C70 At The Bat

Friends In Low (and High) Places

There was a train of thought, completely sound, that the Cardinals had to sweep the Rockies to keep their wild card chances legitimate.  They weren’t quite able to do that (sweeps are hard, especially for this team who hasn’t swept a three game series since the four-gamer against the Padres in mid-July and again failed to hit the 10-games over .500 level) but with a little help, they left Colorado in better shape than they arrived.  Hug a Braves (or Dodgers) fan today, will ya?

Monday (5-3 win)

Hero: Carlos Martinez.  It wasn’t the most dominating pitching game we’ve ever seen out of Car Mart, but two runs in five innings in Colorado isn’t too bad, especially when you factor in the plunk on the knee early on.  However, his bat made a big difference, doubling in the tie-breaking runs in the fourth that led to the eventual final tally.  Adam Wainwright gets the press for his power this year, but Martinez leads the staff in average, I believe.

Goat: Aledmys Diaz.  o-5 with a strikeout.  Brandon Moss was considered here as well (0-4, 2K) and it’s pretty obvious his slump might have been interrupted but not ended.

Notes: While you have the arms, you hate to see that many bullpen folks get used in the first game of a series in Colorado.  That said, they did fine, with the only run coming off of Kevin Siegrist in the ninth.  Siegrist let the game get a little dicey, putting two runners on after that home run for Nolan Arenado, who just about won the game for the Rockies.  Instead, the ball settled into a glove and the Cards pulled it out.

Randal Grichuk continues to produce since his recall in early August.  In this one, he had just one hit, but it was a two-run home run that briefly gave the Cardinals a lead.  Hits weren’t too much of a problem in this one, as Yadier Molina, Matt Carpenter, and Jedd Gyorko had two hits each.

As noted, the bullpen did fine and it wasn’t necessarily the obvious names, either.  Dean Kiekhefer and Jonathan Broxton combined on a scoreless frame.  Zach Duke went 1.1 innings without allowing anything.  It’s good to have some other options for the next week-plus, though we’ll see who of this group makes the playoff roster should the Cardinals get there.

Also on this night, the Braves beat the Mets and the Dodgers beat the Giants, so the Cards moved into a tie for the second wild card and just one out of the top spot.

Tuesday (10-5 win)

Hero: Adam Wainwright.  Again, the pitcher gets the tag, but more for his bat than his arm.  Wainwright had another lackluster start, allowing four runs in 5.1 innings, though at least there were no disaster innings for him.  (He allowed solo runs in four different frames.)  However, save for the first one he gave up while the game was scoreless, he usually had a cushion to work with, having leads of 5-1, 8-2, and 9-3.  You don’t know if he’d pitched a little different if he didn’t have the run support, but it at least helped deal with the runs he was allowing.

And, to be fair, he made up for the four runs he allowed by driving in four of his own.  Waino went 2-2 with a single and a double, raising his RBI total for the year to 18, most in the DH era, I believe.  While I love the slugging Wainwright and he should get the Silver Slugger this year for a pitcher, he may want to spend a little more time this offseason with the pitching side of things.  We’ll take a hitless Waino if we get closer to ace Waino on the mound.

Goat: Brandon Moss.  There were two starters who didn’t get a hit on a night where the team tallied 14.  Jhonny Peralta went 0-4, but scored two runs.  Moss, on the other hand, went 0-4 with only a single RBI to mitigate his night.  Moss is hitting .082/.162/.180 in September and the weak stretch goes back even further than that.  It’s tough to sit him, given the fact that he does have a lot of power and that’s a dangerous weapon, but it’s also to the point where he’s hurting the flow of the offense more than helping it.  Even if he plays, it might be time to look at him lower in the lineup until he gets it figured out.

Notes: Randal Grichuk kept hitting in this one, going 3-4 with four runs and an RBI.  Gyorko and Molina also had two hits yet again and on a night where the Cardinals sat both Matt Carpenter and Aledmys Diaz, they put up their first serious score since Labor day.  Also, Tommy Pham got to pinch-hit, so Mike Matheny hasn’t actually forgotten about him, which was at least in doubt for a little while.

Not a bad night out of the bullpen either.  Two scoreless innings out of Michael Wacha raised a lot of hopes that he can be an effective part of the bullpen for the rest of 2016.  The other returning injured pitcher, Trevor Rosenthal, was a little shakier, giving up three hits and a run.  For those hoping that Rosie is closer to ’15 Rosie, this wasn’t a good sign.  Still has to be some rust on that arm, but I’m not sure how often with this tight race the Cards can run him out there to get it freshened up.

In the wild card race, the Giants were actually able to beat LA but the Braves again took care of the Mets, so all three teams were tied and all the wild tiebreaker scenarios started floating around.

Wednesday (11-1 loss)

Hero: Jaime Garcia.  While the game wasn’t all that close when he came in, Garcia made sure that it wouldn’t get any worse, throwing four scoreless innings in what was probably a successful attempt to return to the rotation.  He allowed just one hit and struck out five over that span, turning in probably the best pitching performance of the whole series.  Just too bad it was 6-1 when he came in and the offense didn’t take advantage of his lifeline.

Goat: Luke Weaver.  I’m currently working on rewriting A New Hope to feature Luke Skyweaver, a young hero who saves the Cardinals.  Unfortunately, it’s becoming more fictional each start.  Weaver had nothing today, getting out of the first with limited damage before having it all fall apart in the second.  Eight baserunners in two innings isn’t likely to work out well and loading the bases for Nolan Arenado, especially when Weaver typically gives up a home run a start, just invited trouble.  It was clear enough even I saw it coming.

Weaver now has had two starts in a row where he’s given up six runs, even though last time out they weren’t earned (and, as such, not entirely on him, though mainly).  You have to wonder if it wouldn’t be better to slip Garcia back into the rotation and let Weaver work out of the pen.  After all, he’s deeper into a season than he’s ever been (with a handful more innings than he had last year) and there’s a lot at stake here.  Garcia, for all his warts, seems to have caught a second wind in the bullpen.  Whether that’s due to a little more rest or the bullpen situation, I don’t know.  There’s an argument either way.

Let’s look at how the rotation should/could play out the rest of the way.  Mike Leake, Alex Reyes, and Carlos Martinez are going against the Cubs, as the Cardinals aren’t using the offday to juggle things, at least right then.  Wainwright would then start at home against Cincy, with Garcia/Weaver, Leake, and Reyes following.  The final series of the year would have Martinez, Wainwright, and Garcia/Weaver going against the Pirates.

With the wild card race the way it is, it seems unlikely the Cardinals will be able to clinch anything early enough to change these plans.  You’d like to see things work so that you could skip Martinez against the Pirates, but do you really want to risk basically a bullpen game there?  Even if you could start Wacha, you don’t know how that’d go or how long he’d go.  Doing anything right now to make winning more of a gamble isn’t exactly sound strategy.

If this holds and the Cardinals don’t have to play any extra tie-breakers but get into the playoffs, that could mean Alex Reyes starting the wild card game and Carlos Martinez going in Game 1 against the Cubs should they win.  There could be worse things, I’d think.  I will say that I always felt the 2006 Cardinals had a better chance than many people gave them because I thought their pitching matchups worked for them when I looked at it ahead of time.  I’m not sure that’s the case here, but getting Reyes and Martinez in big spots wouldn’t hurt.

Notes: Kolten Wong drove in the only RBI with a sacrifice fly.  Jeremy Hazelbaker scored the only run after doubling and being moved over by Carson Kelly.  Nobody got more than one hit, though, and the excitement generated by the pre-game National Anthem standoff seemed to dissipate quickly.  By time Arenado’s ball landed, the game felt like it was over, and it was only the second inning.  Of course, that was their ninth try to get 10 games over and they are now 0-9, so maybe it was over even before then.

A well-deserved day off for both Stephen Piscotty and Yadier Molina.  Yadi’s been hitting, but Piscotty has been scuffling for like two months and has only had a couple of days to rest in that span.  That’s the problem with moving Moss down in the lineup–besides Molina, few others are doing much to generate offense.  There’s a reason they haven’t scored six runs but twice this month.

With the Cardinals losing in the afternoon, that meant we had a lot of time for recriminations and worry about the evening games of the Mets and Giants.  With the Mets going against the Braves and getting an early lead, that seemed to be a big issue.  Atlanta tied it, took a ninth-inning lead, then robbed Yoenis Cespedes of a walk-off homer.  The Giants, as they’ve been doing, laid an egg to the Dodgers and so, after all that, all three teams are tied yet again.

Tonight, the Mets can get a little bit of an edge as they host the Phillies.  It’s not one of the big aces going for the Mets–it’s Seth Lugo–but he’s done well in the big so far.  On the flip side, I think Philadelphia has won four of five and aren’t just an atrocious team.  You figure the Mets will win, but there are no guarantees.

The Giants can keep pace as they go to San Diego to face the Padres.  The Padres have been a thorn for the Giants of late, having won the last six games the two teams have played, including a sweep just before the Cardinals went out there.  The way the Giants are free-falling, you’d hate to ever pick them to win a game, but it’s Jeff Samardzija versus Christian Fredrich, so you’d think they’d have an edge.

The Cards have their final off day of the season today, so by the end of the night they could be the first wild card, out of the playoffs, or somewhere in between.  This last week-plus is going to be wild, isn’t it?

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A young hero, pressed into difficult situations, becoming the backbone of an uprising.  No, I’m for once not talking about The Force Awakens, I’m talking about the Cardinals’ Rey(es).  Before we get there, though, we need to look at the other two games of the series.

Friday (8-2 loss)

Hero: Matt Carpenter, I guess.  Carp had two hits, which is more than anyone else had.  Yadier Molina drove in the only two runs for St. Louis, but it was his error that opened the floodgates for that six-run third.

Goat: Luke Weaver.  Placing the hopes of an organization on a young man’s shoulder is a big ask of anyone.  Our SkyWeaver has done so well in most of his starts, but it all came unraveled here.  Nothing was struck terribly hard, save for perhaps Brandon Belt‘s double, but he couldn’t plug the leak and the mess continued to worsen.

Notes: A storm came through my area about the time this game started, one strong enough to knock out my DirecTV reception.  By time it cleared, I had no interest in turning the game on.  This was a tough game to have at any time of the year, but against the team you are chasing for the wild card with just a couple of weeks left?  It felt like a dagger to the hopes of Cardinal fans everywhere.  There have been a few lows this year, but this might have been the time when the largest swath of the fanbase believed October was out of reach.

Jaime Garcia came out of the bullpen in this one for the first time, I believe, since his rookie year of 2008.  Besides the fact that he gave up Buster Posey‘s first home run in two months, it wasn’t a terrible outing for him.  Garcia went two innings, striking out five.  Judging by the numbers, it was a pretty good outing.  We’ll see how he is used over the next couple of weeks.  I thought that it might just be a temporary drop to the bullpen, but Sunday probably made that permanent for 2016.

Also, Trevor Rosenthal pitched a scoreless inning, striking out two batters while he did so and looking much more like the Rosenthal we remembered from last year.  If that continues, it can only help either hunt San Francisco down or aid in their quest to overthrow Chicago in the playoffs.

Saturday (3-2 win)

Hero: Randal Grichuk.  The offense didn’t do much, but it came together when it counted.  Down 2-1 in the ninth, just two outs away from facing almost a sheer cliff to get back to October, Grichuk’s single tied it up and set the stage for Kolten Wong‘s sacrifice fly.  Grichuk also stole a base in the ninth and wound up on third, but thankfully the fact that Seung-hwan Oh was batting for himself and struck out didn’t come back to bite the Cards.

Goat: Aledmys Diaz.  0-4 with a double play into the mix.  Tough night for him and Stephen Piscotty, though Piscotty had a rough series.

Notes: Wong was strong in this one, with a hit, two walks, and the game winning sacrifice fly.  It’s great to see him playing with such intensity throughout this stretch.  Also good offensively was Brandon Moss, who only had one hit, but it was a home run in the first to give the Cardinals their first lead since his home run on Tuesday put them ahead of Chicago.  If they want to do anything in the postseason (assuming they get there) St. Louis is going to need Moss to be swinging his power bat.

A solid game from Mike Leake, allowing two runs in six innings.  It could have been a little worse had not his opposite number, Jeff Samardzija, flown into a sacrifice double play.  The only other time I’ve seen such a notation was earlier this year, when the Cardinals did it.  I thought at the time that only the Cardinals, with their terrible baserunning, could make such a play happen.  I guess I was wrong.  Anyway, if anyone had said Leake was going to step up and perhaps give you the best start of the week, I don’t think many would have believed them.  Without him keeping the Giants in check, though, the ninth inning rally couldn’t happen.

Kudos to Jedd Gyorko for the single that started it all in the ninth.  After that ridiculously hot stretch where he was homering every other night (and that wasn’t an exaggeration), he’s hitting .219 with a double as his only extra-base hit.  It’s not surprising that he’d cool after that stretch, but hopefully we’ll see a little more of the Gyorko we’d come to know during the next couple of weeks.

Sunday (3-0 win)

Hero: Alex Reyes.  What more can you say about the rookie?  He came into the biggest start of his career and treated it like a showcase for scouts.  Seven innings, his longest at any level this season, and all scoreless.  The knock on Reyes has always been his control, but he got through seven with just 84 pitches.  Had his turn in the lineup not come up, he easily could have been sent out there for the eighth.  The only jams he really got into basically dealt with him throwing to first, as Matt Carpenter didn’t see a pickoff move and then Reyes threw away a little dribbler that Molina tried to tell him to eat.  With runners on second and third, one out, Hunter Pence up, what does he do?  Just strike out Pence, that notorious Cardinal killer, then get Eduardo Nunez to fly out to end the inning after walking Brandon Belt on a questionable call.  No big thing, y’all.

