Activate The Bat-Signal….Yet Again

When the Cardinals were recently on a stretch where they’d scored four runs in ten straight games, I sort of felt that was a low bar to celebrate.  I mean, four runs is right at the league average this year (3.98, per Baseball-Reference as I write this).  They are 55-18 when they hit that level, so that probably played into it, but this wasn’t the second coming of 2004.

Since Sunday, however, four runs would seem like a bucket of ice water in the Sahara Desert.  The Redbirds have scored seven total runs in four games.  Seven!  When the folks at On The Run came up with “six is a serious number” they didn’t think they were talking about six a week.

Now, have the Cardinals run into good pitching?  That does play a part.  They faced Francisco Liriano and Gerrit Cole in this Pittsburgh series, both pitchers that have done them wrong in the past.  However, last I checked, October was filled with good pitchers.  You have to beat those guys and to beat those guys, you have to score off of them.

Matt Holliday gets the Hero tag for yesterday just because he was able to park a ball out of the park and make sure this team didn’t get shut out.  The club did muster seven hits (two by Daniel Descalso) and two walks, but in this station-to-station world that we now live in, that isn’t going to cut it.

A few years ago, I doodled around with a stat that was meant to show just how frustrating a game was.  Back then, teams averaged about 2.7 baserunners per run.  Which means the Cards should have at least scored three with their nine yesterday.  Aaron from El Maquino regularly tweets out the baserunners per run standings and most recently, the Cards were third in MLB, needing 2.91 runners to get a score.  Obviously, this isn’t good but a function of the fact that there’s little power on this team anymore.

It seems that this team is streaky when it comes to the offense.  We keep thinking that “they’ve turned the corner” only to find out it was more of a straight stretch of road they could coast on before reaching another hill to climb.  It’s like police work in Gotham.  Sure, there are exciting times and action-packed events when Batman shows up, but the regular daily slog of minor crimes or paperwork comes around again and you wait for some change, like a Joker breakout, to rev the engines again.  (That analogy sounded better in my head.  I think it got lost in the translation to the keyboard.)

I’m giving the Goat to Matt Carpenter, because he had another 0-3 day.  It’s probably not a coincidence that in the last four games, when the Cards have scored a total of seven runs, Carpenter is 0-13.  In the ten games before that, when the Cards scored four runs a game, Carp was 15-42 (.357).  As the leadoff hitter goes, so goes this club it appears.  Which makes it doubly hard when he can’t buy a hit.

The offensive struggles meant that Adam Wainwright couldn’t get a win for his quality start, but just because it was technically a quality start doesn’t mean it was vintage Wainwright, not in the least.  Wainwright just went six innings and allowed three runs, both numbers that he usually improves on.  He threw 103 pitches in six innings, a number that could take him into the ninth when he’s on his game.  He struck out five, but Ike Davis touched him for a two-run homer (Seth Maness feels a little better now) and that was enough.

After the game, Wainwright admitted that he’d been dealing with a “dead arm”.  While there are no injury fears (as of right now, at least for most folks), it does raise some questions:

1) How long has he been feeling this way?  He’s not been the same since he tried to be nice to Derek Jeter in the All-Star Game.  Does it go back that far?  Did he need the few days off then instead of being the starter?  He’s only had one good outing (seven scoreless innings against the Cubs) since his time in Minnesota.  There’ve been a lot of excuses and reasons put out in that time span.

2) When did he let Mike Matheny know?  Obviously he’s not telling the press before telling his manager.  While we as a fan base have known that something seems to be off about Wainwright (just check the last week of posts here at The Conclave if you have any questions about that), Matheny hasn’t seemed to have any concerns.

3) If Matheny knew, why did he shuffle the rotation to eliminate an extra day of rest for Wainwright?  Yes, it got him in line to pitch against the Brewers a couple of times and lines him up for the last day of the season, but does that matter if he can’t be effective?  On the flip side, it would seem unlikely that an extra day would do a lot for his arm and there weren’t many other opportunities, in theory, to get him on this schedule.  Then again, once the rosters expand, you could toss in someone like Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons for a spot start and shift everyone back, creating the same thing with an extra rest.  I’m not necessarily blaming Matheny here, because sometimes you have to do what you have to do, but it’s something to wonder about.

