C70 At The Bat

After 44 games, the Cardinals sit barely above break even, winning 23 and losing 21.  I thought I’d have to go a long way back in their history to find a similar start.  After all, we’ve been spoiled by so many good teams that almost .500 seems ridiculously pedestrian for this franchise.  So I looked all the way back to….2014.  Yes, the 2014 squad was also 23-21 at this mark and sat four games out of first.  That year, as you may remember, they steadily built their way away from .500 before a finishing kick in September (17-9) gave them a two game lead at the end of the year over Pittsburgh.

Of course, that was also just a 90 win team, as the NL Central wasn’t nearly as strong as it was last year or this year.  There was no Cubs team that has people talking about wins records and domination.  The farthest they ever fell behind in 2014 was 6.5 games; they’ve already been 9 back this year.  It’s not a perfect analogy–no season is–but it’s at least heartening to know that perhaps things aren’t as terrible as they seem.

Then you watch the last four games, three against that sub-.500 category that the Cardinals have often done well against this year, and wonder if they’ll be able to stay above .500 for long.  It seems like they continue to work their way to that level one way or another.  Let’s recap.

Thursday (13-7 win vs. Colorado)

Hero: There were some strong offensive performances in this one–which is expected when the team puts up 13 runs–but I’ll go with Matt Carpenter.  Two doubles and a late three-run homer to ice things meant Carp had three hits and six RBI.  That’s a nice night at the ballpark no matter how you slice it.

Goat: Michael Wacha.  The Cardinals were up 4-0 after two innings.  Wacha then allowed two in the third, which was frustrating because he had one on and two outs with nobody in.  Granted, the top of the order was coming up, but he had an escape route and he didn’t use it.  Then the fourth was just tramatic, as the score went from 4-2 up to 6-4 down in what felt like a heartbeat.  Most frustrating–and I want to do a study on this because I think the Cards have been burned a lot this year in this manner–was allowing a single to the opposing pitcher Jon Gray that drove in a run during that rally.  Wacha pitched four innings only and honestly could have been pulled somewhere in that mess.  After a good stretch of games, Wacha is 0-2 with a 7.71 ERA in his last three outings, a mark that would be much worse had it not been for the four unearned runs he allowed in his previous start.  Two straight games not getting into the fifth is a taxing thing as well.

Notes: Aledmys Diaz has slid into the second spot pretty well, getting a hit and a key RBI in that slot in this one.  I like him there, but we’ll see if that continues.  Stephen Piscotty went 3-4 with two doubles, two runs scored, and two RBI, continue to be one of the only consistent things about this team this year.  Matt Adams was 2-3 with four RBI before being removed as part of a double switch when Wacha left the game.  I’m liking what Adams has shown as of late.  He’s still going to strike out, he’s still not going to be the offensive weapon that someone like Piscotty is, but I think he can help the team and he’s shown that of late.  After this game he was hitting .314 in May, though with just one homer.  We’ve seen that before–it’s like he can do high average or he can do power, but mixing the two is a little unlikely.

Let’s give it up again for the Patron Pitcher.  That long man role has been utilized much more often this year, which is good in the fact that it gets Tyler Lyons to contribute.  Lyons came into the game after Wacha was yanked during the fourth inning rally (and, even if Wacha’s spot hadn’t come up, I think he was done) and immediately calmed the Rockies bats, throwing two scoreless innings before being touched by a Trevor Story homer in the seventh.  That was his only blemish (and, in truth, it seems like Lyons has allowed a number of homers this year, but they almost always seem to be solo shots and not play into the final decision) in his three innings of work, so another well-earned hat tip to #70.

Friday (11-7 loss to Arizona)

Hero: Aledmys Diaz.  Two hits, two RBI and a run scored.  The offense was kinda scattered for the fact that the club put up seven runs, but Diaz continues to show that he’s going to be part of the plans for this year no matter what happens when Jhonny Peralta returns.

Goat: Jonathan Broxton.  Broxton’s had a fairly good season overall, but it imploded in this one.  Five runs in the eighth inning put any chance at a comeback from a two-run deficit pretty much out of the picture.  Sure, the Cards scored five in the bottom of the ninth, but you know that pitching decisions would have been a lot different had they not been down nine runs going into that frame.  Honestly, given the way the bats were working, even the 4-2 deficit that Broxton inherited might have been enough for a D-Backs win, but Broxton took all the suspense out of it.  Relievers have bad games, though, and that doesn’t mean that they are having bad seasons.  Broxton had only allowed five runs (four earned) all year before that inning.  I don’t think this is a sign, more like a blip.

Notes: Things might have gone differently had the April Carlos Martinez been on the mound instead of the May one.  After finishing April with eight scoreless innings (against these Diamondbacks, even), Martinez is 0-4 with a 5.85 ERA.  Only one of those starts had him registering an out after the fifth inning, the 6.2 he went against the Nationals on Blogger Day.  Since then, of course, he’s had the flu and maybe he’s still dealing with recovering from that, but it’s tough to see one of the pitchers this team really needed to come through struggle so much after being so good.

Jedd Gyorko had a hit and an RBI, Brandon Moss doubled in two runs in the ninth, Eric Fryer continued to prove he can be a backup catcher with two hits after he came into the game, but all in all this was a fairly forgettable one.  Well, save the fact that Ruben Tejada pitched the ninth because the bullpen had been so worn out with short starts.  I don’t expect we’ll see Ruben Tejada’s Fastball as a blog title anytime soon, though.

Saturday (6-2 win over Arizona)

Hero: Mike Leake.  I think Leake is a great representation of exactly how tumultuous this season has been.  The staff leadership started out with Martinez and Jaime Garcia, then we saw some good stuff from Wacha, then Adam Wainwright seemed to find his way, but after a rough start, right now Leake is probably the best pitcher on the staff.  He threw seven scoreless in this one, allowing just four hits.  The strikeouts aren’t going to be there, but when Leake finds a rhythm it seems like he can be the pitcher the Cardinals thought they were getting.  His last three starts he has a 0.86 ERA and three wins in 21 innings, which is much better than what we saw in April.  Again, the focus of the staff seems to continue to shift (which is part of the problem) but right now Leake’s the man in the spotlight.

Goat: Aledmys Diaz.  We don’t put Diaz here very often, but an 0-5 with three left on base will tend to do it.  Every other starter but Matt Holliday had a hit (and Holliday drew a walk) so we’ve got to go with the shortstop on this one.

Notes: Two hits and two walks by Piscotty.  As we say, he’s the rock.  Two hits and three runs scored by Adams, one of which was on a home run, which is always good to see.  Even a good game by Gyorko, who homered and drove in three on the day.  The bottom of the lineup was especially clicking in this one.

Trevor Rosenthal came into this one just because he needed the work.  That didn’t go as planned as Rosie threw 34 pitches, allowed four hits and two runs, and generally made a game that was well in hand feel like it was slipping away, not the feeling you want from your closer.  The idea is that Rosenthal isn’t getting enough work and that’s causing his command issues.  As Tara and I talked about last night on Gateway, I’m not sure that the numbers from this year bear that out.

As you can see from this year’s splits, when Rosenthal works anytime besides on two days’ rest (save the one game where he worked on back-to-back days, when he walked three and didn’t record an out), he’s pretty much fine.  In fact, he seems better when he’s sat longer, walking less than one per inning if he’s got three or more days off.  Again, the samples are small and can be easily skewed by one outing, but I’m not seeing that more work is really going to solve this problem.

Sunday (7-2 loss to Arizona)

Hero: Kolten Wong.  Two hits, which would be overlooked on any other game we’ve talked about here, was a third of the hit total in this one.  Unsurprisingly, it’s hard to get seven runs twice off of Zack Greinke.

Goat: Jaime Garcia.  Again, we see a pitcher that had been on a good run stumble.  Garcia wasn’t very sharp against Colorado early in the week, but didn’t have much of anything from the opening bell in this one.  You knew it’d be bad when he got the double play to clear the bases in the first and put himself in position to get out of the inning down just 1-0, but then allowed hit after hit to be down 3-0 when he finally got the last out.  Garcia said it was a mechanical issue that he figured out after the game and given that he’s been fairly good most of the year, we’ll accept that answer…at least until his next outing.

Notes: When Greinke’s on, he’s just really hard to beat and the Cardinals don’t have that Clayton Kershaw magic against him.  He’s been much better away from Chase Field anyway, so this was going to be a tough matchup at best, but with Garcia struggling in the first, this was a fait accompli before the Cards even had a chance to bat.  Brandon Moss did touch him for a home run, but it was already 5-0 at the time so it didn’t really matter much.  Really, you just want to forget about this one and move on.

Jhonny Peralta has started his rehab assignment, going 0-4 so far in a couple of games and playing a little third as well as shortstop.  Of course, that starts the speculation about how he’s going to fit into the whole roster/playing time discussion.  Of course, the obvious move will be to cut Tejada (I was listening to Talking About Birds this weekend and they were questioning why Tejada was still on the roster.  I couldn’t help but say “to make for an easy Peralta move” even though nobody was around.)

The playing time is a different story and I expect that’s something John and I will get into when we do Meet Me At Musial tonight (sorry to our devoted fan(s) but things happened this weekend to delay it).  It’s not an easy decision, not at all.  People tend to focus on Wong, but then there are stats like these:

Couple that with the contract the Cardinals signed him to and the encouragement they continue to show him, I don’t think cutting Wong’s playing time is necessarily the answer.  We know Diaz is going to play most every day, we know Carpenter is going to be out there.  The carousel may have Peralta, Wong, Adams, Moss, and Gyroko all with seats, with some playing more than others but all kind of spinning around.  I say Peralta because we’ve seen thumb injuries in the past and it seems like it takes some time for the strength and production to return.  If that’s the case, the club may have trouble running Peralta out there to continue to heal when others are hitting.  Of course, Peralta’s going to get the lion’s share given his name, contract, and past history, but I don’t know that his regular play is a slam dunk.

In other news, Alex Reyes made his first real start of the season, coming off his suspension to strike out eight in four innings for Memphis.  It’s his first AAA start and, as Tara pointed out last night, there were some other drawbacks in the way of walks and such, but it’s definitely an encouraging sign.  John Mozeliak told us at Blogger Day that Reyes still needs to transition from thrower to pitcher, but if he makes those strides, we may see him even before September, especially if the starting rotation seems to need a boost.  (Or, perhaps, if Mo trades from that rotation–Garcia would still be an awfully tempting trade chip, I think, even as much as we’d like to have him stay in Cardinal red.)  We could also see him in the bullpen, but I doubt that happens until September.  An early callup would probably be just to be a starter, I think.

Given the way the Cardinals have dealt with winning teams so far this season (as in, they really haven’t), this looks like a potentially ugly week, with the Cubs finishing this homestand before St. Louis heads to our nation’s capitol for four with the Nats.  The club doesn’t even get to ease into it as old friend John Lackey gets the chance yet again to hurl from the Busch Stadium mound.  We know how good he was at home the last couple of years and that continued earlier this season, when he threw seven scoreless innings with 11 strikeouts under the Arch.  In other words, the On The Run folks might be safe for another day.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Matt Holliday 18 16 2 0 1 0 0 2 4 .125 .222 .250 .472 0 0 0 0 0
Brandon Moss 12 11 4 1 0 0 2 1 3 .364 .417 .455 .871 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Carpenter 10 9 3 1 0 0 0 1 3 .333 .400 .444 .844 0 0 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 10 10 3 0 0 0 1 0 1 .300 .300 .300 .600 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Adams 7 7 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .143 .143 .143 .286 0 0 0 0 0
Jedd Gyorko 6 6 1 0 0 0 1 0 1 .167 .167 .167 .333 0 0 0 0 0
Aledmys Diaz 3 3 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .667 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Eric Fryer 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Jeremy Hazelbaker 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Stephen Piscotty 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Ruben Tejada 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Kolten Wong 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .333 .667 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
Total 83 79 17 3 1 0 4 4 19 .215 .253 .278 .531 0 0 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/23/2016.

If there’s hope, and there’s always hope right, it may be that the real Adam Wainwright has decided to stand up.  His last outing, shutting down the Rockies over 6.2 innings, lends credence to the idea that the ace pitcher we know and love is still in there somewhere and is working his way to the forefront.  In the past, Waino’s been able to curtail the Cubs somewhat, so hopefully we’re seeing a pitching duel in tonight’s contest.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Anthony Rizzo 34 32 9 1 0 1 3 2 5 .281 .324 .406 .730 0 0 0 0 3
Miguel Montero 23 21 5 0 0 1 1 2 6 .238 .304 .381 .685 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
Dexter Fowler 18 18 3 1 0 1 1 0 6 .167 .167 .389 .556 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
Jorge Soler 7 7 1 0 0 1 2 0 3 .143 .143 .571 .714 0 0 0 0 0
Ben Zobrist 6 6 1 1 0 0 0 0 2 .167 .167 .333 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Javier Baez 5 5 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 .200 .200 .200 .400 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
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
Tommy La Stella 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Kris Bryant 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 149 143 33 6 0 7 14 5 39 .231 .257 .420 .676 1 0 0 0 4
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/23/2016.

As I said, Meet Me At Musial should record tonight so if you’ve got any questions, leave them here or Tweet at me or John.  It’s a real big week for the Cardinals–even a winning record might get some excitement going.  It all starts tonight!

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Wainwrighting The Ship

Two games with the Rockies and, unsurprisingly given this team, a mixed bag of results.  Before we get into the positive that was Adam Wainwright‘s start, we’ve got to look at Tuesday’s outing.

Tuesday (3-1 loss)

Hero: Kolten Wong.  On a night where there was little offense to speak of, Wong provided the lion’s share of it.  Two hits and two walks in his four plate appearances.  He didn’t score the only run, but he did help keep the rally that created that run going.

Goat: Matt Carpenter.  0-4 and he left five men on base.  To be fair, two of them were left when he hit a deep drive that was probably only a foot or so away from tying up the game, but it fell short and they don’t give out positive stats for what might have happened.

Notes: Not exactly what we have come to expect from Jaime Garcia in this one.  The biggest issue was four walks, as the Rockies didn’t hit him with any authority.  In fact, Colorado didn’t have a single extra-base hit on the night.  But when you mix four walks with five singles in five innings, chances are you aren’t coming away unscathed.  It wasn’t a terrible outing, but Garcia just wasn’t his normal sharp self and it doesn’t take much from that deviation for things to haunt you.

The Cards had all of three hits until the seventh, when they scored their run.  Chad Bettis has had some decent games, but that was one of his best on the season, so where the credit/blame ratio falls is up to you.  Of course, the Rockies are over .500, which seems to be the shut-off valve for the Cardinal offense.  Too bad they didn’t come into town a game under .500, THEN the bats could have done some damage.

