C70 At The Bat

West Coast trips are always tough on a team, though sometimes the results are better than others.  Going through Los Angeles, which has a quality team, and Colorado, who is leading the NL West, figured to be a tall order for the Cardinals.  Even a split of those six games would have been fine.  Instead, the Cards win just one of three in each place.  Thank goodness the NL Central is so weak that not only did the Cards stay in the hunt, they actually gained a game on the Cubs this weekend.

Friday (10-0 loss)

Hero: It’s really a tough one here.  The offense totaled five hits, only one for extra bases.  That double by Randal Grichuk was the only baserunner not erased on a double play.  The bullpen….oh, my.  So even though it wasn’t necessarily one of his greatest games, we’ll give the tag to Carlos Martinez.  He allowed just two runs in seven innings, but went out for the eighth and gave up a home run to Charlie Blackmon with one out.  Nine strikeouts in his outing, so it definitely was a game the Cardinals could have won, especially in the thin air of Denver.

Goat: While it wasn’t likely, given the offense’s inability to do much of anything, a 3-0 lead in Colorado isn’t necessarily insurmountable.  Matthew Bowman, though, is paying the price for his early season scoreless streak.  Bowman faced four batters, allowed three hits, all of which scored on his watch.  He left the game at 6-0 and Miguel Socolovich, in his final work for the Cards (as of right now) finished dumping out the gas can.

Notes: Again, the bullpen made this to be a moot point, but five hits in Colorado?  There’s often talk about how the Cardinals’ seemingly inability to hit new pitchers is just that–talk–but it really seems to happen more often than can be chalked up to observation bias.  This time it was Antonio Senzatela mesmerizing the Cards for eight innings.  Senzatela’s off to a good start this season, but a pitcher going eight scoreless innings in Colorado, while only striking out three?  That’s amazingly unexpected.

Other than that, there’s not much to say about this game.  Grichuk had the double.  Everyone else seemed to be part of a double play one way or another.  Oh, and the Rockies scored more in the eighth inning of this game than the Cards did in the entire series.  That’s some food for thought.

Saturday (3-0 win)

Hero: Tommy Pham.  Three hits, including the two-run homer that gave the club a bit of breathing room.  Pham also played some nice defense and while he didn’t do it all by himself, he definitely was the largest reason the Cardinals were able to pull out a victory.

Goat: It has been a tough run for Randal Grichuk.  In this one, he went 0-4, striking out three times and leaving four on base.  Since the beginning of the Miami series, he’s played in 16 games (14 starts) and is hitting .161/.213/.304 with 18 strikeouts in 56 at bats.  That’s a rough run.  He’ll have a good game or two here or there–that stretch includes a 3-4 against the Cubs and a 2-4 against the Giants, both with two doubles–but he’s never been able to establish a constant level of performance that rises above mediocre.  Tara and I talked about this last night on Gateway and given the club hasn’t committed to him like they have with Dexter Fowler and Stephen Piscotty, you have to wonder how secure his position is.

Notes: Adam Wainwright continues to take the words of those that thought he was done, put them on a plate of crow, add salt, and serve it back to them.  The night before, everyone was wondering what kind of team goes scoreless in Coors Field.  Wainwright just proved that even good teams–like the division leaders–can do it when they face the right pitcher.  Uncle Charlie only allowed three hits in seven frames and tossed in six strikeouts.  In his last three starts, Waino has a 0.44 ERA in 20.1 innings.  His K/BB rate still isn’t superb–15 K to 8 BB in those 20 innings–but it’s manageable.  His ERA is at the lowest point it’s been this season after his first start.  I don’t know if you can really expect Wainwright to keep this up, but it definitely makes it feel like, for once, he has figured it out somewhat.

Nice game for Fowler, who went two for four and drew a walk, scoring two of the three runs.  Aledmys Diaz also had two hits on the night.  Matt Carpenter had the night off (though he pinch-hit in the ninth) so Yadier Molina batted third.  Not exactly where I would have put him and he did leave four men on base, but it worked overall, I guess.

Sunday (8-4 loss)

Hero: While he didn’t hit any of the solo homers that accounted for the scoring, Dexter Fowler did go three for five.  He had two strikeouts and no walks, but it’s good to see the leadoff guy get a couple of multi-hit games in a row.

Goat: It’s a bad sign when you are the Goat twice in a three game span, but it’s hard not to give it to Matt Bowman here.  With the Cards just down one in the bottom of the eighth, Bowman came in and promptly allowed four runs.  I didn’t see the inning but looking at the plays, it doesn’t look like anything was hit all that hard, it was just numerous nicks and cuts that led to a huge inning.  These losses loom large and Bowman does have a 9.49 ERA since his scoreless inning streak to start the season was snapped at the end of April, but that’s 13 earned runs in 12.1 innings, seven of which came in these two games and six of which game in the first four appearances in this span.  In between, he pitched 7.1 innings and only gave up two unearned runs.  I don’t know what this means, if anything, but it sounds like Bowman isn’t completely broken, he’s just going to run into spurts where he can’t get hitters out.

Notes: Paul Dejong was called up before the game when Kolten Wong was placed on the disabled list and made the most of his first appearance, cracking a home run when he pinch hit in the ninth.  While there’s no guarantee that Dejong stays up here whenever Wong returns, this is a different situation than Magneuris Sierra was.  Dejong is right on the cusp of the majors anyway–he might be able to develop a little more in Memphis, but that development doesn’t obviously outweigh what he can do in the bigs, even if he’s not starting every day.  It’ll be interesting to see how he’s used over the next couple of weeks.  The good thing about writing this later in the morning of an afternoon game is that I can already see he’s in the starting lineup today, playing second base and hitting seventh.

Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons did a fine job of keeping the Cardinals in the game after Lance Lynn had some struggles, allowing four runs in five innings.  Lyons threw two scoreless frames and saw the Cards put up three home runs, getting it back to a close game.  Lyons continues to prove his worth to this team and should be able to help stabilize a bullpen that’s been kinda rocky, no pun intended.

Lynn’s work might have looked better had he not been dealing with a blister throughout the game.  Given that, I don’t think we’ll get too worked up about another rough start, but Lynn does have a 4.30 ERA over his last four, with two unearned runs keeping that total down a bit more than it could/should be.  It’s still something to look at, especially since his next start will be at Wrigley Field.  If he can have a good one there, that should help calm folks down.

Looks like there’s going to be another roster move today as Jose Martinez returns from the disabled list and, apparently, Grichuk is heading to Memphis.  As we said above, Grichuk is really struggling and a trip to Memphis worked last year for him.  Again, though, the club continues to carry just 12 hitters and Jonathan Broxton gets another reprieve.  Actually, Broxton might not be in as much danger anyway now that John Brebbia is up and, as such, has options.  Even if St. Louis did decide to go to 13 hitters (which seems unlikely any time soon), Brebbia could be the one that is the odd man out.

Mike Leake and Rich Hill both made their last starts against the Dodgers and Cardinals respectively and will do so again today.  Hill struggled against the Cardinals with limited command, while Leake did what Leake has done all year.  Hopefully both of those things continue today and the Cards can celebrate the holiday with a win!

 

 

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Off in LA LA Land

Well, at least they took one?

The Cardinals started off a road trip against the top teams in the NL West and looked a lot like the team that just had a miserable home stand.  All those that thought the 6-0 record on the trip to Atlanta and Miami was mainly due to the quality of the teams they were playing against still have a strong point.  Save for that nice series win against the Cubs, they’ve been flailing about trying to find purchase.  The club is 2-6 since Mother’s Day and have gone from first to third, now behind the Cubs by a game.  With Chicago now in first, it has a feeling like a basketball game where the underdog led for a long time, but the favorite finally took the lead.  Very rarely, it feels, does that underdog get the lead back.  Let’s hope it’s different here.

We talked about the first game in Dodger Stadium already, so let’s take a look at the last two.

Wednesday (6-1 win)

Hero: Mike Leake.  Just when you started to think maybe the great run of Leake could be coming to a close, he goes out and throws eight innings of one run ball.  No walks, five strikeouts, and only four hits.  We knew Leake’s traditional numbers might get better since the defense was supposed to improve, but that improvement hasn’t been as much as some thought and he’s still been outstanding.  If the season ended today, it would probably because of a major calamity and nobody would care about awards, but notwithstanding that he would be a frontrunner for the Cy Young Award.

Goat: Randal Grichuk.  Grichuk is such a streaky hitter.  Two games before he had two doubles, but in this one he’s 0-4 with three strikeouts and five left on base.  There’s a lot of talent there and he’s a fine player to have on a squad, but you have to start wondering if the outfield isn’t where John Mozeliak winds up improving this team.  You can’t do much with those under contract, but you could swap Grichuk and see if you could upgrade there.

Notes: Nice night for Kolten Wong.  He only had one hit, but it was a double in the second that put the Cards up 2-0.  An inning later, he started a smooth double play, the only one of the night for the Redbirds.  He also drew a walk and is hitting .281 on the season.  While he may have tailed off from some earlier heights, he’s proving to be a reliable, solid option at second base.

What is the club going to do about the top of the lineup?  You’ve seen the stats, you know that the top three positions have been some of the worst in baseball.  Dexter Fowler in this one went 0-4, struck out twice (though he did draw a walk), and left three on.  Maybe it’s the shoulder, though we’d feel better about that answer if he hadn’t struggled in April.  Stephen Piscotty, batting second and also going 0-4, struck out just once and actually scored a run, though he left four on.  In other words, it’s a little surprising this team could make it a serious game with the top of their lineup again sputtering.

Another good night for Jedd Gyorko, who really doesn’t want to be replaced by Josh Donaldson or anyone.  Three hits, two runs scored.  Matt Carpenter was the only other person with multiple hits, though with Rich Hill‘s control issues, most everyone got on base one way or another.  Yadier Molina went yard and Aledmys Diaz doubled for the only extra base hits on the night.

Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons got into this one, working a scoreless ninth.  Always good to see 70 back and contributing.

Thursday (7-3 loss)

Hero: Jedd Gyorko.  Two hits, two RBI.  Gyorko just keeps plugging along, showing that last year wasn’t quite the fluke we thought it might have been.  He’s not far off of being on pace for 30 homers yet again.

Goat: There were a few options, but I think you have to go with Michael Wacha.  Six runs in four innings, two of which come off the bat of the pitcher who is up with two outs in the inning, makes for a bad night.  Yaisel Puig hit a pitch in the dirt to bring Kenta Maeda to the plate, but Wacha had to be able to finish that off.  And, granted, a couple of those runs were allowed after he left the ballgame, but he put the runners on.

Notes: I do think Mike Matheny has done a better job over the last month or so, but that doesn’t mean that there still aren’t questions.  For instance, Wacha had given up four runs in four innings, letting that 3-0 lead get past him.  The last batter he faced was Maeda, who hit it hard enough that he tried for second.  Wacha’s close to 90 pitches.  Bullpen basically wasn’t used the night before, so pretty much everyone should be available.  However, Matheny runs him back out there.  Wacha allows a single and a walk, then gets pulled.

Now, I know that Brett Cecil had retired the last three men he’d faced.  I know that you have to use him sometimes if he’s going to stay on the roster.  I know that bringing him in with a deficit might be better than bringing him in with a lead and watching that lead slip away.  But if you think that you can win this game, you have to keep it at one run and bringing in Cecil’s not the best way to guarantee that.  Now, it wound up not mattering because the offense couldn’t do a lick more, but how much of that was a factor of it being a three (and then four) run game instead of one?  If nothing else, the Dodgers’ pitching decisions would have likely been different.

The Cards had four hits and two walks (one intentional) in the first frame.  They got five hits and one walk the rest of the way.  Two of those hits came in the third, when Gyorko and Molina singled to lead off the frame.  Two on, nobody out, your sixth place hitter up.  This should be a great spot to put some runs up.  Instead, inexplicably, Stephen Piscotty tried to bunt the runners over.  I know Piscotty is struggling, but really?  The team is up 3-1 trying to put Maeda on the ropes and instead you try to hand him an out.  And that doesn’t even work!  Piscotty winds up popping out, Diaz struck out, and Wong grounded out.  The runners never really moved.

There’s a lot of folks talking about how this team has regressed with Magneuris Sierra off the roster.  That seems a lot of weight to put on a guy that only played a couple of weeks, but it is interesting how things dropped off when the roster makeup wound up more like the beginning of the season when things weren’t going so well.  I don’t know if correlation is causation–again, we’ve talked about how the schedule is different as well–but maybe there’s something to it.  Again, the move with Sierra made sense and he’s doing well in Springfield, but you wonder if things continue to sputter if they won’t try to get him back up here one way or another.

Out of the frying pan and into the fire.  The Cards leave Los Angeles to go take on a team that is 2.5 games better in the standings, the NL West-leading Colorado Rockies.  Playing out in Coors Field is always an interesting task, of course, and we’ll see what the Cardinal hurlers are able to do with it.  Carlos Martinez will go up against a rookie in Antonio Senzatela, who seems to be having a good season.  His ERA of 3.67 has gone up about a run over his last two starts, though, so maybe the book is getting out on him.  As for Carlos, here’s his history against the Rockie hitters:

vs. Batters Table
Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Charlie Blackmon 11 11 4 1 0 0 0 0 3 .364 .364 .455 .818 0 0 0 0 0
DJ LeMahieu 11 9 6 1 0 0 1 1 0 .667 .727 .778 1.505 0 0 0 1 2
Nolan Arenado 10 10 3 1 0 0 2 0 2 .300 .300 .400 .700 0 0 0 0 0
Alexi Amarista 9 8 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 .375 .375 .375 .750 1 0 0 0 1
Carlos Gonzalez 9 8 2 1 0 0 0 1 2 .250 .333 .375 .708 0 0 0 0 0
Gerardo Parra 7 6 2 1 0 1 2 0 2 .333 .333 1.000 1.333 1 0 0 0 0
Ian Desmond 5 4 1 0 0 0 1 1 2 .250 .400 .250 .650 0 0 0 0 0
Tyler Anderson 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .500 .000 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Chris Rusin 2 2 2 0 0 1 2 0 0 1.000 1.000 2.500 3.500 0 0 0 0 0
Ryan Hanigan 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Mark Reynolds 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 68 61 23 5 0 2 8 4 12 .377 .424 .557 .982 2 0 0 1 3
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/26/2017.

