Baseball Is A Humbling Game

The Cardinals were on a six game winning streak.  They’d just disposed of one of their divisional rivals.  They’d lost all of once at home in the month of June.  They were six games up on any major league team and nine games up on their closest divisional foe, the Pirates.  They’d won more than two-thirds of their games and were on pace for roughly 110 wins.  And the Chicago White Sox, the last place squad in the AL Central, were coming to visit.

The last couple of nights haven’t been much fun for Cardinal fans, but let’s look at them anyway.

Tuesday (2-1 loss in 11)

Hero: Randal Grichuk.  Without Grichuk’s jolt in the 4th inning, there’s a good chance this game ends in regulation and Chris Sale might have thrown a complete game.  Grichuk also had two other hits besides his home run, which meant he had three of the eight total hits the Redbirds had.  While we may be seeing peak Grichuk, it’s also possible he’ll develop a little more plate discipline as he matures and becomes a solid everyday player.  Either way, he’s hitting now and that’s what matters.

Goat: Jhonny Peralta.  0-5 with two strikeouts is not quite as bad as Xavier Scruggs‘s 0-5 with 3 K, but doing it right behind Grichuk in the lineup (and being a veteran rather than a guy that was in Memphis a week ago) makes that resonate a bit more.  Granted, no one could do much with Sale, but that’s a tough night to endure.

Notes: The idea was to make Sale work and then get into the White Sox bullpen.  While it didn’t play out the way that the Cards expected, they did have three innings to take a crack at a bullpen that wasn’t stellar and all they mustered were two hits and a walk.  Granted, those two hits did come in the last inning against David Robertson, giving a bit of hope, but they were with two outs and Scruggs grounded out to end that threat.

If it wasn’t for him getting a hit when many people weren’t, the Goat might have gone to Pete Kozma.  He had two plays in the infield that should have been made but weren’t, including a ball that, if he fields cleanly, he gets the lead runner Sale in the third, which might have kept the first White Sox run off the board.  He also was victimized by a ball that he was going to field until it hit the second base bag and bounced over his head, but we can’t fault him for that one.

Miguel Socolovich got the loss, giving up a home run to Tyler Flowers with two outs in the 11th.  Given the situation–an inexperience hurler in a high leverage situation after not pitching in over a week–that’s probably the best the club could hope for.  I half-thought that, given how often he has been saved and then wound up in situations like this, he’d have more high-leverage work than low-leverage, but actually he’s only had 12 high and medium leverage plate appearances vs. 34 low leverage ones.  However, this was the first hit he’d given up in the former category.  (Baseball-Reference counts this as medium leverage, which I guess was the case because the Cards had another at-bat?  Or maybe because no one was on?  I’d almost think extra innings are always high leverage, but then again they are higher on the road, so that makes some sense.)

It wasn’t great, but you kinda thought the winning streak would end when you face a guy like Sale, who continued his double-digit strikeout streak.  The real problem was last night.

Wednesday (7-1 loss)

Hero: Besides the grounds crew?  They had a difficult job all night long, putting the tarp on, pulling the tarp on, making sure the field was ready.  I’ve never seen rain delays that lasted less than 20 minutes, but we had them.  It was frustrating all the way around for the players, I imagine, and Twitter was alive with snarky comments, but none directed to the guys working the field.  Hats off to you, folks!

We’ll give the actual title to Jhonny Peralta.  When he drove in a run in the first (after a couple of those rain delays), it looked like things were back to normal.  (Great slide by Kolten Wong on that play, by the way.)  Peralta had another hit later in the night, but the club could only come up with seven total, four between Peralta and Jason Heyward.

Goat: I’ll admit it, I went to bed early in this one, given that first pitch wasn’t until 9 and it didn’t really get started until 10.  So it’s distressing to see an epic bullpen meltdown went on in the ninth last night, mitigated only by the fact that the Cards were down 2-1 already, so at least they didn’t cough up a lead.  Still, one run in the ninth is much more likely to be overcome than six, so I’m giving the Goat to Seth Maness, who apparently had nothing, giving up a single, home run, and double in the span of three batters.  Mike Matheny got him out of there before he could give up a triple and complete throwing for the cycle.

That said, his replacement was even wilder.  Randy Choate hit the two batters he faced, loading the bases.  Apparently waving the white flag, which given the use of the bullpen the night before and the limited offense in this one was completely understandable, Matheny then brings in Marcus Hatley to make his major league debut.  Suffice it to say, it didn’t quite go as planned, but it could have been worse.  Hatley came into a bases loaded situation and, save for the single he allowed to the first batter, got groundouts.  They just were run-scoring groundouts, but not much he could do about that.  No clue how he looked, of course, as I was well into dream world, a place where the Cardinals actually won the game.

