It’s not been a fun few days for Cardinal fans. Scratch that. As we talked about in the All-Star Roundtable on Saturday night (the latest Conversations With C70, which you can find here), it’s not been a fun season for Cardinal fans. However, losing the last to the Phillies and the first two to the Pirates adds to the frustration level. I think there are a lot of folks that are at STL-FIL Drew, which means they are completely apathetic about this team. (Most of us are still at Rasmus, where the sky is falling but at least we care enough to talk about the sky falling.) It was enough that there was another roster shakeup yesterday. I don’t know if that’s why the team rallied to win last night, but it’s nice to talk about a win for once. Let’s recap.
Thursday (5-1 loss at Philadelphia)
Hero: If you’ve got to name one, I guess it’s Paul DeJong. His only hit was a home run, accounting for the only tally of the game.
Goat: We’ll go Aledmys Diaz here. He went 0-4, which wasn’t necessarily an outlier, and struck out twice. He threw in an error to boot (no pun intended), one of three Cardinal errors on the day.
Notes: The Cardinals got a total of four hits against a Phillies staff that is nobody’s idea of legendary (even adequate eludes at times) and in a park that inflates offensive numbers. Games like this happen, of course, but it’s extremely frustrating to see them happen when the club is already struggling. They need all the wins they can get against teams like Philadelphia and having an offensive off day isn’t helpful.
Carlos Martinez obviously didn’t follow up with another shutout, but it still was an outing he could have won. Three runs (only two earned, thanks to DeJong missing a potential double play ball after a comebacker to Martinez) in six frames. He allowed two home runs, which isn’t great but often happens in Citizens Bank Park. Martinez pitched well enough for the team to win, which is about all you can ask from a starter.
Kevin Siegrist allowed two runs late on a hit, two walks, and a Jose Martinez error. When you realize that he was pitching with a neck injury, it’s not as surprising to see these results. Given that this is an injury that, even though he was just placed on the DL, is one that John Mozeliak says he’s probably “just going to have to pitch with it”, it seems likely we’ll see a lot of inconsistency with Siegrist going forward (like we have for a while, really), with his results perhaps tied to how he is feeling that day.
Friday (4-3 loss to Pittsburgh)
Hero: While DeJong looked to be the hero with his late home run, we’ll give it to Jose Martinez. His two-run shot rescued the Cards from an early 1-0 deficit, plus he tossed in another hit as well.
Goat: Seung-hwan Oh. While Trevor Rosenthal could have been considered here, given that he immediately gave up the 3-2 lead, it was Oh that allowed the ninth inning home run to John Jaso, which gave the Pirates the win. I think it was Kevin on the roundtable podcast that pointed out that Oh has allowed a run in a lot of his appearances lately. Looking at his game log (and not counting Sunday night, when he came in and shut down the Pirates with a big lead), he’s been charged with a run in four of his nine June appearances. In one other, he allowed two inherited runners to score. When your closer allows the other team to score half the time, there’s concern about sending him out with a one-run lead. If you can’t send him out with a one-run lead, though, should he be your closer?
Notes: Another tough game for the offense, though overall they are still doing pretty well. If you mark from that coaching shakeup press conference through Sunday night, the Cards are averaging 5.6 runs a game. Now some of that is inflated by the runs put up in Baltimore and Philadelphia, two good places to hit with iffy pitching staffs, but let’s be honest–this team could go into parks like that and not do a thing, like they did on Thursday. It’s 16 games, so maybe it’s a combination of who they have faced but also a different approach by Mark Budeska. Hard to really know, but it’s something to keep a note of as the competition increases this week. Though that might not help Bill Mueller, since he’s supposed to return to the team in Arizona. So if the offense scuffles again, how many will blame it on better competition and how much on the loss of the new hitting voice?
He’s back home, so it was another good game for Adam Wainwright. Two runs in seven innings and he looked to get the win when DeJong hit his home run, only to see that evaporate. I asked Zach Gifford if it was the park making the difference or if he pitched differently at home. Zach indicated that his fly ball to home run ratio is significantly higher on the road, even though his fly ball rate in general is just a bit higher. Which makes me think that Wainwright isn’t any different at home, he just has those fly balls swallowed up by a pitcher’s park instead of them going for doubles or homers elsewhere. I also don’t know that there’s anything you can do to change that, so we’ll see how he does in Arizona which usually plays as a good home run ballpark.
Rosenthal scuffled in this one, allowing a hit and a walk after an inning-opening strikeout. He got the groundout, but then David Freese tied it up with another single and that was all for Rosie. That was his first scoring outing since June 13 and, actually, he’s got a bit of a pattern of allowing a run every 3-4 games recently. He’s been scoreless in 23 of his 31 outings this year (including Sunday night) but four of his 12 in June, including a three-run outburst against the Brewers that is the main reason his June ERA is 5.79. I don’t think there’s a real concern about Rosenthal, but it’s probably something to keep an eye on.
Saturday (7-3 loss to Pittsburgh)
Goat: Lance Lynn. Look, we all know that Lynn should be a huge trade chip at the deadline. He’s a free agent at the end of the year, there’s no guarantee that he’s in the long term plans for the Cards, a workhorse like him should bring a nice return, etc. But if he keeps having outings like this, where he allowed seven runs in 5.2 innings, the return for him on the market isn’t going to be enough to worry about. That’s back to back seven run outings, raising his ERA over a full run. That means in six of his 15 starts he’s allowed four or more runs (whether earned or unearned). It’s harder to sell him as a reliable piece when he’s doing that, especially after surgery.
