We talked about last Friday’s game being one of the most enjoyable games to watch this season for the Cardinals. Last night, save for one terrible inning, possibly rivaled it.
We said yesterday that Jeff Locke had had his struggles and the Cardinals had done well against him, but I don’t think any of us expected this kind of carnage. Four runs in the first inning. Seven more in the third. Locke’s line was even worse than some of Adam Wainwright‘s this season. 2.2 innings, 11 hits, 11 earned runs. He walked four, including Jedd Gyorko with the bases loaded, and only struck out two. In other words, he got eight outs and allowed 15 base runners. To say they had his number is probably an understatement.
What was somewhat sad, from a basic humanity point of view, is that it took run nine or 10 to get the Marlins’ bullpen stirring. I get why that was, that sometimes you need a starting pitcher to wear one to save some arms later on. However, Locke wasn’t actually getting any outs. He was at 84 pitches before he was done. The bullpen wound up covering about as much as they would have had he left after 5-6 runs. Of course, you don’t know that if you are Don Mattingly, you hope that he can somehow at least get the Cards to hit it at someone, but Miami had to go to the pen early after all.
Now, here’s what doesn’t make much sense in my mind. The Marlins, whose starter left in the third, used four pitchers to finish off the game. The Cardinals, who had a significant lead and their starter pitched five innings, also used four pitchers to finish off the game. There was no reason for St. Louis to use that many arms to finish up what started as a five run lead and wound up to be eight. Luke Weaver made his season debut on a night that he was supposed to start for Memphis, yet went only one inning. It wasn’t the best inning–two leadoff hits and the last out was a rocket off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton–but he only threw 20 pitches and didn’t allow any runs. I would think that even with two innings he would be able to come back soon. Or you could let him go the distance and save a bunch of other arms.
Instead, Mike Matheny went to Tyler Lyons for the seventh. Again, Lyons is a guy that can go more than one frame. He’s got a three inning save already this season. Lyons had plenty of movement on his pitches–which is why he wound up walking two as well as striking out two–and could have gone another frame. Maybe he would have if it wasn’t for his spot coming up in the order, though if Matheny had thought he wanted him for an extra frame he’d have made a double switch. Heck, it’s somewhat surprising he didn’t make one anyway.
Then, for the eighth up 12-6, Matheny sends out Matthew Bowman again, because it’d been a day since he’d been on the mound. There’s no doubt Bowman has pitched better of late, but there’s still no reason to go back to overworking him. Sam Tuivailala took the ninth, which works given the situation. Like I say, I’m sure it was Matheny not wanting to limit future options by throwing a guy more than one inning and making him off-limits for a couple of days, but it really seemed excessive when you had such a big lead.
The Hero has to come from the offense, but there are so many choices. Paul DeJong is the only starter that didn’t get a hit, but he did draw a walk and scored a run. I’m going to go with Tommy Pham, who went 3-3 with two walks, two runs, and two RBI. Getting on base five times in one game is a tall order. That said, he had some stiff competition. Yadier Molina went 3-3 with three RBI, a mark that might have increased by two had the Cardinals asked for a review of his third-inning double that most fans believed was a home run. (Being that the score was 11-0 at the time, I wouldn’t be surprised if Matheny decided it’d be rubbing it in to challenge that. Then again, given the reason why Matheny won’t drop Molina in the lineup, I’m surprised Yadi didn’t just glare at him and make him review that so he’d have his grand slam.)
There was also the big day from Luke Voit, who got his first career RBI early in the game, then wound up with four of them after he cracked his first big league homer, a two-run shot, in the eighth. (I was off Twitter so I didn’t get to tweet: “No, Jarlin Garcia, Luke is your father.”) It’s fun to see the big guy contributing. I don’t know how long it’ll last, but I imagine Voit’s going to remain a fan favorite as long as it does.
One thing I DID Tweet early on in the game was that I was very glad that they’d given Adam Wainwright a cushion. I wasn’t sure he’d need it, but I was very glad it was there. Given how the game started, with a single and a 19 pitches, it didn’t feel like it was going to be the strong outings that we’d seen out of the former ace of late or in general at home. However, he made it through four innings without much incident. The fifth, though, is why he is the Goat of the game.
Four straight hits to open the inning brought in the first two runs. Waino then gets the top of the lineup, Dee Gordon and Stanton, to make it appear that things are under control. Not so much. A walk to load the bases, then back to back doubles that allow four to score. Suddenly it’s 11-6, which is not the way things were supposed to go.
That said, I can’t quite get on Matheny for leaving him in there, as some folks did. There are two outs. It’s still a five run lead and you’ve gone through the heart of the order. I’ve already complained about how Matheny used so many arms in this game that he didn’t need to. Letting Wainwright finish, especially when the lead wasn’t currently in jeopardy, would have been the move I made as well. Yes, it could have come back to bite the Cardinals, but so often in these kind of games, there’s one big push by the other team, then things return to normal. Which is what happened here–the Marlins didn’t score again all evening.
The Brewers and the Cubs won, so the Cardinal victory just brought them closer to .500 but not to the division. The Cardinals will try to climb to one game shy of that even-water mark for the first time since June 3. Lance Lynn goes for the Cardinals, Jose Urena for the Marlins. Lynn did throw a quality start last time out but June was an ugly month for him. No matter what his future holds, whether he remains a Cardinal or is on the trade market, Lynn would do himself a great service to get back on track. Facing the Marlins may help with that.
Urena, on the other hand, seems to be having a fine season overall but stumbled last time out against the Mets, allowing five runs (three earned) in six innings. In the four starts before that, however, he had a 2.35 ERA, even if he never got past the sixth inning. In fact, six innings is the max he’s gone this season, so the Redbirds likely will see the Miami bullpen again this afternoon.
The little experience they have with Urena has been pretty positive, so maybe we can see a few fireworks in the daytime today. Happy Fourth of July to you all and let’s hope for another Cardinal victory!