That’s, uh, well not really what you want to see.  Small sample size, etc. and you just hope this is the time he turns it around against these guys.  Should be an interesting weekend!

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West Coast games do have a certain intrinsic charm, at least on the face of them.  You are watching baseball at hours that you normally don’t, seeing some teams that aren’t overly familiar.  That charm usually fades away about 11:00 or so, when the length of the day begins to grab at you.  So what do the Cardinals do?  They decide to do their favorite 2017 thing–play extra innings!

I’ll admit up front I saw the beginning of this game and what should have been the end, but everything else I’m going by box scores and recaps, which really isn’t that much different than a lot of my posts.  The entire reason this was actually a game is due to the pitching staff of the Cardinals, most notably Lance Lynn.  Lynn made a mistake in the first inning, allowing a solo shot to Yasmani Grandal, but put a lot of the current “hit a wall” fears to rest by going eight innings and allowing a total of two hits, the second of which game in the eighth along with one of his two walks.  So that mean from the homer with two outs in the first to Chase Utley‘s single with one out in the eighth, only one Dodger batter reached base.

An impressive feat, of course, but when you are going up against Clayton Kershaw, one mistake could be the difference in the ballgame.  For all of Kershaw’s vaunted failures against the Cardinals, that’s pretty much been confined to the postseason.  The regular season, he’s pretty much the same pitcher that’s considered the best in baseball.  Through eight innings, he had matched Lynn with allowing just two hits and had walked no one.  Unlike Lynn, however, he came out for the ninth and made his mistake.  Which cost a number of Cardinal fans some hours of sleep.

I’ll be honest–I had the TV and was watching to see how the game ended.  I had almost tweeted out an inning earlier that this might be the rare West Coast game that ended not long after a regular game, since both pitchers were mowing folks down.  (Glad I didn’t make that mistake!)  Randal Grichuk singled, but my eyes were getting heavy.  They opened to see Tommy Pham ground out, but closed again.  The next time they bounced open, Grichuk was scoring and I was really confused.  It took the replay to show that Grichuk had scored from second on Kershaw’s wild pitch, which is an incredible play helped by the generous foul ground at Dodger Stadium.  You wonder how much his commitment to score there was influenced by that game in New York against Aroldis Chapman, where he stopped at third and was stranded.

While it wound up working out in multiple ways, both the fact that Lynn got out of the jam and that you saved an out on a bullpen that was going to need it, I still think leaving Lynn out there in the eighth was a questionable call.  He started the frame with 99 pitches, I believe, and I understand him going out there given the way he was throwing.  He got an out, then allowed the single to Utley.  The bullpen was warming and while I wouldn’t necessarily have wanted to see Brett Cecil, Matthew Bowman was out there next to him.

He gets Yasiel Puig to ground out, but then walks, on four pitches, Kershaw.  At this point, he’s around 120 pitches, which is a load for anyone, but most especially someone coming off Tommy John surgery.  Walking the pitcher there would seem to indicate that he’s about out of gas.  Mike Matheny goes to the mound and I expect he’s going to bring in Bowman.  Instead, he leaves Lynn out there.  Lynn strikes out Logan Forsythe for his 10th strikeout and it all works out, but I’m not sure if that’s not an example of bad process, good results.

For as much praise as you can give the pitching staff–save maybe Jonathan Broxton, who got the first two he faced before a walk and a walk-off double, but when you get to the 13th, that’s going to happen I think–you can scorn the offense.  I get it, Kershaw’s tough.  You don’t expect to get much off of him.  However, to go four extra innings and manage one hit?  One single hit?  And no walks?  Again, I didn’t watch it–after Grichuk scored I knew I had to get some sleep–but was everyone going up there trying to end it in one swing?  That’s a pretty miserable showing.  I mean, I guess the Dodgers did basically the same thing, so maybe it was just a night where all the pitchers ate their Wheaties, but still, seems unlikely you are going to win if you can’t get runners on base.

We’ll give the Hero to Lynn (even though I was tempted to reward Grichuk’s, well, heroics) and the Goat will go to…man, when three guys have an 0-5 night, it’s not easy.  However, our typical rule of thumb here is that the leadoff man breaks ties, so we’ll give it to Dexter Fowler.  Fowler didn’t go last night–whether that was reflected in the rest of the outing or it wouldn’t have mattered, I don’t know.

(Can I also say it’s interesting–understandable, but interesting–to read our friend Scott saying the Dodgers can’t do anything with left-handers and not see any of the three lefties on the staff get into the game last night?  Again, I don’t question any choice of personnel Matheny made, save maybe Broxton, because that would seem to be a place to use Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons since he can go multiple frames, but it’s just an interesting point to make.)

Also, this was the seventh extra-inning game of the season, a season that is just over seven weeks old.  For a frame of reference, last year’s squad also played seven extra-inning games….in the ENTIRE YEAR.  Perhaps the 2015 season is more relevant, though.  They played 16 extra inning games that year.  That team had outstanding pitching, which kept the score low enough, but not enough offense to really take advantage of it.  This year isn’t that good, of course–no way this team wins 100 games–but you can probably blame the fact that this is the third 13-inning game this week on that.  Man, maybe MLB did know what they were doing when they put in all those off days!

You had to expect to lose the Kershaw game, but the Cards can still take the series.  That means that they’ll need a good start out of Mike Leake, which they’ve been fortunate to get most every time out this season.  Leake’s not gone less than six innings in any of his starts and gone seven four times, including his last outing against the Red Sox where he gave up two runs in his last inning of work.  Historically, he’s done pretty well against these LA hitters also.

vs. Batters Table
Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Chase Utley 29 27 4 1 0 2 4 1 1 .148 .179 .407 .586 1 0 0 0 0
Yasmani Grandal 17 16 3 1 0 0 0 1 2 .188 .235 .250 .485 0 0 0 0 2
Adrian Gonzalez 16 14 2 1 0 1 1 2 5 .143 .250 .429 .679 0 0 0 0 0
Joc Pederson 10 10 2 0 0 0 1 0 0 .200 .200 .200 .400 0 0 0 0 0
Corey Seager 10 10 2 0 0 1 2 0 1 .200 .200 .500 .700 0 0 0 0 2
Yasiel Puig 8 8 2 1 0 0 0 0 2 .250 .250 .375 .625 0 0 0 0 0
Logan Forsythe 6 5 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 .200 .333 .200 .533 0 0 0 0 0
Clayton Kershaw 5 4 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .250 .250 .250 .500 1 0 0 0 0
Austin Barnes 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .333 .000 .333 0 0 0 0 0
Alex Wood 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Brett Eibner 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Enrique Hernandez 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Brandon McCarthy 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 109 101 18 4 0 4 8 6 13 .178 .224 .337 .561 2 0 0 0 4
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/24/2017.

Rich Hill, whose full name may well be “oft-injured Rich Hill”, goes for the Dodgers.  Hill’s only made three starts this season and his last time out was his first after returning from the disabled list.  He limited the Giants to one run in five innings, so odds are he’s going to be good but also that the Cardinals will be getting into the Dodger bullpen pretty early.  We’ll see if that makes a difference!

vs. Batters Table
Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Yadier Molina 7 4 0 0 0 0 1 3 0 .000 .429 .000 .429 0 0 0 0 0
Dexter Fowler 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Jhonny Peralta 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 12 9 0 0 0 0 1 3 2 .000 .250 .000 .250 0 0 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/24/2017.

For a guy that’s been around the league a long time, the Cards don’t have much experience with him.  Surely that won’t be a problem, though, right?

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We got fairly serious and contemplative this morning, so let’s break that up with something more in line with what this blog usually provides: questions and answers with other bloggers!  Scott Andes from LAdodgerreport, a regular participant in the pre-season Playing Pepper series, contacted me since the Cardinals were heading into Chavez Ravine and asked if we could exchange some questions.  As you know, I’m always up for that!  You’ll find my answers over here, but here’s what I asked Scott about the Cardinals’ next opponent.  Enjoy!

Daniel: As we start this discussion, the Dodgers are 26-19, tied with Arizona for second behind Colorado. What’s gone right so far this season and what hasn’t?

Scott: What has gone right for the Dodgers this year has been their relief pitching which has been tremendously good for the most part. The middle relief has been great. Generally speaking the pitching is good. The defense has been poor, and the offense at times has been dreadful. The Dodgers win because their core group of players are very talented. Guys like Kershaw, Jansen, Puig, Pederson, Turner, Seager, and Grandal are very gifted players. The offense has definitely perked up in recent weeks. Relief pitching, on-base skills and the bench have been the strengths so far. The first few weeks of the season brutal though with one one or two series wins over the first five weeks.

As for what’s gone wrong I can just point you back to the 2016 season to have those questions answered. The Dodgers have the same problems from last year that were never addressed. They can’t hit left handed pitching, and the starting pitchers are unable to provide adequate innings.

When the starting staff is unable to go past the fifth inning it puts a great burden of work on the bullpen. By August or September everyone is gassed or hurt and nobody has anything left for the playoffs. Last year Kershaw and Jansen had to carry the club into the NLCS on their backs but they can’t do it alone. They need help. Unfortunately the front office is so small market minded they are unable to realize that there is an easier way of doing things where you are allowed to acquire healthy durable starting pitchers that can give you 6-8 innings per start.

Oh and also the injuries. Everyone gets hurt constantly on this club. But again when management continuously acquires injury riddled pitchers with long and established histories of injuries and inconsistency than it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody.

Daniel: Clayton Kershaw is still Clayton Kershaw, but the rest of the rotation seems a bit hit or miss. Is there anyone else that you trust when they take the ball every fifth day?

Scott: Not really. If I were to choose someone it would probably be southpaw Alex Wood. He’s been fantastic of late, (recently winning NL player of the week award). His domination over the last few weeks has been a lot of fun to watch as he builds arm strength and develops his command. Unfortunately like all of the rest of the starters, he is unable to pitch past the fifth inning. The rest of the starters are either unable to as well, or are not allowed to by management. No matter what in every game no starter by Kershaw the Dodger bullpen will be pitching 4-6 innings. This is every day.

Daniel: After Corey Seager last year, the Dodgers seem to have found another great young talent in Cody Bellinger. What are the thought on the rest of his season? Has he had to make adjustments yet or has the league still not caught up with him?

Scott: Not yet. But that’s coming soon. So far these first couple of months are going to be icing on the cake for the super kid. The National League has never seen him before, so for the first couple of months they’re going to challenge Bellinger. This is the time for him to be raking, and he is. The adjustments from the league will come soon, and so will his. But he is able to make those adjustments on the fly. We’ve seen him do it in the minors, and his instincts at the big league level are top notch. This kid is ridiculously talented, and I expect for him to continue to be scorching the ball during this initial period until the league makes the first adjustments.

Daniel: Justin Turner was off to a great start before landing on the DL. How much is his loss going to hurt the team?

Scott: Tremendously. Turner is the heart and soul of the Dodgers. Period. He’s beloved in the clubhouse, beloved by all fans, and one of the best third baseman in all of baseball. He hits, hits for power, plays amazing defense at third, and bats third in the lineup every day. He makes the Dodger’s offense go, and losing him for any extended amount of time is a huge crushing blow for the Dodgers. I get worked up just writing this. We miss our red dream.

Daniel: What’s the weak spot in the lineup, if there is one?

Scott: Lack of speed and athleticism, and mediocre power to start the season. The Dodgers rank in the middle of the pack in power (17th in home runs) slugging, OPS etc.

The problem has been that every time there is a left hander on the mound opposing them, management puts the bench guys in the lineup. Some of the lineups put out have been horrible, and it’s a huge weakness. I have always felt that the regulars can hit left handers if given the chance. I prefer a set lineup to all of this lineup shuffling anyways. However the front office loves triple-A castoffs and light hitting utility players. When a left hander is on the mound expect for all of them to be in the lineup.

I joke a little, but the bench has actually been very good. Chris Taylor has reinvented himself, Kike has finally stopped being an automatic out, and Austin Barnes is very good. Even Chase Utley has started to hit again. The Dodgers are still a good club.

Daniel: What’s your prediction for this series?

Scott: I’ll say the Dodgers take 2 of 3 since the series is at home. However if this was at Busch then it would probably be reversed. But the series could go either way because the Cards are pretty good too.

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Given all the things that happened on the diamond this weekend, we weren’t able yesterday to really look at the moves that happened–and didn’t happen–off the field on Saturday.  Hours after it was clear that the Cardinals had lost the Luis Robert sweepstakes, John Mozeliak traded Matt Adams to Atlanta for Juan Yepez, a 19-year-old third base prospect.  The Cards also sent cash to the Braves to help defray the $2.8 million (well, the pro-rated amount) that Big Fill-In-The-Blank was owed this season.

I have always been a pretty big Matt Adams fan, defending him against a lot of the slings and arrows that were thrown his way the last couple of years.  I know it’s a low bar to clear, but he was easily the best defensive first baseman that the club had.  He’d hit lefties a little bit better than some think, though it obviously still was a hole in his game.  I felt he had the ability to be an average to a little above-average first baseman, but it never quite came together.  Some of that is injury, some of that is just the way baseball goes.

