C70 At The Bat

Water Finds Its Level

We talked earlier in the month about the Cardinals struggling to get over their high-water mark for the season, three games over .500.  Then it happened, in the midst of a glorious run that saw them go seven games up on break-even.  We’ve seen sweeps of the Pirates and the Cubs, a five game winning streak, and where are we at the end of June?

Three games over .500.

Water finds its level.

As we close in on the halfway point (game 78 is tonight), it is becoming more and more apparent that, for whatever reason, this team is really just a shade better than mediocre.  There are amazing talents on this squad–Matt Carpenter‘s season is being almost tragically wasted–but for whatever reason, the consistent ability to win games isn’t one of those skills that they have.

There doesn’t seem to be an obvious problem nor an obvious solution.  It’s hard to even say the offseason is the root of the issues, because if their current stats are any indication neither David Price nor Jason Heyward would be helping this club.  The offense has been much better than expected.  The pitching rotation is starting to come around.  The bullpen, until lately, has been a strength.

Things just never click at the same time, though.  In the past, Cardinal teams have seemed like more than the sum of their parts at times.  Whether it was that preternatural ability to get a hit with runners in scoring position in 2013 or an almost magical way of shutting the other team last year, there always seemed to be more to the club than just the pieces on the field.

I’m not sure that’s the case this year.  The pieces are all well and good, but it’s like somehow they aren’t connecting to make the picture that we expect to see when we look at a St. Louis season.  Maybe things would be different had a few saves been locked down of late, but that’s the point, isn’t it?  You could look to a number of pitching performances where the offense didn’t show up.  You could find a few games where the club scored a serious number of runs but still lost because the starter gave up more.  There’s very few times this season where everything has been working.  There’s probably no answer to that, but it doesn’t make it any less frustrating.

Look at last night, for example.  Carlos Martinez goes out and throws a great six innings, interestingly leaving when the leadoff man reached in the seventh.  Martinez allowed eight hits, though a large majority of those were with two outs, and walked just one.  At 89 pitches, I personally would have left Martinez in there, though Kevin Siegrist did a fine job of getting through the inning after he came in.  If Mike Matheny was factoring in the third-time-through penalty into a scoreless game and using that to make his decision, I’d understand the move more.  (Let’s be honest, though, there seems little chance of that.)

Martinez, by all right, should have been able to keep going because he should have had a comfortable lead by this point.  Factor out Edinson Volquez‘s last horrific start–you obviously don’t expect him to give up 11 runs in basically an inning again–and he’s still not been that great in June, allowing four or more runs in all but one start before last night.  And yet this offense, this potent, run-scoring, lightning-in-a-bottle offense, mustered just six hits all night against him and one of those came from the bat of Martinez.

I will say that the Cardinals hit some balls hard and the Royals made some good plays, but still, that’s just what we have come to expect from this club this year, isn’t it?  One thing goes right, which forces another thing out of alignment.  Fix that and something else somehow comes out of place.  Getting that perfect balance is just about impossible.

And this club could, in theory, do so well.  We saw that in the late innings, didn’t we?  I mean, so many teams, having the other club finally score in the eighth, would have just deflated.  Especially when you are going up against a bullpen of the reputation that Kansas City’s has.  When Wade Davis came out in the ninth, the chances of a comeback seemed minimal.  And yet, a walk, a Carpenter single, and then with two outs a Jhonny Peralta bullet between third and short and the game is tied up.

Momentum, of course, is not something this team believes in and, again, Seung-hwan Oh struggled in his new role.  As last time, this wasn’t a save situation, but it still was a spot where he was expected to hold the line because the alternative wasn’t pretty.  Instead, he walked the leadoff batter and then threw wildly trying to keep him held on, putting a runner on at third with one out.  That’s a situation that rarely works out for anyone, though Oh might have gotten out of it had Carpenter been able to come up with a ground ball.  He didn’t and Kansas City was back on top.

Again, a team without talent, without heart, without the ability to be a better squad probably folds there.  Instead, Stephen Piscotty goes yard immediately, re-tying the game and giving the Cards three outs to try to put another run across.  They were unable to do so–remember, KC does have a good pen–but they were still alive.

Unfortunately, eventually the Cards couldn’t match a late Royals run.  Piscotty made a valiant effort on a ball hit right on the line but it went for naught.  There wasn’t a lot of fault to be found in him or Seth Maness in that inning, it’s just the way baseball gets, especially in extras.  Things happen then, things that might not have happened had the offense even somewhat figured out Volquez.

While I don’t know that it made an impact on the game, it was a little interesting watching Matheny’s bullpen moves yesterday.  I’ve already mentioned the pulling of Martinez, but the Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons came into the game right after Jonathan Broxton had allowed the sacrifice fly that put the Royals finally on the board.  Lyons, whom we last saw going 4.2 innings against the Mariners, threw two pitches and got the final out of the inning.  Using Lyons to face left-handed-hitting Alex Gordon made sense and I get why the manager might have made that call to make sure no more damage was done.

However, in a tight game that could easily wind up going extra innings, it’s a little surprising that he didn’t keep Lyons out there for the ninth, instead using Matthew Bowman for that inning.  Not that there was anything wrong with Bowman, who did fine and probably needed some work as well, but it just seemed like a waste of resources.  I know Lyons’s role is supposedly “evolving”, but when one of your long men just throws two pitches, it seems off.

It was good to see a more polished outing out of Trevor Rosenthal last night, though.  In his most impactful role since his demotion, he blew away the first two hitters before Salvador Perez just reached out on an 0-2 pitch and was able to poke it to right field.  He allowed another hit, keeping that WHIP of his right around 2, before getting the last out.  More outings like that and a return to the ninth wouldn’t be dismissed out of hand, I don’t believe.  It’s not automatic and it’d be nice to see Rosenthal have a few 1-2-3 frames, something he’s not had since June 9.

We’ll give Stephen Piscotty the Hero (two hits, including that homer) and we’ll tag Matt Adams with the Goat, given that he went 0-6 with three strikeouts and, honestly, didn’t look that great in most of those at bats.  Adams has had a pretty good year overall, but he’s had some funks and right now he seems to be in one.

Look, I’m not saying that this team is done, that this season is over, nothing of that nature.  If it wasn’t for the wild card, I probably would be, but when they are just 1/2 game back in that scrum, it’s silly to say there’s no chance for some postseason glory or, at the very least, a sixth postseason appearance.  I’m just saying that this is probably an 83-86 win team.  That could win the wild-card, that could make a run through the playoffs.  We remember 2006, of course.  (Though 2006 was 1) better than 83 wins–even a couple of wins in that late swoon makes that win total more presentable and 2) the ’06 team had injuries as an excuse and as the team healed up with the playoffs rolling around, they showed their true level.)

We keep waiting for them to put it all together, but this may just be all that there is.  Which is not bad, but not great.  A team a lot of fans would be glad to have–you think the Twins wouldn’t trade places in a minute with this squad?–but a team that, as Cardinal fans, doesn’t meet the standards we’ve seen them set with their play over the past couple of decades.  Maybe that’s spoiled, I don’t know.  I’d say it’s only spoiled if you throw a tantrum over it rather than accepting they might not be as good this year, but that’s just me.

Cardinals try to get their first win on the homestand tonight (and what IS up with this home record?) when Mike Leake, who got to pinch-run last night, goes for the Redbirds against Chris Young, who has used his slow stuff to tantalize the Cardinals in the past.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Ian Kennedy 5 4 1 0 0 0 1 1 1 .250 .400 .250 .650 0 0 0 0 0
Edinson Volquez 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Chien-Ming Wang 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Drew Butera 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Kendrys Morales 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 15 14 1 0 0 0 1 1 4 .071 .133 .071 .205 0 0 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/30/2016.

Leake vs. KC is above, but Baseball-Reference keeps trying to get Chris Young the hitter instead of Chris Young the pitcher in my search, so I can’t give you his chart.  For his career, though, Young is  1-4 with a 3.74 ERA against the Redbirds, including his start last year against them where he threw six scoreless innings.  Given the general lack of offense against KC (save Tuesday’s game) this could be another low-scoring affair.

Hopefully it’s one that the Cardinals win and tomorrow’s post is more optimistic!

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I know, I know, you can’t predict baseball.  There’s a whole Twitter account based on that.  Still, there used to be at least a general expectation on Cardinal games.  For instance, last year you were pretty sure that it’d be a low-scoring, well-pitched game by the Redbirds.  In past years, it was that the MV3 would light up the night.  Or maybe that there’d be key hits with runners in scoring position.

This year, though?  It’s tough to find any thread that runs through it all.  I guess maybe the offense is closest, but we’ve seen them shut down for games at a time, just not as much as normal.  If I was asked to name one thing that I was sure we’d see in the game tonight, I don’t know exactly what it’d be.

Like the milkman, the paperboy, and non-Cardinal evening TV, predictability has kinda gone by the wayside.  For instance, we have the last two games in Kansas City……

Monday (6-2 loss)

Hero: Matt Holliday.  If his first inning home run had been six inches shorter, the Cardinals would have been shut out.  I was convinced for a moment or two that Lorenzo Cain had stolen it at the wall anyway.  When you get a two-run homer in the first inning (with just one out, even), you would expect something else to happen later in the game.  You wouldn’t think that two runs is all you are going to get, especially with this offense.  Your prediction would, again, be wrong.  Two hits for Holliday, which was a third of the team’s total.

Goat: Adam Wainwright.  The last time Waino pitched, I said that I didn’t worry about him taking the mound anymore, that he looks more like the ace we have gotten used to over the years.  So then, of course, he goes out and gives up six runs in the first two innings.  To be fair, even when Wainwright has been the ace of the staff, he’s had that propensity to ignore middling starts and go big either way.  He did strike out seven in his five innings of work, but 10 hits was killer, especially since they weren’t all singles.  Wainwright had chance after chance to get out of the jams, as all of the KC runs scored with two outs in the inning, but couldn’t make a pitch that would put folks away.  His curve wasn’t consistent and the Royals hitters are a good bunch of hitters, so they didn’t let such an opportunity pass them by.

Notes: Aledmys Diaz had two hits–three, if you count the foul ball off his eye.  Thankfully, he was OK and there was no lasting damage done, though after being hit by a foul ball in the dugout on Tuesday, you’ll forgive him if he thinks the baseballs are seeking their revenge for his solid season.  (You’d think they’d have tried to go after Matt Carpenter first, but I digress.)  Yadier Molina had the other two hits and with no walks in the mix, it’s difficult to score much when things are that concentrated.

On the pitching side, we saw two scoreless innings out of Seth Maness, reviving some hope that maybe he’ll be better going forward now that he’s dealt with his injury.  To be fair, that’s just two innings and he was mediocre last year as well, but it’s more than we’ve seen out of Maness so far this season.  I’m still not sure I’d put him into high-leverage situations, but he may be one that can be used in the sixth or seventh with limited fear that the game is going to get away while he’s in there.

We also had our first glimpse of Trevor Rosenthal out of the closer role, as he threw a scoreless eighth inning.  Of course, it wouldn’t be Rosenthal without a couple of hits mixed in there, which meant his WHIP didn’t really improve much and most of the issues that he’s dealing with are still there.  If we ever see Rosie have about five outings where he doesn’t allow a baserunner, then maybe we could start thinking about returning him to his ninth inning spot.  Until then, though, I think it’s still situations like this where the Cards are well behind or places where they can go get him before he does much damage.

Tuesday (8-4 win)

Hero: Matt Carpenter.  Two hits, both extra-base types (double and homer).  Two walks.  Carpenter said before the season that he wanted to blend the power he found last season with the eye and all-around hitting that he had in 2014.  So far, so good.  I shudder to think where this team would be without Carp.  If you are looking for predictability, this might be the only place to really find it.

Goat: I’ll go with Jhonny Peralta, who did draw a walk and score a run, but went 0-4 with two strikeouts as well.  Bit of a rough night for Stephen Piscotty as well, as he hit into a double play and made an error, though he did get a double at the plate.

Notes: It wasn’t an All-Star caliber start for Michael Wacha, but it’d do mainly because of the offense behind him.  Perhaps he relaxed with a lead, but the Cardinals got up 3-0 and he immediately gave up two runs in the bottom of that frame, able to escape before they tied it up.  Then the Cards get out to an 8-2 advantage and he makes it 8-4 with a runner on before settling in and getting out of the jam.  Control was good, just one walk, but nine hits in six innings can be an issue when the bats are quieter.

Eventually we made it to the first appearance of Seung-hwan Oh as the closer, coming into the ninth even though it wasn’t a save situation.  I think most of us expected that we’d see a relatively quick inning and we’d go on to the post-game show.  Instead, it appears that perhaps it’s just the ninth inning that is jinxed, not any particular player.  Oh allowed two hits and a walk, bringing up the tying run in Alex Gordon and Eric Hosmer.  He got both of them and locked the game down, but I think most of us were hoping that we were done with some of these ninth-inning high-wire acts.

Of course, that would mean the game was a little predictable.

Another good night for Matt Adams, with a couple of singles and a sacrifice fly.  He and Carpenter were the only ones with multiple hits–it’s pretty efficient to get eight runs out of nine hits, though five walks kinda help things along.

