C70 At The Bat

“Jeez, I’m out of it for a little while, everyone gets delusions of grandeur!”–Han Solo

I should know by now not to go anywhere at this time of year.  I still remember finding out about the Ryan Ludwick trade sitting in a McDonald’s in Ohio, for instance.  Sadly, given my work schedule, it seems the end of July is often when I can get away and this year our short jaunt to St. Louis was based around Star Wars Night, so I didn’t have much choice in the matter.  Still, when I can’t write things up, that’s when the magic happens.  (I expect some zealous fan to come hide me in a cave until the deadline today to see if that gets John Mozeliak to make another move.)  Anyway, lots to discuss.  Let’s do the game recaps first.  (Please note that while I was putting this together the Cardinals traded for Jonathan Broxton.  So you’ll have to scroll down for that at the end of the post.)

Monday (4-1 win vs. Cincinnati)

Hero: Kolten Wong.  His one swing in this one was pretty much the offense for the entire Cincinnati series.  With two outs and the bases loaded, so often we’d see a ground ball or a fly out that produced nothing but the end of the inning.  It was good to get a bit of a jolt for the first time in a while.

Goat: Jhonny Peralta.  0-4, one strikeout, four left on.  The offense wasn’t exactly prolific, with three of their seven hits coming in that fourth inning that was capped by the slam, but Peralta’s line looks the worst.

Notes: Lance Lynn just continues to keep holding the line, doing what he can to see if the offense will come around for him.  He allowed one run in seven innings and continued to just be a guy you can rely on to give you quality every time out.  The rotation needed a rock with Adam Wainwright out and Lynn has definitely provided it.

Two hits for Matt Carpenter in this one and, given how this set of games I’m recapping ends, perhaps he was starting to come out of whatever funk he was in anyway.  More on Carp in a little bit, though.

Tuesday (4-0 loss vs. Cincinnati)

Hero: Stephen Piscotty.  I was at this game, a miserably hot and muggy affair with absolutely no breeze.  To watch this slog in those conditions was pretty brutal.  The only real saving grace was watching Piscotty.  He had the first hit, which meant I wasn’t going to see the Cards get no-hit thankfully, and drew a walk.  All in all, I was impressed with him in this one and the next one and it raised my estimation of him a bit.

Goat: Matt Carpenter.  I know, I know, I just said that he might have been coming around.  That said, 0-4 with two strikeouts isn’t exactly a resume-enhancer.  Mike Leake is a tough customer (and we’ll have to see him again when the Cards take on the Giants late in August) but it still wasn’t Carp’s finest hour.

Notes: Jaime Garcia looked pretty good, but Joey Votto was not to be denied that night.  One mistake at the wrong time and the Cards are down 3-0 with no signs of being able to cut into that deficit.  Other than that, Garcia looked as good as he did before he went on the disabled list, so there’s no reason to believe he can’t be strong down the stretch.  We’ll see how he does against the Rockies on Sunday.

Wednesday (1-0 loss vs. Cincinnati)

Hero: John Lackey.  He allowed only a solo home run to Jay Bruce and deserved so much better than a loss in this one.  The only other hit he gave up was a bunt hit to Billy Hamilton (who is so blazing fast, as we all know, but it seemed different in person) and yet this offense couldn’t do a thing to help him out.  This game is one of those great examples of why win-loss record doesn’t mean much when looking at a pitcher.

Goat: Yadier Molina.  0-4 including a double play and a strikeout.  It’s not like he didn’t have a lot of competition here (the team only got four hits) but that’s the line that stands out.

Notes: Of course, what stands out about this game is Matt Holliday crumpling to the ground in the dugout after barely getting off the field.  I’m honestly stunned that he’s not done for the season, which is what I immediately expected after that play.  We’ll see if that optimistic outlook actually comes to fruition, though.  Even though the new injury is apparently not as severe as the old one, it still was five weeks or so on the first one.  Even if it takes four, that gets you through the month of August, so that would give him time to try to get right before the playoffs.  (And would make an interesting bench for postseason–you could have a bench of Tony Cruz, Pete Kozma, Mark Reynolds, Stephen Piscotty, Peter Bourjos. Who knows, if Greg Garcia makes an impression, perhaps he replaces Kozma, though that seems unlikely.  No matter, having at least two solid bats on the bench would be nice to have in pinch-hitting spots.)

Losing Holliday is a tough thing, though, and there’s no doubt that was a big impetus on Mozeliak finishing that deal with Cleveland so quickly.  You wonder if it had gone to today whether the price would have been a little bit less.

It was also Star Wars Night at the ballpark, which was a lot of fun for my son and I.  The folks that did the costuming, which I assume were from the local 501st Legion garrison and the related organizations, were top notch.  Plus seeing a working R2-D2 was pretty nice as well.  If you are a Star Wars fan (which, granted, given the low numbers of reads on this piece might not be my core audience) you really should go to one of these at some point.  Of course, you need to make sure your insurance is paid up because there seems to be a lot of Dark Side energy that gets released on these.  Three straight SW nights, three straight injuries.  Shelby Miller the first one (though that turned out to be nothing more than taking him out of the game early), Molina last year and Holliday this year.  I don’t think they’ll stop having them–there were a lot of folks that paid a lot of extra money there–but it depends on how superstitious the front office gets, I guess!

Thursday (9-8 win vs. Colorado)

Hero: Matt Carpenter.  When I was at the game Tuesday, I asked my daughter to pick a player she thought might hit a home run.  She went with Molina, who did hit at least one ball fairly deep.  Wednesday night, I did the same with my son and he took Carpenter.  Carp drew a couple of walks but then came just feet shy of making his pick right.  (He threw up his hands last night when I told him Carpenter went deep twice the day after he picked him.)  Save for the game against Leake, Carpenter’s at bats and results were looking much better than the half-swings and tentative nature of what he’d been doing for a while.

Moving back to the leadoff spot may just jump-start that recovery.  Carpenter admitted after the game that he feels comfortable in that position.  You’d think that lineup position wouldn’t matter that much, but we’ve heard how leading off forced Jason Heyward to hit differently and it seems pretty obvious that he likes it farther down in the lineup.  Given the fact that the Cards scored nine with this lineup (granted, against a team that’s not known for their pitching, but then again the quality of opposition hasn’t really mattered in the past), there’s little doubt Mike Matheny will stick with it for a few games at least.  We’ll get a chance to see if Carp really does respond to being back on top.

Goat: Mark Reynolds.  0-3 and got removed from the game so we could see the new acquisition.  Reynolds is most likely going to be the fill-in bench bat that we expected him to be when he was signed now, which is probably for the best.

Notes: This is probably the wildest game of the year and possibly for quite some time.  I mean, how often do the Cardinals rally in the ninth at all?  Not often–after this one they are now 3-28 when trailing in the last inning.  Then to see two Carpenter home runs, the opposing pitcher go yard, lead changes all over the place….. Nine runs by itself makes for an anomaly, but put all that stuff together and it’s insane.  Heck, now Greg Garcia has two walkoffs where he never had to swing.  Crazy!

And that’s not even talking about Carlos Martinez, who stepped off the rising path he was on after those blowups early in May.  This was the worst game we’ve seen out of him, which of course got everyone talking about him controlling his emotions.  Nobody worries about his emotions when he’s shutting down a club, of course, at least not nearly as much.  There’s no doubt that Carlos got worked up last night–flipping off the opponent’s dugout tends to not be high on the control list–but some of that is going to happen.  Nobody worried about Bob Gibson getting emotional.  Get results and you can pitch (to some degree; I’m not saying antagonizing the opposition with trash talk or gestures is a good or worthy idea) how you want.

Besides, how can you not enjoy the playfulness of a guy like this?

All right, let’s talk trade.  As you know, Brandon Moss came to the Cardinals (costing Dan Johnson his job as he had to be designated for assignment to fit Moss onto the roster, though Johnson was quite redundant with Moss around anyway) and Rob Kaminsky, one of the fine pitching prospects of St. Louis, went to the Indians in a deal that was pretty much immediately derided.  Kaminsky was a pretty steep price to pay for a guy that wasn’t a more established bat.  I think that, if it had been Adam Lind, folks would have hated to see Kaminsky go but I think they’d have felt the Cardinals were at least getting value for what they were giving up.

I was talking to someone over at FOX Sports Midwest on Wednesday as I was looking at their Ballpark Village studio and he said something (and remember, this is pre-deal) that I’ve always ascribed to:  “They have more information than we do.”  I tend to give the front office and John Mozeliak in particular the benefit of the doubt because not only do they have statistics and analytics that we don’t have access to, they also know how things work inside baseball, they know how this current team is likely to react or change with the addition of this person or that person.

It was also encouraging to me that Mozeliak, in his public comments, seemed to base this on much more than “well, he’s hit 15 homers this year”.  They are talking bat speed and exit velocity and things that are just now really becoming currency in evaluating players, at least in the public, with the release of some of the Statcast information.  I don’t know if the results will be there, but it’s good to see them really looking at all facets of this thing, not just the obvious batting average and other stats, to see if it works.

That said, it still seems like a lot to give up for a guy that can help the team but isn’t likely to light the league on fire.  Even with all the other information, even with the idea that he could hit somewhat better outside of Cleveland, you put him and Reynolds together and tell folks to find the differences and it can be tough.  Especially when Piscotty was starting to get his feet wet and showing some promise.  When Holliday returns, what happens to Piscotty?  He’s got to play, but where?

In Mo We Trust is a mantra that’s done us well in the past, but you also look at last year when he acquired Justin Masterson for James Ramsey.  Mo did all the due diligence and had reasons why Masterson should improve in St. Louis, but it never happened.  Granted, at the end of the season Mo admitted Masterson was more hurt than they knew, but that’s not necessarily an excuse nor does it help erase any doubts that this Moss trade engenders.

One last point on this before I can start talking about the most recent trade.  I don’t think the club valued Kaminsky as high as some outside evaluators did, for whatever reason.  They could be wrong, they could be right.  Many of us didn’t care for Brett Wallace going for Holliday and even though evaluations are more sophisticated now, that doesn’t mean that they are infallible.

All right, as I’m taking my time with this post, the Cards have gone out and gotten Broxton from the Brewers for minor league outfielder Malik Collymore.  Again, this one looks like a headscratcher or like Mozeliak is taking a tour around some of his favorite trade memories.  I know that he got John Axford from the Brewers a few years back and that worked well, but I’m not seeing the real need.  I do remember hearing a mention that Jordan Walden had a setback (something I need to look into though this one is going on long enough) so perhaps that’s worse than expected, but the bullpen isn’t really a huge need, especially with Steve Cishek out there now.  Then again, if there’s some idea that neither Walden nor Matt Belisle is going to return this season, maybe they do need another veteran arm. [Edit: Per Twitter looks like Walden left early Wednesday, but blamed it on the heat.  Unless there’s more that we don’t know–always possible–it doesn’t seem like it’ll be a real long time before he’s ready.  Which is strange, but we’ll see.]

Broxton’s a guy that, since his hey day with the Dodgers, I’ve always like to see come into a game to face the Cardinals, as they seem to be able to get to him.  I’m not sure that I’m going to be quite as excited about him coming in FOR the Cardinals, though.  He has been strong in July, though (eight total innings, seven strikeouts, .185 BAA) and he won’t have to be anything more than a sixth/seventh inning guy in St. Louis, so maybe it’ll work out.  It’s a low-risk deal, so if it doesn’t pan out, it’s not like the Moss deal.  No idea how they make room on the 40-man or the 25-man (though Miguel Socolovich may go down), but we’ll find out soon enough.

