C70 At The Bat

Michael Wacha struck out 10 batters in four innings last night, including the first nine outs he recorded.  It’s pretty indicative of how this season has gone when that is a footnote to how the game wound up.

It was a performance we’ve not seen out of Wacha in a long time for many reasons.  First, the nine in a row bit doesn’t happen often for any one or any team, so that was the positive rarity.  However, he then walked five batters, three of them in the fourth inning and two of them with the bases loaded, which meant he gave up as many walks in that inning as he had in his first four starts combined.

All the walks and the strikeouts meant that, for the first time in his career, he didn’t get into the fifth inning in a start.  His ERA is still a nice low 2.10, but unfortunately right now, those two walked-in runs were killer.

It seemed almost certain that the Cards would do something in the ninth.  That seems to be their MO, get started when their backs against the wall.  It also helped that Kyle Farnsworth came out to try to close things down.  Ever since he was a Cub, I’ve always been excited when Farnsworth came in against the Redbirds (or, to be fair, most any team) because the odds were strong a rally was coming.  Sure enough, the Cardinals tied it up against him.

Well, almost.  From many angles, it looked like Matt Carpenter–our Hero with four hits including a big one in the ninth–had gotten around Travis d’Arnaud‘s tag.  The umpire called him out, though, and Mike Matheny completed the “Major League Managers That Have Used Challenges” set to no avail.  I will say the last replay I saw was much more conclusive that Carpenter was out, but it was debatable up until then.

When you look at the linescore, you think that maybe the offense started to stir yesterday.  After all, the Cardinals got 11 hits, which is a pretty nice outing.  Then you notice that seven of them are tied to Carpenter and Yadier Molina, they only drew two walks, and there were a lot of 0-4 in the middle of the order.  So Jon Niese and others might have pitched from the stretch a lot, but they didn’t have to worry much about a sustained rally.

As much as it’s frustrating to give the Mets two runs via the walk, it’s more frustrating to know that, right now, being down any amount is a tough hill to climb, getting down two runs after Seth Maness allowed a home run to Lucas Duda seemed like 10.  They were almost able to do it, but it took a lot of things that hadn’t happened in the rest of the game.  You wonder if Jose Oquendo would have sent Carpenter had the offense as a whole been clicking and there was a solid chance someone would drive him in.  Most likely he would have–Oquendo is aggressive like that and it sure looked like a hit Carpenter would score on–but you have to figure they are going to be taking more chances in those situations given the dearth of offense.

That dearth is getting larger.  Look at where the Cards stand in relation to the rest of the National League.

Runs: 12th, averaging 3.6 a game.  Tied with Atlanta (who has played one less game) and now three behind the Mets and just two ahead of the Cubs.

Doubles: 5th, which surprised me a bit.  Four behind Arizona, one ahead of Washington.

Home runs: 15th, dead last.  12 homers, which works out to 0.6 a game.  One behind the Padres and the Mets, who broke their tie with the Cards on Duda’s shot last night.

OPS: 11th.  Eleven points behind Pittsburgh, just three ahead of the Cubs.

What’s fairly noticeable about all the teams mentioned save for Atlanta?  They aren’t good, at least not right now.  Almost all of them are under .500 (the Mets are a game over) and not going anywhere.  This is not the company you want your offense to be keeping.

What do you do, though?  You can’t sit Jhonny Peralta, even though he’s 0 for his last 21.  Even if you had a replacement, which you don’t, Peralta has 1/3 of the team’s homers.  Mark Ellis isn’t lighting it up when he’s in there for Kolten Wong because Wong is struggling.  (By the way, we’re giving Ellis the Goat for his 0-4 last night, since just about every time he came up, Carpenter was on base and he couldn’t do anything about it.)  It was nice to see Daniel Descalso get that big pinch-hit double last night, but it was also shocking giving his sub-.100 average going into the at-bat.  Allen Craig is still under .200 but you have to keep running him out there as well.

There will come a time when the law of averages kicks in and the offense will just destroy folks for a few days.  I’m sincerely hoping that day is soon.  Otherwise, I think John Mozeliak might need to do something, even a small shakeup, to see if that helps the situation out.  If you are wondering, Joey Butler went 2-3 with a double and two runs scored last night, boosting his average to .426.  You know, just if you were idly curious.

Adam Wainwright looks good to go for his next start, which is a bundle of good news.  With the offense sputtering the way it is, losing Waino would add a lot of pressure for them to come up with some runs.  It’s a very good thing that Wainwright’s knee issue looked worse than it actually was.

Afternoon game at CitiField as the ageless wonder Bartolo Colon tries to drop his ERA while facing the Cards as most of his counterparts have done.  Colon, who signed that big free agent contract with the Mets, looks like he hasn’t been what they expected, going 1-3 with a 5.40 ERA.  However, that ERA is extremely skewed by him allowing nine runs in five innings to the Angels two starts back.  Last time, it was three runs in seven to the Braves, a much more reasonable start.

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Mark Ellis 17 15 3 1 0 0 2 1 1 .200 .235 .267 .502 0 1 0 0 1
Jhonny Peralta 11 11 2 0 0 0 0 0 3 .182 .182 .182 .364 0 0 0 0 0
Peter Bourjos 7 6 2 0 0 0 0 1 3 .333 .429 .333 .762 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Holliday 6 5 3 1 0 0 3 1 2 .600 .667 .800 1.467 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Carpenter 4 4 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 2
Matt Adams 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Allen Craig 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Jon Jay 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 58 54 13 2 0 0 5 3 11 .241 .276 .278 .554 0 1 0 0 3
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/24/2014.

Most of the Cardinals haven’t seen much of him and given the late resurgence of Colon’s career, I’m not sure how relevant some at-bats from a few years ago might have been anyway.  At least Matt Holliday has had a little success against him in the past; we’ll have to see if that continues.  If nothing else, it’s the NL, which means we might get another treat today in the form of a Colon at-bat.

Lance Lynn goes today and it makes for an interesting decision for Matheny.  Lynn has been solid with Tony Cruz behind the plate the last two outings, but Molina is one of the few Cardinals that’s been hitting recently.  If Matt Adams wasn’t also one of those guys that is doing well at the plate, I might suggest letting Molina play first today and getting the best of both worlds, but especially since Adams sat yesterday, I’m not sure that’s really an option.

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Daniel Murphy 9 9 4 1 0 0 2 0 1 .444 .444 .556 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
David Wright 8 7 2 1 0 0 1 1 1 .286 .375 .429 .804 0 0 0 0 0
Lucas Duda 7 5 0 0 0 0 0 2 1 .000 .286 .000 .286 0 0 0 0 0
Bobby Abreu 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .333 .000 .333 0 0 0 0 0
Kirk Nieuwenhuis 3 3 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Omar Quintanilla 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .667 .000 .667 0 0 0 1 0
Ruben Tejada 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Chris Young 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 37 31 6 2 0 0 4 5 5 .194 .324 .258 .582 0 0 0 1 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/24/2014.

As you’d expect, not a lot of exposure to Lynn by the Mets, though what little there has been has been almost universally positive for the Cardinal righthander, save when Daniel Murphy is at the plate.  There’s going to be a lot of focus on Lynn, wondering if these last couple of games are really indicative of what we can expect from him.  He’s going to have to be pretty good to have a chance, most likely.

If you are 1) a long-time reader of this blog and 2) have a head for trivia about really useless things about it, you may remember that about this time every year I have a church BBQ fundraiser.  That’s tomorrow, and given that it requires me getting up at 3:15 or so, I don’t think you’ll be seeing a post from me about today’s game tomorrow.  Hope you can get by without your daily fix!

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The best medicine for a sputtering, struggling offense?  Make sure that only the minimum output is needed.  That lately seems to be Adam Wainwright‘s mantra.

Wainwright threw another gem last night before leaving with a possible knee injury.  That whole “knee injury” thing would take a little higher priority if the man himself hadn’t said that any or all things in his knee were perfectly fine.  Which means we can focus more on what he’s done rather than worrying about what’s to come.  Granted, the day or two after could bring more worries to the situation, but for right now I think it should be treated as the minor issue it seems to be.

(Perhaps it says something about how we jump to conclusions, perhaps it says something about the moves Mike Matheny makes, but as I’m watching my son’s Little League game and following the game on MLB At Bat, I see that Wainwright is coming out after only 79 pitches and I mentally start wondering about his sanity, only to find out there was the injury concern.  I should have known Matheny wouldn’t remove his ace in that kind of game without a reason, but you just never know sometimes.)

So what has Wainwright done this year?  Three times he’s taken the mound and left without allowing any runs.  He’s thrown 37 innings and been scored on in just five of them.  Two of his six runs allowed on the season came after the Cardinals had a 9-2 lead on the Nationals, allowing for more experimentation.  He’s seventh in ERA, first in wins, second in WAR, sixth in WHIP, and fifth in strikeouts.  It’s still very, very early but he’s working on his best season ever and that’s saying something, given two Cy Young runner ups.

And yet, even though he threw seven scoreless and allowed just four hits, I don’t think Wainwright gets the Hero tag.  Mainly because without this, those innings wouldn’t have been scoreless.

Along with that stellar and important catch, Matt Holliday also went three for four, drove in a key insurance run (especially when Trevor Rosenthal forgot how to throw strikes in the ninth) and scored a run in the two-run fourth.  If he could just learn that he’s allowed to stop at first–Holliday was twice thrown out at second trying to stretch out a double.

The offense was able to put up 10 hits, which was a nice sign, but still had trouble getting them across the plate.  As mentioned, Holliday had two hits but made two outs, which given both were the last out of an inning, might not have mattered that much.  Matt Adams was caught stealing on a failed hit and run.

Then there was the fourth.  Yes, the Cardinals got two runs, which is better than some nights, but it’s indicative of how things are going that they had the bases loaded with nobody out and two runs in and couldn’t put it away.  Both Kolten Wong–who has to be the Goat with no hits and six left on–and Wainwright grounded out, with a runner being forced at home.  A hit there by either of them–and since Wainwright is actually one of the team’s leading hitters, it might have been more likely to be him than Wong–might have blown the game wide open.  Instead, the Mets hung around and had a chance until the final out, which didn’t let Cardinal fans rest easy.

Jon Jay got another start and went 2-4, most likely keeping Peter Bourjos on the bench until the Cards face another lefty.  (Oh, I see that’s tonight.  Never mind.)  It seems to be an issue that there’s a lot of passion about and it’s definitely been a point of discussion.  As I’ve said before, Jay seems to play his best when he’s trying to unseat a starter.  Will Bourjos get on a roll and get some starts?  I think it’s possible, but he’s got to find his swing.  Whether he can do that bouncing in and out of the lineup is surely a debatable point, but until the offense can generate runs on a regular basis, you have to play the best hitters and worry about the defense a little later, I think.

Before we move on to looking at tonight’s game, we have to take a moment to mention the history that was made last night.  Albert Pujols took two balls and crushed them over the wall, marking the 500th time he’s done that in his career, all of them while wearing red.  While it would have been a much bigger deal had he still been in St. Louis–not only because of the history and hoopla that 500 in one uniform would bring, but also because he’d been in a time zone more conducive to a majority of baseball fans–it’s still an important achievement.  It was also kinda neat to see Pujols give David Freese a hug in the dugout, since Freese was the one player there that had a real perspective on Pujols’s entire career.

It’s no secret that I was a huge Pujols fan while he was a Cardinal.  There were few Redbird fans that weren’t, of course, which made the whole leaving-for-Anaheim thing so tough to take for a while.  Yet I’ve never wished him ill–though I will say his struggles the first couple of years out west did make me glad the Cards had been outbid–and it’s kinda nice, now that there’s some remove, to see him raking again.  He’ll never be what we took for granted during that decade he was here, but he’s still an outstanding player that’s going to be in the Hall of Fame.  I think that we can appreciate him and cheer for him more now.  If nothing else, appreciate that his departure meant the Cards could pick Michael Wacha in the 2012 draft.  (You’ve heard about that, right?  Somewhere?)

So congratulations to Albert on #500.  Here’s to 100, 150, 200 more!

As noted, St. Louis will face a lefthander tonight when they take on Jon Niese and the Mets.  Niese has been solid so far this season, with a 2.84 ERA after three starts.  He’s striking out three times as many as he’s walked, so all of that put together (and that lefty thing) could make for a long night for the club.

