Cardinal70

It’s not been a fun few days for Cardinal fans.  Scratch that.  As we talked about in the All-Star Roundtable on Saturday night (the latest Conversations With C70, which you can find here), it’s not been a fun season for Cardinal fans.  However, losing the last to the Phillies and the first two to the Pirates adds to the frustration level.  I think there are a lot of folks that are at STL-FIL Drew, which means they are completely apathetic about this team.  (Most of us are still at Rasmus, where the sky is falling but at least we care enough to talk about the sky falling.)  It was enough that there was another roster shakeup yesterday.  I don’t know if that’s why the team rallied to win last night, but it’s nice to talk about a win for once.  Let’s recap.

Thursday (5-1 loss at Philadelphia)

Hero: If you’ve got to name one, I guess it’s Paul DeJong.  His only hit was a home run, accounting for the only tally of the game.

Goat: We’ll go Aledmys Diaz here.  He went 0-4, which wasn’t necessarily an outlier, and struck out twice.  He threw in an error to boot (no pun intended), one of three Cardinal errors on the day.

Notes: The Cardinals got a total of four hits against a Phillies staff that is nobody’s idea of legendary (even adequate eludes at times) and in a park that inflates offensive numbers.  Games like this happen, of course, but it’s extremely frustrating to see them happen when the club is already struggling.  They need all the wins they can get against teams like Philadelphia and having an offensive off day isn’t helpful.

Carlos Martinez obviously didn’t follow up with another shutout, but it still was an outing he could have won.  Three runs (only two earned, thanks to DeJong missing a potential double play ball after a comebacker to Martinez) in six frames.  He allowed two home runs, which isn’t great but often happens in Citizens Bank Park.  Martinez pitched well enough for the team to win, which is about all you can ask from a starter.

Kevin Siegrist allowed two runs late on a hit, two walks, and a Jose Martinez error.  When you realize that he was pitching with a neck injury, it’s not as surprising to see these results.  Given that this is an injury that, even though he was just placed on the DL, is one that John Mozeliak says he’s probably “just going to have to pitch with it”, it seems likely we’ll see a lot of inconsistency with Siegrist going forward (like we have for a while, really), with his results perhaps tied to how he is feeling that day.

Friday (4-3 loss to Pittsburgh)

Hero: While DeJong looked to be the hero with his late home run, we’ll give it to Jose Martinez.  His two-run shot rescued the Cards from an early 1-0 deficit, plus he tossed in another hit as well.

Goat: Seung-hwan Oh.  While Trevor Rosenthal could have been considered here, given that he immediately gave up the 3-2 lead, it was Oh that allowed the ninth inning home run to John Jaso, which gave the Pirates the win.  I think it was Kevin on the roundtable podcast that pointed out that Oh has allowed a run in a lot of his appearances lately.  Looking at his game log (and not counting Sunday night, when he came in and shut down the Pirates with a big lead), he’s been charged with a run in four of his nine June appearances.  In one other, he allowed two inherited runners to score.  When your closer allows the other team to score half the time, there’s concern about sending him out with a one-run lead.  If you can’t send him out with a one-run lead, though, should he be your closer?

Notes: Another tough game for the offense, though overall they are still doing pretty well.  If you mark from that coaching shakeup press conference through Sunday night, the Cards are averaging 5.6 runs a game.  Now some of that is inflated by the runs put up in Baltimore and Philadelphia, two good places to hit with iffy pitching staffs, but let’s be honest–this team could go into parks like that and not do a thing, like they did on Thursday.  It’s 16 games, so maybe it’s a combination of who they have faced but also a different approach by Mark Budeska.  Hard to really know, but it’s something to keep a note of as the competition increases this week.  Though that might not help Bill Mueller, since he’s supposed to return to the team in Arizona.  So if the offense scuffles again, how many will blame it on better competition and how much on the loss of the new hitting voice?

He’s back home, so it was another good game for Adam Wainwright.  Two runs in seven innings and he looked to get the win when DeJong hit his home run, only to see that evaporate.  I asked Zach Gifford if it was the park making the difference or if he pitched differently at home.  Zach indicated that his fly ball to home run ratio is significantly higher on the road, even though his fly ball rate in general is just a bit higher.  Which makes me think that Wainwright isn’t any different at home, he just has those fly balls swallowed up by a pitcher’s park instead of them going for doubles or homers elsewhere.  I also don’t know that there’s anything you can do to change that, so we’ll see how he does in Arizona which usually plays as a good home run ballpark.

Rosenthal scuffled in this one, allowing a hit and a walk after an inning-opening strikeout.  He got the groundout, but then David Freese tied it up with another single and that was all for Rosie.  That was his first scoring outing since June 13 and, actually, he’s got a bit of a pattern of allowing a run every 3-4 games recently.  He’s been scoreless in 23 of his 31 outings this year (including Sunday night) but four of his 12 in June, including a three-run outburst against the Brewers that is the main reason his June ERA is 5.79.  I don’t think there’s a real concern about Rosenthal, but it’s probably something to keep an eye on.

Saturday (7-3 loss to Pittsburgh)

Hero: Matt Carpenter.  He answered the Pirates’ first inning run with a leadoff home run, which was all the Cardinals would get until a late two-run single by Stephen Piscotty.

Goat: Lance Lynn.  Look, we all know that Lynn should be a huge trade chip at the deadline.  He’s a free agent at the end of the year, there’s no guarantee that he’s in the long term plans for the Cards, a workhorse like him should bring a nice return, etc.  But if he keeps having outings like this, where he allowed seven runs in 5.2 innings, the return for him on the market isn’t going to be enough to worry about.  That’s back to back seven run outings, raising his ERA over a full run.  That means in six of his 15 starts he’s allowed four or more runs (whether earned or unearned).  It’s harder to sell him as a reliable piece when he’s doing that, especially after surgery.

Notes: John Brebbia and Sam Tuivailala did their part, combining for 3.1 scoreless innings.  Well, they were scoreless to them, but Brebbia did hit the first two players he faced, forcing in two of Lynn’s runners.  After that, he got a popout from Gregory Polanco and then a perfect frame.  Tuivailala had two perfect innings, with three strikeouts out of his six outs.  It feels like Tui might be getting a handle on the major leagues.  His ERA for the season is 2.65 and since his return a couple of weeks ago, he’s allowed one run in six innings, with seven strikeouts and just one walk.  I’m not saying Tui for closer (though maybe you try that if you trade both Oh and Rosenthal), but he might get some higher leverage innings if he keeps this up.

Otherwise, this was just a blah game.  No Cardinal had more than one hit.  We’ve talked about the pitching.  It didn’t feel good after 4 1/2 and it was done an inning later.  Let’s move on.

Sunday (8-4 win vs. Pittsburgh)

Hero: It’s a bit of a tossup, but I’m going with Randal Grichuk here.  Promoted from Memphis before the game and put right into the cleanup spot, Grichuk responded with two hits, including the longest home run hit by a Cardinal in Busch Stadium III.  Grichuk’s homer reinvigorated the stadium and, it seems, the team.  Yadier Molina followed with a double (because Andrew McCutchen had a terrible throw, otherwise he’d have been dead at second and a lot of Grichuk’s energy would have dissipated) and Jedd Gyorko wound up driving him in to tie it up.  It was a nice return for Grichuk, but we’ll see how he does going forward.

Goat: Tommy Pham and Stephen Piscotty had exactly the same line–0-4, one run, one walk, two strikeouts–but Pham left three on instead of Piscotty’s two, so we’ll give the Goat to him.  Pham may be slowing down a bit, since over the last 10 games, he’s hitting .238/.256/.548–wow, that slugging is not what you’d expect, but four home runs in 10 hits will do that–but I’m still glad that he’s going to have a regular spot out there for a while and they can also see what they have with Grichuk as well.

Notes: Mike Leake was more in line with what we’d expect Mike Leake to be, going six innings, allowing four runs (three earned) and throwing in a couple of strikeouts.  That Cy Young pace Leake was on is pretty much over, but if he can give outings more like this or a touch better, he should be that fine back of the rotation guy that we expect him to be.

Brett Cecil threw a scoreless inning in this one and now hasn’t allowed a run in eight innings spanning eight games.  Reliever ERA is pretty worthless, but it’s nice to see his dropping down almost to the threes again.  It feels like there’s a bit more of a trust factor with him as well now, like he probably would have come in last night in the eighth even if the game had still been tied.  It’s good to see him stabilize a bit.

Like I said, the Hero tag was a tossup because Molina had three hits and scored three runs.  I still don’t think Molina needs to be hitting fifth, even if Mike Matheny doesn’t like the way Molina looks at him if he bumps him down.  That said, if he could actually get a run going like he did in the second half last year, then it’d be worth having him there.  The odds of that seem pretty slim, though.

As noted, before the game Mozeliak made some changes–some forced, some not.  Dexter Fowler and Siegrist went on the disabled list and Chad Huffman went back to Memphis.  In their place, we saw the return of Grichuk, a semi-familiar face in Mike Mayers (who Kyle Reis had talked about returning to the bigs recently on a Meet Me At Musial), and the big league debut of Luke Voit.  Voit’s been a name that’s gotten a lot of buzz given his results in Memphis and it will be interesting to see how he does.  I don’t think we are talking about a long-time piece here, of course.  Voit’s 26 and I get the feeling he’s a guy that may only get a limited big league career.  That said, he’s hitting the ball now and we’ll see how that translates to the bigs.

I’m also wondering just how often he’ll play.  I know he’s here to spell Carpenter, give him some time off, but that’s not always the way things work with this team.  Even so, Carpenter’s not going to take two days off a week, I don’t think.  Maybe we’ll see some Carpenter at third again, giving Voit a chance to get some starts at first.  They wouldn’t do it for Matt Adams, but maybe they realize that was a mistake.  Voit, like DeJong, isn’t a guy that needs to do much more at Memphis, so if he sits a lot in the big leagues, it’s probably not affecting his development.  That said, with the makeup game today before a long trip to Arizona, I wouldn’t be surprised if Carp sits and Voit starts this afternoon against the Reds.

Speaking of that, there was a lot of sentiment that someone else would be taking Michael Wacha‘s next start, but instead he’s going again today right on schedule.  His ERA is 8.17 over his last six games and he’s only had two of those where he’s gotten an out in the fifth (and one of those was literally just one out).  He did face the Reds in his first start of the year and allowed one run in six innings, so maybe we’ll see more of that Wacha today, but it’s really hard to believe that’s the case.  If he struggles again today, you have to wonder if Mozeliak won’t make yet another move.

vs. Batters Table
Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Joey Votto 37 32 12 4 1 1 4 4 1 .375 .432 .656 1.089 0 1 0 0 0
Billy Hamilton 24 22 2 1 0 0 0 2 1 .091 .167 .136 .303 0 0 0 0 0
Scooter Gennett 22 22 7 1 0 0 1 0 2 .318 .318 .364 .682 0 0 0 0 0
Eugenio Suarez 18 17 7 1 0 0 3 1 2 .412 .444 .471 .915 0 0 0 0 0
Tucker Barnhart 14 11 3 0 0 0 1 2 0 .273 .357 .273 .630 0 1 0 0 0
Adam Duvall 14 11 2 1 0 0 1 2 3 .182 .357 .273 .630 0 0 0 1 1
Devin Mesoraco 11 11 4 1 0 1 4 0 3 .364 .364 .727 1.091 0 0 0 0 0
Scott Schebler 8 7 1 0 0 0 0 1 3 .143 .250 .143 .393 0 0 1 0 0
Homer Bailey 4 4 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .250 .250 .250 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Arismendy Alcantara 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Tony Cingrani 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Tim Adleman 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0
Raisel Iglesias 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Patrick Kivlehan 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Jose Peraza 2 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 1 0 0 0
Michael Lorenzen 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 167 149 40 9 1 2 15 12 23 .268 .321 .383 .704 2 3 1 1 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/26/2017.

Brandon Finnegan will come off the DL and start for the Reds.  He hasn’t faced the Cardinals this year, making only three starts before going on the disabled list, but he had some pretty decent success against the Cards last year.  He’s a left-handed pitcher (which may make the idea of Carpenter sitting a little more likely) and that isn’t as much of a killer as it was, but it still tends to depress the Redbird offense.  We’ll see if it does today or not.

vs. Batters Table
Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Matt Carpenter 14 11 4 0 0 2 5 3 3 .364 .500 .909 1.409 0 0 0 0 0
Stephen Piscotty 14 12 1 0 0 1 3 2 5 .083 .214 .333 .548 0 0 0 0 1
Jedd Gyorko 11 10 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .091 .000 .091 0 0 0 0 1
Yadier Molina 9 8 4 1 0 1 1 1 1 .500 .556 1.000 1.556 0 0 0 0 0
Tommy Pham 9 8 3 1 0 0 0 1 2 .375 .444 .500 .944 0 0 1 0 0
Randal Grichuk 8 7 1 0 0 1 1 1 0 .143 .250 .571 .821 0 0 0 0 0
Aledmys Diaz 5 5 2 0 0 0 1 0 1 .400 .400 .400 .800 0 0 0 0 0
Greg Garcia 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Mike Leake 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Adam Wainwright 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Eric Fryer 2 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 1.000 .500 1.000 1.500 0 1 0 0 0
Lance Lynn 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Michael Wacha 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 87 76 17 2 0 5 12 10 19 .224 .310 .447 .758 0 1 1 0 2
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/26/2017.

This makeup game this afternoon, then off to Arizona.  Let’s hope there’s a happy flight out to the desert!

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Lots of Extra Baseball

So, when your team goes into Philadelphia, what you don’t expect is to be playing two extra-inning affairs.  The fact that the Cardinals can’t put the Phillies completely away until the very end might counteract the fact that they’ve won two in a row and are now four games under .500 and four games out of first.  Sadly, the Cardinals have looked like the Phillies’ equal over the last couple of nights,

Tuesday (8-1 win in 11)

Hero: Stephen Piscotty.  He only had one hit, but it was a double after Matt Carpenter and Dexter Fowler had walked in the 11th that broke the 1-1 tie and got things going in a serious direction.  As everyone always says, if you can just wait out the Phillies, you’ll get to them.  (Most teams don’t have to wait this long, however.)

