C70 At The Bat

This post actually went up five years ago yesterday.  Five years ago today, the run started while some of us watched, as it was Social Media Night at Busch that evening. The Cardinals sat 10.5 games out of the wild card with barely a month left.  It’s no wonder that many of us were pessimistic.  And, if nothing else, it can prove I’ve been getting things wrong for a long, long time.

It’s Either Laugh or Cry

At the end of yesterday’s post, I wrote the following:

We as fans know that this season is over from a postseason perspective. All we can hope for now is winning, non-frustrating baseball. Is that too much to ask?

As Phineas might say, “Yes, yes it is.”

Some games are over early.  This one was pretty much done in the first, when Matt Kemp launched a three-run homer in the top half while the Cards got two on against Clayton Kershaw in the bottom of the inning before Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman struck out to end the threat.  After that, it was all over but the padding, which the Dodgers did plenty of.

Obviously, Kyle Lohse had nothing last night, making him the Goat.  I mean, you give up eight in three innings, it’s just not your night.  I thought it was an interesting comment that was made on the Fox Sports Midwest postgame show, I believe by Rick Horton, that wondered about how the absence of Dave Duncan might have affected Lohse, being that he’s still trying to get adjusted to some different mechanics.  I don’t think it would have made all the difference, but possibly Duncan could have helped him get back on track.  No telling.

If you have to award a Hero for last night, I guess go with Allen Craig, who had two hits.  Probably the only other positive was that the Cards scored two in the ninth against old friend Blake Hawksworth, but that was after being down 13-0 and it wasn’t like the Dodgers were pushing to get outs.  And, even so, the game ended on yet another double play.  At least the team is consistent in that regard.  Also, Tony La Russa dug Marc Rzepczynski out of mothballs and let him pitch some garbage time.  Because that’s what we wanted to get out of the Rasmus deal, that “win now” move.

The most exciting part of the night was probably the top of the ninth, when Skip Schumaker got to add to his utility guy resume bypitching an inning of relief.  Skip actually looked pretty good, at least in results.  He hit 91 on the radar gun and struck out two of the five batters he faced.

Most importantly, though, there was a collision of scrap, one to make sure that Matt Sebek is  busy all day long.  Former Cardinal Aaron Miles, who was usually in this “position player pitching” position as noted by a wonderful blog title, came up to face Schumaker and wound up belting a two-run home run on the first pitch.  Lots of entertainment there, but when that likely will wind up on the season’s highlight reel, you know there are problems.

The Cards are now double-digits behind Milwaukee, so I think the team can stop scoreboard watching.  (Really doesn’t matter, the Brewers win every day anyway and I’m not sure even the SI Cover Jinx can stop them, at least not enough to make it interesting.)  All they can do is go out and play as good of baseball as possible each day.  Whether they can do that or not is completely up in the air.

Just a programming note, you won’t see anything in this space until likely Saturday at the earliest, as I’m leaving out tomorrow morning early for St. Louis to be at Social Media Night that evening, then heading back here Friday.  Just letting my two readers know!

Afternoon game for the Birds today.  Jaime Garcia at home is usually a pretty good option to avoid a sweep.  How has he fared against the Dodgers?

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS IBB HBP GDP
Casey Blake 6 6 2 1 0 0 1 0 1 .333 .333 .500 .833 0 0 0
Jamey Carroll 5 5 4 0 1 0 0 0 0 .800 .800 1.200 2.000 0 0 0
Andre Ethier 5 5 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 .400 .400 .400 .800 0 0 0
Matt Kemp 5 5 3 0 0 0 1 0 1 .600 .600 .600 1.200 0 0 0
James Loney 5 5 2 0 0 0 1 0 0 .400 .400 .400 .800 0 0 0
Juan Rivera 3 3 1 0 0 1 3 0 0 .333 .333 1.333 1.667 0 0 0
Rod Barajas 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Chad Billingsley 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Hiroki Kuroda 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .500 .000 .500 0 0 0
Total 35 34 14 1 1 1 6 1 5 .412 .429 .588 1.017 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/24/2011.Oh, that’s not what you want to see. Small sample sizes and it looks like mainly singles, but there’s a lot of singles there. Hopefully Garcia can bring those averages down some today.Hiroki Kuroda goes for the Dodgers. This was a guy that a lot of people thought the Cards might look at around the trade deadline. Instead, he stayed with the club (exercising his no-trade clause).

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS IBB HBP GDP
Matt Holliday 24 23 10 3 0 1 7 1 2 .435 .458 .696 1.154 0 0 0
Lance Berkman 12 10 2 0 0 0 0 2 1 .200 .333 .200 .533 0 0 1
Albert Pujols 12 12 2 1 0 1 1 0 3 .167 .167 .500 .667 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 11 11 2 0 0 0 1 0 3 .182 .182 .182 .364 0 0 1
Skip Schumaker 11 11 3 1 0 0 1 0 2 .273 .273 .364 .636 0 0 0
Ryan Theriot 11 10 3 0 0 0 1 1 1 .300 .364 .300 .664 1 0 1
Corey Patterson 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Edwin Jackson 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0
Jon Jay 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Gerald Laird 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Chris Carpenter 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Daniel Descalso 2 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 1.000 .500 1.000 1.500 0 0 0
Jaime Garcia 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Kyle Lohse 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Total 102 96 24 5 0 2 12 4 14 .250 .277 .365 .642 1 0 3
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/24/2011.Holliday’s done pretty well against him, but he’s one of the few. The numbers are not in favor of the Cardinals today, but that’s why they play the games.Let’s see if the Cards can’t bring us just a little bit of sunshine today, because getting swept wouldn’t do much for some of the exasperated and resigned moods around the fan base!

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All year long, we’ve talked about this team being allergic to momentum.  Big wins are followed up by terrible losses.  The most you could seem to hope for was a couple of games in a row.  Nothing that made you think that this was more than a slightly-better-than-.500 team.

And yet, over the last week, the Cards have won five of seven, including a sweep of the Astros right after a dramatic come-from-behind win over the Cubs.  Even the game they lost in that span was a reasonable one, not one of terrible apathy and angst.  It’s possible, however unlikely, that this team is starting to jell.  After all, that last week of August is the traditional time for it, right 2011?

Friday (4-3 win in 11)

Hero: Jedd Gyorko.  There were a lot of heroes in this one, but some of their work would have been for nothing and some of their work wouldn’t have even happened had not Gyorko launched a ninth-inning, game-tying homer.  While Jon Jay had an OK season for San Diego before being injured, I think it’s safe to say that John Mozeliak won that trade.

Goat: Matt Carpenter.  Tough night for Marp, who went 0-5 with two strikeouts.

Notes: The line doesn’t look all that great for Adam Wainwright, but it really wasn’t a terrible start.  He allowed one run in the first, then back-to-back homers in a ballpark known for the longball in the sixth.  Given some of Waino’s recent outings, this was very acceptable.  If the offense had been able to solve Adam Morgan to the level you would have expected given his statistics, Gyorko’s homer probably wouldn’t have been necessary.  It took Wainwright 100 pitches for those six innings, but he did strike out five and walk two, which would up the pitch count.  Obviously you’d always like the staff ace to go seven or more, but a solid six isn’t something to sneeze at.

Some key work by Zach Duke in this one.  Jonathan Broxton relieved Wainwright and again showed why you can’t trust him in close games, especially of late.  He may come through, but he’s just as likely not to and that’s what was going on in this one.  A single and a walk (with a strikeout in between) put two on with one out.  The first batter Duke faced wound up with an infield single, but then he struck out Odubel Herrera and Freddy Galvis to end the threat.  The Duke trade may still be up in the air when it comes to evaluating, but that put some more evidence on the positive side of the scale.

Randal Grichuk had him a game as well, hitting a home run early in the game to tie it at 1, then doubling in the winning run in the 11th.  Since his latest return from the minors, he’s had a hit in every game up to this point (he did go 0-fer the last two games in the series) and was doing so with some power.  Five doubles, one triple, and three homers are making it easier for Mike Matheny to leave him out there and let him not worry about playing time.  It’s interesting that the club is doing that here, in a pennant race, rather than earlier in the season, but of course things like the Matt Holliday injury have freed up playing time as well as forced their hand a little bit.  And, as we’ll talk about later, what’s good for the goose may not be good for the gander.

Seung-hwan Oh picked up the win in this one with two excellent innings in relief.  Given Oh’s history, I guess we probably shouldn’t worry about overuse too much, but as the games increase in meaning and the bullpen continues to have shaky spots, you have to figure Matheny is going to turn to him as often as possible.  It was good to see the manager not save Oh for a lead, though.  I still think that Matheny shows improvement in his bullpen usage over when he began in 2012, though maybe not as much as some of us would like.

With Oh used, someone had to come into protect the lead after Grichuk had put the Cards ahead.  Again, the options were limited–I’m pretty sure everyone else would have had to be spent for Matheny to use Jerome Williams in that spot, for example–but it was a positive thing to see him turn to Alex Reyes in this situation.  It was only Reyes’s fourth outing and it made him unavailable for the next night in case Luke Weaver couldn’t go very deep, but the manager went with him and his remarkable repertoire anyway and was justified.  Reyes picked up his first save–we’ll have to see if he gets any others down the line.

Kevin Siegrist got into this game as well, having had four days off since walking off the mound in Wrigley.  He allowed two hits but got two strikeouts, so the “dead arm” must have gotten some more life into it.  It wasn’t the only time that we saw Siegrist this weekend, so he better be OK because he may get used like he is regardless.

Saturday (4-2 loss)

Hero: Jhonny Peralta.  Three hits, though nobody behind him could drive him in.

Goat: Brandon Moss.  0-4 with three strikeouts, which is particularly tough when you follow Matt Carpenter in the lineup and he goes 2-3.  There were some run opportunities there that just didn’t pan out.

Notes: This, obviously, was the loss referred to above and again, I don’t feel all that bad about it.  Last I checked, nobody wins them all and while you’d have liked to see them do better, there is a reason that Jeremy Hellickson was a trade target at the deadline, even if he didn’t get dealt.  There’s no doubt he has talent and some days you just tip your cap.  I’ve definitely seen worse losses.  (Though, to be fair, I didn’t get to watch much of this one, which may also be leading to my equanimity.)

Luke Weaver made it a little farther into the game here in his second start, going five innings and allowing three runs.  He gave up a home run to lead off the game, then a fluke run later in the first.  Otherwise, a fairly solid outing for the young man.  Nine hits is a little high but he didn’t walk anyone and struck out six, which helped make sure things didn’t flare up.  His next outing will be at home against the A’s, which will be his most pitching-friendly outing yet.  We’ll see what he does with it.

Jeremy Hazelbaker had a two-run homer that tied up the game early, but nobody else could join him with the longball.  That meant that the Cardinals’ streak of nine straight games with two or more home runs–which tied a major league record–came to an end.  It’s often been said that pitching and defense wins pennants, but power surely helps you get to the playoffs and after that, who knows?

Broxton came into this one as well–given how much the bullpen was used the night before, I guess that wasn’t a surprise–and allowed a run.  Sam Tuivailala got a chance to pitch the ninth and did much better this time out.  He’s not going to be a late-inning option right now, but perhaps he doesn’t have to be buried back there with Williams.  We’ll have to see how his next few outings go.

Sunday (9-0 win)

Hero: Mike Leake.  We’ve often referred to the saying that “momentum is tomorrow’s starting pitcher” and usually we use that in a negative manner when it comes to Mr. Leake.  However, he came out and showed that while he may not be the top of the line when it comes to consistency, he can have a game with the best of them.  Seven scoreless innings, eight strikeouts, and he had a two-run single to top it off.  If we saw more of that from Leake, things would be a whole lot smoother, I think.

Goat: Pretty good game all the way around, but we’ll go with Yadier Molina here.  0-4 for Molina before he was pulled late in the game to give him a little extra rest with the big lead.

