C70 At The Bat

Deja Vu With An Ugly Twist

There was a strong sense of the familiar last night in Pittsburgh.  A dominant performance by the Pirate starter to keep the Cards off the board?  We saw that Monday as well.  A rally against the Pirates bullpen?  We’d seen that before as well.  All the Cardinals needed was to score late and they’d have matching wins in Pittsburgh.

Someone forgot to tell Ike Davis that.

While Seth Maness gets the Goat in this one, it’s probably worth talking a little about what Mike Matheny did with the bullpen last night.  I don’t think you can really fault him for what he did do, actually.  As he stated in the post-game press conference, if he takes out Maness and brings in Randy Choate, the Pirates just burn Ike Davis and bring in some righties that have hit left-handers quite well.  (Of course, there’s a silver lining there–if Choate does get the out, the Pirates have a very short bench for extra innings, but that’d been a big if and not the way to bet.)

I think what’s a little more interesting or worth discussing is the fact that Sam Freeman only threw five pitches in his inning.  With a tied ballgame that could go long, burning through a pitcher like that could have been a major problem.  Letting Freeman at least start the eighth and bringing in Maness if he ran into trouble would have seemed the more logical option.  After all, Freeman this year is better against righties (.217 BAA) than against lefties (.306) and there were three righties coming up.

I don’t know that Matheny was outmanaged at all or that he outthought himself in this situation, but I do think he wasn’t as creative as he could have been, with the rigid one-inning use of Freeman.  That said, you can’t blame this loss on him in my book.  Maness should have been more effective in that inning even before the home run.  If he doesn’t give up two hits, it doesn’t get to that point.

Talking about managerial decisions, though, can you imagine if Matheny had let a young pitcher, who’d already been on the DL this year, start an inning after throwing 105 pitches?  Twitter would have melted down.  What Clint Hurdle was thinking letting Gerrit Cole start the seventh is beyond comprehension, but it certainly worked out for the Redbirds.  Then again, I don’t think Hurdle is held in particularly high esteem by the Pittsburgh bloggers either.

With nobody having a real strong offensive night and Lance Lynn pitching well but not overwhelmingly well, I’ll give the Hero to Randal Grichuk.  Coming off the bench and getting a hit with two outs to tie the game is huge for a guy that was in Memphis last night.  Without that knock, it might have been that all the Maness stuff wouldn’t have mattered.

Lynn did do well, though, allowing two runs in six innings.  We’re used to Lynn going a little deeper, but his pitch count got up and his spot came up at a time where you had to use a pinch-hitter.  Still, with his next start likely September 1, I think it’s safe to say Lynn’s gotten past those August swoons that he used to have.  His overall development and the step forward that he’s taken this year, while perhaps not as great in actuality as it appears to folks (because he was better in the past than he got credit for) is a welcome and impressive sight.

Thankfully, Milwaukee lost yesterday to the Padres as well so St. Louis didn’t lose any ground.  They try to keep the pressure on the Brewers by winning this afternoon’s tilt behind Adam Wainwright.  Wainwright has, as we all know, been a little shaky of late, but hopefully whatever adjustments he said he was making will take hold in this one.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Andrew McCutchen 48 45 14 5 1 1 3 2 8 .311 .333 .533 .867 0 1 0 0 1
Russell Martin 38 33 10 2 0 0 2 4 5 .303 .395 .364 .758 0 0 1 1 1
Neil Walker 38 32 8 1 0 1 7 6 6 .250 .368 .375 .743 0 0 0 0 0
Pedro Alvarez 37 34 8 1 0 2 8 3 13 .235 .297 .441 .738 0 0 0 0 2
Clint Barmes 29 27 9 3 0 1 2 1 5 .333 .379 .556 .935 0 0 0 1 0
Starling Marte 26 23 4 0 1 0 0 1 8 .174 .269 .261 .530 0 0 0 2 1
Jose Tabata 25 22 6 0 1 1 3 2 3 .273 .360 .500 .860 0 0 0 1 1
Ike Davis 18 14 3 0 0 1 4 4 6 .214 .389 .429 .817 0 0 0 0 0
Edinson Volquez 11 10 2 1 0 0 0 0 3 .200 .200 .300 .500 1 0 0 0 0
Jordy Mercer 10 10 4 0 0 1 1 0 0 .400 .400 .700 1.100 0 0 0 0 1
Gaby Sanchez 8 7 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .125 .000 .125 0 0 0 0 1
Josh Harrison 6 5 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 .200 .333 .200 .533 0 0 0 0 0
Jeff Locke 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Gerrit Cole 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Jeanmar Gomez 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Travis Snider 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 300 268 69 13 3 8 30 25 62 .257 .331 .418 .749 1 1 1 5 8
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/27/2014.

Wainwright’s had mixed success against the Buccos in the past.  He’s been able to corral Pedro Alvarez some (though he does have two long balls) and we’ll have to see if Alvarez’s foot injury will keep him out of today’s game anyway.  If Waino can somehow get around Andrew McCutchen (who is supposed to play after leaving last night’s game early) and Russell Martin, he’ll probably be all right.

Cards will have to try to come up with some offense against Jeff Locke in order to avoid working on a trilogy of late-scoring games.  Locke is no Cole or Francisco Liriano, but he does have a 5-3, 3.69 mark this season and is coming off allowing just two runs in six innings against the Brewers in Miller Park.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Matt Holliday 9 8 4 0 0 0 3 1 1 .500 .556 .500 1.056 0 0 0 0 1
Matt Carpenter 6 4 0 0 0 0 0 1 2 .000 .333 .000 .333 0 0 0 1 0
Adam Wainwright 4 4 2 1 0 0 0 0 2 .500 .500 .750 1.250 0 0 0 0 0
Jon Jay 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Tony Cruz 2 2 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Daniel Descalso 2 2 2 0 0 0 1 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000 0 0 0 0 0
Shelby Miller 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 1 0 0 0 0
Jhonny Peralta 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 30 26 9 1 0 0 5 2 7 .346 .414 .385 .798 1 0 0 1 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/27/2014.

The Redbirds have gotten to Locke before, though they’ve not seen him this year.  Hopefully the numbers above will look even better by the end of this afternoon’s game!

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For six innings last night, the Cardinals look listless.  Absolutely no offense to speak of and only the great starting pitching was keeping them in the game.

Sound familiar?  Seems pretty much the way things are going this year, especially when you apply it to the division race.  Nothing seems to be going right, yet they stay within shouting distance.

To go further, it was a big hit by Jon Jay that led to just enough offense to allow Trevor Rosenthal to be shaky but get the save.  That’s pretty much been the second half of the season, right?  Well, the Rosenthal thing has gone on longer than that, but you get the point.

Francisco Liriano was the Francisco Liriano that the Cardinals had nightmares about all last season, not the one they’ve been able to handle in 2014.  The difference between this year and last year, however, was that they were able to get him out of the game after six innings.  Last year, he’d have probably thrown a complete game and they’d never had a shot.  Once they got into the Pirate bullpen, they had life.

As much as you could easily give the Hero to Jon Jay for his two-out, game-tying single or Matt Holliday for the go-ahead two-run knock, I think the Hero of the game has to be John Lackey.  He proved he was a True Cardinal by giving up a home run to Pedro Alvarez, but other than that he didn’t give the Pirates much of anything, though he owes a little of that to Kolten Wong, who turned one of the slickest double plays that you’ll see in the first inning, ending a threat.  Lackey kept the Cards in the game and they responded when they could.

Wong could have been in that Hero discussion as well, with two hits and that nifty work in the field.  However, you have to knock off points for him getting picked off in that decisive seventh inning.  That would have been a huge mistake had Jay and Holliday not been able to come through with two outs.  After getting picked off in October, you’d think he’d be more careful about that, but he was looking to run and force things in a close game, which is hard to fault.  Aggressiveness is usually a good thing, but sometimes it backfires.

As for the Goat, sadly it has to be Oscar Taveras.  I’m a big booster of Oscar’s and I think that once he starts really producing, he’s going to be embraced by this fan base in a big way.  However, he’s not there yet and last night’s game proved it.  0-4, two strikeouts and more damagingly, he reached for a pitch and hit into a 5-1-3 double play with the bases loaded on Liriano.  Even a fly ball would work there, something to get the run in.  Instead, he ended the inning in the most painful way possible.

Will Taveras break out this year?  That seems unlikely, though he very well can be productive or have some big moments down the stretch.  However, when the rosters expand and some outfielders like Randal Grichuk and Tommy Pham come up, it wouldn’t be surprising if Taveras loses some playing time to those folks more than Holliday and Jay.  I think he’ll still get the majority of the starts (unless Pham just starts tearing it up like he is in Memphis) but he may not be the everyday presence we are seeing now.

That’s not to say that a year of experience in the bigs won’t be beneficial to him.  People have pointed out often that Mike Trout hit .220 his first time around the league (granted, he was 19, but the point holds).  Taveras will improve, it’s just sad that the bar is set so high for him that it’s going to be tough for him to be anything but a disappointment for some folks.

Shane Robinson left last night’s game with a shoulder injury and Grichuk left last night’s Memphis game before it was done.  I expect if you had a GPS tracker you’d see Grichuk is on his way or already in the Steel City.  I honestly thought they might go with Pham, given the fact they are going to have to add him for the September expansion anyway and it’s as easy as moving Keith Butler to the 60-day DL to get him on the 40-man roster, but Grichuk has experience at the big league level and has already been up and down.  If he’s made some adjustments, he can provide a little pop off the bench as well, which is a big thing.

Michael Wacha and Yadier Molina are headed off to Springfield.  The way the press release read, it didn’t sound like they were necessarily going to get into games immediately (though Yadi might soon), just that they were going to work out and continue their rehab down there.  Either way, it’s a good step for both of them and hopefully that means we’ll see them in St. Louis soon after the calendar changes.  It’ll be nice to be have Yadi back for all the normal reasons, of course, but with the Cards carrying at least three catchers, that means A.J. Pierzynski can be used as a pinch-hitter more often, which can only help as well.

Cards look to win another series tonight with Lance Lynn on the mound.  Lynn has been very, very good for a long period of time, with a 1.73 ERA in his last nine starts.  Those summer slumps are in the past for Lynn, who has been struggling this time the last two seasons.  Let’s hope they don’t rear up this evening.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Pedro Alvarez 35 29 8 3 0 2 9 5 7 .276 .371 .586 .958 0 1 1 0 0
Neil Walker 35 29 8 2 1 2 6 5 5 .276 .371 .621 .992 0 1 0 0 1
Andrew McCutchen 32 32 5 2 0 0 1 0 12 .156 .156 .219 .375 0 0 0 0 0
Clint Barmes 24 23 6 2 0 1 5 1 5 .261 .292 .478 .770 0 0 0 0 0
Starling Marte 21 17 6 2 1 0 0 0 3 .353 .476 .588 1.064 0 0 0 4 0
Russell Martin 17 14 3 1 0 1 3 3 5 .214 .353 .500 .853 0 0 0 0 1
Jose Tabata 17 17 6 1 0 0 2 0 2 .353 .353 .412 .765 0 0 0 0 0
Ike Davis 12 7 4 2 0 0 0 5 0 .571 .750 .857 1.607 0 0 0 0 0
Jordy Mercer 11 9 4 1 0 0 3 2 1 .444 .545 .556 1.101 0 0 1 0 0
Josh Harrison 8 8 4 1 0 0 1 0 1 .500 .500 .625 1.125 0 0 0 0 0
Travis Snider 8 5 1 0 0 0 0 3 1 .200 .500 .200 .700 0 0 0 0 0
Edinson Volquez 4 3 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 1 0 0 0 0
Chris Stewart 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Gerrit Cole 2 2 1 0 0 0 1 0 1 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Jeanmar Gomez 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Gaby Sanchez 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Justin Wilson 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 1 0 0 0 0
Vance Worley 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Brandon Cumpton 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Jared Hughes 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 239 207 57 17 2 6 32 24 50 .275 .359 .464 .822 2 2 2 4 2
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/26/2014.

