C70 At The Bat

As I said this morning, we’re taking the preseason standard feature Playing Pepper and applying it to the 2015 postseason participants.  This time around, we’re talking with our good friend James Yasko from Astros County.  James and I go back to when Houston was in the NL Central (you know, almost prehistoric times!) and he’s never held being a Cardinal fan against me, which is big coming from a guy in his situation.  I guess I could have just hacked some database to find out these answers, but James was nice enough to save me the trouble.  Seriously, if you want to follow the Astros through this postseason (or check in on them any time), Astros County is a great place to go.

C70: If you had to sum up this season in a word or phrase, what would it be?

AC: Unreal. I mean, we’ve all seen the Sports Illustrated 2017 World Champs thing, right? (Aside: I haven’t actually read the article. I can’t bring myself to do it just yet. I don’t know what it is, but I haven’t.). But still, when the Astros were 8-7 at the beginning of the year, I thought, “Okay,” this is about what I expected. Then they rattled off ten straight to get to 18-7, and it has been unreal – in both senses of the word. It was unreal that they led the division for as long as they did, and it was unreal that they blew it in the last three weeks of the season to the Rangers. And it was unreal that they actually had a fleeting chance to get the division back, and now it’s unreal that they still made the playoffs.

C70: What worries you the most about the Yankees, beyond the flukes of a one game battle?

AC: The randomness of a nine-inning game worries me the most. Dallas Keuchel should be the Cy Young winner, and he hasn’t allowed a run in two starts (16IP) against the Yankees in 2015. But that doesn’t mean that Base Ball can’t find a way to make all that meaningless in nine innings. Oh…beyond the flukes of a one-game playoff? It’s the Yankees, in Yankee Stadium. Dumb things happen in October all the time. I’m worried that Schilling’s strippers Aura and Mystique will show up and ruin what has been a perfectly good season and a chance to get back to the Rangers and finish some business.

C70: Assuming you get past the Wild Card Game, what has to happen for the Astros to have a deep October run?

AC: Assuming the Yankees game goes the way I’m sacrificing things for it to go, the Astros’ starting pitching has to do what it has done all year, and the bullpen has to stop doing what it’s done since September. At one point, the Astros’ bullpen had an ERA over 6.60 in September, and that just has to stop. The starting pitching has been great, the offense is hit or miss – a little more hit than miss lately – but the bullpen can’t go blowing leads like they did last month. In September, Josh Fields had an .892 OPS-against; Pat Neshek had an 1.181 OPS-against; Vincent Velasquez had a 1.014 OPS-against. That’s, uh, not going to work.

C70: Is there a player that will be the key to the postseason?

AC: The first player up is Keuchel. If he can continue his Cy Young season and shut the Yankees down will be the most key thing he can do. Thing about the Astros is that they’ve managed to spread the power around the lineup. They have eleven players with 10+ homers and two more (Jed Lowrie and Jake Marisnick) had nine. The story of the Astros is “lots of power, lots of strikeouts.” But both of those things can happen anywhere in the lineup. Getting past this crapshoot of a game will be the biggest thing to a deeper run.

C70: How high is confidence running among the Houston faithful?

AC: Confidence is a funny thing. As a fanbase we’re kind of shell-shocked by how bad things went in September (11-16, eleven of those losses by one or two runs, getting swept at home by the Rangers…), but the team is here, and we saw with the Royals last year that sometimes that’s all it takes.

C70: What’s the minimum that counts as a successful postseason for the Astros?

AC: I think it’s already a success. The team lost 111 games two years ago and now they’re in the postseason, even if it’s the dumb pre-post-season, and it’s not like 2005 – the last time the Astros were in the playoffs – with an ancient Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell. This team is built for more runs than that one.  If the Astros can continue to develop, continue to draft well, and continue to keep the Cardinals from breaking into their system and reading their secrets, then there will be more playoff runs to come.


Surely by now you know of Playing Pepper, that preseason look around the majors where we harass numerous bloggers until they give me answers to various questions so I’ll shut up.  Occasionally, I’ve done a postseason version of this and it seemed like a great time to dust that off this year.  We’ll start with the AL Wild Card Game participants.  We’ll look at the Yankees first, then the Astros this afternoon.

Instead of a scattershot approach, I honed in on one blogger this time around.  For the Yankees, that was Bernadette Pasley, who writes the blog Lady At The Bat.  I asked her six questions about the Yankees and their postseason and she was gracious enough to get some answers to me.  Be sure to check out her blog as you keep track of the postseason!

C70: If you had to sum up this season in a word or phrase, what would it be?

LATB: Surprising! I predicted that the Yankees would NOT make the playoffs at all.

C70: What worries you the most about the Astros, beyond the flukes of a one game battle?

LATB: Dallas Keuchel. He has pitched 16 shutout innings against the Yankees this year and, even though he doesn’t pitch as well on the road, he HAS beaten the Yankees at Yankee Stadium this season.

C70: Assuming you get past the Wild Card Game, what has to happen for the Yankees to have a deep October run?

LATB: It’s very important for the starting pitching to go deep into games, something they actually did NOT do during the regular season. Other than the 8th and 9th inning duo of Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller respectively, and maybe Justin Wilson/Adam Warren in the 7th, there isn’t a soul in the bullpen who is trustworthy. Also, with CC Sabathia off the roster, Warren might have to start, which will only further weaken the pen.  Then again, CC hasn’t been great this year, so I doubt his absence will make that much of a difference.

C70: Is there a player that will be the key to the postseason?

LATB: First baseman Greg Bird might be that guy. Since his MLB debut in August he has proven to be a nice substitute for Mark Teixeira. Defensively he is just okay, but his bat could really make a difference.

C70: How high is confidence running among the New York faithful?

LATB: I think most people think the Yankees have a small chance to win the game. They would feel more confident, I would imagine, if Masahiro Tanaka had been more consistent during the regular season.

C70: What’s the minimum that counts as a successful postseason for the Yankees?

LATB: Winning the Wild Card Game and not getting swept in the ALDS would make for a successful Yankees postseason.


It seems like every year, around this time, there are these “who to follow on Twitter” lists for each team making the playoffs.  Most of the time, these lists are fairly good and have some important folks to follow on them.  (Last year’s postseason list had a strange outlier on it, though.)  However, these lists are 1) somewhat compiled by the national folks, though fans do have input and 2) aren’t ranked in any form or fashion.  Of course, ranking Twitter accounts is subjective and impossibly hard, but that’s never stopped folks on the internet before, right?

We’re starting the postseason now, which means more down time.  There’s four days until the NLDS starts and, even if that goes the distance, there’s two off days in that mix.  Same for the NLCS and World Series.  And that’s assuming the Cardinals make it through the gauntlet to the Series again, something that there is no guarantee.  There’s plenty of stress and anxiety, second-guessing and worry, so let me give you something that will help fill any downtime and take your mind off of whatever struggles St. Louis throws at you this month.

I’m asking for you to rank the most vital Twitter accounts that you follow dealing with the Cardinals.  How you determine whether it’s Cardinals-centric is, I guess, up to you, but I’d suggest a large portion of the Twitter activity deals with the Redbirds.  Accounts like @dgoold, @LangoschMLB, @Cardinals, @FSMidwest would seem to be no-doubters.  Accounts like @MLB or @SN_Baseball probably wouldn’t be since they have a broader focus, even if they touch on the Cardinals sometimes.  Accounts that cover all of St. Louis sports, like @KMOXSports, might be more of a judgement call.

I’m embedding a form here in this post, but you can also get to it via this link if you want to share it but not subject anyone to my ramblings.  15 accounts are required to be ranked, but I have allowed five extra spots if you want to go a little deeper.  You can do 15, you can do 20, you can do any number in between.  My plan is to give 25 points to your top ranked account, 24 to the second, and down the line until (if you do 20) the last one gets 6.  I’ll sum them all up and come out with a Top 25 Twitter Accounts series of posts in early November.  (Yes, this is also about me trying to create content for the offseason.  I’m not too proud to admit that.)

I’ve also provided a spot for comments after each account.  It’s not mandatory by any means, but if you want to tell me what you like/don’t like about that account, why you have it high or low, or anything related to it, feel free to share.  I will probably use those comments in my posts later on, perhaps even as a direct quote.  So do realize that if you put it down there, it may show up with your Twitter handle on the site later on.  I say that not to discourage you from commenting (there really shouldn’t be too many negatives in 20 accounts as there are many more great ones than that out there) but just to let you know it may not be anonymous.  Fair warming.

I’ll leave these open until November 1 and I encourage you to share this with your Cardinal fan friends and family that are on Twitter.  The more input, the more likely these will be at least reasonable rankings will be created out of all this.  I think it could be a fun thing and there’s no reason to use it as a snub/slight/teardown of anyone else on Twitter.  Have fun!

Oh, and it’s @C70.  You know, just in case you needed it.


A Dozen To Doughnuts

There really isn’t such a thing as momentum going into the playoffs, I don’t think.  Especially if you aren’t playing in the wild card game, these days there are so many off days between the end of the season and the start of the LDS that it doesn’t seem to have much bearing.  Last year’s Giants went 4-6 in their last 10 games, though they did win the last two.  Boston in 2013? 5-5 and they dropped the last two of the season.  We know just from Cardinal history how strange momentum can be–2006 limped to the finish line, 2011 rushed to it, and they both wound up in the same place.

That being said, being outscored 12-0 in an entire series isn’t exactly the last memory you’d like to have of the regular season.  After going two-plus years since being swept in a three-game series (ironically, the last was also at Turner Field), the makeshift lineups and spring training atmosphere wound up finally doing in the Redbirds.  There’s no doubt that they could have been more competitive if they tried, but it’s hard to argue that they really should have tried much more than they did.

It was a pretty forgettable end to the season that was so anticlimatic after Wednesday night’s clincher that you had to be almost reminded that there were more games to be played.  Perhaps someone should have reminded the players as well.  It’s not fun, but let’s look at this one.

Friday (4-0 loss)

Hero: Brandon Moss.  If there was anything going on this weekend, it was the fact that certain fringe folks were auditioning for the postseason roster.  Moss was one of them and seized his opportunity in this one, going two for two with a double and two walks.  When the whole team can muster up only five hits, it’s pretty clear Moss stood out from the rest.

Goat: Lots of folks with nothing to show for their night, but I’ll give it to Tommy Pham because 1) he was the leadoff guy and everyone by now knows the “tie goes to the leadoff man” rule here and 2) Pham had to have a good weekend to hopefully supplant Jon Jay on the postseason roster.  He didn’t and, fair or not (probably not), it’s likely that’ll be held against him.

Notes: The only “regular” you could probably claim in this one was Tony Cruz, though Matt Adams and Randal Grichuk would probably also count but they were in there doing rehab more than anything.  So it wasn’t surprising that Jaime Garcia got saddled with a loss, going just four innings and allowing six hits and two runs.  It’s really hard to know how to judge the pitching performances from this weekend.  Were they just going through the motions?  Were they really just trying to get their work in and not worry about the results?  If it was any other time, we’d be concerned about that many hits, I think (though Garcia would have gone longer than four innings, so they may have evened out).  Five strikeouts and two walks and really nothing that would force us to reconsider him in either of the first two games of the NLDS.