Notes: In the top of the eighth inning, Kolten Wong pinch-hit with two outs and flew out.  Of course, the Cardinals had scored four runs in the frame to push out to their final margin, so it wasn’t a big deal.  When people hit in such situations, you kind of expect that they’ll come into the game for the last couple of innings.  It’s garbage time, sure, but it’s playing time.  Especially when said players were considered enough of your future plans that you gave them a five-year contract before the season started.

Wong, however, returned to the bench.

Now, Matheny did use that opportunity for a double switch, because you know how vital it is to make sure a pitcher doesn’t come back up in a 9-0 game.  Otherwise, the pitcher would have come up seventh in the ninth, just in time to kill a major rally.  Also, the idea behind a double switch is to be able to use the pitcher for more than an inning, but Matheny used Matt Bowman in the bottom of the eighth then went to Jerome Williams in the ninth.  So even if the pitcher’s spot had come up, he could have pinch-hit and had the same pitching usage.

Wong hit for Carpenter, which meant Brandon Moss came in to play first while Hazelbaker, who had pinch-hit and smashed a two-run homer earlier in the frame, could stay in the game.  I get wanting to leave Hazelbaker in there, though he had started two of the prior three games so it wasn’t like he was getting rusty.  Even so, perhaps removing Greg Garcia and shifting Jedd Gyorko to short for a couple of innings would have been an option.  Or just replacing Gyorko with Wong, making the pitcher come in at Gyroko’s spot.  (That would have made the pitcher come up fourth in the ninth, but as we’ve seen, that wouldn’t be a big deal.  Heck, it’s 9-0, you could let Bowman hit and not have an issue.)

It’s a minor thing, but sometimes the details add up.  When you’ve got a guy like Grichuk, who is going to get every opportunity to play and not have to worry about daily success dictating the next day’s lineup, and then you have a guy like Wong, who has made seven starts this month and only twice in back to back days.  Is the treatment of Wong some major offense?  I wouldn’t say so and I get there are some reasons for it, but it looks strange when you compare it to the way things are going to go for Grichuk now.

And it’s not like Greg Garcia is lighting the world on fire, folks.  He had two hits in this game, which means he is hitting .167 in his last 30 games.  In Wong’s last 30, he’s hitting .253 in about 15 fewer at bats.  Yet Garcia made a great initial impression this season and did a great job coming off the bench, spot starting, etc.  That seems to give him a little leeway on things, which is understandable, but it’s surprising that it’s coming at the expense of a guy that many thought at the beginning of the year would be a core part of this club.

When you have a situation like that, you do start to wonder if Matheny and Mozeliak are on the same page.  If they are (or perhaps even if they aren’t), it would seem a strong possibility that Wong is part of some package this offseason and he gets a fresh start elsewhere.  I’d personally hate to see that, but when you don’t let a guy play the last two innings of a blowout, a game where you’ve already taken out Iron Man Molina, then I don’t know that there’s a lot of future for him there.

Anyway, that’s a lot of words on a topic that probably doesn’t deserve them, but that struck me pretty hard while watching the game on Sunday and, well, it’s my blog.

Lots of homers in this one to make up for just one on Saturday.  Moss, Hazelbaker, Stephen Piscotty, and Gyroko all went yard.  Some of that is Citizens Bank Park, of course, but most of those homers weren’t cheap ones.  After years of watching a power-challenged team, it’s so amazing to see the Cardinals fourth in the majors and first in the NL in home runs.  Even the legendary 2004 team was seventh and trailed three other NL teams.  The ’98 squad did rank second overall and first in the NL, but when Mark McGwire hits 70 of them, that tends to help.  (Plus the team wasn’t in the race, so it’s a little different than this year’s club.)

Cardinals start a stretch of nine straight, six at home, tonight with the Mets.  Now obviously home hasn’t been that kind to the Cards this season, but this would be a great week to make that record even out a little bit.  The Mets are coming in likely playing for their playoff lives in this series.  They trail St. Louis by 4.5 games and sit at an even .500.  If they lose this series, that’s 5.5 out with two teams between them and the final spot.  If they are swept, they are out 7.5 and have to start looking at teams like the 2011 Cardinals for inspiration.  On the flip side, they could close within 1.5 of St. Louis and perhaps pass either Pittsburgh (playing Houston) or Miami (playing KC) in the race if they could win them all.  It’s a big three games for the Mets, so we’ll see how that develops for them.

Jon Niese goes for the Mets, which given their rotation is probably a bit of a break for the Cards.  St. Louis saw him three times while he was with the Pirates this year and his combined line was 16 innings, 14 runs (13 earned), three walks, 15 strikeouts.  His last start against the club, back in July, was his best as he allowed only one run in 5.2 innings then.  Since joining the Mets, he has typically worked out of the bullpen, with this just his second start in the orange and blue.  Last time out, he gave up four runs in 4.2 innings out in Arizona.  All of this means the offense should be able to get to him tonight, though we know what that has meant in the past.

Cards counter with Jaime Garcia.  Garcia’s coming off of a rough outing in Houston, allowing five runs in five-plus innings, but the two starts before that were gems, albeit gems against lesser competition.  Garcia faced off against New York last month, allowing three runs (two earned) in five innings while taking the loss.  Even with the recent off days, it would be nice if he went deeper than that this evening.

If you are keeping track of the scoreboard already, it’s Joe Musgrove for Houston vs. Ivan Nova for Pittsburgh, Yordano Ventura for KC vs. our favorite Andrew Cashner in Miami, and Madison Bumgarner vs. Kenta Madea as the Giants visit Los Angeles for a big series that has first wild card implications.  Things are heating up!

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Rocket Men

The Cardinals spent the off day Monday visiting NASA (a different Ground Control than the one Chris Correa visited) and apparently charged up their bats while they were at it.  Even though the offense generally hasn’t been a problem this season, after this series the Cards are riding their first four-game “serious” streak since the first of June, when they did it against the Giants and the Reds.  They had put up six or more only five times since the All-Star Break before the last two with Chicago and this short series in Houston.  (The ballparks they visited, well, they couldn’t have hurt.)  Let’s get into these series.  Grab your brooms!

Tuesday (8-5 win)

Hero: Tommy Pham.  Lots of extra-base hits in this one, but Pham’s two-run homer in the fifth brought the Cards back even.  He had another base hit as well, though he did strike out three times.

Goat: Jaime Garcia.  It tells you all that you need to know about the win statistic that Garcia allowed seven hits, five homers, three walks and three home runs in five innings…..and got the W next to his name.  He was fortunate that the Cards exploded for four runs in the top of the sixth, but then he allowed a homer to Jason Castro as soon as he got the lead, which got him yanked for Alex Reyes.  It could have been much worse, as Garcia threaded his way through a lot of base traffic.

Notes: Before we get into the offense, Reyes came out and was outstanding yet again.  It’s still amazing to me how little effort he seems to have to put into getting a ball to go that fast, plus his breaking pitches were not really fair either.  I seriously can’t wait until next year when he’ll be in the same rotation with Adam Wainwright and Carlos Martinez.  It should be a whole lot of fun.

Randal Grichuk had a double and a triple.  We’ll see how this newfound “you are going to play no matter” freedom works for him.  He’s been on a tear since coming back from Memphis, but I want to say the last time he returned he had some strong games as well.  Will Mike Matheny actually keep him out there all the time?  What will that mean for Tommy Pham?  In theory (as in this one) you could have them both out there, but that requires Brandon Moss to play first and Matt Carpenter to go somewhere other than first.  Do you bench Jedd Gyorko, the National Leaguer with the most homers since the break?  (He had another one in this one, a three-run shot that broke it wide open.)  And that’s just assuming Matt Holliday doesn’t make it back, an assumption that Mr. Holliday would fight you on if his thumb wasn’t in a cast.  There are a lot of interesting options, but we’ll see how Matheny plays it.

All that offense and you still had Yadier Molina, Stephen Piscotty, and Greg Garcia with hitless nights, but Molina drove in two with groundouts.  I often complain about running on contact with the man on third, because it seems so very often the man runs into an out.  So I need to give credit when it works.  In the sixth, with the game tied and runners on the corners, Yadi hits one pretty directly to first.  If Carpenter isn’t going, he might have been dead at home when the first baseman forced Yadi then threw home.  As it was, Carpenter scored without much drama.  It doesn’t seem to happen often, but I’m glad to know it does occasionally work.

It wasn’t the prettiest game, but the power display and Reyes’s pitching made it for a fun night, especially when Seung-hwan Oh struck out the side to nail it down.

Wednesday (8-2 win)

Hero: Carlos Martinez.  The offense didn’t have to do a lot since Car Mart was dealing like a guy trying to make quota.  Martinez didn’t give up his first hit until the sixth, allowed just three hits in his seven innings, and struck out an average of one per frame.  This is the Martinez that everyone points to when they talk about him being the ace of the staff.  Put him and Reyes back-to-back in a rotation and….goodness.

Goat: Jedd Gyorko.  Gyorko didn’t get any hits, though he did draw a walk and score a run.  Everyone in the lineup reached base and Jeremy Hazelbaker and Brandon Moss kept the multiple-HR-game streak going.  (I believe it’s at eight now, a new team record.)  So it was a case of just not quite keeping up with the rest of the pack for Mr. Gyorko in this one.

Notes: As noted, the offense did some wonderful things.  Piscotty rebounded to have two hits, including a single that drove in the first two runs of the game.  Moss and Molina both had two hits, with Moss chipping in three RBI with his long ball.  Hazelbaker also got two knocks, including his ninth homer of the year.  Not bad for a guy that’s bounced from starter to bench to Memphis to bench.

Sam Tuivailala struggled in this one, loading the bases on an error, a hit, and a walk in the ninth before being pulled for Matthew Bowman.  Remember when Seth Maness‘s trick was always getting double plays?  Bowman is apparently our bases loaded, nobody out specialist.  For the third time this season he faced that situation and allowed no runs to come across the plate.  That’s incredibly hard to do, but Bowman makes it look relatively easy.  In this one, he got two strikeouts and a groundout to end the ballgame.

After all the dust has settled, the Cards find themselves riding a four game winning streak and have a one game lead on Pittsburgh for the last wild card slot, two up on Miami.  In fact, they are only just two games behind San Francisco now for the first wild card, though given the team’s home record I don’t know if that’s anything they really want to push for.  Someone on Twitter posited the best possible postseason would be to beat the Dodgers in the wild card, the Cubs in the LDS, the Giants in the LCS, and the Red Sox in the WS.  That wouldn’t be a bad road, no matter what order you dealt with LA and SF.  Talk about exorcising some demons!

Kevin Siegrist wasn’t available in this series and we’ll have to wait and see how he feels when the club gets to Philadelphia.  Playing shorthanded is, of course, nothing new for these guys, but there are a couple of options in Memphis if you want to go that route.  Of course, that keeps the hitter/pitcher ratio pitcher-heavy, but it’s not like there’s any hitters down there that just need to be heading north.  It’s understandable to hold him out this series to see if he can recover, but if he’s not better by Friday, you’d hope they’d go ahead and put him on the DL.

Adam Wainwright will try to turn around his recent funk in Philadelphia Friday night.  Waino gave up three runs in six innings back in May, back when he was still struggling with his recovery from missing last season.  He’s done pretty well at Citizens Bank Park over his career, a 2-1 record with a 2.48 ERA.  If he does that again Friday, I think things will be OK.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Ryan Howard 33 27 6 0 0 0 3 6 9 .222 .364 .222 .586 0 0 1 0 0
Carlos Ruiz 22 19 8 3 0 0 1 1 2 .421 .455 .579 1.033 0 1 0 1 0
Freddy Galvis 9 9 3 1 0 0 3 0 3 .333 .333 .444 .778 0 0 0 0 0
Maikel Franco 3 2 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 1 0 0 0
Cesar Hernandez 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Odubel Herrera 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Peter Bourjos 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Jeremy Hellickson 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Jeanmar Gomez 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Jimmy Paredes 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 79 69 19 4 0 0 8 7 17 .275 .342 .333 .675 0 2 1 1 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/17/2016.