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Yadier Molina 13 11 3 0 0 0 0 2 1 .273 .385 .273 .657 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Holliday 10 10 2 0 0 0 0 0 3 .200 .200 .200 .400 0 0 0 0 0
Jon Jay 8 8 3 1 0 0 1 0 1 .375 .375 .500 .875 0 0 0 0 0
Allen Craig 6 5 1 1 0 0 0 0 2 .200 .333 .400 .733 0 0 0 1 1
Mark Ellis 6 6 4 0 0 0 0 0 2 .667 .667 .667 1.333 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Carpenter 4 3 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 .333 .500 .667 1.167 0 0 0 0 0
Shane Robinson 4 3 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .250 .000 .250 0 0 0 0 0
Adam Wainwright 4 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 1 0 0 0 0
Jhonny Peralta 3 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 .667 .667 .667 1.333 0 0 0 0 0
Peter Bourjos 2 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000 0 0 0 0 0
Daniel Descalso 2 2 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 1.000 1.500 0 0 0 0 0
Total 62 56 20 4 0 0 1 4 10 .357 .410 .429 .838 1 0 0 1 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/23/2014.

Interestingly, though, the Cardinal players have done pretty well against him in the past.  Given the struggles in the last few years, it’s hard to find a lefty that they’ve been able to hit at a clip like that.  Good to see Bourjos is 2-2 against him as well; perhaps he’ll be able to get jump-started with his start tonight.  I expect we’ll see Mark Ellis as well, given those numbers and Wong’s struggles.

Speaking of Mr. Wacha, he’ll be Niese’s opposite number tonight.  Coming off a tough loss to Washington and putting up Wainwright-like numbers (he’s only walked three batters this season, incredibly), Wacha may have to keep up his strong start for the Cards to guarantee a series split.

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP missG
Lucas Duda 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .333 .000 .333 0 0 0 0 0
Daniel Murphy 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Omar Quintanilla 3 3 1 0 0 1 1 0 1 .333 .333 1.333 1.667 0 0 0 0 0
David Wright 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .333 .000 .333 0 0 0 0 0
Kirk Nieuwenhuis 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 1
Total 14 12 2 0 0 1 1 2 2 .167 .286 .417 .702 0 0 0 0 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/23/2014.

Wacha’s first major league win came against the Mets last season, when he gave up two runs in six innings and then was sent back to Memphis.  He’s been pretty outstanding since then and there’s no particular reason to think that’ll change tonight.

Another fun night in Gotham and most likely a pitcher’s duel to boot.  Should be fun!

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Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of the release of Field of Dreams.  I still remember seeing that movie in the theater and how much I enjoyed it.  It was the first movie I ever received on VHS, a Christmas present the next year.  For the longest time–and, honestly, most likely still today–it along with Casablanca and Star Wars ranked at the top of my personal movie list.

So, in honor of that milestone–one that actually makes me feel fairly old, but let’s not dwell on that at the moment–let’s look at yesterday’s Cardinals/Mets game through the prism of Field of Dreams quotes.  I have no idea if this will work, but I’m sure we can force it if it doesn’t quite click.

“Out!  Back to the sixties!  Back!  There’s no place for you here in the future!  Get back while you still can!”–Terrance Mann’s first interaction with Ray Kinsella could be applied to the Cardinal offense, as they mustered an attack last night that would have  fit in quite well with most any team in 1968, the year of the pitcher.  Six hits, only one that went for extra bases, and only one when there was actually someone on base.  The Cards scored eight runs for Adam Wainwright Thursday in Washington.  In the four games since then, they’ve mustered a total of seven.

“It’s not my fault you wouldn’t play catch with your father.”–While Mann disclaims responsibility for Kinsella’s relationship with his dad, it’s also true that Tyler Lyons, Patron Pitcher of the Blog, didn’t carry the blame for last night’s defeat.  Lyons went six strong innings–well, five strong, the sixth was a little more dicey–and allowed just the two runs.  He did put 12 runners on, but five of them came in the fifth and three came in the third, the two innings the Mets scored.  Lyons struck out seven and, all in all, had a solid outing.  It’s not really Hero-worthy, even with the limited offense, but it was in the running.

“See if you can hit my curve.  Yeah, yeah, you can hit the curve ball.”–While Jenrry Mejia didn’t necessarily have a curve ball that the Cards were baffled by, most everything else he threw got to them.  The six hits off of Mejia and company were evenly distributed between three players–Matt Carpenter, Allen Craig, and our Hero Yadier Molina–and too often any threat was snuffed out by a double play, including two stellar ones started by Ruben Tejada, who was supposed to be a liability at shortstop.  Apparently nobody told him that.

“Hey, rookie!  You were good.”–While Jorge Rondon right now still has that Moonlight Graham thing going, Eric Fornataro made his major league debut last night, so his name will always be listed in the Baseball Encyclopedia.  (Well, I guess these days it’d be Baseball-Reference or Fangraphs, huh?  I still have a couple of copies of the old Encyclopedia, one right within visual range.)  It was nice to see Mike Matheny go to the rookie, especially given the circumstances.  It wasn’t a game out of reach, though the odds of the Cards rallying for two in the ninth were a little slim given their lack of production.  Fornataro got the Mets 1-2-3 throwing nothing but fastballs in the low to mid-90s.  We’ll see if he gets any more chances in the coming days.  However, that did mean a day off for both Carlos Martinez and Kevin Siegrist, so that’s a good thing.

“I want them to stop looking to me for answers, begging me to speak again, to write again, to be a leader.”–Unfortunately for Matt Holliday, last night’s Goat, that’s not likely going to happen even when he puts up 0-4 days.  You could flip a coin between him and Matt Adams, since they both were hitless, struck out twice, and left three men on, but Holliday “wins” the title on the tiebreaker of popping out on the first pitch when there were runners on first and third and just one out.  Even a medium fly ball probably ties up the game there, but Holliday couldn’t get the job done.

“I never got to bat in the major leagues.  I would have liked that chance.  Just once.”Joey Butler has had a brief taste of the big leagues, but you figure he’s hungry for more and wondering what he has to do to make the big league bench.  With two on and two out in the seventh yesterday, needing two runs to tie, Mike Matheny pinch-hit Daniel Descalso and, when the Mets countered with a pitching change, sent up Shane Robinson.  Neither of which were very realistic options for success, but it’s not like he had much to choose from on the bench.  Perhaps he could have gone with Peter Bourjos, who was sitting last night, but Bourjos hasn’t hit much lately either and, if he had a better chance of coming through, it was very slight.  When there is such a lack of offense coming from the lineup, it would be good to have someone on the bench that at least has a chance of being able to cash in the chips that are on the table.  Can Butler do that?  I don’t know.  However, his minor league career shows more pop than Descalso and Robinson combined and he has two doubles in his 12 major league at-bats.  Right now, it really couldn’t hurt.

“Hey, ump, how about a warning?”–You think Kolten Wong might be thinking that?  Ever since Mark Ellis came off the disabled list, Wong has been, if not relegated to the corner, at least not as front-and-center as he was previously.  Of course, that’s related to his hitting slump for the most part, something he acknowledges as a timing/swing issue.  I don’t think we can start saying that Matheny is burying Wong by any means, but it does worry me when he says things about Mark Ellis being “a known quantity”.  I expect that’s the same rationale that factors into Jon Jay starting more often over Bourjos.  That’s true, you do know what you are going to get with those guys, at least to some extent, but you can’t let that override what you could get from Wong and Bourjos if you’d let them play and attain those ceilings.  It’s a fine line/high-wire balancing act and one of the reasons Matheny makes the money he does.  I just hope he realizes that “known quantity” doesn’t necessarily mean that what is known is good–see Descalso and Robinson.

“America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers.  It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again.”–That’s got to be one of the best speeches ever in a movie, doesn’t it?

Who knew Darth Vader could be so sentimental?  Anyway, the Cards look to erase any thoughts of last night’s game or their recent struggles by sending out their ace to the mound.

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
David Wright 18 15 5 2 0 0 3 2 4 .333 .389 .467 .856 0 1 0 0 0
Chris Young 15 12 2 0 0 0 2 3 4 .167 .333 .167 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Lucas Duda 12 8 2 1 0 1 6 2 1 .250 .333 .750 1.083 0 2 0 0 0
Daniel Murphy 12 11 6 2 1 0 2 1 0 .545 .583 .909 1.492 0 0 0 0 1
Omar Quintanilla 12 12 4 2 0 0 0 0 2 .333 .333 .500 .833 0 0 0 0 0
Curtis Granderson 6 5 1 0 0 0 0 1 2 .200 .333 .200 .533 0 0 0 0 0
Kirk Nieuwenhuis 6 5 2 0 0 0 0 1 2 .400 .500 .400 .900 0 0 1 0 0
Ruben Tejada 5 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .200 .000 .200 0 0 0 1 0
Jon Niese 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Eric Young 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 94 80 22 7 1 1 13 10 21 .275 .351 .425 .776 0 3 1 1 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/22/2014.

Wainwright has struggled in the past against the Mets, but last year Molina did some extra homework, they came up with a game plan, and his last time against the New York club he threw seven innings of shutout, four-hit ball.  Given the way Waino’s throwing right now, I feel better about that than the historical numbers.

Dillon Gee will go for the Metropolitans, coming off his best start of the season.  He allowed no runs in seven innings against the Diamondbacks, which was a significant departure from his earlier three starts, where he gave up at least three runs in each.

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Matt Holliday 12 12 2 2 0 0 1 0 1 .167 .167 .333 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 12 12 3 2 0 0 0 0 3 .250 .250 .417 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Allen Craig 9 8 4 0 0 1 4 1 2 .500 .556 .875 1.431 0 0 0 0 0
Jon Jay 9 7 2 0 0 0 0 2 1 .286 .444 .286 .730 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Carpenter 7 4 2 0 0 0 1 3 1 .500 .714 .500 1.214 0 0 0 0 0
Daniel Descalso 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .333 .000 .333 0 0 0 0 0
Mark Ellis 3 3 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Shelby Miller 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Adams 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 58 51 13 4 0 1 7 7 11 .255 .345 .392 .737 0 0 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/22/2014.

St. Louis hasn’t seen Gee much.  When he saw them last June, though, he went 6.2 innings and allowed just one run and struck out seven.  Given the current state of the offense, well, tonight might just be a taut pitching duel.

“Back then I thought, ‘Well, there’ll be other days.’  I didn’t realize that that was the only day.”–You only get one shot at today, so make it count.  It’s Wainwright day, which has to give you a spring in your step!

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I hope that you and yours had a wonderful and meaningful Easter weekend.  Even aside from the important religious aspects, it was one of the first warm and sunny weekends we’ve seen here in a while and I expect that was the case for you as well.  If only the Cardinals had played as nicely as the weather!

Friday (3-1 loss)

Hero: Michael Wacha.  It’s not often that the losing pitcher in a game gets the Hero tag, but there was little Wacha did to deserve having an L put next to his name.  Wacha threw seven innings, allowed just four hits, struck out seven, and then saw his defense come apart at exactly the wrong time.  When the winning runs score because Yadier Molina can’t handle a pitch, that’s something you just can’t plan for.

Goat: Matt Carpenter. Not only did he go 0-3 (with a walk) but he made two errors, including a key one in the Nationals’ seventh inning that led to the winning runs.  If he catches Wacha’s throw (which was admittedly a bullet, but still very catchable), the Nationals have runners on first and second with one out instead of bases loaded and no outs.  While Wacha almost pulled the Houdini anyway, most notably with a stellar play to get the second out at home, asking him to do that just isn’t fair.

Notes: All the success St. Louis had against Gio Gonzalez in the spring unsurprisingly didn’t carry over to the regular season, even though they’d been able to hit him in the past.  The fourth inning was a turning point, because Mark Ellis drives in a run with one out and there are two runners on, but Shane Robinson and Peter Bourjos strike out, ending that threat.  The Cards wouldn’t get another runner on until Jon Jay doubled in the eighth, giving them another chance especially after Carpenter walked, but Jhonny Peralta, Matt Holliday and Allen Craig couldn’t get anyone in.

Saturday (4-3 win)

Hero: Lance Lynn.  Tough not to give it to a pitcher who helps out his own cause.  Lynn again avoided the big first inning, whether because of his new pregame rituals or the fact Tony Cruz is starting to become his personal catcher.  (I’d guess more the former, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Cruz starts playing a bit more as long as Lynn keeps it up.)  Lynn also stroked an RBI double as part of the three-run third inning, which was kinda helpful (and important in what turned into a one-run game).  Lynn didn’t go as long as you’d like to see, just shy of six innings, and he did put eight runners on via hit or walk, but for the most part got the job done.

Goat: While the bullpen wasn’t rock-solid, I think you have to give the label to Kolten Wong for his 0-3, 4 LOB day.  Wong started off so solidly, but is two for his last 16, which isn’t fun to watch and, given the small number of at-bats so far in the season, has dropped his average precipitously.  Hopefully not only will he turn it around quickly, but his struggles won’t give Mike Matheny the idea to overuse Ellis and bury Wong.  We know Matheny likes the “hot hand”, though.