Yesterday was why the Cardinals are so excited about him and why Cardinal fans dream of a rotation fronted by him and Carlos Martinez.  Add in a normally solid Luke Weaver, Adam Wainwright to mentor and hopefully be a Chris Carpenter type, and you have to think that this year’s pitching woes are more the anomaly rather than the shape of things to come.

Goat: Jedd Gyorko.  Was going to go with Stephen Piscotty, but Piscotty did draw a walk.  Gyorko, on the other hand, went 0-4 and struck out twice.

Notes: Aledmys Diaz provided basically all the punch Reyes needed, socking a two-run homer in the third.  The Cardinals couldn’t do a lot more with Albert Suarez or that supposedly shaky Giants bullpen, especially Cory Gearrin, who struck out five Cardinals in two perfect innings.  Thankfully they didn’t need any more than what they got, though as fans we’d have been fine with a little insurance at times.

Two hits for Molina in this one and a big pinch-hit for Jhonny Peralta, who hit the ball extremely hard and drove in the third run of the game.  Many couldn’t figure out why Peralta only got a single out of that, but the ball did get off the wall in a hurry and the Giants got it back in quickly.  That said, Peralta may have thought he got more of it than he did (I initially thought it might be a homer) and I don’t know how fast he got out of the box.  Anyway, when it comes to Cardinal baserunning, the more cautious they are, the less likely they are to run into an out, right?  I mean, look at Molina and his ability to be caught stealing twice yesterday.  Maybe the second time he was trying to get into a rundown so Moss could score, but 1) that hardly ever works and 2) Moss had no idea and never left third.  Baserunning, folks.  Baserunning.

The Cardinals go to Colorado as Martinez matches up against Tyler Anderson.  Anderson is having a pretty good season, especially by the standards of Rockies pitching.  Heck, you could use the standards of the Cardinal rotation this year, as Anderson has a 3.65 ERA in 17 starts.  He struggled last time, giving up six runs (five earned) in Arizona over 4.1 innings, but he had three solid starts before that.  He’s actually much better at Coors Field (3.04 ERA) than on the road (5.10 ERA), which isn’t something you see every day.  Cardinals haven’t faced him before, so take that for what it’s worth.

The Rockies have seen Martinez and Carlos hasn’t gotten the better end of the deal.  He hasn’t faced them this year, but last year when he saw them in Busch Stadium in July, they got five runs in five innings off of him.  He’s pitched two games (one start) in Coors and has a 6.75 ERA.  Martinez is definitely better than he was in the past, but that ballpark can get a lot of good pitchers.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Charlie Blackmon 8 8 4 1 0 0 0 0 1 .500 .500 .625 1.125 0 0 0 0 0
DJ LeMahieu 8 7 4 1 0 0 1 0 0 .571 .625 .714 1.339 0 0 0 1 2
Nolan Arenado 7 7 2 1 0 0 1 0 1 .286 .286 .429 .714 0 0 0 0 0
Carlos Gonzalez 6 6 2 1 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .500 .833 0 0 0 0 0
Nick Hundley 5 5 2 1 0 0 1 0 1 .400 .400 .600 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Gerardo Parra 5 4 1 0 0 1 2 0 1 .250 .250 1.000 1.250 1 0 0 0 0
Daniel Descalso 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .333 .000 .333 0 0 0 0 0
Chris Rusin 2 2 2 0 0 1 2 0 0 1.000 1.000 2.500 3.500 0 0 0 0 0
Chad Bettis 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Mark Reynolds 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 46 43 17 5 0 2 7 1 6 .395 .422 .651 1.073 1 0 0 1 2
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/19/2016.

Mets host the Braves while the Giants go up to LA.  If all goes as planned, the Cards could tie for that last spot and keep pace with the Mets, but we’ll have to wait and see, because baseball doesn’t care for plans!

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Given the last couple of games, you’d be forgiven if you came to the conclusion that the answer to that question is “no”.  At a time when wins are paramount, it’s seemed at times that the club is just going through the motions.  While we might not want to, we probably should talk about the last game against the Cubs and the first game against the Giants.

Wednesday (7-0 loss to Chicago)

Hero: There were only four baserunners and the pitching was either inadequate or irrelevant.  So it’s not easy to put someone here, but I’ll go with Stephen Piscotty in a coin-flip over Yadier Molina.  Both were 1-3 and didn’t strike out, but whatever fraction of the responsibility Molina should have for the pitching makes him lose out here.

Goat: Carlos Martinez.  We’re already holding Carlos to a higher standard as befitting his talent.  Four runs in six innings with nine strikeouts would be perfectly expected from Mike Leake or Jaime Garcia, but the Cards really needed more out of their de facto ace.  It wouldn’t have likely mattered, given the way Jon Lester pitched, but it would have been nice.

It seems like it Martinez’s last few starts that the first 2-3 innings, he’s going so well that you start dreaming about a no-hitter, only to see him crater (relatively) in the middle frames.  Martinez allowed a homer in the third, but then three runs in the fifth and sixth to keep that pattern going.  I don’t know if it’s the end of the season fatigue or what, but it seems to be happening more and more often.

Notes: The less said about this one the better.  Michael Wacha was activated and got tagged for three runs, including Anthony Rizzo‘s second longball.  (Rizzo is working his way higher and higher on the Cardinal killer list, if he’s not almost at the top already.)  You’d like to think that was because he’d not pitched since over a month and hopefully that’s all it was, but we won’t really know until the next outing, whenever that may be.  Other than that, I don’t have much to say here.

Thursday (6-2 loss at San Francisco)

Hero: Randal Grichuk.  The only player with two hits in either of these two games, which indicates exactly how badly this vaunted offense is sputtering.  Grichuk also scored one of the two runs and drove in the other.

Goat: It has to be Adam Wainwright, doesn’t it?  Four runs in 5.2 innings.  Nine hits.  Three walks.  Sure, he got burned a little bit by Jhonny Peralta being unable to hold on to Piscotty’s throw to get a runner at third and by his manager’s questionable decision to walk the eighth place hitter with two on and one out, but still, a good Wainwright gets out of a lot of these messes.  The home run to Hunter Pence was a tough way to start, though Pence is another one of those that always seems to have a great game when he plays against the Cardinals.  To give those other runs up right after the club had tied the game for you, though, is just not what we’ve come to expect from Uncle Charlie.

Perhaps we need to start expecting it, though.  Jenifer Langosch pointed out that he has the next-to-worst road ERA in the league.  Let’s look at this a little bit.

Start Opponent Road IP Road R
1 Pittsburgh 6 3
2 Atlanta 5 5
3 San Diego 6 3
4 Arizona 5.1 4
5 LA Angels 5 7
6 Washington 7 4
7 Cincinnati 6 2
8 Chicago 6.2 3
9 Kansas City 5 6
10 New York 6.2 4
11 Cincinnati 5 2
12 Chicago 2 7
13 Philadelphia 6 3
14 Milwaukee 7 1
15 Pittsburgh 5 4
16 San Francisco 5.2 4

That’s not a pretty line, folks.  Twice he gave up more runs than innings pitched and once they equaled.  Most of those teams aren’t exactly cream of the crop, either.  Getting pounded by Chicago makes some sense (although not that badly) but Atlanta?  Barely getting a quality start in San Diego?  Struggling against a Giants team that doesn’t have much in the way of offense on a regular basis?

I’m not anywhere close to a pitching expert and Joe Schwarz looked at this in much better detail and experience back in June, but it really all seems to boil down to the fact that Wainwright’s signature pitch, the curve, isn’t working.  Brooks Baseball does a great job with things like this and I went to check out Wainwright’s batting average against on the curveball.  Here’s the chart:

brooksbaseball-chart

 

As you can see, the entire 2016 season the batting average against on the curve has been much higher than in the past.  He’s only had one month this season (April, which is a bit surprising given his return from injury and still settling in) that the BAA was under .225.  In 2014 he had five such months.  In 2013 the highest he allowed on the curve was .229 in October.

We’ve seen that all year long.  The curve either is hanging up there and getting pounded (his isolated power on the curve is notably higher than any other time in his career) or it’s not in the strike zone and batters can wait for the fastball.  The good old days of seeing Waino drop nasty curve after nasty curve past hitters that look like statues is probably over.  He can still flash it at times and he can have nights where it might be on, but those nights aren’t going to be the norm, it doesn’t seem like.

Wainwright just turned 35.  He’s had two major injuries.  He’s pitched in the postseason six different years.  Age comes for us all, it just comes more quickly for others.  And it’s hard to believe when we’ve watched a guy be so good for so long that time may have come for him as well.

Now, with all that said, does that mean Wainwright is done as an effective pitcher?  That’s not necessarily the case.  I’m sure he’s going to work very hard this offseason to try to figure out what to do and how to adjust.  I just think he might have to come back with a mindset of being the crafty veteran instead of a guy that’s an ace and can go to his big weapon at any time.  I definitely want him on the Cardinals next year (and, since he’s got two more years on his contract, he’s not going anywhere).  He’s just not going to be the Cy Young guy we saw before.  And that’s OK, even if it takes some getting used to.

Notes: Let’s talk a little about Mike Matheny‘s decision in the fourth.  Wainwright walked Brandon Belt to lead off the frame, which is the worst thing you can do when your team just got you the tying run.  He gets Brandon Crawford, but then allows a double to Eduardo Nunez.  Runners on second and third, one out, and Denard Span coming up.

As you know, when the Giants and Cardinals get together, I spend a little time at THE San Francisco Giants Blog.  Unsurprisingly, given the way the second half has gone, there’s some grumbling about things and one of the things was the fact that Span is not hitting at all.  Bruce Bochy, like Matheny, didn’t seem to recognize that and left him at the top of the order until last night, when he finally had to make a move.  He was hitting .068/.146/.159 in the month of September before last night.  So, instead of going after him and getting an out, Matheny walks him intentionally to get to Johnny Cueto.

This doesn’t make a lot of sense at all.  Sure, Span is more likely to get a hit than Cueto, and with two outs this is a no-brainer of a decision.  But there’s only one out.  Even if you get the most expected outcome, a Cueto strikeout, you then have the top of the order coming up with the bases loaded and two outs.  Maybe you think you can get out of that one, especially since Angel Pagan has been struggling as well and you’d already gotten him out twice tonight, but it seems like a risky bet the way that Wainwright was going.

Of course, Cueto winds up getting a sacrifice fly (for some reason Piscotty’s throw wasn’t as strong as the one he made later to third, though I don’t know if it would have mattered) and Pagan singled in a run anyway.  Because that’s the way things are going for the Cardinals.  (To be fair, they have been going that way for the Giants as well, just not last night.)

The Cardinals always have trouble with Cueto, but the Giants bullpen has been a dumpster fire, especially of late.  So the hope would have to be to keep the game close, wear down Cueto, and win it late with this offense that has scored so often in the 7-9 innings.  Instead, Cueto retires the last 17 men he faces (nobody after Grichuk’s RBI single reached base) and goes the distance.  Not exactly the way St. Louis drew it up.

It seems to me that the outliers the Cardinals have had over the last few seasons always seemed to fail them late or in the postseason.  In 2013, the legendary RISP year, that seemed to fade in October.  Last year, it was the historic starting pitching, but it stumbled in September and wasn’t there in the playoffs.  This year, the offense has been the story, but as we’ve noted recently, it’s been quiet late in the year.  Perhaps Black Widow mentioned that the sun’s getting real low and they’ve turned back into Bruce Banner.

Last Cueto note: I’m pretty sure nobody that was around in 2010 ever expected to see Molina and Cueto laughing together.  There are few players in baseball I don’t care for and I’m fine with the Reds, but I always want to see the Cardinals beat Cueto.  They just can’t do it often enough.

Before the game, there was a lot of angst around lineup time because Aledmys Diaz wasn’t in it.  Matheny explained that Diaz had a scheduled day off due to his returning from the DL earlier this week.  I get that and there’s logic there, though as some point out it doesn’t seem like it is logic that gets applied to everyone else.  The problem is that there are just 2 1/2 weeks left of the season and every game is huge right now.  In May, June, July you can get away with that more than you can now.  My guess is Diaz really needed the rest and it wasn’t a precautionary thing, and it may pan out if that means he can play the rest of the way, but it’s tough when one of your best players is sitting in a very important matchup.

There was also some confusion pregame as Trevor Rosenthal was reported to be activated, then reported that he was not going to be activated, then finally activated.  Rosie didn’t know that he was, which might tell you how prepared he was to go into a game last night.  (Give Matheny credit, he didn’t immediately throw him out there like he did Wacha, though perhaps it would have been a good idea for him to throw the eighth or ninth since they weren’t coming back anyway.)  I’m very interested to see how Rosenthal does now that he says he’s pain-free for the first time this season.  (Whether or not he actually is pain-free is a totally different topic.)  If he’s effective, the pen gets much better.  Now if the starters could improve…..

Speaking of starters, Alex Reyes is officially pitching Sunday, moving Jaime Garcia to the bullpen for the moment.  In a recent blog, you might remember that I suggested skipping his start against the Giants then juggling so his next start was at home against the Reds.  I don’t know if that’s what we’ll see–probably depends on if they stay in the wild card race–but it’s interesting that they are making this move.  I still think they pick up the option, though I do think he’s a tradable asset, even if it’s not at the level he would have been last year.

