A late craving for Cardinal talk led me to a good chat with our friend Dathan Brooks. No editing, no promos, just a plain old conversation about the Redbirds right here. http://cardinal70.podomatic.com/entry/2014-04-18T21_22_45-07_00
A late craving for Cardinal talk led me to a good chat with our friend Dathan Brooks. No editing, no promos, just a plain old conversation about the Redbirds right here. http://cardinal70.podomatic.com/entry/2014-04-18T21_22_45-07_00
Last year, as part of the regular United Cardinal Bloggers‘ schedule of projects, we discussed who we thought should go into the Cardinal Hall of Fame. It was all theoretical then, though we did foresee a few things, such as all the retired numbers would go straight into the Hall. Also, a good number of the folks selected by the bloggers last summer wound up on the first official Hall of Fame ballot this winter.
So now, given that we have said ballot, our project this year is simple: to select the two players from the ballot that we believe should go into the Hall this summer and to explain why. It may be a simple task, but it’s not an easy one. Everyone on the ballot has a strong argument to get through the doors, which is to be expected when it is the first group of folks to ever be voted on.
I honestly don’t think you can go wrong with any combination, but if they asked me, these would be my two selections:
Bob Forsch: I posited in one of the preseason roundtables that Forsch could be the best pitcher in Cardinal history not in the Hall of Fame. To be honest, you could make the case that he’s better than Dizzy Dean, given the different times they lived in, the longevity of his career, the fact that he never played for the Cubs, the two no-hitters, etc. I’m not sure I’m wedded to that argument, mind, but it could be made.
Forsch had the best years of his career in the runup to the 1982 season when the Cards returned to national prominence, which is probably why he’s overlooked even by some Cardinal fans when talking about great pitchers in the club’s history. He did win 15 games for the ’82 champs and also played on the ’85 and ’87 pennant winners, though he didn’t contribute to the level that he did in ’82 (and, indeed, spent much of ’85 coming out of the bullpen).
He put up seven seasons with an ERA+ over 100 and also cracked the 200 inning mark seven times as well. He checks all the boxes for a Cardinal Hall of Famer and I believe he should get in, though I would expect it won’t actually happen this summer.
Jim Edmonds: Most folks are going to vote for Willie McGee and I don’t fault them for that at all. Willie’s got an amazing case as well and has plenty of years of fan sentiment behind him. However, I got to see Edmonds play on a regular basis and it’s darn tough for me to leave him off my ballot.
It’s funny, but for all the offensive exploits of Edmonds, the two years of 40+ homers, the three years of hitting over .300, being part of the legendary MV3, it’s the defense that always comes to mind first. Specifically, this defense.
There were also the myriad of over-the-wall catches, including what seemed like every home run Cincinnati tried to hit against him, especially in Great American Ball Park. Sure, Edmonds had a touch of the showboat to him, but as the old Diz said, “It ain’t braggin’ if you can back it up.”
When you put all of that together, leaving Edmonds out of the Hall of Fame just isn’t feasible. He’d probably dive over the doors and get in anyway, holding up his plaque like a snagged baseball.
Again, you could put Edmonds and McGee on your ballot (which seems to be the most popular choice in the fan voting) or McGee and Mark McGwire or McGwire and Matt Morris or any other combination and you’d have a strong case. These are my selections–at least right now. Never know when I might change my mind!
Some nights, four errors by the opposing team are just what you need to win. Some nights, eight runs are crucial to getting the W. Some nights, 14 hits are a big deal.*
Those nights don’t have Adam Wainwright on the hill.
*Of course, some nights you win the World Series, but that’s not relevant at the moment. Well, as irrelevant as winning the World Series ever can be.
Wainwright threw a two-hit shutout and garnered a couple of hits on his own. He went into the ninth looking for his first one-hitter (and that one was an infield single that according to Twitter–I didn’t see it–could have been debatable had it been the only one of the game) but Adam LaRoche at least avoided that indignity for the Nationals.
There was plenty of other shame to go around for the Nats, though. Four errors on the night, and that’s just what actually was officially recorded. There were numerous other iffy plays, non-error errors, and just generally bad play. If you are a Nationals fan, you probably aren’t reading this, but you have to take heart that there’s little way any of the other games in this series could get any worse. It was a perfect storm of things in this one, best represented by the fact the Cards scored eight–but still left 15 on. Baserunners were like pennies last night, plenty of them to go around.
Which means that there were a number of good offensive performances as well, even when you factor in the Nationals’ sloppy play. The top three men in the lineup–Matt Carpenter, Kolten Wong, and Matt Holliday–all had two hits. Matt Adams just had one, but he drove in three. Jhonny Peralta also had two knocks and Wainwright, well, he had as many hits as he gave up, if the Washington faithful really want to be depressed. He even doubled in the ninth, trying to make a bid for that Silver Slugger he really wants. He’s hitting .444 on the year now, with that double and two RBI, plus a walk, so he’s well on his way to getting it!
Everybody got a hit and there was no bullpen to look at, so it again becomes tough to pick out a Goat. (I didn’t explicitly note it above, but I think it’s pretty obvious Waino got the Hero tag.) It’s a rare occasion, but I think I’ll give it to Yadier Molina this time. He went 1-6 and left six on, though did have an RBI. Allen Craig went 1-5 without the RBI, but he only left one on. Coin flip it if you want, but I’ll reluctantly take Molina.
Joe Kelly got an MRI on that hamstring yesterday and found out that it was “just” a strain. As we noted during the day yesterday, the club placed him on the 15-day DL, which hopefully will be enough for him to heal up and just miss a couple of starts. The general idea now is that someone will come up from the minors on Monday to take his start, most likely Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons.
This makes a lot of sense, and I don’t say that just because I want to see that big 70 on the mound again. The argument for moving Carlos Martinez to the rotation is interesting, but given this is a short-term assignment (apparently), it seems not worth disturbing the relief roles and the good work the bullpen is doing (well, some of it) for a temporary fix. If Kelly doesn’t heal as quickly as they expect, that could be revisited.
Which is somewhat the problem that I was afraid of with Martinez getting into the pen–he’s too valuable to take out of it. It’s a long time from now until then, but it’s going to be interesting to see what the Cards want to do next spring if Martinez spends the entire year being that shutdown reliever. Will they be able to move him back to the rotation? Again, way down the road, but something to watch.
It’s been–maybe not curious, but at least a bit surprising–to see Jon Jay playing a lot of center in the last few days. Mike Matheny said he wanted to play the hot hand, as it were, and Jay’s put together the better at-bats. Given Peter Bourjos‘s acquisition, not many of us thought we’d see a lot of Jay, but with Bourjos struggling at the plate, Jay’s taken advantage of his opportunities. It’s still not a platoon and it’s not where Jay is going to be the starter, but he’s getting more playing time than expected.
Which maybe the best position for Jay. After all, he was the fourth outfielder in 2010, but played well enough to get Ryan Ludwick traded. He returned to the extra outfielder role in 2011, but played well enough to get Colby Rasmus traded. After taking on the starring spot, his production slipped somewhat, but now, back out of the spotlight, he’s producing again. Maybe he needs that challenge?
Jaime Garcia will throw in a game situation Saturday, being limited to 35 pitches. The most interesting comment was that they are putting him on a spring training-like program and this would be considered halfway through. If that keeps up and there are no more setbacks, you’d figure he would go on a rehab assignment in about three weeks, get a couple of starts, and be ready to be with the Cards maybe by the beginning of June. If that’s the case, it’s going to be fun trying to figure out how to fit him into the picture.
Cards and Nats go at it again tonight, most likely with the Nationals playing a cleaner game, but no guarantee there will be more hits. After all, the last time Michael Wacha faced them, Ryan Zimmerman broke up his no-hitter with two outs in the eighth. Sure, he’s not likely to do that again. However, it’s Michael Wacha, so you never rule anything out, right? Besides, Zimmerman is on the DL tonight….
The Nationals get to the head of their rotation, throwing Gio Gonzalez. St. Louis was able to get to him in spring training, for whatever that’s worth, and he’s coming off allowing six runs to the Braves. However, he threw two-run baseball over seven innings the last time he saw the Redbirds in the regular season (last September), but lost because, well, Michael Wacha was on the other side.