Goat: It’s probably not really fair, but there was a bit of offense and the pitching did fine, so I’ll go with Dexter Fowler here.  He had a double and he had the walk, but he also struck out three times and left three on.

Notes: Again, there’s got to be some concern when Philadelphia pitching keeps you at one run through 10 innings.  Of course, there were chances that the Cardinals ran themselves out of–it feels like only this team could have a second-and-third, nobody-out situation and get absolutely nothing out of it–but that doesn’t completely relieve all responsibility from the Cardinals.  When you are playing the worst team in baseball, it shouldn’t be a situation where people get confused on which team is which.

The 11th inning was fun, though.  Piscotty’s double.  Yadier Molina going yard.  Tommy Pham going yard to make it a serious game.  If the Cardinals had done more of that during regulation, these concerns would be very much alleviated.

It was a nice bounceback for Mike Leake, who has struggled a bit as of late.  One run in Citizens Bank Park isn’t anything to sneeze at, even with the offensive woes of the Phillies.  The bullpen did a fine job as well, with Brett Cecil again having a good outing, Trevor Rosenthal getting out of a bit of a jam, and Kevin Siegrist being the lucky one to take home the win.

Wednesday (7-6 win in 10)

Hero: Tommy Pham.  It was Star Wars Night, and The Pham-Tom Menace was back in force.

Two home runs, including the game-tying one in the ninth inning. Two runners thrown out at home, including one in the bottom of the ninth to keep the game tied.  (Granted, Odubel Herrera should get a partial assist there, given how spectacularly he ran through the stop sign and by the large margin that he was out.)  There was a lot of talk a week or so ago about the imminent return of Randal Grichuk and how he was going to take Pham’s spot in the outfield and everything was terrible.  Grichuk is hitting .265 with four homers in Memphis, but there doesn’t seem to be much buzz about him returning anymore.  In other words, Twitter might have jumped to some conclusions.  I know, you’re shocked.

Not only is Pham being a force on the field, he seems to be doing things in the clubhouse as well.  It’s going to be fascinating to see what the Cardinals actually do about Grichuk, because an opening doesn’t seem to be coming any time soon.

Goat: Michael Wacha.  Yet again, Wacha was unable to get into the fifth inning, allowing five runs in four frames.  Now, in fairness, the three-run first wasn’t completely his fault.  If Greg Garcia (who easily could have gotten the Goat himself, going 0-4 and committing two errors) doesn’t botch a ball, Wacha very easily could have gotten out of that frame without allowing anything.  Yet Wacha was unable to work out of the jam, then compounded it a couple of innings later with two more runs.  The cries for replacing Wacha in the rotation are getting louder and the last time he made it through the fifth, he was facing this Phillies team.  He’s got an 8.17 ERA in his last six starts but, even more tellingly, only 25.1 innings over that frame.

Again, Wacha’s usually pretty good the first time through.  I know John Mozeliak doesn’t want to have the conversation with Wacha about taking him out of the rotation, but even if you sold it as a temporary thing, it’s got to be good for the team and good for Wacha.  Getting destroyed before the fifth isn’t going to help his earning power any.  Next time out, you could let Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons, who came into this one and threw three scoreless innings, allowing the club to climb back into it, take the start and Wacha be the guy that enters in the fourth or fifth, given that Lyons might not be stretched out enough for a full start.  It’s an easy flip that wouldn’t require any other roster moves, so it’s a low-cost way of checking to see if the bullpen might work for Wacha.

Notes: Jedd Gyorko hit a home run with someone on base.  It’s amazing how many solo shots he’s had out of the 41 homers he’s hit for St. Louis.  (That’d be 28, or 68%.)  I don’t know if it’s the fact he’s pitched differently or it’s a focus thing or it’s just pure coincidence, but man, that’s a lot of home runs and not a lot of RBI.

Rough night for Matt Carpenter, going 0-5 with two strikeouts.  That’s not something we’ve seen much of since he moved up, but it is the third game out of four that he’s been hitless.  His OBP in that span is still .450 due to eight walks, so maybe he’s trying to be more selective or folks are pitching him a little differently.  We’ll see if it continues today or this weekend against Pittsburgh.

Another double switch by Mike Matheny brought some controversy, as he took out Stephen Piscotty (who had a double and a walk) so that he could keep John Brebbia in.  At the time, it was a one run game and the critique was that Brebbia is not worth taking out your third place hitter.  It became even more moot when Brebbia got one out, allowed a hit, and then was taken from the game.  If you weren’t planning on committing to Brebbia or you knew that you wanted to bring Brett Cecil in if someone got on, why not just hit for Brebbia and let Cecil start the inning clean?  After all, he’s been doing better against righties than lefties.

It’s probably not something that would have gotten a lot of attention save the fact that Matheny can’t help but to swap out the third hitter regularly.  (I will say, it feels like it’s been a while since he did this, but he was always doing it to Matt Holliday.)  That said, it did keep Jose Martinez in the game and he led off the 11th with a double and scored the go-ahead run, so, as so many things do seem to do for Matheny, it worked out.  At least, until Dexter Fowler had to leave the game with a hamstring and Aledmys Diaz had to be an outfielder again.  (And we almost made it through a Star Wars Night without a problem!)

Seung-hwan Oh was shaky again, allowing a run before shutting the door.  Thankfully the Cards got two in the top of the frame so it wasn’t as traumatic as it could have been.  Still, it’s a bit concerning to see him scuffling (at least relatively) and you wonder how that plays into any longer commitment (or trade talk) that might come up.

So in the process of writing this post, I’ve had a Twitter discussion with someone that doesn’t feel like this is really a telling series.  As he points out, bad teams win 60 games a year.  Good teams lose to them at times.  These things happen.  There’s a lot of truth in that, for sure.  If the Cardinals were leading the division by a couple of games and dropped these to Philadelphia, we probably aren’t happy, but we aren’t saying that the club is doomed or that they are terrible.  I can see that point of view for sure.

In context, though, I think it is concerning.  In the last two weeks, the only team they’ve been able to beat with any regularity is Philadelphia and now they are even struggling there.  This is not a good team–as noted, they are sub-.500.  There’s no miracle run coming out of this squad.  This is who they are, and what they are is a team that is going to tread water on their good days.  It’d be one thing if you could see the Phillies had just had some luck or some wonderful performances, but they’ve pretty much looked like the team that’s the worst in baseball and the Cardinals, well, they can beat that, but not handily.

Cardinals go for another sweep of the Phils today with Carlos Martinez on the mound.  The last time he faced these guys, he threw his first career shutout.  I’m fine with that happening again today.  Aaron Nola goes for Philadelphia.  Nola pitched in the Blogger Day game and did pretty well until Fowler turned around a pitch.  Dexter probably won’t be in the lineup today–actually, checking Jim Hayes‘s Twitter, I see that Pham will man center today with Fowler out–so hopefully some others can pick up the slack.  It’s day baseball today, so enjoy!

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If you are reading this, chances are your favorite team in baseball is the St. Louis Cardinals. (If not, appreciate the click but you might not find this all that interesting.)  As you probably know, the Cardinals are celebrating their 125th anniversary this year as a member of the National League.  Over that span of time, there have some incredible moments, frozen spots in time that are indelibly Cardinal.  When you think about this team, you think about those moments.  Ozzie Smith’s homer in 1985 against the Dodgers.  Bob Gibson’s 17 strikeouts in the World Series.  Tom Lawless’s bat flip.  And a couple from a local boy turned third baseman.  Which moment, though, is the best of them all?  Which is the most quintessentially Cardinals moment out there?

Starting in a couple of weeks, we’re going to take some time to find out.

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll remember that earlier in the spring I asked for some of these moments, then asked for some help ranking them.  Now with all that work done (and thanks to all that chipped in), we’re ready to reveal the bracket.  64 different snapshots of Cardinal history, ready to be debated, judged, and voted on.

To do this, I’ve enlisted the help of a few other sites, with each of us taking one quadrant of the bracket.  On Mondays, you’ll find the Branch Rickey region here at C70 At The Bat.  We’ll go over the matchup and have a spot for you to vote on which is your preference.  Tuesdays, you’ll head over to The Intrepid STL for the Bing Devine region.  Wednesdays will see Redbird Rants and the Walt Jocketty region while Thursdays will see Cardsblog and the John Mozeliak region going at it.

Before we release the bracket, here’s the schedule:

Weeks beginning July 10, 17, 24, and 31: Two first-round matchups per site
Weeks beginning August 7, 14, 21, and 28: Second round matchups
Week beginning September 4: Regional semi-finals (both on same day per site)
Week beginning September 11: Regional finals
Week beginning September 18: Tournament semi-finals
Week beginning September 25: Tournament finals

Which means that, as the 125th regular season comes to a close, we’ll crown the Greatest Cardinal Moment at the same time.  (I want to give a hat tip to the Viva El Birdos user Tyler’s Opinion, who independently started one of these over at VEB which I was not aware of when we started the planning for this.)

All right, so here’s the bracket.  Now, a word before you start looking at this and wonder what the heck the above schedule means when you can go vote on the whole bracket right now: trying to find a great bracket program for this wasn’t easy for me.  I really like this one and I was hoping we could use it to vote one round at a time, but it was not to be.  So use the below to make your picks, to set the line as it were, so we can see if there are upsets coming.  We’ll be doing podcasts and other things relating to this project so I hope you’ll enjoy it and have a chance to reconnect with some Cardinal history!

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I’ve never been a big Simpsons fan.  Honestly, I think I could probably count on both hands the number of episodes I’ve seen in their entirety.  One of those, of course, was when Mark McGwire made a cameo in Springfield. (The relevant bit begins at 1:22 below.)

I thought about that this morning as I started to recap this weekend’s series in Baltimore.  Because no matter how many dingers were hit–and I think somebody just hit another one–there’s still the terrifying truth.

The terrifying truth that the Cardinals lost another series.

The terrifying truth that they now sit 5.5 games behind the Brewers.

The terrifying truth that four of the five starters just laid an egg.

The terrifying truth that, like in 2007 and somewhat like in 1997 (when the Cardinals made a trade for a certain red-haired slugger), this team may hang around the fringes of a race but it’s not because they are any good.

The terrifying truth that it’s hard to hold out hope things are going to get any better.

So now that we’re fully depressed on a Monday morning, let’s go to the games!

Friday (11-2 win)

Hero: Paul DeJong.  Hitting out of the ninth spot since the DH was employed, DeJong made a case for not returning to Memphis with three hits, including a home run, and three RBI.  I had an Orioles fan tell me after watching this team this weekend that DeJong belongs in the bigs and it’s hard to deny that after these performances.

Goat: Stephen Piscotty.  The only starter without a hit in this game, though he did drive in a run with a sacrifice fly.

Homers hit (both teams): 6

Notes: Give Carlos Martinez a couple of runs to work with and he’s probably going to make them stand up.  Give him 11 and you can just watch him cruise.  Martinez was touched for a home run in the third, ending his scoreless inning streak, but other than that didn’t give Baltimore much to deal with.  Four hits in six innings, striking out eight.  He did throw 92 pitches, so he might have been able to go another frame if the Cards were in a tighter game but probably not.  Still, given the state of the rotation lately, six outstanding innings from Martinez is an oasis of wonderfulness.

Matt Carpenter and Dexter Fowler continue to produce at the top of the lineup, both going two for three with a home run in this one.  Earlier in the season, all the offense was concentrated at the bottom of the lineup.  Now Carp and Fowler are getting in on the fun, which is helping the run total if nothing else.

You also (well, I did last night on Gateway) wonder about the connection between the promotion of Mark Budeska and the fact that the offense is starting to click more.  In the 10 games since John Mozeliak’s “shuffle the coaches” press conference, the team is hitting .282/.361/.521 and is averaging six runs a game.  The 10 games immediately before?  .219/.284/.342 and 2.8 runs a game.  Correlation does not equal causation, of course, and there are other factors such as lesser pitching staffs (the Phillies and Orioles are probably not going to be confused with the Dodgers or even the Cubs anytime soon, though that earlier stretch did include four games with the Reds) going into this as well.  It would seem pretty strange if Budeska could come in and make that sort of immediate impact.  Maybe the lineup switch of Carpenter and Fowler was more of a key.  Whatever the case, the hitters are hitting.  If only there was some pitching to go with it.

Brett Cecil did appear in this one wearing his new number, going to 27 now that Jhonny Peralta isn’t using it.  Maybe that’s working out for him or maybe being back in the AL East helped, because he threw a perfect inning with one strikeout.  I hope it’s not just the AL East, since we don’t see much more of them this season.

Tommy Pham and Jose Martinez both had two hits and Pham made one of his a longball special.  It was a beautiful night for baseball.  It wasn’t too last.

Saturday (15-7 loss)

Hero: Dexter Fowler.  Two hits, three RBI, and yet another home run.  I don’t know when Fowler became the team slugger, but he seems to be running with the role.

Goat: Adam Wainwright.  The recent era of good feelings toward Waino’s performances is again in the rearview mirror.  Someone pointed out what Wainwright’s season has looked like by ERA on Twitter Saturday afternoon.  It was something like this:

Starts 1-7: 6.37 ERA
Starts 8-11: 0.34 ERA
Starts 12-14: 17.42 ERA

Over his last three starts, he’s put up a total of 10.1 innings.  Similar to last year, when he had a small respite from terrible outings, he had a stretch that made you remember the good Adam Wainwright can do.  The problem is, it’s becoming harder and harder to believe that that Adam Wainwright still exists, for the most part.  Wainwright has a 4.92 ERA over the last two years.  That’s not a small sample size, that’s 14% of his career starts.

