For the second straight night, the Cardinals put up double digits in hits. We talked yesterday about St. Louis not getting hits at the right time and last night proved it. They scored seven runs on 11 hits instead of one run on 12. When and what kind matter.
There’s no doubt that Kolten Wong was the Hero. It was his second straight night with three hits, though this time instead of a bunch of singles, he powered up for a three-run homer and a tie-breaking double. He didn’t neglect the defensive side of things either, putting together a highlight reel to show folks in case they ever doubt he can make the plays. Wong has made some adjustments recently and it’s shown. It seems like he was a streaky player last year and that might just be who he is, a guy that gets into a rut, figures out what the problem is, goes on a tear, eventually lets things slide and then starts the cycle over again. There’s nothing wrong with that. Jim Edmonds was a guy that seemed to have the same type of streakiness and he’s in the Cardinal Hall of Fame. I’m just glad that Wong is starting on the upside of that cycle now.
It was nice to see some power last night. Matt Carpenter led off the game with a home run and Matt Adams (who also had a double and at least one nice play at first, hopefully silencing those complainers for a while) provided some cushion that Trevor Rosenthal didn’t need with a blast in the ninth.
The Cards got out to a nice 5-0 lead and, given the way the pitching staff has been destroying hitters lately, you’d have expected this to be a sleeper. You would not expect for them to give back all five runs in a single frame. That was the case though, which gets John Lackey our Goat tag. I didn’t see the play, but it sounds like Lackey didn’t cover first on a ground ball. As you know, I like Adams and I think he’s more than competent as a fielder (plus he’s a bit spryer than you’d expect for a big man) but if you are asking him to win a footrace, you are asking him to do something out of his skill set. Lackey could have been out of the inning with just one run allowed, but a run scored when Ryan Zimmerman was safe, leading to a bases-clearing double by Yunel Escobar. Lackey also made two errors on a play in the next inning, which just added to the problems though that runner didn’t wind up scoring. In fact, save that one inning, Lackey really wasn’t that bad. That inning, though.
I think that’s a little of what we are going to be worried about with Lackey this year, especially when he’s pitching on the road. He’s getting to that point in his career where he’s probably not going to give you a great outing almost every time out. He can give you great outings, don’t get me wrong, but they are more scattered than they were when he was in his prime. I’d expect he’ll be the worst pitcher statistically in this rotation this season, though with the competition, that’s not a big insult. I’m also hoping that the Cards take this into account before engaging with him on any sort of extension talks. Lackey could be useful in 2016 and going forward, but probably not at the rates he’s going to want.
The bullpen did a fabulous job last night, with Kevin Siegrist, Seth Maness and Rosenthal allowing no hits and one walk between them. Rosenthal especially looked sharp, going right after hitters and striking out two. Tim McCarver commented last night that Rosenthal seems to have a better approach this year and it seems that way to me as well. Saves aren’t the long drawn-out affairs they were last year, at least not as often. It’s still going to take some time before we are completely confident when Rosie trots in, but at least it’s trending in the right direction.
Marco Gonzales goes on the minor league disabled list with a tight shoulder. Now, throw in all the caveats about it being precautionary and the shorter DL time in the minors might mean he just misses one start. This tends to concern me because we’ve seen stories like this in the past wind up being extensive injuries. It’s possible that, with the competition in the spring, he’s just thrown more than he should have at this time of the year, but I’m going to be anxious to hear the next injury report on him. If Gonzales is out for any length of time, that pitching depth the Cards have takes a hit.
Michael Wacha is on the mound this afternoon looking for the series win. Wacha’s been excellent so far this season and there’s no reason to expect any differently today, especially when you look at what the Nats have done with him over the past couple of years.
Max Scherzer goes for Washington today. You all know the story behind Scherzer by now. St. Louis native, big free agent acquisition that some thought the Cardinals really should get (and while I wouldn’t say I was ever gung-ho for it or that I thought it should happen, I understood the rationale for that move). Scherzer’s been as good as advertised so far for the Nationals, putting up a 0.83 ERA in three starts with 25 strikeouts in 21.1 innings. With an offense that can go into hibernation like St. Louis’s, this could be another 1-0 matchup.
St. Louis hasn’t seen much of Scherzer, so add that into the blender as well.
Betting on another quick game today!