Does Mo have anything else up his sleeve?  I would be surprised, but if he does it’d have to be big because the club is running out of ways to get folks onto the roster.  He’s about to the point where he’d have to trade folks from the major league roster, which would make for a larger deal.  It also doesn’t seem like Mo’s really interested in that, so I’d be surprised if they do anything more today.  Then again, I wouldn’t have thought they would go after Broxton, so take it for all that it’s worth.

In whatever shape they will be in, the Cardinals will play ball tonight against the Rockies again.  Michael Wacha looks for better results this time out after being kinda middling over his last few, though as we’ve noted that may be more about some bad luck/regression than anything concerning.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Charlie Blackmon 7 7 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 .571 .571 .571 1.143 0 0 0 0 0
DJ LeMahieu 7 7 3 1 0 0 1 0 2 .429 .429 .571 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Nolan Arenado 3 3 2 0 0 1 2 0 0 .667 .667 1.667 2.333 0 0 0 0 0
Brandon Barnes 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Corey Dickerson 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Carlos Gonzalez 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Michael McKenry 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Ben Paulsen 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Jorge De La Rosa 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 34 34 11 1 0 1 3 0 12 .324 .324 .441 .765 0 0 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/31/2015.

Small sample size, of course, but the Rockies haven’t really been cowed that much by Wacha in the past.  At least they are playing in St. Louis, though it was tough to remember that when watching last night’s game.

Kyle Kendrick goes for Colorado.  Kendrick’s had a rough year, but he’s always held his own against the Cardinals.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Jason Heyward 37 33 7 3 0 0 2 4 7 .212 .297 .303 .600 0 0 0 0 1
Yadier Molina 22 20 4 1 0 0 0 1 2 .200 .273 .250 .523 0 0 0 1 0
Mark Reynolds 13 12 4 0 0 2 6 1 2 .333 .385 .833 1.218 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Carpenter 12 12 4 0 0 1 2 0 2 .333 .333 .583 .917 0 0 0 0 0
Jhonny Peralta 11 11 3 0 0 0 2 0 0 .273 .273 .273 .545 0 0 0 0 0
Tony Cruz 8 8 1 0 0 0 1 0 2 .125 .125 .125 .250 0 0 0 0 0
Pete Kozma 5 5 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 .400 .400 .400 .800 0 0 0 0 0
Kolten Wong 3 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 .667 .667 .667 1.333 0 0 0 0 1
Jaime Garcia 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
John Lackey 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 1 0 0 0 0
Lance Lynn 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0
Carlos Martinez 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 1 0 0 0 0
Brandon Moss 1 1 1 0 0 0 2 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 120 109 28 4 0 3 15 6 15 .257 .302 .376 .678 4 0 0 1 2
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/31/2015.

Hey, Moss is 1-1 against him with two RBI, so maybe he knows the secret!  (Maybe not.)  Don’t expect another wild game tonight but you can’t predict baseball!

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All things Star Wars need a trilogy and the third annual Star Wars Night at the Ballpark is tonight at Busch Stadium.  For the first time, this noted fan of both franchises will be in attendance, hoping that we avoid the casualties that we saw in the first two.  Last year, we used the struggles of the hitters as a basis for a mashup episode.  Same situation this year, so we’ve got ourselves a sequel.  

Episode II

SURRENDER OF THE BATS

A year after believing themselves rid of the Sith influence on their batting woes, the ST. LOUIS CARDINALS again find themselves woefully unable to produce much offensive firepower, even with the legendary artifact, the BAT OF STAN MUSIAL, within their possession.  While this has not kept the team from some successes, it has created a war for the Central division crown, a war that would be unnecessary without this offensive struggle.

Puzzled by the return of these issues, the Masters meet regularly, hoping to find the answers they seek.  However, their ability to sense the Force has been hampered and they are unsure what to do about it.

After another disturbing outing, they call on an outside source to help them in their quest…..

(We pan down from the stars to the blue-green jewel known as Earth. A quick cut has us at BUSCH STADIUM during a hot July afternoon.  We see the scoreboard, which is lined with zeroes for both the visiting NEW YORK METS and our heroes, the ST. LOUIS CARDINALS.  Zero after zero are posted as the game goes well into extra innings.  Finally, we see runs go up for the visitors and the game ends in defeat.

We cut to inside the stadium as we follow a pair of khaki-clad pants into the clubhouse as we see many players filing out, shoulders slumped.  With the clubhouse now empty, JOHN MOZELIAK shifts Darryl Kile’s uniform in the locker reserved for him, revealing a familiar secret passageway.  MOZELIAK follows the tunnel to the council chambers of the CARDINAL JEDI MASTERS, who have asked for an audience.

Seated around the table are MASTERS MATT HOLLIDAY, MATT CARPENTER, ADAM WAINWRIGHT, YADIER MOLINA, JIM EDMONDS, CHRIS CARPENTER and GRAND MASTER OZZIE SMITH.  Dotted between them are holographic representations of MASTERS LOU BROCK, RED SCHOENDIENST, and WILLIE MCGEE.)

GRAND MASTER SMITH: Welcome, old friend. Appreciate you coming, we do.

MOZELIAK: I’m always glad to be of service to this august body and it is good to be in the presence of friendly faces.  I hope that I am able to assist you in some way.

SMITH: We hope so as well.  Have you noticed anything that might be construed as dark side activity recently?

MOZELIAK: I don’t think so.  The Sith were wiped out, weren’t they?  When you look at the seasons Kyle Lohse and Aramis Ramirez are having in Milwaukee, it surely seems like your method of stripping them from the Force was effective.  Other potential Sith Lords, like Bud Norris, seem to be suffering the same fate.  While I’m sure Clayton Kershaw would like to learn those unnatural ways to have a chance against you Jedi, there’s no indication that he has pursued them, according to my sources.  All in all, there’s no one or nothing that seems very Sithy, if you will.

MCGEE: Tell me, in your travels and in your discussions with other teams, have you heard of any unusual artifacts, any strange phenomenon, really anything out of the ordinary at all?

MOZELIAK: Well, as you know, I’m always talking to people, especially at this time of year.  I’m trying to think, but I don’t believe…..

[MOZELIAK pauses in thought, then continues.]

MOZELIAK: Actually, there is something that didn’t make much sense at the time, but might be what you are looking for.  I had an e-mail from an anonymous sender recently. That is a rare thing, of course.  Not many folks have my email, so I read it anyway.  It said, “I know what you were looking for, but it’s not in Houston.”  I assumed it was some joke about the hacking incident and deleted it, but perhaps it wasn’t.

EDMONDS: What do you mean, Mo?

MOZELIAK: It’s possible, however unlikely, that a Sith artifact might still be in existence, even if it’s not being used by someone who can fully harness its power.  In fact, I would guess that they might not know what it was at all, just seeing it as historical or a “lucky charm” but causing major issues in the Force.

MATT CARPENTER (stroking his beard): That would explain much about this season.  Wainwright’s Achilles suddenly popping, the groin pulls and tears by Master Holliday and Jedi Knight Matt Adams, my inability to hit like I can, Pete Kozma still being on the roster….

MOZELIAK (embarrassed): That, that business with Kozma doesn’t count.  He saw me entering these chambers one time and I had to promise continual employment to keep him quiet.  Sorry.

MATT CARPENTER: But where would we find such an artifact?

MOZELIAK: That I can’t help you with.  The ways of the Force are mysterious to me.  I need to get back and see about getting a first baseman, so I will take my leave.  If you need any help, though, you know how to reach me.

(Screen wipes to batting practice the next day.  HOLLIDAY, MATT CARPENTER and MOLINA are in the dugout, watching the rest of their teammates.)

MOLINA: I believe Mo is right. We’ve seen spurts of good offensive performance, which I don’t believe we’d have observed if it were a Sith Lord fully influencing the Force.

HOLLIDAY: But where could it be?  And WHAT could it be?  The list is so long.  It could be anything from Brandon Phillips’s bat to something from Ramirez to…I don’t know.  I mean, we went and found Stan Musial’s bat last year.  A Sith artifact could be from that long ago as well, or even farther back.  I don’t know what I’m even doing here, we’re wasting our time!

MOLINA: Patience, my friend.  The Force is still working through us.  We will know in time.

MATT CARPENTER: But do we have enough time, that is the question?

(Rotating wipe back to the council chambers. GRAND MASTER SMITH and MASTER MCGEE are conferencing.)

MCGEE: Do you think it could be?

SMITH: It explains so much.  Their current success, our current predicament, that play…..

MCGEE: Speak not of the dark times, my friend.  They are past and cannot be changed.  The present is a different story.  We must act.

SMITH: Planning we must do, yes.  Much work we have.

MCGEE: We’ll need a team with specific skills.  I think I know just who to ask.

(We see the exterior of BUSCH STADIUM.  It is night and the team is in Chicago dealing with the White Sox.  A light in the window, though, indicates that not everything is as quiet as it appears.  We move into the council chambers, where MASTER MCGEE stands with three Masters in their robes and presents his team to GRAND MASTER SMITH.)

MCGEE: For this mission, Master, I recommend the following.  Master Wainwright can head up the mission and be supported by Master Brock, for his speed and Master Edmonds, for his sure hands.  I will also go, given my familiarity with….the Violation.

WAINWRIGHT: Violation?  What are we talking about here?  It’s late and I just had some Pappy’s, so spell it out for me if you don’t mind.

SMITH: During our meditations, Master McGee and I could not clearly see a location or an item that might be affecting the offense, but we did both feel, independently, that the item might be located here.

(A holographic map appears from the floor in front of SMITH, looking like the below)

EDMONDS: Kansas City? Really? That’s not exactly where I’d go hiding an artifact if it was up to me. New York, LA, something like that, sure, but Kansas City?

(SMITH and MCGEE exchange glances)

SMITH: Search your feelings.  Stretch out with the Force.  Tell me what you feel.

BROCK (eyes closed): There is logic here, I feel that.  Their resurgence as a club has coincided almost directly with our offensive woes.  (opens eyes) I agree, there’s something in that area.  But what?  What could be strong enough with Force energy to be affecting us in this way?

MCGEE: We aren’t sure.  But we believe, whatever it is, was not hidden in Kansas City.  It was created there.  Something involved with this:

(The hologram shifts to archived footage)

WAINWRIGHT: You think the Denkinger play is responsible for whatever is going on now? I don’t know, Master Smith. That seems hard to believe.

SMITH: Your doubt, I understand.  Master McGee and I have consulted the ancient Holocrons and there is a method by which a Sith artifact can be created if an injustice has been committed.  It’s fairly rare, but that was likely the most egregious injustice this organization has ever been through, at least on the field.

WAINWRIGHT: Hmmm.  OK, let’s assume you are right.  Why now?  Why hasn’t this been affecting the Force for the past 30 years?

SMITH: A great question, that is.  Something else for you to learn in Kansas City.  We may need to know how to locate more of these should this not be the only one around or if others find ways to create artifacts in the future.

EDMONDS: So we don’t know what it is or exactly where to look.  Perfect.

MCGEE: I have a friend that might help with that.  I’ll go meet with him.  You three be ready to go tomorrow night at this time and hopefully I’ll have a focus for our mission.