Once the club moved Matt Carpenter to first base this offseason, Adams’s days were numbered.  Most of us were surprised when he started the season with the Cardinals.  In truth, Mozeliak did try to move him over the winter–there was a rumored deal with Kansas City that didn’t happen–but publicly said he was content having Adams as a viable bat off the bench and occasional fill-in at first.  (The less said about the idea of him playing outfield, the better.)

That works if Adams is a 33-35 year old guy who has had his shot in the big leagues.  Adams is just 28, though, and probably deserves to at least have a chance to play every day.  Once Freddie Freeman got hurt, many of us immediately thought about Atlanta as a landing place for the big guy.  (I’ll admit, the discussions a few of us had on Twitter didn’t factor in that Atlanta wouldn’t give up anything for a fill-in since they weren’t actually trying to win this year.  It’s one reason I’m terrible at trade scenarios.)  Mozeliak really gave him to Atlanta–while getting a Single-A prospect for Jim Edmonds worked out in historic fashion, it’s unlikely Yepez is going to follow the David Freese path–and that was fine.  He needed to play somewhere, but he couldn’t do that here with this roster construction.

Matt Adams did everything this team asked and did it (as far as we know) without grumbling or complaining.  He dealt with the uproar that was him in the outfield.  He pinch-hit and did what he could to help the team there.  I just wish it had worked out better for him overall, that he’d been able to establish himself enough at first that the Cards would have not been able to move Carpenter over, or at least not without sending him to a better situation than Atlanta.  Hopefully he has a great two months, builds up some value, and gets flipped to a contending team.  He went two for four last night with his first Braves long ball, so perhaps he’s on his way.

Some on Twitter suggested that Mozeliak finalized this deal on Saturday to take attention away from the fact that the club again was a runner-up on a major prize, this time Luis Robert.  That’s pretty silly in my book, one because it tied more to the timing of getting Stephen Piscotty off the DL but mainly because this wasn’t a big enough deal to push that failure off to the back burner, especially to folks that are plugged into the possibilities of this team.  Saturday was the first day that Robert could sign with a club and he wasted no time in making his decision, going with the other major competitor for his services, the White Sox.  Reports seem to differ on whether the White Sox were the top bid or not, but it seems pretty clear that they were right in the ballpark, signing Robert for $25 million after perhaps the personal touch won him over.

This post at Viva El Birdos helps outline why this was such a loss, but if you’ve read here or listened to Meet Me At Musial (especially Kyle Reis’s segments), you know all the reasons this was a perfect storm for the Cardinals.  Let’s quickly reiterate those:

–Robert was the equivalent of a top draft pick (if he didn’t go first overall this year if he was eligible, he’d have been really close) and the Cardinals never have a chance to pick that high.  Given how you get a pick like that, the plan is for them never to have that sort of draft pick and this sort of talent is never available when St. Louis gets to make its selection (save last year with Delvin Perez, but he had extenuating circumstances).

–None of the “big boys” (Chicago, Boston, New York) were in the mix for him, since they were capped at $300,000 this signing period due to overages in the past.

–The Cardinals were already over their cap for this year and are going to be unable to do much in the international market over the next couple of years.

–The international rules are changing and this is one of the last chances to flat out buy talent like Robert.

–The Cardinals will basically have no 2017 draft, what with losing their first pick due to signing Dexter Fowler and their next two picks due to the actions of Chris Correa.

–St. Louis has a lot of talent, but very little “superstar level” talent, again because there are rarely superstars around when they get a chance to pick.

–While the club would have had to pay a 100% tax to MLB since they were over their limit, the entire total of $50-$60 million would be much less than they gave Fowler this offseason.  Plus the Cardinals have often talked about “financial muscle” and the new TV contract kicks in next year.

There will never be another chance that lines up so perfectly for the Cardinals to bring in a young talent, which makes the fact that they didn’t get it done so frustrating.  Mozeliak and Bill DeWitt talked about stretching and being uncomfortable when they made a $200 million offer to David Price, an offer that looked to be successful until the last minute.  I don’t remember them saying so, but I’m sure it was the same sort of thing when they made an offer to Jason Heyward that had more guaranteed money (though a lower AAV) than the deal he took with Chicago.  Before Robert, the Cardinals also fell short on the last celebrated international signing, Lourdes Gurriel, who wound up signing with the Blue Jays for $22 million.  (Gurriel has played in only one game at High A Dunedin this year before getting hurt.)  You could go all the way back and add Albert Pujols into the list if you wanted.

When you continue to come short on bringing players in, whether it is free agents or these international prospects, a good self-evaluation should be in order.  Hopefully that’s what the club is doing.  As we continue to state, we don’t want to see them just throwing around money to throw around money.  Their smart baseball and thrifty spending habits has helped the club be successful for 20 years.  You get the feeling, from the outside looking in, that the club calculates a value and then doesn’t deviate from that high number.  They may stretch, they may get uncomfortable, but they aren’t going to risk it all and possibly hurt.  Which is a great policy from time to time, but eventually, you have to land someone like this.  Otherwise you get a lot of good, complementary players with no one to complement.

We’re a long way from the days of Mark McGwire and others who might have taken a “hometown discount” to stay in St. Louis.  Yadier Molina‘s $60 million extension and Heyward’s flight to Chicago pretty much proves that the idea of that baseball atmosphere making up for what dollars might be lacking is dead as a doornail.  To get talent to St. Louis, the club is either going to have to draft in a higher position, make trades that give up talent they may want to keep, or sign contracts that hurt.  Staying away from the extremes gets you good baseball.  It doesn’t help you have great baseball.

Again, I’m not saying they needed to win all of those bids.  While they might have had the financial resources to do that, tying up a lot of money like that really isn’t the Cardinal way.  What I am saying is that if they’d won just one of them, public opinion of their philosophy would be significantly different.  If you land Price, nobody expects you to land Heyward and you could argue that you didn’t want to spend a lot in the international market because of the big contract.  If you land Gurriel or Robert, the second place finishes on major MLB free agent talent is brushed aside as well.

There’s a lot of cynical folks out there that never thought the Cardinals would actually land Robert.  I’ll admit to being naive or optimistic enough to believe that it’d happen, because it made too much sense not too.  This really should have been a time when the Cardinals went over the top.  If nothing else, it would buy them a little better public opinion with some of those cynical folks as well as a top talent.  They didn’t, which gives more credence to what so many folks continue to say, that the Cards are more interested in looking like they are spending than actually spending.

I don’t tend to believe that ownership is lining its pockets at the expense of the fans and not trying to put the best product possible on the field.  I also realize that just because you offer a good deal doesn’t mean the player is going to take it.  While it doesn’t look like the Cardinals outbid the White Sox for Robert, even if they had Robert might have taken the Chicago deal due to other factors, such as players he knows or a comfort level with that organization.  Each one of these deals, in and of themselves, can be explained.  As a pattern, though, they are troubling.

I still believe that the Cardinals can be players for someone like Manny Machado in the next couple of years.  Perhaps these failures will give them the spur they need to get into that level where it hurts to prove that they can.  However, it’s becoming harder and harder to argue with folks that believe they’ll never be able to seal the deal.  “Coming in second” has replaced “low-hanging fruit” as the term associated with Mozeliak’s time here in St. Louis.  Unfortunately, the next opportunity to erase that mindset is probably over a year away.

What’s done is done, though.  The club has to just focus on beating the Dodgers, starting tonight.  Come back later on with a Q&A with one of my Dodger brethren!

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Inigo Montoya: Who are you?
Man in Black: No one of consequence.
Inigo Montoya: I must know.
Man in Black: Get used to disappointment.
The Princess Bride

It was about this time last year when I created the Cardinals Frustration Level Index.  It feels like over last few weeks, the Cardinals have really been riding along at FIL-4.  It wasn’t perfect, but there were a lot of things going right.  There was some positive feelings about the club and a bit of dreaming on them as well.

The last week has moved the club squarely into FIL-3.  If you didn’t click on the link, here’s the description of that level, labeled “Ankiel”:

This is where things start to unravel.  The club is up, then it’s down.  You get a great performance against a top opponent one day, only to see a meek showing against a cellar dweller the next.  The pitching is great while the offense struggles, then the offense comes around only to lose a 9-8 ballgame.  And if everything does come together, then the bullpen winds up losing the lead.  There’s no sort of consistency, good or bad.  Warning signs: a growing deficit in the standings, nightly Twitter spats, a series of “what’s wrong with this team” posts and articles, a focus on a player or two as a major problem.

Sound familiar?  The Cardinals took whatever hope and excitement there was from a 6-0 road trip and a series win against the Cubs and blew through it like my bank account at a Star Wars convention.  Not only has the on-the-field product been immensely frustrating, St. Louis also tossed in another second place finish on a major talent.  If you want to hear frustration in audio form, I think Tara and I did a fairly good job of expressing that last night on Gateway.  If you prefer your aggravation written, stay with me.

Friday (6-5 loss)

Hero: Dexter Fowler.  I considered not selecting him here given the game-ending double play that he grounded into by reaching for an outside pitch on a 3-2 count, but you don’t get to that point without Fowler’s three-run homer that gave the Cards the lead back and let them turn it over to their bullpen to squander.

Goat: Seung-hwan Oh.  While a blown save is likely to always get you here, there are sometimes mitigating factors.  That’s not the case in this one.  Oh did pitch two innings in the prior game, but there was a day off in between and he’d had four days off before that.  Fatigue shouldn’t have been an issue and, to his credit, Oh never suggested it was anything more than him not doing his job.  Losing a lead late after rallying to regain it is just one of the worst ways to lose a game.

Notes: Kolten Wong went 2-2 with two walks and was on base in the ninth when Fowler ended the game.  He and Fowler were the only two to have multiple hits in this one, as the rest of the team just combined for six, including a pinch-hit single by Jhonny Peralta.  Peralta was activated before the game and Magneuris Sierra sent down to Springfield, which was a step up from where he was before his MLB sojourn.  Sierra will be missed, but it’s best for his long-term prospects for him to get some more regular minor league at-bats to develop his game.  I don’t think this will be the last we’ll see of him this season.  If nothing else, another outfield injury and he’s the easiest person to recall for a short-term stay.

Michael Wacha continued his strong season, throwing a scoreless six innings and deserving a much better reward for his efforts.  I don’t know that I can get away from waiting for the other shoe to drop on Wacha, given the last couple of years, but that’s more my mentality than what should be reasonable.  Wacha’s not really done anything but be effective this year, even if he’s not necessarily Peak Wacha.  I probably should have more faith in his outings.  That said, his next one is in Colorado, so I’ll hold off on that for now.

What’s there to say about the bullpen?  At least, on a family-friendly blog?  With Trevor Rosenthal unavailable for this one due to soreness (something that was rectified by the next day, thankfully, but still a bit strange), the last three innings were an adventure.  Jonathan Broxton came in, gave up two hits, and was quickly yanked.  It’s fairly obvious there is no confidence in Broxton for anything serious, but if he’s on the roster, he’s going to have to pitch occasionally.  It feels like he’s either on or he’s not and give credit to Mike Matheny for not sticking with him and seeing if he can work his way out of it.  I’m not sure we’d have said that last year.

Still, putting Broxton into a two-run game at all when the rest of the ‘pen should be rested given the off day is fairly strange, especially when you are coming off a series sweep and a win would be nice to snap that.  Matthew Bowman came in to relieve Broxton, but why didn’t he come in to start the inning?  We’ve often talked about Bowman’s overuse, true, but it was obvious that Matheny already had this plan in mind to go to Bowman early.  He must have started warming up after the first batter, if not before.  I guess, given that Rosenthal was unavailable, maybe Matheny was hoping for a good inning for Broxton and then Bowman could cover the eighth, but it still feels like he could have made the call to Bowman first.

Assuming Bowman would have done better, of course, but some of the work against him in this wasn’t his fault.  He got the grounder to Jedd Gyorko, but Gyorko botched it.  The run would have scored anyway, but Bowman could have had two outs and the bases empty instead of nobody out and runners on first and second.  The wheels wobbled after that, most notably after the Giants tied up the game and put runners on the corners, Bowman fielded Joe Panick’s soft grounder and immediately went to first, not even looking at the runner coming home.  A throw to the plate there and Mac Williamson is dead to rights.  Even if you just look over there to hold him, you probably still have time to get the runner.  Fowler’s home run took Bowman off the hook, but it wasn’t a great outing for the young man.

Matt Adams pinch-hit in the ninth and, unknowingly, closed the book on his Cardinal career with a flyout to left.  Also, Brett Cecil made his first appearance since shaving his head and got a batter out.  It’s possible, after Martinez’s success removing the extensions, that what this team needs is just a good barber.

Saturday (3-1 loss in 13)

Hero: Carlos Martinez. If the Cardinals could have plated one measly run, Martinez would have had the first Maddux of his career.  For those of you unaware (a number that has significantly shrunk over the past few years, I believe), a Maddux (named after Greg Maddux, the master at this) is when a starter throws a nine-inning shutout in less than 100 pitches.  Martinez ran through nine frames in just 93 pitches, which is a remarkable achievement for anyone, but especially a pitcher that a few years ago we weren’t sure could be a starter because of his command.  Martinez was dominant all night long, striking out five and allowing just two hits.  It was an impressive performance and should have been the focus of the game discussion afterwards.  Unfortunately, it was almost forgotten by the end of this.

Goat: Matt Carpenter.  You may remember that about a month ago, Tara and I had a difference of opinion on who the worst Cardinal baserunner was.  She leaned (with good reason) toward Stephen Piscotty, while I stood firm with Carpenter.  I didn’t really need for him to continue to prove me right, but oh did he in this one.  Bottom of the ninth, scoreless game, Carpenter leads off with a shot.  When you are in this situation, a double is fine.  Yes, the Cardinals could waste it, because it’s the Cardinals, but a runner on second with nobody out is a fairly good shot at winning the game.  A groundout and a fly out and that’ll do it.  It doesn’t take anything dramatic.  I’m glad we’re all on the same page.

