The Cardinals have lost seven in a row at Busch Stadium for the first time since 1983. They have split their last 20 games. What’s the culprit? Perhaps the fact that they have to deal with a kitschy novelty and see teams that have no relevance to their division or wild card race.
All seven of those home losses? To American League teams. In that 20 game stretch, they are 2-10 against the AL, 8-0 vs. the NL. It was one thing when interleague play was limited to a series of game at home and away. Now, it’s really a pain. (To be fair, I’ve not liked interleague play since its inception, but these numbers make me extra grumpy.) The Cardinals did win three games in Anaheim, making them 5-10 on the season. They have two more in Houston later in the season and host Oakland for three as well, but at least for the moment they seem to be done with this monstrosity.
What may be more telling about this team is the fact that, with their loss last night to Kansas City, they finished the month of June with a losing record, the first time they’ve done that (at least in a month with more than three games or so) since June of 2012. That was Mike Matheny‘s first season and I thought I’d take a look at where the club was then to see if there was any comparison.
At the end of June 2012, the Cardinals were 40-38, with a sub-.500 record at home (17-18). They sat in third, though they were just 3.5 behind Cincinnati and 2.5 behind Pittsburgh. (The Cubs were in last playing .364 ball. Ah, the good old days.) Of course, the Reds kicked it into gear, the Cards went 48-36 through the summer, and St. Louis wound up playing for the wild card since they fell 9.5 games short of Cincy. That was, of course, the first year of two wild cards and that first play-in game was slightly memorable.
At the end of June 2016, the Cardinals are 40-38, with a sub-.500 record at home (15-23). They sit in second, though they are 11 games behind the Cubs. As for the wild card, they are a game out of the final spot, trailing the Marlins by 1/2 a game. (The Dodgers and Mets would be playing the game if it were today.) Would 48-36 be enough to get a wild card spot this season? Maybe. The Marlins did just trade for Fernando Rodney, but I don’t know if that’s an over-the-top move. The Dodgers have lost Clayton Kershaw for a while, though they did get former Cardinal killer Bud Norris yesterday. Without looking it up, though, I think Norris’s hold over the Cards has lessened over the years. None of the teams below St. Louis seemed primed to make a run, though things could always change.
(I will say, the angst around the 2012 team was apparently much less. Here’s my first post in July of that year, which hardly even mentions the state of the race. I guess being closer and, you know, being the defending World Champions helps with the attitude.)
Anyway, let’s look at last night’s game, which was an amazing display of being handed opportunities and then wasting them. Chris Young walked six batters in four innings. Six in four! You’d think even by accident a run would have scored with that sort of wildness. The Cards drew seven walks on the night and not a single one of them scored. None. I can’t imagine how rare that is, but it does seem part for the course at times with this team.
At least when the Cardinals got hits, they made them count. Three total hits on the night, but two of them were home runs that at least made the game interesting. Let’s give the Hero tag to Brandon Moss, because his home run probably should have counted double. The initial mark was 454 feet, though the broadcast came back to say it was marked by the Cardinals at 477 feet, which was the longest homer in Busch Stadium history and the second longest in the bigs this season. That’s worth another look, right?
Jhonny Peralta had the other homer, which would have been big had the Royals not gotten their third run in the top of the frame. St. Louis could just never catch up with the Royals last night, mainly because the bats were just off. There were some hard hit balls, but they usually found a glove. Matt Adams, for instance, almost followed Peralta’s homer with one of his own (or at least a double) but Jarrod Dyson was able to make a nice catch. That kind of night.
While the Royals brought over a full team of players, they really only needed one of them. Kendrys Morales was insane over these last four games, going 12 for 16 with four doubles and two homers. He tagged Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons for one last night, a laser blast that held no doubt as soon as it was hit. If they’d ever figured out Morales, maybe they could have at least gotten a split out of this.