Cardinals send out their other top rookie, Luke Weaver, to face the Giants tonight.  Weaver looked good against the Brewers, but he has really looked good against basically everyone.  There’s no particular reason to think he can’t do the same tonight.  The Giants counter with trade deadline acquisition Matt Moore, who allowed just two runs in seven innings against Arizona last time.  ‘Course, the time before he gave up six in 2.2 in Colorado.  On the whole, though, Moore’s been quite a good addition to a team that needed an infusion of pitching.  Unsurprisingly, given his time in the AL East, the Cards aren’t all that familiar with him.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Brandon Moss 5 5 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 .200 .200 .200 .400 0 0 0 0 0
Jhonny Peralta 5 5 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 .400 .400 .600 1.000 0 0 0 0 1
Brayan Pena 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .500 .000 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Total 12 11 3 1 0 0 1 1 0 .273 .333 .364 .697 0 0 0 0 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/16/2016.

I see no reason why this won’t be a good pitcher’s duel.  Moore has only gone past the sixth twice as a Giant, so keep it close and beat up on the bullpen.  Hopefully that’s a winning strategy!

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Welcome Back Mosser

There were two returns last night that proved pivotal for the Cardinals.  One was literal, the other was more metaphorical.

Aledmys Diaz made his first appearance since being hit on the hand by an Andrew Cashner pitch in July and immediately proved his thumb was fine, launching a game-tying homer in his inaugural at bat.  Diaz’s home run may prove legendary, in that “remember when he hit a home run right after returning from the DL” way, not the “Game 6″ kind of way.  Diaz gave life to the Cardinals, who were down 2-0 for reasons we’ll get into later.

Brandon Moss hadn’t gone anywhere, but you couldn’t have proven in by his results.  Going into last night’s game, he was one (1) for his last 41.  That’s not good, not good at all.  Last night, though, he was the Hero.  Because baseball.

Moss singled his first time up (and scored on Diaz’s homer) and walked his second.  His third time up was the big one, a two-out, two-run shot off of Jason Hammel that gave the Cardinals their first lead since Saturday and wound up being the decisive tally.  Hopefully this means a return to form of Moss, whose sputtering probably has thrown a kink in the offensive works over the past month.  Then again, last night’s offense consisted only of two two-run homers, so maybe not everything is fixed.

The home runs only mattered because of two reasons.  One, Mike Matheny made a bold move, one that I don’t think we’d have seen Matheny make in years past.  For all the criticism directed at him (some of it fair), he is learning.  Our Goat Jaime Garcia proved early on that he had basically nothing, allowing a leadoff home run to Dexter Fowler and then another run before anyone was out in the second.  He was able to battle and get a couple of outs, but then an infield single by the pitcher (which could have been an error on Diaz, as he was unable to pick up the ball on a tough play) and a walk to Fowler and Matheny had seen enough, going to the rookie to get out of the jam.

Which Reyes did.  If it wasn’t for the fact that he allowed six walks over his 4.1 innings of relief, Reyes could have easily been our Hero.  The control wasn’t there last night, but his stuff was enough that he struck out four and was able to work out of any jams he got into, basically by alternating walks with outs.  You do that, you can walk the bases loaded and you’ll still have a scoreless inning.  Yadier Molina did his best to get him focused on each batter, but you could see why there’s that hesitation to put him in the starting rotation.

If you are on Twitter, you may follow @Sugalean.  He has a unique look at the game, mainly because his uncle was Bob Gibson.  That’d do it, right?  So I found this Tweet last night pretty comforting.

Do we really expect Reyes to be Gibsonesque?  No, I don’t think so.  That’s a huge bar to try to hurdle, a ton of expectations to place on anyone’s shoulders.  However, it just shows that the control can come.  Carlos Martinez might be a more reasonable comparison.  Martinez had the same issues when he came up, to the point where some (and I was in that group) weren’t sure he could ever be efficient enough to be a starter.  So far, yeah, I think it’s been OK. With this usage, Reyes will be out for a few days and may not be available until Saturday’s game with the Giants.  It’s the only drawback to his ability to go multiple innings–it means we don’t necessarily have him in key spots like you do the single inning folks.  It’s a tradeoff that we’ll glad accept, though. Seung-hwan Oh is apparently still dealing with that groin injury, so Matthew Bowman and Kevin Siegrist finished last night’s game off.  Thankfully, that wasn’t an issue, though you know both of those guys have had their hiccups as of late.  We’ll see what happens in the next save situation, since Oh was supposed to be ready by last night. Speaking of the bullpen, Trevor Rosenthal threw a short side session and pronounced himself happy with the results.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see him activated today or tomorrow and be available while the club is in San Francisco.  I continue to say that if it’s true that he’s been hurting all year and that was the cause of his issues and if–if, mind you–he is actually pain-free now, he could be a huge addition to this bullpen.  If you can get to the playoffs (which right now is still dicey), a bullpen of Reyes, Rosenthal, Siegrist, Oh, Bowman, even Zach Duke would shorten things up considerably.  Get a Matheny that plays it like he did last night (like Tony La Russa in 2011) and, well, who knows? The win last night means that the Cubs can not clinch at Busch Stadium, something that was of paramount concern to Al Hrabosky on the broadcast last night.  Al continually referred to “you don’t want them to clinch”, even using that as the reason Matheny went to Reyes in the second.  To which I Tweeted:

(Click through and scroll through the likes.  One name at the end might stick out to you, a person who liked it almost immediately.)

It is good that the Cubs can’t celebrate in St. Louis, of course, but it’s not the focal point of things.  The focus is to win.  If that keeps the Cubs from celebrating until they get home, great.  That’s not the point, though.  The Cardinals are trying desperately to get into the playoffs and they need to win as much as possible, no matter who the opponent is.

Speaking of that wild card race, things got a little more interesting last night.  The Mets won, so the Cards are still on the outside looking in by a half game, but the Giants coughed up five in the ninth and fell to the Padres.  That means that the Cardinals are just one game out of the first wild card spot, a place they could be tied for if things fall right today.  Of course, that’s going to be a tough order because the Giants are sending Madison Bumgarner to the mound (against former Cardinal farmhand and current Padre Luis Perdomo), so the Giants losing that one isn’t what you’d expect.  They go this afternoon, starting probably around the fifth inning of the Cardinal game.  New York also has an afternoon game, starting probably around the time the Cards are getting into the eighth or so.  They are sending Robert Gsellman, whom the Cardinals saw in his major league debut when he relieved Jon Niese, against Tanner Roark and the Nationals.  That might go Washington’s way, but we’ll see.

For their part, St. Louis has Carlos Martinez going against Jon Lester in today’s 12:45 start.  Martinez has been the best and most consistent pitcher on the Redbird staff for quite some time now.  C-Mart gave up three runs in six innings the last time he faced the Cubs.  He saw them in April and allowed one run over seven, then in May he gave up six in five frames.  Hopefully we’ll see more of the good results today.

As for Lester, he’s having another solid season and is always a tough person to face.  Last time out, for instance, he threw seven scoreless innings against the Astros.  The Cards saw him last in August, when they got two runs off of him in six innings.  Surprisingly, that’s the only time the Cardinals have faced him this season, as he apparently has usually missed the little get-togethers.  The Cards have had some success against him in the past, but he’s also shut them down.  May be a pitcher’s duel this afternoon.

The Cardinals need to win tonight and sweep the Reds and Pirates at the end of September to finish at .500 at home this season.  That’s a tough task, but a win today would make it a lot more realistic.  Here’s hoping!

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Ordinary.  Average.  Undistinguished.

If you are trying to put into words the recent stretch of the Cardinals–indeed, it could be argued, the entire season–grabbing synonyms of mediocre isn’t the worst way of doing it.

Unexceptional.  Unremarkable.  Lackluster.

Honestly, if it wasn’t for whatever genetic trait that compels me to want to collect the entire set of anything (the Star Wars Hot Wheels on my desk bear silent witness to this issue), I’d probably skip the whole entire Brewers series and last night’s game with the Cubs.  Duty calls, though, and we’ll do a very, very quick pass through the Brewers before dealing with the debacle that was last night.

Indifferent.  Pedestrian.  Middling.

Seriously, they all work.

Thursday (12-5 loss vs. Milwaukee)

Hero: Kolten Wong. Could be Jedd Gyorko, could be Randal Grichuk as they were the only ones to get two hits.  Of course Gyorko made an error and Grichuk got picked off, so even their nights were tempered.  Wong only had one hit, but it was a home run that at least pulled the Cardinals closer for a while.

Goat: Jaime Garcia.  Five runs in 3.2 innings.  At home.  I still think you have to pick up his option because of what he can do when he’s right and the fact that it’s less than market value, but ugh, is he making it unpalatable to do so.

Notes: Mike Mayers had a great outing last time, which is good because at least he has one positive memory in the major leagues.  This was more in line with his start, as he allowed six runs in his one inning of relief, putting everything out of reach.  Obviously, it’s just a few innings in the bigs, so maybe he’ll continue to improve, but right now it looks like he might not be MLB material.  Again, room to grow, hopefully it’s not the case, but man, these have been ugly.

Jose Martinez got his first hit in the big leagues, which was a heartwarming thing given his struggle to actually make it to the majors.  I guess every game has a silver lining.  It’s just really hard to find when you lose to a cellar dweller at home by a lot when you are in a playoff race.

Friday (4-3 win vs. Milwaukee)

Hero: Matt Carpenter.  Two hits, including a two-run homer that cut into the Milwaukee lead.  Stephen Piscotty then did the rest.  Thankfully four runs was enough, because these two homers, coming in the same frame, was all the scoring the Cardinals did.

Goat: Yadier Molina.  A rare hitless night for Molina, as he went 0-4.

Notes: Carlos Martinez eventually settled in, but allowing three runs in the first three innings could tax this suddenly lackluster offense.  Martinez did go seven, not relinquishing the lead he was given, but nine hits and a walk isn’t vintage Martinez.  That said, it’s better than a lot of starts we’ve seen of late and it does nothing to change the idea that if you could pick one pitcher to start a must-win game from this staff, it’s him.

Seung-hwan Oh got the save here but apparently pulled his groin doing so (or somewhere after) and was unavailable for the rest of the series.  He was questionable for Monday night but obviously wasn’t needed.  The hope is he’ll be available starting tonight, but we’ll have to wait and see.

Saturday (5-1 win vs. Milwaukee)

Hero: Adam Wainwright.  For the longest time, it looked like Wainwright was in line for a tough loss.  He allowed a run in the fifth inning, but that was it.  That was just one more run than the Cardinals were able to score against Chase Anderson and company.  Wainwright even got out of a bases-loaded situation in the eighth with his pitch count over 100.  (I was able to turn on the game around then and was questioning why Mike Matheny was leaving him out there, but it worked out.)  In a rare case of this team being infected by momentum, that eighth inning stand led to five runs being scored in the bottom of the frame, all without a home run.

Goat: Brandon Moss.  0-4 with two strikeouts.  It’s been a while since I’ve seen a slump as pronounced as Moss’s.  I believe he’s at, what, 1 for his last 41?  That’s pretty bad, especially for a guy that’s been a key cog to this offense all year long.  Which perhaps explains why the offense has been sputtering a bit of late as well.

Notes: Going eight innings against the Brewers without scoring is usually hard to do.  However, as we saw Sunday, this team can do hard things like that often.  Jhonny Peralta was the only Cardinal with more than one hit, as the Cardinals got more in the eighth (five) than they had the rest of the game (three).  Thank goodness for the rally, because this could have been a really depressing loss.  Speaking of depressing losses……

Sunday (2-1 loss vs. Milwaukee)

Hero: Matt Carpenter.  Two for four with two doubles, including the key one in the eighth to get the tying rally started.  Also kudos here to Kolten Wong, who went 0-4 but did a great job of making sure he got Carpenter to third in that inning, fouling off pitches until he got what he needed.

Goat: Kevin Siegrist.  Even without the knowledge that Oh couldn’t go, I don’t have too much of a problem with Siegrist being in there.  He’s done a fairly good job this season, even if he’s had his problems.  It is true that Ryan Braun has done better against lefties than righties this year, but Siegrist usually does better against righties than lefties, so you’d think it could work out.  He also had Braun 0-2 before missing up and in three times on close (but not borderline) pitches.  Now, after you get to the full count, I’d have rather walked him than challenged him, but I think this one is more on Siegrist than Matheny, even though I could understand Alex Reyes going there.

Notes: Again with the no scoring.  Zach Davies is turning into the next Bud Norris, it seems like, though Davies can actually get other teams out as well.  Still, this was the third straight game where the Cards only scored in one inning and this time the scoring wasn’t enough.  Grichuk and Moss both went 0-4, with Moss striking out three times, once on a pitch that I’m not sure got halfway to the plate.  I was glad Matheny finally decided to rest him Monday night, though maybe that let the infection spread.

That brings us to last night.  It’s bad enough that, with a sweep, the Cubs could clinch at Busch Stadium.  (Though, honestly, I expect the Cubs to run out some scrub lineup on Wednesday if they win tonight.  They return to Wrigley and face the Brewers Thursday, so you’d think they’d rather clinch on their home turf if given the choice.  Busch Stadium is likely a close second, though.)  But to come outs away from being no-hit?  I never expected this team, this fearsome offense that the Cardinals have constructed, to be shut down so completely.