Problem is, Carpenter never read the book.  Even though he could see the play in front of him, even though he could see Eduardo Nunez had recovered well, Carpenter continued to plow toward second base and was out like….well, like Willie Mays Hays at the beginning of Major League.  You know the scene I’m talking about.  And you just CAN NOT do that in that situation.  It’s indefensible.  Maybe if it took a strong throw and it nipped him by an inch you could see what he was thinking, but it wasn’t even close.  Recently Tim McCarver talked about triples being “born in the batter’s box” and I have no doubt that Carpenter was thinking three when he hit the ball.  However, he’s got to be better about adjusting to the information he sees.  Instead, the Cardinals wind up not scoring, going to extras, and that didn’t exactly play into the strengths of this team.  We’re probably lucky it made it to the 13th, in all honestly.

Notes: While the team wound up with 10 hits on the night (which seems a little low for a 13-inning affair but was better than the Giants’ seven, four of which came in the last frame), three of them came from Greg Garcia, who had to fill in after Wong felt a “pop” in his elbow.  So far, there’s been no word on any injury for Wong, though he didn’t play in Sunday’s game.  It’s great to have a Garcia who can step in and be effective in short spurts, but I do hope Wong isn’t going to be out for an extended period.

Rosenthal was back for this one and did fine in his inning.  Bowman recovered from Friday night and did fine as well.  Kevin Siegrist got his first inning done in seven pitches, but then went back out there for a second and it didn’t work so well.  He got Brandon Belt to start the frame, but then allowed three straight singles to load the bases for Christian Arroyo, who had a heck of an at-bat, forcing Siegrist to throw 12 pitches before he roped a double that basically ended the game.  You could be concerned that Siegrist never was able to get strike three past him, but I think it was more that Arroyo just did everything he could get get a good pitch.  Sometimes the batter wins and it’s not really the pitcher’s fault.  (You do wonder if Siegrist maybe should have thrown more than two changeups in the sequence, but being that Arroyo crushed the second one, maybe not.)

The Cardinals did avoid being shut out in the bottom of the 13th when Piscotty, who was activated earlier in the day, singled in Fowler, but Carpenter flew out to end the game.  (Piscotty almost added to his bad baserunning case by coming close to being caught stealing second with two outs and a two run deficit.  Thankfully, he was safe.)

Sunday (8-3 win)

Hero: Randal Grichuk. Two doubles, including a big one in the second that plated three and helped make sure there’d be no repeat of Saturday night, and four RBI total.  Grichuk is streaky, as we all know, but when he has a game, he has a game.

Goat: Dexter Fowler.  Fowler did drive in one with a sacrifice fly, but went 0-4 otherwise with three left on and a double play hit into.  Thankfully these kind of games are becoming rarer for Fowler, unlike what we saw in April.

Notes: Craig asked me in our conversation where Adam Wainwright‘s last start, his scoreless outing against the Cubs, came from.  Wherever the source, Wainwright went shopping there again and picked up another good one.  Granted, the Giants offense hasn’t been all that great all year long, including this series, but it was still very good to see Wainwright seemingly on cruise control.  Waino struck out six, allowed just the one run, and made it into the seventh.  (Though, given that he was at almost 100 pitches before that frame started, might have had something to do with trying to rest the bullpen as much as possible as much as it did how he was pitching.)  Like we said after the last outing, it doesn’t mean that Wainwright is back or that we have full trust anytime he goes out there, but it’s nice to see that there’s still something there and we won’t have to continue having the “is Wainwright washed up” discussions that are so painful, at least for a while.

Carpenter didn’t really redeem himself, given that it was another game and we’re still holding that baserunning grudge, but he did smack a two-run homer to make this game serious.  Aledmys Diaz also had two hits and walked once as well.  Since moving out of the second spot on May 4, Diaz has hit .328/.371/.391 and has walked five times in 15 games, which still isn’t to the level he showed last year but is much better than the two walks he had in the first 24 games he played.  It felt like that Diaz would be a great fit between Fowler and Carpenter, but the results are showing that maybe his approach and comfort is lower in the lineup.  Which opens up another problem–who to hit in the second spot–but at least gets him back on a better track.

Two hits also for Jhonny Peralta in his first start since returning to squad Friday.  Peralta’s 4-5 since his return and while nobody expects nor wants him to replace Gyorko at third, hopefully he can at least be a veteran bench bat than can fill in from time to time, especially with Matt Adams now in Atlanta.  Lots of people would prefer a Peralta-free roster and I get that, but there seems to be a little bit left from the veteran.  If nothing else, he has to play to show if he has value to other teams.  I do not believe Matheny is going to get wrapped up in this small sample and decide to run him out there every day.  Matheny’s done better with his lineup decisions over the past month and I believe he knows that Gyorko should be out there regularly.  There are going to be days where Peralta plays, though, and folks are just going to have to come to terms with that.

Bullpen did its job for the most part, though it’s easier to do with a seven run lead.  Cecil got two guys out, making him three-for-three since the long hair went adios.  (Which, when you think about it, makes you wonder how the lusciously-locked Mike Leake is having such a strong season.)  Miguel Socolovich allowed two home runs, but he also struck out the side and you would rather see solo homers in that situation than walks.  It wasn’t the best, but I’m still very pro-Soco.

That wraps up the series.  I’ve already taken up a lot of your time, so I’ll try to break out the Matt Adams trade and the Luis Robert failure into another post.  (If you can’t wait for that, we talked about both on Gateway–link above–and the Adams deal and our last hopes on Robert on Meet Me at Musial.)  The Cards get another off day that they’ll probably wish they had next month today as they travel to Los Angeles for a tough West Coast trip through LA and Colorado.  Clayton Kershaw won’t mind that Adams is gone and for all the success the Cards have had against him, he’s still been tough against them in the regular season.

vs. Batters Table
Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Dexter Fowler 54 50 20 3 1 0 2 4 11 .400 .444 .500 .944 0 0 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 41 37 10 3 0 0 2 4 7 .270 .341 .351 .693 0 0 0 0 1
Matt Carpenter 34 32 9 3 1 1 5 1 9 .281 .324 .531 .855 0 0 0 1 1
Jedd Gyorko 20 15 3 1 0 1 1 5 3 .200 .400 .467 .867 0 0 0 0 1
Jhonny Peralta 20 18 4 0 0 0 0 2 8 .222 .300 .222 .522 0 0 0 0 1
Adam Wainwright 11 7 2 1 0 0 2 2 1 .286 .444 .429 .873 2 0 0 0 0
Randal Grichuk 9 9 3 0 0 1 1 0 4 .333 .333 .667 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Mike Leake 4 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 1 0 0 0 0
Michael Wacha 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Kolten Wong 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Carlos Martinez 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 201 179 51 11 2 3 13 18 49 .285 .354 .419 .773 3 0 0 1 4
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/22/2017.

Interesting to see Fowler’s done so well against Kershaw as well.  All that said, it’s still probably good that the Cards stopped their losing streak last night, because the odds have to be against them on Tuesday.

Lance Lynn will go for St. Louis.  There’s been some chatter of concern around Lynn, given that he’s allowed eight runs (six earned) over his last two starts.  Lynn hasn’t indicated anything is wrong, so it might just be a little fatigue after missing last season, a down spot that he’s just going to have to fight through.  Or he’s just had two bad starts and could turn it around in this one.  Let’s hope for the latter.

vs. Batters Table
Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Adrian Gonzalez 19 17 4 2 0 0 3 2 4 .235 .316 .353 .669 0 0 0 0 0
Yasiel Puig 15 12 6 0 0 0 1 3 3 .500 .600 .500 1.100 0 0 0 0 0
Chase Utley 9 6 1 0 1 0 2 2 1 .167 .444 .500 .944 0 0 0 1 0
Yasmani Grandal 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Joc Pederson 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .333 .000 .333 0 0 0 0 0
Enrique Hernandez 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Brandon McCarthy 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .500 .000 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Total 53 43 11 2 1 0 6 9 12 .256 .396 .349 .745 0 0 0 1 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/22/2017.

The late night West Coast games are better on the weekend, when you can get some sleep the next day.  I don’t expect a lot of folks will make it to the end of these, so hopefully the Cardinals jump out early, hold the lead, and ease that frustration index a tad.  A man can dream, right?

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A Giant Discussion

Over the past few years, I’ve developed an affinity for the community that’s established around THE San Francisco Giants Blog.  Craig Vaughn is a passionate Giants fan and has an active and tight-knit group of commentors at the site.  They’ve always been great to interact with me, asking questions about the Cards and putting up with my questions about the Giants when the two teams meet.

As one of those meetings is coming in this weekend, I thought I’d spend some time this week in conversation with Craig.  We started emailing Monday and finished up this morning.  If you want to interact with a good group of fans this weekend, head over to the blog.  They also have a thread set up for today’s discussion that includes some of this back-and-forth.  Enjoy!

Daniel: All right, let’s go ahead and kick this off, if you are up for it.  The Giants have scuffled so far this year, though I’ll pass along thanks for sweeping the Reds this past weekend.  Back before the season I asked if this was going to be a pitching-focused, score-just-enough team.  Has that been the case and the scoring just hasn’t actually been enough?

Craig: Well, we are last in HR’s and OPS and runs scored. We are mid pack in SB’s but most of that was done with Nunez earlier in the season when he was still trying. I think I suggested we’d be screwed if Bum or Cueto got hurt and with Bum down I couldn’t be any less optimistic about the rest of this season.

The Cardinals started the season off horribly and then rebounded to be in first place. So which Cardinal team is it? The underperforming team that started out the season or the one that’s in first place today? I am not a believer in your SP by the way 🙂

Daniel: Believe, my friend! They may not be a classic Bumgarner, but I don’t think there’s any real regression coming for most of these guys. I mean, Mike Leake (I know, I know, you and your site just involuntarily twitched at the name) won’t continue to have an ERA under 2.00, but he did better last year than some of the traditional numbers indicated. I don’t know why he can’t have a 3.5 or so ERA the rest of the way and that’s pretty solid. Lance Lynn and Carlos Martinez are doing things that are well within their abilities. We have to worry about Michael Wacha’s health, of course, and Sunday’s shutout innings aside I’m not as confident in Adam Wainwright as in years past, but I’m not terribly worried about the starters overall. (That is, of course, subject to change with a bad run through the rotation.)

I think the true Cardinal team, as is normally the case in questions like this, is somewhere in between those two extremes. I mean, in the month since they returned from being swept by the Yankees, they’ve won at a .750 clip. That won’t continue, but I don’t think they’ll return to the 3-9 version that we saw earlier. Winning against the Cubs this weekend gave some confidence that this is a team that is pretty good, not just being propped up by a weak NL Central and a favorable schedule. The rest of the month should give us a good tell, with Boston, y’all, then a trip to LA and Colorado.

So who is doing well for the Giants? Is there a player or two that folks cling to as hope (or at least make the games more watchable)?

Craig: Giants fans are tired of the retreads getting forced down our throats. My pre-season fav, Huang, continues to languish in AAA while hitting over .300 but there really isn’t a spot for him right now. I think we’d take just about any low level prospect in the system and be excited to see him play in LF over the Ruggiano/Morse/Gorks/Stubbs/Hill nonsense that’s periodically gotten trotted out this year.

Arroyo is easily the most exciting at bat we have. And Belt too if you like betting with yourself if he’s going to walk or strike out. Oh my. Span is a fun at bat just because we’ve got so many guys who equally hate/love him. Makes for good banter no matter what he does.

What do Cardinal fans think of Matheny? Same general sustained frustration with his line ups/moves? Or has he gotten better?

Daniel: You know, winning does help a lot of things. There’s still a bit of frustration, but when the club came back from New York in April, there must have been a sit down with Matheny and John Mozeliak. After that, Matt Adams stopped playing outfield. Kolten Wong played every day until Saturday. Jhonny Peralta sat (and then was put on the DL). Lineups started looking better. There were fewer and fewer moves that made no sense. The last month might have been the best we’ve seen Matheny in a long time.

That doesn’t mean everyone is over the moon with him, of course, and some grudges and feelings run deep. Overall, though, I think there’s been a general easing of folks on his back. Because it was getting bad enough during that early stretch that you actually started wondering if he was safe in his job. I mean, we knew he was, but it was the first time you could actually start entertaining the question.

What about Bochy? From the outside looking in it seems like he should be one that is always well-received. Is that the case as the team struggles? Does he get some of the blame for the retreads or is most of that ire directed upstairs?

Craig: I think most Giants fans, at least at the blog, are worried about Bochy’s health and kinda wondering why he’s still sticking around for this night in and night out of absolute suckage. I highly doubt that run-of-the-mill Giants fans blame Bochy for any of this. The harder core guys probably wish he wasn’t so stubborn with his vet-love. But he’s mostly unscathed right now.

I watched an inning of Waino yesterday while we were waiting for our lunch table to open up. His ball seemed like it was really moving quite effectively. He struck Montero out and made him look helpless. Where did that start come from? Has his ball been moving like that all year? Also, the Cubs don’t look too hungry this year to me. Like they won it all, now they’re just out there being baseball stars. Thoughts?

Daniel: I’m not sure really where that start came from. He’s been able to have an inning or two of pretty good in most starts, but this was the most extended version we’ve seen this year. He’s starting to slide into the “crafty veteran” stage of his career, I think. We’ll get some games like this, where he’s prepped well and everything is working. We’ll also get a lot of ugly games where things just don’t move like he wants or he just gets overpowered. It’ll probably take 4-5 good starts in a row for any real confidence to accrue in Wainwright. Even last year, he had a couple of runs like that in an overall miserable year. We’ll see if he can this season.