Notes: Trevor Rosenthal got the save, though not before allowing a run and putting the tying run in scoring position.  Perhaps what Derek Lilliquist told him got through, since he finished off the game with some heat that we’ve not seen out of him much this season.  It’s unsettling to see your closer with a 6.75 ERA this late in the season, though.  I hope we’ll see more of that overpowering Rosenthal, the one that was so effective last year, because right now there’s not just a huge bunch of confidence when he comes in.  We figure he’ll get the job done, but it’s more Jason Isringhausen and Ryan Franklin (and, sometimes, Jason Motte) than Mariano Rivera.

Two more hits by Jay in this one, playing center instead of Bourjos and raising his average over .300 before play Sunday.  There’s the argument that Bourjos needs to play every day to get his stroke, which is a reasonable argument, although one we heard about Tyler Greene a lot and we see how that turned out.  The problem is, right now the Cards can’t afford to let him work out his issues in game situations.  If Allen Craig (who did show signs of coming around this weekend) was hitting .300 and driving in runs and Peralta was more like .260 than .170, perhaps the offense would be strong enough to support a weak bat and a great glove.  That was the idea in the offseason, after all.  However, they aren’t doing that and Jay is hitting the ball well.  Maybe he responds to competition, I don’t know, but it’s difficult to sit one of the hotter bats when the offense as a whole is struggling.

Sunday (3-2 loss)

Hero: Not a lot to choose from here, but I’ll go with Matt Adams.  Adams was the only player to have more than one hit and both were doubles off of Stephen Strasburg.  He did fail in his chance to break the tie in the eighth with two on and two out, but overall, he well may have had the best game.

Goat: When the Cards were up two and Carlos Martinez got the first out in the seventh, I was feeling pretty good and actually got up from the TV to take pictures of the kids hunting Easter eggs at my parents’.  That done, I sat back down and saw that it was 2-2.  Apparently, though, Martinez wasn’t to blame for that, at least not entirely.  When you factor in a ball in the decisive ninth went through Matt Carpenter‘s legs and the fact he was 0-4 with three strikeouts in the leadoff role, I think you have to go with him as the Goat yet again.  Nobody will be happier to see the Washington Monument in the rear-view mirror than Marp.

Notes: Shelby Miller pitched an interesting game, let’s put it that way.  He didn’t allow any runs, which is a nice continuation of what he did in Milwaukee and, for what might be the first time in 2014, didn’t allow a home run.  That said, he walked five batters, including three in one inning that he was lucky to escape from.  It appears that he is starting to settle into a more effective form, but he’ll hopefully have better command against the Pirates on Friday.  Plus he chipped in a double, the third Cardinals starter in this series to do so.  You gotta figure they razzed Wacha, the only starting pitcher held hitless.

You wonder why Matheny swapped in Daniel Descalso instead of Wong when he did his double switch in the seventh.  Desclaso’s not hitting better than Wong, not by a long shot, and if you are bringing someone into a close game, you might want to upgrade the defense instead of bringing in a questionable glove.  Descalso’s better at second than short, of course, but Wong’s stellar in the field and he could have possibly gotten to the ball Descalso couldn’t in the seventh, preserving the lead.

You remember on Thursday when the Cards brought up two relievers, with the idea that they’d help out the pen until the next start Joe Kelly should be making if he wasn’t on the DL?  Yeah, about that.  Jorge Rondon goes back to Memphis having never taken the field for the Cards as Tyler Lyons gets called up to take today’s start.  Eric Fornataro, who came up with him?  Yeah, still waiting on that first call from the pen.  I know it’s easy to say in general these guys need to get in and hard to point out the specific game that they should have appeared in, but it does seem at times that Matheny plays this game with a shorthanded roster, that it’s 23 or 24 against 25.

Game situations though sometimes conspire against the manager.  If Adam Wainwright hadn’t given up just one hit in eight innings on Thursday, likely one of those guys would have pitched the ninth.  Had Rosenthal not pitched since Tuesday, one of them might have pitched Friday night with the Cards down two in the late innings.  Finding the time to get them in is a tough challenge, I’m sure, but I think Matheny’s got to do it.  Surely there will be an opportunity against the Mets.  You’d think, at least!

As noted, Lyons will take the mound tonight for the Cardinals against the National League New York team.  Lyons, and I just checked the roster and he is still the Patron Pitcher of the Blog wearing the big 70, has done well in Memphis and looks to bring that approach to the big leagues.  He’s not faced the Mets before, but the Mets have an OPS against lefties of just .619 (interestingly, they actually hit lefties a little better than righties–.239 to .220–but have significantly less pop against them) and that combined with unfamiliarity hopefully will give him an advantage.

New York trots out Jenrry Mejia, who is coming off a five inning, two hit performance against Arizona.  Mejia hasn’t gone longer than six innings and that was in his first start of the season, so the Cards may get into the Mets bullpen fairly early.

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Mark Ellis 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Allen Craig 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 6 6 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/21/2014.

That’s an interesting table there.  Mejia has been up and down since 2010 and last faced the Cardinals April 16 and 17 of that year.  Between the two appearances, he threw three innings and allowed four hits and no runs, but basically no one he faced is still in Cardinal red, so I’m not sure that will tell us much.

Last four games of the road trip before the Redbirds get back home this weekend.  At least the earlier start times mean the games don’t take up quite as much of the evening!

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A late craving for Cardinal talk led me to a good chat with our friend Dathan Brooks. No editing, no promos, just a plain old conversation about the Redbirds right here. http://cardinal70.podomatic.com/entry/2014-04-18T21_22_45-07_00

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Last year, as part of the regular United Cardinal Bloggers‘ schedule of projects, we discussed who we thought should go into the Cardinal Hall of Fame.  It was all theoretical then, though we did foresee a few things, such as all the retired numbers would go straight into the Hall.  Also, a good number of the folks selected by the bloggers last summer wound up on the first official Hall of Fame ballot this winter.

So now, given that we have said ballot, our project this year is simple: to select the two players from the ballot that we believe should go into the Hall this summer and to explain why.  It may be a simple task, but it’s not an easy one.  Everyone on the ballot has a strong argument to get through the doors, which is to be expected when it is the first group of folks to ever be voted on.

I honestly don’t think you can go wrong with any combination, but if they asked me, these would be my two selections:

Bob Forsch: I posited in one of the preseason roundtables that Forsch could be the best pitcher in Cardinal history not in the Hall of Fame.  To be honest, you could make the case that he’s better than Dizzy Dean, given the different times they lived in, the longevity of his career, the fact that he never played for the Cubs, the two no-hitters, etc.  I’m not sure I’m wedded to that argument, mind, but it could be made.

Forsch had the best years of his career in the runup to the 1982 season when the Cards returned to national prominence, which is probably why he’s overlooked even by some Cardinal fans when talking about great pitchers in the club’s history.  He did win 15 games for the ’82 champs and also played on the ’85 and ’87 pennant winners, though he didn’t contribute to the level that he did in ’82 (and, indeed, spent much of ’85 coming out of the bullpen).

He put up seven seasons with an ERA+ over 100 and also cracked the 200 inning mark seven times as well.  He checks all the boxes for a Cardinal Hall of Famer and I believe he should get in, though I would expect it won’t actually happen this summer.

Jim Edmonds: Most folks are going to vote for Willie McGee and I don’t fault them for that at all.  Willie’s got an amazing case as well and has plenty of years of fan sentiment behind him.  However, I got to see Edmonds play on a regular basis and it’s darn tough for me to leave him off my ballot.

It’s funny, but for all the offensive exploits of Edmonds, the two years of 40+ homers, the three years of hitting over .300, being part of the legendary MV3, it’s the defense that always comes to mind first.  Specifically, this defense.

There were also the myriad of over-the-wall catches, including what seemed like every home run Cincinnati tried to hit against him, especially in Great American Ball Park.  Sure, Edmonds had a touch of the showboat to him, but as the old Diz said, “It ain’t braggin’ if you can back it up.”

When you put all of that together, leaving Edmonds out of the Hall of Fame just isn’t feasible.  He’d probably dive over the doors and get in anyway, holding up his plaque like a snagged baseball.

Again, you could put Edmonds and McGee on your ballot (which seems to be the most popular choice in the fan voting) or McGee and Mark McGwire or McGwire and Matt Morris or any other combination and you’d have a strong case.  These are my selections–at least right now.  Never know when I might change my mind!

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Some nights, four errors by the opposing team are just what you need to win.  Some nights, eight runs are crucial to getting the W.  Some nights, 14 hits are a big deal.*

Those nights don’t have Adam Wainwright on the hill.

*Of course, some nights you win the World Series, but that’s not relevant at the moment.  Well, as irrelevant as winning the World Series ever can be.

Wainwright threw a two-hit shutout and garnered a couple of hits on his own.  He went into the ninth looking for his first one-hitter (and that one was an infield single that according to Twitter–I didn’t see it–could have been debatable had it been the only one of the game) but Adam LaRoche at least avoided that indignity for the Nationals.

There was plenty of other shame to go around for the Nats, though.  Four errors on the night, and that’s just what actually was officially recorded.  There were numerous other iffy plays, non-error errors, and just generally bad play.  If you are a Nationals fan, you probably aren’t reading this, but you have to take heart that there’s little way any of the other games in this series could get any worse.  It was a perfect storm of things in this one, best represented by the fact the Cards scored eight–but still left 15 on.  Baserunners were like pennies last night, plenty of them to go around.

Which means that there were a number of good offensive performances as well, even when you factor in the Nationals’ sloppy play.  The top three men in the lineup–Matt Carpenter, Kolten Wong, and Matt Holliday–all had two hits.  Matt Adams just had one, but he drove in three.  Jhonny Peralta also had two knocks and Wainwright, well, he had as many hits as he gave up, if the Washington faithful really want to be depressed.  He even doubled in the ninth, trying to make a bid for that Silver Slugger he really wants.  He’s hitting .444 on the year now, with that double and two RBI, plus a walk, so he’s well on his way to getting it!

Everybody got a hit and there was no bullpen to look at, so it again becomes tough to pick out a Goat.  (I didn’t explicitly note it above, but I think it’s pretty obvious Waino got the Hero tag.)  It’s a rare occasion, but I think I’ll give it to Yadier Molina this time.  He went 1-6 and left six on, though did have an RBI.  Allen Craig went 1-5 without the RBI, but he only left one on.  Coin flip it if you want, but I’ll reluctantly take Molina.

Joe Kelly got an MRI on that hamstring yesterday and found out that it was “just” a strain.  As we noted during the day yesterday, the club placed him on the 15-day DL, which hopefully will be enough for him to heal up and just miss a couple of starts.  The general idea now is that someone will come up from the minors on Monday to take his start, most likely Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons.

This makes a lot of sense, and I don’t say that just because I want to see that big 70 on the mound again.  The argument for moving Carlos Martinez to the rotation is interesting, but given this is a short-term assignment (apparently), it seems not worth disturbing the relief roles and the good work the bullpen is doing (well, some of it) for a temporary fix.  If Kelly doesn’t heal as quickly as they expect, that could be revisited.

Which is somewhat the problem that I was afraid of with Martinez getting into the pen–he’s too valuable to take out of it.  It’s a long time from now until then, but it’s going to be interesting to see what the Cards want to do next spring if Martinez spends the entire year being that shutdown reliever.  Will they be able to move him back to the rotation?  Again, way down the road, but something to watch.

It’s been–maybe not curious, but at least a bit surprising–to see Jon Jay playing a lot of center in the last few days.  Mike Matheny said he wanted to play the hot hand, as it were, and Jay’s put together the better at-bats.  Given Peter Bourjos‘s acquisition, not many of us thought we’d see a lot of Jay, but with Bourjos struggling at the plate, Jay’s taken advantage of his opportunities.  It’s still not a platoon and it’s not where Jay is going to be the starter, but he’s getting more playing time than expected.

Which maybe the best position for Jay.  After all, he was the fourth outfielder in 2010, but played well enough to get Ryan Ludwick traded.  He returned to the extra outfielder role in 2011, but played well enough to get Colby Rasmus traded.  After taking on the starring spot, his production slipped somewhat, but now, back out of the spotlight, he’s producing again.  Maybe he needs that challenge?

Jaime Garcia will throw in a game situation Saturday, being limited to 35 pitches.  The most interesting comment was that they are putting him on a spring training-like program and this would be considered halfway through.  If that keeps up and there are no more setbacks, you’d figure he would go on a rehab assignment in about three weeks, get a couple of starts, and be ready to be with the Cards maybe by the beginning of June.  If that’s the case, it’s going to be fun trying to figure out how to fit him into the picture.