Adam Wainwright got back out there in this one, right on schedule, and was as effective as always, with his only runner reaching on an error by Mark Reynolds.  If there was a bit of auditioning in his work this weekend, it came out just the way everyone would have wanted.  There seems little doubt he’ll be on the postseason roster, though how he’ll be used is a different story.

Surprisingly, this one took about three hours to play.  Given the lack of desire on both sides, I can’t believe it took that long.

Sunday Game 1 (6-0 loss)

Hero: Adam Wainwright.  Look, the team had three hits, the two pitchers before Waino each gave up three runs, what else do you want?  Besides, I finally got to see him in action and I was almost giddy seeing those last two curveballs to Cameron Maybin.  When you see the Uncle Charlie going that well, you really hope they’ll expand him out past just one inning in the playoffs.  He could be such a weapon for this team.

Goat: Stephen Piscotty.  Give him the caveat that he was perhaps a bit rusty after being, you know, completely knocked out and in the hospital a few days ago, but he still went 0-4 with a double play.  He didn’t lose the game–there was plenty of that going around–but it wasn’t his best game either.

Notes: John Lackey took the mound and, like most everyone else this weekend, wasn’t exactly dominating.  Three runs in four innings is not really what you want to see, though he did strike out four and walk none.  Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons followed him, trying to strengthen his postseason roster case.  Lyons allowed two homers in his three innings, but struck out six (including four in a row) and his newly found command (only three walks in the second half of the season, compared to 12 in similar innings in the first half) is probably going to have him get touched for the long ball occasionally.  I think he’s still on the roster, but if the club does go 14 hitters/11 pitchers as they should and are apparently considering, I don’t know if he becomes a late cut or not.

As for the offense….there really wasn’t any.  Three hits, all singles, by Matt Carpenter, Jason Heyward, and Moss.  They got more walks (four) than hits, which is never exactly the way you want to draw it up.  Shelby Miller finally snapped that crazy non-winning streak, though, and I think that’s a good thing for the former Redbird.  I always figured he’d win his start against the Cards, though I didn’t think that it’d be quite that easy.

Sunday Game 2 (2-0 loss)

Hero: Lance Lynn.  Seven hits in five innings isn’t great and you’d probably like to see more than two strikeouts, but Lynn limited the Braves to one run and zero walks, which helps revive a little bit of confidence in him as the club goes into the postseason.  Not enough to start him in one of the first two games, I don’t think, especially since his home/road splits aren’t significantly different, but you don’t worry quite as much about him taking the ball in Game 3 against either Jake Arrieta or Gerrit Cole (or, perhaps, going in Game 4 and sending Michael Wacha to be the sacrificial lamb against those guys).

Goat: Jon Jay.  Again, leadoff guy in a mess of a game tends to get the tag.  We’ve talked about Pham’s struggles down the stretch, but it’s not like Jay’s a house afire.  0 for his last 9 (though he had that wild clincher where he was hit twice and walked twice in that span) and two for his last 20.  Experience is great, but this isn’t the Jay from 2011.  Even with Pham scuffling, I think most fans would still take him over a hampered Jay any day of the week.  However, Mike Matheny isn’t most fans.

Notes: Pham did get a hit in this one, so he’s got a more recent knock than Jay, if that means anything to the roster-setting decision making.  Moss had a pinch-hit double, which meant that he had four hits this weekend while the entire rest of the squad had eight.  It’s possible he wanted to make an impression.  Whether he did or not will depend on how they want to deal with center field, I expect.  Steve Cishek gave up a run in his outing and, with the return of Wainwright and the possibility of just 11 pitchers, I think he might be on the outside looking in given the way Matheny has used him over the past few weeks.

Overall, we saw Kevin Siegrist for just one inning since Wednesday, Seth Maness the same, and Trevor Rosenthal hasn’t gone since he threw on Monday.  Matheny wanted to rest his horses and that’s exactly what he did.  When you factor in the four off days before the NLDS starts on Friday, those three will have thrown a total of two innings in 10 days, with Rosenthal getting close to two weeks since his last outing.  There may be a rust factor, but the arms should be fully recharged (or, at least, as much as you can at the end of a 162-game season).

We’ll have time to talk about the postseason roster and the other things that go along with it, like the fact that Grichuk may not play much center the rest of the way, which may be a sign we’ve not seen the last of Jay.  Those are discussions for later in the week.  Right now, the regular season is over and, even though there is more baseball, there should be a little mourning.  I’ve often said I prefer regular season baseball to postseason baseball because I get so terribly stressed in October, but it’s also because I enjoy coming home from work, turning on the TV, and seeing the ballgame.  I never know what to do with myself after the season is over, though getting MLB Network has helped.

Another season is in the books.  Let’s hope it gets a great crown to go on top of it.

If you are a Twitter user, come back this afternoon for the start of a project I want to try out.  I’ll need lots of help on it, so please share your input!


Fandom is a strange thing, when you think about it.

Unless you grew up in the shadow of a major league stadium, why do you pick the team you do?  If you listened to my most recent Conversation, you heard my friend Robert say he became a Royals fan almost out of spite, while my friend Chad became a Mets fan because that’s what his Little League team was.  Sometimes it’s because your family was a fan, sometimes it’s more creative than that.

And even if your reason for liking a team may be “rational”, what about your favorite players?  Are they your favorite because they are the stars?  Or do you have a soft spot for players for the most random reasons?  Perhaps they hit a home run the first time you went to the ballpark.  Perhaps they played the same position that you did in teeball.  Perhaps they gave you an autograph.

Or, perhaps, they just wore the right number.

Unless you are just joining us (and, if so, welcome in!) you know that Tyler Lyons is called the Patron Pitcher of the Blog around these parts.  When he came up in 2013, I took an immediate shine to him because it was the first time I’d seen a player wear #70 since I picked up the moniker Cardinal70.  Coming out of the gate strong didn’t hurt anything either, of course, but even when he faltered, even when he went back to the minors, I kept an eye on him and provided a defense for him often on Twitter when he took the slings and arrows of frustrated fans.

While I wouldn’t say he was my favorite player or that I expect him to front a rotation some day, the whole process has made me become very fond of Mr. Lyons.  One of the absolute highlights of my podcasting career was getting a chance to talk to him before this season, letting him know that (statistically) he was the best #70 in Cardinal history.  Lyons has been a contributor to the last couple of Cardinal teams–not the main one, not even a key one, but one of those that wins you games here and there.  As we’ve seen this season, winning those kind of games can be a huge benefit later in the year.

All that to say that, as I kept monitoring the second game of yesterday’s doubleheader, I couldn’t keep a goofy grin off of my face.  I don’t know that there were many that seriously thought Lyons would step up the way he did.  (Though there were some–I’m not the only one on the Lyons bandwagon, even if I am probably either driving or riding shotgun.)  To see him come through in such a manner in a game that had such significance was awesome.  I’ve often said that Lyons would be a fine back-of-the-rotation starter for a team that had much less pitching depth than this Cardinal club had and he showed why last night.  That could be the best game of his career, but I have a feeling that if it is, he’ll take it.

With all that out of the way, we probably should talk more about the games.  Let’s do Game 1 first, partly because of order, partly because that means we end the post on a high note.

For as great and joyful as Game 2 was, Game 1 was almost the exact opposite.  It started out fairly well, with Matt Holliday driving in a run in the fourth to erase an early Pirates lead, but then the wheels fell off for Michael Wacha in the bottom of that frame, giving him the Goat for the early game.  I went into a meeting right after Holliday was cut down trying to score the go-ahead run and came back out right after Wacha had allowed his grand slam to Francisco Cervelli, so I missed the discussions about the intentional walk to Pedro Alvarez.

While I can see why you wouldn’t want to issue the intentional pass, especially given Wacha’s struggles of late, there is at least some kernel of reason there.  We all know what Alvarez has done in the past to the Cardinals, so much so that it seems the strategy toward him changed in this series and he was to be walked intentionally or quasi-intentionally every time he came up in a position to do damage.  It also set up the double play, which Cervelli has 11 of on the year.  So, in a vacuum, I think you can see what Mike Matheny was getting at.  And, if it had worked, I don’t think necessarily folks would have been saying that he “got away with one.”

That said, Cervelli is hitting almost .300 with some power, though not as much power as Alvarez, who is hitting .244 and has over 120 strikeouts.  Alvarez doesn’t have a history of hitting Wacha well.  Perhaps you just take your chances there and see if you can’t get Alvarez, then walk Cervelli and face Jordy Mercer with the bases loaded.

The way Wacha has been pitching of late, though, I’m really not sure that there was a right decision.  Even after the slam, he gave up a walk to Mercer and a run-scoring double to Gregory Polanco.  If Polanco isn’t out trying to go for second (mainly to make sure the run scored), who knows how much worse that inning could have gotten.  The numbers for Wacha in September are ugly, even if you don’t include this one.  However, counting this one he’s had five September starts.  In only one of them has he been around for the sixth inning.  Two of them had his day cut short after four.  He’s thrown 24 September innings and allowed 21 earned runs.  His strikeouts and walks are almost even.

There was a great bit of analysis over at Gammons Daily about Wacha, indicating that either fatigue or discomfort is probably playing a big role here.  If it’s the latter, that’s of course very worrisome.  Would it be enough to keep him off the postseason roster?  If Carlos Martinez hadn’t gone down, I’d say maybe it’d move him to the bullpen.  After all, there were times yesterday when he looked very sharp, but it fell apart in the fourth.  If you could get an inning or two of good pitching out of Wacha, it’d be great to have him in the postseason pen.  Even with the strong start by Lyons last night, though, I can’t see Matheny taking Wacha out of the rotation without a doctor’s examination and, apparently, it’s not to that point yet.

The Hero of the day would have to be Matt Carpenter, who doubled and scored the first run, then hit a ball into the Allegheny River.  The home run didn’t make much impact in the game, but it was a cool thing to see as not many players have dunked a ball there.  Besides Carpenter, Tony Cruz had a big day with a couple of doubles before he left late in the game to rest up for Game 2.  (Ed Easley still can’t get off the bench, though I don’t know that there’s a big outcry for him to do so.  Maybe he’ll get a start in Atlanta since everything is wrapped up now.)

Of course, the biggest news of Game 1 was the return of Adam Wainwright.  Waino had said from the first interviews after his Achilles tear that his goal was to be back this season and while none of us really believed him, he made it happen, pitching the eighth inning yesterday.  It didn’t look like he had a lot of rust either, giving up a run partly because Kolten Wong couldn’t corral a ball.  He struck out his first batter and, all in all, reminded us of all that was good in life.  Given that the issue had nothing to do with his arm, there’s no reason to think that he won’t be fine going forward and, most likely, we’ll see him when October rolls around.