I don’t know about the Cubs. It would only be natural to have a little less drive, a little less hunger after ending a drought like that. They also basically had everything go their way last year–even Schwarber’s injury was something they could fairly easily absorb–and we know baseball doesn’t do that two years in a row. Their pitching has always been a bit suspect in my mind. I think they’ll improve and odds are still in their favor to win the division, but the longer this mediocrity wears on the harder it is for them to get into the mindset of really pushing, I’d think.

If we’re talking rivals, the Dodgers seem to be off to a pretty good start. Y’all are hosting them for three games starting tonight–would taking two of three give some hope to this squad, especially after the sweep this weekend? The Dodgers are still the team to beat, right–or is anyone buying into Colorado or Arizona?

Craig: I think every team in the NL West is better than the Giants right now so whoever they beat should be considered a huge accomplishment.

Daniel: That’s a tough sentiment to have this early in the year. I’m not saying you are wrong, by any means, but it’s rough if that’s true before you even get to the traditional Memorial Day marker. It’s not something the Giants are all that familiar with over the past few years either, given all their success. How does that affect your watching and following the team the rest of the way? How do you stay sane?

Craig: Three WS trophies in the bank, in such a short period of time, go a long way to mellowing me out. I’m irritated at the front office for half-[blank] their way through last off season, but I can’t be frustrated with the team. They have given me too much over the last several years.

Daniel: A great attitude to have. Is there a point where the club will start, in fact if not in name, start waving the white flag and bring up whatever is on the farm? The All-Star break, perhaps?

Craig: I mean, they haven’t really ever done that. Same with the Cards, right? That’s one thing about our two teams that brass should get credit for. Remaining competitive counts for something. Unlike the 76ers in bball or even the Astros for nearly half a decade when they were basically trying to lose. Not sure how the fan base deals with that. My best friend is an A’s fan and he seems completely comfortable with Beane’s approach and focusing more on who they draft and who they get in mid season trades. I couldn’t be a fan of that. Just sitting around thinking about what the future could hold. And all the while never getting a *present*. Know what I mean?

Daniel: Completely agree. When the Cards started off so badly some of us wondered how bad it’d have to be to make the club a seller at the deadline. I’m not sure we ever figured it out. Smaller divisions help–some things might have been different if we were back in those old two-division leagues–but the club has an unspoken agreement with the fan base. Keep showing up, we’ll keep trying to win. With how they stand now, it’s much more likely Mo makes a deal to bring in some help (small is it may be) than to try to ship someone out.

And, if nothing else, you get to watch Buster Posey all the time. Looks like he’s off to another good start. Does he still occasionally play some first base and are there still conversations about when he’ll move more to the corner and less from behind the plate?

Craig: He won’t move to first base and that’s irritating. I feel (as most Giants fans feel) that he would hold up much better and have a more productive career going forward if he got out from behind the dish. I don’t like Belt at all. I would trade him in a nano second for an OFer and move Posey to first base.

Daniel: It sounds like Belt is a polarizing figure, if your comments and this article are compared. I remember when he was coming up as the hot prospect, then the guy that couldn’t get playing time. Did the club not develop him correctly or is this more on the player?

Craig: This is just who he is. I wouldn’t mind all the strikeouts if they came with more home runs. I wouldn’t mind all the walks if he was on a team where he was expected to be more complimentary. But on this team he needs to drive in runs and he strikes out and walks too much to do that.

Daniel: Reasonable enough. It’s one of the complaints we’ve had about the Cards is that there are a whole lot of complimentary pieces, good-if-not-great players, but no big star to go with them.

So what’s your prediction for this weekend? Right now it looks like Matt Moore vs. Michael Wacha on Friday, Jeff Samardzija vs. Carlos Martinez on Saturday, and TBA vs. Adam Wainwright on Sunday.

Craig: My prediction is….pain. Clubber Lang style. Enjoy the W’s coming your way…..

Again, if you have the time, go say hi to the folks over at THE San Francisco Giants Blog. Thanks to Craig for the chat!

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If you want to look for the silver lining, the Cardinals could have swept this small series and, at worst, were very competitive with a team that was expected (and still may) to have a deep playoff run.  When you factor in the normal thought that AL teams are better than NL teams overall, there probably should be less consternation about dropping two games to the Red Sox.

Nobody’s wanting a silver lining today, I don’t imagine.

Because the flip side of that lining is that the Cardinals not only lost two winnable games (especially last night’s) but also their hold on the top of the NL Central.  Milwaukee is up by a half-game and, given they play the Padres today while St. Louis rests at home, that lead could be a full game before the Redbirds get on the field.

Tuesday (6-3 loss)

Hero: Nobody really stands out in this one.  No starter had more than one hit, no pitcher had a particularly good outing.  We’ll give it to Dexter Fowler, who was the only player to score a run and drive one in, plus had the only extra-base hit of the night.

Goat: Lance Lynn.  While he did get charged with a couple of unearned runs due to a Jedd Gyorko error behind him, Lynn allowed four total, including two solo home runs to put the Cards behind early.  Lynn did his best to get around the error in the fifth, but Dustin Pedroia eventually drove in the go-ahead run.  It wasn’t a terrible outing for Lynn by any means, but it wasn’t what we’ve come to expect from him either.

Notes: A lot of folks would probably put Brett Cecil (or, more accurately, Mike Matheny using Brett Cecil) in that Goat slot.  Cecil came in with one on and one out and threw nine pitches, eight of which were balls, and walked two guys before being yanked.  One of those runners scored on Tommy Pham‘s misplay, but he nailed the other at the plate.  That took a one-run game to a three-run and probably eliminated much in the way of a comeback.

Many griped on Twitter about Cecil coming into that game.  I understand the consternation, but as long as Cecil’s on the roster (and Zach Gifford over at The Intrepid STL has a good look at Cecil, which doesn’t rule out him being hurt), he’s got to get into games.  I don’t know what Boston’s eighth inning reliever is necessarily like, but coming back against Craig Kimbrel in the ninth is typically not a successful proposition.  I guess what I’m saying is I’d rather use Cecil right now in a game they are trailing and less likely to come back in than a game where they are ahead or are rallying.  So I kinda understand why Matheny went to him there, especially with two lefties coming up.

That said, oof.  When you can only throw one strike to two left-handed batters, something is really wrong.  I know Cecil yesterday tried the Carlos Martinez plan for improvement and shaved his head, but I think if I was the club I’d try to get him checked out.  There almost has to be something wrong.  Otherwise it’s starting to look like the Cards bought a lemon on the free agent market this year.

As for Pham, it’s already hard to engender sympathy for the one percenters, but he didn’t help matters:

Granted, if Pham catches that, it’s still 5-3 because Miguel Socolovich, coming in with the bases loaded, allowed a sacrifice fly before Jackie Bradley Jr. sent one Pham’s way, but it’s still ridiculously frustrating, even though he recovered well.  Of course, that wasn’t the only defensive miscue of the night, either listed in the box score (we’ve talked about Pham and Gyorko, but Kolten Wong was charged with an error that was deserved, but a better first baseman than Matt Carpenter would have saved him from) or not.  When the defense becomes the story, it’s usually after a loss.

Again, some kudos to Socolovich.  Bases loaded one out and he gets two fly balls that were/should have been caught, then pitched a scoreless ninth.  He and Jonathan Broxton, who threw a scoreless frame, were the best Cardinal hurlers to take the mound that night.

Wednesday (5-4 loss in 13)

Hero: Mike Leake. Another very good outing from the Redbird hurler, allowing just two runs in seven innings, striking out five and walking none.  He allowed a two-run homer to Bradley in the seventh, otherwise his ERA would still be under 2.00 for the season.  Again, he deserved better than the outcome he received.

Goat: 

I’m giving the Goat to Trevor Rosenthal, but as you can see he had some help from the home plate umpire.  Rosenthal came out throwing smoke in the eighth inning, but after striking out Mookie Betts, he had this at bat against Pedroia.  It’s tough to throw five strikes to a guy, you know?  Pedroia should have been out twice, but wound up standing on first.

Maybe that shook Rosenthal, maybe he thought that he had to throw it down the middle to actually get a strike.  The next batter, Xander Bogaerts, was a thorn all series long and he tripled in Pedroia and scored on a sacrifice fly to tie the game.  How much different does this game turn out if one of those strikes is called?  You can’t assume the inning would have turned out exactly the same, but there would have been two outs and nobody on.  I feel better about the odds of taking the lead into the ninth.

The zone was made even more egregious later, when Randal Grichuk pinch-hit in the bottom of the inning with a runner on first and struck out looking on a pitch that was well out of the zone.  It’s bad enough when the zone is large or small, but when it’s not consistent, when it fluctuates based on the whims of the umpire, that’s a terrible thing to try to deal with.

Notes: Fowler started off this game with a home run, which is always a great thing to see.  I almost thought he was going to bookend the game with them when he launched a deep fly in the ninth, but ’twas not to be.  It’s been a while, at least in my memory, where the Cards have gone out and scored early (it was 4-0 after two) and then shut it down and the other team came back to win.  There are a number of games like that over the last few years, don’t get me wrong, it just doesn’t feel like it’s happened a whole lot of late.

Magneuris Sierra went 2-6, scored a run, drove in a run, and got his first major league stolen base.  I will say I’m a little glad the Cardinals finally lost while he was in the lineup.  Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing Sierra out there (though that likely was his last game for a while as Jhonny Peralta will probably be activated for Friday’s game, with Stephen Piscotty close behind) but there were some folks on Twitter that seemed to be clinging to him as a talisman, pointing out that the team hadn’t lost with him in the lineup.  I know Sierra has done some great things while he’s been up and there’s going to be a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth tomorrow when he likely returns to Palm Beach, but to say that he’s the reason the Cardinals have been winning is probably an overstatement.  Remember, the season had turned around a couple of weeks before Sierra and Pham made it up to the big leagues.

I’m disappointed that Sierra has to go down as well, but let’s not dumping on Matheny or John Mozeliak here.  Sierra needs some more time in the minors to develop his bat, though these weeks of MLB time have been invaluable to him.  The logistics of baseball aren’t always kind or what we want to see, but the idea that the club is just going to cut Peralta to keep Sierra in the bigs a few more days isn’t feasible.  (And, for what it’s worth, Peralta did go 4-11 with a double and a walk during his time in Memphis, which may mean there’s still a little bit in the tank.)  We’ll see Sierra again, perhaps even before September if injuries or trades do a number on the roster, but let’s not assume the team is going to spiral toward the basement now that he’s no longer on the club.  (And it’s possible that the Cards will send down Sam Tuivailala instead, but all this discussion then comes into play for Piscotty’s return.)

Gyorko had two hits in this one but saved the game (temporarily) in the 10th.  The frame started with Josh Rutledge, who fouled a pitch up over home plate.  Yadier Molina got under it….and flat missed it.  It’s something you never see out of Molina and it almost cost the squad.  Given new life, Rutledge singled and moved to second on a groundout.  This time Pedroia was called out on strikes and Seung-hwan Oh, in his second inning of work, intentionally passed Bogaerts.  Andrew Benintendi (go Hogs!) then smashed one toward third that looked like it might get through and drive in the go-ahead run, but Gyorko snared it and made a strong throw to nip Benintendi at first.  The defense might not have been great over the past couple of days, but there were still some shining moments.

A day off today, then the Giants come to town.  San Francisco has been scuffling and lost to Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers yesterday afternoon, putting them eight games under .500.  It would seem a good time for St. Louis to stop this slide quickly and get back to their winning ways.  Michael Wacha, fresh off a skipped turn in a rotation, will go up against Matt Moore in the first game of the series.  Moore is one of those lefties that you’d expect to befuddle the Cards, but the one time they saw him he allowed two runs in five innings.

vs. Batters Table
Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Dexter Fowler 7 4 1 0 0 0 0 2 2 .250 .500 .250 .750 1 0 0 0 0
Matt Carpenter 3 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 .667 .667 .667 1.333 0 0 0 0 0
Aledmys Diaz 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 1
Jedd Gyorko 3 2 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 .500 .667 .500 1.167 0 0 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 3 2 1 0 0 0 2 1 0 .500 .667 .500 1.167 0 0 0 0 0
Randal Grichuk 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Tommy Pham 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 23 18 6 0 0 0 2 4 4 .333 .455 .333 .788 1 0 0 0 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/18/2017.

Anytime you mention “Wacha” and “Giants” in the same sentence, there are immediate painful flashbacks to the 2014 NLCS.  If nothing else, we’re pretty sure Wacha will throw to more than one batter tomorrow evening.  And he’s done OK with the current makeup of the club:

vs. Batters Table
Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Denard Span 11 9 2 0 0 0 1 2 1 .222 .364 .222 .586 0 0 0 0 0
Brandon Belt 9 8 1 0 0 0 0 1 3 .125 .222 .125 .347 0 0 0 0 0
Buster Posey 6 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .167 .000 .167 0 0 0 1 0
Brandon Crawford 5 5 4 2 1 0 1 0 1 .800 .800 1.600 2.400 0 0 0 0 0
Johnny Cueto 5 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 2 0 0 0 0
Nick Hundley 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Mike Morse 3 3 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .667 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Eduardo Nunez 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Joe Panik 3 3 2 2 0 0 1 0 0 .667 .667 1.333 2.000 0 0 0 0 0
Justin Ruggiano 3 2 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 .500 .667 .500 1.167 0 0 0 0 0
Jeff Samardzija 2 2 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 53 46 12 5 1 0 4 4 11 .261 .333 .413 .746 2 0 0 1 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/18/2017.

It’s really a must-win series for St. Louis if they want to keep the momentum going before they head out to the West Coast next week.

Come back this afternoon when I’ll have a back-and-forth with Craig Vaughn from my favorite Giants site, THE San Francisco Giants Blog, as we talk about our respective teams!