Notes: 0-4 night for Matt Carpenter (plus he had an error in the ninth, not sure how that came about reading the play-by-play on the Cardinals official site) brings his average down to .275.  I’d say this is a little more than a slump, save the fact that his batting average and on-base average are almost identical to what he put up in a full season last year.  (His slugging percentage is still higher than that, however.)  Could this be the level that Carpenter should be at?  Do we keep 2013 as a standard for him when it was a significant outlier?  His last home run came on May 24 against the Royals.  His last multi-hit game was June 18, and that was after it being almost a given earlier in the year that he’d have two or more hits in a game.  In the 10 games he’s played since then (9 starts), he’s at .129/.325/.161.

Obviously, his numbers were better when he was leading off.  Should the Cards redo the lineup and get him back up there, or are those numbers just a reflection of a strong start, which would have been good no matter where he hit?  In other words, was it a function of where he hit when he was hitting .330 earlier this year or was he just going to hit .330 whether he was first or second or third?  I don’t know, but the Cards have to do something.  It’s difficult to have an automatic out in that part of the lineup, but that’s what Carpenter’s been for a while now.  Wong’s done well at leadoff, but not so well that I would have a major issue flipping the two.  We know that Matheny’s not one to tinker much, though, and one lineup shakeup per year might be his limit.

Mark Reynolds had a triple last night?  I am guessing an outfielder fell down on the wet grass.  Though if Matt Adams could lead the team in the category for a while last season, I guess anything is possible.

Peter Bourjos got a start last night.  Drew a walk and struck out three times.  The way to unseat Jon Jay is not to play like Jon Jay, Peter.  (And that’s unfair–Jay would have hit three ground balls to the middle infield.)

So after losing only seven times at Busch before this series, the Cards have lost two straight at home.  They look to stop that with the Padres coming into town.  The Padres are hovering around .500 but sit in fourth, eight games behind the Dodgers.  Their home and road records are about the same, so there’s no huge disadvantage for them coming into St. Louis.  It’s a series the Cardinals should win, but they should have at least split with the White Sox as well.

St. Louis has only lost three straight once this season and they’ll turn to Tim Cooney to avoid doing it again.  Cooney, who will be taking Jaime Garcia‘s spot this time through the rotation (I’d guess Hatley will wind up returning to Memphis.  At least he can call himself a major leaguer now!), had a bad outing against the Phillies his one and only major league start.  He’s had a solid season in AAA, however, and his last real start (he was pulled from his last start after two innings to be ready for this) he went six and allowed an earned run (though three unearned runs as well) against Nashville.

I’m thinking the bats are going to have to be working in this one and they’ll have to do it against Tyson Ross.  Ross is 5-7 with a 3.61 ERA and, at least in that last measure, has pitched better on the road than at Petco Park.  His last two starts have come against the Diamondbacks, who he’s limited to six hits and three runs in 15 innings.  He’s only allowed four runs or more twice this season, so this could be a good test for the Redbirds.  Like they need another one of those.

Matt Carpenter 8 4 2 1 0 0 0 4 0 .500 .750 .750 1.500 0 0 0 0 0
Jhonny Peralta 8 6 2 0 0 0 1 2 1 .333 .500 .333 .833 0 0 0 0 0
Jon Jay 7 5 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .200 .429 .200 .629 0 0 0 2 0
Kolten Wong 7 5 1 0 0 0 2 1 1 .200 .286 .200 .486 0 1 0 0 1
Peter Bourjos 4 4 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 .250 .250 .250 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Lance Lynn 4 4 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .250 .250 .250 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Jason Heyward 3 3 2 0 1 0 1 0 1 .667 .667 1.333 2.000 0 0 0 0 0
Mark Reynolds 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .333 .000 .333 0 0 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 46 35 11 1 1 0 5 8 5 .314 .457 .400 .857 0 1 0 2 1
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/2/2015.

They have had some success with him in the past.  We’ll see if that continues tonight!

  • janrayewilliams July 2, 2015, 9:52 am

    The Reynolds throw was low and at Kozma’s knees so that Kozma had to get into a crouch to attempt to catch it. The throw should have been nearer to the chest for Kozma to make a good catch, transfer, and throw to 1B. Dan or some announcer called it a “perfect feed” which it was not, but that’s what everyone heard and has repeated. Watch and you’ll see it for yourself.