All in all, I guess you take a split on the road at the World Champions, right?  Unfortunately, a split just pushed the Cards further back in the division, as the Cubs took two from the Reds (the Reds did make them work for that second win, at least).  I just can’t see this team getting consistent enough to become a real threat to them.  Even as the Cubs are scuffling, the Cardinals are doing the exact same thing, losing out on any chances to make this a more manageable deficit.  It’s not a write off of the season by any means–I think the Cards will be in the wild-card race all the way to the end–but it would take an epic collapse on the part of the Chicago nine (or a scorching run by the Cards, or maybe both!) for St. Louis to avoid that play-in game in October.

I can’t say I’m fond of this home-and-home gimmick that MLB has decided it likes over the last couple of years, but at least if the Cards are going to be a part of that, their rival isn’t that far away.  (The Mariners and Padres had to do this earlier in the year, which couldn’t have been a lot of fun.)  The Redbirds are back under the Arch tonight, trying to figure out a way to improve that home record.  Edinson Volquez, who gave up 12 runs in an inning against the Astros last time out, goes against Carlos Martinez, who might be the most reliably good pitcher in the Cardinal rotation right now.  (That is, if you could predict such a thing.)  Volquez is well-known to the Cardinals, of course, and I think they’ve been OK against him for the most part.

It should be an interesting game.  Of course, we have no idea what’s going to happen!

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On June 7, the Cincinnati Reds beat the Cardinals.  The following night, the Redbirds returned the favor and won the next night as well.  Since then, for St. Louis it’s been sweep or be swept.  They cleaned out the Pirates, were whisked away by the Astros and Rangers, then took care of the Cubs (as we well remember).  Going into Sunday, even the later innings on Sunday, it looked like the pattern would stay the same.  Thankfully, things can change.

Saturday (5-4 loss)

Hero: Tyler Lyons.  The Patron Pitcher of the Blog came through with flying colors, doing everything he could to give the team a chance to win.  He came into the game with a runner on in the fourth and immediately got a double play, then threw four more innings and allowed just one hit and two walks.  Not only did he save the bullpen from being worn out, he kept the team close enough that they could rally.  They did get it to one run, but never could put together that rally that would give him the win.  Still, it was an incredible outing for #70.

Goat: Mike Leake.  When your long man throws more innings in a game than the starter, it’s usually not a good thing.  Leake never found any sort of footing in this one, getting the first two batters of the game before hit after hit made it 3-0 before the end of the first inning.  Seattle tacked on two more in the second off of Leake, who did have a few defensive misplays behind him but not enough to really redeem his outing.

Notes: Aledmys Diaz seems to be making the adjustments needed to continue to be a good shortstop.  After hitting .222/.288/.299 with two homers in the 30 games prior to the Chicago series, he hit .455/.586/.864 with two homers against the Cubs and the Mariners.  His three-run shot in this one pulled the Cards to within one and it made it look like the momentum had shifted, but the club never could get another run in.

Two hit games by Yadier Molina and Kolten Wong, but Brandon Moss and Jhonny Peralta were both 0-4 with two strikeouts.  They were hitting back-to-back as well, which didn’t do much for extending rallies.

Sunday (11-6 win)

Hero: With what probably was a historic offensive surge for the Redbirds, it’s difficult in a good way to narrow down a Hero.  I mean, usually two home run games will get it for you, but there were two of them in this one!  We’ll give the tag to Matt Carpenter, who had one of those multi-HR outings and mixed in a triple as well.  Three hits, three runs, two RBI…..that’s a pretty good Sunday afternoon.

Goat: The bullpen news of the weekend may have been that Mike Matheny announced Trevor Rosenthal was, at least for the moment, no longer the closer, but Kevin Siegrist is starting to get some folks a little concerned as well.  Siegrist came into the sixth with two on and two outs and the Cardinals up 6-3.  A few pitches later, it was 6-6 and St. Louis fans would have been excused if they saw this game ending in a similar fashion to the first two in the set.

If you look at Siegrist’s career numbers on Baseball-Reference, this season is somewhat tracking with his 2014 year.  The ERAs are wildly different (6.82 vs. 2.97) but the FIP is almost identical (4.62 vs. 4.52) and Siegrist allowed five homers that year in 30.1 innings, while he’s allowed a career-high six this season in 30.1 innings.  (Of course, that was all he pitched in 2014.  We hope that’s not the case this season.)  Siegrist only allowed four big flies last season in over double the number of innings.  Tara said last night that she thought he might be getting beat on his secondary pitches, which might be part of it.

Perhaps it’s just one of those things we are going to have to live with.  Siegrist has only been charged with 10 runs this year, so pretty much if he keeps it in the park, he’s fine.  Still, it’s disconcerting to have to worry about a three-run homer tying the game when he comes into the game.  Three of the six home runs have come in June, so it’s something to watch, seeing if it was just a fluke or if he’s trending in the wrong way.

Notes: Before we get into all that glorious offense, let’s not overlook Jaime Garcia‘s start.  It wasn’t necessarily anything great, as he allowed single runs in each of the first three innings, and it could have been worse as there were a lot of baserunners stranded in the first few innings.  That said, if Matheny pulls him after five, he allows just three runs and it’s reasonable.  Not that Matheny should have pulled him there, mind you, as he was only at 88 pitchers or so going into the frame.  Garcia got two outs in the sixth and you know Matheny really wanted him to get through it all, letting the pitch count run up to 109, but bringing the tying run to the plate and you have to go to the bullpen.  It just didn’t work out the way it was supposed to this time.

That said, Garcia’s about doing a reverse of last season.  Last year, everyone knew in spring that Garcia’s option wouldn’t be picked up, but slowly through the year it became a discussion, a toss up, more likely than not, then a no-brainer.  This year, everyone started off the year thinking that Garcia’s option for 2017 was likely to be exercised, but it’s become more of an issue throughout the season.  Garcia has seven starts this year where he’s allowed four or more runs.  That’s right about half of the times he’s been out there.  You have to go back to the end of May against the Nationals (seven innings, two runs) to find a really strong start by the left-hander.  If the Cardinals were to upgrade the rotation at the trading deadline, it’s looking more like Garcia’s the spot where they’d do that.  With that option still being below market price for a starter, he’s also a trade chip to someone that might want him in their plans for next season.

Now to that gluttony that was the Cardinal offense on Sunday.  We don’t see many of these games, even with the improved production from the hitters.  Four singles would seem to be a meager amount, but when you have 13 extra-base hits, that tends to be OK.  Two home runs from Tommy Pham, who matched Carpenter in that regard.  Three hits, including some insurance with a home run, by Matt Holliday.  Three doubles by Diaz.  A triple and a single by Moss.  Jedd Gyorko only had one hit, but it was the tie-breaking homer in the seventh to make sure Seattle’s momentum didn’t last very long.  Stephen Piscotty had a double.  Every hitter scored a run and drove in a run except for Wong and Eric Fryer at the bottom of the lineup, and they both had a single as well.  There always seems to be someone that gets completely left out in a game like this, but not this time.

Seung-hwan Oh was warming in the bullpen until the Cards tacked on two more (Pham and Carpenter hitting their second homers of the day) in the ninth.  It would have been interesting to see Oh get in there to get a save, especially one with a little padding, but when it turned into a non-save situation Matheny went with Matt Bowman instead.  Honestly, I was a little surprised that he didn’t at least try Rosenthal there with a five run lead.  Short leash and all that, but it would seem like a good spot to start getting him adjusted to the lack of closing responsibilities.  Odds are, though, Matheny told him to take a couple of days and get his head right and they’d start looking for opportunities for him after the weekend.

What those opportunities are is still up for debate.  It was good to see Matheny come to the same conclusion that pretty much everyone else, including this space, already had, but it opens up another can of worms.  When can you use Rosie?  At least to start with, you can’t use him in a close game, right?  So you’ve got the Patron Pitcher, whom you really can only use in long relief, Bowman, who is often a multiple-inning guy, and Rosie who you can right now only use in specific situations, like when the club is up four or down two, something like that.  This bullpen is becoming more and more specialized and unless some of those roles change, there’s a good chance of overwork or being short-handed.  It’s possible that they’ll use Bowman more as a seventh inning guy and we’ll see how Seth Maness continues to develop (it’s hard to believe he’s only had two-thirds of an inning since his return), but that bullpen depth is being whittled away by how the folks are needing to be used.

Brayan Pena should be activated today as Fryer will wind up in Memphis.  There was a lot of outcry when Ruben Tejada forced Greg Garcia down to the minors, but in this similar situation, there probably won’t be as much angst.  Of course, it helps that Fryer is a well-worn vet himself and not a product of the minor leagues with a ceiling, but if the Cardinals had to choose today between signing Pena and keeping Fryer, my feeling is they’d just stick with what they have.  Fryer has been much better offensively than anyone expected.  It’s true he got off to that ridiculously hot start and his limited number of at bats are keeping his average somewhat artificially inflated (he’s not a .368 hitter, for sure), but he has a hit in five of his last six starts and has produced a bit off the bench as well.  He’s actually started three times over the past two-plus weeks, and when you factor in that there have been three off days in that time span as wel, that’s a lot of rest for Yadi.

However, like Tejada, the Cards signed Pena and they are going to see what they have out of him.  It’s probably telling that they used all 20 days of the rehab assignment on him, as they really wanted him to be right before making the move with Fryer.  He played 14 games in the rehab assignment and hit just .192/.218/.192, so there are questions on whether he’s truly ready to go, but the rules of baseball say that you’ve got to make the call and there’s no way St. Louis is going to just cut him loose.  Hopefully Fryer can go to Memphis and be ready if there is an injury or when September rolls around.

It’s time for that gimmicky little back-to-back home-and-home series against the Royals, starting out in KC the next two nights before shifting across the state.  Could be worse, I guess, as baseball does this to a number of interleague “rivals” that aren’t necessarily as close together as the two teams are.  Adam Wainwright will be back on the mound tonight, looking to continue his string of strong starts.  He’s seen a few of these guys before and done pretty well against them.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Alcides Escobar 28 26 8 1 0 0 1 1 1 .308 .321 .346 .668 0 1 0 0 4
Alex Gordon 21 17 5 1 1 0 2 4 1 .294 .429 .471 .899 0 0 0 0 0
Eric Hosmer 14 13 1 0 0 0 1 1 4 .077 .143 .077 .220 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
Jarrod Dyson 9 8 1 0 0 0 0 0 3 .125 .125 .125 .250 1 0 0 0 0
Lorenzo Cain 6 6 2 1 1 0 1 0 0 .333 .333 .833 1.167 0 0 0 0 1
Drew Butera 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 1 0 0 0 0
Ian Kennedy 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Kendrys Morales 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Salvador Perez 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .333 .000 .333 0 0 0 0 0
Dillon Gee 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 102 91 20 4 2 0 5 7 14 .220 .273 .308 .580 3 1 0 0 5
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/27/2016.

Danny Duffy is having a fine year, with a 3.38 ERA and more than a strikeout an inning.  He’s been in a little bit of a run, not getting past the fifth in his last two starts and allowing three runs in each, but he’s a good left-handed pitcher, so you have to figure that offensive explosion from Sunday is not going to carry over.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Jhonny Peralta 11 11 3 2 0 0 0 0 2 .273 .273 .455 .727 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Holliday 4 3 1 0 0 0 0 1 2 .333 .500 .333 .833 0 0 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 4 3 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .250 .000 .250 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Carpenter 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Jaime Garcia 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Brandon Moss 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 25 23 4 2 0 0 0 2 6 .174 .240 .261 .501 0 0 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/27/2016.

The battle of Missouri begins tonight!

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A Not-So-Rosie Picture

The good thing about West Coast games is that, when everything goes south at the end, you are usually tired enough to go to sleep and not dwell on it.  Though, perhaps, last night’s game was frustrating enough to keep you tossing and turning while spending your mental time berating the in-name closer of the Cardinals.

We are starting to run out of situations that you can come up with good numbers on Trevor Rosenthal.  For the season, he’s got an ERA of 5.63 and a WHIP of 2.04.  Reliever ERAs don’t often tell the story, because they don’t reflect runs they gave up for someone else or runs that someone else allowed for them, but in Rosie’s case, it’s fairly accurate.  He rarely comes into the game with runners on and, obviously, he’s usually the last one out there.  Not always this season, but often enough that an ERA of 6 probably is not distorting his season much at all.

It’s not trending in the right direction, either.  Derrick Goold notes in his game story today that Rosie’s ERA for the month is 14.14 and his WHIP is an even 3.00.  Three!  Your closer is averaging three runners per inning!  There’s playing with fire and then there’s being a pyromaniac and Rosenthal has burned down the line.

Save situations have gone better for Rosenthal this season, for sure, but even that’s been a little iffy as of late.  His last five save opportunities:

Date Team IP Runs Runners Result
6/11 Pit 0.2 0 0 SV
6/18 Tex 0.0 2 2 L
6/20 Chi 1.0 0 3 SV
6/21 Chi 1.0 0 2 SV
6/24 Sea 0.0 3 3 L

Save that Pittsburgh save, every outing saw at least two runners get on base.  He was able to wriggle out of it in Wrigley, thanks to an umpire’s leg in one case, but it’s not at all confidence inspiring.

Recently, I believe it was during the Texas series, the graphic on the screen showed that Rosenthal had a 0.64 ERA in save situations and a mark over 10 when the game wasn’t on the line.  Now, according to Baseball-Reference, that mark is 3.38.  Talk about trending badly.