The top four hitters in the lineup combined to go 0-15, with only a walk by Matt Adams showing any positive results.  It’s pretty tough to win a game when the best hitters, at least by lineup position, are so quiet.

Wednesday (2-0 win)

Hero: Adam Wainwright.  As you know, we’ve done a lot of comparing in this space of Wainwright’s season to his 2012 season, when again he was coming off a long layoff.  I noted on Twitter before the game last night that in Waino’s ninth start of ’12, he threw a complete game shutout against the San Diego Padres, which seemed to be a significant turning point for him.  From that game to the rest of the season, Wainwright had a 3.43 ERA, two full runs lower than the ERA that he had going into it.

Last night was Wainwright’s ninth start of 2016 and the comparisons stayed strong.  He couldn’t go the distance, but he did go 6.2 innings, his longest outing of the year, and allowed nothing to the Rockies.  To be fair, the goose egg was intact in part because the Rockies ran themselves out of a leadoff triple in the first, but it wasn’t all smoke and mirrors, not at all.  Wainwright struck out five–as we know, strikeouts have been an issue–and walked just one.  Afterwards, Wainwright said that he was “dangerous again” and while I’m not quite ready to take the man at his word–he’s had some similar pronouncements during the season–I think it’s much more likely that he’s correct this time than I have before.  Wainwright will go next against the Cubs, so I sure hope he’s right!

Goat: Tough night for some of the middle of the order this time.  I’ll go with Brandon Moss here, who went 0-4 and struck out twice.  Randal Grichuk went 0-3 with a walk and Yadier Molina went 0-4 as well, but Molina gets a pass given his historical night.

Notes: Stephen Piscotty went 3-4 and Matt Holliday drove in the only runs with a scorching double down the line.  The offense still couldn’t do much against Chris Rusin, but thankfully the Good Wainwright showed up and it didn’t have to.  Aledmys Diaz had another couple of hits, though he also made yet another error that wound up not hurting the club, though you could make the argument that the extra pitches Wainwright had to throw that inning kept him from finishing the seventh.

Molina passed Ted Simmons for most innings caught by a St. Louis Cardinals catcher and it was fitting that he did so with Waino on the hill, given that their 191 starts together is only second to Bob Gibson and Tim McCarver (I think).  Molina is at 12,339 now and isn’t showing signs of slowing down.  Besides the rest of this year, you have to figure Molina has at least 2-3 more years behind the plate, right?  He’s going to put that record so far out of reach nobody will ever touch it.  Finding someone to start catching in the bigs as young as he did and be as durable and active as he has been would be a remarkable find.

Jon Gray goes tonight against the Cardinals for the first time.  I still don’t think that’s been as big of a deal this year as it has been in years past, but given that the Rockies are still above .500, it might play into another quiet offensive outing.

Michael Wacha will take the mound against the Rockies, but that’s not been a good thing for him in the past.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Charlie Blackmon 10 10 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 .400 .400 .400 .800 0 0 0 0 0
DJ LeMahieu 10 10 4 1 0 0 1 0 3 .400 .400 .500 .900 0 0 0 0 0
Gerardo Parra 8 8 2 0 0 0 0 0 2 .250 .250 .250 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Nolan Arenado 6 6 2 0 0 1 2 0 0 .333 .333 .833 1.167 0 0 0 0 0
Carlos Gonzalez 6 5 2 1 0 0 0 1 2 .400 .500 .600 1.100 0 0 0 0 0
Mark Reynolds 4 4 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 .250 .250 .250 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Chris Rusin 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0
Total 45 43 15 2 0 1 3 1 9 .349 .364 .465 .829 1 0 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/19/2016.

Wacha has faced Colorado three times in his career, two of those coming in Coors Field.  One of those was in 2013, when he allowed 12 hits and four runs in 4.2 innings (but hey, he struck out seven).  His one outing against them in Busch came in 2015, when he threw seven scoreless innings and allowed just four hits.  I’d say the altitude makes a difference for him and hopefully we’ll see more like what he did last year tonight!

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Perhaps it’s not surprising that when this team went Hollywood, they got a bit of stage fright.  After a boffo performance up (down? I have really no clue on California geography) the road in Anaheim, the Cardinals went into Chavez Ravine for their last outing in front of Vin Scully and were lucky to salvage one of the three games, throwing more fuel on the “can’t beat good teams” fire.

Friday (8-4 loss)

Hero: Kolten Wong.  If you look by the offensive stats, Aledmys Diaz should be here, what with his double and home run.  However, defense has to play a role as well and Diaz failed in that aspect of the game in this one.  Wong, however, had two hits (both triples) and scored a run, which put him right at the top of the offense.  He did have a baserunning blunder after his first triple, which is why he didn’t score two runs, but nobody’s perfect.  We’ve not seen a lot of games like this out of Wong as of late and it would be wonderful if he could get started.

Goat: Randal Grichuk.  If you look by the defensive stats, Aledmys Diaz should be here, given his three errors that could be directly tied to three runs, but note the above offensive numbers.  Grichuk, on the other hand, went 0-4 with a strikeout and four runners left on base.  Even just one hit at the right time could have made an impact in this one.

Notes: Matt Carpenter walked three times but only scored once, the former is what you want to see out of a leadoff guy, the latter not as much.  Behind him, Stephen Piscotty had a hit and Matt Holliday had two, but they just weren’t timed well enough to get more runs out of that deal.  Yadier Molina, who has become a hitting machine, also had two hits in this one.

On the pitching side, it’s a little hard to know what to make of Michael Wacha‘s outing.  He only allowed two earned runs, thanks to the shaky defense behind him, but he allowed six overall in four innings, which can’t be all laid at the feet of his fielders.  After all, two of Diaz’s errors were to the leadoff man and while that does up the level of difficulty, it’s also not a huge stretch of the imagination to see a pitcher settle down and strand some of those guys.  That didn’t happen.  Wacha allowed eight hits and was just shy of 100 pitches in those four frames, which is a tough night all the way around.  The defense obscured it some but this wasn’t a stellar performance at all against his old college roommate.

Patron Pitcher Tyler Lyons allowed one run, a homer to Yasiel Puig, in his two innings of work.  Lyons seems to be prone to the long ball, perhaps a by product of his improved control, and that will probably keep him from higher leverage situations.  Still, it was a good solid outing on a night where they had to save the bullpen some wear and tear.

Saturday (5-3 loss)

Hero:  Jeremy Hazelbaker.  His pinch-hit home run may not have meant a lot in the long run, meaning the Cards lost by half the margin they were looking at, but it did run Scott Kazmir and give a bit of late hope to the squad.  Besides, it’s not like anyone else did a whole lot.

Goat: Carlos Martinez.  Coming off that fatigue-shortened outing and with a little extra rest, Martinez really had to be better than four runs in five innings.  To go out and load the bases with nobody out right after the team–more directly, Martinez with his sacrifice fly–had tied it up is extremely frustrating.  While that inning could have gone a lot worse, each one of those runners scored and the best chance of winning had quickly evaporated.

Notes: Two hits for Randal Grichuk in this one, which gives some hope that there’s still life in the bat.  He also had the only extra-base hit that didn’t come from Hazelbaker, a double in the seventh.  Only five hits total in this one, which means there wasn’t much else to note.  Even Yadier Molina went hitless.

Before Friday’s game, Seth Maness was sent down (or, at least, they tried to send him down; after doing an exam, the club instead put him on the major league DL) and Dean Kiekhefer got the call, making the first roster change since after Opening Day and Tommy Pham‘s injury.  Kiekhefer got into this one and struck out four in 1.2 innings of work, though Corey Seager did get him for a home run.  As we shall see, that’s not exclusive to the new guy.  John Nagel and I discussed Kiekhefer on Meet Me At Musial this week and we thought he might be more of a situational lefty, but if this outing is any indication, the club is comfortable with him going for more than one batter.

Sunday (5-2 win)

Hero: Yadier Molina.  Given the night off, Mike Matheny deployed Molina in the best of situations, actually using a bit of strategy by sending up Brandon Moss first and making the Dodgers decide how who they wanted to face.  With a runner on second, it wasn’t surprising that they walked Moss and then faced Molina, but that might not have been the best of choices given how hot Molina has been.  Yadi’s double brought in both runners and the Cards were on their way to a win.

Goat: Matt Holliday.  Rough night for Holliday, going 0-4 and leaving four men on, not counting the one lost when he hit into a double play.  Holliday’s shown some life since a terrible start, but I’m still not sure what it’d take to move him out of the third spot in the lineup.

Notes:  Matt Carpenter started the scoring with a home run, which quickly was matched by the first of Corey Seager’s two shots on the night.  Thankfully they were both solo shots, but the Dodgers probably have themselves a very good long-term answer at the shortstop position.  Hits were scattered up and down the lineup, but the only extra-base one not mentioned was another double by Randal Grichuk.

Another very good outing by Mike Leake, which starts to make you feel much better about that contract.  One could be a fluke, two could be luck, but if we see three, we’re probably seeing a pattern that is going to be more in like with Leake’s history.  The Cardinals don’t need him to be a staff ace (at least in theory, though some of those “aces” aren’t pitching like it) but they do need solid, above-average starts.  The last two games he’s given that to them, including this one where he went six and allowed just one run.  He could have gone longer, as he was just at 71 pitchers, but that was the time when they pinch-hit Molina.  It’s not always you see Matheny forgo a longer outing by his starter to take advantage of a offensive situation, though it’s not unheard of (at least after the fifth).

Trevor Rosenthal scared us all again, but it worked out much better than his last outing.  After walking three and getting yanked in Anaheim, Rosie comes out and walks the first batter in this one, then runs the count to 3-1 on Yasmani Grandal.  Tara noted on Gateway (which was going on as this was happening) that Matheny did have someone warming up and you have to think that if he’d lost Grandal, Rosenthal might have had another walk-full, out-empty appearance.  Instead, he came back to get Grandal and got a double play out of Howie Kendrick.  The worries aren’t gone when it comes to Rosenthal, but that helped a little bit.

We saw a shuffled lineup in Sunday’s game, somewhat necessitated by the days off given folks like Molina, but you wonder if, given it was a successful evening, things might continue to look a little different tonight when the Cardinals take on the Rockies.  After all, Diaz didn’t look overmatched hitting fifth.  Slip him in there and Grichuk seventh as he continues to try to get hot?  Who knows?  I’m sure there will be a lot of discussion once that lineup drops on Twitter this afternoon.  There always is!

St. Louis hosts old friends Jason Motte and Daniel Descalso (who just recently made his season debut) tonight as the Colorado Rockies come to town.  Jamie Garcia goes for the Cardinals while the Rockies counter with Chad Bettis.  Bettis isn’t a name I’m all that familiar with, but he has seen a few of the Cardinal hitters before.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Jedd Gyorko 6 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Carpenter 4 4 3 1 0 0 2 0 0 .750 .750 1.000 1.750 0 0 0 0 0
Kolten Wong 4 4 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 .250 .250 .250 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Randal Grichuk 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Carlos Martinez 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Ruben Tejada 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Holliday 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 25 25 7 1 0 0 2 0 7 .280 .280 .320 .600 0 0 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/17/2016.

Garcia has probably been the best of the Cardinal hurlers this season.  While there’s no real reason to think that won’t continue tonight, it is a little concerning (as much as a small sample can be concerning, I guess) that he’s been rocky against the Rockies.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Carlos Gonzalez 12 12 6 2 0 1 4 0 3 .500 .500 .917 1.417 0 0 0 0 0
Charlie Blackmon 6 5 2 0 0 1 2 1 2 .400 .500 1.000 1.500 0 0 0 0 0
DJ LeMahieu 6 5 2 0 0 0 0 1 1 .400 .500 .400 .900 0 0 0 0 0
Mark Reynolds 6 5 2 0 0 1 2 1 1 .400 .500 1.000 1.500 0 0 1 0 0
Nolan Arenado 5 4 2 1 0 0 0 1 1 .500 .600 .750 1.350 0 0 0 0 0
Gerardo Parra 5 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 40 36 14 3 0 3 8 4 11 .389 .450 .722 1.172 0 0 1 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/17/2016.

Right now, the Cards are doing well against weaker teams.  I’m not sure what that means for this series, when the Rocks are a game over .500.  That’s where the Dodgers were and we saw what that was like.  Maybe being at home will help!

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Three Days in Anaheim

It’s not often that a sweep doesn’t tell you much about a team, especially one with the flaws that this Cardinals team has.  However, they went in and pounded on a team that now has lost six in a row and sits at the bottom of the AL West, a division that isn’t just covering itself in glory.  That’s par for the course for this club and some of the same people that had been struggling on the mound continued to do that, even against an Angels offense that has Mike Trout and little else.  So, basically, we know as much as we did before the Cards went out west, but at least they got three wins out of the deal.

Tuesday (8-1 win)

Hero: Matt Carpenter.  There were a good number of folks to choose from here, but Carpenter did hit two home runs which should get some love.  Both solo shots, to be true, but the first led off the game and that put the Cards on a good path.  Again, you could have gone with Matt Holliday (three hits, one homer) or Mike Leake (eight innings, no runs) as well, but we’ll stick with Marp this time out.

Goat: Jeremy Hazelbaker.  The only starter without a hit, the Baker of Hazel (the small tree that provides nuts, not an actual person) went 0-4 with two strikeouts and three left on base.  At least he drew a walk to make sure the night wasn’t a total waste.

Notes: Beyond those mentioned above, you had Yadier Molina, Brandon Moss, and Jedd Gyorko all with two hits.  14 hits and four walks makes for a pretty good offensive night, especially when the pitching staff is on.  (Patron Pitcher Tyler Lyons with two strikeouts in his scoreless frame, gotta note that!)  We’ll see if this is a “turn the corner” start for Leake or he got the advantage of catching a weakened offense when they’ve never seen him before.  (I mean, it didn’t really work for Adam Wainwright, but at least it’s a possibility.)  Leake struck out five and did get more groundballs than flyballs, which is definitely what you’d want to see.  I’d like to think this is a chance for some momentum for Leake, but we’ll just have to see how he does against the Dodgers Sunday before we get terribly excited.

Wednesday (5-2 win)

Hero: Jamie Garcia.  The runs he gave up were unearned (though the fact they came off of a C.J. Cron home run should have made them feel a little earned, at least) and he pretty much was the Garcia we are really enjoying since he decided to stay healthy.  Eight strikeouts, four hits, one walk.  I’d take that every time out, how about you?

Goat: Matt Holliday.  While Holliday on the whole enjoyed Anaheim, this was a downer for him, going 0-4 and leaving one man on base.