I love Wainwright, I really do.  Everyone does, for the most part.  He’s got a great attitude, he seems like a fun guy to be around, he’s got a sense of humor, and he’s been a huge part of this Cardinal era.  All that said, I think if you can get a quality start out of him going forward it’s a cause for celebration.  More often, it’s going to be a five inning start with three or four runs given up.  When he’s got things working, it could be better, but I don’t think you can expect that.  Which makes a discussion of what the future holds for Wainwright and the Cardinals a interesting, and possibly painful, one.

Homers hit (both teams): 8

Notes: I can’t fault Mike Matheny for starting to take out his starters down 12-4 in the fifth, but it did wind up possibly being a bit premature as the Cardinals put a few runs up in the sixth and got the game to 12-7 with the bases loaded and two out, only to see Eric Fryer strike out on three pitches.  (That said, Mychal Givens, who came in to get Fryer and then went another couple of frames, looks like a big arm that would have retired most batters.)  It would have been crazy to see the team rally from that deficit, but you can’t really expect that and, in fairness, some of those that he’d put into the game were a part of that rally.

Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons had a reasonable outing, though he got touched for three runs in the fourth and allowed Wainwright’s last run to score when he came into the game.  Lyons left a pitch up to Jonathan Schoop, which left the yard, but otherwise did pretty well against the Orioles, striking out seven in just 3.1 innings.  It’s unfortunate that those three runs (four, if you count the inherited runner that came in) actually made a bit of a difference when that rally came along.  Then again, you figure the Orioles treat that rally differently if they are only up four rather than eight when it begins.

Jedd Gyorko had a couple of base hits, which was good to see out of him.  He had a home run on Friday that just kinda carried until it went over the right-field wall, but other than that Gyorko’s been a bit quiet with the bat.  He’s hitting .241 with one homer in the month of June, which would probably be drawing more attention had the rest of the bats not stepped up.  Is Gyorko better in small doses?  Is it just a slump?  Does he need to have a few more days off?  Who knows.  It’s unlikely he’s not going to be out there hitting fourth most every day, though, so hopefully he can work through it and get the bat working again.

Sunday (8-5 loss)

Hero: Stephen Piscotty.  Two hits, both homers.  That was all the offense until late, when Fowler continued his homer streak and Yadier Molina chipped in his second of the weekend.  Too little too late on those, unfortunately.

Goat: Lance Lynn.  As the team scuffles, it seems more and more likely that Lynn is going to be on the trade block.  If he is, he’s got to have better outings than this to up that trade value.  I didn’t get to watch this game, what with Father’s Day activities and such, but it looks like they just kept nicking at Lynn until the fifth, where he couldn’t stop the bleeding.  Throwing 110 pitches in less than five complete isn’t great either.  When you face a fastball hitting team and you mainly throw fastballs, I guess this was going to happen and it’s definitely his worst start in a while.  It’d just be nice if he could get past the fifth again–in his last five starts he’s just seen the sixth once and then only to record one out.  Granted, he might have gone longer in one of those games, but still, it’s concerning to see the workhorse that Lynn has been not be able to really reach that level.

Homers hit (both teams): 8

Notes: Well, at least it was a good day for the bullpen.  Kevin Siegrist allowed a run, but Matthew Bowman, Trevor Rosenthal, and Brett Cecil combined for 2.2 scoreless innings, which was tough to do this weekend.  Cecil has now thrown five scoreless innings over his past four outings, striking out four and allowing just two hits.  He’s had a few stretches like this before and none of what he’s done here has been in high leverage situations, but maybe there have been some adjustments and we can start to see him being used more in the manner the Cards thought they’d use him when they signed him.

When you are shut down by Ubaldo Jimenez, there’s really not much to say.  It’s nice that the team made a little comeback, but I doubt the game ever really felt in jeopardy.

Again, we went over the terrifying truth earlier.  Allen and I talked about it on Meet Me at Musial.  Tara and I, as mentioned, talked about it on Gateway.  It’s not good and folks are getting closer and closer to waving the white flag.  It’s hard to fault them for it, because even given a weaker division, they are heading in the wrong direction.

What got them better, at least temporarily, last time was a visit by the Phillies.  This time, they’ll head to Philadelphia to take on a team that should be worse than they are.  Mike Leake gets a chance to get the six runs he allowed last time against the Brewers out of his head as he goes up against Jeremy Hellickson, who sees the Cards for the second time in about a week.  Here’s Leake against the Phillies hitters:

vs. Batters Table
Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Freddy Galvis 13 13 2 0 0 0 0 0 3 .154 .154 .154 .308 0 0 0 0 1
Odubel Herrera 12 12 3 1 0 1 1 0 2 .250 .250 .583 .833 0 0 0 0 0
Maikel Franco 11 9 5 1 0 0 0 2 1 .556 .636 .667 1.303 0 0 0 0 0
Daniel Nava 6 6 2 0 0 0 1 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Howie Kendrick 5 5 3 0 0 0 0 0 1 .600 .600 .600 1.200 0 0 0 0 0
Aaron Altherr 4 4 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .250 .250 .250 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Adam Morgan 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Michael Saunders 2 1 1 0 0 1 2 0 0 1.000 .500 4.000 4.500 0 1 0 0 0
Total 55 52 17 2 0 2 4 2 9 .327 .345 .481 .826 0 1 0 0 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/19/2017.

And Hellickson against the Cards:

vs. Batters Table
Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Jedd Gyorko 13 11 2 0 0 0 3 0 3 .182 .154 .182 .336 0 2 0 0 1
Matt Carpenter 10 7 3 1 0 0 0 3 3 .429 .600 .571 1.171 0 0 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 9 9 2 0 0 1 1 0 1 .222 .222 .556 .778 0 0 0 0 0
Stephen Piscotty 9 8 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 .125 .111 .250 .361 0 1 0 0 1
Dexter Fowler 7 7 2 1 0 0 0 0 1 .286 .286 .429 .714 0 0 0 0 0
Aledmys Diaz 6 5 3 1 0 2 2 1 0 .600 .667 2.000 2.667 0 0 0 0 1
Eric Fryer 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .333 .000 .333 0 0 0 1 0
Tommy Pham 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 1
Michael Wacha 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Adam Wainwright 2 2 2 1 0 1 3 0 0 1.000 1.000 3.000 4.000 0 0 0 0 0
Greg Garcia 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Jose Martinez 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 66 58 16 5 0 4 10 4 13 .276 .318 .569 .887 0 3 0 1 4
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/19/2017.

If the Cards don’t win this series, that well may be enough to have Mo give up on that 4-6 week timetable and start making the moves that he needs to make to prepare for 2018.  Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that!

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Last Friday, the day of the John Mozeliak press conference designed to shake things up, the Cardinals were about to start a home stand sitting in fourth place at 26-32 and 4.5 games behind the division leading Milwaukee Brewers.  After last night’s game, they wrapped up that home stand….in third place, 30-35, 4.5 games behind the division leading Milwaukee Brewers.

Here we go again.

What’s more frustrating, as you know, is the fact the Cards won the first four games of the home stand and were leading in the second game of the double header, getting them to dream about being 1/2 game out of first at the end of Tuesday night.  Instead, they lost that game and the two after.  Let’s take our regular look at those final two.

Wednesday (7-6 loss)

Hero: Aledmys Diaz.  Two hits, including a big two-run homer in the eighth that made it seem like a comeback might be happening.  June’s not been too bad to Diaz, though the patience still isn’t there.  He’s walked just twice this month, but he’s hitting .283 with six extra-base hits.  The Cardinals in theory could upgrade at shortstop, but finding franchise anchors there is really, really tough.  If you can’t do that, Diaz is probably good enough to leave out there, depending on your opinion of his defense.

Goat: Mike Leake.  I’ve got to give Leake some credit for hanging in this game and saving the bullpen, but giving up six runs in the first two innings is a very, very good way of putting up an L.  With the doubleheader the night before the Cardinals needed him to stay in the game and he didn’t allow any more, which allowed for a comeback of sort.  Unfortunately, it just wasn’t enough.

Notes: While Leake gets charged with the loss, Kevin Siegrist actually gave up the deciding run on a two-out single to Hernan Perez.  That was the first run charged to Siegrist in a couple of weeks and his ERA is down to 4.38, which I guess is something.  (He did allow two inherited runners to score in Cincinnati, so it’s not been quite as good as the numbers would indicate.)  I think much of that bullpen is really to the point where you throw them out there and hope that this is the good night.  Maybe two times out of three it is, but that third will mess you up.

Tough night for Dexter Fowler as well.  Fowler, who’d been doing pretty well after sliding in behind Matt Carpenter in the lineup, went 0-4 with a double play and four left on, including two in the seventh where a two-out hit would have helped the Cards creep a little closer.

Seven hits for the team, four from Diaz and Carpenter, means that we were probably lucky to see six runs.  Four walks helped, but there’s been a lot of talk about how bad this Milwaukee bullpen is.  Save for Diaz’s homer, we really didn’t see that much in this series.

Thursday (6-4 loss)

Hero: Dexter Fowler.  For the second time on the homestand, Fowler roped an important home run.  This time it tied the game up at 3 right after Milwaukee had taken the lead.  Fowler and Carpenter both had two hits in this one and showed a little more of what this offense was designed to be, though the rest of the team didn’t follow up quite as much as you’d like.  Fowler’s hitting .333 with an OBP of .400 since the shift, so if he’s hitting there and Carpenter’s hitting in the leadoff spot, there’s no real reason to juggle them around for a while.  Maybe it’ll spread!

Goat: Seung-hwan Oh.  Two outs.  Two strikes.  Yes, Eric Thames is a big slugger, but you have to be able to finish off a guy like that if you are a closer, don’t you?  If he gets that last strike they go to the bottom of the ninth tied at four and who knows what happens.  Instead, you have to try to muster two runs in three outs and that’s not an easy task for this club, especially when you are starting at the eighth spot in the lineup.  Everyone knew that Oh would be a little weaker this year than last, but I don’t think anyone really thought that he’d scuffle like he has.  Honestly, he’s probably avoided a lot of grief because the rest of the bullpen has been such a dumpster fire.  If this bullpen had been going like we expected, there’d be a lot more calls for Oh’s return to the eighth.

Now, it’s somewhat relative as well–since the beginning of May Oh has a 2.84 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 19 innings.  However, he’s also allowed 20 hits and eight walks in that span, which means that runners are getting on.  And when runners start getting on, especially for a ground-ball pitcher with a middling defense behind him, things have a chance to go south.

Notes: Paul DeJong returned to St. Louis when Kolten Wong went on the disabled list.  (As Allen Medlock noted–and we’ll probably talk about tonight on Meet Me At Musial–that sort of forearm strain often leads to Tommy John surgery in pitchers.  Since it continues to develop in Wong, you wonder if that might not wind up being an issue.)  We’ll see how often he plays second base over Greg Garcia.  It felt like DeJong might be getting a little exposed, but then again you have to have playing time to really make some adjustments.

John Brebbia got tossed into the fire last night, relieving Michael Wacha with the bases loaded and nobody out.  He gave up a base hit that scored the fourth Brewers run (plus an out–the Brewers did a great job of imitating Cardinal baserunning in that inning) but that was all.  He wound up pitching two innings and wasn’t charged with a run himself.  It was a great way of keeping the club in the game and you have to give him some kudos for that.  Sure, Milwaukee may have helped, but he made the right pitches.

As for Wacha…..what do you say?  Since the infamous “skip for rest”, Wacha’s had six starts.  The line: 1-2 (Cards are 1-5), 27.1 innings, 34 hits, 22 runs (21 earned), 17 walks, 26 strikeouts, 6.91 ERA, a .375 BABIP.  What’s bad is that includes six scoreless innings his first time out and his two runs in six innings against the Phillies last Friday.  Without those in the mix…..  I mean, just look at the innings pitched.  Six, four, three, 4.1, six, four.  That makes it difficult to see Wacha staying in the starting rotation for a lot longer.

John Mozeliak addressed this some in our talk with him on Sunday, talking about how you don’t just willy-nilly move folks to the bullpen from the starting rotation because when it comes to arbitration or free agency, that can be a millions-of-dollars decision.  Which is fair and I agree you want to make a very deliberate decision.  But either Wacha’s hurting or he’s not going to be a starter anymore, at least not for a while.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the Cards don’t wind up placing him on the DL soon with another flareup of that stress reaction, but if that’s the case, it’s pretty obvious you can’t manage it and hope that you can get a good Wacha late into the season.  It’s coming no matter what you do.

So the Cardinals knocked a week off the calendar and basically sit in exactly the same spot.  Not only did they lose a week to try to make up ground, they also lost a week in Mozeliak’s time frame (which, he admitted, was really arbitrary) to evaluate the squad.  All the good feelings that came from beating the Phillies (and it’s probably fair to point out than any era of good feelings this season have seemed to only come when the Cards are playing bad teams) went right out the window.  You would have liked to see St. Louis at least split with Milwaukee and stay 2.5 back, because even though you play your division rivals a lot, you need to make the most out of every opportunity.

We can still say it is a weak division, because it is.  Milwaukee is good, but you wouldn’t be surprised to see them fade.  Chicago still hasn’t found traction and you start to wonder if and when they will.  Cincinnati and Pittsburgh aren’t world beaters.  The Cardinals are in this, but it becomes really hard to say they are ever going to put it together when they are sitting mid-June five games under .500.  Even if they could win the division, does anyone think they go far in the playoffs?  I know, you never know, etc. but is it worth trying to shore up this team on that faint possibility?

It seems unlikely.  More and more it seems like the Cards will move Lance Lynn, maybe the Nationals will want Oh, and do a soft reload to get a few prospects.  I can’t say I’d fault the team for that.  It makes a ton of sense with the squad that they have now.