Earlier in the season, we talked about this issue of lack of work for Rosenthal.  (Of course, I can’t find the post now to reference it, because that would be too easy.)  What it boiled down to is that, with less than two days’ rest or more than two days’ rest, Rosie was doing OK then, but exactly two days off was a killer.  Let’s look and see what that table looks like now (I believe this does count yesterday’s blown save).

Split G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR SB CS BB SO SO/W BA OBP SLG OPS TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB ROE BAbip tOPS+ sOPS+
0 Days,GR 6 23 17 1 4 0 1 0 0 0 6 6 1.00 .235 .435 .353 .788 6 1 0 0 0 0 0 .364 82 134
1 Day,GR 5 26 23 2 7 2 0 0 0 0 2 9 4.50 .304 .385 .391 .776 9 0 1 0 0 0 2 .500 79 117
2 Days,GR 8 31 24 9 9 1 0 3 0 0 6 10 1.67 .375 .516 .792 1.308 19 2 1 0 0 0 0 .545 201 253
3 Days,GR 6 24 18 5 5 0 0 0 0 0 6 4 0.67 .278 .458 .278 .736 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 .357 70 114
4 Days,GR 2 9 8 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 4 4.00 .250 .333 .250 .583 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 .500 35 69
5 Days,GR 1 3 3 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .333 .667 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 .500 54 96
6+ Days,GR 1 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 -100 -100
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/25/2016.

It looks like the issues may have spread.  If you want to see the ERA broken out like this:

Rest ERA
0 1.93
1 0.00
2 14.29
3 10.38
4 0.00
5 0.00
6+ 0.00

Minimal innings on those last three, so perhaps there’s a little bit to this lack of work thing, but it can’t be much, can it?  Two days of rest is not that much for any reliever.  It’d be one thing if he was only getting in every third or fourth day, but last night was two days, a day of not pitching and an off day.  That’s not unreasonable.

The WHIP situation for those days of rest might be more instructive:

Rest WHIP
0 2.143
1 1.688
2 2.647
3 2.538
4 1.500
5 1.000
6+ 0.000

And there’s the real kicker.  With no rest at all, he’s putting two runners on each inning.  Even at his best, it’s 1.7.  You cannot have your closer continually putting the tying or winning runs on base and expect to always come out unscathed.  It won’t happen and it’s a demoralizing effect on your team when leads vanish in the night.

So what to do?  That’s the million dollar question.  I mean, if Rosenthal is struggling this much in the ninth, do you really want him in the seventh?  I mean, you could probably do that in some games, but you couldn’t bring him in with runners on after the starter has faltered.  You could pretty much only use him to start a later inning and be ready to pull him when he puts runners on.  That’s a tough way to run a bullpen, but probably not as tough as continually having to warm up pitchers when your closer enters the game.

Before last night’s game, Bernie Miklasz wrote that the Cards should just keep pitching Rosenthal, that he’ll work his way out of it.  Obviously Bernie tends to know what he’s talking about, but isn’t that what they’ve been doing?  It’s not like this week Rosenthal just started to have issues.  He’s had issues pretty much all year long, and while the monthly ERAs don’t necessarily show it (save this horrendous month), the monthly WHIPs give you the idea that he’s not working through the problem:

April: 1.125
May: 2.111
June: 3.000

Rosie’s WHIP for May was higher than his ERA, which is just another reason not to tie a lot of worth to that in any situation.  The Cardinals don’t have to live like this, not with Kevin Siegrist and Seung-hwan Oh in the bullpen.  While there’s still talent in Rosenthal and they should work to get him back on track, the ninth inning isn’t necessarily where you want your projects.  Mike Matheny seems to have come to that conclusion as well, though he’s not said it overtly.  My guess is, though, we won’t see Rosie tonight if the Cardinals have a lead in the final at bat.

What’s really frustrating about this one is that it ruined such a wonderful comeback and drove a stake through some of the serious momentum this team was working toward.  Out of their last three losses, two to Texas and then last night, the Cardinals had the lead in either the eighth or the ninth, with the bullpen giving it up.  That part of the club that was so rock solid earlier and was supposed to be a huge asset to this team has buckled a bit.  It’s still good, mind you, and I’m not saying it needs a significant overhaul, but it’s just tough to watch games get away late.

The Cardinals had worked for this lead as well.  Wade LeBlanc, a soft-tossing lefty which means he’s anti-matter to the Cardinals, held them in check for six innings as the offense could do basically nothing.  They didn’t do anything in the eighth either, scoring three runs without a hit, but we’ll take it.  Aledmys Diaz drove in a run with a bases-loaded walk and Matt Holliday gave the Cards the two-run cushion that LOOKED secured with a ball that Kyle Seager couldn’t handle.  All in all, it was set up for a great win…..only to vanish like the morning fog.

Our Goat is obviously Rosenthal, but our Hero is Carlos Martinez.  Martinez was in line for the loss before the eighth inning and then in line for the win after the rally and deserved to get the W.  One run (on a bases loaded groundout) in seven innings of work, allowing just four hits (but three walks).  Martinez stretched the club’s quality start streak out to 13 and he’s just been dominant of late.  I was afraid that 122 pitch game against the Pirates would be an issue but he’s not shown any ill effects.  When this rotation is going well, the Cardinals should win a lot of games….if the bullpen can hold them.

One last point here.  There’s a lot of blame toward Mike Matheny for last night’s game, which I understand.  However, if Rosenthal is going to be your closer, and he was as of last night, that’s where you are going to use him.  I know Dan and Al discussed using Oh for two innings, but as they pointed out you lose him for Saturday night at least that way.  And, if the prevailing opinion in the organization is that Rosenthal needs to work more, then he needs to be in there.  I know why Matheny did it and he did have someone warming up, but the problem is by time a closer gets into trouble, there’s often not a chance for someone to bail him out.  If Adam Lind hits even a double, that’s probably the last batter and perhaps you still have a chance to salvage it.  That wasn’t to be, however.  I think Matheny shouldn’t get as much blame for last night as he should get if he runs Rosenthal out there again tonight.

Speaking of tonight, Mike Leake goes for the Cardinals against Nate Karns.  Leake has faced a few of these Mariners batters and it has not gone well.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Seth Smith 9 8 5 2 0 1 1 0 0 .625 .667 1.250 1.917 0 0 0 1 1
Adam Lind 7 6 3 0 0 1 3 1 0 .500 .571 1.000 1.571 0 0 0 0 0
Leonys Martin 6 5 2 0 0 0 0 1 1 .400 .500 .400 .900 0 0 0 0 0
Steve Clevenger 5 5 2 0 0 0 0 0 2 .400 .400 .400 .800 0 0 0 0 0
Nelson Cruz 5 4 2 1 0 1 4 0 2 .500 .400 1.500 1.900 0 1 0 0 0
Robinson Cano 3 3 2 0 0 0 1 0 0 .667 .667 .667 1.333 0 0 0 0 0
Chris Iannetta 3 2 1 1 0 0 0 1 1 .500 .667 1.000 1.667 0 0 1 0 0
Kyle Seager 2 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 40 34 18 4 0 3 9 4 6 .529 .575 .912 1.487 0 1 1 1 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/25/2016.

Still, Leake’s pitched well of late with only that stumble in Cincinnati marring his work since the early part of May.  On the other side, Karns has only faced Brandon Moss before (Moss is 0-4 with a walk and a strikeout against him) so he’ll be a bit of an enigma to the hitters.  He’s a righty, which should help, and his last start he gave up five runs in five innings against the Tigers.  He’s been somewhat better than that on the season, but he’s not gotten into the sixth all month long.  His ERA is also over 7 for the month (he also got pounded by the Rangers) so we’ll see if that continues!

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A Mariners-Cardinals series is still a pretty interesting novelty.  The two teams last played in 2013 in Busch Stadium, where the Cardinals took the series 2-1.  You have to go all the way back to 2002, just a few days before the terrible week that saw the losses of Jack Buck and Darryl Kile, to find a trip out to the Emerald City, with St. Louis dropping that one 2-1.  All in all, the Cards and M’s have only matched up 12 times since interleague play came along, with St. Louis holding an 8-4 edge.  (Surprisingly, that’s not the lowest amount of games, though.  St. Louis has had only nine games against Baltimore, the Yankees, and Texas each, and that includes Texas’s visit last week to Busch.)

Given that we don’t see the AL West all that often, I thought I’d check in with Megan Shear of Section 331 to get a little bit more knowledge about this weekend’s opponent.  You’ll remember Megan from the Seattle Playing Pepper before the season and you can also follow her on Twitter @Section331.  Give her a follow to see how the other side views this weekend!

C70: Given they are an AL West team, we don’t often focus on the Mariners. I’d heard they were doing well, but as of this morning they are at the .500 mark after a disastrous 10-game stretch. So what’s happened to the M’s as of late?

Megan: Honestly, my job has been a bit of a hindrance in watching games lately, but it would appear that all our plate patience suddenly just fell off the face of the earth. We’ve also been having a lot of starting pitching issues, with Walker and Felix being on the DL, but our offense, especially with runners in scoring position, has just disappeared suddenly. I’m not sure what’s happening, but that’s baseball, eh?

C70: What can you tell us about the pitchers the Cardinals will be facing this weekend?

Megan: Well, as of this writing, we have nobody announced for Friday’s game, so it will be a surprise for everyone. Nathan Karns is scheduled for Saturday. When Karns is on, he’s spot on; but when the wheels come off, they’re off for good. He has not gotten more than 5 innings into any game so far this year. It’s a tossup, really. James Paxton is our guy on Sunday, and he’s been great so far, but the defense is not helping him out much. He has no stats vs St Louis hitters, and neither does Karns, really, so it may be a big surprise for all of us.

C70: When Seattle visited St. Louis a couple of years ago, we missed King Felix due to an injury. Same thing is going to happen this time, unfortunately. How is Felix doing and when should he be back with the club?

Megan: Felix should be back soon; I think they had originally given him until the 12th of this month (15-day), but it turned out the calf strain was worse than initially thought, so right now I’m unsure of when he will return. I would hope the All-Star game would be the latest, but I think they may be doing the ‘day to day” thing with him at the moment. I can’t find nor have I heard any current updates on him. Since he’s the ace, I’d imagine they want to make sure he’s as healthy as possible before coming back out again.

C70: Even with news about the Mariners on the outside of our focus, many of us have already heard about Dae-Ho Lee. How surprising has his power surge been and is he the fan favorite that it appears he is?

Megan: I think a lot of people have been taken by surprise. I personally did not know what to expect, but I’ve been happy with him so far. And yes, he is just as loved by us as you might think. I was at a game the other weekend and the “Daaaae-Ho!” chants were reaching Ich-i-ro! levels of loudness in the park (and for anyone who might never have been to Safeco for this, it was very loud when Ichiro stepped to the plate). Fans show up with Korean flags, there is a contingent of people wearing “Dae-Ho Lee Grail” shirts around, people love him. I have heard rumors of Korean travel agencies booking Lee-inspired tour groups to Seattle to see him. He seems like a super humble guy, and we seem to really like that here in Seattle. He’s been a great asset so far.

C70: We’ll get to see former Cardinal Steve Cishek this weekend. How has he been doing lately? It looks like he’s made himself at home there.

Megan: He has his own closer video and everything! He’s been doing well so far, but will occasionally give up a dinger in the 9th. That’s par for the course with all closers though, you can’t get them all. Mariners Twitter always jokes about “danger up in this club” when he comes out (after his walk-out song). Frankly, I’d like to see a lot more of him sooner rather than later. A Cishek save is a fun save.

C70: If the Mariners win this series, how do they do it? If they lose the series, what would you expect the main culprit to be?

Megan: Offense, is the response to both of those questions.

I don’t get to see them often, but the Mariners are one of my first choices for MLB.tv when the Cardinals aren’t on and I’m looking for a ballgame.  While I’m not excited about the late night starts, this should be a fun series to watch if only because the two teams don’t get together all that often so you’ll see some new faces.  Let’s hope they build on the Cubs series and head to KC with some wins!

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The Sweetest Sweep

Let’s be clear on one thing, for any Cub fans coming in here wanting to argue or anyone that might want examples of the “Best Fans in Baseball.”  This is still the Cubs’ division to lose and cutting a deficit from 12.5 games to 9.5 games doesn’t change that much.  The Cubs are still a very good team that will likely win the NL Central without too much trouble, though things do happen in baseball so that’s no guarantee.  Anybody that says the Cardinals are now “right in the hunt” is probably deluding themselves.  It’s a good start, it’s better than the alternatives, but there’s still a lot of work to do.

With that caveat out of the way, this three game set in Chicago might have been the sweetest sweep of a series that I can remember.  I mean, anytime you can win all your games against the Cubs, it’s a good thing, but it doesn’t have the same impact when they are their normal also-ran selves.  At those times, it’s nice but not noteworthy.  This time, it’s a Cubs team that’s getting a ton of plaudits from the media about being one of the best teams ever and they are–well, were–on pace to win something like 114 games.  Then you have the fact that you aren’t exactly running through the back of their rotation.  Jason Hammel might be their fourth starter, but he’s been very good and tough on the Cardinals.  John Lackey and Jake Arrieta are expected to be winners.  It’s not like they avoided the Cubs ace or anything.  Mix all that with the fact that the Cards were coming off an 0-5 homestand and going into Wrigley Field, where Chicago was 25-8 before this series, and unexpectedly winning all three games is a highlight of the season.