(Screen wipe. It’s early the next morning and we are out on a lakeshore.  An older man sits in a chair, casting his line and waiting on the fish.  MASTER MCGEE walks up to him from behind.)

MCGEE: Are the fish biting this morning, Whitey?

(WHITEY HERZOG, unfazed, doesn’t even turn around to address MCGEE)

HERZOG: Willie, my old friend.  How ya doin’?  Grab some dirt and sit a spell with me.

MCGEE (sitting): I actually won’t disturb your peace long, Skip, but I’ve got a couple of questions that I think you might have some insight on.

HERZOG: This personal or is it more Jedi business?

MCGEE: The latter, but I hope you’ll help me anyway.

HERZOG (sighing): I guess.  There’s no doubt having some Jedi on a team has helped me out in the past.  Still not real comfortable with the whole idea, though.

MCGEE (hands raised): I know, I know. But what I’ve got to do will help the Cards, so that should be of interest to you.

HERZOG (looking at the water): Yeah, yeah.  What do you need to know?

MCGEE: It’s actually about your other town.  Have you been back to Kansas City recently?

HERZOG: KC? Well, yeah, I was there when we played the Royals a month or so ago.  Think I might have been back there once since, maybe.  Can’t quite be sure.  What about it?

MCGEE: Is there anything new going on in that stadium?  Anything that might be tied to….the Violation?

HERZOG (irritated): Don’t call it that.  Call it what it was, a missed call.  I know Don Denkinger felt bad about it and I felt for him, but man, that was terrible.  To your question, though, yeah, now that you mention it, I think there is a display in the Royal Hall of Fame that’s got some stuff from that Series.  Don’t know if it has anything from that specific night or not, but it might.

MCGEE: That’s where we’ll start looking then.  (Stands up, brushes himself off) I appreciate it, Skip.  You’ve been pretty helpful.

HERZOG: And you’ve been scaring my fish.  Now get outta here.  And Willie? (pause)  May the Force be with you.

(Night falls and MCGEE meets the other Masters in the clubhouse of BUSCH STADIUM.)

WAINWRIGHT (as MCGEE enters): Master McGee, did you find out any more about what we will be looking for?

MCGEE: Not per se, though I know the first place to check.  Tie these headphones to your comlink and I’ll tell you on the way.

EDMONDS (as they walk out of the clubhouse and the stadium): I’m curious, Master McGee.  Who did you need to see?  And why do we need the headphones?

MCGEE: Well, it’s kinda hard to talk while riding these.

(The four turn the corner of the stadium to see speeder bikes waiting for them.)

MCGEE: What, did you think we were going to drive?  Have you seen all the construction between here and there?

(Three of the Masters immediately jump on their bikes.  MASTER WAINWRIGHT takes a moment to stow some gear before doing the same.  The Masters then kick-start the speeder bikes and race out of downtown St. Louis.  We follow them as the countryside flies by, then see them zip around Kansas City until they reach 1 Royal Way.  It’s dark and they hide the bikes before taking a look at the stadium.)

EDMONDS: So the Hall of Fame is in there, huh?  It’d be much easier to do this if they had a separate one across the street like we do.

BROCK: Oh, this won’t be too bad.  I’ll use my Jedi speed, run in, grab the artifact and we’ll be on our way.

WAINWRIGHT: Unfortunately, you can’t.

BROCK: What?

WAINWRIGHT: If that artifact is strong enough from a distance to affect all of the bats in our lineup, what do you think it will do to a Force-user at close range?

BROCK: This mission just got a lot tougher.  So now what do we do?

MCGEE: Buy some tickets to a ball game, it seems.

(Screen wipe to the next day.  It’s late afternoon and fans are filing into Kauffman Stadium.  Our Jedi, trying to be discreet, have purchased tickets in different areas of the park and are entering by different gates.  They are using minimal disguises, expecting that even with the Force compromised, there should be enough to help them fool any curious onlookers.  WAINWRIGHT is carrying a backpack and is hunched over to try to disguise his height.  However, given their proximity to whatever is causing the disturbance, their efforts at disguise aren’t as complete as they would have hoped.)

FAN: Hey, aren’t you Adam Wainwright?  What are you doing here?

WAINWRIGHT: That bum?  Man, why are you slinging insults around like that.  Calling me a Cardinal.  I oughtta slug you right here.

FAN: Easy now, it wasn’t supposed to be insulting.  Sorry about that.

WAINWRIGHT: No problem.  Go Royals!

FAN: Go Royals!

(In a different part of the park, MCGEE has a Panama hat and Hawaiian shirt on, trying to draw attention away from his face, with limited success)

FAN 2: You know, you look a lot like Willie McGee.

MCGEE: I get that a lot.  Not quite sure how to take it.

FAN 2: I remember old Willie from back in that ’85 Series.  He was a player, I’ll tell you that.  Wonder what he’s doing now.

MCGEE: I don’t know, but probably not hanging around this ballpark!

(both laugh)

(Another part of the park)

FAN 3: Are you Jim Edmonds?

EDMONDS: Yep.  Want an autograph?

(Moments later BROCK comes around the corner to see a line for autographs and EDMONDS signing away.  He walks away, shaking his head.)

(We then focus on the Hall of Fame doors inside the stadium.  Fans mill around, going in and out as the game progresses.  We see MCGEE walk in.  Moments later, with another group of people, WAINWRIGHT arrives.  We follow him into the museum and watch as he slips into the back, finding an unused janitor’s closet.  MCGEE is already there.)

WAINWRIGHT: So we wait?

MCGEE: We wait.

(Moments later Brock enters the closet.)

BROCK: I don’t believe anyone saw me. That was the easy part, however.

WAINWRIGHT: Where’s Edmonds?  Shouldn’t he be here by now?

BROCK: Signing autographs.

WAINWRIGHT: Oh, I have a bad feeling about this.

MCGEE: Won’t this be a problem?  If the Royals know we are here, they’ll likely know why we are here.

BROCK: I don’t think so.  The more that I’ve circulated and meditated in this space, I don’t sense much deception here.  I can’t be sure, of course, given the Force fluctuations, but I believe that the Royals are just displaying this artifact, not knowing its true power.  Seeing Edmonds here shouldn’t raise any flags.

MCGEE: I hope you are right.

(Just then EDMONDS comes in the door)

EDMONDS: I think I shook off the last of the followers.

(Everyone just looks at him)

EDMONDS: What?

(Our heroes remain sequestered in Jedi meditation as the game winds down.  After the Royals finish off the Pirates, the crowd noises dwindle.  Cleaning noises are heard until finally silence reigns)

MCGEE: I believe, as they say, the coast is clear.

(Everyone quietly slips out of the closet and ignites their lightsabers to look around.  WAINWRIGHT uses the Force to blank out any security cameras that might try to record their activities.)

BROCK: Did anyone notice the ’85 Series display? I was in a hurry when I arrived and didn’t circulate to find it.

MCGEE: I did.  It’s right over there on that wall.

(The Jedi stealthily approach the exhibit.  They look and see all the things that are on display: Bret Saberhagen’s glove, the fan that John Tudor punched in Game 7, Dane Iorg’s bat, Frank White’s shoes, etc.)

EDMONDS: Man, there’s a lot of stuff here.  What could it be?

WAINWRIGHT: Everyone focus.  Use the Force to guide you.  On the count of three, we each say the item we think it is using the prompting of the Force.

(The Jedi close their eyes.  A stillness is in the air.  Then WAINWRIGHT counts down and each say)

EVERYONE: The base!

(They open their eyes and look at the base bag that lies in the bottom of the exhibit)

MCGEE: This must be it.  This must have been first base the night of the….Violation.  We found it!

EDMONDS: That’s great, but what do we do now?  I can imagine that we could get into the display, but it’s going to be pretty obvious in the morning that someone’s been in here when there’s a base missing.

WAINWRIGHT: Did you learn nothing as a Padawan, Master Edmonds?  Always be prepared.

(Wainwright removes his backpack and sorts through it)

WAINWRIGHT: I didn’t know what we’d be finding so I brought some basic items to replace it.  Gloves, bats, and other things from that era.  Given the nature of the Violation, the base was within the realm of possibility, so I added one of those into my inventory as well.

(Wainwright reaches in and produces a base)

WAINWRIGHT: We can doctor it up and Kansas City will not the be wiser.

EDMONDS: But who can handle the base?  With all that raw Sith power, won’t someone be sorely affected by touching it?

WAINWRIGHT:  That’s where you and Master Brock come in.  Your hands will be able to hold the display open while Master Brock swipes yet another bag.  Master McGee and I will channel our Force energies around this backpack.  That should, at least somewhat, make the backpack and the items inside resistant to the Sith influence.  Master Brock can then steal the bag, drop it in here, and take off for the speeder bikes.  We’ll put the new bag in and follow you out.  The backpack will only stay Sith-proof for a limited amount of time, but with the speeder bikes we should be able to get back to the council chambers in St. Louis before it wears off.

BROCK: Sounds like a plan.  It’s been too long since I had a steal.  Are you ready, Master Edmonds?

EDMONDS: This is where the fun begins.

(EDMONDS holds up the glass while BROCK gets the back.  Immediately, he slides it into the backpack.  With the Sith energies shielded, he is able to use his Jedi speed to race from the ballpark)

EDMONDS: Wow, this was almost too—

WAINWRIGHT AND MCGEE: DON’T SAY IT!

(We follow BROCK’s bike as it gets closer and closer to St. Louis.  The other three bikes are close by but noticeably trail.  Suddenly, BROCK’s bike begins to wobble.)

BROCK: The Force protection must be wearing off!  We’re close….maybe I can…..

(As we zip down Clark Street, we see BROCK throttle his bike up over the walls of the stadium.  The control finally goes, though, and the bike and he come bouncing down on the ground, churning up dust as it comes down the third base line and comes to rest on home plate.)

BROCK: Safe once again!

(Screen wipe. We are back in council chambers with the JEDI COUNCIL in attendance)

SMITH: Well done, Masters.  With that base now safely hidden, hopefully we’ll see the bats come back to their normal outings.  It’ll be a test this evening against those Royals.  Are we sure they weren’t actively trying to destroy us?

WAINWRIGHT: I don’t believe so, Master.  It seems like just a coincidence, though we may be able to tell more when we observe them this evening and in the weeks to come.

MATT CARPENTER: I have a question, though.  If they were just unwitting pawns, who was the one controlling them?  After all, remember that message Mo got.  Is there someone out there that knows the ways of the Sith?

(We enter an unfamiliar office, darkened to hide its look and its occupant.  A black-hooded figure is seen from the back.)

UNKNOWN PERSON: My lack of discipline has cost me again.  Mastering this Sith business is taking a little longer than I thought.  I will get there, though.  Next year, Cardinals, next year IS coming.

END CREDITS

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Braving The Weekend

Not a bad weekend for the Cardinals.  Two of three and they had a shot at the third in the late innings, which is probably all you can really ask without getting pretty greedy.  Let’s take a look.

Friday (4-2 win)

Hero: Randal Grichuk.  Two for three with a two-run home run that started the scoring and gave Tim Cooney a chance to pitch from ahead.  He also drew a walk, stole a base, and scored another run.  Somewhere along the way this weekend I heard someone say that Grichuk is the most exciting player on the Cardinals right now and I might have to agree.  Not the best, of course, but there’s really no one else right now that you think can go yard when they come up or can use their speed either on the basepaths or in the field.  He’s flawed, but right now he’s a lot of fun to watch.