At least we get to see Carlos Martinez tonight going up against Kevin Gausman and the Baltimore Orioles this evening.  While I’m still not a fan of interleague play, especially not this constant stuff we see, going to Camden Yards for the first time in a while should be a nice novelty.  Do you think that Baltimore would notice if Manny Machado just left town on the Cardinal plane after the series?  Worth a shot, right?

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So Close and Yet So Far

After all the complaints, after all the disappointment, after all the shoddy play, the Cardinals last night were about a run and some outs away from being a half-game out of first place.  A great weekend against the Phillies and a win in the opener of the doubleheader had them on a four-game streak and looking for more.  Then, in true 2017 fashion, bullpen happened.

Before we get to that, though, let’s take a look at the last few games.  We’ve already talked about Friday, so let’s start with Saturday’s masterpiece.

Saturday (7-0 win)

Hero: Carlos Martinez.  It’s nice when the Hero is this clear-cut.  Martinez threw his first career shutout, blanking the Phillies on four hits and striking out 11.  Once the Cardinals put up some runs for him, this game wasn’t ever in doubt.  Martinez has put those April struggles well behind him and again is one of the best pitchers in baseball.

Goat: Aledmys Diaz.  0-4 with two strikeouts and three left on base.

Notes: The Cardinals scored seven runs, but they did so in two cloudbursts.  Jedd Gyorko doubled in the first two and scored on a balk, then Eric Fryer got a fourth run in the inning in.  In the seventh, Matt Carpenter doubled in two and Gyorko tacked on a sacrifice fly.  It wasn’t sustained offense, but it doesn’t have to be if it comes in bunches like that.

I missed this game entirely, traveling to St. Louis for UCB Weekend while it was going on.  At dinner that night, it seemed like everyone else had missed it as well, which led us to wondering if we all just didn’t watch any more games, maybe the Cardinals would win it all.

Sunday (6-5 win)

Hero: Dexter Fowler.  His three-run homer brought the Cards back from an early deficit and he tacked on a double as well.

Goat: Seung-hwan Oh.  Given three runs to work with, Oh wound up needing every bit of that, allowing four hits and two runs before getting the final out of the game.  Being that I had a 6+ hour drive back home after this one, I’d have been very perturbed had it gone into extra innings and wouldn’t have wanted to drive that way fuming if they’d lost, so thankfully Oh settled in and got the outs he needed.  (Plus this let us get a glimpse of Eugene Koo, always a great thing.)

Notes: As is my normal at these things, I didn’t get to watch all of the game even though I was there, spending some time socializing with folks I never get to see.  I was glad that the Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons made an appearance while I was there, though I spent his inning returning to the suites after meeting up with Daniel Winnett and Carly Schaber.  He was just so efficient that even though we left before he started pitching and it wasn’t a far walk, he was still finishing up by time I returned.  I would have liked to see him go another frame, but given what happened yesterday, probably best that he didn’t.

Tommy Pham and Kolten Wong both had multiple hits and Pham stole a base.  I know everyone is concerned about Randal Grichuk coming up and taking Pham’s playing time, but given the moves the Cardinals have made over the last day or so, I’m not so sure that as imminent as people are making it out to be.  It also helped to hear John Mozeliak’s comments on the radio yesterday or Monday saying that removing one of your hottest hitters wouldn’t be a good idea.  I do think Grichuk will return (though apparently he’s hitting .211 in Memphis–in four games he’s got one double and six strikeouts, so he’s still not got it all figured out) and get some playing time, but I don’t know that he’ll completely supplant Pham by any means.

Tuesday (6-0 win in game 1)

Hero: Jose Martinez.  With his mother watching him play professionally for the first time, Martinez put on a show, hitting two home runs and driving in three.  It was a big day for Martinez and something he really needed, as he’d been hitting .150 since he’d returned from the disabled list.  It’s possible that Grichuk’s ascension will come at the expense of Martinez, though that’s as the fourth outfielder, not a starter.

Goat: Tommy Pham.  Of course, everyone has a bad day, as Pham did going 0-4 from the three hole in this one.  And Pham has been a little cooler of late anyway, hitting .231 in June (counting both games of the doubleheader) with only one extra base hit.  He’s also started every game in that time period.  If Grichuk actually was tearing the cover off the ball in Memphis, the swap might make a little more sense than you’d think on the face of it.  That said, I’m fine with riding Pham for a while, especially since he’s drawn eight walks and his OBP is .375 in the month.

Notes: Tyler Lyons got the three-inning save in this one, saving the bullpen for the second game (when it got used quite a bit).  The Patron Pitcher struck out two and allowed three hits and basically saved the day, which is what you’d expect from 70, right?

Lyons was needed because Lance Lynn started and only went five innings.  This time when he was pulled after a short stint, at least the pitch count was used as supporting evidence.  Lynn struck out eight and walked four, so he was at 95 pitches at the end of the fifth during a hot afternoon in St. Louis.  You’d have liked to get another inning out of him given the doubleheader, but I don’t think you could expect Mike Matheny to send him back out with those conditions.

Fowler had a couple of hits, Matt Carpenter had a double, and the offense did just enough to supplement Martinez’s big day.  At the end of this one, the Cardinals were a game and a half out of first and looking more like a contending team.

Tuesday (8-5 loss in game 2)

Hero: Matt Carpenter.  Carpenter said himself that he thought his swing was coming around before he was moved back to the leadoff spot and he knew everyone would jump to that reason for him starting to hit.  Maybe, Carp, maybe, but the fact is that Carpenter hit .105/.150/.105 in the five games leading up to him moving into the leadoff spot against the Reds.  Since then, he’s had a hit in every game and a line of .393/.433/.857 with three home runs.  All the arguments in the world about his success not being tied to where he is hitting may and probably are valid, but the other side of that argument just points to these lines.  You have to start to wonder.

Goat: Trevor Rosenthal.  With Carpenter’s home run tying up the game, after the club had dug out of that three-run deficit, Matheny logically turned to Rosenthal.  To say Rosie didn’t have it last night is probably a huge understatement.  Four batters faced.  Two walks.  Two hits.  One run in while he’s on the mound, two more come in after Oh relieves him.  (You can’t fault Oh too much–bases loaded nobody out is a rough situation to come into.)  Nights like this happen, but when it is to the most trusted part of a shaky bullpen, it’s not good.  Hopefully it’s a one time thing and there’s really no reason right now to think it’s not.  That’s the worst he’s had this year, but he did allow two runs against Boston in an inning earlier this year, then went four more outings before allowing another one.  If he struggles next time out, then all bets are off.

Notes: When Marco Gonzales lost it, he lost it fast.  Gonzales, called up as the extra player for the doubleheader, got through the first three frames with only one run allowed and held a 2-1 lead when the fourth opened up.  He quickly allowed back-to-back homers to give up the lead, then a double and a triple after he recorded an out before being pulled from the game.  The consensus I was hearing after he left the contest was that folks think Gonzales would make a solid bullpen piece instead of a starter and there’s some logic to that.  If nothing else, there’s an overabundance of starters either currently in St. Louis or on the way, so it would help clear a little bit of a log jam.  We’ll see how Gonzales is used if and when he returns to the big leagues.

The Cardinals hit into three double plays in this one, one being Eric Fryer with the bases loaded (it got a run in, but it was also so expected–if Yadier Molina hadn’t played in the opener and been out all weekend with back issues, you’d have hoped for a pinch-hitter there).  While you hate to see that, I will say that the first two especially were smooth, beautiful plays by the Brewers.  Given I grew up on Ozzie Smith, seeing a well-executed double play is a really fun thing to watch and I have to tip my hat to the Brewer infielders for showing some skills.

Kolten Wong had another multi-hit game.  That’s three of them since returning from the disabled list on Friday, giving him a line of .444 with an OPS of 1.111 over that span.  For the season, Wong had his batting average almost at .300, which is pretty impressive given he was under .200 on April 22nd and he’s missed some time in there.  It’s good to know that “just play him” mantra seems to have been working out.  (To be fair, at times last year the same thing was said about Grichuk, but nobody wants that now.)

The Cardinals can’t take over first place in this series, falling to 2.5 games out with the loss with just two more matchups against the Brewers.  They can try to cut into the lead, though, and tonight they’ll send Mike Leake to the mound to do that against Matt Garza.  Leake hasn’t been as dominant as he was earlier in the year, but that’s not surprising.  Hopefully he’ll be able to keep the Milwaukee bats a bit quiet, though.

vs. Batters Table
Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Keon Broxton 4 4 1 1 0 0 0 0 2 .250 .250 .500 .750 0 0 0 0 1
Wily Peralta 4 4 1 1 0 0 2 0 2 .250 .250 .500 .750 0 0 0 0 0
Jesus Aguilar 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Chase Anderson 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Nick Franklin 3 3 1 0 0 1 2 0 1 .333 .333 1.333 1.667 0 0 0 0 0
Hernan Perez 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Manny Pina 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .333 .000 .333 0 0 0 0 0
Domingo Santana 3 3 1 1 0 0 0 0 2 .333 .333 .667 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Travis Shaw 3 2 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 1 0 0 0
Eric Sogard 3 3 1 0 1 0 1 0 0 .333 .333 1.000 1.333 0 0 0 0 0
Eric Thames 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Orlando Arcia 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Junior Guerra 2 2 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 1.000 1.500 0 0 0 0 0
Jimmy Nelson 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 41 39 7 4 1 1 6 1 16 .179 .195 .410 .605 0 1 0 0 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/14/2017.

Garza’s an old familiar face to most of these guys, though they’ve actually not had a lot of success against him. Garza’s coming off the DL in time to make this start, so we’ll see if there’s any rust there.

vs. Batters Table
Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Matt Carpenter 30 25 6 1 0 0 1 5 1 .240 .367 .280 .647 0 0 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 24 22 5 0 0 1 6 1 3 .227 .250 .364 .614 0 1 0 0 0
Dexter Fowler 21 15 3 1 0 0 0 6 5 .200 .429 .267 .695 0 0 0 0 0
Kolten Wong 12 10 1 0 0 0 0 2 1 .100 .250 .100 .350 0 0 0 0 0
Greg Garcia 5 5 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 .200 .200 .200 .400 0 0 0 0 0
Lance Lynn 5 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 1 0 0 0 0
Adam Wainwright 5 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Aledmys Diaz 4 4 2 1 0 0 1 0 1 .500 .500 .750 1.250 0 0 0 0 0
Eric Fryer 4 4 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .250 .250 .250 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Mike Leake 4 4 1 0 0 0 1 0 2 .250 .250 .250 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Jedd Gyorko 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Carlos Martinez 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Tommy Pham 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .333 .000 .333 0 0 0 0 0
Stephen Piscotty 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 124 106 20 3 0 1 9 16 21 .189 .293 .245 .538 1 1 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/14/2017.

If you enjoyed my wrapup of the blogger interaction with John Mozeliak, Colin Garner has the entire transcript up over at The Redbird Daily, so you can see what I missed and exactly what Mo said.  Here’s hoping for the start of another winning streak!

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For seven straight years, the Cardinals have hosted the bloggers, allowing Q&A with John Mozeliak and Bill DeWitt III.  And for the seventh straight year, everyone there has come away with a similar thought.

Man, Mo can be a candid guy.

I didn’t take notes this year, so perhaps other bloggers in the group will write up some different thoughts and comments from the general manager throughout the day and week, but going from memory here are a few things Mozeliak talked about.  These are not really in order, just some things I still remember after a fun game, a lot of talking with old friends and new, and a long drive home.  All quotes are generally accurate, though perhaps not word for word.  (My thanks to Kevin Reynolds’ Twitter timeline for refreshing my memory on a couple of the last items.)

–After asking if we wanted him to just talk or do just Q&A (and we basically said “both”), he addressed how it hadn’t been a good season, that Friday’s moves at the press conference were tough to do but necessary, that the offseason moves hadn’t turned out well.  “In my job, it’s kinda like playing roulette at a casino.  You put your money on red, you put your money on black.  Unfortunately, right now we keep rolling craps.”  He also talked about the reputation the Cardinals have now about finishing runner-up, jokingly saying “maybe we should go back to finishing seventh.”

Zach Gifford (as you would expect) had the most technical questions of the bunch.  He asked about launch angle and how that information that is out there now is affecting how they instruction and help players.  In response, Mo said that two years ago we’d have been talking about exit velocity, now it’s launch angle.  (I think that some believed Mo was saying that the stuff publicly available was two years behind what the clubs have, but thinking back on it I don’t believe that was his intention, though obviously they do have better stuff than anyone else.)  He said there were two things with launch angle.  One, as Zach had said, you have to have the velocity to hit with that angle, otherwise you just have harmless fly balls.  The second was that he believed you’d start seeing catchers adjust and start calling for higher fastballs, because if you have the same launch angle on a higher pitch, it’s more likely to be a popup/flyout.  (I hope Zach writes on this soon in case I misunderstood the discussion, which is completely possible.)

–Zach also asked about Brett Cecil’s spin rate being down and what that might indicate.  Mozeliak thought that what it said to him was that there was a mechanical issue there, something that could be adjusted in season if they can find what it is. Assuming he’s not hurt, of course, “and he says he’s not hurt, which at some point all you can do is trust the player.”

–Carson Kelly could have been up this weekend had Mo known Yadier Molina was going to be out all weekend long.  The word he had from the coaching staff was “day-to-day, day-to-day” and it turned into a time where they could have used the 10-day DL.  Between that and the next item, it indicated to me that the lines of communication between the front office and the dugout weren’t always as accurate and smooth as we sometimes think they are.

–Mo prefers the 13 hitters/12 pitchers roster makeup, but the coaching staff is fairly adamant about the other configuration and he’s about giving them the tools they need.  He also said that while the club did have 13 hitters right now, he thought it would probably flip this week with the double-header and stay that way for a while.  He also dropped that Marco Gonzales would be pitching in the doubleheader on Tuesday, which none of the group had heard beforehand.