Game 2 was much more fun, with the Cardinals matching their run total from the first game right out of the gate.  There was some talk that Joe Blanton might get the start for Pittsburgh over Charlie Morton and there are probably a number of Pirates fans that wish that had been the case, as Blanton was the only Pirate pitcher that didn’t allow a run, throwing three scoreless innings with just a hit and a walk allowed.  Unfortunately for those wearing the black and gold, he didn’t come in until the fourth, when the game was already 6-0.  When he left, the game got uglier as well.  Let’s just say that if the Pirates need a fourth starter in the NLDS against St. Louis, it won’t be Morton.

As much as you know I want to give the Hero tag to the Patron Pitcher, you can’t go against Jason Heyward in this one.  What a perfect time for his first home run since September 15!  Heyward sensed the postseason and he wasn’t going to be denied.  Not only did he have that grand slam that pretty much put the game away early, he had a single and a double and two nice plays in the outfield.  I didn’t see a lot of Heyward in the post-game celebration, but what I did see showed a guy that was right at home in that clubhouse and was having a blast.  That kinda thing goes a long way, you know?


Heyward’s game wasn’t the only strong offensive performance, though.  Carpenter kept it rolling with two hits, two walks, and three runs scored.  Jhonny Peralta had two hits, including driving in the first run of the game with a single.  Matt Adams had an RBI double in the first.  Cruz had himself a night, getting two hits in the nightcap, including a home run to provide the final margin.

Then there is Jon Jay.  Jay was a controversial addition to the lineup in Game 1 but an overwhelmingly criticized part of the Game 2 lineup.  Which is reasonable–Tommy Pham has been buried of late and there seemed little reason to start Jay two games in a row.  However, maybe Matheny knew that Jay was going to adjust his personal gravity field again as he got plunked the first two times he came up, scoring the second time on Heyward’s slam.  Jay also walked twice, which led to the strangest 0-1 you’ve probably ever seen.

Picking a Goat for the clincher may not be fun, but Randal Grichuk did make it easy.  He was the only starter with no hits and he left three on base.  Thankfully, that really didn’t come into play and nobody really worried about it.  I wasn’t on Twitter until late last night but I imagine the griping was pretty much at a minimum!

Cardinals have a day off today, which is big because that means the party hangover (in whatever form that might take) shouldn’t affect their next game.  The Atlanta series now is a chance for Matheny to rest the regulars, to let folks like Peter Bourjos and Pete Kozma play without too many people caring, to try to not use Kevin Siegrist or Seth Maness at all.  We’ll see how that all pans out.

Jaime Garcia will take the mound for St. Louis, up against Julio Teheran for the Braves.  Garcia can make his case to be the Game 1 starter with a strong outing, though his case is pretty solid as it is.  It pretty much has to be him or John Lackey, right?

Michael Bourn 13 12 7 2 0 0 0 1 1 .583 .615 .750 1.365 0 0 0 0 0
Cameron Maybin 10 10 3 0 0 1 2 0 1 .300 .300 .600 .900 0 0 0 0 0
Freddie Freeman 9 7 4 0 0 2 5 1 2 .571 .667 1.429 2.095 0 0 0 1 0
Edwin Jackson 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Nick Markakis 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 1
Andrelton Simmons 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 41 38 15 2 0 3 7 2 4 .395 .439 .684 1.123 0 0 0 1 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 10/1/2015.

Teheran hasn’t been quite as dominant as most folks expected he would be, putting up a 10-8 record with a 4.16 ERA.  (Shelby Miller is wondering how exactly to get some of those wins.)  He’s been strong in September, though, not allowing more than two runs in any of his starts and going at least 5.2 innings in each of them.  It could be a pitcher’s duel, which is much more fun to watch when playoff lives aren’t riding on the outcome.

Matt Carpenter 7 7 2 0 0 1 1 0 2 .286 .286 .714 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Holliday 6 6 1 1 0 0 0 0 3 .167 .167 .333 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 6 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Jon Jay 5 4 1 1 0 0 0 1 1 .250 .400 .500 .900 0 0 0 0 0
Brandon Moss 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 .000 .667 .000 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Kolten Wong 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .333 .000 .333 0 0 0 0 0
Carlos Villanueva 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 32 28 5 2 0 1 1 4 8 .179 .281 .357 .638 0 0 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 10/1/2015.

100 wins and a divisional title.  That’s a good year.  But the year’s not over, so let’s see if the Cards can go out strong before the playoffs!


Tonight’s Game Cancelled

Rain in Pittsburgh has cancelled tonight’s Cardinals/Pirates matchup. There will be a doubleheader tomorrow, with the makeup game at 1:35 PM Eastern. Available for that game? Adam Wainwright, who will be activated and can pitch one inning Wednesday, Friday and Sunday per the team.


Surviving Reichenbach

If you are a fan of the Sherlock Holmes canon, you surely know about Reichenbach Falls. For those that aren’t up on the adventures of the world’s greatest detective (non-Batman category), Arthur Conan Doyle wrote what was to be the last Holmes story, entitled “The Final Problem”, and the climax had Holmes and his greatest adversary, Professor Moriarty, apparently grappling above the Reichenbach Falls until they both fell over the edge. Holmes’s companion, Dr. Watson, returns to the scene to find footprints going toward the Falls but none coming back.

Of course, that wasn’t the end of Holmes, as public outcry forced Doyle to eventually bring back the detective. So how did he survive? After his return, he gave his side of the story to Watson in “The Empty House”.

I had little doubt that I had come to the end of my career when I perceived the somewhat sinister figure of the late Professor Moriarty standing upon the narrow pathway which led to safety. I read an inexorable purpose in his gray eyes. I exchanged some remarks with him, therefore, and obtained his courteous permission to write the short note which you afterwards received. I left it with my cigarette-box and my stick, and I walked along the pathway, Moriarty still at my heels. When I reached the end I stood at bay. He drew no weapon, but he rushed at me and threw his long arms around me. He knew that his own game was up, and was only anxious to revenge himself upon me. We tottered together upon the brink of the fall. I have some knowledge, however, of baritsu, or the Japanese system of wrestling, which has more than once been very useful to me. I slipped through his grip, and he with a horrible scream kicked madly for a few seconds, and clawed the air with both his hands. But for all his efforts he could not get his balance, and over he went. With my face over the brink, I saw him fall for a long way. Then he struck a rock, bounded off, and splashed into the water.

That image came to me after watching the Cardinals and the Pirates last night. Two great competitors, locked in a struggle over the brink of almost virtual elimination. Neither side giving way, slipping out of whatever holds or moves the other would throw at them, until finally one got an advantage, pressed it, and survived the encounter.

I don’t think early on in the game many people would have expected the one that looked into the abyss instead of falling into it to be St. Louis, though. While Lance Lynn gutted out five scoreless innings, he did so with baserunners aplenty, allowing four hits and four walks in his time on the hill.  Throwing almost double the pitches it took his counterpart J.A. Happ to get through the same amount of time, Lynn was able to curtail some of the damage by getting ground balls, which didn’t quite turn into double plays but at least let him get the lead runner off the basepaths at times.

What really saved Lynn, though, was some stellar defense. Gregory Polanco started the fifth inning by doubling. With the heart of the order coming up for the third time already, Lynn was walking the tightrope. However, Josh Harrison then hit a bouncing ball to short. Polanco, surprisingly, took off for third, trying to be aggressive. The ball bounced true to Jhonny Peralta, who turned and fired a seed to Matt Carpenter, who applied the tag. It was a strange decision, but it took an excellent play to get him.

However, our Hero is the one that really bailed Lynn out. The #SignJasonHeyward movement was in full effect last night and it had nothing to do with his offensive performance. In fact, Jason Heyward just had one infield hit all night, but he made his presence known.

I don’t remember the last time the Cardinals had an outfield that you were excited to see throw like we are with Heyward. His arm has been incredible and a joy to watch. In the second inning, with the bases loaded, Jordy Mercer flew out to medium right-center, which was close enough to where Heyward was playing at the time. Heyward called off Matt Holliday, caught the ball, and fired a strike home, nailing Starling Marte at the plate. Then, in the seventh, he made a diving stab of Mercer’s sinking liner with two on and one out, helping Steve Cishek get out of an inning that, honestly, I’m not sure that he deserved to get out of. When you walk three guys in one frame, it’s tough to put up a zero in the runs column. Unless you can get them to hit it toward Jason Heyward.

Things didn’t get any easier late. It was a frustrating top of the seventh as the Cardinals put runners on the corners with two outs, only to see Peralta wind up swinging at strike three in the dirt (after a solid at-bat, though). In the bottom of the seventh, the first out was so costly, as Peter Bourjos collided with Stephen Piscotty to make the catch. As many terrible injury moments the Cards have had this season, that probably was the scariest. Piscotty had just moved from right field to left field at the top of that inning, but I don’t think that had much to do with it. The ball was just in the wrong place and both men had to go full out to make sure it was caught. They just got to the same space at the same time and Bourjos’s knee apparently clocked a diving Piscotty in the head. (Which is slightly ironic, given that Bourjos took a knee to the head earlier this year, receiving the blow from David Ross of the Cubs as he scored the game-winning run.)

It’s been a long, long time since I’ve seen a player have to go out on a cart. I was actually listening to the game at the time on the radio and continued to grow concerned as John Rooney talked about how long they were out there, how both sets of trainers were working on him, how the on-call doctors were getting to him (which almost never happens, in my memory; the trainers are usually enough). It was good that he was able to move around and wave to the crowd as he left, even better to hear that all the tests at the hospital showed no fractures or substantial damage. We’re not going to see Piscotty out there tonight or probably even tomorrow, but it does sound like this team that has been riddled with so many injuries may have dodged another bullet there. The last thing this squad needs was to go to the postseason without Piscotty, especially when being down Carlos Martinez already.

The teams grappled and grappled over that abyss before, as noted above, one team slipped. St. Louis had three hits in the first eight innings. They got three in the ninth, but the biggest play may have come from Polanco, who misplayed Jon Jay‘s hit (he didn’t say after the game that he was surprised Jay got a hit, which was nice of him) and Carpenter, who had singled with one out, was able to come around to score. Mark Reynolds then cracked a two-run homer to give everyone that cushion they wanted to keep their hearts from stopping in the bottom of the ninth.

Or so we thought. As I said on Sunday, you don’t take Jason Isringhausen‘s save record from him with a 1-2-3 inning. That’s borderline disrespectful to the former Cardinal closer. ÃTrevor Rosenthal kept the spirit of Izzy alive, walking Andrew McCutchen and allowing a single to Marte to put two on with nobody out. (The Cardinals walked 10 batters in this one. If you can walk 10 batters over nine innings and not allow a run, well, let’s just say we probably have a good idea of the frustration Pirates fans are feeling today.) Rosenthal got it together after that though, striking out Neil Walker, getting Francisco Cervelli to fly out to Heyward and then battling the Sith Lord, Aramis Ramirez, into a infield groundout to end the game.