If both pitchers live up to their billing and the defense behind them is sharp, this could be a tight duel this evening. Nobody’s had just a ton of success against Gonzalez, though I still remember a spring at-bat where Adams was able to get a hit off of him, which gave me a little more confidence about Adams hitting lefties. So far, that’s held up and hopefully he’ll be able to do the same this evening.
Come back later this morning for the latest UCB project, my picks on who, from the official ballot, should get into the Cardinal HOF. Enjoy your weekend!
Joe Kelly hits the DL, Keith Butler walks in Memphis, Jorge Rondon and Eric Fornataro join the club in our nation’s capitol for their first big league exposure, per Mr. Goold.
Usually, as the song says, two out of three ain’t bad. While that’s still a good way to pile up wins and work your way back into the postseason, it’s still good to sweep a club from time to time, especially when you have them down 2-0 in the series. A loss isn’t the end of the world, but it’s still disappointing. Unfortunately, “loss” could be applied twice to yesterday’s game, which made it much more than disappointing.
As you know by now, of course, Joe Kelly had to leave the game against the Brewers after pulling a hamstring trying to beat out a bunt for a hit. While there’s hope that it’s not severe, it seems fairly likely Kelly is at least going to miss his next start, which would be the opener of the series with the Mets in New York. Bernie Miklasz runs down the various options, but I agree with the Preacher, it looks like Tyler Lyons might get a spot start. That obviously works with me, as long as the Patron Pitcher of the Blog doesn’t change his number.
As for the actual game, there’s little to say. The Hero goes to Allen Craig, who stroked his first home run of the year which accounted for all the scoring. Craig is slowly starting to come around, with a hit in each of his last five games, just about doubling his average in that time. It’s still not the Craig that we know and love, but you can see the outline of that Craig in his current production. Soon hits will start falling even more often and we’ll all feel a bit better.
On the flip side, our Goat is Seth Maness. I mentioned on Twitter yesterday about how Maness, after having a few good outings, apparently still wasn’t fixed. Folks helpfully pointed out that he was undone by a Jhonny Peralta error, which has merit. (Well, save for the fact that they changed it to a hit afterwards.) Obviously, the inning would have been over had Peralta been able to handle Wily Peralta‘s hit (too many Peraltas in this situation) but Maness still had two outs and a runner on first.
The top of the lineup was coming up, but he should have been able to get an out and get out of the inning. Instead, a walk and a single loaded the bases, then two more singles brought in three runs. I don’t know if the error rattled him or what, but Maness has got to be able to get good batters out. Mike Matheny already has trust issues with much of the ‘pen and for the sake of Kevin Siegrist and Carlos Martinez and their continuing health, other people have to get outs.
Apparently, one of those other people is going to be Jorge Rondon, per our friend Eugene Tierney over at Examiner.com. Rondon, who sparkled for the most part in spring training (save for some control issues), hasn’t exactly dominated Memphis, but with the bullpen being taxed yesterday and the uncertainty around Kelly, a fresh arm was needed. Looks like Keith Butler will be who Rondon will be swapped for. Butler had a good inning yesterday, but unfortunately he was out there for more than just three outs. After loading the bases with nobody out in the eighth, he was pulled for Pat Neshek, who mainly got out of it, though he did walk in a run.
Rondon’s not likely to add a whole lot of confidence in the bullpen to Matheny’s mind, at least not at first. There’s no doubt he’s another hard-throwing, electric arm and if he’s able to get batters out instead of putting them on, that could turn around quickly. We saw how the youngsters made their mark last year, after all.
When you start talking about the bullpen, everyone starts to ask, “Hey, how’s that Jason Motte guy doing?” Well, he’s facing batters in extended spring training and still seems to be on a timetable to return next month, even though his rehab assignment hasn’t started yet. So while he may be able to stabilize the relief corps when he returns, there will still have to be some temporary measures put into place to get that far. Jaime Garcia is also throwing, though he’s even farther behind. He may get into an extended spring training game this week and they’ll go from there.
Cardinals are off to Washington for a four-game set. They’ll get a test right off the bat in the form of Taylor Jordan, who has never faced the Cardinals before. He’s faced Atlanta twice this season and struggled, but does have eight strikeouts in 11.1 innings. He’s a fifth-starter type, especially for the pitching-rich Nationals, but we know how much trouble those guys have given St. Louis in the past.
At least the Cards get to counter with Adam Wainwright. Waino’s on a roll this year, though he’s not always getting the support he needs. He’s had some trouble with the Nats before, of course–Game 5 of the 2012 NLDS comes to mind–and that’s reflected in the numbers.
That said, last year he faced the Nationals twice and did well both times. Most notably, last April in D.C. he threw 8.1 scoreless innings with nine strikeouts. I’d say we’d take that again, wouldn’t you? Let’s hope Wainwright is on his game tonight!
Yesterday, Fox Sports tweeted out a column by Rob Neyer talking about what the Brewers’ recent nine-game winning streak meant. I didn’t get a chance to actually read the article, but it wasn’t difficult to come up with an answer to that thought.
Basically, it meant the Brewers hadn’t played the Cardinals yet.
St. Louis took their second straight game from Milwaukee last night and again did so in a way that made the ninth inning anti-climatic. (Though, to be fair, the ninth inning for the Cardinals yesterday was some fun baseball.) The bats worked, the pitching worked, and the Cards reminded the Brewers that an early rush is nice, but the division still has to go through the Archway.
Shelby Miller pitched the kind of game that we were hoping to see from him this season. Not exactly, of course–it’d been nice if he’d gone a little deeper into the game, though he probably could have if necessary, being taken out with 94 pitches–but three hits and one run will do it on most nights and it’s enough to be the Hero of the piece. It’s a little concerning that, again, his run game from a long ball, but I’d live with a solo homer a game if that’s all he gave up. Plus it came off the bat of Aramis Ramirez, who has been terrorizing anyone that pitches with the birds on the bat on their chest since 1895, it seems like.
Outside of Busch Stadium, where he’s been incredibly dominant, Miller Park is one of Miller’s favorite places to pitch. In his career, he’s 2-0 there with a 3.09 ERA. That’s probably because the Brewers are susceptible to his strikeout wiles–his 9.3 K/9 there is tied with Cincinnati for the highest in any park he’s spent a significant amount of time in. Hopefully a game like this will get Miller on track and we’ll see stronger performances going forward. I had high hopes for the young man this year and so far, he’s not lived up to them. Last night showed there’s reasons to keep hope alive.
Offensively, the Redbirds are liking Miller Park as well. They’ve hit four home runs here in two games, which given they’d only hit seven in the 12 games before that, is a pretty big explosion from the bats. Jhonny Peralta went deep for the second straight night, reminding us what power from the shortstop position looks like. We talked about it yesterday, that Peralta wasn’t far already from the top power season by anyone that’s played short for the Cards in the last decade. I now wonder if he could top all of those homer totals combined. (Without adding it up, I’d say that’d be in the 30-32 range, probably more than he’ll get, but not necessarily.) Peralta’s hitting .500 over his last three games and is starting to come around. He may not ever be a .300 hitter, but with his power potential, he’s going to be a force at the bottom of the lineup.
The bullpen didn’t do anything to mar that either, as Pat Neshek, Kevin Siegrist and Seth Maness all worked smooth innings. The game was 3-1 when Siegrist pitched, so it’s understandable that he came in, but Ben Humphrey over at Viva El Birdos has an outstanding point, that Siegrist and Carlos Martinez are getting used more often than they probably should be. Let’s not look at their innings, just their usage:
March 31: Both
April 2: Both
April 3: Siegrist
April 4: Neither (Pittsburgh got out to the big early lead)
April 5: Both
April 6: Neither (Adam Wainwright went 7, Neshek 1)
April 7: Both
April 8: Martinez
April 9: Neither (Cards down 3-0 before the pen came in)
April 11: Both
April 12: Neither (Cards had the big lead)
April 13: Siegrist
April 14: Martinez
April 15: Siegrist
Honestly, that’s not quite as bad as I thought. I couldn’t remember a game off the top of my head that at least one of those two guys hadn’t appeared, so having four games without them was a surprise. Mike Matheny‘s not done a terrible job of relying on them in situations where it seemed superfluous to bring them in, either, Ben’s example in the article notwithstanding. It’d be nice, though, if Matheny could trust more of the pen and perhaps the recent outings by Maness will help in that regard.