Of course, Alvarez has done pretty well against him (my personal belief is Aramis Ramirez has trained him in the whole there-are-always-two-Sith line of thinking) and we’ll see if Jose Tabata gets a start after recently returning from the minors, but Lynn’s been able to deal with a number of these guys, including Andrew McCutchen.  I feel pretty confident that he can keep the Cards in this game.

Which he may have to do since Gerrit Cole is on the other side.  Cole hasn’t been the dominating starter St. Louis saw last year, but he’s been pretty good when he’s not been hurt.  His last outing, he allowed just two runs in seven innings against the Braves and has only really had one misstep in his last 10 outings.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Matt Carpenter 14 12 3 0 0 1 2 2 1 .250 .357 .500 .857 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Holliday 12 11 5 1 0 0 1 1 2 .455 .500 .545 1.045 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Adams 11 10 2 0 0 0 0 1 1 .200 .273 .200 .473 0 0 0 0 0
Jon Jay 8 5 0 0 0 0 0 2 1 .000 .375 .000 .375 0 0 0 1 0
Kolten Wong 7 7 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .143 .143 .143 .286 0 0 0 0 0
Jhonny Peralta 6 6 1 1 0 0 0 0 2 .167 .167 .333 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Peter Bourjos 5 5 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .200 .200 .200 .400 0 0 0 0 0
Shelby Miller 4 3 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 .333 .500 .333 .833 0 0 0 0 0
Daniel Descalso 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
A.J. Pierzynski 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Adam Wainwright 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Lance Lynn 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Shane Robinson 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 77 69 15 2 0 1 3 7 12 .217 .299 .290 .589 0 0 0 1 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/26/2014.

The Cards haven’t done much with him in the past, as you can see. Holliday’s done well, but that’s about it.  He’s 1-1 against the Redbirds this year, but in the one loss he gave up a run on six hits in seven innings.  It could be another game like that this evening.

Looks like another pitching duel.  Let’s hope the Cards come out on the right side of it!

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Frustrate [fruhs-treyt]: to make (plans, efforts, etc.) worthless or of no avail; defeat; nullify: to disappoint or thwart (a person): see St. Louis Cardinals.

This is baseball, I guess, when a team isn’t a dominant team.  A team just good enough to play with the big boys, but inconsistent enough not to be able to beat up on the little guys.  Maybe this team really is too nice and feels sorry for teams so well under .500.  It’s as good of a theory as anything else, though they didn’t let that sympathy hold them back against a reeling Cincinnati team.  (Though, when you think about it, they did as much as they could, the Cincy bullpen just wouldn’t take their charity.)

After a sweep of the Reds left them 1.5, the Cardinals then go into last-place Philadelphia and….barely avoid being swept.  Really.  Most Redbird fans are going to be bald soon after pulling out all their hair over this team.  We’ve got to look them over due to my fully developed completion malady, but it’s not necessarily going to be fun.

Friday (5-4 loss)

Hero: I don’t know, it all seems so futile, you know?  Nothing stands out, nothing seems worthy of mention.  I’ll go with Matt Holliday, since even though he just had one hit, he drove in two and scored another.  But I can’t work up a lot of enthusiasm for it.

Goat: When you give a 4-1 lead to Adam Wainwright, he should hold it.  If the pen had gotten wobbly and given up the lead, it’d been more understandable.  Wainwright, though….  Then again, for all the grief that we give Lance Lynn about fading in the second half of seasons, Wainwright’s had some similar issues.  For his career, his second half ERA is higher by .17 and his winning percentage is about 20 points lower.  It’s not drastic and it’s not consistent (August of 2012 he was 5-1, 2.75, though in September he fell to 1-2, 4.20) but there is a little bit there.

Looking at Steve’s piece from yesterday, it looks to me that Wainwright, along with whatever else is going on, hasn’t made adjustments.  He’s still targeting that off-the-corner spot, but folks for whatever reason–the pitches aren’t as sharp, the scouting report has gone around, whatever–aren’t biting at it anymore, forcing him into deeper counts.  He’s walked 17 in seven games since the break compared to 27 in 19 games before it.  He says he’s not hurt and there’s no reason not to believe him, but something is definitely off.  He says he’ll make adjustments and hopefully they’ll be effective, but he seems to say that after every rough start.  Sometimes they take, sometimes they don’t.

Tara and I discussed last night the impact Yadier Molina‘s absence might be having on Waino as well.  Look at the difference.

Before Yadi’s injury: 11-4, 1.79 ERA, 131 IP, 111 K, 27 BB, .530 OPS against.
Since Yadi’s injury: 4-4, 4.41 ERA, 51 IP, 34 K, 17 BB, .696 OPS against.

It’s a pretty stark difference and it’s hard to write that all off to coincidence.  The last two games he threw to Molina, Wainwright allowed no runs.  He’s only done that once in the eight games that Tony Cruz and A.J. Pierzynski have been behind the plate.

Does that mean that Wainwright is overrated if the best catcher in baseball makes him better?  I don’t think so, or if it does take him down a notch, it’s a small one.  Yes, you’d like to think that a dominant pitcher is a dominant pitcher no matter who is catching him and that’s a fairly reasonable line of thought.  However, especially since Waino isn’t a flamethrower but relies on command, having a catcher back there that is so good at framing pitches can only help.  Sherlock Holmes solved cases on his own, but he did his best work with Watson.  That didn’t downgrade Holmes in the least.

(BTW, here’s a pretty interesting look at Yadi that I missed when it came out last month, trying to quantify what the Cards are missing with him out.)

Notes: Matt Adams went deep, which was very good to see.  He’s been hitting the ball well, but it’s not been leaving the yard.  He had a couple of others this weekend that I thought were going out but didn’t quite make it.  Matt Carpenter had a couple of hits and Oscar Taveras got him a knock as well.

Saturday (6-5 win in 12)

Hero: Oscar Taveras.  Kinda surprising to pick a guy that got removed early for the Hero of an extra-inning game.  However, Taveras had two hits and a walk in his four plate appearances, plus scored a run.  Making the move to swap in Peter Bourjos as a defensive replacement made sense when the Cards were up two and, giving Bourjos had a hit in his three tries, it didn’t hurt them too much, but in a game where nobody just was overly outstanding offensively, Taveras gets the nod.

Goat: Randy Choate.  It probably wasn’t that much of Choate’s fault, really.  He threw a perfect seventh, but for whatever reason–and I didn’t watch this one so I don’t know what the rationale was–Mike Matheny decided to run Choate out there for another inning.  I’m guessing he wanted Choate to face Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, but I think I’d have brought him in then instead of using him against the bottom of the lineup in the seventh.  Choate gave up two singles and hit Howard with a pitch, leaving a bases-loaded, nobody out jam for Pat Neshek to try to clean up.  Neshek got out of it without too much damage, but he was greeted by a game-tying single by Marlon Byrd.  It’s hard to get out of that without something–can’t fault Neshek at all.

Notes: Shelby Miller had a tolerable start, but you have the nagging feeling if it’d been a better team he might have been beat up a bit more.  Two walks and five hits in six innings isn’t bad, but it’s not great either.  Still, it fit the criteria of a quality start perfectly and we don’t always get that out of Miller, so hopefully it’s a step in the right direction.  Good work out of the rest of the bullpen, especially Seth Maness who threw two scoreless innings.  Jhonny Peralta also extended his club record for home runs by a shortstop to 18, which was nice.

Sunday (7-1 loss)

Hero: Nick Greenwood.  Greenwood gave up a two-run home run to Jimmy Rollins at the end of his outing, but before that he’d thrown 3.1 scoreless innings and, if the Cardinals had been able to muster any offense, would have kept them in the game after the starter flamed out.  Greenwood has had some real good moments since being called up and I’ve been impressed with what he brings to the team.  He’s not a guy you necessarily want to have in there in a close game late, but he’s got a role of long relief and he’s doing well with it.  For a guy I thought would be back in the minors about as soon as he was called up, it’s been impressive and I tip my cap to him.

Goat: Justin Masterson is the obvious choice here.  It’s a good thing that James Ramsey was so blocked in this organization, because it’s looking more and more that this was a rare whiff from John Mozeliak and it’d hurt much more if there was a need for Ramsey soon.  Masterson was, in theory, supposed to be an “innings eater” but he’s averaged less than five since he’s been a Cardinal.  He had the one good game against Miami, but other than that he’s given up five runs an outing (save the game against the Reds, where he “just” allowed four).  With rosters expanding soon and Michael Wacha hopefully starting his comeback, Masterson’s time in the rotation should be quite limited.  He’ll probably get a start in the Cubs series coming up, especially since there’s a double header in the mix, but that might be his last shot.  Then again, Jeff Weaver had a ERA around 7 for his first five starts for the Cards in ’06.  Lightning could strike at any time, though that’s not really the way to bet.

Notes: Of course, Masterson would have had to pitch like Clayton Kershaw to have had a chance yesterday as the offense was completely shut down by….Jerome Williams.  Well, THAT makes sense, right?  The top of the order was extremely frustrating, as only a late single by Matt Holliday kept the top four from going 0-for-Sunday.  Yes, there were a couple of walks in there, but that only goes so far.  The lineup had been clicking a bit more lately and seeing it shut down by a journeyman pitcher having his best game in years is….well, there’s a reason I led this post off with a definition.

Scorecard824

Sunday’s gruesome results again brought to us by @Cardinal_50.

Going into Philadelphia, the Cards were 1.5 games behind the Brewers.  Leaving the City of Brotherly Love (yeah, the Phils treated the Redbirds like my brother and I used to treat each other when we were younger) and heading to Pittsburgh, the Cardinals are still 1.5 games out, though given they went into Sunday with a chance to take over first, that’s a frustrating thing in and of itself.

At least the pitching lines up well for what might be Pittsburgh’s last stand.  The Pirates are five games behind the Brewers and losing the series to the Cards could push them back close to .500.  If they want to be taken seriously in the next month, they probably need to make a statement this week.

They’ll have to do it against St. Louis’s starting front line of hurlers, starting with John Lackey.  Lackey has had one outing since coming over from Boston that he’s allowed more than two runs (though in all the other outings, he’s allowed exactly two runs) and obviously been the more successful Mozeliak move.  He’s not faced the Pirates this year and they don’t have a lot of familiarity with him.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Russell Martin 16 12 2 1 0 0 2 4 2 .167 .375 .250 .625 0 0 0 0 2
Jayson Nix 9 7 0 0 0 0 0 2 2 .000 .222 .000 .222 0 0 0 0 0
Chris Stewart 9 7 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 .286 .375 .429 .804 1 0 0 1 0
Travis Snider 8 8 4 2 0 0 3 0 1 .500 .500 .750 1.250 0 0 0 0 1
Vance Worley 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 44 36 8 4 0 0 5 6 5 .222 .349 .333 .682 1 0 0 1 3
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/25/2014.

You hope that the small sample will continue to be accurate after this one as well.  While there’s no guarantee, you have to like the chances of Lackey throwing a pretty good game.

