With the United Cardinal Bloggers picking Saturday to do their annual Progressive Game Blog, we’ve already discussed the down portion of the weekend. Which just leaves us with two fun games to talk about!
Friday (3-0 win)
Hero: John Lackey. Yes, the Dodgers have trouble on the road (this was their fourth straight shutout away from Chavez Ravine) but that doesn’t diminish what Lackey did in the least. Seven scoreless innings, nine strikeouts. Lackey had an outstanding month of May, putting up a 1.89 ERA with a .568 OPS against in six starts covering 38 innings. How the team was just 3-3 in those starts is beyond me, but Lackey has stepped it up since Adam Wainwright went down and that’s one of the biggest reasons (along with Sunday’s starter) that John Mozeliak doesn’t really have any pressure now to go out and get another arm. He still may do so, but he won’t be dealing from a place of desperation.
Goat: Tough night for Peter Bourjos, who went 0-4 and struck out twice.
Notes: Two-hit night for Kolten Wong, who included a double in his tally as well as picking up a stolen base, and Jhonny Peralta. Kevin Siegrist was the Good Kevin Siegrist in this one, striking out two in a inning’s worth of work. Jason Heyward was one for three with a double and a walk, continuing a strong month of May for him.
Sunday (3-1 win)
Hero: Carlos Martinez. Before the game, my friend Josh, who you know as our Prospect Preacher at times, texted me and said “This could be really good or really bad.” It could have easily gone either way with Martinez pitching on the day they honored Oscar Taveras, marking the one-year anniversary of his debut in the big leagues. Martinez, so very close to Taveras, could have easily been overwhelmed by the emotions that went along with this day. After all, we’ve seen Martinez is an emotional guy, often in good ways with his jocularity on the bench. Instead, he used that as motivation and continued to show why the Cardinals chose to keep him over Shelby Miller, even with Miller having a good run in Atlanta.
Martinez threw seven scoreless innings, extending his streak out to 20.1 innings which is the longest current one in the majors, and did so by allowing Los Angeles just one hit. Ever since those two back-to-back disaster starts against Chicago and Pittsburgh where he allowed seven runs in each start, he’s posted a 0.71 ERA and allowed 17 hits, 9 walks, and 29 strikeouts in just over 25 innings. That’s an incredible run and shows what kind of potential he has when he is able to harness his ability. There are still rough patches coming–it seems unlikely he’ll make great start after great start for the rest of what is his first year in a rotation–but some of the concerns I had, of him not having enough command to get deep into games, have faded and there’s no reason to even consider moving him out of the rotation.
Goat: All the starters got a hit (save Pete Kozma, who drew a walk and then was replaced by Wong for the rest of the game) and the bullpen was fine (though Siegrist did allow a solo homer, he struck out the side), so I think the Goat again has to be Peter Bourjos. He had a hit, but he left three on base and was caught stealing.
Notes: Bourjos wasn’t the only one being lost on the basepaths. Heyward also got picked off/caught stealing, Randal Grichuk completely lost track of the outs on a fly ball to the outfield and was doubled off first, and Matt Carpenter was thrown out at home on a questionable send by Jose Oquendo. Base running has been aggressive this season, but not necessarily an asset. A lot of runners being caught, a lot of folks being thrown out. While I agree that the club needs to run more, especially since the home runs aren’t abundant (24th in the majors and only ahead of Miami, Atlanta and Philadelphia in the National League), but there’s a difference between baserunning and smart baserunning. That’s a difference that needs to be worked on, it seems.
Big day for Peralta in this one, another guy that was close to Taveras. The two-run homer in the first was all that Martinez really needed, but he made sure to keep the cushion after Joc Pederson‘s homer by driving in another run with a single.
Carpenter went 1-3 with a walk and a run and, as noted, was thrown out trying to score another one. Carpenter’s average for May was actually down (I noted for this series’ Bird’s Eye View that it was just .264 with a .364 OBP, which is more Carpenter-ish), which is probably just a fluke, given that the eye test doesn’t seem to show much different in Carpenter’s game. Maybe he likes the lead-off spot better, but Wong is doing fine in that area and their 1-2 punch is quite effective.
So St. Louis reaches the 50-game mark of the season, almost a third of the entire year, and does so in style with a .660 winning percentage, a six game lead in the division, and the best record in baseball by a couple of games. It’s not been a perfect season by any means, as Wainwright and others would attest to, but it’s a special one so far and hopefully the next two-thirds will be the same.
To basically wrap up the first 1/3 (which will actually end after the first game of the series out in Los Angeles on Thursday), the Cardinals host Milwaukee to finish up the home stand. Now, on paper, this is exactly what you want to see. A struggling team, a team that has only won eight games on the road (though has a better winning percentage there than Miller Park), a team already 16.5 out of the division and six games out of fourth. Their season is done (they’d have to play at a .577 clip the rest of the season just to reach 81 wins), they’ve already replaced the manager and it won’t be long until various players are heading elsewhere.
That said, these kind of series can be a trap if you aren’t prepared for them. Baseball’s a funny game in that every night, a bad team can beat a good team with the right bounces or pitcher on the mound. While you would think the odds of a sweep by the Brewers are low, the idea that they could win two of three isn’t far-fetched. Of course, the Cards do a pretty good job of staying focused and not taking anyone for granted, so hopefully that’ll be enough to secure some wins.
To get a win tonight, they’ll have to go through Mike Fiers. Fiers has been trouble for the Cards in the past and they’ve seen him twice this year and only gotten four runs (three earned) off of him. That said, Fiers hasn’t been going deep (in those two games, he went 5.2 and 4 innings, respectively, and he’s only gotten through six twice this season) so it’s likely that even if the Cardinals don’t get to him, they’ll get to that Brewer bullpen quickly. Given that the Brewers have a team ERA of 4.61 (just a hair better than Colorado, but that’s it) you’d think that’d be a good thing and it well may be, but the worst part of that ERA comes from the starters that have a 5.10 mark. The relievers, actually, are posting a combined 3.76 ERA. Not what we are used to–the Cardinal bullpen ERA is 2.21–but not as bad as it could be.
You can see there are some ugly numbers there. Hopefully they’ll be able to bring those up overall tonight.
Jaime Garcia will take the mound for the Redbirds. It’s only his third start since returning from the disabled list but he’s made progress in the first two, showing better command last time out even if he allowed more runs. This is the first time Garcia has faced the Brewers since his last start of 2013, when he allowed six runs (but got the win) and went for shoulder surgery soon after. Let’s hope tonight is a better outing for him.
We can see the Sith Lord has gotten to him in the past, as well as a couple of others, but it’s been a while since they’ve seen Jaime, so hopefully that absence will only help him contain them. We’ll find out tonight!