We’ve got to find a Goat from last night’s affair and that’s not an easy task when both the offense and the pitching staff do their jobs. Only two players went 0-fer last night and one of them, Mark Ellis, drove in two runs while doing it. (Ellis looks like a pretty nice piece to have on the team, doesn’t he? Nothing flashy, but he succeeded in his RBI chances and played second well. I don’t think Kolten Wong should fear for his job, but it’s nice to have that competence available when necessary.) That should mean we’d have to give it to Matt Carpenter, who did score a run after drawing a walk but had no hits to show for it.
However, there’s a guy in the books with a hit that led to an out. Peter Bourjos got credit for an infield hit when he hit a ground ball to Jean Segura, but Segura whirled and threw behind Peralta, who had rounded third, and got him out. If Segura had gone to first, would he have gotten Bourjos? I don’t know–I don’t think so, given Bourjos speed. However, being that it was Bourjos’s only hit and he struck out twice, I think it’s still reasonable to give him the Goat in this one.
An afternoon tilt in Milwaukee with first place, in part, on the line. If the Cardinals can complete their first sweep of the season, they’ll be tied with the Brewers atop the NL Central. While the Cards have won four of five series, they’d not been able to put up the big 3-0 mark yet and it’d be nice to see it.
Joe Kelly will take the mound, trying to keep his early success going. He saw Milwaukee twice last September and lost both games, giving up three runs in five and seven innings, respectively. On the whole, the Brewers have hit him OK, if not at a dominant clip.
Wily Peralta will be on the other side and hasn’t necessarily been as strong this year as that surface look at his numbers would indicate. He’s got a 2.25 ERA, but he’s allowed four unearned runs in his 12 innings of work. Like Kelly, he faced the Cards twice in September last year and also gave up three runs in each of those games (6.2 innings and five innings).
The Redbirds have usually enjoyed seeing Peralta take the mound, though as a young pitcher he is continuing to improve. It’s a small sample size, but given his past success and the slight uptick we’ve seen out of him in the last few days, perhaps it’s Allen Craig‘s day to break out. We can hope!
Enjoy the afternoon baseball!
Mark Ellis joins the team tonight, Pete Kozma heads to Memphis, per Jenifer Langosch.
When you go to Milwaukee to play baseball around the ides of April, it’s not a surprise that you could be thankful that Miller Park has a retractable roof. You’d expect a strong chance of rain and would hate for it to interfere with the game. Last night, the roof was closed, but to keep the snow out. Winter is like that last guest at your party that doesn’t get the hint when you start taking out the trash and cleaning up around them. Go home, winter!
However, with a closed roof, the Brewers couldn’t blame the elements for their frozen offensive performance. A team that came in red-hot with nine straight wins ran into a block of ice in the form of Lance Lynn.
I saw the first half of the game last night before heading out with friends to see Captain America 2. (Side note: I’m not as young as I used to be, I can’t sleep in until noon like some of them and if the quality of this blog post is not up to the already-low standards we keep around here, it’s possible it’s because some of it was written with my eyes closed. That said, I quite enjoyed the movie and look forward to seeing its ramifications on Agents of SHIELD.) In this game, Lynn was our Cap, the Hero that saved the day.
That’s part of the frustrating bit with Lynn. Just when we are about ready to completely write him off and request the door not hit him on the way out, he throws a game like this that reminds us of what he can do with his abilities. There were few chances that the Brewers had of denting Cap’s shield in this one, the strongest likely being runners at second and third with two out, but Matt Garza struck out to end that threat. Strikeouts were pretty prevalent last night, as Lynn racked up 11 of them.
Of course, if Lynn was Captain America, Jon Jay was the Falcon, the guy that came in to support the hero and give him what he needed to succeed. Jay’s three-run home run in the sixth was a huge shot in the arm for this team and it gave Lynn and the bullpen the needed breathing room to make this anti-climatic. Jay’s homer also alleviated concerns over the fact the Cards made two big outs on the bases in that inning. Baserunning is something that is supposed to be improved every year, and yet every year we see questionable decisions on the basepaths.
Big nights also out of Jhonny Peralta and Matt Adams. Peralta hit his third home run as the Cardinal shortstop, which is already closing in on the most home runs at that position since Edgar Renteria. (David Eckstein had a surprising eight in 2005, while Rafael Furcal had seven after coming over from the Dodgers in 2011. Peralta’s three would beat the seasons of most everyone else.) He also had a single, bringing his average up to .150. The bat seems to be thawing.
Adams’s bat hasn’t been cold since he picked it up this season, seeming to wield it like Mjolnir against the shift. Adams stroked three hits last night and they weren’t cheap ones (well, maybe the first one was) either. He’s starting to put some of his power behind the swings instead of just focusing on beating the shift. He’s probably not going to hit .360 all season long, but it’s nice to see while it’s there.
We’ve got to have a Goat, of course, and since we limit it to players (and therefore can’t give it to Bob Davidson for tossing out Matt Carpenter at all, much less because he questioned a terrible pitch, though Davidson would probably like the attention), I’ll go with Kolten Wong, who went 0-4. Rough day for the rookie, but that’s all it seems to be. It’s nice to see 0-4 as an aberration, not as a continuing cause for worry.
All right, the yawns are getting to me so let’s look at today’s matchup. Marco Estrada had a pretty good season last year and is off to a strong start in 2014. The last time he faced the Cardinals, he went 6.2 innings and allowed just two hits and a run. Suffice it to say, that’s pretty good.
Even with that game, though, the Cards have been all right against him in his career. That said, he was pretty shaky in his first couple of years and has gotten better, so these numbers might not be indicative of what we’ll see tonight. Though it should be noted that the last time St. Louis faced him in his home park, he allowed four runs in six innings.
In that game, as will be the case tonight, he was opposed by Shelby Miller. Miller has struggled early this season and his propensity for the long ball, which goes all the way back to the beginning of spring, could be a hindrance against a powerful team like Milwaukee in a park that doesn’t exactly hold the ball in.
Yet so far, Miller hasn’t had too much trouble with the Brewers. Granted, at least one start he didn’t have to face Ryan Braun, who will be in the lineup tonight, and he’s not figured out Aramis Ramirez at all, but the latter is a fairly common occurrence among Cardinal pitchers. If he can keep people off base in front of Ramirez, he might have a shot.
Remember, it’s the last day to get your name in the drawing for the 2011 Game 6 BluRay/DVD combo pack. Fill out the form here!
Winning the series is big any time of year. Hopefully the Cards can take care of that tonight!
The Cardinal offense had been sputtering, never reaching the heights that we had expected out of such a robust lineup. Runs were hard to come by, opportunities were squandered, and it just felt like the engine couldn’t catch.
Then the Chicago Cubs came to town, and while that engine isn’t at a full-blown roar, it does seem to have caught and is ready to go.
Friday (6-3 loss in 11 innings)
Not that it all happened immediately, of course. Friday was another example of things not quite firing on all cylinders. (With that, I have now exhausted basically all of my car knowledge.) It took a two-run ninth-inning rally not to lose the first game have scored only one run. And, to be fair, the Cubs gave the Redbirds that one. Jose Veras couldn’t have missed the strike zone more in that inning if it’d been a excitable Chihuahua on caffeine.
Still, they took advantage of the walks and the hit batsmen and Wellington Castillo (who, by hitting the three-run homer that won the game, helped make up for the wild pitch and stolen base he allowed in that inning) and came back, which was good to see, a little bit of that quick-strike lightening we saw often last year. Just too bad it was wasted.
While there are a few offensive players to choose from–Yadier Molina and Matt Adams both had two hits and a run scored, Molina tossed in an RBI as well–I think I’ll go with Joe Kelly has the Hero in this one. Kelly has often had to work out of jams, but in this one he went six innings, allowing just an unearned run and didn’t walk anyone, so the six hits he gave up for the most part didn’t hurt him. More performances like that and anxiety medication might not be so hard to find in the St. Louis area.
When you give up the long ball that loses the game, you are pretty much going to be the Goat. Trevor Rosenthal has had a rough start to this season, usually giving up runs when it doesn’t matter, when the Cards have a big enough lead. This time, Mike Matheny ran Rosenthal out there for a second inning, even though that required him to bat in the tenth with the bases loaded and two outs.
