caught stealing, you get this slot.

Goat: Matt Carpenter.  One of the many 0-fers, he went 0-4 and left three men on base.

Notes: We were moving her mom in on Wednesday so by time I checked the score, it was already in the eighth.  If nothing else, the last week has done wonders for their time of play average.  I know Jerad Eickhoff is supposed to be a good one, but eight scoreless in just over 100 pitches seems wrong on a lot of levels.  Jack Flaherty had the wrong mix of walks (3) and strikeouts (2) plus gave up four hits as well.  Flaherty’s still growing, still developing, but it’d be nice to have a little more consistency from him.  Hopefully it comes in time.

Thursday (17-4 win vs. Pittsburgh)

Hero: Post 17 runs, 16 hits, and eight walks, and there are going to be a few you can pick as the Hero.  I’ll go with Yadier Molina, who had three hits, scored three runs, and drove in two, including the first run that tied it up after Gregory Polanco did what Gregory Polanco does to the Cardinals.

Goat: A lot of nights, Michael Wacha might not win that game.  Nine hits in less than six innings, with four runs and it took John Gant keeping that total from going higher.  We’ve talked about Wacha above but you know it’s bad when Ricky Horton says on the broadcast, “Really, Michael Wacha didn’t pitch well tonight.”

Notes: Paul Goldschmidt had three hits, including a late double that plated two.  Marcell Ozuna had just one hit, but it was a bases-loaded double that brought in three.  Dexter Fowler had two hits and three RBI.  Kolten Wong with a couple of hits and RBI.  All in all, it was great fun to see the offense get going.  The only drawback was that Pittsburgh didn’t get a position player on the mound.  Well, that and the fact that they designated Tyler Lyons for assignment before the game, meaning we didn’t get to see the Patron Pitcher of the Blog make a return to Busch Stadium.  Honestly, the Pirates got what they deserved.

And with that, we’ve caught up.  I don’t have a lot of overarching thoughts about the last week.  It’s not ideal that the Cards have dropped out of first and now are looking up at the Brewers and the Cubs, who are playing each other this weekend so you have to figure out who you are rooting for on a daily basis.  (Today it’s the Brewers, who are putting it on the Cubs bullpen and lead 7-0 in the ninth as I finish this up.)  The starting pitching is going to have to be addressed.  Carlos Martinez may be back soon, but even the idea that he can be this multi-inning reliever which means you can pull starters faster isn’t going to fix the underlying problem.  Madison Bumgarner‘s name is already starting to float around given his history and his status as a free agent.  Of course, his stats so far aren’t necessarily stellar and his ERA+ has been dropping for four straight years and currently sits at 103, which is right about league average.  There are good things there, but I’m not completely sold that he’s a huge upgrade.

Cards get back at it with the Pirates tonight.  While it’s unlikely they’ll bust out with double digits again, you have Adam Wainwright at home and (as long as you use him correctly) that can be a very good thing.  Here’s hoping it’s not another week until this lazy bag of bones is writing about the team again!

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NL Central Standings

TeamWLPct.GB
Cardinals8767.565 -
Brewers8470.5453.0
Cubs8272.5325.0
Reds7282.46815.0
Pirates6589.42222.0

Last updated: 09/21/2019

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