Who’s the Goat in this one? I guess we’ll go with Brandon Moss, who was 0-2 with a strikeout before Tommy Pham pinch-hit for him in the eighth. Moss was in there because of some good history against Happ, but as we saw 1) small sample sizes aren’t the best for decision making and 2) both Moss and Happ were different folks when those stats were accumulated.

It was pretty interesting, I think, to see how long it took Pham to get into the game. Right before Piscotty was injured, he had moved to left field as Holliday had left the game. Heyward had moved over to right and Bourjos had been moved to center. When was the last time you saw Bourjos get time before anyone, especially Pham? Granted, it was a scoreless game in the seventh and probably it was for defensive purposes (and Pham likely doesn’t get that fly ball, though in that situation Piscotty isn’t reclining at Allegheny General right now, wondering exactly what that stuff on his plate is supposed to be), but it was still a little surprising. Then, when Piscotty was literally knocked out, Jay comes in. It worked out, of course–Jay’s hit wound up being key–but it was unexpected.

What exactly has Pham done to get buried on the bench? I understand he can’t play everyday anymore as you try to get Holliday and Matt Adams ready for the postseason, but to use every outfielder before you use him in a game like that? It doesn’t make a lot of sense. I don’t know if Mike Matheny doesn’t think the rookie can handle the pressure–which may also explain why we haven’t seen much of Miguel Socolovich and Sam Tuivailala–but I think that’s a pretty questionable way of looking at it. Pham was doing fine and he ought to get a chance to see how he does under pressure before just assuming he can’t handle it.

Apparently, after years and years of conclusive data, the Cardinals have figured out how to deal with Pedro Alvarez: don’t let him hit.  St. Louis walked Alvarez three times, preferring to deal with Mercer and the pitcher’s spot than to deal with the guy that sometimes seems like he owes his continuing MLB career to the Redbirds.  The walks weren’t all intentional only because Tony Cruz didn’t stand up and walk out to the side to receive them.  Lynn did intentionally walk him in the second, which lead to the Heyward catch-and-throw double play, then threw him four pitches in the fourth to walk him and Cishek did the same to him in the sixth.

That strategy can only go so far, of course, and he came up in the seventh with the bases loaded and two outs after all the Piscotty stuff earlier in the frame.  Kevin Siegrist was able to get him to fly out, which on the face of it was a bit surprising.  Alvarez may be a lefty, but this year he’s hit lefties better than righties (though in a much, much smaller sample), though much of that has been done away from PNC Park.  To be able to get out both Alvarez and Ramirez in big spots late in a tight game is impressive and, frankly, something I am stunned the Cardinals were able to do.

Adam Wainwright pitched off the PNC mound before the game yesterday and, assuming he comes to the ballpark healthy today, will likely be activated.  If things go the way the Cardinals want, they’d win tonight without Waino and then let him back up the Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons in tomorrow’s game.  Let Lyons go five, Wainwright two, then hopefully (since, with a win tonight, tomorrow’s game doesn’t mean anything), Socolovich and Tui to wrap it up.  That’s the dream, we’ll see if they can live it.

The Cardinals have won 99 games and still haven’t clinched the division.  Hopefully we see triple digits and spraying champagne tonight, because Gerrit Cole looms for tomorrow.  Michael Wacha will take the ball today, looking to harken back to that October outing against the Pirates in 2013.  A game like that would be huge, but Wacha’s been shakier of late, allowing 15 earned runs in 20 September innings.  He faced Pittsburgh last on August 12, where he allowed two runs in six innings and picked up his 14th win.  He faced the Pirates twice in May in back-to-back starts and did well then also, with a combined two runs in 12.2 innings.  You’d like to think that, if he could keep it to two runs today, we’d be talking clinching in tomorrow’s post, though you never know with this offense.

Andrew McCutchen 19 18 7 1 1 1 2 1 4 .389 .421 .722 1.143 0 0 0 0 0
Pedro Alvarez 18 15 2 1 0 1 2 3 5 .133 .278 .400 .678 0 0 0 0 1
Neil Walker 17 16 2 0 0 0 1 0 3 .125 .176 .125 .301 0 0 0 1 0
Starling Marte 13 13 3 0 0 0 1 0 2 .231 .231 .231 .462 0 0 0 0 0
Jordy Mercer 12 12 2 1 0 0 0 0 1 .167 .167 .250 .417 0 0 0 0 0
Gregory Polanco 10 9 5 1 0 0 0 1 1 .556 .600 .667 1.267 0 0 1 0 0
Aramis Ramirez 8 6 2 0 0 1 2 1 2 .333 .500 .833 1.333 0 0 0 1 0
Francisco Cervelli 6 5 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 .200 .333 .200 .533 0 0 0 0 0
Josh Harrison 6 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Gerrit Cole 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Francisco Liriano 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Mike Morse 3 3 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .667 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Chris Stewart 3 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000 1 0 0 0 0
Sean Rodriguez 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Vance Worley 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Travis Ishikawa 1 1 1 0 0 1 3 0 0 1.000 1.000 4.000 5.000 0 0 0 0 0
Charlie Morton 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 127 117 27 5 1 4 11 7 24 .231 .286 .393 .679 1 0 1 2 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/29/2015.

Charlie Morton takes the hill for Pittsburgh, trying to keep things afloat for their ace to make a meaningful appearance on Wednesday. Morton’s overall numbers are not impressive (9-8, 4.54 ERA) and his last start was in Colorado, where he allowed six runs in 4.1 innings.  However, one of his best starts recently was against St. Louis (I know, you are stunned) when he went six innings and allowed four hits and two runs (one earned) on September 5, though he still wound up losing that game.  That was, surprisingly, the only time the Redbirds have seen him in 2015.  By ERA, at least, Morton’s been significantly better at home and at night, so if he’s going to have a good game, this would be the time it happens.

Matt Holliday 35 34 10 1 0 2 7 1 3 .294 .314 .500 .814 0 0 0 0 3
Jon Jay 32 24 9 2 0 0 3 3 9 .375 .500 .458 .958 2 0 0 3 0
Yadier Molina 31 31 10 4 0 0 7 0 1 .323 .323 .452 .774 0 0 0 0 1
Matt Carpenter 24 17 4 1 0 0 1 6 6 .235 .435 .294 .729 1 0 0 0 0
Mark Reynolds 13 9 4 0 0 0 1 2 4 .444 .538 .444 .983 0 1 0 1 0
Jhonny Peralta 12 11 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 .364 .417 .364 .780 0 0 0 1 0
Matt Adams 10 9 1 1 0 0 1 0 2 .111 .100 .222 .322 0 1 0 0 1
Pete Kozma 8 8 3 1 0 0 1 0 0 .375 .375 .500 .875 0 0 0 0 0
Tony Cruz 6 6 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 1
Jason Heyward 6 6 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .167 .167 .167 .333 0 0 0 0 0
Brandon Moss 6 5 2 0 0 1 2 0 1 .400 .500 1.000 1.500 0 0 0 1 0
Kolten Wong 5 3 0 0 0 0 0 2 1 .000 .400 .000 .400 0 0 0 0 0
Stephen Piscotty 3 3 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Michael Wacha 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 2 0 0 0 0
Peter Bourjos 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .500 .000 .500 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
Lance Lynn 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 200 171 52 10 0 3 24 15 29 .304 .376 .415 .791 6 2 0 6 6
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/29/2015.

It’s been a long, hard, bumpy road but the Cardinals can earn some rest with a win tonight.  I’m pretty sure most of us fans wouldn’t mind four casual, no-stress games before the postseason starts either.  Let’s see if they can’t push Pittsburgh into that Wild Card Game tonight!


The Worst Weekend of the Season

The St. Louis Cardinals split their last series of the home portion of the calendar in route to a final homestand that saw five wins and two losses.

It was the worst weekend of the 2015 season.

Not only did the Pirates not lose any of the games in that span, cutting the lead down to a level we never thought we’d see again this season, not only was Carlos Martinez ruled out for the season after seven pitches in game one, not only was it the Milwaukee Brewers that they split again, but there’s also the simple fact that they were leading in both losses late, including in the ninth in Sunday’s game.

I guess it could have been worse. We could be going into that Pittsburgh series tied for the division lead. That’s really about it, though. We’ve gotta recap it, though, so hold onto your lunch.

Friday (4-3 loss)

Hero: Jhonny Peralta. 3-4 with a run scored in a game that wasn’t overly offensive. (Well, there wasn’t much offense. The ending was certainly offensive.) The Cards only had nine hits total, so Peralta was a huge part of that.

Goat: Greg Garcia. It’s probably harsh, especially since he did get a hit in this one, but if he can pick up the grounder that Domingo Santana hits to him in the seventh inning, the side is retired without the tying run scoring. As it was, the game wound up 3-3 and stayed that way until Trevor Rosenthal allowed a homer in the ninth. Would things have been different if he was up 3-2? If nothing else, the Cards would have had more opportunities to get a win.

Notes: Rosenthal did give up the homer, though, and that inning, in retrospect, might be cause for concern. Not only did Khris Davis take him deep to start off the inning, but then Rosie gave up a two hits and a wild pitch (with a strikeout sandwiched in there) before a double play got him out of it. He’d had a few days off, so he wasn’t overtired, and he’s right about the innings level he’s had the last two years. It could be just a bump, but this weekend was a terrible time for it.

Martinez left this game after seven pitches, as mentioned above, and has shoulder stiffness that will keep him out of the playoffs. We’ve talked and talked about how that postseason rotation is going to look, but sadly baseball has a way of figuring those things out for you. Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons came in with a 1-0 lead and did well, striking out five batters in a row at one point. He did allow a run to score via a wild pitch in the fourth, which did seem to be more on him than Tony Cruz, and Mike Matheny immediately pulled him at the end of the inning, letting Matt Adams pinch hit for him after the Cards had scored a couple more runs. Lyons looks to get what would have been Martinez’s final start of the season, a matchup with Gerrit Cole in the last game of the Pirates series. Hopefully this won’t be the case, but the division could be on the line there. Then again, it could be the game after the Cardinals clinch. I’m rooting for the latter.

Two hits and an RBI for Matt Carpenter, which was nice, and a double, run and sacrifice fly for Tony Cruz, who so far hasn’t let the bar drop too far from Yadier Molina. Nobody’s comfortable if Molina was out much longer, but there’s not been a lot of talk about what he would have done had he been in there either. Given that the Cards haven’t said anything about Yadi’s condition, I’m guessing a return is still at least a couple of days away, at best.

Let’s talk about the eighth and the ninth, briefly. Cards get two on in the eighth, with Peter Bourjos replacing Mark Reynolds as the lead runner. With nobody out, Peralta runs it to a full count, then strikes out while the double steal goes into effect. Bourjos, who again is one of the fastest runners in pure speed on the team, can’t get from second to third in time and it’s a strike-’em-out, throw-’em-out double play. Bourjos is now 5 for 13 in stolen bases, which is just terrible given his speed. He should have been able to get a great lead at second and beat that throw with no problems at all.