Adam Morgan takes the mound for the Phillies.  The Cardinals saw him in May, when they tagged him for three runs in four innings.  Morgan’s struggled most of the season and he’s not gotten an out in the sixth since mid-June.  In his last start, he lasted just three innings against the Rockies, allowing two runs while throwing almost 60 pitches.  Which means, of course, that he’ll wind up having his best start of the year and cooling these bats if this season has been any indication.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Jedd Gyorko 8 8 2 0 0 0 1 0 1 .250 .250 .250 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Randal Grichuk 5 4 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .200 .000 .200 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Carpenter 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Jhonny Peralta 3 3 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 .333 .333 1.333 1.667 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
Greg Garcia 2 2 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 .500 .500 1.000 1.500 0 0 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Mike Leake 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Brandon Moss 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 28 27 6 1 0 1 3 1 5 .222 .250 .370 .620 0 0 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/17/2016.

An off day today, an off day Monday, and then just two more off days the rest of the season.  It’s amazing to think that September is almost upon us, isn’t it?

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Injury Update

The Cardinals have announced Seth Maness will have Tommy John surgery Thursday, while Matt Holliday will have thumb surgery tomorrow.

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If ever there was a line to summarize the 2016 Cardinals, the ending of Guardians of the Galaxy might just be it.  Any time you try to summarize this team, you’ve got something good and something bad, though not always in equal measure.  We’re behind on the games, so let’s go catch up.

Wednesday (3-2 win vs. Cincinnati)

Hero: Jaime Garcia.  Garcia threw eight innings of one run ball, faltering a bit in the ninth and then turning the ball over to Seung-hwan Oh, who basically cleaned up the little mess he left.  You couldn’t fault Mike Matheny for leaving him out there, because even after the two batters he faced in the last frame, Garcia only had 85 pitches.  Garcia’s had back-to-back games of dominance and even though those games have come against the Braves and the Reds, given how the rest of the team has dealt with those clubs, I don’t think you can downgrade what he’s done just because they were lesser teams.  Garcia was in command all night long, giving the bullpen a rest and helping reduce stress levels all around Cardinal Nation.

Goat: Greg Garcia.  The only starter not to get a hit, Garcia went 0-4 with a strikeout and two left on base.

Notes: Matt Carpenter led off the bottom of the first with a home run and then tripled and scored in his next at bat.  He also drew a walk later on, so it was a fairly solid night for Carp and it helped put the Reds in catch-up mode early, something that Garcia wasn’t going to allow.  Carp was the only one with two hits, as the other seven knocks were spread throughout the lineup.  So the Cards weren’t shut down, but they couldn’t open the floodgates either.

Thursday (4-3 loss in 11 at Chicago)

Hero: Randal Grichuk.  Grichuk indirectly got a lot of grief from folks after Matheny’s comments later in the weekend, about him being a “stallion” and the team was going to “let him run”, but in this one he showed why there’s that feeling about him.  Coming off the bench (and unfortunately following a Jedd Gyorko pickoff), Grichuk launched the game-tying home run off of Travis Wood.  It was exactly what this team needed, though they weren’t able to completely capitalize.

Goat: Zach Duke.  There were a lot of things that could have been chosen before the 11th, I guess, but when you are the pitcher on the mound when the game gets lost, you are in strong contention for this spot.  The end of the game might have had the umpire to blame, but when you come into an extra frame, you can’t have an inning like this:

Single
Single
Fly out
Walk
Strikeout
Walk

Again, the last walk wasn’t entirely his fault, as he threw strike two and the umpire called it ball four.  That said, he had gotten the count to 3-1 and he’d loaded the bases, so there’s only so much blame he can slough off.  It was terribly frustrating to lose a game the Cardinals could have easily won on a terrible call, but you can’t get into the position to let the game be decided in that fashion.

Notes: Carlos Martinez had a great game….except for his last inning.  The Cardinals had just extended their lead to 2-0 on another Brandon Moss home run and things were looking good.  However, as Tara Wellman is keeping track of this season, many times as soon as the Cards score, they let their opponent do the same.  Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo led off the sixth with singles, but Martinez got the next two out.  Which is a fine strategy for dealing with the Cubs–Bryant and Rizzo are going to get theirs, so if you can limit them to singles and get the other guys out, you are in business.

Unfortunately, you have to get three outs.  Jason Heyward hit a hopper that Jhonny Peralta was playing too deep to field in time to either get Bryant at third or Heyward at first.  Then, while trying to call time, Chris Coghlan slapped a reaction single that wound up scoring two because Martinez, in some sort of mental daze, cut off the throw coming in to Yadier Molina instead of backing up the play behind the plate.  It appeared that, if that ball goes through, Rizzo was dead to rights and the inning was over.  Instead, David Ross came up and bunted in Heyward from third, giving the Cubs the lead.

There was a lot of criticism on Matheny at the time for leaving Martinez in there.  Carlos was over the 100 pitch mark, it’s true, but I don’t think that factored much into the inning.  He got Heyward to hit an infield ball, it just didn’t work out.  The pitch to Coghlan may not have been great, but if Coghlan hadn’t had to rely so much on reflexes, there’s no telling what happens there.  (To be fair, that might have been the same result.)  And, again, if Martinez is mentally in the game, they probably leave that inning up 2-1 instead of down 3-2.  Given the club’s bullpen, there’s not many arms out there that you’d say the same about.

Moss had two hits, including his homer, and Molina had three, continuing his post-All-Star tear.  In the second half, Molina’s hitting .380/.418/.554, which is outstanding.  Of course, he’s started all but five of those games, so let’s hope this continues but it wouldn’t be surprising if he petered out at the playoffs, which was exactly what the Cardinals have said they didn’t want.  You do wonder how Molina’s usage would have been different had Brayan Pena would have been healthy all year long, but it’s like they drew up a plan for Pena and didn’t want to adapt it for Eric Fryer or Alberto Rosario.  I know those guys are different–Fryer’s reverted to form for the Pirates, by the way–but it still was a plan to rest Molina.  Hopefully some of these off days in August will help out.

Matt Holliday left this one when a pitch came at his head and, while he reacted to get out of the way, got his hand in the path of the ball.  It’s broken and he’s out for the rest of the year.  For all the talk about the Cardinals hitting batters, something that is of course well blown out of proportion, given that Rizzo didn’t wear one the rest of the series, they rarely have a ball up around the opponent’s head and never when it is intentional.  Also, that’s two Cards that have been lost for extended period of time (and we still don’t know if Aledmys Diaz will return this season or not–it definitely won’t be until September) because of broken bones after being HBP.  How many seasons have St. Louis pitchers ended?

Friday (13-2 loss at Chicago)

Hero: Maybe the guy that finally ended this one?  An ugly affair from start to finish, but we’ll give the tag to Jedd Gyorko, who had a home run as one of his two hits.  Again, this was a small pool to choose from.

Goat: Adam Wainwright.  As nominal ace of this staff, you can’t go out and give up seven runs in two innings.  Especially in an important game and especially after doing similar work against the Braves last time out.  In the five games since his shutout of the Marlins, Waino’s 0-2 with a 7.36 ERA.  It’s not good, especially for a team battling to stay in a wild-card race.

However, while Tara and I were talking on Saturday night (a new Conversations went up and you’ll want to take a listen), I pulled up Wainwright’s 2012 game log and noticed a similar issue.  He had a shutout of the Astros on August 21, then in his next five starts he put up a 6.04 ERA before settling down at the end of the season.  I’ve referred back to his 2012 season often, given that he was returning from injury then like he did this season, and I wonder if he’s run into a bit of a wall.  Hopefully he can break through and be more like the Uncle Charlie we are familiar with the rest of the way.

Notes: Matheny takes grief on everything, many times deserved, but his comment that Jerome Williams “gave us exactly what we needed” shouldn’t be one of them.  Williams gave up six runs, true, but it was 7-2 at the time and Molina and Carpenter were out of the game.  There wasn’t exactly a rally forming.  What the club needed was someone to stay out there and pitch no matter what, resting up the other arms.  That’s what Williams did.  Did he do it well?  No, but he didn’t have to.  For better or worse, Williams is on the team to pitch in the blowouts.  Whether the team needs such an arm is, of course, up for debate.

Saturday (8-4 win at Chicago)

Hero: Randal Grichuk.  When the guy is on, there’s no doubting his power.  He only had the one hit, but it was the game-breaking grand slam that basically assured a victory on a day when the future of the club was on display.

Goat: Greg Garcia.  With Carpenter finally moved to the third spot which would seem to be the best fit for him, Garcia got the leadoff spot and went 0-5.  You have to wonder a bit if Garcia is better in small doses.  In August, he’s had eight starts and for the month he’s hitting .079 with a .225 OPS.  Perhaps it’s not a great idea to have him leading off right now.  We’ll see if maybe Kolten Wong can get back out on the field on some sort of regular basis.

Notes:  I mentioned that the future was on display.  It also looked pretty darn bright as Luke Weaver and Alex Reyes combined for seven innings of two-run ball.  The only blemish was Weaver allowing a homer to Addison Russell with one on in the second, but after that (well, and the fact that he wound up loading the bases after the homer, only to escape by getting Bryant to ground out) it was pretty smooth sailing.  Gyorko tied it in the seventh with a home run and the club put up six in the eighth, giving Reyes his first major league win.  The two rookies combined for five hits, six strikeouts and four walks.  That’ll do nicely.  Weaver is staying in the rotation for right now instead of the club using the myriad of off days in the next week to skip a slot, which tells you something as well.  If nothing else, these two will provide reasons to watch the rest of the season.

Seth Maness struggled in this one, turning a blowout into a cause for slight concern before Duke came to bail him out.  That said, Maness has been one of the more reliable arms in the pen over the last couple of months.  Off days happen and hopefully that’s all that was, not the start of more angst.

Sunday (6-4 win at Chicago)

Hero: Stephen Piscotty. While I wanted to find the actual gif of this, I think the picture says enough.  (And I know I’ve got it a little big, but dadgumit, that moment was worth it.)

Piscotty home run (ESPN.com)

 

Piscotty’s three-run home run put the Cardinals in the lead and completely changed the tenor of the game.  St. Louis was able to tack on two more runs in the frame (thanks in part to more Moss power) and suddenly an evening that had been headed for more depression came out smelling like a rose.  Something good, something bad, a bit of both.

Goat: Matt Carpenter.  Tough night for Carp, going 0-5.  Peralta was the only other starter hitless, though he did wind up scoring a run.

Notes: I said that Piscotty was the Hero, and that’s fair, but honestly, I probably should have gone with Matt Bowman.  Bowman came into the seventh inning with runners on the corners.  He walked the first batter, but then retired the next three, including Bryant, without allowing a run to score.  That was 1) huge, 2) even bigger once Piscotty went yard, and 3) not the first time Bowman has gotten out of a bases-loaded, nobody out jam without allowing a run this season.  He might be a one-year wonder, I’ll confess, but it’s been a heck of a one year.

Mike Leake wasn’t dominant, but after his first inning glitch where there were two runs in with just one out recorded, he settled in and kept the Cardinals close.  The Cubs scored again after a sixth inning triple by Bryant, but given the situation, 3-1 wasn’t a terrible thing.  As long as it wasn’t the ninth, they had a chance.  (Speaking of, the Cardinals twice won games in the eighth while Aroldis Chapman sat twiddling his thumbs in the bullpen.  For all of Joe Maddon’s vaunted creativity and wizardry–some of which is probably overblown–it’s interesting to note that doesn’t extend to nontraditional use of a closer.

