Look at Jon Lester‘s line in the box score. Two hits, two walks. Yet that pair of deuces, coupled with a key Kris Bryant error (you’ll note nobody’s ever been excited about his fielding) and the Chicago Cubs ace* left the game down 2-0, a score that was enough though would not be all.
*OK, we all know that Jake Arrieta is probably the de facto ace for the Cubs, but Lester was signed to a huge contract to be that guy, so even though he’s not lived up to the billing, I’m going with it, especially since it’s kinda necessary for that poker-related metaphor.
There’s an advantage, of course, in the Cardinals playing so many games where the offense is non-existent. When they go up against a pitcher like Lester, when they get no-hit for over six innings, it’s not exactly something that fazes them. Mainly because, of course, their pitching staff is likely doing about the same thing to the opponent. That was the case last night, as John Lackey gave up a few more baserunners and struck out a few less hitters, but didn’t allow any runs while waiting for his offense to come around.
The Hero of the night, as well as Lackey pitched, has to go to Kolten Wong. Not only did he have two hits, including a huge two-out single that scored Jason Heyward with the second run in the seventh, but had the key defensive game of the night as well, spearing a Starlin Castro liner and having the presence of mind to turn it into an inning-ending double play. Wong won’t be going to Cincinnati as an All-Star this year, but more plays like that and more seasons like the one he is having and he’ll eventually get that label on his Baseball-Reference page.
It was great to see the Cardinals put up four runs off of Edwin Jackson in the ninth. Not that it came off Jackson–I think many of us still have fond memories of his time in St. Louis, even if those memories are basically of that 2011 team and that big trade rather than anything he in particular did–but the insurance runs meant that 1) folks could get to sleep a little earlier, which was important given that hour-long rain delay and 2) Trevor Rosenthal didn’t have to pitch last night and would be really ready for today’s double-header.
In fact, the entire bullpen is pretty much as rested as you could hope for on a day with two games. Kevin Siegrist blew threw the Cubs in the eighth on five pitches, though he did warm up before and after the rain delay, so we’ll see if there’s any effect there. Mitch Harris then was able to come in and take care of the ninth since there was a comfortable (and highly serious) 6-0 lead at the time and finished off the baby bears in nine pitches. For a point of reference, Jackson threw more pitches to Jhonny Peralta, who led off the ninth, than Siegrist did in the eighth inning as a whole.
Speaking of that rain delay, it didn’t matter in the long run, but was anyone else frustrated with the home plate umpire and his reluctance to call a delay? The Cards had to bat in the top of the eighth with buckets of water pouring down on them. Matt Carpenter had to go dry his bat off during the at-bat, for goodness sake. Yet the tarp didn’t come on until the middle of the inning. If things had been different, if the Cubs had taken a lead in the eighth when there was no rain after St. Louis had to try to play in such conditions, it’d have been really frustrating. Thankfully, it was quickly made a moot point. I know you can’t always make conditions fair, but especially when the inning started with the rain coming down, it would have been more even to pull the tarp and let both teams bat that inning in the dry.
That ninth inning was something, wasn’t it? There was an interesting decision by Joe Maddon in that inning as well. St. Louis had already tacked on an extra run and had runners at first and second when Randal Grichuk came up. A wild pitch by Jackson moved the runners up. I was so sure that they’d then walk Grichuk and pitch to Peter Bourjos that I stepped into the bathroom for a moment. When I came out, it’s 5-0 and Grichuk was on second base. Why would you do that? Yes, Grichuk has his holes, but Jackson’s not necessarily a strikeout pitcher. If Grichuk can hit it, it’s going to be a big hit. Set up the force and bring up a guy in Bourjos that has struggled. Now, of course, Bourjos did single and drive in Grichuk for the last run, but if the bases are loaded there’s no telling how that goes. I’m glad Maddon did what he did, of course, but I’m stunned that he didn’t pass Grichuk.
The Cardinals scored more runs in that ninth inning than they’ve scored total in any game since….the last time they saw the Cubs, that Sunday night game that finished up the sweep in Busch Stadium. If nothing else, I guess the hitters like that Cubbie pitching.
Gotta find a Goat for this one, which wouldn’t have been that hard given that Lester had that no-hitter going except that a lot of folks redeemed themselves in those last three innings. While I probably should go with Tommy Pham, given that he was 0-4 in the leadoff role, it’s tough for me to get on a rookie that’s playing his first game in Wrigley, especially if there’s another option. I think that option is Jason Heyward, who did score a run on Wong’s hit in the seventh, but was only on due to that Bryant error. He struck out in the ninth with Peralta on first and, overall, left three runners on base. While Heyward was so red hot for a while, he’s finally leveling off a bit. For July, he’s .273/.360/.364, which is probably (save for the slugging) in line with his career numbers, more so than his .360 batting mark he was going at for a while.