On Twitter after the game yesterday, someone Tweeted that since May 11, the Cubs were just a 1/2 game better than the Cardinals, with both teams being a handful of games over .500.  I assume that it’s true–I didn’t check it but there didn’t seem to be any pushback on Twitter–and if so, it makes me wonder if this Cubs team is going to wind up following a similar path to last year’s Redbirds squad.  If you remember, at the end of May last year the Cardinals were 33-17 and folks were talking about gaudy win totals for them as well.  The Cards went 67-45 the rest of the way, which is a good pace, but not exactly legendary.  The difference being, of course, that the Cubs and Pirates last season played extremely well while the Cardinals were less stellar and it remained a race all through the second half.  (Interestingly, last June 22, the Cards were up 6 on the Pirates and 6.5 on the Cubs.  That’s closer than 9.5, but not enough to make you rule out making a run if the Cubs do play less-than-historically the rest of the way.)

The Cubs are now playing .671 ball, which works out to 109 wins.  If they do that, all this talk is moot.  However, if they play at the rate that they have played since May 11 going forward, that’s 99 wins, which is still outstanding and probably enough to win the division, but is less daunting than 109!

This was an extremely wonderful series, though it had its nailbiting moments.  We’ve talked about the first game, now let’s look at the last two.

Tuesday (4-3 win)

Hero: Matt Holliday.  His two-run homer provided the Cardinals a 4-1 lead, a cushion that they would need every bit of.  There wasn’t an obvious outstanding performance in this game, but when your only hit provides half the runs, you have a strong case.

Goat: Jhonny Peralta.  Rough night for the third baseman, as he went 0-4 with two strikeouts, leaving three men on base.  A key hit might have made the ninth a little less stressful.

Notes: Some people still worry about Adam Wainwright, but I think it’s safe to say that the pitcher we are used to is the one that’s in the rotation now.  He may not be Cy Young caliber Wainwright, but there’s no guarantee at his age that he’ll return to those heights.  What he is is a pitcher that will keep you in a ballgame, whether he’s got his best stuff or not.  Wainwright wound up allowing three runs in his 6.2 innings, but worked out of jams and was determined not to give up the lead entirely.  His ERA over his last seven starts is 2.72 and he’s struck out over three times the number he’s walked.  I don’t worry when Wainwright takes the mound anymore.

Kudos to Jonathan Broxton, who came in with a runner on third in the seventh and, after walking a batter, got Jason Heyward to ground out to Brandon Moss who apparently (I didn’t get to watch much of this game) made a fine play to rob Heyward.  Until the ninth, that was probably the closest the Cards came to letting it slip away.

Speaking of the ninth, we saw Trevor Rosenthal get his second save in as many days, but this one was a classic Jason Isringhausen save.  Rosenthal struck out the first batter, allowed a hit, struck out the second batter, walked a guy, then got a ground ball to end it.  In a sign that Mike Matheny isn’t quite as blind to the closer’s struggles as some might suggest, Matt Bowman was warming up during Rosenthal’s time out there, though I’m not sure how Matheny would have used him.  Maybe if a hit had tied it up, but there wasn’t really a time to put Bowman in to mitigate damage before it happened.  Thankfully, moot point.

Two hits, including a double, and a run scored by Stephen Piscotty, the only player to have more than one hit.  A big home run by Matt Carpenter, that came a couple of batters before Holliday’s and broke the 1-1 tie.  All in all, a solid game that thankfully didn’t slip away.

Wednesday (7-2 win)

Hero: Aledmys Diaz.  Three hits, including a two-run home run that put a cap on the scoring and pushed the Cardinals to a 7-0 lead and got people really thinking about the sweep.

Goat: Kinda tough to find one, as the offense was pretty spread out and all the pitchers did well.  We’ll go with Stephen Piscotty, who went 0-5.  Piscotty drove in the first two runs, but it was on a ground ball that should have been a double play, but apparently some of the Cardinal infield defense rubbed off on Ben Zobrist.  (Also, Anthony Rizzo left the game later with back issues and said without that, he probably corrals Zobrist’s throw.)

Notes: A third straight really strong outing by Michael Wacha, who threw six scoreless innings before allowing a two-run homer with two outs in the seventh at a time when the Cards already had their big lead.  Wacha only allowed three hits and two walks and never ran into any trouble, at least none to really speak of.  Over his last three starts, he’s got a 2.11 ERA and batters are only hitting .164 against him.  I’m still not as confident as I am with Wainwright that he’ll be fine when he goes out there, but he’s getting there.  And, as we’ve seen, when the starting pitching is good (save that homestand), the wins will come.

Jhonny Peralta had two doubles, which were both followed up by walks by Brandon Moss, but Yadier Molina never could make anything happen.  Molina struck out three times, though he did manage an RBI as well.  He could have been the Goat, maybe should have been.

It was a fun afternoon and a great way to cap a series against the rivals.  Plenty of broom images on Twitter yesterday, which was a lot of fun to see.

Hard to believe that yesterday, 14 years ago, the Cardinals were also in Chicago.  Of course, they wound up not playing that day for tragic reasons and many of us still remember where we were when we heard that Darryl Kile had passed away.  Matheny was one of those hardest hit by Kile’s passing, so to be there on the same day had to be kinda tough.

Cardinals get today off, then they go out on a rare trip to Seattle to face the Mariners.  Seattle was playing strong but are 2-8 in their last 10 to fall to an even .500.  They also struggle at home (something the Cardinals can relate to) and are on a five game losing streak, another thing the Cards know about.  Seattle is going to be a dangerous team, especially if the euphoria from this Chicago trip lingers as they travel to the Pacific Northwest.  Hopefully Seattle snaps their streak this afternoon when they play in Detroit.  As I said before, streaks don’t tend to get too long in baseball, but X out of X?  That’s completely believable.

Carlos Martinez will go for the Cardinals.  Unsurprisingly, the historical records don’t tell us much.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Adam Lind 6 6 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .167 .167 .167 .333 0 0 0 0 1
Nori Aoki 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 10 10 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .100 .100 .100 .200 0 0 0 0 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/23/2016.

We don’t know for sure who will go for the Mariners, as the official site still lists TBD, though apparently it will be Wade LeBlanc, whom the Mariners just acquired.  The Cardinals didn’t get to see Felix Hernandez when the Mariners came to Busch a couple of years ago due to an injury and the same thing is going to happen this time, as the King is on the DL.  It would be nice to see Taijuan Walker and it would be his turn in the rotation, but he’s got a foot injury and will be skipped this time around.  While it’s disappointing as a fan not to get to see these talented arms, hopefully that makes it easier for the Cards to get a win!

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It’s such a good thing, at least in this situation, that this Cardinals team doesn’t believe in momentum.

Going into Chicago and facing the best team in baseball (and, if you believe the press clippings, one of the best teams of all time, perhaps only challenged by the 1927 Yankees), St. Louis could have seen their five game losing streak stretch out to a serious number.  After all, they were facing John Lackey, who had really had his way with the club this year, even if he did wind up with a no-decision the last time he faced his old team.  The Cubs had been even better at home, so there was little that was going the Cardinals’ way.

However, if there’s one thing Wrigley Field is known for, it’s the ivy.  If there are TWO things that Wrigley Field is known for, it’s the ivy and being a place that hitters like to launch balls out of the yard.  Last night, the Redbirds did just that, with Brandon Moss and Jhonny Peralta providing two of the three runs the Cards received via the long ball.  We’ll give the Hero tag to Aledmys Diaz, because he had two hits including driving in the only non-HR related run, but there were contributions up and down the lineup.  (Literally, as Kolten Wong batted eighth and had two hits, while leadoff man Matt Carpenter drew two walks.)

Honestly though, the Hero of the game really should be the right leg of the home plate umpire, Pat Hoberg.  I’m going to give the Goat to Matt Holliday because he was 0-3 with two strikeouts, but boy, I really should give it to Trevor Rosenthal, even though he got a save for his efforts.  A strikeout of Addison Russell to start the inning was good, even if Rosenthal ran it out to 3-1 before coming back to get him.  Then a double by Albert Almora and a hit batsman in Chris Coghlan put the tying and winning runs on with just one out.  After this weekend, you wouldn’t blame Cardinal fans for figuring the jig was up again and we were in for another heartbreak.

If it wasn’t for Hoberg’s limb, that likely would have been the case.  Instead of Rosenthal’s wild pitch getting to the backstop, advancing both runners, it hit Hoberg and Yadier Molina alertly recognized that, grabbed the ball, and threw to third to nab Almora.  Coghlan, being in a better position, could see it didn’t get far and didn’t take off, so Rosenthal wound up with two outs and a runner on first instead of one out and second and third.  Ben Zobrist then singled, a hit that if he’d gotten it in the latter situation likely would have given the Cubs the win.  Thankfully, Jason Heyward‘s miserable season continued and Rosie got out of it.

That being said, Derrick Goold’s line of “ending an unsettling stretch” is quite an overstatement.  I don’t think anyone that had concerns about Rosenthal going into last night’s game is going to feel any better about him as the closer just because he wound up not blowing things.  His ERA dropped, he got another save, but his WHIP this year was 1.913, a mark that crept up with his performance yesterday.  When your closer is putting two runners on per outing, it’s not a comforting thing.  For comparison’s sake, the worst WHIP Jason Isringhausen ever had in St. Louis was 1.457 in 2005, and you know Izzy’s reputation as a tightrope walker.

Of course, perhaps things would have been a little less tense had the Cardinals not continued their efforts to lose more men on the basepaths this season than the population of a small town.  The ninth alone saw Carpenter thrown out at second trying to steal and Diaz tossed out at home plate.  I was recording with Nate and Ben of Talking About Birds at the time (look for that today!) so I didn’t actually see them, but in theory I understand the Diaz move much more than Carpenter.  I know he wanted to get into scoring position, but I feel like Carpenter gets burned on the basepaths more than just about anyone.  With a one run game, I’m sure the club wanted to get him into scoring position, but he has zero stolen bases on the year and that’s not exactly because it’s an oversight.

The starting rotation continues to do its job, as Jaime Garcia turned in another solid performance.  Two runs in just shy of seven innings with six strikeouts is something I think we’d all take anytime out there.  Garcia’s actually had just two ugly starts since the beginning of May (with a couple of other middling ones) so while he may not be the dominant force he was last year, more often than not he’s going to keep the team in the game and that’s really all you ask when the offense is doing what it has been doing this season.

All in all, it was a good night.  It might not have done much to ease the pain of being behind the Cubs by double digits, but there is something sorta satisfying about getting Lackey all worked up, isn’t there?  He’s been much better for Chicago than I expected him to be, so putting a loss on him won’t be an issue for anyone, I don’t believe.

With a win in the first game, that means the Cards have a chance to win the series tonight and, in theory, get some confidence and momentum going.  However, we know what momentum has been worth to this club in the past.  Adam Wainwright will look to continue his return to form tonight.  Waino’s been much more like the Wainwright we remember as of late (a 2.50 ERA over his last six starts) and there’s no particular reason to think that he won’t be able to keep that going this evening.  He did give up three runs in six innings the last time he faced the baby bears (which is included in that 2.50 mark) but hopefully he can do a little better than that tonight.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Anthony Rizzo 37 35 10 1 0 1 4 2 5 .286 .324 .400 .724 0 0 0 0 3
Miguel Montero 26 24 7 0 0 1 2 2 7 .292 .346 .417 .763 0 0 0 0 1
Chris Coghlan 21 19 5 2 0 0 0 2 4 .263 .333 .368 .702 0 0 0 0 1
David Ross 19 18 6 3 0 1 4 1 6 .333 .368 .667 1.035 0 0 0 0 0
Jason Heyward 16 16 3 0 0 1 2 0 3 .188 .188 .375 .563 0 0 0 0 0
Travis Wood 10 9 2 0 0 1 1 0 3 .222 .222 .556 .778 1 0 0 0 0
Ben Zobrist 9 8 3 1 0 0 0 1 2 .375 .444 .500 .944 0 0 0 0 0
Javier Baez 8 8 2 0 0 0 0 0 2 .250 .250 .250 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Kris Bryant 5 4 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .200 .000 .200 0 0 0 0 0
Jon Lester 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
John Lackey 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Addison Russell 3 3 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Jake Arrieta 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Kyle Hendricks 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 165 155 40 7 0 5 14 9 37 .258 .299 .400 .699 1 0 0 0 5
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/21/2016.

