They take licks but keep on ticking. They drop games, but then come back and win more. Injuries are just one more obstacle to overcome. So far in 2015, there’s nothing the St. Louis Cardinals can’t handle.
This club hasn’t lost more than three games in a row all year long. After this last losing stretch, they were 1.5 games out of the best record in baseball. Today, that title is theirs again. Keep on ticking.
Saturday (3-2 loss in Kansas City in 6 innings)
Hero: Not much to choose from in this rain-shortened game. I guess we’ll go with Matt Carpenter, who went 1-3 with an RBI. When the whole team only gets four hits, choices are scarce.
Goat: Jhonny Peralta may have had one of those hits, but I’m giving him the Goat anyway. His double play with the bases loaded in the fifth ended the last Cardinal threat and played into the shortening of the game. A run there and, if nothing else, they’d have had to continue this game on Sunday.
Notes: John Lackey couldn’t quite keep up his road work from the New York series, but his line wasn’t much different than Edinson Volquez‘s, the difference being the two-run homer by Alex Gordon. Three runs in five isn’t terribly impressive, but at only 68 pitches, he’d have had an inning or two to make that look better had not nature intervened.
I wasn’t able to watch this one, being out celebrating my daughter’s eighth birthday, but when I got home I checked and saw there was a rain delay, then soon after got the word it was final. It seemed to be a quick hook (indeed, the delay was only 1:10) but these things happen. There were a number of people worked up about it on Twitter (which, of course, made Royals fans just giddy) and it did contrast unfavorably at first glance with a game a couple of years ago where the Cards and Royals waited until 3 AM to finish a game. Of course, there were differences (the Royals had just taken the lead, so a rainout would have reverted the score back to St. Louis’s favor, there was just an inning to play, and it was their last meeting) which should be taken into account. Given that I believe it rained all night long, better to go ahead and call that one than to drag it out and make it affect the next day. Rain-shortened games, especially ones that close, are tough to deal with, but it’s (a rare) part of the game.
Sunday (6-1 win in Kansas City)
Hero: Michael Wacha. There were a number of offensive exploits, but Wacha made sure the Cards didn’t need many of them. Seven innings with just an unearned run (related to a rare Peter Bourjos error) as a black mark will win you a whole lot of games. Again, his strikeouts were down–we continue to harp on that, I know, but it’s something to monitor–but Wacha was able to get what he needed when he needed it. Under 100 pitches as well, which is also nice to see.
Goat: Peter Bourjos. Not only did he have the error, but he went 0-4 on the day. It was the end of a small (1-11) slump for him, one that he broke out of on Monday.
Notes: At times there have been concerns with what Kolten Wong would do with the leadoff role. He’s done a pretty good job with it, though the stats were as eye-popping as I thought. .265/.324/.294 in eight games in that spot this year (before Monday) isn’t bad, but it doesn’t mean he’s locked into that spot, especially since he’s got some better numbers down in the lineup. Still, his speed and power in that leadoff niche isn’t a bad thing for this team and he could easily develop into more of an asset there.
Matt Adams had two doubles in this one and both scored and drove in a run. Peralta also had a couple of hits as the Cards scored early to make sure there were no more nature issues and to get the bad taste of losing yet another weekend series out of their mouths.
Hero: You can’t go against a guy that hits a walkoff homer. Jhonny Peralta‘s blast in the 10th–off J.C. Ramirez, who had struck out all the Matts in the ninth–sent the holiday crowd home happy, which is the definition of a Hero, right?
Goat: Kevin Siegrist. When Siegrist is off, he’s off. Single, homer, walk, walk. Four batters and he’s gone, having given up the lead and left a dangerous situation for Seth Maness. Thankfully his teammates got him off the hook.
Notes: Maness was my initial choice for Hero, coming into that situation and retiring the next three batters, keeping the game tied. It was a great bit of work that could have been overlooked in the resulting excitement, but it’s why this bullpen has been so successful; odds are there’s only going to be one person off a night at most.
Three hits for Wong here (that’ll up those leadoff numbers) and two for Carpenter and Matt Holliday, which, since they were all together in the lineup, you’d think would produce more runs but not so much. Mainly because Adams struck out a couple of times on ankle-high pitches–that’s not a slight to Adams, who took them, but more on the umpire who called them. Adams did drive in the first run of the game with a force out and scored the second one later on a Jason Heyward single, so even though he didn’t have the gaudiest of stat lines, he made it count.
A stellar performance by Carlos Martinez in this one. Seven scoreless innings and robbed of a win because of Siegrist’s meltdown. Martinez struck out eight, walked only two, and showed why most everyone has been clamoring for him to be a starter. Outings like that make it difficult to see a reason to move him to the pen if a veteran arm was acquired. Though, to be fair, outings like that make it difficult to imagine a veteran arm would need to be acquired.
Some kudos to Trevor Rosenthal as well. He went two innings and, even though it wasn’t completely clean, it was effective. A perfect ninth was followed by a 10th that saw the bases loaded with one out, but he got a big strikeout and then the groundout, setting the stage for Peralta. We’ve worried much less about Rosenthal this year and that’s such a good thing.
So while things are going swimmingly for the big squad, they may get another option soon. Jon Jay is starting his short rehab assignment at Peoria today and likely will be activated on Friday. That will also likely mark the end of the 12/13 hitter/pitcher split that the Cards have been running with since he went down. With the rotation going deeper and more off days coming, the extra arms aren’t as needed and, truth be told, there’s nobody on the offensive side of the roster you could really demote save Randal Grichuk, who has done enough to warrant staying in the bigs. It makes for a deeper bench (which is good) and forces Mike Matheny to juggle to get people enough time (which is not always as good). Jay should not be immediately plugged in as the regular over Bourjos and Grichuk, but he should get some starts to try to get into a groove.
Cardinals are back at it tonight against the Diamondbacks. They’ll face Arizona’s star prospect Archie Bradley in this one, someone they’ve never faced before. Bradley’s been on the DL and has scuffled since returning, giving up eight runs in seven innings over two starts. Command’s been an issue for him all year long so the Redbirds will likely need to be patient.
Jaime Garcia makes his second start of the year this evening, which means basically from now on Cardinal fans will be holding their breath every time he takes the hill. If anyone illustrates the “one day you’re here, next day you’re gone” aspect of baseball, it’s Garcia. He’s not seen the Diamondbacks much, but he’s been successful when he has.
We’ll see if Garcia can keep the metronome ticking and get St. Louis its 30th win tonight!