The Cardinals have played two very different games over the last two nights. Both of them wound up with victories over the Diamondbacks, but the path they took were very different. Ballgames are like snowflakes, each one is unique. Plus they evaporate quickly and come in bunches. Which really isn’t relevant to what I’m saying, but it’s still true.
Tuesday (5-0 win)
Hero: Adam Wainwright. Sometimes you have to think about who is going to get the Hero tag. Sometimes, well, sometimes you don’t. Wainwright was as dominant as we’ve seen him and that’s saying something. One hit all night is an impressive performance but it almost seems par for the course given how well Wainwright has been throwing all year. He’s hit his prime and it’s a wonderful thing to watch.
Goat: Allen Craig. When the starter is that dominant and everyone else gets a hit, it’s pretty obvious who gets to wear this one. As the saying goes, if you look around the room and don’t see the Goat, it’s you. Craig went 0-4 with two strikeouts which would get you worried about another down period in his season if it wasn’t so quickly shown to be an isolated incident.
Notes: Before he went deep early in this one, giving Wainwright all the runs he needed, Matt Adams had as many triples as he did home runs. You could have won a lot of money betting on that before the season started. Jhonny Peralta could have made a run at the Hero label had it been any other game, getting two hits, including a home run, and driving in two.
Wednesday (3-2 win in 12)
Hero: Matt Holliday. Craig had the better line and we’ll talk about it in a bit, but Holliday was all over this one, especially in extras. First off, we are probably talking about a loss if he doesn’t get Paul Goldschmidt‘s double back into Daniel Descalso on a line, allowing Descalso to make a strong throw and nail Ender Inciarte at the plate, keeping the game tied. Then in the bottom of that inning, he doubles to lead things off. In a normal, sane world, he would have scored the winning run there, but oftentimes Cardinal baseball is anything but sane. He did walk to lead off the 12th and scored the winning run then. A full night for the left fielder and one worthy of song–or at least a refrain.
Goat: Carlos Martinez. Lots of people said on Twitter that you couldn’t blame Martinez for the loss if it came, given the offense had trouble scoring against one of the worst teams in the league. Of course, then our friend Dennis Lawson pointed out, a reliever is expected to hold a one-run lead, no matter if it’s 1-0 or 9-8. Martinez is in a terrible stretch and at least was able to keep the inning from being a fully involved conflagration, but when your first two pitches in a one-run game are hit for a single and a homer, you get written about in this space.
Notes: The great thing about having Mike Matheny as a manager is that it’s like a perpetual blogger work program. There’s almost never going to be a time in a close game where you can’t write about some interesting or debatable tactical move.
That was the case last night, most especially in the 10th inning. Two extremely controversial moves when the game was tied in extras at home and neither of them really panned out. The first was, with two runners on and nobody out, to have Yadier Molina, one of your hottest hitters, bunt them over to second and third.
It wasn’t indefensible–a sacrifice fly would win the game and it keeps Molina from hitting into a double play, which he’d already done once in the game–but it wasn’t necessarily what most people would have done. Molina had two hits already on the evening, so it wasn’t like he was looking off of his game or anything. Plus, when you look at the rest of the lineup coming up, putting it in their hands was a little iffy. As expected, the Diamondbacks walked Craig–which means that double play is back as a possibility anyway–and that left it up to Jon Jay, who had pinch hit successfully for Peter Bourjos in the eighth, and Descalso.
Which leads to the second questionable move for the 10th inning. Peralta is sitting on the bench. His likelihood of getting a hit is significantly greater that Descalso’s. So why are you not using him there instead of a guy hitting .152 who had already left seven men on base during the game?
I’m sure Matheny wanted to rest Peralta, but those kind of things go out the window when you have an opportunity like that. Besides, Matheny then pulls out Peralta to hit for the pitcher to start the 11th, so he wound up in the game anyway. Looking over the box score, I guess the move is a little more defensible since Peralta was the last guy on the bench not named Tony Cruz and Matheny wouldn’t have wanted to start the 11th off with the pitcher, but I still think you take your shot in the 10th and if it doesn’t work, you deal with the pitcher hitting then. Heck, if nothing else, Wainwright could have pinch-hit! (Looking at the box does answer me one question. I couldn’t figure out why Matheny used Peralta as a leadoff hitter in the 11th instead of newly called up Shane Robinson, who would have been better in that slot, but I see Robinson had already been used. I watched some of the game, but I missed that.)
As noted, Craig had three hits, two walks, and a game-ending fielder’s choice/error, which is a pretty good night all the way around. His average is up to .233, which is like 40 points higher than it was a couple of weeks ago, hopefully indicating we’re going to see something more like the Allen Craig we’ve been used to over the past few years. Matt Carpenter had a couple of hits, which is also something good to see. All in all, the offense really is starting to click a little more. Perhaps they really did need an extended stay at Hotel Busch.
Adams had a three-hit night, but his most devastating hit didn’t show up in the box score. His screaming foul ball into the Cardinal dugout struck Michael Wacha, last night’s starter, on the elbow, knocking him out of the game. Until then, Wacha had been doing a great Wainwright impression, allowing just two hits (but three walks) in six innings. He’d only thrown 88 pitches, so he likely would have worked through the seventh and the whole rest of the game might have turned differently.
If you’ve not read it yet, check out Jonah Keri’s article over at Grantland about the Cardinals and their pitching philosophy. It’s a great read and it’s going to be interesting to see if the Diamondbacks start having that kind of success as well now that Dave Duncan, the architect of the current Redbird style, is working with them.
Cards go for their first sweep tonight, sending out Lance Lynn to try to replicate his last outing. Being that St. Louis doesn’t face Arizona all that often, his sample size is small, but he’s done all right against these guys:
Gerardo Parra has done a number on him and being that Parra was the one that lit up Martinez last night, it might be a good idea to be careful with him. Of course, that also goes for Goldschmidt, but that is the case no matter who is on the mound.
Arizona will have Wade Miley do the honors this evening. Miley’s struggled some this year and his last time out gave up four runs in six innings against the Dodgers. He tends to bounce between good games and bad games, though it’s not a perfect alternating pattern.
It’s a small sample for everyone save Mark Ellis, who will likely be starting tonight given his success against Miley in the past. Tough to argue that one, given the limited exposure everyone else has had.
Let’s give those brooms a workout today, whaddasay?