Kevin Siegrist left this game after surrendering a home run to Rizzo (who is quickly moving to the top of the Sith Lord replacement list) and calling out the trainer.  Siegrist says it’s just a “dead arm” phase, which given that he’d thrown in seven of the club’s 13 games in August, including three of the four in the Chicago series, might be plausible.  That said, do we really trust anything we hear from injuries?  Does anyone not expect Siegrist to wind up on the disabled list, even if it’s just for a limited time?  Then again, with the off days and the expanded rosters coming two weeks from Thursday, perhaps they can limp along and see how he does between now and then.  Hopefully some rest will fix the problem.  I don’t think I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t, however.

Yesterday’s off day brought some other surprising news.  Lance Lynn, he of the Tommy John surgery earlier in this calendar year, had a rehab start at Palm Beach last night.  Lynn threw 1.2 innings, struck out two, and allowed a hit.  Typically, you have to promote someone within 20 days if they are doing an actual rehab assignment, but given the minor league season ends before then, I’m not sure how that all works out.  Apparently the idea that Lynn could return as a reliever isn’t out of the realm of possibility, though there would seem little benefit to rushing him back.  I know that Wainwright wanted to do that and really tried to make the comeback, but we saw how he struggled in 2012 when he did get back.

Of course, Lynn would be returning as a reliever and for only occasional work, I’d imagine, and if the medical clearance is there, I can see why he and the club would want to see what he has.  Still, it seems risky and not necessary, two reasons not to push it.  We saw with Wainwright last year that just because a player gets to return before the end of the season doesn’t mean that the next season is going to be better.  Waino’s early struggles this season would have been more understandable and acceptable had he not returned last year, honestly.

Garcia gets back on the mound tonight as the Cardinals head down to Houston.  Like here, it’s going to be unseasonably nice in Houston, unlike the 100 degree temps you’d expect going there in August.  They may even have the roof open for these two games, even tomorrow’s 1:00 start.  (Though maybe they won’t, given the rain chances.)  Given the move of the Astros out of the NL, many of these Astro hitters haven’t seen Garcia much before.  If his stuff is like it has been the last couple of starts, that’s bad news for them.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Jose Altuve 17 16 7 1 0 0 1 0 1 .438 .412 .500 .912 0 1 0 0 3
Jason Castro 6 6 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .167 .167 .167 .333 0 0 0 0 0
Doug Fister 4 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 1 0 0 0 0
Marwin Gonzalez 4 4 2 1 0 0 1 0 0 .500 .500 .750 1.250 0 0 0 0 0
Carlos Correa 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 1
Evan Gattis 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
George Springer 3 3 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Mike Fiers 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 42 40 10 2 0 0 3 0 5 .250 .244 .300 .544 1 1 0 0 4
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/16/2016.

Dallas Keuchel goes for the ‘Stros against St. Louis.  Keuchel, who won the Cy Young last year, came out of the gates completely flat this season, running up an ERA of 5.92 by May 22.  Since then, it’s been more of the Keuchel fans have expected over the last couple of years.  His ERA is down to 4.56 and only once since mid-June has he allowed more than three earned runs.  His last time out, he threw a shutout against the Texas Rangers.  The Cardinals haven’t seen a lot of him, so this could be a pitcher’s duel yet again.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Brandon Moss 16 15 4 0 1 0 2 1 5 .267 .313 .400 .713 0 0 0 0 0
Jhonny Peralta 5 3 3 0 0 0 0 2 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000 0 0 0 0 0
Jedd Gyorko 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 3 3 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 .667 .667 1.333 2.000 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Carpenter 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 28 25 9 2 1 0 2 3 6 .360 .429 .520 .949 0 0 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/16/2016.

It’s a weird week, with two days off and a short series in the middle, but it’s not like the gaps will do anything for the Cardinals’ momentum, since they apparently don’t believe in it.  Some good play and some quality wins would be nice, though!

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There are some days that it’s tough to know what to talk about in this space.  The games, sadly, are often very similar and somewhat depressing to relive.  There’s nothing happening off the field.  Things seem stagnant.

Then there are days like yesterday, when everything happens.

Let’s get the game out of the way first, because there are more interesting things to talk about.  There were some–perhaps not many, but some–that thought Monday night’s ninth-inning rally could be yet another catalyst for this team, a spark that got them going, yada yada yada.  Even those that realized that the Reds were 90% or more responsible for that loss harbored a bit of hope that we’d see something out of this squad with that bit of excitement.

As we noted yesterday, as we’ve noted many times before, momentum is tomorrow’s starting pitcher.  In this case, it was Mike Leake.  To be fair, Leake had a better outing than most of his other confrontations with his former team, but it still wasn’t anything special.  At one time, my Gateway cohost Tara Wellman was keeping track of how often the Cardinals allowed the other team to score in the half-inning after they had put on a tally.  She can add to that total as Leake allowed two runs in the fourth right after a Yadier Molina (again, the Hero of the evening) homer that gave the Cards their first in-game lead since Jaime Garcia‘s RBI single on Friday.

Basically, this game boiled down to keeping Billy Hamilton off the bases.  The Cardinals, whether it was Leake or Kevin Siegrist or Matthew Bowman, couldn’t do that.  Hamilton reached four times in five at-bats and did what Hamilton does, either stealing bases (three) or causing disruptions, such as Leake’s throwing error trying to pick him off in the first.  (To be fair, Leake did eventually pick him off second, but it was the rare misstep by the Cincinnati speedster.)  Hamilton is hitting .423 with a 1.077 OPS against the Cardinals this year with 11 of his 48 steals coming against them.  11!  The next highest team is seven against Pittsburgh and he’s played in two fewer games against them.  Hamilton is hitting .258 overall this season, but without the Cardinals he’d probably be in the .240s.  Whatever their approach is to him, it needs to change if they want to have a shot at winning these games.

Leake did go six innings and give up just three runs, which is the technical definition of a quality start.  Matt Holliday homered in the fifth, tying the game up, so the game was turned over to the bullpen and the bullpen, well, I don’t think it surprises anyone that they weren’t able to really get the job done.

Siegrist came in and immediately walked Hamilton, then let him steal second base.  John Rooney on the radio tends to defend Molina’s lack of catching baserunners by blaming it on the pitchers.  While Molina’s defensive game does seem to have slipped this year (Scott Schebler stole one that was completely on Yadi), Hamilton was at least halfway to second, if not more, before Siegrist let go of the ball.  It was a terrible job of keeping Hamilton close and when Joey Votto continued to even the scales against Siegrist with a single, the Reds were back on top.

That lead didn’t last long, with Holliday doubling and Brandon Moss driving him in during the bottom of that frame, but they weren’t so lucky in the eighth.  Someone on Twitter noted last night that the last three times Bowman has gone on back-to-back days, he’s been scored on in the second outing.  He’s only done that five times this year, but three have come since the beginning of July.  There is likely a fatigue factor there that Mike Matheny should pay attention to, but Bowman has earned the manager’s trust and given the rest of that bullpen, he’s likely to see more and more action.

And there weren’t many other options.  Jonathan Broxton was rested, but nobody wants to see him come into a tied game late right now.  I guess in theory you could have gone with Seung-hwan Oh, but then that means you don’t have him for the ninth (likely).  Then there was the new guy in the bullpen, but we’ll talk more about him later.

No, Bowman was really it save for maybe Zach Duke, who could have used the night off (but wound up having to come in to finish the inning anyway).  The frustrating thing was that he got the first two outs of the inning.  I actually looked down at my phone for a while (with the TV on mute) because I figured things were in hand, only to look back up a few seconds later to see the Reds scoring.  Double, double, infield single to Hamilton plus error (Matt Carpenter completely had a brain lapse there, forgetting there was a runner on third and giving up after he missed the barehanded stab), stolen base, single and the game was done.  The Reds had run out of ninth-inning gifts to give and the Cardinals again proved mediocre.

Bowman has to get the Goat in this one, given that he just couldn’t finish the frame.  I’d like to say if Carpenter gets a handle on that ball the Cards might have been down just one run in the ninth, but it was Hamilton, so he probably beats that out, then steals second anyway.  In other words, it might not have been much different.  Also, even with the top of the lineup coming up, there’s no guarantee it would have been any more dramatic than the 1-2-3 we got.

Before the game, though, there was ALL OF THE NEWS:

Alex Reyes was promoted from Memphis to the big leagues.  This was the first piece of news to leak out, which caused plenty of speculation about how it was all going to come about.  That cleared up later, but no matter, it was quite exciting to know that the future was now.  Reyes, as expected, will slot into the bullpen.  He pitched the ninth inning last night and was outstanding.  He was hitting 101 with apparently minimal effort.  As one of my followers noted this morning on Twitter, it “looked like he was playing catch.”  His curveball looked sharp as well and he had a perfect inning, striking out the first batter he faced.

Now, some would argue it would have been nice to see that in the eighth instead of Bowman’s issues.  However, there was absolutely no pressure on Reyes in this scenario.  You have to figure he’s fighting nerves and other things, so there was no way Matheny was going to let him make his debut with the game on the line.  VEB’s Twitter account last night pointed out that it would show confidence in him, which is true, but I think Matheny is more about mitigating risk and damage than putting a youngster in a place where he could have a huge high but also a huge low.  While you knew Matheny would get him into a game in St. Louis, he probably wouldn’t have last night unless it went into extras without that big eighth inning for Cincinnati.

Reyes isn’t going to go on back-to-back days, at least for a while.  It’s going to be interesting to see how he adjusts to bullpen life.  It worked fine for Carlos Martinez and Adam Wainwright, so I’m not really concerned there, but it has to be a different mindset for a guy that’s been a starter his whole career.

Michael Wacha was placed on the DL, which necessitated Reyes’s promotion.  When we heard that news, we thought Reyes might be in the bullpen tonight to get his feet wet, then put in the starting rotation, but that was not to be.  Wacha’s dealing with a recurrence, it appears, of the stress reaction in his shoulder that derailed his 2014 season.  John Mozeliak indicated this was a serious issue, one that might keep Wacha from being a starter going forward.  However, as the broadcast noted last night, Wacha tends to do a lot of the things to work on the shoulder on a regular routine that goes along with starting, so there might be a catch-22 there.  Wacha’s future could have a pretty significant impact on this offseason or at least on how things are constructed for 2017.

This also helps explain the short outings, the less-than-stellar results, the lack of dominance that we thought we’d see out of Wacha.  We’ll always have 2013 (and the first part of 2014), but it sure sounds like Wacha might never reach those heights again.  They are still trying to figure all this out and we’ll probably know more as the weeks go by, but Wacha’s future is pretty cloudy right now and that’s really sad to say.

Luke Weaver will be brought up to start in Wacha’s slot on Saturday and beyond.  So in a week the Cards will go from neither of their top prospects in the bigs to both of them.  John Nagel and I had speculated that Weaver might make the big leagues before Reyes and that was almost the case.  Weaver would seem to project as the better option to start right now, given Reyes’s control issues, which is why he’ll take Wacha’s spot.  Weaver had a great outing in his first AAA appearance on Monday and that would seem to be the only one he’s going to get.  Unfortunately for Weaver, he doesn’t have the option of being eased into things like Reyes was.  He gets the Cubs at Wrigley on Saturday afternoon, though at least it won’t be a national audience.

I look forward to the comments if and when Weaver retires Jason Heyward this weekend.  I imagine “aging core that!” will be a general refrain.

Tyler Lyons may be done for the season.  The Patron Pitcher of the Blog has seen a specialist in Chicago but it sounds like this knee issue is a big deal.  Mozeliak said he hoped that Lyons would return and Lyons says he’ll keep planning and preparing like he is, but everyone involved seems to have that air about them that says, “It’d be great, but it’s probably not going to happen.”  Lyons really had a breakout year this season–I’ve had to make a little room on the bandwagon–and I hate to see it end like this for him.  Hopefully it’s an issue that, if it does require the rest of the year, can be healed up so he’s ready to go in spring training.