Notes: Trevor Rosenthal came in, scared everyone, and left with a save.  We’ll talk about Trevor more in the next game section, but this is becoming a very scary trend.  Two hits for Randal Grichuk, Molina (again), and Stephen Piscotty.  Good to see Grichuk’s average north of .200 again, but this weekend may be a better test of whether he’s going to be more viable as a hitter going forward.

Thursday (12-10 win)

Hero: Matt Holliday.  Told you he liked the West Coast.  Four for five, two home runs, three RBI, three runs scored, and a walk tossed in for good measure.  When the offense puts up 12 a line like this doesn’t stand out as much, but it’s still quite noticeable, especially for a guy that was being measured for his retirement papers a few weeks ago.

Goat: Adam Wainwright.  If it had been anyone else, I don’t think Mike Matheny would have let them go five innings.  He really shouldn’t have let the name on this jersey dictate that either.  Wainwright, who was so good recently and looked to have finally made the adjustments that he needed to be a better starter, apparently had little to nothing, putting the Cards down two early, blowing a 3-2 lead the next inning, and almost erasing an 8-5 lead in the fifth.  Maybe the only silver lining was that he only walked one, but given that he allowed 11 hits, four of which were for extra-bases, maybe he should have walked a couple of those guys.

Notes: While we are speaking of pitchers that appeared to be turning a corner only to apparently turn a different corner and return to where they started, Seth Maness came in and did his best to eliminate a 12-7 lead.  Five runs in the ninth should be a walk in the park, not a hang-on-by-your-fingertips thrill ride, but that’s what Maness and Rosenthal made this into.  Maness was coming off of four straight outings without being charged with a run, but hadn’t pitched since Sunday.  While the argument has been that Maness needs to pitch more often to get his sinker really working, he can’t melt down after a few days of rest and expect to get a whole lot more shots at the mound.  (Well, that’s typically what we’d think, but you never know when Matheny might think it’d give him a boost.)  So Maness comes in and gives up a double, a single, and then an Albert Pujols home run (is that is first against his old team? I can’t remember.)  I can’t imagine the odds of the one guy Maness retiring being Mike Trout, but they had to be astronomical.  I hope you put some money on that!

Still, fine.  It’s 12-10, but there’s one out and nobody on.  I know there’s been a lot of sneering about home runs as rally killers, but it does seem to be a little harder to get that momentum back after clearing the bases.  Also, that’s usually when a new pitcher comes in, everyone focuses more now that the game is close, and things go quietly.

Unless, of course, you bring in Trevor Rosenthal.

I don’t know what the issue is with Rosie.  We saw him being erratic two years ago (while still piling up 40 saves), but last year he seemed to figure it out, getting the saves without a lot of the heartburn.  It seemed to be that growth progression that you like to see.  Instead, he’s regressed.  Let’s look at the rate stats for the last three years, with all the caveats of comparing a partial year to the two full years.

Year WHIP K/BB BB/9
2014 1.41 2.07 5.37
2015 1.27 3.32 3.28
2016 1.64 2.00 7.36

We’ll stipulate that the BB/9 for 2016 is skewed somewhat by the last two games, where he walked five in a grand total of one inning, including three in this game without recording an out.  (It wasn’t even a battle, as the three walks on Thursday came on 14 pitches.)  Still, it’s a very ugly issue that’s raising its head right now.  I’m not necessarily advocating for Rosenthal to lose the closer role just yet, but I do think Matheny needs to be pretty quick on the leash and perhaps give Kevin Siegrist (who came into this one and locked it down) or some of the other arms a chance in the ninth here and there as well.  Perhaps there’s a reason the Cardinals didn’t get a long-term contract done with Rosenthal this winter.

Offensively, big home run from Matt Carpenter to put the Cards back ahead (Jered Weaver is having a year like Wainwright is, but with more folks expecting that) and three hits from Matt Adams (one off a lefty reliever) and Molina (who apparently is going to hit forever).  Two hits from Aledmys Diaz, who has been quieter of late but still probably shouldn’t be hitting ninth in a major league lineup.  At least today he’ll get the bump back to eighth, right?

Again, this series really didn’t tell us anything other than the Cardinal bats can hit against weak teams, which they’ve proven time and time again this year.  The level of competition goes up this weekend as the Cards take on the NL West-leading Dodgers.  However, the Dodgers themselves sit just a game over .500 and the Redbirds won’t have to face Clayton Kershaw (say what you will about St. Louis beating him in the postseason, it’s still a good series when you don’t see him), so even a solid win there won’t answer everything, but it’ll help get people feeling a lot better.

Michael Wacha goes tonight against Los Angeles.  Wacha’s last start against Pittsburgh didn’t go the way he wanted it to, but the Pirates have been the only team to really get to him this year.  (Which, given his history with the club, is a bit ironic.)  The Dodgers haven’t seen him a lot, but they’ve done OK against him.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Adrian Gonzalez 12 10 1 0 0 0 0 1 4 .100 .250 .100 .350 0 0 1 1 0
Joc Pederson 7 7 1 1 0 0 0 0 2 .143 .143 .286 .429 0 0 0 0 0
Carl Crawford 6 5 2 0 0 0 0 1 0 .400 .500 .400 .900 0 0 0 0 0
Yasmani Grandal 6 5 1 0 0 1 3 1 1 .200 .333 .800 1.133 0 0 0 0 0
Justin Turner 6 5 3 1 0 0 0 1 1 .600 .667 .800 1.467 0 0 0 0 0
A.J. Ellis 5 5 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 .400 .400 .800 1.200 0 0 0 0 0
Yasiel Puig 5 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Charlie Culberson 3 3 2 1 0 0 0 0 1 .667 .667 1.000 1.667 0 0 0 0 0
Enrique Hernandez 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Howie Kendrick 3 2 1 0 0 0 1 1 1 .500 .667 .500 1.167 0 0 0 0 0
Clayton Kershaw 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Chase Utley 3 3 1 0 0 0 2 0 1 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Total 62 56 16 5 0 1 6 5 15 .286 .355 .429 .783 0 0 1 1 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/13/2016.

Ross Stripling is, apparently, Wacha’s college roommate, so that’s a story line for this evening.  Stripling is in his first season in the bigs so he’s not faced St. Louis yet, but he’s had a fairly nice first few starts.  The Padres beat him around a bit his next-to-last one, but he rebounded to hold a slugging Blue Jays team to one run in six innings up in Toronto.  We’ll see if Wacha can give the hitters a few tips!

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The last time we looked at a game, the Cardinals were a game under .500.  Five games later, they are….at .500.  The inability so far of this team to get some traction and start piling up more wins than losses is quite frustrating and something Cardinal fans aren’t that used to.

Wednesday (5-4 win vs. Philadelphia)

Hero: Matt Holliday.  Stephen Piscotty had the better batting line, but it’s tough to go against the guy that gave St. Louis its first walk-off win of the season.  Holliday had two hits, including the one past the shortstop that drove in Aledmys Diaz with two outs in the ninth.  There’s not been very many come-from-behind-late games this season, so when you get one it’s special.

Goat: Yadier Molina.  Molina and Randal Grichuk had almost identical batting lines (0-3, one walk) but Molina left an extra man on so we’ll give it to him on that thin tiebreaker.

Notes: Another Mike Leake start that didn’t turn out very well.  I mean, I guess you give him a little credit, because Ryan Howard accounted for two of the four runs he allowed in five innings with a home run and we know what Howard does to anyone wearing Cardinal red.  Howard is going to come to some sort of alumni game when he’s 60 and hit two balls out of the park.  Still, Leake has yet to allow fewer than four runs in any start this year and this was the third time (out of six) that he’d gone five innings or fewer.  We continue to look for Leake to turn it around, but so far, it’s not happening.

Piscotty had three hits, including the game-tying RBI in the ninth.  If there’s a consistent part of this offense, it seems to be Piscotty (and Diaz, really).  He’s got a chance to be one of those overlooked cogs for a long time, as he quietly puts up solid numbers across the board.

Solid work out of Matt Bowman in this one, going two innings and striking out two while allowing nothing.  It was a one-run game when he came in and a one-run game when he left, showing that he’s starting to be able to handle more high leverage innings.  (Of course, he had a rough one this weekend, but that’s not surprising either.  Every pitcher gets lit up occasionally.)  We wondered what the Cardinals were thinking taking a Rule 5 pitcher when there seemed to be so many arms that needed to be on this roster, but he’s proven that the front office (as usual) knew what they were doing, so much so that if Jordan Walden ever did come back (given the lack of chatter about him, that seems to be a very solid if), the other side of the transaction entry wouldn’t be as easy as it appeared coming out of spring training.

Thursday (4-0 win vs. Philadelphia)

Hero: Jaime Garcia.  While Leake’s been a struggling disappointment, Garcia’s continued to show that 2015 wasn’t a fluke but what you get when he’s healthy.  In this one, he went seven innings, striking out 5 and allowing just two hits, bouncing back from a couple of lesser starts against the Diamondbacks and the Nationals.  When Garcia’s on, there aren’t many better and the Phillies found that out here.  Garcia also just went 82 pitches, only coming out because St. Louis had runners on second and third with one out when his turn came up in the bottom of the seventh.  Otherwise, he easily could have pitched another complete game shutout.

Goat: Another tough day for Kolten Wong, the only starter not to get a hit.  Wong went 0-2 and was replaced by Jedd Gyorko in the seventh.  When we talk about the offense and how the drop from those that are overachieving will hopefully be balanced out by an uptick by those that are underachieving, Wong is right at the top of that list.  Giving him that contract and allowing that security to let him relax and play baseball apparently hasn’t been as effective as the club hoped.

Notes: Grichuk continues to struggle, striking out twice after coming into the game in the top of the fifth when Matt Adams had to leave due to a contusion.  The club isn’t likely to write him off any time soon, nor should they, really, but it becomes difficult to let him continue to go out there and try to figure it out when the gap between St. Louis and first place continues to widen.  There doesn’t seem to be an easy solution here, though perhaps the return of Tommy Pham soon will at least give some different options.

Matt Carpenter had a two hit day, though his average is still lingering around the .240 mark.  His OBP is strong, though, so when you look at offensive worries, you can go a little ways down the list before you run into Mr. Carpenter.

Friday (4-2 loss vs. Pittsburgh)

Hero: Aledmys Diaz.  Three hits when the team as a whole could only come up with seven.  At least someone was able to do something against Francisco Liriano.  Diaz also scored one of the two runs and had the only extra-base hit, a double in the ninth to at least give the fans a little late hope.

Goat: Brandon Moss.  0-4 with three strikeouts and four men left on base.  Sure, Liriano’s a lefty and that didn’t make for a good matchup, but you’d still like to see a little more than that.  Last night on the Cardinal Insider show, during the “learn sabermetrics” portion, they said, “Using batting average, Moss would be a below average hitter.”  That’s an understatement.  His seven homers do help offset that .220 average pretty well, which is the only reason he still gets playing time now that Adams has started to hit a little more.

Notes: It was a Liriano game, so I don’t guess we were too terrible surprised at the outcome.  Liriano vs. Carlos Martinez would have seemed to be a game that would have been an exciting pitchers’ duel, but Martinez left in the fourth with the bases loaded.  At the time, a lot of us got real concerned, especially when the broadcast team speculated it was an oblique injury, but it turned out to be just fatigue from lingering flu symptoms.  (Though Tara mentioned last night on Gateway there were some other potential reasons.)  It was disappointing to see Martinez leave, but thankfully it doesn’t appear to be something that the Cardinals have to deal with long-term, which is good, because starting pitching depth just isn’t there right now.

Major kudos to Patron Pitcher Tyler Lyons in this one.  If it wasn’t for the home run he allowed to Jung Ho Kang, one of the two long balls Kang hit on the night, Lyons well would have been the Hero.  He came in to that bases loaded, one out situation and struck out both batters he faced, then went three more innings, striking out seven in total.  Unfortunately, that Kang homer was a two-run shot, though to be fair at the time, the way the hitters were scuffling, it didn’t seem more than just padding that 1-0 deficit they already had.  It turned out they rallied enough that that two-run shot was pretty key, but it still was a great performance from #70.

Saturday (6-4 win vs. Pittsburgh)

Hero: Matt Carpenter.  After a blown save, to get a big walk-off homer from Carpenter was just outstanding.  If that game goes into the 10th, who knows how it would have gone.  Carpenter made sure that a day that had seen some good performances didn’t get wasted.  Carp was also one of four batters to have two hits on the day.  The hits were clustered, because those four had eight and the other four starters had none.  Well, and then the pitcher got a hit, but you have to expect that Silver Slugger to show up.

Goat: Jedd Gyorko.  Gyorko gets the nod over the other o-fers because his 0-4 came with a strikeout and he left three men on.  After Sunday, Gyorko is hitting under .200 (though with four homers), meaning that neither he nor Kolten Wong are really laying that solid claim to second base.

Notes: Adam Wainwright, for the first time this season, really looked like Adam Wainwright.  He told Derrick Goold that he had figured out what he need to adjust and the last few starts have seemed to show that.  Waino allowed two in the first, though one was a sac fly and one apparently just eluded Diaz, but settled in nicely from there, going 6.1 and not allowing another run, though he was charged with it when Seung-hwan Oh allowed an inherited runner to score and tie the game up at 3.  Wainwright also made strides in improving his K/BB ratio, striking out five and walking none.  It would seem that the mechanical adjustments Wainwright needed to make have taken hold.  I would imagine, though, it’ll still be some time before we can pronounce him “cured”, as keeping those mechanics may take some more outings.  He’s on the right path though, which makes a lot of people breathe a lot easier.

It was a rough day for Trevor Rosenthal, though.  He probably should have gotten the Goat tag for blowing the save in the ninth and doing it in a way that gave us nightmares about the old Rosie.  To be fair, it wasn’t completely his fault, as Diaz made an error trying to get a hustling David Freese (possibly powered by that huge standing ovation he’d just gotten) to lead off the inning.  It was a tough play and probably if Diaz sets any more to make the throw, Freese beats it out anyway.  Then Rosie issued a walk before coming back to get the next two batters, but Starling Marte crushed a pitch and the Cards were lucky it bounced over the wall.  If it stays in, Gregory Polanco probably scores from first to give Pittsburgh the lead.  It could have easily carried a bit more and been a home run as well.  All in all, Rosenthal threw over 25 pitches after doing the same thing on Thursday, when the club just wanted him to get some work.  May have to keep an eye on Rosenthal going forward, though he should be rested by time he’s used in the upcoming Angels series.

Good to see Grichuk at least temporarily awaken from his slump, getting two hits and driving in three.  Piscotty and Diaz were the other two multi-hit guys, which you’d probably have guessed if you had to, right?