Of course, on the other side is that bogeyman from last season, Francisco Liriano.  Liriano has struggled more this year, going 3-10 with a 4.18 ERA.  He’s even been hit by the Cardinals this year, allowing four runs in six innings back in April and three runs in five innings in May.  (He also threw two scoreless innings in a different game before having to leave the contest.)  Still, given Liriano’s history against the Cards, a good bit of trepidation is in order.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Jhonny Peralta 50 42 14 1 0 2 6 8 13 .333 .440 .500 .940 0 0 1 0 0
A.J. Pierzynski 27 25 6 2 0 0 2 2 7 .240 .296 .320 .616 0 0 0 0 2
Matt Carpenter 22 20 4 2 0 0 1 1 7 .200 .273 .300 .573 0 0 0 1 0
Matt Holliday 22 18 6 1 0 0 1 3 0 .333 .455 .389 .843 0 0 0 1 2
Peter Bourjos 19 17 6 2 1 0 3 1 3 .353 .368 .588 .957 0 1 0 0 0
Matt Adams 10 10 3 0 0 0 1 0 1 .300 .300 .300 .600 0 0 0 0 1
Shane Robinson 6 4 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 .000 .333 .000 .333 0 0 0 0 0
Jon Jay 5 5 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 .400 .400 .400 .800 0 0 0 0 0
Tony Cruz 4 4 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 .250 .250 .750 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Kolten Wong 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Shelby Miller 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 172 152 42 8 2 2 14 17 35 .276 .355 .395 .749 0 1 1 2 5
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/25/2014.

You’d expect that table to be worse than it is, though Peralta surely helps it a lot.  Liriano’s last start was a disaster as he allowed seven runs to the Braves in just four innings, but had been on a pretty good roll before that.  Given that it’s St. Louis coming to town, he might be thinking he can get back on it.

Then again, since the Cards just got shut down by Williams, they’ll probably come out and destroy Liriano.  Because that’d be pretty much how this season has gone, wouldn’t it?

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Every month, as you probably know by now, the United Cardinal Bloggers do some sort of blogging project.  There are some that are pretty fixed–the rest of the year will be some annual recurring ones–but there are a few months that get to be free for some unique or interesting ideas.

August is one of those times.  It’s hot, the season is in the dog days, and you just want to be casual and not have to think terribly much.  So, for this month’s project, we decided to have a little fun.  We’re making up a lineup and roster of United Cardinal Bloggers members, assigning them to roles on a baseball team.

To do this, I took a look at the UCB roster.  While not everyone is a regular and active poster, I did want to try to squeeze in as many folks as I could.  I’ve met many of them and they are good folks.  If I left anyone out, I extend my apologies.  I tend to always have at least one good brain lapse while doing these projects, so you well may have been the one.

While I do list them out as starting lineup, rotation, bullpen, etc., that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be reading everyone on here.  Really, you should be.

(Also, let me address the Viva El Birdos thing.  As they are not a technical member of the UCB (in part because SB Nation frowns on that kind of thing, I think), they are obviously a huge portion of the Cardinal blogosphere.  They aren’t listed on here because of their lack of membership (and because it’d be darn impossible to sort out all their writers) but if you lumped them in one group, they’d hit third and play just about anywhere.)

Let’s get cracking on this.  Again, don’t read anything into this–it’s August and we’re having fun.  No subtleties or sub-blogging here!

Leadoff: Dan Buffa, Cardinals Nerve Center, SS.  As you know from being around us here at the Conclave, Dan has no problem generating content.  A guy like that, putting up posts not only here but in other spots, would have to translate to a high OBP guy with a little pop.  Plus his range–name a topic, he’s written on it somewhere–puts him in the middle of the infield.

Second: Ben Chambers, The View From Here, LF.  Another guy with consistent content.  Ben’s got the doggedness to hang in there and give you a good AB.  If nothing else, he’s going to get that runner over and lots of times, you’ll have two on and nobody out.

Third: Matt Whitener, Cheap Seats Please, CF.  Whitener is smooth as silk and it shows every third week on UCB Radio.  He’s also got Buffa-like range both in places he writes and in topics he covers.  The man’s got the thump to back up his points and get those runners in.

Fourth: Jon Doble, Redbird Dugout, 1B.  Jon might not write every day, but when he does he usually knocks it out of the park.   He’s got the ability to swat away arguments over at CardsClubhouse and be able to handle the hot shots that come his way as well.

Fifth: John Nagel, CardinalsFarm, RF.  While I’m listing John here, this really is a team spot.  The CF team brings you so much pop when it comes to the minor leagues, plus they are a high average place as well.  This middle of the lineup is like having the MV3 back together.

Sixth: Cole Claybourn, High Sock Sunday, 3B.  Cole might not post all the time, but he’s proven he’s a heavy hitter with recent interviews of Gabe Kapler and Andy Benes.  Plus that Joe Kelly gif?  Man, talk about lengthening a lineup!

Seventh: Tom Knuppel, CardinalsGM, C.  A catcher needs to ooze veteran leadership, be able to keep a team in line and on task.  Being that Tom’s got a son on this team, there’s no doubt he’s seen more baseball than many of us and he can bring some thump to a post as well.

Ninth: Tara Wellman, Bird Tales, 2B.  No way I could leave my regular Sunday co-host out of the starting lineup.  Tara’s got a quickness to think on her feet and come up with credible answers to my not-so-credible questions.  Her writing isn’t bad either and since we hit the pitcher eighth around here, she’s a great second leadoff batter.

Rotation: Christine Coleman, Aaron Miles’ Fastball; Matthew Philip, Fungoes; Wes Keene, Keene On MLB; Diane Schulz, Women Who Love Cardinal Baseball; Mark Tomasik, RetroSimba.  I think the best of rotations are the ones that mix up the look.  Blazing heat one day, slow crafty stuff the next, pinpoint control after that.  You get a mix of styles with this rotation–whether it’s the regularity of a Christine post, the calculating style of Pip, the upper-90s heat on Saturday from Wes, the quality start from Diane or the storytelling experience of Mark.  You don’t stand a chance hitting against these fine folks.

Bullpen: Rodney Knuppel, Saint Louis Sports; Eliza, A Blog Of Their Own; Steve Somner, Gas House Graphs; Mark Sherrard, Cardinals Fan In Cubs Land; A.J. Blankenship, Gateway Sports Connection; Jeff White, Born Bleeding.  If the rotation gets in trouble or just needs a breather, we’ve got a great bunch of arms out there ready to take their shot.  There’s versatility (Rodney and A.J. both cover more than baseball), there’s baseball IQ, there’s everything you need to close out a win.  While these bloggers may not write every day, they bring quality when they do trot out of the pen.

Bench: Mary Clausen, MLB Voice; Dathan Brooks, Go Crazy Big Boy; Marilyn Green, Red Cleat Diaries; Joe McBrayer, Cardinal Red Baseball; Kevin Reynolds, STL Cards ‘N Stuff; Daniel Solzman, Redbird Rants.  I’d say that this bench is much stronger than what the Cardinals have, but that’s not exactly saying a lot.  Some of these bloggers are pretty regular, some pretty scarce, but all of them can come up with the big hit when it’s needed.  Plus, if you’ve got to give a starter a breather, you don’t drop down much when any of these writers slide into that day’s lineup.

Manager: Bill Ivie, I70 Baseball.  If there’s anyone that knows how to manage a talented roster, it’s got to be Bill.  Heck, I think 80% of these listed have worked for him at one time or another anyway!  Bill manages the staff over at I70 well and would bring a light and intelligent touch to guiding this group as well.  Plus he wouldn’t double switch for apparently no reason.

Coaches: Mike Metzger, West Coast Redbird; Brian Vaughn and Spencer Hendricks, StanGraphs; Dustin McClure, Welcome To Cardinal Baseball, Nick Waeltz, Pitchers Hit Eighth.  You don’t necessarily see these guys often, but they bring a wealth of talent and experience when you do.  Plus with Brian and Spencer, there’s likely never going to be a serious moment.  If a loose team wins championships, this club would roll through October without a hitch.

Minor League Talent: Doug, Baseball Geek In Galveston; Harrison Hudson, Cajun Cardinal; Tiffany, Party Like It’s 1982; Cole Brand, Caught Him Looking.  Just like the big league Cardinals, this organization has some quality talent working its way up through the ranks as well.  Most of these have joined the UCB in the last couple of months and we are still getting to know them, but the quality is pretty evident.  Doug puts out a great post every day and, while the others may not be that regular, they still have a lot of great things to say.

Again, if I’ve forgotten anyone, I apologize.  I tried to squeeze in everyone that I could think of that was blogging at least a little bit.  If you are a regular reader here but not of the above, give them a read and see what they are up to.  There’s good stuff all the way through here and I’m proud to be associated with such folks!

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When you looked at this series before it began, Wednesday’s game seemed to be the hardest of the bunch.  Sure, Lance Lynn was going and he could be expected to give you a quality start, but Johnny Cueto seemed to be on another level and, at best, you could hope that the Cards kept it close and got into the Reds bullpen late.

So, because baseball, this was the only game that (for the most part) was a rout.

Lynn surely held up his end of the bargain, throwing seven scoreless innings before a rain delay ended his night.  If not for the rain, I’m pretty sure he gets through the eighth (he only was at 94 pitches and Lynn often gets to around 110) and, with an efficient inning there, maybe goes for the complete game.  That’s worth a Hero tag right there, I think.  He allowed only six runners to reach base all night, which was one more than the runs the Cards scored for him while he was in the game.

Cueto seemed out of sorts all night, with the only real burst of energy he showed being when he tried to beat out a double-play ball.  To say he jogged otherwise–down the line after a routine grounder, back to the dugout, back to the mound–would be a huge overstatement.  Cueto didn’t seem all that comfortable on the mound, either.  While it was a warm and muggy night, it shouldn’t have led to that kind of lethargy.  I guess that’s for Reds fans to sort out.  There’s no doubt St. Louis will take that anytime he wants to give it, however.

The offense had a good night as well.  What the boxscore doesn’t show were some balls that were really launched early in the game.  Matt Adams was robbed of an extra-base hit by Billy Hamilton, who then doubled Jon Jay off of first, for instance.  Interestingly enough, Adams walked twice in this one, matching his total from the six games prior.  When a guy’s walked only 15 times (counting last night) all season, two walks is huge.  He didn’t get any hits, but he played a role anyway.

Jay was all over the place last night.  Three hits plus yet another hit-by-pitch meant only once was he actually retired.  The hits were all singles, but he did drive in a run and score two of them.  That said, it was a mixed bag overall for Jay, who as noted was doubled up in the first on a TOOTBLAN and botched a ball in the ninth that led to two runs and a runner on third.  If Trevor Rosenthal hadn’t actually sealed the deal, Jay might have gotten the Goat even with three hits.

Jay was the only person to get more than one hit, but with six walks, the other hits came at the right time.  Daniel Descalso was 1-2 with two walks, continuing a bit of a late-season resurgence for him.  I understand Wes Keene will be looking into Descalso for his regular Saturday Conclave appearance, so be sure to be looking for that.

So the lineup was OK.  Lynn was outstanding.  So how in the world did this game get to where the tying run was at the plate?  That’d be our Goat, Carlos Martinez.  He got the last out of the eighth with no problem, but then things got a bit rough in the ninth.  To be fair, it wasn’t all his fault–Kolten Wong made an error on a tough play and Jay botched that fly ball–but the Reds did seem to be able to put good swings on him and hit the ball hard.  There’s been some talk about moving Martinez to the closer role.  If you could get the Good Martinez from Monday night, you might go with it.  The problem is, sometimes Bad Martinez pops up as well and that’s a tough pill to swallow in the ninth.

The brooms came out and the Cards not only swept, but gained a little ground on Milwaukee as well.  (It also make the Central race a little more exclusive–now the Reds are 10 games out and five games under .500.  It seems like they’ll be just playing out the string from now on.)  Both the Brewers and the Cardinals get Pennsylvania opponents this weekend, as the Pirates go into Miller Park while the Cards head to Philadelphia.  With the Phillies 15 games under .500 and the Pirates still fighting to stay relevant in the divisional race, this (in theory) would be a good time for the Cards to cut even farther into that 1.5 game lead the Brewers have.

