If it wasn’t for the fact that we like to at least address every single Cardinals game, we probably could easily skip this weekend and everyone would be happier.  Unfortunately, we’ve got to get to those games in Pittsburgh but before that, let’s remember happier times.

Thursday (4-3 win in 13 over New York)

Hero: Tommy Pham.  He didn’t drive in any of the runs in extras that kept the team alive or won the game, but if it wasn’t for his overall performance those situations wouldn’t have come up.  Four hits, including a double, two runs scored–including the one in the 10th after he got a two-out base hit–and an RBI.  He completely misread Noah Syndergaard once and was picked off by a mile, but other than that, it was a very good day for the Cardinal outfielder.

Goat: Tough not to go with Luke Gregerson here.  Pitching in the 10th, Gregerson got the first two out before allowing hits to Jay Bruce and Todd Frazier.  Those are some pretty decent hitters so there’s not much shame in that.  He then walked Adrian Gonzalez, who hasn’t been great this year but obviously has come up big over his career.  A little more iffy, but OK.  Bases loaded, two outs, and Jose Lobaton up is definitely a situation that you should get out of.

Except he walked Lobaton on five pitches.

That’s really inexcusable.  Lobaton is hitting .143 on the year.  He’s a backup catcher being pressed into daily use.  You have to throw strikes and not worry about the outcome.  Thankfully the Cardinals were able to rally against Jeurys Familia with two outs in the 10th on a Pham single and a Jose Martinez double because that would have been a ridiculously frustrating way to lose and the Cards were saving that for the next day.

Notes: Dexter Fowler got the winning RBI with a one-out single in the 13th, his only hit of the day.  You’d like to believe in momentum and how that kind of big hit might spark a run, but then he went 0-9 in Pittsburgh to ruin that fairy tale.  The fact that the Cards are above .500 with Fowler and Matt Carpenter really not hitting for the entire month of April is surprising and makes you wonder what will happen if they do start to click.

Two hits for both Marcell Ozuna and Paul DeJong.  It feels like DeJong has finally gotten out of that crazy strikeout funk that he was in.  He’s still going to whiff some, but it’s not like every other at bat like it was there for a while.  From the beginning of the Chicago series until the end of this series, DeJong struck out nine times in 36 AB, which is still a high mark but more in line with what we’d expect from him.  He also had a .344/.417/.781 slash line, so a lot of those “Is he going to be Aledmys Diaz” worries that started to pop up a couple of weeks ago have been quieted.

A great outing from Carlos Martinez but he got nothing to show for it.  One run in six innings with four hits and three strikeouts will get you a win a lot of times, but Syndergaard was just a bit better until the Cardinals finally got to him late.  Taking out the Opening Day start, Martinez has a 0.54 ERA and has given up two runs–TWO–in five starts.  He also has 35 strikeouts in 33.1 innings since that ill-fated day in New York.  I think Carlos is going to be OK.

Greg Holland gave up a hit but that was it in this one.  This was the fourth straight outing that he’d allowed no runs and had struck out five in four innings of work.  It’s not surprising that he was put out there the next day…..but we are getting ahead of ourselves.

Friday (6-5 loss in 11 at Pittsburgh)

Hero: Miles Mikolas.  Except for a two-run homer in the sixth to Gregory Polanco, one of those Cardinal killers the Pirates always seem to have at least one of, Mikolas was golden in this one.  Seven innings and seven strikeouts.  I believe we’ve referenced how Bill DeWitt said John Mozeliak and company were “grinning like the Cheshire cat” while scouting Mikolas and so far, it seems warranted.  His numbers are very comparable to Jake Arrieta except in the area that matters the most, the contract.

Goat: Greg Holland.  I listened to the Seeing Red podcast with Bernie Miklasz and Will Leitch last night as I was mowing the yard and they were tearing Mike Matheny a new one over this game in particular.  I don’t have a problem–and I don’t think they do either–letting Holland take the ninth in a 5-2 game.  If he’s going to be the closer (which IS a point they would debate) this is the best time for him to get a save under his belt and hope that it kickstarts him going forward.  Like we noted above, he was on a nice run and he’d thrown enough innings that the “no spring training” excuse should be spent.

