Big City. Big Country. Big Mayo.
There’s a reason we call Matt Adams Big Fill-In-The-Blank on this blog. There are so many nicknames floating around for him, all based on the idea that he’s a big guy. On a weekend where we lost a pop culture legend, though, it seems appropriate to reach back into Casey Kasem’s heyday to pull out another nom de plume.
The Big Bopper.
If you assigned Heroes to a whole weekend or a whole series of games, Adams would win that hands down. Some people just get their dad a tie or maybe play a round of golf with him. Adams hit a home run in each game his dad attended this weekend. I think he topped you.
(When it comes to fathers and home runs, I’m always reminded of Mark McGwire‘s home run race. McGwire cracked the record-tying 61st homer on his dad’s 61st birthday with him in the stands. Talk about setting a standard for other sons!)
However, we take Heroes and Goats on an individual game basis around here, so let’s look at the weekend sweep of the Nationals.
Friday (1-0 win)
Hero: Lance Lynn. Again, you could name Adams Hero in any of these games, but as big as his home run was in this game, it would have been a footnote had Lynn not pitched one of his best games of the season. It was right on par with his outing against the Yankees, meaning that two of his last four starts have been scoreless affairs. (Of course, the two in the middle were a little rougher.)
Lynn was stellar, though, allowing just two hits and striking out eight in his eight innings of work. It seems that he’s maturing in his pitching, as more and more often he’ll come out with a very impressive outing. In his last five starts, he has a 2.35 ERA, and that includes the debacle against the Giants where he didn’t make it out of the fourth (though it doesn’t include the unearned runs that were in that outing, of course).
Our friend Bob Netherton was on the Kyle Lohse bandwagon before Lohse turned into the quality starter (or, at least, was recognized as such) he was before leaving St. Louis. He’s been on the Lynn bandwagon for a long time as well, and we just might see a similar change in thinking should this continue.
Goat: When the opposing pitcher, while losing, throws just 76 pitches in eight innings, you can imagine there are plenty of Goat possibilities from the offense. The Cardinals mustered just three hits, two of them by Adams. There’s so little difference in any of their lines that you could choose just about any hitter and be right here.
I guess we’ll go with Kolten Wong, because not only did he have a strikeout as part of his 0-3 (which Matt Carpenter did as well) but he also made an error in the field. Again, though, pick any you like and it’d work.
Notes: Adams came off the disabled list and apparently found his power stroke while he was rehabbing, either that or the Nationals haven’t figured out how to pitch to him. Given his stellar numbers against them in his career, it could be the latter. Allen Craig was the only other person to get a hit and Trevor Rosenthal struck out the side in the ninth (around the Wong error) and locked down the save. I had no problems with Mike Matheny pulling Lynn there. I can’t say the same about all of his pitching moves this weekend, so it seems fair to note that.
Saturday (4-1 win)
Hero: Matt Adams. His home run in this game broke a 1-1 tie and that was all the club needed, though the extra insurance runs were nice. His homer also meant that the Cardinals finally won a game when the opponent scored, after having the four wins prior to this one be shutouts.
Goat: Yadier Molina. Things have been rough for the catcher lately. He hit into a double play on Friday right before Adams’s homer and on Saturday, went 0-4 and left five men on. In the month of June, Molina is hitting .154 with an OPS of .368. His last home run was May 24. I’m not sure what the deal is, but we’ve not seen Molina in a slump like this for a while. Not surprising that he got Sunday off when you look at his recent work.
Notes: Shelby Miller pitched another strong game, though the walks crept up again. Still, he allowed only four hits and almost made it through the seventh, which is what we like to see out of the starters. Long outings have become the norm with the rotation lately and it’s a beautiful thing to watch. Plus, Miller helped get back the one run he allowed by doubling off of Stephen Strasburg and then scoring on Carpenter’s single.
