That Winning Energy

The Cardinals won five of the seven games during the last week.  The series against the Marlins was good, but whether it was the competition level or how those games played out (or the clunker that ended the series), those games didn’t feel much different than what we’d been seeing out of the Cardinals, except for the fact that they wound up on the right side of the scoreboard.

The series against the Mets, though, was different.  Maybe it is because the Mets bullpen is atrocious, maybe it was because even though they are better than the Marlins the Mets are a sub-.500 team, but those wins felt different than a lot of the ones we’ve seen lately.  The team had comebacks  It had energy.  It was aggressive and didn’t feel out of it at any time.  We’ll see if that spills out into the coming week but the sky might not be falling anymore, or if it is it is doing it a lot slower.

We’ve already talked about the first two games in the New York series.  Let’s look at the last two.

Saturday (8-7 loss)

Hero: Paul DeJong.  Three hits as he continues to torch Mets pitching, plus he drove in a late run with a sacrifice fly.  In 19 career games against the Mets, DeJong is hitting .363/.388/.788 with 10 doubles and eight homers.  That doesn’t include Sunday’s game, where he…well, we’ll get to that.  Having lived through the Aramis Ramirez era, where no matter what team he was on he destroyed the Cardinals, it’s nice to be on the other side of things for once.  Even New York media recognizes the punch of DeJong.

Goat: Michael Wacha.  I don’t think many of us really thought that things were going to be different for Wacha.  Yes, the six scoreless innings against the Marlins was nice and he’d had a good relief appearance before that.  Any thoughts of that being a real turnaround vanished as quickly as Pete Alonso smashed a hanging changeup off the facade in left field.  That blast made it 3-1 in the first but the more depressing thing was that, given the chance to reset, Wacha gave up two more in that frame and one more in the second.  He settled down after that but it was a little too late.  Mike Shildt pinch-hit for him in the top of the fifth, so his line was seven hits, six runs (five earned), four strikeouts, one walk.

Right now, with Adam Wainwright on the disabled list and Daniel Ponce de Leon filling in there, there aren’t a lot of options to replace Wacha.  Genesis Cabrera came in to relieve Wacha here and looked good in his first inning, but then struggled in the second, giving up two runs before being replaced by Giovanny Gallegos.  Cabrera’s outing turned out to be the difference in the game and it’s hard to see them giving him a start just yet.

Austin Gomber is still on the injured list at Memphis.  Jake Woodford has had mixed results of late, including giving up seven to Las Vegas in Memphis last time out, and would need to be added to the 40-man roster, which is not necessarily a huge obstacle.  That vaunted pitching depth is starting to run real thin.  There would seem to be a need for getting a starter soon but the Cardinals don’t seem to be pushing for that scenario, preferring to wait and see what the market will look like.  You’d like to think the Yankees getting Edwin Encarnacion this weekend would help spur teams to start making deals a little sooner so they could get more value for their acquisition, but since when has baseball made sense?

Notes: This game turned on a very questionable decision by Pop Warner, the third base coach of the Cardinals.  With the Cards down 8-6, Yadier Molina singled in DeJong with two outs.  Given that Yadi was the tying run and that Yadi runs slower than Kyle Reis acknowledging The Last Jedi was a fine movie, the Cardinals pinch-ran for him with Jack Flaherty since they had used up all their other bench players (besides Matt Wieters, who wasn’t exactly going to give them a speed boost).  Kolten Wong then dropped a ball in between an infielder and an outfielder as they got slightly tangled up trying to make the play.  Flaherty, who was on the move as soon as the ball was hit, made it to third (but was looking over his shoulder as he ran, one of those general taboos) and Warner sent him home, where he was out by about five steps.

While I get the aggressiveness, let’s stop and think a moment.  Odds are, with Wong running, if Flaherty stops you have runners at second and third with two outs and Paul Goldschmidt coming up.  They probably intentionally passing Goldschmidt, right?  They definitely would have because the pitcher’s spot was up next.  So then you have Wieters pinch-hit.  There’s a solid chance for a Cardinal win there, even though Wieters hasn’t been quite the force he was earlier in the year.  He’s well-rested now, playing just once this week.

