Two outs. Nobody on. If you are playing almost anyone else in Major League Baseball, that’s a situation that means you can breathe a little easier.
Not if you are facing the 2013 Cardinals, though. They’re just getting started then.
For a while there, last night’s game against the Brewers was looking like another frustrating loss in a season full of frustrating losses. The Cards had gone ahead 1-0, the Brewers tied it. Went up 2-1, Brewers tied. Went up 4-2 and the Brewers went one step further and took the lead. Which meant that, with just four outs to go, the Redbirds were trailing 5-4. Thankfully, last night they channeled the April/May version of this squad instead of the more recent edition.
We talked about Kolten Wong eventually being a table setter and a rally starter. However, we expected that when he moved to the top of the lineup, not necessarily when he was hitting seventh. That’s what he did last night, though, getting an infield hit (his second of the game) to keep the inning alive.
And, oh, did it have life. It helped that Mike Matheny went ahead and pinch-hit for Pete Kozma with Daniel Descalso, of course, but the next five batters reached safely, spinning the baserunning carousel. The insurance runs came from David Freese, pinch-hitting for Michael Wacha who, in typical Matheny fashion, had come into the game via the double switch, taking out Matt Holliday. Matheny so often lives a charmed life–so many of his bad decisions wind up turning out OK. If the Cards had lost last night because Holliday, one of their hottest hitters, was out of the game, that’d have been fitting. Instead, it’s a footnote.
Anyway, it was good to see Freese come through off the bench. One of the factors in the addition of Wong was that it did strengthen that bench, often adding a guy in Freese that has a 20-homer season under his belt. He’ll be starting the rest of this series, but it’s good to see that he’s adjusting to things well. What this offseason will bring for Freese, we don’t know, but right now he’s helping to win ballgames without bringing the focus to him, which is commendable.
There are a lot of options for Heroes in this one. Wong with his two hits and two steals. Freese and Matt Adams with their big pinch-hits. Carlos Beltran with three hits, including a home run in the first. Jon Jay with his two-run shot that broke the 2-2 tie. However, as it so often does, I think it comes back to Yadier Molina. Four hits, including a double, an RBI and a run scored. It can’t be a coincidence that the Cards are 4-1 since his return and the one loss was the game he didn’t start.
The Goat has to be Michael Wacha. In just another example of why you don’t focus on win totals, especially from relievers, Wacha gave up three runs in the bottom of the seventh and then got the win when the Cards rallied in the eighth. Wacha’s problems weren’t just pitching, as he threw wildly to first on Jean Segura‘s single, putting him in position to score when Jonathan Lucroy singled to center. Then Aramis Ramirez did what he usually does to Cardinal pitchers and the Brewers had the lead.
It’s not all bad for Wacha, though. Lucroy hit the Cardinals well all night and obviously Ramirez is a Cardinal killer. Wacha did settle down and get three of the next four guys, keeping it from spiraling even farther out of control. Which was big when the next inning came around.
Shelby Miller was solid, but a better team might have taken more advantage of him. He only got 5.1 innings out of 100 pitches, something that has been his downfall so often this season. He struck out eight, but walked four and hit a batter. Coupled with five hits, he had 10 baserunners while he was out there, almost two per inning. That’s living dangerously.
Everyone in the NL Central (well, the important teams, at least) won last night, keeping the pennant race at status quo. Tonight, Kyle Lohse again goes up against his former team for the fourth time this season but, finally, isn’t up against some hotshot rookie. Lohse faced Miller the first two times and John Gast the last one, but draws Lance Lynn tonight.
Lohse has been the pitcher we saw the last couple of years in St. Louis, putting up a nice 3.17 ERA with the Brewers this season. Against the Redbirds, though, he’s 0-3 with a 5.00 ERA. He was strong the first time out, but the Cards have been able to get to him a bit more regularly the other outings.
Do they just have a book on him? Of course, Beltran hit him while Lohse was a Cardinal, but the other numbers there are fairly gaudy as well. We’ll see if even further removed from his time in St. Louis (and a good three months since he’s faced the club) if things have changed.
Unlike Lohse, Lynn has only faced the Brewers once this season. He gave up four runs in five innings and got a no-decision when the Cards lost in extra innings. He doesn’t have the history that Lohse does, but it’s also much prettier to look at.
Lynn’s even been able to keep Ramirez in check, which is nice to see. Not every Cardinal can say that. If the numbers hold, the Cards are in good position to get another win tonight. Odds are they’ll need it!