    Oh, and, Wong bobbled a ball in the same part of the field in the 2nd game.

    Well, at least they couldn’t blame the 2nd loss on Kozma. That one was on the Cardinals 24, though they won’t get near the negative attention since that was a TEAM loss.

    Kozma did his part to help the TEAM win the game on July 25 in Miami.

    Great pick off Kevin! and Welcome to the Bigs, Hatley!

    • Cardinal70 July 2, 2015, 10:53 am

      What I saw when I watched it was a ball that hit Kozma in the glove and he dropped it. For a guy that is pretty much entirely on the team for his defense, that wasn’t a good night for him. He could get away with it a bit more if he hit like Wong, but he doesn’t. So he’s pretty much got to make the plays like that to have any value.

      While I have no issue with supporting Kozma–and you’ll note that he was the Hero of that Miami game writeup–let’s not oversell him. He’s easily the weakest link on this roster right now and, if waived, would unlikely find work anywhere else. Remember, he cleared waivers last year, meaning no team wanted to take a shot at him.

      I’m not as adamant about replacing Kozma as some are, of course, but he doesn’t help his cause with games like Tuesday’s.

      • janrayewilliams July 2, 2015, 12:05 pm

        The ball hit Kozma in the glove that he was holding between his knees because that’s where the ball was coming to him at. Not a good throw, and far from a ‘perfect feed’ as Dan M. said. Reynolds made an equally bad play at 1B in the 2nd game.
        Kozma last played 2B about 24 days before that game, Reynolds plays every day as does Wong. Kozma is only the weakest at hitting and everyone knows, especially the players themselves, that a week or more between games and facing live pitching can affect that even for the best hitters.
        Kozma was placed on revocable waivers for a day when a pitcher needed to come up in an emergency. All other teams knew it was an emergency, and revocable, where the Cards would have pulled him back, so they didn’t call.

        • Cardinal70 July 2, 2015, 1:01 pm

          Given that there is no indication Kozma is any better than he was two years ago, when he hit .217 playing almost every day, I’m not really buying that “he would hit if he played more” bit. Peter Bourjos? There’s at least an argument, given his history. But being that the only time Kozma has ever really hit, majors or minors, was that six week stretch in 2012, I’m not quite inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.

          Perhaps that’s not entirely true. After all, he hit over .300 last year. Mainly in September. When he played every three days or so, sometimes going a week or more between at bats. Huh, just like this year, though with completely different results.

          As for other teams not calling last year, perhaps it was because the waivers were revocable. It’s also just as likely nobody needed a no-bat, good-glove shortstop. I’ll give you that folks might not have wanted to go through the motions for what probably would have been fruitless, but I don’t think it crossed many other teams’ minds to even try it, honestly.

          Pete Kozma is 27 years old. This is likely where he peaks, and it’s not an Everest-level peak. Has he helped the team? In spurts, in the past, yes. Is he a regular every-day player? No. Should he be on this team right now? That’s debatable, depending on what you think Garcia can do at short.

          If he’s your guy, more power to you. Root as much as you want for him. Maybe he’ll have some more great moments. Hope he does. I just wouldn’t get terribly attached if I were you.

          • janrayewilliams July 2, 2015, 3:34 pm

            You must be really in tune and have some intuitive connections to the other 29 teams to know what crosses their minds in the middle of a season. With Kozma being the only backup ss for Peralta in ’14, unless you count Descalso, he was going nowhere. That’s why is wouldn’t cross their minds to even try and they wouldn’t go through the motions.
            So for you to comment on it as showing little value in having him on a team, you are just reversing what you actually mean. Think about it.
            His goal was to make the team this year and help the team. He has done both of those when he plays, as infrequently as that is. He has helped win games and has not contributed to losing games. DeWitt and Mozeliak will get another bench player when there is someone who is a better defensive infielder than Kozma.
            They lead all of MLB in wins with him on the team. Would another bench player help them win more games? Maybe. They’ll surely find out if they are not happy with the record they have now and believe that Kozma has something significantly negative to do with it.

          • janrayewilliams July 2, 2015, 3:38 pm

            And there is an indication that Kozma is better at hitting than he was in 2013. During 2014 in AAA and in ST ’15, his batting improved considerably with every day play and adjustments that he made as evidenced by his ending the AAA season hitting around .250 and ST’15 hitting at the same BA as Mike Trout, over .400.

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