Goat: Matt Holliday.  The only starter not to get a hit, though he did draw a walk.  Holliday’s not been super since his return, but he’s been pretty good and this felt like one of the few games that he didn’t contribute in a notable fashion.

Notes:  I noted this on this week’s Best Dans in Baseball (go check it out if you haven’t already) but Cooney has finally passed Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons definitively on the depth chart.  Cooney, who was sent down after this game to make room for Steve Cishek, whom we’ll talk about soon, had a pretty effective stint after his return from Memphis.  In five games, the team only went 1-4 but he had a 2.48 ERA over that span.  Going deep is still an issue–this was only the second game where he completed six innings–but he proved that he can pitch on the big league level.  The problem is, there’s not just an obvious place for him in St. Louis.  We’ll see if this stint in the bigs was enough to enhance his trade value.

Anyway, Cooney went seven in this one and just had one hiccup, allowing two runs in the sixth.  He did all that in 74 pitches, which was pretty notable as well.  If the game had still been 4-0, you wonder if he’d have stayed in for the eighth instead of being pinch-hit for by Stephen Piscotty.  It was actually the fewest pitches he had ever thrown in a big league start (save his disastrous first one) and it easily was his best.

Two hits for Yadier Molina in this one as that average continues to work its way toward .300.  The power isn’t quite there, but it’s probably never going to be what it once was.  If we can get 8-10 homers and a decent amount of doubles out of Yadi, we should probably count our blessings.

I’m not quite sure why Piscotty didn’t start in this one unless the neck was still bothering him.  He looked fine pinch-hitting and running the bases, though, so if it was still lingering, it wasn’t impacting him much.  He didn’t start on Saturday as well, which would seem to really be hampering the data collection John Mozeliak might have been wanting before he got into the last week before the trade deadline.

Saturday (1-0 win)

Hero: Carlos Martinez.  Matched up in a well-hyped duel with Shelby Miller, both sides showed why the Cardinals had to make an extremely tough decision this offseason.  Miller blinked first, but it took until the eighth for it to happen.  Martinez, though, was scoreless through eight, allowing just six hits while striking out six as well.  Most of those hits were followed by double plays as his teammates turned three behind him and one behind Randy Choate, who wound up with the save.  Martinez was just this much better than Miller, which is probably what Mozeliak was thinking when he dealt Miller to the Braves.

Goat: The Cardinals won this game managing only two hits, so there are plenty of o-fers to pick from in this category.  We’ll give it to Matt Holliday again, unfortunately, because he and Jhonny Peralta both went 0-3 and left two on, but Holliday had a strikeout as well.  Small thing to use as a tiebreaker, but there you have it.

Notes: Again, stellar work by Miller who for a while there looked like he’d repeat his one-hit work that he did against the Rockies a couple of years ago.  He’s just getting no support by the Braves or he’d be probably talked about in the Cy Young discussion.  It was very cool to see him get a standing ovation when he left the field in the eighth inning, with the crowd acknowledging that one of theirs had pitched a gem.  It’s really tough to leave the Cardinal family, even if you aren’t wearing the birds on the bat anymore.

It looked like it was going to be three pitchers for three outs in the ninth as Mike Matheny, interestingly and probably correctly, decided to give Trevor Rosenthal another night off after going three in a row before this series.  Seth Maness got his man, then Choate came in and allowed a hit, but got the double play that ended the game.  If he hadn’t, I imagine Cishek would have made his debut in pretty much the hottest pan on the stove you could ask for in your first appearance for a team.  Probably a good thing it didn’t come to that.

Sunday (3-2 loss)

Hero: Stephen Piscotty.  Kolten Wong had more hits (nice to see Kolten get three, wasn’t it?  Been a while) but you have to credit Piscotty making his first start at first base.  He had two hits plus a walk and had a nice play at first, stretching out as far as he could to get a wide throw from Matt Carpenter.  For a guy that’s only been playing the position a couple of weeks, for him to not only catch the ball but stay on the bag and get the out was amazing.  That’s just one play, but it makes you feel better about him taking over that role if Mo decides to that way.  I’m not saying he should stop looking for help, but that if the price gets too high maybe Piscotty will be able to handle the job.

Goat: Tony Cruz.  You hate to pick on Cruz because it’s not like we expect much out of him, but an 0-4 day that includes a strikeout in the eighth with the tying run on second will typically get you here.  Matheny didn’t pinch-hit Molina there, which was a little surprising given that he then ran Molina out there to hit for Kozma in the ninth.  If you were going to use him, I’d think that letting him catch an inning probably wasn’t a huge deal.  I’m sure Matheny figured they wanted to rest Molina as much as possible, even if that meant going with Cruz in that key situation.  And, to be fair, it was a runner on first when Cruz started the AB, with Piscotty moving up on a wild pitch.  You probably don’t want to bring Molina into a 1-2 count and if he hits with a runner on first, a ground ball ends it anyway.  Still, it was frustrating to watch Cruz flail when there were big bats on the bench.

Notes: We continue to wonder about Michael Wacha, even though he’s probably just catching some bad luck right now as Matheny explained.  Even without explanation, three runs in six innings isn’t a bad outing–it’s a quality start, though I think many of us rightly question how quality such starts are–it’s just that it’s not up to his potential nor what we are seeing from the rest of the rotation.  He’s 4-4 after going 7-0, but all the other numbers are staying pretty much in line.  He’ll probably bounce back soon and start getting some breaks.  We hope, at least!

Grichuk left this one with a groin injury, because of course.  Is there anyone on this team that HASN’T had a groin injury yet?  Maybe Adam Wainwright, just because he missed the memo and his issue went further south.  It sounds like it was precautionary, but you can almost bet that he won’t be in the lineup Monday and maybe not Tuesday.  Hopefully that’s all it will take to make him feel better, but we’ll have to wait and see.  It’s been a tough year with these sorts of injuries and it’s about time St. Louis caught a break with one.  (Though I guess you could argue Holliday’s not being a full tear was a break, but he was still out a month.)

So we’ve got Mo being Mo as he deals a middling prospect for Cishek, a coveted property on the free agent market.  There’s some salary to absorb, about $2 million this year, but that’s nothing.  Cishek is also arbitration-eligible for the next two years, so the Cardinals can have him in their bullpen for more than just a couple of months if they want.  (He’s also a potential non-tender candidate, as his $6.6 million salary would probably get a bump in arbitration if the Cards went that far with him.  They may, of course, sign him to some sort of contract in the offseason that precludes that.)

Cishek has been fairly strong since his return from the minors, though some of the side numbers indicate that might have been a little fluky.  We saw him pitch Sunday and he had a scoreless inning but it took some help from his infielders, especially after he threw the ball away on a pickoff.  Still, he looked pretty good in his initial outing and we’ll see if he can carry that forward.  Even if he doesn’t, it’s a nice deal for the Cardinals because they gave up nothing that they were likely to use in any other deal, so this is textbook buy low from Mo.

Given the little we have seen so far from Piscotty, I do think Mozeliak is likely to go ahead and get some one that can play first, even if it’s some sort of strong bench/platoon type player instead of someone like Adam Lind who would be expected to play every day.  I know there was some idea that the Cardinals would be looking at Chris Davis from Baltimore (I think that was a Jim Bowden idea, which means there’s likely less to it than the paper it is printed on) but that would seem to be probably more expensive than the club would like, plus you factor in that Davis is kinda a supersize version of Mark Reynolds.  He’s got the power, sure enough (22 HR on the year, or about what any two Cardinals combined have), but he’s hitting .240 and already has 120 strikeouts.  He has been better in the past, of course, and he’s a free agent at the end of the year, but Baltimore is just 3.5 out of the wild card.  It would seem to take a lot to grab such a power source and a lot is not often in Mozeliak’s vocabulary.  If you want another take on the idea, Rob Rains wrote about it as well.

St. Louis hosts Cincinnati as the two teams meet for the first time since April.  It’s a bit emotional for me since this is the first series they’ve played against each other since the passing of my father-in-law.  The Reds aren’t the same team that they were then, though the Cards had no trouble with that version either.  Johnny Cueto has been kicked free and now is a Royal, meaning it’d take a World Series for the Redbirds to see him again this year.  (And wouldn’t THAT be interesting!)  They are scuffling, 10 games under .500 and just got blasted by the Rockies on Sunday.

Lance Lynn will take the bump for the Cardinals as they get the series underway.  Lynn has, as we know, been struggling with getting any run support but he’s been good about keeping the team in the game until they can come around and score for him.  You would think that wouldn’t be an issue with a Reds team that is scuffling, but their offense isn’t necessarily the reason why as they sit ninth in baseball in home runs.  That’s helped by their home park, it’s true, but Lynn will probably need to deal carefully with a number of these hitters to make sure he doesn’t get in much of a hole.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Brandon Phillips 33 31 9 3 0 0 5 1 6 .290 .303 .387 .690 0 1 0 0 0
Jay Bruce 31 28 14 1 2 3 10 2 6 .500 .516 1.000 1.516 0 1 0 0 1
Todd Frazier 30 26 4 0 0 3 3 3 13 .154 .267 .500 .767 0 0 0 1 1
Joey Votto 22 16 8 1 0 0 0 5 5 .500 .636 .563 1.199 0 0 0 1 0
Billy Hamilton 15 14 2 0 0 0 1 1 6 .143 .200 .143 .343 0 0 0 0 0
Marlon Byrd 9 9 3 2 0 0 2 0 2 .333 .333 .556 .889 0 0 0 0 0
Brayan Pena 6 6 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Johnny Cueto 4 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 1 0 0 0 1
Jason Bourgeois 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 1
Tucker Barnhart 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Skip Schumaker 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 1
Mike Leake 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 158 141 42 7 2 6 21 12 41 .298 .357 .504 .860 1 2 0 2 5
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/26/2015.

Raisel Iglesias will be on the hill for the Reds.  The Cardinals saw him earlier in the year when he gave up three runs in five innings in the series at Cincinnati.  He was demoted after that, came back up for much of May, was demoted again and returned to make two starts in July.  His last time out, he limited the Cubs to two runs over 5.2 innings.  The time before that, well, let’s just say the Marlins had less trouble with him.  In theory this should be a good matchup for St. Louis, but we know what good matchups have been worth in the past.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Matt Carpenter 3 3 1 0 0 0 2 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Jason Heyward 3 3 1 1 0 0 1 0 1 .333 .333 .667 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Holliday 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Carlos Martinez 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 1 0 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 2 2 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 1.000 1.500 0 0 0 0 0
Jhonny Peralta 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .500 .000 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Mark Reynolds 2 2 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 .500 .500 1.000 1.500 0 0 0 0 0
Kolten Wong 2 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 19 16 5 3 0 0 3 2 4 .313 .389 .500 .889 1 0 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/26/2015.

And with that, I bid you “so long for just a while”.  As I may have mentioned before, I will be in attendance for Tuesday and Wednesday’s games before returning home on Thursday, which means no summary blog posts until at least Friday, most likely.  I know, I know, you are crushed.  To ease your pain, though, I should note that Wednesday night is Star Wars Night at Busch Stadium.  I didn’t let that pass last year and I won’t let it pass this year either.  Check back Wednesday for another trip to a galaxy not that far, far away.  Here’s to hoping that the Cards have a successful week and I can almost guarantee a trade will go down when I have no ability to write about it!