Of course, Rosenthal might not have had to bat had there been anyone but Pete Kozma and Tony Cruz on the bench. (Cruz, though, was covered in cobwebs since he’s only had one plate appearance all year. Just like last year, you don’t see much of him in the early going.) It seems odd that most of your bench is gone by the 10th inning, doesn’t it? Granted, Matheny had to do a lot of maneuvering in the ninth just to keep the game going, so that is the price you pay, but double-switching out Jhonny Peralta in the top of the eighth meant that you 1) didn’t have him batting in that spot in the tenth and 2) used up Daniel Descalso, who you might have pinch-hit with in that spot had it been necessary.
And for what? Descalso’s defense isn’t significantly better than Peralta’s. If you taking Peralta out for a defensive replacement, bring Kozma in there. That’s what he’s on the team for. (Well, he’s mainly on the team to hold down the bench until Mark Ellis returns, but that’s neither here nor there.) The pitcher’s spot was due up first in the bottom of the eighth, which would be the nominal reason to make a double switch when you bring Kevin Siegrist in, but then to start the ninth, Pat Neshek comes in. So you could have hit for Siegrist in the bottom of the eighth with Descalso anyway and still had Peralta on the field.
It’s not the first time Matheny’s been caught short-handed in the early extra innings, forcing things like Rosenthal to bat. Again, you’ve got to do a lot to get to that spot, but seems like moves come back to bite Matheny quite often.
Saturday (10-4 win)
Hello, offense. We’ve missed you.
St. Louis tallied 13 hits, though only one walk (and that was an intentional pass to Molina). I guess the pitches were too good to lay off of and, given the results, I don’t think anyone would disagree. Allen Craig even got a hit, so you know things were going the Redbirds’ way.
Let’s give the Hero to Matt Carpenter. Two for five in the leadoff spot with two RBI, both coming in the big innings that the Cards had and were important tallies. He also scored a run while he was at it as generally everyone had a grand old time at the ballpark.
Molina was two for three with that walk and a RBI. Adams went yard for the first time this year, which was really good to see. He’s been great at beating the shift and picking up the base hits, but the power is what he can bring to the table that nobody else can, at least to that level. There was talk going into this season about whether the Cards would have enough power, given their home run leader left for the Yankees. The idea was that some folks had down power years last year and they’d bounce back this season.
So far, though, that’s not held true. The Cards have seven–you know it’s low when general grammar styles force you to write out the number–home runs on the season. That’s tied with the Padres, who have Petco Park as an excuse, for last in the NL. The next closest teams are the Cubs, Mets and Marlins, all whom have 10. (Of course, it could be worse. Texas–TEXAS, that well-known slugging team–only has five and the Royals have an unfathomable one. Alex Gordon is the only thing keeping them from the shutout, and he hit that one on the 9th, meaning Kansas City had the goose egg for over a week.)
Adam Wainwright wasn’t as sharp as we’ve seen him much of the season, but he didn’t have to be. He allowed a home run on his first pitch to Junior Lake, but he got that run back with an RBI single. His last two runs came when the Cards were already up 9-2 and it’s unlikely Waino was completely bearing down, perhaps trying some things in a game setting. He still had eight strikeouts and no walks, so the little ERA bump wasn’t anything to worry about.
It also means he can’t be the Goat and finding someone that is in a game like this is usually difficult to manage. Every starter got one hit, the bullpen was crisp (good to see a scoreless inning out of Seth Maness, even if it was in a very low-pressure situation), so who do you go with? I guess, in a totally unfair decision, I’ll go with Matt Holliday. Just one for five, same as Adams, but he didn’t go yard. He did score two runs, but left three on. Seriously, there’s no good option for the Goat in this one, there really isn’t. Which is exactly the kind of game we always want to see.
Sunday (6-4 win)
You know those cartoons where someone walks around with the rain cloud over their head? I wonder if Michael Wacha relates to those. Every outing so far that Wacha has been the starter has been delayed by rain at some point. So I’m hopeful that, come July, Wacha can be persuaded to come be scheduled to start at a local game here. We’ll need the rain.
Wacha also has been stingy with the runs, though Sunday felt like a veritable flood of offense against him when the Cubs got two runs on a homer in the first and tacked on another one later. That skyrocketed his ERA all the way up to 1.89, which is just unacceptable. (Where’s that sarcasm font?) Putting Wainwright and Wacha back-to-back has meant, so far, two stellar pitching performances in a row and that’s a fun thing for Cardinal fans to watch.
Still, three runs in 6.1 innings probably doesn’t get him the Hero tag, though it’s a good outing. There were a few players to choose from–I probably ought to pick Holliday with his 2-2, 2 BB day, just to make up for the injustice of making him the Goat Saturday–but I think I’ve got to go with Matt Carpenter again. Just one hit, but he drove in three runs including the tie-breaker. He also scored a run, so it’s hard to ignore a guy that was involved in two-thirds of the scoring.
Peralta got his first non-homer hits, having a two-hit day, and Kolten Wong had another nice day at the plate as well. Siegrist, who is getting a lot of work here in the early going, threw 1.2 scoreless innings, another nice performance.
I’m giving the Goat to Matt Adams for his 0-4, 5 LOB day, but Rosenthal again was worrisome. He gave up a run and wound up putting the tying run on base before finishing things out. For the season, his ERA is over 7.00 and his WHIP is 1.36. More troubling, as Tara pointed out last night on Gateway To Baseball Heaven, are the reports that his velocity is not as high as it was last season. It’s still high–looking at the game log from yesterday, I see a number of 96 mph fastballs, with a 97 and 98 as well–but last year you saw him working consistently from 98-100. Even just a couple of miles per off the fastball can be a big difference to major league hitters. It’s definitely something to keep an eye on, even though if he’s still coming at 96, there’s likely not a significant physical issue.
Away from the field, the Cardinals gave out a two-year extension to general manager John Mozeliak this weekend. If you can find someone to argue that it was an unnecessary and unwise move, please let me know, because I’m thinking they are a rare breed. Mo has done a tremendous job in the front office and it’s good to know that he’ll be around until 2018. (Well, you’d think he would be, at least. Sports contracts are notoriously known for not being fulfilled one way or another.)
I think it’s fascinating that if he serves out the term of the contract, he’ll be behind just Bing Devine, whom he said he was able to talk to a lot about the job of general manager before Devine’s passing in 2007, and Walt Jocketty, his immediate predecessor and obviously someone whom he learned from as well. Mo’s already staked out a good place in Cardinal history but he’s got a chance to make it a great one. (Also, side note, did he have corrective eye surgery or something? I’ve seen him a lot more often without his glasses this season, it seems like.)
Cards are up in Milwaukee now, having headed out after yesterday’s game and now have to figure out a way to slow down a rampaging Brewers team that’s won nine in a row and sits atop the NL Central by three games over the Redbirds. There were some thoughts that Milwaukee could be a wild-card contender or at least in the hunt for a while, but nobody expected this. Is it an early season mirage or a sign of things to come? The Cards get a chance to find out while the Brewers get a chance to test themselves.
Matt Garza will take the mound for the Brew Crew. St. Louis has seen him often, of course, as he was a member of the Cubs for years. On the whole, familiarity has bred some contempt.
It’s interesting that the guy on the top of the chart has seen Garza more in his American League incarnation than from his days in Chicago. Perhaps that will help keep Peralta’s bat warm and really get him on track. Nobody has taken Garza over the wall, so that power surge might not be coming tonight.
Lance Lynn goes for the Cardinals. So far, not so good for Lynn, who has continued to confound his supporters and his critics alike, putting up a 2-0 record while fashioning a 6.55 ERA. You’d think something would have to give and we’ll see which does in Milwaukee this evening.
This is the first time St. Louis has faced the Brewers with Ryan Braun in a while, which is never a good thing. Between him and Aramis Ramirez, it’s a difficult task to run through the Milwaukee lineup. Hopefully Lynn can keep the ball in the yard tonight.
It’d be nice to take the Brewers down a peg, wouldn’t it, or at least slow them down? Let’s hope that begins tonight!
You might remember Justin Jabs from Baseblog. He’s been a part of the Playing Pepper series for a number of years and I had some guest posts on his site last summer. Given the fact that the two teams are meeting up this weekend, I thought this would be a great time to test out a new service on the Internet.
ReplyAll, at least to me, seems to be filling some of the space Cover It Live left open when it went to a pay model. You can have conversations there in real-time (or delayed, depending on how fast you want to respond) and you can also take comments or questions from the audience. They’ve also got a function where you can embed conversations into blog posts, so you can see where this is going.