Notes: John Brebbia and Sam Tuivailala did their part, combining for 3.1 scoreless innings. Well, they were scoreless to them, but Brebbia did hit the first two players he faced, forcing in two of Lynn’s runners. After that, he got a popout from Gregory Polanco and then a perfect frame. Tuivailala had two perfect innings, with three strikeouts out of his six outs. It feels like Tui might be getting a handle on the major leagues. His ERA for the season is 2.65 and since his return a couple of weeks ago, he’s allowed one run in six innings, with seven strikeouts and just one walk. I’m not saying Tui for closer (though maybe you try that if you trade both Oh and Rosenthal), but he might get some higher leverage innings if he keeps this up.
Otherwise, this was just a blah game. No Cardinal had more than one hit. We’ve talked about the pitching. It didn’t feel good after 4 1/2 and it was done an inning later. Let’s move on.
Sunday (8-4 win vs. Pittsburgh)
Hero: It’s a bit of a tossup, but I’m going with Randal Grichuk here. Promoted from Memphis before the game and put right into the cleanup spot, Grichuk responded with two hits, including the longest home run hit by a Cardinal in Busch Stadium III. Grichuk’s homer reinvigorated the stadium and, it seems, the team. Yadier Molina followed with a double (because Andrew McCutchen had a terrible throw, otherwise he’d have been dead at second and a lot of Grichuk’s energy would have dissipated) and Jedd Gyorko wound up driving him in to tie it up. It was a nice return for Grichuk, but we’ll see how he does going forward.
Goat: Tommy Pham and Stephen Piscotty had exactly the same line–0-4, one run, one walk, two strikeouts–but Pham left three on instead of Piscotty’s two, so we’ll give the Goat to him. Pham may be slowing down a bit, since over the last 10 games, he’s hitting .238/.256/.548–wow, that slugging is not what you’d expect, but four home runs in 10 hits will do that–but I’m still glad that he’s going to have a regular spot out there for a while and they can also see what they have with Grichuk as well.
Notes: Mike Leake was more in line with what we’d expect Mike Leake to be, going six innings, allowing four runs (three earned) and throwing in a couple of strikeouts. That Cy Young pace Leake was on is pretty much over, but if he can give outings more like this or a touch better, he should be that fine back of the rotation guy that we expect him to be.
Brett Cecil threw a scoreless inning in this one and now hasn’t allowed a run in eight innings spanning eight games. Reliever ERA is pretty worthless, but it’s nice to see his dropping down almost to the threes again. It feels like there’s a bit more of a trust factor with him as well now, like he probably would have come in last night in the eighth even if the game had still been tied. It’s good to see him stabilize a bit.
Like I said, the Hero tag was a tossup because Molina had three hits and scored three runs. I still don’t think Molina needs to be hitting fifth, even if Mike Matheny doesn’t like the way Molina looks at him if he bumps him down. That said, if he could actually get a run going like he did in the second half last year, then it’d be worth having him there. The odds of that seem pretty slim, though.
As noted, before the game Mozeliak made some changes–some forced, some not. Dexter Fowler and Siegrist went on the disabled list and Chad Huffman went back to Memphis. In their place, we saw the return of Grichuk, a semi-familiar face in Mike Mayers (who Kyle Reis had talked about returning to the bigs recently on a Meet Me At Musial), and the big league debut of Luke Voit. Voit’s been a name that’s gotten a lot of buzz given his results in Memphis and it will be interesting to see how he does. I don’t think we are talking about a long-time piece here, of course. Voit’s 26 and I get the feeling he’s a guy that may only get a limited big league career. That said, he’s hitting the ball now and we’ll see how that translates to the bigs.
I’m also wondering just how often he’ll play. I know he’s here to spell Carpenter, give him some time off, but that’s not always the way things work with this team. Even so, Carpenter’s not going to take two days off a week, I don’t think. Maybe we’ll see some Carpenter at third again, giving Voit a chance to get some starts at first. They wouldn’t do it for Matt Adams, but maybe they realize that was a mistake. Voit, like DeJong, isn’t a guy that needs to do much more at Memphis, so if he sits a lot in the big leagues, it’s probably not affecting his development. That said, with the makeup game today before a long trip to Arizona, I wouldn’t be surprised if Carp sits and Voit starts this afternoon against the Reds.
Speaking of that, there was a lot of sentiment that someone else would be taking Michael Wacha‘s next start, but instead he’s going again today right on schedule. His ERA is 8.17 over his last six games and he’s only had two of those where he’s gotten an out in the fifth (and one of those was literally just one out). He did face the Reds in his first start of the year and allowed one run in six innings, so maybe we’ll see more of that Wacha today, but it’s really hard to believe that’s the case. If he struggles again today, you have to wonder if Mozeliak won’t make yet another move.
Brandon Finnegan will come off the DL and start for the Reds. He hasn’t faced the Cardinals this year, making only three starts before going on the disabled list, but he had some pretty decent success against the Cards last year. He’s a left-handed pitcher (which may make the idea of Carpenter sitting a little more likely) and that isn’t as much of a killer as it was, but it still tends to depress the Redbird offense. We’ll see if it does today or not.
This makeup game this afternoon, then off to Arizona. Let’s hope there’s a happy flight out to the desert!