Jason Hammel has killed the Cardinals this year not only on the mound but at the plate, driving in two runs in each of his two starts against the club.  One of those games, the two runs were all the Cubs scored, but that was enough for the win.  Hammel has allowed just two runs in 13.1 innings against St. Louis this year and is coming off a one-run, seven-inning affair against the Nationals.  Hammel really hasn’t had a terrible start all year, with four runs in six innings being his worst.  He’s also been a little better at home, which basically means that tonight is going to be another tight one, if the numbers are any indication.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Jhonny Peralta 27 24 9 2 0 2 8 3 3 .375 .444 .708 1.153 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Holliday 21 18 5 3 0 0 0 2 5 .278 .381 .444 .825 0 0 0 1 0
Matt Carpenter 19 19 3 1 0 0 1 0 8 .158 .158 .211 .368 0 0 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 18 16 7 3 1 0 3 2 1 .438 .500 .750 1.250 0 0 0 0 1
Brandon Moss 13 13 4 2 0 0 2 0 3 .308 .308 .462 .769 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Adams 12 11 5 3 0 0 1 1 1 .455 .500 .727 1.227 0 0 0 0 0
Kolten Wong 9 7 1 1 0 0 0 1 2 .143 .333 .286 .619 0 0 0 1 0
Jedd Gyorko 8 8 1 0 0 0 0 0 4 .125 .125 .125 .250 0 0 0 0 0
Stephen Piscotty 8 7 2 0 1 1 2 1 2 .286 .375 1.000 1.375 0 0 0 0 0
Michael Wacha 4 4 1 0 0 0 2 0 2 .250 .250 .250 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Aledmys Diaz 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 1
Greg Garcia 2 2 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 1.000 1.500 0 0 0 0 0
Jaime Garcia 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Carlos Martinez 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Tommy Pham 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Eric Fryer 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000 0 0 0 0 0
Tyler Lyons 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 152 140 40 16 2 3 19 10 34 .286 .342 .493 .835 0 0 0 2 2
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/21/2016.

Locking down a series win against the Cubs would be a wonderful way to spend the evening, especially with Jake Arrieta (who, ’tis true, the Cardinals have done better against than some) looming tomorrow.  Go get it, boys!

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The last time we got together, everything seemed pretty rosy.  (Not necessarily Rosie, of course.)  The Cardinals had won five straight games to move to seven over .500.  They were in the first wild card position and while the division still was well out of reach, at least the gap wasn’t in double digits at the time, at least allowing for the possibility of a run.  They’d won the last three series, two over quality opposition in San Francisco and Pittsburgh, and had actually split the series against the Nationals before that.  Things were looking up, everything was about to click, and we were solidly in the STL-FIL 3 zone, with a chance for easing up to FIL 4 if everything broke right.

We didn’t expect the club to win all the rest of their games, of course, but we did expect them to win some as they came home to Busch Stadium.  Instead, the two Texas teams pushed the Cardinals’ home record to a terrible 15-21 by bringing their brooms in their checked luggage, sweeping the homestand.  Instead of FIL 4 within reach, we are dangerously close to FIL 2 and the long knives are coming out for not only people associated with the club but other sections of the fandom as well.  This week was the most drastic turnaround in fortunes that this team has seen in quite some time.  Let’s review.

Tuesday (5-2 loss vs. Houston)

Hero: Brandon Moss.  It was a toss up between him and Matt Adams, and I was leading toward Adams.  Moss left two on and Adams none, which was the only difference in their lines.  Both had a solo home run and both were important, but Adams’s gave the Cards a quick 1-0 lead (which Jaime Garcia promptly squandered) while Moss cut the lead to 3-2 and seemingly gave this club, which had been so good at late inning scoring, a chance to come back.  However, Adams made an error in the inning that saw Houston tack on two insurance runs, which was kind of a big deal, so we’ll go with Moss here.

Goat: There were a lot of pretty blah performances in this one.  I guess I’ll go with Stephen Piscotty, who went 0-4 with a strikeout.  Again, there were a number of folks that didn’t have much going for them in this one, as the club could only muster five hits off of Doug Fister and company.

Notes: Jaime Garcia had one of his better outings as of late, but since the five before this had seen him post a 6.38 ERA, that’s not exactly the highest of praise.  Garcia really did do pretty well overall, allowing three runs in six innings before going out for the seventh and seeing his defense and his bullpen betray him.  Garcia was charged with four runs, but the fourth was unearned (due to Adams’s error in the inning) and came when Seung-hwan Oh proved mortal and allowed Fister to single in two runs with two outs.

The Fister single led me to do a little bit of boxscore compiling, because I felt like pitchers had been getting some big hits against the Cardinals all year long.  However, it turned out that those hits just stick out, because on the season pitchers are hitting .160 with just one extra-base hit against St. Louis and we all know that our pitchers have done much worse to the other side.  (Those numbers would be worse without Jason Hammel, who is two for six with four of the 12 RBI pitchers have garnered.  And, of course, we’ll see Hammel on Tuesday night.)

Tyler Lyons pitched a scoreless inning in the ninth.  That didn’t make any difference in the game but I always like to acknowledge the Patron Pitcher.

Wednesday (4-1 loss vs. Houston)

Hero: Adam Wainwright.  Starting pitching has not been the issue this week and Wainwright was just another representative of that.  Seven innings of scoreless ball from the guy that actually resembles that staff ace the Cards are familiar with.  Just four hits (though three walks) and six strikeouts.  They gave Waino a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the seventh, meaning that for a moment he was in line for a win.  Then that lockdown bullpen left a key out.

Goat: Kevin Siegrist.  The most frustrating part of Siegrist blowing this game was that he had escaped the danger.  It’s like in the movies, when the hero fights through this terrible line of challenges, only to take a breather at the end and fall through the trap door.  Siegrist had given up a leadoff single to Carlos Gomez, but after retiring the next batter picked off Gomez.  So two outs and nobody on is a pretty solid spot to be in.  Then Siegrist walked Evan Gattis (which is not the easiest thing to do) and allowed a home run to George Springer (which is less surprising) and suddenly, after fighting all game long to get a lead, the Cardinals immediately gave it back.

Notes: Trevor Rosenthal came into this one with a full gas can and poured it all over the smoldering embers, allowing four of the five batters he faced to reach base and two of them to score.  In the past, it has seemed that Mike Matheny was going to sink or swim with Rosenthal, but this year (sadly) we’ve seen him a number of times go out and remove Rosie from the mound, which is what happened here, as it took Jonathan Broxton to finally shut down the Astros’ rally.  Rosenthal has struggled mightily in June, something that we’ll sadly have another opportunity to talk about in this post.

Colin McHugh did a fine job of keeping the Cards at bay, allowing seven hits in just shy of seven innings.  St. Louis finally got to him when Greg Garcia‘s pinch-hit single drove in Yadier Molina, but as we’ve seen that was a short-lived victory.

Speaking of Molina, it was a good night for the catcher with three hits.  Molina’s bat has been on an upswing, so perhaps that slump he was in wasn’t entirely due to fatigue, since Yadi’s not getting much more rest than he was save for some convenient off days.  Two hits for Matt Carpenter as well, who was the only other starter to record multiple knocks.

Friday (1-0 loss to Texas)

Hero: Michael Wacha.  We’ve not seen a lot of great things out of Wacha this season, but as of late he’s been a bit better, posting a 3.20 ERA in June after this strong start, where he only allowed a solo home run to Rouged Odor in 7.2 innings.  Wacha struck out seven and deserved so much better than to take the loss in this one.  While win-loss records aren’t terribly indicative of how a player is going (especially due to games like this), it’s tough to see a guy like Wacha sitting at 2-7.  That’s a mark you’d think you’d see on a team like the Reds, not a team that’s in a playoff race.

Goat: Pick a hitter.  The Cardinals wound up with three hits and two of them came from Matt Carpenter, who also drew two of the three walks.  Basically, he was the offense.  You gotta take just one here, though, so I’ll go with Aledmys Diaz, who went 0-4 with Carpenter on every time he reached base.  A hit here or there and maybe the Cards are able to put one across against Cole Hamels.  Maybe not, as Hamels was in top form in this one.

Diaz has struggled quite a bit of late, with that insanely hot start masking the fact that he’s hit .217/.287/.292 over basically the last month (before Sunday’s game).  While his defense has gotten somewhat better–though as we’ll see it was a key in one game–the league has adjusted to him and it’s time to see if he’ll adjust back.  I know John Mozeliak wants to give him every chance to be the shortstop of the future, but he’s got to first be the shortstop of the present.

Notes: The Cards didn’t hit and it didn’t matter how well they pitched.  Really, not much else to say here.

Saturday (4-3 loss to Texas)

Hero: Carlos Martinez.  For the second time in this homestand, a pitcher left after throwing seven scoreless innings, only to see the bullpen give up two in the eighth and two in the ninth.  Wainwright, Wacha, and Martinez combined to allow one run over a three-game stretch and the Cardinals won none of them.  That’s mindboggling.  (Well, it would be, save we all remember last season.)  Martinez showed no ill effects from throwing 122 pitches against the Pirates, giving up just four hits in his time out there and striking out four as well.

Goat: Trevor Rosenthal.  There’s no doubt that Oh and Siegrist contributed to this, but Rosenthal came into the ninth in a save situation, which is what he’s paid to do.  In fact, the FOX graphic showed that his ERA in save situations was 0.64, compared to a mark over 10 in non-save situations.  (However, that’s not reflecting situations like the game in Anaheim where he walked three batters and was yanked for Siegrist, who didn’t let them score.  No blown save, no mark against the ERA, but not what you’d say was a successful save appearance.)  Rosenthal allowed a hit (which, to be fair, could have been ruled an error on Adams) to Odor leading off the ninth, then followed that up with a single and a hit-by-pitch.  Siegrist then came in, allowed a run-scoring walk with one out and a sacrifice fly by Ian Desmond that honestly took a nice play by Tommy Pham not to be a bases-clearing double.  Truly, this was a complete bullpen effort.

Notes: Matt Adams could have easily been the Goat in this one, with two plays in the late innings that could have both been errors (one was scored that way) and an 0-4 day with four left on base.  Adams has been quite good for some time now, though, and everyone’s going to be rough every once in a while.

Carpenter went 1-2 with two walks, continuing his hot streak, but surprisingly the runs aren’t coming.  When Carpenter’s going well, that’s usually the thing that the offense needs to get clicking.  While three runs isn’t anything terrible, it’s not exactly a cloudburst either.

It was a pretty rough weekend for Mike Matheny and this game was part of that.  In the eighth, with runners on second and third, Nomar Mazara swung at a pitch that, upon review, hit one of his legs as it passed between them.  Molina was unable to corral the ball and the runners advanced, getting Texas on the board.  With the ball hitting Mazara, it should have been a dead ball but Matheny didn’t ask for a review.  Afterwards, he admitted that he knew it had hit Mazara, but he didn’t realize that Mazara had swung and didn’t want to let Texas put the tying run on base.  (Which turned out to be supremely ironic in about 24 hours.)

Putting aside how he couldn’t tell that Mazara swung or how someone didn’t make that clear after watching the replay, even if Matheny is right in that situation, it’s an interesting call.  I mean, I get not wanting to put a runner on, but there are two outs in the eighth.  If that ball hits him, you have the bases loaded and, while it’s true there was a dangerous hitter in Adrian Beltre coming up, you also have a force at any base and that run is off the board.  Without knowing that he swung, it’s a debatable proposition.  With Mazara swinging, it was a no-brainer, one that Matheny flubbed.

Sunday (5-4 loss to Texas)

Hero: Matt Holliday.  Only one hit, but it was a game-tying homer in the sixth, plus Holliday had another RBI in the third, a sacrifice fly that gave the Cardinals a brief lead.  Holliday’s still on pace for between 25 and 30 homers, which is just amazing given his age and how slowly he started the year.  The general practice of pulling him in late innings isn’t a bad thing, though, and may be contributing to some of that rejuvenation.

Goat: Aledmys Diaz. Diaz had a single in this game, which was his only hit of the homestand, but unfortunately it was the other side of the ball that provided the focus.  In the first, Diaz missed a throw from Eric Fryer (who was giving Molina a day off) when Desmond stole second base.  Desmond then went to third and was able to score on a sacrifice fly.  Given that that play was in the first inning, it might have been forgivable, even in what turned out to be a one-run game.  The second glitch was more of an issue.

In the eighth, the first two Rangers are retired by Matt Bowman (in his second inning of work) before Odor, who made a stink all weekend, doubled and Mitch Moreland was intentionally walked (more on that in a bit).  Elvis Andrus then hit a ground ball to short, which Diaz fielded and threw to second to get Moreland.  However, on replay (and, honestly, it was clear enough that it’s stunning the ump got it wrong to start with), Moreland was safe as Diaz just didn’t make the play as quickly as he should have.  That allowed Jurickson Profar to come up with the bases loaded and single in the two runs needed to give Texas their final lead.  Which surprised no one, as there was this sense that the bullpen was going to eventually let this game get away, the question was how.  Profar just gave us the answer.

The bullpen struggles had serious repercussions in this one.  It seems unlikely that Bowman would have been still out there, especially with two on, if Rosenthal was going right or if Siegrist and Oh hadn’t struggled lately.  (Unlikely, but not impossible, because it would be like Matheny to try to give Bowman that experience of getting out of a jam.)  Of course, if the bullpen was going well, the Cards probably win three games at least on this homestand instead of losing all five.

Notes: Stephen Piscotty homered and scored another run when Fryer walked with the bases loaded, giving the Cardinals their last lead.  Two more hits and two more walks by Carpenter, showing that no matter how the rest of the team might be going, Carp’s going to be that consistent rock.

Mike Leake looked OK in this one, save the two home runs he allowed.  They were both solo shots and the only ones that were earned against him, as that Diaz error made the first one not count against his ERA.  Five strikeouts and he also had a base hit, so I think that’s what you’d take about every time out of Leake, though he only went six innings given the sixth inning rally that saw him be pinch-hit for.