Cards and Nats go at it again tonight, most likely with the Nationals playing a cleaner game, but no guarantee there will be more hits.  After all, the last time Michael Wacha faced them, Ryan Zimmerman broke up his no-hitter with two outs in the eighth.  Sure, he’s not likely to do that again.  However, it’s Michael Wacha, so you never rule anything out, right?  Besides, Zimmerman is on the DL tonight….

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Ian Desmond 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Bryce Harper 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Adam LaRoche 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .333 .000 .333 0 0 0 0 0
Anthony Rendon 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Jayson Werth 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Gio Gonzalez 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 17 16 0 0 0 0 0 1 6 .000 .059 .000 .059 0 0 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/18/2014.

The Nationals get to the head of their rotation, throwing Gio Gonzalez.  St. Louis was able to get to him in spring training, for whatever that’s worth, and he’s coming off allowing six runs to the Braves.  However, he threw two-run baseball over seven innings the last time he saw the Redbirds in the regular season (last September), but lost because, well, Michael Wacha was on the other side.

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Jhonny Peralta 19 14 3 1 0 1 2 4 3 .214 .368 .500 .868 0 1 0 0 1
Peter Bourjos 13 13 2 0 0 0 0 0 4 .154 .154 .154 .308 0 0 0 0 0
Jon Jay 13 10 3 0 0 0 1 2 2 .300 .385 .300 .685 0 1 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 11 10 2 2 0 0 1 1 1 .200 .273 .400 .673 0 0 0 0 0
Allen Craig 10 9 1 0 0 0 1 1 2 .111 .200 .111 .311 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Holliday 10 8 1 1 0 0 1 2 2 .125 .300 .250 .550 0 0 0 0 2
Daniel Descalso 6 5 2 1 0 0 0 1 3 .400 .500 .600 1.100 0 0 0 0 0
Mark Ellis 6 4 0 0 0 0 0 1 3 .000 .200 .000 .200 1 0 0 0 0
Shane Robinson 5 4 1 0 0 0 1 1 0 .250 .400 .250 .650 0 0 0 0 0
Adam Wainwright 4 3 0 0 0 0 0 1 3 .000 .250 .000 .250 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Adams 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Carpenter 3 3 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .667 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Michael Wacha 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Tony Cruz 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 106 89 17 6 0 1 7 14 26 .191 .295 .292 .587 1 2 0 0 3
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/18/2014.

If both pitchers live up to their billing and the defense behind them is sharp, this could be a tight duel this evening.  Nobody’s had just a ton of success against Gonzalez, though I still remember a spring at-bat where Adams was able to get a hit off of him, which gave me a little more confidence about Adams hitting lefties.  So far, that’s held up and hopefully he’ll be able to do the same this evening.

Come back later this morning for the latest UCB project, my picks on who, from the official ballot, should get into the Cardinal HOF.  Enjoy your weekend!

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Bullpen Moves

Joe Kelly hits the DL, Keith Butler walks in Memphis, Jorge Rondon and Eric Fornataro join the club in our nation’s capitol for their first big league exposure, per Mr. Goold.

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Usually, as the song says, two out of three ain’t bad.  While that’s still a good way to pile up wins and work your way back into the postseason, it’s still good to sweep a club from time to time, especially when you have them down 2-0 in the series.  A loss isn’t the end of the world, but it’s still disappointing.  Unfortunately, “loss” could be applied twice to yesterday’s game, which made it much more than disappointing.

As you know by now, of course, Joe Kelly had to leave the game against the Brewers after pulling a hamstring trying to beat out a bunt for a hit.  While there’s hope that it’s not severe, it seems fairly likely Kelly is at least going to miss his next start, which would be the opener of the series with the Mets in New York.  Bernie Miklasz runs down the various options, but I agree with the Preacher, it looks like Tyler Lyons might get a spot start.  That obviously works with me, as long as the Patron Pitcher of the Blog doesn’t change his number.

As for the actual game, there’s little to say.  The Hero goes to Allen Craig, who stroked his first home run of the year which accounted for all the scoring.  Craig is slowly starting to come around, with a hit in each of his last five games, just about doubling his average in that time.  It’s still not the Craig that we know and love, but you can see the outline of that Craig in his current production.  Soon hits will start falling even more often and we’ll all feel a bit better.

On the flip side, our Goat is Seth Maness.  I mentioned on Twitter yesterday about how Maness, after having a few good outings, apparently still wasn’t fixed.  Folks helpfully pointed out that he was undone by a Jhonny Peralta error, which has merit.  (Well, save for the fact that they changed it to a hit afterwards.)  Obviously, the inning would have been over had Peralta been able to handle Wily Peralta‘s hit (too many Peraltas in this situation) but Maness still had two outs and a runner on first.

The top of the lineup was coming up, but he should have been able to get an out and get out of the inning.  Instead, a walk and a single loaded the bases, then two more singles brought in three runs.  I don’t know if the error rattled him or what, but Maness has got to be able to get good batters out.  Mike Matheny already has trust issues with much of the ‘pen and for the sake of Kevin Siegrist and Carlos Martinez and their continuing health, other people have to get outs.

Apparently, one of those other people is going to be Jorge Rondon, per our friend Eugene Tierney over at Examiner.com.  Rondon, who sparkled for the most part in spring training (save for some control issues), hasn’t exactly dominated Memphis, but with the bullpen being taxed yesterday and the uncertainty around Kelly, a fresh arm was needed.  Looks like Keith Butler will be who Rondon will be swapped for.  Butler had a good inning yesterday, but unfortunately he was out there for more than just three outs.  After loading the bases with nobody out in the eighth, he was pulled for Pat Neshek, who mainly got out of it, though he did walk in a run.

Rondon’s not likely to add a whole lot of confidence in the bullpen to Matheny’s mind, at least not at first.  There’s no doubt he’s another hard-throwing, electric arm and if he’s able to get batters out instead of putting them on, that could turn around quickly.  We saw how the youngsters made their mark last year, after all.

When you start talking about the bullpen, everyone starts to ask, “Hey, how’s that Jason Motte guy doing?”  Well, he’s facing batters in extended spring training and still seems to be on a timetable to return next month, even though his rehab assignment hasn’t started yet.  So while he may be able to stabilize the relief corps when he returns, there will still have to be some temporary measures put into place to get that far.  Jaime Garcia is also throwing, though he’s even farther behind.  He may get into an extended spring training game this week and they’ll go from there.

Cardinals are off to Washington for a four-game set.  They’ll get a test right off the bat in the form of Taylor Jordan, who has never faced the Cardinals before.  He’s faced Atlanta twice this season and struggled, but does have eight strikeouts in 11.1 innings.  He’s a fifth-starter type, especially for the pitching-rich Nationals, but we know how much trouble those guys have given St. Louis in the past.

At least the Cards get to counter with Adam Wainwright.  Waino’s on a roll this year, though he’s not always getting the support he needs.  He’s had some trouble with the Nats before, of course–Game 5 of the 2012 NLDS comes to mind–and that’s reflected in the numbers.

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Adam LaRoche 42 36 7 1 0 1 9 5 14 .194 .286 .306 .591 0 1 0 0 1
Jayson Werth 30 28 7 2 0 2 7 1 8 .250 .267 .536 .802 0 1 0 0 0
Ian Desmond 18 18 6 0 0 0 1 0 3 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Bryce Harper 18 16 8 2 1 1 2 2 3 .500 .556 .938 1.493 0 0 0 0 0
Nate McLouth 16 13 5 1 0 0 1 3 3 .385 .500 .462 .962 0 0 0 0 0
Danny Espinosa 11 11 1 0 0 0 1 0 5 .091 .091 .091 .182 0 0 0 0 0
Anthony Rendon 6 6 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .167 .167 .167 .333 0 0 0 0 0
Gio Gonzalez 5 3 0 0 0 0 0 1 3 .000 .250 .000 .250 1 0 0 0 0
Tanner Roark 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 1 0 0 0 0
Ross Detwiler 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 149 133 35 6 1 4 21 12 41 .263 .320 .414 .733 2 2 0 0 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/17/2014.

That said, last year he faced the Nationals twice and did well both times.  Most notably, last April in D.C. he threw 8.1 scoreless innings with nine strikeouts.  I’d say we’d take that again, wouldn’t you?  Let’s hope Wainwright is on his game tonight!

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Yesterday, Fox Sports tweeted out a column by Rob Neyer talking about what the Brewers’ recent nine-game winning streak meant.  I didn’t get a chance to actually read the article, but it wasn’t difficult to come up with an answer to that thought.

Basically, it meant the Brewers hadn’t played the Cardinals yet.

St. Louis took their second straight game from Milwaukee last night and again did so in a way that made the ninth inning anti-climatic.  (Though, to be fair, the ninth inning for the Cardinals yesterday was some fun baseball.)  The bats worked, the pitching worked, and the Cards reminded the Brewers that an early rush is nice, but the division still has to go through the Archway.

Shelby Miller pitched the kind of game that we were hoping to see from him this season.  Not exactly, of course–it’d been nice if he’d gone a little deeper into the game, though he probably could have if necessary, being taken out with 94 pitches–but three hits and one run will do it on most nights and it’s enough to be the Hero of the piece.  It’s a little concerning that, again, his run game from a long ball, but I’d live with a solo homer a game if that’s all he gave up.  Plus it came off the bat of Aramis Ramirez, who has been terrorizing anyone that pitches with the birds on the bat on their chest since 1895, it seems like.

Outside of Busch Stadium, where he’s been incredibly dominant, Miller Park is one of Miller’s favorite places to pitch.  In his career, he’s 2-0 there with a 3.09 ERA.  That’s probably because the Brewers are susceptible to his strikeout wiles–his 9.3 K/9 there is tied with Cincinnati for the highest in any park he’s spent a significant amount of time in.  Hopefully a game like this will get Miller on track and we’ll see stronger performances going forward.  I had high hopes for the young man this year and so far, he’s not lived up to them.  Last night showed there’s reasons to keep hope alive.

Offensively, the Redbirds are liking Miller Park as well.  They’ve hit four home runs here in two games, which given they’d only hit seven in the 12 games before that, is a pretty big explosion from the bats.  Jhonny Peralta went deep for the second straight night, reminding us what power from the shortstop position looks like.  We talked about it yesterday, that Peralta wasn’t far already from the top power season by anyone that’s played short for the Cards in the last decade.  I now wonder if he could top all of those homer totals combined.  (Without adding it up, I’d say that’d be in the 30-32 range, probably more than he’ll get, but not necessarily.)  Peralta’s hitting .500 over his last three games and is starting to come around.  He may not ever be a .300 hitter, but with his power potential, he’s going to be a force at the bottom of the lineup.

Matt Holliday went deep as well, which is always good to see, Matt Adams had a couple more hits, Yadier Molina scored three runs–all in all, it was a great day in Milwaukee.

The bullpen didn’t do anything to mar that either, as Pat Neshek, Kevin Siegrist and Seth Maness all worked smooth innings.  The game was 3-1 when Siegrist pitched, so it’s understandable that he came in, but Ben Humphrey over at Viva El Birdos has an outstanding point, that Siegrist and Carlos Martinez are getting used more often than they probably should be.  Let’s not look at their innings, just their usage:

March 31: Both
April 2: Both
April 3: Siegrist
April 4: Neither (Pittsburgh got out to the big early lead)
April 5: Both
April 6: Neither (Adam Wainwright went 7, Neshek 1)
April 7: Both
April 8: Martinez
April 9: Neither (Cards down 3-0 before the pen came in)
April 11: Both
April 12: Neither (Cards had the big lead)
April 13: Siegrist
April 14: Martinez
April 15: Siegrist

Honestly, that’s not quite as bad as I thought.  I couldn’t remember a game off the top of my head that at least one of those two guys hadn’t appeared, so having four games without them was a surprise.  Mike Matheny‘s not done a terrible job of relying on them in situations where it seemed superfluous to bring them in, either, Ben’s example in the article notwithstanding.  It’d be nice, though, if Matheny could trust more of the pen and perhaps the recent outings by Maness will help in that regard.

We’ve got to find a Goat from last night’s affair and that’s not an easy task when both the offense and the pitching staff do their jobs.  Only two players went 0-fer last night and one of them, Mark Ellis, drove in two runs while doing it.  (Ellis looks like a pretty nice piece to have on the team, doesn’t he?  Nothing flashy, but he succeeded in his RBI chances and played second well.  I don’t think Kolten Wong should fear for his job, but it’s nice to have that competence available when necessary.)  That should mean we’d have to give it to Matt Carpenter, who did score a run after drawing a walk but had no hits to show for it.

However, there’s a guy in the books with a hit that led to an out.  Peter Bourjos got credit for an infield hit when he hit a ground ball to Jean Segura, but Segura whirled and threw behind Peralta, who had rounded third, and got him out.  If Segura had gone to first, would he have gotten Bourjos?  I don’t know–I don’t think so, given Bourjos speed.  However, being that it was Bourjos’s only hit and he struck out twice, I think it’s still reasonable to give him the Goat in this one.