Sunday (10-5 loss vs. Pittsburgh)

Hero: Stephen Piscotty.  Four hits and a run scored, though none of those hits were of the extra-base variety.  Matt Carpenter was also on base four times with two hits and two walks.

Goat: Matt Bowman.  While it’s true the game wasn’t in the best of shape when he arrived in it, with Michael Wacha having allowed four runs in six innings, the Cards were only down by two at the time.  It wasn’t Bowman’s day at all, though, getting nobody out and allowing four runs before Seth Maness came in and put out the fire.  Walk, double, single, homer and Bowman hit the showers.  Again, it happens, and better to happen in a game the club is already trailing than to cough up a lead in that manner.

Notes: One of the few good outings we’ve seen from Maness this year, two scoreless innings.  He’s actually not been charged with a run in his last four appearances, which may mean we won’t have to panic every time he’s warming up in the bullpen.  (That said, there’s still going to be some worry.)  Other than that, there wasn’t much more out of this one to talk about, I don’t think.

Last night, Tara and I were trying to figure out how far over .500 this team has been able to get this season.  Per Baseball-Reference, three games up and three games down is the range.  It’s not impossible to break out of that–the second Sunday of May last year saw the Pirates one game under .500 and seven games out and we know how that turned out–but it’d be nice to see that inertia snapped sometime soon.

The Cardinals, as we know, have done better against lesser teams (J.J. Bailey has a nice article detailing the differences between weak and strong opponents) and at least they’ll get one (after today’s off day) next in the Los Angeles Angels.  The Angels sit at 13-17 and have lost their ace pitcher, Garrett Richards, to Tommy John surgery and have another pitcher out as well.  You’d think this would be a time to put up some good numbers and hopefully get on a roll before going into the Dodgers series this weekend.  (Plus it’s a nice chance to see Albert Pujols again, even if he’s not Albert Pujols.)

Mike Leake will try to get that first quality start Tuesday night, going against a team that he’s never actually faced in his career.  With the way interleague play has become common, I was a little surprised to see that, but I guess he always missed it when the Reds faced the Angels.  Of course, he’s faced some of their hitters in other situations.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Andrelton Simmons 16 16 7 2 0 1 1 0 1 .438 .438 .750 1.188 0 0 0 0 2
Geovany Soto 15 12 1 0 0 0 0 3 2 .083 .267 .083 .350 0 0 0 0 1
Yunel Escobar 6 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 1
Albert Pujols 6 4 3 0 0 0 0 2 0 .750 .833 .750 1.583 0 0 1 0 0
Daniel Nava 3 3 2 0 0 0 1 0 0 .667 .667 .667 1.333 0 0 0 0 0
Cliff Pennington 2 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000 0 0 0 0 0
Shane Robinson 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 1
Total 50 44 14 2 0 1 2 6 3 .318 .400 .432 .832 0 0 1 0 5
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/9/2016.

If you believe in small sample sizes, that’s not encouraging.  Hopefully that’s just what it is, a small sample, and it won’t have any bearing on his outing.

Hector Santiago will go for the Angels.  He’s off to a pretty nice start to 2016, with a 2-1 mark and a 3.58 ERA in six starts.  That ERA is a little depressed by the seven scoreless innings he threw against the White Sox in his third start.  Not to discount that, of course, as the White Sox are a strong team, but without that game his ERA is 4.40, which might be more in line with what we could expect to see.  Last time out, he allowed three runs in 5.1 innings to the Brewers, for instance.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Brandon Moss 4 3 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .250 .000 .250 0 0 0 0 0
Ruben Tejada 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Total 7 6 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 .167 .286 .167 .452 0 0 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/9/2016.

Pretty much a clean slate.  The Cardinals have done better against those guys this year, but that’s still a point of concern.  We’ll have to see if they’ll be able to hit him anyway.

If you missed it, John Nagel and I released the first episode of Meet Me At Musial last week.  Give it a listen and let us know how we did!

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It’s Star Wars Day (May the 4th, you know) and I had no real desire to write up yesterday’s Cardinal outing. However, Star Wars is always there to help me and annoy StlCardsCards, so let’s mix things together.

After the offensive explosion of the night before, when the Cardinals were treating the Phillies like this

Alderaan

there was hope that the offense would stay on track against Aaron Nola. To say that was wrong was an understatement. Nola was all

Mind Trick

and getting the results he wanted. For the 11th time this year St. Louis struck out more than 10 times. They are 1-10 in such games.

What

Yeah, that’s not good, is it? The firepower of this fully armed and operational battle squad seems to have more than just a two-meter exhaust port as a weakness.

On the plus side, Michael Wacha got the Hero tag by reminding us that he can be amazing at times.

Poe

Wacha went eight innings throwing just 100 pitches. He struck out eight, walked three, and should have gotten a win. He got the loss due to that

Nerfherder

Ryan Howard, who showed again how much he loves his hometown by parking yet another ball over the fence. Immediately, voices all over cried out

Impossible

No, actually everyone was waiting for that, given Howard’s history. I think the broadcast said that was his 26th homer versus the Cards, which actually seems low.

Soon after this, with the Blues starting up, it seemed like a lot of folks were like

Boring

With a one-run game, though, any of that vaunted power could have tied it up. Instead, St. Louis mustered a total of one base runner after Howard’s blast, a single by Stephen Piscotty in the ninth. Nothing came of it, though, which led to a lot of

Chopper

When you look at the offense to find a Goat, all you can think is

Matt Carpenter led off with a double. Piscotty singled in the ninth. In between, all you had was a Yadier Molina infield single (that had to be reviewed to actually happen) and a walk by Kolten Wong.

Mace

I’ll go with Matt Holliday as the Goat with the knowledge that it could have been anyone, really. Holliday was up with a runner on and less than two outs twice, but nothing to show for it.

Get Ready

Adam Morgan, a lefty with a 5.40 ERA, goes tonight against Mike Leake.

3PO

Let’s hope the bats show up, otherwise

Bad Feeling

Enjoy Star Wars Day, everyone! May the Force be with you!

BB8

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Last week was a fairly busy time for me, and with the late starts in Arizona it made it difficult (and some days impossible) to get up early enough to get a post done.  However, as you know, that happens from time to time and we don’t let that give us an excuse to not look back at those games even when a week has past.  To the recaps!

Monday, April 25 (12-7 loss at Arizona)

Hero: Jeremy Hazelbaker.  His three-run pinch-hit shot in the fifth inning broke a 2-2 tie and, at the time, seemed to put the Cardinals well on the path to a win against Zack Greinke, something that’s not an easy thing to accomplish.  He added on a double later on for a two-hit night.

Goat: When there’s a nine-run sixth for the opponent, it’s really tough to narrow down the whole “Goat” thing.  In a coin flip of ugliness, I was going to go with Kevin Siegrist, who didn’t retire a batter and allowed the go-ahead home run to Jean Segura, plus put two more men on.  Of course, Siegrist at least had the excuse of recently having the flu and, like Kolten Wong who’d also been ill and came in for a couple of misplays, probably shouldn’t have been out there.  So we’ll put it on Seth Maness, who allowed Siegrist’s two runners to come in plus allowed two of his own.  Matt Bowman could have factored in this discussion as well.  It was a terrible inning.

Notes: Even strengths of teams have a bad night and that’s what this was.  To see the bullpen allow eight runs in one frame (nine total after Patron Pitcher Tyler Lyons allowed a meaningless one in the eighth) was unfathomable given the talent and ability we’d seen out of those guys this year.  You chalk it up to a fluke (save for Maness, which seems to be a trend) and move on.  Jaime Garcia wasn’t as stellar this time, leaving after giving up a double and a triple to start off that frame from Hades, but his line was probably less representative of how he pitched, if I’m remembering correctly.

The offense scored seven runs off of Greinke and still couldn’t win, which is so disappointing.  Aledmys Diaz had two hits to push his average to .481, which will be his high-water mark for the season.  Multiple hits also for Matt Carpenter (who had a home run to finish the scoring) and Stephen Piscotty.

Tuesday, April 26 (8-2 win at Arizona)

Hero: Brandon Moss.  The battle for first place continues to be murky, but Moss put his claim on it with a four-hit night, including a big three-run homer in the fifth that gave the Cards a comfortable lead (assuming the bullpen issues were in the past, which they were).  Moss just needed a triple for the cycle, but that’s like saying I just need Boardwalk to win the big prize in McDonald’s Monopoly contest.

Goat: Jedd Gyorko.  After having such a strong series in his old ballpark, Gyorko came back to earth a bit in Arizona.  0-5 in this one, with two strikeouts and five left on base.

Notes: Carlos Martinez was outstanding, throwing eight scoreless innings with more strikeouts (four) than hits (three).  Somewhere along the way this weekend it was mentioned that no one expected Martinez to be the ace of the staff right now.  Which is probably true.  I think a lot of folks thought he might be there by the end of the season, though, so his outstanding early work isn’t terribly surprising.

The Patron Pitcher came in for the ninth and allowed two runs, which is disappointing.  I still think that, with this team and the way it is constructed, a long man can’t get regular work and I’m wondering if that’s affecting him a little.  I know he’s been a bullpen guy before, but even then I think he got used a bit more often, plus he had starts in the minors during those seasons to at least get into a rhythm before getting put in the pen.  I’m not saying that Lyons is going to be an All-Star, but I think he’s better than we’ve seen much of this season.

Hazelbaker got another two hits, showing signs that his earlier slump was just that instead of the beginning of the end.  I’m still not sure he’s a long-term answer, but obviously if he’s hitting, he’s playing as much as possible.  That outfield shuffle, though, is a real dilemma at times and the possible return of Tommy Pham in a few weeks won’t help matters.

Wednesday, April 27 (11-4 win at Arizona)

Hero: Stephen Piscotty.  Back-to-back games the Cards had someone pile up four hits and this time it was Piscotty.  All singles, but he drove in two, walked once, and scored once.  That’s filling up a box score.

Goat: Randal Grichuk.  This was in the midst of an ugly streak for the center fielder, so the 0-4 with two strikeouts was less an outlier and more a representative result.  Grichuk broke the o-fer last night, but it’s way too soon to tell if the slump is over.

Notes: Adam Wainwright got his first win of the season, perhaps just as much because he tripled with the bases loaded versus his work on the mound.  Actually, he was more like the Waino we know there, but he still allowed four runs and only got one out in the sixth.  We talked about his results this year versus his results after coming back from Tommy John in 2012, but if that comparison is to continue to provide comfort, we probably should be seeing some better outings soon.  More on that in the recap of last night’s game.

The bullpen was stellar, and while the large lead probably didn’t hurt, getting zeros out of Seung-hwan Oh, Jonathan Broxton, and Matt Bowman is always nice to see.  Save for Maness, there’s a real confidence that once the Cardinals get a lead to the bullpen, it’s probably going to be able to keep it.  Getting the lead to them, of course, is sometimes the question.

Thursday, April 28 (3-0 loss at Arizona)

Hero: Yadier Molina.  After a good run of fun-filled offensive spectacle, the bats got cold again, even though they were facing a pitcher in Rubby De La Rosa that had an ERA of almost 6 going into the game.  The Cardinals have been very good this year about beating up on the bad teams, but perhaps they were just tired from scoring 45 runs in the five games previous.  Molina had one of the three hits, plus drew a walk.  He also didn’t strike out on a night when the Cardinal hitters racked up 11 K.  In a game like this, that counts as a Hero.

Goat: Matt Carpenter.  No one person really stands out here, so the leadoff hitter tiebreaker applies.  Carp was 0-4 with one strikeout and continues to not really hit a lot, though he’s drawing enough walks to keep his value in the leadoff spot.

Notes: Michael Wacha was fairly effective in this one, giving up three in seven innings and striking out nine, his highest strikeout total of the year.  He did allow two home runs, but those were the first two he’s allowed this season after surrendering 19 in 2015.  I keep being worried about Wacha, but looking at the game logs save for his opening start he’s been maybe not an ace but a very solid pitcher, and the only thing working against him are those sky-high expectations we have for him.

Diaz went 0-3 in this one, lowering his average to .446.  If he can just get his OPS under 1.000, he might be able to move up into the heart of the lineup!  (That said, John Mozeliak did have some comments about the complaints about Diaz batting low during the blogger Q&A on Sunday, which I hope to get to in a different post.)

Friday, April 29 (5-4 loss vs. Washington)

Hero: Matt Adams.  Three hits, including a late two-run homer that gave the Cards a late shot.  He may struggle against the lefties (and that probably will never change) but after Monday night he’s hitting .317/.391/.585 against righties this year, showing that there’s still a lot of hope left for Big Fill In The Blank. (Hat tip to Jon Doble for pointing that out on Twitter.)

Goat: Mike Leake.  I know I’m down on Leake lately (Bill Ivie pointed out this weekend it’s the most negative I’ve ever been on a Cardinal player) but he’s not shown anything yet to make me feel like he’s going to turn it around.  I mean, he probably will–it’s just the first month of five years, after all–but he has yet to have a quality start, yet to allow less than four runs (though some have been unearned) and has an ERA just under six.  When that’s your big free agent splash for the offseason, you need him to be better, especially since that contract may cause some decisions when Lance Lynn is returning next year and Alex Reyes starts looking like he’s ready for the big leagues.  I don’t know what his BABIP is now, perhaps that could drop and help him out, but right now we aren’t seeing well pitched games out of Leake and it’s pretty disappointing.

Notes: Matt Holliday and Adams got to Stephen Strasburg early, but he just shut things down.  I’ve always been a fan of Strasburg and it’s going to be interesting to see where he winds up as a free agent this winter.  Not St. Louis, obviously, given the logjam I just described.  Strasburg struck out nine, because when this team gets flailing, those Ks pile up quick.

Holliday had three hits in this one, with an RBI and two runs scored.  I don’t feel the impending doom like I did when Holliday was struggling the first week of the season anymore.  Holliday still attacks everything hard and, more often than not, those kind of balls are going to drop in or go aways.  Of course, they may also go right to the shortstop for a double play, but that’s the tradeoff.

Saturday, April 30 (6-1 loss vs. Washington)

Hero: Yadier Molina, I guess?  Molina had two hits, the only person with more than one.  Otherwise, the offense was meh and the pitching the same.  I almost went with Trevor Rosenthal because he pitched a scoreless frame and we don’t often highlight him in this spot, but that just seemed like too much of a stretch.

Goat: Jaime Garcia.  I know he had a Hazelbaker error behind him and I know Jayson Werth can be a tough hitter against the Cardinals, but when you put this team down 4-0 in the top of the first, it’s not likely to turn out well.  The offense tends to need a middling pitcher or the hope of getting into the soft spots of a bullpen to really catch fire.  Joe Ross isn’t that guy and the Nationals’ pen seems to be pretty solid.  Garcia was good after that first frame, but that one counts.

