The old proverb states that the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Last night, St. Louis’s journey of 21 games in 20 days began with a single win.
There had been some discussion in the Bonfyre for this series about just what the expectations were for Shelby Miller going into this game. After all, Shelby was getting some extensive time off before facing the Phillies. Would he be rusty? Would the time away from the mound do him good?
It seems the latter was the case, as Miller was tanned, rested and ready to take on the Philadelphia squad. He threw his best game since facing the Cubs last month, going six innings and allowing no runs while striking out six. Most importantly, he did so much more efficiently than he has been, throwing only 85 pitches in those six frames. When Miller is on his game, he gets strikes and doesn’t have to battle with the zone. He was able to establish his fastball more regularly against the Phils and the results proved it.
I though that the club might be actually implementing the idea of rest that they’ve talked about so often this season about so many players. With Miller only at 85 pitches, they could have easily had him run out there for the seventh, even though his spot was up second in the bottom of the sixth. In fact, the way the game turned out, having him bat in that spot might have been better than having Brock Peterson pinch-hit, because Pete Kozma was at first and they could have had Miller bunt him over.
The club has talked about this so many times, with Yadier Molina and Miller and others, that I thought it was great that we finally saw some of that in action. Sure, it was just an inning, but that’s a few more bullets left in the chamber, a little less recovery that Miller has to do before his next time out. Of course, then I read Derrick Goold’s story this morning and find out he left due to cramping, not because of any usage management. Should have known, I guess.
Hopefully Miller will be able to build on this next time out. He won’t have 12 days of rest and will be facing a pretty good Braves team on ESPN Sunday night, so he could add to his Rookie of the Year case with a strong performance when all eyes are on him. We’ll have to wait and see if the time off helped him because he figured some things out or just because his arm was fresher.
While we’re going with Miller as the Hero, there were others that could have gotten the call. Allen Craig was Allen Craig, driving in two runs and scoring one. His two for three night got him within a fraction of a point of teammate Molina for the batting average lead. He also now has the RBI lead, which will get people talking about MVP. Not team MVP either, mind you.
Mike Matheny put Jon Jay back in the second spot and, for one night, it worked fairly well as Jay got two hits. Kozma also had two hits, which meant that the people that you’d expect to lead the attack didn’t (save for Craig) and vice versa.
While Edward Mujica struggled again to shut the door, he was able to do so with no runs allowed and no dramatic catches needed. Again, it’s too early to switch horses in the ninth, but it’d be nice if Matheny wasn’t against trying a couple of other options as backup there occasionally. The warning signs are there and it’d be foolish not to heed them. (Love Bernie’s line there about Matheny’s loyalty: “I mean, seriously, Mitchell Boggs might still be the closer without an intervention by John Mozeliak.”)
So we won’t give the Goat to the closer that actually closed, even if he channeled his inner Jason Isringhausen. I was going to go with David Freese, even though he drove in a run, because it’s tough to see a guy chase ball four with the bases loaded, especially since the bases got loaded due to a couple of walks. Instead, I think I’ll go with Seth Maness, who didn’t put a huge scare into people, but did ruin the shutout with two hits in two-thirds of an inning.
Obviously the big news yesterday came before the game, when the news came out that Chris Carpenter has numbness returning to his hand and he’s going to stop his rehab work for a while. I’ll stipulate that you never rule Carpenter out, but you have to figure that this is it. He’s talking about rest, but it’s already the end of July. He can only rest a little bit before the minor league season is over. He’s still at least two starts away from being ready for the bigs, I’d guess, and who knows when this will subside or whether it’ll return once he amps it up again.
I’d love to think that he’d still make it back this season, but the odds seem really, really long. It sounds like now even if he did come back, it would be as a reliever, which brings its own set of questions. I’ve been one that’s been excited about this comeback and was looking forward to Carp back on the Busch Stadium mound, but with this news that becomes much harder to see.
The good news is that it isn’t likely to affect what the Cards will do at the trade deadline. Mo was never going to count on Carpenter to be the white knight riding in to save the season. Anything you got out of him was going to be a bonus and plans were made that had nothing to do with what he was going to provide.
The Cards seem to have been linked somewhat with Jake Peavy in recent days. I’m a fan of Peavy, have been for a long time, back when he was just coming up with the Padres. Which is one reason to be hesitant–if I’ve been a fan that long, it must mean he’s getting up there in baseball age. Obviously Peavy’s health history is another and the fact that he’s got a fairly pricey (though not completely out of the Cardinals’ range) contract for the next couple of years.
If the price wasn’t too high, I’d be more intrigued by this. That said, the Red Sox are also supposed to be in on Peavy and the Cards aren’t going to get into a bidding war. Boston probably needs him more than St. Louis does, so if it comes to that, he’ll be in Beantown.
According to a report in the Chicago Tribune, the White Sox rejected a trade that had Alexei Ramirez coming to St. Louis and Carlos Martinez heading the other way. That surprises me a bit, because I wouldn’t have thought Martinez was one of the guys that would get moved or even possibly be swapped. I’d have thought a major league guy like Lance Lynn or Joe Kelly would have gone first, possibly with Kolten Wong. Ramirez would have settled shortstop for a few years, given he’s under contract until 2015 with a team option for 2016 and that would allow some shortstop prospects to grow, but I’m not sure Martinez would have been worth losing for that. In Mo We Trust, however. (To be clear, this wasn’t one-for-one, so it well may be that the Cards were getting some of the White Sox prospects as well, if they have any.)
In a rare situation, Matt Holliday is actually ready to play before his time on the disabled list is up. Holliday, who went on the DL Saturday retroactively and will be eligible this Saturday to come off of it, will only miss a couple of days that he could be playing. Given that he’s not been tearing things up, getting a few more days of rest can’t be a terrible thing, plus it gives Matt Adams some more time to play. Besides, you know if they hadn’t, this would have drug out for another few days and we’d wonder why they didn’t put him on the DL when they had the chance. That’s just the way it works around St. Louis when it comes to injuries, it seems!
The Cardinals try to win another one tonight with Jake Westbrook on the mound. Westbrook’s been outstanding at home this season and the Cards will need another outing like that as Pittsburgh and Cincinnati are still right there waiting for any misstep. He’s coming off a win against the Padres where he gave up two runs in 6.1 innings.
Hopefully his home magic works well, because the historical numbers aren’t quite in his favor. Michael Young and Jimmy Rollins especially have had some success against him and he’ll have to have a new trick to fool those old dogs.
St. Louis gets to hit against John Lannan. Lannan, the former National, didn’t pitch in the divisional series last year against the Birds. He’s been throwing well of late though, allowing just one runs in his last two starts spanning 16 innings. He’s not overpowering, so he gets a lot of ground balls. We’ll have to see if they get through when they are hit as hard as the Cards tend to hit them.
Their past history with Lannan doesn’t inspire much confidence either. While the fact that no one has homered off of him isn’t a big deal–this team wins without the long ball for the most part–there’s not a lot of hitting of any kind against him. He’s never faced Matt Carpenter and Craig, though, so he could be in for a surprise today. Let’s hope!