The Cardinals have won 72 games and lost 40. It’s not true that all of them have been decided by one run, it just feels that way.
Actually, only 45 of those games were one-run contests, but the way the pitching staff has gone and the way the offense has sputtered, you’d be forgiven for thinking there were more of them. And last night’s wasn’t the 2-1, 1-0 type of game that we associate with this squad and them doing just enough to win, but it goes in the same category.
Before we get into the game proper, can we take a moment to say how this Pirates team seems directly constructed to take on the Cardinals? We saw it last night, with Pedro Alvarez (the student) hitting a home run and Aramis Ramirez (the master) with an RBI single. Just imagine what it’ll be like on Thursday when Francisco Liriano takes the mound as well. It’s like the Avengers of Cardinal killers, so any game that the club can win with those folks involved is an added bonus.
When Josh (otherwise known as Prospect Preacher around these parts) texted me last night asking about the Hero of the game, I immediately went to Carlos Martinez. I mean, he went eight innings, he held the line (though he did give up three runs, he didn’t allow the hole to get deeper) and he struck out eight batters. It’s not a bad night at all, though amazingly it probably is one of the weaker pitching performances of recent vintage, which just tells you how crazy this pitching staff really is.
On further reflection, though, I think you have to go with Stephen Piscotty for the title. Piscotty had his first three-hit night in the bigs, mixing a double in there, and drove in the go-ahead run in the big three-run fifth. I know I’ve said before how impressive he’s been, not allowing the big leagues to fluster him or force him away from his game. We’ve talked about him hitting in the second spot, which I still think is a good place for him behind the revitalized Matt Carpenter, but if Mike Matheny wants the rookie in a place of less pressure, he still needs to be up in the lineup. It was good to see him move from eighth to seventh, but he probably could even move ahead of Yadier Molina and help the offense.
It was quite good to see an invigorated Trevor Rosenthal out in the ninth last night, striking out the side which included Alvarez. Given how he struggled against the Pirates the last time we saw them, having a bit of a bounce back probably made him feel pretty good as well. Of course, this time he went out there without his arm feeling like it was going to fall off, since he hadn’t pitched since Saturday. That might make a bit of a difference, don’t you think? Matheny is going to have to make sure he’s rested in October, though the off-days in the schedule can help that as well.
Jason Heyward had an eventful evening, going two for four, driving in two runs (one on a reviewed double play that got reversed in St. Louis’s favor) and having a triple go off his glove in the outfield. It almost looked like he thought it was going to be a relatively easy catch but the ball didn’t land exactly where he thought it would, bouncing off the wall and letting Gregory Polanco get to third. On the whole, though, I think Heyward’s contributions more than made up for that.
Gotta find a Goat for this one and I think we have to go with Randal Grichuk for that one. 0-4 with a strikeout, which was huge because it was with the bases loaded and only one out. Molina couldn’t pick him up either, which made that look like a really big wasted opportunity when Alvarez went deep in the next frame. Grichuk left six on overall–I guess even Superman is Clark Kent every once in a while.
All in all, it was a bit of an atypical win for the Cardinals last night. It helped that they weren’t facing a dominating pitcher, as they kept getting chance after chance with Jeff Locke, but how often have we seen this team get down to a middling pitcher and not be able to muster anything? So often, as Kevin Reynolds pointed out on Twitter last night, 3-1 feels like 6-1 with this squad. To see them rally and win the game is a great feeling and hopefully something that they remember during tough situations down the stretch.
Problem is, if they get down 3-1 tonight they probably aren’t going to be able to do much as Gerrit Cole takes the mound for Pittsburgh. You know, the Gerrit Cole that leads the league in wins, has an ERA that would look right at home in the Cardinals’ rotation, and strikes out a batter an inning while walking someone about as often as Pete Kozma gets praised on the Internet. This is going to be a tough task for St. Louis, which made getting a win last night all the more important. Now Pittsburgh, at best, can leave town four back instead of two back, which makes the race look a lot different.
Of course, it’s not like the Redbirds send out chopped liver to the mound tonight and many Bucco fans probably don’t have the fondest of memories of Michael Wacha either. Wacha is riding a 14-inning scoreless streak and could tie Cole for the league lead in wins with a victory tonight. Wacha’s looked a lot more Wacha-like the last couple of games and he’s had success against the Pirates in the past. I know, so often we think that there’s going to be a pitching duel and more runs than expected are actually scored, but I think this one is going to be the nail biter we all expect.
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Before we wrap up, let’s talk about the injury updates we got yesterday. Some surprises, both good and bad, in that report. I mean, none of us that aren’t Adam Wainwright expected Waino back this year, but I think many of us were a little startled to hear that Matt Adams is making progress and could be seen on the field again this season. My guess is that he’ll just be a pinch-hitter in September, if that, and he probably won’t even get that far, but it’s nice to hear that he is making strides.
It’s also good to know they aren’t pushing Matt Holliday, because the last thing you need is for him to have another episode with the quad and not be available for October. Of course, Piscotty’s play (and the fact there’s no real good place for him once Holliday returns) doesn’t hurt matters here. As with many of these injuries, I expect we really won’t see them until rosters expand in three weeks. That gives the team the flexibility to have them around and use them from time to time without really causing a burden on the squad.
What was disappointing, but perhaps not really out of the blue, was that Jordan Walden still doesn’t know when he’ll return. I continue to believe he’ll eventually need surgery and I hope that it won’t be a situation where we miss him all of this season, then he has surgery in the offseason and he’s out for most of 2016. Honestly, as much as I’d like to see The Super Closer Bullpen add him into the mix, I have trouble believing that even if he comes back he’ll be effective. I’d rather see him get the surgery now and see if he’s ready early next season.
Another big game for the Cards tonight, but then again, it’s the time of year where many games are big games!