Notes: Broxton had an off game, but it really didn’t seem to affect things.  Down 4-1 in the eighth is more probable for a comeback than 6-1, but neither is just terribly likely.  At least Maness came in and got his one batter, something that we haven’t been able to count on much this season at all.  Hazelbaker made two errors, which is a real rough day for an outfielder.  Of course, given that this defense would sometimes have trouble catching a cold or throwing their weight around, this probably shouldn’t be a surprise.  We also saw a bit of a lineup shift as Carpenter hit second, but it didn’t seem to make much difference.

Sunday, May 1 (6-1 loss vs. Washington)

Hero: Brandon Moss, because until his home run with two outs in the ninth I was in danger of having my last three outings at Busch Stadium be scoreless ones for the home team.  (Ironically, one of those games I saw last year was Leake pitching for the Reds.  Couldn’t have pitched like 2016 Leake then, could he?)

Goat: Stephen Piscotty.  0-4, two strikeouts, two left on base, and on the same day that I bought his shirsey.  Way to make me feel good about that investment, man.

Notes: As typical with the Blogger Days, the game is almost secondary to the food in the suites and the people that you get to interact with.  That being said, we did watch some of the game and it early on felt like a game that Carlos Martinez could throw a no-hitter in.  While that obviously didn’t happen, it was better than the linescore.  He made a mistake to a guy hitting .050, which is ridiculously frustrating, so much so that I think he just threw instead of pitched to Danny Espinosa, which resulted in another homer.  There’s not a pitcher out there that hasn’t gone through a similar sequence, I don’t think.  Martinez struck out eight and walked none in just shy of seven innings, which was easily his worst start of the year.  If that’s the lows, I think we’ll take it.

Also, I got to see the Patron Pitcher in person for the first time ever.  Lyons did well coming in and snuffing the rally in the seventh, but got touched for a long ball with two outs in the eighth. Still, 70 was on the mound with 70 in the stands, so that’s a win.  There just wasn’t much happening in this one, but it was still a fun day at the park with friends and a conversation with Mozeliak and Bill DeWitt III.  As I say, I hope to write that up soon.

Monday, May 2 (10-3 win vs. Philadelphia)

Hero: Adam Wainwright.  OK, it’s not often that a pitcher wins this almost entirely with his bat (and that’s probably overstating it even in this case) but Waino had a double and then a three-run bomb that tied the game up.  Of course, it tied the game because he allowed three in the third, but let’s not focus much on that for the moment.  Wainwright, who I believe had a home run in his first major league at bat, out in San Francisco when he was still a reliever in 2006, now has three extra base hits in three consecutive at bats stretching back to the Arizona start.  Pete Kozma had three extra-base hits over 2014 and 2015 combined.  Good times.

Goat: Matt Carpenter.  He did walk twice, which is a good thing for the leadoff guy, but he was the only person not to wind up with a hit in the lineup.  I could have also gone with Holliday, who went 1-4 but didn’t drive in or score a run.  All in all, though, there wasn’t much to complain about after the bats woke up last night.

Notes: OK, let’s look at Wainwright’s pitching for the moment.  The last two starts have been better and, indeed, Waino limited the damage last night to one single inning, but it’s still not what we expect when it comes to the ace.  We’ve talked in the past about the layoff and how we could compare this to 2012, which seems fair.  Let’s look at the first six starts of Wainwright for this year compared to his return from Tommy John.

Year Starts W L IP ER K BB K/BB ERA K/9 Less 3ER
2012 6 2 3 33.2 21 34 7 4.86 5.61 9.09 2
2016 6 2 3 33.2 25 18 12 1.50 6.68 3.21 0

It’s really easy to compare these two years as Wainwright has pitched exactly the same amount of innings over both periods.  While earned runs are up in ’16, the most obvious issues is in the strikeouts and, tangentally, with the walks.  The long layoff should be a command issue, at least in part, right?  Yet even after a full year off in 2011, Wainwright kept the ball in the zone.  (To be fair, he hit a bump in starts 7 and 8, walking nine combined then.)  This year, with a regular offseason after coming back at the end of the season, that hasn’t been the case.

That last column is games where he gave up three or less earned runs.  At this point in 2012, he’d done that twice.  In fact, his sixth start was the one where we really declared him “back”, a one-run, seven-strikeout game in Houston.  This year, that’s just not happening.  Wainwright sat down with Derrick Goold and talked about the adjustments he was going to make, adjustments that seem to have paid off some in Arizona and against Philly.  (I’ve not listened to the podcast yet, but I’m sure it’s definitely worth making time for.)  I think we’ll see a better Wainwright going forward, but it’d be nice to have a couple of those games that Martinez is throwing come out of the ace as well.

Five home runs.  It’s amazing to see the Cardinals, this team that has never had the reputation for really muscling up, lead the majors with 40 home runs.  The majors!  Not the NL Central.  They have more than the Rockies (though they’ve played one more game) and folks that play in parks like Arizona and Chicago.  They have 12 more than that vaunted Cubbie offense (which is the only thing they can top the Cubs in right now).

It was great to see Wong get a bit of a boost with his wall scraper and Grichuk snap his hitless skid with a deep drive as well.  Adams hit another homer (as well as bunted successfully against the shift, a combo you don’t often get in a ballgame) and Diaz continues to show that he’s probably not a fluke.  I’m honestly surprised the Cardinals had enough fireworks on hand to keep up with all these long balls!

Hopefully the bats will show up again tonight, though they are facing a Phillies pitcher that they’ve not seen before in Aaron Nola.  Nola’s made two very good starts in a row, shutting out Washington over seven innings last time out and allowing just one run in seven to the Brewers the time before that.  He’s effective, with 37 strikeouts and just eight walks on the season, so this could be a tough task.  Then again, the new pitchers haven’t affected the club as much this season, it doesn’t feel like.

Wacha goes for St. Louis tonight.  He’s not seen the Phillies just a whole lot, but has been all right against them in the small sample.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Ryan Howard 6 5 1 0 0 0 1 0 2 .200 .333 .200 .533 0 0 0 1 0
Freddy Galvis 5 5 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 .400 .400 .400 .800 0 0 0 0 0
Maikel Franco 3 3 2 1 0 0 1 0 1 .667 .667 1.000 1.667 0 0 0 0 0
Cesar Hernandez 3 3 1 0 0 0 2 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Odubel Herrera 3 2 1 1 0 0 2 0 0 .500 .500 1.000 1.500 1 0 0 0 0
David Lough 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Carlos Ruiz 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Adam Morgan 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Cameron Rupp 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Darin Ruf 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 31 29 8 2 0 0 6 0 7 .276 .300 .345 .645 1 0 0 1 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/3/2016.

We continue to think of the Phillies as a laughing stock, but they have the better record and are closer to first in their division than the Cardinals.  Let’s hope that the club can do a little more to restore a more sane worldview tonight!

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Who’s Your Padre?

Most people mark the current “Golden Era” of St. Louis Cardinals baseball from 1996, when Tony La Russa came to the club, the DeWitts were just beginning their tenure, and the Cardinals returned to the playoffs for the first time in eight years.  Since that time, there’s no team that they’ve beaten with more regularity in the National League than the San Diego Padres.  Baseball Reference notes that the Cards have won 94 of the 149 meetings between the teams, but that’s 1) not updated for yesterday’s win and 2) does not count the postseason, where St. Louis has also dominated.  They faced the Friars in the 1996 (3-0), 2005 (3-0), and 2006 (3-1) NLDS.  All that combined, the Cards beat the Padres at a .650 clip, which is a pretty solid bit of ownership over 20 years.  This weekend wasn’t terribly different.

Friday (4-1 loss)

Hero: Randal Grichuk.  His solo homer, briefly cutting the deficit to 2-1, really was about the only good thing to come out of this one.

Goat: Matt Carpenter.  While many folks had a rough night, Carpenter’s was so bad it got him a day off on Saturday.  0-4 with two strikeouts would be bad enough, but to go down looking when the tying runs were at second and third with one out in the fifth was just devastating to the Cardinals’ chances.  Normal Carpenter at least puts a swing on the ball and hopefully gets in one run.

Notes: It was great to see Mike return to the Conclave over the weekend and he had a lot of good stuff about this game.  (I’m glad he mentioned Jon Jay‘s attempted sacrifice with a runner on second and nobody out late in the game.  Either Jay learned way too much from Mike Matheny or other managers make the same ridiculous call.)  We also talked about some of the early bit of this one on Best Dans in Baseball, since it was going on as we were recording.

The BDIB discussion really focused in on Adam Wainwright, who started this game and, while he probably had his best start since his opener (and was a very similar line to what he did against the Pirates), still hasn’t alleviated all the worries that the Cardinal fan base has for him.  Meeting the quality start minimums used to be a middling outing for the staff ace, now it’s the best we’ve seen.  What’s going on?

I had a discussion on Twitter with our good friend Bob Netherton (@CardinalTales) and some others and their opinion was that, even though Waino made it back at the end of last season in a relief role, the rust of missing another season was still on him.  If that’s the case, we should see some strong comparisons to April of 2012, after he returned from Tommy John surgery, and indeed we do.

Year GS IP H ER HR K BB ERA WHIP
2012 4 19.2 24 16 5 21 5 7.32 1.475
2016 4 22.1 29 18 2 10 9 7.25 1.746

There are a lot of similar numbers up here, which does help back up the rust issue.  Wainwright had a much stronger season from May on in 2012, so perhaps we’ll see the same out of him going forward as well.

There are a couple of differences, though.  You’ll note that in 2012, he allowed more home runs, a fairly significant number given the small sample size.  (A hat tip to Tara Wellman, who remembered that fact as I was doing some digging into the numbers last night on Gateway to Baseball Heaven.) Once Wainwright started keeping the ball in the ballpark (he allowed 10 more home runs the rest of the season in roughly 180 innings), things got better.  That’s not the case so far here in 2016.

Even after Tommy John surgery, where command is supposed to be the last thing to return, Wainwright had a 4:1 K/BB ratio.  This year, he barely has it over 1:1.  While some of that is inflated by the five walks he issued in his second start, the fact is that he’s not striking anyone out, putting up just four K over his past two starts.

Put that alongside something Bill Ivie from I70 Baseball mentioned to me earlier this week, that he felt batters were just sitting and teeing off on Wainwright’s first pitch because they knew he was going to throw a strike and not want to walk anyone.   Indeed, the first pitch stats from Waino should come with a parental advisory.  When the first pitch is put in play, batters are 14-for-21 with seven doubles and a home run (that’d be Mr. Wil Myers from this last start) for a .667/.667/1.143 slash line.

As I’ve stated before, I’m not a pitch type expert, but just looking at the lines over here at Brooks Baseball (assuming I’m reading them right, of course), there’s no obvious change in speeds from last April (when Wainwright had an 18:3 K/BB while putting up a 1.44 ERA before his injury) and this April.  It appears to be one of approach and if he does figure it out as he says he will, he can be successful again.  We’ll just have to wait and see how long before all of his research and work pays off.

Final notes on this one: Matt Adams had another rough night, striking out three times and leaving three on base.  The competition between him and Brandon Moss is quickly descending into “which one hurts you least.”  I still think there’s potential in Adams, but there’s no doubt days like this hurt him badly…..Like Mike (if I could be like Mike), I was trying to figure out exactly who was going to play middle infield if the Cardinals had tied it up in the ninth.  I mean, it was a long shot and I don’t blame Matheny for trying to win and then figuring out the issues later, but I wasn’t really sure why he pinch-hit for Kolten Wong in the seventh, even with the lefty reliever coming in.  And, if he was going to do so, why he didn’t just plan to leave Aledmys Diaz (who did the pinch-hitting) in and, when you needed another PH later in that inning, go with Jeremy Hazelbaker there instead of Jedd Gyorko.  It felt like a situation where Matheny didn’t plan far enough in advance, but I’ll admit it was late while I was watching it and I may have been too tired to keep up with it all….Seth Maness had a good second inning of work.  The problem there is that if you continue to wait until your second inning to get folks out, you won’t get many first innings.  The ball was hit hard off of Maness and if it wasn’t for Jay’s strange bunt, that could have been a much worse inning.  If Jordan Walden ever gets healthy, Maness is the obvious guy to go.  Same if folks in Memphis start needing to be promoted.

Saturday (11-2 win)

Hero: Aledmys Diaz.  Five hits pretty much always locks up a Hero title, though Hazelbaker’s pinch-hit home run was pretty big and started the late inning monsoon, so I could have gone that way easily.  Diaz, besides just torching the Padres all weekend long, had two doubles, two RBI, and scored a run.  He did make an error, but with days like this, it’s much easier to deal with the occasional glitch in the field.  I know, I know, the Cardinals have a baseball-high 19 errors and many of them, including some from Diaz, have come in key situations.  However, it’s not like there’s a Pete Kozma-like glove being buried on the bench in favor of the offensive juggernaut that is Diaz, and even if there were, I think we’d have Diaz out there anyway if it were up to the fan base.

Goat: Kolten Wong.  Wong got his chance to lead off with Carpenter getting the break, but couldn’t do anything with it, going 0-3 before being pinch-hit for in the seventh.  I didn’t realize, I don’t think, that Ruben Tejada had actually been announced to replace Wong.  San Diego then countered by bringing in former Cardinal Carlos Villanueva, then Matheny went with Hazelbaker and it paid off handsomely.  For all those that thought that activating Tejada was going to bury Diaz, that’s been far from the case.  You do wonder, though, given the apparent propensity for pinch-hitting for Wong, if Tejada doesn’t eventually see some time at second over the Hawaiian.

Notes: Jedd Gyorko apparently enjoyed being back in his former stadium, going 3-5 with a three-run homer in this one and having another solid game on Sunday.  Reports say that folks booed Gyorko, which is a little surprising.  I mean, I don’t know what the dynamics of the situation were out there before he left, but it’s not like Gyorko signed as a free agent with someone.  He was traded off, which meant he didn’t choose to leave.  Now, perhaps they weren’t pleased with him before he left, but booing him for a trade seems pretty silly.

Stephen Piscotty had three hits, including the game-tying home run in the sixth.  Piscotty’s quietly hitting .270 on the season and continues to contribute, but sometimes gets overlooked in the good and the bad that is with this team.  There are a lot of extremes going on right now and “extreme” is never a label that’s going to be slapped on the outfielder.

A fairly solid start for Michael Wacha.  He had a lot of fly balls, a couple of which might have been home runs in other parks (and one that was almost a home run in that park, backing up Matt Holliday to the wall before he could haul it in).  Four walks and no strikeouts isn’t exactly a wonderful omen either and had it been a better overall team, Wacha could have really been burned in this one.  Instead, he allowed two runs in six innings on just four hits and now has an ERA under 3.00 for the season.  You take what you can get, of course, but there’s still going to be some wariness around Mr. Wacha for a bit, I believe.

