How Do You Want To Look At It?

There are a couple of ways to approach last night’s 5-2 loss to the Giants.

  1. The Cardinals won the first two games and it is very hard to sweep any team, much less a team that has the best winning percentage in baseball.  They were competitive in this one and it would have been nice to get the win, but that would have been gravy on top of actually winning the series.  They looked more like a team that could be on the rise over the last three games and could be taking some momentum into the break.
  2. To paraphrase President Reagan, there they go again.  Just when you start to think that they are turning the corner, especially after jumping on top with a run in the first, they let the tying run score via a bases-loaded HBP.  And how did the bases get loaded?  Mainly by walks.  Then, when they have a chance to tie late, they hit into a double play.  Finally, the bullpen gives up a home run to make any last comeback improbable.  There is nothing new under the sun.  Plus the Cubs and Reds won and Milwaukee split its doubleheader, so the Cards lost a lot of the ground they made up Tuesday and are back in fourth.

Your personal mindset probably is what will let you pick either the optimistic or pessimistic case.  (If you are on Twitter, most likely you are taking the second one.)  It’s true that it was frustrating to be so close to a sweep, but honestly I like the fact that they played well enough to be competitive with a good team like San Francisco.  I’m also somewhat glad the Cubs won yesterday, because it’s much more likely that they could lose 14 of 15 rather than 15 straight.  This weekend is a big deal for the Cardinals and any little bit helps.

I didn’t see much of the game–the early parts I was involved with family and the latter parts I was not conscious–so I don’t know if there’s much to say.  The bats were quieter against Alex Wood than you’d hope, I guess.  Seven hits total and four of those came off of the Giants bullpen.  Wood’s had some good outings but you’d probably have to go back to May against Texas for one this good.  (The other contender would seem to be Arizona in June, but when you are lumped with those two teams, it’s not great.)  We’ll give the Hero tag to Paul Goldschmidt, who went 1-3 with a walk but scored the first run and drove in the second.  Dylan Carlson was also a contender for this, as he was the only one with two hits, and it was good to see him get a little on track.  Carlson was 2-24 in the month of July before last night.  We’ll give the Goat to Tommy Edman, who went 0-4 in the leadoff spot.

It would have been nice to have Tyler O’Neill back last night, but he was still dealing with the aftereffects of whatever food allergy kept him out of Tuesday’s game.  He did pinch-hit in the ninth, though, so he should be ready to take on Wrigley Field.  The lineup switch did get Paul DeJong into the lineup where he got a hit and a walk.  I’m finding it very interesting (and am for it, don’t get me wrong) how much Mike Shildt is playing matchups and not automatically putting DeJong into the lineup every day as he has the past couple of years.  Edmundo Sosa is the biggest part of that, of course, but it’s nice to see DeJong get some rest and the manager not put him out there every day when he’s not exactly setting the world on fire.

Speaking of the everyday folks, this was the second day this week that Yadier Molina has not been in the lineup, which has to be some sort of record.  Molina didn’t play Sunday, with the day game after a night game and a long stretch where he’d been playing.  Sitting last night would have made some sense had that not happened, though even then it wouldn’t have been real usual.  Getting a day off before a day off helps the rest, but Molina’s going to have four days off next week with the All-Star Break.  You’d have thought, especially with the fact he had three hits the night before, Yadi would have wanted to be in there.

Which either means that 1) Mike Shildt is seeing how much Molina’s offense has fallen off and is going to try to rest him more often or 2) they want to see more of Andrew Knizner, which happening in July might mean that it is more they want other teams to see Knizner.  The Cardinals don’t have many trade chips.  If Knizner plays any game in Wrigley, I’m going to believe this trade bait theory a bit more.  (Granted, Sunday is a day game after a night game, but we’ve see Yadi do those before, especially with the break coming.)

While the offense could have helped more, the pitching had its own issues last night.  Johan Oviedo must wonder if he’ll ever get that first major league win, but walking four batters in four innings doesn’t really help.  As noted, he walked the first two guys in the first then almost got out of a bases loaded, nobody out situation before plunking Jason Vosler to drive in a run.  (That was the sixth bases loaded HBP on the season, to go along with the 20 walks in those situations.)  Oviedo continues to show the talent that gets him opportunities in the majors but you wish there was enough pitching he could spend a little time at Memphis to work on things.

The bullpen was hit or miss.  Patron Pitcher of the Blog TNG Brandon Waddell had his first hiccup as a Cardinal, walking two and allowing a hit and a run in just 2/3rds of an inning.  We got the good Andrew Miller (2/3rds of an inning, two strikeouts) but not the good Justin Miller (two-run homer to Darin Ruf to ice the game).  Also, I’d forgotten Junior Fernandez was actually on this team, which is probably fair since he hadn’t pitched in 10 days, since the last game against the Pirates.

Pitching on the field is one thing, pitching news off the field is usually something much worse.  That’s the way it was yesterday as well as it turns out Carlos Martinez doesn’t just have a bruised thumb, he has a torn ligament in said thumb, which is going to keep him on the shelf for a long time.  While Martinez has been wildly erratic this season, he’d looked better his last two starts and seemed to be getting away from that disastrous stretch in June.  Plus, even if he isn’t the ace the Cardinals have always hoped he could be, the pitching depth really can’t take this sort of hit.

There are no clear options for Martinez’s replacement.  The off day this week allows the Cardinals to shift the rotation a bit for the Cubs series and the All-Star Break after that means that you won’t need a fifth starter until July 20, the second game of the Cubs series in Busch.  Jake Woodford might be stretched out by then.  The team could reinstall John Gant into the rotation.  Neither of those options sound real great.  Maybe you see Matthew Liberatore, who was rocked last time out and has a mixed record at Memphis.  I would like to see more success in Memphis, but Viva El Birds writer Jason Hill thinks that Liberatore can hold his own in the bigs.  Perhaps they try some sort of bullpen game for that outing as they try to bring in another starter, or maybe they’ll be able to make a deal before then.  I would think that maybe the break would be busy, but given the draft is happening in there, teams may put trade talks on hold for a bit while they focus on the players they are picking.  We know the Rockies are.

Given the nature and severity of the injury, it’s very possible we’ve seen the last of Carlos Martinez in a Cardinal uniform.  The options for next year and the following were always a little iffy to be picked up, even with the price of pitching, but this season has made it clear that they will buy him out for half a million rather than pick up the $17 million option.  Martinez’s tenure with the Cardinals, if it is indeed over, was erratic.  He got more grief from fans than he deserved–remember when everyone focused on his hair color–but he and others in the organization have said over and over how he needs to mature and focus.  The death of his close friend Oscar Taveras seemed to jolt him, but even this season Mike Shildt and others have had to sit down and have a talk about being focused.  With the ability of former Cardinals to blossom once they leave St. Louis, Martinez will probably win a Cy Young with the Dodgers next season, but it feels like it’s probably time for both sides to move on.

A day off before a day game in Wrigley to start the last weekend of the first half.  A series win gets them to the break at .500, a sweep would be even better.  Let’s go into the break on a high note!

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