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Multiple reports indicate the Cardinals have acquired Steve Cishek from the Marlins for AA pitcher Kyle Barraclough, who I’ll admit I hadn’t ever heard of. No indication what move will be made, but Cishek should strengthen the latter part of the pen and perhaps free up Trevor Rosenthal from time to time.

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Well, it wasn’t exactly easy to finish off, but the St. Louis Cardinals proved again last night they can take on all comers and come out victorious.  Some good conditions and a little bit of luck didn’t hurt either.

When John Lackey gives up two runs in the first inning of a home game, you start to wonder whether it is going to be your night.  After all, the guy had a 1.91 ERA at Busch Stadium this season going into yesterday’s game.  Two runs is basically unheard of.  Given the general state of the Cardinal offense, two runs could have been disastrous.

Thankfully, that wasn’t the case, because of two reasons.  One, Lackey didn’t allow anything more, putting up seven innings of quality baseball.  Two, the offense kicked in a bit, though it seemed to get a little help from the atmospheric conditions.

I missed Randal Grichuk‘s home run (and I’m giving him the Hero tag, by the way, because tying the game up early on Chris Young was big) but I watched Matt Carpenter’s.  Carp’s looked like a pretty lazy fly ball off the bat, but it just continued to carry and carry until it fell over the fence, putting the Cards up 4-2.  Apparently it was a pretty humid night and I think that played a part in that ball not being yet another Carpenter out.

The Cards caught their luck in the third.  For many years, I can’t remember debate on balls around the first base bag and foul line, yet the Cardinals have now been involved in two of those.  Everyone is going to remember the one against the Cubs in Chicago but this one may have been helpful as well.  With one out, Lorenzo Cain singles (after replay overturned the out call, provoking many thoughts of a different Game 6 than we usually want to recall) and then Eric Hosmer hits one right down the line.  The first base ump calls it fair, Dan Johnson steps on first, throws to second, and then wind up running and tagging Cain out for an inning-ending double play.  Hosmer spends the whole time arguing with the home plate ump that it was foul and replays showed that he was probably right.  However, as we all know how, you can’t review fair/foul balls in the infield.  Not often you see the baseball scales balance that quickly!

Given that the offense was concentrated into two home runs and Lackey did such a great job, it’s not surprising that most folks will focus on the ninth inning when they talk about this game today.  There was a lot of first-guessing on Twitter last night when Trevor Rosenthal was called on for the third straight day, even before he allowed a single and a triple to cut the lead to one with nobody out, then followed that with a walk.  While folks had expected things to get dire, I’m not sure we expected them to get that dire that soon.

Let’s give credit to Rosenthal.  He struck out the next batter, then got a grounder to third that turned into the out at home.  (I’ve never liked go on contact because that always happens when St. Louis does it.  Glad to see it work the same way for someone else.  And I know, if he hadn’t, the Cards might have gotten a double play and ended the game anyway, but still, it’s tough to see a runner from third cut down.)  With two outs and runners on first and second, it’s a lot easier to get out of things and he did with a grounder off the bat of Mike Moustakas.

The bigger question is, why was Rosenthal in the game in the first place?  Mike Matheny was asked about that after the game and basically said that he wasn’t going to use Rosenthal, but Rosie told him before the game he was fine.

You know what, Mike?  Rosie’s going to tell you he is fine pretty much any time you ask.  I know, I know, there’s been this big push about the guys being honest about how they feel, about trying to deal with injuries proactively by limiting them when they feel a soreness or a tightness.  There’s also being proactive by not putting them into situations where they might get sore or tight or worse.  We’ve just seen Rosenthal struggle over the last couple of weeks in part to overuse.  Do we really want to run that gauntlet again?

Now, I’m not sure who they’d have used if they didn’t use Rosenthal.  Kevin Siegrist wasn’t supposed to be used Wednesday night against the White Sox, but he came in to get that one out.  I’m guessing he wasn’t pitching last night without long extra innings.  Seth Maness had already been used.  Do you want to turn over a two-run lead against the second-best team in baseball to Miguel Socolovich or Sam Tuivailala?  I know some have talked about giving Tui some higher-leverage innings (and we saw in Chicago that the team may be leaning that way as well) but this might have been a bit much to put on their plate.

I assume Rosenthal, no matter what his silver tongue says today, will be unavailable tonight and Siegrist will get any save opportunities.  I don’t think Jordan Walden can get back too soon, though, and hopefully he can pick up where he left off and be that late inning alternative the club needs.  By the way, if you missed it (and I did) Walden threw a scoreless inning in Springfield yesterday and is expected to go again on Saturday before moving to Memphis.  I’d think one, maybe two outings in Memphis and he’ll be ready to get back to the Cards, assuming no setbacks.

Gotta have a Goat before we leave this discussion.  I think we’ll have to go with Jhonny Peralta since Rosenthal didn’t actually blow the game.  Peralta went 0-4, left five on, and had that play with Cain that many thought he could have gotten the out originally had he not half-heartedly gone about the play.  (I missed it, just what I gathered from Twitter.)

Stephen Piscotty was a late scratch last night since he showed up at the ballpark with a stiff neck.  Lots of folks came down on Piscotty, saying that this is your shot at the bigs and you have to be ready or need to play through things like that.  That’s understandable, but look, we continue to have this discussion about players being honest about their health and well-being.  From what I can tell, Piscotty didn’t ask not to play, he just was honest about his neck bothering him and Matheny went with the scratch.  There’s no doubt that learning first base on the fly in the big leagues would be even harder if you couldn’t move your neck.  I don’t fault him for telling Matheny nor Matheny for making the move, though it does leave one less data point for John Mozeliak in his quest to collect enough info on Piscotty before the trading deadline.

Jaime Garcia had a rehab assignment last night and you could say that it went well.  Obviously when Garcia’s on he’s no match for A ball guys, so the dominance is not surprising (though it’s amazing how often big leaguers do get touched up some by the youngsters in this situation) but it’s still very nice to see.  Jenifer Langosch says that Garcia could be back in the rotation next week which is very good to know.  Given that it was a leg issue, I don’t figure he needs much time in rehab as he’s not been gone that long.  It would seem possible that he’d go next Wednesday against the Reds in Busch, which would be fine with me since I’ll be there for that game.

The seal on the trade market was broken yesterday and one of those that we’d talked about as a target for the Cardinals, Sith Lord Aramis Ramirez, was on the move back to his original home in Pittsburgh.  So the Cardinals will see him nine more times in games that will probably be very important.  I can’t say that thrills me a whole lot.  Ramirez was acquired for a AA pitcher–I was pretty sure the cost for him wasn’t very high–so you wonder if Mozeliak asked in on him.  Assuming the cost was the same for the Cardinals, which it well may not have been, that seems like a price they could have paid.

Battle of rookies tonight as Tim Cooney faces the Braves and Manny Banuelos.  No nice little charts here as neither has faced the other’s team.  We know about Cooney, who has looked somewhat better of late even though he still can’t go real deep into games.  Banuelos will be making his fifth MLB appearance and fourth start.  What he’s done with the others is pretty impressive as he has a 1.08 ERA heading into this one.  That said, Banuelos doesn’t go deep either, as his longest outing was his first, when he went 5.2 innings against the Nationals.  His last start, he didn’t make it through the fifth and six hits and two runs (only one earned) to the Cubs.  He’s a lefty the Cards haven’t seen before, but they’ve already had that this week and it worked out OK when they faced Carlos Rondon.

Plan to hear much about Jason Heyward and Shelby Miller this weekend, especially tomorrow when Miller goes against Carlos Martinez.  May want to keep the mute button available!

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Take a one-out single.  Add in a hit-by-pitch.  Wait another out, then mix in a catcher’s-interference.  Then toss in a triple by a guy that hasn’t hit one since 2011.  Get six more outs from the bullpen.  Serves an entire Nation.

Yadier Molina gets the Hero tag for his fourth career triple and perhaps the first that saw him go in standing up.  Molina’s eighth-inning drive was placed in the perfect spot and let the Cardinals rally from a 2-0 deficit with more offense than the rest of the game had combined.  Molina was the offensive star even without that key hit–he had three hits, the rest of the team had four–but it was so good to see someone come through in a big situation like that.  Too often this year it seems like rallies have died with a fly ball or a strikeout or a double play (though that wasn’t possible right there) and not often enough has the club taken advantage.  This time they did and it was wonderful to see.

It got Miguel Socolovich another win, his fourth of the year.  That puts him within shouting distance of last night’s starter, who has seven on the year and could have more if folks believed in scoring for him.  Lance Lynn again did his best to keep the Cardinals in the game, throwing five shutout innings before buckling a bit in the sixth, allowing a few hits and two runs.  As we’ve noted a number of times in the past, Lynn has completely turned his career narrative on its head, going from the guy who won mainly because he had run support to the guy who should win but can’t because he doesn’t have run support.  It has to be frustrating somewhat for him, but as long as the team gets the win, the sting is a lot less.

Very good work out of the pen last night as well.  Socolovich came in down two runs but was able to keep it that way, striking out two of the four batters he faced.  It was notable that Mike Matheny turned to Sam Tuivailala after the Cards took the lead.  We are so used to seeing him go to folks like Seth Maness or Kevin Siegrist there, but Siegrist wasn’t supposed to pitch last night (he did wind up getting the last guy in the eighth, though he did so seemingly without breaking a sweat) and Maness had pitched in the last two games as well.  The options were a bit limited and you have to commend Matheny for going a different direction if you are going to gripe about him using all the same relievers all the time.

Plus, this lets John Mozeliak have a little more information.  The rumors are that they are looking at Steve Cishek of the Marlins to add into the bullpen mix.  Cishek would bring a veteran arm and a guy that’s had some success in the past.  (Could be Mo is looking for a little Edward Mujica magic to strike again!)  The Marlins’ asking price might not be where he wants it to be, however, and he may be seeing if the club can get along with a more pronounced role from Tuivailala as well as Socolovich.  Tui did all right, though he did have to be bailed out by Siegrist.  Neither ball hit off of him was that hard, but death by a thousand paper cuts is still death.  If they’d had a bigger lead, I imagine Matheny would have let him try to get out of the jam, but a one-run lead just didn’t allow for that.

You have to go back to the top of the lineup and Kolten Wong to find our Goat for the evening.  0-5 is a tough thing to overcome and two of those were strikeouts.  Wong is 1-21 in his last four games, and while that one was that game-tying homer on Sunday, it’s still not what you want to see from your leadoff guy.  On the whole, July has been tough on him (.175/.268/.222) and having him leading things off isn’t really helping the offense click.

I’d say move him down, but who do you put in his place?  Matt Carpenter still is scuffling, going 0-4 last night and still using that half-swing to protect with two strikes.  John Redbird on Twitter said he noticed him doing that last year and my theory is that he’s just not confident with two strikes and so he goes to this extreme swing that will let him at least put the bat on the ball.  Which is saying something given how successful he has been in the past with two strikes.  He’s really flailing around in the dark trying to figure it out, it seems like.

It would seem the only real option (because I don’t think they should shift Jason Heyward back up there, given how he’s done since moving down in the order) would be Randal Grichuk, who is really not your typical leadoff guy.  He doesn’t walk much, strikes out a bit, but he’s actually doing something with the bat, which could give you a jolt to start off an inning or game.  I’m not wedded to that idea, but it seems like someone that is having some success should move up the order, at least until Wong gets going again.