Justin and I just started talking and we’ll likely keep it up throughout the day, so be sure to come back often and see what we are talking about, and feel free to toss in your comments or questions over at the ReplyAll page for this conversation as well!
Before the game yesterday afternoon, I listened to Mike Matheny in his pregame chat with Mike Shannon. Both of them indicated that Tuesday night’s rally was something that could inspire confidence, that the team could “feed on for awhile”.
*Even before the game, it seemed like the hype around Tuesday’s comeback was a little overblown. Yes, they were down four runs and often a game can be over if a team grabs that kind of lead, but it’s not unheard of to come back from that deficit, especially when it’s the second inning. Maybe not all at once, as the Cards did, but a good offense like that should be able to at least chip away at an early gap. It’s nice, sure, but it’s no World Series Game 6, which, as you know, you could still enter to win. I promise you, I didn’t begin that sentence planning on a plug. “Started well, that sentence.” “It got away from me, yeah.”
Anyway, after all that talk about feeding on rallies and confidence being inspired, the club went out and posted four hits, two of which were erased on double plays. Tough to win ballgame that way. Not impossible, of course, but tough.
The Cardinals just couldn’t seem to find a way to hit Mike Leake. You can’t even blame a getaway/end-of-series lineup, as the only regular that didn’t get a start was Allen Craig, who hasn’t been hitting anyway. We’ve seen feast or famine out of this club for a couple of years now, so I don’t think anyone was shocked, but it’s still a rough way to spend a gorgeous afternoon*.
*All those that were at the ballpark have my envy. I’ve already expressed as much to our cohort Dathan, who took the day off to watch the Cards.
Shelby Miller did what he could, but he was burned yet again by a home run. It seems like that’s going to be a bugaboo for him all year long. When the offense is clicking or even just giving him regular support, that may not be a huge deal. After all, a solo home run, even a two-run one, should be able to be overcome. Yesterday, though, the two-run blast by Devin Mesoraco was all the Reds were going to need. Save for that home run, though, Miller pitched well, even getting around a leadoff triple by Billy Hamilton without him scoring, which is a pretty solid feat. If only he could pitch like Lance Lynn to get his team to score for him…..
To be fair, Miller wasn’t blameless. Besides the home run, he allowed two stolen bases–when Yadier Molina can’t even throw down on them, you know that they’ve stolen them off the pitcher. He’s got to keep that in mind, even if he won’t necessarily run into a team that will steal as often as the Reds very regularly.
Hamilton stole two bases (one in the ninth off Pat Neshek) and you know Molina is just dying to throw him out. That’s four bases in Hamilton’s young career that he’s stolen off the best throwing catcher in baseball, which will have to give you a lot of confidence if you didn’t have it before. Then again, given that he tagged up on that shallow fly to Jon Jay, confidence isn’t something Hamilton is lacking at all. I know Jay has a very weak arm (which showed there), but even with that scouting report, gambling on a fly ball that barely leaves the infield requires guts–a two-run lead doesn’t hurt, either.
Tough to find a Hero in this one. I’ll give it to Matt Adams, who had the only extra-base hit of the day while going 1-3. As I say every year, not every Hero and every Goat are worth the same. Some days the bar for each is a little higher or a little lower.
While we are talking about good parts of the game, kudos to Seth Maness for a scoreless inning. Maness has struggled ever since we started seeing game action in Jupiter and putting a zero on the board has to help him out some as well.
Let’s find us a Goat. Don’t want Miller, because even though he got the loss, there were some good aspects to his game. I was going to with Matt Carpenter, given his 0-4. Remember, leadoff hitters in my system tend to bear the brunt of things. If there are an equal number of people I could pick for the Goat, a hitless leadoff guy breaks the ties because it’s so important for him to get on base. Carpenter’s had a good start to the season, but everyone has an off day. However, reading the stories, I see he made some good defensive plays, which could mitigate his lack of production at the plate. So I guess I will go with Jon Jay, given his 0-3 and the fact that he allowed that highlight-reel play from Hamilton.
On the face of it, it’s troubling that Neshek gave up another run. Then you see it was a bunt single, a stolen base, and a base hit up the middle that scored Hamilton and it makes a little more sense. He definitely didn’t get beat around the yard, it was just Hamilton using that speed of his, which was on display all day long.
Day off today, then the Cubs come into today for the weekend. The Cubs beat the Pirates last night and are 3-5 on the season, with another game against the Bucs this afternoon. They’ll put Jeff Samardzija on the mound, which gives the Cardinals another tough pitcher to face. Samardzija is 0-1 this season, but with a 1.29 ERA. He shut out Pittsburgh on Opening Day for seven innings but didn’t get the decision, then allowed a couple of runs to the Phillies next time out. We’ve watched as Samardzija has developed into the ace of this staff and it could be another tight game Friday night.
The Cardinals have been able to hit him in the past, of course, but that’s become a little less frequent in the last year or two. He gave up three runs in six innings when the Cards saw him in September, but before that he allowed two runs in 8.1 innings in June. They can get to him, but whether they will or not is debatable.
St. Louis counters with Joe Kelly, making just his second start of the year. He got the only win in Pittsburgh, working out of jams and keeping runs off the board. In other words, a fairly typical Kelly start.
Kelly’s done pretty well against the baby bears in his career. He’s limited the extra-base damage and, for the most part, kept the Cubs off base. If he can do that again tomorrow, it could be another 1-0 type game. I don’t think it’ll be quite that low scoring, but the potential is there.
Likely no post tomorrow, unless something happens that needs discussing or I get creative (really, you shouldn’t hope for the latter, you’ve seen what results). Enjoy the off day and let’s see if the Cards can’t win some games against those Cubs!
“Gibson is the luckiest man on earth. He always pitches on the days the other team doesn’t get any runs.”
Obviously, this was a subtle way of pointing out the greatest of Gibby. He had a little something to do with the other team not scoring, after all.
So perhaps the flip side of that saying might point out that all Cardinal pitchers might want to take a page out of Lance Lynn‘s book. After all, he’s just as “lucky” as Gibson was, right?
“Lynn is the luckiest man on earth. He always pitches on the days his team scores a ton of runs.”
Obviously, I’m not really saying that Lynn has anything to do with the run support that he gets, save in the occasional at-bats that he gets. In fact, you’d almost think the opposite. When a team knows that it’s going to have to score in bunches for a pitcher, it tends to try too hard, press a little bit. When they are relaxed, figuring a couple of runs will do it, that seems to be when the deluge comes.
Yet in the 2012 season, Lynn ranked first among qualified pitchers in all of MLB with 5.90 runs per start. Last year, he was seventh in MLB and first in the National League with 5.15 runs per start. This year, even with the small sample skewing sizes, he’s seventh in MLB and fifth in the NL. Once is luck, twice is coincidence, three times…..well, three times starts to be a pattern.
There should be absolutely no connection though! Why is it that they score for Lynn and not for other pitchers? I mean, some of Lynn’s rank is because the Cardinal offense is prolific–Shelby Miller ranked 14th last year in MLB in run support, Adam Wainwright 21st–but not all of it, otherwise those pitchers would be much closer to Lynn in the rankings.
Whatever the case, Lynn should be very appreciative. Take a look at runs allowed by the starters so far this season.
0, 0, 3, 5, 1, 2, 0, 5
Save for Miller’s problems against the Pirates, the Lynn games are easy to pick out. It’s somewhat said that Michael Wacha got a no-decision and Wainwright a loss giving up fewer runs in two games than Lynn has in any one of his.
Anyway, let’s talk about last night’s game in specific. Lynn, as he did last week against the Reds, gave up three in the first. Unlike last week, he gave up another in the second and things didn’t look so hot. Thankfully, the Cards remembered how to hit Homer Bailey and quickly erased that gap, finally taking the lead on a long drive by Matt Holliday that turned Jay Bruce into Nelson Cruz.
It’s a good thing Holliday had that key hit, because the rest of the night was Goat-like. Bailey made him look bad a couple of times, but that got pretty much washed away with that two-run double off of Bruce’s glove.
When you are looking for a Hero, it’s often a good idea to start with Yadier Molina and that’s where we’re going today as well. Three hits, including a home run that started the scoring. Yadi’s already got three long balls on the year, which may mean a return to 2012 power levels if this keeps up.