An afternoon tilt in Milwaukee with first place, in part, on the line.  If the Cardinals can complete their first sweep of the season, they’ll be tied with the Brewers atop the NL Central.  While the Cards have won four of five series, they’d not been able to put up the big 3-0 mark yet and it’d be nice to see it.

Joe Kelly will take the mound, trying to keep his early success going.  He saw Milwaukee twice last September and lost both games, giving up three runs in five and seven innings, respectively.  On the whole, the Brewers have hit him OK, if not at a dominant clip.

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Carlos Gomez 16 15 5 1 1 0 1 1 3 .333 .375 .533 .908 0 0 1 0 0
Aramis Ramirez 14 14 3 0 0 0 3 0 1 .214 .214 .214 .429 0 0 0 0 1
Ryan Braun 12 12 3 0 0 0 0 0 5 .250 .250 .250 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Jonathan Lucroy 11 10 3 1 0 0 1 0 0 .300 .273 .400 .673 0 1 0 0 0
Rickie Weeks 10 9 1 0 0 1 1 1 2 .111 .200 .444 .644 0 0 0 0 0
Scooter Gennett 7 7 3 1 0 0 1 0 3 .429 .429 .571 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Logan Schafer 7 7 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 .286 .286 .286 .571 0 0 0 0 0
Jeff Bianchi 6 6 2 0 0 0 2 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Martin Maldonado 6 6 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .167 .167 .167 .333 0 0 0 0 0
Jean Segura 4 2 1 0 0 0 2 1 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 1 0 0 1
Wily Peralta 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 1 0 0 0 0
Tyler Thornburg 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 1 0 0 0 0
Total 97 90 24 3 1 1 11 3 16 .267 .284 .356 .640 2 2 1 0 2
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/16/2014.

Interestingly, Kelly’s one of the few to be able to handle Ramirez. If he can handle Carlos Gomez like Lance Lynn and Miller did, that will go a long way toward a Cardinal victory.

Wily Peralta will be on the other side and hasn’t necessarily been as strong this year as that surface look at his numbers would indicate.  He’s got a 2.25 ERA, but he’s allowed four unearned runs in his 12 innings of work.  Like Kelly, he faced the Cards twice in September last year and also gave up three runs in each of those games (6.2 innings and five innings).

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Matt Carpenter 12 9 5 1 0 1 1 3 0 .556 .667 1.000 1.667 0 0 0 0 0
Jon Jay 12 12 4 0 0 0 1 0 3 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 1
Yadier Molina 12 11 3 0 0 0 1 1 2 .273 .333 .273 .606 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Holliday 9 7 3 0 0 1 4 1 2 .429 .556 .857 1.413 0 0 0 1 0
Matt Adams 6 6 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 .167 .167 .167 .333 0 0 0 0 0
Allen Craig 6 5 3 0 0 0 2 1 1 .600 .667 .600 1.267 0 0 0 0 0
Daniel Descalso 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Mark Ellis 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Joe Kelly 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Shelby Miller 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Shane Robinson 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Kolten Wong 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 69 61 21 1 0 2 9 7 11 .344 .420 .459 .879 0 0 0 1 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/16/2014.

The Redbirds have usually enjoyed seeing Peralta take the mound, though as a young pitcher he is continuing to improve.  It’s a small sample size, but given his past success and the slight uptick we’ve seen out of him in the last few days, perhaps it’s Allen Craig‘s day to break out.  We can hope!

Enjoy the afternoon baseball!

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Middle Infield Swap

Mark Ellis joins the team tonight, Pete Kozma heads to Memphis, per Jenifer Langosch.

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The Winter Soldiers

When you go to Milwaukee to play baseball around the ides of April, it’s not a surprise that you could be thankful that Miller Park has a retractable roof.  You’d expect a strong chance of rain and would hate for it to interfere with the game.  Last night, the roof was closed, but to keep the snow out.  Winter is like that last guest at your party that doesn’t get the hint when you start taking out the trash and cleaning up around them.  Go home, winter!

However, with a closed roof, the Brewers couldn’t blame the elements for their frozen offensive performance.  A team that came in red-hot with nine straight wins ran into a block of ice in the form of Lance Lynn.

I saw the first half of the game last night before heading out with friends to see Captain America 2.  (Side note: I’m not as young as I used to be, I can’t sleep in until noon like some of them and if the quality of this blog post is not up to the already-low standards we keep around here, it’s possible it’s because some of it was written with my eyes closed.  That said, I quite enjoyed the movie and look forward to seeing its ramifications on Agents of SHIELD.)  In this game, Lynn was our Cap, the Hero that saved the day.

That’s part of the frustrating bit with Lynn.  Just when we are about ready to completely write him off and request the door not hit him on the way out, he throws a game like this that reminds us of what he can do with his abilities.  There were few chances that the Brewers had of denting Cap’s shield in this one, the strongest likely being runners at second and third with two out, but Matt Garza struck out to end that threat.  Strikeouts were pretty prevalent last night, as Lynn racked up 11 of them.

Of course, if Lynn was Captain America, Jon Jay was the Falcon, the guy that came in to support the hero and give him what he needed to succeed.  Jay’s three-run home run in the sixth was a huge shot in the arm for this team and it gave Lynn and the bullpen the needed breathing room to make this anti-climatic.  Jay’s homer also alleviated concerns over the fact the Cards made two big outs on the bases in that inning.  Baserunning is something that is supposed to be improved every year, and yet every year we see questionable decisions on the basepaths.

Big nights also out of Jhonny Peralta and Matt Adams.  Peralta hit his third home run as the Cardinal shortstop, which is already closing in on the most home runs at that position since Edgar Renteria.  (David Eckstein had a surprising eight in 2005, while Rafael Furcal had seven after coming over from the Dodgers in 2011.  Peralta’s three would beat the seasons of most everyone else.)  He also had a single, bringing his average up to .150.  The bat seems to be thawing.

Adams’s bat hasn’t been cold since he picked it up this season, seeming to wield it like Mjolnir against the shift.  Adams stroked three hits last night and they weren’t cheap ones (well, maybe the first one was) either.  He’s starting to put some of his power behind the swings instead of just focusing on beating the shift.  He’s probably not going to hit .360 all season long, but it’s nice to see while it’s there.

We’ve got to have a Goat, of course, and since we limit it to players (and therefore can’t give it to Bob Davidson for tossing out Matt Carpenter at all, much less because he questioned a terrible pitch, though Davidson would probably like the attention), I’ll go with Kolten Wong, who went 0-4.  Rough day for the rookie, but that’s all it seems to be.  It’s nice to see 0-4 as an aberration, not as a continuing cause for worry.

All right, the yawns are getting to me so let’s look at today’s matchup.  Marco Estrada had a pretty good season last year and is off to a strong start in 2014.  The last time he faced the Cardinals, he went 6.2 innings and allowed just two hits and a run.  Suffice it to say, that’s pretty good.

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Jon Jay 26 21 6 1 0 1 3 4 3 .286 .423 .476 .899 0 0 0 1 0
Matt Holliday 25 23 8 2 0 1 7 2 2 .348 .400 .565 .965 0 0 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 22 22 12 2 0 1 5 0 4 .545 .545 .773 1.318 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Carpenter 17 15 4 2 0 0 2 2 3 .267 .353 .400 .753 0 0 0 0 1
Allen Craig 15 14 4 2 0 0 3 1 2 .286 .333 .429 .762 0 0 0 0 0
Daniel Descalso 13 11 4 1 1 0 1 2 2 .364 .462 .636 1.098 0 0 0 0 0
Pete Kozma 11 11 3 0 0 0 1 0 1 .273 .273 .273 .545 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Adams 9 8 2 0 0 1 1 1 3 .250 .333 .625 .958 0 0 0 0 0
Lance Lynn 4 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 2 .000 .333 .000 .333 1 0 0 0 0
Shane Robinson 4 2 1 0 0 0 1 2 0 .500 .750 .500 1.250 0 0 0 0 0
Tony Cruz 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Shelby Miller 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Kolten Wong 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Peter Bourjos 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 156 139 45 10 1 4 24 15 26 .324 .394 .496 .890 1 0 0 1 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/15/2014.

Even with that game, though, the Cards have been all right against him in his career.  That said, he was pretty shaky in his first couple of years and has gotten better, so these numbers might not be indicative of what we’ll see tonight.  Though it should be noted that the last time St. Louis faced him in his home park, he allowed four runs in six innings.

In that game, as will be the case tonight, he was opposed by Shelby Miller.  Miller has struggled early this season and his propensity for the long ball, which goes all the way back to the beginning of spring, could be a hindrance against a powerful team like Milwaukee in a park that doesn’t exactly hold the ball in.

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Jonathan Lucroy 15 13 4 0 0 0 2 1 0 .308 .333 .308 .641 0 1 0 0 0
Aramis Ramirez 12 10 5 0 0 1 4 1 1 .500 .500 .800 1.300 0 1 0 0 0
Jean Segura 12 12 0 0 0 0 0 0 5 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Carlos Gomez 11 11 1 0 0 0 0 0 4 .091 .091 .091 .182 0 0 0 0 0
Scooter Gennett 9 8 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 .375 .375 .375 .750 1 0 0 0 0
Ryan Braun 6 6 2 0 0 0 0 0 2 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 1
Rickie Weeks 6 5 0 0 0 0 0 1 2 .000 .167 .000 .167 0 0 0 0 0
Jeff Bianchi 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Khris Davis 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .333 .000 .333 0 0 0 1 0
Kyle Lohse 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Martin Maldonado 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 .000 .667 .000 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Wily Peralta 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 1 0 0 0 0
Logan Schafer 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .333 .000 .333 0 0 0 0 0
Marco Estrada 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .500 .000 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Total 91 79 16 0 0 1 6 7 19 .203 .270 .241 .510 2 2 0 1 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/15/2014.

Yet so far, Miller hasn’t had too much trouble with the Brewers.  Granted, at least one start he didn’t have to face Ryan Braun, who will be in the lineup tonight, and he’s not figured out Aramis Ramirez at all, but the latter is a fairly common occurrence among Cardinal pitchers.  If he can keep people off base in front of Ramirez, he might have a shot.

Remember, it’s the last day to get your name in the drawing for the 2011 Game 6 BluRay/DVD combo pack.  Fill out the form here!

Winning the series is big any time of year.  Hopefully the Cards can take care of that tonight!

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Good For What Ails Ya

The Cardinal offense had been sputtering, never reaching the heights that we had expected out of such a robust lineup.  Runs were hard to come by, opportunities were squandered, and it just felt like the engine couldn’t catch.

Then the Chicago Cubs came to town, and while that engine isn’t at a full-blown roar, it does seem to have caught and is ready to go.

Friday (6-3 loss in 11 innings)

Not that it all happened immediately, of course.  Friday was another example of things not quite firing on all cylinders.  (With that, I have now exhausted basically all of my car knowledge.)  It took a two-run ninth-inning rally not to lose the first game have scored only one run.  And, to be fair, the Cubs gave the Redbirds that one.  Jose Veras couldn’t have missed the strike zone more in that inning if it’d been a excitable Chihuahua on caffeine.

Still, they took advantage of the walks and the hit batsmen and Wellington Castillo (who, by hitting the three-run homer that won the game, helped make up for the wild pitch and stolen base he allowed in that inning) and came back, which was good to see, a little bit of that quick-strike lightening we saw often last year.  Just too bad it was wasted.

While there are a few offensive players to choose from–Yadier Molina and Matt Adams both had two hits and a run scored, Molina tossed in an RBI as well–I think I’ll go with Joe Kelly has the Hero in this one.  Kelly has often had to work out of jams, but in this one he went six innings, allowing just an unearned run and didn’t walk anyone, so the six hits he gave up for the most part didn’t hurt him.  More performances like that and anxiety medication might not be so hard to find in the St. Louis area.

When you give up the long ball that loses the game, you are pretty much going to be the Goat.  Trevor Rosenthal has had a rough start to this season, usually giving up runs when it doesn’t matter, when the Cards have a big enough lead.  This time, Mike Matheny ran Rosenthal out there for a second inning, even though that required him to bat in the tenth with the bases loaded and two outs.

Of course, Rosenthal might not have had to bat had there been anyone but Pete Kozma and Tony Cruz on the bench.  (Cruz, though, was covered in cobwebs since he’s only had one plate appearance all year.  Just like last year, you don’t see much of him in the early going.)  It seems odd that most of your bench is gone by the 10th inning, doesn’t it?  Granted, Matheny had to do a lot of maneuvering in the ninth just to keep the game going, so that is the price you pay, but double-switching out Jhonny Peralta in the top of the eighth meant that you 1) didn’t have him batting in that spot in the tenth and 2) used up Daniel Descalso, who you might have pinch-hit with in that spot had it been necessary.