Cardinals are the first team to 60 wins and now have a six game lead over the Pirates thanks in part to some great work by the Royals, who took two of three from the Bucs.  Now the Royals come into Busch for a one-game makeup series and St. Louis would like to send them back across the state with a loss and increase their lead over the second-best team in baseball.  To do that, they’ll need a typical home performance from John Lackey and the offense to help him out a bit.  I feel OK about the one, not so sure about the other.

Lackey’s on a nice run with a 1.63 ERA over his last seven games.  He faced the Royals in Kansas City in May and allowed three runs in five innings, taking the loss in that weird rain-shortened game.  While he faced the Royals as a team fairly often during his tenure in the American League, it didn’t always bode well for him.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Alex Rios 32 30 10 1 0 0 3 1 9 .333 .355 .367 .722 1 0 0 0 0
Omar Infante 19 17 3 2 0 0 1 2 8 .176 .263 .294 .557 0 0 0 0 0
Kendrys Morales 12 11 3 0 0 0 1 0 1 .273 .250 .273 .523 0 1 0 0 0
Eric Hosmer 10 9 2 1 0 1 3 1 1 .222 .300 .667 .967 0 0 0 0 0
Alcides Escobar 9 8 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .125 .125 .125 .250 1 0 0 0 0
Mike Moustakas 8 7 3 2 0 0 0 1 0 .429 .500 .714 1.214 0 0 0 0 0
Jarrod Dyson 5 5 1 0 0 0 1 0 1 .200 .200 .200 .400 0 0 0 0 0
Salvador Perez 5 5 2 0 0 0 1 0 0 .400 .400 .400 .800 0 0 0 0 0
Lorenzo Cain 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 103 95 25 6 0 1 10 5 23 .263 .297 .358 .655 2 1 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/23/2015.

Chris Young will go for the Royals in a battle of grizzled old veterans.  Young also pitched in that series in Kansas City, giving up no runs in six innings and frustrating Cardinal hitters and fans alike by serving up soft, hittable stuff that wasn’t hit.  His last outing, he allowed two runs in five innings to the White Sox.  He likely won’t go deep in the game–six innings seems to be his maximum–but with that Royal bullpen, it won’t matter much.  The Cards need to get a lead early and avoid those flamethrowers in the ‘pen.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Matt Holliday 30 23 6 3 0 0 0 6 5 .261 .433 .391 .825 0 0 0 1 1
Yadier Molina 16 15 5 0 0 0 1 1 2 .333 .375 .333 .708 0 0 0 0 2
Mark Reynolds 15 14 2 0 0 1 3 1 5 .143 .200 .357 .557 0 0 0 0 0
Jason Heyward 12 10 2 0 0 0 2 2 0 .200 .333 .200 .533 0 0 0 0 0
Dan Johnson 8 5 0 0 0 0 0 3 1 .000 .375 .000 .375 0 0 0 0 0
Jhonny Peralta 6 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .167 .000 .167 0 0 0 1 0
Matt Carpenter 3 2 2 0 0 0 0 1 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000 0 0 0 0 0
Randal Grichuk 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Kolten Wong 3 2 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 .500 .667 .500 1.167 0 0 0 0 0
Peter Bourjos 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 98 81 19 3 0 1 6 15 14 .235 .367 .309 .676 0 0 0 2 3
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/23/2015.

Cards haven’t done much with him in the past, but it’d be real nice if that changed this evening.  Pittsburgh is hosting the Nationals, so a win tonight could potentially result in pushing that lead back out to seven games and making that whole “sky is falling” idea around the All-Star Break look pretty silly.  We can hope!

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Last night’s game had a lot of positive things going for it.  For the first, the Cardinals won while Pittsburgh lost, pushing their lead in the Central out to five games.  We saw offense, even though they were facing a lefty they’d never seen before.  We saw Stephen Piscotty get his first major league hit.  We even saw a fairly strong outing out of Trevor Rosenthal, locking down the team’s 59th win.

All of that is good and we probably should be focusing on that this morning, but I want to lead off with who probably should be the Goat of the game, even though he’s not going to get the tag.  Because when you are handed a 7-0 and, before you leave the game, you make it a save situation, that’s not a good outing.

Bernie Miklasz noted yesterday that Michael Wacha had been struggling lately.  (At least I think it was Bernie, but I can’t find the article on the Post-Dispatch site right now.)  Since his first start in June (a fairly random place to start, sure, but it basically encapsulates two months), he’s 4-2 with a 4.41 ERA.  The K/BB ratio is still there (52-9 over that stretch of 49 innings) but balls are being hit more often and finding more holes.  Last night made it back-to-back starts (and third in his last five) where he’s given up five runs in a game.  This offense isn’t often going to bail you out from a night like that, though he did get so lucky last night.

There doesn’t seem to be any physical issue going on here, as far as we know.  You can’t really judge by the results anyway, since in the starts right before he was shut down last season he had a 3.30 ERA and the first time in 2014 he gave up five runs was after his return in September.  You can’t ever completely rule it out with pitchers, of course, but I don’t think we can immediately jump to that conclusion.

So what, if anything, is wrong with him?  Could be nothing, just some random bad starts and it’ll even out over time.  However, I looked earlier in the year at the relationship between high run starts with Wacha and his number of strikeouts.  Let’s look at that again, updated for this part of the season.

Rk Gcar Gtm Date Tm Opp Rslt IP H R ER BB SO ▾ HR StS GB FB LD PU Unk
1 46 59 Jun 9 STL @ COL L,3-4 6.2 9 4 4 1 10 1 18 7 12 9 1 0
2 52 93 Jul 21 STL @ CHW W,8-5 5.0 4 5 5 2 8 2 12 5 6 1 0 0
3 41 34 May 14 STL @ CLE W,2-1 5.0 5 1 1 2 7 1 11 3 10 4 1 0
4 44 49 May 30 STL LAD L,1-5 5.2 3 4 4 3 7 1 14 6 7 1 0 0
5 48 69 Jun 21 STL @ PHI L,2-9 5.0 8 5 5 1 7 0 10 7 9 6 0 0
6 37 14 Apr 23 STL @ WSN W,4-1 7.0 5 1 1 2 6 0 9 12 8 5 1 0
7 50 79 Jul 3 STL SDP L,1-2 7.0 5 1 1 1 6 1 8 13 7 2 1 0
8 51 85 Jul 8 STL @ CHC W,6-5 6.0 7 5 5 1 6 0 15 9 9 3 2 0
9 42 39 May 19 STL @ NYM W,10-2 7.0 4 2 2 2 5 1 11 8 12 1 2 0
10 45 54 Jun 4 STL @ LAD W,7-1 7.0 7 1 1 0 5 0 15 7 16 9 0 0
11 47 64 Jun 16 STL MIN W,3-2 6.1 3 2 2 1 5 0 6 9 8 5 0 0
12 49 74 Jun 27 STL CHC W,8-1 6.0 6 1 1 2 5 0 12 9 7 5 1 0
13 36 9 Apr 17 STL CIN W,6-1 7.0 5 1 1 1 4 1 9 12 11 2 3 0
14 38 19 Apr 28 STL PHI W,11-5 5.2 6 4 4 2 4 0 9 12 7 5 1 0
15 43 44 May 24 STL @ KCR W,6-1 7.0 5 1 0 2 4 0 6 9 12 8 2 0
16 35 4 Apr 11 STL @ CIN W,4-1 6.1 5 1 1 1 2 1 7 14 8 3 0 0
17 39 24 May 3 STL PIT W,3-2 6.2 5 0 0 2 2 0 5 12 11 3 1 0
18 40 29 May 8 STL @ PIT W,8-5 6.0 6 3 2 0 1 0 4 14 10 7 2 0
STL 112.1 98 42 40 26 94 9
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/22/2015.

As I noted earlier, there seems to be some strange correlation between his ugly starts and how many strikeouts he gets.  Out of his top five strikeout games, four of them saw him giving up four or more runs.  I’m not a sabermetrician, likely to do the digging on Brooks Baseball to find out pitch types, location, etc. but I can give you my completely uneducated theory.  He may be pitching too much in the strike zone.  It sounds strange, of course, but if you aren’t keeping the hitters guessing, you’ve got to get them out completely on your stuff.  That can happen–heaven knows Greg Maddux got into the Hall of Fame doing a lot of that–but it works better when you can get them swinging at balls as well as strikes.  When the hitters know it’s in the strike zone, they are more likely to put wood on it.  As we know, bad things can happen when the hitters do that.

Wacha’s BABIP for the year is .276, which is in line with his first two seasons.  In fact, all of his numbers are in line with his first two seasons.  It’s just he had a dominant start to this season and we are seeing some decline.  It’s all about how you make up those numbers, at least to those watching every day.  It most likely is just a bump in the road, but I don’t think you can use fatigue as much of an excuse, given that he had almost two weeks off before last night’s start.  Anyway, I look forward to more theories about Wacha in the comments.

As for the rest of the game, it was pretty nice.  Save for that 12-run explosion on Saturday, it’s been a while since the bats just started clicking.  Matt Holliday gets the Hero tag, signalling he’s getting back to normal with a single and a grand slam.  Mark Reynolds also contributed a home run and walked three times, which probably had something to do with Piscotty on deck during his ABs but is still pretty incredible to note.

We saw Matt Carpenter get two hits, though the last one looked more like a golf swing than a baseball swing, just serving it over the infield with no follow through.  Whatever works, of course, but we’d hate to see Carpenter reduced to a Punch-and-Judy hitter.  Two hits on the night when he slides down the lineup, though, can’t be overlooked.  It would seem prudent to keep him there for a few days and see if he can get something resembling his stroke back.

Just like they did against the Mets in that 12-run game, they did all of this with no help from the top two spots in the order.  Randal Grichuk will get the Goat tag, going 0-5 with a strikeout.  I’m not sure about Grichuk in the second spot, though on his good nights that’s a great place for him.  We’ll see him there for a bit, I’d think.  Kolten Wong was a close runner up, going 0-4 with a HBP, which eventually led to scoring on Holliday’s slam.  I’m a big Kolten fan, but he’s hitting .190/.288/.241 in the month of July.  He’s hitting .244/.308/.400 in the leadoff spot.  It may be time to shuffle him down the lineup as well, though we’re running out of folks to put at the top.

Also, great to see Piscotty get a hit in his debut, though it wasn’t surprising that he struck out twice as well.  Prospects don’t always appear on the scene fully-formed, which is so hard to remember.  I also thought it was a bit ironic that, after all the concern about whether he could play first base, his first big league error comes in the outfield.  Because baseball!

Lance Lynn tries to nail down the short series sweep tonight.  He faced the White Sox in Busch and allowed just one run in six innings, but was going against Chris Sale and that doesn’t win you a lot of games against Chris Sale.  His last outing was against the Mets when he allowed one run on three hits.  Hopefully he can do something similar this evening.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP missG
Adam LaRoche 12 10 2 0 0 1 1 2 2 .200 .333 .500 .833 0 0 0 0 1
Melky Cabrera 9 7 1 0 0 0 0 2 2 .143 .333 .143 .476 0 0 0 0 0
Alexei Ramirez 6 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 5 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Geovany Soto 5 5 2 1 0 0 1 0 0 .400 .400 .600 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Emilio Bonifacio 4 3 0 0 0 0 0 1 2 .000 .250 .000 .250 0 0 0 0 0
Jose Abreu 3 3 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Gordon Beckham 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Adam Eaton 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Tyler Flowers 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Avisail Garcia 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
J.B. Shuck 3 3 2 0 0 0 1 0 0 .667 .667 .667 1.333 0 0 0 0 0
Chris Sale 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Carlos Sanchez 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 1
Total 58 53 11 1 0 1 4 5 17 .208 .276 .283 .559 0 0 0 0 2
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/22/2015.

