C70 At The Bat

Given that currently the Detroit Tigers are one of the best teams in the American League, at least via record, probably losing two of three to them, including one in extra innings, isn’t so bad.  The Cardinals are finding stronger measuring sticks than the Reds and Brewers and they aren’t being found completely wanting, which would seem to bode well for the rest of the season.

Friday (10-4 loss)

Hero: Jason Heyward.  It’s not often that we get to write about good games out of Heyward, at least not recently, so credit where it’s due.  Two hits, including a two-run homer that brought the Cards within two going into the ninth.  There’s no doubt that Heyward is not been all that we hoped for so far–and seeing Shelby Miller get one out away from a no-hitter while St. Louis is dealing with pitching issues makes some start revising their stance on that trade–but he’s still a valuable part of this offense that hopefully will get going soon.  If nothing else, this at least brings up the possibility (however small) that Heyward, believing the market won’t be there this winter, signs a favorable extension mid-season.  Again, not terribly likely, but more likely now than if he was rolling.

Goat: Mitch Harris.  Down just 2-0 after another short night from Carlos Martinez and a scoreless inning from Matt Belisle, they turned the ball over to the rookie and he got his first “welcome to the majors” pasting.  Three runs later the Cards are down five and his ERA had tripled.  Harris has had a great start to his season and his next outing will be a big one, giving us some clue whether that was just an off night, a bad matchup, or if folks are starting to figure him out.  Given the use of the bullpen and the likely need of it going forward, we surely hope it’s not the latter.

Notes: A reliance on the long ball over the weekend began here, as the four run scored on two blasts by Heyward and Jhonny Peralta.  It’s obviously nice to see the power and it’s not something we’ve seen out of the Cardinals a lot over the past year or two, but hopefully they can mix in some other scoring as well.  Then again, given how St. Louis moved around the basepaths this weekend, maybe it’s safer to just hit it over the wall….Another two-hit night for Matt Carpenter, but that’s like saying that it gets muggy this time of year….Seth Maness got torched for four runs, an outing that will likely tinge his ERA the rest of the season.  However, he had to take one for the team there as so many arms have been worn down lately.

Saturday (4-3 loss in 10)

Hero: Carlos Villanueva.  We’ll talk about the Patron Pitcher in a minute, but when he couldn’t finish the fourth, Villanueva was called on.  All he did was go 3.1 innings of scoreless ball, keeping the Tigers close and allowing the Cards to eventually tie things up.  He deserved to get a win after all that, but all we can grant is the Hero tag.

Goat: Mark Reynolds.  0-5 with three left on base, which was big in a game that went to extras.  He struck out with two on in the first, wasting an opportunity to get to David Price right off the bat after Carpenter had gone yard, then struck out in the 10th with a runner on and one out.  He also fouled into a double play, but that was more on Pete Kozma trying to advance on a ball caught by the seats.  Good in theory, lousy in execution.

Notes: Tyler Lyons made his last start, at least for a while.  That was going to be his last start no matter how he performed, since Jaime Garcia threw six very good innings for Springfield on Friday night and looked ready to return to the big leagues.  That said, Lyons didn’t do anything to really make them reconsider that notion.  His first two innings weren’t too bad, save the 400th home run of Miguel Cabrera‘s career (and even that was due to the great hitter that Cabrera is, as he fouled off a number of pitches to get to that one he could hit.  Lyons might have struck out a lesser batter) but a triple and a double in the third got the bullpen warming and he allowed the third run on a Yoenis Cespedes single.

He did finish the inning and got two quick outs in the fourth before allowing a single to Ian Kinsler.  With Cabrera coming up, Mike Matheny made the call and after 80 pitches, Lyons was done.  He showed some good stuff (he struck out five in his 3.2 innings) but unfortunately he wasn’t consistent enough and Matheny couldn’t afford to let him keep going if they wanted to keep the game close.  There’s a strong portion of the fan base that has soured on Lyons, but I’m still hoping we’ll see him again.  I think he’s still got some potential, though perhaps he’ll have to be a reliever with this team if he does make it back up.

Peralta went yard again, tying the game up in the sixth.  In fact, yet again were all the runs homers as Carpenter tied the game in the bottom of the first with a long ball and Peter Bourjos, who is going to be getting a lot of time and so far is doing well with it, cracked one in the second.  Randal Grichuk was activated before this game and got two hits in the leadoff spot, which is two more than most people have had in that role this week.  Yadier Molina also had two hits, though he still isn’t showing much power.

Sunday (2-1 win)

Hero: Lance Lynn.  We’ve said often over the past week or more that we needed to see a starter step up and just throw seven or more quality innings.  It’d been over a week since a starter had gone out there after six innings and the bullpen was showing it.  Lynn did just that, getting into the eighth and allowing just the one run.  It was a wonderful change of pace from what we’ve been seeing and Lynn deserves all the kudos he can get for it.

That said, there’s gotta be some questions about Matheny letting him do that.  In the sixth, after Kolten Wong had cranked a home run to give the Cards the lead, Lynn comes up with a runner on and one out.  It’s a situation where a pinch-hitter might have been able to add to the lead.  However, given the state of the bullpen and the state of the bench, I don’t have any problem letting Lynn bunt there and hoping that Heyward could drive in the runner with a two-out hit.  It didn’t happen, but I can live with that and I’d probably make the same decision.

Lynn gets through the seventh at about 108 pitches.  Apparently as he comes into the dugout, he tells Matheny “I’ve got this”.  Which is right out of the Adam Wainwright School of Pitching and Managing Managers.  There’s little chance that Matheny would take out a guy with such determination when he’s pitching so well, pitch count or no pitch count.  In the words of one of his predecessors, he had a commitment to his heart.

Even so, you knew that Cabrera was lurking in the bottom of the eighth.  At best, he’d come up with bases empty and two outs.  Would you really want him to face a tired Lynn with the game on the line?  I understand the bullpen has been worn, but they could cover two innings.  The smarter play there was to pull him out.  However, Matheny went with him and, after Lynn got the first out, he walked Kinsler and Cabrera on a total of eight pitches.  Which would have been bigger if we didn’t have Mr. Efficient in the bullpen, as Maness came in, threw a pitch, got a double play, and the mess was cleaned.  Still, that was a huge gamble by Matheny, one that almost let the Tigers get their brooms out.

Goat: Jason Heyward.  For some reason, Matheny moved him up to the revolving leadoff spot last night.  That seemed strange given how Heyward talked about how he struggled with that mindset and how that is so different than his low-order position of late.  Heyward went 0-4 with two strikeouts, which hopefully means we’ll see him back down in the lineup today against the Mets.

The leadoff role has been an issue since Carpenter slid into the second spot.  Jon Jay had it for a while, but with him on the DL there’s nobody that’s claimed it.  Bourjos, Wong, Grichuk and now Heyward have all given it a try but only Grichuk has really shown anything and that was just one game.  Given that he’s going to be the fourth outfielder, it’s not like he’s a regular solution to the issue.  Matheny may just have to pick a player and stick with it for a few games, seeing if they can adjust.

Notes: Another two-hit night for Molina, which was great to see.  Wong crushed the go-ahead homer in the sixth and it was a thing of beauty.  I don’t know if anyone has the bat speed that he does.  When he gets those inside pitches he whips around and deposits them into the right field bleachers.  It’s a wondrous thing and a lot of fun to watch.  Another two-hit night for Carpenter, because they played and that’s what happens.

Matt Adams continues to struggle, going 0-3 last night and being pinch-hit for in the seventh.  Honestly, that was a situation where you wonder if Brad Ausmus didn’t overthink things.  With a runner on and two outs, Ausmus went to a lefty reliever, which meant Matheny countered with Reynolds.  The way Adams is going, you’d almost think you’d rather face him no matter the pitcher than Reynolds and, in fact, Reynolds slapped a single to put two on for Molina, who got a hit but saw Peralta thrown out at the plate.

What’s up with Adams is hard for the untrained to figure out.  He ended April hitting over .300 but is hitting .143 since that time.  There’s got to be something that he can work on, because I don’t believe the league has just figured him out and the last two years were flukes.  Adams can hit in this league and he will hit, but it’s been a rough few weeks and he needs a good game or two for his mental well-being.

Bernie Miklasz wrote this weekend that he believes the Cardinals really need to trade for some sort of starting pitcher, even if it’s the inning-eater rather than the ace.  If we knew Lynn and folks like John Lackey could get into the seventh regularly, this might be a moot point.  It’s been a bad stretch for the starters, definitely, but it’s also one that could turn around quickly and see some longer outings, letting the bullpen catch their breath.  We’ll see if that’s the case.  I don’t disagree with Bernie that a veteran arm could be a very good thing for this team, because there are likely to be a lot of innings that need to be covered.  I’m not sure what John Mozeliak would give up nor do I know where you’d slot them into the rotation, but I imagine Mo’s giving those issues some thought.  As Tara said last night on Gateway, it’s not likely to be any time soon, what with Garcia just returning, but it may be before the trade deadline and earlier than Mo has made moves in the recent past.

Cards are in New York tonight and they get to face The Dark Knight.  I’m not sure if that makes St. Louis the Joker or the Riddler or what.  Hopefully they’ll be a Bane to Matt Harvey‘s existence, though.  Not a lot of experience with Harvey for these Redbirds, so maybe he won’t have the right equipment in his utility belt.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Matt Carpenter 6 4 1 0 1 0 2 1 1 .250 .333 .750 1.083 0 1 0 0 0
Jason Heyward 6 6 2 0 0 1 2 0 2 .333 .333 .833 1.167 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Holliday 6 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 1
Yadier Molina 6 4 1 0 0 0 0 2 1 .250 .500 .250 .750 0 0 0 0 0
Pete Kozma 3 3 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 .667 .667 1.000 1.667 0 0 0 0 0
Total 27 23 6 1 1 1 4 3 6 .261 .333 .522 .855 0 1 0 0 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/18/2015.

Lackey will take the mound for the Cards, hoping to keep the momentum of good starting pitching going.  Given the majority of his service in the American League, he’s not faced many of the guys, but the ones he has have seen him quite a bit.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Curtis Granderson 40 34 8 1 2 1 2 5 8 .235 .333 .471 .804 1 0 0 0 1
Michael Cuddyer 27 25 8 1 0 4 6 2 5 .320 .370 .840 1.210 0 0 0 0 0
Total 67 59 16 2 2 5 8 7 13 .271 .348 .627 .976 1 0 0 0 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/18/2015.

The Mets have struggled of late, now just 1/2 game ahead of a Washington team that looks like the team we’d thought they’d be. However, New York plays better in the Big Apple, so this could be a tough four games. Hopefully good starting pitching for the Redbirds and plenty of wins are on the schedule!

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For the longest time on Thursday afternoon, it looked like the Cards were stuck in a slightly tilted version of Wednesday night’s game.  Trevor Bauer wasn’t carrying a no-hitter or gunning for a strikeout record, but when the top of the eighth rolled around, he was carrying a 1-0 lead with double-digit strikeouts.  It was looking like there was going to be a lot of talk about St. Louis hitting the skids or about an offense that was just flailing about.

The good thing about a 1-0 deficit?  It doesn’t take a lot to erase it.

With one down, Bauer walked Peter Bourjos.  Now, Bauer was probably tiring having reached 110 pitches, which hopefully was the reason that Terry Francona went to the bullpen.  If it was just to get a lefty for Matt Carpenter, well, we could have told him that wouldn’t have done much good.  He might not hit them as well as righties, but the drop off isn’t terribly significant.  (It’s also possible Francona thought it was Matt Adams, which is a whole different discussion!)

Francona brings in our old friend Marc Rzepczynski.  He had one job and, well, he didn’t do it.  Carpenter launched a two-run shot, Randy Choate (improving his YHOJ mark), Seth Maness, and Trevor Rosenthal finished it up, and the Cards leave Cleveland with their first ever series win against the Tribe.

Carpenter gets our Hero tag, of course, and Bourjos avoids the Goat tag with that walk since otherwise he was 0-3 from the leadoff spot and you know how that attracts the label.  Mark Reynolds, Kolten Wong, and Yadier Molina all had two hits, they just couldn’t come at the right times.  Reynolds and Wong had back-to-back knocks only to see Wong thrown out trying to steal second.

Other than that, the offense was as breezy as a spring day in Kansas.  (I guess–never actually been to Kansas.)  Whiff after whiff piled up and nobody else could get a hit at all.  The Goat was a bit of a tossup, but I think it’s got to go to Jason Heyward again.  Heyward went 0-4, grounded into a double play in the ninth after Wong and Molina had singled, trying to get a little insurance, and still left five men on base.  We’ve talked about how Heyward had started to come around after his drop in the lineup, but he went 0-11 in this series with a walk.  Granted, a lot of folks went o for the last couple of days and he did have two multi-hit games against the Pirates, so maybe it’s more good pitching than a slump.  We’ll see how he does against the Tigers.

