A Sweep of the Lightsaber

Again, it’s hard to know what kind of weight to put on anything this team does, but sweeping a team that currently is in the playoffs makes you sit up and take notice a little bit.  It doesn’t mean that all the problems on this Cardinals team are fixed, it doesn’t mean that a big run is coming, but it’s…something.  How much of something may remain to be seen.  Let’s take a look at the last couple of games.

Tuesday (3-2 win)

Hero: Harrison Bader.  The rookie got the callup that morning, was driven to St. Louis with his dad next to him, then got the start in center field.  He almost beat out a grounder his first time up, then doubled in the ninth, moved to third on a Greg Garcia bunt, then used his speed to come home on a barely-deep-enough fly ball by Jedd Gyorko.  (I’m still not sure if he’s safe if the catcher handles that throw cleanly.)  Bader brought a bit of excitement and energy to a club that has had a lot of stale moments this season.  We’ll see how long it lasts, but it was a great first outing for the young man.

Goat: Matthew Bowman.  Bowman has now appeared in 50 games, which leads the league.  I don’t know that you can factor that into the equation honestly, given that before his last two outings he had a total of seven scoreless innings in July.  However, his last two appearances he’s recorded no outs and been charged with a run each time.  This time, holding on to a 2-1 lead, he allowed a homer to Trevor Story that gave a no-decision to Lance Lynn in what might have been (though is increasingly looking like wasn’t) his last Cardinal start.  Bowman is still more trustworthy than most folks out there in the bullpen, but hopefully these two games are a blip, not a trend.

Notes: As mentioned, Lynn started and went six innings, allowing one run on three hits and striking out six.  If Derrick Goold is right (and as John Mozeliak told us at Blogger Day, there are times when the local writers are way off), the club wants to keep Lynn because it would be tough to cover his innings and still contend.  The current situation of the Cardinals does make you think that it is possible they’ll be in the hunt most of the rest of the next two months, but that’s a tough gamble.  You could see the club fade almost immediately after the deadline and then you are stuck with just giving Lynn a qualifying offer and getting the draft pick.

Which, in fairness, might be better than the offers they are getting, I don’t know.  If there’s a substantive offer on the table for Lynn, though, I think they really have to take it.  Yes, they are now 3.5 out behind the Cubs and they’ve moved up to third place after last night’s saga, but they are still under .500 and the Cubs, like it or not, seem to be finally coming together and playing like the team that we expected them to be.  If the Cardinals could have finished off one of those games they eventually lost against Chicago, maybe that’s a different story, but they are 10-2 since the All-Star Break, shored up their biggest issue by getting Jose Quintana, and their August is filled with games against the Reds (7), Phillies (3), Blue Jays (3), Giants (3) and Braves (1, with three more to start September).  They do have the Nationals and six against the D-Backs, but on the whole, it’s a pretty easy month for them and even 3.5 games might be tough to overcome.

I know Adam Wainwright went to the DL and Luke Weaver is taking his place today, but Wainwright should be back at the end of the 10 days.  Weaver has done well.  I think you can cover Lynn’s innings with Weaver, Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons, and possibly even Jack Flaherty if you wanted to get extreme and probably still get 80% of what Lynn would give you.  Again, you don’t just give him away and if there aren’t offers out there you keep him and make that run, but if you could get anything of significant value, I think you make the move and worry about this year’s ramifications when they happen.

For the fact the Cards only got three runs, they did a fine job of putting runners on.  Every starter had at least one hit and Paul DeJong, Yadier Molina, and Kolten Wong all had two.  DeJong’s big hit was the two-run homer in the first that almost stood up the entire game.  DeJong has his flaws, of course, but it’s fun to see him bringing the thunder on a pretty regular basis.  No idea how long it’ll last, but we’ll enjoy the ride while it does.

If there were scouts watching Trevor Rosenthal–and at least the Nationals were supposed to be monitoring him–they saw the good and the bad of Rosie.  After Bowman allowed the homer and hit Ryan Hanigan with a pitch, Rosenthal came into the game and took care of business, helped out by the Rockies bunting the runner to second.  (Which, in fairness, isn’t a terrible thing that late in the game when one run can make the difference.)  Rosenthal came back out for the ninth with the game still tied and got the first two outs without issue before giving up back-to-back singles to Mark Reynolds and Carlos Gonzalez, putting the go-ahead run in scoring position.  Thankfully he got Story looking and wound up grabbing a win for his efforts.  All in all, it was a good performance….if anyone was watching.

The Cardinals grounded into two double plays and turned three.  It seemed like deuces were flying all night long.