John Danks is his opposing number.  I still think of Danks as being a pretty good pitcher, but he’s not had an ERA under 4 since 2010.  This year, he’s at 4.98 and none of his other numbers seem to indicate that’s a fluke.  His last start he did shut out the Royals over six innings, but that came after allowing six runs in four and a third to Toronto.  Let’s hope there’s more of the latter than the former tonight.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Jhonny Peralta 58 49 11 4 0 2 7 7 12 .224 .345 .429 .773 0 0 0 2 1
Mark Reynolds 12 10 2 1 0 0 0 2 4 .200 .333 .300 .633 0 0 0 0 1
Peter Bourjos 6 5 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .167 .000 .167 0 0 0 0 0
Dan Johnson 6 6 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .167 .167 .167 .333 0 0 0 0 1
Jason Heyward 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Holliday 3 3 2 1 0 0 0 0 1 .667 .667 1.000 1.667 0 0 0 0 0
Total 88 76 16 6 0 2 7 10 18 .211 .318 .368 .687 0 0 0 2 3
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/22/2015.

Unsurprisingly, Jhonny Peralta has seen him the most.  Nobody’s got a great track record against him, but there’s been limited exposure, especially lately.  The offense got going last night.  We’ll see if it can continue!

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We’ll get to the interesting stuff about the promotion of Stephen Piscotty shortly, but let’s quickly recap this weekend’s series against the Mets.  This series saw the return of the team we’d seen much of the first half–somewhat frustratingly so–and thanks to a little help from our friends (at least for the weekend; I don’t expect the Brewers would term themselves that regularly) there’s a little more breathing room in the division.

Friday (3-2 win)

Hero: Lance Lynn.  There were some offensive performances that could be considered here, but you have to appreciate what Lynn did.  The first batter of the game, Curtis Granderson, goes deep.  You know that, with this offense, you can’t give up any more runs and have a legitimate chance to win.  So Lynn didn’t.  Seven innings, no more runs, only two more hits, and struck out nine.  The Cardinals rallied with the bats, but they wouldn’t have had a chance to if Lynn didn’t work his magic.

Goat: Yadier Molina.  0-4 and left four men on.  Matt Carpenter was a strong runner-up, avoiding the tag just because he drove in the tying run with a groundout.

Notes: While there were some great things about this game, like Kolten Wong going 2-4 with a stolen base, Jason Heyward with a triple, and Jhonny Peralta breaking the tie in the sixth with a home run, the lasting impression from this one was the continued struggles of Trevor Rosenthal.  To be fair, Rosenthal shouldn’t bear all the blame.  If Wong and Heyward communicate better and Heyward takes charge of a deep popup, Rosie has one on, two out, and probably gets through with limited damage.

That said, there were some balls hit pretty solidly against him, though at least one of those was turned into an out while a soft dribbler wound up scoring a run.  Baseball, man.  What bothered me the most about Rosenthal’s outing was that, even though he wound up striking out two of the last three guys, he had trouble putting anyone away.  Look at the number of pitches per at-bat in that inning:

Daniel Murphy: 3
Lucas Duda: 7
Kevin Plawecki: 1
Kirk Nieuwenhuis: 7
Ruben Tejada: 6
John Mayberry: 9

That last AB was particularly frustrating as a lot of people on Twitter, including Mets fans, were saying how Mayberry had absolutely no chance against Rosenthal.  He did strike out, but he pushed that AB out as far as he could.  Nobody was blown away by Rosenthal’s fastball in that inning, as he only got one swinging strike on the fastball at all.  Everything else was either a ball or a foul.  It took the changeups to retire the last two outs.  Changeups are good, I like changeups, but if folks are sitting on and not missing your 99 mph heat, that seems important.

Rosenthal threw 30+ pitches in that game and was still feeling soreness on Sunday, leading him not to be used in that marathon.  This soreness is starting to become a concern, though.  If Rosenthal can’t go on back-to-back days (assuming a regular pitch count; I didn’t expect him to return this weekend after this outing) then that’s a problem.  It’s definitely something to monitor over the next week or so.

Saturday (12-2 win)

Hero: Jason Heyward.  Five hits, two runs, two RBI.  That’s the kinda night we hoped to see more often out of Heyward (well, to the extreme, probably) and it was great to see it.  Heyward left this one with cramping after the fifth hit and didn’t do more than pinch-hit Sunday, but it shouldn’t be a long-term issue.

Goat: Kolten Wong.  All this offense and the leadoff man was 0-4.  He did draw a walk, but otherwise didn’t really contribute.  Of course, when the offense was clumped into three four-run innings, that’s not quite as surprising as it could be, I guess.

Notes:

You once wrote, there comes a time when all the cosmic tumblers have clicked into place and the universe opens itself up for a few seconds to show you what’s possible.–Ray Kinsella to Terrance Mann, Field of Dreams

This game showed what could happen when the offense completely clicks.  Actually, that’s not entirely true.  Wong and Carpenter at the top of the lineup combined to go 0-9.  If they had been involved, that would have been completely.  As it was, though, it was a wonderful showing and a great reprieve from playing so many tight games.  The last time the Cards had won by four or more was that 6-0 game to start the Chicago series, and even that was four runs in the ninth.  You’d probably have to go back to that June 27 game against Chicago in Busch, where the Cards won 8-1 after some early runs, to find a game that was relaxing to watch.

Randal Grichuk had two home runs in this one, which was incredible as well.  When you go 3-3 with 6 RBI, you are having quite an evening.  We didn’t expect Grichuk to be short-changed when Matt Holliday returned and that’s proven to be the case.  While he may be streaky, he brings thump like nobody else on this squad.

With all this offense the pitching could be overlooked, but John Lackey had another fine home start.  He did allow 10 hits in his seven innings (the Mets just had three hits less than the Cards, but 10 fewer runs) but was able to work out of jams.  It probably helped that the Mets seem to have made an art form out of leaving runners on base, though.

Sunday (3-1 loss in 18)

Hero: Mark Reynolds.  It really was tough to figure out who to use here.  I mean, Wong hit the HR that let them keep playing, but that was also his only hit in eight at bats.  The pitching staff did well, but Tim Cooney didn’t get through the sixth and both Carlos Villanueva and Carlos Martinez allowed runs, though in four innings of work.  I’ll go with Reynolds, who went 3-8 in this marathon, though some of his work was undone by Molina.

Goat: Yadier Molina.  Three double plays in a game like this are just killer, but the last one was the most devastating.  Grichuk doubled to start the 11th and Peralta walked.  Two on, nobody out, bottom of the 11th.  You have got to get a run in here.  Reynolds did his part, lifting a fly ball that move Grichuk to third, though unfortunately not Peralta to second.  That proved vital when Molina hit the ball on the ground again and two were turned.  Molina did get two hits in this one, but not when they were needed.

Notes: Doesn’t it seem like every time the Mets come to Busch Stadium, there’s a game like this?  Dan McLaughlin early on in extras referenced the 20-inning affair in 2010.  I’m not expert enough or fully subscribed to Baseball Reference to come up with how often these two teams do go longer, though I see they went 13 innings later in 2010 as well.  I don’t know why I feel like that, but it does seem like these two squads are always going to give some free baseball.

Martinez pitched four innings and, if he was able to field a bunt in the 18th, could possibly still be out there.  It looked like he could have gotten the lead runner at third, but he flubbed it a bit and everyone was safe.  That said, he did a heck of a job for the fact that in no universe did he wake up that morning and expect to be pitching.  Relievers always are expecting it, starters never are.  Thankfully with the off day it’s not going to goof up the entire rotation, as Michael Wacha moves up a day to take today’s game and Lance Lynn will take Wednesday, both on regular rest.  Looks like Martinez will go Friday against Atlanta now.  It surely wasn’t part of the plan of resting these guys and not adding to their innings, though.

Cardinals headed to Chicago yesterday to prepare for the White Sox and they found a stowaway in their luggage.  Piscotty will make his debut tonight, most likely starting at first base.  While he’s only been a first baseman for about a week, there was no time left to let him learn the position.  John Mozeliak has 10 days to make a deal to help this club.  He needs to know if Piscotty can be the guy at first or he needs to go get someone else.  They can’t lollygag around with him, a point that I’m sure has been made with Mike Matheny.  Then again, given how weak first base has been, I don’t think Matheny is emotionally tied to any of those guys like he is to folks like Jon Jay.

It looks like the other side of the 25-man roster will be the demotion of Tommy Pham, who is no longer listed on the active Cardinal roster.  Pham’s demotion made sense anyway, given that, after those two stellar games at the beginning of his time in St. Louis, he’s gone 5-33 with eight strikeouts.  Holliday’s return meant there was even less time for him in the big leagues and, if something happens and a fifth outfielder is needed, Piscotty can do that as well.  We’ll have to see who is removed from the 40-man to make room for the new guy, but I’d think Dean Anna or Ty Kelly probably shouldn’t get too comfortable, unless they decide Jon Jay’s wrist is worse than expected and move him to the 60-day DL.  That would keep him out until September, when the rosters expanded.  I don’t think they’ll go that route, but the more I think about it, the less confident I am in that assessment.

What to expect from Piscotty?  Nothing less than the saving of the offense, right?  If he’s not hit a home run in his first three games, what’s the point?  (And yes, for those of you reading this incredulously, I am being sarcastic.)  I don’t know what Piscotty will show us.  He could start off hot and then tail off, like Pham did.  He could take a while to find his footing.  All in all, I’m not sure that whatever he does these next few games influences Mozeliak’s move a whole lot, but it could give him a lot stronger hand when dealing with other clubs and it might be that Piscotty shows enough that he can focus elsewhere on a move, perhaps the bullpen.

(Speaking of, I was watching Ant-Man last night when apparently I got swept into a Twitter conversation between our Prospect Preacher and my podcast partner.  Dan Buffa seemed to be advocating Edwin Jackson as a free and easy move for the bullpen.  While I’d admit Jackson is doing OK out of the pen, I’m with Josh on this one.  Even if there was a need for a long relief guy, which there’s not–Villanueva seems to be holding that down fine–we’ve got enough starters like Cooney and the Patron Pitcher Tyler Lyons that we could make do there, especially after Jaime Garcia returns, which will hopefully be this week.  I’m also not comfortable betting that the last 30 innings from Jackson are more relevant than the years of mediocrity that came before.  But that’s my two cents.  Isn’t this where I’m supposed to insert Kermit the Frog?)

When last we saw the White Sox, they used Chris Sale and Jose Quintana to sweep the Cards in Busch.  They’ll miss both those guys this time and hopefully will have a much better result.  The White Sox will send out Carlos Rondon tonight to face the Redbirds.  He’s 3-2 with a 3.80 ERA in 11 starts and 14 appearances.  Last time out, he shut out the Cubs over six innings, but both games before that he allowed four runs in five innings.  He strikes out a batter an inning but his walk rate is a bit high.  He’s also a rookie lefty the Cards haven’t seen before.  You know how much that fills us with confidence.