It was nice to see Hazelbaker get that key homer, but he’s still (after Sunday) in a 1 for 24 slump.  The problem with guys that don’t have a lot of positive history either in the bigs or in the minors is that you don’t know whether that’s actually a slump or the league has figured him out and it’s going to take some serious adjustments to stay out of Memphis.  As we’ve said, baseball is littered with one-hit wonders, those that start out of fire but flame out quickly.  The good thing for Hazelbaker is that his spot in the big leagues is pretty much contingent on Tommy Pham‘s health, which is more job security than a lot of folks have.

Sunday (8-5 win)

Hero: Jedd Gyorko.  It was actually a bit hard to come up with the Hero here, as you have three guys with three hits, two of them with homers.  Gyorko, though, mixed in a triple as well and was just a double shy of the cycle the last couple of times he came up.  All in all, it was a good trip back to his old stomping grounds.

Goat: Stephen Piscotty.  Talk about evening out.  Three hits and a homer on Saturday, 0-5 with three strikeouts and six left on base on Sunday.  Man really believes in keeping an even keel.

Notes: Grichuk and Diaz were the other two with three hits and both had an extra-base knock as well, Grichuk with a double and Diaz with a homer.  Diaz went 9-12 in this series and is still hitting well over .400, so it’s been a very fun ride so far.  Obviously that’s going to come down to earth sometime soon, perhaps as soon as tonight, but it’s a grand moment in the sun for him.

Hazelbaker was in the starting lineup, which led to this amazing tweet by Dan Moore:

If that doesn’t explain Matheny to a T, I don’t know what does.  What have you done for me lately is an interesting way of making out a lineup, but that does seem to be a huge factor in things.  Granted, it’s not always a determinant–Mitchell Boggs could tell you stories, if you can wait until his lunch break when he’s off the clock–but it definitely plays a big part.

I only got to follow this one by updates and occasional glances at Gameday, at least until the late innings, but it was a frustrating start for Mike Leake.  Again, I don’t know how much of it was his fault–he did have two unearned runs, so obviously the defense didn’t completely help him out–but it seemed every time the Cardinals got him a run and a lead, he gave it right back.  Then again, he also drove in a run, finally letting us see some results of the “good hitting pitcher” theme that’s been around since the signing, so that was nice.  Still, five runs in five innings, even if two were unearned, is not really an exciting outing, nor is it one that will often keep the team in the game.

The Cardinals move out to Arizona tonight, starting a four game series with the Diamondbacks and their closet full of uniforms.  It should be an interesting one tonight as Zack Grienke goes up against Jaime Garcia.  Greinke has some ugly stats, but that’s mainly from his first couple of starts.  His last two outings have been more in line with the Greinke we know (and, when St. Louis faces him, don’t care for much).  Those last two were in San Francisco and San Diego, two pretty good pitcher’s parks, so we’ll see if his troubles in Chase Field (11 earned runs in 10 innings in two starts) continue tonight.

(Gyroko’s struggled against Grienke in a small sample but has had two good games in a row.  This seems like a tough conundrum for Matheny, given how we’ve seen him do lineups.)

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Matt Holliday 45 43 12 1 0 2 7 2 8 .279 .311 .442 .753 0 0 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 35 33 9 2 0 0 3 1 4 .273 .286 .333 .619 0 1 0 0 3
Matt Carpenter 26 22 7 2 0 1 1 4 7 .318 .423 .545 .969 0 0 0 0 0
Jedd Gyorko 17 13 1 0 0 0 0 4 3 .077 .294 .077 .371 0 0 0 0 1
Matt Adams 15 14 3 1 0 1 2 1 5 .214 .267 .500 .767 0 0 0 0 0
Ruben Tejada 9 8 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 .000 .000 .000 .000 1 0 0 0 0
Kolten Wong 9 9 3 2 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .556 .889 0 0 0 0 0
Jaime Garcia 7 7 2 0 0 0 1 0 2 .286 .286 .286 .571 0 0 0 0 0
Brandon Moss 7 7 2 0 0 1 2 0 2 .286 .286 .714 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Randal Grichuk 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Adam Wainwright 4 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 1 0 0 0 0
Mike Leake 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 181 166 39 8 0 5 16 12 41 .235 .285 .373 .658 2 1 0 0 4
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/25/2016.

Garcia’s done pretty well against these Diamondback hitters, though it’s funny to see that Greinke actually has one of the best averages in the table below.  There’s a lot of folks he’s not seen, though, but Garcia’s been very good all season long.  Even given the venue, this game would seem to be shaping up to a fairly good pitchers’ duel.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Rickie Weeks 39 32 7 2 0 1 1 7 7 .219 .359 .375 .734 0 0 0 0 1
Jean Segura 24 23 6 1 0 0 0 1 2 .261 .292 .304 .596 0 0 0 0 1
Paul Goldschmidt 9 7 2 1 0 0 0 2 3 .286 .444 .429 .873 0 0 0 0 0
Welington Castillo 6 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Zack Greinke 6 5 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 .400 .400 .400 .800 1 0 0 0 0
Nick Ahmed 5 5 1 0 0 1 1 0 1 .200 .200 .800 1.000 0 0 0 0 1
Yasmany Tomas 5 5 3 2 0 0 3 0 0 .600 .600 1.000 1.600 0 0 0 0 0
Chris Owings 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Robbie Ray 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Tyler Wagner 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 98 87 21 6 0 2 5 10 19 .241 .320 .379 .699 1 0 0 0 3
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/25/2016.

Another late night, as the Cards won’t start until 8:40 Central.  It’ll also be on FOX Sports Midwest Plus, as it has been each time a game has conflicted with the Blues during their playoffs.  (A subject I’m not qualified to opine on, though it would seem that being up 3-1 and then playing a Game 7 has never worked out well for St. Louis teams.)  Looking forward to seeing if the offense can figure out Greinke!

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Finally Breaking Through

This wasn’t at all how we wanted this first meeting between the Cardinals and Cubs to go.  We wanted to see the Cardinals put them in their place, cool off their hot start, and show they still were the force in the NL Central.  Instead, the Cubs took the first two pitching duels and made the third game a little more interesting than we’d like.  A win’s a win, though, and that makes things much more optimistic than a sweep would have left them.

Tuesday (2-1 loss)

Hero: Yadier Molina.  Molina had two hits, including a triple, and drove in the Cardinals’ only run.  It would have been better had Matt Adams not been picked off of second before the hit or if Kolten Wong or Ruben Tejada could have brought in Molina from third with one out, but unfortunately neither of those things were meant to be.  For all of our worries about Molina’s offensive decline, he’s hitting .345 with five doubles and a triple on the year, so while the home run power might not be there, I think we can worry a bit less about Yadi.

Goat: Jeremy Hazelbaker.  0-4 in the second spot, including two strikeouts.  I’m still not sold on putting Hazelbaker in the second spot, especially now that he’s struggling.  I remember watching a game recently, may have been Monday’s, where there were runners on and a base open and they pitched around Matt Carpenter to get to Hazelbaker, which was exactly what I would have done in their situation.  Perhaps he can get back on track and be more of a threat up in the lineup, but if I were Mike Matheny I think I’d drop him in the San Diego series to see if that helps start him back up.

Notes: This was a weird game for Jaime Garcia.  He pitched outstanding save for one inning and he almost escaped that inning as well, but allowed a two-out, two-run single to Jason Hammel, his opposite number.  To be fair, it wasn’t a bad pitch, down and in, but still, it’s a tough thing to swallow when the pitcher beats you.  Then Garcia was yanked after five innings, which was a little surprising to me as I’m trying to follow the game during a church meeting.  I thought it was Matheny being a little more pro-active, with a runner on and one out.  It seemed like Matheny was trying to go for it while he had a shot.  Then I look at the box score and see Garcia had 98 pitches then, so that factored in more than any game situation.  I should have known, really.

Adams continues to get a lot of Twitter abuse, but he went two for three with an intentional walk in this one, bringing his season average up to .261.  He says he’s starting to get comfortable at the plate, and while he still probably flails at pitches he shouldn’t have, that’s not a condition that’s limited to him in this lineup.  It doesn’t bother me that much when he starts over Brandon Moss, because we’ve always said they are pretty much two peas in a pod, and while Moss may have been hot recently, he’s also 0 for his last 10 with seven strikeouts.  It’s going to be a balancing act getting them both playing time, especially since Matt Holliday can slide over there as well, but I can’t get all that worked up about Adams not only still being here, but also playing.

A real solid night’s work for the pen, covering four innings and allowing no runs, one hit, two walks (both by Jonathan Broxton) and six strikeouts.  When your bullpen can get half their outs by K, it’s fairly impressive.  We thought going into this year that if you could get a lead to these guys, they’d likely keep it and so far, there’s nothing to change that perspective.

Wednesday (5-3 win)

Hero: Carlos Martinez.  Pitching was not a problem in this series, as the club held what was supposed to be a slugging juggernaut (though the early season results haven’t proven that) to 10 runs, half of those in the opener.  Even so, Martinez’s outing was not only stellar, but a relief.  He had help early on when Randal Grichuk snagged Anthony Rizzo‘s almost two-run homer, but other than that he was magnificent.  Seven innings, three hits, one earned run (an actual homer by Rizzo) and five strikeouts, with the only semi-blemish being he walked three.  Plus he contributed at the plate, getting a chopper over a drawn-in infield to drive in the fourth run of the game, a run that became very big later (much, much later given the rain delay) on.  Martinez is continuing to show that he’s going to be the ace of this staff sooner or later, with the odds on sooner.

Goat: Seung-hwan Oh.  The Stone Buddha finally showed some cracks, allowing two hits, a walk, and two runs in his inning of work after the rain delay, turning the game from a comfortable 4-1 lead to a nerve-wracking 4-3 game.  Obviously he was going to eventually have one of this outings and perhaps the rain delay threw off his rhythm (it has to be weird for all the players to go back out there after a three-plus hour wait), but this was also the first time he’d been used in back-to-back games.  Something to keep an eye on, I guess.  There would seem to be no reason he couldn’t go two days in a row, but if that does become a problem there should be enough quality arms down there to mix and match and keep that at a minimum.

Notes: Grichuk’s home run thievery sparked memories of Jim Edmonds, another #15 in center field who made a habit of that (especially against the Reds).  Grichuk also drew a walk and scored a run, so not a bad day all around.  Molina had another two-hit day, scoring on a wild pitch in the second and driving in a huge insurance run in the eighth.  Adams had a ground rule double, though he struck out twice.  Stephen Piscotty had two hits and scored on Matt Holliday’s homer in the first, a home run that was just huge.  The momentum from stealing a homer then hitting one was intense and, as we saw, Martinez didn’t need a lot to be effective.

We’ve complained in the past when the club tries to steal third base, especially when there are less than two outs.  It’s only fair that we give a hat tip when it works.  Wong stole third after Molina came in on the wild pitch, putting a runner 90 feet away with just one out.  The infield came in, especially with the pitcher batting, and Martinez put it just over the infield.  If they are back, it’s an out, but instead that stolen base led to a run.  It’s still debatable if it’s a good move at times, but there’s no doubt it panned out here.

Congratulations to Trevor Rosenthal, who struck out the side in the ninth to notch his 100th career save.  That’s a pretty nice milestone for a guy that still thinks he wants to be a starter!

Even with the win yesterday, there’s still some ominous signs with this club.  The Cardinals have played six games against division contenders Pittsburgh and Chicago and are 1-5, scoring just 13 runs in those matchups.  Against the weaker teams, the Cards are 7-2 and have scored more than 13 runs in one game, 78 total.  You have to beat those weaker teams, for sure, but you also have to at least hold your own against the good teams to have a chance at contending.  It may be a while before we see how they do against another real good team.  They go to Arizona after San Diego, which may be a test, though offense is not necessarily a problem in the desert.  Washington comes into Busch to start the next homestand, though, and that’s going to be a very interesting measuring stick.

I think it’s absolutely a testament to the mindset and sensibilities of this club that the word “suck” seems to have been banned from T-shirts in the park, though apparently that will at least be modified before the Cubs come back next time, which I think isn’t until mid-summer.  I know most people would probably think it’s overly restrictive, but I think it’s nice that they’ve typically taken this stance, even when the word is used in relation to the opposing clubs.  Again, they don’t toss you out for saying it, just for wearing it.  With their approach that this should be as family-friendly as possible, it makes sense.  It may be mild, but you draw the line somewhere.

I see that the Cardinals were playing chess during the rain delay.  That probably is another way of marking the differences between them and their rivals, though I’m sure Joe Maddon would enjoy the game.  It’s not exactly what you think of with these loosey-goosey Cubs though, is it?

It is interesting to see St. Louis relying more and more on Matt Bowman when it comes to higher-leverage situations.  Part of that, as Derrick Goold writes, is because of the struggles of Seth Maness, but it’s also because Bowman is getting the job done.  When he was selected in the Rule 5 draft, we kinda scratched our head and wondered where he was going to fit in.  Now it’s pretty obvious what the club saw in Bowman, though we’ll see if he can keep his hot start going as well.  Lots of small sample sizes and baseball is filled with stories of folks that were good for the first month and forgotten by the last.  Hopefully that won’t be the case here.  Now, if and when Jordan Walden gets healthy (which, given we’ve heard nothing about him recently, is likely more if than when) there could be some interesting roster decisions to make, but right now, Bowman’s secure in his spot.

Cardinals do some of their NL West work starting tomorrow (another off day today, which is a bit annoying for us fans if not the players), with a three game set in San Diego followed up by that Arizona series we referred to earlier.  We continue to hope that Adam Wainwright will come around and tonight’s his latest chance to take that step in the right direction.  San Diego’s park is conducive to good pitching.  The Padres are in the middle of the pack offensively in many stats, which is pretty surprising given they started the season being shut out all series by the Dodgers.  Things have obviously gotten a little better for them since then.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Matt Kemp 33 30 5 1 0 0 1 2 6 .167 .242 .200 .442 0 0 0 1 0
Alexi Amarista 15 15 3 0 1 0 3 0 2 .200 .200 .333 .533 0 0 0 0 1
Melvin Upton 9 9 4 2 0 0 0 0 1 .444 .444 .667 1.111 0 0 0 0 0
Brett Wallace 9 9 2 1 0 0 1 0 3 .222 .222 .333 .556 0 0 0 0 0
Carlos Villanueva 7 7 0 0 0 0 0 0 5 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Adam Rosales 4 3 1 0 0 1 1 1 0 .333 .500 1.333 1.833 0 0 0 0 0
Derek Norris 3 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 .667 .667 .667 1.333 0 0 0 0 0
Alexei Ramirez 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 83 79 17 4 1 1 6 3 17 .215 .253 .329 .582 0 0 0 1 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/21/2016.