St. Louis struck out 40 times this series, which is an incredible number, especially for this team.  In the two series (seven games) prior to this series, they only fanned 41 times.  Yes, with Adams (who after avoiding Corey Kluber‘s wrath for the most part on Wednesday struck out three times yesterday) and Reynolds in the lineup, along with Pete Kozma playing a good bit, the strikeouts will be there, but this was pretty extreme.  Perhaps the earlier start times threw them slightly off or the Ohio weather didn’t agree with them, but hopefully they’ll be able to make more contact this weekend against Detroit.

As for the pitching, Michael Wacha continued to have some good results, but he labored to do it.  He only went a batter into the sixth having reached the 100 pitch mark.  It’s impressive he went that far, because he threw about 60 pitches in the first two frames.  Wacha didn’t seem to have the ability to finish anyone off, going 12 pitches to Jason Kipnis to lead off the game as Kipnis continued to foul off whatever Wacha threw up there.  He did strike out seven, which was much better than he had been doing, and he did seem to get better as the game went along, but the Cards are going to need Wacha to go six at the least regularly and seven more often than not.

As you saw on the site yesterday, Jon Jay went on the DL and Xavier Scruggs was called up to be a bench bat.  I don’t know that anyone honestly expected a Stephen Piscotty sighting, but Bernie Miklasz lays out the reasons he didn’t get the call.  The 40-man machinations was a large part of it, I’d expect.  With Jaime Garcia starting today for Springfield, there was no obvious move to make to free up a spot, especially when there was no major need to do so.

Speaking of rehabbing pitchers that have Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons in their sights, Marco Gonzales only went four innings yesterday and allowed seven runs.  Now, he was playing in Colorado Springs, which means you have to discount that somewhat (even if Gonzales is a Colorado native whose ability to pitch there was a significant talking point when he made his debut last year against the Rockies in Coors Field), but even so, he’s going to need some more work in AAA before he can be considered for a major league spot.  With Garcia having a clock on his rehab (a maximum of 30 days), it seems most likely that Garcia will come up first and Gonzales will spend a good portion of the summer with the Memphis squad.

As noted, the Cardinals come home and host the Tigers, which means we can talk about 1968, 2006, 1934….well, maybe not so much the last one.  However, expect any bobbles by a Tiger pitcher fielding to be met with some ’06 memories.  Shane Greene is going for Detroit in this first game.  Greene just limited the Royals to one run over eight innings in his last start, but he allowed five runs in 2.2 innings the start before that to the White Sox, ending a three-game stretch where he allowed 20 runs in 11 innings.  You’d like to think that means the offense could go to town tonight, but being that nobody’s ever seen him before, that might be wishful thinking.  It can’t be as bad as the last two days though.  Surely.

Carlos Martinez goes for the Cardinals and we’ll see what we get out of him.  His first five starts were outstanding, the last two he’s given up seven runs in each.  Maybe the fact that none of the Tigers have seen him will help and we’ll get back to that dominating Carlos that we were just getting used to.

Detroit comes in 21-14 and a game behind Kansas City.  The Cards, of course, are 24-10 and five games up on the Cubs.  This should be a great series to watch!

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For a while yesterday, I was a little disappointed in myself that I didn’t write up Tuesday’s game yesterday morning.  There wasn’t any particular reason, just had a little trouble getting motivated to get out of bed and write about a game I didn’t see much of.  After watching last night’s game, though, I’m glad I didn’t.  I’d hate to have this post all about that one.  It’d be pretty short.

Tuesday (8-3 win)

Hero: Matt Holliday.  Two hits, including a three-run homer that provided some needed cushion.  The game had started to get much closer than most folks wanted, so his blast was truly appreciated.

Goat: Kolten Wong.  A lot of folks were excited about seeing him at the top of the lineup.  However, it didn’t work in this game as he went 0-5 with two strikeouts.

Notes: Listening to the beginning of this one on the radio, John Rooney made note that Cleveland either won big or lost big, as they’d only had a few games (don’t remember the exact number, maybe three?) that had been decided by two or less runs.  It looked like the Cards were going to add to that until Holliday’s big blast.  He wasn’t the only one with a good offensive game, though, as Mark Reynolds had three hits and two RBI and Matt Carpenter got back into the swing of things with a pair of hits and a couple of runs scored.  Interestingly, the Cardinals flashed back to 2013 and scored all of their runs with two outs.

On the pitching side of things, we saw a much better outing by Lance Lynn.  Nine strikeouts–which seemed impressive until last night’s game–and no runs, though he did only go six innings and walked four as well.  Still, much better than allowing a ton of runs, which he’d been doing lately.  We saw good work out of Miguel Solocovich (1.2 innings, no runs, three strikeouts) and Kevin Siegrist‘s line looks good, though he allowed his inherited runner to score.

We’ve not kept up with the Randy Choate YOU HAD ONE JOB tally lately, but he slipped again in this one, allowing a double to Michael Brantley, the one batter he faced.  That’s five times this season he’s come in and not retired a batter.  Seven other times he’s pitched 0.1 of an inning, so he’s on the right side of 50%, but it’s still a struggle.  That said, we saw old friend Marc Rzepczynski in this one, who came in to get one batter out–and also failed.  Apparently it’s going around.

Wednesday (2-0 loss)

Hero: Jhonny Peralta.  He kept us from hearing all about a no-hitter this morning, though it’s not like Corey Kluber isn’t getting plenty of headlines anyway.  Other options–Holliday, the only person not to strike out (given he left the game after being hit on the elbow, which also kept the perfect game watch at bay) and Matt Adams, the only person in the lineup to only strike out once (which was not at all what you expected, was it?).  Honestly, when your team gets one hit and strikes out 19 times (18 times against the starter), it’s not real easy to find a Hero.

Goat: Pick a starter and most likely they went 0-fer with two or more K.  We’ll go with Peter Bourjos, because he went 0-3 with 3 K.  So did Reynolds, but let’s be honest, that’s part of his gig.  If everyone’s striking out, it’s tough to blame the strikeout king of the roster.  Really, though, you could go with most anyone.

Notes: John Lackey had a tough first inning and, honestly, scuffled a lot of the game but was able to work out of trouble most of the time.  He walked five, allowed the two runs in the first that was way more than Kluber needed, and left with one out in the sixth having crossed the 100 pitch plateau.  We continue to talk about how the starters need to go deeper in games and Lackey did last time around, but either the road woes are getting to him or it’s just going to be a random selection of how he’s going to perform start-to-start (I think there’s some of both).  Still, it gives more fuel to the idea that St. Louis needs to go and get an innings-eater.  I don’t think they can get or need to get someone on the level of Cole Hamels, but someone that can legitimately go seven innings every time out and do so without straining the offense to get a win would be worth a lot to this team.

I made a bit of a sarcastic comment (I know, that’s a stunner) yesterday on Twitter when Choate came in with two on and hit a batter.  I expected that to be his only man (and again failing the YOU HAVE ONE JOB criteria) but he stayed in to face the next hitter, switch-hitting Carlos Santana.  I mocked the fact that Choate was facing a righty with the bases loaded, but it was pointed out to me that there was a run of lefties after that and it would save the bullpen.  I acknowledge that and I can understand what Mike Matheny was going for, but it almost backfired spectacularly.  Santana lined a ball up the middle that Choate reactively grabbed.  Without his reflexes, that ball likely goes all the way through and it’s 4-0.  Again, it didn’t matter because Kluber wasn’t allowing anything, but in a different game that could have been a big moment.  However, Jason Kipnis (whom Choate hit) is significantly worse against lefties and with Lackey at the end of his rope, that move made sense.  I’m not sure what else you could have done without running through the bullpen, so I’ll admit Matheny saw the bigger picture and I didn’t.

We’re pretty used to second-guessing Matheny, but I’m not sure we aren’t finally seeing that in-game growth that we’ve been hoping for the last few years.  The bullpen usage isn’t completely rigid or incomprehensible, the lineups make sense, players like Bourjos aren’t being buried.  The only major issue I’m seeing right now is roster construction and that’s at least partly on John Mozeliak, though likely Mo defers to what Matheny wants for the most part in this arena.  I’ve never been a fan of the 12/13 hitter/pitcher split and it’s been going on for a long time, though it’s defensible given the starters and their lack of innings.

However, with Holliday going out of last night’s game with no idea on if that plunk will linger and Jon Jay not being up to taking over for Holliday yesterday, with Pete Kozma instead going out to play left, the Cards probably will have to do something.  I know the bench isn’t quite as important in these funhouse mirror games called playing in the American League, but still, if Holliday and Jay can’t go, that means you have nine of your 12 hitters in the lineup  and two unavailable, which means your bench is Tony Cruz, whom you probably don’t use because you can’t afford to do so.  That’s not going to cut it.  If nothing else, you’ll need something by tomorrow.  Most likely the Cards make a move today and it’ll be interesting to see what it is.  The most likely move would be to bring up Xavier Scruggs and let Mark Reynolds play outfield if necessary.  Scruggs is already on the 40-man roster and has six homers in Memphis, though he’s just hitting .229.  You could see the debut of Stephen Piscotty, but that’d take a 40-man move as well and unless Jaime Garcia had a setback that allowed you to move him to the 60-man DL, I don’t know what that move would be.  It’s possible they could release someone like Ed Easley or Nick Greenwood, I guess.

These East Coast times have been pretty crazy this series.  Today’s no different, with first pitch at 11:10 AM, so you’ll be able to watch some baseball on your lunch break.  Michael Wacha tries to make sure the Cards 1) don’t lose their second series in a row and 2) win their first ever series against the Indians.  Wacha’s not going to make a run at 18 K (he has 19 for the entire season so far) but hopefully can continue his run of strong starts.  The only Indian Wacha has faced is Zach Walters, whom he retired once last year when Walters was with Washington.

Trevor Bauer goes for Cleveland.  Bauer was highly touted but he’s never quite made it to the level he was projected to reach, though he’s still young.  A 4.19 ERA on the year, but that has skyrocketed after he gave up 11 runs combined in his last two starts (against Toronto and Minnesota) in 9.1 innings combined.  The only Cardinal he’s ever seen is Jason Heyward, who went 0-3 against him in a game in 2012, back when Bauer was a rookie for Arizona.  Not a lot of experience there, but there wasn’t against Carlos Carrasco in the first game and that turned out OK.  Honestly, it can’t get worse than last night.  Right?  Right?

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Avasted By Pirates

Someone somewhere once said that you can’t win them all.  The Cardinals gave it a good run, but they found out the old maxim isn’t yet outdated.  Let’s take a look at what happened in PNC Park this weekend.

Friday (8-5 win)

Hero: Kolten Wong.  Three hits, including a three-run seventh inning blast that gave the Cards a good bit of breathing room, some of which they actually needed.  You could say Wong is on a tear–through Sunday, he’s on an eight-game hitting streak where he’s hitting just .517/.548/.897 with three of his four home runs.  We’ve seen before that Wong can go in spurts, but this is extreme.  Hopefully he doesn’t go just as cold when he levels off.

Goat: Pete Kozma.  0-4 with two strikeouts and four left on base.  True, he wouldn’t have been in there if it wasn’t for Matt Carpenter having to stay in St. Louis with fatigue, but he was and it was a tough night for him.  He even made an error to complete the package.

Notes: Another good start by Michael Wacha, but another one where he didn’t do much in the way of striking batters out.  He only punched out one and only went six innings, allowing three runs (though only two were earned).  Obviously that’s not bad, but we’ve come to expect more out of Wacha.  Still, if this is one of his off games, we’d take that pretty quickly and try not to be concerned.

Peter Bourjos has started to compete for that center field job like some of our number always thought he would.  Two doubles in this one and he scored twice, though he did strike out three times.  He’s played in all ten games in May, starting five of them, and has posted a .391/.444/.609 line.  That’s playing over his head, of course, but it’s good to see him taking advantage of opportunities and giving the Cardinals another weapon on the basepaths, plus making it easier to justify his defense in the lineup.  With Jon Jay bruising his thumb on Saturday, Bourjos may have more opportunities for playing time in the short-term as well.

Matt Holliday seems to have been struggling a bit lately, but he still can make an impact.  He crushed a three-run homer for his only hit of the night to break a 1-1 tie and give the Cardinals the upper hand, one they didn’t ever fully relinquish.

Saturday (7-5 loss)

Hero: Jason Heyward.  It was a bit of a tossup between him and Jhonny Peralta, but I went with Heyward because of his two doubles.  We’ve seen Heyward hit well since the lineup change–his line now stands at .349/.440/.395 after Sunday’s game since moving down–but we’ve not seen him hit much for power.  Strike that, we’ve not seen him hit for any power, as these two doubles are the only extra-base hits he’s had since the turnover.  The hits are good, though, and the power hopefully will come as he continues to get comfortable in that role.  With folks like Jay, Bourjos, Wong and Carpenter, the top of the lineup is taken care of, so he can just sit back and try to drive folks in.