Mike Matheny might be thinking that as well, since he’s decided to use this off day to swap Shelby Miller and Adam Wainwright.  Waino will go in the first game, which means he’ll also get into the series against Pittsburgh that follows.  With the Pirates not that far off the Cardinals’ bumper, it’s not a bad idea to get your ace out there to face them.  First off, though, he gets to deal with a Philadelphia team that is in the middle of the pack when it comes to offense.  I mean, they aren’t as low down as the Cardinals, but they might not be a huge issue for the Redbird ace.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Jimmy Rollins 28 27 9 4 0 0 2 0 6 .333 .321 .481 .803 0 1 0 0 0
Marlon Byrd 27 27 7 1 0 0 0 0 11 .259 .259 .296 .556 0 0 0 0 1
Ryan Howard 27 21 5 0 0 0 1 6 8 .238 .407 .238 .646 0 0 1 0 0
Chase Utley 23 21 5 0 1 0 1 1 2 .238 .304 .333 .638 0 0 0 1 2
Carlos Ruiz 16 13 4 2 0 0 1 1 2 .308 .375 .462 .837 0 1 0 1 0
Cole Hamels 10 10 2 1 0 0 0 0 5 .200 .200 .300 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Wil Nieves 5 4 1 1 0 0 0 1 2 .250 .400 .500 .900 0 0 0 0 0
Domonic Brown 4 4 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .250 .250 .250 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Cody Asche 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Andres Blanco 3 3 1 1 0 0 1 0 1 .333 .333 .667 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Reid Brignac 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Ben Revere 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 1 0 0 0 0
A.J. Burnett 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Grady Sizemore 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 154 140 36 10 1 0 6 9 37 .257 .307 .343 .650 1 2 1 2 3
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/21/2014.

They don’t seem to have posed him much of a particular problem in the past, either. Jimmy Rollins has been a bit of a pest and he’s had an uptick in home runs this year, though his average is down.  If Waino can keep him in that small ballpark, he should be OK.

Kyle Kendrick will be on the hill Friday for the Phillies.  Kendrick is 5-11 with a 4.90 ERA, numbers that don’t really jump out at you.  He’s only gone five innings in each of his last two starts and given up a total of eight earned runs in that span.  While he’s had a few good games–he allowed just one run in seven innings against Houston at the beginning of the month–he not going to strike fear into anyone.  When he faced the Redbirds in St. Louis back in June, he allowed five runs in six innings.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Matt Holliday 23 23 3 1 0 2 4 0 3 .130 .130 .435 .565 0 0 0 0 0
Jon Jay 15 15 6 2 1 0 3 0 1 .400 .400 .667 1.067 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Adams 12 11 5 2 0 0 1 1 1 .455 .500 .636 1.136 0 0 0 0 1
Matt Carpenter 9 9 2 0 0 1 2 0 2 .222 .222 .556 .778 0 0 0 0 0
Jhonny Peralta 8 8 3 0 0 0 2 0 0 .375 .375 .375 .750 0 0 0 0 0
Daniel Descalso 6 4 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 .000 .333 .000 .333 0 0 1 0 1
Tony Cruz 5 5 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 .200 .200 .200 .400 0 0 0 0 0
Shane Robinson 5 5 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 .400 .400 .400 .800 0 0 0 0 0
A.J. Pierzynski 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
John Lackey 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 1 0 0 0 0
Lance Lynn 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0
Carlos Martinez 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 1 0 0 0 0
Justin Masterson 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 94 87 22 5 1 3 13 3 9 .253 .278 .437 .715 4 0 1 0 2
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/21/2014.

Overall, the Cards haven’t done a lot with him, but they’ve held their own. Jay’s got a nice line there and given how hot his bat has been lately, that’s a nice thing to see.  Matt Holliday has only three hits against Kendrick, but two of them are home runs.  All in all, it’s a matchup that would tend to favor St. Louis.

What would also favor St. Louis is getting some key players back from injury.  Michael Wacha threw another bullpen yesterday and there were no reports of any troubles, so you have to think he’ll be going on a rehab assignment soon, especially since the minor league seasons are quickly drawing to a close.  Yadier Molina hit a little bit and has been doing some throwing as well.  He’s not going to be back immediately, but those are steps that make you feel good as a Cardinal fan that he might make the field again before September is too far gone, giving him a chance to get his timing back before hitting October.

Off day today, so enjoy it.  The monthly UCB project is tomorrow, so be sure to check it out!

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Here’s where narrative makes all the difference.

For the second straight night, the Cardinals rallied and won in walk-off fashion.  So, if you are the optimist, the narrative is that this team is finally showing some spirit, they are coming together at the right time, they are starting to jell.

On the flip side, look at these numbers on the Cincinnati bullpen since Sunday: 10.2 IP, 26 H, 19 R (18 earned), 12 BB, 4 K.  That’s an ERA of 15.18 over a span of four games.  If the Reds pen was bacon, you’d have taken it off the stove and thrown it away because it was burnt to a crisp.  (Assuming you don’t like your bacon black, which my wife tends to, actually.  I don’t understand it.)  Perhaps it’s less about the Cardinal fight and more about the fact anyone wearing Reds and not starting is almost worthless right now.

I mean, look at the ninth last night.  Matt Holliday walked on four pitches.  Matt Adams singled, then Jhonny Peralta stayed alive long enough to walk on a full count.  Bases loaded and the first pitch to Jon Jay was terrible, right in on the knee.  Four batters and the game is over.  Credit the Cards for taking advantage, but they weren’t facing Craig Kimbrel out there.

I think the Cards should get some points for rallying, even if the bar to clear there was much lower than with other teams.  After all, they did get down 4-1, which in times past could have been the end of the game, no matter who was throwing.  John Lackey probably deserved a little better, though his was one of the three errors behind him that led to two unearned runs.  (Of course, his error really was moot, since it just allowed Billy Hamilton to go from first to third and Hamilton came in on a home run by Todd Frazier.)  If it weren’t for Holliday and Matt Carpenter having issues, Lackey could have easily matched the two runs in seven innings that he’s done twice for the Redbirds.  Instead, due to the extra pitches and the fact his spot came up with runners on, he was done after six.  Still, a good outing that might not get the credit it deserves.

What’s more impressive is that this American League veteran went 2-2 at the plate, helping create St. Louis’s first run.  In fact, the ninth spot in the Cardinal lineup went 4-4, with both Shane Robinson and Daniel Descalso turning in big pinch-hits that led to runs.  Robinson got it to within one and Descalso doubled in the tying run.  Both of those guys came through with two outs, so tip your cap to them.  They get a lot of grief and a lot of criticism, but (especially Descalso) have been coming through lately.

We’ll give the Hero tag to Jon Jay, because besides the walk-off plunk, he went 2-3 with two runs scored and tossed in a walk as well.  Jay’s now hitting .307 with a .378 on-base percentage, which might mean he moves up in the order.  Yes, Jay’s on a hot streak, batting .500 over his last 10 games, but to say his stats lie might be overstating things.  We’ve got a pretty good sample size here and while you might make the case that he’s not really a .300 hitter, he’s still a very productive bat in the lineup, especially when there aren’t a whole lot of those.  It’s been heartening to see Peter Bourjos adapt to his role (hitting .333 over the last 10 games, though obviously in fewer at-bats) and he’s got a place on this team, but Jay’s laid a solid claim to playing every day in one outfield position or another.

As for the Goat, that’s a tough call.  I think I’m going to go with Kolten Wong, even though he had a hit, because he left six men on during his 1-5 night.  The other choice was Tony Cruz, who went 0-3 (the only starter without a hit) before being pinch-hit for by A.J. Pierzynski (who then got a hit, so Cruz was the only person that came to bat and didn’t get a hit last night), but I think Wong’s inability to come through with runners on is probably more worthy of the tag.

Oscar Taveras got two hits last night, raising his average to .222.  In his last five games, he’s 6-13 (.462), perhaps showing that he’s starting to adjust to the steady diet of fastballs he is receiving.  He did get thrown out on the bases and did strike out in a big spot last night in the eighth, but he seems to be coming around, which could be really big for this club.  Of course, he gets the Joe Strauss treatment in today’s paper, which means some interesting points heavily coated with snark and the enjoyment of belittling folks that have been high on him for a long while.  Goodness, how glad am I that Strauss doesn’t write about the Cardinals as regularly as he did.

Thankfully the Cardinals rallied last night, because if they needed to win tonight to take the series, it was going to be a tough chore.  Johnny Cueto, the man that many St. Louisians still hold a grudge against (I am fine with the Reds, but I’m never going to like Cueto for what he did to Jason LaRue), is having what would be a Cy Young season if Clayton Kershaw moved up to the next league.  He has a chance to pass Waino in the win column, has an ERA a shade over 2, and strikes out basically a batter an inning.  This isn’t what you want to see.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Matt Holliday 36 30 9 3 0 0 5 5 5 .300 .389 .400 .789 0 1 0 0 2
Jon Jay 23 21 10 1 0 3 7 1 2 .476 .500 .952 1.452 1 0 0 0 0
Jhonny Peralta 12 11 2 0 0 1 1 1 4 .182 .250 .455 .705 0 0 0 0 0
Daniel Descalso 8 8 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 .250 .250 .250 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Carpenter 6 6 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 .167 .167 .167 .333 0 0 0 0 0
Adam Wainwright 5 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
A.J. Pierzynski 4 4 1 0 0 1 1 0 1 .250 .250 1.000 1.250 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Adams 3 3 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 .667 .667 1.000 1.667 0 0 0 0 0
Kolten Wong 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .333 .000 .333 0 0 0 0 0
Peter Bourjos 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Tony Cruz 1 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 103 93 28 5 0 5 15 8 18 .301 .353 .516 .869 1 1 0 0 2
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/20/2014.

The Redbirds have been able to get to him in the past–look at that line by Jay!–but that may count for little given the way Cueto is pitching now.  He’s had three straight starts of at least eight innings and two earned runs and the last one was in Colorado.  The best thing to try to do is likely make him throw pitches and see if you can get to that bullpen, but given how well he throws strikes, that might be problematic as well.  It’s a tough task.

At least the Cardinals counter with Lance Lynn.  Lynn’s turned himself into a solid #2 starter this season and has had only one game where he allowed three earned runs in the second half of the season this year, belying that late-season meltdown that we’ve come to expect out of him.  The Reds roughed him up in the first two games of the season, but Lynn’s a little different now.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Zack Cozart 24 23 6 1 0 2 3 0 2 .261 .292 .565 .857 0 0 0 1 0
Brandon Phillips 24 23 7 2 0 0 5 0 5 .304 .292 .391 .683 0 1 0 0 0
Jay Bruce 22 19 9 1 2 2 8 2 6 .474 .500 1.053 1.553 0 1 0 0 1
Todd Frazier 21 18 3 0 0 2 2 2 10 .167 .286 .500 .786 0 0 0 1 1
Ryan Ludwick 8 6 1 0 0 0 2 1 2 .167 .250 .167 .417 0 1 0 0 1
Billy Hamilton 6 6 1 0 0 0 1 0 2 .167 .167 .167 .333 0 0 0 0 0
Devin Mesoraco 6 6 2 2 0 0 0 0 2 .333 .333 .667 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Chris Heisey 4 4 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .250 .250 .250 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Brayan Pena 3 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 .667 .667 .667 1.333 0 0 0 0 0
Jack Hannahan 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .500 .000 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Ramon Santiago 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Mat Latos 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000 0 0 0 0 0
Mike Leake 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Skip Schumaker 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 1
Total 125 114 34 6 2 6 21 6 31 .298 .336 .544 .880 0 3 0 2 4
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/20/2014.