Perhaps the Brewers games should have given us some inkling that it could be coming, though.  I mean, when you are scuffling against Davies and Anderson, it probably shouldn’t be too surprising that the potential Cy Young in Kyle Hendricks could dance with history.  While the Cards have, in the past, been able to raise their game when they play better quality opponents, Hendricks made them look ridiculous.

I mean, taking a no-hitter into the ninth with less than 100 pitches?  Seriously?  Cardinal fans couldn’t even cling to the hope that he’d wear down, that he’d be getting tired.  We’re lucky that Hendricks made a mistake and our Hero Jeremy Hazelbaker didn’t miss it.  Otherwise, it’d have been the unthinkable, most likely.

It was fascinating to learn (thankfully after the danger passed) that the Cardinals haven’t been no-hit in St. Louis since around the time of the last Cubs championship.  It’s been 26 years since they’ve been cleanly no-hit (we all remember where Carlos Beltran’s ball landed in the Johan Santana game) and to have either of those streaks end at the hands of the Cubs…..having the Cubs win the World Series would be worse.  But not by much.

Let’s also talk about the histrionics performed by the Cubs manager last night.  I get that you don’t have anybody warming in the bullpen when your pitcher, who again is under 100 pitches, has a no hitter going into the ninth.  I get that they needed some time to warm up Aroldis Chapman after Hazelbaker went yard.  But showing up the umpire?  Getting yourself tossed out and then throwing a whale of a tantrum?  That’s the way you want to do this?

Look, Hendricks was not going to give up three more runs.  Even if you want to bring Chapman in, after the infield conference, you let Hendricks pitch to the pinch-hitter, which looked to be Greg Garcia.  Ultimate worst-case scenario, Garcia goes yard and you bring in Chapman up two.  Given that the Cardinals haven’t scored on Chapman in about a decade, I think you are safe.  A more likely scenario is that Garcia gets a hit and you bring in Chapman up three.  The most likely scenario is that Hendricks retires the hitter and you can then bring in Chapman with one out and nobody on, up three.

At one time, I was very much in favor of the Cardinals bringing in Joe Maddon to be the manager.  There’s no doubt that the grumbling about lineups and such would be lessened given his stature in the game, though he does strange things as well.  I mean, I was listening to the early part of the game and Mike Shannon was talking about how Ben Zobrist was in a rough slump, but the manager put him in the cleanup role.  If Mike Matheny did that, everyone would be up in arms.  (Of course, because that’s how these things go, Zobrist goes yard.)  Tactically, the Cardinals would obviously be somewhat improved with Maddon, though the impact of the manager on things is probably much less than we assign.

The extra stuff, though, wouldn’t fit with this organization.  Pajama road trips?  Bringing a literal zoo to spring training?  I can’t imagine the whole Tommy La Stella thing happening in St. Louis.  I know that Holly and Laura have often talked about their distaste for his hijinks and I definitely understand where they are coming from.  Now, granted, I only heard the diatribe via Shannon and John Rooney last night, but it sounded pretty shameful and in some regard detracted from the outstanding game his pitcher had thrown.

While you could name any hitter in the lineup besides Hazelbaker a Goat, we’ll go with Kolten Wong because of our “leadoff breaks ties” rule.  Really, though, you had Hazelbaker, then you had Stephen Piscotty with a walk against Chapman and Yadier Molina and Jedd Gyorko with walks against Hendricks and that’s it.  Plus Gyorko erased Molina with a double play.  All around, it was ugly.

Mike Leake didn’t pitch badly, allowing four runs (three earned) in six innings, but even that would have been a tough road for this offense to hoe.  The thought has been that, if the Cardinals were going to make a postseason run, they’d do it by bashing the opposition and hopefully scoring more than their starters allowed.  That thought is getting tested severely over the last couple of weeks.  They are under .500 for the month of September and have had just two games (both against Pittsburgh, who is in the midst of their own slide) that they earned 50 cent drinks for their fan base and two others that they fell just short (one of those being the first Milwaukee game, where a few runs came after they were already well beaten).  This team doesn’t have the pitching, for the most part, to be able to get by on one or two runs a night.  Scoring in multiple innings would be a very good practice for them to resume.

Thankfully, the Mets got drubbed by the Nationals and the Padres shut out the Giants, so no harm was done in the wild card race.  (Though a win would have made things look really good with those two results.)  Tonight, the Cardinals hope for the good Jaime Garcia while the Cubs bring out Jason Hammel.  Hammel got beat up by the Brewers last time out and he’s been in a bit of a rough stretch over his last four starts.  This season, the Cards saw him in April (six innings, one run), May (7.1 innings, one run), and June (5.2 innings, four runs).  Let’s hope that it’s a little more of the latter.  As for Garcia, we know about his recent woes.  He’s faced the Cubs twice this year and he’s given up a combined four runs in 11.2 innings.  If he gets out of the first tonight not giving up four runs, we may count it a success.

The Mets have Noah Syndergaard going against A.J. Cole of the Nationals, so the Mets have to be favored there.  The Giants have Albert Suarez going against the Padres and Clayton Richard, so the edge probably goes to San Fran being at home.  In other words, a win tonight would be a really, really good thing!

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There are days where Sisyphus looks at the 2016 St. Louis Cardinals and says, “Man, get over the hump already!”

First there was the three games over .500 barrier.  How often did the club try and try to get to four up?  Seemed like forever.  They finally broke past that one, but now they’ve hit another wall.  They push the boulder up the hill toward 10 games over the break even mark, only to find it sliding back down when they get to nine.  Last night, they had another chance, their seventh of the year.  Again last night, they failed.

Obviously the most direct cause of the loss was another home run by Jung Ho Kang, this time in the eighth inning against Alex Reyes.  Kang, who has completely taken over for the Sith Lord Aramis Ramirez, continued his rampage against the Redbirds and broke a 3-3 tie at the worst possible time.  The odds of the Cardinals being able to beat up on Tony Watson two days in a row were pretty slim, after all.

However, especially in a one run game, there are lots of potential alternate realities, shall we say.  If only one decision or outcome changes, the whole game might have gone differently.  Consider:

–Mike Leake allowed a base hit to start the game, then faced David Freese.  Freese hit a liner right back through the box, a ball that Leake thought about trying to catch, but then pulled back.  If Leake fields that ball, at the least there’s probably a runner on second with one out.  At best, it’s a 1-6-3 double play and the crisis is likely averted.  Perhaps even if Kolten Wong is playing second last night, that’s still a double play or a force at second.  Instead, the ball went through, past a diving Matt Carpenter, and put two on with two outs.  Right after the Cards scored in the top of the first, the Pirates answered with two, erasing the only lead St. Louis would have on the night.

Or take for instance:

–With the score tied at two in the top of the fourth, the Cards load the bases with one out, bringing Leake to the plate.  Given the fact that Leake was coming off of his illness, that he’d not particularly looked sharp, Reyes was available and you have a deeper pen and bench with the September callups, there was a significant argument to be made that someone should have pinch-hit for Leake.  A base hit there would have scored two and kept the inning going.  Even a sacrifice fly would have at least given the Cardinals the lead and let Carpenter bat with runners on.  Instead, Leake wound up grounding into a double play, ending the inning.

Or even more notable:

–In the top of the eighth, Yadier Molina led off with a double, bringing Brandon Moss to the plate.  Honestly, as bad as Moss as going, there was probably a case for pinch-hitting for him there as well, but in fairness I didn’t see anyone making that case at the time.  If Moss even grounds out to the right side, Molina’s at third with one out with Randal Grichuk and Jhonny Peralta coming up.  Obviously if he does more than that, the 3-3 tie could be broken in the Cardinals’ favor.  Instead, Moss waved at ball 4 down and away, leaving Molina at second.  Grichuk then grounded out, finally moving Molina over, but Peralta struck out to end the frame.

Heck, if the Cardinals had been able to continue their home run streak somewhere in all of that (a streak that ended at 25, tied for the all-time National League mark), that might have done it.  Instead, they wind up with a loss, made all the more painful by the fact that the Mets won and the Giants, even with a ninth-inning lead, didn’t.

Our Hero of the night is Randal Grichuk and the Goat Brandon Moss.  Grichuk went 2-3 with a walk, a run, an RBI, and what seems to be increasingly familiar, a HBP.  We’ve discussed Moss, who went 0-4 with two strikeouts.  One of my Twitter friends said he believed Moss should sit until Monday and I think there’s something to that.  There are options for this coming Milwaukee series.  Let Moss get refreshed and his head right before the big week between the Cubs and the Giants.

(By the way, perhaps don’t sleep on the Brewers.  Yes, the Cardinals have done very well against them this year, but they just took two from the Cubs, which isn’t the easiest thing to do these days.)

All in all, it was a tough loss but it wasn’t a loss that really riled me up.  Look, the Cardinals were going for the sweep and Pittsburgh had lost eight in a row.  Both of those things were likely to change.  The Cardinals played a solid game.  They didn’t get blown out, they weren’t destroyed early, they had life and played well for the most part.  Losses happen.  It’s much easier to take that from Pittsburgh, a team nominally on the edges of the wild card race, than a team like Cincinnati or, well, Milwaukee.

You also have to give a lot of credit to Reyes, who got stung by a Cardinal killer but otherwise looked as dominant and electric as we’ve come to expect.  Six strikeouts in 3.1 innings is a fairly good number, of course, and he allowed just two hits in that span with no walks.  I understand that he’s better in the bullpen now because you can use him in any game, basically, but man, is it going to be fun next season when he’s a regular part of the rotation.  At least, I hope he’s a regular part of the rotation then!

The Cardinals will send out Jaime Garcia tonight to face the Brewers and Junior Guerra.  Garcia’s dominated the Brewers throughout his career and you’d like to think tonight would be no different, but he has been a bit more mediocre as of late.  Still, his last time against Milwaukee he allowed one run in eight frames and that’s not his best performance against them this season.  You have to at least like your chances, even if the club is back at Busch Stadium.

Guerra was recalled after rosters expanded, spending most of August in the minor leagues.  His last time out, he didn’t allow Pittsburgh any runs, but gave up five hits and two walks in just 3.1 innings.  St. Louis saw him back in July and got three runs off of him in 5.2 innings, so maybe that’ll be the case again tonight.  Note the early start time of 6:15, which may mean the sun has a bit of an impact in the early innings.

For those paying attention to the other teams in the race, Pittsburgh hosts the Reds (Dan Straily for Cincy, Ivan Nova for the Bucs) while the Giants and the Mets are off.  If the Cardinals win tonight, they’ll be tied for the top wild card.  If they lose, they’d be out of the playoffs if they started tomorrow.  This is going to be a wild September, it looks like!

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#CardinalDevilMagic

It’s the Twitter hashtag that tries to explain some of the remarkable things that we’ve seen out of this organization over the past few years, usually in regards to almost impossible comebacks.  Personally, given the fact that they share a name with one of the highest levels of the Catholic Church and the fact that they play in Baseball Heaven, I’d be more inclined to think their help came from the opposite direction, but whatever.  The hashtag exists because the Cardinals have almost made a habit out of winning unwinnable games.  It seemed as of recently that the magic was dwindling.

Apparently they recently got in a fresh supply.

Just a month after they won a game against the Reds by scoring five with two outs in the ninth, the Cardiac Cards struck again last night.  Down by one with two outs and two strikes on the hitter, pinch-hitter Matt Carpenter smashed a Tony Watson pitch into the seats, tying up a game that would have been devastating to see slip away.

That opened the floodgates.

Before Watson was removed from the game, he’d allowed a double (Yadier Molina) and back-to-back homers (Randal Grichuk and Jhonny Peralta) to move the game from an almost assured Pittsburgh win to a comfortable St. Louis lead.  In his career, Watson had never had trouble solving the Cardinal mystery.  He’d limited Redbird hitters to a .188 average and had allowed just two homers in 182 plate appearances.  The .495 OPS against versus St. Louis was the lowest he had against any team he’d faced fairly regularly.  There was no way the Cards should have been able to get him for that win.

Besides, of course, #CardinalDevilMagic.

By all rights, Molina should be our Hero.  After all, when you get four hits, including a grand slam to start off the game and two doubles later on, that’s quality Hero stuff.  And if the Cardinals had held on to the 5-0 lead they ran out to, he probably gets it.  However, you just can’t deny Matt Carpenter the spot with dramatics like that.  Grichuk, with his two hits including the ninth inning blast, and Kolten Wong also could get some consideration, though that’s really downballot stuff compared to the main two folks.

Matt Adams got into the fun as well, smashing a pitch that wound up getting wet in the Allegheny.  That gave the Cards a five run lead, something that Luke Weaver and our Goat Matthew Bowman couldn’t keep from slipping away as the Pirates furiously tried to save their season.

Weaver had a couple of good innings and just about worked out of two on, nobody out trouble in the third before allowing an RBI single to John Jaso.  In the fourth, he allowed what is becoming his trademark, a home run.  Weaver has made five starts and he’s allowed a long ball in each of them.  Just imagine how good he’ll be when he keeps all the balls in the yard.  Weaver ran his pitch count up in the fourth, putting two more on after the homer but wriggling out of it.  That meant that Bowman came in to try to eat some innings.

Mike Matheny did what Mike Matheny does, double-switching Bowman into the game because it’s better not to have the pitcher hit than to have your fourth place hitter (Adams) available for doing damage.  I get that Matheny thought Bowman would go two or three frames, but he would have hit third in the sixth.  That either means he ends the inning or he’s got a chance to bunt.  Trading that possibility for the removal of your cleanup hitter seems excessive and, as it turned out, completely unnecessary.