The rest of the All-Star team was announced yesterday. Joining Peralta and Matt Holliday in Cincinnati will be Yadier Molina (no surprise) and first-timers Michael Wacha and Rosenthal. Carlos Martinez, who deserves to go as much as anyone, is on the Final Vote along with some really big names like Clayton Kershaw. We know what happens usually when Kershaw runs into the Cardinals. Let’s make sure it happens again. Vote early, vote often, Vote Tsunami.
Not going this year are Carpenter and Wong. In Carpenter’s case, it’s probably a blessing, as he gets four days of rest and hopefully can figure out what his troubles have been since that exhaustion scare earlier in the season. Our good friend Tara makes a point in her recent video podcast (vodcast? podeo?) that maybe changing Carpenter’s routine, while beneficial for his health, has affected how prepared he is to play the game. It may be that Carpenter needs to figure out a balance that lets him be successful at both sides of the equation.
As for Wong, I know some on Twitter especially are worked up about him not going, but I just can’t see it. One, the Cardinals have five representatives with a possible sixth. That’s more than any other NL team and there’s none of those I’d keep at home so that Wong could go. I know Kansas City has six in the American League, but they probably wouldn’t if 1) they didn’t have four starters elected and 2) their manager wasn’t the one making the final selections. Not that any of the Royals aren’t worthy, just saying that to get that last one when you have so many already probably takes knowing someone in the right position.
Wong’s had a solid year, of course, and perhaps he’ll go if injuries or withdrawals happen, but we’ve also showed that Wong is a streaky guy that, until last night, was on the downside of a streak. He only hit .250 in June and is hitting, even with last night, .182 in July. There will be other opportunities for Wong to be an All-Star, as I mentioned above, but given the entire situation, I can’t say that it’s a big shock or huge snub that he’s not going this season.
Two for the price of one today! Well, not really, because the first game is at 12:20 PM and the second is at 7:05 PM, so you can’t use the same ticket to see both games. Baseball’s a business, you know? (How strange is it to think that, without this makeup from the first series of the year, all the games in this series, in Wrigley Field, would be night games? When was the last time THAT happened?)
The first game has Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons coming up as the 26th man, allowed by rules when there’s a double-header with more than a day’s notice. Lyons seems to face the Cubs a lot and probably his worst outing as a big league came against them in Busch last May, when he gave up nine runs in four innings. However, last August he shut them down for 4.2 innings, so he’s already exorcised those demons. He faced them earlier this season, allowing four runs (three earned) in 4.1 innings. He’s pitched twice in Wrigley, facing a total of five men and getting them all out. Let’s hope that continues!
Lyons has the tough task of going up against Arrieta. Arrieta is 8-5 with a 2.60 ERA and, coupled with what he did last year, should put him among the young pitching stars of the game. I’m not sure why we don’t hear as much about him, save for the fact the Cubs aren’t as strong as some of the other teams with young pitching. Either that or I subconsciously tune out any Cub talk. Anyway, Arrieta threw seven scoreless innings in Wrigley back in that opening series against the Cards and got a win, then gave up five runs (four earned) in 5.1 innings when they faced him next. His third start against the Cards was one run in seven in that series a couple of weeks ago, when the Cards rallied (thanks Greg Garcia!) and gave him a no-decision. Let’s hope the pendulum swings back to a lot of runs, huh?
In the second game, Tim Cooney takes over for Jaime Garcia. Cooney’s second start went much better than his first, as he gave up three runs in six innings against the Padres. He’s been a bit homer-prone, however, so we’ll have to hope that the wind is blowing in this evening. Blowing in hard would be nice. Unsurprisingly, Cooney has never faced the Cubs.
He’ll be facing Dallas Beeler, who will be making his season debut for the North Siders. He’s never faced the Redbirds, making just two appearances (11 innings) last season for the Cubs. So there’s really no telling what will happen in the nightcap tonight!
If the Cards can split this day, that’s probably a victory. Throwing two young pitchers with limited experience in Wrigley Field is often a recipe for an ugly result. I expect that there will be a quick hook on them, especially with a fully loaded bullpen. Let’s hope for the sweep, though!