That’s probably a better opportunity than trying to send a pitcher, who is not necessarily skilled in base running (see the whole not looking at the coach).  Also, you run the risk of sending one of your better pitchers (at a time, as we noted above, when you don’t really HAVE a lot of pitchers) into a collision or awkward slide at home.  It feels like Warner just forgot who he was sending home and wanted to make the Mets make a play.  I understand that, but Jack Flaherty running is not the time to force the situation.

Kudos to Gallegos, Tyler Webb, and John Brebbia who held the line after Cabrera left, giving the Cardinals the chance to be within feet of a huge comeback.  If a game is going to be decided in the seventh, eighth, or ninth, I really like the Cardinals’ chances.  The problem is, a lot of games are decided earlier…..

Two hits and three RBI by Dexter Fowler, including a home run in the first that gave the Cards an early lead.  Before going 0-4 Sunday, Fowler was hitting .313 on this road trip with three extra-base hits.  It’s been a rough month for Fowler so we’ll see if this is a little bit of a turnaround or if it’s just a mirage.  The outfield has been an issue for the past month, so it’d be nice for it to build back up into a strength.

Also, the Cardinals stole six bases in this one.  Six!  It feels like there’s been SEASONS lately where they haven’t stolen six bases.  (Yes, I exaggerate, but still.)  Some of that was due to Noah Syndergaard‘s slowness to the plate but a lot of it was on Wilson Ramos.  Some of his throws to second should have had multicolored streamers because they were true rainbows.  That sort of aggressiveness is a hallmark of Mike Shildt.  It feels like he’d have been more aggressive during that time when Jon Lester couldn’t throw to first than what we saw.

Sunday (4-3 win)

Hero: Paul DeJong.  When you hit the tiebreaking home run, that’ll get you a spot here no matter if it’s not original.  It was DeJong’s only hit of the game but it’s not like the Cardinals as a whole were overflowing with them.  That’s nine home runs in 20 games against the Mets.  That works out to about 73 over 162 games.  That’s a feat worthy of the Big Apple.

Goat: Matt Carpenter.  While he wasn’t the only one that didn’t get any hits–the team only had three of them on the day–going 0-4 out of the leadoff spot is never a thing you want to see.

Notes: It was remarkable that the club was tied 3-3 with the Mets late in the game on the strength of just one hit.  That hit was a powerful one–Paul Goldschmidt’s two-run homer in the first–but still, that’s not usually how you draw up a competitive game.  Walks and errors helped, but let’s just say it was a good thing that DeJong got a hold of one late because otherwise it might have been a struggle to have good things happen.

Dakota Hudson was a bit more human in this one, immediately giving back a run in the bottom of the first, then allowing two to score in the third.  The Mets got eight hits and three walks from him in his six innings but the defense turned two double plays behind him (and then had a third later on).  Hudson allowed two doubles and, since I didn’t get to see much of this game, I wonder if he wasn’t getting as much sink as he usually does.  If he doesn’t keep the ball down, really bad things are going to happen to him, as we saw in April.

It was interesting that Carlos Martinez took the last two innings of the game on Sunday rather than turning the ninth over to Jordan Hicks.  I like the explanation that Mike Shildt had for it, that in case the Mets got the tying run they wanted to have Hicks in reserve because there wasn’t much out there.  That’s smart thinking and not something that everyone would have done, I don’t think.  They’d have seen it was a one run game in the ninth and brought in Hicks.  However, I’m a bit surprised (given that he’d only thrown six pitches since Monday) that they didn’t try to let him do the two innings and keep Martinez–who in theory could go deeper into games–in reserve.  Of course, that might keep Hicks off limits for a couple of days, which might be an issue.  Still, Hicks probably needs to be used more than he has been of late.

Andrew Miller bounced back with a scoreless inning.  Looks like the rollercoaster is on its way up, at least for a short period of time.

It was a good series win, one the Cardinals really needed.  Now they head back to Busch with a little momentum (they are 8-6 in June, one shy of their total wins in May) and another look at the Marlins, this time for four.  After that, there’s a certain former player coming to town, but we’ll talk more about that when it gets closer.  For now, you hope Miles Mikolas does better against the Marlins tonight than he did last week, otherwise a lot of this good feeling goes out the window.

 

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NL Central Standings

TeamWLPct.GB
Cardinals8667.562 -
Brewers8370.5423.0
Cubs8271.5364.0
Reds7281.47114.0
Pirates6588.42521.0

Last updated: 09/20/2019

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