A snowed out game in April is just another reason I’d never want to live in Chicago. I can’t imagine how miserable it would have been to play in those conditions last night. However, it did work in my advantage as getting up to write yesterday just wasn’t happening, so we only have three games to recap and all of them wins. Things could be much worse in that department!
Friday (5-3 win at Cincinnati)
Hero: Yadier Molina. Cincinnati may not love Yadi but boy does Yadi love Cincinnati. He’s got a .321/.362/.508 line hitting in Great American Ball Park and has more home runs (14) there than any place that’s not Busch Stadium III. Johnny Cueto is gone to the Giants and Brandon Phillips left a couple of years ago, so Cardinal fans don’t have any reason to really bring up that brawl that cost Jason LaRue the rest of his career, but Cincy fans (the few that make it to the park) get to relive it all the time with Molina’s exploits. In this one, he went 2-4 with a home run and a two-run single that proved to be vital later on.
Goat: Paul DeJong. While DeJong had a fairly good start to the season, it’s taken a nosedive of late. Here he went 0-4, the only starter to not get at least one hit, and struck out twice. Hopefully this is just a slump and he’ll be able to make some adjustments soon but everyone gets scared because of how Aledmys Diaz went last year. I still don’t think it’s going to be anything close to that.
Notes: Molina led five players with double digits in hits. The Cardinals left eight on base and hit into two double plays so the scoring could have been more plentiful but thankfully that didn’t matter, mainly because Luke Weaver continues to be on top of his game. Weaver went into the seventh before allowing a two-run homer by Devin Mesoraco with nobody out to break his scoreless outing. Six innings and just two runs will do it most every time with this lineup and bullpen, though. Weaver struck out seven and allowed just four hits and continues to be the brightest of bright spots in the rotation with an ERA that just barely clears the 2.00 mark. The biggest test for Weaver, of course, is how he does against teams when they’ve seen him before and how he does in the late part of the season.
We continue to be a bit concerned about the Patron Pitcher. Tyler Lyons started off the eighth by walking Billy Hamilton (who, as we’ll see, bedeviled #70 later in the series as well). Hamilton should never be walked, of course, though Cardinal pitchers did it twice in this game. A leadoff walk is of course even worse with a speedster like Hamilton, but some of that speed was negated by the next batter, Jose Peraza, bunting him over. Perhaps he was bunting for a base hit, but really, don’t you let Hamilton try to steal (especially with his success rate against Molina) before doing anything like that? Especially when you are down four? If that came from the bench, it’s nice to know that other managers besides Mike Matheny do some fairly inexplicable things.
That brought up Joey Votto. Now, left-on-left doesn’t usually matter much to Votto, who basically hits everyone. However, many will remember how Lyons carved up Votto in a game last year. That didn’t happen in this one, as Votto singled in a run. Lyons got Scooter Gennett to strike out and then was pulled for Dominic Leone, who actually picked off Votto on first to end the frame. Still, it feels like last year Lyons would have done a little better in that outing. It could well be the weather (which is a possible reason for so many things this year)–Lyons didn’t make his debut last season until April 27, well past any cold snaps. He also didn’t settle into the dominance we remember until the second half. It could be he’s still searching a bit. Not that he’s really a liability, he’s just not what folks have been expecting this season. Mo’s Algorithm, making his debut over at The Redbird Daily, wrote a bit about Lyons yesterday and it feels like there’s been a bit of being unlucky, what with the high BABIP and the solid K rate. Command has been the issue and that honestly was always my worry with our Ty Fighter earlier in his career. While I don’t know that he’ll be a superstar reliever like he was last year, I do think he’ll be better than this going forward.
Oh, and the Cardinals had a save opportunity and didn’t use the closer they just acquired. Nobody noticed that at all, as I’m sure you’d imagine. Still, it makes sense that they’d want to give Greg Holland a few more opportunities that didn’t have the game on the line. It’s just too bad they didn’t think of that before they activated him.
Saturday (6-1 win at Cincinnati)
Hero: Greg Garcia. The biggest sign over the weekend that the world could be coming to an end was not the bombings in Syria but the bombs in Cincinnati. Garcia, the little guy that could apparently, went deep twice against Brandon Finnegan and added a double to boot. There are going to be inexplicable happenings this season but I don’t know that any will match this level of “Say what?” And who would have expected Garcia to be a Hero before Marcell Ozuna?
Goat: Yairo Munoz. An 0-4 day with three strikeouts probably cemented the Cardinals’ decision to send him down once Jedd Gyorko was healthy and ready to be activated. Here again is the reason not to get so enamored with spring training statistics. After such a hot spring (which, without looking, I feel like had cooled even before camp broke), Munoz hit .111 with one extra base hit in 18 AB. His one RBI came on a bases-loaded walk. Kyle Reis was talking about this quite a bit in spring, how Munoz needed more time in the minors to develop and it showed. Hopefully he’ll be able to work on things in Memphis, have a good few months, and return to the big leagues with more confidence and skill.
Notes: Another solid outing by Miles Mikolas. Seven innings, one run, four hits, four strikeouts. It was his best start so far and whether that’s a function of the competition or some growth, it’s hard to know. (Though Cincy, for all its problems, can put up some runs.) He’ll get to face the Reds this weekend as well so we’ll see what happens when they see him twice. We know things didn’t change much when the Brewers saw him in back-to-back starts, so maybe it won’t here either.