Major kudos to Peter Bourjos as well. Gorgeous Bourjos, as someone calls him, had three hits, drove in a run, and scored two. We’ve already seen his defense, but if he can work his way up to even a league-average hitter, this lineup gets even more productive. Which Lynn is probably quite grateful for.
Big night for Kolten Wong as well, who had two hits including a sharp double that tied the game in the second. Wong also played some good defense in the field and is showing that those early spring training worries were really unfounded. Matt Adams and Matt Carpenter also had two hits and Adams made a fine snag on a foul ball that just about had him landing on his head in the dugout. Seriously, it was impressive that Adams could keep his balance enough on the rail to give his teammates time to come push him back on the field. Big Fill In The Blank was Big Puma last night.
Trevor Rosenthal raised concerns by giving up a leadoff single, given how yesterday’s game ended, but he shut those concerns and the Reds down quickly, striking out two of the next three batters. Looks like Monday was a temporary blip, though given the number of pitches, he might be off limits today. Then again, tomorrow’s an off-day…..
If you don’t want to give the Goat to Lynn, and while he’s probably worthy of it, I’m not given the fact that, after the first, he did settle in for the most part, you have to look at Allen Craig. 0-5, two strikeouts, six left on base. Right now, the 2013 version of The Wrench is a distant memory. Craig will likely get on track–again, we remember how much concern we had over Wong’s first few spring games–but it’s rough to watch it right now. Even when he gets a solid swing on the ball, he is robbed and, to add insult to injury, it’s turned into a double play. One of these days, he’ll get a couple of hits and the momentum will start. Just hope it’s pretty soon.
I’m not one to give advice to the opposition, nor am I typically one to think about the opposition at all in general terms, but the Reds have got to either talk with Brandon Phillips or move him out of the second spot in the order. Billy Hamilton hasn’t been on first much this season, what with his .091 average, but the couple of times he’s had a chance to steal second against the Cards, both in this series and at the end of the last one, Phillips is up there hacking, not allowing Hamilton to steal the bag. Given that, at least right now, Hamilton singling could be the same things as Hamilton doubling, why not take a few pitches? Yet Phillips seems to foul off balls when Hamilton is going or, as he did last night, pop out on the first pitch. Now, granted, Hamilton hasn’t been able to reach very often, but the Reds aren’t going to be able to use his speed if Phillips can’t control his bat.
Last game against the Reds for about six weeks, which is nice. Not that I have anything against the Reds, but let’s see some different colors and teams on the field. It’s the first new pitching matchup of the series as Miller goes for the Cardinals. Miller struggled against the Pirates last time out, so we’ll have to see if it was more they have his number (given last year’s results) or something to be concerned about.
The Reds haven’t seen Miller all that much, but they’ve not done much against him when they have. Phillips and Todd Frazier look like guys to pay attention too, but again that’s a pretty small sample size.
Cardinals get to see Mike Leake take the hill for the Cincinnati club. Leake gave up four runs in just under seven innings against the Mets in his season debut. St. Louis has seen him a few times and the results weren’t half-bad.
Holliday’s carried the bulk of the load, though Molina also has a homer against him. Perhaps Miller can learn Lynn’s skill in time for tonight and get plenty of run support to ease the load.
Remember, we’re giving away DVDs in response to your feedback, so if you’ve not filled out the form, check it out here. (And we’ll take your feedback even if you don’t want the DVD, just add that in the comments!) Enjoy the afternoon baseball!
In case you’ve not seen them elsewhere, the Cards have released pictures of the 2013 NL Championship ring that the players will get tonight. Suffice it to say, it’s purty. All photos from Taka Yanagimoto, team photographer.
It wasn’t a perfect home opener for the Cardinals. There was a lot of stuff falling from the sky, though given the winter we’ve had I guess we should be thankful it wasn’t snow. The Clydesdales didn’t get to trot around the field. The absence of Stan Musial was still felt on just the second Opening Day without him.
Other than that, though, it was darn close.
Someone Tweeted out yesterday that the Cards were 2-6 in openers in the new Busch, so getting a win against the Reds on Monday wasn’t a fait accompli. Especially since the Redbirds were facing Tony Cingrani, who had shut them down fairly effortlessly in Cincinnati last weekend.
We may be seeing the key for this team to beating left-handers in the first week of the season. First with Francisco Liriano, then yesterday with Cingrani, the Cards pounced early, not letting them settle in. In the bottom of the first, the first three St. Louis batters reached and then, after Allen Craig struck out on ball four, showing that it isn’t 2013 anymore, Hero Yadier Molina cleared the full bases with a double, putting the Cards up 3-0.
Just like they did with Liriano, the bats then got a little quiet. Not as bad as in Pittsburgh, when it was roughly 13 up, 13 down, but from the second until Matt Adams singled with one out in the sixth, the Cardinals were hitless. Cingrani tossed in some walks in that span and Kolten Wong reached on an error, but it becomes difficult to mount a real rally without a base knock or two.
Still, the Cards had Michael Wacha on the mound and the way this guy has pitched ever since his second callup last year, if you give him three runs, you are very likely going to win. Wacha wasn’t quite as sharp as he was in Cincinnati, allowing seven hits, but his defense picked him up as they turned a couple of double plays behind him to erase leadoff batters as well as the rundown they got Billy Hamilton in off of third in the first inning, spearheaded by a heads-up play by Wong.
After the Cards put up two in the seventh, it seemed that it was just a matter of time before they could cap off an exciting day with a win. It was, but Goat Trevor Rosenthal made it much more interesting than it had to be. Walking one guy in the ninth is never a good thing. Walking two guys and allowing two hits, bringing the tying run to the plate, got people thinking about another home opener when things went awry. Thankfully Rosenthal settled and got the next three guys, otherwise this blog post sounds a lot different this morning.
With Ballpark Village opening (and, of course, counting into the tally), yesterday set a new attendance record. I expect that’ll be broken if the Cards are playing in October, but it’s a great way to kick off the 2014 season.
Save for Rosenthal, the bullpen was pretty solid yesterday. Then again, Mike Matheny went with the old standbys of Carlos Martinez and Kevin Siegrist. It is good to see that Matheny’s not necessarily hidebound to specific innings with these guys. Knowing the Reds had Joey Votto and Jay Bruce, Martinez appeared in the seventh and got an out in the eighth before turning it over to Siegrist. If the lineup was different, Siegrist might have come in first before Martinez. Being flexible with how you use people is a good thing, though again Matheny’s going to have to be careful not to overuse these two or he may find that even his old reliables aren’t so reliable.
As we posted yesterday, the Cards are on Fox Sports 1 tonight, so if you aren’t a fan of the Cardinal announcers, you could be happy about that, assuming you get Fox Sports 1, of course. On the flip side of that, you get Thom Brennamen and, from what I gather on Twitter, for most Cardinal fans they’d rather have even Al Hrabosky than Thom, so maybe it’s one of those careful what you wish for situations.
Lance Lynn and Homer Bailey hook up again after facing each other last week in the Queen City. Lynn gave up three runs in five innings, but brought home the win as the Cardinal offense busted out after scoring just one run in the first two games.
Lynn’s still got to figure out Votto and Bruce, or at least make sure the hits that they get don’t burn him. So far the Cards have been able to limit Hamilton’s time on the bags and that probably would be a good thing for tonight as well.
Bailey has been inconsistent in his career, but we hope for more of last week, when he gave up four runs in less than five innings. That’s much better than those shutdown games he’s had in the past against St. Louis.
Peter Bourjos got his first hits of the season yesterday, otherwise I’d have almost thought it a lock that Jon Jay would get the start tonight. He still might, given he’s hit well so far this season and does have the history against Bailey, but Bourjos got the call last week and well might again tonight.
All the festivities are over. There’s no more pomp and circumstance until October. It’s just the daily grind of baseball, which is wonderful!
The Cardinals spent a weekend in Pittsburgh, a place that used to be a home away from home but lately has been much more difficult. There, we saw sporadic offense and Pedro Alvarez played Babe Ruth, things that we’ve come to expect from a trip to the Iron City. But, hey, at least they figured out Francisco Liriano, sort of!
Friday (12-2 loss)
Hero: Matt Carpenter. After a slow start to the season in Cincinnati, Carpenter finally flashed a little of that ’13 version of himself, going 2-3 with a run and both RBI. His two-run homer against Gerrit Cole was the only scoring and much of the only offense, so it’s pretty obvious he’s got to get this tag.