–He hopes and does not expect to make any other coaching changes during the season.  He said that it is difficult to uproot folks mid-season and he didn’t want them to be going about their job in fear.  Which is something I said on Friday, that it seemed really unlikely that Matheny would be moved during the year.  That said, Mo did emphasize during the season and the issues around in there.  While I expect Matheny would be back for 2018, there is no guarantee that something would not happen in the offseason.  (I will say that Bill DeWitt III, responding to a question from Mary Clausen at the end of the business portion of the event, rated Matheny well, saying he was “between a B+ and an A+, and I’ll let you decide which grade goes on which” on the four things a manager had to deal with–game tactics, player personnel, media, and…shoot, I’m forgetting the last.  Old age, folks.  It’s real.)

–I asked about how they avoid groupthink.  (Starting off my question with “The Cardinals have been successful for 20 years….” Mo interrupted and said “you can write that, you know” as he looked around the room.)  He said that they aren’t afraid to challenge people.  “I’ve had arguments with Bill’s dad, I’ve had arguments with Mike Matheny.”  What I also found very interesting is that they assigned a “devil’s advocate” to any trade or free agent signing they are discussion.  One person whose job it is to point out all the reasons that this might not be a good idea.  “Then we take a night to sleep on it.”  Mo said that he’s even been the devil’s advocate at times.  With as much continuity as there has been in the front office and in management, it’s good to have ways to make sure that flaws not only can be found, but discussed.  You want everyone on the same page, but you don’t necessarily need every one on the same sentence.

–When Kevin Reynolds asked about how he handles social media criticism, he talked about reading us (something that he’s talked about before) and he says that sometimes we don’t get it, but then “sometimes [local writer] doesn’t get it either”. Which is pretty interesting to hear, honestly.  We tend to think of the local writers as at least having a pretty strong insight to the front office.  (And here I’m referring mainly to the beat writers like Jenifer Langosch and Derrick Goold, because the columnists have their opinions built-in for the most part.)  It’s good to know that, for all their access and information, they can still get it completely wrong often as well.

–He also was more complementary of the blogosphere than Twitter, which is something that I’ve often said and for some of the same reasons.  With a blog, you’ve got to be more thought-out, more supportive of your ideas and thoughts.  Twitter’s a great place for reaction and passion, but depth isn’t great in 140 characters. He also gave a shoutout to STL CardGals, saying he’d watched their vlogs and how they’d been depressed lately.  It was pretty cool to see him give a real example of what he’d heard and read to back up the claim that he does read our stuff (not saying that he wasn’t telling the truth, of course).  Maybe Tara and I have been right all these years when we say he listens to Gateway!

Kyle Reis, of course, asked about Luis Robert and that whole process.  Mo said that it was a money issue.  “There was a lot of talk about the White Sox recruiting him.  We made a video too.”  (Ron Watermon chimed in “It was even in Spanish” and Mo off-handedly said he was “0-2 in videos”, which makes me wonder who the other one was.  David Price?)  It boiled down to the fact that if you are going to spend $50 million on a player, he’s really got to be good.  There was a limit they could stomach, but it felt like the White Sox went beyond that.  (Which counters some of what I’d heard that the Cardinals had offered more.  I imagine Kyle and I will talk about that this week for his Meet Me at Musial segment).  He also pointed out that you have to get that value early, because all you are doing is signing the player.  He still gets to be arbitration-eligible after three years, etc.

–When asked about the coming free agent market over the next few years, he allowed that it factored into their plans.  Earlier, he’d said that he didn’t see that impact bat the Cardinals needed in the minor leagues right now. (“We had hopes on Grichuk, but again, rolled craps.”)  As the GM put it “There’s three ways to get talent, right–free agent, trade, produce.  If you can’t produce, you have to go the other two ways.”

–When talking about the bullpen and its issues this year, Mozeliak said that the biggest factor wasn’t one that many people had talked about.  “When Alex Reyes went down, everyone thought that we’d had lost a starter.  Alex Reyes was never going to start the season in the rotation.  He was always going to begin in the bullpen.”  There’s no doubt that power arm would have been a huge help in some of the early games that the club blew.

–Mo liked to use the phrase “behind the curtain” in our discussions and the most telling one may have been about the promotion of Magneuris Sierra and how it was really due to Allen Cordoba, the shortstop taken from the Cards by the Padres in the Rule 5 draft.  Mozeliak noted that only one other person had been taken from the league that Cordoba had been playing in (the Appalachian League) and they’d been returned, so they felt pretty sure nobody would be taking Cordoba due to that history.  “Now we’re the one outlier.”  So when he saw that Cordoba had gone from short-season ball to the majors and been successful, he felt he could take Sierra from High A and give him a shot.  He did say it was mainly because of his defense and speed, so the hitting was just a nice bonus.  He did not say what the plans were for Sierra the rest of the year were, however.

There were other things that Mo got into.  We started at noon, basically went right to him as Bill DeWitt III was running a bit late, and I imagine he talked and took questions for 35-40 minutes.  Finally, he turned it over to BDW3, who spoke more to the business side of things, saying they were in line for 3.3 million right now (which is a bit down from the targeted 3.4, though he didn’t make mention of that) and they have one of the largest season-ticket bases in baseball at 22K.  (So before any other tickets are sold, over half the stadium is sold out.)  He reiterated how great the fan base was for turning out and making them consistently in the top 5 in MLB in attendance in the 24th largest market.

He also thought how awful the team looked (sartorially) out in Colorado with the camo uniforms, topped by a red batting helmet.  BDW3 has always been big on the fashion and look of the game–he was the one with significant input on the alternate jerseys, as well as some of the use of the navy blue caps on the road and various logos throughout the years–and it was interesting to hear him say that.  Of course, as I found out when I asked, all the proceeds of those jerseys (and the other special ones like Mother’s Day, etc.) go to charities relating to the day, so he can’t do too much about it without looking like the big bad guy.

I believe it was Zach who asked him about valuations of the teams and how much they paid attention to it.  He said if they were selling, they would pay attention more, but they are in this for the long haul and don’t really worry much about it.  He did say they were “trophy assets” and said he thought value over cash flow might be overstated–“infinitely in Miami”, one of a couple of times he threw a little shade toward the Marlins.

He also talked about improvements at the ballpark and that every year they have in the budget around $10 million to upgrade and refurbish the park.  As he said, they aren’t going to be the Braves and look for a new stadium 20 years after opening.  They’ve got Ballpark Village Phase I up, Phase II about to kick off, and Phase III in plans “and it doesn’t make sense to do all that, then move the ballpark.”  He said they hoped to hit the sweet spot between the Wrigley Field of five or so years ago, when there was nothing but the game, and some other parks where there’s all these bells and whistles and everything overshadows the actual game.  They are looking at a lot of different things, but referencing a system a couple of teams have put in where you can order concessions from your phone, get a text when they are ready, go to a locker and put in the code, and take out your food (three teams have tried it, two teams are having huge headaches with it) that sometimes it’s better in this area to be second, let others try it out, work out the kinks, see if it’s effective, before jumping in and going full bore.

We also got a short presentation from the marketing department, talking about some items in the team store, especially the 125th anniversary merchandise and the fact they’d revamped their hat displays and inventories around the ballpark.  (I think he said they had 1200 different caps in the stadium, which seems insane when you think about it.)  He also mentioned the fidget spinners, which I actually had purchased earlier in the day for my son.  He said the first shipment of those sold out before the end of the first day and they’d just gotten in a second shipment a day or so later.  While, like everything, they are expensive, they weren’t quite as insane as I expected.  My son had one he’d bought here for $10 and these were going for $15.  (He got up before I headed to work this morning and was excited to see it.  Said it spun very well, if it was a little larger than what he’d been used to.  So count that as a recommendation.)

We also heard from one of the chefs and a guy in charge of the food truck.  The food in the suites was again wonderful, as it always is.  They had the sliders that are new at the ballpark, a hero sandwich which was delightful, a nacho bar, small bratwursts, and great cookies and brownies.  They always feed us well up there.

It was a great trip and we can’t thank the Cardinals, especially Marybeth Rea who was our contact and Ron Watermon who heads up that department, John Mozeliak, and Bill DeWitt III enough for their time and candor.  It’s nice to know that our focus on the team is appreciated, even in a small way!

 

The 2017 UCB crew. Photo courtesy of Chet Novak (4thebirdz).

 

I had to get a picture with our celebrities, Holly and Laura of STL CardGals!

 

It’s probably safest for you that my Meet Me at Musial cohost Allen Medlock and I are in the shade. We are definitely designed for radio, right Allen?

 

The Redbird Daily crew and alumni: Zach Gifford (now at The Intrepid STL), Kyle Reis, Allen Medlock, Adam Butler, Rusty Groppel, Colin Garner

 

Milling around before the activities began

 

Bill DeWitt III, with Ron Watermon and Marybeth Rea

Some bloggers that have been around since the beginning–Bob Netherton (@CardinalTales, center) with Bill and Angela Ivie (@poisonwilliam and @CardsChic from I70 Baseball)

Ron Watermon getting things started with John Mozeliak perhaps bracing for what was to come.

Our view from the seats. Nothing like the green grass on a sunny afternoon at Busch!

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The Cardinals snapped their seven-game losing streak last night with a 3-2 win over the Philadelphia Phillies.  While welcome, that’s not really what everyone is talking about the day after.  No, that goes to an unprecedented press conference by John Mozeliak, which announced more staff changes than the Cardinals have done in-season in a long time, maybe forever.

You know all this by now, but to recap:

  • Third base coach Chris Maloney was “reassigned in the organization”.
  • Quality control coach Mike Shildt will take over Maloney’s work at third base and with the outfielders, “pumping the breaks” on his QC work.
  • Assistant hitting coach Bill Mueller is taking a personal leave of absence.
  • Memphis hitting coach Mark Budaska will fill in for Mueller.
  • Ron “Pop” Warner, another minor league instructor, joins the staff in a nebulous role.
  • And, as expected, Jhonny Peralta was designated for assignment as Kolten Wong comes off the disabled list.

Allen and I got together on Meet Me at Musial last night and talked about all this, but the title of the episode is the real focal point.  From the outside looking in, none of these changes seem like they’ll do a lot to correct the problems the Cardinals are having.  Yes, maybe they’ll lose a few less runners at home plate without Maloney sending them, but we’ll see.  (It’s funny, one of the earliest complaints of the season was Maloney NOT sending Randal Grichuk in the game against the Yankees.  Ah, memories.)  This might play as a jolt to the players, but how much is it really going to accomplish?

Given the offensive struggles (something that did not stop last night, even if there was a win attached), it may be interesting to see how Budaska and John Mabry work together.  Mozeliak noted that Budaska has a “different voice” than Mabry, which could be a good thing, probably is a good thing.  But how do you reconcile the two voices?  If a player is getting these notes from Mabry and those notes from Budaska, who do they go with?  Are they just going to get more confused?  I assume that their general philosophies are the same and there won’t be too much discord, but it will be something to watch.  Because if there’s dissonance, who gets to win out?  And if there isn’t, if the Cardinals start hitting now, how much is going to be associated with Budaska?  In other words, this is pretty close to a no-win situation for Mabry, in my book.  An offensive surge might get him saved until the end of the year, but if he can’t tie some change of his to that push, it is hard to bring him back for 2018.

While Warner is there to “help in whatever role is necessary”, you have to look at the fact that there are a lot of former managers on this team now, folks that could step in should there, say, become an opening at the top of the Cardinals’ organizational chart.  Shildt, Warner, even Oliver Marmol have more experience than Mike Matheny did when he took over for Tony La Russa.  For the first time, Mozeliak indicated that no one, not even himself, is really safe here if things don’t turn around.  It’s still difficult to imagine the Cardinals firing Matheny before his three-year extension even kicks in, but it’s hard to imagine a team that’s looked this bad and had results like this as well.

In a quick search to see if the financial details of that extension were publicized (and I didn’t find that they were), I found this quote from Mozeliak at the time of the extension last November.

“With Mike, whether you agree with how he calls a game or not, he certainly has the respect of his players and he gets the most out of them.”

Is that true anymore?  You have to wonder how true it was then, given the comments Wong had made last September.  Obviously most of the players are fans of the manager, but how many aren’t?  How much dissention is actually in that clubhouse?  Tommy Pham, speaking about the loss of Peralta, a loss that apparently really hit him hard, said (and I can’t find the direct quote at the moment) that Peralta was a true professional, a guy that wasn’t part of the “ping-pong club, the chess club, the video game club” but just came to play baseball.  How much of that sentiment floats throughout the dugout?  Maybe not much.  Maybe it’s just Pham, which might find Pham traded because dealing with one players is easier than dealing with an entire situation.  (It would also somewhat make the idea that Randal Grichuk is coming up soon to “sink or swim” more believable, because there is no reason to see Grichuk play regularly over Pham given how Tommy’s hitting.)

If it’s more than just a player or two, though, you have to wonder about Matheny because that’s what he was supposed to be good at. He wasn’t hired because of his theories on the double-switch or the bunt or bullpen usage.  He was hired to be a great clubhouse guy who kept everyone on the same page and on task.  If he’s failing at that–and I say if, because there’s rarely been any talk against him or the clubhouse culture in the media, so we have to at least give the assumption that everything is fairly well–then you have to think that, extension or no, Matheny might be gone.

However, to the disappointment of many a Matheny critic, I don’t really believe it’ll be in 2017.  Mozeliak said that he’d take 4-6 weeks (basically up to the All-Star Break) to evaluate this team and see what they need to do from here.  If the club doesn’t respond, if they are so far out of it that they need to start moving pieces, does it really make any sense to fire Matheny then instead of at the end of the year?  You aren’t going anywhere in 2018.  You’d probably just get an interim guy (one of those mentioned above, probably) which I guess could be an extended tryout for the job but you probably aren’t going to make a permanent decision until you can open up the field in the offseason.  It would seem just as easy to let Matheny manage the rest of the year and then let him go on October 2.