Goat: Carlos Martinez.  Seven runs in 5.1 innings is tough to swallow.  Yes, Seth Maness came in and allowed the last two to score, but he came into a bases-loaded, one-out situation.  Mr. Double Play could have gotten out of the jam (in theory, not with the pitch he threw to Jordy Mercer that almost left the park) but it’s not surprising in that scenario that some runs scored.  Martinez struck out seven, but he walked four.  After a rough second, it looked like he got back under control, only to fall apart again in the sixth.

Notes: It was strange to see the Cards lose this kind of game.  (Then again, since they lost almost 25% of their entire season total this weekend, it’s strange to see them lose any game.)  We’ve seen a lot of them rallying lately, coming back to take a lead and then just locking it down.  They did the former, but they couldn’t do the latter.  You can’t say the bullpen struggled here–save for Maness allowing that big double as soon as he came in, the ‘pen only allowed one other runner–but you still felt that 5-3 would stand up, so when it didn’t, it was a bit stunning.

Tough game for Matt Adams, who went 0-4 and left four men on base.  The offense came to life for one inning, but couldn’t get across the plate in the others.  Most embarrassingly, a second-and-third-with-no-out became three outs in one swing, as Yadier Molina hit into the first 4-5-4 triple play in baseball history.  Not exactly the history Molina is used to making.  Perhaps we should have known that not getting a run there boded ill for the game, though it was after that the big inning occurred and it seemed like St. Louis was going to do it again.

Sunday (4-3 loss)

Hero: Kolten Wong.  Just one hit, but it was a big two-run homer that briefly tied the game up.  Given Wong’s story with his mom, how she passed from cancer in December, it was a meaningful thing for him to have a home run on Mother’s Day, using the pink bats that you see on the holiday.

Goat: Jhonny Peralta.  0-4 plus a double play in the eighth inning which hurt the comeback chances.

Notes: Two more hits from Heyward in this one, but he’d have liked one of them to come in the ninth, when he had two runners on and only one out.  Instead, he struck out, and Kozma then flew out to end the game.  It would have been pretty huge had Heyward come through right there.

Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons took the start and did a better job this time around.  He faced one batter in the sixth, allowing a double to Andrew McCutchen before leaving.  Matt Belisle eventually allowed that run to score, so Lyons ended the day with five innings, three runs, two earned.  Of course, the unearned run came off of his own error, a one-out grounder by Starling Marte that should have been an out but instead put Marte on third.  He almost pitched out of that problem, striking out Corey Hart, but Mercer (who only had two hits this weekend, but they both counted), singled to drive him in.

Otherwise, Lyons looked pretty good, striking out five and only walking one.  He also only threw 84 pitches, which was a far sight better than the 100 he threw in less than five innings in his first outing.  With the news this weekend from the rehab starts, with Marco Gonzales struggling in his 2.1 and Jaime Garcia not faring a lot better in 2.2, Lyons is probably going to get at least one more start, maybe two, as those two continue to work their way back.  While some may not be as enamored with that idea as I am, I think the Cards could do worse and there aren’t a whole lot of options.  You could try Tim Cooney again but I think Lyons would really have to implode for that to happen.  And I like Carlos Villanueva where he is, an option on any day and able to take extras if necessary or come in for a starter that doesn’t have it.

The biggest issue of the weekend, of course, was Carpenter not being in Pittsburgh due to extreme fatigue.  While perhaps not a surprise, given Carpenter’s work ethic and the fact that there’d been a lot of days in a row, I expressed concern last night on Gateway that it’s not good to see this before the heat of the summer sets in.  Now, it’s true July and August see more off days, but there’s still a stretch from July 24-August 2 that’s all in St. Louis and temps are likely to be around 100 for each of them.  What happens then?  Will Carpenter be able to adjust his routine so this doesn’t happen again?  Is it just fatigue or is there some sort of underlying cause to the problem?  It’s probably nothing we’ll ever have to worry about again but it’s worth thinking about now.  Hopefully it’s just a blip on the radar and it doesn’t become a full-blown concern.  Carpenter should be back tomorrow for the Cleveland series and we’ll see if the rest helped out.

Cards have a stretch of (ugh) interleague play this week, heading to Cleveland before hosting Detroit.  Lance Lynn will be the first St. Louis pitcher up, trying to shake off back-to-back rough outings since he became the de facto ace of the staff.  The Indians aren’t going to know much about Lynn, as only a couple of their number have seen him.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Michael Bourn 9 9 2 0 0 0 0 0 2 .222 .222 .222 .444 0 0 0 0 0
David Murphy 2 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 11 10 3 0 0 0 0 1 2 .300 .364 .300 .664 0 0 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/11/2015.

Carlos Carrasco goes for the Tribe.  Carrasco is 4-2 with a 4.71 ERA on the year and has scuffled lately, though he’s coming off a seven-inning start against the Royals in which he only allowed three runs.  He’s a pretty new face for the Redbirds as well, though the ones that have seen him would like to see him again.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Jhonny Peralta 8 8 6 1 0 0 2 0 0 .750 .750 .875 1.625 0 0 0 0 0
Peter Bourjos 6 6 1 0 1 0 0 0 5 .167 .167 .500 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Mark Reynolds 3 3 1 1 0 0 0 0 2 .333 .333 .667 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 17 17 8 2 1 0 2 0 7 .471 .471 .706 1.176 0 0 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/11/2015.

Enjoy the off day.  There’s no doubt the Cardinals will!

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“You get hit, hit ’em back.  You get killed, walk it off.”–Captain America, Avengers: Age of Ultron

Modify that for a baseball setting and I think Cap would say, “You give up a run, get one back.  You lose a game, walk it off.”  That seems to be the Cardinals’ philosophy right now and it’s shown in the past couple of games.

Wednesday (6-5 loss)

Hero: Yadier Molina.  The Cardinals’ Iron Man got two hits, drew a walk, and drove in two as the Cardinals tried to rally.

Goat: Lance Lynn.  This is the second start in a row where Lynn has not been the lock-down starter that we’ve become accustomed to.  It could be that it’s the first two starts in the post-Adam Wainwright part of the season, but it could be that Lynn feels like he has to do more now that the Cards’ ace is out for the year.  Hopefully he’ll adjust to his new role quickly, because the last thing the Cards need right now is an ineffective Lynn.

Notes: So, so close to extending the streak here.  Down one in the bottom of the ninth, Peter Bourjos stands on third and St. Louis’s Hulk, Matt Holliday, gets walked.  Mark Reynolds is up.  Now, since I’ve only been able to check the score here and there, I’m hoping that Thor (Matt Adams) can be used, but he’s already pinch-hit.  Reynolds strikes out, as was not unexpected, and Jhonny Peralta‘s fly ball was the last out.  If Reynolds can just put the ball in the air, who knows what happens?

Bourjos had another nice game, going two for five and in the ninth going first to third on a ground ball.  We’ve seen a lot of good things out of him recently and hopefully that’ll mean a bit more playing time.  If nothing else, he shouldn’t be completely buried on the bench like he was at times last year.

Jason Heyward might have only had one hit, but he scored three times.  Sometimes it’s all about being in the right place at the right time.

The bullpen did well here, though the run that Matt Belisle gave up did come back to haunt the Cards.  We even got a full perfect inning out of Randy Choate, which isn’t something you see that often.

Thursday (5-1 win)

Hero: John Lackey.  It’s been a long while since a starter came in and just locked things down.  With all the come-from-behinds and the extra innings, it’d been the third game of the Phillies series and Carlos Martinez since a starter had gotten a win.  Lackey left nothing to chance, going 7.2 innings and allowing just one run while striking out 10.  Not only was it a great performance to get a series win, but it also finally gave the entire bullpen a good breather, even if Mike Matheny did use three pitchers for the other four outs.  He also drove in two runs with a double (one scored on an error so he only got credit for a single RBI) and was at the plate when a wild pitch scored another.  An all-around Hero!

Goat: Tough day for Matt Adams.  Thor must have left Mjolnir at home because he went 0-4 and struck out once, the only starter who did not manage to tally a hit.

Notes: When I saw the lineup, I thought this one was going to be tough for the Redbirds.  No Hulk.  No Captain America (Matt Carpenter).  I mean, the Cubs aren’t Ultron by any means but this did seem to be a challenge for the group.  Instead, the second stringers and non-headliners did their job.  Heyward, who would work well as Falcon given the way he covers ground, got three hits and really is looking comfortable deeper in the lineup.  Since the switch he’s now batting .344, though he still has no extra-base hits to show for it.  Hopefully that will come as he continues to get adjusted to a more run-producing spot.

Other than Heyward, nobody else was just a dominant force in the lineup, but they all worked together to finally do some damage against Jake Arrieta.  The hits came at the right time and Lackey made the most of what he received (and, as noted, helped his own cause).  It was just a solid team win and a great bounce-back from the close loss the night before.

This team continues to win despite some of the hits it has taken.  Another one of those came Tuesday when it was announced that Jordan Walden, far from that “hey, need a bit of a rest, should be back in 15 days” that we were thinking/hoping, will miss 6-10 weeks and that’s just if he doesn’t decide to have surgery.  There’s no set plan for who replaces Walden in the eight and we’ll see if Matheny will stay flexible with that or will look to install a regular guy in that role.  No one seems to be the overwhelming choice like Walden was when he was traded for, so flexibility would seem to be the best option for the club.  Matheny has also seemed to handle his ‘pen a little better this year, so he may go in that direction.

Also in the notes is the fact that Matheny is likely to give Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons the next start in Pittsburgh.  Carlos Villanueva pitched an inning Tuesday and while he’d probably be ready to go, it’d also likely disrupt a bullpen that could use him, especially if Lyons doesn’t go five or more like he did last time out.  Anytime we get another chance to look at #70, though, it’s a good thing.

Cardinals are now up 6.5 on the Cubs, who are their closest competition.  That’s the biggest lead in baseball.  Their 21 wins is also the best in MLB, two better than the Astros, who have lost three more games than St. Louis.  It’s a very nice place to be in and it’ll help paper over some rough spots to come, but nothing is guaranteed in this game.  After seeing St. Louis come back from large deficits in the past few years, especially in 2011, I think none of us are going to be overconfident until we see a lead like this in September.  Still, it’s fun to have some quantitative data for that “Best Team in Baseball” claim, isn’t it?

The club heads to Pittsburgh trying to continue that “no losing series in 2015″ motif they have going.  Pittsburgh is two games under .500 and snapped a five-game losing streak (which included that series in Busch last weekend) with a win against the Reds last night.  The bats were working for them last night (though, to be fair, they got into the Reds bullpen and we know how flammable that is) and we’ll see if Michael Wacha can calm them down.  Wacha faced the Bucs last time out, allowing no runs in 6.2 innings.  Obviously, given how those games turned out, he didn’t get a decision, but we’d take that again.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Andrew McCutchen 13 12 3 0 0 0 0 1 3 .250 .308 .250 .558 0 0 0 0 0
Pedro Alvarez 12 9 1 0 0 1 1 3 3 .111 .333 .444 .778 0 0 0 0 1
Neil Walker 11 11 2 0 0 0 1 0 3 .182 .182 .182 .364 0 0 0 0 0
Jordy Mercer 9 9 2 1 0 0 0 0 1 .222 .222 .333 .556 0 0 0 0 0
Starling Marte 8 8 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 .125 .125 .125 .250 0 0 0 0 0
Josh Harrison 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Jung Ho Kang 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Gregory Polanco 3 3 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .667 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Chris Stewart 3 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000 1 0 0 0 0
Vance Worley 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Francisco Liriano 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Steve Lombardozzi 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 69 64 12 2 0 1 2 4 14 .188 .235 .266 .501 1 0 0 0 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/8/2015.

Wacha’s been very good against the Pirates in his career and no one will forget the fact that he took a no-hitter deep into a playoff game against them.  He’s like Hawkeye out there, throwing precise arrows and a few trick ones to boot.  The strikeout arrow hasn’t been in his quiver as much this year, but there’s still hope that’ll return.

