Every time this Cardinal team starts to get us excited, they do their darndest to temper that excitement. While the most recent good times were the longest of the season, it feels like the roller coaster might be going through another dip right now.
Of course, you wonder how things would have been different if John Lackey had been able to stay in the ball game. I’m not quite as certain as some folks that the result would have been much different. Lackey struggled through the first two innings (which, granted, might have had to do with the strike zone that was being called) and then got tossed in the third, but he’d already allowed four hits and two runs. Given what we’ve seen of Lackey since he came to St. Louis, he could have settled in but he could have easily allowed more runs. When Lackey’s not sharp, it can get ugly.
For all those that say that pitchers coming from the American League to the National League should improve given the idea that the NL is the “lesser” league, Lackey and Justin Masterson would like to have a word. Lackey’s last three starts look like this:
vs. Chicago: 6.1 IP, 9 H, 5 R (2 ER), 6 K, 1 BB
at Milwaukee: 6 IP, 9 H, 6 R (6 ER), 6 K, 1 BB
at Cincinnati: 2 IP, 4 H, 2 R (2 ER), 1 K, 2 BB
Except for the walks, Lackey was on pace to have another not-so-great game. Now, you can’t quite extrapolate from there–Alfredo Simon had a 2-0 deficit before he got a chance to sit down, but did pretty well the rest of the way–but given his recent history, you can’t say for sure that Lackey wouldn’t have been much worse than what the club had to replace him with.
I’m going to go ahead and give Lackey the Goat because he couldn’t hold the lead and he put the team in a tough position by getting tossed out. That said, it was kind of a mediocre night for just about everyone. Nobody was just terrible, but nobody was all that good either.
Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons got the call to be the emergency replacement and didn’t do a terrible job. He did allow the go-ahead runs, though, and one of those came on a double by Simon, who had two doubles on the night. When the pitcher has two extra-base hits, you aren’t doing your job. Especially when they come with two out.
Let’s give the Hero tag to Carlos Martinez. Two innings, three strikeouts, only one hit allowed. It wasn’t much, given the Cards were down, but it was enough to keep them in it and let them have a chance to rally in the eighth inning. Seth Maness also did some good work out of the pen as the Cards minimized their bullpen usage as much as you can when your starter leaves in the third.
Offensively, Oscar Taveras and Matt Adams drove in a run, but nobody had two hits. Adams had the best chances to do damage, but was robbed by Brayan Pena in the third with two on and one out, a smash that turned into an unassisted double play (exactly when did Pena become a Gold Glove first baseman? He denied A.J. Pierzynski on Tuesday and then Adams last night.) and then struck out against lefty Ryan Dennick in the eighth with two on and one out.
You could fault Mike Matheny a little there, I guess. I mean, we know that Adams struggles against lefties and you have Xavier Scruggs available, who hit lefties pretty well in Memphis. Given that you still have Jhonny Peralta on the bench to hit for the pitcher after Adams if you want, it wouldn’t be a terrible idea. Then again, Adams does have three homers against lefties this season and this wasn’t a dominant portsider by any means. I’m not saying Matheny did wrong, just that there was a different path he could have tried. I’m not sure that I’d have done it differently though.
However, running up Tommy Pham in the ninth against Aroldis Chapman just doesn’t seem fair. I imagine our friend Bob Netherton, who can get quite paternal about the minor leaguers, had something to say about that on Twitter last night, but I’d already logged off by that time.
Not much turnaround time as the Cards have an afternoon matinee and it’s no easy task. Johnny Cueto has been pretty sharp all year long, though the Cards kicked him around for four runs in five innings when they faced him back in St. Louis last month. Since then, though, he’s given up six total runs in three starts, with his last one being a one-run affair against the Mets.
It’s interesting how well the Cards have done against him in the past. I don’t know if they get up for a game against him more than some others or it’s just some statistical noise, but whatever the case, I hope it happens again today. I’ve said before that Cueto’s the only Red I still hold somewhat of a grudge against.
If the Cards can get some runs, chances are Lance Lynn can make them stand up. He’s not been quite as sharp his last couple of times out, though his last start against Milwaukee had some errors early before he settled in. Still, it’s been a wonderful year for Lynn and he is hoping to get the Cardinals the split today.
Lynn shut out Cincinnati over seven innings back in August. I’m pretty sure we’d take that again today, right?
The magic number stayed at 14 last night as the Cards lost and Pittsburgh and Milwaukee both won. The Pirates finish their series in Philadelphia tonight as Francisco Liriano goes up against former Pirate A.J. Burnett. Milwaukee wraps with Miami with Mike Fiers hosting Nathan Eovaldi. Would be nice to get an early win and put the pressure on those teams, right? Let’s do it!