We’ll see if that difference matters. He’s struggled at times against the Reds but he’ll need to be on his game tonight.  Should be a fun one!

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There haven’t been too many games this season where the pitching staff of the Cardinals has been able to blow one lead, much less two, and still wind up with a victory.  After all, if the Cardinal bats were able to produce a lead, it seems to be asking a bit much these days for them to battle back and score again.  As they say at my kids’ elementary school, “You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.”  Seems so often the offense will say, “We got you three runs–be careful with them, you aren’t getting any more.”

Last night, though, the Cards rallied to tie the game, then took the lead, gave it back, then finally put us all out of our misery in the 10th.  It was a game St. Louis really, really had to win to continue to look like a divisional threat.  (With Milwaukee’s off day, they did gain 1/2 game to move to 2.5 game out.)  The Reds were running on fumes but still almost managed to win that ballgame, which would have been pretty tough to swallow.

The biggest reason they didn’t was our Hero, Jhonny Peralta.  Peralta had three hits, including one with runners on the corners and one out in the tenth frame.  I think it speaks volumes about this season when a good portion of the folks on Twitter (and probably those watching on FOX Sports Midwest) were more-than-half expecting a double play.  Nothing against Peralta, who isn’t necessarily known for them, but more about how this season has gone on a whole.  Instead, Peralta stroked a long single that might have been caught had the outfielders been playing at regular depth, but would have been a sac fly anyway.  That was his second RBI of the night after singling in Matt Adams in the first.

Adams also had a claim for Hero, also having three hits but only driving in one.  He also made some fine defensive plays at first base last night.  Adams has been very good over there all year long, which is a surprise given where he stood last year and, to some degree, his size.  Adams doesn’t move like a big man, though.  I noted on Twitter that, via the eye test, Adams has looked exceptional this year and some followers pointed out that he leads first basemen in Defensive Runs Saved.  It’s always good when there is some backup for what these old eyes are seeing.

Also a good night for Matt Holliday, who came back from his day off dealing with his knee to put up two hits and a walk and to drive in a run.  The Reds have often been a good tonic for Holliday, who has close to a .330 career average against them, and that proved to be the case again last night.  Given the knee issue, it’s a bit surprising that Holliday wasn’t the one that was removed from the game when Peter Bourjos came in as a defensive replacement, but even though Oscar Taveras made a sensational play in right earlier in the game, removing him for defensive purposes wasn’t terribly surprising.

Even though Kolten Wong went 0-5, the only starter without a hit, the Goat has to come from the pitching staff.  Normally, you’d be looking at Trevor Rosenthal here.  After all, he did blow another save and send the game into extras.  However, there’s some extenuating circumstances here.

With one out, Rosenthal walked Billy Hamilton on a 3-2 count.  At the least, Ball 4 seemed to be Strike 3 on all the pitch trackers.  (Some had many more of the ones called balls in the strike zone.)  While Rosenthal–depending on your opinion of the ump’s zone–bears some responsibility for getting the count to that point, it’s tough to blame him for throwing a strike that doesn’t get called.

After that, well, those of you that have kids probably know about the “If You Give A Mouse A Cookie” series of books.  They basically walk you through a cause and effect scenario.  In the books, they always tend to wind up in a circle, but it can definitely be applied to last night’s game anyway.

If Hamilton doesn’t walk, he’s not on first base.

If he’s not on first base, he doesn’t try to steal second.

If he doesn’t try to steal second, A.J. Pierzynski doesn’t try to catch him.

If Pierzynski doesn’t try to catch him, he doesn’t throw the ball into center field.

If he doesn’t throw the ball into center field, Hamilton doesn’t wind up on third.

If Hamilton doesn’t wind up on third, the infield does not play in to keep the run from scoring.

If the infield doesn’t play in, Jay Bruce doesn’t double past Adams (more than likely, it’s a groundball out).

If Bruce doesn’t double past Adams, the run doesn’t score and the game isn’t tied.

Given Rosenthal’s iffy stats on back-to-back days, I was very hesitant to see Mike Matheny call on him last night.  That said, I don’t think you can put much blame on Rosenthal there.  Baseball happens sometimes and, as shown above, one pitch can set off a chain reaction that ruins your night.  Rosenthal did strand Bruce at second with one out, which is better than you’d expect if Bad Rosie was on the mound.

No, I think the Goat winds up going to Justin Masterson.  It wasn’t the worst of outings, at least until the end, but one of the claims on Masterson was that he’d “eat innings” and yet, for the second time in four starts, he was done by the end of the fifth.  One other start he made it through six innings.  That’s not exactly the bullpen saving that you’d hope to get.

Last night, Masterson had one bad inning and might have gotten out of that with a better pitch to Bruce.  Bruce’s three-run homer was the notable problem of the inning, but the turning point was when he faced his opposite number.  After getting Mike Leake to swing at strike one, he threw three straight balls before plunking him.  You’ve got to get the opposing pitcher out in a situation like that, because it so often comes back to bite you as it did in this one.

Some on Twitter (which, I’ll be fair, was where I was following this part of the game before getting a chance to turn it on) were blaming Matheny for not bringing someone in before Masterson threw to Bruce.  Perhaps it’ll be explained more to me in the comments, but that seemed a bit extreme.  My thought is that a starting pitcher has to be just plastered to leave before five innings are up, at least until September when the pennant races tighten and there are more arms available.  I wouldn’t have even considered removing Masterson.  After all, he did have a 3-1 lead when Bruce was batting.  He might not have been dominant, but yanking a starter after 4 1/3 (and right after he’d gotten a groundout, so he wasn’t completely off the tracks) seems a bit extreme to me.  Maybe it’d been the right thing, but that’s just hindsight talking.

We didn’t mention him above, but Seth Maness has to get some kudos.  After Sam Freeman loaded the bases in the eighth, Maness came in, threw two pitches, and got a popup to end the threat.  Rosenthal was warming for the ninth anyway, but if the game had stayed tied, I wonder if Matheny would have stayed with Maness.  Two pitches is just almost a waste there.  I guarantee that if Rosenthal had been more “off”, there’d be a lot more talking today about why Matheny didn’t stay with Maness.

Carlos Martinez also looked incredibly sharp.  The one hit he did give up–to Mike Leake again, of all folks–was more of a “stick the bat out and let the velocity do the work” type rather than Martinez being figured out.  Given the struggles at the end of the rotation–and at the end of the bullpen–more outings like that and Martinez is likely to move one way or another.

Michael Wacha did some more throwing yesterday and impressed his manager.  While he’s still got some rehab work to do, you wonder if they’ll shorten up that timetable to get him back before the end of August. Actually, that’s probably not possible, but the sooner he can be back in the rotation, the better everyone will feel.  As much trouble and turmoil as this team has caused fans this year, a playoff rotation of Adam Wainwright, John Lackey, Lance Lynn and Wacha will make for a team that can surprise some folks.

Cards need today’s win to take the series, as Johnny Cueto looms for Wednesday’s match and he’s pitching as well as anyone not named Clayton Kershaw–and he’s actually not far off of that either.  Tonight, the Reds pitch Andrew Simon, who at one time was a league-leader in wins before sliding down the list lately.  He still has 12 of them, though, and an ERA of 3.28.  Simon’s not an overpowering guy, but given the way the Cardinal offense can produce grounder after grounder, that might not be encouraging.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Matt Holliday 12 8 1 0 0 0 0 3 1 .125 .417 .125 .542 0 0 0 1 0
Jon Jay 10 8 2 0 0 0 0 2 2 .250 .400 .250 .650 0 0 0 0 0
Daniel Descalso 7 6 1 0 1 0 2 1 0 .167 .286 .500 .786 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Carpenter 6 4 1 1 0 0 2 0 0 .250 .167 .500 .667 0 2 0 0 0
Jhonny Peralta 6 6 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 .167 .167 .333 .500 0 0 0 0 3
A.J. Pierzynski 5 4 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .250 .250 .250 .500 1 0 0 0 0
Mark Ellis 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Adams 2 2 2 1 0 1 2 0 0 1.000 1.000 3.000 4.000 0 0 0 0 0
Peter Bourjos 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Tony Cruz 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Kolten Wong 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Shane Robinson 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Adam Wainwright 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0
Total 60 49 9 3 1 1 6 6 7 .184 .276 .347 .623 2 2 0 1 3
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/19/2014.

Last time out, Simon gave up five in five innings to the Rockies, but if that table above holds true, he’s going to have better success tonight.  Still, nobody has seen him all that much, so it’s hard to draw many conclusions.  Adams did go deep against him once, which is nice to see.

Lackey tries to follow up a good start with another good start instead of a debacle this time.  He gave up two runs in seven to the Padres the last time he pitched and most fans would take another one of those outings tonight.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Jack Hannahan 10 10 2 0 0 1 1 0 2 .200 .200 .500 .700 0 0 0 0 0
Ramon Santiago 9 9 2 0 0 1 2 0 2 .222 .222 .556 .778 0 0 0 0 1
Ryan Ludwick 8 6 0 0 0 0 0 2 3 .000 .250 .000 .250 0 0 0 0 0
Brayan Pena 6 6 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 .667 1.167 0 0 0 0 0
Brandon Phillips 6 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 .000 .167 .000 .167 0 0 0 1 0
Total 39 36 7 1 0 2 3 2 10 .194 .256 .389 .645 0 0 0 1 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/19/2014.

The Reds haven’t seen a lot of him either, though you’d think that Lackey would be able to contain Bruce a little more than the club did last night.  Hopefully this one won’t take any special heroics and we can all rest a little easier!

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Walking One Fine Wire

The Cardinals took three of four from the Padres this weekend.  The Padres are a team now seven games under .500 with an offensive production that resembles a Imperial Stormtrooper’s blaster accuracy–not a lot of hits, few scores.  So why is it that it seems the Cards were able to escape with a series win and that it could have been so easily a different result?

Friday (4-2 win)

Hero: Lance Lynn.  There was just enough offense to get Lynn another win, but it’s not like he needed a bunch of it.  Lynn went six innings, allowed just one run, and struck out six.  If he’d had an off night–even by just a hair–things could have been significantly different.

Goat: Shane Robinson.  0-4 and left four men on.  While I can understand Oscar Taveras sitting one game after his baserunning issues, it makes it tough to swallow him sitting out another one when Robinson does this.  At least OT pinch-hit and got an RBI single.

Notes: You start to wonder what kind of voodoo might be on the ninth inning for the Redbirds.  Trevor Rosenthal definitely didn’t need to pitch after Thursday’s ugliness and, with a three run lead, Mike Matheny turned to Pat Neshek.  Neshek quickly got the first two hitters and went to 0-2 on Yasami Grandal before leaving a pitch in the wrong place and watching it go over the wall.  That was the first run Neshek had given up since the end of July.  He then allowed a double to make things really interesting before getting out of the jam.

Two hits each for Matt Adams and Jhonny Peralta.  Adams came through with a hit with the bases loaded and nobody out in the first, which was nice to see.  I don’t think anyone would have ruled out watching Tyson Ross walk the sacks full only to see him get out of it unscathed.

Saturday (9-5 loss)

Hero: Oscar Taveras.  2-4 with a run and an RBI, which was a good showing for the young outfielder.  Peralta and Adams had similar lines, but given this was Taveras’s first game back after a couple off, we’ll go with him.

Goat: Take out your coin, please.  Do you want to give it to Shelby Miller, who was staked to a four-run lead (and helped get that lead by scoring on a Matt Carpenter double) and then immediately gave it back, in part with the six walks he issued in six innings?  Or do you go with Kevin Siegrist, who came into a game with a one run lead and promptly blew it by loading the bases and then giving up a grand slam?  I think I’d go with Siegrist–at least Miller had five tolerable innings out of his six, while Siegrist was so rough that he’s now in Memphis.