As we said, it wasn’t the best weekend for Matheny, to the point that I’ve seen more people on Twitter calling for his job than I ever have before.  I mean, there’s always been a lot of complaining about this manager, but I’ve never seen so many that were willing to use “fire” in front of his name as I did this weekend.  On Sunday, Matheny gave them some fuel by walking Moreland in the eighth with a runner on second, intentionally putting the go-ahead run on base.  I didn’t care for that move myself, but let’s be fair–if Diaz’s throw is a bit quicker, the Cards are out of that inning.  Given that Moreland had one of the longest home runs by a visiting lefty earlier in the game, you could see why there might be some hesitation.  (That said, perhaps you go with a lefty against him and pitch to him instead of just putting him on base.)  It wasn’t the best idea by the skipper, but as Tara and I said last night, if the players execute, that mitigates a lot of those choices.  They didn’t, which means that this was a loss that had a lot of fathers.

There’s been a lot of transactions this week, which you can look at in a variety of ways.  One way would be some long-overdue changes, one way would be a desperate attempt at a hot hand or finding something that works.  I’m not sure exactly how I’d take it, but the fact that the Cubs are now 12.5 games ahead of the Cardinals has to be weighing at least somewhat on this front office.

First off, Kolten Wong was called up on Friday with Jeremy Hazelbaker being sent down to balance the scales.  There’s no doubt that Hazelbaker has been slumping and been fairly marginalized as of late, so his demotion wasn’t terribly unexpected.  We’ll see how he does down there and if we see him return, but there’s a reason the 28-year-old outfielder made his major league debut this season.  There’s not too many people these days that are just starting great, long baseball careers at that age.

However, the promotion of Wong was a little bit puzzling.  Yes, Wong had done great at Memphis, but it was a whopping seven games.  I realize that he had four homers and was hitting .429 in that span, but depending on what you sent Wong to Memphis to do, it seems hard to believe he’d gotten it all figured out in 10 days, just in time to be promoted for his Hawaiian jersey giveaway at Busch.  It’s a fairly small sample and while Wong did get a few starts in center field down there, it wasn’t even all seven of those games.  Was that really enough to change anyone’s minds about what Wong was going to do right now?

Apparently it was, since he got the call up, but it seemed a little bit weird to see him return that quickly.  It could well be that the club figured he was better than some of the other options, like Hazelbaker, but you’d almost think they’d have figured that out beforehand.  I know they’d probably say that they didn’t want him to learn center field in the majors, but that’s still basically what he’s doing.  This one just seemed strange to me.

The next day, Randal Grichuk was demoted and Tommy Pham took his place.  Again, I don’t think anyone is going to argue that Grichuk could use some time in Memphis (and apparently, the land of the delta blues solves a lot of issues, as Grichuk crushed a three-run homer on Sunday), I’m just surprised that the club actually made the move.  We’ll see how they treat Grichuk, especially if he has a hot run in Memphis as well.  Will he get a return trip quickly also?

As for Pham, he was hitting .236 in Memphis.  John Nagel and I had discussed Pham on the last Meet Me At Musial (and, programming note, sorry we didn’t get a show recorded this weekend.  We were set to do so and then life threw a last minute curve) and we’d agreed that he wasn’t doing enough at AAA to really warrant a callup.  Then again, .236 is better than .208 (if you just want to look at batting average, which of course you shouldn’t) and perhaps Pham will also get a kick from a change in scenery.  He got his first big league hit of the season on Sunday, though he was out trying to stretch a double into a triple, a situation (stretching hits) that seemed to bite the Cardinals plenty over the weekend.

Finally, on Sunday, Seth Maness was activated from the disabled list and Dean Kiekhefer was sent back to Memphis.  Kiekhefer was the most (and perhaps really only) disposable arm and it’s worth seeing if Maness’s issues from earlier this season were due to the injury and not as much general ineffectiveness.  That said, you’d have to think there’s a bit of a short leash on Maness, because if he scuffles more after returning, he’s out of excuses.

As if things weren’t just ugly enough, the Cardinals get to make their first trip into Wrigley Field starting tonight.  I guess if you are looking for silver linings you grab onto the fact that the Cards play better away from St. Louis (20-12 away from Busch) and that streaks in baseball tend not to get terribly long.  On the down side, the Cubs are 25-8 at home, just swept the Pirates, and the Redbirds have to face John Lackey, Hammel, and Jake Arrieta.  This should be a fun time.

Jaime Garcia will take on the baby bears tonight.  Overall, he’s done OK against these guys and he allowed just two runs in five innings when he faced them back in April, though that was still enough to get saddled with the loss.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Dexter Fowler 17 12 1 0 0 0 1 5 4 .083 .353 .083 .436 0 0 0 0 0
Jason Heyward 15 15 2 0 0 0 0 0 4 .133 .133 .133 .267 0 0 0 0 0
Miguel Montero 6 4 3 0 0 1 1 2 1 .750 .833 1.500 2.333 0 0 0 0 0
Kris Bryant 5 5 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 .200 .200 .200 .400 0 0 0 0 0
Jason Hammel 4 4 1 0 0 0 2 0 2 .250 .250 .250 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Anthony Rizzo 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Chris Coghlan 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Clayton Richard 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
David Ross 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Addison Russell 3 2 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 1 0 0 0 0
Trevor Cahill 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Ben Zobrist 2 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000 0 0 0 0 0
Kyle Hendricks 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 0
Total 68 58 10 0 0 1 6 8 22 .172 .273 .224 .497 2 0 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/20/2016.

John Lackey goes for the third time against his 2015 team, but at least this time he’s not at Busch Stadium, where he apparently put down a long-term deposit on the mound.  He gave up three runs last time in seven innings, mainly due to an Adams homer late.  The first time, zero runs in seven innings.  Lackey’s apparently made himself at home at Wrigley as well, as he’s 3-1 with a 1.66 ERA in front of the ivy.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Jhonny Peralta 36 34 12 2 0 0 4 0 8 .353 .361 .412 .773 0 1 0 1 1
Matt Holliday 21 19 3 0 1 0 0 2 6 .158 .238 .263 .501 0 0 0 0 0
Brandon Moss 15 14 4 1 0 0 2 1 4 .286 .333 .357 .690 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Carpenter 14 12 3 1 0 0 0 2 4 .250 .357 .333 .690 0 0 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 13 13 4 0 0 0 1 0 2 .308 .308 .308 .615 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Adams 8 8 2 0 0 1 2 0 1 .250 .250 .625 .875 0 0 0 0 0
Aledmys Diaz 6 5 1 1 0 0 1 0 1 .200 .167 .400 .567 0 1 0 0 0
Jedd Gyorko 6 6 1 0 0 0 1 0 1 .167 .167 .167 .333 0 0 0 0 0
Stephen Piscotty 6 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 .000 .167 .000 .167 0 0 0 1 0
Kolten Wong 6 5 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 .200 .333 .200 .533 0 0 0 1 0
Eric Fryer 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Mike Leake 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Adam Wainwright 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 1 0 0 0 0
Total 138 127 31 5 1 1 11 5 35 .244 .285 .323 .608 1 2 0 3 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/20/2016.

A series loss to the Cubs and I think we can officially change the Frustration Index Level to Rasmus.  Let’s hope, somehow, that it doesn’t come to that.

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If you’ve read this site long enough, first my apologies and second you may remember back when Houston and St. Louis had a strong rivalry going in the NL Central.  Before Bud Selig’s need for perpetual interleague required a sacrificial lamb (you may be able to tell what I think of that idea), the Cardinals and Astros were appointment viewing, for the most part.  Houston had started their downward slide before they left the Central, but those early 2000s matchups are still emblazoned in our minds.

Back then James Yasko, who created and still runs Astros County, would occasionally answer some questions for me about the Astros.  James was one of the first members of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and is a great Twitter follow @AstrosCounty.  I sent him a few questions for old times’ sake since the two teams were renewing acquaintances and here’s what he had to say.

C70: The last time these two teams played was July 10, 2013, almost three full years ago. As two people that lived through the intense rivalry these two teams had in the NL Central, does that surprise you as much as it does me? Does the gap make this series a bit nostalgic or are you just hating to see the Cardinals again?

AC: I guess it makes sense that it’s been three years given interleague play, but the 2013 Astros lost 111 games so I’ve blocked most of those from my memory, though I’ve kept the phones I have broken in a shrine in a closet complete with candles and incense. At this point in the 2016 season, my sanity just needs the Astros to start winning games, so I’m not exactly thrilled to see the Cardinals. There is a nostalgic aspect to the series, but pretty much the beginning of every Astros game fills me with a sense of dread.

C70: Given the team’s recent success, it’s a little surprising to look up and find them sitting five games under .500. What’s been the biggest problem for the Astros this season and how likely is it to turn around?

AC: We’ve been trying to figure this out. Basically it comes down to a few things:

-Not being able to beat the Rangers. The Astros are 1-9 against the Rangers and, as Kommissar Selig has ordained, they are now our “major rivals.” Also, I have a number of morally bankrupt friends who are Rangers fans, and this has caused a problem with many of those friendships. So, yeah, the Astros are 30-35, but they’re 29-26 against Not The Rangers. It’s not a silver lining, but it’s at least something to cling to.

-The team is remarkably inconsistent. They struggled offensively, even dating back to last year’s playoff team, and that has carried over to this year. On Sunday the Astros had five players in the lineup hitting under .220. Basically you have Jose Altuve, George Springer, and seven other guys. Carlos Gomez has been an abject disaster, his presumed replacement Jake Marisnick is hitting .181 (exactly Gomez’s batting average). St. Louis’ favorite son Colby Rasmus has cooled off considerably since his hot start.

-And the starting pitching comes and goes. Dallas Keuchel is definitely not pitching like the Ace he was last year, Collin McHugh has been hit or miss. And it seems like if the offense is clicking, the pitching struggles; conversely if the pitching is clicking, the offense struggles. This season has caused intestinal discomfort, and I blame the weight of expectations and actually having hope for the first time in eleven years.

C70: This series will mark the first time Colby Rasmus has played in Busch Stadium since his trade in July of 2011. He seems to have found the acceptance in Houston that he never fully had in St. Louis. Is that the case and why is that?

AC: I absolutely adore Colby Rasmus and hope he signs a lifetime contract for All The Moneys. A.J. Hinch is a decidedly player-friendlier manager than Tony LaRussa, and there isn’t some mystical “Astros Way” of doing things unlike your fair team – both of which I think have been to Rasmus’ benefit. We also apparently don’t have the best fans in baseball. It’s been a long long long time since the Astros had a guy like Rasmus – kind of a weird guy with a southern drawl, and after so much losing he has some personality. And yet, even that doesn’t really make sense. I can’t figure out why I’ve latched on to Rasmus, and I bet most Astros fans couldn’t either. He’s just a delight.

C70: It sounds like Carlos Correa should be back from a minor ankle injury in time for this series, giving the Cards their first real look at him. How enjoyable is it to watch him play every day?

AC: It’s fantastic. Even though he’s taken a step back from his ridiculous rookie year, sometimes it’s worth remembering that he’s still only 21 years old. But there is a very loud corner of the Astros Fandom that want to see Correa move to third base, given some of the plays he hasn’t made. Still, he’s only 21 years old and has been in the majors for just over a calendar year. The Astros haven’t had the promise of a shortstop of his caliber since Dickie Thon 32-33 years ago, and God help me if Mike Torrez (or one of your thug pitchers) hits him in the face with a baseball. I’ll drive to St. Louis and burn your city down if that happens.

C70: The Astros didn’t quite have their pile of draft picks or get to pick as high as usual. Overall, though, what are the initial impressions of their 2016 draft?

AC: It’s such a crapshoot. And keep in mind that the Astros took Mark Appel over Kris Bryant, and then there was that whole Brady Aiken thing… my view of the draft is much more cynical than it was after 2012 (the Correa/McCullers draft). I can look at the HS/College stats of the guys the Astros drafted and think it’s the greatest draft of all time, though the statistical reality of minor-leaguers making it to the Majors will prove me wrong. Despite that, the Astros drafted *a lot* of college players perhaps in an effort to restock after the trades for Scott Kazmir (blech), Carlos Gomez (hork), and Ken Giles.

C70: What unheralded player might make an impact in this series?

AC: I literally have no idea. The problem is that the Astros – as a team – were fairly heralded in the preseason expectations, so I don’t have an answer for that. Maybe this is the time that Jake Marisnick or Carlos Gomez figures it out. Maybe Tyler White regains a spark of what he did in the first week of the season, when he looked like Babe Ruth.

As always, it’s great (and fairly humorous) to hear from James about the state of the Astros.  Be sure to check out Astros County this week to see what the other side is saying!

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Now This Is Baseball

What’s not to love?  A weekend sweep of your closest (in the standings) divisional rival.  Moving into the first wild card spot.  Getting great starting pitching and a continuation of the good offense we’ve seen most of the year.  I mean, if I’m paraphrasing a line from Episode I as a post title, you know it must be a time of love and good cheer.