We’ve talked about it often as of late, but Bowman really just seems to have hit a wall.  He still can get by on adrenaline, it seems–witness his coming in successfully with the bases loaded against Cincinnati of late–but not including last night, since August 1 his ERA is at 7.30 and his slash line against is .292/.382/.479, numbers that only got uglier after last night’s debacle.  The defense didn’t necessarily help him, though one of the errors was his own, but to give up four runs in a third of an inning is a tough pill to swallow.  I don’t fault Matheny for bringing him in there instead of, say, Alex Reyes, because it’s a three run lead and you probably want Reyes available for Mike Leake‘s start today, but I think the use of Bowman should be very judicious between now and October.

Otherwise, the bullpen did fine.  Kudos to Mike Mayers for not only easing part of the sting of the memory of that disastrous start by having a perfect inning but also gaining his first major league win when the bats erupted in the ninth.  It seemed like a white flag maneuver by Matheny to run Mayers out into a one-run game, but the kid did great and kept it right where the team needed it to be.

Jung Ho Kang continues to live up to Aramis Ramirez‘s legacy as Sith Lord, smashing a home run in the fourth then another again in the ninth off of Seung-hwan Oh as part of his three hits.  Thankfully the Cardinals had a bit of a cushion.  I think Kang got Oh for a hit the only other time the two have faced off, so maybe Oh needs to figure out a new approach to his countryman.

It was a fascinating, exhilarating, can-you-believe that kind of win that crippled Pittsburgh’s playoff hopes.  The Pirates now sit 5.5 behind the Cardinals for the second wild card spot and only have four head-to-head meetings left.  If they can’t salvage a game tonight, they’ll probably start looking at October vacations.

We know that momentum hasn’t been a huge thing for the Cardinals this year, but what about the Pirates?  Are they going to come out a bit downcast and beaten after those stirring heroics?  A loss like that is tough to take and can linger for a while.  I imagine they’ll be fine, but if the Cardinals can get on them early, maybe they can break their spirit and get the sweep.

They do get to run out one of their bright young stars in Jameson Taillon today.  Taillon made his major league debut earlier in the year and this is just his 15th MLB start, but so far so good as he’s put up a 3.25 ERA, if only a 3-4 record.  Last time out, he allowed just three hits and one run to the Brewers, who torched him for five runs in three innings the start before that.  Taillon hasn’t faced the Cardinals yet this year, though that’s not necessarily an issue.

Mike Leake returns from his shingles-related DL stint, though you’d have to think the stamina won’t necessarily be fully back.  Hopefully that means Matheny will have a quick hook, especially with Reyes fully rested in the bullpen.  The Pirates have seen Leake plenty in the past and that’s not really been much of an issue.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Andrew McCutchen 82 74 19 1 0 2 6 5 16 .257 .329 .351 .681 0 0 0 3 0
Starling Marte 47 44 11 2 0 1 2 0 11 .250 .298 .364 .662 0 0 0 3 1
Josh Harrison 35 32 8 1 0 1 2 1 2 .250 .294 .375 .669 1 0 0 1 0
Jordy Mercer 29 25 8 2 0 0 2 2 2 .320 .357 .400 .757 1 1 2 0 0
David Freese 26 25 13 3 0 1 6 1 2 .520 .538 .760 1.298 0 0 0 0 0
Gregory Polanco 26 22 3 0 0 0 2 4 4 .136 .269 .136 .406 0 0 0 0 0
Francisco Cervelli 11 10 3 2 0 0 3 1 3 .300 .364 .500 .864 0 0 0 0 0
John Jaso 11 11 1 0 1 0 0 0 1 .091 .091 .273 .364 0 0 0 0 0
Chris Stewart 9 9 2 0 0 0 1 0 0 .222 .222 .222 .444 0 0 0 0 0
Jung Ho Kang 7 7 3 0 0 1 1 0 0 .429 .429 .857 1.286 0 0 0 0 0
Matthew Joyce 4 4 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 .250 .250 .500 .750 0 0 0 0 0
Eric Fryer 3 3 2 1 0 0 3 0 0 .667 .667 1.000 1.667 0 0 0 0 0
Juan Nicasio 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Ryan Vogelsong 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 1 0 0 0 0
Steven Brault 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 297 272 75 13 1 6 28 14 43 .276 .327 .397 .724 3 1 2 7 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/7/2016.

Leake has faced the Pirates three times, with two not-so-good outings bookending a fairly decent start.  Let’s hope he’s alternating and we get a good one out of him today!

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We sometimes think that September 2011 was this completely frantic rush toward the postseason.  While it was better than most months, it still had its issues.

The Downward Swing

I hope all of you and yours had a wonderful Labor Day weekend.  Heaven knows the Cardinals sure didn’t.

I said on Sunday’s Gateway to Baseball Heaven (or perhaps it was the end of the most recent Conversation with C70 after I talked with Bill Ivie–download ’em both and see!) that this season has been like a kid’s rollercoaster.  The highs aren’t that high (a four-game winning streak, the sweep of Milwaukee) and the lows follow immediately, but they aren’t an unexpected plunge (losing two of three to the Reds, dropping back to 10.5 games behind).  This team again refuses to show any consistency, any sort of oomph to put together a run, and now it’s beyond too late to do so.

Let’s recap the last four games:

Friday (11-8 loss vs. Cincinnati)
Hero: David Freese.  A nice three-for-five with a home run and two RBI.

Goat: Marc Rzepczynski.  As bad of a game as Chris Carpenter had and as back-breaking as the home run Kyle McClellan gave up, giving up that two-run homer after the Cards had completed their comeback to tie the game is a tough, tough thing.

Notes: Carpenter had a terrible inning, but that’s all it takes at times.  Getting this team down 5-0 is not a recipe for a good night, so I was impressed to see them rally back to tie it up.  It was almost like they were about to make that kind of run.  The Brewers were losing early and so it allowed you to dream a bit before Milwaukee rallied and the bullpen blew up.  Until McClellan’s home run, it was one of the first times all season I thought they might be able to get something done in the ninth and at least tie it up.  That wasn’t to be when the lead bloomed from one to four.

Saturday (6-4 win vs. Cincinnati)
Hero: Albert Pujols.  Two for three with a run and a RBI is a nice day at the ballpark, especially when he’s chasing milestones.

Goat: Arthur Rhodes.  Giving up a two-run homer to a lefty isn’t doing your job.  Thankfully the lead was four at the time.

Notes: Jaime Garcia pitched a game we were more used to seeing out of him at home.  He still only went six innings, but he limited the damage, got some strikeouts, and didn’t let things unravel on him.  Don’t know if it was the extra rest that allowed him to adjust his mindset or what, but it was welcome.  Jon Jay, Matt Holliday and Skip Schumakerall had two hits as well.

Sunday (3-2 loss vs. Cincinnati in 10)
Hero: Edwin Jackson.  The Cards may have lost, but it’d be tough to pin it on him.  Just two runs in seven innings, and eight strikeouts to boot.  A very solid game, one that shows why so many teams will take a chance on him.

Goat: You can just about pick one.  I’m going to go with Fernando Salas, who allowed a hit-walk-hit rally for the winning run after two were out in the tenth.  You could also pick on Rafael Furcal, who went 0-5 leading off.  While the numbers don’t look terrible in the box score, the fact that the team only scored two runs in this game speaks for itself.

Notes: I wasn’t able to watch a lot of this game, but apparently it was a bit controversial when Tony La Russa pulled Lance Berkman after a hit and pinch-ran with Corey Patterson.  (I say that because my dad indicated he disagreed with the move when I saw him that evening.)  It seems reasonable enough to me, though.  Not that using Corey Patterson ever is the right move, but Berkman hasn’t hit much lately, is often pulled for a pinch-hitter, and Patterson’s speed could have been the difference in scoring an eighth-inning run that might have been the game winner.  It seems like a reasonable move to me, at least.

Monday (4-1 loss vs. Milwaukee)
Hero: Almost by default, you have to go with Jake Westbrook.  Westbrook did his best to keep the Cards in the game, allowing only three runs (two earned) in six innings.  Of course, he did only go six and he gave up nine hits in that span, but he struck out nine, a data point that reinforces a complaint his teammates had (more on that in a bit).

Goat: Another game with plenty to choose from.  The team only had four hits, with one of those coming when Gerald Laird pinch-hit.  Rafael Furcal went 0-3 at leadoff, but at least he drew a walk.  Kyle McClellan gave up a home run again in his inning of work.  So I’ll give it to Ryan Theriot, who went 0-3 batting second, with a strikeout and a double play.

Notes: Pujols got a hit, so he’s still in the hunt for .300, sitting at .295.  It’s going to be interesting to see how the Cards play the next few weeks, especially if he gets over that mark.  Will they sit him more?  Or do they want to make sure that people get to have what could be their last looks at him in a Cardinal uniform?

The time of Monday’s game became a talking point again, after Pujols and Holliday both reiterated what Berkman had said earlier in the year.  While they made sure to give as much credit as possible to Randy Wolf, it seems the shadows with that mid-afternoon start time make it a very difficult thing to pick up the ball.  In fairness, some of the Brewer players mentioned that as well, including Ryan Braun.

As pointed out in the game story, most of those are from the Fox Game of the Week.  Nothing that the home team can do about those.  It will be interesting, if this is part of the CBA negotiations, to see if that changes for next year.  It’s only been a couple of years since they moved them from the earlier 1:05 starts to the 3:05 that they have these days.  Could they do as Holliday suggests and make a “Saturday Night Baseball”?  Or would Fox move it back to the earlier afternoon slot?  Who knows, but it’s something to keep an eye on.

Yesterday’s game, of course, wasn’t a nationally televised one.  While Pujols mentioned that he asked for the game to be moved and got no response, that’s not surprising.  Moving game times on short notice isn’t what the Cards want to do if they can avoid it.  That said, I expect that there won’t be any of those kind of games on next season’s schedule, or even if there are when they announce it (and that should be in the next week or so) those times may change over the winter.  Who knows, maybe it’ll be a negotiation point in the Pujols contract discussions!

Probably the more relevant news from this weekend is that the club is looking to keep Furcal and he’s completely open to that.  In a vacuum, this move as well as the idea that they want to bring Berkman back are solid moves.  These are guys that likely can help the 2012 Cardinals.

However, when you start thinking about it, doesn’t that mean that the 2012 version will be very, very similar to the way the 2011 team finished?  And didn’t the 2011 team struggle down the stretch?  It’d be different if the Cards finished out of the playoffs but had played strong in August and September, so you could say, “Wow, with a full season of these guys….”  Yes, the team will get back Adam Wainwright, but would that be enough to keep next season from feeling like a repeat of 2011?  Is that the best move for a fanbase that is already a little restless?

I’d like Berkman to return.  I could understand bringing Furcal back.  But I think some changes need to be made and if you don’t make them there, where else can you make them?

Of course, the same story says that the Cards are going to try to give Tyler Greene a lot of playing time the next three weeks and see what they have with him.  I’ve come around to the “stick Greene out there and see” school of thought.  I’m not sure if three weeks is enough, but it should give a good representation.  Hopefully he’ll bring his bat with him this time and give the Cards a cheap option at short next season.

Greene is going to be coming up today, along with Tony Cruz and Adron Chambers.  That’ll likely finish the call-ups, so it’ll be interesting to see Chambers and what he can do over the rest of the season.  He’s going to be on a lot of people’s lists when the United Cardinal Bloggers do their Top 7 Prospects next week.

The Cards are back where they were before the Milwaukee sweep last week, languishing 10.5 games behind.  As the playoffs are out as a goal, I’d like to see the Cards aim to cut that deficit as much as they can.  Five games out sits better with me than double digits.  They are still five games ahead of the Reds, so I think they can stay in second, but getting closer to Milwaukee would be nice.

Tonight doesn’t look like the best chance of that, though, as Kyle Lohse goes for the Cards vs. Yovani Gallardo.  Interestingly enough, as much as the two teams have gone at each other, Lohse hasn’t faced the Brewers since June 10 (four runs in five innings).  In fact, Edwin Jackson, whose been a Cardinal for five weeks, has faced the Brewers more times this year than Lohse has!  Here are the career numbers:

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS IBB HBP GDP
Craig Counsell 31 29 14 1 2 1 2 2 6 .483 .516 .759 1.275 0 0 0
Prince Fielder 31 24 6 1 0 0 3 6 2 .250 .419 .292 .711 0 1 0
Ryan Braun 28 27 9 3 0 2 7 1 3 .333 .357 .667 1.024 0 0 0
Jerry Hairston 19 15 2 1 0 0 0 3 3 .133 .278 .200 .478 0 0 0
Casey McGehee 16 16 5 3 0 0 4 0 1 .313 .313 .500 .813 0 0 1
Corey Hart 14 14 1 0 0 0 1 0 3 .071 .071 .071 .143 0 0 0
Mark Kotsay 13 13 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .077 .077 .077 .154 0 0 0
Yuniesky Betancourt 9 9 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 .111 .111 .333 .444 0 0 0
Nyjer Morgan 8 6 2 0 0 0 1 0 1 .333 .286 .333 .619 0 0 0
Jonathan Lucroy 7 6 2 1 0 0 0 1 2 .333 .429 .500 .929 0 0 0
Carlos Gomez 6 5 2 1 0 0 0 1 1 .400 .500 .600 1.100 0 0 0
Chris Narveson 4 2 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 .000 .333 .000 .333 0 1 1
Yovani Gallardo 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Randy Wolf 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Total 190 170 45 11 3 3 20 14 25 .265 .326 .418 .744 0 2 2
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/6/2011.

