Bases loaded. Nobody out. The 2-3-4 hitters coming up. It had all the appearances of a revival for St. Louis. After all, they typically do well in these situations and they were due. Boy, were they due. A base hit here and the pendulum could swing back to them with a vengeance.
Instead, Jon Jay struck out. Matt Holliday hit a ground ball to second base that drove in a run (instead of being another one of his league-leading double plays, so thank goodness for small favors) and Carlos Beltran lined out. Still, the Cardinals had tied the game. Things were looking up, right?
17 innings later, that stood as the high water mark of the day.
An offense that we argued just last week would be less susceptible to problems given their lack of reliance on the long ball has had a systematic shutdown. A pitching staff that was dominant in April and May has sprung some leaks. A bullpen that was looking like a lockdown option now is a roll of the dice.
And that’s not the worst part.
On the evening, we saw Holliday let a ball bounce off of him and into the stands. We saw the Pirates three times lead off an inning with a triple. We saw a routine double play ball be deflected and cost the Cards a win. We saw a total of nine hits in 20 innings.
And that’s not the worst part.
If you are a Cardinal fan that doesn’t have a headache from repeatedly bouncing your head off of the wall of your living unit this morning, you are a rare breed.
Just about a week ago, St. Louis was confident, cruising with the best record, having all the pieces work. Nobody know that their heroic pose was right on top of a trap door. This isn’t a downhill slide. This is a plunge down an elevator shaft.
I guess we should do a quick recap of the games, even though few want to relieve the gory details. While that bases-loaded scenario I described at the beginning of the post was in the third inning of the first game, that contest might have turned even earlier. In the top of the first, there were two on with one out. Beltran then hit one into the gap. Unfortunately, that’s where Andrew McCutchen plays. McCutchen not only caught the ball, but was able to double up Holliday after the catch, killing the momentum and letting A.J. Burnett wriggle out of trouble. The Cards had their chances early on in this game, but they weren’t able to capitalize and it cost them dearly.
For all the issues, you still have to give Kevin Siegrist the Goat. Not necessarily for the deflection that allowed the winning run to score in the 11th, because you can understand the instinct to try to catch what’s close to you. The problem was, he’d walked the two guys before that. If his command is on, he’s not in that situation.
The Hero clearly goes to Lance Lynn, who did all he could to snap the streak. Lynn went six innings, struck out seven, and allowed only the one run. On most any other day, he’d have gotten the win and deservedly so. That’s two straight strong outings by Lynn, who hopefully has made some adjustments and can be a contributing force from here on out.
Other than that, there wasn’t much to write home about. Holliday had two hits, but unfortunately they didn’t come at the time when they could have done the most good. Michael Blazek came in and struck out the side (with a walk in the midst of that)–the bullpen, save for Siegrist, were all really good. Unfortunately they just didn’t have anything to protect.
Game 2 was even worse. For a while, it looked like the Cards were going to lose 1-0 on a passed ball by Molina. That right there was an indication something was wrong and, indeed, he was pulled from the game an inning or so later. Matt Holliday gets the Goat for having a terrible night in the outfield. Granted, there were some low walls out there, but he should have caught the home run by McCutchen. It hit the heel of his glove and popped over the wall. The next inning, he had trouble with a deep fly that turned into a triple. Getting one of the three hits in the game isn’t enough to wipe those moments from our memory.
Tyler Lyons pitched fairly well. He had a rough inning where he gave up a leadoff triple and then the McCutchen home run later in the frame–even though it should have been caught, it was still hit very hard. Other than that blip, it was a good six innings from him. It was just a game where you’d have had to been perfect to have a chance, and even that would have just guaranteed extra innings.
I really don’t know who to give the Hero tag to in this one. Lyons was all right (and got one of the three hits) but not enough for that. As noted, Holliday had one of the other hits, but he can’t have it. I guess we have to go with Jon Jay, who had the third hit plus drew a walk. It’s not much, but it’s something.