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#ThatsCardinals

Listen, I know the general realities of baseball slogans, at least the ones that get the official stamp of approval.  Marketing teams come up with them and they have to put them in place before the beginning of the season to go on tickets, merchandise, advertising, etc.  You can’t wait and see how the team is going and then craft a campaign around that.  You just have to hope that the team doesn’t make a mockery of whatever you pick out by their play.

So, with that general caveat, #ThatsCub?  Really?  You went with that?

First off, if you are in the marketing team there, don’t you have to realize that while a World Series Championship is a big weight on one side of the scale, the entire history of the Cubs as lovable losers–or at least the latter part–is on the other?  While everyone was rushing to anoint the baby bears the Next Big Thing, a dynasty in the making, remember that being a Cub fan means having to, as the Dread Pirate Roberts would say, get used to disappointment.

Secondly, can you not see how easily that kind of phrase could be turned and used in the exact opposite way you wanted?  If not, you have actually never been on the Internet.  I mean, the Cardinals’ marking phrase for this season–There’s Only One Cardinals Baseball–is no great marketing achievement itself, but like Tara said as we prepared for this week’s Gateway, at least you can’t use it as a hashtag.  The closest thing the Cards have in this regard is “The Cardinal Way” but at least the club’s use of the phrase is not a marketing tool but a culture thing, a way to describe how players are instructed and taught.  Others may have spun it on its head, but you won’t find “The Cardinal Way” on tickets or anything of that nature.

Given the fact that Chicago came into town in better shape than they left town, maybe #ThatsCub really is the best slogan for this team this year.  Odds are they’ll improve and be a threat, but right now, it’s good to see them down in the standings.  Let’s get into the games.

Friday (3-2 loss)

Hero: Aledmys Diaz.  When you get two of the four hits the club musters, odds are you are going to be here.  Neither of Diaz’s hits got out of the infield, but for some reason Eddie Butler really had the team stymied.

Goat: Dexter Fowler.  There were a few choices here, but in a tight game like this, mistakes can really be magnified and Fowler pulled off a doozy.  With two outs and a run in on Randal Grichuk‘s home run, Greg Garcia and then Fowler walked.  Two runners on, two outs, Tommy Pham at the plate.  The Cubs did take out Carl Edwards Jr. and bring in Hector Rondon, so it’s possible the rally would have fizzled anyway.  Fowler, however, wound up getting picked off of third by Willson Contreras, who did basically everything in this one.  Given the situation and the fact there was a runner on second keeping him from going too far, it was the worst possible time for Fowler to stray off the bag.  The Cards threatened a little in the ninth, but this really was their best chance to at least tie.

Notes: Contreras tagged Mike Leake for two homers and the Cardinal hurler walked three, so this wasn’t a typical Leake game.  Still, if all you are going to give up is two runs over six when going against a fairly inexperienced starter on the other side, you’d expect a better outcome.  Leake is going to have more games like this–his ERA isn’t going to stay under 2.00 all year long–but it’s still nice to see the Cardinals getting what they paid for (and then some!) out of him.

Leake might not have been tagged with the loss had Brett Cecil not failed in his job again.  Cecil started the seventh and got lefty Kyle Schwarber out, but then allowed a home run to lefty Tommy La Stella and then walked lefty Anthony Rizzo.  Again, the main reason the Cardinals pursued Cecil in the offseason was that they wanted him to get the big lefties like Rizzo out in tough situations.  Right now, there’s no trust that Cecil can get the big outs.  To his credit, Mike Matheny didn’t let him try to work out of it or see what he’d do against switch-hitter Ben Zobrist, he went to Matthew Bowman to stifle the rally, which Bowman did.  Cecil’s now been charged with a run in his last four outings and that’s not even including the inherited runners that he’s allowed to score, a discussion Allen, Kyle, and I had on Meet Me At Musial this week.  By now, you almost hope it’s a medical issue because it’s difficult to see how he gets better otherwise.  That said, Kevin Siegrist struggled enough earlier that we thought he might be hurt and he’s turned it around.  Cecil’s been worse, but maybe something will click soon.

As noted, Grichuk went deep and drew a walk.  A lot of folks were disappointed Magneuris Sierra wasn’t starting as the club returned from the road trip, but as fun as Sierra has been, they can’t just bury Grichuk.  He’s streaky, I know, and he had a rough Marlins series, but there’s still talent there and the club doesn’t seem to want to move on from that just yet.  As we’ve discussed, Grichuk is going to be around longer this year than Sierra is, so you don’t want him sitting too often.

Tommy Pham struggled in his return to Busch, going 0-4 with three strikeouts.  For his great start to his major league season, through Sunday he has almost as many strikeouts (12) as hits (13).  I don’t know if that’s a sign things are going to level out or if that’s just a byproduct of what he’s producing.  Something perhaps people will enlighten me on in the comments.

Saturday (5-3 win)

Hero: Tommy Pham.  After his rough Friday, Pham led the 7-9 Brigade with two hits, two runs, and two RBI.  He also stole a base off of Lester, though he was caught one other time, which means you know Contreras made a heck of a throw because Lester sure didn’t give him any help.

Goat: Aledmys Diaz.  It was close between Diaz and Matt Carpenter.  Both went 0-4 with three strikeouts, but Diaz left one more man on.  Besides, he followed a Fowler walk three times in this one and never was able to do anything with it.  When your two-three-four guys combine to go 1-12, it’s not usually a recipe for success, even if that one is a Jedd Gyorko homer.

Notes: You want to talk about #ThatsCub?  We can talk about #ThatsCub.

I can’t remember the last time a pitcher wound up on second on a bunt and it wasn’t because of a throwing error.  Why basically everyone on the infield had to converge on a bunt, I’m not real sure, but it was great to see.  Martinez was stranded at second, but it did bring in a run to tie things up.

This game allowed us to see the Fowler/Pham/Sierra outfield that we’d been wanting to see and it didn’t disappoint.  I actually didn’t get to see the game, as we went down to Little Rock to see the Springfield Cardinals play, so I don’t know if it was the defensive spectacle we were hoping for.  Offensively, though, we’ve talked about Pham and Fowler, but Sierra went two for three and drove in a run.  The league still doesn’t have a book on Sierra and he’s not hitting for more than singles power, but it’s fun to watch him produce here as long as he’s on the roster.

Martinez got two hits and that somewhat overshadowed a fairly fine game on the mound.  Somehow he gave up a double (that was almost a homer) to Lester to allow one run and he got touched in the seventh for a two-run homer from rookie Ian Happ, but in between he was pretty solid, working out of any small jams he might have gotten into and striking out seven in 6.2 innings.  Pair this one with his last start and any lingering worries about Martinez are pretty much put to rest.  Bowman, Trevor Rosenthal, and Seung-hwan Oh closed this one out with no drama, which is exactly what you want to see from the bullpen.

Sunday (5-0 win)

Hero: Adam Wainwright.  We’ve talked a lot about the aging of Wainwright, how he seems to be just a five inning pitcher these days.  I don’t think one starts proves that he’s not, but it’s nice to know that there are still outings like this in him.  Even last year, in the midst of a terrible season, he had his last shutout and he could put together a nice three, four games before blowing up again.  The good stretches may just be smaller than they used to be, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t exist.  It wasn’t all perfect–Waino walked four and only struck out three–but seven scoreless innings out of the guy that had an ERA over 6 before the game?  We’ll take that every day of the week.  Glad to see you, old friend.

Goat: It’s one of those games where this Goat doesn’t equal other Goats.  The pitching was great and every starter had a hit, so I guess you go with Tommy Pham again, who struck out twice and left two on.  Again, he also went 1-4 so it wasn’t a completely wasted day at the park, but somebody’s got to get the tag.

Notes: Yadier Molina went deep twice, accounting for three of the five runs, and Carpenter got the other two on a blast of his own.  Grichuk had a three-hit game as Fowler got another day off.  (As someone noted on Twitter on Saturday, Pham might could use a day.  I wasn’t around to hear why Fowler was the choice to sit in this one.)  The only thing the Cardinals needed to make this a perfect game was one more run to make drinks cheap yesterday at On The Run.

Rosenthal pitched the eighth, but when the game became a five run affair, Siegrist got the ninth and retired the side, two by strikeout.  Siegrist hasn’t been charged with a run since April 20 and in the month of May he’s allowed just five hits in seven innings and had eight strikeouts over that span.  Joe Schwarz, as he’s prone to do, took a deeper look at Siegrist over at Viva El Birdos, if you are interested in finding out if this is the real Siegrist or just a mirage.  Overall, my feeling about the bullpen is that it’s really not that bad, save Cecil’s struggles.  Even Jonathan Broxton is currently on a nice run, though “confidence” is not a word that I’d use to describe my feelings when he comes into the game.

We’ve done this occasionally through the year and probably will continue to if they stay this way, but let’s take another gander at the standings.

Milwaukee was one of those sleeper teams, a team that folks thought might be a serious threat next year.  Will they continue to be?  The Reds have already started to fall off and their pitching would seem to indicate more regression is coming.  Getting those extra games on the Cubs is vital.  Plus it’s fun to put this up when they are under .500 and there’s no telling how long that will last.

The Cards get another tough test starting tonight when Boston is in town for a two game series, reliving plenty of World Series matchups but most recently 2013.  Thankfully, David Ortiz won’t be around to torment Cardinal pitching this week, so maybe the Redbirds will have a chance.  Lance Lynn versus Eduardo Rodriguez tonight will kick things off.  Lynn had trouble last time out in Miami and a good start here would nip worries about a regression in the bud, at least for a while.

vs. Batters Table
Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Hanley Ramirez 15 12 3 1 0 0 0 3 6 .250 .400 .333 .733 0 0 1 0 0
Chris Young 7 7 1 0 0 1 1 0 3 .143 .143 .571 .714 0 0 0 0 0
Dustin Pedroia 6 6 2 0 0 0 0 0 2 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Josh Rutledge 6 6 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .167 .167 .167 .333 0 0 0 0 0
Xander Bogaerts 5 3 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .250 .000 .250 1 0 0 0 0
Christian Vazquez 3 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 .000 .333 .000 .333 0 1 1 0 0
Sandy Leon 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .500 .000 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Chris Sale 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Chase d’Arnaud 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 47 39 8 1 0 1 2 6 12 .205 .304 .308 .612 1 1 2 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/16/2017.

Rodriguez, on the other hand, is a left-handed pitcher that none of the Cardinals have seen.  You don’t even have to know that he has a 2.80 ERA on the season or that he just limited Milwaukee to one run over six innings to know this could be a struggle for the bats tonight.  Lynn better be on his game!

This series should help see how good this team really is.  Boston may be just 19-18 (man, remember when 1918 meant something to Boston fans?) but it is a talented squad that is playing in a very tough division.  Let’s see what happens!

0 comments

The Fleet Sweep

Winning all the games of a road trip is hard.  Winning a game when you are down four runs in the first is hard.  Put a team down four in the last game of a six game road trip in which they’d won the first five games and you’d almost forgive them for going through the motions and hurrying toward their flight home.

This Cardinals team, though, again believes in a Happy Flight.  And they are soaring due to more speedsters than your average episode of The Flash.

While I’m not going to tag any of them tonight as the actual Hero, there’s no doubt that Tommy Pham and Magneuris Sierra have sparked this team and given it a sense of excitement and fun that has been lacking on the club in quite some time.  They both had hits in the sixth inning with one out, which allowed Dexter Fowler, another fleet of foot guy, to pinch-hit and rope one into the gap.  The only downside to his triple that put the Cardinals ahead was that Sierra really didn’t have to burn his way from first to home.  I mean, he still went faster than StlCardsCards can offend half of Twitter, but he never had to find that extra gear he has.

Sierra has a four game hitting streak since he was brought up to the big leagues.  Pham is hitting .417 with a 1.434 OPS courtesy of that huge weekend in Atlanta.  Both of these guys bring an extra dimension that is fun to watch, but how much longer will it happen?

With the off day today and the fact that Fowler has pinch-hit the last two nights, the odds are he’ll be back in the outfield on Friday night when the Cardinals take on the Cubs.  Given that Randal Grichuk went 0-12 in Miami (though, to be fair, he went 6-17 with three doubles in Atlanta), it might be that he gets a night or two off while Sierra stays in center and Pham and Fowler man the corners.  That can’t last too long, though, and if nothing else one of Pham or Sierra is going to have to sit while the other plays with Fowler and Grichuk.

Of course, the injured are returning soon, at least in theory.  As we said yesterday, there have been no real updates on Stephen Piscotty or Jose Martinez.  By rule, both of them could be back by the middle of next week.  Moves will have to be made and none of them are going to be real pleasant.  While sending Sierra back down, maybe to AA this time, maybe just back to Palm Beach, is the right call given his need to continue to develop, we’re going to miss out on watching him and there will be some that are irrationally irritated by this, even as they know it’s the best thing in the long run.  You can probably put me in that category.

Pham, however, is a different story.  He doesn’t need more development.  The man’s 29, this is what he is.  He’ll go through ups and downs but he does bring that element that the Cards need.  When the second roster spot is needed, what do you do?  We talked before that you could perhaps make a corresponding move with the pitching staff.  The easiest call, I guess, would be to demote Sam Tuivailala.  Tui, who got the win last night after Lynn’s short outing, has been pretty effective this year especially since his recall after Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons went on the DL and they were talking on the broadcast last night how he has made some changes and is more effective right now.  I’m not saying Tui doesn’t belong in the big leagues, but sometimes the guy with options is the guy that goes down.

So we could have Piscotty and Martinez return with minimal disruption and angst.  However, there are two other folks that will also probably be ready to go soon.  Lyons had a rehab start yesterday and while the line wasn’t too bad, reports from Tom Knuppel on scene said even the outs were hit hard. I think you could get by with him making another start somewhere in the minors, but unless those results are terrible you are going to have to find room for him on the roster.  How?