Aledmys Diaz is still hurt.  They are hoping to examine him tomorrow to have a better idea of the healing, but so far, it doesn’t sound like he’ll be back anytime soon.  I think the idea is still around the first of September, but we may get more information on a possible return date today.  It’d be nice to have a full squad going into the last month of the season, since I don’t think they’ll fall out of the wild card race in the meantime.

–Jordan Walden likely will not pitch this season.  File that under “things we already knew”.  Walden again proves the folly of long-term contracts to relievers.  Walden and Jason Motte both barely pitched the two years they got and we’ve seen that Broxton being around for next year might not be an asset.  It’s a rare reliever that should get multiple years, even though the market means they all get them.

Trevor Rosenthal is dealing with a strained forearm as well as a shoulder issue.  (That one was from a few days ago, but I never got around to talking about it.)  Rosie thinks he’ll pitch again this season, but the strained forearm starts bringing up more concerns.  Most specifically, that a strained forearm tends to be a precursor to Tommy John surgery.  Which might explain a lot of Rosenthal’s issues this season, but you would hate to see him lose out on a whole 2017.  When right, Rosenthal’s a huge asset to this team.  He’s just not been right all year long.

Cardinals try, desperately try, to win a series from a cellar-dwelling team.  Third time’s the charm, right?  Jaime Garcia, looking to replicate what he did against the Braves, goes this evening.  For some reason, Baseball-Reference only appears to have the current year’s stats in their database this morning, so there’s no chart because Garcia’s not faced them this season.

Anthony DeSclafani is having a fine year for Cincy, going 6-0 with a 2.94 ERA.  And not having a loss on a team like the Reds is saying something!  He’s not faced the Cardinals this year, in part because of not making his debut this year until June.  They faced him last September, though, and only mustered one run in six innings against him.  You’d like to think they could do better tonight, but there’s no telling.

The Cardinals have to win this one tonight.  How can you take a team calling itself a playoff contender seriously if they go 3-6 against the Reds and Braves?

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Alex Reyes Promoted

The Cardinals’ top prospect Alex Reyes has been promoted to the big leagues and, per Twitter source @cardsfanmatt, is already at Busch Stadium.  The move has not been officially announced.

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After eight innings last night, I was doing some searches to find ways to describe how this team was making most of its fans feel.  I finally settled on the noted philosopher Rachel Green:

Rachel

I mean, we thought that losing a series to the Reds, followed by losing a series to the Braves, had to be rock bottom, right?  That things couldn’t get any worse?  And yet, here the Cardinals were, finding that fifty feet of sub-rock.  Facing a pitcher they had scored five runs in five innings on the week before, including a four-run first, they were completely shut down.  Against a bullpen that used to be the laughingstock of MLB, they could only come up with two hits and a walk.  This was going to be even worse than we had thought.

Fangraphs has, given the name, some wonderful graphs that show you the win expectancy of each team throughout the game.  (Most of you are aware of this, I know.)  This was the one for the Cardinals last night:


Source: FanGraphs

With two outs and one on in the ninth inning, the Cardinals’ win expectancy was 0.4%.  Teams don’t win games like this, down four with one out left to play.  They just don’t.

And yet, the Cardinals did.  Though, to be fair, it might be much more accurate to say the Reds lost it.

Whatever Tony Cingrani had in the tank, it apparently didn’t last long.  Yadier Molina (who gets to be our Hero tonight) singled to start the inning, but then he got Jhonny Peralta and Jedd Gyorko to fly out.  Then, apparently, Cingrani stepped off the cliff.

A four-pitch walk to Tommy Pham.  Kolten Wong hit by pitch.  Suddenly the bases are loaded with just one actual ball put in play, and then you bring up the best hitter on the team in Matt Carpenter.

Carpenter swings at the first pitch and lines one to mid-right field.  The Reds seemed to play a little deeper than necessary in this inning, and both Carpenter’s two-run single and Stephen Piscotty‘s RBI single that followed (also on the first pitch) might have been inning-ending flyouts had they been playing a little shallower.  While you obviously don’t want to get a ball over your head in that situation, which might clear the bases, it almost seemed like the baseball version of the prevent defense, which so often prevents nothing.

After Piscotty singled, you have runners on the corners, two outs, and still down a run.  While it’s been a remarkable comeback, it could be snuffed out at any time.  Except that the Reds don’t do snuffing out comebacks all that well.

Matt Holliday took another four-pitch walk.  See, this wasn’t even that the Cardinals had to battle for baserunners.  Pham and Holliday didn’t see anything at all that they could swing at, Wong was hit on the first pitch, and Carpenter and Piscotty jumped on the first offering.  It wasn’t exactly grinding out at-bats to grittily get back into things.  This was almost as gift-wrapped as possible.

Brandon Moss, however, did have to battle.  Cingrani was finally replaced by Ross Ohlendorf, who was in a tough spot.  Sure, two outs, but bases loaded and no margin for error.  Give a lot of credit to Moss, who got down 1-2 in the count before working the walk that tied the game up.  While he only had to foul off one pitch, he also had to have the discipline not to chase, something that he wasn’t able to do the inning before.  That was the best at-bat of the whole inning.

That brought up Molina again, the guy that led this whole thing off.  Two pitches later, he was plunked in the ribs and amazingly, improbably, that was a winner.  It’s been a while since we saw a comeback like this (though there was that one off of Jeurys Familia in New York, of course) and it was a refreshing drink of water for a parched fan base.

Of course, a lot of people want to talk about this being that kind of win that just spurs you into a solid winning streak.  We’ve seen too often this season, it doesn’t work like that, at least with this team.  This would be the third “signature win” since the All-Star Break.  Starting with the first one, the extra-inning affair against the Dodgers, the Cards are 8-9 through last night’s version.  We’ve said it time and again that momentum doesn’t mean a thing to this squad and given the fact that this was wrapped in nice paper and handed to them on a silver platter, I’m less inclined to think that they’ll just tear off a bunch of wins in a row.  Momentum is tomorrow’s starting pitcher and today’s is Mike Leake.  Temper expectations accordingly.

All those caveats aside, it was a great inning and a great way to finish a game.  There’s no reason Cardinal fans shouldn’t be upbeat and excited today, as long as they realize those feelings could evaporate by this evening.

Given that most of the hitters played a role in the ninth (and the two that didn’t, Peralta and Gyorko, combined for three hits elsewhere in the game), we’ll go with Michael Wacha for our Goat.  Another middling outing from Wacha, going just five innings and allowing four runs, walking more than he struck out.  Wacha’s only completed seven innings four times this year and you’d have to go back to June to find the last time.  Four of his last seven starts have seen him depart without getting an out in the sixth.  If you want to say that Wacha is the fifth starter in this rotation, maybe those lines would be acceptable.  However, I don’t think anyone views him in that way and, given his early success, it would be disappointing to have to cast him in that light.  It might be disappointing, but right now it’s looking more and more accurate.

The bullpen did an outstanding job keeping the Reds from adding on.  Matt Bowman threw two scoreless with limited threats, Zach Duke threw a scoreless frame, and Seth Maness was perfect in his outing, picking up the win with the wild comeback.  If the bullpen had been at all the tinderbox we’ve seen at times this season–heck, at times in the last week–this wouldn’t have been possible.  (I don’t think, though there’s no telling when Cincy would have gotten that third out in the ninth!)

As mentioned, it’s Leake going for the Cards today versus Brandon Finnegan.  Leake has continued to struggle against his former team.  As we noted yesterday, in the two starts against them this season, he’s given up 13 runs in 11.1 innings pitched.  That is less than ideal.  Perhaps a little fire from last night will catch hold, but looking at those numbers, it looks like Leake is holding the water pail.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Adam Duvall 9 8 3 0 0 2 4 1 2 .375 .444 1.125 1.569 0 0 0 0 0
Billy Hamilton 6 5 4 0 0 1 1 0 0 .800 .800 1.400 2.200 1 0 0 0 0
Brandon Phillips 6 6 4 2 0 0 1 0 0 .667 .667 1.000 1.667 0 0 0 0 0
Eugenio Suarez 6 5 2 2 0 0 2 0 1 .400 .333 .800 1.133 0 1 0 0 0
Joey Votto 6 6 1 1 0 0 0 0 2 .167 .167 .333 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Ramon Cabrera 5 4 2 1 0 0 3 0 0 .500 .400 .750 1.150 0 1 0 0 1
Zack Cozart 4 4 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 .250 .250 .250 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Scott Schebler 4 3 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .500 .667 1.167 0 0 0 1 0
Ivan De Jesus 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Brandon Finnegan 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 51 46 18 7 0 3 12 1 5 .391 .400 .739 1.139 1 2 0 1 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/9/2016.

They are hitting almost .400 against him.  Ugh.  On the flip side, Finnegan’s wake has been smooth when facing the Redbirds.  He has seen them three times this season, including last week’s six inning, two hits outing (one of those hits was initially charged as an error, changed after the game).  Overall this season, he’s thrown 18 innings against them and given up six runs, only two of which were earned.  Yay.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Matt Carpenter 11 9 3 0 0 2 5 2 3 .333 .455 1.000 1.455 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Holliday 11 11 1 1 0 0 1 0 3 .091 .091 .182 .273 0 0 0 0 0
Brandon Moss 11 11 4 0 0 1 4 0 3 .364 .364 .636 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Stephen Piscotty 11 10 1 0 0 1 3 1 5 .100 .182 .400 .582 0 0 0 0 0
Jedd Gyorko 8 8 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 6 5 2 1 0 0 0 1 1 .400 .500 .600 1.100 0 0 0 0 0
Jhonny Peralta 6 6 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .167 .167 .167 .333 0 0 0 0 0
Tommy Pham 6 6 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Adam Wainwright 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Greg Garcia 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Mike Leake 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Alberto Rosario 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Michael Wacha 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Kolten Wong 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 83 78 14 2 0 4 13 5 23 .179 .229 .359 .588 0 0 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/9/2016.

It’s not a getaway day and there was a nice win last night.  Perhaps there will be some extra excitement, a spring in their step, and they can get to Finnegan early.  Otherwise, we might be revisiting that rock bottom status tomorrow.  Let’s hope not!

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I mean, technically I don’t have to do anything here at the blog.  Nobody’s paying me, nobody’s made that a requirement besides myself.  Heck, there’s no guarantee anyone’s even reading.  However, we’ve been doing Heroes and Goats for almost nine seasons now and even at this low point, we’re not going to give that up.  So hold your nose and jump in.

Thursday (7-0 loss at Cincinnati)

Hero: Tommy Pham.  True, one of his two hits came as he was getting on the plane to go home (the official scorer changed his leadoff at-bat from an error) but still, when the club has five total hits and the starter is a mess, where else are you going to go with this one?

Goat: Mike Leake.  Leake has now faced his former team twice this season.  His combined line? 11.1 IP, 18 H, 13 ER for an ERA of 10.32 and a WHIP of 1.676.  And, lo and behold, he gets to face them again this week!  Be excited folks!  This one wasn’t terrible until a four-run sixth all charged to him, though Seth Maness allowed two of his runners to score.

Notes: Really nothing to say about this one without delving into insults and perhaps questionable language.  It had all the makings of a mailed-in getaway game, which this team can’t afford at all going forward but especially when it means you lose a series to a team that just traded off its best player.  The Reds have done a lot of winning since the All-Star Break, there is that, but still, if you want to stay in the wild-card race, these are games you have to win.  If you want your fan base to keep from rioting, these are games that you need to win, but at least make a showing in.

Friday (1-0 win vs. Atlanta)

Hero: Jaime Garcia.  Perhaps the easiest Hero selection of the entire year.  Not only did Jaime throw eight scoreless innings, and do so in efficient enough manner that he could have thrown the ninth, he had one of the team’s two hits and drove in the only run.  Talk about taking a game into your own hands!

