So the Cardinals win two of three in Milwaukee, albeit in closer and more exciting fashion than they should have. They look to go into Cincinnati and keep pounding away. They don’t. They wait until Pittsburgh, when they are playing a team up in caliber, to do so. Seriously, this team makes no sense at times.
Friday (3-2 loss at Cincinnati)
Hero: Greg Garcia. Three hits, including two doubles. The rest of the team also had three hits. Given the Cincinnati staff, that’s just wrong. There was a lot of wrongness this weekend, though.
Goat: Seung-hwan Oh. Mike Matheny‘s usage of the closer on the road has evolved, as we’ve noted, and now it’s no big thing to see Oh out there in the ninth in a tie game on the road. Normally, that works out, but Oh really didn’t have it in this one. A leadoff walk then three singles plated the winning run. None of them were hit terribly hard, but none of them were just flukes either. Everyone has a bad game and we’ve not see a lot of them from Oh this season, but it still stings to lose this one.
Notes: It would have stung more had the offense actually done something. When you can only muster two runs against the Reds, both on solo home runs, that’s a problem. Yadier Molina and Randal Grichuk did the honors in this one, keeping the Cards home run streak alive. (I honestly thought given all the favorable circumstances, we might see it snapped this weekend because Cardinals, but they managed to keep it going all weekend long.)
Alex Reyes got the start and showed again why we are so excited to see him in the rotation full-time, even though it looks like he’ll be returning to the bullpen as Mike Leake is now like a home in Kansas, shingles-free. Reyes went six innings, the first five scoreless. He bent a bit in the sixth, as the middle of the lineup got to him a bit, but he’s allowed just one extra-base hit (Brandon Phillips‘s double in this inning) in his major league career. Seven strikeouts, two walks. It’s a line most of these starters would be very happy to have as of late.
The bullpen did OK before Oh’s implosion. Zach Duke did his darnedest to cause problems, giving up two singles and a walk in just a third of an inning, but Matthew Bowman, again coming in with the bases loaded, got the next two outs to clean up the mess. Duke seems to alternate strong, dominant outings with, shall we say, “interesting” ones since coming over from the White Sox. It’s not a set pattern, but it’s fairly close. I don’t know if his delivery is easy to get out of whack or what, but while he can be a dominant threat, he’s also going to have people holding their breath at times.
Saturday (9-1 loss to Cincinnati)
Hero: Jedd Gyorko. He kept the homer streak alive, put the only run on the board, and gave the Cards a quick lead. That’s more than just about anyone else did in this one.
Goat: While Jerome Williams had the worst game–five runs in an inning of work–odds are the game was already lost when he came in so I don’t think he gets this “honor”. I think we are going to have to go with Alberto Rosario here, because not only did he go 0-4 (when the team can only come up with five hits, that doesn’t really stand out) but he left seven on base, including grounding out with bases loaded in the sixth with two down. Apparently some questioned why Matheny didn’t pinch-hit there, but he was committed to giving Yadier Molina the full day off. It’s too bad that Brayan Pena‘s DL stint hadn’t concluded or they hadn’t brought up Carson Kelly by that time, otherwise maybe a pinch-hitter could have been used. I can’t fault Matheny too much for resting Molina, since as he stated, he gets grief for playing him all the time. He’s got to get some credit for resisting the temptation. That said, this was probably the last game you could afford to do that in. Down the stretch, they’ve got to do everything they can to get into the playoffs.
Notes: Jaime Garcia didn’t have a bad outing, but it wasn’t exactly top notch. Six innings, two hits, eight strikeouts would put him in the same range as Alex Reyes (though Reyes allowed more hits) but four walks was a little shaky. Still, it was 2-1 when he left, so he definitely gave the team a chance to win, the offense just went quiet yet again.
We’ve talked about Williams’s outing and the less said about that the better. Though some were complaining that this guy was on a playoff roster. He won’t be on the playoff roster. There’s no need to carry a “in case of blowouts” guy into the postseason. With days off and only four starters needed, that’s covered. Now, if you are complaining about him being on the roster of a team trying for the playoffs, I understand that, but again, he only pitches in blowouts, thankfully. It’s a rare thing when he’s the cause of a win or loss.