Goat: Shelby Miller. I had high expectations going into the season for Miller, but apparently the Pirates still have his number. It wasn’t surprising when he allowed Alvarez’s first long ball, given that one of the few issues he had in the spring was giving up home runs. To give up three, though, and five runs in the process is not a good night. Hopefully we can just chalk it up to Pittsburgh being a tough team for Miller and we’ll see better the next time out.
Notes: If there was ever any doubt that the last spot in the bullpen was a temporary position, Keith Butler put that to rest with a five-run eighth inning. Going to be a long time before that ERA of his comes down after that start. Seth Maness had a rough outing as well, allowing four hits and a walk in 1.2 innings and giving up a run plus letting his inherited runner score. Seems like every year the bullpen needs some focus and this year doesn’t look like it’s going to be any different.
Saturday (6-1 win)
Hero: Carlos Martinez. With a 4-1 lead and two runners on in the sixth, Martinez was summoned to replace Joe Kelly. He promptly got two ground balls to get out of that threat, then worked a quick seventh that was only marred by a leadoff walk to Andrew McCutchen. Given some of the bullpen work this weekend, it was appropriate to highlight a job done well.
Goat: Kolten Wong. Rough night for Wong, as he went 0-4 with a strikeout and four left on base. Of course, it was a bit of a coin flip between him, Peter Bourjos (0-3, walk, 2 K), and Allen Craig (0-3, RBI, strikeout).
Notes: While you could say the Cards got to Liriano, they didn’t solve him. After Kelly’s double in the second, Liriano didn’t allow another baserunner until Yadier Molina‘s homer in the sixth. Save for the number of runs, his line was comparable if not better to Kelly’s…..Speaking of the Cardinal starter, he did his best Houdini impression–and he’s had a good bit of practice doing that, so you know it’s good. 10 base runners in 5.1 innings is usually a recipe for disaster, but Kelly was able to work out of jams of his own creation, at least until Martinez helped him out of the last one…..Jhonny Peralta‘s quest to only hit home runs continued with his only hit of the game being a two-run blast in the 9th that made the game serious. So two hits, two home runs. That’s the way to salvage a rough starting week, I guess.
Sunday (2-1 loss)
Hero: Jon Jay. Not a huge crop of players to consider for this one and Jay made his one hit count by tripling in the Cardinals’ only run and briefly tying the game up. If Bourjos can’t find some semblance of offense, we are going to see Jay get more time out in center field, I expect. Bourjos’s defense is as advertised and it won’t take much to keep him out there permanently, but he is going to have to get a hit eventually.
Goat: Matt Adams. While the game story (and I’ll confess, I was doing home projects and was unable to actually watch the game) points out that Peralta and Craig had hits stolen by the shift, there’s no such notation for Adams, which means his 0-4, 2 K day is going to get this one with much less competition. Big Fill In The Blank is still leading the team in average, which is a nice thing, even when part of that team are hitting under .100.
Notes: Tough game for Adam Wainwright. He pitches extremely well, finally gets to the tie game, is careful with Alvarez given his production, and that walk comes back to bite him. Waino’s already walked four batters this year. It was May 11 when he walked his fourth batter last season. Which, honestly, just shows out great he was last year with his control. It’s not like he’s having command issues this season….Shut down by Edinson Volquez? Really? The last time they saw him, as a member of the Padres, they scored three runs in five innings. Before that, five runs in six innings. So, of course, yesterday they can only muster three hits off a guy that had a rough spring. Because, of course.
Save for Friday’s game, the bullpen wasn’t a huge issue for the Redbirds this weekend, but it’s still a weak spot. Pat Neshek might be settling in–he pitched a scoreless eighth in a tight ballgame yesterday–but there are still guys out there that you can’t quite trust yet.
However, I’m not sure that Mike Matheny‘s going about this problem the right way. Over the weekend, there was a story that Matheny wants Randy Choate to be “more than a specialist“, to be able to go full or multiple innings. While Choate did have some full innings last year, let’s look at his career splits:
Versus righties: .278/.397/.394, 0.77 K/BB, tOPS+ 142
Versus lefties: .198/.277/.278, 3.36 K/BB, tOPS+ 70
There’s a pretty distinct difference there. The idea behind signing Choate was that he’d probably be worth the money and perhaps the years as long as his exposure against righthanders was limited. And in case you wonder if perhaps the split is less pronounced these days, in 2013 his tOPS+ against righties was 137, against lefties 83. It might have narrowed a little, but not enough to notice.
Matheny’s got the right idea, however. You can’t keep running specialists out there when there are so many untrustworthy arms in your pen. You can’t burn a guy that’s doing well just on one batter and then get stuck waving Maness or Butler in. However, it’d seem to be better if he replaced Choate in this experiment with Kevin Siegrist. Granted, Siegrist doesn’t have the body of work to draw great conclusions from, but so far in his career, he’s handled right-handers in a comparable fashion.
Versus righties: .130/.221/.232, 3.57 K/BB, tOPS+ 115
Versus lefties: .125/.250/.153, 2.25 K/BB, tOPS+86
Not only is that comparable, but Choate seems to be more dominant against lefties than Siegrist is, while Siegrist can get righties out more regularly. It would seem better to make Siegrist your full-inning guy than to try to stretch Choate’s boundaries this late in his career.
Today’s Opening Day in St. Louis, which is going to be a wonderful and insane time. The Hall of Famers, the Clydesdales, the parade of players in cars and trucks. Today gets a little added jolt by the official opening of Ballpark Village, including the dedication of the Cardinal Hall of Fame. Plus Chris Carpenter is going to throw out the first pitch (and hopefully not immediately leave due to arm numbness). Today, St. Louis is the center of the baseball universe.
The Cards get to see the Reds again after visiting them in Cincinnati this past weekend. (They won’t see them again until Memorial Day weekend.) Michael Wacha, who pitched 6.2 scoreless innings against the Redlegs last week, gets to take the mound in a game that, while it won’t compare to World Series starts or anything, he’ll still probably get a kick out of.
Those numbers didn’t get any better last week. If he can figure out Joey Votto while keeping the rest of the team down, it’s going to be quite a show. The Cards were really good about keeping Billy Hamilton off the basepaths–that again will be a key to this series.
He again faces off against Tony Cingrani, who did his own shutdown stuff last week. With the offense for the most part sputtering, this could be another game that goes down to the last at-bat. At least the Cards get that this time.
It’s going to be a wonderful day to be a Cardinal fan, win or lose. I just hope that, if you are working outside of the area, you don’t need anything from a St. Louis company. I have a feeling productivity is going to be extremely low today in the area. Fox Sports Midwest will have coverage all day long, so if you aren’t going to the stadium, I hope you’ll get to watch some of that. Happy (real) Opening Day!
For the third straight day, the Cardinals and Reds played a one-run ballgame. However, save for the rain, Thursday’s affair had little in common with the taut, pitching-dominated games we saw during the rest of the series.
There is a school of thought, given his stuff and some of the peripherals, that Lance Lynn is much better than fans give him credit for. I’m not discounting that is the case, but there’s absolutely no doubt that Lynn is perhaps the most frustrating pitcher to come through the organization in years. Well, maybe Jaime Garcia might get that title when healthy, but Lynn is right up there.
After two outstanding pitching performances from Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha and going up against a guy in Homer Bailey that you know can be dominant, what does Lynn do but give up three runs, including two home runs, in the bottom of the first, with all the hits coming with two are out. Granted, you are going up against the heart of the order, but allowing a double, homer, homer, single is not what you want to see when you are expecting a tight game.
The first was his worst inning and he wound up going five, but the only frame that was clean was the last one. There were plenty of runners on base, plenty of opportunities for the Reds to impact the game, and he was able to keep them from doing so in a bend-but-not-break fashion. Which meant 107 pitches, which had a domino effect into the bullpen. Lynn’s not our Goat, but he’s going to have to have better outings than this.
Back in the winter, when Bailey signed his extension, there were a number of people comparing him to Lynn and showing how the Cardinals got similar production for much less. That was the case on Thursday as well, as Bailey’s sharp first inning was not indicative of the way his day was going to go. In fact, while their lines are similar, this battle obviously went to Lynn.