Saturday (5-1 win)

Hero: Carlos Martinez.  You could make a legitimate case that Mike Matheny left him out there too long, as 122 pitches is a pretty good workload in this day in age.  He was at 108 when he led off the ninth inning with a base hit, a situation that most people probably would have pinch hit for him.  That said, there is a difference between pitches thrown under stress and pitches thrown free and easy.  A 75 pitch game with runners on constantly and the lead often in jeopardy can do more damage than 100 pitches with few tough situations.  Martinez was definitely having the latter game, allowing just one run and striking out five while walking three.

That said, given the lack of depth at Memphis in the starting pitcher section, perhaps any risk on Martinez was a risk too great.  I appreciate Matheny wanting to get him a complete game and I do think there is value in giving Martinez a chance to experience that and know what it’s like, but maybe when he’s more like 100 or so pitches instead of 110 to start the ninth.  Again, it was a very good outing for Martinez, but we’ll have to wait and see how his next starts go to see if there are any lasting repercussions.

Goat: Randal Grichuk.  Given the nagging injuries the club had, especially to Matt Carpenter, there weren’t a whole lot of other options for the leadoff spot, but seeing Grichuk’s name up there was pretty surprising.  It didn’t work, as Grichuk went 0-4 with two left on, though he did score a run.  (I probably technically should have gone with Matt Adams here, since he also went 0-4 but didn’t score and left three on, but I didn’t have as much to talk about with him as I did with Grichuk’s leadoff debut.  It was a coin flip and that weighted the coin a bit, I guess.)  With Carpenter scheduled to return to the lineup today, we shouldn’t have to worry about seeing these odd leadoff choices any longer, but it is a function of this team’s bulk and fair lack of speed that there’s no classic leadoff guy that comes to mind from the roster.

Notes: There’s a comic book story called Old Man Logan, which (from what I gather) follows Wolverine as an older man.  I think we are starting to see Old Man Holliday, because Matt Holliday, after hitting a three-run homer in this one to provide insurance in a 1-0 game and his work on Sunday, is now on pace for around 30 home runs.  Like Adams and Brandon Moss, who were given a lot of grief earlier in the season, he seems to have found his stride or at least a very nice hot streak.  Just because the core is aging doesn’t mean it can’t be productive (which, if you wanted to be slightly snarky, might be more than Jason Heyward is doing these days).

Four runs in six innings off of Francisco Liriano helps to show just how much he’s struggled of late.  While that’s not a bad line, especially when you factor in that all of those runs came in the fifth, normally he’d have held the Cards to just one over seven innings or something of that nature.  To beat Liriano at all is a nice change of pace for the Redbirds, one that I’d hope they’d be able to do more in the future.  Of course, only one of those was earned and he struck out eight, so he still had some of that anti-Cardinal magic he has.

Moss (2) and Holliday (3) were the only folks with multiple hits in this one as almost all the offense was concentrated into the fifth inning.  When Martinez is on his game, though, one inning of scoring is really all you need.

Sunday (8-3 win)

Hero: Matt Holliday.  Another three hit game, another home run, another win.  I’m pretty sure most Cardinal fans could get used to that really, really quickly.  Holliday has his average up to .265 after being at .227 a couple of weeks ago.  He’s only hitting .343 with four homers and an OPS of 1.046 in that span.  That’s all, no big deal.

Goat: Jedd Gyorko.  After Grichuk’s turn in the leadoff spot, the wheel spun to another unlikely candidate and, much like Grichuk, he didn’t really take to it.  0-5 with two strikeouts, a double play, and the only starter in an offensive blowout to not get a hit is not really the way you want to spend your Sunday, but there always seems to be someone that doesn’t get to join in on the fun.

Notes: Mike Leake returned to form after stumbling against his old team last time out, allowing just six hits and three runs (only two earned) in seven innings.  He struck out six, which is a pretty high total for him honestly, and finally showed a little bit of that offensive prowess we’ve heard so much about with a couple of hits and a run scored.  He’s got a long way to catch up to Adam Wainwright in the pitchers hitting competition, though.  It was good to see that his Cincinnati outing appears to be an outlier from what he’s been doing lately and not the start of a downhill slide.  I’d imagine there were some emotions and issues returning to the only place he’d ever played before last year’s trading deadline, stuff that might have affected his focus.

Stephen Piscotty was back in the lineup and had two hits (both doubles) and Yadier Molina, showing that either his issues of late weren’t fatigue related or that the eight innings he had off on Friday were a lot of help, banged out three knocks, driving in one and scoring one.  This lineup is showing that it is so strong up and down and even when someone like your leadoff man is having a slow day, you can still put up eight runs.  I hope the Mobil On The Run folks banked some money during last year’s offensive wasteland, because six is becoming serious on a regular basis in 2016.

The Cardinals are now seven games over .500 and are on a five game winning streak, marks that seemed completely out of their reach given their inconsistent play over the first couple of months.  It could be a bit of luck, it could be catching Pittsburgh at a bad time, but it also could be the team has jelled a bit since the return of Jhonny Peralta.  Not that Peralta has lit the world on fire, though he has played better than I expected, but maybe something in that veteran presence got them on the same page.  Or it could be complete coincidence that they are 5-1 since his return.

We’ll get a chance to see how much of a step this team has taken this week facing both Texas teams.  The Astros are first up and it’s surprising to look at the standings and see them sitting at 30-35.  I’ve sent some questions off to our friend James at Astros County, one of which is what is the issue with the club, and will post those answers when I get them.  Still, this is a pretty talented team, one that was in the playoffs just last year, and shouldn’t be taken lightly.  Then again, anyone with a memory of those epic Houston-St. Louis battles would never do such a thing.

Jaime Garcia goes for the Cardinals tonight, in the throes of a pretty awful stretch of games.  Given Garcia’s history, you don’t rule out some sort of injury he’s not telling the club, but allowing 13 hits in less than five innings against Cincinnati last time at least shows that he’s having problems getting the ball past folks.  We’ll see if that continues against a team that is kinda scuffling offensively when you look at the overall stats, though they are ninth in baseball in home runs.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Carlos Gomez 35 35 11 2 1 0 2 0 6 .314 .314 .429 .743 0 0 0 0 0
Jose Altuve 14 13 6 1 0 0 1 0 1 .462 .429 .538 .967 0 1 0 0 2
Jason Castro 6 6 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .167 .167 .167 .333 0 0 0 0 0
Mike Fiers 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Doug Fister 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Marwin Gonzalez 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 61 60 18 3 1 0 3 0 10 .300 .295 .383 .678 0 1 0 0 2
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/14/2016.

Doug Fister will be on the hill for the Astros this evening.  The Cardinals got a look at him when he was with the Nationals and while it’s not a big sample, of course, they seemed to do all right.  Fister is having a pretty strong season, though, with a 3.34 ERA that has been dropping steadily since he gave up six runs in his second start of the season.  In his last two starts, he allowed a total of one run in 12 innings.  He doesn’t often go past the sixth, but he’s good while he’s in there.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Jhonny Peralta 16 15 4 0 0 0 1 1 0 .267 .313 .267 .579 0 0 0 0 1
Brandon Moss 13 12 5 1 0 1 4 0 4 .417 .462 .750 1.212 0 0 0 1 0
Matt Carpenter 7 6 1 0 0 1 1 1 1 .167 .286 .667 .952 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Adams 6 6 2 1 0 1 3 0 2 .333 .333 1.000 1.333 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Holliday 6 5 1 0 0 1 2 0 2 .200 .167 .800 .967 0 1 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 4 4 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .250 .250 .250 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Jaime Garcia 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 2 0 0 0 0
Jedd Gyorko 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Stephen Piscotty 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 59 53 16 2 0 4 11 2 10 .302 .333 .566 .899 2 1 0 1 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/14/2016.

It’s the first time (as far as I can tell) Colby Rasmus will play in Busch Stadium since July of 2011, right before John Mozeliak’s big trade that eventually paid huge dividends.  It’ll be interesting what kind of reception he gets from the crowd, as most former Cardinals return faster that that (Albert Pujols excepted, of course).  My guess is tepid applause, because the return of a not-quite-beloved player five years out seems to be tough to work up much emotion for.  We shall see!

Oh, and if you are interested, I answered some questions for Baseball Reflections.  Check those out here!

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Shattering the Glass

It took over two months, but finally these Cardinals went where they’ve never been before this season, four games over .500.  Then they went out and took the next step, albeit in pretty interesting fashion.  We’ve got a three game winning streak to talk about!  If this keeps up, we won’t have to debate which STL-FIL we are at!

Wednesday (12-7 win at Cincinnati)

Hero: Brandon Moss.  Two home runs and they weren’t garbage time ones either.  His first two-run shot broke the 4-4 tie, while his second two-run blast padded out a one-run lead.  There’s no doubt Moss’s power has returned and if the Cards got to where they needed to deal, he would be an attractive asset for another contender.  That said, if they continue to be in a race for the wild card, they may need to keep him around!

Goat: Jaime Garcia.  Garcia had a three-run lead before he even took the mound, but he immediately gave up one and could have been worse.  The club went out and got him another run to make up for that, but he then allowed two in the second and one in the fourth.  Garcia gave up 13 hits and a walk in just under five innings, which means that Cincinnati had no problems dealing with whatever he was throwing.  After a stretch of games where Garcia was looking like one of the most consistently good starters in this rotation, he has a 6.38 ERA over his last five starts and opponents are hitting .374 against him over that span.  I don’t know if it’s mechanical or what, but Garcia needs to get back to that swing and miss stuff we have seen in the past.  In those five starts, he’s thrown 24 innings and struck out 13.  In the five starts before, he struck out 29 in 30.1 frames.

Notes: For a while there, it looked like the Cardinals might lose to Alfredo Simon, which honestly is one of the things that led to the thinking behind the Frustration Index.  There would be nothing more frustrating than to be shut down by a guy with an ERA around 9.  Thankfully, that didn’t really happen–the Cards hung six on him in five innings–but it was in the picture until Moss’s first homer, which is just wrong.

Matt Adams started the scoring, getting Garcia that early lead with a homer in the first.  Two hits for Adams, who continues to show that he’s perfectly capable of producing at the big league level.  Two hits also for Jhonny Peralta and Yadier Molina as well as Randal Grichuk, who really needed a little good offensive news.  Again, this was Simon and the Reds bullpen so you have to discount it a little bit, but it was really nice to see the combination of this club that can score late against the flammable material that is Cincy’s relievers.

Thursday (3-2 win at Cincinnati)

Hero: Yadier Molina.  We’ve complained in this space a lot lately about Molina needing a day off (something that he at least got in part on Friday), but obviously the catcher still had a little oomph in him.  Three hits, including a one-out single in the eighth to bring in the eventual winning run.  I still think that he could use a little more rest, but it’s good to see that there’s still life there.

Goat: Stephen Piscotty.  Speaking of folks that are looking worn down (and also got a breather on Friday), Piscotty went 0-4 with two strikeouts and four left on, keeping his June average under the .200 level.  For the 14 games ending with this one, he hit .212/.305/.327, which is not the Piscotty we’ve come to rely on.

Notes: Adam Wainwright came out and immediately gave up two runs in the first inning, causing more angst and worry that any progress he’d been making was ephemeral.  Instead, he shut down the Reds going forward and his final line of two runs in six innings (with nine K and only one walk) is much more in line with the Good Wainwright that we always want to see.  If he’d gone seven, it might have been in contention for his best start of the season.  He only threw 78 pitches and, given Friday night’s heroics, it might be harder for Mike Matheny to pinch-hit for him in these situations going forward.

Cardinal offense had significant trouble with Brandon Finnegan, which isn’t as embarrassing as being limited by many of the Reds starters.  Finnegan’s had a pretty good season and is a lefty to boot, so it’s not surprising he made it through seven with just two runs allowed.  Brandon Moss was the only person save Molina that had multiple hits.  Moss has really been swinging the bat better as of late.  It’s like he and Matt Adams are just feeding off of each other, spurring each other to better production.  I’m all for that!

Great night for the bullpen.  Seung-hwan Oh got the win with Kevin Siegrist and Trevor Rosenthal doing exactly what they are supposed to do, shut down the opposition with limited heart problems for the fans.

Friday (9-3 win in 12 at Pittsburgh)

Hero: Matt Carpenter.  There’s no doubt I appreciate Wainwright’s heroics in this one.  To see a pitcher pinch-hit smash a double with two outs in extras to win the game (and, also, spark what might have been the most beautiful inning of the season) was incredible.  However, without Carpenter’s home run in the eighth, we never get that moment.  (On the down side…well, we’ll talk about that in a second.)  Carpenter had two hits, one of only three folks to be able to do that (Moss and Jhonny Peralta the other two), which tells you that, despite the final score, this was a pretty good pitching duel until the end.

Goat: It’s a toss up who to give this to, because it depends on who you lay the blame for the ninth on.  If Stephen Piscotty doesn’t dive for the leadoff hit by Starling Marte, it’s possible he plays that off the wall and keeps Marte to a double.  However, Marte’s pretty fast and I think if that ball gets past Piscotty–and there was no doubt it was going to–Marte probably get a triple anyway, even if Piscotty stays on his feet.  Given that, I’m giving the Goat to Trevor Rosenthal.  Rosie’s had his issues with the Pirates, to be sure, but this shouldn’t be a case of “he’s not pitched enough”, given that he was perfect the night before after a couple of days off.  The tying hit by Jordy Mercer isn’t a real slight to him–Mercer just flared it over the infield–but three walks, a triple, and a single in one frame in a game that the club really, really needed to win is just bad.  Having Andrew McCutchen come up able to win the game with a hit is not what you want to see.  Thankfully, Rosie got out of that one, but with so many options like Siegrist and Oh available, he’s going to have to much more consistent to keep folks off his back.