That said, I don’t know why the Redbirds waited until a full count to try this move. I was expecting it from the very beginning. If you do it earlier in the count, that gives you three chances to take a crack with runners on second and third. Even if Bourjos is caught, Jason Heyward is on second with Peralta still up there. Not saying the result would have been any different, but the approach might have been.

Then, the ninth. Earlier in the game, the Cardinals bunted runners on first and second, none out, and one run in. Greg Garcia came up and bunted the runners along. I’m not usually pro-bunting (and I completely understand what Pitchers Hit Eighth Nick was saying here) but look at what was coming up next. You had Cruz and the pitcher’s spot. If Garcia strikes out there, odds are no other runs score that inning. Garcia’s not exactly lighting the world on fire right now–he was 1 for 11 coming into this game–so that’s expected. If he hits into a double play, you have two outs, runner on third, and Cruz up. Could he come through with a hit? Sure, but that’s not what the odds would tell you. In that situation, I think it’s reasonable not to expect more than one run from the group of folks coming up and playing to get that insurance run wasn’t the worst thing. Again, I completely understand that you normally are better off not bunting there and I wouldn’t disagree with that at all, but I think there was some solid reasons there.

The ninth inning, though, was completely different. Garcia does actually single to start off the inning. Now, Garcia’s never stolen a base in the big leagues, but he did go 16 for 19 in Memphis this season. The guy can likely run (probably better than Bourjos can). So do the Cardinals try to steal second and get three cracks at the apple? No.

OK, fine, maybe you don’t want an inexperienced base stealer there. I can understand that. With Cruz up, given that he’s already had a hit and done a fairly good job this week (just 2-10 before this game with Molina out, but 1-2 in this one), you could let him swing away, maybe put a hit and run on and see if you can get something going.

Nope, a pinch-hitter. Sure, fine, you don’t want to risk Cruz being a double play threat. Been a lot of moves in this one, though, so almost the only person on the bench is Jon Jay. But, hey, we kept seeing him start because Jay was supposed to be a big part of this postseason, a good solid bat off the bench. So it’s a stretch, but fine.

And then Jay bunts three times.

The first two go foul, but Matheny wanted Garcia so badly to second that he risked a strikeout by having Jay bunt again. It worked, sure, but it gave up one of the last three outs the club had for a marginal gain.  Which probably tells you all you need to know about Jay’s health right now. Even with Matheny’s passion for bunting, I can’t imagine he has Jay up there bunting with two strikes if he thinks Jay is fully ready to go. The fact that Jay hasn’t had a start since September 16 (which, to be fair, does have something to do with The Phantom Menace) probably tells you a lot as well.

Randal Grichuk (pinch-hitting for Rosenthal–perhaps he should have hit in Jay’s spot) and Carpenter then struck out to end the game, making the whole thing a terribly sour way to end a game, especially one that the Cards had a 3-1 lead in.

Saturday (5-1 win)

Hero: Jaime Garcia. Eight innings and he still didn’t reach 100 pitches. Eight strikeouts, only the one run allowed. Sure, he got staked to an early lead (5-0 after the second) but he was just on cruise control. The option for his service for next season looks more and more reasonable each time he goes out there. Could he be the Game 1 starter in the playoffs (depending on what that game is, of course)? I don’t think that’s out of the realm of possibility.

Goat: Matt Carpenter. 0-3 in the leadoff spot. Which, given the Cards scored four runs in the first after he led the inning off with an out, might not have been the run-depressor that we’ve expected it to be.

Notes: Nice to see Matt Holliday contributing again, driving in two runs with two doubles.  I’d like to see him play an entire game, of course, or back-to-back games, but at least he’s not terribly rusty. A big day by Stephen Piscotty as well with two hits and two runs scored. Piscotty had been scuffling a bit, so it’s great to see him making adjustments and continuing to produce. A lineup with him hitting second after everyone returns could be a powerful thing in the playoffs.

A good outing again by Steve Cishek as well, possibly getting him closer to the postseason roster (assuming he’s not there already). As much as I think someone like Sam Tuivailala would be a very interesting weapon in October, the fact that he’s not pitching pretty much tells you all you need to know there. I talked about that more on Friday morning, but I think this pennant race is going to force Matheny (at least in his mind) to “dance with the ones that brung ya” even if some of the other folks might be just as effective, if not more so.

While five runs is a nice night, it’s still a bit problematic that all the runs were scored early and then the offense just shut down, especially against a team like Milwaukee. The Cards scored a total of 18 runs in four games against a team that ranked 11th in the NL in ERA. The worry about what they’d do against a better staff is quite justified and is one reason why everyone is so ridiculously nervous about this series with Pittsburgh.

Sunday (8-4 loss)

Hero: John Lackey. He did everything he could to keep the Cardinals in the game. Besides the home run allowed to Khris Davis, he was basically spotless, going seven innings and striking out seven. He didn’t even need the double play as much in this one as he has in his past few starts, though St. Louis did turn one. He kept folks off the basepaths by allowing just five hits and two walks. It might not have been completely dominating, but it was well good enough for a win and that’s what he should have gotten.

Goat: Trevor Rosenthal. No way to sugar coat this one. When you are given a two-run lead and wind up giving up a grand slam before the inning has its first out, that’s a terrible day at the office. After clocking Martin Maldonado in the head to bring the go-ahead run to the plate, you’d think perhaps Matheny might make a change. After Rosenthal walked the next batter to load the bases, it seemed a really, really good time to bring in Seth Maness, who was warming up. After all, this is as close to a must-win as you can get and you’ve got a guy that typically gets the double play. I know Rosenthal’s your closer but that doesn’t mean that you have to stick with him when he doesn’t have anything.

Now, let’s be fair, Maness didn’t have anything either, allowing a three-run homer (which, since he came in with the bases empty, is pretty telling as well) that put the game out of reach. Still, though, you have to manage with urgency when the race is this tight. That was the entire lesson of the 2011 postseason, right? Tony La Russa swapped pitchers like there was an expiration date and he didn’t want to waste them. He realized that outs are precious and you’ve got to get them. Matheny, so far, hasn’t seem to feel that urgency. This is not a good thing.

Notes: Piscotty stepped up again in this one, cracking what looked to be the insurance homer after Carpenter’s game-untying blast in the seventh. He then robbed a home run in the eighth. Remember that impact we thought Oscar Taveras was going to bring to the Cardinals last year? Piscotty has followed through on that. Without him, and given the fact that right now the Cardinals are just 2.5 ahead of Pittsburgh (I’m writing this during Sunday Night Baseball), I think it’s safe to say we’d be fighting for the wild card positioning without him, at best.

Interesting move by the Brewers to take out Tyler Cravy with just three innings under his belt and only one hit allowed. You could say that it was only a matter of time before the Cards got to Cravy, which might or might not be true (nobody’s forgotten the first time the Cards saw him he shut them down and allowed just one run over seven innings), but I wonder if it wasn’t more a chance to get Kyle Lohse another outing in front of his former fans. While Lohse probably will be looking for a job this offseason, it’s not inconceivable that he could retire. Either way, it was the last time he’ll be in St. Louis this year and, depending on who he signs with, the last time in a long time. It was nice to see him get back out there, even though it was only two innings. Plus the Cards were able to tie it up off of him, which was nice.

Two hits for Matt Adams and a run scored. He’s not looking like he’s having any issues getting around and, like Holliday, it’s about time to see him play full, back-to-back games. We continue to talk about this team “getting healthy” but it’s not a significant health yet. It’s covered by the fact that rosters are larger, but once you have to go back to the 25-man roster, these guys have to be playing all the time or not taking up room. We’ve had the scholarship spot (in Joe Strauss’s words) before and I’m pretty sure that, 98 wins or no, this team isn’t good enough not to have a full deck.

Another good day by Heyward, who had been in a little bit of a dry spell recently. Two hits, two walks, and his normal good defense. I know that he’s not talking extension until the end of the season, but I surely hope that John Mozeliak has a pretty good framework all ready to go when the last pitch is made.

So the magic number stays at five, unless Jake Arrieta and the Cubs can help out the Cards tonight (and, as I type this, it’s 2-0 so there’s a good chance that they will.) If it gets down to four, all it takes is two wins in Pittsburgh to clinch. As dire as things seem, in some ways it is nice to have it all in their hands. Two wins in Pittsburgh. Two wins in Pittsburgh.

A couple of players may return during that series as well. Adam Wainwright threw 30 pitches in a simulated game on Saturday and seemed to have no ill effects in that or in covering first. Wainwright said he felt sharper in this one and hopes to take the mound in a real game next. If Wainwright could get to 50 pitches (which, I don’t know, seems possible but maybe it’s a stretch) it would seem to let Matheny pull a starter like Lance Lynn early if things are going downhill and still not have to ruin the bullpen. Would Matheny do that, though? Like we said above, does he have that urgency?

Molina is also going to have his thumb looked at on Monday. There’s not really been any updates on him, though I guess there probably wouldn’t be. I mean, he was supposed to not do anything for a week. He didn’t do anything for a week. Now we get to see if that meant anything. My feeling is that he still won’t play until Atlanta, if that soon. We can just hope that he gets a little postseason love.

Two wins in Pittsburgh. The Cards start on that with Lynn going up against J.A. Happ. We know that Lynn has scuffled some against the Pirates this year and that this was going to be a key start for him in his playoff positioning before Martinez went down. We know about the meltdown the last time he faced Pittsburgh (0.2 innings, six earned runs) but his last time in PNC Park was shaky as well, allowing five runs in four innings. Lynn’s going to really have to step it up in this one.

Neil Walker 48 41 14 3 2 3 10 6 6 .341 .417 .732 1.148 0 1 0 0 1
Andrew McCutchen 45 45 8 4 0 0 2 0 17 .178 .178 .267 .444 0 0 0 0 0
Pedro Alvarez 44 38 10 3 0 3 12 5 10 .263 .341 .579 .920 0 1 1 0 0
Aramis Ramirez 31 29 3 0 0 0 1 2 4 .103 .161 .103 .265 0 0 0 0 1
Starling Marte 30 23 8 2 1 0 0 2 4 .348 .500 .522 1.022 0 0 0 5 0
Josh Harrison 19 19 7 2 0 1 2 0 2 .368 .368 .632 1.000 0 0 0 0 1
Jordy Mercer 18 16 7 3 0 0 4 2 2 .438 .500 .625 1.125 0 0 1 0 0
Gregory Polanco 11 9 2 0 0 0 1 2 2 .222 .364 .222 .586 0 0 0 0 0
Travis Snider 11 8 1 0 0 0 0 3 1 .125 .364 .125 .489 0 0 0 0 0
Gerrit Cole 10 8 2 0 0 0 1 0 4 .250 .250 .250 .500 2 0 0 0 0
A.J. Burnett 9 9 2 0 0 0 2 0 5 .222 .222 .222 .444 0 0 0 0 0
Travis Ishikawa 7 7 3 1 0 0 0 0 1 .429 .429 .571 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Mike Morse 7 7 4 0 0 0 0 0 2 .571 .571 .571 1.143 0 0 0 0 0
Chris Stewart 5 5 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 .400 .400 .400 .800 0 0 0 0 0
Francisco Cervelli 4 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 .333 .500 .333 .833 0 0 0 1 0
J.A. Happ 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Vance Worley 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Jared Hughes 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Francisco Liriano 1 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000 0 0 0 0 0
Charlie Morton 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Sean Rodriguez 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 308 276 75 18 3 7 36 22 67 .272 .337 .435 .771 2 2 2 6 3
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/27/2015.