Notes: You almost wish they’d have just called this one after the rains came following the grand slam.  Waiting an hour and 45 minutes to come back and go through the motions of losing is not exactly the most productive way to spend an evening.  In the three innings they played after, the Cards got one hit (a double by Peralta) and a walk by Jon Jay.  Not exactly worth waiting out the storm for.  Adams got his fifth triple of the season, which leads the team.  Not exactly the person you’d expect to be at the top of that category, but when you hit the ball as hard as he does, sometimes it’s hard for the outfielders to go chase it down.

Sunday (7-6 win)

Hero: Matt Carpenter.  Without Carpenter, they don’t win that game.  A home run to extend the lead to 5-0 then a double that scored two and gave them a 7-4 cushion.  Carpenter also had a hit to lead off the first inning and scored later on as the club batted around.  There’s absolutely no doubt Carp had the best day out there.

Goat: Trevor Rosenthal.  Walking three of the four batters you face is no way to get through the ninth, kid.  The runners scored when Seth Maness came in, but the fact that they immediately removed Rosenthal tells you all about his day.  You’d almost expect this kind of outing if Rosie had pitched the day before–we’ll get into this in a moment, but his stats on zero days’ rest are atrocious–but when he struggles this much with two days off, it gets you pretty concerened.

Notes: Two hits for both Jay and Peter Bourjos, who were both in the lineup as Matt Holliday deals with a sore knee.  The expectation is that Holliday will be back in the lineup tonight against the Reds, but I don’t guess it’d be too surprising if they gave him another day with it, especially since Holliday’s been in a bit of a slump lately, likely due in part to that soreness.

As always, this graphical representation comes from the pen of @Cardinal_50.

As always, this graphical representation comes from the pen of @Cardinal_50.

After the game, Matheny reiterated that Rosenthal was the closer.  Given Rosenthal’s last few outings–plus the angst he’s given most fans throughout the season–that seemed a bit curious.  That said, if I’m going to give Matheny grief for not being overly positive about Taveras in the press, it’s hard for me to then say he should come out and say things are in flux for the ninth inning.

And, for the most part, Rosenthal has done the job.  Before yesterday’s game significantly inflated it, Rosie had a 2.19 ERA for the second half of the season.  He has saved all eight of his chances–his two losses over that span came when he appeared in a tie game, which granted is a point of concern, but late inning tie games can be pretty volatile no matter who is pitching.  Rosenthal hasn’t blown an actual save since July 5, though yesterday might have been the end of that streak had not Matheny gone to Maness.

What concerns me the most about Rosenthal continuing in the closer role is his basic inability to do anything two days in a row.  Look at the two tables below.

Split G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR BB SO SO/W BA OBP SLG OPS TB GDP HBP BAbip tOPS+ sOPS+
0 Days,GR 20 86 70 8 19 3 0 0 13 25 1.92 .271 .388 .314 .703 22 2 1 .413 115 109
1 Day,GR 12 54 45 4 11 1 1 0 5 16 3.20 .244 .352 .311 .663 14 2 3 .367 103 97
2 Days,GR 13 59 47 6 7 3 0 1 11 20 1.82 .149 .310 .277 .587 13 1 0 .231 80 76
3 Days,GR 4 17 14 2 3 0 0 0 2 5 2.50 .214 .294 .214 .508 3 0 0 .300 55 54
4 Days,GR 3 11 11 0 2 0 0 0 0 2 .182 .182 .182 .364 2 0 0 .222 12 10
5 Days,GR 3 15 13 2 6 3 0 0 2 2 1.00 .462 .533 .692 1.226 9 2 0 .545 280 260
6+ Days,GR 2 6 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 .000 -100 -100
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/18/2014.
I Split W L W-L% ERA SV IP H R ER HR BB SO HBP BF WHIP SO9
0 Days,GR 0 4 .000 3.93 15 18.1 19 8 8 0 13 25 1 86 1.745 12.3
1 Day,GR 0 0 2.92 10 12.1 11 4 4 0 5 16 3 54 1.297 11.7
2 Days,GR 1 2 .333 3.95 5 13.2 7 6 6 1 11 20 0 59 1.317 13.2
3 Days,GR 0 0 4.50 0 4.0 3 2 2 0 2 5 0 17 1.250 11.3
4 Days,GR 0 0 0.00 1 3.0 2 0 0 0 0 2 0 11 0.667 6.0
5 Days,GR 0 0 6.00 3 3.0 6 2 2 0 2 2 0 15 2.667 6.0
6+ Days,GR 0 0 0.00 2 2.0 0 0 0 0 0 3 0 6 0.000 13.5
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/18/2014.

As you can see, back to back days are just ugly for him.  The two-days line got skewed up yesterday, but before that it seemed OK to bring him in if he’d had some rest.  However, my feeling is a closer has to be able to go pretty regularly, especially when you get to the postseason.  Are the Cardinals going to run him out there to get the save in Game 7 of the NLCS if he’s thrown the day before?  Do you gamble your trip to the World Series on that?

It’d be an interesting thing for Matheny to almost name co-closers, letting Neshek come in when Rosenthal went the day before.  However, that would seem to be a bridge too far for Matheny to go, I think.  When there’s a save situation, Rosenthal is the guy, whether he should be or not.

Cardinals start a series with the Reds tonight.  (BTW, I’m writing the Bird’s Eye View for this one.  If you aren’t signed up for it, do that here.)  Justin Masterson hopes that the adjustments he made last time out carry forward and give the Cards what they traded for.  Masterson missed the annual Indians-Reds series this year, but he’s seen them before and done all right.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Ramon Santiago 24 18 2 0 0 0 2 3 4 .111 .304 .111 .415 1 0 0 2 1
Jay Bruce 15 14 2 0 0 1 1 1 1 .143 .200 .357 .557 0 0 0 0 0
Brayan Pena 8 8 3 0 0 0 1 0 0 .375 .375 .375 .750 0 0 0 0 0
Zack Cozart 7 7 1 0 0 0 0 0 3 .143 .143 .143 .286 0 0 0 0 0
Todd Frazier 6 4 1 1 0 0 0 1 2 .250 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 1 0
Chris Heisey 4 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 .333 .500 .333 .833 0 0 0 1 0
Jack Hannahan 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 1
Sam LeCure 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 67 57 10 1 0 1 4 5 12 .175 .288 .246 .533 1 0 0 4 2
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/18/2014.

If those stats hold, it’ll be a nice outing for Masterson this evening.  I saw mention that Brandon Phillips could be activated (actually, I see he is in the lineup) for this one, which might up the level of difficulty, but all in all I like the chances of another Master-ful outing.  (Yes, I went there.)

The Reds, after losing a couple of devastating games, including the second game of a double header that started around 9 Central, have to hope Mike Leake can give them a little momentum before they fall completely out of the playoff race.  St. Louis has done OK against Leake in the past, which hopefully will continue tonight.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Matt Holliday 30 28 11 3 0 1 6 2 2 .393 .433 .607 1.040 0 0 0 0 2
Jon Jay 26 24 6 1 0 0 1 2 5 .250 .308 .292 .599 0 0 0 0 2
Matt Carpenter 18 16 3 0 0 0 1 1 2 .188 .222 .188 .410 0 1 0 0 0
Matt Adams 12 12 4 1 0 1 2 0 2 .333 .333 .667 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Daniel Descalso 9 9 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .111 .111 .111 .222 0 0 0 0 0
Tony Cruz 8 7 4 0 0 0 1 1 0 .571 .625 .571 1.196 0 0 0 0 1
Adam Wainwright 7 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 1 0 0 0 0
Kolten Wong 7 7 3 0 0 0 1 0 0 .429 .429 .429 .857 0 0 0 0 0
Mark Ellis 6 5 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .167 .000 .167 0 0 0 0 0
Jhonny Peralta 6 5 0 0 0 0 0 1 3 .000 .167 .000 .167 0 0 0 0 0
A.J. Pierzynski 6 5 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 .200 .333 .200 .533 0 0 1 0 0
Peter Bourjos 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 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
Shelby Miller 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Shane Robinson 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 1
Total 142 131 33 5 0 2 12 9 19 .252 .298 .336 .634 1 1 1 0 6
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/18/2014.

Nice numbers for Holliday, though if he’s battling that knee it might be just as well to sit him out for the evening. However, checking the lineup (I hate working on these posts throughout the day), I see he’s back in there, so hopefully his success against Leake will overcome any injury.

It’s getting into must-win-series territory for the Redbirds. Let’s hope they can get a win tonight!

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After Hall of Famer to be Tony La Russa stepped down from the managerial slot in 2011, John Mozeliak tapped Mike Matheny for the job.  All he brought to the spot was the knowledge of a catcher and the reputation of being a leader of men.  No experience in the big chair, as it were.

In 2012, we watched and railed as Matheny bunted anytime there was a runner on first and second.  While we knew he’d have to grow into learning tactics, it still seemed so frustrating and counterproductive.

He also came within a game of the World Series.

In 2013, we watched and railed as Matheny still bunted, though seemingly less often, but then had little idea (to the observers) on how exactly to use a bullpen.

He also came within two games of a World Championship.

Here we are in 2014.  The tactics are still under fire, the bullpen usage is better but not perfect and now we can add to the list of complaints and charges questionable usage of the players that he has.  We’ve seen Allen Craig traded because, in part, Matheny wouldn’t stop playing him over Oscar Taveras.  We’ve seen Peter Bourjos buried quickly on the bench.

He also has the team within two games of the divisional lead in mid-August.

There’s a saying, “God takes care of fools, little children, and the United States.”  We’ll be generous and say that Matheny the manager counts as the second given his lack of experience.  Whatever the case, though, there seems little doubt that Matheny could walk out into a pasture filled with manure and find the one four-leaf clover that is out there.

If you doubted that, just look at last night’s game.  First, the lineup.

Matt Carpenter 3B
Peter Bourjos CF
Matt Holliday RF
Matt Adams 1B
Jhonny Peralta SS
Mark Ellis 2B
Shane Robinson LF
Tony Cruz C

The Padres came in hitting .225 so apparently Matheny wanted to make them feel right at home, running out four hitters that are hitting worse than that mark.  Yes, the Padres were sending out Eric Stolts, who was a left-hander.  However, he’s not necessarily a GOOD lefthander.  Benching every lefty you have worked better in the TLR era, when the bench was actually passable.

Of course, you can make arguments for the lineup.  Jon Jay still has a bit of a wrist problem.  Kolten Wong could use a day off.  However, it seems a bit overkill to try to solve the platoon disadvantage by running out guys that can’t, for the most part, hit anyone, no matter what hand they throw with.

So, of course, the Cardinals get out in front 2-0.  Note, however, that it had nothing to do with the bench guys playing.  Adams, the only lefty in the lineup, got a hit and Peralta hit a home run.  In fact, until the wild and woolly end of the game, the lefty had half the team’s four hits.  Perhaps keeping everyone that hit from the port side away from the lineup was a bit overkill.

John Lackey ran into some command issues in the sixth, loading the bases with nobody out on a double sandwiched between two walks.  He allowed two of those guys to score and the game was tied.  Given these two offenses, there was a very good chance this was going to be a late night.

Then, things got crazy.

I was watching the game via GameDay on my phone so as to not to disturb the family and I saw that Cruz struck out, then got a hit. I chalked that up to a glitch in the app until I checked Twitter.  Watching the video this morning, it’s fairly obvious the Cardinals caught a break.  Cruz didn’t hit that ball and, for once, Bob Davidson’s questionable umpiring comes around to help the Cards.