Wednesday (10-5 win)

Hero: Tommy Pham.  There were a lot of great offensive performances, but we’ll go with the guy that was on base every time, except for his sacrifice fly.  Pham had two hits, two walks, drove in the one (the last tally of a five-run frame), and scored twice.  Hard to ask for more than that.  There are reports that the Cards are listening to offers on Pham and Randal Grichuk.  While I can completely understand the reasoning, with all the outfielders coming up and Pham probably at the highest trade value he’s ever been, I’m going to say one thing.

Trading Tommy Pham right now is the biggest white flag the Cardinals can wave.

Again, I get it.  I’m not saying that they shouldn’t trade Pham.  But unless he’s part of some huge package for a superstar that can inspire a team and a fan base (and there are long, long odds against that happening, maybe 3,720 to one), you are saying that this season is done when you take out the spark that has done so much this season.  If you trade Pham, you might as well trade Lynn and Rosenthal and start looking at 2018.  A Pham trade could say a lot of things, but it’d be really difficult to sell moving him as something that helps the 2017 squad.

Goat: Carlos Martinez.  It wasn’t that it was the worst game for Martinez.  First off, he drove in a run with a single and scored later in the frame.  He went six innings and got a win.  There have been worse outings, for sure.  That said, what a lot of people expect from an ace is a killer instinct, the shutdown mentality that says that there is a sweep to be had and we are going to go out there and get it.  Martinez has had certain games like that come up this year.  Whether it was to get a sweep or to maybe get the team back to .500 or some game of import, Martinez has had them and, probably as often as not, has tripped up in them.

Last night, he gave up a two-run homer in the first to Nolan Arenado.  OK, fine.  Arenado is an incredible player, the pitch wasn’t terrible (not great, but bottom of the zone instead of middle), and a lot of pitchers take time to settle in.  How often have you heard about an ace “you have to get him early or you won’t get him”?  So they got him early.

The problem was, at least for me, was after Paul DeJong again went yard (seriously, why does anyone throw him a strike) and erased that deficit, two innings later Martinez gives up two more.  And yes, he faced the top of the lineup, but he had runners on the corners with two outs for Geraldo Parra.  Parra’s good, but you’d like to think Martinez could have retired him or at the least kept him to a single.  Instead, Parra lines a double that brings both runners around.

Now, we know the Cardinals wound up scoring five the next inning and it wound up not mattering, but there have been just enough games this year where you would hope your ace would step up and he’s come out flat that it bothers folks.  I’m not saying Carlos Martinez isn’t good or isn’t the ace of the staff, because he is and he is, just that he still has some work to do before being one of the top tier starters in baseball.  When he gets that consistency, watch out.

Notes: It was Star Wars Night (as people who followed my timeline last night on Twitter probably got sick of hearing about) and not only did the Cardinals win–I think that’s a first for this in five years–nobody got hurt for the second year in a row.  I know that it probably won’t be enough to stop the “injuries happen on Star Wars Night” mantra and legend (and let’s also point out that while Shelby Miller did get hit on the wrist and removed from the first SWN, he didn’t go on the DL, so three of the five have been relatively fine), but I was glad to see it.

Harrison Bader went three for four, including an excuse-me double that just went over first base and stayed fair.  Given that Stephen Piscotty is supposed to be starting a rehab assignment tonight that will run the weekend, you have to think something is in the works for an outfielder.  Otherwise, this is going to be a pretty short stay for Bader, I think.  Jose Martinez could get waived to make room for Piscotty, but even then you still have to make room in the starting lineup.  Pham’s not going anywhere.  Do you rotate Piscotty and Randal Grichuk in that scenario?  I guess you could, but then what happens when Dexter Fowler returns?  I’m starting to get more and more convinced an outfielder is moved, even if it’s for a mid-level prospect.

Speaking of Grichuk, he had four hits last night but none of them were for extra bases.  If you ever thought that would happen, you might want to go play the lottery today.  Matt Carpenter and Yadier Molina were the other players with a multi-hit game, with Carpenter adding a walk for good measure.

The bullpen was fairly good.  Brett Cecil allowed a couple of hits but no runs to come across and John Brebbia and Seung-hwan Oh were perfect in their frames.  You can get good stuff out of the bullpen.  There are talented folks out there.  The problem is you just can’t be sure what you are going to get when you pick up that phone.  A solid option at the end of games would be nice, but I’m not sure you can go out and get one of those on this market.

Mike Mayers came up from Memphis last night, then wasn’t used and will go back today to make room for Luke Weaver, who will face off against Zack Godley.  The only Diamondback Weaver has faced is old friend Daniel Descalso, who singled off of him in his only plate appearance.  Godley ran into the Cards a month ago and gave up just two hits and three walks in seven innings, but three of those came around to score and Wainwright was on his game, so Godley took the loss.  We’ll hopefully see a similar result tonight as the Cards again try for .500!

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