Leg cramps did what the Cubs could not last night–get Shelby Miller out of the game.
That’s not to say that Miller cruised through his five innings of work, however. Even if the cramps hadn’t been a factor on a wet night in St. Louis, Miller wouldn’t have gone much deeper in the game, given that he was at 83 pitches when he left anyway. While the Cubs weren’t able to do much with him–Chicago only had four base runners during Miller’s time in the game, two hits and two walks–Miller wasn’t efficient at putting people away, something that’s haunted him a lot this season.
A quick exit by Miller did allow for the youngsters in the pen to come out and play. Kevin Siegrist and Seth Maness combined for two scoreless innings, setting it up nicely for the usual late inning dynamic duo.
Both of them, though, had some concerns. Trevor Rosenthal had a 20-appearance scoreless streak snapped when he just didn’t have his best stuff, giving up two hits and a walk in his two-thirds of an inning. (It wasn’t like he was helpless out there, though, as he struck out both batters he retired.)
Edward Mujica came in and got out of that jam, but then allowed a solo home run in the ninth. That’s two appearances in a row that Mujica has allowed a long ball, though neither of them cost the team the game. Still, it’s something to keep an eye on, because if Mujica is starting to lose his effectiveness, you’d rather know sooner rather than later. I don’t think it’s to that point yet, but it is odd to see the Chief allowing home runs. (Something I was not aware of: Mujica has only walked one batter all year long and that was in his second appearance of the season back in Arizona!)
With all this pitching, the club didn’t need a ton of offense, which is good because Travis Wood continued to be a pain in the side. The Cards were able to put three hits together in the fourth, highlighted by Hero Yadier Molina‘s double, to score two runs. That was about it until a seventh inning that got a bit crazy.
Really, it was completely Cubsian, save for the bounce. Molina’s on third, David Freese is on second. Pete Kozma hits a grounder that turns into an infield hit and Molina bluffs going home. Now, for most teams, the first baseman just stares down the runner or realizes he’s not really going. These are the Cubs, though, which meant Anthony Rizzo made a high, off-balance throw over the catcher’s head.
The only saving grace of the play was that it bounced right back to the catcher, who tossed it to Travis Wood who was covering the plate and staring down an oncoming Molina. Molina slid (and then shoved Wood off of the plate a bit) while the umpire called him safe.
It was a bang-bang play that I watched numerous times and couldn’t swear that he was safe. People declared him safe on Twitter, posting pictures to prove it, and I couldn’t tell from the pictures 100% either. (People also declared him out on Twitter, which pretty much means it wasn’t definitive.) I will say that the easy call to make for the ump there is the out call. The ball’s there, the tag is made, everyone was really expecting an out call. Since he called Molina safe, he must have been extremely confident that he was safe, since it was counter-intuitive.
Good day for Kozma, with another hit as well as that infield version that set off the Benny Hill music, as well as Matt Holliday who had a couple of hits and Carlos Beltran who scored a couple of runs. We’ll give the Goat to Matt Carpenter, because of the “0-fer leadoff” rule as well as the fact that the other players that didn’t get a hit either got an RBI (Allen Craig) or had a key sacrifice (Jon Jay).
After being less than definitive on Sunday afternoon, it appears right now that Mike Matheny is going to stick with Tyler Lyons at least one more time through the rotation. If Lyons is able to modify and adjust and keep the Rangers at bay (at least somewhat), it would seem likely that there will be more starts. If he doesn’t, though not expressly stated by Matheny, there are two off days next week to juggle things around.
Chris Carpenter‘s back is now the newest issue in his return, as he threw to hitters and then complained about some tightness there. It doesn’t sound like it’s the end of the world, just something for them to work around. However, it would seem any though of Carpenter back around the All-Star Break probably needs to be pushed back into early August, in my mind.
With the bullpen all nice and settled, it’s easy to forget that there is an arm on the shelf as well. That won’t be the case for long as Fernando Salas is heading to Memphis for a rehab stint. He can stay down there 30 days before having to return to St. Louis (though, if he still has an option remaining, the club could option him to AAA and keep him there longer). Being that he can return around the time John Mozeliak will be starting to get active in the trade market (if he’s going to) may spur a deal either with Salas involved or to make room for him in the bullpen.
Cards look to lock up at least a split of this series tonight with Adam Wainwright on the mound. Waino missed the two-game series in Wrigley earlier this year, so it’ll be the first time he’s faced the Cubs this season. He’s not been beaten up by these guys in the past, though there are better numbers than I expected.
Starlin Castro and Darwin Barney have done more damage than you’d guess (especially Barney) but Wainwright is in a groove right now, with a 2.07 ERA in his last 10 starts, a stretch that includes a five-runs-in-5.1-innings outing against Milwaukee. Yeah, he’s been good.
Of course, his counterpart has been pretty good as well. Jeff Samardzija has finally developed into the pitcher the Cubs were hoping they had when they took him out of Notre Dame. His win-loss record doesn’t reflect it, but he’s been one of Chicago’s best, with a .225 BAA, a 3.46 ERA, and 104 strikeouts in 91 innings. It’s no walk in the park when Samardzija is on the mound.
The numbers aren’t bad for the Cardinal hitters, but some of that is due to his struggles early in his career. St. Louis last saw him July 28 of last year in Wrigley, when he allowed just two runs in six innings as he got a no-decision. His last game at Busch was a little different, as he allowed ten hits and five runs in five innings on April 13, 2012. Let’s hope for a little more of that this evening!