For some reason, given all the different possibilities on the bench, Matheny chooses Daniel Descalso to pinch-hit.  Thankfully, he doesn’t see anything close and trots to first while Wong comes in to pinch-run for Cruz.  Carpenter singles to load them up.  Alex Torres, the left-handed reliever who had nothing, leaves and righty Nick Vincent comes in.  With a lefty no longer on the mound, Matheny now uses Jay to pinch-hit.

Of course, as most everyone on Twitter knows, this year Jay actually has a reverse split.  He’s hitting better against lefties (.421 with a .985 OPS) than righties (.267 with a .700 OPS).  Bourjos also is the opposite of what you’d expect, with a .242 BA/.674 OPS against righties and a .193 BA/.591 OPS mark against the lefties.  Now, sure, Jay has a better mark against righties than Bourjos does and so the move could make sense based on that, but if Matheny was paying much attention to that it seems unlikely Bourjos would have started the game.

Given the charmed life Matheny is rolling with, Jay of course hit the first pitch for a two-run double.

The ninth is Trevor Rosenthal‘s spot, especially in a two-run outing.  We’ve noted before how rough his numbers are when he’s used in back-to-back days.  With 0 days of rest, Rosie has a 3.93 ERA, is 0-4, and walks about half as many as he strikes out (25 K/13 BB).  For comparison, with one day of rest the ERA drops to 2.92 and he strikes out three times as many as he walks.  You wouldn’t think that getting one out yesterday made that kind of difference, but given the results of last night, you can’t rule it out.

Rosenthal got one of the first three batters out and even that was a well-hit ball that Robinson corralled.  Even with a two-run lead, it looked like there was going to need to be some real luck to get out of this one with a win.

Matheny’s charmed life struck again.

A base hit by Jake Goebbert drove in one but the runner on second tried to score as well.  Robinson’s throw was well up the line and A.J. Pierzynski threw a tag on him (or did he?) and Davidson called him out.  Nobody was sure that was the case, so they all kept trying to score/tag after that, which didn’t help.

Replays were pretty inconclusive and the call stood.  Rosenthal then walked the next guy before striking out the final batter, locking down yet another save.  That’s what’s important, right?

Crazy, crazy game.  You’d like to think it didn’t have to be that way if the offense could have come around earlier.  That might be a bridge too far for this team, however.

Let’s see, let’s give the Hero to Jon Jay for the big double and the Goat has to be Trevor Rosenthal because, while he got the save, he didn’t pitch well at all.  Though Ellis with his 0-4 would be right in the mix.

Matheny's charmed life, as documented by @Cardinal_50

Matheny’s charmed life, as documented by @Cardinal_50

As noted, Taveras not only sat last night but never saw the field.  Matheny before the game was quoted as saying Oscar has “a lot to learn” as he pointed out his baserunning error from Wednesday night (an error that wound up being moot when Justin Masterson picked him up).  While it’s nice to know that Matheny acknowledged that Taveras has been receptive to the comments he’s getting and he probably did need a day off last night, it still rubs me slightly the wrong way for this kind of stuff to be out in the media.  Matheny’s sole skill set when he got this job was being able to manage people and this seems a bit counterproductive to that.

I’ll freely admit, though, that it’s probably just me and it may come across worse in text than if you were there listening to Matheny.  (Then again, basically everything sounds the same when you listen to Matheny.  If Phineas and Ferb have Major Monogram, Matheny could be Major Monotone.)  Still, it just seems like something that could be handled internally, or at least some positive examples coming out with the negative.

Yadier Molina did some catching yesterday, which would seem to be a great sign.  Granted, Pierzynski has shored up that spot much more than we ever thought when Molina went down, but he’s not Yadi.  It’s nice to know that might be closer to eight weeks than 12 that we’ll be missing him and that he could get some regular season time to get readjusted before the playoffs happen (if this team gets there, of course).

Tonight, Lance Lynn tries to hold down the offensively inept Padres.  Granted, Lynn doesn’t need a weak lineup to have a good game and it would seem likely that he’ll keep the score down this evening.  He allowed just one run in six innings the last time these two teams met.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Will Venable 10 10 4 1 0 1 1 0 2 .400 .400 .800 1.200 0 0 0 0 0
Yangervis Solarte 7 6 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .143 .000 .143 0 0 0 0 1
Alexi Amarista 6 4 1 0 0 0 1 1 0 .250 .333 .250 .583 0 1 0 0 0
Jedd Gyorko 6 5 2 0 0 0 2 0 1 .400 .500 .400 .900 0 0 0 1 0
Rene Rivera 3 2 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 .500 .667 .500 1.167 0 0 0 0 0
Seth Smith 3 2 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 .500 .667 .500 1.167 0 0 0 0 0
Tyson Ross 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Yasmani Grandal 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 38 32 9 1 0 1 4 4 6 .281 .368 .406 .775 0 1 0 1 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/15/2014.

Of course, it’s the rare game where you can call another team “offensively inept”.  The Cards will have to show they can hit against Tyson Ross, who is on quite a run.  His last 10 games, he’s got a 1.75 ERA and has struck out 70 while walking 16.  His last game was against the Pirates, where he garnered a win by allowing just two runs in six innings.  He also saw the Redbirds when they were out at Petco and gave up a run in six innings.  He did walk five in that game, though, so maybe the Cards were a little more patient than other squads.  Or he just had an off day.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Mark Ellis 9 8 2 0 0 0 1 1 4 .250 .333 .250 .583 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Holliday 5 2 0 0 0 0 1 2 0 .000 .400 .000 .400 0 1 0 0 0
Jhonny Peralta 5 3 0 0 0 0 0 2 1 .000 .400 .000 .400 0 0 0 0 0
Peter Bourjos 4 4 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 .250 .250 .250 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Carpenter 4 2 2 1 0 0 0 2 0 1.000 1.000 1.500 2.500 0 0 0 0 0
Jon Jay 4 4 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .250 .250 .250 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Adams 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
A.J. Pierzynski 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Kolten Wong 3 2 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 1 0 0 1
Lance Lynn 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 42 33 8 1 0 0 4 7 9 .242 .357 .273 .630 0 2 0 0 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/15/2014.

This could be a game decided by the bullpen or an extra-inning affair.  Someone’s got to win it, though.  Might as well be the Cardinals.

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Leading up to last night’s game, there was talk about how Justin Masterson may have tinkered with his mechanics, trying to improve on two dismal starts in Cardinal red that led folks to wonder if John Mozeliak had lost his touch.

Let’s just say Masterson is a pretty darn good tinkerer.

Seven scoreless innings on just three hits is not only remarkably different from what Masterson has done since he came to St. Louis, but it’s also a departure from everyone else in the rotation this time through.  Even those that pitched well gave up a lot of hits and some runs.  To have a dominant outing out of the starting pitcher is something this team hasn’t seen much of lately, which is why this team hasn’t seen the win column much lately either.

When you factor in that Masterson also had an RBI single (perhaps the pitchers are taking extra batting practice, knowing they may have to fend for themselves with this offense), he’s the easy Hero of the game.  The kicker is going to be whether he can have this kind of success going forward.  Was it just a good game or did those adjustments take hold?  We’ll find out for sure next week against the Reds, but there’s at least reason to believe that the Cards will get some good value out of Masterson after all.

Matt Adams might have only had one hit, which I don’t think means you can declare his recent skid over, but it was a big one at the right time, driving in the first two runs of the game.  Matt Carpenter had a Hero-level game as well, getting three hits and scoring two runs.  If it weren’t for Masterson, he’d easily have gotten the tag.  Jon Jay continues to hit, getting two of them and scoring a run as well.

Gotta find a Goat.  Let’s make it Kevin Siegrist.  Siegrist came into the ninth and allowed a two-run home run to Jeff Baker.  That made the game 5-2 and one out to get.  One out, in a three-run game.  You know what that means.

Trevor Rosenthal came in, got one out, and got to add to his save total.  Now, to be fair, Rosenthal hasn’t thrown since Sunday.  Still, if you were worried about that, you’d have let him throw the ninth even with a five run lead.  (That’s what happened Sunday, after all.)  If you don’t start the inning with him, I think it’s fair to say you can give Siegrist a chance to get out of it with just one out remaining.  If he puts another runner on, sure.  The heart of the order was coming up, but again, it’s a three run lead.  The Book of Matheny, though, says the closer must come in when it’s a save situation.

The Cardinals won the game like they won their last game–putting together a bunch of singles.  They had one extra base hit, a double by Jay, but everything else was single, single, single.  It’s all right when you can bunch them together, but so often this team can’t.  We know this team is dead last in the NL in home runs (well, I didn’t actually know that until I looked it up, but I knew they were down close to the bottom).  Right now they are fifth in doubles, though they are one out of fourth and five out of eighth.  In other words, their double count isn’t anything special.

That’s one of the differences between this year and last year.  Last year, they led the league by 20 doubles.  That helped make up for the fact they were one of the lowest home run hitting teams.  This year, they have the lack of home runs, but they aren’t getting the doubles to make up for it.  If the power started to brown out last year, it’s almost completely out this season.

Where do you look for answers?  Don’t be questioning the coaches.  At least, that’s Mike Matheny‘s philosophy, thinking some of the criticism of the staff is cheap.  Matheny says they have the same approach as they did last year, but it’s becoming more and more apparent that last year’s record-setting hitting with runners in scoring position might have papered over some flaws that could have been addressed.  Last year, the Cards scored more runs than Colorado and led the league by almost 80.  This year they are 14th and trail by 90.  Is the difference entirely not hitting .330 with RISP?  No, but you have to figure that’s a big factor.  If they had hit .270 with RISP last year, how would it have looked?  What decisions would have been made differently?  We’ll never know.  However, until people start hitting consistently, everyone is going to come under fire, and that includes the coaching staff.

Cards get to go home and face the only offense that might be worse than them in the National League.  Of course, that didn’t mean anything two weeks ago when St. Louis flew out to San Diego and promptly allowed 17 runs over three games, losing two of them.  The Redbirds really need to take three of four this weekend, because time keeps on slipping away.

Of course, John Lackey wasn’t on the Cardinals during the last Padres series.  (Well, he was acquired before the last game, but he never went out to California, of course.)  Lackey gets a chance to cleanse himself from his last ugly outing by taking on a team that is hitting .225 as a team with an OPS of .634.  (When you put it in that context, the 12 runs the Cards gave up last week against San Diego has to be the worst game of the year, doesn’t it?) Unsurprisingly, given his entire history in the American League, Lackey doesn’t have much of a history against these Padres batters.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Seth Smith 6 5 2 1 1 0 1 0 1 .400 .333 1.000 1.333 0 1 0 0 0
Alexi Amarista 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Yangervis Solarte 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Will Venable 3 2 1 0 0 1 2 1 0 .500 .667 2.000 2.667 0 0 0 0 0
Total 15 13 5 1 1 1 3 1 2 .385 .400 .846 1.246 0 1 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/14/2014.

Every day when we look at pitching history, it’s a small sample size that really can’t be used to project much. Today is even more so–Lackey faced the Padres once last year, which is where most of this comes from.

Eric Stults goes for the Padres.  For a journeyman that’s spent time in the bigs since 2006, it’s not a name I’m that familiar with.  Baseball-Reference has apparently gone down while I’m trying to put this post together, so I can’t tell you what his history against the Cardinal hitters is.  I can tell you that in his career he’s thrown two games against the Cards, one in 2012 and one in 2013.  Both games he gave up three runs, the first in 5.1 innings (a game he won), the second in six innings (a game he lost).  So he’s not likely completely unfamiliar to these guys, which may or may not mean anything.

