For six innings last night, the Cardinals look listless. Absolutely no offense to speak of and only the great starting pitching was keeping them in the game.
Sound familiar? Seems pretty much the way things are going this year, especially when you apply it to the division race. Nothing seems to be going right, yet they stay within shouting distance.
To go further, it was a big hit by Jon Jay that led to just enough offense to allow Trevor Rosenthal to be shaky but get the save. That’s pretty much been the second half of the season, right? Well, the Rosenthal thing has gone on longer than that, but you get the point.
Francisco Liriano was the Francisco Liriano that the Cardinals had nightmares about all last season, not the one they’ve been able to handle in 2014. The difference between this year and last year, however, was that they were able to get him out of the game after six innings. Last year, he’d have probably thrown a complete game and they’d never had a shot. Once they got into the Pirate bullpen, they had life.
As much as you could easily give the Hero to Jon Jay for his two-out, game-tying single or Matt Holliday for the go-ahead two-run knock, I think the Hero of the game has to be John Lackey. He proved he was a True Cardinal by giving up a home run to Pedro Alvarez, but other than that he didn’t give the Pirates much of anything, though he owes a little of that to Kolten Wong, who turned one of the slickest double plays that you’ll see in the first inning, ending a threat. Lackey kept the Cards in the game and they responded when they could.
Wong could have been in that Hero discussion as well, with two hits and that nifty work in the field. However, you have to knock off points for him getting picked off in that decisive seventh inning. That would have been a huge mistake had Jay and Holliday not been able to come through with two outs. After getting picked off in October, you’d think he’d be more careful about that, but he was looking to run and force things in a close game, which is hard to fault. Aggressiveness is usually a good thing, but sometimes it backfires.
As for the Goat, sadly it has to be Oscar Taveras. I’m a big booster of Oscar’s and I think that once he starts really producing, he’s going to be embraced by this fan base in a big way. However, he’s not there yet and last night’s game proved it. 0-4, two strikeouts and more damagingly, he reached for a pitch and hit into a 5-1-3 double play with the bases loaded on Liriano. Even a fly ball would work there, something to get the run in. Instead, he ended the inning in the most painful way possible.
Will Taveras break out this year? That seems unlikely, though he very well can be productive or have some big moments down the stretch. However, when the rosters expand and some outfielders like Randal Grichuk and Tommy Pham come up, it wouldn’t be surprising if Taveras loses some playing time to those folks more than Holliday and Jay. I think he’ll still get the majority of the starts (unless Pham just starts tearing it up like he is in Memphis) but he may not be the everyday presence we are seeing now.
That’s not to say that a year of experience in the bigs won’t be beneficial to him. People have pointed out often that Mike Trout hit .220 his first time around the league (granted, he was 19, but the point holds). Taveras will improve, it’s just sad that the bar is set so high for him that it’s going to be tough for him to be anything but a disappointment for some folks.
Shane Robinson left last night’s game with a shoulder injury and Grichuk left last night’s Memphis game before it was done. I expect if you had a GPS tracker you’d see Grichuk is on his way or already in the Steel City. I honestly thought they might go with Pham, given the fact they are going to have to add him for the September expansion anyway and it’s as easy as moving Keith Butler to the 60-day DL to get him on the 40-man roster, but Grichuk has experience at the big league level and has already been up and down. If he’s made some adjustments, he can provide a little pop off the bench as well, which is a big thing.
Michael Wacha and Yadier Molina are headed off to Springfield. The way the press release read, it didn’t sound like they were necessarily going to get into games immediately (though Yadi might soon), just that they were going to work out and continue their rehab down there. Either way, it’s a good step for both of them and hopefully that means we’ll see them in St. Louis soon after the calendar changes. It’ll be nice to be have Yadi back for all the normal reasons, of course, but with the Cards carrying at least three catchers, that means A.J. Pierzynski can be used as a pinch-hitter more often, which can only help as well.
Cards look to win another series tonight with Lance Lynn on the mound. Lynn has been very, very good for a long period of time, with a 1.73 ERA in his last nine starts. Those summer slumps are in the past for Lynn, who has been struggling this time the last two seasons. Let’s hope they don’t rear up this evening.
Of course, Alvarez has done pretty well against him (my personal belief is Aramis Ramirez has trained him in the whole there-are-always-two-Sith line of thinking) and we’ll see if Jose Tabata gets a start after recently returning from the minors, but Lynn’s been able to deal with a number of these guys, including Andrew McCutchen. I feel pretty confident that he can keep the Cards in this game.
Which he may have to do since Gerrit Cole is on the other side. Cole hasn’t been the dominating starter St. Louis saw last year, but he’s been pretty good when he’s not been hurt. His last outing, he allowed just two runs in seven innings against the Braves and has only really had one misstep in his last 10 outings.
The Cards haven’t done much with him in the past, as you can see. Holliday’s done well, but that’s about it. He’s 1-1 against the Redbirds this year, but in the one loss he gave up a run on six hits in seven innings. It could be another game like that this evening.
Looks like another pitching duel. Let’s hope the Cards come out on the right side of it!