What most people would have seen, though, was that Holland for whatever reason didn’t have anything that night.  His first pitch was belted by Corey Dickerson to center field, meaning that there was a runner on second before you looked up.  OK, fine, three run lead, get the next three guys and even if Dickerson comes around to score, no real harm.

Then Francisco Cervelli singled on a 1-2 count.  Now you have runners at the corners and the tying run up.  Given Holland’s past, somebody should be getting warm in a hurry, but I can see sticking with him through this.  I’d be anxious, but I’d probably leave him out there.

Colin Moran then hits a ball Jose Martinez–who somehow is never double-switched out of games for defensive purposes–misplayed, allowing a run to score and runners again are at the corners.

I think this is where you have to go get Holland.  Balls are being hit hard off of him and while he may be averaging a strikeout an inning with the Redbirds, it doesn’t feel like he can get the strikeout when he needs it.  I know I’ve not felt that he has the velocity to fool anyone when I’ve seen him this year.

Instead, Matheny sticks with him and Jordy Mercer drills one off of the center field wall.  Tommy Pham tried to make a play on it, which didn’t work but given the situation makes some sense.  Even if Pham plays it off the wall, Mercer is at second with nobody out and the game tied.  Instead, he winds up at third with the same situation.

If you are going to give Matheny any credit, at least note that the triple woke him up.  I think in some years Matheny would have left Holland out there to “work through it” even if it meant losing the game.  Instead, he did his best Tony La Russa with the next three outs, calling on Dominic Leone, Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons, and Matthew Bowman to get the next three outs and strand the runner at third.  It eventually didn’t matter when Jordan Hicks allowed a run in the 11th, but it was a great stand by the bullpen.

I honestly have no idea what to do about Holland.  Bernie stated on the podcast that, according to his sources, Matheny badgered the front office until they eventually relented and signed the reliever.  If that’s true, that really feels like to me they have said this is it.  If they don’t win this year, after all the help they’ve given him and the fact that they went against their judgement to sign Holland, how do you bring Matheny back?  I can’t see how they do.  We continue to wonder about the heat of Matheny’s seat, as it were, and I think that while they may publicly be behind him, the specter of replacing him is stronger than it ever was.

Notes: While we poked a bit of fun at Matt Carpenter’s regular playing time yesterday, we should note that Carp did sit here in favor of Jedd Gyorko, who went one for three with a home run.  For some players, that’d earn them another day in the lineup, but Gyorko had to wait until Sunday to play again.  Obviously Gyorko’s stats are a bit skewed due to just 28 plate appearances this season, but he has as many home runs as Carpenter does in 105 PA, he has more than half as many hits as Carp, and Gyorko’s OBP is not that far away from Carpenter’s OPS.  There’s got to be a way to at least ride Gyorko while he’s the hot hand but I can’t imagine seeing Carpenter sit for more than a day here and there unless they finally decide that he needs a DL stint.

Nice day for Marcell Ozuna as he got three hits and two RBI.  We’re still not seeing the power that we were hoping for this season–at two homers a month, Ozuna’s only on pace for 12–but hopefully his overall offense will be strong enough to make up for any lack of power.  It would be hard for that to happen, but better something than nothing.

For the second straight outing Hicks allowed a run, this time one that decided the game.  Unsurprisingly, it was a walk that did him in.  He’s walked 12 batters in 14.1 innings and while he’s been able to work around it for most of the season, I think hitters are just waiting him out these days.  He’s not been able to figure out how to harness his incredible stuff to get a lot of strikeouts–his only outing where he fanned more than one came in a two-inning stint against the Brewers on April 10.  Hicks did almost get away with the walk to David Freese here but a two-out hit from Starling Marte ended the game and capped possibly the most depressing loss the Cardinals will have all year.

Saturday (6-2 loss at Pittsburgh)

Hero: Paul DeJong.  The only Cardinal with more than two hits.  The offense seemed to completely die after the middle of the game on Friday and one of the few that didn’t get the memo was DeJong, who also scored one of the two runs in this one.

