If last night was a roller coaster, it’d have been shut down due to the extreme drops and rises being unsafe for public health. From the highs of a 4-0 lead behind Michael Wacha to the lows of a questionable non-strike call and a bases-clearing, lead-erasing double to the pinnacle of a lightning strike with only one strike remaining, the Cardinals took years off the lives of their fans but perhaps straightened themselves out just in time to face their toughest competition.
Given that our Hero’s name is in the post title, I’m fairly sure that we’ll see our friendly neighborhood issue-oriented commentor around today, but so be it. There is no doubt that Jhonny Peralta is the Hero of the piece. It’s even possible that we’ll look at this as a turning point for this team, making Jhonny Peralta the Hero of the season in some regards.
I get the issues with Peralta’s past. I get that it was against the rules and I would never endorse that. However, let’s look at three points:
1) Peralta didn’t have his issues as a Cardinal
2) He’s expressed remorse and served his punishment
3) Even if he did use HGH, which again isn’t proven nor is it what he has admitted to, there seems no data that says that actually makes you better
4) There’s been no proof of HGH being some sort of “anti-aging” super drug
In other words, the man’s past is his past. He’s moved on and I don’t believe what we are seeing is any sort of leftover benefits from using such stuff. As such, we’ll leave it in the past. Besides, there is plenty of reason to celebrate his present.
Yesterday at Viva El Birdos the Red Baron wrote up a look at Matt Carpenter and while the conclusions he drew weren’t great for Marp, he did point out that Carpenter’s walk rate is staying strong. That came into play last night as Pedro Stroup couldn’t find the strike zone with two outs and Carpenter took his base, setting the stage for Peralta’s two-out bolt that, as the game story notes, gave headaches in the dugout because they all leaped with excitement….and hit the low hanging ceiling in the National League’s oldest park.
That was only the third game this year where they’ve won a game after being behind at the beginning of the ninth inning. It seems like it’s been forever, doesn’t it? Even before this recent spate of ugly play, the Cardinals so often got out to a lead and held it. Even when they rallied from a deficit, it was in the middle of the game. Late inning heroics have been a bit rare, but I’m very glad they showed up last night.
If it wasn’t for Peralta’s long ball saving all of our minds, last night might have gone down as one of the most frustrating games of the season, and that’s saying something when we just saw the Cards lose a game on a ball that might or might not have been fair.
After some roster machinations that I hope to get to if we have time, St. Louis had Dan Johnson playing first base last night. Johnson drove in the first run of the night with a soft blooper over second base, then drove in a second with a solid base hit. In between, we saw Michael Wacha have an RBI hit and back-to-back triples by Mark Reynolds and Randal Grichuk, running the lead out to 4-0.
You give a four run lead to Wacha and you should kick back and enjoy the night. For whatever reason, though, Wacha wasn’t as sharp as he normally is. The strike zone of the umpire–the same umpire involved in the foul or fair controversy from the night before, a fact that did not escape anyone on Twitter–seemed to be significantly smaller that many would like, including Wacha. I’m guessing both sides benefited from it at times, but it seemed more flagrant to some not-quite-unbiased eyes when Wacha was pitching. He allowed two runs in the fourth (triples will do that and he allowed one to Kris Bryant) but really ran into trouble in the sixth.
Some made the argument that Wacha shouldn’t have started the sixth, but he was only around 85 pitches and had retired the Cubs in order in the fifth. Given the makeup of the bullpen, where there are a lot of untested parts such as Mitch Harris and Miguel Socolovich down there, you want Wacha to go as long as possible.
After allowing three singles and getting just one out, should he have still be out there? There’s an argument. He’d just gotten a liner off his ankle that should have been a double play, so he was still being effective. And again, which of those guys do you go get? Perhaps Seth Maness, although since the home plate umpire ejected him yesterday, maybe not (and Maness did throw close to two innings yesterday before getting tossed). Wacha proved keeping him in was defensible by striking out Starlin Castro and then striking out Miguel Montero.
Only the umpire didn’t see it that way. Strike three to Montero became ball three and then after a foul, Montero laced Wacha’s 108th pitch into the gap, scoring all three batters and putting the Cubs in front.
(Star Wars came out with a new app yesterday which included movie gifs. Unsurprisingly, that was what enlivened my Twitter feed last night.)
Now, let’s be fair, something that wasn’t exactly what folks wanted to hear last night. That pitch was probably a ball. It could have been called a strike, it’d have been called a strike by a lot of umpires, and it really looked like a strike but FOX Sports Midwest’s pitch tracker showed it just off the corner. Those aren’t completely accurate, of course, but given how tight he called the zone all night long, it probably shouldn’t be too surprising that the Cards didn’t get that one.