We might need to see Wacha be dominant because there are strong odds Francisco Liriano is going to be.  A constant thorn in the Cardinals’ side over the past few years, Liriano took a no-hitter into the sixth in his last start against the Cards before allowing a run.  That run was all St. Louis needed to get into extra innings, but that won’t always be the case.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP missG
Jhonny Peralta 56 46 15 1 0 2 6 10 13 .326 .446 .478 .925 0 0 1 0 0
Matt Carpenter 28 24 4 2 0 0 1 3 9 .167 .286 .250 .536 0 0 0 1 0
Matt Holliday 28 24 7 2 0 0 1 3 2 .292 .393 .375 .768 0 0 0 1 3
Peter Bourjos 25 23 7 2 1 0 3 1 6 .304 .320 .478 .798 0 1 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 19 19 2 0 0 1 1 0 3 .105 .105 .263 .368 0 0 0 0 0
Mark Reynolds 19 15 1 0 0 1 1 4 6 .067 .263 .267 .530 0 0 0 0 2
Matt Adams 14 13 4 0 0 0 1 1 3 .308 .357 .308 .665 0 0 0 0 1
Pete Kozma 11 10 1 1 0 0 0 1 5 .100 .182 .200 .382 0 0 0 0 0
Kolten Wong 10 10 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 .200 .200 .200 .400 0 0 0 0 0
Jon Jay 9 9 2 0 0 0 1 0 1 .222 .222 .222 .444 0 0 0 0 0
Jason Heyward 7 7 2 0 0 0 1 0 3 .286 .286 .286 .571 0 0 0 0 0
Tony Cruz 6 6 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 .167 .167 .500 .667 0 0 0 0 0
John Lackey 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .500 .000 .500 1 0 0 0 0
Michael Wacha 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Tyler Lyons 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 238 209 48 8 2 4 16 25 53 .230 .316 .344 .661 1 1 1 2 6
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/8/2015.

Peralta’s done OK against him, though I expect that was during his troublesome Twins years and not necessarily the Liriano we’ve seen in black and gold.  There’s no reason we shouldn’t see all the big guys in the lineup tonight, which hopefully will be enough to keep the good times going.

Avengers assemble!

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There comes a point when this season just defies a person to find the words to describe it.  We’re pretty much there and we’re not even halfway through May yet.  (That doesn’t mean, unfortunately for you, that I’m retiring this corner of the Internet until October, however.)  Last night, the Cardinals were down again.  Last night, they proved it really didn’t matter.

Ricky Horton had just said on the telecast that the 4-1 deficit the Cards were facing felt different than the gap they faced the night before and he had a point.  On Monday, the bats had been swinging and you could kind of see a way they would rally, though it still seemed pretty impossible.  Last night, beyond the fact that you don’t often see such rallies two nights in a row, things were a little quieter, seemingly heading toward a more staid finish.

Then Hero Matt Carpenter stepped up and proved everyone wrong.

Carpenter’s three-run blast tied the game, took Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons off the hook, and pretty much made everyone think this was going to be another Cardinal victory.  Sure enough, Mark Reynolds came through for the second straight night with an extra-base hit, this time a two-run double that gave the Redbirds the lead they wouldn’t relinquish.  If you aren’t having fun watching this team win in the myriad of ways they are doing it, perhaps you are watching the wrong team.

Big nights for Matt Holliday and Kolten Wong at the plate, each tallying three hits.  Holliday’s were a bit more empty because Matt Adams went 0-3 behind him, though he did draw a walk.  I almost went with Adams as our Goat, but instead am going with Jon Jay, who was the leadoff guy and went 0-3, though he was hit twice because he’s Jon Jay and the baseball apparently has a magnetic attraction to him.

We do need to talk about the Patron Pitcher, of course.  Now as you know, I’m the driver of the Lyons bandwagon and perhaps sole occupant of said bandwagon, so take whatever I’m saying with a grain of salt.  Was last night’s outing what we wanted to see?  Not quite.  To get to 100 pitches before you finish the fifth is less than optimal.  He wasn’t able until late in the game to be consistently in the zone, which cost him.  That said, he did have seven strikeouts and would have only allowed two runs in his time on the mound had Wong not shortarmed a throw to first on the double play ball Seth Maness induced.  One of those runs scored on in an inning that he struck out the first batter, Starlin Castro, only to see him reach base on a wild pitch.  If that inning starts with an out, maybe things go differently.

I think there was enough there to let Lyons take the next start, which would be against the Pirates in Pittsburgh on Sunday.  You could send him down, of course, but I’m not sure who you bring up.  Sam Tuivailala can’t return for another nine days so I’m not sure who you’d bring up for the bullpen (assuming that’s the direction you want to go) and Tim Cooney couldn’t return until right before the start and, given the two outings, I think you’d go with Lyons over Cooney anyway.  I’m not seeing that there’s a move that needs to be made here, at least right now.

Of course, eventually Lyons is going to lose that spot in the rotation.  Marco Gonzales will throw Saturday for Memphis and Jaime Garcia will start a rehab assignment somewhere on Sunday.  With them both starting their return at the same time, it’s going to be interesting to see how the Cards play this.  Obviously, for all the reasons we saw in the spring, Garcia’s going to get that last rotation spot when he’s healthy.  However, do you use Gonzales for a start or two in the bigs if he gets ready before Garcia, then ship him down when Garcia’s ready?  Do you just let Gonzales stay at Memphis to continue to strengthen and let Garcia be the one to replace Lyons?  I guess a lot of the answer depends on how Garcia looks (whether it appears he can be ready quickly or not) and how Lyons does as the fifth man.  At least both will be back out on the field this weekend, though.  With them both going this weekend, however, they can’t make that Pittsburgh start, which is why I think Lyons is here for a bit.

Kudos to the entire bullpen last night, including Mitch Harris, who got his first win in the big leagues, and apparent good luck charm Miguel Socolovich, who got into his third game and for the first time DIDN’T wind up with a win, but still had a scoreless outing.  Trevor Rosenthal bounced back from that blown save to tally his ninth save of the season.  The Cards again used more pitchers than they’d like, though, and hopefully we’ll get a nice long start out of someone soon.

My friend James, who runs Astros County, recently put up on his Facebook page a picture of the AL West standings, which showed Houston leading their division by seven games.  I commented that the cushion was the big thing.  Gaudy records are one thing, but if gaudy records only get you a couple of games up in the standings, they aren’t worth much.  Right now, the Cards have used their 20-6 record to get out to a 6.5 game lead in the NL Central.  While there are no guarantees, of course, you have to like the fact that if the Cardinals play .500 baseball, they get 88 wins.  Here’s what the other teams have to play to get to 89:

Chicago .555
Cincinnati .559
Pittsburgh .566
Milwaukee .600

Can those teams do that?  Well, save Milwaukee, sure.  And there’s no guarantee that the Cards will play .500 the rest of the way.  We remember a few years ago (I believe 2010) when they had a five game lead at the beginning of May, then they frittered it all away and didn’t make the playoffs.  You still have to play the rest of the season.  That said, it’s a very nice position that the Cardinals have themselves in.  Odds are this team won’t be satisfied with .500 over that stretch, either.  Barring injury or something strange, they’d look like a 92-95 win team, which even then allows for them some stumbles (right now they are on pace for 125 wins, which seems unlikely).

Jordan Walden is looking for a second opinion on his arm, which may actually be worse than expected and need surgery.  That is unfortunate, because Walden has been a great asset to the bullpen in the early going and I was hoping he wouldn’t miss much time.  Then again, that’s allowing for a young bullpen to develop, something that has played a big role in the last two World Series titles and the 2013 Series appearance as well.  Walden is also probably really glad he signed that extension before the season.

The Cards get another crack at that big Cub free agent acquisition tonight as Jon Lester takes the mound.  The Cards were able to beat him on Opening Night, of course, getting three runs off of him in 4.1 innings.  Lester’s not exactly dominated since the Redbirds saw him last, but he is coming off of his first win as a Cubbie, shutting out Milwaukee over seven innings.  Of course, that was Milwaukee so take it for what it’s worth.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Jhonny Peralta 41 36 11 3 0 2 6 5 10 .306 .390 .556 .946 0 0 0 0 2
Mark Reynolds 34 28 8 3 0 1 4 4 3 .286 .412 .500 .912 0 0 0 2 1
Matt Holliday 15 15 6 0 0 1 4 0 3 .400 .400 .600 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Jason Heyward 12 12 7 4 0 1 1 0 1 .583 .583 1.167 1.750 0 0 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 11 10 1 0 0 0 0 1 3 .100 .182 .100 .282 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Carpenter 10 10 3 0 0 0 1 0 2 .300 .300 .300 .600 0 0 0 0 0
Peter Bourjos 6 6 2 1 0 0 0 0 3 .333 .333 .500 .833 0 0 0 0 0
Pete Kozma 6 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 1 0 0 0 0
Matt Adams 5 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Jon Jay 4 3 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 .333 .500 .333 .833 0 0 0 0 0
Kolten Wong 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .500 .000 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Total 146 131 39 11 0 5 16 12 27 .298 .366 .496 .862 1 0 0 2 3
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/6/2015.

Many of these hitters have been able to handle Lester in the past and, if the streak is going to reach nine, they’ll need to do so again this evening.

Lance Lynn hopefully will be able to rest the bullpen as he takes the mound tonight and odds are he will, as no matter what the results are, it’s unlikely he’ll leave before six innings are complete.  Lynn lost to the Cubs in his first outing, but it was a hard-luck loss as he carried a scoreless game into the seventh before allowing two runs.  The man once noted for his run support isn’t getting a lot of it this year, but maybe that’ll change tonight.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Starlin Castro 34 33 11 3 1 0 4 0 7 .333 .333 .485 .818 1 0 0 0 0
Anthony Rizzo 27 23 5 0 0 1 3 3 5 .217 .333 .348 .681 0 0 0 1 0
Miguel Montero 12 9 0 0 0 0 0 3 2 .000 .250 .000 .250 0 0 0 0 0
Dexter Fowler 9 7 2 0 0 0 0 2 1 .286 .444 .286 .730 0 0 0 0 0
Welington Castillo 8 6 4 0 0 1 1 1 1 .667 .750 1.167 1.917 0 0 0 1 0
David Ross 6 6 1 1 0 0 0 0 4 .167 .167 .333 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Travis Wood 6 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Junior Lake 4 3 1 0 0 0 1 1 0 .333 .500 .333 .833 0 0 0 0 0
Jorge Soler 3 3 1 0 1 0 0 0 2 .333 .333 1.000 1.333 0 0 0 0 0
Jake Arrieta 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Chris Coghlan 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Jason Hammel 2 1 1 0 0 0 2 1 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000 0 0 0 0 0
Jonathan Herrera 2 2 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 1.000 1.500 0 0 0 0 0
Edwin Jackson 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 118 104 27 5 2 2 11 11 26 .260 .342 .404 .746 1 0 0 2 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/6/2015.

Lynn’s done OK against these guys in the past, though most of them don’t have much of a history against him.  Hopefully everything continues tonight and the Cards can take yet another series!

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Many of us know the Jack Buck call of Kirk Gibson‘s World Series home run in 1988.  We can hear Jack saying, “I don’t believe what I just saw!” as Gibson limps around the bases.  Just like with Ozzie Smith‘s “Go Crazy” home run, though, there’s a Vin Scully version of that moment.  The key line from that?

“In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened!”

It’s only early May.  Perhaps this early run will dissipate and we’ll wonder in August what we were thinking here in the cool of the season.  Perhaps this is the highlight of what will be a fairly ordinary season.  (Which would be fine, as fairly ordinary seasons lately see the Cards in the NLCS.)  However, more and more it seems like this is a special team and games like last night only serve to illustrate that uniqueness.  This season so far has been fairly improbable, with Adam Wainwright and others going down and the club not missing a beat, with a pitching staff that tends to finding giving up runs severely distasteful, with now the best start in Cardinal history.  Last night, especially given the fact that the offense has not been a huge part of this season so far, the impossible happened.

When we were talking about this game yesterday, there was one key element.  We all knew that, if the Cardinals were to win, Carlos Martinez was going to have to go deep into the game.  The bullpen was worn out, having had three extra-inning games this weekend, and there were limited options to cover the late innings.  However, that didn’t seem like too much of an issue, given that Martinez was routinely going six this season.  While seven would be better, at least it would be manageable.

Then the game started.

You could speculate that having Tony Cruz behind the plate took him out of his comfort zone.  You could also point out that Martinez is a young pitcher and the one thing to expect from young pitchers is the unexpected.  You could also note that every pitcher has a blowup every once in a while, as we’ve seen Wainwright melt down at times as well.  Sometimes it’s just not your night and it wasn’t Martinez’s, giving up five runs in the first inning.

I’ll admit, listening to that top of the first on my way back from a church softball game, I expected the game was over.  Not only has this offense, save those games against the Phillies, not been anything dramatic, but again, the bullpen was going to be a tough thing to manage.  I thought we might see Martinez or someone else just have to take a beating to spare everyone else.  There didn’t seem to be much of a path to a victory.

Then our Hero showed us the way.

There could have been a lot of Heroes last night.  We’ll talk about some of them as we go along.  However, without Mark Reynolds‘s grand slam in the bottom of the first, cutting the deficit to one, none of those other folks get a chance to shine, I don’t think.  After a draining weekend, you couldn’t have faulted the Cardinals for going through the motions, just getting this one out of the way and saving their resources for tomorrow.  Instead, Reynolds’s poke gave them some new life and fired them up for what was to come.  Reynolds tallied another hit and scored another run in this one as well as making a diving stop in the eighth, after the Cards had taken the lead, to make sure the Cubs didn’t start a rally.