There were a few more hits scattered through the lineup in this game–the Cards managed to put together eight–but again no significant offensive thump. One of the runs scored on a bases-loaded walk (something that we’ll talk more about on Sunday), which is nice, but not necessarily how you frame your offense. The Mobil On-The-Run guys are feeling pretty cocky right now, since the Cards haven’t scored six since June 3, and that was a loss. Since the beginning of May, St. Louis has only had five games where they’ve forced cheap drinks the next day by scoring six runs. Yuck.
Sunday (5-2 win)
Hero: Matt Holliday. Again, Adams homered and put the Cards in the lead for the third straight day, but Holliday’s work made sure they kept it, which became pretty valuable late in the game. Holliday homered as well, plus drove in Kolten Wong with a sacrifice fly and drew a walk to cap off his well-rounded day. There are a number of options for Hero here, but Holliday gets the nod.
Goat: Matt Carpenter. When your leadoff guy goes 0-4 and leaves four men on, you don’t usually have much of an offensive game. The rest of the team picked him up, but Carp gets to wear this one, especially since he was the only starter not to get a hit.
Notes: Jaime Garcia’s Road Woes” href=”http://www.cardsconclave.com/2014/06/13/st-louis-cardinals-mythbusting-jaime-garcias-road-woes/” target=”_blank”>We talked on Friday about how Jaime Garcia was struggling at home instead of the road as of late, but he was able to reverse that trend some yesterday. He got some breaks go his way (he worked out of a bases-loaded jam without allowing a run to score) and some didn’t (Jayson Werth walked with the bases loaded on a couple of pitches that could have easily been called strikes–in fact, Werth was pretty sure the last one was going to be called a strike if his body language was any indication) but he stayed the course, didn’t allow anything to rattle him too much, and turned in another impressive outing by a Cardinal starting pitcher.
However, it’s probably too much to ask for that the weekend get by without a pitching change controversy. With a 5-1 lead in the ninth, Matheny called on Sam Freeman. That’s an excellent idea–Rosenthal needed the rest, it wasn’t a save situation, and Freeman has done some great work since his recall from Memphis. As they showed on Fox Sports Midwest when he came in, he’d allowed only one hit in eight innings of work. He’s been good.
He quickly gets the first two guys out. He gets two strikes on Sandy Leon before he gets a solid single to center, though nothing just punished. He gets two strikes on Greg Dobbs before Dobbs just flares one into no-man’s-land between Wong and Jon Jay.
So there’s two on and two outs, but Freeman hasn’t been tattooed or anything. Plus, and let’s reemphasize this, he has a four run lead. Even if he wound up letting the next batter, Anthony Rendon, go yard, you are still up one with two outs and nobody on. Warm someone up in the bullpen if you want, but you don’t remove Freeman here, especially when your closer has worked two straight days and you have no off days coming soon.
So, of course, Matheny yanks Freeman and goes with Rosenthal, because it’s a save situation now and that’s apparently what you do in save situations.
Rosenthal, perhaps showing some effects of throwing two days in a row, then allows a base hit to load the bases and walks Adam LaRoche–who, by the way, is MORE of a threat and is pinch-hitting for Nate McLouth, which he wouldn’t have done if Freeman was still in the game due to the lefty-lefty thing–to force in a run and bring up Jayson Werth in a position to actually put the Nationals on top with a grand slam. Rosenthal gets Werth to pop out (eventually) but 1) it didn’t have to be that hard and 2) now Rosenthal is burned for tonight’s game against the Mets, a game where you already know the bullpen is going to be critical.
Of course, that’s far from the most controversial thing that happened since last we got together. Friday, when Adams had to be reinstated from the disabled list, someone had to go to Memphis. As you know, I (and many others) laid out the case for why Oscar Taveras should stay up. John Mozeliak didn’t see it that way, sending the phenom back to Memphis and stirring up a fan base that, for the most part, has been pretty accepting of Mo’s moves since 2011.