Wainwright will match up against Andrew Cashner.  Cashner had a strong 2013 and 2014, but struggled last year and so far 2016 hasn’t been any kinder to him.  He’s coming off his best start of the year, though, a one-run, six-inning outing against Arizona.  Quirkily, he’s struck out exactly five batters in each start, though the innings total has varied.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Yadier Molina 10 9 4 0 0 0 1 1 1 .444 .500 .444 .944 0 0 0 0 0
Ruben Tejada 10 10 4 1 0 0 0 0 4 .400 .400 .500 .900 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Carpenter 6 4 1 0 0 0 0 2 2 .250 .500 .250 .750 0 0 0 0 0
Kolten Wong 6 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Holliday 3 3 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Mike Leake 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Stephen Piscotty 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Randal Grichuk 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .500 .000 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Michael Wacha 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Adams 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 46 42 10 1 0 0 2 4 16 .238 .304 .262 .566 0 0 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/21/2016.

We’ll probably see Tejada tomorrow with that career average against Cashner, especially since he probably still needs some at bats to get more fully into game shape.  Late start means Dan Buffa and I will probably be recording Best Dans in Baseball during the game, which should be interesting!

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Baby Bears Bite ‘Birds

After that unfulfilling playoff series, after all the drama and hype of the offseason, the Cardinals and the Cubs finally met on the field last night.  It was not the result Cardinal fans wanted.  In fact, it was much closer to their fears and nightmares.

Over the past 10 days, as the Cardinals have put up run after run, bludgeoning folks with their bats, the question was often debated about how much of it was the offense and how much of it was the fact they were facing lesser pitching lights.  If last night is any indication, there was much more of the latter than we wanted to admit.  Former teammate John Lackey–who, along with Jason Heyward, seemed to be the only two Cub players on the field if you read the leadup and watched the broadcast–completely dominated the Cards, allowing only four hits in seven innings and striking out 11 in that span.  The Cards had actually seemed to do better in regards to the strikeout of late before regressing last night.

Lackey, who always was comfortable at Busch Stadium, is probably the best pitcher the Cardinals have seen since the Pittsburgh series concluded.  Seeing the bats turn cold when stepping back in against that sort of pitching level doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence.  It could be just Lackey and the Cardinals do miss Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester if so, but it’s a troubling data point nonetheless.

I thought before the game that if Mike Leake really wanted to endear himself to the people of St. Louis, he’d go out and have a great start.  A solid win last night against Heyward and company, with the stakes what they are, would have gotten him a lot of goodwill.  To be fair, he did have a pretty good outing.  He worked out of trouble in the first and the game was scoreless until Dexter Fowler took him deep in the sixth.  There’s not much more you can do as a pitcher up to that point.

Leake’s trouble started actually in the bottom of the fifth, when he couldn’t get down a suicide squeeze.  (Thankfully Kolten Wong made that an incorrect title by eluding the tag and getting back to third.)  He allowed back-to-back singles to start the seventh, which put him in a bad spot, but that spot was about to get worse.

I hate to give him the Goat tag, especially since he did double in the fifth to put runners on second and third with one out, but the error Aledmys Diaz made in the seventh was a game breaker.  Two errors, actually, though he only got “credit” for one.  If he picks the ball up cleanly, it’s a double play and there’s a runner at third with two outs and Addison Russell up.  Instead, he bobbles it enough that the runner going to second is going to be safe, so then he airmails the throw to Brandon Moss, meaning that a run scores and there are runners on second and third with nobody out, a situation that would have been very difficult for Leake to extract himself from without allowing a run.  Indeed, he couldn’t, giving up a sacrifice fly and then, inexplicably, a single to Lackey to drive in the fourth run.  To be fair, three was going to be plenty for the Cubs and the extra run that Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons gave up in the eighth really didn’t make any difference either.

Finding a Hero in that morass isn’t easy, especially when nobody had multiple hits and one of the two extra base hits came from your Goat.  I guess I’ll go with Yadier Molina, who had a hit and a walk plus guided Leake well through the Cubs order, at least for the most part.

The big story, obviously, was the return of Jason Heyward to St. Louis.  It sounded like he got a solid, if mixed, reception last night, but then I also realized later there were a lot more Cub fans in the stands for a Monday night game than I was expecting.  It’s hard to know if it was Cubs cheering and Cardinals booing, though I did see some Cards fan giving him a standing O when he was announced.  Whatever your reaction to Heyward, I don’t think anyone was terribly disappointed to see him go 0-4 and drop his average to .188.  Of course, after 13 games in St. Louis last year he was hitting .193, so it might be about time for him to start heating up.  As long as he does it after he leaves Busch Stadium.

The Cardinals activated Ruben Tejada from the disabled list yesterday, sending out Greg Garcia.  Obviously, this was just a roster crunch decision as Garcia had done quite well in limited time.  However, Tejada was healed up and the Cards aren’t in the habit of just throwing away $1.5 million.  There was a lot of Twitter angst about this move yesterday, but it was really the only move that could be done besides delaying it a bit and keeping Tejada on the rehab assignment, something that doesn’t often happen.

Some wanted Tejada just to be waived outright, but beyond the noted fact that St. Louis tends to limit situations where they pay someone not to play for them, especially before they actually get a chance, you have to keep Tejada around for a while in case Diaz is a small sample size fluke.  I don’t think he is and I don’t think the club thinks he is, but in case the league starts to adjust and Diaz doesn’t, you want to have someone who can take on the role on a regular basis.  Jedd Gyorko is much more suited to second, so there’s not a true shortstop behind Diaz.  Now, once Diaz gets out of the small sample size realm (or we get a little closer to the return of Jhonny Peralta), I wouldn’t be surprised to see Tejada let go depending on what he does here.  As I said yesterday, by the end of the season I’m betting Garcia is on the roster and Tejada is looking for work, but we are assuming a lot for a guy that hasn’t gotten into a game with the team yet.

Then there was the contingent that wanted to banish Matt Adams.  It’s true, Adams has struggled and it’s difficult to find him playing time.  It’s also difficult to think that Memphis would be much good for him.  Look, two years ago Adams hit .288 with 15 home runs.  Granted, a lot of that was in the first half (.329 with 11 HR) so it’s not surprising people have a long-running negative opinion of him.  Last year was a tough year, sure, but he was out for a large portion of the season with the quad injury.  Adams has value to a major league team–witness the two-run pinch-hit bomb he hit on Friday night–and while I don’t know how long he’s a Cardinal, to completely write him off because he’s struggled and been injured is a little strong.

The idea that he’d get regular at-bats in Memphis does have merit, but again, Adams has over 1100 AB in the big leagues.  I’m not sure what hitting against minor league pitching does for him.  You also don’t see four-year vets with that much experience go down to the minors all that often, either.  It’s just not a typical baseball practice.  Not saying it doesn’t or can’t happen, just that it’s not common.  Add to that you’d have five middle infielders on your roster (Tejada, Diaz, Gyorko, Garcia, and Kolten Wong) and that doesn’t necessarily seem to be the optimal roster configuration.  I know many disagree and that’s fine, because I understand where you are coming from, but I just don’t think there was any other move that was going to be made.  Now, when Tommy Pham returns–if he does, of course–that’s a different conversation, though Jeremy Hazelbaker is 0 for his last 10, so we’ll keep an eye to see if that situation doesn’t resolve itself.  (I’m not saying Hazelbaker is done by any means, but folks do tend to watch slumps by surprising players a little more than ones with more of a track record.)

Tonight’s a big game for the Cards, assuming you can actually have a big game in April.  I don’t think they want to hear more conversation about “the torch has been passed” and “there’s a new kid in town” and “it’s their year” and those choruses only get louder with every Cub win over the Redbirds.  The pitching side of things should be handled, as Jaime Garcia returns to the bump for the first time since his one-hitter against the Brewers.  Save for one inning against the Braves, Garcia’s had a very strong 2016 and there’s no reason to think that can’t continue.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Dexter Fowler 14 11 1 0 0 0 1 3 3 .091 .286 .091 .377 0 0 0 0 0
Jason Heyward 12 12 2 0 0 0 0 0 3 .167 .167 .167 .333 0 0 0 0 0
Miguel Montero 4 2 2 0 0 1 1 2 0 1.000 1.000 2.500 3.500 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
Kris Bryant 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Trevor Cahill 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Jason Hammel 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Jorge Soler 2 2 2 1 0 1 2 0 0 1.000 1.000 3.000 4.000 0 0 0 0 0
Kyle Hendricks 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 0
Anthony Rizzo 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Addison Russell 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 0
Total 47 40 7 1 0 2 6 5 15 .175 .267 .350 .617 2 0 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/19/2016.

Jason Hammel goes for the Cubs.  He’s made two starts and only allowed one total run, which isn’t really what you think of when you think of Hammel.  The Cards got him for two runs in three innings during last year’s NLDS and have had some success against him previously, so we’ll see if that holds true tonight.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Matt Holliday 16 13 4 3 0 0 0 2 4 .308 .438 .538 .976 0 0 0 1 0
Matt Carpenter 14 14 3 1 0 0 1 0 6 .214 .214 .286 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 14 13 6 3 0 0 2 1 1 .462 .500 .692 1.192 0 0 0 0 1
Brandon Moss 11 11 3 1 0 0 1 0 3 .273 .273 .364 .636 0 0 0 0 0
Jedd Gyorko 8 8 1 0 0 0 0 0 4 .125 .125 .125 .250 0 0 0 0 0
Randal Grichuk 7 7 2 0 1 1 3 0 2 .286 .286 1.000 1.286 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Adams 6 6 2 1 0 0 1 0 0 .333 .333 .500 .833 0 0 0 0 0
Stephen Piscotty 5 4 2 0 1 1 2 1 1 .500 .600 1.750 2.350 0 0 0 0 0
Kolten Wong 4 4 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 .250 .250 .500 .750 0 0 0 0 0
Ruben Tejada 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .333 .000 .333 0 0 0 0 0
Michael Wacha 3 3 1 0 0 0 2 0 1 .333 .333 .333 .667 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
Jaime Garcia 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 94 88 25 10 2 2 12 5 25 .284 .330 .511 .841 0 0 0 1 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/19/2016.

It was a tense game last night, at least for most of it.  It could be that way all season long between these two teams, but let’s hope today it’s St. Louis’s turn to come out on top!

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Frying Up a Series Win

The Cincinnati Reds came to town this weekend.  We continue to wonder when the bats might start to go silent.  The answer: not this weekend.

Friday (14-3 win)

Hero: Matt Holliday.  We’ve wondered if Father Time was catching up to Holliday a bit, given his slow start and the injuries sustained by Holliday last year.  Holliday made sure to put a little distance between them in this one, though, clouting two home runs, walking once, being hit by a pitch, and driving in four.  Holliday set the tone for this one with a three-run shot in the first inning and the team never looked back.  It was good to see Holliday Hulk out, giving everyone hope that there’s still something left in his tank.

Goat: A rough day for Stephen Piscotty.  While everyone else was out there hitting bombs and running bases, Piscotty went 0-5 and left four runners on base.  There’s always someone, even in the most offensive-minded of games, that doesn’t seem to get the memo.  This time, it was Piscotty.

Notes: Six home runs in this game.  That’s like two weeks of regular Cardinal offense!  Two pinch-hit home runs as well, from Brandon Moss and Matt Adams.  The bench has been absolutely amazing in the early going.  Through Saturday (I don’t think Baseball-Reference has updated for yesterday’s games yet), Cardinal pinch-hitters were 10-for-18 with six home runs.  Last year, all year long, the Cardinals had four pinch-hit homers.  They had two in 2014.  So already the Cards have equaled the long-ball production from the bench of the last two seasons!  In three weeks!  Granted, it’s a low bar to clear, but still, that’s incredible.  You have to go all the way back to 2009 to find a season where the Cardinals had more than six PH HR, and that’s eight (led by Rick Ankiel‘s two).  It seems so novel and exciting to see this because, well, it is novel!

It was good to see Adams join the fray as well.  Adams is going to continue to struggle to find playing time with Holliday in the mix at first, so he’s got to take advantage of the moments he does get.  There’s a lot of negativity around Adams as of late and it’s possible that some of it, most of it may be accurate, but it’d still be to the Cardinals’ advantage to see if they could get him going, if nothing else to increase his trade value.

Aledmys Diaz continues to rake, getting two hits including his second home run.  There was a thought that Ruben Tejada would be activated Sunday, and while that didn’t happen, it does appear he’ll be on the active roster for tonight’s game against the Cubs.  Tara and I talked about this on Gateway last night and while it would seem impossible for the club to actually demote Diaz, given that he’s proven that right now he can play regularly in the big leagues, that doesn’t mean they won’t try it.  However, given Tejada’s just $1.5 million, my feeling is that Greg Garcia gets optioned out while they try to see what they have in Tejada.  If you were to tell me that just one of them (Tejada or Garcia) would be on the roster in August, though, I’d put my money on Garcia.  In other words, I might not rush out and get a Tejada jersey if I were you.

All this talk about the offense, but the pitching was pretty good as well.  Carlos Martinez got nicked for a couple of bloopers before Joey Votto took him yard, but otherwise was outstanding, going seven and striking out six.  Perhaps the Cardinals should shuffle the rotation order to put Martinez and Jaime Garcia at the front of it!  It was good to see that, even with the offense rolling, the pitching wasn’t trying to “pitch to the score” but was still quite effective.

Saturday (9-8 loss)

Hero: Stephen Piscotty.  After being left out the day before, Piscotty had two hits, a walk, and four RBI, including a big three-run homer in the second that seemed to set the stage for another Cardinal romp.  Some days, that would have been enough.  Saturday was not one of those days.

Goat: Adam Wainwright.  The linescore really says it all: 5.1 IP, 10 H, 7 ER, 1 BB, 2 K.  We’ve seen outings like this from Wainwright before, but they were just blips, random bad nights that you didn’t see coming.  Wainwright’s made three starts this season and they’ve gotten progressively worse, with more runs in fewer pitches each time out.  The pattern needs to change or the Padres will be clipping him for 10 runs in 50 pitches on Friday.

The default for everyone is “it’s early, no need to panic” which is fairly true.  You’d have to figure that things will start working for Waino–he did have a couple of scoreless innings at the beginning of this one that made people more optimistic he’d figured it out, before the Reds started doubling and doubling and doubling.  As I said last night, we took that return late last year as a positive, thinking that Waino could have a regular offseason and we wouldn’t have to see any side effects from the layoff in 2016.  Now, it’s a negative for Wainwright, at least in the way we view him.  If he’d returned this spring instead of last fall, more people would probably be willing to allow for rust and other returning issues.

