On Saturday, August 18, 2001, the Cardinals beat the Phillies 6-3, raising their record to 67-55. Bud Smith started the game, a couple of weeks before his no-hitter. Steve Kline got the win, however, when Miguel Cairo hit a three-run homer in the seventh to break a 3-3 tie. Dave Veres came in to lock it down. It was the last time the Cardinals won their tenth straight game.
I didn’t think a run scored in the first inning, courtesy of a Tommy Edman walk, stolen base, and a Tyler O’Neill sacrifice fly, was going to be enough. By golly, though, it almost was and that was thanks to Jake Woodford. I’m not a huge Woodford fan but you have to give him significant credit for what he did last night. Dealing with a very tough Brewers team, Woodford allowed just two hits and a walk in five innings of work. He got out of any jams he got into mainly with the strikeout, putting up five of those. Ironically, that was slightly worse than the last time he was in Milwaukee, when he came into the game in early relief of Kwang Hyun Kim and went 5.1 innings, allowing two hits and no walks, while striking out five.
Woodford has shown some flashes this year of being a league average pitcher, which is nothing to sneeze at. Obviously the Cardinals could and should upgrade the spot if possible this winter, but Woodford isn’t out of place in the big leagues. I thought he was going to wind up being one of those Quad-A players but when he keeps his walks under control, he’s got enough stuff to compete well at this level.
The problem with Woodford, as is the problem with a number of the starters, is that he can’t go deep enough into games. Last night Woodford was fairly efficient, throwing 84 pitches in his five innings, and in a different circumstance or with a larger lead maybe Mike Shildt would have let him pitch the sixth. In a pennant race and a 1-0 game, the manager wasn’t going to take any chances.
Which really puts Shildt between a rock and a hard place. The reliable arms have been relied on a lot over the last stretch. During this ten game winning streak, Giovanny Gallegos has six appearances and six innings pitched, including three in the last four days. Alex Reyes has 6.2 innings in six outings. T.J. McFarland rested last night, but he’s at six appearances and six innings. Genesis Cabrera has 6.2 innings in six outings, just like Reyes. Luis Garcia has six appearances, but just 4.2 innings, and last night was his third night in a row and fourth in five days.
On the other side of the spectrum, Kim has one outing of one inning. Andrew Miller has one appearance where he didn’t record an out. Justin Miller one appearance, one inning. Daniel Ponce de Leon threw a third of an inning before being released. The closest thing to a mix between “never used” and “overused” might be Kodi Whitley, who has five outings and 5.2 innings during the streak.
There’s not a lot Shildt can do, though. I worry about the overuse, especially Garcia, who bent but righted himself (after Yadier Molina had a sudden knee problem the trainers had to check out) last night but I also don’t want to see Andrew Miller in a one run game. Brandon Waddell isn’t the guy you pick when the game is on the line. Hopefully when this streak ends, whether it be tonight or sometime next week, it’s a game where they get behind early enough that they can use KK and others and give the reliable arms a night off without worrying about a late inning blowup.
The Cardinals have won games in different ways in this streak but one of the things that they seem to be doing more of is running. Edman’s steal in the first was vital to the first run and then Lars Nootbaar running in the eighth was key to the second run, scoring from second a pitch or two later when Edman singled him in. If they aren’t active on the bases last night, they don’t win. It was the first night in a while where the offense was quiet so it was good to see them making the most of what they did have.
We’ll give the Goat last night to Paul Goldschmidt, which is a rare thing to say given how hot Goldy has been in the second half. Some nights just aren’t your night, though, and Goldschmidt went 0-4 with two strikeouts and four left on base, though his first inning groundout did move Edman to third so that O’Neill could drive him in.
Miles Mikolas vs. Brian Anderson this evening as the Cards look for a series win. It’s a small thing, but right now St. Louis is 9 1/2 behind the Brewers and I’d really like to see them end the season under 10 games back. Winning games against the Brewers is the best way for that to happen. We’ve got 10 in a row, do I hear 11?