Not the worst of situations for Lohse, but it’s still not necessarily a fun evening. He’s been able to keep Prince Fielder in check, but Braun, not so much.

Gallardo has had varying results against the Redbirds, with an almost-no-hitter and some ugly games as well. Cards battered him for eight in less than five innings last week, which was reflected in the numbers:

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS IBB HBP GDP
Lance Berkman 31 24 7 1 0 0 3 7 11 .292 .452 .333 .785 0 0 1
Albert Pujols 30 25 12 1 0 4 11 4 3 .480 .533 1.000 1.533 1 0 0
Yadier Molina 25 20 5 3 0 1 5 4 2 .250 .400 .550 .950 0 1 1
Skip Schumaker 18 17 4 2 0 0 0 1 1 .235 .278 .353 .631 0 0 0
Ryan Theriot 18 15 5 1 0 0 1 3 3 .333 .444 .400 .844 0 0 0
Matt Holliday 17 15 3 0 1 1 4 2 6 .200 .294 .533 .827 2 0 0
Rafael Furcal 13 10 4 0 0 2 2 3 2 .400 .538 1.000 1.538 0 0 0
Jon Jay 12 11 2 0 0 0 1 0 2 .182 .182 .182 .364 0 0 0
Chris Carpenter 5 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Daniel Descalso 5 4 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 .250 .400 .250 .650 0 0 0
David Freese 5 4 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .200 .000 .200 0 0 1
Gerald Laird 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0
Corey Patterson 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 .000 .667 .000 .667 0 0 0
Allen Craig 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Brandon Dickson 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0
Jaime Garcia 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .500 .000 .500 0 0 0
Edwin Jackson 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0
Kyle Lohse 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Jake Westbrook 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0
Total 197 165 47 8 1 8 27 29 36 .285 .393 .491 .884 3 1 3
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/6/2011.

Albert did some damage against him in that last game, of course, and his career numbers are stellar. Perhaps he can have another big night and get that average even closer to that milestone.

Nothing more to do but watch the last three weeks and know that, way too soon, winter is coming.  Appreciate the game while you can!

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So the Cardinals win two of three in Milwaukee, albeit in closer and more exciting fashion than they should have.  They look to go into Cincinnati and keep pounding away.  They don’t.  They wait until Pittsburgh, when they are playing a team up in caliber, to do so.  Seriously, this team makes no sense at times.

Friday (3-2 loss at Cincinnati)

Hero: Greg Garcia.  Three hits, including two doubles.  The rest of the team also had three hits.  Given the Cincinnati staff, that’s just wrong.  There was a lot of wrongness this weekend, though.

Goat: Seung-hwan Oh.  Mike Matheny‘s usage of the closer on the road has evolved, as we’ve noted, and now it’s no big thing to see Oh out there in the ninth in a tie game on the road.  Normally, that works out, but Oh really didn’t have it in this one.  A leadoff walk then three singles plated the winning run.  None of them were hit terribly hard, but none of them were just flukes either.  Everyone has a bad game and we’ve not see a lot of them from Oh this season, but it still stings to lose this one.

Notes: It would have stung more had the offense actually done something.  When you can only muster two runs against the Reds, both on solo home runs, that’s a problem.  Yadier Molina and Randal Grichuk did the honors in this one, keeping the Cards home run streak alive.  (I honestly thought given all the favorable circumstances, we might see it snapped this weekend because Cardinals, but they managed to keep it going all weekend long.)

Alex Reyes got the start and showed again why we are so excited to see him in the rotation full-time, even though it looks like he’ll be returning to the bullpen as Mike Leake is now like a home in Kansas, shingles-free.  Reyes went six innings, the first five scoreless.  He bent a bit in the sixth, as the middle of the lineup got to him a bit, but he’s allowed just one extra-base hit (Brandon Phillips‘s double in this inning) in his major league career.  Seven strikeouts, two walks.  It’s a line most of these starters would be very happy to have as of late.

The bullpen did OK before Oh’s implosion.  Zach Duke did his darnedest to cause problems, giving up two singles and a walk in just a third of an inning, but Matthew Bowman, again coming in with the bases loaded, got the next two outs to clean up the mess.  Duke seems to alternate strong, dominant outings with, shall we say, “interesting” ones since coming over from the White Sox.  It’s not a set pattern, but it’s fairly close.  I don’t know if his delivery is easy to get out of whack or what, but while he can be a dominant threat, he’s also going to have people holding their breath at times.

Saturday (9-1 loss to Cincinnati)

Hero: Jedd Gyorko.  He kept the homer streak alive, put the only run on the board, and gave the Cards a quick lead.  That’s more than just about anyone else did in this one.

Goat: While Jerome Williams had the worst game–five runs in an inning of work–odds are the game was already lost when he came in so I don’t think he gets this “honor”.  I think we are going to have to go with Alberto Rosario here, because not only did he go 0-4 (when the team can only come up with five hits, that doesn’t really stand out) but he left seven on base, including grounding out with bases loaded in the sixth with two down.  Apparently some questioned why Matheny didn’t pinch-hit there, but he was committed to giving Yadier Molina the full day off.  It’s too bad that Brayan Pena‘s DL stint hadn’t concluded or they hadn’t brought up Carson Kelly by that time, otherwise maybe a pinch-hitter could have been used.  I can’t fault Matheny too much for resting Molina, since as he stated, he gets grief for playing him all the time.  He’s got to get some credit for resisting the temptation.  That said, this was probably the last game you could afford to do that in.  Down the stretch, they’ve got to do everything they can to get into the playoffs.

Notes: Jaime Garcia didn’t have a bad outing, but it wasn’t exactly top notch.  Six innings, two hits, eight strikeouts would put him in the same range as Alex Reyes (though Reyes allowed more hits) but four walks was a little shaky.  Still, it was 2-1 when he left, so he definitely gave the team a chance to win, the offense just went quiet yet again.

We’ve talked about Williams’s outing and the less said about that the better.  Though some were complaining that this guy was on a playoff roster.  He won’t be on the playoff roster.  There’s no need to carry a “in case of blowouts” guy into the postseason.  With days off and only four starters needed, that’s covered.  Now, if you are complaining about him being on the roster of a team trying for the playoffs, I understand that, but again, he only pitches in blowouts, thankfully.  It’s a rare thing when he’s the cause of a win or loss.

While Williams was the most obvious problem, the bullpen as a whole had issues in this one.  Miguel Socolovich starts the seventh and allows a base hit and, because the Cardinals can never ever stop him, a stolen base to Billy Hamilton.  Soco gets the next guy to pop out, then Matheny goes to get him and brings in Dean Kiekhefer because he’s a lefty just like Joey Votto.  In fairness, Votto does hit worse against lefties and it’s 200 points of OPS lower, so I guess it makes some sense to bring in Kiekhefer, but I just don’t think that’s a lefty that Votto is going to worry much about.  Kiekhefer has done a pretty solid job on lefties as well, so I guess this was the right move.  I initially though Soco, given his general success, would have probably been the guy to leave in, but talking this through I can see the logic.

Of course, all that logic led to a Votto double, though one that sounds like it was a bit of a fluke since Hamilton didn’t score and the description has Greg Garcia trying for it and having it deflected by Randal Grichuk.  (Can you tell I didn’t watch this one?)  Then Kiekhefer intentionally passes Duvall and the pinch-hitter drives in two.  That had to be a very, very frustrating inning to watch.  I think I’m glad I didn’t.

And, again, the offense was stone-cold silent save for a solo homer.  Stephen Piscotty had two hits, which was a large majority of the ones the Cardinals acquired.  Greg Garcia walked three times, but that probably had something to do with Roserio hitting behind him.  The Cards also hit into three double plays, including one by Roserio to add to his Goat issues.

Sunday (5-2 win at Cincinnati)

Hero: Randal Grichuk.  His two-run homer in the second gave Carlos Martinez some cushion and, for once this series, the starter and bullpen didn’t squander a lead.  It still wasn’t a great offensive day, but Grichuk’s power sure helped.

Goat: Matt Carpenter.  Carpenter drew a walk, but went 0-4 on the day.  Carpenter has struggled of late, which is probably part of why the offense hasn’t completely clicked.  (Not the entire reason, as we’ll see in the next game, but some of it.)

Notes: Brandon Moss is in quite a slump, going 0-4 in this one with three strikeouts.  That said, he turned in the play of the game in the seventh.  The Reds plated two against Martinez, who was then pulled for Zach Duke.  Duke got an out, then allowed two singles, including one right back to him that he couldn’t corral, to load the bases.  Scott Schebler then flew out to Moss for what looked to be a sacrifice fly, but Moss aired it out and nailed the runner at home with time to spare.  It was a thing of beauty and it might have kept the game from getting away, since without that throw it would have been 5-3 with two on and two out.  Nice to see Moss contribute even when the bat is cold.

Early on in this game, as he’s looked in his last couple of starts, it seemed that Martinez had no-hit stuff.  The final line, though, wasn’t as impressive as we’ve come to expect from Martinez.  Six innings (as noted, he went into the seventh but got nobody out) and two runs, which was what all the starters did in this series, but seven hits and five walks means there were a lot of base runners in that time.  He did strike out six, which helped him out of some of those jams.

Kolten Wong got the start in this game and homered again.  It did not escape notice that in the six games of this week, the Cards won the three games Kolten started and lost the three he didn’t.  Which may be why he started in Pittsburgh on Monday as well.

Molina, fully rested, got two hits again.  His second half has been just amazing.  Who knew that all he needed was to not go to the All-Star Game?

Monday (12-6 win at Pittsburgh)

Hero: Kolten Wong.  Two for four and his two outs were stung right at people.  He drove in a run early on and made a sensational catch basically in center field.  Randal Grichuk had to jump over him after he slid to make the catch.  When Wong says he wants to show them that he doesn’t need to be a bench player, he means it.

Goat: While the game was well in hand at the time, you still have to give the Goat to Miguel Socolovich, in part because everyone else did so well, in part because if you are going to be the second-most trusted reliever in the pen, you have to start having more shutdown innings.  Soco allowed a triple, a sac fly, and a homer in the ninth.  It didn’t really imperil the game, but it wasn’t a great thing either.

Notes: Adam Wainwright probably had a better day with the bat than on the mound, though it’s debatable given the situation.  First off, he doubled in two runs with a ball that was just smoked off the center field wall, then he blooped in his first single of the year driving in another one.  That’s a very solid day at the plate, no matter who you are.

On the mound, there were flashes of the old Wainwright.  He gave two runs back after the Cards scored three in the top of the second, but locked down the Pirates in the third and fourth before allowing a two-out, two-run homer to Andrew McCutchen in the fifth.  Of course, like my friend Ericb1980 pointed out on Twitter, it was 10-2 at that point, which probably means Wainwright wasn’t exactly worried about pitching around McCutchen or anything like that.  You can handle a homer at that point.  Still, 93 pitches in five innings, four runs allowed, seven hits….it’s not quite what you want to see from the nominal ace.  Sure, circumstances played some part and we did see some good Waino, but you still wonder if he can put it together for an entire game on a semi-regular basis.

Jedd Gyorko and Matt Adams were today’s home run fellows, which put the Cards just one shy of the National League record.  The Cardinals.  The team that last year could go weeks (it seemed like) without a home run.  Baseball is such a funny game.

Stephen Piscotty left the game after being clipped on the hand by a pitch.  He was able to run the bases and the game was well in hand…oh, I didn’t intend that…when it happened, so hopefully we’ll find out he’s OK.  Given how sensitive those hands have been for players wearing the birds on the bat this season, there’s no guarantee.  It would be terrible to lose Piscotty just as it looks like Aledmys Diaz will be returning sometime next week.

Carson Kelly made his major league debut yesterday, taking over behind the plate before stroking a double in his first major league at bat and coming around to score on Grichuk’s double.  It’s always a lot of fun to see the young guys in their first game and to imagine what they are thinking or feeling.  Kelly looked like he belonged, which is nice, and hopefully the Cards can use him down the stretch.

Trevor Rosenthal might return by the middle of next week and he says that he’s not feeling any pain, which is apparently a first for him this season.  Yes, it seems that Rosie first noticed something in the Pittsburgh series that started the season off.  Which, of course, led to at least some of his issues.  Why you then wait half a season to let anyone know, I don’t know.  Maybe if the Cards had given him a contract in the offseason instead of him being arbitration eligible this year, he’d have felt more comfortable letting them know, but he just wound up hurting his earning potential (and, by the way, the team) trying to deal with all that.

All that said, if that’s the case, if the pain has been there all year and is gone now, and if that’s why Rosie was much less like the Rosie we saw last year, then it allows you to dream of adding an effective Rosenthal to the playoff race bullpen and that, my friends, is exciting.  Having both Reyes and Rosenthal out there with Oh ending the game could shorten a lot of games, which is good given how long the starters are going/not going.  Let’s be cautiously optimistic on this one.

The last callups have been announced: Jose Martinez, Mike Mayers, Sam Tuivailala.  Martinez was basically called up because he’s a bat that was already on the 40-man roster.  Mayers was called up to try to eliminate the taste of that terrible start and get that ERA down to a little less stratospheric level.  Tui, well you knew Tui was returning and we’ll see if he can make the most of it this time.