A lot of this, as I’ve said before and Benjamin Hochman reiterated in his column, relies on guys they are expecting to hit actually hitting.  You can’t do anything about Dexter Fowler–he’s got to get back to what he normally can do.  It’s unlikely you are going to do anything about Matt Carpenter–he’s just got to hit like he can.  Aledmys Diaz is going to play shortstop.  Stephen Piscotty is going to be in the outfield (though, to be fair, Piscotty does seem to have picked it up some lately).  There’s only so much this club can do.  The players that are there–Brett Cecil on the pitching side–are just going to have to approach their career averages.  We’re not asking for All-Star seasons, just their normal level of competence.  If the club gets that, they’ll go on a run.  If they don’t, mid-July might be interesting for different reasons.

Then the Cardinals played a ball game.  It would have been pretty stunning if these changes made an impact right away, so it’s probably not a big surprise that things looked a lot like they had the last seven games, just that they were playing a team that was as bad in those areas as they are in the Phillies.  Michael Wacha pitched well enough, but again the Phillies have a worse offense than the Cardinals do.  I can’t get terribly excited about two runs over six innings here.  It’s much better than what he’s been doing, don’t get me wrong, but let’s see how he does against the Brewers his next turn out before we even think about being optimistic.

The offense did get baserunners on, at least against Jeremy Hellickson, but couldn’t get many of them in.  We’ll give our Hero tag to Aledmys Diaz, who hit the tie-breaking home run, because that was a huge shot in the arm to this team. And it was good to see so many folks get multiple hits after a string of games with one, maybe two players with that stat.  If only some people had had multiple RBI…..  The Goat will go to Eric Fryer, who was one of the few that didn’t get any hits, plus he struck out twice and left four on.  Fryer was a late sub for Yadier Molina, whose back issues hopefully will be cleared up by today.

It’s Carlos Martinez versus Nick Pivetta today.  Even though Martinez lost last time out, he still looked pretty good until his last inning.  Given the state of the Phillies right now, you like his chances to at least do his part to a win. Interestingly enough, he’s not seen many of these hitters from Philadelphia much.

vs. Batters Table
Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Freddy Galvis 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Odubel Herrera 3 3 2 0 0 0 1 0 1 .667 .667 .667 1.333 0 0 0 0 0
Howie Kendrick 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Daniel Nava 2 2 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 1.000 1.500 0 0 0 0 0
Cameron Rupp 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 13 13 4 1 0 0 1 0 3 .308 .308 .385 .692 0 0 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/10/2017.

As for Pivetta, well, he’s a rookie so the Cards haven’t faced him.  He is a right-hander, which is good, and he’s got a 5.18 ERA on the season.  It’s a player you’d like to think the Cards could really beat up on, but in the past they haven’t.  Should be interesting to see which kind of result we see today.

Now I’ve got to finish getting ready and head up the hill to St. Louis.  Looking forward to meeting with a lot of the Cardinal bloggers and podcasters tonight before our event at the stadium on Sunday.  If you are out around Creve Coeur Lakehouse at 6:30 tonight, stop by and say hi to us!

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Seven Ain’t Heaven

You get swept by the Cubs in their ballpark.  OK, not great, but even given how they are playing, they are still the World Champs.  You can rationalize that a little bit.

Getting swept–in a four-game series, mind you–by the Reds in their ballpark?  While scoring a total of nine runs against a statistically terrible pitching staff in a historically great hitter’s park?  Come on, Scooter Gennett accounted for more runs in one game!

According to Derrick Goold’s article, this is the worst the Cardinals have been in 10 years.  Ten years ago, the front office was going through this internal schism between the old guard and the new guard, the “proven veteran” camp vs. the “draft and develop” camp.  Maybe that played into it a little bit then, without a solid direction to go, but now the focus and vision is there, folks just aren’t getting it done.

Mike Leake is starting to pay for that early spectacular run.  He didn’t allow any home runs yesterday and allowing three runs (two earned, due to a Yadier Molina throwing error) isn’t real bad, but doing it in five innings isn’t wonderful.  He danced around some trouble, allowing 10 hits and two walks, which meant he was at 86 pitches when his turn to hit came up in the top of the sixth.  It’s a little surprising, given the bullpen, that Mike Matheny didn’t run him back out there to see if he could get through another inning, but it’s not like Leake was cruising and I’m sure the hope was to start the sixth with a leadoff runner, though Chad Huffman didn’t oblige.

Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons is going through a rough stretch as well, allowing a two-run homer to Joey Votto in his one inning of work yesterday.  Lyons did strike out two, but letting Votto get to you puts a damper on the idea of using him as the lefty-killer while Brett Cecil and Kevin Siegrist struggle with those guys.

The Goat tag is a little tough in this one.  I mean, Leake didn’t do great, but that line shouldn’t be the reason the team lost.  I guess I’ll go with Tommy Pham, who went 0-3 and left three runners on, but really, who wasn’t the Goat in this one?

Oh, I guess that’d be Matt Carpenter, who gets to be the Hero.  Carpenter, back in the leadoff role for the second day in a row, hit a home run for the second day in a row to be the bulk of the offense.  Carpenter had two hits and, given how baseball works, will probably stay in that leadoff spot for a little bit.  Which, given that Dexter Fowler isn’t quite to the OBP level that he’s been in the past, may not be the worst thing.  We’ll see if they ever flip it back around, though.

So everything is going wrong.  How do you fix it?  As Dexter Fowler said, “If I had an answer, we’d be better.”

Look, we can talk and talk about this roster.  We can talk about how Jhonny Peralta needs to go.  We can talk about the return of Kolten Wong or whether Randal Grichuk‘s quick trip to Palm Beach (he’s back to Memphis now) will produce results.  We can talk about a lot of things, but until Fowler, Carpenter, Cecil, and others start playing more like their career averages and less like….whatever this is here, it’s not going to matter.  There are too many unmovable folks, for whatever reason, that aren’t playing up to par.  If this offense could even get to the middle of the pack in baseball instead of hanging out around 28th, there’d be a lot more wins.

John Mozeliak is going to have to do something, but what that is, what that can be to really invigorate this team, I don’t know.  Being that today’s the first day of a homestand, there could be a few things that’ll happen today (most likely the return of Wong/release of Peralta) but we’ll have to wait and see.

Maybe the best thing is what the schedule brings them–a weekend set with the Philadelphia Phillies.  The Phillies are one of the few offenses worse than the Cardinals, which is something.  Even as far gone as this current Redbirds team seems to be, you would feel that it’s a winnable series.

Facing a weak offense may be what Michael Wacha needs right now.  He’s faced the Dodgers twice and the Cubs in his last three starts and has an 11.91 ERA to show for it.  If he gets lit up by the Phillies, the injury talk will really ramp up and with good reason.  Unfortunately, it looks like he’s had his issues with these guys in the past.

vs. Batters Table
Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Freddy Galvis 9 9 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 .222 .222 .222 .444 0 0 0 0 0
Howie Kendrick 9 8 4 0 0 1 3 1 2 .500 .556 .875 1.431 0 0 0 0 0
Maikel Franco 7 7 3 2 0 0 1 0 2 .429 .429 .714 1.143 0 0 0 0 0
Odubel Herrera 7 5 2 1 0 0 2 1 0 .400 .500 .600 1.100 1 0 0 0 0
Cesar Hernandez 6 6 2 1 0 0 2 0 0 .333 .333 .500 .833 0 0 0 0 0
Cameron Rupp 5 4 1 0 0 0 0 1 2 .250 .400 .250 .650 0 0 0 0 0
Aaron Nola 3 3 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .667 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Adam Morgan 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Michael Saunders 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 50 46 15 5 0 1 8 3 9 .326 .367 .500 .867 1 0 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/9/2017.

Jeremy Hellickson will go for the Phillies.  Hellickson, who was expected to be a trade target last year at the deadline, has been going south as well as of late.  He’s got a 4.50 ERA overall, but hasn’t allowed less than four runs in his last three starts, including seven against the Rockies at home.  You’d like to think this is a great matchup to get some guys on track.  They’ll have to overcome their past history to do it, though.

vs. Batters Table
Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Jhonny Peralta 13 11 3 0 0 0 0 2 5 .273 .385 .273 .657 0 0 0 0 0
Jedd Gyorko 10 8 0 0 0 0 2 0 3 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 2 0 0 1
Yadier Molina 9 9 2 0 0 1 1 0 1 .222 .222 .556 .778 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Carpenter 6 3 1 1 0 0 0 3 2 .333 .667 .667 1.333 0 0 0 0 0
Stephen Piscotty 6 6 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 .167 .167 .333 .500 0 0 0 0 1
Aledmys Diaz 3 2 1 0 0 1 1 1 0 .500 .667 2.000 2.667 0 0 0 0 0
Dexter Fowler 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Adam Wainwright 2 2 2 1 0 1 3 0 0 1.000 1.000 3.000 4.000 0 0 0 0 0
Greg Garcia 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 53 45 10 3 0 3 7 6 13 .222 .302 .489 .791 0 2 0 0 2
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/9/2017.

The Cardinals have to win this series.  Losing two of three to the Phillies might be the thing that gets you to be a seller at the deadline instead of a buyer.  Here’s hoping to a great weekend of baseball, especially Sunday when I’ll be on site!

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Many of you may have thought that it was the Cardinals’ weak play against the Reds that has kept me away from the computer, but that’s not quite the truth.  (That said, it’s hard to get too motivated about writing about yet more losses.)  There have been a few things going on, most notably my grandmother being fairly ill.  Thankfully she’s out of the hospital and looking like she’s improving, but prayers still wouldn’t go amiss.  We’ve got some time before today’s final game in Cincinnati, though, so let’s see what we can do.

Monday (4-2 loss)

Hero: Yadier Molina, I guess? He had two hits–as is a recurring refrain, only one person got two hits in the game–and I still wonder how the game goes if he fields Billy Hamilton‘s bunt in the seventh instead of Carlos Martinez trying to.  Molina gave Martinez quite a look because it appeared he could come up and throw and hopefully nip Hamilton at first.  If that inning starts with an out, perhaps we’re not talking about a six-game losing streak.  (Just five of six, which is so much better, you know.)

Goat: You can blame some of the pitching, which is legitimate, but let’s also note the Cardinals scored two runs in Great American Ball Park.  Part of that was due to the cleanup hitter.  Jedd Gyorko went 0-4, struck out three times, and the time he didn’t strike out, he hit into a double play.  That’s pretty much a textbook bad night at the ballpark.

Notes: Martinez’s line looks like he had a much worse game than he did. He allowed a total of six baserunners by hit or walk.  Four of them came in the seventh inning.  Before then, he was in lockdown mode, giving the Reds nothing and making it look like two runs would be fine in GABP.  Then, like I said, he misplayed Hamilton’s bunt and everything quickly went downhill.

Two of the runs scored on his watch and two were let in by Kevin Siegrist, who allowed a double to the left-handed Scooter Gennett (which, given the next night, could have been much worse), allowing the other two runners to score.  Siegrist still has trouble with lefties (a .915 OPS against this year) and given how Brett Cecil is doing this season (another topic for later on), you wonder if Mike Matheny wouldn’t just be wiser to give up on the matchups.  Of course, that means letting your best relievers go in the best situations, but the Cardinals don’t necessarily have “best relievers” right now.

Dexter Fowler had a hit and a walk, which continues to make you think that he’s going to get clicking on offense soon, but dropped a ball in the outfield that led to the two runs Martinez gave up.  While the current stats rated that as a 75% catch probability, Fowler afterwards said it was a hard catch and I imagine it was.  It was in the glove, so he should have made the catch, but it’s not like it was an easy fly ball that he let go.  Even if he catches it, one run is coming in anyway given the bases were loaded.  Maybe Martinez could have gotten out of it, but he wasn’t having much success that inning.

When you lose a game with your ace pitching after a series sweep, it’s pretty demoralizing.  It wasn’t going to get any better.

Tuesday (13-1 loss)

Hero: Stephen Piscotty.  Two for three with a walk and a solo homer to make sure that the Cards didn’t get shut out.  Piscotty’s approach and results since returning from his family sabbatical have been significantly better than what we saw earlier in the year.  It’s not perfect, but Piscotty might be one of the few bats you can at least somewhat rely on in this lineup right now.

Goat: Here’s what I wrote after Adam Wainwright‘s last game.

Tara and I have noted on Gateway before that he had a few good stretches last year even as the year as a whole was pretty miserable, but it’s tough to find something that really compares to this.  July of 2016 he had an ERA of 1.77 in five games due to that complete game shutout he threw against the Marlins and his first game in August was pretty good as well, but that stretch was bookended by six run outings.  It does feel like this is a different Wainwright than what we saw earlier in the season–I mean, it really is given the results and how deep he’s going into games–but there’s no guarantee those struggles won’t return.

I’m so glad I put that last qualifier in there.  The Wainwright that took the hill got results that the bad Waino from earlier in the year would have sent back as not good enough.  Nine runs in less than four innings, punctuated by the first of Gennett’s four homers, the grand slam.

Now, in fairness, Waino throughout his career has had blowups that register on the Richter scale.  He’s had 20 games in his career where he’s allowed six runs or more.  He’s had 266 starts, which means 7.5% of the time, he lays one of these stinkers.  So it’s very possible that the good Wainwright that we saw before this game will resurface next time out.  (Probably helps that he’ll be facing the Phillies, one of the few teams worse offensively than the Cardinals.)  Given how the early part of his season went, I think folks will be forgiven for not expecting anything out of a Wainwright start for a long while.

Notes: After being with the club almost a week, John Gant finally got to make his debut with the Cardinals.  It actually went pretty well.  He gave up two homers to Gennett (the first of which helped close the book on Wainwright) but went 3.1 innings with only one other hit allowed.  Given how much he worked, though, it wasn’t terribly surprising to see him sent to Memphis on Wednesday.  He wasn’t going to be able to do anything for 3-4 days, you wouldn’t think, so they might as well not play with a short roster.  It’s a novel idea, I know, but they figured it was time to try anything.  Whether Chad Huffman really is worth trying, we’ll find out.  The roster shenanigans this weekend when Kolten Wong comes back should be interesting.