Notes: With Carpenter on in the 12th and two outs, you can’t blame Clint Hurdle for walking a regular hitter in Aledmys Diaz (even if he was 0-3 on the night) to face the pitcher’s spot.  I came into this game a little late, but I was pretty stunned to see that Matheny had burned through the entire bench by the time extra innings started.  He’s been caught short handed before, but usually he at least has one or two guys when the 10th rolls around.  I’m not saying that it wasn’t necessary to use those folks and if Rosie does his job it wouldn’t have mattered, but it was strange to see.  Anyway, it probably worked out for Matheny.  If he still has a hitter left, they likely don’t walk Diaz and since he’s a been a little more mortal recently (.274 over his last fifteen games), there’s no telling how that would have panned out.  That said, given how well the Cards hit Juan Nicasio after Waino’s heroics, it might have turned out just fine for St. Louis.

All in all, this has been a nice little run for the Redbirds.  They got a come-from-behind win against a big opponent and actually moved into the wild-card game if the season ended today spot.  They are 5-3 in June, but have won three series in a row and only have to split against the Pirates to take another.  That may be easier said than done, but we’ll talk about that when we get to the preview part.

Before we talk about tonight’s game, though, we probably should do a little discussion about the draft that started Thursday and continues today.  John Nagel and I will elaborate more on this when we record Meet Me At Musial tonight (sorry we didn’t get it done last night, but you’ll want to hear John’s analysis on this), but obviously the biggest news point is their first pick in the draft, Delvin Perez.  Perez is a shortstop talent that might have gone in the top five had he not received a positive test for PED in the last week.  Scared off by that (and not sure how much of his offensive prowess this season was due to that), Perez dropped to the Cardinals, who were willing to take the risk.

That didn’t set well with some folks.  You’d expect some of that from the national media, because we’ve come to expect anything slightly controversial that the Cardinals do to be blown up and used as a cudgel against them, but criticism came from closer to home in the form of Jose de Jesus Ortiz, who tore into the club both on Twitter and at the Post-Dispatch.

(You’ll note that in both places, Ortiz tends to try to tie this into the hacking scandal.  Which is a stretch of superheroic proportions, of course, until you realize that until he came to St. Louis this year, Ortiz covered the Astros, which means that he probably has that still stuck in his craw.  If nothing else, it’s what he knows and you write what you know–or at least think you know.  He thinks that pick should have been taken away from them and perhaps they’ll lose some next year when, you know, the actual investigation has happened.  He’s a columnist, though–he gets to write opinions, fact-based or not.)

There’s a fair discussion to be had here, but I do think that if Perez had gone many other places, it might have been less of a deal.  I mean, if the Phillies had taken him first there’d been a huge outcry, but once he slipped out of the top 10, St. Louis might have been the only place that would have caused a lot of discussion.  I commend the Cards for not factoring that into the equation.  At the end of the day, the club is in existence to 1) make money and 2) win ballgames, which helps with 1.  Perez should help them do that.  It doesn’t matter if the media gets worked up, especially these days when fans can get information and knowledge about the team in so many ways.  Perhaps in the past a crusading columnist could keep people away from the park on principle, but these days so many people can make up their own minds and have a lot of different ways of looking at PED usage.

That usage is a worthy discussion in its own right.  Obviously you’d want everyone never to take them and baseball is doing a lot of things to help reduce that usage on a large scale.  However, you are never going to get everyone–Marlon Byrd just got popped again, for instance–and how you handle the players that did such things is a key issue.

I think there’s a lot to be said for the forgiveness of the player, of giving them a second chance.  People can get caught up in things at times that they regret.  While that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be punished, assuming there are rules and laws that apply, that does mean that if they serve that punishment, they should be allowed to play and prove that they are better than their prior mistakes.

Not everyone thinks that way, of course.  We have often had one commenter here at the Conclave that makes it her crusade to continue to denigrate Jhonny Peralta due to his PED use, even though there’s some indication that the banned substance for Peralta was perhaps more dietary than performance enhancing.  Which is her prerogative, of course.   There’s an argument that someone that cheated in the big leagues doesn’t deserve any second chances.  It’s just not one I share and I think we are most all glad that John Mozeliak doesn’t share that either.  Peralta’s been a huge help in the two years he was in the Lou and so far, in his limited time in 2016, is continuing to contribute.

Taking that extreme against a 17-year-old that hasn’t ever played, that may have succumbed to pressure of family, friends, or situation, seems unduly harsh in my book.  Yes, he messed up.  I’m fairly sure that all of us in our teenage years messed up in some form or fashion, whether big or small, and weren’t forced to deal with that the rest of their lives.  (Some are, but for things that deal with violated laws for the most part.)  Perez is going to be watched all the way up the minor leagues and in the majors.  Most likely, even if he stays clean for 15 years, he’s still going to have those whispers and folks thinking that he must be still cheating.  I mean, Albert Pujols could never dissuade those folks that thought he was older than he was, even when there was no indication that was the case.  Imagine what Perez, who has given them ammunition, will face.

America is the land of second chances and there’s no doubt Perez should get one.  The great thing about baseball is that if he is a PED creation, chances are he’ll never make the big leagues.  Yes, he may get a couple of million out of it, but that’s nothing compared to what he will get if he’s a major league star.  Perez has the chance to be a franchise defining shortstop in the mold of Carlos Correa or Francisco Lindor, which is amazing and exciting and something we never thought we’d see the Cardinals have a shot at without suffering through a couple of terrible years.  Not only do I have no problem with Mozeliak and Randy Flores making this call, I’m extremely excited that they did.

The rest of the draft is looking pretty good, from all indications, but I look forward to hearing what John thinks tonight.  Perez is going to be the one we’ll always be watching, though, and it’s going to be a long 3-4 years before he makes the bigs if he is what we think he is.

The Cardinals try to extend their winning streak to four, but they face possibly their toughest competition out there to do so.  We know what Francisco Liriano has done to this club in the past.  Even when he’s had rough patches or rough years, he’s always had the Cardinals’ number.  He’s had back-to-back yucky starts and his ERA over his past five starts is 7.43, but you know, you just know, he’ll probably take a no-hitter into the fifth and the Cards will be lucky to put one across while he’s out there.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Jhonny Peralta 65 53 18 1 0 4 8 12 14 .340 .462 .585 1.046 0 0 1 0 0
Matt Carpenter 41 34 6 2 0 0 1 6 13 .176 .317 .235 .552 0 0 0 1 1
Matt Holliday 37 32 9 2 0 1 4 4 6 .281 .378 .438 .816 0 0 0 1 3
Yadier Molina 34 32 7 1 0 1 3 2 5 .219 .265 .344 .608 0 0 0 0 0
Jedd Gyorko 17 15 2 0 0 0 1 2 6 .133 .235 .133 .369 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Adams 16 15 4 0 0 0 1 1 4 .267 .313 .267 .579 0 0 0 0 1
Randal Grichuk 12 11 5 0 0 0 0 1 5 .455 .500 .455 .955 0 0 0 0 1
Mike Leake 9 8 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 .125 .125 .125 .250 1 0 0 0 1
Stephen Piscotty 9 8 0 0 0 0 0 1 4 .000 .111 .000 .111 0 0 0 0 1
Tyler Lyons 4 3 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .250 .000 .250 0 0 0 0 0
Michael Wacha 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Aledmys Diaz 3 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 .667 .667 .667 1.333 0 0 0 0 0
Brandon Moss 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 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
Carlos Martinez 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 257 224 54 6 0 6 18 30 65 .241 .336 .348 .684 1 0 1 2 8
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/11/2016.

Carlos Martinez gets to match up with Liriano, providing a potential phenomenal pitching performance.  His last two starts have been pretty solid, but he’ll have to be at the top of his game going against the Pirates and their potent pitcher.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Andrew McCutchen 25 21 5 2 0 1 2 4 6 .238 .360 .476 .836 0 0 1 0 1
Gregory Polanco 19 14 8 2 1 0 1 5 2 .571 .684 .857 1.541 0 0 0 0 0
Starling Marte 18 16 7 2 0 0 3 1 4 .438 .500 .563 1.063 0 0 0 1 1
Jordy Mercer 16 16 4 1 0 0 1 0 4 .250 .250 .313 .563 0 0 0 0 2
Jung Ho Kang 15 14 4 1 0 0 2 0 5 .286 .333 .357 .690 0 0 0 1 1
Francisco Cervelli 13 9 2 0 0 0 0 4 1 .222 .462 .222 .684 0 0 0 0 0
Josh Harrison 7 7 2 0 0 0 1 0 2 .286 .286 .286 .571 0 0 0 0 0
Sean Rodriguez 4 3 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 .333 .500 .333 .833 0 0 0 0 0
Jeff Locke 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 1 0 0 0 0
John Jaso 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Matthew Joyce 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Francisco Liriano 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Chris Stewart 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 125 107 33 8 1 1 10 15 28 .308 .403 .430 .833 1 0 1 2 5
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/11/2016.

Game is on the big FOX this evening and it should be a good one!

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There is no doubt that this Cardinals season has seen more than its share of frustrations.  It seems to me that there needs to be some sort of scale, of a level that you can quickly identify where you personally or the fanbase as a whole is sitting at.  I mean, some things are just more frustrating than others.  Struggle to hit but still win 100 games?  That’s frustrating, but not probably as frustrating as losing games to no-name pitchers on a regular basis.

What I’m putting forth here can be adapted to each game (for instance, a game like Wednesday night, where the Cards win but scuffle early, might be Level 4 while a game like Tuesday, giving up a game-winning homer in the ninth, might be Level 2) but my general plan is to use this more like the DEFCON levels or the terror alert, where it adjusts based on new data but is more of a cumulative thing.  We’ll see how it works.

STL-FIL 5: Smith

Things are going great.  The club is clicking, things are looking up, and there are no major issues to deal with.  Sure, they lose a few games here and there, but nobody wins them all.  There may be weaknesses on the club, but they are pretty minor and are fairly easily dealt with.  Pretty much everyone is happy and getting along, just enjoying another season of Cardinal baseball.  This is a fairly theoretical level, as the only time in recent history that this level might have been attained was in 2011, in the few days between the World Series win and Albert Pujols filing for free agency.

STL-FIL 4: Isringhausen

For the most part, things are successful.  How the club gains that success, though, has some people a little uptight.  Perhaps it is a lot of late inning glitches making for some tight games.  Maybe it’s a pitching-heavy club winning games for an offense that’s quiet.  Could even be a spate of errors that don’t necessarily cost games, but make them more challenging to win.  Obviously, much of 2015 was spent at FIL 4, at least the first half of the season.  Warning signs: the rise of a small but vocal faction focusing on the weaknesses, a handful of Twitter accounts that can’t be happy, a lot of “this is a great team but….” comments around the Internet.

STL-FIL 3: Ankiel

This is where things start to unravel.  The club is up, then it’s down.  You get a great performance against a top opponent one day, only to see a meek showing against a cellar dweller the next.  The pitching is great while the offense struggles, then the offense comes around only to lose a 9-8 ballgame.  And if everything does come together, then the bullpen winds up losing the lead.  There’s no sort of consistency, good or bad.  Warning signs: a growing deficit in the standings, nightly Twitter spats, a series of “what’s wrong with this team” posts and articles, a focus on a player or two as a major problem.

STL-FIL 2: Rasmus

It seems to be all going wrong, but there is still some hope.  Just about when everyone’s given up, the club wins two or three in a row and starts to remind folks of all the good they could do.  Of course, that hope doesn’t last long as the pitching staff gives up six a game and the offense sputters.  While a given matchup may still seem to get people excited about the nightly possibilities, more and more folks have the “they are going to lose” mindset before first pitch even happens.  Warning signs: the level-headed or positive folks are the minority, social media is even more negative than normal, significant empty sections can be found at Busch Stadium.

STL-FIL 1: Drew

There’s still good out there, but it’s like finding it inside Darth Vader–you’ve really got to work for it and it may cause some pain in the process.  Nothing at all is going right and the team couldn’t see first place if you gave them the Hubble telescope.  Every night is just an exercise in futility and more than once you wonder why you are even bothering to turn the game on.  There’s consistency here, but it’s the kind you never want to have to deal with.  Thankfully, this level is also fairly theoretical, as you’d probably have go back to 1990 and definitely pre-DeWitt days to find the fanbase getting this low.  Warning signs: Twitter actually settles because fewer and fewer folks are engaging, all the red at the games is from the empty seats, even players are making comments in the press about how bad things are.

I think that, if you look at the fanbase overall right now, we are probably at Ankiel levels of frustration.  There’s pretty much a direct correlation between the frustration levels and the record, in my mind.  As it’s often said, winning cures a lot of ills.  The Cardinals are still winning a little more often than they are losing, so I don’t think folks have dropped below level three yet.  That said, if they don’t pick it up, we might have to consider dropping to FIL 2 by the end of the year.  I don’t think we’ll get that bad off, but we’ll see.

Also, if anyone is interested in working this chart up into Photoshop, I have some ideas but no skills to do it.  Contact me and we’ll talk!

 

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