Some people are saying that it’s not a surprise that a team that lived by an extremely high average with runners in scoring position is coming down to earth a bit. I’d counter that’s not the issue. It’s not that the Cards are having plenty of chances and just not capitalizing. It’s that they aren’t having runners at all! On this road trip, they are hitting a paltry .155, have struck out four times as often as they’ve walked, have nine extra base hits in six games, and haven’t had a lead since Molina’s home run in the second inning of the first Atlanta game. The pitching has been good enough most of those nights, but absolutely nothing is happening offensively.
According to the title of this post, I should be looking for silver linings. I guess the biggest one is that the Cards can get back into first with wins today and tomorrow. Another is that this is happening in July, not the first round of the playoffs or down the stretch where it might keep them out of October baseball. Edward Mujica will be well rested whenever he next appears in a game. Finally, if you can call it a silver lining, while this roadtrip is starting to be reminiscent of the disastrous one in 2010, this time it’s coming against quality opponents instead of bottom feeders like it did back then.
As noted earlier yesterday, Marc Rzepczynski is now property of the Cleveland Indians. In return, the Cards got Juan Herrera, a A-ball middle infielder. I exchanged some messages about the trade with the guys at Did The Tribe Win Last Night? and they put it fairly succinctly–“Never heard of him.” Cleveland does have a backlog of shortstop types so it is possible Herrera has upside, but I wouldn’t expect much out of him. Seems like the Brendan Ryan deal, though at least then Maikel Cleto made it to the big leagues. Even if we didn’t always want him to.
There is unlikely to be any moves besides the Scrabble deal made by John Mozeliak before the trade deadline comes at 3 PM today. Jake Peavy got shipped to Boston last night, so that’s one possibility off the table (if it ever really was on there) and while Cliff Lee might be on the market, the exorbitant price tag will likely keep him in Philadelphia. All in all, it looks like it’ll be a quiet afternoon.
Cards try to turn around the Titanic tonight behind the ace, Adam Wainwright. Granted, the offense is going to have to show up, but if you have to have someone stop the bleeding, Waino’s the guy you want out there.
Except that, like a couple of other teams in Wainwright’s history, he’s had trouble with the Pirates in the past. He’s not faced them this year, though, so hopefully his 2013 dominance will override any problems he might have had getting guys like McCutchen and Russell Martin out in the past.
Jeff Locke will go for the Bucs, who could push their lead to 2.5 games with a win. He shut down St. Louis in Busch back in April, throwing seven scoreless innings. Since that was the only time he’s faced them, that’s why the table looks like this.
Locke has had an outstanding year and is coming off of a two-run, 6.2 inning outing in Miami. In other words, it’s not getting any easier today and the general thought that the Cards have the edge in this matchup might be a little deceiving.
So last night on Twitter, in the middle of Game 2, I put this out:
If the only run the Cards score only one run today and that on a bases-loaded no-out grounder, tomorrow will be my last post.
— Cardinal70 (@C70) July 31, 2013
Now, you might find that to be a silver lining as well. Not so fast, though. Because there are a few caveats that were in my next tweet.
At least until I get back from vacation. Maybe. Unless I get a chance while I’m gone.
— Cardinal70 (@C70) July 31, 2013
Yes, it’s time for my annual vacation. I’m leaving well before the crack of dawn for Reds country tomorrow and will return a week from Saturday, so you’ll get my recaps again starting August 12. Normally during this time I schedule some wonderful guest posts to fill the silence (not The Silence, because then you wouldn’t remember the posts when you looked away from the screen) but given the wealth of good stuff we bring you here at The Cardinal Conclave, I don’t think you’ll be deprived. Given that, unlike my old blogging platform, I can use the WordPress app on my phone (when I have a cell signal or wifi, both spotty where I’ll be going), I might drop a yellow box post every now and again, keeping track of Heroes and Goats so I don’t have a massive catchup post when I get back.
With my luck, Mo will make a deal right at the deadline today and I won’t have a chance to write about it. I’ll take on that burden if it means improving this team! Let’s hope the bats wake up today!