A lot of people enjoy a few games at Wrigley Field. They are often day games, so you get the sun. You’ve got the old-timey ballpark. In general, if you don’t care about the play on the field, you could have an enjoyable time there. (Full disclosure: never been to Chicago, so I’m just going on the traditional thoughts here.) However, even though they were going in to play one of the worst teams in baseball, this weekend was no relaxing getaway for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Friday (6-5 loss)
Hero: Jhonny Peralta. One of main reasons there was any drama to this game at all was Peralta’s two-run homer in the eighth. Peralta has seven home runs on the season. That’s exactly how many starting shortstops have gotten for the Cardinals in the last three seasons combined. While I found out on Twitter that there are a number that continue to hold his PED suspension against him, which is their right, it is nice to have a little thump in an unexpected and untraditional place.
Goat: Adam Wainwright. When we said that this could be a vacation for the club, we didn’t mean Waino should take us literally. However, if you’d have told us that there was a Wainwright look-alike on the mound Friday, that’d have made much more sense than what we got.
Of course, you always have to start getting concerned when the narrative starts running strongly in one direction. Wainwright was getting national attention, a number of stories about how well he was doing, plus it looked like a walk to go up against a Cubs team that was struggling. Which means, this being baseball, that it was time to stand everything up on its head. Wainwright’s ERA went up almost a full run and the gap was just too great for even an above-average offensive outburst to make up.
Notes: Matt Carpenter got a hit and a walk, scoring two runs. It does seem that as Carp goes, so goes the offense. Real strong work out of the pen, as Randy Choate, Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons, and Kevin Siegrist combined for three innings, two hits, and five strikeouts. That late rally wouldn’t have been even feasible if they’d not done their jobs.
Saturday (3-0 loss)
Hero: Matt Adams. Three for four, doing what damage he could do, though they were all singles. When six of your seven hits are from your four-five-six hitters, you’d think you’d be able to get at least one run out of it. However, in so many ways, this team defies your expectations.
Goat: Jon Jay. Yes, he drew a walk, but his first-pitch groundout to the pitcher, starting a double play that basically ended the game after the Cards began the ninth with back to back singles was a backbreaker. Mike Matheny didn’t sound too enthused about that in the post-game presser and you wonder if we’ll start seeing less of Jay going forward, given that in his last 10 games, he’s hitting .172 and that counts the big 3-for-4 day against Milwaukee. He’s no longer the hot hand, so his usage in the next week or so should be interesting to watch.
Notes: It wasn’t Michael Wacha‘s best game, but he almost went six scoreless, which wouldn’t be a bad thing. Almost doesn’t count, though, and his one bad pitch got deposited into the seats, putting the team down 2-0 and, given the way things were going, making it feel like 10-0. Wacha’s pitch count was up again, but on the whole it was a good outing for him, especially when you put it up against Wainwright’s start. Two more hits for Peralta in this game, so he may be starting to get adjusted to the league. He’s not going to be a .300 hitter, probably at least, but even .260 with his power has a lot of value.
Sunday (5-3 win)
Hero: On the face of it, the most obvious choice is Yadier Molina, who got the two-out single that won the ballgame. However, since that single might not have been necessary had it not been for a rare pitch getting past Molina, it’s not completely as clear-cut. We’ll give it to Mark Ellis for his three-hit game, including one in that ninth inning that turned the game for the Cards.
Goat: Allen Craig. Craig went 0-4 and got the Matheny double-switch treatment, being taken out so the pitcher could slide into his spot. It was a risky thing to do in a tie game (at the time) but given Craig’s struggles, it might not have been as much of a gamble as you’d think. Craig only had one hit during the series and after peaking at .220 after a big game against the Brewers, he’s back down to .207. While batting average isn’t a hugely important stat, it’s still a pretty tolerable barometer of how this season is going for The Wrench.
Notes: Big kudos to Siegrist, who came into a tied affair and struck out the side, setting the scene for the ninth-inning rally. Also a gold star to Peter Bourjos, who even though he struck out made Hector Rondon throw nine pitches with runners on to do it. A very solid at-bat all the way around, save maybe the result. Adams continues to hit and Randal Grichuk got him an RBI with a triple. With 11 hits on the night, it was a productive one for the bats. Now, if they could just keep it going…..
And we should mention the starting pitcher for last night. Lance Lynn was, well, Lance Lynn, causing consternation and angst among the fan base. In the third inning, Lynn wound up walking the bases loaded, which seemed a prelude to another one of his terrible innings. In fact, ESPN put up a graphic saying that since 2012, he’d had (I believe) 27 3-runs-or-more innings, which was second in that time span. (Again, that’s just going from memory.) Lynn got out of that jam, but then allowed a two-out, two-run single to the pitcher in the fourth that drove in two. It wasn’t a bad outing from Lynn, but it could have been much better with stronger control.
While the Cards were in Chicago, there were a lot of eyes looking toward Springfield yesterday afternoon, as both Jaime Garcia and Jason Motte took the mound to begin their rehab assignments. Motte looked sharp, striking out the side in his one inning of work and you’d guess he probably has another two or three outings before he’ll get consideration to move up to the bigs.
Garcia…..oh, Jaime. If you didn’t have bad luck, you’d have no luck at all. He only threw two innings before being hit by a pitch while he was at the plate, ending his day. X-rays were negative but they’ll have to evaluate him today to determine if he’ll make his next start or not. He wasn’t completely sharp while he was pitching (which was to be expected), giving up two runs and a homer in his two innings of work.
Big Number 70 stays in the rotation this week, going in the second game of the Atlanta series. Given there’d been no updates on Joe Kelly recently and that Lyons had pitched well in both his starts plus his couple of relief appearances, this isn’t much of a surprise. With Garcia hitting another speed bump and Kelly still MIA, Lyons could be in that role for a while and, if he pitches well enough, it could be tough to unseat him.
Before we get to Lyons, though, Shelby Miller will take the mound against the Braves this evening. Miller gave up three runs in six innings against the Brewers in his last outing and has continued to work out of trouble in his starts, though his strikeout rate has dropped precipitously from what it was last year. Perhaps he can dial it up for Atlanta.
Miller’s done pretty well against them in the past, though he should probably be pretty careful when Jason Heyward is at the dish. Atlanta has some folks scuffling on offense as well, though their power is much stronger than the Cardinal version, so if Miller can keep it in the yard–one of his bugaboos this year–he might be OK.
St. Louis gets to face a revitalized Aaron Harang. Left for baseball dead this spring, Harang has been dominating in ways that, honestly, I’m pretty sure he never has in his career. It caught up to him some in his last outing, when he allowed nine runs in 4.2 innings to the Marlins, but before that had given up three runs combined all year long.
Even though they’ve seen Harang pretty often, they’ve not had the best of success against him. Which is funny, because I have in my mind that they’d beaten him often when he was a member of the Reds. (Looking it up, that’s because they have: he’s 7-13 with a 4.37 ERA against the Cards in his career.) Given 1) the struggles of Jay, 2) his strong at-bat in Sunday’s game and 3) his career line against Harang, you’d think you’d see Bourjos tonight. However, predicting what Matheny will do is a very difficult thing at times.
Cards start the week five games behind the Brewers and at an even .500. Let’s hope by next Monday both of those numbers are a little better!