In our hypothetical, we’re already at 13 hitters and 12 pitchers, so likely you’d have to look at the pitching staff.  Waiving Jonathan Broxton would seem to be the obvious choice, but as Brendan Schaeffer pointed out in discussing his Twitter poll last night, Broxton’s been pretty effective of late.  He’s had five scoreless outings in a row and last night, after walking the first batter he faced to load the bases, he got Giancarlo Stanton out on a comebacker to get out of a mess Brett Cecil had created.  There’s probably more value there than we tend to think.

That said, I’m pretty sure that’s been the pattern for Broxton as his time as a Cardinal.  A good run of games, followed by times that you never want to see him.  Rinse and repeat.  After all, remember his ERA was 11.12 on April 23, before this current run.  I feel like Broxton is just a yo-yo that bounces around replacement level, first above it, then below it.

And if it’s not Broxton, who?  Brendan indicated he wasn’t big on Miguel Socolovich, but that doesn’t make much sense to me.  He’s had two real bad outings–the five runs against the Yankees and then four runs against the Reds–but other than that has been very effective.  He allowed a Stanton homer (not an exclusive club) but that was it in three innings in his last outing.  He had the 2.2 innings against Toronto that kept the Cardinals alive in the extra inning game until Matt Carpenter could walk it off.  If you are going to need a guy to cover innings, he might be the best option.  Given that he is out of options, I don’t really want to see him go just yet.

While we might not be as enamored with Matthew Bowman right now as we were earlier in the year and are frustrated as all get out with Cecil, neither of them are going anywhere.  There’s no way the Cardinals cut bait on a four-year deal after a month of results and Bowman still has a role here, even if he’s stumbled of late.  So besides Broxton, I don’t know how you get Lyons on the roster.

Then there’s Jhonny Peralta.  I think I just heard the massive groan that came up from the two people reading this.  There’s no doubt that, given a choice between Pham and Peralta, especially given their recent production, folks would keep Pham and drive Peralta to the airport.  That said, at some point Peralta is going to have to come off the DL from his respiratory problem.  I’ll admit, I was one of those that was going to give him the benefit of the doubt that, like the club said, the medicine he was on drained him and once he built up his strength, he’d be OK.  After all, his spring training wasn’t a bad one at all–even though he didn’t homer, he led the team in doubles.  I didn’t think he should (or would) supplant Jedd Gyorko at third, but I thought he could probably contribute to the big league roster.

That said, I do find it interesting that late last week the reports were that Peralta would join the team in Miami (since he’s in the area anyway) on Monday.  Monday came and went.  The entire series came and went.  And Peralta is still with Palm Beach, at least as far as I know.  He’s not played in a game there since Sunday, when he went 0-3 with two strikeouts.  Those last three were on the road at Fort Myers, but it seems a bit strange that he didn’t travel with them.  Maybe he’s stayed back, gone down to extended spring training in Jupiter.  I don’t really know where Peralta is, but it doesn’t seem like his return is as imminent as it appeared before the Atlanta series.  Maybe with the outbursts of Pham and Sierra they decided not to rush him, which would make sense, though I’d think his 20 day clock is ticking.

When Peralta comes back, assuming he’s the last one and all the moves above have been made, I think Pham will have to go to the minors for a bit.  Perhaps by then he’s cooled off anyway and the loss isn’t as great, but unless the Cardinals are going to release Peralta, which seems unlikely at the moment, they are going to want to see if he can hit major league pitching so they can spin him off to an American League team hopefully.  Better results on the rehab would help that out a lot.  He has to be on the field, though.  I don’t think working in Jupiter is going to be the same thing.  (Again, if that’s where he is.  Where in the world is Jhonny Peralta?)

All this and we’ve really not done much talking about the game!  Jedd Gyorko gets the Hero tag for his three hit, two RBI performance.  Gyorko even got a stolen base, which was one of the most clueless pitcher responses than I’ve ever seen.  Gyorko was two-thirds of the way to second before the pitcher even reacts, and then Dee Gordon has to lunge to catch the ball around second because he wasn’t expecting anything.  Gyorko wound up getting stranded on third, but it was good to see something like that not totally backfire on the Cardinals, which is normally what would have happened.

Two hits each by Yadier Molina and Aledmys Diaz, meaning that it wasn’t entirely the bottom of the lineup carrying the game like it feels like it’s been over the past few days.  Imagine how much more damage could have been done if Grichuk hadn’t been in a slump this series!  I don’t know if he is taking to second in the lineup real well, but I don’t know that there are a lot of other options save maybe moving Pham up, but having him and Sierra back to back has been all sorts of fun.

We’ll give Lance Lynn the Goat, giving up four runs in the first and only pitching four innings in his worst outing of the year.  Kevin Reynolds mentioned on Twitter he thought Lynn struggled last time out, which is possible–I don’t remember watching that, but you can get away with a lot when you have a huge lead.  It wouldn’t be surprising as Kevin notes if Lynn’s not hitting a bit of a valley in his recovery.  It would be stunning if he could take a year off from injury and pitch the entire next season without some setbacks.  His next outing will be against the Red Sox, though, so hopefully whatever he’s dealing with he can work through and be on his game then.

The broadcast team made the comment that Tony La Russa would always want to get a guy back out there after having a rough game the night before.  I don’t remember Tony doing that–though I completely believe it–but it’s definitely been a hallmark of Mike Matheny‘s tenure as manager.  I appreciate what Mike is trying to accomplish there and I think oftentimes it is a good thing.  However, I’m not sure I’d want a mental rehab outing when the team has just rallied to take a lead.  Cecil came in with a two run lead and got the first man out, then gave up double-single-single and the lead was cut in half.  He struck out Christian Yelich (I’ll admit I was expecting Yelich to at least tie the game) before Broxton took over.  Given how early Lynn went out and the bullpen usage both earlier in this game and yesterday with Wainwright only going five-plus, I don’t know that there were a lot of other options for Matheny, so I won’t ding him too hard on it this time.

I will say it was a little surprising he didn’t go with Bowman over Broxton.  Not that he should have, mind you, but that’s the kind of usage we were seeing on Bowman last month.  Either Matheny started trusting some other folks or he got the memo, but Bowman has only pitched three times in May.  Of course, that’s the factor we didn’t talk about up above in the roster discussion–baseball tends to find a way to fix issues.  Someone could go on the disabled list, freeing up a spot for a returning player.  There was a lot of thought that Bowman could be that guy the way that Matheny was throwing him late in April, but he’s getting a little more rest and his last few outings have been good enough that there doesn’t seem to be a physical problem in there.

The Cardinals have won six in a row and seven of nine since the calendar turned.  Which means that we wake up to this beautiful sight this morning:

Not only are the Cardinals a full game in the lead, meaning that with the off day today they’ll go into the weekend in first as well, but look who is down there in fourth place.  It’s not likely to last, which means we have to enjoy all of these opportunities when we can, right?  It’s a pretty good day in Cardinal Nation.

The Redbirds head back to Busch to face those rivals from the north on Friday night.  Mike Leake, coming off his worst start of the year (and it was still pretty darn good, save that homer) goes up against Eddie Butler, called up from AAA after all the extra innings and double headers the poor Cubbies have had to deal with this week.  Also, the Cubs have to sweep the weekend to leave Busch ahead of the Cards, which is also kinda nice.  Not saying it can’t happen, but road sweeps are hard.

Here’s Leake versus the Cubs, for entertainment purposes only:

vs. Batters Table
Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Anthony Rizzo 44 40 15 4 0 2 9 3 5 .375 .432 .625 1.057 0 0 0 1 3
Jon Jay 41 37 8 2 0 0 1 2 10 .216 .293 .270 .563 0 0 0 2 2
Kris Bryant 20 20 9 1 1 0 0 0 1 .450 .450 .600 1.050 0 0 0 0 0
Miguel Montero 20 18 4 0 0 1 2 1 3 .222 .300 .389 .689 0 0 0 1 0
Addison Russell 18 16 2 1 0 0 1 1 4 .125 .167 .188 .354 0 1 0 0 1
Ben Zobrist 14 13 4 2 0 1 3 0 2 .308 .286 .692 .978 0 1 0 0 0
Kyle Hendricks 6 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 2 0 0 0 0
John Lackey 5 5 1 0 0 0 1 0 3 .200 .200 .200 .400 0 0 0 0 0
Jon Lester 5 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Kyle Schwarber 3 3 2 0 0 0 1 0 0 .667 .667 .667 1.333 0 0 0 0 0
Jake Arrieta 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Javier Baez 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Willson Contreras 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Tommy La Stella 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 184 169 47 10 1 4 18 7 34 .278 .319 .420 .739 2 2 0 4 6
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/11/2017.

And Mr. Butler vs. the Cardinals:

vs. Batters Table
Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Dexter Fowler 3 1 1 0 0 1 1 2 0 1.000 1.000 4.000 5.000 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Adams 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Randal Grichuk 1 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 1.000 1.000 2.000 3.000 0 0 0 0 0
Jedd Gyorko 1 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 1.000 1.000 2.000 3.000 0 0 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000 0 0 0 0 0
Adam Wainwright 1 1 1 0 0 0 2 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000 0 0 0 0 0
Kolten Wong 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 9 6 5 2 0 1 3 3 0 .833 .889 1.667 2.556 0 0 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/11/2017.

Smallest of samples, but you have to like when you see they are 5-6 with three walks against a guy, right?  Let’s hope that continues Friday night!

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It’s not exactly accurate to call Magneuris Sierra a child.  I mean, the man is 21 years old.  However, not only is that ridiculously young for an old guy like me–I have clothes older than that–it’s also a pretty young baseball age.  Couple that with the fact that he’s not had a lot of pro baseball experience and, if it wasn’t for all these injuries and the fact he was on the 40-man, he’d be plying his trade in Palm Beach right now, and it’s not an inappropriate term for him.

The rest of the phrase there should be no question about.

Sierra has had at least one hit in each of his three major league games.  He’s had two hits in his last two games.  His speed has paid dividends not only around the bases but in the outfield.  As I said on Twitter recently, even when he hits a ground ball, it’s exciting.  It’s hard to know if that comeback last night happens without his legs, honestly.

First, in the eighth, with Tommy Pham aboard, Sierra stroked a single into left field.  Pham was able to go first to third–again, nice wheels–and Sierra was heads-up enough to take second when the throw came into the infield.  It was a play I don’t know that anyone else could have made.  It’s the aggressive baserunning that Mike Matheny talks about with, you know, actual speed involved.

Him being on second allowed him to move to third on a Matt Adams pinch-hit single and score when Randal Grichuk came up with the bases loaded and hit a sacrifice fly.  Jedd Gyorko finished off the scoring with a two-RBI single, but you wonder how that inning would have unfolded with runners on first and third instead of second and third to start it all off.

Then, in the ninth, Sierra hit a dribbler that was going to be tough for A.J. Ramos to come off the mound and field in time anyway, but then Ramos either slipped or rushed his throw given Sierra’s speed or a combination of the two, because the ball sailed over the first baseman’s head and let Sierra take second.  Dexter Fowler, who still is working on that shoulder, then singled to Giancarlo Stanton on a pitch Ramos said afterwards was a very good pitch.  Given where the ball was and who it was hit to, I don’t know that anyone else could have scored from second and, in fairness, Sierra almost didn’t.  Stanton’s throw was accurate, but it reached the catcher (who was up the line) about the same time Sierra did.  Sierra evaded the tag and scored the game-winning run.

It’s possible the Cardinals would have won that game, had that comeback, even without Sierra.  It just was a whole lot easier with him and his legs in the lineup.  I honestly don’t think that Sierra has a chance of staying with the club as folks get healthy and it’s probably not the best thing for his development anyway, but if he keeps this up it’s going to be harder to send him back to Palm Beach, I’d think.  He’s also already about guaranteed his September call-up as well.

(I guess we should mention that, for all his speed, some of his baserunning still needs some work, though it may be more about learning the pitchers in the league.  He was picked off on Sunday and caught stealing last night.  Still, the balance is in his favor.)

Of course, that nice rally and exciting comeback might not have been necessary had the other of the big free agent signings from this past winter been able to do his job.  Adam Wainwright started the sixth having thrown five innings of one-run ball in about 87 pitches.  There was the idea floated on Twitter that you take him out there, give him a positive outing, and turn it over to the bullpen.  In retrospect, that might have been the best idea, but really Waino wasn’t bad in the sixth either.

He plunked J.T. Realmuto to start the frame, but that was hardly his fault.  I really, REALLY wish that umpires would enforce the “must attempt to get out of the way” rule on hit-by-pitches.  (Granted, the Cards might have lost some of Jon Jay‘s HBP in the past, but that’s OK.)  More and more often these days the player either doesn’t budge, maybe flinches, or actually starts sticking parts in the way.  The most generous reading of Realmuto’s at bat was that he flinched, but he sure didn’t move.  Wainwright was worked up enough about it that he walked all the way to home plate to talk to the umpire.  Obviously, nothing changed, but that’s something baseball really should work on.  There’s enough clear HBP that little nicks and such aren’t necessary to be called.  (The whole idea of using replay frame-by-frame to see if a ball hit a jersey is another level of ridiculousness.)

With Realmuto on first, Wainwright allowed a ground ball to Ichiro Suzuki, a ball right up the middle well-hit but one Wainwright was just inches from gloving and starting a double play with.  He does that, the inning is so much different.  Instead, runners on first and second and they moved over on a groundout by Marcell Ozuna.  With Stanton coming up and Wainwright reaching 100 pitches (and his history this season), intentionally passing Stanton was the obvious move and going to the bullpen was a smart one.