Goat: Yadier Molina.  0-4 with a strikeout and two left on base.  Dexter Fowler had a similar line, but only left one so Molina gets the tag.

Notes: Jack Flaherty got the start in this one with Adam Wainwright out and did all right–five innings of one run ball before walking the first two batters in the sixth and being replaced by Dominic Leone.  Flaherty didn’t have the lights out stuff we’ve seen in Memphis this season with four walks and only two strikeouts, but he kept the team in the game until Leone allowed his two runners to come in and give Pittsburgh the lead.

Leone didn’t really get beat around–after a groundout, he gave up a single to Josh Bell and a sacrifice fly to Francisco Cervelli–but you’d still like to have seen him come in and shut the door.  For all the talk about Leone being the closer this winter, he’s been a little shakier than we’d like.  Most of the time he’s solid, but he has allowed 38% of inherited runners to score.  He’s got a 1.29 ERA over his last seven innings (but the 40% of inherited runners that scored in the span aren’t reflected).  I like Leone and I typically don’t have a problem when they go to bring him into the game.  It’s just, like so many of the guys out there, the consistency isn’t quite to where we’d want it to be.

Mike Mayers got to pitch in this one and, because nothing is easy for Mayers, got victimized by a “quick pitch”, which apparently is fine for a title of a show on MLB Network but not as much in a real game.  A quick search (which is perfectly legal) seems to indicate the last time that was really called was last April and it was pretty controversial at that time as well.  It didn’t make a difference in the game and it’s not in many of the writeups because of that, but Mayers should have had a clean outing.  Colin Moran (who I believe was the batter) was clearly ready for the pitch and the flyout should have counted.  Instead he walked and wound up coming around to score.  When it’s going wrong, it’s going wrong.

Sunday (5-0 loss at Pittsburgh)

Hero: Paul DeJong.  Anyone that breaks up a significant bid for a perfect game by the other side deserves to be here.

Goat: Pick someone.  The offense obviously was quiet, Luke Weaver allowed four runs in 5.1 innings, and Greg Holland gave up another run late.  Our general tiebreaker applies and we’ll go with Matt Carpenter.  0-4 with two strikeouts in this one and even the move to the top of the lineup hasn’t been effective in shaking him out of whatever might be going on.  He’s 2-18 with three walks and five strikeouts in the #1 spot this season and while you can say “small sample size” and all that, the folks that said he couldn’t hit outside of the leadoff role tended to use small samples in that argument as well.  Ironically, the only time he really is hitting in 2018 is in high leverage situations (.357/.474/.643 in 19 plate appearances), which would argue for moving down in the lineup, I would think.

Notes: The Cardinals were almost on the wrong end of a perfect game thrown by a guy making his major league debut.  There’s really nothing else to note here.  Kudos to Kolten Wong for a pinch-hit double in the ninth, but unfortunately nobody could drive him in.

As for Weaver, he was shutting the Pirates out until the sixth, when he got into the heart of the order for the third time and it cost him.  A couple of singles and a walk with one out loaded the bases for Elias Diaz (who seems to be off to a hot start this season).  Diaz drove in two with a single and that ended Weaver’s day but his relievers didn’t slam his book closed for a while.  Jordan Hicks appeared again and allowed an RBI single.  He tried to right the ship by getting a groundout that caught Diaz trying to score, but then walked Nick Kingham, the opposing pitcher, and hit Adam Frazier to force in another run.

Reading through the writeup, I’m not sure why Weaver got credited for all four runs while Hicks got a zero in the runs column.  The last batter that Weaver faced was Diaz, who reached but then did not score due to the groundout.  The fourth run that scored was Moran, who was the first batter Hicks faced.  Seems to me that Weaver should have been tagged for three and Hicks for one, but maybe I’m missing something.

Hopefully the day off and the fact that the White Sox are coming to town will shake off all those cobwebs and get the Cardinals back to playing good baseball, because that was an epic downer of a series.  Michael Wacha goes tonight against James Shields, who seems to be struggling just as much as he has been since he came to Chicago.  If they can’t score runs off of Shields, there’s got to be some rethinking of things in that clubhouse!  And since you’ve made it this far, go get your picks in for the Cardinal Six!

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