It seems like a good time to remind folks that, yes, there is a promotion when the St. Louis Cardinals score six runs or more in a game. You’d have been forgiven if you’d forgotten that, given the way the team has gone this season.
Since the beginning of May, the Cardinals have reached the serious plateau just five times before the game last night. They’ve hit five a few times, but never really been able to consistently get the people of the St. Louis area 50 cent drinks the next day (that’s how long the promotion has gone on–many of us remember back in the good old days when it was just a quarter). Yet last night, against an unfamiliar hurler and needing to get through a bullpen game, the bats came out and people broke out in song.
Everywhere you looked, there was a Hero. Given the circumstances, the pitching staff did an outstanding job. Carlos Martinez allowed just one run and worked out of a jam in the fourth. Nick Greenwood made his major league debut and made it count, going three and a third and allowing just one run as well. By that time, you can get into your more regular bullpen usage, though with Trevor Rosenthal out Seth Maness wound up going an inning plus to get the save.
On the offensive side, all but two players had a hit and all but Yadier Molina, who had a hit and a walk, had more than one. It seemed iffy to have Jon Jay hitting second, but all he did was go two for three, draw a walk, and score three runs. Given that Matt Carpenter got another Goat tag for going 0-4 in the leadoff spot, Jay’s production was quite appreciated.
Still, I think you give the Hero to Allen Craig. Craig went 3-4, drove in two, scored one. Pretty full night there for the outfielder, huh? Matt Adams couldn’t keep his home runs streak alive, but he did get two hits, including a triple. Big Fill-In-The-Blank how has three triples on the year, which seems an incredible amount for a man his size. Also, kudos to Matt Holliday for picking up his 1,000th career RBI. RBI are a little downgraded these days, but that’s still an impressive accomplishment. Perhaps that Cardinal offense is starting to stir after all!
After a game like that, it’s hard to find much to pick apart. Heck, Mike Matheny made three pitching changes and didn’t make a single double switch. How often does that happen? Especially since he knew Maness was going to bat in the bottom of the eighth. Very surprised, but not angry about it at all. Just goes to show, every night you come to the ballpark, you’ll see something you didn’t expect.
With Martinez being effective as a starter, you wonder what that means going forward. Do they stretch him in Memphis? The problem is, right now the only time he could help the team would be in a situation like last night, where a pitcher can’t go. He couldn’t fight his way into the starting rotation, not the way they are going now and with the return of Joe Kelly a couple of weeks away. So I’d guess he’ll stay up here and be a reliever, but he’s kinda caught in pitcher limbo.
Greenwood, of course, will most likely be sent down today, since after throwing so many innings he wouldn’t be available for a day or two anyway. Most likely we’ll see the return of Shane Robinson–you could see Greg Garcia, but that seems unlikely given the number of infielders and the number of outfielders currently on the roster. There’s no doubt Greenwood will return to Memphis with a smile on his face and a spring in his step after such a wonderful big league debut last night.
Cardinals added another pitcher to the fold yesterday when they signed their first round pick Luke Weaver to a slot contract. St. Louis seems to hope that he’ll follow the quick rising path of their last two first round picks. We all know what Michael Wacha has done, but Marco Gonzales was just named pitcher of the week in the Texas League and has a 2.16 ERA in six starts at Springfield with 42 strikeouts and eight walks. If he keeps this up, he could touch Memphis by the end of the year and be in line to make the big league club perhaps this time in 2015. Can Weaver move that quickly? I don’t think it would be stunning if he did, given the reports.
There was sad news in baseball yesterday as Tony Gwynn, the longtime Padre great, passed away from cancer at the age of 54. Anytime franchises lose their iconic members, it brings me back to last January when we lost Stan Musial. It’s such a heartwrenching time, more so in this situation because we had Stan for so long while Gwynn passed well before his time. Gwynn was a big part of baseball when I came to watching the sport intently and I always was a fan of his, even if he wasn’t a Cardinal. I remember him saying that if he couldn’t get his 3000th hit in San Diego, he didn’t mind getting it in St. Louis because of the fans and the reputation. He almost did, of course–he reached 2,999 in old Busch and had a chance to get 3,000 on the same night Mark McGwire hit his 500th home run. Wouldn’t that have been incredible? Gwynn was an incredible hitter and my sympathies are with his family and all Padres fans as they mourn his passing.
Cards didn’t get any help from Arizona last night and are still 3.5 back of the Brewers. Wacha had the one rough start in the last run through the starting pitchers, giving up four runs in five innings to the Rays. We pointed out after that start that his strikeouts had been trending down, something that has to change tonight since he reached zero last time out. Still, though his last two starts haven’t been fully Michael Wacha-like, over his last five he has an ERA of 3.00 and has a BAA of .189. Our bar is set high for Wacha, but he’s right there in the ballpark.
The little the Mets have seen of him, they’ve not liked. Wacha got his first major league win against the Mets last year and earlier this year struck out 10, though he only went four innings due to an inflated pitch count (he walked five and gave up two runs in those four frames). Let’s hope the strikeouts are there tonight but the rest is more in line with our expectations.
St. Louis will face Jon Niese tonight. They saw him back in April and he collected a win by limiting the Redbirds to one run in 6.2 innings. Last time out, he gave up just one run to the Brewers in 7.2 frames and he’s not allowed more than three earned runs in any start this season (he allowed five once against the Nationals, but two were unearned). This could be a true test of how much this offense is catching fire.
Historically, they’ve had little issue with him. However, Niese is having the best year of his career, so it might be wise to take those numbers with a grain of salt. Hopefully, though, they’ll be accurate and we can sing our serious jingle yet again tonight!