Happ, on the other hand, has been pretty much stellar since coming over from Seattle at the trade deadline.  St. Louis has seen him just once since the trade, but in that game he allowed no runs over seven innings, with just three hits and eight strikeouts.  That’s not been completely out of line with some of his other starts, either.  Last time out was a little shakier (three runs in 5.1 innings) but it was in Coors Field and he got the win anyway.  It’s going to be a tough chore for this offense to crack that nut.

Yadier Molina 20 18 6 1 0 1 3 2 3 .333 .400 .556 .956 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Holliday 18 13 6 0 0 1 3 5 3 .462 .611 .692 1.303 0 0 0 0 0
Mark Reynolds 16 16 0 0 0 0 0 0 8 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 1
Jon Jay 14 12 5 0 0 0 0 1 1 .417 .462 .417 .878 1 0 0 0 0
Brandon Moss 12 11 7 1 0 0 1 1 1 .636 .667 .727 1.394 0 0 0 0 0
Jhonny Peralta 6 5 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 .200 .333 .200 .533 0 0 0 0 0
Lance Lynn 4 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 1 0 0 0 0
Matt Carpenter 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Tony Cruz 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Jason Heyward 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Stephen Piscotty 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Peter Bourjos 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Kolten Wong 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Carlos Martinez 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 107 95 28 2 0 2 7 10 25 .295 .362 .379 .741 2 0 0 0 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/27/2015.

As I finish this up (after taking some time to watch the lunar eclipse), the Cubs still lead late in tonight’s game.  The magic number could be (through no help by the Cards) four at the end of the night.  Two wins in Pittsburgh could end it.

Two wins.  Let’s get ’em.


Six Is A Magic Number

Anytime you’ve got the number six involved, it’s a good time to break out these guys.

Seriously (no pun intended), it’s amazing how one ad campaign has basically embedded itself into a fanbase.  Even if you aren’t a fan of the, well, whatever these guys are, we all know that six is a serious number.  And now, only for a few hours hopefully, it’s a magic one as well.

Both the Cardinals and the Pirates are frustrating each other.  The Pirates just went in and swept a four-game series against the Rockies (including the last one on an eighth-inning home run by Sith Apprentice Pedro Alvarez) so the Cardinals couldn’t get any more breathing room or cut that magic number down more than they did.  On the flip side, as a Pirates fan, wouldn’t you be perturbed knowing that you just won four in a row and all you did was cut days off the calendar?  I know I would be.

We’re behind on our recaps, though, so let’s take a look at that Cincinnati series plus last night’s win against Milwaukee.

Monday (2-1 win)

Hero: Jaime Garcia.  While the offense again sputtered against John Lamb, Garcia kept the team in the game.  That’s been the hallmark of this season, hasn’t it?  Win or lose, it’s nice to see the Cardinals get back to what was working for them instead of getting down multiple runs early.  If the pitching is good, they’ll likely win.  Garcia was good, going seven innings and allowing just five hits and a run.  It was the first night we saw Tony Cruz behind the plate and, so far, the results haven’t been noticeably different than when Yadier Molina was back there.

Goat: Randal Grichuk.  It’s tough to be too hard on Grichuk as he’s still working back into a regular rhythm, but he went 0-3 in this one before being removed late the game per the “rehab in the majors” program Mike Matheny has going on.  Jason Heyward also went 0-3, though he drew a walk to break the tie.

Notes: I expect the Cardinals are going to do some great work against bullpens this postseason if they get the chance.  There’s always a weak spot, it seems, and they exploit it beautifully at times.  A Tommy Pham triple, then a one-out Jhonny Peralta double and a Stephen Piscotty double and immediately it swings from a 1-0 deficit and worrying about Aroldis Chapman to a 2-1 lead and Trevor Rosenthal warming up.  Games aren’t over until they are over (our hat tip to the recently departed Yogi Berra) and this club has proven it with 12 games won when they’ve trailed after seven innings.  Now, it’s not a philosophy I endorse for the postseason–most of those teams will either go to their closer if there is trouble brewing in the eighth or have a solid setup man–but it’s nice to know that if they can stay close, there’s still a shot.

Tuesday (3-1 win)

Hero: Tommy Pham.  I really leaned toward John Lackey, because he pitched a whale of a game, but there’s no doubt it’d have been in vain had not the rookie driven in two runs, one on a double that tied the game, one on a sacrifice fly that put the team ahead.  Pham has done nothing to warrant coming out of the lineup, though he probably will more as Matt Holliday and Grichuk continue to heal, but hopefully he’s done enough to make the postseason roster.  Given that we’ve not seen very much of Jon Jay as of late, I believe that’s probably the case.

Goat: All the starters got a hit and the pitchers were pretty solid, though Kevin Siegrist did get us worried with two walks in his inning of work.  Honestly, I guess I’ll have to go with him because the hits and walks by the offense were pretty spread out.  They really should have scored more than three runs in this one, at least according to a glance at the box score.

Notes: Lackey continues to make the case to be not only in the postseason rotation (which really is a given) but to be at the head of it.  One run in seven innings here, with seven strikeouts and three double plays helping to work out of those nine hits that he allowed.  He does give up a number of hits, which could come back to hurt him in October.  In his four September starts, he’s got an ERA of 1.91 but a BAA against of .285 on a BABIP of .384.  He’s gotten eight double plays over those starts, though, so I guess if he can keep folks hitting them on the ground, some will get through and some will raise $99.99 for Cardinals Care.

Steve Cishek came in to get the save in this one and looked better than we’ve seen him look.  My problem with Cishek has been consistency.  Jonathan Broxton has some of this as well–very good outings mixed with some real ugly ones–but Broxton seems to have the bad ones a little less often.  My personal postseason roster (assuming, as we’ll talk about in a bit, Adam Wainwright is healthy) doesn’t have Cishek on it.

Of course, as I look at his game log, I’m not sure those impressions are backed up by the stats.  He’s allowed his own runs in only four of 23 outings in St. Louis.  His ERA wearing the Birds on the Bat is 2.29, which isn’t terrible by any stretch of the imagination.  The problem is, at least on the face of it, that 60% of his inherited runners score.  So bringing him in mid-inning would seem to be out, but if he can start an inning fresh, he does OK.  Maybe I should rethink that roster a little bit.  (For comparison’s sake, Broxton has also allowed his own runs in four of 23 outings, his Cardinal ERA is 2.57, but only 40% of his inherited runners score.  So statistically they aren’t as different as I thought.)

Wednesday (10-2 win)

Hero: Matt Carpenter.  Two home runs, both of the two-run variety, tends to get you put here.  There were a number of other options, of course, when the team scores 10 runs, but Carpenter’s 2-3 wins the day.

Goat: Jhonny Peralta.  0-3 before being replaced when the game was out of hand.  Seriously, this box score looks like either an All-Star Game or an early game down in Jupiter.  Folks swapping in everywhere, like here when Jay went into Peralta’s spot because Pete Kozma pinch-ran for Matt Adams who pinch-hit for Lance Lynn and then he (Kozma) stayed in at short.  I feel for that one person who keeps a scorecard at home, because this one was a mess in that regard.

Notes: Before we talk about the offense, let’s talk about Lynn.  When the postseason rotation question has been brought up, it does seem that Lynn is the more consensus pick to be left off of it.  Whether that means to the bullpen (likely) or off the roster entirely, that’s still debatable.  The fact that he wouldn’t be in the rotation really didn’t seem to be.

So what impact, if any, does a six-inning, three hit, zero run, four strikeout inning have on that discussion?  In a vacuum, I don’t think much.  After all, for all the the trouble the Cards have had with them of late, this was still the Reds.  If you can manage not to get burned by Joey Votto (something that struck the Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons after he replaced Lynn in this one), you have a good chance of locking them down.  His outing wasn’t that out of line with what Garcia and Lackey did to the same club this week.  It’s not the Reds the Cardinals will be facing in the postseason.

That said, and we are getting a bit ahead of ourselves here, but Michael Wacha hasn’t been just lights out either and he had his issues last night.  Could we see Wacha to the pen and Lynn as the fourth starter in the playoffs?  It wouldn’t be unheard of.  I also could see Wacha as the fourth starter for the NLDS, given Lynn’s issues with both Chicago and Pittsburgh, then see them swap for the NLCS depending on the opponent.  I think the last couple of starts…hang on, it’s hard to believe but we’re getting down to taking off the plural there.  Right now, assuming the off day doesn’t affect things, Lynn would pitch Monday against Pittsburgh (which probably would be a huge factor in his postseason life) and then the last game of the season against Atlanta.  Wacha would get Tuesday against Pittsburgh (another big test) and that’s it.  Where exactly has this season gone?

As mentioned, Lyons got a chance to pitch, though I was disappointed it was just the one inning.  Save for being taken deep by Votto (who had this look on his face like he was super ticked to be down 9-0 and was going to do something about it) he had a solid inning.  Probably would have gone longer than an inning but Matheny used this chance to empty out the bullpen and use some guys that hadn’t gone in a while.  Miguel Socolovich had a scoreless frame and Sam Tuivailala, who I think if he’d had regular use could be a strong weapon in the postseason, gave up a run on a couple of hits but struck out two.  There are a lot of arms down there and it does make it hard to juggle everything, which is another casualty of not being able to clinch early.

Holliday returned to the field in this one and ripped a double in his second at-bat, driving in Pham (who had two singles in this one).  Holliday doesn’t appear rusty, though the Cardinals aren’t taxing him just yet.  I would hope that next week Holliday and Grichuk are playing every day against Pittsburgh and Atlanta, trying to get in line for postseason.  If they get going, this offense is going to be so much better.

Mark Reynolds, who will likely be a bench bat given Piscotty will need to play first if the outfield heals up, went three for four while shifting from third to first to third.  I told you it was like a spring training game.  Reynolds also drove in two and scored a run of his own.

For the fact the club had 13 hits and four walks, there were still a few folks that didn’t do much.  We noted Peralta above, but Piscotty also went 0-3, though he walked and scored a run.  Cruz had the same results (0-3, walk, run) and both Greg Garcia and Brandon Moss went 0-2 after they came in as replacements.

Thursday (7-3 win)

Hero: Stephen Piscotty.  Three for four, including the tie-breaking home run following Peralta’s three-run jack.  He then singled in two more runs in the fifth and singled in another in the seventh.  Without Piscotty, the club might have lost this one, but instead they kept pace with the Pirates and marked another day off the season.