Goat: Jedd Gyorko.  Matt Carpenter went 0-4 instead of Gyorko’s 0-3, but we’ll cut him a bit of slack given this was his first game back from a very short rehab assignment.  Gyorko also left four men on base and was one of the rare Cardinals not to receive a walk from an erratic Braves staff.

Notes: Seven walks!  The Cardinals walked seven times in this one and only one of them wound up scoring, when Matt Holliday came around on Garcia’s single.  You’d think almost by accident you’d get two or three runs out of the deal, especially when you are playing the worst team, by record, in the National League.  Instead, it took a pitcher’s RBI not to match zeroes with them and perhaps wind up in extra innings.  Stephen Piscotty had the other hit.

Let’s give Mike Matheny a little credit, because it doesn’t come his way often.  First, he had Holliday batting fifth, which is much more in line with where Holliday should be given all the factors, I think.  He’s not a .300 hitter anymore and even Matheny has recognized he needs to be moved out of the third spot.  Cleanup is OK, given his 18 homers, but I think his entire game right now really suits fifth or maybe sixth.

Also, he didn’t leave Garcia in to get a personal achievement, letting Seung-hwan Oh come in and lock down the game in the ninth.  Part of his reasoning included the fact that the lineup was rolling over for the fourth time, which is a very legitimate way of looking at it.  Now, some pointed out on Twitter that he let Adam Wainwright go over 100 pitches looking for a shutout recently, so Matheny opens himself up for unequal criticism there, but I think you have to trust that he knows his players and, honestly, the team situation was a little different as well.  As Matheny said, they really needed a win there, not a demoralizing late loss.

Did we say demoralizing late loss?

Saturday (11-5 loss to Atlanta)

Hero: Matt Holliday.  Three hits (though he was back in the cleanup spot) and a run.  The Cards wound up with more hits in this one (11) but they were fairly spread out and Holliday had the largest concentration.

Goat: Jonathan Broxton.  It was a pretty terrible night for Carlos Martinez, but the Cards did pull within two late and, given the lineup, at least had a shot going into the ninth.  Broxton took that shot and heaved it a long, long way away.  Two two-run homers in the ninth, with another run mixed in for added badness.  Again, the Cards probably don’t win anyway, but having that mess happen late was just, well, demoralizing.

Notes: While I don’t think it really was pivotal, Tommy Pham was called out in the eighth after driving in the fifth run.  Replays appeared to show he was safe, but the umpiring crew did not reverse the call when they looked at it.  Obviously runners on the corners with one out is better than a runner at third and two outs, but the Cards still needed to keep that inning going to get the game tied.  Kolten Wong struck out to end the inning and, while he may not have done that with a different situation, assuming that he and/or a pinch hitter (probably Jeremy Hazelbaker) would get those runs in is maybe a stretch.

And, as noted, St. Louis wouldn’t have been in this mess had they gotten a regular start out of Martinez.  Two three-run homers are hard to overcome, especially when the second one comes right after the team had shrank the gap to 4-2.  It’s been a while since Martinez had a blowout, so hopefully it’s just a bump in the road.

Jhonny Peralta had two hits and Wong had a homer.  Five runs isn’t a bad day, but it just looks paltry against 11.

Sunday (6-3 loss to Atlanta)

Hero: Yadier Molina.  Three hits and an RBI.  Molina’s been on a tear in the second half of the season.  Perhaps sitting out the All-Star Game did him a world of good.

Goat: Adam Wainwright.  What were the odds that both of the top pitchers would give up at least six to the worst team in the National League?  While Wainwright got a lot of credit from the broadcast teams for staying in the game, settling in, saving the bullpen, etc., the fact is that he gave up six runs in the first two innings and the game was over.  I doubt many fans stuck around to watch the end of this one on a Sunday afternoon, especially with the Olympics also on.  Wainwright’s the ace, the stopper, the guy that the team is going to rely on.  That just can’t happen if this team wants to contend.

Notes: As someone pointed out on Twitter, Jerome Williams still hasn’t let any of his own runners score, which is something.  Of course, he only pitches in these kind of games, where the pressure is not exactly notable, but we’ll see if the Cardinals start trusting him with higher-leverage appearances.  (My guess, not really.)  Again, a scattering of hits, but nothing that just jumps out.

So in a week the Cardinals went from almost closing the division gap to 5.5 games to being 11.5 games out.  The Cubs gave them opportunity after opportunity and St. Louis refused to take them, so it can’t be surprising that those opportunities finally dried up.  While the division was going to be a long shot even with a closer race, putting it into double digits, even with 10 games remaining against the two teams, pretty much sews things up for the baby bears.  (And even a split this weekend against the Cards in Wrigley will hammer in more nails.)

The wild card is still up for grabs, with the Marlins just a game up on the Redbirds.  However, that’s more a function of the fact nobody in that race has gotten on a run.  Heck, the Rockies are a game under .500 but are just four out of the wild card.  If someone between the Mets, Marlins, Pirates, and Rockies starts putting wins together, the Cardinals could be left behind.

Of course, there’s still no reason that the Cardinals can’t be the team that starts to pull away.  Everything John Nagel and I said on this week’s Meet Me At Musial still applies–the schedule is favorable, the talent is there, if they get better pitching they could take off.  It’s just…..losing four out of six to the cellar dwellers is tough to swallow when you are supposed to be a playoff team, you know?  And, honestly, with a very few things going differently, we could be talking about an eight game losing streak.  To say this was not a good week is a significant understatement.

It’s a new week, though, and hopefully some new results.  The Cards had trouble beating the Reds in Cincinnati and they’ve struggled at home all year long, but maybe two negatives make a positive.  Michael Wacha goes for the Cardinals tonight, looking to improve upon the two runs in five innings he gave up to the Reds in Great American.  (More the innings, I think–would be nice for Wacha to go six at least.)

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Brandon Phillips 29 27 5 0 0 0 2 1 3 .185 .214 .185 .399 1 0 0 0 2
Joey Votto 29 24 9 3 0 1 3 4 1 .375 .448 .625 1.073 0 1 0 0 0
Billy Hamilton 21 20 1 1 0 0 0 1 1 .050 .095 .100 .195 0 0 0 0 0
Zack Cozart 20 20 10 2 1 0 0 0 1 .500 .500 .700 1.200 0 0 0 0 1
Eugenio Suarez 12 11 4 0 0 0 0 1 2 .364 .417 .364 .780 0 0 0 0 0
Tucker Barnhart 8 7 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 1 0 0 0
Adam Duvall 7 5 1 1 0 0 0 1 1 .200 .429 .400 .829 0 0 0 1 1
Ivan De Jesus 6 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Homer Bailey 4 4 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .250 .250 .250 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Scott Schebler 4 3 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 .333 .500 .333 .833 0 0 1 0 0
Tony Cingrani 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Tyler Holt 3 2 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 .500 .667 .500 1.167 0 0 0 0 0
Raisel Iglesias 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Michael Lorenzen 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Cody Reed 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Josh Smith 1 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 1.000 1.000 2.000 3.000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 151 137 35 8 1 1 6 10 16 .255 .307 .350 .657 1 2 1 1 4
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/8/2016.

Cody Reed gave up four in the first last week when the teams met, but settled in a bit after that, giving up just one more run in his five innings as the Reds almost came back to get him off the hook.  Hopefully he can live up to that 7.30 ERA a little bit more.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Jedd Gyorko 3 3 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .667 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Holliday 3 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000 0 0 0 1 0
Brandon Moss 3 3 2 2 0 0 2 0 0 .667 .667 1.333 2.000 0 0 0 0 1
Tommy Pham 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Stephen Piscotty 3 3 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 .333 .333 1.333 1.667 0 0 0 0 0
Greg Garcia 2 2 1 0 0 0 2 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .500 .000 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Jhonny Peralta 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Michael Wacha 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 23 21 8 3 0 1 5 1 1 .381 .435 .667 1.101 0 0 0 1 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/8/2016.

Last week had to be the low point of the season, right?  Everything’s looking up from here?  I sincerely hope so!

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Same Old Same Oh

Another night, another one-run lead.  This time, Seung-hwan Oh was more the guy we’ve seen all year long and less the guy we saw Tuesday night.

Oh did allow a one-out single, which made the inning longer since the Reds pinch-ran Billy Hamilton, which meant a lot of throw overs, but he was able to get Ramon Cabrera out before Hamilton could steal second, minimizing his threat.  Just the way they drew it up, right?

The bullpen, save for Matthew Bowman, who got to participate in perhaps the wildest inning of the season, was lock-down.  Zach Duke threw a scoreless inning and showed why the Cardinals wanted to trade for him.  Kevin Siegrist also threw a scoreless frame, with just one walk marring the perfection.  (Well, and a screaming liner that would have tied the game by the same guy that hit the homer last night had it not gone foul.)  All in all, it was the kind of night that you’d expect out of this bullpen and hopefully the kind of nights we’ll see out of it going forward.

Unfortunately, the Cardinals again had to dip into the bullpen early.  Michael Wacha was OK after a first inning that saw him give up half the runs he’d been bequeathed, but Mike Matheny took him out after five innings and 85 pitches.  Apparently, the Cards have a “stress” rule that, if a pitcher throws 35-40 pitches in an inning, that matters more than the total number of pitches.  Wacha did that twice, prompting his early removal.  It’s an interesting rule to follow and not one that I’d disagree with, but it put the bullpen again in the position of needing to cover four innings.  That’s happening a lot lately.  Carlos Martinez went seven on Sunday, but other than that you have to go back to Wacha going six in his last start to find someone that went over five.  Factor in Garcia’s 3.1 innings on Saturday and, well, the ‘pen has been working quite hard lately.

Hopefully that’ll change.  Mike Leake goes today–I’d expect he’d probably go six.  Maybe Martinez can go seven against the Braves on Friday.  Garcia on Saturday, that’s up in the air.  Adam Wainwright would finish up the Braves series and you could imagine six or seven there reasonably well.  Maybe the bullpen will get a little bit of rest.  Can only hope!

Offensively, this really was a frustrating game, at least after the first inning.  You’d think a four spot in the first would put you cruising to a victory, but I can think of a number of times in history where they’ve scored a bunch in the first and nothing else.  Now, a lot of that was due to baserunning.  Last night’s hero for the Reds Scott Schebler robbed Jedd Gyorko of a home run and threw out Matt Holliday trying to stretch a double, showing he’s more than just a bat.  But besides Holliday trying for two, Tommy Pham and Brandon Moss got thrown out between third and home.  Both of them were “going on contact” which is something I’ve always despised because it seems to do more harm than good.  I guess it doesn’t, that I only recognize or remember the times where the runner is out, but it’s tough to imagine it’s more than 50/50.  If they don’t lose three batters on the basepaths and Gyorko puts about six inches more on that drive, maybe things are a little different last night.  Thankfully Stephen Piscotty followed up the robbery of Gyorko with a blast nobody was catching, which turned out to be the final margin.

Let’s give the Hero to Brandon Moss, who was two for four with a run and two RBI (even if he did have the baserunning issue) and the Goat to Jhonny Peralta, who was 0-4 with three left on, though he did score a run.

Matheny confirmed yesterday that the injury to Tyler Lyons was a big factor in Garcia’s short-rest start against the Marlins.  The Patron Pitcher, of course, did relieve Garcia but only threw two-thirds of an inning, something that seemed a waste when you have a lot of innings left to cover.  My guess is that they knew the knee was a problem, something that would keep him from an extended outing, but they were hopeful they could use him in short bursts.  His outing proved that wasn’t going to happen and so they put him on the DL.  Why they waited until Tuesday night is a little strange, of course.  I guess they were waiting to see if it’d respond to treatment, but given the way the bullpen is being used, going into battle shorthanded isn’t the wisest strategy.  It also explains why they keep holding on to Jerome Williams, who now couples with Bowman to be the innings eaters.