John Brebbia got into this history books by allowing Gennett’s fourth homer.  Unfortunately he walked someone before that, so one inning and two earned runs, which doesn’t help the ERA.  Well, I guess it helps it fit in with all the rest of the reliever ERAs out there.

I guess we should also talk about that interesting replay decision.  A batter before Gennett started his assault on the record books and with runners on the corners, Eugenio Suarez hit a pop fly that was ruled a catch by Piscotty over in foul territory.  The runner scored from third and it was 2-0.  Matheny, with the rationale that his pitcher would want the chance to do that over, challenged the play because (as replay showed) the ball had bounced off the wall before Piscotty had gloved it.  The umpires agreed, the run came off the board, and Votto came back to bat.

In theory, I understand that.  You do have a chance to come back, get the double play, and keep it at 1-0.  Perhaps if the offense wasn’t having trouble putting up two runs again, you wouldn’t worry about it, but they are.  Like I said, it’s theoretically possible.

However we’ve seen with the defense this year that giving teams extra outs rarely works out for the club.  It’s almost a little too cute and too cute things often wind up blowing up in someone’s face.  Obviously this is a bit of hindsight and it really may not have made much difference anyway, but going down 2-0 is much better than going down 5-0.

For the first time in a while, the Cardinals didn’t let a lead slip away.  They just never got the lead to begin with.  It didn’t really help the mood of most fans.

Wednesday (6-4 loss)

Hero: Tommy Pham.  Two for three with a walk and a run scored in the second spot in the lineup.  He’s not going to be there very often, you wouldn’t think, but maybe this will help him bat fifth instead of sixth when Fowler comes back today.

Goat: It probably should be me, because when it was 3-0 I Tweeted this, knowing full well it might look bad later:

I know, I know, what was I thinking. Actually, besides the fact that Lance Lynn was going well, I was thinking that so often in baseball, once the narrative gets loud enough, things change.  Everyone’s talking about a streak?  It snaps.  People start talking about a no-hitter?  Gone.  The story line always seems to shift about the time folks are paying attention to it.  So I figured the “blown leads” narrative would, for the moment, wind up taking a hit.

Not so much.

Brett Cecil, come collect your Goat.  We talked recently about how Cecil was doing better as of late, but that all got undone in this one.  He got just one out but allowed four hits, including a pinch-hit home run to whatever a Patrick Kivlehan is.  Which is really frustrating because Kivelhan was a righty and Cecil has actually gotten righties out this year.  It’s not what they paid him really to do, but since lefties have a 1.200 OPS against him, it’s really the least he could do given he’s not doing his main job.  Yet that mean nothing when Kivelhan tied up the game with his three-run bomb.

Notes: Cecil left with Zack Cozart sitting on second base.  Given that it’s tied and you really need to keep Cozart from scoring, Matheny went to perhaps the only reliable reliever out there.  It was really the only thing he could do.  Trevor Rosenthal would keep the team in the game, right?

Wrong.

Joey Votto took Rosie deep, the Cards were down two, and the game was over for all intents and purposes.  Right now, I feel for Matheny because whatever decision he makes is going to be the wrong one.  Whether it should be the right one or not, it’s going to be the wrong one.

Case in point, of course, is the main flareup last night, the removal of Lance Lynn after five scoreless innings and just 78 pitches.  Obviously Lynn had at least another inning in him, but when his spot came up with two on and two out in the sixth, Matheny went to Fowler to pinch-hit.  Something that looked to be good when Fowler doubled in a run (and of course Eric Fryer, running from first, was sent home with terrible results, though I wasn’t watching at the time to know if it was a bad Chris Maloney decision like it has been with Paul DeJong lately).

We often talk about Matheny staying with pitchers too long.  I’ll admit on Sunday, when Michael Wacha came up with runners on in the fourth, I honestly thought pinch-hitting for him might have been a good idea to try to get a few more runs.  (They didn’t, of course, and Wacha didn’t make it out of the bottom of that inning.)

It’s a tough decision.  You do have to then try to cover those innings with an unreliable bullpen, so if it doesn’t work out, it looks bad.  However, what if Lynn comes out in the bottom of the sixth and gives up runs?  Are we saying that Matheny should have pinch-hit?  I think, given how well Lynn seemed to be going, leaving him in was the better choice, but at some point and time you do have to turn it over to the relievers and you want the biggest lead possible when you do.

Right now, there’s really nothing going right for the Cardinals.  Matt Carpenter took over the leadoff spot with Fowler getting a day off and smacked a home run, but I don’t know that we’ll see him stay there.  Then again, it’s not like anything else is working.  (And, as I write this, the lineup comes out with Carpenter one, Fowler two.  If they win today, it might be that way throughout the weekend if not longer.)  The starting pitching is starting to wobble, and that’s the only thing that was keeping them in games.  The Cards are sitting in fourth and Pittsburgh’s not that far behind them.

Hopefully the streak ends today at six and the Cards can deal with a weaker Phillies team over the weekend.  Mike Leake, who is coming back to form a little bit but still the second-best pitcher on the staff, takes on his old team.  He had some problems with them last year and he’ll need to get those ground balls, but he should be able to pitch well enough for the club to win.

vs. Batters Table
Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Scooter Gennett 30 29 7 2 0 0 3 1 4 .241 .267 .310 .577 0 0 0 0 0
Adam Duvall 21 19 8 2 0 2 8 2 4 .421 .476 .842 1.318 0 0 0 0 0
Joey Votto 18 17 4 2 0 0 1 1 3 .235 .278 .353 .631 0 0 0 0 0
Billy Hamilton 16 14 7 0 0 1 1 1 0 .500 .533 .714 1.248 1 0 0 0 0
Eugenio Suarez 15 13 2 2 0 0 2 1 3 .154 .200 .308 .508 0 1 0 0 0
Zack Cozart 13 13 5 2 0 0 1 0 1 .385 .385 .538 .923 0 0 0 0 0
Scott Schebler 13 10 3 2 0 0 1 1 1 .300 .462 .500 .962 0 0 0 2 0
Jose Peraza 10 10 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 .200 .200 .200 .400 0 0 0 0 0
Tucker Barnhart 9 9 4 1 0 0 1 0 1 .444 .444 .556 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Bronson Arroyo 4 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 .000 .000 .000 .000 1 0 0 0 0
Arismendy Alcantara 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Amir Garrett 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 154 142 42 13 0 3 18 7 24 .296 .336 .451 .786 2 1 0 2 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/8/2017.

Whether they will or not will depend on how well St. Louis can hit Scott Feldman, who has scuffled as of late but who shut out the Cards over six innings back in April.  If given a choice, which one do you think happens today?

vs. Batters Table
Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Jhonny Peralta 18 18 4 0 0 1 1 0 3 .222 .222 .389 .611 0 0 0 0 1
Yadier Molina 9 6 4 2 0 0 3 3 0 .667 .778 1.000 1.778 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Carpenter 6 5 2 1 0 0 0 1 2 .400 .500 .600 1.100 0 0 0 0 0
Dexter Fowler 6 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 1
Jedd Gyorko 5 5 1 0 0 1 1 0 1 .200 .200 .800 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Aledmys Diaz 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Lance Lynn 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Greg Garcia 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Carlos Martinez 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 51 47 11 3 0 2 5 4 12 .234 .294 .426 .720 0 0 0 0 2
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/8/2017.

It’s an early game today, so at least if the Cardinals lose we can do something better with our evening.  Hopefully we’re talking about a #HappyFlight home, though!

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The Cardinals spent the weekend in Chicago.  It didn’t go well.  Three games, three leads lost, three games on the wrong side of the ledger.  All that equals third place and two games (an alteration on a theme) under .500.  We have to look at the games because I’m a completist, but it’s not going to be much fun.  Baseball should be fun, but right now that idea seems to be incompatible with what we’re seeing on the field.

Friday (3-2 loss)

Hero: Dexter Fowler.  In his first at-bat back in Chicago, Fowler crushed a home run that gave the Cards a quick 1-0 lead.  He didn’t do anything else, but that’s enough to get a Hero tag on a day when the offense managed more walks (five, and Fowler did have one of those as well) than hits (four).

Goat: Matt Carpenter.  Not only did he go 0-4, but it was his at bat in the eighth that could have been the game.  After Magneuris Sierra walked (and Mike Matheny, playing for the one run, had Greg Garcia bunt him over), Fowler took his free pass.  Two on, one out.  Carpenter, as is his wont, wound up working the count to 3-2, but then swung at an obvious ball four.  Stephen Piscotty followed that with a walk–which would have forced in a run had Carpenter been on base–to load the bases but a pitching change later Yadier Molina struck out to end the last Cardinal threat.  The strikeout by Carpenter changed the whole equation there and given his recent slide was probably an indication he was just pressing to make something happen.  And something did!  Just not anything good.

Notes: Lance Lynn didn’t have great command in this one, walking four in 5.1 innings.  He mainly got away with it, allowing two runs on six strikeouts and one of those runs scored when the Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons came in with two on and allowed a double to Jason Heyward, tying the game.  Lyons then walked a batter before being pulled for Matthew Bowman, who ended the threat.  We talked about it last Friday and this start didn’t change matters–Lynn’s been pretty pedestrian over his last five outings, those eight innings against the Dodgers notwithstanding.  This team can’t afford to have the starting pitching–the one real good constant on this squad–start to slip because nothing will be able to absorb that.  It’s not like the offense is putting up a ton of runs or you can turn to a lights out bullpen a little earlier.  If the rotation starts to fray, the season starts looking lost.

Sierra got a two-game callup as Jedd Gyorko was on the paternity list, celebrating the birth of his daughter.  We saw some of that spark that Sierra had brought before, especially when he singled in the second run of the game, but anyone that thought that the return of Magneuris would instantly transform this club again got a quick wakeup call.  Not only was the offense as quiet as we’ve seen it be over the past few weeks, but then Sierra missed a ball in the eighth inning that turned into the winning run, a ball that (if the number I saw was right) is caught 91% of the time.  St. Louis would have probably found another way to lose, given how things are going, but it just proved not everything can be solved with Sierra.  (That said, it does seem strange you sit him in the only other game he’s available to you.)

Putting Molina and Jhonny Peralta 4-5 in the lineup seemed to be an offense suck when it was announced and it turned out to be that way in the game as well.  Molina went 0-3 and left five on (mainly those three mentioned above) while Peralta went 0-4, though he didn’t actually strike out.  At least Piscotty was hitting third and is starting to look more like the Piscotty we remember (and the Cardinals signed), going 1-2 with two walks.

Saturday (5-3 loss)

Hero: I probably should say Wonder Woman, since going to see her movie kept me from seeing the latest heart-ripping.  However, we keep it to players here so let’s go with Jose Martinez, whose single in the first plated two runs and looked to be a big deal given that day’s starting pitcher.

Goat: Mike Leake, though if you talk to the internet, this is again where Mike Matheny might be at fault.  Let’s go over the key moment, though I imagine all of you have replayed it time and time again.

Leake gets through the sixth inning having allowed just one run, a home run by Javier Baez.  Which might be a little indicative of some issues in and of itself, because after going the first five games of the season without allowing a long ball, he’s only had one such start like that since the beginning of May and most of the time he’s giving up two.  Still, if he limits who is on at the time, a home run isn’t going to kill you.

That last part is key, because Leake started the seventh by getting Ben Zobrist, then Jason Heyward and Willson Contreras singled.  Again, I didn’t see them but it sounds like at least Contreras’s ball might have been fielded by Gyorko if he’d been there instead of Peralta.  If that’s the case, that might have been a double play and Leake’s out of the inning.  At the least, they get one and when Baez strikes out, that’s the frame.  That’s an if, though.  It’s not what happened.

Jon Jay, who got to torment his former team twice this weekend, had a 2-2 count on him before he activated that personal baseball attracting field that he has and got hit by a pitch.  Again, it sounds like it was a fairly cheap HBP, maybe brushing the jersey, but they count.  Which means that there are two outs and the bases loaded with Kyle Schwarber coming up.

Perhaps it was being screamed at the time, I don’t know, but definitely after the fact there were many that questioned Leake being out there to face Schwarber.  At that moment, however, there were two options: Leake or Kevin Siegrist, who was warming up in the bullpen.  The Kevin Siegrist who has a reverse split for his career against lefties (though it’s more even in 2017) and was legendarily victimized by Schwarber a couple of years ago.  Or Leake, who hasn’t been hit terribly hard in this frame but is at 97 pitches.

As my friend Dennis wrote this weekend, who you blame here is Brett Cecil.  If Cecil had been the pitcher that the Cardinals thought they were signing, he’s warmed up and coming into the game right there, I think.  If nothing else, he’d been the best choice, though we know that doesn’t necessarily influence Matheny’s moves.  Given that Cecil’s been a little bit better of late and, again, is being paid for these moments, I think I’d have at least had him warming up instead of Siegrist.  (That said, Cecil has a 1.155 OPS against lefties this year, so there’s probably the biggest reason he wasn’t up.)

Given all that, I’m not sure why you warm up Siegrist in that situation if you aren’t going to use him.  Schwarber, as much as he’s struggled, is obviously the game there.  He has to be why you are getting a lefty ready.  If he’s not coming in, why do you warm him up?  You could have used him against Jay and perhaps not hit him but at least had him in the game for Schwarber.  Are you afraid they’ll pinch-hit for him and get you stuck on the wrong side of a platoon?  I guess, but if you bring in Siegrist, that’s what you’d want!

Again, I don’t really fault Matheny for leaving Leake out there.  Given all the variables, I probably would have as well.  But if you’ve got a lefty warming, it’s like Chekov’s gun–you have to use it when the situation comes up.