Given new life, Martinez righted himself somewhat.  Still, he allowed a home run to Anthony Rizzo in the second and then a two-out walk and a double to Miguel Montero as his pitch count hit 100 in the fourth.  As Mike Matheny said after the game, he probably would have pulled Martinez in the first if there had been other options.  Getting almost through four was better than nothing, but not really what this bullpen wanted.

In stepped another hero in Carlos Villanueva.  We’ve seen him come into situations time and again and be able to mitigate any damage.  It’s one of the reasons I didn’t want to see him take the starting spot today, because he’s so valuable in these type of roles.  (And it’s a good thing they’d already planned for Tyler Lyons, because otherwise there might have been a scramble to find today’s starter!)  Villanueva finished Martinez’s fourth and added two innings of his own, allowing just an unearned run in the process.  So the Cards were at the sixth inning, needing to make a pitching change as they expected to be, just with it taking two pitchers instead of one.

Still, it was 8-4.  As great as it’d been to get a little more stability in the pitching staff, it was looking like that grand slam might be all the offense could muster and it’d be a moot point.  Then three straight hits drove in a run and chased Travis Wood from the game, bringing in our old friend Jason Motte.  What a surreal experience that must have been for Motte, trotting in wearing road grays to face the Cardinals in Busch Stadium.  Motte got two outs, though one was a sacrifice fly, and the Cards were within two.

With three innings to go, Matheny was hoping to get solid innings of work so that he didn’t have to try to mix and match throughout the rest of the game.  Miguel Socolovich came into his second game in a row where it was crucial he not give up anything.  As with Sunday’s game, he threw a scoreless inning and got rewarded with a win.  Someone noted on Twitter that now Socolovich has more wins than Max Scherzer, who leads the league in pitching WAR.  It’s possible–possible, mind you, that pitching wins aren’t all that indicative of a player’s season.  I know, radical concept.

Down two.  If things are going to happen, they need to happen.  They do.

Two singles and a walk load the bases for Jason Heyward.  Heyward may not be the offensive force that we were hoping for so far, but he did get two hits in this game.  Not here, however, though his groundout forced in a run.  Heyward, though, showed that he plays all out as Kolten Wong singled in his second run of the night, tying the ballgame up.  It was a little flare over the shortstop, but Heyward never stopped running, making it to third and letting Wong trail him into second as the throw went through.  It was a small play, something that doesn’t show up in the boxscores, but it became crucial.

Cruz came to the plate.  Only in there because Yadier Molina was being forced to sit–likely literally; I didn’t see a dugout shot but I wouldn’t be surprised if Lance Lynn‘s job yesterday was to physically keep him restrained–Cruz came through with what may be his biggest hit of the year, a double right down the third base line that scored both Heyward and Wong.  Would Wong have been able to score if he’d been at first?  I don’t know.  Wong’s got good speed, of course, but the play would have been right there.  My guess is they probably would have held up Wong, which would have been huge later on.  Again, playing smart baseball pays off.

Two run lead and it holds up.  Matt Belisle throws a scoreless eighth, though he scared folks when he walked two Cubs with two outs.  Seth Maness allows a two-out homer to young phenom Addison Russell, but gets the last out and another crazy game is in the books.

(I know I don’t usually recap a game like this, but it was wild enough that I had to, if only for my own benefit to understand just how that happened.)

There’s something about these two teams that brings out the insanity of big comebacks and memorable games.  There have been a lot of them over the years, which I documented a couple of summers ago over at Baseblog as part of a guest posting.  You had a game where the Cards scored six in the ninth, capped by an Edgar Renteria home run.  You had the game where Albert Pujols hit three home runs in Wrigley to come back from an 8-2 deficit.  When the Cardinals and Cubs get together, it seems like you’ve got a good chance of seeing something special, no matter where the teams are on the success curve.  We can now add this one to the pile, a wonderful game that we’ll be talking about for years to come.

While I didn’t note it above, it’s pretty obvious that Carlos Martinez is our Goat of the night.  While these kind of games happen, hopefully the fact that his team picked him up and won in spite of his outing will be a cheering thing for the young man and we’ll see more of what we expect out of him when he faces the Pirates this weekend.  There’s no reason to think this wasn’t some sort of anomaly and he should be fine next time out.

Interestingly enough, Sam Tuivailala was sent down to Memphis after the game to make room for Lyons.  Given that Tui didn’t pitch last night, I figured they might send down Socolovich since he’s probably not available for the next day or so.  Apparently if you win two games, though, you get to stick around and Socolovich is a multiple-innings guy, even though he’s not done that yet.  He might be more available for longer periods than Tui, who’s been a closer in Memphis.

The Cardinal Hall of Fame Class of 2015 was announced last night, with Ted Simmons, Curt Flood, Bob Forsch and George Kissell getting the call.  I don’t think you can fault any of these selections at all and they’ll be worthy additions to the Hall of Fame.  Hopefully more will find out about what Flood did for baseball and I, as I’ve noted before, could use some knowledge about Simmons’s career.  It’s sad that he’s the only one that is alive to see this honor, but baseball is about honoring legacies and there’s no better way to do it than this.

Quickly, let’s finally finish the approval ratings.  Wainwright is the last player to look at and, unsurprisingly, is one of the highest ranked.  This year he comes in at 89.8%, which is actually down from his usual mark in the 90s.  I’m just going to chalk that up to the couple of sour grapes in the smaller sample, though, as I don’t think Waino’s done anything to rate a downgrade, especially since this is from before the injury.  For media, we wrap with Joe Strauss, who always comes in at the bottom of the rankings.  Strauss comes in at 59.4% this year, which is actually a five point increase over last season.  I credit that to the fact that he doesn’t write about the Cardinals as much any more, honestly.  Finally, the United Cardinal Bloggers check in at 79.4%, down about five points from last year.  I’m still proud of the group, though the nature of the blogging game does mean that the activity waxes and wanes.

As noted last night, the Cardinals are 19-6 for the first time in team history.  That puts them on pace to go 123-39, which just isn’t going to happen.  A correction is coming at some point in time, though it’s been pointed out that even if they play .500 the rest of the way, they are going to get 87-88 wins, which is a pretty nice season, and odds are they’ll play better than that over the next five months.

It’s good to be a Cardinal, but there’s pressure on the Patron Pitcher tonight.  For one, winning streaks don’t often go out as far as seven games.  Now, to be fair, we’ve already seen the Mets and Astros have double-digit winning streaks this season, so there’s no reason to think that St. Louis is doomed to lose tonight, but even though each game is not dependent on the one that comes before (you can flip heads 100 times and still have the odds be 50/50 the next time), the longer the winning streak the more likely it is that a loss is coming, at least from a historical point of view.  Secondly, as with last night, the bullpen still isn’t fully ready to go.  Villanueva’s out for sure, probably Belisle as well.  I hate to say we need six solid innings from Lyons tonight, but we do.  If he struggles, chances are he’s going to have to wear it.  He’s done that before against the Cubs.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Starlin Castro 5 5 2 0 1 0 1 0 1 .400 .400 .800 1.200 0 0 0 0 0
Anthony Rizzo 5 5 1 0 0 0 1 0 1 .200 .200 .200 .400 0 0 0 0 0
Chris Denorfia 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .333 .000 .333 0 0 0 0 0
Junior Lake 3 3 2 1 0 1 4 0 0 .667 .667 2.000 2.667 0 0 0 0 0
Welington Castillo 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Travis Wood 2 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000 1 0 0 0 0
Chris Coghlan 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Jonathan Herrera 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Jorge Soler 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 23 21 6 1 1 1 6 1 2 .286 .318 .571 .890 1 0 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/5/2015.

The good thing about the Cubs bringing up all these prospects is that a lot of the guys that did the damage to Lyons have moved on. Lyons has faced these young guns in the minors, though, and hopefully will have a plan for dealing with them.

Kyle Hendricks takes the hill for Chicago tonight.  He’s done well against the Redbirds in the past, though when they saw him in September last season they were able to get him for three runs in 5.1 innings.  Hendricks is off to a slow start, so perhaps St. Louis can keep that going.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Matt Carpenter 9 8 5 0 0 0 0 1 0 .625 .667 .625 1.292 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Holliday 9 9 4 0 0 2 4 0 1 .444 .444 1.111 1.556 0 0 0 0 1
Matt Adams 8 8 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Jhonny Peralta 8 8 3 0 0 0 1 0 2 .375 .375 .375 .750 0 0 0 0 0
Kolten Wong 8 7 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 .143 .250 .143 .393 0 0 0 0 1
Jon Jay 7 7 1 0 0 0 1 0 1 .143 .143 .143 .286 0 0 0 0 1
Yadier Molina 5 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .200 .000 .200 0 0 0 1 0
Mark Reynolds 4 4 3 0 0 0 0 0 1 .750 .750 .750 1.500 0 0 0 0 0
Total 58 55 17 0 0 2 6 2 7 .309 .345 .418 .763 0 0 0 1 3
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/5/2015.

Those are actually better numbers against him than I was expecting.  Let’s hope that eight is great tonight!

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That probably was the most nail-biting, dramatic early-May sweep of a division rival we’ve ever seen.  Let’s get right to it.

Friday (2-1 win in 10)

Hero: Lance Lynn.  It used to be that Lynn was the guy that would win no matter how he pitched because he got plenty of run support.  Then he pitched well, but still got a lot of run support.  Now, he pitches well and wishes he could get run support.  Seven innings, four hits, one run, one walk, 10 strikeouts.  That’s a line that should have a W next to it in a just world.  He also pitched out of a bases-loaded, nobody-out, heart of the order up situation, which kept the Cardinals close enough to eventually rally and win.

Goat: Matt Holliday.  Holliday has always been streaky and it’s possible he’s now on the downside of those streaks.  0-4 in this one with two strikeouts, though he did draw a walk, an intentional one in the 10th.  Holliday really didn’t like seeing the Pirates this weekend, as he was hitless in the series.

Notes: Matt Adams comes through with the game-winning hit, a solid stroke down the third base line.  Adams seemed to take some offense at them walking Holliday to get to him, though with the winning run already at third it just set up all the force plays.  I don’t think it was personal, though it’s true they might have pitched to Adams if the situations were reversed.  I’m just assuming Pittsburgh didn’t have a lefty in the pen to bring in to try to get him, which is what I was expecting.  Lots of credit due him for getting that hit, though.  Adams has had a pretty good week and is showing why the Cards stick with him, even when he’s struggling.

This game and the ones after it kinda proved that the explosion that came after the lineup shakeup was probably more because of the weak Philadelphia pitching than the change in how folks went to the plate.  Still, I’m liking this lineup and I don’t really see any reason why Mike Matheny should shake it up again.  They ran into some pitchers that have dominated them in the past–in this case, A.J. Burnett–and it didn’t matter who or in what order you sent them up there, they were likely to struggle.

Kudos to the bullpen, who kept the game tied until the offense could win it.  Randy Choate HAD ONE JOB and did it, did it well enough to get a win when the Cards scored in the bottom of that inning.  That’s 5 of 9 that he’s converted and, if he keeps it going, we may be able to retire this tally soon.

Saturday (2-1 win in 11)

Hero: Matt Carpenter.  On a day when the offense didn’t show up until the sixth inning, nobody shone much in the box score.  Carpenter himself was 0-3, but the sac fly in the 11th that won the game was enough to get listed here.  Call it a makeup for some of those games that he was great but didn’t get the Hero tag.

Goat: A number of hitless games to choose from, but I’ll go with Mark Reynolds, who livened up his 0-4 with two strikeouts.  Shocking, I know.

Notes: John Lackey continued to have great games at Busch, allowing one run in six innings.  He wasn’t as dominant as Lynn was–three walks and four strikeouts–but he got the job done.  Given his opponent, that’s all you can ask for.

If Francisco Liriano ever throws a no-hitter, you know it’ll be against the Cardinals.  (Wait, what, he already has one?  Not against St. Louis?)  He was working on one in this one, going five innings before cracking.  If the Pirates hadn’t left a small village on the bases (12, which is larger than some Arkansas communities, I’m pretty sure) he’d have easily brought home the win.  Instead, it’s eight innings of no-decision for him.

Again, the Cardinal bullpen was stellar.  Choate moved his ONE JOB total to 6 of 10 and in five innings of work, the bullpen allowed six hits and two walks, three of the hits from Seth Maness.  Mitch Harris only got one out, but it’s interesting to see that Matheny is trusting him more and more with higher leverage work.  Carlos Villanueva got the win with an inning of work, which guaranteed that the Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons was returning to the majors.  Which is always a good thing around here and we look forward to seeing him take the mound Tuesday.