Lyons, by the way, again looked fairly good, striking out the first two batters before allowing Morales’s blast and then a single to Eric Hosmer. The boxscore notes two wild pitches by the Patron Pitcher, but the first one was a ball that Brayan Pena had a glove on, then wound up going between his legs. The second one was a pitch Lyons bounced that Pena couldn’t keep in front of him. Even factoring in my bias, I think the first one really should have been a passed ball and, honestly, I think Yadier Molina would have had them both. At least, prime Yadi would have. We’ve seen a lot of baseballs get past what used to be a brick wall.
Pena will actually get my Goat tag, though it’s difficult to really sort all that out in this one. Pena’s first attempt at throwing a runner out wound up in left field, allowing the Royals to score their first run completely unearned, as it’d been a error by Peralta that allowed Whit Merrifield to reach in the first place. (Peralta should have had two errors, but a home run will tend to get you out of Goat contention.) Pena also went 0-3, though he did draw the only non-Young walk in the game, which as we know amounted to nothing.
It wasn’t a bad night overall for Mike Leake, I don’t think. He’s a guy that needs a good defense and that didn’t happen, though one of the errors was of his own doing on a pickoff throw. Three runs in seven innings, though, would be outstanding from him every time out. Or at least any time when the offense would care to show up.
Mike Matheny got tossed out of the game arguing over the Royals’ slow decision to request a review of what looked like an inning-ending double play. As befitting my general nature, I’ve never been huge on the replay thing, but I was surprised that the Royals didn’t try to review that one immediately, since Matt Carpenter had bobbled the ball before throwing out Salvador Perez. Turns out, they finally did but not before everyone was already off the field. That seems to be a problem–if the rules say you have to do it in a certain time, you should do it in that certain time. And if all the players are off the field and in the dugout, even if the time limit isn’t up, you should be done. After all, isn’t replay supposed to speed up the game by eliminating arguments? In this case, all the players got off the field, had to get back on the field after the replay, and we still got a time-wasting argument. The balance between “getting it right” and “moving the game along” is a tough one to strike, it seems.
Anyway, it was pretty obvious that Matheny was looking to get run out of the game, perhaps in a motivational tactic. However, when the announcers are commenting on this before it happens, when almost anyone at home knows that’s what you are doing, how motivational can it be? It’s a strange hill to die on there. Are you fighting for their right not to be inconvenienced? It’d be different had it been questionable if Perez was safe or out and they ruled against the Cards there. Maybe in a different situation, that could get folks fired up. Over a procedural move, though? And one so obviously telegraphed? I don’t know, I’m not a player, but I’d think that would have less of an impact on me.
We like to think that players get motivated by things like that, but I wonder how much they do. I’ve never been on a team, but especially for the regular season, are there things that get players to play better? Don’t we assume that they are trying basically as hard as they can every time out? I mean, there’s nobody that’s loafing or obviously giving less than 100% out there, is there? When I watch the games, I don’t get that feeling. I don’t get that impression listening to interviews. Does a slight, real or perceived, get them to focus better on a pitch or their game? Maybe it does. Maybe they get a spike of adrenaline for that inning or for the rest of the game. I have trouble believing it lasts beyond that, though. Again, I’m not expert in the psychology of a baseball team, but that’s my thinking.
We’ve rambled enough for today. The Cards get back not only to the National League but to an opponent they’ve had some success with this season. Milwaukee comes into town hoping that St. Louis’s home record is more indicative of what they’ll see over the weekend. It’s Jaime Garcia versus Matt Garza in the opening game. Garcia has faced the Brewers twice this season, the first time throwing a 13-K, 1-hit complete game in Busch. On the whole, Garcia’s done pretty well against the Brewers.
Garza has only made three starts the season after starting the year on the disabled list. None of those were against the Cardinals, of course, so you have to go back to April 24 of last year to find the last time he saw the Redbirds. In that game, he went six innings and gave up three runs while taking the loss. So far Garza has looked pretty good in 2016 and he’s faced three good teams in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Washington.
Some good numbers there historically. Let’s hope they hold up this evening!