Sounds like the Patron Pitcher is going to be out for a while, perhaps the season.  Which is a terribly frustrating way to end what has been a solid year for Lyons.  I hope he gets a chance to get back on the mound, in part because it’d be just wrong for him to go out with his last outing being allowing runs in Miami because he was hurt.

Cards try to keep a hold of the second wild card spot, a spot the Marlins have gifted them by losing three straight to the Cubs, including blowing a game in the ninth yesterday.  As noted, Leake goes against his old team today.  He did this earlier in the season with ugly results (six runs in 6.1 innings).  Let’s hope that some of that was nerves and excitement about being back in Great American and that’s worn off by now.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Adam Duvall 6 6 3 0 0 2 4 0 1 .500 .500 1.500 2.000 0 0 0 0 0
Zack Cozart 4 4 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 .250 .250 .250 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Ramon Cabrera 3 2 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 .500 .333 1.000 1.333 0 1 0 0 1
Billy Hamilton 3 2 2 0 0 1 1 0 0 1.000 1.000 2.500 3.500 1 0 0 0 0
Brandon Phillips 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Eugenio Suarez 3 3 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .667 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Joey Votto 3 3 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .667 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Scott Schebler 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 26 24 10 3 0 3 7 0 3 .417 .400 .917 1.317 1 1 0 0 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/4/2016.

Brandon Finnegan goes for the Redlegs.  St. Louis has seen him twice this season.  The first time, they got four runs (none of which were earned, incidentally) in five innings off of him in Busch.  The second, he allowed two runs in seven innings in his home park.  Let’s hope for more of the former and less of the latter in this afternoon’s clash.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Matt Holliday 9 9 1 1 0 0 1 0 3 .111 .111 .222 .333 0 0 0 0 0
Brandon Moss 9 9 4 0 0 1 4 0 2 .444 .444 .778 1.222 0 0 0 0 0
Stephen Piscotty 9 8 1 0 0 1 3 1 4 .125 .222 .500 .722 0 0 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 6 5 2 1 0 0 0 1 1 .400 .500 .600 1.100 0 0 0 0 0
Jedd Gyorko 5 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Jhonny Peralta 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Adam Wainwright 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Tommy Pham 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Greg Garcia 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Michael Wacha 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Kolten Wong 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 52 49 9 2 0 2 8 3 16 .184 .231 .347 .578 0 0 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/4/2016.

Hope you are able to follow the game one way or another this afternoon!

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In the 1997 Disney film Hercules, there’s a training montage set to the song “Zero To Hero“, showing how quickly Hercules went from a nobody to a full-fledged hero.  Last night, a couple of Cardinal bullpen stalwarts reversed the script, starting out at the highs and quickly hitting the depths.  The biggest problem was, one of those was the last pitcher standing, meaning the Reds were able to walk off with an improbable 7-5 win.

First, there was Kevin Siegrist.  Zach Duke made his Cardinal debut in the sixth inning and it wasn’t exactly what you wanted from a guy that was the only acquisition at the trade deadline.  Duke retired Brandon Phillips, then allowed a single to Scott Schebler (more on him in a bit).  He struck out Eugenio Suarez, but then issued back to back walks to load the bases.  Mike Matheny then went to the pen and got Siegrist, who struck out Billy Hamilton (on a 3-2 pitch) to end the threat.  Looks like a Hero to me.

The problem was, he went back out there for the seventh.  That in and of itself isn’t a problem, don’t get me wrong.  Matheny did his patented double-switch moves (a number of them in this game, which led to an issue later on, but we’ll look at those in a bit) and Siegrist should have been able to get more than one batter.  The Cardinals had taken the lead in the meantime, so Siegrist was even in position to get a win.  Sounds like a plan, just one that Siegrist couldn’t follow.  After a groundout, Joey Votto–who apparently is figuring Siegrist out; he was 0-10 against the Cardinal hurler before June, when he hit a game-winning homer off of him–singled and Adam Duvall did the longball honors.  From nails to nailed in the span of four batters.  Sadly, it wouldn’t be the last time we saw something like that.

Which brings us to our actual Goat of the game, Seung-hwan Oh.  When Jonathan Broxton had nothing, walking the first two batters he faced and then watching Matt Adams throw away a sacrifice bunt attempt, loading the bases with nobody out, Matheny went to his closer in the eighth inning.  That’s not something that Matheny would have done even last year, I don’t think, and hearing after the game that a number of pitchers are dealing with illness might have had something to do with it, but it was absolutely the right call.  The Cardinals had retaken the lead in the top of the eighth and this was their best chance of getting out of it.  Six pitches later, Oh had struck out Hamilton and gotten Ivan De Jesus to ground into a double play.  That is what you want to see out of your closer and there’s not much higher high than that for a reliever.

Only twice this season has Oh been asked to get six outs.  (Five times he’s gone more than an inning, though the other three were just 1.1 outings.)  Every other time Oh has had to come back out for another frame, he’s been fine.  Never allowed a run.  There was no reason to think that anything other than that would happen here.  And yet, it did.  Singles by Votto and Duvall and, after retiring Phillips on a pop fly, a three-run, game-ending, soul-crushing home run by Schebler.  From the high to the low to the end of the show.

Of course, the Twitter conflagration that followed was exacerbated by the fact that, due to the numerous double switches, Oh wound up batting with two outs and the bases loaded in the top of the ninth.  Given that as someone pointed out the Asian leagues use the DH as well and that this could have been Oh’s first at bat since high school, it’s not a terrible surprise that he didn’t present much of a threat.  The Cardinals had Seth Maness and Jerome Williams still available, and while nobody would want to see Williams, especially in Cincinnati, Maness has been extremely effective since returning from the disabled list.  There’s an argument for pinch-hitting there and letting Maness try to get the last three outs, hopefully with more than a run to play with.  That said, there were tough hitters in Votto and Duvall coming up, so it’s not like it was the bottom of the order Maness would have had to deal with.  Plus, the only hitter available was Alberto Rosario, and that’s not a significant upgrade in your chances to drive in a run.

So I understand why Matheny stuck with Oh and I think it was the right choice, but like I said on Twitter, this kind of situation seems to always come back and bite the Cardinals.  Usually Matheny’s had more options and chosen to stick with the pitcher, but even so, it made things turn into a hold-your-breath ninth.  We just didn’t have to hold it very long.

Let’s look a little at the double switches that led to this coming to be.  The first one came in the sixth when Siegrist was brought in.  Greg Garcia came into the game and replaced Jhonny Peralta, so the pitcher’s spot was now fifth.  Given that the game was tied, you wanted to use Siegrist for more than one hitter, and he would have hit third in the seventh, that made sense.  It’s a little surprising that Matheny chose to take out Peralta, who was 1-3 at that point, rather than Matt Holliday, but given Peralta was just coming back from injury plus was further down in the lineup (thus allowing you to have a bigger seventh before needing to decide on Siegrist), that made sense.

The second one came in the eighth, when Broxton came in.  Holliday went out then, as is his wont late in close games, and so Broxton was hitting third.  This was actually a bit of a delayed double switch because Tommy Pham had hit in the top of the eighth for Bowman, smashing the tie-breaking home run, and stayed in the game.  Given you typically want Holliday out and Pham improved your defense, that one checks out as well.

The last came later on in the eighth.  When Oh came into the game, Matheny also moved Brandon Moss (who, before I forget, gets to be the Hero for three hits, including the tying homer) from left field, replacing Adams, with Jeremy Hazelbaker coming into play left.  I’m guessing that was a defensive move, but this one seems a little less necessary to me.  That said, even if Matheny doesn’t make this one, Oh comes up with two on and two outs in the ninth, which probably doesn’t make any difference in the game nor in the angst involved.

You could argue that Matheny shouldn’t have gone with Broxton, which is a more defensible point.  Given recent history, Maness might have been a better choice to start the eighth.  Broxton has a 4.50 ERA since the break (not counting last night, when he was bailed out) but he’s also had four of seven outings where he didn’t give up a run nor allow an inherited runner to score.  He’s not rock solid and last night was higher leverage than he probably should be in, but it wasn’t crazy to think he could get the job done.

Perhaps Maness is one of the guys dealing with sickness.  That would explain the hesitancy to use him.  We also found out after the game that Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons has been dealing with a knee issue that turned out to be bad enough that he was placed on the disabled list after the game.  Which meant they weren’t going to use him in the eighth either.  (Lyons has been dealing with this issue for a while, apparently, which would seem to explain why Jaime Garcia and not Lyons went in Saturday’s game against the Marlins.  While Lyons did come into that game, there were probably enough concerns about his knee holding up not to want to start him and given he gave up runs in the 2/3rds of an inning he did pitch, those concerns seem valid.)

Of course, if Adam Wainwright goes more than five innings, some of these discussions aren’t happening.  It was nice that he hit a home run of his own, tying the game at 1, but it still wasn’t what we really expect from the ace.  When you walk Hamilton to start the game, that’s probably an indication things aren’t going to be great.  (That’s probably not fair–Wainwright has often settled in after a bumpy first.)  Overall, the results were fine, he just wasn’t very efficient.  That led to the domino effect that we’ve talked about above.  If Wainwright even goes six innings, you have more options for the last three.

Before last night, Schelber was hitting .188 and had just returned from the minor leagues after the Reds had traded off Jay Bruce at the deadline.  Apparently he learned something down in Louisville because the Cardinals couldn’t get him out at all.  Which may be the most frustrating thing of the night.  If you could retire a guy hitting around .200, the result would be different.  Instead, he went 3-5.

Besides Moss, kudos to Pham for his big home run, Jedd Gyorko for continuing his power surge, and Yadier Molina for continuing his hitting streak.  The offense battled and scrapped last night to try to get that win, they just got betrayed by another bullpen failure.

It’s games like last night that make it hard for me to get on the happy bandwagon Kevin Reynolds was trying to drum up.  These are games that the Cardinals have to win but they have this terrible penchant for not being able to do just that.  They’ve lost 2.5 games to the Cubs in the last three days and now sit 9 games out of the division lead.  Which, fine, we had pretty much written off the division anyway, even though they were getting tantalizingly close last week to being within shouting distance.  The good thing is those Cub wins have come against the Marlins, so they’ve actually gained 1/2 game on them in August.  The playoffs aren’t out of reach at all and this whole season would be worth it if they knocked the Cubs out in the first round, don’t you think?  Still, it’s a worrisome thing being a Cardinal fan these days.

Michael Wacha is in line to go tonight against the Reds.  Given Wacha’s up and down season, you have to at least hope he can match the six innings he’s had the last two starts.  While the flip side of Lyons’s DL transaction hasn’t been announced (and you’d have to believe it’s just the return of Dean Kiekhafer unless the club believes it’s time to shake things up and go ahead with Alex Reyes, which I’d put about a 5% chance on), the bullpen is going to be thin again tonight and they’ll need to the starter to go as deep as he can go.  At least he’s had some success against the Reds hitters.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Brandon Phillips 27 25 4 0 0 0 1 1 3 .160 .192 .160 .352 1 0 0 0 2
Joey Votto 26 21 8 3 0 1 2 4 1 .381 .462 .667 1.128 0 1 0 0 0
Billy Hamilton 21 20 1 1 0 0 0 1 1 .050 .095 .100 .195 0 0 0 0 0
Zack Cozart 20 20 10 2 1 0 0 0 1 .500 .500 .700 1.200 0 0 0 0 1
Eugenio Suarez 9 8 3 0 0 0 0 1 1 .375 .444 .375 .819 0 0 0 0 0
Tucker Barnhart 6 5 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 1 0 0 0
Adam Duvall 5 3 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 .333 .600 .667 1.267 0 0 0 1 1
Homer Bailey 4 4 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .250 .250 .250 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Ivan De Jesus 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Tony Cingrani 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Raisel Iglesias 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Scott Schebler 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .500 .000 .500 0 0 1 0 0
Michael Lorenzen 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 130 117 29 7 1 1 4 9 13 .248 .302 .350 .653 1 2 1 1 4
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/3/2016.