While Williams was the most obvious problem, the bullpen as a whole had issues in this one. Miguel Socolovich starts the seventh and allows a base hit and, because the Cardinals can never ever stop him, a stolen base to Billy Hamilton. Soco gets the next guy to pop out, then Matheny goes to get him and brings in Dean Kiekhefer because he’s a lefty just like Joey Votto. In fairness, Votto does hit worse against lefties and it’s 200 points of OPS lower, so I guess it makes some sense to bring in Kiekhefer, but I just don’t think that’s a lefty that Votto is going to worry much about. Kiekhefer has done a pretty solid job on lefties as well, so I guess this was the right move. I initially though Soco, given his general success, would have probably been the guy to leave in, but talking this through I can see the logic.
Of course, all that logic led to a Votto double, though one that sounds like it was a bit of a fluke since Hamilton didn’t score and the description has Greg Garcia trying for it and having it deflected by Randal Grichuk. (Can you tell I didn’t watch this one?) Then Kiekhefer intentionally passes Duvall and the pinch-hitter drives in two. That had to be a very, very frustrating inning to watch. I think I’m glad I didn’t.
And, again, the offense was stone-cold silent save for a solo homer. Stephen Piscotty had two hits, which was a large majority of the ones the Cardinals acquired. Greg Garcia walked three times, but that probably had something to do with Roserio hitting behind him. The Cards also hit into three double plays, including one by Roserio to add to his Goat issues.
Sunday (5-2 win at Cincinnati)
Hero: Randal Grichuk. His two-run homer in the second gave Carlos Martinez some cushion and, for once this series, the starter and bullpen didn’t squander a lead. It still wasn’t a great offensive day, but Grichuk’s power sure helped.
Goat: Matt Carpenter. Carpenter drew a walk, but went 0-4 on the day. Carpenter has struggled of late, which is probably part of why the offense hasn’t completely clicked. (Not the entire reason, as we’ll see in the next game, but some of it.)
Notes: Brandon Moss is in quite a slump, going 0-4 in this one with three strikeouts. That said, he turned in the play of the game in the seventh. The Reds plated two against Martinez, who was then pulled for Zach Duke. Duke got an out, then allowed two singles, including one right back to him that he couldn’t corral, to load the bases. Scott Schebler then flew out to Moss for what looked to be a sacrifice fly, but Moss aired it out and nailed the runner at home with time to spare. It was a thing of beauty and it might have kept the game from getting away, since without that throw it would have been 5-3 with two on and two out. Nice to see Moss contribute even when the bat is cold.
Early on in this game, as he’s looked in his last couple of starts, it seemed that Martinez had no-hit stuff. The final line, though, wasn’t as impressive as we’ve come to expect from Martinez. Six innings (as noted, he went into the seventh but got nobody out) and two runs, which was what all the starters did in this series, but seven hits and five walks means there were a lot of base runners in that time. He did strike out six, which helped him out of some of those jams.
Kolten Wong got the start in this game and homered again. It did not escape notice that in the six games of this week, the Cards won the three games Kolten started and lost the three he didn’t. Which may be why he started in Pittsburgh on Monday as well.
Molina, fully rested, got two hits again. His second half has been just amazing. Who knew that all he needed was to not go to the All-Star Game?
Monday (12-6 win at Pittsburgh)
Hero: Kolten Wong. Two for four and his two outs were stung right at people. He drove in a run early on and made a sensational catch basically in center field. Randal Grichuk had to jump over him after he slid to make the catch. When Wong says he wants to show them that he doesn’t need to be a bench player, he means it.
Goat: While the game was well in hand at the time, you still have to give the Goat to Miguel Socolovich, in part because everyone else did so well, in part because if you are going to be the second-most trusted reliever in the pen, you have to start having more shutdown innings. Soco allowed a triple, a sac fly, and a homer in the ninth. It didn’t really imperil the game, but it wasn’t a great thing either.
Notes: Adam Wainwright probably had a better day with the bat than on the mound, though it’s debatable given the situation. First off, he doubled in two runs with a ball that was just smoked off the center field wall, then he blooped in his first single of the year driving in another one. That’s a very solid day at the plate, no matter who you are.
