Lots of Extra Baseball

So, when your team goes into Philadelphia, what you don’t expect is to be playing two extra-inning affairs.  The fact that the Cardinals can’t put the Phillies completely away until the very end might counteract the fact that they’ve won two in a row and are now four games under .500 and four games out of first.  Sadly, the Cardinals have looked like the Phillies’ equal over the last couple of nights,

Tuesday (8-1 win in 11)

Hero: Stephen Piscotty.  He only had one hit, but it was a double after Matt Carpenter and Dexter Fowler had walked in the 11th that broke the 1-1 tie and got things going in a serious direction.  As everyone always says, if you can just wait out the Phillies, you’ll get to them.  (Most teams don’t have to wait this long, however.)

Goat: It’s probably not really fair, but there was a bit of offense and the pitching did fine, so I’ll go with Dexter Fowler here.  He had a double and he had the walk, but he also struck out three times and left three on.

Notes: Again, there’s got to be some concern when Philadelphia pitching keeps you at one run through 10 innings.  Of course, there were chances that the Cardinals ran themselves out of–it feels like only this team could have a second-and-third, nobody-out situation and get absolutely nothing out of it–but that doesn’t completely relieve all responsibility from the Cardinals.  When you are playing the worst team in baseball, it shouldn’t be a situation where people get confused on which team is which.

The 11th inning was fun, though.  Piscotty’s double.  Yadier Molina going yard.  Tommy Pham going yard to make it a serious game.  If the Cardinals had done more of that during regulation, these concerns would be very much alleviated.

It was a nice bounceback for Mike Leake, who has struggled a bit as of late.  One run in Citizens Bank Park isn’t anything to sneeze at, even with the offensive woes of the Phillies.  The bullpen did a fine job as well, with Brett Cecil again having a good outing, Trevor Rosenthal getting out of a bit of a jam, and Kevin Siegrist being the lucky one to take home the win.

Wednesday (7-6 win in 10)

Hero: Tommy Pham.  It was Star Wars Night, and The Pham-Tom Menace was back in force.

Two home runs, including the game-tying one in the ninth inning. Two runners thrown out at home, including one in the bottom of the ninth to keep the game tied.  (Granted, Odubel Herrera should get a partial assist there, given how spectacularly he ran through the stop sign and by the large margin that he was out.)  There was a lot of talk a week or so ago about the imminent return of Randal Grichuk and how he was going to take Pham’s spot in the outfield and everything was terrible.  Grichuk is hitting .265 with four homers in Memphis, but there doesn’t seem to be much buzz about him returning anymore.  In other words, Twitter might have jumped to some conclusions.  I know, you’re shocked.

Not only is Pham being a force on the field, he seems to be doing things in the clubhouse as well.  It’s going to be fascinating to see what the Cardinals actually do about Grichuk, because an opening doesn’t seem to be coming any time soon.

Goat: Michael Wacha.  Yet again, Wacha was unable to get into the fifth inning, allowing five runs in four frames.  Now, in fairness, the three-run first wasn’t completely his fault.  If Greg Garcia (who easily could have gotten the Goat himself, going 0-4 and committing two errors) doesn’t botch a ball, Wacha very easily could have gotten out of that frame without allowing anything.  Yet Wacha was unable to work out of the jam, then compounded it a couple of innings later with two more runs.  The cries for replacing Wacha in the rotation are getting louder and the last time he made it through the fifth, he was facing this Phillies team.  He’s got an 8.17 ERA in his last six starts but, even more tellingly, only 25.1 innings over that frame.

Again, Wacha’s usually pretty good the first time through.  I know John Mozeliak doesn’t want to have the conversation with Wacha about taking him out of the rotation, but even if you sold it as a temporary thing, it’s got to be good for the team and good for Wacha.  Getting destroyed before the fifth isn’t going to help his earning power any.  Next time out, you could let Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons, who came into this one and threw three scoreless innings, allowing the club to climb back into it, take the start and Wacha be the guy that enters in the fourth or fifth, given that Lyons might not be stretched out enough for a full start.  It’s an easy flip that wouldn’t require any other roster moves, so it’s a low-cost way of checking to see if the bullpen might work for Wacha.

Notes: Jedd Gyorko hit a home run with someone on base.  It’s amazing how many solo shots he’s had out of the 41 homers he’s hit for St. Louis.  (That’d be 28, or 68%.)  I don’t know if it’s the fact he’s pitched differently or it’s a focus thing or it’s just pure coincidence, but man, that’s a lot of home runs and not a lot of RBI.

Rough night for Matt Carpenter, going 0-5 with two strikeouts.  That’s not something we’ve seen much of since he moved up, but it is the third game out of four that he’s been hitless.  His OBP in that span is still .450 due to eight walks, so maybe he’s trying to be more selective or folks are pitching him a little differently.  We’ll see if it continues today or this weekend against Pittsburgh.

Another double switch by Mike Matheny brought some controversy, as he took out Stephen Piscotty (who had a double and a walk) so that he could keep John Brebbia in.  At the time, it was a one run game and the critique was that Brebbia is not worth taking out your third place hitter.  It became even more moot when Brebbia got one out, allowed a hit, and then was taken from the game.  If you weren’t planning on committing to Brebbia or you knew that you wanted to bring Brett Cecil in if someone got on, why not just hit for Brebbia and let Cecil start the inning clean?  After all, he’s been doing better against righties than lefties.

It’s probably not something that would have gotten a lot of attention save the fact that Matheny can’t help but to swap out the third hitter regularly.  (I will say, it feels like it’s been a while since he did this, but he was always doing it to Matt Holliday.)  That said, it did keep Jose Martinez in the game and he led off the 11th with a double and scored the go-ahead run, so, as so many things do seem to do for Matheny, it worked out.  At least, until Dexter Fowler had to leave the game with a hamstring and Aledmys Diaz had to be an outfielder again.  (And we almost made it through a Star Wars Night without a problem!)

Seung-hwan Oh was shaky again, allowing a run before shutting the door.  Thankfully the Cards got two in the top of the frame so it wasn’t as traumatic as it could have been.  Still, it’s a bit concerning to see him scuffling (at least relatively) and you wonder how that plays into any longer commitment (or trade talk) that might come up.

So in the process of writing this post, I’ve had a Twitter discussion with someone that doesn’t feel like this is really a telling series.  As he points out, bad teams win 60 games a year.  Good teams lose to them at times.  These things happen.  There’s a lot of truth in that, for sure.  If the Cardinals were leading the division by a couple of games and dropped these to Philadelphia, we probably aren’t happy, but we aren’t saying that the club is doomed or that they are terrible.  I can see that point of view for sure.

In context, though, I think it is concerning.  In the last two weeks, the only team they’ve been able to beat with any regularity is Philadelphia and now they are even struggling there.  This is not a good team–as noted, they are sub-.500.  There’s no miracle run coming out of this squad.  This is who they are, and what they are is a team that is going to tread water on their good days.  It’d be one thing if you could see the Phillies had just had some luck or some wonderful performances, but they’ve pretty much looked like the team that’s the worst in baseball and the Cardinals, well, they can beat that, but not handily.

Cardinals go for another sweep of the Phils today with Carlos Martinez on the mound.  The last time he faced these guys, he threw his first career shutout.  I’m fine with that happening again today.  Aaron Nola goes for Philadelphia.  Nola pitched in the Blogger Day game and did pretty well until Fowler turned around a pitch.  Dexter probably won’t be in the lineup today–actually, checking Jim Hayes’s Twitter, I see that Pham will man center today with Fowler out–so hopefully some others can pick up the slack.  It’s day baseball today, so enjoy!

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