Still, that return happened.  Wainwright’s not using that as an excuse, though he allows that it might be playing a factor.  Even though it was relief and, as such, a different approach and mindset, Wainwright looked better last season, immediately after the injury, than he does months removed after a winter of regular training.  We shouldn’t panic, for sure, but there’s going to be a lot of wary concern for the next few Wainwright starts until he proves that the ace we know and love is truly back.

Notes: Two hits for Moss, including a two-out, ninth-inning home run that brought the Cards to within one run.  For a moment, it looked like the Rally Cards were returning, but one run with nobody on and two outs is a tough thing to try to get.  Diaz also had two hits, though he popped out to end the game with a runner on first.

The relief of Wainwright was a mixed bag.  Seung-hwan Oh threw two scoreless innings and Kevin Siegrist got an out, but Seth Maness continued to struggle, allowing a sacrifice fly, a double, an intentional walk, and another double before being replaced by Siegrist.  Maness now has an ERA approaching nine, which is a terribly scary thing because as a reliever his ERA doesn’t factor in those runs he allowed to score that were charged to other pitchers.  As the MLB.com story on him noted, it is especially worriesome because he’s not getting ground balls, but fly balls.  As we know, that’s not at all Maness’s typical work history.  Maness wasn’t nearly as effective last year either, which may mean that the workload is getting to him or the league is.  The shelf life of relievers is pretty short, after all, as they tend to lose their potency when the sample size gets big enough.

Sunday (4-3 win)

Hero: Eric Fryer.  For a man who was supposed to be minor league insurance, Eric Fryer is doing everything he can in the big leagues.  (Which, to be fair, could also describe Diaz and Jeremy Hazelbaker.)  Going into this game, he was 3-3 in three pinch-hit/late game appearances.  Nice way to start the season, sure, but three lone singles in games that were well decided didn’t mean much.  Apparently, though, Fryer just isn’t going to get out this year, getting three hits and drawing a walk in his first Cardinal start.  The last hit was the biggest, doubling in Diaz in the eighth to break the tie and set up Trevor Rosenthal for the save.  This well may be the highlight of Fryer’s season, but it just continues the theme that you never know exactly what to expect from these guys that “aren’t supposed to be here.”

Goat: Seven hits in this one and they were concentrated on Fryer and Greg Garcia (2), so there were plenty of 0-fers to choose from.  We’ll take Brandon Moss as our Goat because he had two strikeouts to go along with his hitless day, but we easily could have taken Piscotty or Randal Grichuk, who had similar lines without the Ks.  Adams might have joined them in the 0-4 club but Diaz pinch-hit and walked in his last AB, setting up the go-ahead run.

Notes: Michael Wacha wasn’t quite as sharp as his last outing, but his defense (both the folks behind him and his actual defense, given that he made an error) didn’t help.  Only one of the three runs he allowed were earned and he just went six innings, though that was more because his spot came up at a key moment and Mike Matheny sent up Hazelbaker, even though Wacha had only thrown 80 pitches.  (Not exactly your normal Matheny maneuver, but it was the right thing to do.)  The bullpen was solid, allowing just one baserunner, and Siegrist and Rosenthal combined to strike out five of the seven batters they faced.  That’ll do, folks, that’ll do.

Matheny played the getaway lineup on a day the Cardinals weren’t getting away to anywhere, with Kolten Wong, Holliday, Yadier Molina, and Hazelbaker all on the bench.  Matheny continues to sit Wong and play Jedd Gyorko against right-handers more often that it would seem he should, given Gyorko’s history with them and Wong’s ability to hit them.  If the entire point of that contract extension was to give Wong the confidence to go out and succeed, I’m not sure regularly benching him is really reinforcing that message.  Granted, Wong has been in a bit of a slump, but it’s tough to see a guy like that get shuffled out of the lineup so often.  When your “starter” has eight starts in 12 games, especially this early in the year, you start wondering how long he’ll have the “starter” label.  As Wong says, it’s nothing to be concerned about yet, but we have seen Matheny’s player usage be questionable in the past and with Tejada returning, it gives a little pause.  We’ll see how it develops.

The Cubs come into town for the first time this season and for the first time the Redbirds face old teammates in Jason Heyward and John Lackey.  They don’t have to wait for Lackey either as he’s up first thing in the rotation.  One of the quirks of his career is that, given he was in the AL before coming to St. Louis, there’s not a lot of history on the field between Lackey and many of the Cardinals.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Matt Holliday 15 13 1 0 1 0 0 2 3 .077 .200 .231 .431 0 0 0 0 0
Brandon Moss 9 8 4 1 0 0 2 1 0 .500 .556 .625 1.181 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Adams 7 7 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .143 .143 .143 .286 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Carpenter 7 7 3 1 0 0 0 0 1 .429 .429 .571 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 7 7 2 0 0 0 1 0 0 .286 .286 .286 .571 0 0 0 0 0
Jedd Gyorko 6 6 1 0 0 0 1 0 1 .167 .167 .167 .333 0 0 0 0 0
Eric Fryer 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 54 51 12 2 1 0 4 3 8 .235 .278 .314 .592 0 0 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/18/2016.

Holliday has struggled against him, Moss and Matt Carpenter have done pretty well in a limited sample.  I doubt that Matheny would keep Holliday out of the lineup two days in a row, but letting Moss play first tonight might not be a terrible thing.

Mike Leake hasn’t had to deal with the Cubs as a Cardinal before nor did he have Heyward or Lackey as a teammate, so perhaps he’s the perfect person to throw into the fire of this meeting.  No baggage, no sentiment, nothing to distract him from hopefully having a great outing.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Anthony Rizzo 33 30 10 2 0 2 5 3 5 .333 .394 .600 .994 0 0 0 0 2
Dexter Fowler 14 14 3 1 0 0 1 0 6 .214 .214 .286 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Jason Heyward 14 14 1 1 0 0 1 0 3 .071 .071 .143 .214 0 0 0 0 1
Miguel Montero 12 11 3 0 0 1 2 0 0 .273 .333 .545 .879 0 0 0 1 0
Jorge Soler 9 9 1 0 0 1 2 0 4 .111 .111 .444 .556 0 0 0 0 0
Kris Bryant 8 8 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 .375 .375 .500 .875 0 0 0 0 0
Addison Russell 7 7 1 1 0 0 0 0 4 .143 .143 .286 .429 0 0 0 0 0
David Ross 6 5 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .167 .000 .167 0 0 1 0 0
Jon Lester 5 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Travis Wood 5 2 0 0 0 0 0 2 2 .000 .500 .000 .500 1 0 0 0 0
Kyle Hendricks 4 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 1 0 0 0 0
Ben Zobrist 3 3 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 .667 .667 1.333 2.000 0 0 0 0 0
Trevor Cahill 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Tommy La Stella 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Szczur 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 125 116 24 8 0 4 11 6 29 .207 .252 .379 .631 2 0 1 1 3
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/18/2016.

Heyward is 1 for 14 and I don’t think there are going to be many Cardinal fans that will be disappointed if his struggles against Leake continue in this one.  Leake’s done pretty well against the Cubs overall, though Anthony Rizzo–who is continuing to build his Cardinal-killer resume–has been a thorn in his side.

The players aren’t going to get terribly worked up about this one, but you know that the fanbase will be.  I’m sure there will be boos for Heyward and Lackey, though the latter makes less sense given I don’t know the Cardinals really actively pursued him (and I’m pretty sure most of us didn’t want them to, given his age).  For myself, I won’t be torn up about it if Heyward goes 0-4 with two strikeouts and Lackey is chased by the fifth, but I’m not someone that can get stirred up enough to actively wish them ill or boo them until the cows come home.  Some can and they have that right, but that’s not the way I’d approach it.

Whatever attitude and lens you bring to your viewing of this game, there’s no doubt it’s going to have much more intrigue and excitement than a normal April series does!  For the Cubs, this will be like playoff baseball! (You see, because they don’t have much October experience and….oh, never mind.)

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2016 HOF Ballot

For the third year in a row, the Cardinals have opened the voting for the new class of Cardinal Hall of Famers to the public after providing a quality ballot.  The top two in the voting will be added to the 2016 HOF class and inducted in August.

Many of the names on the ballot are the same, as the club seems to be taking the route of leaving a player on if he didn’t get enough votes in the past to make the cut.  For the most part, at least.  Steve Carlton was removed from the year’s ballot, which would lead me to believe he will be selected as the veteran’s committee pick this year. Keith Hernandez, Joe Torre, Mark McGwire, and Matt Morris are all getting their third crack at getting in while Edgar Renteria is back for his second.  The newcomers this year are fairly legendary in their own right: Chris Carpenter, Jason Isringhausen and Scott Rolen.

Before we get into this year’s group, let’s review who was elected by the fans the last couple of years.  In 2014, outfielders Jim Edmonds and Willie McGee made the cut.  (McGee was so obvious that you’d almost swear they came up with the HOF concept just to honor him.)  Last year, things went a little more historical with Ted Simmons and the late Bob Forsch getting the nods.

So after two years, there’s been a good mix between positions and eras.  How would I rank this year’s ballot?  This is just my personal opinion, not a guess how it will shake out.

8) Keith Hernandez.  I know that Hernandez started out in St. Louis and had his first bit of success here, sharing the 1979 MVP with Willie Stargell and helping win the 1982 World Series.   However, I really can’t help but thinking of him as a New York Met.  He had his best years there, won another World Series there, and is still one of their broadcasters.  I’m not saying he doesn’t deserve to be in the Cardinal Hall of Fame, just that I’d put a few folks in before him.  Sorry, Pip!

7) Joe Torre.  Another quality guy that gets associated with a lot of different teams.  Obviously, he made the Cooperstown Hall as the Yankees manager, he played longer with the Braves than the Cardinals, and he was a Met as well.  Torre’s managerial stint in St. Louis was not necessarily overwhelming, though when you factor in all the variables it could have been worse.  He won the 1971 MVP in St. Louis, but only had about three or four good years under the Arch.  Again, I think others have stronger cases.

6) Matt Morris.  I was a huge fan of Morris when he was playing, as he was one of the first homegrown pitching prospects to pan out when I started paying more attention to the sport.  Morris was one of the reasons the club moved into contention in the early 2000s.  Things started to go downhill in 2004 and he wound up with a little time in Pittsburgh and San Francisco to end his career, but he was a great representative of this club for most of his career.  Plus, we’ll never forget how the loss of Darryl Kile impacted him.  Morris was the only Cardinal representative to the 2002 All-Star Game (and wasn’t eligible to play due to health) but took the DK 57 jersey with him to honor Kile on a larger stage.

Morris and DK

5) Edgar Renteria. Those early 2000s teams had a lot of players that captured the fan base’s imagination and Renteria was right in that mix.  Acquired from the Marlins, for which he already had a legendary World Series-winning hit, for Braden Looper and two other players that never amounted to much, Renteria became a key supporting player in the MV3 era.  He never hit fewer than 10 home runs in a season while in St. Louis (for comparison, you could about combine the numbers of the starters between him and Jhonny Peralta and come up with 10 total) and hit over .300 twice for the club.  Renteria’s six years with St. Louis were more than anywhere else, but he won World Series in Florida and San Francisco.  Add to that the fact that he left for Boston right after the 2004 World Series for a minimal amount of more money and he’s probably one that gets in at some time, but not this year.

4) Mark McGwire.  There’s no doubt that McGwire has a mixed legacy in St. Louis, given the revelations that came out after his playing days.  However, there’s no doubt that 1998 and 1999 were some of the most exciting times in St. Louis and made his imprint on the city.  When you think of Mark McGwire the player, you don’t think of him as an Oakland A, but rather a Cardinal.  He was also a pretty good hitting coach and it seems like a lot of fans would like to see him back in that role, even though he’s now the bench coach for the Padres.  For just the impact he had on baseball history–perhaps positively and negatively–I’d like to see him in.  Of course, I’ve always been a McGwire fan and apologist, so I realize I may not be in the majority here.

3) Jason Isringhausen.  We tend to remember the wild and crazy Izzy, the guy that could put the winning run on base before getting the last out.  Some may remember some relief when he went on the disabled list in 2006, letting a guy named Adam Wainwright be the closer for that postseason run.  That’s all fair, but we also should remember that Isringhausen holds the career saves lead for St. Louis, a club that has had a lot of premium closers pass through town.  (To continue to be fair, folks like Lee Smith, Bruce Sutter, Tom Henke et al didn’t spend as much time in St. Louis as Izzy did.)  Isringhausen had seven years of at least 30 saves, including a then-record 47 in 2004, a record Trevor Rosenthal just topped last season.  Isringhausen has stayed around the organization, doing a little TV for FOX Sports Midwest here and there as well as continuing to make appearances in spring training.  He definitely should get in one of these days.

2) Scott Rolen.  I’m a complete Scott Rolen homer, because I’ve never seen defense like the way Rolen played third base, especially when he was in St. Louis.  (Defense so strong that, even in just a season and a half in Toronto after leaving St. Louis Blue Jay bloggers could put up a top 10 list from his time there.)  Whether it was throwing out a runner from the seat of his pants, snaring anything that came into his airspace, or just basically making anything hit to third an automatic out, Rolen was a joy to behold in the field.  It’s not like his offense was anything to sneeze at either, of course.  There’s a reason they called it MV3 not MV2.  I will always claim that if David Eckstein was anything other than the definition of scrappy (and, as such, providing a wonderful narrative), Rolen would have been the World Series MVP in 2006 and should have been anyway.  I hated the Rolen trade at the time (though I’m still impressed that John Mozeliak was able to get such value in Troy Glaus for a guy that everyone knew he had to trade) and I still wish Rolen had spent a long, fruitful career under the Arch.  It would be wonderful to see him again in St. Louis this summer.

1) Chris Carpenter.  Nothing has to be said about Carp, honestly.  He was the fire of this franchise for a significant amount of time.  When he was healthy, they won.  When he wasn’t, they didn’t for the most part.  The only Cy Young winner the club has had since Bob Gibson, if you ever wanted to see the competitiveness and fire and absolute ability Carp had, the 2011 NLDS Game 5 is on DVD and on YouTube.  People pointed to Carpenter as the face of the Cardinals (along with Albert Pujols, I guess), which was either a positive or a negative depending on the person doing the pointing.  If there’s a slam dunk on this ballot, Carpenter is it.  Get that man a red jacket.

If you want to do your own voting, you can head over to the official site and cast your ballot.  You really can’t make a wrong choice with this great group of nominees!

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