Luke Weaver goes for Cardinals tonight, looking to continue to build on his season.  Last time, he had a perfectly fine game if he doesn’t walk the opposing pitcher and let that inning spiral out of control.  Even so, while he’s allowed a homer each game, he’s looked very good in all of them as well.  It helps that he’s not seen Pittsburgh yet, I’m sure, but you’d think he’d be able to keep the club close.

Ryan Vogelsong is up for the reeling Pirates, who really need to win the next two games to stay in the wild card hunt.  Vogelsong had a pretty good August, though in his last start he allowed five runs to the Cubs.  The only time he’s faced St. Louis this year was out of the pen, as he got one out (while allowing two hits) in the May 8 game.  As you can see, the Redbirds have plenty of experience against him.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Yadier Molina 31 29 5 0 0 0 0 2 1 .172 .226 .172 .398 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Carpenter 24 20 8 2 1 0 2 4 7 .400 .500 .600 1.100 0 0 0 0 1
Jhonny Peralta 19 17 3 1 0 0 1 2 0 .176 .263 .235 .498 0 0 0 0 6
Jedd Gyorko 15 15 5 4 0 0 1 0 2 .333 .333 .600 .933 0 0 0 0 0
Kolten Wong 9 8 3 1 0 1 1 1 2 .375 .444 .875 1.319 0 0 0 0 0
Brandon Moss 8 5 1 0 1 0 0 3 2 .200 .500 .600 1.100 0 0 1 0 0
Stephen Piscotty 7 6 4 0 0 0 0 1 1 .667 .714 .667 1.381 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Adams 5 5 2 0 0 0 1 0 2 .400 .400 .400 .800 0 0 0 0 0
Tommy Pham 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Brayan Pena 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Zach Duke 2 2 2 0 0 0 1 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000 0 0 0 0 0
Jaime Garcia 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 1 0 0 0 0
Adam Wainwright 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Randal Grichuk 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Jerome Williams 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0
Total 133 118 33 8 2 1 7 13 20 .280 .351 .407 .758 2 0 1 0 7
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/6/2016.

Given the numbers, if you wanted to give Kelly his first major league start, that’d be somewhat defensible, though I think Molina’s hot second half would override these career stats.  Maybe Carpenter can get going against him, though you still wonder how much that side is bothering him.

Also in the wild card race, the Mets send Rafael Montero against the Reds and Brandon Finnegan, who the Cardinals remember not so fondly.  Miami’s slipping out of it, but they host Philadelphia (Adam Morgan vs. Jose Urena).  The Giants have Jeff Samardzija going against the Rockies and Tyler Anderson.  With a win tonight and a Giants loss, the Cards would slide into the first wild card spot for the first time since….well, maybe all year.  Probably all year.  I think we’d take it!

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Three Small Steps

At this point in 2011, it was still hard to believe that there was going to be a postseason.  But it wasn’t as inconceivable as it was a week before.  Then, as now, the Cards just finished with Milwaukee and were about to play Cincy.

Three Small Steps

Rafael Furcal led off with a home run.  Albert Pujols hit a home run a batter later.  Corey Hart hit a home run for Milwaukee.  There was a grand slam for the Redbirds, giving them six runs.  They tacked on two more in a later inning and scored 8 on the game.

Can I just rerun yesterday’s post as well, since it seemed like the game was a repeat?

Of course, there were some differences, mainly in the fact that our hero Pujols went 4-4 with both that home run and that grand slam.  Matt Holliday also joined in the fun, cranking his 200th career home run as the Cards scored all eight runs via the long ball.  As long as the home runs are plentiful, I don’t think anyone is going to complain too much about that.  (And just more proof that Albert reads this blog and loves to prove me wrong, since I stated yesterday he wasn’t likely to get to .300 or the 100 RBI standard.)

I think you also have to give some kudos to Brandon Dickson.  He pitched a very strong first inning and worked of some trouble in the third (after giving up two home runs of his own) before putting runners on in the fourth.  Tony La Russa not only did his usual “make sure the kid can’t lose the game” bit by taking him out there, but also showed how much he really wanted to win this game.  Octavio Dotel did a fine job before running out of gas at the end of his 2.2 inning stint and Fernando Salas (save the home run he allowed to Prince Fielder) and Jason Motte kept things from blowing up and ruining a fine day for Cardinal Nation.

So, the Cards swept the first place team and cut three games off the lead.  What does it mean? Well, probably, not a whole lot.  Even if the Cards win all three games next week against the Brewers, it’s still four and a half with not a lot to play.  I talked with Bill Ivie last night for the next edition of Conversations With C70 and I hope to get that up sometime today or tomorrow, because he really laid out how hard of a mountain that is to overcome.

That said, the Cards did get a win without having to use Chris Carpenter, who can go today against the Reds.  That’s a point in their favor.  If they actually have found a groove–not just one of these false hopes that they’ve given the fanbase so often this year–they could start piling up some wins and perhaps make Milwaukee a bit nervous.  If the Brewers lose a game or two this weekend in Houston while the Cards are beating the Reds (both sides of the proposition are gambles, I realize), then perhaps a little doubt enters the Brewers’ minds.  Until then, though, I’m going to root for the Cards to make this respectable, to lose by 4-5 games instead of 10-12 if they are going to lose.

The good thing about the stretch, where they’ve won six of seven, is that they’ve pulled away from the Reds somewhat for second place.  I think it would have been even more embarrassing for this team that was projected to win the division to finish third and finish closer to Pittsburgh than Milwaukee.  If there’s no postseason in your future, at least aim for respectability.

The downside of yesterday was Lance Berkman, who not only went 0-4 on a day when only one other starter didn’t get a hit, but also struck out four times.  There’s no comments that I can see in any of the writeups about it, so hopefully it was just a bad day at the plate.  However, he’s 1 for 18 in his last week of play, which seems to indicate that there is more to it than that.  Could be just a slump, something that he’ll shake out of before too long.  That’s part of the game.  It’s been just over a month since he had a cortisone shot, so I wouldn’t think that would have worn off yet.  Hopefully he’ll get his groove going this weekend against the Reds.

Other positive news, though not for this season, concerns Adam Wainwright.  Waino is just about to get to the point where he can throw some bullpen sessions, meaning that there should be absolutely no reason he won’t be ready to go on Opening Day.  I love what he says here about his motivation, though:

“Realistically the only way to get in a game is if we were to go deep in the playoffs,” Wainwright said. “And I think realistically the chances of that happening — not that we go deep in the playoffs, but the chances of them placing me in a game if we do — are very, very, very, very, very, very small. But my work is drastically improved with the thought that I’m working for something.”

I like that insight into an athlete’s mind.  He rationally knows that he’s not going to pitch in any playoffs, even if the Cards get there, but if he can trick himself into thinking that’s the case, he’s much more motivated to do the work and get himself better.  I’m glad that the Cards have indicated they will pick up his options, because it’s going to be great having this guy in a Cardinal uniform for a long time to come.

Cards host the Reds this evening.  They really can’t afford to have an off night, not with wanting to keep a little pressure on Milwaukee, but they do have a tall task.  Johnny Cueto is going to go for the Cincinnati squad, and all he has done is lead the league in ERA this season, as well as put up a 1.19 ERA in 22.2 innings against the Cardinals this year.  Cueto’s been good against everyone, but that is above and beyond.  The Cards did tag him for four unearned runs over that span, which is one reason he’s 1-1 against the club.  Something’s got to turn around or it’s going to be another quiet night in Busch.  Here are the historical numbers:

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS IBB HBP GDP
Ryan Theriot 43 39 13 2 0 1 2 2 3 .333 .381 .462 .842 0 1 2
Lance Berkman 33 22 5 2 0 2 6 11 7 .227 .485 .591 1.076 0 0 1
Skip Schumaker 29 28 6 1 0 0 0 1 1 .214 .241 .250 .491 0 0 0
Albert Pujols 26 23 5 1 0 0 1 3 3 .217 .308 .261 .569 1 0 0
Yadier Molina 25 22 7 1 0 1 3 0 2 .318 .333 .500 .833 0 1 1
Matt Holliday 23 18 7 2 0 0 5 4 2 .389 .478 .500 .978 0 0 1
David Freese 14 14 3 1 0 0 3 0 1 .214 .214 .286 .500 0 0 1
Jon Jay 14 12 6 1 0 2 5 1 2 .500 .538 1.083 1.622 0 0 0
Daniel Descalso 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Chris Carpenter 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Jaime Garcia 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Kyle McClellan 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Kyle Lohse 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000 0 0 0
Jake Westbrook 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total 218 187 53 11 0 6 25 22 22 .283 .362 .439 .800 1 2 6
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/2/2011.Historically, they’ve been able to hit him. That just hasn’t been the case this year, as Cueto is starting to develop into the pitcher the Reds were hoping they had. Hopefully a strong focus and some timely hits (or, if nothing else, a close game until the bullpen takes over) and maybe the Cards can get a sweet win against one of the biggest villains in Cardinal Nation.

Also on the plus side, Carpenter is on the mound for the Redbirds. Carpenter has a 3.18 ERA against the Cincinnati squad this year, going 2-1 in his four starts against them. In his career, though, he’s 14-4 against the Reds and only allowed a .199 BAA. He’s been a Reds killer and, in his own way, as much of a villain in Reds Country as Cueto is to Cardinal fans. Here are the career numbers against this current crop of Redlegs:

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS IBB HBP GDP
Brandon Phillips 52 48 7 4 0 0 7 2 7 .146 .180 .229 .409 0 0 2
Ramon Hernandez 42 40 9 2 0 1 4 2 6 .225 .262 .350 .612 0 0 2
Joey Votto 38 32 13 1 0 2 4 5 7 .406 .500 .625 1.125 1 1 0
Jay Bruce 32 30 5 0 1 0 1 2 5 .167 .219 .233 .452 0 0 1
Drew Stubbs 26 24 8 2 0 0 0 2 6 .333 .385 .417 .801 0 0 0
Edgar Renteria 25 22 5 2 0 0 2 2 3 .227 .292 .318 .610 0 0 1
Miguel Cairo 20 17 4 1 1 0 2 2 5 .235 .350 .412 .762 0 1 0
Ryan Hanigan 15 14 3 0 0 0 0 1 4 .214 .267 .214 .481 0 0 2
Paul Janish 9 8 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .125 .125 .125 .250 0 0 0
Chris Heisey 7 6 0 0 0 0 0 1 3 .000 .143 .000 .143 0 0 0
Bronson Arroyo 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Johnny Cueto 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Homer Bailey 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Carlos Fisher 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Sam LeCure 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Dontrelle Willis 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Yonder Alonso 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Juan Francisco 1 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000 0 0 0
Mike Leake 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Total 283 257 56 12 2 3 21 19 55 .218 .277 .315 .592 1 2 8
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/2/2011.These two met July 4, with Carpenter coming out ahead on the 1-0 score. Could be another doozy like that tonight! But just a note to FSMW–you know I have a lot of respect for you, but let’s not rehash the fight from last year tonight, OK? It’s been over a year, the Reds aren’t the biggest problem for the Cardinals, and the teams have met a number of times since then with no incident. (I know that’s a bit contradictory to the fact that Cueto is still disliked, but not completely.) So let’s see if we can get through the night without a replay of that. I’d appreciate it!

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Not Exactly Hitting a Stride

The Cardinals went into Milwaukee, a place where they are quite happy to play, against a team that they have done quite well against, and won two out of three.  Even that is a little disappointing, given the situation, but sweeps are hard.  The problem is that with just a little bit less luck, they’d have been swept in that series, which would have been a sky-is-falling type of thing.

We’ve talked about the first two wins, now let’s talk about that loss.  Luke Weaver had a fine game, he just made basically two mistakes.  He walked his counterpart Matt Garza with two outs, then lost his composure enough to allow a double and a homer right after.  If he gets Garza, which given Garza’s hitting prowess, he probably should have, then maybe this game goes differently.  You have to give him a lot of credit, though, for limiting the damage there.  Two of the four hits he allowed were in that sequence and he struck out 10 Brewers over his six innings.  Most nights, even with the three-run homer, that’s going to be enough to win.

The problem was that the offense just didn’t show up again.  Weaver gave up more hits than the Cardinals got and he only allowed four!  You have to give the Hero tag to Yadier Molina mainly because his home run was almost the only thing resembling a threat (and he also had two of the three hits).  The Cards did put a couple of runners on in the eighth, but Matt Carpenter hit a rocket right at second base, which seemed to be an omen.  Jedd Gyorko struck out, Brandon Moss walked, then Jhonny Peralta gave one a ride but fell short.  Nothing happened, which was a theme for the evening.

We’ll give the Goat to Jedd Gyorko since he struck out two of the four times he was at the plate, including that big one in the eighth.  There were a lot of options for this, of course, when only Molina and Greg Garcia hit safely.

It was an interesting and slightly frustrating choice to have Greg Garcia playing second base in this one.  While some of us thought that maybe Mike Matheny had used that Kolten Wong interview as an impetus to find more playing time for him, it turns out that at least in part Wong was in there the last couple of nights because Garcia’s knee was bothering him.  It was still bothering him Wednesday night, but instead of turning to Wong again since he’d had a couple of good performances, Matheny determined the knee was good enough for Garcia to play second if not short and put him out there.  Garcia did get one of the only hits, but why send some one out there dealing with that?  You have a day off the next day.  Let him rest again, continue to see what Wong can do, and then you can let Garcia start in Cincinnati having had plenty of time to heal up.  That would be the logical thing, it would seem like, but logic doesn’t always seem to apply.