Sunday (3-2 win in 14)

Hero: Kolten Wong.  Wong didn’t start this game and I was a bit concerned that his elbow was bothering him after the play on Saturday when he went to catch a throw from Yadier Molina with the runner stealing and wound up with the runner hitting his arm instead.  Apparently those worries were unfounded.  Wong got three hits after coming into the game, including the dramatic game-winning home run and a bat flip for the ages.

Goat: We’re going to go with Matt Holliday again, because an 0-5 is tough to ignore.  Jason Heyward went 0-4, but he got double-switched out of the game so he couldn’t give Holliday a run for that.  And, yes, some might expect we were going with Trevor Rosenthal here, but there’s a good number of caveats on his outing Sunday.  He did allow the game-tying home run in the ninth inning, which is Goat material a lot of times, but 1) he was on his third day of work and fourth in the last five.  If he didn’t have his best stuff, it was understandable.  2) He came back and got three of the next four batters, including two by strikeout. 3) It’s tough to fault him on a day when he should have had more than one run to work with.

Notes: The neighborhood play was the big talk in the middle of the game, as the Cards were victimized by a play where the shortstop was barely in the same ZIP code as second base as he tried to turn a double play.  I get why we have the play (to make sure fewer middle infielders leave the game with broken legs) and I get why it can’t be reviewable (it’s a judgement call, tough to go to the tape and say “yeah, he missed it, but was he close enough”) but it’s frustrating nonetheless and Matheny had a point–when does it become a bad throw that pulled him off the bag instead of the neighborhood play?  That’s a tough question to answer.  If life were fair, we’d get a week of people weighing in on the neighborhood play like we got a week of “the NL needs the DH” after Adam Wainwright‘s injury, but I don’t think you’ll see it happen.

Kudos to the young guns in the bullpen.  Harris, Sam Tuivailala and Miguel Socolovich were thrown into the fire yesterday, tasked with keeping Pittsburgh down in extra innings until the Cardinals could score.  Tuivailala did allow a home run to Pedro Alvarez, but Alvarez is a Sith Lord in the line of Aramis Ramirez, who must have trained him or left some sort of Sith holocron when he was in Pittsburgh.  He shook that off, though, and pitched the next two innings without a blemish.  Socolovich was the last man standing in the pen and it paid off for him, as his scoreless inning as rewarded with a win.

Give the Cards credit for extending the game after Alvarez’s home run as well.  Peter Bourjos drove in the tying run in the bottom of the 12th, which was huge.  It also left bases-loaded with just one out, meaning St. Louis really should have won it there, but Holliday struck out (another reason he was the Goat) and Adams grounded out.  Thankfully Wong made sure that wasn’t an inning folks looked back on with regret.

Another stellar outing by Michael Wacha.  He’s still not striking a lot of guys out, just two yesterday, and that’s something to be a little concerned about, but he put up 6.2 scoreless frames and that you have to like.  Wacha’s ERA for the year is under 2.00, which is more impressive when you realize he gave up four runs to the Phillies earlier in the week.  The strikeouts are something to keep an eye on going forward, though.

Tuivailala was in the bigs to allow that home run because Jordan Walden was placed on the disabled list before the game.  Walden tried to warm up Saturday and experienced pain and, after an exam, he was put on the DL with biceps inflammation.  It doesn’t sound like it’s a serious issue, one that rest will hopefully take care of, but we’ll have to wait and see on that.  Pitcher injuries sometimes have a lingering effect.

Speaking of scares, Carpenter left yesterday’s game after complaining of being lightheaded.  As I said on Twitter, carrying a whole team on your back probably does get you feeling woozy.  Carp says he’ll be fine.  He could have been just angling for a Gatorade commercial for all we know.

Cards continue to hold the best record in baseball and are off to their best start since the 1940s.  They’ve opened up a 4.5 game lead on the Cubs and can extend that tonight when Chicago comes to town.  Travis Wood goes for the Cubbies and he’s struggled in the past against St. Louis.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Matt Holliday 43 40 15 4 0 4 9 2 10 .375 .419 .775 1.194 0 0 0 1 1
Yadier Molina 39 38 15 4 0 3 13 0 6 .395 .385 .737 1.121 0 1 0 0 1
Jon Jay 36 32 13 3 0 0 7 3 2 .406 .457 .500 .957 1 0 0 0 1
Matt Carpenter 35 30 8 1 0 2 4 4 6 .267 .343 .500 .843 0 1 0 0 0
Jhonny Peralta 17 13 4 2 0 0 2 3 3 .308 .471 .462 .932 0 0 0 1 2
Pete Kozma 16 12 4 2 0 0 2 4 0 .333 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 1 0 0
Mark Reynolds 14 12 4 0 0 1 2 2 6 .333 .429 .583 1.012 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Adams 13 13 3 0 0 0 2 0 2 .231 .231 .231 .462 0 0 0 0 0
Lance Lynn 8 5 0 0 0 0 1 1 5 .000 .143 .000 .143 1 1 0 0 0
Tony Cruz 5 5 2 1 0 0 2 0 1 .400 .400 .600 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Peter Bourjos 4 3 0 0 0 0 0 1 2 .000 .250 .000 .250 0 0 0 0 0
Jason Heyward 3 3 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
John Lackey 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 1 0 0 0 0
Kolten Wong 2 2 1 0 0 1 1 0 1 .500 .500 2.000 2.500 0 0 0 0 0
Total 237 209 70 17 0 11 46 20 45 .335 .393 .574 .967 3 3 1 2 5
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/4/2015.

While Matheny believes Molina needs a rest, it’s not likely to happen tonight given his career numbers against Wood.  It would also seem to be a good chance for Holliday to get on the upward track of his streak with those kind of results in a fairly expansive sample size (for this kind of thing–it’s still a small sample).  It would seem likely that we won’t see another one-run-in-nine-innings game tonight like we did this weekend.

Carlos Martinez will be on the mound for the Redbirds.  Martinez has never started against the Cubs, though he’s faced them a few times in relief.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Starlin Castro 6 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Welington Castillo 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Anthony Rizzo 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .333 .000 .333 0 0 1 0 0
Chris Coghlan 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Junior Lake 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Miguel Montero 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .500 .000 .500 0 0 0 0 0
David Ross 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Chris Denorfia 1 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000 0 0 0 0 0
Dexter Fowler 1 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000 0 0 0 0 0
Jonathan Herrera 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000 0 0 0 0 0
Jorge Soler 1 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 1.000 1.000 2.000 3.000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 24 22 4 1 0 0 2 2 8 .182 .250 .227 .477 0 0 1 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/4/2015.

Pretty tiny sample there, but at least what’s there is in Martinez’s favor.  If he can pitch like he has been so far this season and be able to get into the seventh inning, that’d be a huge boost for this team.  If there’s one time where he can’t go out and run up his pitch count, it’s tonight with a tired bullpen.  By the way, if you didn’t get The Bird’s Eye View on this series, you can sign up for it here.  Should be a fun game to watch tonight!

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Three days ago, Mike Matheny shook up the lineup and placed all three Matts in a row in the batting order.  Who knew that close proximity would multiply their effectiveness?

Now, granted, the lineup maneuvering came against a struggling, underpowered squad in the Phillies, so it’s tough to know how much weight to give the change, but so far it’s been pretty good.  Here’s the last three days for Matt Carpenter, Matt Holliday, and Matt Adams:

Carpenter: 4-11, 2 2B, 1 3B, 3 RBI, 3 BB, .364/.500/.727

Holliday: 5-11, 3 2B, 3 RBI, 2 BB, .455/.538/.727

Adams: 8-13, 3 2B, 1 HR, 6 RBI, .615/.571/1.077

Combined: 17-35, 8 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 12 RBI, 5 BB, .486/.550/.857

That’s not a bad three games at all, is it?  Again, I know, they’ve faced some not-so-great pitching (thankfully the game against Cole Hamels was before the lineup swap so it’s not counted here) but we’ve also seen not-so-great pitching shut down this lineup from time to time as well.  I don’t remember the last time we had three games of such offensive skill by the whole squad, not just these three.  While it’s not likely to continue this weekend, with the Cards seeing A.J. Burnett, Francisco Liriano, and Vance Worley, it’s great to see while it lasts.  Who knows, maybe the Mattitude will keep things rolling for a while.

Yesterday’s game started off a little worrisome.  Whether it was nerves, a bad matchup, an off day, or him just not being ready, Tim Cooney‘s major league debut wasn’t anything to remember.  He escaped the first inning without a run when Jon Jay ran down a very deep fly by Ryan Howard, but after his teammates staked him to three runs in the bottom of the first, he immediately gave one back, then the other two in the third before leaving.  When you give up more baserunners (8) than you get outs (7), that’s a rough day at the office.  To Matheny’s credit, he didn’t fiddle around, pulling Cooney with just one out in the third when it was pretty obvious things weren’t going to go his way.

Which leads us to our Hero of the game.  Much as I would like to go with Big Fill in the Blank, who went three for five, hit a home run, and drove in three, a lot of that might have gone to waste had it not been for Carlos Villanueva.  You gotta figure the role of the swingman is a tough one.  You don’t know if you are pitching that day when you come to the park, but you might wind up going multiple innings if you do.  Villanueva went 3.2 innings, not just allowing no runs but no baserunners, though he did allow a sac fly to the first man he faced.  Villanueva even got more outs than batters faced since one of those he inherited was caught stealing.  That doesn’t happen every day (unless your Seth Maness and you get your first pitch double play, but Maness doesn’t do it over almost four innings).

Could you see Villanueva move into the starting rotation for a time or two?  It’s possible, given what we’ve seen, but I don’t expect it’s likely.  For one thing, as we talked in the spring, his starting numbers aren’t nearly as good as his relieving numbers.  Either it’s because he can go all out more out of the pen or batters adjust to him and get to him after the first time.  Also, his flexibility is a major asset to the Cards, who need that guy that can go multiple innings at the end of a game, especially the way Matheny goes through a bullpen at times.  I don’t see them messing with a good thing there.

However, since he’s out of commission for a couple of days given his extended stint, the Cards could make a pitching move today.  They still have a pretty stocked bullpen, of course, since they are carrying 13 pitchers (which, honestly, is just insane).  You’d like to think they could get by with a bullpen of seven for a day or so, but maybe not.  If they do, we could see Cooney go again on Tuesday against the Cubs.  If not, we could see some short-term swapping, like bringing Sam Tuivailala up for the weekend, then swapping him with the Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons before Tuesday’s start.  We’ll see how things play out.

Anyway, lots of great offensive performances yesterday.  There was the brief thought that this would be one of those many games we’ve seen where the offense scores a lot in the first inning, looking like they are on their way to a rout, before shutting it down and not scoring any more.  Thankfully, that was not the case at all.  Almost everyone got on base in one form or fashion, which leads us to our Goat.

In any other day, Cooney would get this.  It really was a rough start, but how do you hang the Goat on a guy making his major league debut?  I can’t do that.  There are so many extenuating circumstances there.  Too much adrenaline, not knowing exactly what to expect, facing more experienced guys than you were down in Memphis, all things that factor into tough first starts.  So with Cooney out of the picture (and the bullpen doing great in this one, with Randy Choate evening up his YOU HAD ONE JOB outings tally to four successful, four not-so-much), you look at the offense.  Yadier Molina went 0-3, but drew a walk and threw out a baserunner.  Which, unfortunately, leads us to Jason Heyward again.  0-4 and hit into a double play in the first, bringing home the last run but also shorting out the inning that had seen the first five men reach.  I still think we’ll see some great things out of Heyward this year, but some of our expectations from the spring just may not be met.  Which then makes the free agent discussion much more difficult.

The win, coupled with the Tigers’ loss to Kansas City last night, means the Cards finish April as the best team in baseball.  Save for the last three days, they haven’t really felt like a juggernaut (and, to be fair, they are just barely ahead of a lot of teams for that “best team” title) but they’ve been winning even when things haven’t been easy, which says a lot about this team.  We’ve seen strong starts in the past go by the wayside, strong starts built mainly on outstanding pitching, so it’s too early to say this is a special team, but you do start wondering.  Heck, the 2004 team was 12-11 in April and they won 105 games.  Who knows what this team can do, but it should be fun finding out.

Adam Wainwright had his surgery yesterday and everything went well.  Of course, with surgery you never know if it was successful or not until the recovery.  I mean, it was a successful surgery in that the patient didn’t die and the doctor didn’t leave his new Apple Watch inside of Waino, but we’ll have to wait and see how well things went when Wainwright starts the rehab process.  Though the fact that George Paletta did the surgery probably would have gotten a few long-time Cardinal fans worked up had they known about it ahead of time.  Paletta’s reputation with the fanbase isn’t exactly top-notch, though I don’t know how much of that is earned.  (That said, I remember Scott Rolen wanting a second opinion after going to him and getting his surgeries done by other doctors, which wasn’t a vote of confidence.)