Greg Holland pitched an uneventful eighth and Jordan Hicks, with no save on the line, took the ninth. It was the first time I have really gotten to watch Hicks this season and it was interesting. Hicks loaded the bases (though he could have been out of it had Munoz been able to get an out on a grounder to him) with one out. Watching the close-ups of him on FSMW, you couldn’t tell that anything was out of the ordinary. There didn’t seem to be any concern or anxiety, just a casual look in to Yadi. I’m sure that there were some nerves and worry, but he was pretty composed out there and it was great to see. He got Cliff Pennington to strike out and Alex Blandino to fly out and escaped without damage. I’m still not sure that trading Hicks the starter for Hicks the reliever is the best long-term play but there’s no doubt he adds something interesting to this season’s bullpen.
Outside of Garcia and Tommy Pham having three hits and two steals, the offense was pretty quiet in this one. It was a rainy day (though not nearly as cold) and maybe that affected things, but Finnegan is actually one of Cincinnati’s better pitchers usually so probably some credit is due him as well.
Sunday (3-2 win at Cincinnati)
Hero: Carlos Martinez. Martinez continues to put that weak Opening Day start behind him (and, given the Mets’ success so far this season, maybe we didn’t give enough credit to the opposition…but there were those walks….) by dominating the Reds. Martinez threw seven innings and allowed just two hits while striking out 11. Again, that “it was the Reds” caveat applies, but also again, the Reds’ lineup isn’t their major problem. Being able to shut down any major league lineup that effectively, though, is a big deal. The four walks are a little concerning but that concern is significantly muted when Martinez is on his strikeout game.
Goat: Dexter Fowler. Both Fowler and Matt Carpenter went 0-4 with two strikeouts, but Fowler gets the prize because he was the leadoff guy. (This is the true reason Carpenter doesn’t want to flip his spot in the lineup.) It was another cool, overcast day and the getaway day to boot (though only Marcell Ozuna and Paul DeJong got the day off and, as we know, boy did DeJong need it) so maybe it was hard to be too invested in this one, but if the offense is going to be muted a bit, it’s probably not surprising that it was Homer Bailey on the mound. Bailey’s had his issues but he’s still probably the best the Reds have.
Notes: Harrison Bader came through with a big two-run homer in the second and, Yadi being Yadi, Molina drove in the third run with one of his two singles on the day. The three runs looked like plenty when Martinez was in the game but the bullpen made it feel a little small. Tyler Lyons, as we referenced above, allowed a home run to Billy Hamilton to lead off the eighth, which really is mind-boggling. Though, to be fair, it’s possible to understand the mindset if Lyons thought, “Hey, Hamilton’s hitting under .200. If I walk him, like I did last time, that could lead to issues. I’m going to just make him hit his way on.” Unfortunately, Hamilton got all of it for his first homer since September 4th of last year.
It should be noted that Lyons, after an error by Kolten Wong, got out of the inning by getting Joey Votto to hit into a double play and Scooter Gennett to ground out. There’s still life in that Patron Pitcher, my friends.
Bud Norris again got the save, though really made it interesting by also allowing a home run then having the tying and winning runs on before getting Hamilton to line out. Yes, folks, he really is a True Cardinals Closer now.
With the snow/rain/cold out from yesterday, the Cardinals are adjusting their pitching rotation. The initial reports were they weren’t going to, which had some people pretty worked up. After all, without modification that meant Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha would be going up against the best team in the division (if the last few years and preseason picks override 15 or so games, which they probably do). That wasn’t necessarily a recipe for success there. Yes, Waino through a good start last time out, but against those hitters in Wrigley? And Wacha’s probably been the weakest link in the rotation so far.
They did decide to modify things and while Wainwright will still go today, Wacha has been pushed back to face the Reds this weekend, leaving Luke Weaver on turn to pitch Wednesday. (That is, if there’s a game Wednesday. Right now, Chicago weather shows a 90% of rain throughout the day and night, with a high of 38 and snow flurries possible. If that holds you gotta wonder if this is going to be a one game series.) I’d guess the original thought was as much rest as possible for Weaver, but he’s proving that you don’t have to baby him. You couldn’t swap both of these guys so I’d probably take my chances with Wainwright right now over Wacha.
The Cubs will be sending out new acquisition Tyler Chatwood this evening assuming conditions are playable. Chatwood was one of those trendy sleeper picks this offseason as he had some good non-traditional numbers that indicated he was ready for a breakthrough. So far, he’s still chipping at that wall, putting up a 4.91 ERA and losing both of his starts. He last pitched on the 10th–starters all over baseball are winding up with varying days off with this weather–and gave up five runs in five innings to the Pirates in Wrigley. He allowed just one run against the Reds in six innings in his debut, though, so we’ll see which one shows up tonight.
It’s supposed to be 80 here today so I’m having some trouble identifying with the fact that it’ll be 37 with a 30 wind chill at game time in Chicago today. But with all the cancellations, there’s nothing to do but the players to bundle up and do their best. Hopefully the Chicago bats will be cold and the Cardinals can keep this winning streak alive!