And for what?  Descalso’s defense isn’t significantly better than Peralta’s.  If you taking Peralta out for a defensive replacement, bring Kozma in there.  That’s what he’s on the team for.  (Well, he’s mainly on the team to hold down the bench until Mark Ellis returns, but that’s neither here nor there.)  The pitcher’s spot was due up first in the bottom of the eighth, which would be the nominal reason to make a double switch when you bring Kevin Siegrist in, but then to start the ninth, Pat Neshek comes in.  So you could have hit for Siegrist in the bottom of the eighth with Descalso anyway and still had Peralta on the field.

It’s not the first time Matheny’s been caught short-handed in the early extra innings, forcing things like Rosenthal to bat.  Again, you’ve got to do a lot to get to that spot, but seems like moves come back to bite Matheny quite often.

Saturday (10-4 win)

Hello, offense.  We’ve missed you.

St. Louis tallied 13 hits, though only one walk (and that was an intentional pass to Molina).  I guess the pitches were too good to lay off of and, given the results, I don’t think anyone would disagree.  Allen Craig even got a hit, so you know things were going the Redbirds’ way.

Let’s give the Hero to Matt Carpenter.  Two for five in the leadoff spot with two RBI, both coming in the big innings that the Cards had and were important tallies.  He also scored a run while he was at it as generally everyone had a grand old time at the ballpark.

Molina was two for three with that walk and a RBI.  Adams went yard for the first time this year, which was really good to see.  He’s been great at beating the shift and picking up the base hits, but the power is what he can bring to the table that nobody else can, at least to that level.  There was talk going into this season about whether the Cards would have enough power, given their home run leader left for the Yankees.  The idea was that some folks had down power years last year and they’d bounce back this season.

So far, though, that’s not held true.  The Cards have seven–you know it’s low when general grammar styles force you to write out the number–home runs on the season.  That’s tied with the Padres, who have Petco Park as an excuse, for last in the NL.  The next closest teams are the Cubs, Mets and Marlins, all whom have 10.  (Of course, it could be worse. Texas–TEXAS, that well-known slugging team–only has five and the Royals have an unfathomable one.  Alex Gordon is the only thing keeping them from the shutout, and he hit that one on the 9th, meaning Kansas City had the goose egg for over a week.)

Adam Wainwright wasn’t as sharp as we’ve seen him much of the season, but he didn’t have to be.  He allowed a home run on his first pitch to Junior Lake, but he got that run back with an RBI single.  His last two runs came when the Cards were already up 9-2 and it’s unlikely Waino was completely bearing down, perhaps trying some things in a game setting.  He still had eight strikeouts and no walks, so the little ERA bump wasn’t anything to worry about.

It also means he can’t be the Goat and finding someone that is in a game like this is usually difficult to manage.  Every starter got one hit, the bullpen was crisp (good to see a scoreless inning out of Seth Maness, even if it was in a very low-pressure situation), so who do you go with?  I guess, in a totally unfair decision, I’ll go with Matt Holliday.  Just one for five, same as Adams, but he didn’t go yard.  He did score two runs, but left three on.  Seriously, there’s no good option for the Goat in this one, there really isn’t.  Which is exactly the kind of game we always want to see.

Sunday (6-4 win)

You know those cartoons where someone walks around with the rain cloud over their head?  I wonder if Michael Wacha relates to those.  Every outing so far that Wacha has been the starter has been delayed by rain at some point.  So I’m hopeful that, come July, Wacha can be persuaded to come be scheduled to start at a local game here.  We’ll need the rain.

Wacha also has been stingy with the runs, though Sunday felt like a veritable flood of offense against him when the Cubs got two runs on a homer in the first and tacked on another one later.  That skyrocketed his ERA all the way up to 1.89, which is just unacceptable.  (Where’s that sarcasm font?)  Putting Wainwright and Wacha back-to-back has meant, so far, two stellar pitching performances in a row and that’s a fun thing for Cardinal fans to watch.

Still, three runs in 6.1 innings probably doesn’t get him the Hero tag, though it’s a good outing.  There were a few players to choose from–I probably ought to pick Holliday with his 2-2, 2 BB day, just to make up for the injustice of making him the Goat Saturday–but I think I’ve got to go with Matt Carpenter again.  Just one hit, but he drove in three runs including the tie-breaker.  He also scored a run, so it’s hard to ignore a guy that was involved in two-thirds of the scoring.

Peralta got his first non-homer hits, having a two-hit day, and Kolten Wong had another nice day at the plate as well.  Siegrist, who is getting a lot of work here in the early going, threw 1.2 scoreless innings, another nice performance.

I’m giving the Goat to Matt Adams for his 0-4, 5 LOB day, but Rosenthal again was worrisome.  He gave up a run and wound up putting the tying run on base before finishing things out.  For the season, his ERA is over 7.00 and his WHIP is 1.36.  More troubling, as Tara pointed out last night on Gateway To Baseball Heaven, are the reports that his velocity is not as high as it was last season.  It’s still high–looking at the game log from yesterday, I see a number of 96 mph fastballs, with a 97 and 98 as well–but last year you saw him working consistently from 98-100.  Even just a couple of miles per off the fastball can be a big difference to major league hitters.  It’s definitely something to keep an eye on, even though if he’s still coming at 96, there’s likely not a significant physical issue.

Away from the field, the Cardinals gave out a two-year extension to general manager John Mozeliak this weekend.  If you can find someone to argue that it was an unnecessary and unwise move, please let me know, because I’m thinking they are a rare breed.  Mo has done a tremendous job in the front office and it’s good to know that he’ll be around until 2018.  (Well, you’d think he would be, at least.  Sports contracts are notoriously known for not being fulfilled one way or another.)

I think it’s fascinating that if he serves out the term of the contract, he’ll be behind just Bing Devine, whom he said he was able to talk to a lot about the job of general manager before Devine’s passing in 2007, and Walt Jocketty, his immediate predecessor and obviously someone whom he learned from as well.  Mo’s already staked out a good place in Cardinal history but he’s got a chance to make it a great one.  (Also, side note, did he have corrective eye surgery or something?  I’ve seen him a lot more often without his glasses this season, it seems like.)

Cards are up in Milwaukee now, having headed out after yesterday’s game and now have to figure out a way to slow down a rampaging Brewers team that’s won nine in a row and sits atop the NL Central by three games over the Redbirds.  There were some thoughts that Milwaukee could be a wild-card contender or at least in the hunt for a while, but nobody expected this.  Is it an early season mirage or a sign of things to come?  The Cards get a chance to find out while the Brewers get a chance to test themselves.

Matt Garza will take the mound for the Brew Crew.  St. Louis has seen him often, of course, as he was a member of the Cubs for years.  On the whole, familiarity has bred some contempt.

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Jhonny Peralta 25 25 11 2 0 0 3 0 6 .440 .440 .520 .960 0 0 0 0 1
Matt Holliday 20 18 6 2 0 0 0 2 4 .333 .400 .444 .844 0 0 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 13 12 2 0 0 0 3 0 1 .167 .154 .167 .321 0 1 0 0 0
Jon Jay 10 9 6 1 0 0 0 1 0 .667 .700 .778 1.478 0 0 0 0 0
Daniel Descalso 9 7 1 0 0 0 0 2 0 .143 .333 .143 .476 0 0 1 0 0
Matt Carpenter 7 4 1 0 0 0 0 3 0 .250 .571 .250 .821 0 0 0 0 0
Allen Craig 7 7 1 0 0 0 1 0 1 .143 .143 .143 .286 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Adams 3 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 .667 .667 .667 1.333 0 0 0 0 0
Tony Cruz 3 2 1 0 0 0 1 1 1 .500 .667 .500 1.167 0 0 1 0 0
Lance Lynn 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Adam Wainwright 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 101 91 31 5 0 0 8 9 14 .341 .396 .396 .792 0 1 2 0 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/14/2014.

It’s interesting that the guy on the top of the chart has seen Garza more in his American League incarnation than from his days in Chicago.  Perhaps that will help keep Peralta’s bat warm and really get him on track.  Nobody has taken Garza over the wall, so that power surge might not be coming tonight.

Lance Lynn goes for the Cardinals.  So far, not so good for Lynn, who has continued to confound his supporters and his critics alike, putting up a 2-0 record while fashioning a 6.55 ERA.  You’d think something would have to give and we’ll see which does in Milwaukee this evening.

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Aramis Ramirez 17 16 2 0 0 0 0 1 3 .125 .176 .125 .301 0 0 0 0 1
Jonathan Lucroy 16 13 3 0 0 0 0 3 4 .231 .375 .231 .606 0 0 0 0 2
Ryan Braun 13 13 4 0 0 1 3 0 3 .308 .308 .538 .846 0 0 0 0 0
Carlos Gomez 13 12 3 0 0 0 0 1 5 .250 .308 .250 .558 0 0 0 0 0
Jean Segura 10 10 5 0 1 0 2 0 2 .500 .500 .700 1.200 0 0 0 0 0
Rickie Weeks 10 10 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 .100 .100 .100 .200 0 0 0 0 2
Scooter Gennett 8 6 4 2 0 0 1 2 0 .667 .750 1.000 1.750 0 0 0 0 0
Jeff Bianchi 7 7 1 0 0 0 0 0 4 .143 .143 .143 .286 0 0 0 0 0
Khris Davis 6 6 1 0 0 0 1 0 1 .167 .167 .167 .333 0 0 0 0 0
Logan Schafer 6 5 2 0 0 0 1 1 1 .400 .500 .400 .900 0 0 0 0 0
Marco Estrada 4 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 1 0 0 0 0
Martin Maldonado 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Lyle Overbay 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 .000 .667 .000 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Yovani Gallardo 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 1 0 0 0 0
Matt Garza 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Kyle Lohse 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0
Mark Reynolds 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 123 109 28 2 1 1 8 10 31 .257 .319 .321 .640 4 0 0 0 5
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/14/2014.

This is the first time St. Louis has faced the Brewers with Ryan Braun in a while, which is never a good thing.  Between him and Aramis Ramirez, it’s a difficult task to run through the Milwaukee lineup.  Hopefully Lynn can keep the ball in the yard tonight.

It’d be nice to take the Brewers down a peg, wouldn’t it, or at least slow them down?  Let’s hope that begins tonight!

3 comments

You might remember Justin Jabs from Baseblog.  He’s been a part of the Playing Pepper series for a number of years and I had some guest posts on his site last summer.  Given the fact that the two teams are meeting up this weekend, I thought this would be a great time to test out a new service on the Internet.

ReplyAll, at least to me, seems to be filling some of the space Cover It Live left open when it went to a pay model.  You can have conversations there in real-time (or delayed, depending on how fast you want to respond) and you can also take comments or questions from the audience.  They’ve also got a function where you can embed conversations into blog posts, so you can see where this is going.

Justin and I just started talking and we’ll likely keep it up throughout the day, so be sure to come back often and see what we are talking about, and feel free to toss in your comments or questions over at the ReplyAll page for this conversation as well!

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Before the game yesterday afternoon, I listened to Mike Matheny in his pregame chat with Mike Shannon.  Both of them indicated that Tuesday night’s rally was something that could inspire confidence, that the team could “feed on for awhile”.

Apparently, rallies don’t go as far as they used to*.  (Not to be confused with Rally’s, which may go perfectly far, I don’t know, ours went out of business many years ago.)

*Even before the game, it seemed like the hype around Tuesday’s comeback was a little overblown.  Yes, they were down four runs and often a game can be over if a team grabs that kind of lead, but it’s not unheard of to come back from that deficit, especially when it’s the second inning.  Maybe not all at once, as the Cards did, but a good offense like that should be able to at least chip away at an early gap.  It’s nice, sure, but it’s no World Series Game 6, which, as you know, you could still enter to win.  I promise you, I didn’t begin that sentence planning on a plug.  “Started well, that sentence.” “It got away from me, yeah.”

Anyway, after all that talk about feeding on rallies and confidence being inspired, the club went out and posted four hits, two of which were erased on double plays.  Tough to win ballgame that way.  Not impossible, of course, but tough.

The Cardinals just couldn’t seem to find a way to hit Mike Leake.  You can’t even blame a getaway/end-of-series lineup, as the only regular that didn’t get a start was Allen Craig, who hasn’t been hitting anyway.  We’ve seen feast or famine out of this club for a couple of years now, so I don’t think anyone was shocked, but it’s still a rough way to spend a gorgeous afternoon*.

*All those that were at the ballpark have my envy.  I’ve already expressed as much to our cohort Dathan, who took the day off to watch the Cards.