Bailey: 4.1 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 1 HR
Lynn: 5.0 IP, 8 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, 2 HR
Figuring out a Hero for this game is not that cut and dried and I expect Mr. Chambers and I will be differing on this again. I wanted to go with Big Fill in the Blank Matt Adams, since he had three hits including a double and was able to fight against the shift well early on. However, he came up with the bases loaded in the three-run seventh and popped out. While it seemed innocuous at the time, given the four run lead, it became a big deal.
Jhonny Peralta only had one hit, but it was a big two-run home run that got the Cardinals back in the game and started the offense stirring. If Bailey gets on a roll, the game might have turned out very differently. Strong consideration there for the Hero.
Jon Jay, who made history by being the first Top Goat ever to play for the Cards the next year, did have a game-tying RBI double, but he also was immediately caught stealing trying for third and had an error in the outfield to boot. (Pun not intended.) Obviously not a Hero-worthy game.
I’m not going to do this every time he locks down the game, but I’m going to give the Hero tag to Trevor Rosenthal. Given Lynn’s less-than-lengthy outing, the bullpen got a bit out of sorts. Rosenthal was able to come in for a four-out save, getting Joey Votto and Jay Bruce, and do so with a minimum of fuss and bother. He was truly a closer yesterday and for that, we tip our caps.
The flip side of this argument, the Goat, is also worthy of discussion. The obvious choice, and who I believe I’ll go with, is Pat Neshek, who allowed the three-run home run to Todd Frazier, the first batter he faced, and also allowed Billy Hamilton to reach base for the first time this year. That said, those factors are mitigated by the fact he threw 1.1 innings in between those two events with no one else reaching base. So while I’ll go with Neshek, I’m not convinced it’s cut-and-dried.
I really want to give it to Kevin Siegrist, actually. I mean, here’s a guy that should be able to get out hitters of either persuasion but really should be able to shut down lefties. So, of course, he strikes out Brandon Phillips but walks lefty Votto and gives up a hit to lefty Bruce before he is pulled for Neshek. That said, Siegrist was working his third straight game, which wasn’t optimal and worth factoring into the equation. Thankfully the only real left-handed threat the Pirates have for this weekend series is Pedro Alvarez and you can get him out with righties as well. (When you can get him out, of course–Alvarez is on that list of Cardinal Killers that is posted in the Ballpark Village post office.)
On the whole, it was a great game for the offense. Eleven hits, six walks, and seven runs which could have been more. We’ll see as weekend goes on whether this was an awakening or it was just a momentary spurt.
The other thing that probably will get some discussion out of yesterday’s game was Adams’s interaction with a fan. After sprawling over the rolled-up tarp next to the stands in pursuit of a foul ball, Adams seemed to use a fan to brace himself getting up. Some interpreted that as a shove of the fan, but Adams said that he wasn’t trying to do that, he was just trying to get his balance.
The video at MLB’s site in relation to this incident isn’t very conclusive, not as much so as the Vine that popped up during the game. I have to say, while I don’t think there was any ill intent by Adams, that doesn’t really look like a by-product of him getting to his feet. There’s no reason to question Adams and it doesn’t look like it was a playful push on a rival fan, which is how I kinda took it the first time I saw the Vine. I’m sure he’ll be more cognizant of that going forward. No need to give Reds fans any more reason to start booing.
We had Wacha versus Tony Cingrani Wednesday, now we get Shelby Miller versus Gerrit Cole in another matchup of outstanding young pitchers. Miller, who missed basically the entire postseason because the Cards didn’t want to match him up against the Pirates, causing a snowball effect, of course will face the Pirates for his first game in 2014. Because that’s just how baseball works. It loves its irony (assuming I’m using that right, which always is a major debate on the internet).
Overall, the numbers aren’t outstanding, but we’ve seen worse tables. The heart of the order has had a lot of success against him (Five home runs? Given the fact he had some problems with the long ball in spring, that’s not encouraging) and he’ll have to figure a way around those. On the plus side, there’s no way Russell Martin can destroy the Cards like he did last year, right? I mean, that was above and beyond. I’ve got a good feeling about Miller’s season and a strong start tonight would go a long way toward validating that feeling.
Cole was very tough last year, though they figured him out a bit when they had to in Game 5 of the NLDS, at least enough to win. Those two playoff games were the only time they saw Cole, so perhaps more exposure is only going to be good for the Redbirds.
Not a lot of success in the small sample size. Cole didn’t pitch any regular season games against the Cards so it’ll be interesting to see how a game with significantly less stakes affects him. Probably not much at all, I wouldn’t think–if you can pitch in the postseason, you aren’t going to have problems with an opening week game.
Of course, there’s a 90% chance of rain in Pittsburgh today as the storm system moves that direction. The good news is that, if the hourly forecast on the Weather Channel’s site holds, the rain should start clearing out around game time and hopefully if there is a delay–again–it won’t be an extensive one. Enjoy your first weekend with baseball!
Yep, another rainy day in Cincy. Game will not start at 11:35 CDT and, if it does start, it’ll likely be much later in the afternoon. I expect the players are in the clubhouse getting in a nap.
Last night, Michael Wacha and Tony Cingrani showed why they are two of the top young pitchers in the game. After a two-hour-plus rain delay, they kept the bats quiet, working out of their few jams with aplomb. The few chances the Cardinals had, they weren’t able to capitalize.
Mike Matheny was quoted as saying, “It all comes down to the big hit. When you’re having trouble getting many of them, you just need the right one at the right time.” Last year, that wasn’t an issue, as the timely hitting was a hallmark of that club. So far this year, they seem to be proving one of the basic facts of baseball.
Baseball finds a balance.
To be fair, it’s just two games and it’s two games against two very good pitchers. It’s not terribly surprising that the offense has been muted, especially last night in what was probably some heavy air. A few balls seemed to be well-struck by the Cards, only to find gloves as the ball wouldn’t carry. Still, if this was last year’s team, you figure that the ball Matt Carpenter hit over the infield with two outs and Kolten Wong on second would have dropped and Wong would have scored. Instead, Zack Cozart laid out and made a sensational catch, ending the inning and giving the Redbirds a little bit of notice.
This isn’t 2013.
Michael Wacha has to be our Hero of the night. Six and two-thirds scoreless innings, seven strikeouts and only three hits. Indicative of what kind of player he is, Wacha said afterwards he wasn’t entirely pleased with the results, saying he wasn’t able to command his fastball like he wanted.
There weren’t many other names to be considered for the award. St. Louis only mustered three hits and three walks, and no player got one of both. The only other player that could toss his hat in the vicinity of the ring was Wong, whose double was the only extra base hit.
As easy as the Hero was to tag, I think the Goat is as well. Carlos Martinez had a solid eighth inning, with the only blemish a walk to Joey Votto, who had a very good night all the way around. He got out of that, but the ninth was a much different story.
During the rain delay, I happened to hear part of a question and answer session with Matheny and the question dealt with the thought process behind having Pat Neshek come in on Friday before Kevin Siegrist and Carlos Martinez. Matheny said you wanted to shorten innings when you could for some guys and you can’t run out the same guys every night. Other guys are going to have to get big outs.
So who were the relievers Wednesday night? Kevin Siegrist and Carlos Martinez. Those were the best ones for the situation, no doubt, but it just felt a bit ironic to see those guys again after hearing Matheny’s comments.
Anyway, Martinez gives up two hits in the ninth, both between short and third, gets the sacrifice bunt out, intentionally walks a guy to set up the double play, then allows a base hit to pinch-hitter Chris Heisey that goes in about the same spot. All three guys that were swinging away in the ninth inning got solid base hits. It shouldn’t be a stamina thing, given Martinez spent all spring as a starter. Is it getting used to being used on back-to-back nights again? Was it just a bad series of pitches? I guess we’ll see the next time this happens.
The Reds have played 13 1-0 games in the entire history of Great American Ballpark. Two of them have come this season. Odds aren’t good that today’s game will join them. Then again, the odds aren’t in favor of them actually playing either.
Assuming the rain holds off–one of the reasons there was such a determination to play last night was that today’s forecast didn’t look any better and that’s still true, with the Queen City under a flood watch until Friday and the hourly forecast showing 70% or greater chances of storms from now until the early evening–Lance Lynn will take the hill for the Redbirds. It’d be a quick turnaround time if they got the game in when scheduled, but that just doesn’t seem likely.
As with many teams he’s faced, Lynn’s had good games and bad games against the Reds. Overall, though, the numbers aren’t exciting.