On the mound, there were flashes of the old Wainwright. He gave two runs back after the Cards scored three in the top of the second, but locked down the Pirates in the third and fourth before allowing a two-out, two-run homer to Andrew McCutchen in the fifth. Of course, like my friend Ericb1980 pointed out on Twitter, it was 10-2 at that point, which probably means Wainwright wasn’t exactly worried about pitching around McCutchen or anything like that. You can handle a homer at that point. Still, 93 pitches in five innings, four runs allowed, seven hits….it’s not quite what you want to see from the nominal ace. Sure, circumstances played some part and we did see some good Waino, but you still wonder if he can put it together for an entire game on a semi-regular basis.
Jedd Gyorko and Matt Adams were today’s home run fellows, which put the Cards just one shy of the National League record. The Cardinals. The team that last year could go weeks (it seemed like) without a home run. Baseball is such a funny game.
Stephen Piscotty left the game after being clipped on the hand by a pitch. He was able to run the bases and the game was well in hand…oh, I didn’t intend that…when it happened, so hopefully we’ll find out he’s OK. Given how sensitive those hands have been for players wearing the birds on the bat this season, there’s no guarantee. It would be terrible to lose Piscotty just as it looks like Aledmys Diaz will be returning sometime next week.
Carson Kelly made his major league debut yesterday, taking over behind the plate before stroking a double in his first major league at bat and coming around to score on Grichuk’s double. It’s always a lot of fun to see the young guys in their first game and to imagine what they are thinking or feeling. Kelly looked like he belonged, which is nice, and hopefully the Cards can use him down the stretch.
Trevor Rosenthal might return by the middle of next week and he says that he’s not feeling any pain, which is apparently a first for him this season. Yes, it seems that Rosie first noticed something in the Pittsburgh series that started the season off. Which, of course, led to at least some of his issues. Why you then wait half a season to let anyone know, I don’t know. Maybe if the Cards had given him a contract in the offseason instead of him being arbitration eligible this year, he’d have felt more comfortable letting them know, but he just wound up hurting his earning potential (and, by the way, the team) trying to deal with all that.
All that said, if that’s the case, if the pain has been there all year and is gone now, and if that’s why Rosie was much less like the Rosie we saw last year, then it allows you to dream of adding an effective Rosenthal to the playoff race bullpen and that, my friends, is exciting. Having both Reyes and Rosenthal out there with Oh ending the game could shorten a lot of games, which is good given how long the starters are going/not going. Let’s be cautiously optimistic on this one.
The last callups have been announced: Jose Martinez, Mike Mayers, Sam Tuivailala. Martinez was basically called up because he’s a bat that was already on the 40-man roster. Mayers was called up to try to eliminate the taste of that terrible start and get that ERA down to a little less stratospheric level. Tui, well you knew Tui was returning and we’ll see if he can make the most of it this time.
Luke Weaver goes for Cardinals tonight, looking to continue to build on his season. Last time, he had a perfectly fine game if he doesn’t walk the opposing pitcher and let that inning spiral out of control. Even so, while he’s allowed a homer each game, he’s looked very good in all of them as well. It helps that he’s not seen Pittsburgh yet, I’m sure, but you’d think he’d be able to keep the club close.
Ryan Vogelsong is up for the reeling Pirates, who really need to win the next two games to stay in the wild card hunt. Vogelsong had a pretty good August, though in his last start he allowed five runs to the Cubs. The only time he’s faced St. Louis this year was out of the pen, as he got one out (while allowing two hits) in the May 8 game. As you can see, the Redbirds have plenty of experience against him.
Given the numbers, if you wanted to give Kelly his first major league start, that’d be somewhat defensible, though I think Molina’s hot second half would override these career stats. Maybe Carpenter can get going against him, though you still wonder how much that side is bothering him.
Also in the wild card race, the Mets send Rafael Montero against the Reds and Brandon Finnegan, who the Cardinals remember not so fondly. Miami’s slipping out of it, but they host Philadelphia (Adam Morgan vs. Jose Urena). The Giants have Jeff Samardzija going against the Rockies and Tyler Anderson. With a win tonight and a Giants loss, the Cards would slide into the first wild card spot for the first time since….well, maybe all year. Probably all year. I think we’d take it!