Shelby Miller did what he could, but he was burned yet again by a home run.  It seems like that’s going to be a bugaboo for him all year long.  When the offense is clicking or even just giving him regular support, that may not be a huge deal.  After all, a solo home run, even a two-run one, should be able to be overcome.  Yesterday, though, the two-run blast by Devin Mesoraco was all the Reds were going to need.  Save for that home run, though, Miller pitched well, even getting around a leadoff triple by Billy Hamilton without him scoring, which is a pretty solid feat.  If only he could pitch like Lance Lynn to get his team to score for him…..

To be fair, Miller wasn’t blameless.  Besides the home run, he allowed two stolen bases–when Yadier Molina can’t even throw down on them, you know that they’ve stolen them off the pitcher.  He’s got to keep that in mind, even if he won’t necessarily run into a team that will steal as often as the Reds very regularly.

Hamilton stole two bases (one in the ninth off Pat Neshek) and you know Molina is just dying to throw him out.  That’s four bases in Hamilton’s young career that he’s stolen off the best throwing catcher in baseball, which will have to give you a lot of confidence if you didn’t have it before.  Then again, given that he tagged up on that shallow fly to Jon Jay, confidence isn’t something Hamilton is lacking at all.  I know Jay has a very weak arm (which showed there), but even with that scouting report, gambling on a fly ball that barely leaves the infield requires guts–a two-run lead doesn’t hurt, either.

Tough to find a Hero in this one.  I’ll give it to Matt Adams, who had the only extra-base hit of the day while going 1-3.  As I say every year, not every Hero and every Goat are worth the same.  Some days the bar for each is a little higher or a little lower.

While we are talking about good parts of the game, kudos to Seth Maness for a scoreless inning.  Maness has struggled ever since we started seeing game action in Jupiter and putting a zero on the board has to help him out some as well.

Let’s find us a Goat.  Don’t want Miller, because even though he got the loss, there were some good aspects to his game.  I was going to with Matt Carpenter, given his 0-4.  Remember, leadoff hitters in my system tend to bear the brunt of things.  If there are an equal number of people I could pick for the Goat, a hitless leadoff guy breaks the ties because it’s so important for him to get on base.  Carpenter’s had a good start to the season, but everyone has an off day.  However, reading the stories, I see he made some good defensive plays, which could mitigate his lack of production at the plate.  So I guess I will go with Jon Jay, given his 0-3 and the fact that he allowed that highlight-reel play from Hamilton.

On the face of it, it’s troubling that Neshek gave up another run.  Then you see it was a bunt single, a stolen base, and a base hit up the middle that scored Hamilton and it makes a little more sense.  He definitely didn’t get beat around the yard, it was just Hamilton using that speed of his, which was on display all day long.

Day off today, then the Cubs come into today for the weekend.  The Cubs beat the Pirates last night and are 3-5 on the season, with another game against the Bucs this afternoon.  They’ll put Jeff Samardzija on the mound, which gives the Cardinals another tough pitcher to face.  Samardzija is 0-1 this season, but with a 1.29 ERA.  He shut out Pittsburgh on Opening Day for seven innings but didn’t get the decision, then allowed a couple of runs to the Phillies next time out.  We’ve watched as Samardzija has developed into the ace of this staff and it could be another tight game Friday night.

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Matt Holliday 21 17 4 0 0 0 0 4 1 .235 .381 .235 .616 0 0 0 0 1
Jon Jay 19 18 8 0 0 0 2 1 4 .444 .474 .444 .918 0 0 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 19 17 9 1 0 0 2 1 2 .529 .579 .588 1.167 0 0 0 1 1
Matt Carpenter 16 13 2 0 1 0 2 3 1 .154 .313 .308 .620 0 0 0 0 0
Daniel Descalso 14 11 2 1 0 0 2 2 2 .182 .286 .273 .558 0 1 1 0 0
Allen Craig 8 8 3 1 0 0 0 0 2 .375 .375 .500 .875 0 0 0 0 0
Joe Kelly 5 5 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 .200 .200 .400 .600 0 0 0 0 0
Shane Robinson 5 4 2 0 0 0 1 1 1 .500 .600 .500 1.100 0 0 0 0 0
Adam Wainwright 5 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Adams 4 4 2 1 0 0 0 0 2 .500 .500 .750 1.250 0 0 0 0 0
Tony Cruz 4 3 0 0 0 0 1 1 1 .000 .250 .000 .250 0 0 0 0 1
Pete Kozma 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Kolten Wong 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 125 110 34 5 1 0 10 13 19 .309 .384 .373 .757 0 1 1 1 3
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/10/2014.

The Cardinals have been able to hit him in the past, of course, but that’s become a little less frequent in the last year or two.  He gave up three runs in six innings when the Cards saw him in September, but before that he allowed two runs in 8.1 innings in June.  They can get to him, but whether they will or not is debatable.

St. Louis counters with Joe Kelly, making just his second start of the year.  He got the only win in Pittsburgh, working out of jams and keeping runs off the board.  In other words, a fairly typical Kelly start.

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Anthony Rizzo 14 13 1 1 0 0 0 1 3 .077 .143 .154 .297 0 0 0 0 0
Starlin Castro 13 12 3 1 0 0 0 0 6 .250 .308 .333 .641 0 0 0 1 1
Welington Castillo 10 9 3 0 0 0 0 1 4 .333 .400 .333 .733 0 0 0 0 0
Nate Schierholtz 10 10 4 3 0 0 0 0 3 .400 .400 .700 1.100 0 0 0 0 0
Justin Ruggiano 9 9 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 .111 .111 .111 .222 0 0 0 0 0
Darwin Barney 7 6 2 0 0 0 1 1 0 .333 .429 .333 .762 0 0 0 0 0
Junior Lake 6 5 1 1 0 0 1 1 1 .200 .333 .400 .733 0 0 0 0 0
Luis Valbuena 6 5 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .167 .000 .167 0 0 0 0 0
Jeff Samardzija 5 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Ryan Sweeney 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Edwin Jackson 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Carlos Villanueva 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Travis Wood 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 89 83 16 6 0 0 2 5 25 .193 .247 .265 .512 0 0 0 1 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/10/2014.

Kelly’s done pretty well against the baby bears in his career.  He’s limited the extra-base damage and, for the most part, kept the Cubs off base.  If he can do that again tomorrow, it could be another 1-0 type game.  I don’t think it’ll be quite that low scoring, but the potential is there.

I see Michael Wacha is already getting to be the face of an advertising campaign.  Pretty neat that they looked to him to be part of the RBI Baseball ’14 launch!

Likely no post tomorrow, unless something happens that needs discussing or I get creative (really, you shouldn’t hope for the latter, you’ve seen what results).  Enjoy the off day and let’s see if the Cards can’t win some games against those Cubs!

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There was a saying about Bob Gibson.  I’m not sure who said it first, I’m thinking Tim McCarver during his playing days, but I could easily be wrong.  The saying went something like this:

“Gibson is the luckiest man on earth.  He always pitches on the days the other team doesn’t get any runs.”

Obviously, this was a subtle way of pointing out the greatest of Gibby.  He had a little something to do with the other team not scoring, after all.

So perhaps the flip side of that saying might point out that all Cardinal pitchers might want to take a page out of Lance Lynn‘s book.  After all, he’s just as “lucky” as Gibson was, right?

“Lynn is the luckiest man on earth.  He always pitches on the days his team scores a ton of runs.”

Obviously, I’m not really saying that Lynn has anything to do with the run support that he gets, save in the occasional at-bats that he gets.  In fact, you’d almost think the opposite.  When a team knows that it’s going to have to score in bunches for a pitcher, it tends to try too hard, press a little bit.  When they are relaxed, figuring a couple of runs will do it, that seems to be when the deluge comes.

Yet in the 2012 season, Lynn ranked first among qualified pitchers in all of MLB with 5.90 runs per start.  Last year, he was seventh in MLB and first in the National League with 5.15 runs per start.  This year, even with the small sample skewing sizes, he’s seventh in MLB and fifth in the NL.  Once is luck, twice is coincidence, three times…..well, three times starts to be a pattern.

There should be absolutely no connection though!  Why is it that they score for Lynn and not for other pitchers?  I mean, some of Lynn’s rank is because the Cardinal offense is prolific–Shelby Miller ranked 14th last year in MLB in run support, Adam Wainwright 21st–but not all of it, otherwise those pitchers would be much closer to Lynn in the rankings.

Whatever the case, Lynn should be very appreciative.  Take a look at runs allowed by the starters so far this season.

0, 0, 3, 5, 1, 2, 0, 5

Save for Miller’s problems against the Pirates, the Lynn games are easy to pick out.  It’s somewhat said that Michael Wacha got a no-decision and Wainwright a loss giving up fewer runs in two games than Lynn has in any one of his.

Anyway, let’s talk about last night’s game in specific.  Lynn, as he did last week against the Reds, gave up three in the first.  Unlike last week, he gave up another in the second and things didn’t look so hot.  Thankfully, the Cards remembered how to hit Homer Bailey and quickly erased that gap, finally taking the lead on a long drive by Matt Holliday that turned Jay Bruce into Nelson Cruz.

It’s a good thing Holliday had that key hit, because the rest of the night was Goat-like.  Bailey made him look bad a couple of times, but that got pretty much washed away with that two-run double off of Bruce’s glove.

When you are looking for a Hero, it’s often a good idea to start with Yadier Molina and that’s where we’re going today as well.  Three hits, including a home run that started the scoring.  Yadi’s already got three long balls on the year, which may mean a return to 2012 power levels if this keeps up.

Major kudos to Peter Bourjos as well.  Gorgeous Bourjos, as someone calls him, had three hits, drove in a run, and scored two.  We’ve already seen his defense, but if he can work his way up to even a league-average hitter, this lineup gets even more productive.  Which Lynn is probably quite grateful for.

Big night for Kolten Wong as well, who had two hits including a sharp double that tied the game in the second.  Wong also played some good defense in the field and is showing that those early spring training worries were really unfounded.  Matt Adams and Matt Carpenter also had two hits and Adams made a fine snag on a foul ball that just about had him landing on his head in the dugout.  Seriously, it was impressive that Adams could keep his balance enough on the rail to give his teammates time to come push him back on the field.  Big Fill In The Blank was Big Puma last night.

Trevor Rosenthal raised concerns by giving up a leadoff single, given how yesterday’s game ended, but he shut those concerns and the Reds down quickly, striking out two of the next three batters.  Looks like Monday was a temporary blip, though given the number of pitches, he might be off limits today.  Then again, tomorrow’s an off-day…..

If you don’t want to give the Goat to Lynn, and while he’s probably worthy of it, I’m not given the fact that, after the first, he did settle in for the most part, you have to look at Allen Craig.  0-5, two strikeouts, six left on base.  Right now, the 2013 version of The Wrench is a distant memory.  Craig will likely get on track–again, we remember how much concern we had over Wong’s first few spring games–but it’s rough to watch it right now.  Even when he gets a solid swing on the ball, he is robbed and, to add insult to injury, it’s turned into a double play.  One of these days, he’ll get a couple of hits and the momentum will start.  Just hope it’s pretty soon.

I’m not one to give advice to the opposition, nor am I typically one to think about the opposition at all in general terms, but the Reds have got to either talk with Brandon Phillips or move him out of the second spot in the order.  Billy Hamilton hasn’t been on first much this season, what with his .091 average, but the couple of times he’s had a chance to steal second against the Cards, both in this series and at the end of the last one, Phillips is up there hacking, not allowing Hamilton to steal the bag.  Given that, at least right now, Hamilton singling could be the same things as Hamilton doubling, why not take a few pitches?  Yet Phillips seems to foul off balls when Hamilton is going or, as he did last night, pop out on the first pitch.  Now, granted, Hamilton hasn’t been able to reach very often, but the Reds aren’t going to be able to use his speed if Phillips can’t control his bat.

Last game against the Reds for about six weeks, which is nice.  Not that I have anything against the Reds, but let’s see some different colors and teams on the field.  It’s the first new pitching matchup of the series as Miller goes for the Cardinals.  Miller struggled against the Pirates last time out, so we’ll have to see if it was more they have his number (given last year’s results) or something to be concerned about.

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Joey Votto 9 6 1 0 0 1 3 3 3 .167 .444 .667 1.111 0 0 0 0 0
Brandon Phillips 8 8 3 1 0 1 1 0 2 .375 .375 .875 1.250 0 0 0 0 0
Jay Bruce 7 5 0 0 0 0 0 2 2 .000 .286 .000 .286 0 0 0 0 1
Zack Cozart 7 7 1 0 0 0 0 0 3 .143 .143 .143 .286 0 0 0 0 0
Todd Frazier 5 5 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 .400 .400 .400 .800 0 0 0 0 0
Chris Heisey 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Ryan Ludwick 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Devin Mesoraco 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Homer Bailey 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 45 40 8 1 0 2 4 5 13 .200 .289 .375 .664 0 0 0 0 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/9/2014.