Michael Wacha’s on the other side.  Wacha has had plenty of rest, last being seen almost two weeks ago against the Cubs, where he allowed five runs in five innings.  That’s not typical Wacha, of course, and with the White Sox also struggling on offense, I’m hopeful that we’ll see a return to form by the burgeoning ace.  The Sox haven’t seen much of him, but the little they have they’ve not liked.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Emilio Bonifacio 10 10 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Adam LaRoche 6 5 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 .200 .333 .200 .533 0 0 0 0 0
Total 16 15 1 0 0 0 0 1 3 .067 .125 .067 .192 0 0 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/21/2015.

Let’s hope tonight’s game is more like Saturday’s and less like Sunday’s!

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Piscotty Promoted

Per Rob Rains, Stephen Piscotty will join the Cardinals in Chicago for the White Sox series. The corresponding move has not been announced, though it would seem likely Tommy Pham would be demoted and Dean Anna/Ty Kelly/TBD would be waived from the 40-man.

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Return of the Baseball

All right, I’ve put this off long enough.  I really don’t want to rehash the Pittsburgh series much, so I’m going to do a quick Heroes/Goats for them all (curse my collecting, must-have-one-of-everything mentality) and then some quick general notes.  After all, I’ve talked about this series here, here, and here (Episode 6, which should be up later today), so if you really want more details, there are options.

Thursday (4-1 win)

Hero: Carlos Martinez.  Martinez made a strong case for the Final Vote (which, as you know, he won) for the All-Star Game by going 7.1 innings, allowing just four hits, and striking out more batters than reached base.  Given how the rest of the weekend went, having a game like this from a starter (while having enough backing behind him) was a wonderful sight.

Goat: Peter Bourjos. 0-4 in the leadoff spot, though he did score a run because he was able to be hit by a pitch in the four-run fifth inning.

Friday (5-2 loss)

Hero: Matt Carpenter.  His two-run homer in the third looked like it might spark something or at least give enough of a lead for this world-class pitching staff.  Turns out, not so much, but he tried.

Goat: Lance Lynn.  It’s been a long time since we’ve really seen a stinker of an outing from Lynn, but this one qualified.  He didn’t make it to the fifth, but allowed five runs on nine hits and a walk.  Sometimes it happens, just too bad it had to happen when playing the team closest in the standings to you.

Saturday (6-5 loss in 14)

Hero: Mark Reynolds. Even if his first one was umpire-aided (boy, I think we’d have been hot if a guy had gone deep after a fairly obvious missed call like that against the Cards), he did hit two home runs and came ever-so-close to a third.  Not much more you can ask out of a guy, is there?

Goat: Trevor Rosenthal.  A one-run extra-innings lead is where you really need your closer to shine.  Instead, the first batter triples, which really means it’s just a matter of time before he ties the game.  Sure, Nick Greenwood gave up the losing homer to Andrew McCutchen, but it should have been over before it got there.

Sunday (6-5 loss in 10)

Hero: Randal Grichuk.  Three hits, including what should have been the game-winner.  Assuming the game hadn’t been won in one of the other opportunities.

Goat: Matt Carpenter.  By all rights, this should be another Rosenthal spot.  I mean, he did blow a two-run lead.  But given the usage the night before and apparently he wasn’t completely healthy, it’s tough to fault him.  (Not terribly tough, but just tough enough that I don’t want to do it.)  Carpenter went 0-4 and struck out twice in the leadoff role, though he did walk once.

So pretty much that was an ugly series.  The Cards could have easily taken three of four and put the Pirates in their place, cruising into the All-Star Game with a 6.5 game lead.  Instead, the race is about as tight as it has been in quite some time and the Pirates are the ones that have the momentum, if you believe in such a thing.  I’ve seen too many times where the Cardinals have had “momentum” games followed up by duds to really believe much in it.  The baseball saying of “Momentum is tomorrow’s starting pitching” seems to apply much more.  (Plus, if there was momentum, a four-day break probably dampened it.)

What’s more concerning out of all of this is the status of Rosenthal.  We didn’t know anything was wrong until Tuesday, when it was announced he wouldn’t pitch in the All-Star Game due to soreness.  (Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez didn’t pitch because of reasons, but I don’t think we’ll complain much.)  Derrick Goold’s story on this notes that Rosenthal didn’t feel 100% on Saturday and, by extension, probably wasn’t up to snuff on Sunday as well.

Which begs the question: Did Mike Matheny know his closer wasn’t right?  If he didn’t, that’s frustrating, because the club has time and again told these guys to let them know if there are issues.  We saw what happened recently with Jaime Garcia when you aren’t up front with the manager and the training staff.  You’ve got to figure out the difference between a normal ache or pain and something that’s a little more severe.  By this time in basically everyone’s career, they should know that.  I get you want to help the team, I get the team isn’t exactly in the best place to let you take a couple of days, but you tell the manager and let him deal with the issue.

But what if Rosenthal did?  What if Matheny knew that Saturday Rosie was not right?  Even if the discomfort started then, Matheny would have known Sunday had it been reported.  Yet both days Matheny sent his closer out there, letting him throw 27 pitches on Saturday and 29 on Sunday.

If Matheny knew Rosenthal was off, that’s a significant problem.  Now, granted, Matheny doesn’t have a lot of wonderful options in place of Rosenthal, especially on Sunday after a 14-inning game.  There just aren’t a lot of folks that are in the bullpen that you really trust with runners on in a tie game on the road.  Kevin Siegrist and Seth Maness, probably.  Randy Choate‘s got to be limited to lefties.  Carlos Villanueva seems to be a guy that you want starting an inning.  I like what Miguel Socolovich has done so far, but I’m not sure he’s a guy you’d go to unless you had to in extras (which, granted, was how he made his debut this season.)  Sam Tuivailala? He might be able to do high-leverage, maybe not.  There are worries there.  And Greenwood, well, we saw what happened there.

Sunday’s game was especially problematic because Tim Cooney went and, as expected, really didn’t go deep into the game, which you hate to see after a long affair the night before.  There’s some real questions about Matheny’s pitching usage–why he didn’t let Villanueva go more than an inning, which is exactly what you have him for, I don’t know–but I’m not sure who else he brings in for Rosenthal, even if he knew he wasn’t 100%.  The only other option by that time on Sunday night was Greenwood, which wasn’t happening.  You can question how he got there in both nights (reasonably so), but he painted himself into a corner, a corner he couldn’t have done much differently whether he knew his closer was off or not.

We’ll have to see how this soreness issue pans out.  Having four days off will hopefully be enough for Rosie, though I expect we’ll get some reports soon.  If he did have to join the half of the team that’s on the DL, I assume Siegrist would take over.  I’m not sure I’m completely confident in that, either.  It’s times like this that we really miss the presence of Jordan Walden and Matt Belisle.  Some veteran guys that we have some trust in.  Hopefully they’ll be back soon, though I’m not completely optimistic.  A veteran bullpen arm might be on Mozeliak’s shopping list, right along with some thump at first base (or third base, if you want to move Carpenter).

There are reasons for optimism, as I’ve gone over in pretty much all the above podcasts.  A very friendly schedule, the return to health of many folks (Matt Holliday should be back Friday night, which will give the offense a boost eventually), and a likely trade hopefully means that this is the bottom of the season for the Cardinals and they’ll bounce upward and onward from here, putting some distance between themselves and those pesky Pirates.

They’ll start off against a New York team that’s not quite the same team that the Cardinals split with in New York back in May.  I had a chance to be on Mets Public Record last night (because the three chances to hear me ramble above weren’t enough) and the Mets fans look at their team a lot like we look at the Cards–great starting pitching, no real offense.  The Mets offense has been even worse than the Cardinal hitters, which is saying something, so it looks like another low-scoring series.  At least the games are in St. Louis, which has been a nice advantage for this team.

We come out of the break seeing Lance Lynn, who has had time to stew over his ugly outing in Pittsburgh.  The good thing is that, as long as it’s been since he had a start like that, it’s been even longer since he put up back-to-back stinkers.  Lynn actually missed the four-game series in New York earlier in the year, so this will be the first time he’s faced the Metropolitians since June 18 of last year, when he allowed two runs in six innings, though he walked four.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Daniel Murphy 15 14 6 2 0 0 3 1 2 .429 .467 .571 1.038 0 0 0 0 0
Lucas Duda 13 10 0 0 0 0 0 3 3 .000 .231 .000 .231 0 0 0 0 0
John Mayberry 8 8 3 1 0 0 0 0 2 .375 .375 .500 .875 0 0 0 0 2
Michael Cuddyer 6 6 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .167 .167 .167 .333 0 0 0 0 0
Ruben Tejada 6 5 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .200 .200 .200 .400 1 0 0 0 0
Bartolo Colon 4 3 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .667 1.000 1 0 0 0 0
Curtis Granderson 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 0 1.000 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
Wilmer Flores 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 60 51 12 4 0 0 4 7 11 .235 .328 .314 .641 2 0 0 0 2
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/17/2015.

The man the Mets fans call Thor (not to be confused with this post in the slightest), Noah Syndergaard takes the hill for New York.  For some reason, the Baseball-Reference Play Index can’t find him for me to put up a similar chart as above, but it’s a moot point as he’s never faced the Cardinals before, as like Lynn he just missed that previous series in CitiField.  Syndergaard has been quite a bright spot for the Mets this season, putting up a 4-4 record with a 3.11 ERA since his debut on May 12.  He’s given up just one run in each of his last three starts and two of those saw him pitch through the eighth inning.

It’ll be a tough challenge on both sides, but if Lynn is on, hopefully the Cards can steal Thor’s thunder.  If nothing else, though, baseball is back!

 

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We tried something new for this edition of Conversations With C70: an All-Star roundtable that included such luminaries as Dan Buffa, Ben Chambers, Kevin Reynolds, Doug Vollet and Tara Wellman.  We had a blast putting it together, so we hope you enjoy listening to it as we wait for more Cardinal baseball!

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MITCH HARRIS ON 15-DAY D.L. & XAVIER SCRUGGS OPTIONED TO MEMPHIS (AAA)

PITTSBURGH, Pa., July 11, 2015 – The St. Louis Cardinals announced prior to tonight’s game in Pittsburgh that they have recalled right-handed pitcher Sam Tuivailala and left-handed pitcher Nick Greenwood from Memphis (AAA).  The team also announced that right-handed pitcher Mitch Harris (right groin strain) has been placed on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to July 9, and that first baseman Xavier Scruggs was optioned to Memphis (AAA) following last night’s game.

Tuivailala, 22, who appeared in three games for the Cardinals earlier this season, has compiled a 3-0 mark with 12 saves (12 save opps.) and a 1.78 ERA in 30 games at Memphis, striking out 26 in 30.1 innings pitched.  He was recently named to the Pacific Coast League All-Star team.

Greenwood, 27, was 7-3 with a 5.42 ERA in 22 games (12 starts) at Memphis, but since becoming a regular starter for the Redbirds on May 25, he’s 5-2 with a 3.88 ERA (51.0 IP/22 ER).  The 6-1, 180-pound lefty is 2-1 with a 2.01 ERA over his last three starts (22.1 IP/5 ER).  Greenwood appeared in 19 games (one start) for the Cardinals last season, going 2-1 with a 4.75.

Tuivailala (pronounced tooee-vail-la-la) wears uniform no. 64 and Greenwood is no. 62.

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