Cody Reed will be the Reds pitcher.  He’s never faced the Cardinals, which sometimes can be problematic.  He’s 0-5 with a 7.07 ERA and a WHIP that’s closing in on two batters an inning.  He just gave up six runs (five earned) in San Francisco, which tends to help out pitchers.  He’s only had seven games in the big leagues and, unless you count giving up just two unearned runs in six innings to the Braves, hasn’t had a good outing yet.  If the Cardinals don’t win tonight, it well may be the most frustrating loss of the season, which is a bar that is really, really high.

Let’s just hope we don’t have another wild one.  Twitter might spontaneously combust.

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OK, so there probably weren’t actually 50 ways on display this weekend in Miami, but it’s not like Paul Simon used 50 in the song either and I’m just as able to use poetic license as a legendary musician, right?  It was a frustrating end to the series, made more so on Sunday when defeat was grabbed from the jaws–or at least the general vicinity–of victory.  Let’s take a look at the last three game against the Marlins.

Friday (11-6 win)

Hero: Tommy Pham.  While Yadier Molina had more hits (three to Pham’s two), Tommy made his count a bit more, with a two-run homer contributing to his three RBI on the evening.  After the Marlins had answered the Cardinals’ serious fifth with five of their own, that cushion was muchly appreciated.

Goat: Mike Leake.  Leake looked a lot like the pitcher we had seen of late early (without the strikeouts) as he had allowed just one run into the fifth.  However, things went south in a hurry in the fifth and the final line of Leake was pretty gruesome, six earned in five innings.  He was burned by some extra-base hits, including two homers, and turned a 9-1 rout into a 9-6 ballgame.  If the bullpen hadn’t held the line, I’m pretty sure a few Twitter accounts would have gone up in flames.

Notes: Molina had his three hits, including a big two-run double that started the scoring in the fifth.  Kolten Wong also had three hits, driving in two with a double and a triple, though he was thrown out at home trying to score on a Greg Garcia fly ball after his three bagger.  Every starter had at least one hit in this one and the bullpen combined for four scoreless innings, with twice as many strikeouts (four) as hits allowed (two).

Saturday (11-0 loss)

Hero: Kolten Wong.  Wong had two hits, which was really the only thing of any positive note in this one.  When you allow 11 runs and only get six hits, finding a top performer is like finding the tallest hobbit.

Goat: Pick one.  Let’s go with Jaime Garcia though, since his four-run first inning set the tone for this game, digging a hole for the Cardinals that was going to be very tough to come back from in any situation, but especially since you knew Garcia wasn’t going to be out there for long and this was basically going to be a bullpen game.

Of course, the biggest Goat, if the rules of this game allowed it, would probably be Mike Matheny for deciding to go with Garcia on short rest anyway.  There was no one that believed this was going to work (though many hoped it would) and it turned out to be exactly the case.  Garcia wound up leaving in the fourth, allowing five runs and leaving a runner on third.

Now, to be fair, Tyler Lyons was a logical substitute for a Garcia start and he didn’t have the greatest of outings either when he came in to relieve Garcia.  Lyons immediately walked Dee Gordon and, as Dee Gordon is wont to do, that immediately became a double when he stole second.  Lyons then gave up a double and a single before striking out Giancarlo Stanton and retiring Marcell Osuna, two of the most dangerous bats in the Marlins lineup.  Whether things would have been different had he started the fourth or started the game, there’s no telling.  Perhaps throwing a bullpen this week, something that I don’t expect he regularly does, threw something off.  (I realize that’s an argument for not letting him start as well.)  I’d like to think a start would have gone differently, but who knows.

Remember, when Lyons came in it was a 5-0 game.  While you could logically expect the runner on third to score, he just as likely might not.  This offense has been known to put up runs–eleven of them just the night before.  So what does Matheny do here?  He double-switches to get Lyons into the game and removes cleanup hitter Matt Adams.

So, in theory, in a game that is still within reach, you remove what should be (given his placement in the lineup) your biggest power threat to bring in a pitcher that should (should, mind you) be in for long enough that he’s going to have to hit anyway.  So when he does hit, if there’s a scoring situation the Marlins would just walk Matt Holliday (who was hitting third since Stephen Piscotty was getting a much needed break) and get to the pitcher.  Talk about increasing the difficulty of a comeback.

This whole game seemed like a giveaway game.  Not only was there the Garcia start, but there was the weaker lineup put out there with the need to rest Piscotty and Aledmys Diaz.  There’s not a lot of cushion on the roster with all the injuries, so when you take out those bats, it’s going to be noticeable.  Then you get the Lyons stuff and that was just like running up a white flag.

Then, THEN after spending your cleanup hitter to get Lyons into the game, he doesn’t throw more than two-thirds of an inning, as Matheny replaces him in the fifth with Jerome Williams.  Now, I get that the game got more out of hand after Lyons’s appearance and an 8-0 game is definitely the only place you want to see Williams pitching.  Williams went four innings and so the need for anyone else out of the pen was moot.  However, it still felt like Lyons, given that he’s the long man that threw just 12.1 innings in the entire month of July, should go longer than two outs.  Especially when Matheny then double-switches again, taking out Yadier Molina and putting Alberto Roserio in the fourth spot.

Again, it’s 8-0 and it’s good to see them getting Molina out of a game that there was no real chance of winning.  It’s just strange to see how Matheny was working things in this one.  And, to be fair, we weren’t in the mood to give him the benefit of the doubt after a gamble that absolutely no one thought was a good idea blew up in his face.

Sunday (5-4 loss)

Hero: Stephen Piscotty.  While Piscotty still doesn’t look right, he did come through when it mattered most, doubling down the line in a 4-2 game to drive in Tommy Pham, then scoring himself when Adeiny Hechavarria launched the cutoff throw into the seats behind home plate.  Suddenly the game was tied in the eighth and there was hope to take three of four in the series.  That hope didn’t last all that long, but it was nice to have for a while.

Goat: If you could split this title, I’d do so between the two outfielders that cost the Cards at least a chance to keep playing.  Since I can’t, I’m going with Jeremy Hazelbaker since he went 0-4 on the day.  However, both he and Tommy Pham bear some culpability for the final play of the game, a fly ball that probably both of them could have caught, neither of them did catch, and neither of them veered off to back it up.  The ball bounced past them both and the runner on first scored easily, knocking the Cards back out of the wild card slot.

Notes: Folks wanted to complain about Matthew Bowman in the ninth, and I get that Seung-hwan Oh could, maybe should have been used in that situation.  That said, Bowman has been solid all year long and for the month of July before yesterday he had a 1.23 ERA with a .448 OPS against in 14.2 innings.  Oh’s July? 2.03 ERA, .507 OPS in 13.1 innings.  Oh has more strikeouts (16 to 12) but Bowman was a solid choice, especially if you are looking to have him pitch the 10th as well.  If Pham or Hazelbaker catches that ball as they should have, we go on to the 10th and Bowman has done his job.  They didn’t and the Cardinals didn’t, but that’s not really on Bowman.

Greg Garcia got a surprising home run.  Listening on radio, Ricky Horton was doing that “fly ball, carrying, carrying, gone!” bit which made it seem like it didn’t look like a homer, but it got over the wall.  There wasn’t a lot of offense in this one (again, just six hits) but between that and Piscotty’s double/error advancement, it was almost enough.

Before Sunday’s game, as you know by now of course, the Cardinals made their traditional mid-level prospect for bullpen help trade.  It’s one of those baseball traditions, like peanuts and Cracker Jack.  Zach Duke comes over from the White Sox for Charlie Tilson.  (Tilson, interestingly enough, was a player I suggested as a possible trade piece on the most recent Meet Me At Musial.  I don’t get things like this right very often so you better believe I’m going to mention it!)  As I said last night on Gateway to Baseball Heaven, I originally thought Duke was more of a LOOGY, given that he has 53 appearances this year and only 37.2 innings to show for it.  Looking over his game log, though, I can see that he’s gone an inning or more a number of times, which is more like it.  This bullpen didn’t need a specialist, it needed a solid option for the seventh or eighth and Duke should provide that.

As for Tilson, he was a good prospect, but he wasn’t even ranked in the Cards’ top 10.  (He immediately placed at 5 in the White Sox rankings, I believe, which could tell you a number of things.)  Assuming the club is committing to Randal Grichuk long term, even though he can’t seem to find his swing this year, there’s not really any room at the big league level for Tilson, especially since Harrison Bader passed him on the depth chart a while back.  Tilson’s from the Chicago area and hopefully will get a lot of opportunities with his hometown team.

Last night, Rob Rains tweeted that since July 5, the Cubs had lost 10 times (which basically made them .500 for that span) and, on those days, the Cards had lost eight times as well, which just goes to show the frustration level that comes with this team.  The division race could be so much closer had they taken advantage of just a few of those opportunities.  (That said, it’s actually just nine times as Rains–reasonably–was counting last night as a loss, only to see the Cubs rally from down 6-0 in the middle of the game–and playing Travis Wood in the outfield!–to win 7-6 in 12 innings.  If they are a team of momentum–unlike St. Louis–that could be something that gets them going.)

The Cardinals have today off while the Cubs play the Marlins in a game where you don’t know who to root for.  Either team losing works for the Redbirds, though the Marlins are the more direct threat.  St. Louis goes to Cincinnati for tomorrow’s game, with Jhonny Peralta expected to be activated and Brandon Moss not far behind.  Matt Carpenter, who started his rehab yesterday, should be ready by time the club gets home to play Atlanta.  Adam Wainwright will take the hill for the Cards (which is a great birthday present for me) while Dan Straily goes for the Reds.  Charts follow:

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Brandon Phillips 65 59 18 3 0 1 5 4 13 .305 .349 .407 .756 2 0 0 0 1
Jay Bruce 46 41 12 2 0 2 10 5 14 .293 .370 .488 .857 0 0 0 0 0
Joey Votto 43 38 7 2 0 1 2 4 8 .184 .279 .316 .595 0 0 0 1 2
Zack Cozart 37 35 8 1 0 0 2 1 5 .229 .250 .257 .507 1 0 0 0 1
Billy Hamilton 8 7 0 0 0 0 0 1 7 .000 .125 .000 .125 0 0 0 0 0
Adam Duvall 5 5 2 0 0 0 2 0 2 .400 .400 .400 .800 0 0 0 0 0
Eugenio Suarez 5 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Brandon Finnegan 4 4 2 1 0 0 0 0 1 .500 .500 .750 1.250 0 0 0 0 0
Tucker Barnhart 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Homer Bailey 2 2 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Ramon Cabrera 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Tyler Holt 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 222 203 51 9 0 4 22 15 53 .251 .306 .355 .661 3 0 0 1 4
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/1/2016.
Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Matt Holliday 2 1 1 0 0 1 1 1 0 1.000 1.000 4.000 5.000 0 0 0 0 0
Stephen Piscotty 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Aledmys Diaz 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Randal Grichuk 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Jeremy Hazelbaker 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Carlos Martinez 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Kolten Wong 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 10 9 1 0 0 1 1 1 2 .111 .200 .444 .644 0 0 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/1/2016.

We know that Wainwright’s been on a roll.  Straily is coming off allowing just one run in 7.2 innings to the Giants at AT&T Park.  He’s had a good month of July, with his last blowup at the end of June when he allowed 7 in 3.2 innings to the Cubs.  We’ll see if the Cards can have similar success!

Also, if you want an optimistic look at the rest of the season, check out Kevin Reynolds’s work at STL Cards ‘N Stuff.  I’m not sure I can completely get on that bandwagon, given the general inability of this team to get on a run (especially when things like yesterday happen) but there’s no doubt Kevin lays out a good argument for a strong two-month kick!

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