This is a big weekend for this team.  They’ve got to win series like this to be considered a serious playoff team.  I know we are tempering expectations, but I think we all want to believe they can be a better team than they are showing.  Even a split this weekend would prove this is the team that we have–a slightly above average team that probably won’t play in October.  Let’s hope that’s not the case!

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If frustration levels could be set on the same scale as our defense readiness, St. Louis Cardinals fans would be at DEFCON 2, I think.  After a nice run through the Red Sox, the Redbirds got pummeled in Baltimore and now have dropped two in a row to a Miami team that might be OK but still is under .500.  You don’t lose two in a row to a team like that if you are a championship team.

Which begs the question: Is this really a championship team?  We’ve had that mindset all year long, for good reason.  When you look at the talent this team has and what it should be able to do, on paper this looks like a squad that should easily contend to defend their NL crown if not take the next step.  That’s what we’ve wanted to see all year long and, to some degree, that’s why this team is so frustrating.

As my father often used to tell me, they don’t play the games on paper.  (To be fair, he predates the whole fantasy baseball thing, when we did play our games on paper, though even that’s digital these days.)  While you look at a team with this lineup and this rotation and this bullpen and think that we should be looking at title #12, the actual results are such that it may be time to temper those thoughts.  Every day that we watch them lose another game, especially to teams that they should beat, makes it harder and harder to picture this club in October.

I know, I know, 2011.  2012, to a degree.  The Cards aren’t that far out of it right now and there’s a lot of baseball to be played.  I’m not saying that they can’t or won’t win the division or go deep into October.  It’s obvious that they CAN, since if they couldn’t we wouldn’t be having this discussion.  I’m not suggesting that we stop watching the games or stop being a fan or anything like that.  I think it just may be time to realize that this isn’t the team we thought we were getting in January or February.  I don’t know the reasons, I don’t know necessarily how you fix it, but right now it’s very difficult to imagine that they can hunt down Milwaukee, much less go deep into the playoffs.  Again, don’t misunderstand–I know they can and I hope they can, but I may have to temper it to not expect they can.  It may be the only way to deal with the frustration.

I guess we should take a look at last night’s game.  After writing about how Matt Adams needed a day off yesterday, Mike Matheny gave him a day off.  (I will now write about how someone needs to give me five million dollars.)  While most everyone was confused and confuzzled to see Mark Ellis take first in his stead, there’s no obvious backup first baseman on the roster.  All Ellis did was get two of the team’s four hits and get the Hero status.  Granted, it didn’t take much to get that status in last night’s stinker of a game, but it’s still interesting to see both Ellis and Daniel Descalso have such good games with some playing time recently.  It’s not something I necessarily want to see as a regular practice, but as much grief as those guys have gotten from the fans, it’s kinda nice to see them be productive.  Not sure if it’s telling that most of those big games have come in Cardinal losses or not, though.

So many choices for Goat, but we’ll use our “leadoff breaks ties” rule and give it to Matt Carpenter, who put up an 0-4 just like many of the rest of the hitters, but that means more coming out of the leadoff spot.  Again, though, you could flip a coin and pick this one.  Matt Holliday and Jhonny Peralta also went 0-4 and a few others probably would have if they’d gotten another at-bat.

Adam Wainwright probably deserved better last night.  He only allowed three runs, including a foul-pole-clanging home run from Donovan Solano that easily could–probably should–have gone foul.  Couple that with the fact Casey McGehee apparently learned at the feet of Aramis Ramirez (he has a 1.188 OPS against the Cardinals this year) and that was enough for the Marlins when the Cardinal bats were as quiet as, well, we’ve come to expect.  While they put up another late-inning rally in this one, it came to naught like most of the rallies have lately.

The game ended with Adams pinch-hitting for Oscar Taveras and striking out.  While it could be a bit frustrating to see a lefty pinch-hitting for a lefty, given Taveras’s struggles lately, with the tying runs on you likely had to make a move like that.  (Then again, knowing that they would go to a lefty reliever, should maybe Peter Bourjos have hit?  Not that he could have tied the game on one swing like Adams theoretically could, but a base hit could have gotten at least one in.  Given that Adams hasn’t hit a home run in a long while, expecting him to pinch-hit one off a lefty might have been a bridge too far.)  Bernie Miklasz writes about Taveras and what he should work on (and what may happen soon).  He’s right about one thing, thinking that the hitting coaches will help might be a pipe dream.  After all, this is an offense that has trouble hitting water when they fall out of a boat and it has been all year long.  You’d think that if the coaches could make a difference, they would have by now.

St. Louis tries to avoid the sweep and falling any farther back in the division this evening, sending out Justin Masterson to hopefully do much better than he’s done the first two times.  Masterson says he’s worked on his mechanics and he’s ready to go, but we’ll have to see if there’s something behind that strong talk.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Jarrod Saltalamacchia 14 14 4 2 0 0 3 0 1 .286 .286 .429 .714 0 0 0 0 0
Garrett Jones 9 8 2 0 0 0 1 1 2 .250 .333 .250 .583 0 0 0 0 0
Jeff Mathis 9 7 3 0 0 0 3 1 1 .429 .500 .429 .929 1 0 0 0 0
Casey McGehee 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Giancarlo Stanton 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Total 38 35 11 2 0 0 7 2 6 .314 .351 .371 .723 1 0 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/13/2014.

Of course, while the Marlins hitters haven’t seen him much, they haven’t really been fooled when they have.  We’ll see if him tinkering with things will make a difference tonight.  We can only hope.

The Cards have to hit against Nathan Eovaldi, who has an ERA a shade under 4.00 for the season.  Eovaldi is coming off back-to-back strong starts against the Reds, including his last start, which was eight scoreless innings.  He’s been beat around at times this year–in his last 10 games he’s allowed five runs or more five times–but that dominance against another NL Central team doesn’t necessarily bode well for the Redbirds.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Matt Holliday 8 6 1 0 0 0 0 2 1 .167 .375 .167 .542 0 0 0 0 1
Jon Jay 8 8 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 .250 .250 .250 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Daniel Descalso 7 6 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 .167 .286 .167 .452 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Carpenter 6 6 2 1 1 0 1 0 1 .333 .333 .833 1.167 0 0 0 0 0
Jhonny Peralta 6 6 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .167 .167 .167 .333 0 0 0 0 1
Mark Ellis 5 4 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 .250 .400 .250 .650 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Adams 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Tony Cruz 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Oscar Taveras 3 3 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 .333 .333 .667 1.000 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
Total 51 47 11 2 1 0 2 4 6 .234 .294 .319 .613 0 0 0 0 2
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/13/2014.

St. Louis hasn’t done much against Eovaldi in the past, though they did score three runs in six innings against him on the Fourth of July.  They may need a bit more than that tonight.

I didn’t mean for this to be a depressing post and I don’t think it has to be.  I’m not saying to stop rooting for this team, I’m just saying maybe we temper our expectations.  It might make us healthier–all this stress can’t be good for us!

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After a few false starts, I finally got a chance to see Guardians of the Galaxy last night.  A wonderful movie, one I thoroughly enjoyed, but in one part as they were out in space, I thought I saw an object that I recognized, but it didn’t make much sense for it to be there.

Then I turned on the game as I left the theater and realized it was one of Giancarlo Stanton‘s home run balls.

After being excited to see the “return” of Shelby Miller in his past few starts, it was crushingly disappointing to see the long ball come back and bite him again.  Miller’s control was still fairly good–just two walks, though when you only throw five innings, that means a bit less–but the hits just kept on coming and Stanton’s hits hurt more than anyone else’s.

John Mozeliak doubled down on pitching at the trade deadline, but this time through the rotation, that’s not been a great bet.  Miller allowed eight hits and five runs in his five innings.  We know how many hits and runs Justin Masterson and John Lackey gave up in Baltimore.  Even Lance Lynn, who got a gutty win on Sunday, allowed nine hits in his 5.2 innings.  For whatever the reason, the starters seem to be allowing more baserunners, which is going to backfire sooner or later.  And it looks like sooner.

Consistency has been the biggest problem with this team, just like it was in 2010.  (To be fair, even the playoff teams of 2011-2013 weren’t all that consistent in the regular season, at least not until September.)  The Cardinals have now lost three of four on the heels of winning four of five.  There seems to be no eight of 10 or five in a row option available for this team, which is going to make things difficult.  Right now, they have to hope that Milwaukee will lose more often than they do instead of trying to win their way to the top.  Can that change?  It can, but we’ve been waiting all season for it to do so.  They are running out of time to have it change and be relevant to this season.

We’ll give Miller the Goat, though Matt Adams did his darnedest to take it from him.  0-5 with two strikeouts and you wonder if Adams might be wearing down a bit.  (He did stroke a nice shot to center his first time up, but it hung up enough to be caught.)  Adams has started the last 28 games in a row and only once come out “early” (before the 8th).  He’s hitting .172 over his past seven games and a breather might be a good idea, though there’s no obvious candidate to take a day at first.

We’ll give the Hero tag to Matt Holliday, who definitely did his part to win the game last night.  Four hits, one run, one RBI.  He even drove in the last run in the ninth as part of the two-run rally, which at least made the final score closer and gave the Cards a shot.

Another home run from Jon Jay, perhaps wanting to answer what Peter Bourjos did yesterday.  Two hits each from Jhonny Peralta and A.J. Pierzynski.  While you’d expect a little more offense against a guy like Tom Koehler, they put runners on, they just couldn’t make up the gap Miller left for them.

There were rumors floating around yesterday that Mozeliak was looking at bringing in Alfonso Soriano for the Cardinal bench.  While it’s definitely true that St. Louis needs improvement in that area, is that really the direction to go?  I mean, Soriano hit a whopping .221 in New York this season.  Sure, that’s better than some of the current bench guys, especially when you factor in the six home runs, but why not just tap the minors?  Tommy Pham is doing outstanding work down in Memphis.  Wouldn’t it be worth seeing what he has?  Mo has said he’s coming up in September anyway, why not just jumpstart that by a week or so?

Cards try to even the series with Miami tonight and send out Adam Wainwright to do it.  That’s a good person to be sending out there.  Waino got back on track last time against the Red Sox and while he’s again fallen behind Clayton Kershaw for the Cy Young, that doesn’t mean he isn’t still in the conversation.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Garrett Jones 29 29 8 0 0 0 3 0 6 .276 .276 .276 .552 0 0 0 0 1
Casey McGehee 16 15 1 0 0 0 1 1 4 .067 .125 .067 .192 0 0 0 0 0
Jeff Baker 7 6 1 0 0 0 0 1 2 .167 .286 .167 .452 0 0 0 0 1
Jordany Valdespin 6 6 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .167 .167 .167 .333 0 0 0 0 0
Reed Johnson 3 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 .667 .667 .667 1.333 0 0 0 0 0
Giancarlo Stanton 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .333 .000 .333 0 0 0 0 0
Brad Penny 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 66 63 13 0 0 0 4 3 13 .206 .242 .206 .449 0 0 0 0 2
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/12/2014.

The Marlins haven’t done a lot with him in the past and the little he’s seen Stanton, he’s been able to corral him.  Let’s sincerely hope he knows enough to keep pitches out of Stanton’s exceptionally large wheelhouse!

St. Louis will face Jarred Cosart tonight.  Cosart pitched for Houston much of the season and is a combined 9-8 with a 4.51 ERA for his two teams.  His only start with the Marlins was at the beginning of August, when he allowed four runs in 5.1 innings to the Reds.

The only Cardinal that’s seen Cosart is former Red Sox Pierzynski, who is 0-3 against him.  It’s a fresh slate for these guys tonight.  That’s so rarely a good thing, but let’s hope they have a plan.  At least more than 12% of one.

I am Groot!

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