It’s a scary thing not to be able to rely on Wainwright, at least not to the extent that we have before.  He’s still a top pitcher, though, and could have easily gotten a win yesterday if anything had happened offensively.  It’s not like he’s just getting shelled every time he’s out there–his ERA is 4.09 in his last five starts.  Not ace-like, but respectable.  Hopefully he’ll find that extra gear as the temperatures cool and be able to give them ace-like numbers yet again.

He’ll have a familiar target to throw to when he does get back on the mound.  Yadier Molina caught in Springfield last night and The Conclave had eyes on him.  Josh Gilliam, who you probably remember from his time writing as the Prospect Preacher, was at the game and said that Molina looked ready to go.  John Mozeliak was also at the game and we’ll see if he took away the same impression from Yadi’s two-hit night, but it seems pretty likely Friday’s game will see “Molina 2” on the lineup card.

Looks like Michael Wacha will be starting for the Springfield club in their penultimate game Sunday.  Given that the minor league seasons are done after that, it’ll be interesting to see what they do with Wacha after that game.  It seems unlikely one rehab start would be enough, so maybe he’ll get a chance to help Memphis out in their playoffs and get another outing there.  If all goes well, though, I imagine they’d get him to the big leagues as soon as possible.  My guess is they are targeting the Rockies series in Busch September 12-14 for his return, but that’s a complete guess.

What we do know is that the Cubs come to town this weekend, showing off the team that could be a major thorn in St. Louis’s side over the next few years.  The Cubs called up prospect Jorge Soler, who homered in his first at-bat last night, to go along with Javier Baez, who started off strong as well.  He’s only hitting .198, Baez is, but he has seven home runs.  Seven home runs would tie Baez for fifth on the Cardinals and he’s done it in only 21 games.  That gives you some indication of what the Cubs are trying to build to break their long, long World Series drought.  We can only hope they are not successful.

Shelby Miller gets the unenviable task of taking these guys on first tomorrow after today’s off day.  Of course, given the fact that Miller has allowed 18 home runs, ten more than anyone else on the staff, might mean this isn’t the best matchup for the righthander.

Luis Valbuena 6 5 2 0 0 0 0 1 0 .400 .500 .400 .900 0 0 0 0 0
Welington Castillo 5 4 2 0 0 0 0 1 1 .500 .600 .500 1.100 0 0 0 0 0
Starlin Castro 5 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Anthony Rizzo 4 4 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Arismendy Alcantara 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
John Baker 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Chris Coghlan 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Travis Wood 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Jake Arrieta 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 30 28 4 0 0 0 1 2 8 .143 .200 .143 .343 0 0 0 0 0
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/28/2014.

Miller’s not seen the Cubs all that often and at least will be pitching at home instead of Wrigley.  Miller had a nice run of starts, but over his last three he’s allowed 12 earned runs in 17 innings.  We’ll see if he can get back on track here.

The offense may have to arise out of its slumber, though, if the Cards are going to take this one.  That could be a tall task, given the fact they are facing Kyle Hendricks and his 1.78 ERA in eight games.  That number is even more impressive when you realize that in his major league debut, he allowed four runs in six innings.  Since then, six runs in 48.2 IP.  He only threw two innings last time against Baltimore before a lengthy rain-delay, allowing two runs in his worst outing since his debut.

One sliver of hope that the Cards can cling to is that they will be the first team that he’s faced for a second time.  (If the Redbirds hadn’t faced him yet, you’d be tempted to completely write off this matchup.)  He gave up seven hits but, unsurprisingly given this inefficient offense, just one run in 6.1 innings back on July 27.  The one run was a Holliday homer in the first and this was the one good start of Wainwright’s, so St. Louis prevailed, but you wouldn’t want to bet on a sequel being like that.

Going to be a tough opener and could be a rough series, given the fact there’s a doubleheader on Saturday.  While the Cardinals are hosting the Cubs, Milwaukee will be out in San Francisco.  The Giants are currently the second wild card and are just one behind St. Louis for the first one, so they will likely be playing the Brewers tough.  (Nice to see San Diego was able to take two of three from Milwaukee, leaving the Cards just 1.5 behind the Brew Crew.)  Pittsburgh, who is just 2.5 behind St. Louis now, will host the Reds, who are just trying to stay ahead of the Cubs.  We’ll see how that all plays out.

It’s the last weekend of August.  As Obi-Wan tells the Utapauians, “If you have warriors, now is the time.”  Let’s hope the Cardinals have these warriors they keep talking about!

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