The Reds haven’t seen Miller all that much, but they’ve not done much against him when they have.  Phillips and Todd Frazier look like guys to pay attention too, but again that’s a pretty small sample size.

Cardinals get to see Mike Leake take the hill for the Cincinnati club.  Leake gave up four runs in just under seven innings against the Mets in his season debut.  St. Louis has seen him a few times and the results weren’t half-bad.

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Matt Holliday 24 23 10 3 0 1 6 1 1 .435 .458 .696 1.154 0 0 0 0 1
Jon Jay 20 18 6 1 0 0 1 2 3 .333 .400 .389 .789 0 0 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 17 17 4 1 0 1 1 0 5 .235 .235 .471 .706 0 0 0 0 2
Allen Craig 14 14 4 1 0 0 0 0 2 .286 .286 .357 .643 0 0 0 0 1
Matt Carpenter 12 10 2 0 0 0 1 1 1 .200 .250 .200 .450 0 1 0 0 0
Daniel Descalso 8 8 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .125 .125 .125 .250 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Adams 6 6 2 0 0 1 2 0 1 .333 .333 .833 1.167 0 0 0 0 0
Tony Cruz 5 4 2 0 0 0 0 1 0 .500 .600 .500 1.100 0 0 0 0 1
Adam Wainwright 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Pete Kozma 2 2 1 0 0 0 1 0 1 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Lance Lynn 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Shane Robinson 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 1
Kolten Wong 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 116 110 32 6 0 3 12 5 16 .291 .319 .427 .746 0 1 0 0 6
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/9/2014.

Holliday’s carried the bulk of the load, though Molina also has a homer against him.  Perhaps Miller can learn Lynn’s skill in time for tonight and get plenty of run support to ease the load.

Remember, we’re giving away DVDs in response to your feedback, so if you’ve not filled out the form, check it out here.  (And we’ll take your feedback even if you don’t want the DVD, just add that in the comments!)  Enjoy the afternoon baseball!

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In case you’ve not seen them elsewhere, the Cards have released pictures of the 2013 NL Championship ring that the players will get tonight.  Suffice it to say, it’s purty.  All photos from Taka Yanagimoto, team photographer.

Front of ring Win Side of Ring

Full Win Side of Ring Player Side of Ring

Inside of Ring

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It wasn’t a perfect home opener for the Cardinals.  There was a lot of stuff falling from the sky, though given the winter we’ve had I guess we should be thankful it wasn’t snow.  The Clydesdales didn’t get to trot around the field.  The absence of Stan Musial was still felt on just the second Opening Day without him.

Other than that, though, it was darn close.

Someone Tweeted out yesterday that the Cards were 2-6 in openers in the new Busch, so getting a win against the Reds on Monday wasn’t a fait accompli.  Especially since the Redbirds were facing Tony Cingrani, who had shut them down fairly effortlessly in Cincinnati last weekend.

We may be seeing the key for this team to beating left-handers in the first week of the season.  First with Francisco Liriano, then yesterday with Cingrani, the Cards pounced early, not letting them settle in.  In the bottom of the first, the first three St. Louis batters reached and then, after Allen Craig struck out on ball four, showing that it isn’t 2013 anymore, Hero Yadier Molina cleared the full bases with a double, putting the Cards up 3-0.

Just like they did with Liriano, the bats then got a little quiet.  Not as bad as in Pittsburgh, when it was roughly 13 up, 13 down, but from the second until Matt Adams singled with one out in the sixth, the Cardinals were hitless.  Cingrani tossed in some walks in that span and Kolten Wong reached on an error, but it becomes difficult to mount a real rally without a base knock or two.

Still, the Cards had Michael Wacha on the mound and the way this guy has pitched ever since his second callup last year, if you give him three runs, you are very likely going to win.  Wacha wasn’t quite as sharp as he was in Cincinnati, allowing seven hits, but his defense picked him up as they turned a couple of double plays behind him to erase leadoff batters as well as the rundown they got Billy Hamilton in off of third in the first inning, spearheaded by a heads-up play by Wong.

After the Cards put up two in the seventh, it seemed that it was just a matter of time before they could cap off an exciting day with a win.  It was, but Goat Trevor Rosenthal made it much more interesting than it had to be.  Walking one guy in the ninth is never a good thing.  Walking two guys and allowing two hits, bringing the tying run to the plate, got people thinking about another home opener when things went awry.  Thankfully Rosenthal settled and got the next three guys, otherwise this blog post sounds a lot different this morning.

With Ballpark Village opening (and, of course, counting into the tally), yesterday set a new attendance record.  I expect that’ll be broken if the Cards are playing in October, but it’s a great way to kick off the 2014 season.

Save for Rosenthal, the bullpen was pretty solid yesterday.  Then again, Mike Matheny went with the old standbys of Carlos Martinez and Kevin Siegrist.  It is good to see that Matheny’s not necessarily hidebound to specific innings with these guys.  Knowing the Reds had Joey Votto and Jay Bruce, Martinez appeared in the seventh and got an out in the eighth before turning it over to Siegrist.  If the lineup was different, Siegrist might have come in first before Martinez.  Being flexible with how you use people is a good thing, though again Matheny’s going to have to be careful not to overuse these two or he may find that even his old reliables aren’t so reliable.

As we posted yesterday, the Cards are on Fox Sports 1 tonight, so if you aren’t a fan of the Cardinal announcers, you could be happy about that, assuming you get Fox Sports 1, of course.  On the flip side of that, you get Thom Brennamen and, from what I gather on Twitter, for most Cardinal fans they’d rather have even Al Hrabosky than Thom, so maybe it’s one of those careful what you wish for situations.

Lance Lynn and Homer Bailey hook up again after facing each other last week in the Queen City.  Lynn gave up three runs in five innings, but brought home the win as the Cardinal offense busted out after scoring just one run in the first two games.

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Zack Cozart 21 20 6 1 0 2 3 0 2 .300 .333 .650 .983 0 0 0 1 0
Brandon Phillips 21 20 6 1 0 0 5 0 5 .300 .286 .350 .636 0 1 0 0 0
Jay Bruce 19 16 7 1 1 2 6 2 6 .438 .474 1.000 1.474 0 1 0 0 1
Joey Votto 19 14 6 1 0 0 0 5 5 .429 .579 .500 1.079 0 0 0 0 0
Todd Frazier 18 15 3 0 0 2 2 2 8 .200 .333 .600 .933 0 0 0 1 1
Ryan Ludwick 5 4 1 0 0 0 0 1 2 .250 .400 .250 .650 0 0 0 0 1
Homer Bailey 4 4 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Chris Heisey 4 4 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .250 .250 .250 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Billy Hamilton 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Devin Mesoraco 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Brayan Pena 3 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 .667 .667 .667 1.333 0 0 0 0 0
Roger Bernadina 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Tony Cingrani 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Ramon Santiago 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Mike Leake 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 127 111 36 4 1 6 16 12 33 .324 .394 .541 .934 0 2 0 2 3
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/8/2014.

Lynn’s still got to figure out Votto and Bruce, or at least make sure the hits that they get don’t burn him.  So far the Cards have been able to limit Hamilton’s time on the bags and that probably would be a good thing for tonight as well.

Bailey has been inconsistent in his career, but we hope for more of last week, when he gave up four runs in less than five innings.  That’s much better than those shutdown games he’s had in the past against St. Louis.

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Matt Holliday 41 37 13 4 1 2 8 4 10 .351 .415 .676 1.090 0 0 0 0 1
Jon Jay 29 27 8 3 1 1 3 1 1 .296 .345 .593 .937 0 0 0 1 0
Yadier Molina 28 27 8 2 0 2 3 1 1 .296 .321 .593 .914 0 0 0 0 1
Matt Carpenter 19 19 11 2 0 0 1 0 3 .579 .579 .684 1.263 0 0 0 0 0
Allen Craig 14 12 2 0 0 1 2 2 4 .167 .286 .417 .702 0 0 0 0 1
Daniel Descalso 13 12 2 0 0 0 1 1 3 .167 .231 .167 .397 0 0 0 0 0
Pete Kozma 8 8 2 1 0 0 1 0 1 .250 .250 .375 .625 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Adams 6 4 3 1 0 1 2 2 0 .750 .833 1.750 2.583 0 0 0 0 0
Kolten Wong 6 5 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 .200 .333 .200 .533 0 0 0 0 0
Tony Cruz 5 4 1 0 0 0 0 1 2 .250 .400 .250 .650 0 0 0 0 0
Jhonny Peralta 5 4 2 0 0 1 2 1 0 .500 .600 1.250 1.850 0 0 0 0 0
Lance Lynn 4 4 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 .250 .250 .250 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Michael Wacha 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Shane Robinson 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Adam Wainwright 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Shelby Miller 1 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 1.000 1.000 2.000 3.000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 188 173 57 14 2 8 23 14 30 .329 .383 .572 .955 0 0 0 1 3
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/8/2014.

Peter Bourjos got his first hits of the season yesterday, otherwise I’d have almost thought it a lock that Jon Jay would get the start tonight.  He still might, given he’s hit well so far this season and does have the history against Bailey, but Bourjos got the call last week and well might again tonight.

All the festivities are over.  There’s no more pomp and circumstance until October.  It’s just the daily grind of baseball, which is wonderful!

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The Cardinals spent a weekend in Pittsburgh, a place that used to be a home away from home but lately has been much more difficult.  There, we saw sporadic offense and Pedro Alvarez played Babe Ruth, things that we’ve come to expect from a trip to the Iron City.  But, hey, at least they figured out Francisco Liriano, sort of!

Friday (12-2 loss)

Hero: Matt Carpenter.  After a slow start to the season in Cincinnati, Carpenter finally flashed a little of that ’13 version of himself, going 2-3 with a run and both RBI.  His two-run homer against Gerrit Cole was the only scoring and much of the only offense, so it’s pretty obvious he’s got to get this tag.

Goat: Shelby Miller.  I had high expectations going into the season for Miller, but apparently the Pirates still have his number.  It wasn’t surprising when he allowed Alvarez’s first long ball, given that one of the few issues he had in the spring was giving up home runs.  To give up three, though, and five runs in the process is not a good night.  Hopefully we can just chalk it up to Pittsburgh being a tough team for Miller and we’ll see better the next time out.

Notes: If there was ever any doubt that the last spot in the bullpen was a temporary position, Keith Butler put that to rest with a five-run eighth inning.  Going to be a long time before that ERA of his comes down after that start.  Seth Maness had a rough outing as well, allowing four hits and a walk in 1.2 innings and giving up a run plus letting his inherited runner score.  Seems like every year the bullpen needs some focus and this year doesn’t look like it’s going to be any different.

Saturday (6-1 win)

Hero: Carlos Martinez.  With a 4-1 lead and two runners on in the sixth, Martinez was summoned to replace Joe Kelly.  He promptly got two ground balls to get out of that threat, then worked a quick seventh that was only marred by a leadoff walk to Andrew McCutchen.  Given some of the bullpen work this weekend, it was appropriate to highlight a job done well.

Goat: Kolten Wong.  Rough night for Wong, as he went 0-4 with a strikeout and four left on base.  Of course, it was a bit of a coin flip between him, Peter Bourjos (0-3, walk, 2 K), and Allen Craig (0-3, RBI, strikeout).

Notes: While you could say the Cards got to Liriano, they didn’t solve him.  After Kelly’s double in the second, Liriano didn’t allow another baserunner until Yadier Molina‘s homer in the sixth.  Save for the number of runs, his line was comparable if not better to Kelly’s…..Speaking of the Cardinal starter, he did his best Houdini impression–and he’s had a good bit of practice doing that, so you know it’s good.  10 base runners in 5.1 innings is usually a recipe for disaster, but Kelly was able to work out of jams of his own creation, at least until Martinez helped him out of the last one…..Jhonny Peralta‘s quest to only hit home runs continued with his only hit of the game being a two-run blast in the 9th that made the game serious.  So two hits, two home runs.  That’s the way to salvage a rough starting week, I guess.

Sunday (2-1 loss)

Hero: Jon Jay.  Not a huge crop of players to consider for this one and Jay made his one hit count by tripling in the Cardinals’ only run and briefly tying the game up.  If Bourjos can’t find some semblance of offense, we are going to see Jay get more time out in center field, I expect.  Bourjos’s defense is as advertised and it won’t take much to keep him out there permanently, but he is going to have to get a hit eventually.

Goat: Matt Adams.  While the game story (and I’ll confess, I was doing home projects and was unable to actually watch the game) points out that P