It just seemed strange to send Taveras back down when nobody on this team is hitting and Randal Grichuk is really doing worse that Taveras in more at-bats. Grichuk, who to be fair did get sent down Sunday to make room for Nick Greenwood, who comes up to back up Carlos Martinez in today’s bullpen game, has had much less experience in AAA or in the minors at all. Grichuk seems to be still developing. Taveras seems to have figured out the AAA level.
Mo said that Taveras should play every day, apparently not trusting Matheny to do that. Given the variables, it would not necessarily have been difficult to get Taveras regular playing time, but it would have been some work. We’ve argued that lineup construction isn’t exactly Matheny’s forte, so I guess I could see that argument.
I think it boils down to something Bernie Miklasz said after the Taveras demotion was announced. Bernie had also expected Taveras to stay up–he’s been a OT booster for a long time, of course–and he said afterwards that the mistake was his fault, that “I expected them to want to have their best 25-man roster”. To me, you can’t say you have your best 25 man when Taveras is playing in Memphis and the bench looks thinner than Kate Upton after a diet. I think a case could be made that learning at the big league level, even if he’s not playing every day, could do more for Taveras’s development than continuing to play a level he’s quite accomplished at.
John Mozeliak is getting to the pressure point where he’s going to have to do something to relieve these roster kinks. Kevin Siegrist is about to go out on a rehab assignment–assuming we get a Greenwood-for-Shane Robinson swap later in this week, who do you ship out to find room for him? Joe Kelly might start a rehab soon–he can’t get a starting job right now, but even finding room on the roster for him would be a trick. Those aren’t including all the hitting machinations that need to be done.
I’m not sure that Mo can wait until mid-July to make a move, though I wouldn’t be surprised if he did. Mozeliak isn’t a guy to rush into a move, to make a swap just to make a swap. However, the realities of baseball may make him have to move quicker than he likes. Baseball always seems to find a way to sap depth or solve problems on its own, but I’m not sure it’ll be able to do it this time.
We’ve often wondered what Mozeliak would trade for if he did make a move and I think center field might go on that list now. It appears that Jay has taken over the position, leaving Peter Bourjos as a defensive replacement. It would seem Bourjos is the odd man out now and Jay is an adequate centerfielder (and one of the few players that is hitting–Jay is hitting .344 in June, though it’s all singles). Could Mo go out and get a better all-around centerfielder? Perhaps. I don’t know that anyone like that is on the market, but if you were going to jolt this offense, that’s about the only place you could do it.
OK, I’ve rambled enough and I need to get this wrapped up before work. Adam Wainwright‘s elbow is keeping him out of tonight’s ballgame, though it seems like it’s a minor enough issue (knock on wood) that he’ll be back out there on Saturday. The Cards are letting Carlos Martinez make the start, with Greenwood expected to cover some of the innings as well since Martinez will be on a 50-60 pitch limit. Will the Cards wind up demoting Martinez to let him stretch out in Memphis? That still remains to be seen, but a good outing tonight probably makes that more likely.
Mets haven’t seen much of Martinez, which isn’t surprising given the fact that he’s been pretty much strictly bullpen and, as such, probably only seen him for an inning at a time. If he keeps the trend going, though, we’ll lament he couldn’t finish his no-hitter tonight. (Odds are, that’s really not going to be a concern.)
Speaking of guys with no history against their opponent, New York is throwing Jacob deGrom tonight. deGrom is making the seventh start of his career and has done fairly well in the first six, posting a 3.44 ERA and only once allowing more than three runs. He may have gotten a little lucky his last time out when he faced the Brewers, as he only gave up three runs in 5.2 innings, but allowed nine hits and a walk in that span as well. He’s given up five home runs in six games and has a K/BB ratio of about 2 (and that includes an 11-K game against the Phillies at the end of May) so if the Cardinal offense was what we expected it to be, I’d say they’d put up some runs tonight. As it is, well, we’ll just have to watch and see!