I hope the Cards enjoyed the breather, because things get a bit tougher starting tonight.  A six-game set against the current top challengers in the Central, starting with the Pittsburgh Pirates.  As noted above, A.J. Burnett will go for the Pirates in this one.  Burnett is off to a strong start, putting up a 1.80 ERA over his first four starts.  He gave up one run in seven innings against the Diamondbacks last time out but had a no-decision to show for it.  That’s not uncommon this season, as Burnett is 0-1 over those four outings.  The last time St. Louis saw him as last June when he was with the Phillies.  All he did was throw a complete game, allowing just one run.  His history is a bit mixed with the Cards, shutting them down at times but having some bad blowups against them as well.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Matt Holliday 35 31 10 3 0 1 7 4 11 .323 .400 .516 .916 0 0 0 0 2
Yadier Molina 33 30 7 2 0 0 2 2 2 .233 .273 .300 .573 0 1 0 0 0
Matt Carpenter 31 25 10 2 2 0 1 5 2 .400 .516 .640 1.156 0 0 0 1 0
Jon Jay 29 24 8 2 0 0 3 2 6 .333 .448 .417 .865 0 0 0 3 1
Jhonny Peralta 29 26 6 2 0 1 6 2 6 .231 .276 .423 .699 0 1 0 0 1
Jason Heyward 18 16 7 0 0 2 4 2 2 .438 .500 .813 1.313 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Adams 15 14 1 0 0 0 0 0 4 .071 .133 .071 .205 0 0 0 1 0
Mark Reynolds 14 13 5 2 0 3 4 1 4 .385 .429 1.231 1.659 0 0 0 0 0
Pete Kozma 7 5 2 1 0 0 1 2 1 .400 .571 .600 1.171 0 0 0 0 0
Lance Lynn 7 7 1 0 0 0 0 0 3 .143 .143 .143 .286 0 0 0 0 0
Kolten Wong 7 7 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .143 .143 .143 .286 0 0 0 0 1
Peter Bourjos 3 2 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 .500 .667 .500 1.167 0 0 0 0 0
Tony Cruz 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Carlos Villanueva 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Randy Choate 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 234 206 60 14 2 7 28 21 44 .291 .368 .481 .848 0 2 0 5 5
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/1/2015.

Lance Lynn will take the mound for the Redbirds.  Lynn’s last outing was that tough game against the Brewers after the news about Wainwright had been announced.  That was Lynn’s first real bad outing in about a year and there’s no reason to think he can’t bounce back to his normal form in this one.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Neil Walker 41 34 10 3 1 2 8 6 5 .294 .390 .618 1.008 0 1 0 0 1
Pedro Alvarez 38 32 8 3 0 2 9 5 8 .250 .342 .531 .873 0 1 1 0 0
Andrew McCutchen 38 38 6 3 0 0 1 0 14 .158 .158 .237 .395 0 0 0 0 0
Starling Marte 27 20 8 2 1 0 0 2 3 .400 .556 .600 1.156 0 0 0 5 0
Josh Harrison 16 16 7 2 0 1 2 0 2 .438 .438 .750 1.188 0 0 0 0 0
Jordy Mercer 14 12 4 1 0 0 3 2 1 .333 .429 .417 .845 0 0 1 0 0
Gerrit Cole 8 7 2 0 0 0 1 0 3 .286 .286 .286 .571 1 0 0 0 0
Corey Hart 8 8 3 0 0 2 2 0 1 .375 .375 1.125 1.500 0 0 0 0 0
A.J. Burnett 7 7 1 0 0 0 1 0 4 .143 .143 .143 .286 0 0 0 0 0
Andrew Lambo 6 6 2 2 0 0 2 0 0 .333 .333 .667 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Gregory Polanco 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Chris Stewart 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Vance Worley 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Jared Hughes 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 212 189 52 16 2 7 29 15 43 .275 .341 .492 .833 1 2 2 5 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/1/2015.

That said, the Pirates have been tough on him in the past.  The last time he saw them was September, when he allowed three runs in six innings and got a no-decision in a game St. Louis finally won.  We’ll hope that the same final result happens tonight!

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Even good things occasionally need a little shake.

Before Tuesday’s game with the Phillies, Mike Matheny decided that it was time to mix up the lineup a little bit.  He moved Matt Carpenter out of the leadoff spot and bunched him with the other Matts while moving Jason Heyward down to sixth.  The results, well, whether it was due to the change or the fact they were playing a weaker team, the results were quite satisfactory.

Tuesday (11-5 win)

Hero: Matt Adams.  It’s tough on a day when the offense just goes nuts to limit yourself to one Hero, but Adams had three hits, including a double, two RBI, and scored a run.  For a guy that was getting a lot of grief earlier in the week, it had to be a good feeling.

Goat: Jhonny Peralta.  No matter how many runs or hits a team has, there always seems to be someone that doesn’t completely join in the fun.  Peralta went 0-4, though he did drive in a run on a sacrifice fly.

Notes: So awesome to see things just click, even if it was just for one day.  Carpenter did his usual thing, getting a double and a triple.  Jon Jay, which seemed to be a questionable decision when it came to the new leadoff man, tallied two hits and two RBI.  Matt Holliday got three hits.  All in all, an exciting game when the Cardinals were at the plate.

On the mound, things were pretty good, even if not to the level we are used to.  Then again, when you’ve been given some significant leads, it does allow for a little laxity on the bump.  Michael Wacha was tolerable, but allowing four runs in just shy of six innings would easily be his worst outing of the season.  Would things have been different if he’d been pitching with a one-run lead?  Perhaps.  Still, if he’s going to have an off night, it’s good he has it when the Redbirds put up 11 on the scoreboard.

The second-tier relievers got into this one and did fine.  We can’t do the YOU HAD ONE JOB bit for Randy Choate, as he actually pitched an inning and a third.  Of course, that’s four outs and in that time he allowed two hits and an unearned run, but he was facing righties as well and we know that never goes well.  (Though one of the hits was to Ben Revere, a lefty, which goes along with the rest of Choate’s season.)  Mitch Harris and Carlos Villanueva finished it up, allowing just one hit between them.

Wednesday (5-2 win)

Hero: Peter Bourjos.  You want to test a lineup?  Putting Bourjos at the top of it may give you an indication of its staying power.  Bourjos was having a tough start to the season–and, let’s be honest, one game doesn’t entirely change that–but he wound up with two hits, including the game-tying triple and the tie-breaking run on a groundout.  Plus he ran the length of the field–I can’t swear he didn’t start at home plate–to run down a ball Chase Utley launched to wrap the seventh.  Bourjos wasn’t perfect–he was caught stealing to end the sixth–but his speed obviously paid dividends.  Bourjos got the start because he was historically good against Aaron Harang, but we’ll see if last night’s outing doesn’t get him another start soon.

Goat: Pretty interesting that the offense continued to click with some big names not getting a hit.  We’re giving this to Yadier Molina, because he went 0-4 and left five men on, but neither Carpenter or Matt Holliday tallied a knock, though Holliday did walk twice.

Notes: Two-hit nights from Adams and Heyward and Heyward got to show off that arm of his by gunning home and starting a rundown in the fifth.  We’ve heard a lot of about Heyward’s defensive reputation and so far, it’s been justified.  On the mound, Carlos Martinez had another strong start.  He allowed a home run to Ryan Howard, which isn’t unheard of for Cardinal pitchers, though it was a wall-scraper that Heyward almost snagged (and obviously believed he should have gotten it).  Other than that, six innings, three strikeouts.  Not quite as dominant as we’ve seen him (six hits and three walks) but he continues to show that he should be in the starting rotation.

Adam Wainwright talked to the media a couple of days ago and made sure he would always be well-received by this fanbase.  Asked about the DH, Waino said he never wanted to see it in the NL and, in fact, he wished the AL would remove it.  “Baseball is a National League game” should go on a plaque somewhere.

Let’s quickly bust out another set of approval ratings.  The player today is Wacha, who unsurprisingly did well last year on his first year on the ballot.  This season, he dropped off significantly to 74.1%.  Apparently his injury affected a number of those voting this year as I’m quite surprised that he came in that low.  Mike Shannon is our media member.  Shannon’s grown on me over the years and while I still don’t want to use him to know what’s going on in the actual game, it’s a nice thing to listen to his stories and that familiar voice.  Shannon clocked in at 79.0% this year, not too far off of last year’s mark, though his numbers have steadily decreased over the years.  Finally, we take a look at the Cardinals’ Theme Nights, where you buy a special ticket and get a special item.  They’ve expanded this over the years, but do people like them?  70.4% tally seems to show that they are well-received, though perhaps not overwhelmingly so.

So we get to see another debut from that vaunted pitching stockpile tonight as Tim Cooney takes the mound against Philadelphia.  While I hope that we’ll see a great outing from him and have him help the Cards win their sixth series in a row, I can’t say that I have a lot of long-term hope for him.  Marco Gonzales should be ready in a week or two and I’d expect we’ll see him as soon as he’s ready.  It’s no more than a feeling, as I’ve not followed Cooney in the minors, and perhaps it’s not fair to judge him based on the success of Gonzales and Michael Wacha, but I’m not confident Cooney will be a guy we are talking about much in the future.  Again, he can help the team and he can definitely fill a hole, but I don’t see him in the Cardinal rotation in 2016 and beyond.  Which maybe this will serve as a good audition in case John Mozeliak needs a trade chip.

Cardinals will go up against David Buchanan.  They faced him a couple of times last year, with mixed results.  The first time, Buchanan got a win by allowing just one run in 7.2 innings in a great example of Never Seen Him Before Disease.  The second time, things were a little better as Buchanan left after five having allowed two runs in a game the Cards eventually won.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Matt Carpenter 7 6 3 0 0 0 1 0 0 .500 .571 .500 1.071 0 0 0 1 0
Matt Adams 6 5 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 .200 .333 .200 .533 0 0 0 0 1
Jason Heyward 6 4 0 0 0 0 1 2 1 .000 .333 .000 .333 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Holliday 6 6 1 0 0 0 1 0 1 .167 .167 .167 .333 0 0 0 0 0
Jhonny Peralta 6 5 1 0 0 1 1 1 1 .200 .333 .800 1.133 0 0 0 0 0
Kolten Wong 6 6 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .167 .167 .167 .333 0 0 0 0 0
Jon Jay 5 5 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .200 .200 .200 .400 0 0 0 0 1
Yadier Molina 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Mark Reynolds 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .333 .000 .333 0 0 0 1 0
Total 48 42 9 0 0 1 4 4 3 .214 .313 .286 .598 0 0 0 2 2
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/30/2015.

Hopefully third time is the charm and this new lineup can do some more damage!

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Monday afternoon, the confirmation came that Adam Wainwright was out for the season.  Monday night, it looked like his teammates were still dealing with that.

Granted, it’s tough to say that the team was completely flat when dealing with Cole Hamels.  There’s a reason Hamels is at the top of a lot of people’s wish lists of pitchers to slot in for the missing ace.  Anytime you go up against him, you aren’t likely to come away with a ton of hits or runs.  Perhaps that’s all there was to it–that we are constructing narratives to fit what happened, not delving into the causes.

That said, 13 strikeouts against Hamels and his compatriots was a large number.  It was the most that they had struck out all season long, topping the 12 against the Reds on April 10.  It was only the fourth time in 18 games that they’d struck out in double digits.  It could have been worse, though–neither Matt Carpenter nor Yadier Molina went down on strikes.

The strikeouts are a big reason our Goat from last night was Matt Adams.  Three K for Big Fill in the Blank, two of them with runners on.  He did draw a walk as well, but a hit in the right place and this game might have had a different feel to it.

We’ll go with Matt Carpenter as our Hero of the night, as he was the only one to get multiple hits.  When the team only can muster five, that’s a big deal.  Carp’s not gotten enough love in the Hero department anyway, so hopefully this helps make up that deficit.

Overall, it was a game that you don’t want to dwell on.  Thankfully Molina was back from his injury and Jason Heyward was available to pinch-hit, hopefully signalling that he’ll be ready to go tonight as well.  So two of the three Milwaukee-inflicted injuries seem to be short-term.  That third, though…..

With Wainwright out for the season (and then some–it seems likely that he might be slowed in spring training next year as well), there’s plenty of talk about who should slot into that place in the rotation.  John Mozeliak confirmed that it would be an internal fix, at least right now, and that Marco Gonzales would be back to throwing in a couple of days.  If he could get healthy, they might skip him returning to Memphis and bring him directly to St. Louis, but even so you’ve got to fill at least one start.  Tim Cooney was scheduled to go last night for Memphis, but was scratched and Nick Greenwood went instead.  Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons is also in the mix for a short-term replacement and we’ll see if that’s still the case after tonight, when he is supposed to go for the Redbirds.  Given Cooney’s scratch last night, though, it seems probable that the Cards are going in that direction and it’ll be nice to see another long-time minor leaguer make his major league debut.  Cooney had a very strong spring and I can imagine the front office would like to reward him for that as well as see what they have in him versus the big leaguers.