Apparently Mike Matheny thought it was a strike, because the last run had hardly slide across home plate before he was out face to face with the umpire. You knew he was getting run, but it seems Yadier Molina (who, let’s be honest, should know) felt strongly it was a strike as well, because he was tossed at the same time. I was focused enough on Matheny that I’m not sure what Molina did to warrant ejection, though losing a guy like that in a close game is a tough blow. I get that he was probably defending his pitcher and his manager plus worked up about the call, but he’s got to keep a cooler head if possible. We saw Tony Cruz bat in the eighth inning of a one-run game because of it and we’d have felt much better had that been Molina at the bat.
There are a few folks that could be the Goat. Heck, if Carpenter hadn’t gotten the key walk, he’d have probably gotten it for going 0-fer and leaving five men on base, including the bases loaded in the second (though, to be fair, Carpenter roped a liner that Anthony Rizzo happened to catch). I think we have to go with Jason Heyward on this one. 0-5 with a strikeout and three left on.
I’ve seen too many exciting games followed up by dull losses to really believe much in momentum (though apparently the Pirates do, given they’ve won games like this often lately) but this does have the feel of a game that could kick off a winning streak and be the point folks look back on at the end of the year as a huge change in the Cardinals. I’m not saying that’s the case, but winning three of four this weekend would strengthen that theory a lot.
So the Cards called up Johnson yesterday. Problem was, he wasn’t on the 40-man. Even given his nice debut last night, Johnson didn’t make a lot of sense, anyway. Now there are three first basemen on the squad and none of them are hitting much of anything. The idea is that Reynolds can play third while Carpenter plays second and Kolten Wong recovers from the concussion, but if that’s the case, why not put Wong on the 7-day concussion DL and bring up Greg Garcia, thus eliminating the carousel? If you don’t want to put Wong on the DL because he might be available this weekend, bring Garcia up anyway when you send Marcus Hatley down. Seems easy enough.
If you must bring up Johnson, you have to waive someone off the 40-man. John Mozeliak made the call to release Aledmys Diaz, hoping he’d clear waivers and be able to stay in the system. Yet you have folks like Dean Anna and Ty Kelly that are taking up 40-man room but aren’t doing much, why not release them? Was there a concern about leaving Memphis too exposed? That could be the case–right now, the Memphis roster shows five active infielders, all of them 2B or SS. Of course, the promotion of Johnson was also to let Stephen Piscotty start playing some first, which would seem necessary now. Piscotty may be up later in the year or, if nothing else, Mo wants to strengthen his trade hand by telling other teams he doesn’t have to have a first baseman because Piscotty would be coming up.
You probably remember that Diaz got that four-year, $8 million contract last year as kind of a test case into the Cuban market. Diaz has been hurt a good portion of the time and still has enough talent that the Cardinals hope he’ll stick around, but it’s looking more and more like you chalk this one up to research and hope it gets better in time. Between him and Wagner Mateo, the international market hasn’t been a strength of this club. When So Taguchi is your one shining foreign star, there are issues.
Anyway, strange day all the way around given that Johnson was announced early in the day but Diaz wasn’t announced until almost game time. Johnson was in the starting lineup before he was really technically on the roster. With Piscotty being scratched the night before from the Memphis game, some folks thought maybe he was coming, but that never really made sense. Now, after he learns first, those kind of rumors take on some credence.
The win last night keeps the Cardinals 4.5 games ahead of Pittsburgh, meaning they are assured of leading the division at the break. Carlos Martinez goes tonight to see if he can’t push the Pirates a little farther away, like you do with a person with strong body odor. The problem is, remember those two seven-run outings that Martinez had in May, his only stumbles this year? Yeah, Pittsburgh at PNC Park was one of them.
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You have to hope that Martinez’s recent work will be more indicative of tonight’s game than the last time he was in Pittsburgh. The last thing we want to see is the Pirates get out to an early big lead and quickly erase any momentum from last night’s comeback.
Jeff Locke goes for the Pirates. As you can tell, the Cards haven’t had a lot of luck with him.
That doesn’t look good. Overall, he’s not had a great season, posting a 4.15 ERA in 16 starts, but last time out he threw eight scoreless innings against Cleveland. He’s not given up more than two earned runs in a start since June 6. He has faced the Cardinals once this season and got a no-decision, allowing three runs in 6.2 innings in May.
The Cards really need a strong weekend to reassert their dominance in the division. Pittsburgh’s going to be coming in hot and fired up, so let’s hope the Tsunami can put out that fire!