It’s too bad the Cardinals can’t hit in Coors Field all the time. Of course, how much of that is the field and how much of that is the Colorado pitching staff is hard to measure, but whatever the case, the bats were working these last three games.
Wednesday’s game was the highest scoring of them all, as the Redbirds plated nine to win the series. Amidst all the hitting and such, they mixed in their secret weapon: the sacrifice fly. St. Louis had four sac flies in the game, tying a team record. You wonder how much more damage they could have done with a single here or there in those situations, but you can’t argue with those results.
It’s a tough call on the Hero of this piece. Matt Holliday had three hits, after all, plus a walk, a run, and an RBI, which probably should earn him the title. However, I think I’m going with Matt Adams, who had two hits, but two RBI and two runs scored. His ninth home run of the season brought the Cards within one and gave them a needed jolt after Marco Gonzales had been touched for five runs the inning before.
Interestingly enough, this was a full team effort on the part of the offense. They had 12 hits, but the other seven that didn’t come from Holliday and Adams were spread among the rest of the team, as nobody had more than one. You also had hits from Gonzales, who also scored in his first time up to bat, and a key pinch hit from Daniel Descalso, which took everyone by surprise. Couple that with Mark Ellis getting a strong double and a walk and scoring twice and, well, Coors Field looks good for everyone.
The only starter not to get a hit was our Goat of the game, which is Yadier Molina. Molina went 0-4 and left three on, though he did manage to drive in a run with a ninth-inning sacrifice fly. Molina was hitting .323 on May 28, but since that time has only put up a .192/.268/.244 line in 23 games (22 starts). He only has two extra-base hits in that time period as well. I’m not sure what’s up with Yadi, whether he needs more rest or just needs an adjustment of some kind, but I hope he can get back on track soon. Even Coors didn’t help him as he just went 1-9 in the series.
Not a terrible debut for the young Gonzales, though if he didn’t have the rationale of the thin air, we might be looking on it a little differently. He only had one bad inning and what I think is important is that he came out for another inning after that five-run blowup and put up a scoreless frame, showing that he wasn’t completely figured out. The problem with having a changeup as your main weapon is that if you lose the feel for it, things can go south quickly. Mike Matheny has said he’ll make another start against the Giants, so we’ll see what he does against that team in a more pitcher-friendly environment.
The bullpen came up big as well. Seth Maness got charged with a run, but he almost got out untouched when Peter Bourjos dove for a line drive with two outs. (Unfortunately, the ball just popped out.) I was a little surprised that Matheny went to Maness after he threw 1.2 innings the night before, but with those sinkerball types the baseball legend is that they pitch better when their arm is a bit tired. Not sure that completely worked for Maness this time, but he didn’t get rocked by any means.
Great work by Pat Neshek and Sam Freeman to not only keep the game close, but then hold the lead once the Cardinals got ahead. Freeman especially has been a breakout star this season and he adds another arm that you can feel comfortable about when he’s called out of the pen. He’s done well enough against righties as well that hopefully Matheny will limit his use of Randy Choate to just the traditional LOOGY spots.
Trevor Rosenthal got the save, though of course not without forcing many fans to change their underwear afterwards. Putting two on (via walk, even!) to face Troy Tulowitzki is not the way to make people like you, Trevor, especially when that at-bat goes on forever. He finally struck him out on a 100 mph fastball in the 11th pitch of the at-bat. With Rosenthal throwing 41 in that inning, it seems safe to say he’s unavailable for tonight’s game against the Dodgers.
Away from the game, there was a little more clarity provided about the Pete Kozma move yesterday. Apparently, Kozma had too much service time to be optioned down to Memphis without clearing waivers. The Cards were caught with an immediate need and so to get that roster spot, they had to DFA Kozma. Which is interesting, because since service time doesn’t accumulate while you are in the minors (otherwise Oscar Taveras would be playing against Yasiel Puig tonight), that means Kozma must have passed that mark in the two days since he was brought up when Michael Wacha and Jaime Garcia went on the disabled list. The Cards didn’t have to do these sort of shenanigans when he was sent down right after the season started. I don’t see any service time issues in the definitions here (save the five year bit that Kozma doesn’t even come close to reaching) but there may be something in the CBA. I’m just surprised that he was so close that two days made a difference.
Shelby Miller thinks he’ll make his next start Sunday against Clayton Kershaw, but he’s still stiff and sore in the back. He’s throwing a bullpen today and, honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if we wind up hearing he’s going to skip a start. That’s not a prediction by any means, but given the issues he’s having, he’s going to have to feel really good for them not to be concerned about him taking the mound. We’ll find out later today, I suppose.
Cards leave the mountains for Hollywood, taking on the Dodgers tonight at Chavez Ravine. St. Louis begins their tour of pitchers that have thrown a no-hitter this season with Josh Beckett. (As noted, they have Kershaw Sunday and then Tim Lincecum, who tossed the second of his career yesterday, on Tuesday.) It’s been a good season for Beckett, with the no-hitter being more of a capper than an outlier. He’s coming off seven scoreless innings in his last start (granted, it was at San Diego) and has only allowed more than four runs once this season, his first start of the year.
Jhonny Peralta hates him, Holliday loves him. On the whole, the Cards haven’t seen much of him outside of those two and Ellis. We’ll see if the Cardinals can get much off of him. I listened to the most recent Derrick Goold/Bernie Miklasz podcast yesterday and Goold pointed out that you could almost tell a pitcher was going to shut the Cards down if they typically were a fastball/cutter type pitcher. Beckett’s relying on his curve more this year, throwing it almost as much as his fastball. Perhaps St. Louis will be able to adjust to it and continue their recent offense. It’s going to be a tall order, though.
At least they only need one or two, most likely, since Adam Wainwright is going for the guys in red. You always like your chances when the ace is on the mound.
The Dodgers have seen him more than the Cards have seen Beckett, but they’ve not had as much success. Andre Ethier has touched him up for a few homers and that’s a strange line from pitcher Paul Maholm on there, but the rest seems reasonable. Hopefully that will continue tonight!