Now that we are three days into the four-day All-Star Break, I probably should recap the last four games of the first half, shouldn’t I? We’d hate for Heroes and Goats to go unnamed, of course.
Thursday (5-1 win vs. Pittsburgh)
Hero: Adam Wainwright. There were a few strong offensive performances, but not much is needed with the staff ace steps up and Wainwright surely did. Seven innings, one run, nine strikeouts as he continues to put those early season struggles well behind him.
Goat: It’s a toss up, but we’ll give it to Yadier Molina who went 0-3. Matt Adams also went 0-3, but Molina added a strikeout to his line for the tiebreaker.
Notes: A three-run homer by Stephen Piscotty in the sixth was the difference in this one, but Randal Grichuk also had a good game. Grichuk was the only Cardinal with more than two hits and one of those was the tie-breaking homer in the fifth. Since his return from Memphis, he’s hit .409 with two homers. Seems like the Memphis dunking stayed with him a little more than it did for Kolten Wong.
Patron Pitcher Tyler Lyons came into this one in the eighth and got the first batter before allowing a base hit to Gregory Polanco. Instead of leaving his long man in the game, especially since there was no real danger to the game as of yet, Mike Matheny went to Trevor Rosenthal to face Andrew McCutchen and Jung Ho Kang. Thankfully (and somewhat surprisingly), that worked, as Rosenthal retired them both without incident. Rosenthal puts it together just often enough for you to think that he might be turning a corner, only to find out next time that the corner is not turned.
Friday (4-3 loss at Milwaukee)
Hero: Greg Garcia. Two hits in the leadoff slot vacated by Matt Carpenter for at least a month. There wasn’t much going on in this one, but it wasn’t Garcia’s fault. He also scored one of the three Cardinal runs.
Goat: We’ll say Matt Adams since he went 0-4 and left four on, any one of which might have kept the ninth from being so traumatic. Piscotty avoids this even though he left six on because he had a hit and a walk.
Notes: Losing to Milwaukee, especially when the Cubs are in the process of losing, is a difficult thing to swallow. I know that Rosenthal had looked better on Thursday, but dropping him right into a tied game in the ninth inning on the road might not have been the next step in his recovery process. Rosie walked the first batter, who wound up coming around to score the winning run.
That said, Seung-hwan Oh didn’t really work out of the problem. Rosenthal left after a sacrifice bunt, but then Oh hit the first batter he faced. He struck out the next guy, but then gave up a base hit that allowed Jonathan Villar–a pretty speedy guy–to score on a close play. Tie games on the road often wind up turning on small things and that’s the case in this one.
Michael Wacha had another nice outing. Gave up three runs, but they were all solo shots, two to Chris Carter, who hits a lot of them. Other than that, 6.2 innings and eight strikeouts, which seems like a lot for Wacha, especially of late. Another game where if the offense shows up, the result is probably much different, but they couldn’t get a lot done off of Jimmy Nelson for once. Yadier Molina did his part with a game-tying homer, only his second long ball of the season.
Saturday (8-1 win at Milwaukee)
Hero: Jedd Gyorko. Not only was Gyorko one of the only Cardinals with more than one hit, he also drove in the second run of the game, a run that proved very useful in the bottom half of the frame when the Brewers got their lone tally. Plus we don’t get to put Gyorko here very often, so we should probably take advantage when we can.
Goat: A pretty solid game all the way around, as the only starter that didn’t get a hit (Greg Garcia) had two walks. I guess I’ll go with Randal Grichuk because he only had one hit, even though he did drive in a run. As I’ve said before, not all Heroes and not all Goats are created equal.
Notes: It was a fairly dominating outing for Carlos Martinez, who struck out 11 of the 15 outs he recorded. However, he also walked four and allowed four hits, so those five innings cost 103 pitches. That doesn’t happen all that often for Martinez any more, but I remember that one of my original concerns when they were moving him into the rotation was that he wouldn’t have the control to be more than a five inning pitcher. Obviously, he’s figured it out. I think that’s relevant to the discussions around Alex Reyes as well. He’s working on that command and I think he’ll eventually get it, if Martinez is any indication.
Huge ninth for the Cardinals as Tommy Pham hits a solo homer and Aledmys Diaz hits a three-run blast. Always good to get into the bullpen of a team–well, maybe not always, but with this squad, they can feast on anything but the top tier guys for the most part.
The Patron Pitcher relieved Martinez in this one and got a job more in line with his season, going 2.1 innings and allowing no hits, though he walked two. Struck out four and ended the first half with a 3.35 ERA. The Lyons bandwagon has a few more folks on it these days!
Sunday (5-1 win at Milwaukee)
Hero: Mike Leake. I think Leake might have realized that his pitch-to-contact ways might not be so great with the defense he has behind him. Either that or Milwaukee just is terrible at making contact. (Probably more of the latter, actually.) Leake struck out 10 in seven innings of one-run ball, which is pretty impressive since he only had 66 strikeouts going into that game. His next highest strikeout total on the year? Six, done three times. Leake doesn’t usually put up a lot of Ks, but it was good to see him do it here.
Goat: Another game where the bullpen did fine and all the hitters got hits. I guess we’ll go with Tommy Pham, who went 1-5 in the leadoff spot but did strike out three times. No one ever said life was fair, kid.
Notes: Good days for Matt Adams and Randal Grichuk. Adams did strike out three times (which, interestingly enough, he hadn’t been doing during his slump) but cracked two hits, including a home run immediately after Milwaukee took a 1-0 lead. Grichuk also had two hits, including a home run in the sixth that put the Cards up two. If these guys get going in the second half, that’ll make this squad even more dangerous.
All in all, it’s about what you’d want out of a weekend in Milwaukee. The Cubs lost twice to the Pirates (who almost were able to complete the sweep) so the Cards went into the break seven games out in the division and a game out in the wild card race. Which is big, since all three of the teams above them are on the schedule at least once in the two weeks after the All-Star Break. They’ve got a chance to really cement a playoff spot or make it much more difficult to see a way to October. The way that they have been playing, it’s 50/50.
As the Cardinals get back to things Friday, I’ll be taking off on my break as it’s time for the annual trip to my wife’s part of Ohio. (You already know this if you’ve listened to the most recent Meet Me At Musial or Gateway To Baseball Heaven.) It’s not unheard of for news to break while I’m gone–I still remember finding out about the Ludwick/Westbrook deal as well as the Lackey/Craig-Kelly deal up there–and I’ll try to check in if it does, though most likely it’ll be on Twitter. (I go to a land of limited cell service and am staying in a place with no internet, so McDonald’s wifi is extremely helpful.) I’ll try to do short Hero/Goat posts like I did two years ago so that we aren’t recapping a week of games when I get back. Of course, with my posting schedule this year, that’s not exactly anything different than what I’ve been doing….
Tomorrow is also the ninth anniversary of this blog. Be sure to thank Kip Wells if you see him.