The Cards look to shake a rare two-game slide tonight, sending out Michael Wacha to face the Phillies.  Wacha’s never actually faced the Phillies as a team nor any of the batters on the squad (unless he did so in the minors) so this will be a new experience for him.  Actually, it’ll be a new experience all around as Philadelphia trots out Severino Gonzalez to make his major league debut.  He’s a righty, so St. Louis at least has a chance, but we know how they do against youngsters they’ve never seen before.  While Gonzalez isn’t their top prospect, he’s in the top 20 and I imagine Phillie fans are excited to see him get his shot.

Let’s hope there’s more and better things to talk about tomorrow, shall we?

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A Very Costly Series Win

For the fact that the Cardinals went 3-1 since we last got together, this is a fairly painful post to have to write.  Let’s go through the rundown then we can talk about the ramifications.

Thursday (4-1 win at Washington)

Hero: There are some options, but I’m going with Michael Wacha.  Knowing that he was drawing a tough matchup with Max Scherzer, all he did was allow one run in seven innings while striking out six.  He had to be that good, because the offense didn’t kick in with a cushion until after he was out of the game.  Given what happened the rest of the weekend, Wacha’s continued dominance could be a huge deal for the Cards.

Goat: Kolten Wong.  Wong was one of only two starters without a hit and he three times led off innings with outs.  The fourth time, he stranded Jhonny Peralta at second with two out.  Not the greatest day at the plate for the young man.

Notes: The existence of Tony Cruz was confirmed as he made his first appearance of the season, getting a hit in four times up.  Unfortunately, we saw a lot more of Cruz in Milwaukee….I don’t think I’d heard the term “Little League home run” until the last week or so, then it started appearing everywhere, including the description of Mark Reynolds‘s trip around the bases in the eighth, where he drove in a run with a double and then scored when the Washington pitcher threw the ball away….That combination of Jordan Walden and Trevor Rosenthal in the eighth and ninth is really paying off….Jason Heyward had two hits in this one, continuing to look like he’s finding his footing.

Friday (3-0 win at Milwaukee)

Hero: Jhonny Peralta.  Three for four including a home run that gave a bit more cushion for Carlos Martinez.  He did make an error, but it didn’t prove to be costly.

Goat: Jon Jay.  0-4 with two strikeouts and three left on.

Notes: Heyward continued his improving results by parking one over the wall.  That was his only hit of the night, though he did smoke one right at the shortstop, a hard hit ball that probably would have been a double had it gone through….Matt Carpenter continued to be a force, recording two hits though he didn’t actually score a run this time….Martinez was masterful, throwing seven scoreless innings and striking out eight.  My fear with Martinez was always that he’d not have the control to be able to go deep into games, but he was very effective here and that worry is getting smaller each time he takes the mound.  Martinez only walked two and, when you couple that with just four hits, shows that he can be a dynamic force.  He may need to be…..Yadier Molina left this one after a foul ball went off his knee.  It was the last we saw of Molina in this series, something we’ll discuss in a bit.

Saturday (5-3 win at Milwaukee)

Hero: Matt Holliday.  He only had one hit, but it was a three-run homer that proved to be pivotal when the bullpen started having issues.

Goat: Seth Maness.  His line looks nice–1.1 innings, no earned runs–but that’s the generally deceptive line of a reliever.  Maness came in with two on and immediately hit Khris Davis, then gave up a double to Sith Lord Aramis Ramirez, letting the Brewers get within two.  Maness got the next out and finished up the game, but it wasn’t as clean as you might think looking just at the box score.

Notes: We continue the YOU HAD ONE JOB tally for Randy Choate, who came in to face one batter and allowed an RBI single.  So that brings us to seven opportunities, seven batters faced, and four batters reaching by hit or walk.  When you can’t do your ONE JOB half the time, why do you have that job?  Again, I know Choate had some scuffles in April last year, but some of that was Mike Matheny‘s insistence on trying to make him a regular reliever instead of a LOOGY.  Seven of his 11 appearances last April were for an inning or more and he only had three where he faced only one batter (two of those were successful).  If there weren’t other pitching issues to deal with right now, you’d start to wonder if John Mozeliak might be willing to bite the bullet on the rest of this year’s salary and give Choate an early start on free agency.  Unfortunately, due to this game, Mo’s attention is elsewhere on the pitching staff.

Early on in this game, I started thinking about this team in relation to the 2004 team.  Obviously they are winning in different ways but it seems like it’s been a while since we’ve seen the Cardinals get out to an early divisional lead and they obviously had the talent, especially the pitching, to possibly run away and hide.  Then the fifth inning happened, with Adam Wainwright hobbling out of the batter’s box, and all those thoughts were put to rest.  Again, we’ve got a whole section on these injuries to get to, but obviously this one is the biggest one and the one that will impact the season the most.

We did get to see the debut of Mitch Harris in this one, completing his incredible story from serving his country to major league player.  Harris technically should have gotten the win since he pitched the fifth inning and the Cards never trailed after he came into the game to replace Wainwright, but the official scorer has some discretion in these matters and he felt Matt Belisle had been more effective, which was probably true.  Belisle did get some big outs and lived up to the Matt name.

Sunday (6-3 loss at Milwaukee)

Hero: Jon Jay.  Three hits, which was even more impressive because he came in as an injury replacement for Heyward, who thought he’d be a team player by getting hurt as well.  Jay scored a run as well, though it was one of the rare times when you can follow Carpenter, get three hits, and never drive him in as Carp was 0-fer on the day.

Goat: Lance Lynn.  On June 28, 2014, Lynn had a disastrous outing against the Dodgers, allowing seven runs in two innings.  Since that time, he’d not allowed more than three runs in a start until yesterday, when everything caught up with him.  His teammates did him no favors, stranding runners left and right and giving him no room to maneuver, but there are just those days that nothing is working.  With the club being a bit flat with the injuries and it being the end of the road trip, it’s not terribly surprising that things snowballed.  We’ll see how he does against the Pirates this week before we think this is more than just a blip on the radar.

Notes: Peralta and Matt Adams were the only other hitters with multiple hits, though most everyone else got at least a knock somewhere along the way, as the team finished with 13.  Reynolds played outfield and apparently played it fearlessly, crashing into the wall twice and being forced to undergo a concussion test in the dugout to see if he needed to be removed from the game.  He passed, which was good for Holliday, who was taking the day off but would have been pressed into action if Reynolds had gone out…..hat tip to Carlos Villanueva, who continues to do well in tough situations.  Villanueva threw two scoreless innings, which could have been really helpful had the bats been a little more potent….Cody Stanley made his major league debut as a pinch-hitter and got his first big league knock.

All right, let’s talk about the injuries in order of severity, in case I run out of time here and can’t get to them all.  First up, Wainwright.  The Cards are going to get a diagnosis today, but it would be stunning if it was anything other than a torn Achilles tendon that would keep him out of the entire rest of the season and perhaps impact spring training of next year.  It’s a big deal, obviously.  Wainwright was looking every inch like the ace he is and would be a huge asset all year long and especially in the playoffs, where he’d line up against the other aces and hopefully get the Redbirds off on the right foot.  That’s not happening now.  Even if it wasn’t a full tear, it would seem tough for him to recover and rehab enough to be able to be back on the mound and be effective come October.

Mozeliak is going to look at his internal options first, which is as he should.  There’s a reason he stockpiled pitching depth and if you aren’t going to at least try that depth out in a situation like this, what’s the point of having it?  My hope is we’ll see the Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons return, but it could easily be someone like Tim Cooney.  They could also bring up another reliever (or leave Harris in the spot) and shift Villanueva into the rotation, though I’m not sure that many of us would be excited about that option, given his numbers typically are much better when he’s in the pen.

Noted naysayer and general grump Joe Strauss believes that the Cardinals have to look externally for a solution.  It’s true that none of the options currently available are top-of-the-line, at least not until Marco Gonzales or Jaime Garcia are ready, but given the effectiveness of the staff, do they have to be?  Yes, Wainwright is a big loss but the gap from him to Lynn is not as large as the gap from Molina to Cruz.  Put another way, if the rotation was a 90 average with Wainwright in the mix, they might be an 85 average with someone like Lyons or Cooney.  Wouldn’t that work?  Martinez is pitching much better than a fifth starter.  That could absorb some of the dropoff of adding in a current option.

Mo has said that if the internal options aren’t working by June or so he might start checking out the market for starters.  As Tara and I talked about last night on Gateway To Baseball Heaven, though, what do you deal to get a guy like that?  You can’t really deal Gonzales because that’s more of a lateral move or at least not as much of an upgrade as you’d think.  You can’t deal Martinez without creating another hole.  Would Piscotty be good enough to be a centerpiece?  I could see him being available, especially if they started talking extension with Heyward earlier than they had planned on.  Locking up Heyward would probably mean that Piscotty was superfluous.  Everyone is looking at Cole Hamels, of course, though there’s been the suggestion of John Danks, which wouldn’t be as dramatic but wouldn’t also be as costly either.

Of course, Wainwright’s injury then gets people talking about needing the DH in the National League, which is just silly.  Wainwright could have torn that tendon jogging in from the bullpen at the beginning of the game.  It’s not like he was trying to stretch a single into a double, he just was coming out of the box and it went.  To use that as a data point for the DH is ridiculous.  (Drew Silva pointed out on Twitter when Heyward was taken out of the game that perhaps we needed to stop outfielders from outfielding.)  There is no need for the DH in the National League and I hope I never see it happen.  If you can’t appreciate the nuances of how the pitcher hitting affects the entire game, if you can’t appreciate the fact that it means every player has to contribute on both sides of the ball, then I can’t help you.

As for our other injuries, Heyward hopefully won’t be out too long, though I wouldn’t be surprised if he was still resting tonight.  Molina is a little more concerning.  They were talking about him being available Saturday and Sunday, but it seemed pretty notable that they went ahead and brought up Stanley yesterday when they placed Wainwright on the DL.  It could be that they just wanted another bat (though he wasn’t hitting much at Memphis) since the bench would be shallow, but it seems more likely that they are afraid Molina might be out a few more days.  Which, if Heyward has to rest as well, means that two of the five bench players aren’t really available and a third is the backup catcher, which also is an option of last resort.  Which then would mean the only bench options would be Reynolds and Peter Bourjos.  Better hope they don’t have a long extra-inning game.

After an emotionally tough weekend, the Cards get back home tonight and they get to face the Phillies, who aren’t exactly lighting the world on fire.  It could be a good way to get their footing again before facing off against divisional foes for the rest of the homestand.  John Lackey has been much better under the Arch than away from it and hopes to continue that tonight against Philadelphia.  He’s done well in limited time against these guys, though he should know that Ryan Howard always is a problem for St. Louis pitchers and it seems like he’s been hitting well of late.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Grady Sizemore 28 20 4 1 0 0 1 7 3 .200 .429 .250 .679 0 0 0 1 0
Ryan Howard 11 10 3 0 0 2 2 1 6 .300 .364 .900 1.264 0 0 0 0 1
Chase Utley 9 7 2 0 1 0 0 2 0 .286 .444 .571 1.016 0 0 0 0 0
Carlos Ruiz 7 7 0 0 0 0 1 0 3 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Jeff Francoeur 3 3 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .667 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Freddy Galvis 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 1
Ben Revere 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Cole Hamels 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 66 55 11 2 1 2 4 10 13 .200 .333 .382 .715 0 0 0 1 2
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/27/2015.

Hamels goes for the Phils, which means plenty of discussion about his availability, whether he’d fit in St. Louis, what it would take to get him, etc.  If nothing else, it might be nice to get him to make sure that no one else does and the Cards don’t have to face him in October, as he’s done pretty well against the club.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Jason Heyward 39 32 7 4 0 0 0 6 8 .219 .359 .344 .703 0 0 0 1 0
Yadier Molina 29 25 6 3 0 0 5 3 5 .240 .310 .360 .670 0 1 0 0 1
Mark Reynolds 19 16 4 1 0 2 6 3 6 .250 .368 .688 1.056 0 0 1 0 0
Matt Holliday 17 15 3 1 0 0 1 2 6 .200 .294 .267 .561 0 0 0 0 1
Jon Jay 9 6 1 0 0 0 0 2 5 .167 .375 .167 .542 1 0 1 0 0
Jhonny Peralta 8 8 3 3 0 0 1 0 1 .375 .375 .750 1.125 0 0 0 0 2
Matt Carpenter 7 6 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .143 .000 .143 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Adams 3 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 .000 .333 .000 .333 0 1 0 0 0
Peter Bourjos 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Pete Kozma 3 2 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 1 0 0 0
John Lackey 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 1 0 0 0 0
Total 139 115 24 12 0 2 15 18 34 .209 .314 .365 .679 2 3 2 1 4
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/27/2015.

Should be a fun game this evening.  Assuming everyone can stay healthy.

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