Matheny went with Brett Cecil in this situation, which in a vacuum makes sense.  There were a number of lefties coming up, you paid big money for Cecil to be at the minimum a lefty specialist, so he should come in and get those outs.  The problem is that Cecil hasn’t been doing that consistently this year and completely blew up last night.  The line will show Wainwright with four earned runs and Cecil one, but that’s hardly a fair representation.  It is tough to come into a bases-loaded situation and get nobody out, which is why I noted it when Matthew Bowman did it last year.  So if Cecil had allowed a run, maybe two, via sacrifice fly or bloop hit, it’d have been understandable.  Instead, he allowed a rocket of a double to Derek Dietrich on his second pitch, which drove in two, a scorched single to Justin Bour to allow the last of Wainwright’s runs to score, and a sac fly that allowed Dietrich to come in.  Forget putting out the fire, Cecil grabbed a few more logs and got out the marshmallows.

It’s still hard to write off Cecil given the fact that he’s got a four-year deal.  Like Fowler, the other big expense this offseason, he’s off to a slow start.  He does have potential to be a dominant guy out of the pen and usually is in the second half.  The problem is that, last I checked, you have to play both halves of the season and it’s tough to hide a guy that you expect a lot out of in less-than-important situations.  Cecil is going to have to get better.  He’s had a few good appearances but so far this season he’s allowed 56% of his inherited runners to score.  (That did go up 10% last night, but even around half seems like a lot.)  Nobody has confidence when he comes into the game now and that’s something he needs to change in a hurry.

Sierra’s our Hero, Cecil’s our Goat.  Pham had another good night, with a couple of singles, a run scored, and an RBI.  He’s got a better chance of staying with the club, honestly.  I don’t know that he will, but if the club doesn’t activate Jhonny Peralta soon (and for all the talk about him joining the team in Miami, that doesn’t look to happen) they can get back to 13 hitters and 12 pitchers if they need to activate two outfielders before Peralta’s return.  When Peralta is healthy, that makes it a little less likely Pham stays, but he might return if they decide to cut ties with the veteran.

Thankfully the rest of the bullpen–Bowman, Trevor Rosenthal, and Seung-hwan Oh–did what you expect out of them.  Surprisingly, none of them had any strikeouts, but only Rosenthal walked a batter and even that had a caveat, as he slipped throwing a 3-2 pitch.  As long as they get outs, we don’t really care how they get them, but it was nice to see the Cardinals rally and not worry as much about them giving it right back.  The overall bullpen is fairly good.  It’s just certain members of it that worry folks.

With the win, the Cardinals continued their reign on top of the NL Central for another day.  Lance Lynn will go tonight to try to keep that a true fact.  We know how good Lynn has been this year and the idea is growing to go ahead and give him the extension that he wants.  I’m still of two minds on that, given the roster construction and what other things might be done with the money, but an extension wouldn’t be anything that would make folks mad by any means.

vs. Batters Table
Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
A.J. Ellis 16 14 5 3 0 0 4 2 4 .357 .438 .571 1.009 0 0 1 0 1
Dee Gordon 16 15 2 1 0 0 2 1 5 .133 .188 .200 .388 0 0 0 0 0
Giancarlo Stanton 14 12 2 0 0 1 2 2 6 .167 .286 .417 .702 0 0 0 0 0
Marcell Ozuna 12 11 1 0 1 0 0 1 4 .091 .167 .273 .439 0 0 0 0 0
Derek Dietrich 9 6 1 1 0 0 0 2 2 .167 .444 .333 .778 0 0 0 1 0
Adeiny Hechavarria 8 8 4 0 0 0 2 0 1 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Christian Yelich 6 6 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .167 .167 .167 .333 0 0 0 0 0
Justin Bour 4 2 0 0 0 0 0 2 1 .000 .500 .000 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Tom Koehler 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
David Phelps 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
J.T. Realmuto 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .500 .000 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Total 91 79 16 5 1 1 10 11 26 .203 .308 .329 .637 0 0 1 1 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/10/2017.

Tom Koehler will be on the mound for the Marlins.  He’s got a 5.40 ERA on the season and that’s not really inflated by any one start.  Looking over his game log, it looks like a lot of three runs in four/five innings type of games.  If the Cardinals can get three runs or more by the fifth, you have to like their chances.

vs. Batters Table
Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Dexter Fowler 14 13 0 0 0 0 0 1 3 .000 .071 .000 .071 0 0 0 0 1
Yadier Molina 8 8 2 0 0 0 2 0 1 .250 .250 .250 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Kolten Wong 8 8 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Jedd Gyorko 7 6 2 0 0 0 1 1 1 .333 .429 .333 .762 0 0 0 0 1
Matt Carpenter 6 5 1 0 0 0 1 1 1 .200 .333 .200 .533 0 0 0 0 0
Randal Grichuk 6 5 3 2 0 0 1 1 1 .600 .667 1.000 1.667 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Adams 5 5 1 0 0 0 1 0 1 .200 .200 .200 .400 0 0 0 0 1
Aledmys Diaz 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .333 .000 .333 0 0 0 0 0
Tommy Pham 3 3 2 1 0 0 0 0 1 .667 .667 1.000 1.667 0 0 0 0 0
Lance Lynn 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 1 0 0 0 0
Adam Wainwright 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 64 58 11 3 0 0 6 5 14 .190 .254 .241 .495 1 0 0 0 3
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/10/2017.

When this road trip started, I hoped they’d go 4-2 at least, maybe 5-1.  It’d be really nice to go back to Busch with a 6-0 mark, wouldn’t it?

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After a 14-inning marathon on Sunday, the Cardinals needed one thing desperately and another thing that would be great.  They needed a solid start and a good bit of offense to make sure the game wasn’t too close.

Carlos Martinez provided both.

El Gallo, as he is known at times, seems to have gotten back on track on the mound.  Save for the red-hot Marcell Ozuna, who blasted two home runs, Martinez pretty much held the Marlins in check over his six innings, striking out seven while walking just two.  Ozuna’s power surge didn’t hurt either as the club was up 7-0 by time he got into his first pitch.  I have a feeling that Martinez might have been a little more careful with him had it been a one run game or something.

That’s back-to-back starts that we’ve seen more of what we expect out of Martinez, that ace that took over the team last year.  You could argue, as many people have in regards to the Cardinals’ improved record, that he’s seeing lesser competition, but even lesser competition was beating up on him in April.  I mean, it’s one thing to lose to the Yankees (though not necessarily in the way he did it!) but letting the Reds and Brewers put up five or more runs against you?  That shouldn’t happen.  It looks like Martinez has made whatever adjustments he needed to make and is easing a lot of worries.  I think we probably need to see one more solid outing, which next time will be against Sunday against the Cubs, before we start again assuming every time out is going to be fine.

What we probably won’t see again is the offensive surge that Martinez provided last night.  In the second, with the bases loaded, he roped one into left field–not at all what the Marlins were expecting–and drove them all in.  In the fourth, he singled in Magneuris Sierra and then scored when Matt Carpenter tripled him and Kolten Wong in.  Even when he didn’t get a hit, he contributed.  With runners on second and third and one out in the fifth, Martinez grounded to short but Dee Gordon‘s throw to the plate got past J.T. Realmuto and both runners scored.  Martinez isn’t known for his offensive exploits (though he did fine with the bat last year) but this is just another case against the DH.  There’s just something about seeing a pitcher come through, isn’t there?  It’s a wonderful thing.

I also should give credit to the contact play because I rip on it all the time.  Those runs that came in on Martinez’s groundout wouldn’t have happened without that.  That said, 98% of the time that would have resulted in Aledmys Diaz being nailed at the plate instead of a missed catch, meaning two outs and runners on the corners–one of them being your pitcher–instead of runners on second and third, both fairly speedy guys.  Again, it worked, but it just seems like such a low probability of success.

For the fact that the Cardinals put up nine runs, there weren’t just a whole lot of stellar offensive nights.  The big blows were Martinez’s double and Carpenter’s triple.  Only Sierra and Martinez had two hits.  To be fair, the club walked five times and received some help from the Miami defense, especially in the fifth, when it seemed every play was a misplay.  (That inning may have been worse than anything I’ve seen from the Cardinals this year, and that’s saying something.)

When you go looking for a Goat, though, you’ve got to go with Randal Grichuk in this one.  Grichuk went 0-5, didn’t walk, and left five on.  He did have a deep fly ball in the third that came within a couple of feet of going out, but he hit it to dead center and Christian Yelich was able to get under it.  He had a number of fly balls last night, which hopefully will turn into long balls pretty soon.

Martinez went six, as noted, and Miguel Socolovich did a fine job of resting the rest of the bullpen, only allowing two hits, including a home run to Giancarlo Stanton, in his three innings of work.  The quirk in the rule, which allows you to assign one to a pitcher that throws three innings to end a game, means he picked up his first major league save.  Soco just continues to be a pitcher that you can rely on for the most part.  I know his ERA is high, but that’s two bad innings against the Yankees and the Reds.  Other than that, he’s been really productive and I’m pretty sure has earned his place on the team no matter what sort of roster juggling needs to be done as players start getting healthy.

Speaking of players getting healthy, Dexter Fowler didn’t play again last night.  He’s getting treatment for the shoulder and says it is getting better, but he also didn’t give much of an idea when he’d be back out there.  Mike Matheny is hopeful that it’ll be tomorrow, but if it’s not, it’s a bit disappointing that the club has played short all this time when they could have disabled him.  That’d have been really helpful in Sunday’s game, having that extra bat, though you can’t expect those kind of games to show up.  With the shorter DL, I thought we might get away from this nagging-injury-keeps-a-guy-out-for-a-week stuff.  Again, hopefully Fowler is back tonight and it’s a fairly moot point.

There doesn’t seem to be much of a report on either Stephen Piscotty or Jose Martinez.  Piscotty should be eligible to come off the DL Sunday against the Cubs, Martinez Tuesday against the Red Sox.  With the possible addition of Jhonny Peralta, there are many different moves that John Mozeliak is going to have to come up with.  There was a lot of talk about Peralta joining the team in Miami at one time, but that didn’t happen yesterday and there’s no indication right now that it’s going to happen today.  Peralta is 2-8 with four strikeouts in his rehab stint at Palm Beach.  Four strikeouts at that level would seem to indicate the rust isn’t completely off, but we’ve seen players return after similar results so I’m not going to pretend Peralta couldn’t be back today or tomorrow.

I will say that if that happens it probably means the end of Jonathan Broxton‘s time in St. Louis.  As Rick Hummel said on a radio interview yesterday, there are four off days in the next two weeks.  There’s not a huge need for 13 pitchers, especially since the starters, save perhaps Adam Wainwright, are regularly going deep into games.  Peralta can’t replace Sierra or Pham, since the outfield is still a need with the injuries.  All that points to Peralta taking the place of a pitcher.  At one time, Allen and I thought that pitcher would be Kevin Siegrist, with his results seeming to indicate he might be hurting, but he’s done better of late.  It just feels like Broxton is the odd man out here, but so far he’s hung on through other seemingly impossible situations.  We’ll have to wait and see.

Cards look to win their eighth straight on the road, but will probably need more out of Wainwright than what he’s been doing this season to get it.  Waino will go against Dan Straily tonight and has done OK against most of these guys in the past.  However, this Wainwright isn’t anything like those past additions, so we’ll cross our fingers and hope for a return to form.

vs. Batters Table
Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
A.J. Ellis 11 11 4 0 1 1 3 0 1 .364 .364 .818 1.182 0 0 0 0 0
Giancarlo Stanton 10 8 0 0 0 0 0 2 2 .000 .200 .000 .200 0 0 0 0 3
Dee Gordon 7 6 1 0 0 0 0 1 3 .167 .286 .167 .452 0 0 0 0 0
Christian Yelich 7 6 3 1 0 0 0 1 0 .500 .571 .667 1.238 0 0 0 0 0
Adeiny Hechavarria 6 6 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .500 .833 0 0 0 0 0
Ichiro Suzuki 5 5 2 1 0 1 1 0 1 .400 .400 1.200 1.600 0 0 0 0 0
J.T. Realmuto 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Derek Dietrich 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Marcell Ozuna 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Miguel Rojas 3 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 .667 .667 .667 1.333 0 0 0 0 0
Dan Straily 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Tom Koehler 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 62 58 14 3 1 2 4 4 12 .241 .290 .431 .721 0 0 0 0 3
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/9/2017.

Straily, on the other hand, is coming off a rough outing against the Rays where he gave up four runs in five innings.  That said, he’s done a pretty solid job against the Redbirds in some limited exposure, though.

vs. Batters Table
Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Dexter Fowler 8 7 2 1 0 1 2 0 3 .286 .375 .857 1.232 0 0 0 1 0
Jedd Gyorko 8 8 2 0 0 2 2 0 1 .250 .250 1.000 1.250 0 0 0 0 1
Matt Carpenter 7 6 0 0 0 0 0 1 2 .000 .143 .000 .143 0 0 0 0 0
Randal Grichuk 7 7 2 1 0 0 0 0 3 .286 .286 .429 .714 0 0 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 7 7 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 .143 .143 .571 .714 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Adams 4 3 0 0 0 0 0 1 3 .000 .250 .000 .250 0 0 0 0 0
Aledmys Diaz 4 3 2 1 0 0 0 1 0 .667 .750 1.000 1.750 0 0 0 0 0
Greg Garcia 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 0 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Kolten Wong 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Eric Fryer 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Adam Wainwright 2 2 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 .500 .500 2.000 2.500 0 0 0 0 0
Carlos Martinez 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 56 49 10 3 0 5 6 6 12 .204 .304 .571 .875 0 0 0 1 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/9/2017.

It feels unlike that the Cardinals are going to win this one by five runs.  Baseball is strange, of course, but this might be a battle for them this evening.

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