There’s a nice article on Matheny’s recent usage of his relievers–well, mainly Seung-hwan Oh.  I think folks have noticed that Matheny has done a better job of turning to Oh in non-traditional situations, such as a tie game on the road.  He did it a couple of times with Trevor Rosenthal earlier in the year, I think, at least bringing him into the eighth when he might not have normally done so.  I do think Matheny is getting better about how he uses his bullpen, though that’s of course a low bar to clear.  A lot of the problems Matheny has with the pen these days is, honestly, the options that he has and when to get them work.  Something that might not get a lot of help with the expanded rosters, given the lack of options that would seem to be coming up.

The Arizona Fall League players were announced and the Cardinals will be sending Carson Kelly, Harrison Bader, Ryan Sherriff, Rowan Wick, Corey Littrell, and Paul DeJong.  While Derrick Goold notes that this doesn’t preclude these players from coming up in September, I think a lot of times the Cards would want to give them the weeks off before sending them out to Arizona.  That might be less of an issue for the hitters than the pitchers, though I don’t expect any save Kelly might be in line to visit St. Louis.  Sherriff and Littrell, though, might be nice arms to have out in the pen for occasional use.  Memphis’s season doesn’t finish up until Monday, so we might not see any callups until then, though since the Redbirds are just playing out the string, it wouldn’t affect their season if those players came up earlier.  As of yet, though, no indication has been made that they’ll be expanding the roster.

It was reported a couple of days ago that Lance Lynn has been shelved for the rest of the season.  I did think that it was possible that they might try to use him as an occasional arm in the bullpen during September, but I can’t fault them for not pushing Lynn to return this season.  Hopefully given that he was this close that will mean he’ll be ready to go from the opening bell next year, though we’ll have to temper our expectations, especially seeing what Adam Wainwright did in 2012 and this year after having time off.

Cardinals are in Cincinnati tonight, starting their last series in Great American Ball Park this season.  With the calendar flipping, we are going to get to a lot of “lasts” for the 2016 season fairly soon.  (Next weekend, for example, will be the last time the Cards see the Brewers.)  Alex Reyes makes his second major league start and, perhaps importantly, the first one on full rest.  Will we see Matheny let him go 100 pitches tonight?  I’m sure it’ll all depend on situations, but hopefully if he’s one out away this time, there will be more leniency about letting him finish.  The Reds have actually seen Reyes, as he debuted against them throwing a scoreless inning.  Hopefully there will be more of the same in that bandbox tonight.

Cincinnati counters with Anthony DeSclafani, who is having a solid season for a struggling team.  Not only does he have a nice 2.96 ERA, he actually has eight wins to just two losses.  When you lose as often as Cincy does, that’s saying something.  (And what it is saying is that DeSclafani has done most of his pitching this year in the second half, when Cincinnati has been playing much better.)  St. Louis did beat him last month, when he allowed three runs in five innings (including, unsurprisingly, two home runs).

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Brandon Moss 16 15 5 1 0 1 3 1 6 .333 .375 .600 .975 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Carpenter 12 9 5 1 1 2 3 3 2 .556 .667 1.556 2.222 0 0 0 0 0
Kolten Wong 11 11 0 0 0 0 0 0 6 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Stephen Piscotty 9 9 2 0 0 0 0 0 3 .222 .222 .222 .444 0 0 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 8 8 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 1
Jhonny Peralta 8 7 3 0 0 1 1 0 1 .429 .500 .857 1.357 0 0 0 1 0
Randal Grichuk 5 5 3 0 1 0 0 0 1 .600 .600 1.000 1.600 0 0 0 0 0
Greg Garcia 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Jaime Garcia 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Jeremy Hazelbaker 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .500 .000 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Total 77 71 19 2 2 4 7 5 20 .268 .325 .521 .846 0 0 0 1 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/2/2016.

In the other wild-card action, the Cubs and Giants play this afternoon at Wrigley Field (Albert Suarez vs. Jon Lester, so on paper the Cards could make up some ground there).  Tonight, the Pirates host the Brewers (Junior Guerra vs. Jameson Taillon), the Mets (Noah Syndergaard) host the Nationals (A.J. Cole) and the fading Marlins are in Cleveland, with Cardinal antagonist Andrew Cashner going up against Carlos Carrasco.  It’s time for scoreboard watching to start in earnest!

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I don’t want to complain, because a win is a win and the Cardinals needed their victories the last couple of nights in Milwaukee.  It helped them get a little more breathing room in the wild card race as Chicago has beaten Pittsburgh twice in a row as well.  Everything is good here, situation normal….but don’t you think it should have been, well, easier?  The Cards may be 11-3 against the Brew Crew this season, but these last two games were like squeaking out victories against a comparable team, not a team 20 games under .500.  Again, a win is a win, so we won’t focus on that too much as we recap.

Monday (6-5 win)

Hero: Randal Grichuk.  Grichuk only had one hit, but it was probably the biggest one of the night.  After having squandered a 3-1 lead, the Cards trailed by two in the eighth before Jhonny Peralta singled and Grichuk did that home run thing that he does.  Instead of going into the ninth having a tough mountain to climb, Grichuk tied it up and helped set the stage for, well, whatever that was.

Goat: Matthew Bowman.  I’ve been thinking it recently, but the last two days seem to confirm it for me–Bowman is running out of gas.  While as a minor league starter he obviously threw more innings, he’s not been in as many games as he has this year and the constant use seems to be wearing on him.  The month of August has seen him give up 10 runs in 11.2 innings, an amount that could have climbed had Zach Duke not helped him escape from the bases-loaded jam he got himself into (to be fair, the last runner was intentionally passed, but I’m getting Tuesday’s talk into Monday’s recap).  For comparison’s sake, he gave up only 17 (15 earned) the rest of the year.  Even when he tried to throw an intentional walk Tuesday night, all the pitches were extremely low and I was afraid that they’d wind up bouncing away.  Bowman’s been outstanding all year long and it would be understandable if he’s hit a wall, but the Cards are going to need to figure out how to get him through it.

Notes: After all the Kolten Wong drama–and I thank everyone who made my post one of the most-read posts in the history of the Conclave–he actually had the chance to start on Monday and took advantage of it, hitting a home run to push the lead to two runs, stealing a base (after about six pickoff throws) in the eighth and going to third on an error, and making at least two strong defensive plays.  When he said he wanted to make the club play him, he wasn’t kidding.

Let’s talk about the ninth inning a bit.  I wasn’t on Twitter at the time, I don’t believe, but afterwards I got the impression there was quite a bit of shade thrown Mike Matheny‘s way for having Yadier Molina bunt with two on and one out.  (Though, as some noted, that could have Yadi’s call all the way–it wouldn’t be the first time.)  I’m no fan of extraneous bunting, but I think it’s a bit more warranted in this situation.  Sure, you cut down on your chances of scoring multiple runs, but you are in the ninth and hopefully only one run is necessary.  Yadi is a double play threat, obviously, and I’d rather have runners at second and third with one out than a runner at third with two down.  While I wouldn’t argue with those that say Yadi’s been one of the best hitters of late and he should swing away, I’m not going to complain about a bunt there.

That assumes a good bunt, of course, and Molina should have bunted into the absolute worst scenario, which would have been a runner at second and two outs.  Thankfully, in trying to rocket the ball across the infield in time Jonathan Villar put a little too much on it and the ball got past the second baseman, allowing Stephen Piscotty to come around with the go-ahead run.

The seventh also seemed to bring some criticism for the manager as he double-switched into the game Kevin Siegrist after Bowman had given up a homer and put two runners on.  That made some sense, though expecting Siegrist to get the two outs in the seventh and pitch the eighth might have been asking too much of a guy that recently had a dead arm.  The problem was that, to get that double switch, Matheny took out Brandon Moss, because he was hitting third and that’s what Matheny does.  That’s not entirely true, as Moss had just batted (though Piscotty had made the last out of the seventh), but removing your biggest power bat in a one-run game just doesn’t ever seem to bode well.  While I don’t know who else you’d remove, the simple fact is that there really wasn’t much need to double-switch at all since Siegrist would have hit fifth in the upcoming inning.  Matheny being Matheny, to some degree.

It wound up being necessary because Siegrist, who also seems to be not as automatic as of late, allowed Bowman’s runners and one of his own to score, forcing Matheny to go to Miguel Socolovich, who put out the fire and pitched the eighth as well.  Our good friend Joe Schwarz said on Twitter that he would put Soco as the second most trusted reliever out of the pen (behind Seung-hwan Oh, I assume).  While some people scoffed, I started thinking about it and that’s really a low bar to clear.

I mean, who would trust Socolovich over Jonathan Broxton?  We know Dean Kiekhefer has potential but he hasn’t been anything extraordinary when he’s been up with the club.  Jerome Williams?  Next.  We’ve talked about the recent issues with Bowman and Siegrist, meaning that they can be better then Socolovich, but I don’t know that you trust they will be.  That just leaves Zach Duke, who has had some of the same problems, though I worry a little less about him than others.  So I definitely can see where Joe is coming from, even though that says more about the state of the pen than it does about Socolovich’s talent.

Jedd Gyorko went two for four and smashed another home run, his 23rd of the season, tying his career high in significantly less at bats.  If you’d told any of us that Gyorko was going to hit 20 homers before the season, or even in April, I think folks would accuse you of excess homerism.  (And not the long ball kind.)

All this and we’ve not talked about the dominance that was Carlos Martinez in this game.  13 strikeouts in six innings, with just four hits allowed.  Before the sixth, all of the hits were infield variety and the way he started out, you were thinking no-hitter from the get-go.  Unfortunately, the strikeouts ran up his pitch count, meaning that we only got to see him for six frames, but Martinez was on his game in a way that we haven’t really seen and we’ve seen a lot.  His last four starts, he has a 2.00 ERA and a .188 BAA.  We focused a lot on the circumstances around his hair and around Matheny getting on him for being late, but it’s possible that they’ve helped him focus his talent on being that ace pitcher we feel he’s going to be.  Or, perhaps, it’s just coincidence.

Tuesday (2-1 win in 10)

Hero: Adam Wainwright.  On a night when inexplicably Wily Peralta was able to dominate the Cardinal hitters, Waino did the same to the Brew Crew.  Seven innings, three hits, one run is the kind of game we expect out of the actual (or at least nominal) ace of the staff and he delivered.  Way to have a birthday, Waino.

Goat: Stephen Piscotty.  Rough night for Piscotty, who went 0-4 with four strikeouts.  You like to win a Gold Glove, but you never want to acquire the golden sombrero.

Notes: Seriously, guys, that was Wily Peralta.  That’s not supposed to cause you do to anything but fight over who gets to come to the plate first.  It’s been quite some time since he’s had success against St. Louis–by whatever low standard you want to deem a success.  Yet last night he goes seven innings, allows one run, and strikes out 10.  Ten!  The highest he’d had all year was six.  You have to go back to his last start in 2014 to find another double-digit strikeout game (13 against the Cubs).  Now we know how the other teams felt when Mike Leake started striking out folks.

Molina was the only batter with two hits but Gyorko hit yet another home run.  I hope this is the Gyorko we are going to see over the next four years of this contract and not a one-time blip that has us wondering forever when he’s going to be that guy again.  To think that the club could have two guys reach 30 home runs (or at least very close) this season is astounding.

Siegrist pitched better here, Bowman didn’t (as mentioned above) and Duke got the save.  It’s not exactly the plan against the Brewers but, again, you take what you can get.

Luke Weaver goes for the Cardinals tonight, trying to get the sweep.  Our fresh-faced farmboy SkyWeaver has not faced the Brewers before, of course, but if his starts so far in the big leagues are any indication, he won’t be falling to the dark side here.  Matt Garza, on the other hand, is an familiar face for the Redbirds, having seen him most of his career in one place or another.  The results against him haven’t been bad either.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Jhonny Peralta 41 40 18 2 0 2 5 1 9 .450 .463 .650 1.113 0 0 0 0 2
Matt Carpenter 27 22 6 1 0 0 1 5 1 .273 .407 .318 .726 0 0 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 21 19 3 0 0 0 5 1 2 .158 .190 .158 .348 0 1 0 0 0
Brandon Moss 16 15 7 1 0 1 1 1 3 .467 .500 .733 1.233 0 0 0 0 1
Kolten Wong 12 10 1 0 0 0 0 2 1 .100 .250 .100 .350 0 0 0 0 0
Jaime Garcia 6 6 1 0 0 0 1 0 3 .167 .167 .167 .333 0 0 0 0 0
Adam Wainwright 5 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Carlos Martinez 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Tommy Pham 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .333 .000 .333 0 0 0 0 0
Greg Garcia 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 136 124 36 4 0 3 13 11 22 .290 .346 .395 .741 0 1 0 0 3
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/31/2016.

Last time out, Garza was touched for five runs in 5.1 innings against Pittsburgh.  None of them were earned, though his start before against Seattle he allowed six runs in 3.2 innings and five of them counted against the ERA.  Cardinals got to him for seven runs (four earned) in July and I’d like to think they could do that again tonight, but given the last couple of days, as long as the W goes up, I’ll be happy!

In closing, our good friend Dennis Lawson, who can be found from time to time at I70 Baseball, sent along this disabled list made up of United Cardinal Bloggers.  Given this season and the injury bug that has surrounded it of late, this is entirely reasonable.

blog-disabled-list

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