Goat: Kolten Wong.  0-4 with a strikeout and left two men on base.

Notes: As we talked above, Wacha started this one and while his overall line isn’t that stellar, let’s break it down a bit.

First inning: 3 runs, 3 hits, 2 walks, 28 pitches
Second through fifth innings: 0 runs, 3 hits, 1 walk, 62 pitches

Now, even that latter part isn’t necessarily the dominant Wacha that we’ve seen in the past.  Four runners in four inning isn’t bad, but Wacha can also go four innings without allowing a single runner.  Still, if you want to credit Wacha with getting stronger as the game went on, that seems reasonable.  He wasn’t just beat around in that first inning, but command was such an issue.  Both walks were on 3-0 counts and Wacha seemed to struggle to put batters away, needing 11 pitches to strike out Logan Schafer.  That was his only strikeout of the night and it came on the second batter, which is a little disconcerting.

Still, I think Wacha has a lead on Lynn for that last spot, depending on how they both do next week in PNC Park.  If Lynn can show that he is able to master the Pirates (remember, the last time he faced them, he didn’t get out of the first) he might get the call if Pittsburgh wins the Wild Card Game.  I can’t imagine Lynn facing the Cubs in the playoffs in any situation, honestly.  He has a chance against the Pirates, even though that may also be a long shot.

The offense was a bit concentrated at the top, which isn’t all bad.  That led to Piscotty being able to have a lot of runners to clean up.  Carpenter was 0-4 (with a walk) but Pham had a hit, Heyward had two, and Peralta had two, including that big home run.  Maybe some rest has helped.  Since his last day off ten games ago, he’s hit .243/.310/.378, which isn’t good by any means but is much better than what we’d seen out of Peralta since the All-Star Break.  He’s also got three multi-hit games in that span, showing that the bat still has some life in it.  Grichuk also had a couple of hits.

Matt Adams singled in his pinch-hitting appearance.  That’s two days in a row that he’s been able to come through as a pinch hitter and, since his return earlier this month, he’s 4-7 in that situation with, of course, that home run in Cincinnati.  My thought has been that Moss might take Adams’s spot on the postseason roster since Adams might not be able to be fully ready.  However, since Piscotty will likely be playing first most of the time and since Moss is not only 0 for his last seven and hasn’t actually started a game since Sunday against the Cubs, it may be that Matheny’s already planning for Adams to have that role.  Moss was starting to hit a bit–while he’s just hitting .245 on the month, it was .265 before that 0-7–and I’m afraid him not getting regular time out there may get him rusty again.  There’s not a good solution, especially with the outfielders getting healthy, so we’ll just see how the next nine games play out.

Earlier this week, Wainwright faced hitters off the mound as he threw some batting practice.  Adams took him deep but the other three didn’t do much with him.  Waino will go for a simulated game this weekend and hopefully then be ready to go on the road trip.  (I really wanted him to get into Sunday’s game, because the place would go crazy, but it doesn’t sound like that’s to be.)

The question, as it is with so many of these folks, is whether Wainwright should be on the postseason roster.  If you grant the injury concerns but also grant that the doctors are clearing him and, as such, he should be able to do this without injury, does he help the bullpen?  You’d think so, but this has been a fairly good ‘pen and the upgrade might not be a huge one.  Still, having Wainwright on the roster has to be a mental boost if nothing else.  Plus, if he gets to be this year’s Shelby Miller/Michael Wacha, we won’t complain as much, right?

To clinch the division at home and to make the Pirates series meaningless, two things have to happen.  One, the Cardinals have to win their next three games at home.  That would run their winning streak to eight, which is a pretty significant stretch of wins for any team.  Their longest winning streak of the year was eight, back when it seemed like they could do no wrong at the end of April and beginning of May.  So it’s doable, though I think we should be prepared that, just by general baseball odds, they’ll likely drop one to the Brewers over the weekend.

Two, the Pirates have to be swept by the Cubs.  I’m of two minds about that.  I mean, one, it’d be great to get the magic number dropping like that.  However, that means we have to again root for Chicago and a sweep would mean the two teams were tied, which would at that time mean that the Wild Card Game would be played in Wrigley.  I think many of us, seeing how Chicago has handled the club in September and the loss of Jung Ho Kang by the Pirates, have come around to rather seeing Pittsburgh in the NLDS than the Cubbies.  Which means that we’d rather have Pittsburgh host that game, as they are 50-25 at home.  Both teams have good road records, so that might not be a huge factor, but it’s something to keep in mind.  In Wrigley this afternoon is almost a WCG preview, as Gerrit Cole (who will go for the Pirates in that game) goes up against Jon Lester (who will likely give way to Jake Arrietta for the WCG and start Game 1 of the NLDS if they get there).

The Cardinals will know those results before they take the field tonight, which is nice.  Carlos Martinez, who was so good against the Cubs on Sunday, takes the hill for St. Louis tonight.  He faced the Brewers two starts ago and allowed just one run in eight innings, so you like his odds to at least keep the team in the game, stalling until the offense can click.  Maybe it won’t take long, maybe it will, but the Tsunami will be there.  Hopefully they’ll score early and the bullpen can take over after the fifth, giving Martinez just a little rest.

Ryan Braun 14 12 3 0 0 0 1 2 5 .250 .357 .250 .607 0 0 1 0 1
Khris Davis 11 10 4 2 0 1 1 1 2 .400 .455 .900 1.355 0 0 0 0 0
Scooter Gennett 10 9 3 1 0 0 2 1 0 .333 .400 .444 .844 0 0 0 0 0
Elian Herrera 9 7 2 0 0 0 0 1 2 .286 .375 .286 .661 1 0 0 0 0
Jonathan Lucroy 9 7 2 0 0 0 0 1 1 .286 .444 .286 .730 0 0 0 1 0
Jean Segura 8 7 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 .286 .375 .286 .661 0 0 0 1 1
Adam Lind 6 6 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .167 .167 .167 .333 0 0 0 0 1
Martin Maldonado 5 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Logan Schafer 4 3 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 .333 .500 .333 .833 0 0 1 0 1
Domingo Santana 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Garza 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .500 .000 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Wily Peralta 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 1 0 0 0 1
Ariel Pena 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Shane Peterson 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 85 72 18 3 0 1 4 9 20 .250 .349 .333 .683 2 0 2 2 5
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/25/2015.

Ariel Pena is on the bump for Milwaukee.  He’s only started three games, but one of those was against the Cardinals last week in Miller Park.  He allowed just one run in five innings against Martinez, getting a no decision when the game went into extra innings.  So perhaps he didn’t shut down the offense per some criteria, but they surely didn’t do much with him.  Hopefully another look at him will help out.

As much as six is a revered number in the area, I’m really fine with the club moving on from it tonight.  Four’s not bad, right?

1 comment

Injury News

Per Derrick Goold and others, Yadier Molina has a small tear in left thumb and is hopeful he’ll play again in the regular season. Also, Adam Wainwright has been cleared for baseball-related activities and may pitch out of the bullpen soon. Catcher Travis Tartamella was called up and Xavier Scruggs designated to make room.


Wild and Woolly in Wrigley

Tara Wellman, who talks with me every Sunday night on Gateway To Baseball Heaven (and, as you know, has a great video blog going), has made the point that this Cardinals team seems to be immune from momentum.  Sometimes, that’s a good thing.  Most of the time, though, we’re not using that as a selling point for this squad.  After finally seeming to get over the hump with a sweep of the Brewers, a team with momentum would come out and probably take the series with the third place team in their division, wouldn’t you think?

Yeah, momentum means basically nothing for this club.

It was a weekend that inspired passions, renewed a rivalry, created questions about command, and, eventually, finished up with one of the most exciting games of the year.  Getting to that point, though, was no fun road.

Friday (8-3 loss)

Hero: While I was hoping it might be Tommy Pham after that bases-loaded walk, that turned out to be less of the turning point than we anticipated.  Instead, the tag goes to Brandon Moss for his three-hit day, which was 60% of the team’s total.  Granted, they had three walks and a fairly notable hit by pitch, but Moss was really the only one that had anything going against Dan Haren.  Well, that’s less than accurate, as they did get three runs of Haren, who left before the fifth inning was done.  It was the bullpen–supposedly an Achilles’ heel for the baby bears–that was able to work out of the jam he left and really not let their team get back into one.

Goat: Blame it on the umpire if you want, and I won’t disagree that there were some questionable calls when you look at the balls and strikes, but I’m sorry, Lance Lynn, you really have to be better than that.  Six walks?  Again not lasting through four innings?  When you look at what Lynn has done against the Pirates and the Cubs, it makes it much less difficult to see him not being part of the postseason rotation.  While we always wonder how Mike Matheny‘s loyalty is going to play into that decision, my feeling is Lynn’s vocal outburst from the dugout toward the ump didn’t do him any favors in that regard either.  Lynn’s gone 5.2 innings and allowed nine runs in his last two starts against the Cubs and 12 runs (“only” 8 earned) in 4.2 innings over two starts against Pittsburgh.  Is that what you want to see in the NLDS?

Notes: Pretty much all that anyone wanted to talk about after this one was the beanball war that apparently got started.  I talked about this in the last segment of the latest Conversations With C70, but the fact is that it does appear that hitting Anthony Rizzo was intentional.  That said, they brushed the leg of his uniform.  It’s not like they hit someone in the head like Haren did.  Why they felt that was something they needed to do, I don’t know, but at least Matt Belisle handled it in the best way something like that could be handled.

Of course Joe Maddon, who looks like he’s slightly deranged at times with the white hair, especially if he gets it sticking up, started throwing around the “vigilante” term and “we’ll not start it but we’ll end it” which, incidentally, was proven wrong–the Cardinals ended it by not going around throwing at folks even though they were hit three times by Cubs pitchers in Saturday’s game.  I mean, sure, perhaps they were all unintentional, but given how you shot your mouth off, Joe, don’t expect anyone to actually believe that.

Also, given the fact that Rizzo has been hit more times than Floyd Mayweather this year, perhaps you either need to take it as a part of doing business or adjust your stance somewhat.  Tyler Lyons hit Rizzo first, but that looked like a pitch that came out of his hand wrong, one similar to the ball four he threw a few batters earlier.  These things happen–it’s fairly obvious that Haren didn’t intend to hit Matt Holliday in the head, especially since he’d buzzed Tony Cruz earlier and it was a terrible place for a HBP.  Again, why the Cardinals felt like they needed to send a message, I don’t know, but it surely seems like the Cubs ran with it.

Back in 2007, Ned Yost, then with the Brewers, seemed to focus more on evening scores than winning games, even though the Brewers were in contention at the time.  He plunked Albert Pujols with a 3-2 eighth inning lead, then saw the Cards score four more to put that one out of reach.  (I was looking for my post on the game, since that was the early days of the blog, but apparently back then I was just too busy coming up with crazy trade ideas and didn’t talk much about the game the next day.  It was before Heroes and Goats, after all.)  They didn’t make the playoffs.  While the Cubs aren’t going to have that fate, it would probably behoove them to worry a bit more about the overall picture.