Notes: Again, a weak day from the offense.  Nobody had multiple hits.  Six hits and four walks and four of those 10 baserunners were in the first inning when the club scored two.  After that, a wasteland.  Not that it is anything new for this club, however.  The only other offense was when they “added on” with a home run by Molina to make the game 3-1.  Which seemed to be big at the time, I’m sure, but it didn’t last long enough.

Oh, and Siegrist got the last out of the seventh (after Leake walked Ian Happ in the aftermath of the slam) and Cecil pitched a perfect eighth.  Because baseball, you know.

Sunday (7-6 loss)

Hero: Stephen Piscotty.  Aledmys Diaz might have been the first person this weekend to have a multi-hit game, but Piscotty’s three-run home run looked to be a huge boost to this team.  It was vaporware, not surviving the bottom of the frame, but his blast plus the additional run the Cards put up after gave them a nice-looking 4-1 lead.  Piscotty also drew a walk in this one and is hitting .357 with a 1.169 OPS since he returned from his trip to see his mother.  If this is more in line with what we’ll see out of Piscotty going forward, the three spot in the order might have a solid occupant.

Goat: Michael Wacha.  Given that three-run lead, Wacha completely and quickly unraveled.  Seriously, it was quickly.  After the top of the fourth, I contacted Tara about doing Gateway while the Cards were winning.  She said give her 10 minutes.  By time we actually got the show started, St. Louis was down 6-4.  To paraphrase Billy Joel, “From the highs to the lows to a frustrating show.”  You’ve all seen the numbers, but since the Cardinals decided to get him out of his routine and skip a start, he has an ERA of 7.79 in 17.1 innings with an OPS against of .949.  And those numbers INCLUDE his six scoreless innings against the Giants in his first outing after the rest.  Sure, his BABIP over that span is over .400, but that’s less to do with batted ball luck and more to do with being hit really hard.

Which, of course, makes you start wondering about Wacha’s health.  After all, last year he had an ERA after seven starts of 3.12, the next three he had a 12.00.  This year, it was 2.74 after seven, 11.91 the next three.  Last year Wacha gathered himself and put up a 4.00 ERA from his 10th start until early August, but that’s not likely to cut it this year with the quiet offense and the bullpen problems that are only going to be exacerbated if he can’t go six innings at least.  With Luke Weaver and Marco Gonzales doing well at Memphis, any sort of hint that he’s got that stress reaction flaring up again should see him on the disabled list, not trying to pitch through it.

Notes: It was heartening to see the Cardinals rally, at least.  This feels like a team that gets down a couple of runs mid-game and nothing happens, so to see them put up a couple of runs and tie it at six was nice.  This was also the first time they’d scored six runs since May 24.  So go get those 50 cent drinks today.  You’ve earned it!

Diaz had two hits, as noted above, but the team again only had six.  They walked five times, which was at least some part of John Mozeliak’s master plan for this team, but I think that if you told Mo in the spring that this team is going to walk as much as it hits, he’d not be enthused.  Especially when getting more than one extra-base hit a game seems to be a real challenge (though Diaz did have two doubles and, of course, Piscotty went yard in this one.)

The bullpen did what it could do with Wacha leaving in the fifth.  Lyons got two outs to stem the tide, Cecil threw another scoreless frame, and Rosenthal closed it up with a good outing.  Unfortunately, Bowman was in the middle of that and he allowed three hits and the game-winning run, though I will say if GameDay is any indication, Jon Jay (because, of course, it was Jon Jay) really had to reach to get that last hit.  Bowman is a lot more hit and miss than he was, perhaps due to overuse, and if they had to send him to Memphis for a break, I don’t think anyone would terribly mind.

So the Cards go to Cincinnati today as close to the Reds (who are tied for fourth) as they are the Cubs.  It’s a good thing the division is weak, but the Redbirds have to start putting up wins or they’ll just lose a weak division, which is even worse than losing a good one.  You have to like their chances today in Great American Ball Park to actually put up offense (though as Tara reminded me, they couldn’t score in Coors) and you have Carlos Martinez on the bump.  Martinez is sparkling right now, being that ace we thought he was.  Unfortunately, on the other side is a Reds pitcher that is making only his second start and you know what that usually means.  Asher Wojciechowski gave up three home runs in the fourth inning of his first start, so you’d like to think the Cards could eventually get to him, but……you know.  Anyway, here’s CarMart’s history against the Reds hitters:

vs. Batters Table
Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Scooter Gennett 25 23 7 3 0 1 5 2 4 .304 .360 .565 .925 0 0 0 0 0
Joey Votto 21 14 2 0 0 1 3 7 1 .143 .429 .357 .786 0 0 0 0 0
Zack Cozart 20 19 6 1 1 1 3 0 3 .316 .316 .632 .947 1 0 0 0 0
Billy Hamilton 18 18 3 2 0 1 1 0 5 .167 .167 .444 .611 0 0 0 0 0
Eugenio Suarez 12 12 4 1 0 0 0 0 5 .333 .333 .417 .750 0 0 0 0 1
Scott Schebler 11 8 2 0 0 0 0 2 2 .250 .455 .250 .705 0 0 0 1 1
Jose Peraza 6 5 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 .400 .500 .400 .900 0 0 0 1 0
Adam Duvall 5 5 3 0 0 1 2 0 1 .600 .600 1.200 1.800 0 0 0 0 0
Devin Mesoraco 4 4 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 .750 1.250 0 0 0 0 0
Tucker Barnhart 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .333 .000 .333 0 0 0 0 0
Arismendy Alcantara 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .500 .000 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Scott Feldman 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 1 0 0 0 0
Tim Adleman 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Raisel Iglesias 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 131 114 31 8 1 5 14 13 22 .272 .357 .491 .848 2 0 0 2 2
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/5/2017.

The Cardinals REALLY need to take three out of four from a Reds team that’s lost six of ten.  A team with any reasonable hope of making a run has to beat teams like this.  We’ll see how reasonable our hope is, I guess!

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Fans: Man, that was an outstanding game by Carlos Martinez.  I don’t think anyone could top that.

Adam Wainwright: Hold my Pappy’s.

While Martinez’s game against the Dodgers on Wednesday night was probably better from a pitching aspect, since he went eight innings and allowed just a single run, Wainwright’s game on Thursday afternoon was more complete.  Not only did he go six scoreless innings, striking out six and allowing just four hits and two walks, he also clubbed a two-run home run that was the only tallies of the game.  As Rob Rains noted on Twitter, it was the first time in Cardinal history that a starter provided all the runs in a shutout win.  With six total baserunners, it wasn’t like it was completely smooth sailing for Uncle Charlie, but he managed any situation that came up.  Just like vintage Wainwright would have done.

Over his last five starts, Wainwright has an ERA of 1.42.  That stretch starts in Miami, where he has a line of four earned runs in 5.1 innings.  However, if you remember, three of those runs scored when he left the ballgame.  Now, he put them on so you can’t discount it too much, but if a competent reliever had come in and just allowed one of those to score, the ERA is 0.57.  Tara and I have noted on Gateway before that he had a few good stretches last year even as the year as a whole was pretty miserable, but it’s tough to find something that really compares to this.  July of 2016 he had an ERA of 1.77 in five games due to that complete game shutout he threw against the Marlins and his first game in August was pretty good as well, but that stretch was bookended by six run outings.  It does feel like this is a different Wainwright than what we saw earlier in the season–I mean, it really is given the results and how deep he’s going into games–but there’s no guarantee those struggles won’t return.

And I guess that’s life as a veteran on the downside of their career.  There are going to be stretches where the talent and the preparation shine through, then there are going to be stretches where adjustments have to be figured out.  The good stretches have to outnumber the bad ones and we’ll see if Waino can keep this good stretch going against the Reds next week.

Other than that, there really wasn’t much going on in this one.  The Cardinals were able to put runners on second and third with nobody out in the third, only to see Yadier Molina and Tommy Pham take some questionable at bats and not get any of those runners in.  Stephen Piscotty–who is starting to resemble the Piscotty we remember, with a hit and a walk in this one after two hits Wednesday night–led off the fifth with that walk.  The Dodgers kept throwing over to first, which led to this Tweet:

Sure enough, after Jedd Gyorko flew out, Mike Matheny (I figure) called for that Molina/Piscotty hit-and-run that worked just about as often as it always does, resulting in a strike-’em-out, throw-’em-out double play.  Piscotty has five caught stealings on the year, which is tied for the league lead.  I get that Molina in the past has been a hard guy to strike out, but this year he’s got his highest strikeout rate (by a couple of decimal points) since his rookie season.  Molina’s still not the worst person to expect to make contact, but this combination really isn’t working.  Piscotty should probably Velcro his foot to the bag when he gets to first.  Or studiously avoid looking at the signs, one of the two.

I wrote yesterday morning about how Dexter Fowler isn’t walking.  Of course, then he goes out and battles through an at-bat to draw a walk.  Fowler also had a hit to get his OBP up to .317.  That’s not the level the Cards thought they were getting when they signed him, of course, but hopefully it’s a sign that things are on the way up.  Also, Gyroko wound up having a good day overall, getting three hits in four at-bats.  Gyroko will be out on paternity leave the next couple of days, which means we’ll see Magneuris Sierra for a bit in Chicago.

We’ve got Wainwright as the Hero, of course, but who would be the Goat? I think that’s got to be Yadier Molina.  Matheny dropped Yadi in the lineup from third to fifth, but it really feels like he should be hitting sixth on a regular basis, flipping spots with Pham.  I don’t know that it would have made a huge difference yesterday, but Molina did go 0-4 with six left on base–I guess that includes Piscotty before he got thrown out, but maybe not?  Yadi, Pham, and Aledmys Diaz went hitless but Molina easily stranded the most runners.

We’ve not done this for a while, and it’s not as nice a picture as it has been, but let’s take a look at the standings:

In a normal year, the Brewers would probably be third, excited about the improvement of their team, thinking maybe about a wild-card run, but not expecting much more.  With this division?  It’s not inconceivable that instead of trying to trade Ryan Braun, they’re looking to add pieces at the trade deadline.  I still think someone catches fire and passes them up, but every day they are in first is one day closer to the deadline.

The Cardinals moved over .500 with their win yesterday and while there’s not a lot of reason to think about the wild card (five back already is not a good sign), thankfully the division is as miserable as it is.  They go out on a road trip to Chicago and Cincinnati over the next seven games.  Just one win in Chicago would make sure they leave the Windy City in second place and the Reds–well, I was going to say they aren’t the team the Cards faced a couple of times in April, but they probably are about the same.  Hopefully St. Louis just does better against them.

If nothing else, the Cardinals have been pretty good on the road.  They’ll try to keep that going this afternoon facing their old friend John Lackey.  Remember when folks thought maybe Lackey wasn’t worth a two-year deal when he was a free agent a couple of years ago?  Lackey has allowed five runs in back-to-back starts and three times this season.  His ERA on the year stands at 5.18.  Maybe he’ll make adjustments and have a stretch like Wainwright is having to get back to league average or better, but right now, it’s probably a good thing he’s not in St. Louis.  The Cards got him for four runs (three earned) in six innings in his first start of the year back in that opening series at Busch.  He’d probably take that today, given how things are going.

vs. Batters Table
Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Jhonny Peralta 42 40 13 2 0 1 5 0 9 .325 .333 .450 .783 0 1 0 1 2
Matt Carpenter 24 20 4 1 0 0 0 4 6 .200 .333 .250 .583 0 0 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 22 21 6 0 0 0 3 0 4 .286 .273 .286 .558 0 1 0 0 0
Dexter Fowler 16 15 3 1 0 0 0 1 5 .200 .250 .267 .517 0 0 0 0 0
Aledmys Diaz 13 12 5 2 0 0 2 0 1 .417 .385 .583 .968 0 1 0 0 1
Jedd Gyorko 12 11 1 0 0 0 1 1 3 .091 .167 .091 .258 0 0 0 0 0
Stephen Piscotty 12 9 1 0 0 0 0 1 3 .111 .333 .111 .444 0 0 0 2 0
Eric Fryer 6 6 1 1 0 0 1 0 3 .167 .167 .333 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Mike Leake 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Greg Garcia 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Lance Lynn 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Adam Wainwright 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 1 0 0 0 0
Total 158 144 35 7 0 1 12 7 38 .243 .287 .313 .599 1 3 0 3 3
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/2/2017.

It’s not like St. Louis doesn’t have its own concerns with its pitcher.  Lance Lynn has had a very nice season so far, but over his last four starts, he has a 4.30 ERA and he’s averaging less than six innings an outing.  Those numbers include his eight inning, one run outing against the Dodgers, so you can see why folks are a little trepidacious.  Even as bad as Lackey has been, with the Cardinal offense, they’ll need Lynn to be sharp in this one.

vs. Batters Table
Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Anthony Rizzo 38 32 11 4 0 2 8 5 5 .344 .447 .656 1.104 0 0 0 1 0
Miguel Montero 19 15 1 0 0 0 2 4 4 .067 .263 .067 .330 0 0 0 0 0
Jason Heyward 12 10 4 2 0 0 3 2 2 .400 .500 .600 1.100 0 0 0 0 0
Kris Bryant 8 8 1 0 0 0 1 0 5 .125 .125 .125 .250 0 0 0 0 0
Addison Russell 8 7 1 1 0 0 0 1 3 .143 .250 .286 .536 0 0 0 0 0
Ben Zobrist 8 8 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Kyle Schwarber 5 2 0 0 0 0 0 3 1 .000 .600 .000 .600 0 0 0 0 0
Jon Lester 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Jake Arrieta 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Jon Jay 2 2 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
John Lackey 2 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000 0 0 0 0 0
Kyle Hendricks 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 108 92 21 7 0 2 15 15 24 .228 .343 .370 .712 0 0 0 1 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/2/2017.

Afternoon baseball is always interesting (and it won’t interfere with recording Meet Me At Musial tonight, which is nice) so here’s for a strong start from Lynn, a couple of home runs for the boys, and to extending the Cubs’ losing streak!

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