Steve Cishek and Seth Maness both gave up big home runs to Starlin Castro.  The first one was damaging enough–I turned off the TV after the second one.  I’ve got better ways to spend a fall Friday afternoon than being frustrated at a ball game.  In theory, at least.

Saturday (5-4 loss)

Hero: Matt Carpenter.  His two-run homer in the ninth, after the third hit-by-pitch by Cub hurlers, gave the Cardinals some life and seemed to show that they were going to end the beanball war in their way, by using it to spur a comeback.  Alas, it came just short, but it was more spark than we’d seen up to this point.

Goat: Michael Wacha.  While it wasn’t the ugliest line, four runs in six innings, coming out of 11 baserunners, isn’t exactly the sharp pitching that we’ve come to expect from St. Louis starters, especially Mr. Wacha.  Over the last month, Wacha is 1-2 with an ERA at 5.14.  Someone pointed out on Twitter that his FIP and xFIP over a recent span of time (and forgive me, I can’t remember what it was nor where I saw this) was right in line with what Lynn’s had been over the same span, even though the overall results were of course better for Wacha.  September’s been especially brutal for Wacha in that regard, with a FIP over 8.00, probably due to the fact that he’s walked 11 in 15 September innings.

Should we be worried about what we’ll get out of Wacha?  It does seem like it’s a reasonable supposition.  While we’ve been willing to toss Lynn out of the postseason rotation, we have to acknowledge that the ideal of Wacha in the rotation doesn’t match up with the current results.  Again, he seems to have been better, but I don’t know that when he goes out to the mound he’s that lock we remember from the 2013 playoffs.

Notes: As mentioned, three HBP by Cub pitchers here–Kolten Wong twice and Greg Garcia once.  I’m not sure what it means, if anything, but the only guy that got clipped this weekend that didn’t bat lefty was Holliday.  Do lefties have a high rate of being plunked?  I could imagine that they do, though I’ve got nothing to back that up.  Which, granted, is typical for this space.

Jonathan Broxton came into this one and allowed a single, a bunt, and a single that scored the fifth run (which, as it turned out, was the winning one) before getting the next two hitters.  I mention this to set up a discussion here in a bit about the end of Sunday’s game.

After 0-8 with runners in scoring position, in this game the Cardinals were 1-9.  There are some times I wish they could go back, get some of that 2013 magic, and bring it forward, don’t you?  This offense isn’t as bad as it seems at times, it just can’t get the hit that they really need.

Matt Adams was 0-2 in this one.  With Brandon Moss hitting a little better of late (five for nine in the two starts before Sunday) I’m not sure Adams is going to have enough time to get right, assuming he can get right at all.  That’s a discussion for another time, though.  Right now, I’d leave him off the postseason roster, but nobody actually lets me fill it out.

Sunday (4-3 win)

Hero: Jason Heyward.  There were a lot of great moments in the last couple of innings.  Trevor Rosenthal did exceptional work in the ninth.  Tony Cruz gave Quintin Berry his first caught stealing of his career (though it was his first attempt of 2015, as he was recently called up to be a pinch-runner) and did so basically cold, coming off the bench when Molina was hurt and seeing Berry challenge him almost immediately.  A strong start by Carlos Martinez.  All of these were key to the win as well, but I don’t think anyone in St. Louis or Chicago is going to soon forget this:

There are moments that stand out in pennant races.  I’m pretty sure that Adron Chambers is always going to be a name folks remember in St. Louis due to his mad dash a game against the Cubs late in the 2011 run.  Scott Spiezio‘s triple against Milwaukee in 2006, which gave that struggling club a much-needed win.  Highlights that define September.  That one goes in the trophy case right next to the others.  No matter if the season doesn’t turn out like ’06 or ’11 (and we of course hope it does), Heyward’s throw to preserve a key game against a big rival is going to be stuff of legend.

Goat: Jonathan Broxton.  OK, so Kevin Siegrist comes in for the second day in a row (though, to be fair, he did have a few days off before that) and gets the last out of the seventh after Martinez hit Starlin Castro (something that didn’t seem to inflame passions, probably because it took a review to determine that it had hit him) and allowed a single to Dexter Fowler.  Siegrist gets the last out in the seventh, but struggles in the eighth, allowing a single and a walk.

Mike Matheny has two pitchers warming up, Broxton and Rosenthal.  90% of managers would have brought in Broxton here and Matheny is right in line with that, but it counts as first-guessing when you put on Twitter that Rosenthal should have been the call before Broxton throws a pitch, right?  The game hung in the balance right there.  It was a two-run game at the time with Kris Bryant coming up.  A misplaced fastball loses you the game, pretty much.  Sometimes saving the game doesn’t just happen in the ninth.

I’m sure the thought for Matheny was not wanting Rosenthal to pitch two innings, but he didn’t have to.  If everything worked out the way things were planned, Rosenthal retires Bryant, Tommy La Stella, and Addison Russell.  That means the ninth would see their 8-9-1 batters.  Yes, you’d see Starlin Castro, but wouldn’t you rather your best face the meat of their lineup and your second-tier guy face the bottom of it?  Especially when he gave up a run to that same team the day before?  Broxton’s had a lot of good outings and I’m sure Matheny had some idea of showing that the club still believed in him, but this wasn’t the time for a loyalty display.

Again, it’s hard to fault Matheny for doing something almost no one in baseball (save maybe his opposite number in this series, and even then probably not) would have done.  But it was one of those times that just screamed for some original thinking and we didn’t see it.  Of course, then Broxton walks Bryant and La Stella, forcing in a run.  Walks were terrible this weekend, as Cardinal hurlers gave up 22 of them in three games, including 11 in the opener.  You can blame the umpire in one game, maybe, but all three?  Seems like maybe they need to rethink the approach a little bit.

Notes: Seth Maness comes in and gets the double play, which is what we say all the time, just this time was a little more dramatic and a little more unique.  We assume that Molina’s hand was hurt by Rizzo’s slide (ironic that, given all the talk from the Cubs about vigilantism, it’s their players that have knocked out a key player on both of their NL Central challengers on slides this week) but perhaps it was from catching that bullet from Heyward.  The fun thing about this new StatCast is seeing stats you never have really seen before and Heyward’s rocket was clocked at 95.5 mph.  It’s a signature play, a huge one, and just another reason Heyward needs to be in St. Louis next year.


Martinez had a fine day on the mound, almost getting through seven innings with just a couple of runs allowed.  Those runs were questionable as well, as Martinez believed he had Chris Coghlan struck out to end the third but the umpire disagreed.  Martinez let his composure slip a little bit, walking Coghlan then to load the bases and giving up a single to Rizzo.  He gathered himself, though, and proceeded to shut the Cubs down after that.  He’s definitely shown an increase in maturity this season and it’s a great sign for continued success.

Pham and Piscotty both hit homers in the first, putting the Cards out to an early lead.  It doesn’t seem hard–if they can get a multiple-run lead early, they usually win.  If they get behind by multiple runs, they usually don’t.  We’ve seen too much of the latter and not enough of the former in recent weeks.

Molina’s going to have an MRI on his thumb and wrist today and we’ll know how much damage is there.  Hopefully it’s something that a week of rest will allow him to deal with.  While you’d rather see him out there, of course, this team should be able to manage against the Reds and the Brewers if he needs to heal up.  He needs the rest anyway–he’s hitting just .140 in September while approaching a career high in innings caught.  If it’s something that’s more severe, that causes concern.  Cruz is fine for playing against the second-division, but I’m pretty sure we don’t want him out there every day in October.  We’ll wait for the test results and see.

Also, Adam Wainwright‘s tests are supposed to be today and we might have a better idea of whether we’ll see him before the end of the year.  It still seems a real long shot for anything more than a cameo inning, perhaps in the game on Sunday that ends the home portion of the schedule, but I guess stranger things have happened.  I just don’t know what.

Plus, Holliday is continuing to run and expects to be playing the field by the end of this homestand.  I hope it’s closer to the end of this series with the Reds rather than Saturday and Sunday.  I think this club really needs an in-sync Holliday.  A rusty one can be valuable as well, of course, but let’s hope he gets plenty of at bats.

As I say, the last homestand of the season starts today.  It seems wrong that a team should have to open on the road and end on the road, doesn’t it?  Give them the first day or the last day in front of their fans.  That’s not the way it works, though, and the Cardinals will finish 2015 in Pittsburgh and Atlanta.  It’s amazingly hard to believe the season is that close to being done.  Sure, the magic number is at 10, but how can it almost be October already?

We get a rematch of the first game of the Cincinnati series of two weekends ago when John Lamb faces off against Jaime Garcia.  As you remember, Lamb walked six guys in five innings and the Cardinals couldn’t do anything with them.  St. Louis is still the only team on his game log that he’s had any sort of success with, as he gave up three runs in four innings out in San Francisco in his last start.  Maybe being at home will help them be a little more effective at getting a key hit and putting up runs on a guy that knows what that feels like.  (For some reason, Baseball-Reference’s Play Index only shows a John Lamb that pitched in the early ’70s, so I can’t get a chart, but go dig up that box score and that’ll do it.)

Garcia was hit around by the Reds in Cincy, but he restored some sanity against the Brewers, save that one bad inning.  While his home/road splits aren’t as severe as they were earlier in his career, he does have a sub-2.00 ERA in Busch this season, so hopefully that trend continues tonight and the Cardinals can work on chopping that magic number down.

Brandon Phillips 47 45 13 4 0 2 10 1 8 .289 .298 .511 .809 0 1 0 0 2
Jay Bruce 43 41 9 0 0 1 4 1 10 .220 .233 .293 .525 0 1 0 0 0
Joey Votto 39 33 11 3 0 1 6 6 9 .333 .436 .515 .951 0 0 0 0 1
Todd Frazier 20 20 5 2 0 0 2 0 4 .250 .250 .350 .600 0 0 0 0 1
Jason Bourgeois 17 15 6 4 0 0 3 2 2 .400 .471 .667 1.137 0 0 0 0 0
Billy Hamilton 5 4 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .250 .250 .250 .500 1 0 0 0 0
Tucker Barnhart 4 3 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .250 .000 .250 0 0 0 0 0
Eugenio Suarez 4 4 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .250 .250 .250 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Manny Parra 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Tony Cingrani 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
John Lamb 2 2 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Brayan Pena 2 2 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 .500 .500 1.000 1.500 0 0 0 0 0
Total 188 174 47 14 0 4 26 11 39 .270 .310 .420 .730 1 2 0 0 4
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/21/2015.

Pittsburgh plays in Colorado this evening while the Cubs host the Brewers.  If the magic number is going to drop, it’s likely going to need to come from a win rather than hoping others can help out.  Baseball is strange, though!


A Royals fan, a Mets fan, and a Blue Jays fan walk into a Cardinals podcast.  The result is….well, listen for yourself!

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