The Cardinals have dealt with injuries all year long. Adam Wainwright, Alex Reyes, they lost Yadier Molina for a month, plenty of others to choose from. When I decided this year to make a spreadsheet tracking roster moves, I didn’t realize just how many there were going to be. Over the last month or so (and to a lesser degree, all year), the Cardinals have survived those injuries and kept with the #nextmanup philosophy.
However, just because you can handle more than your share of body blows doesn’t mean that you can do so indefinitely.
Last night was just one game, of course, and the last time the Cards looked bad, they put up 12 the next day. However, when you look at a lineup that is missing Kolten Wong and Jedd Gyorko, it looks much less intimidating. Greg Garcia is a serviceable player, but Wong was on a run that was sublime defensively and very solid offensively. Yairo Munoz isn’t a bad fill-in, but Gyorko has been one of the hottest hitters this month.
It becomes harder and harder to deal with these issues on a regular basis. Besides, the depth of the organization means they could take hits on the pitching side. They could lose an outfielder or two. Start losing infielders? That’s an entirely different subject. There’s not a player waiting in Memphis that can step in and be a starter. Patrick Wisdom has been promoted and he probably should get some run, but there’s no guarantee that he’s going to do more than Munoz or Garcia.
Then you lose Matt Carpenter, though apparently just for the rest of the game as he dealt with some sort of nausea. Maybe it stemmed from the fact that the Cardinals had runners on second and third with nobody out in the first inning and didn’t put a run on the board. That’s the sort of situation that the club has thrived in over the last few weeks. Getting the early lead, getting a jump on the other team, taking some advantage. Instead, two strikeouts paired around a flare that didn’t drop and the momentum shifted to the Pirates.
The offense is probably going to need everything it can get right now. That might mean shifting Molina out of the second spot. He did double in the first inning, but for the month of August he’s hitting .245/.304/.368 and has hit into five double plays in 25 starts. Six of the 13 DP that he’s hit into have come since Mike Shildt installed him in the second spot. Given that Shildt is a guy that apparently embraces the analytics department, you have to figure he’s going to see those numbers. We’ll see what he does about it, of course. He’s not really had to make changes to his approach based on results yet–injuries have forced his hand a bit–and we’ll see if he’s slow to act on things like this.
It doesn’t help when your fifth place hitter is in a slump as well. Paul DeJong is hitting .198 for the month with 29 strikeouts in 91 at bats. When he hits it, it goes (11 of his 18 hits are for extra bases) but that’s just not that frequent. We talked earlier in the year about him not being Aledmys Diaz, about him being able to follow up on his rookie season. In some part, that’s true–he definitely hasn’t vanished like Diaz did–but his OPS+ has gone from 121 to 98. Granted, missing a month and a half with the broken hand probably hasn’t helped matters. His line since returning: .207/.275/.379, It may take some offseason rest and healing before we really know what DeJong is.
Our Goat for last night has to be Tyler O’Neill, I think. Besides that flare (that really should have dropped), O’Neill struck out three times, leaving three men on in those situations. I’m sure he was thinking like we were, that a big fly in those spots would have really helped the team. O’Neill’s been hot of late but he’s still figuring out the league. To his credit, it’s not like anyone else was figuring out Trevor Williams and the rest of the Pirates’ hurlers. There were a few drives late, but all of them found gloves.
We’ll give the Hero to Miles Mikolas. He didn’t have the start he would want, loading the bases in the first after Jose Martinez misplayed a ball that Adam Frazier eventually (the scoring went back and forth) got a double on. However, he got Josh Bell to end the threat but he used up a lot of pitches to do it. The Pirates got their two runs in the fifth, Mikolas’s last frame, but there was a lot of bad batted ball luck involved in that, including a flare that drove in the first run that got just over the head of a drawn-in infield. Overall, his start wasn’t overwhelming but was good enough that he wins it most of the time. That just didn’t happen in this one.
The bullpen was good, though. Chasen Shreve, Dominic Leone, Brett Cecil, and Carlos Martinez combined for four scoreless innings with just two hits and Cecil had the only two strikeouts. It was good to see Cecil bounce back well from that outing in Colorado and it still feels, right now, that there’s nobody out there in the bullpen you really don’t want to see coming into the game.
Last night’s loss was frustrating from a standings point of view as well. The Cubs won the suspended game but got thumped in the regular one, meaning that St. Louis could have made up a game there. Plus Milwaukee, Colorado, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles all won, tightening up the wild card race. Not really what you wanted to see.
Off the field, the Cardinals got some less-than-exciting injury news as Michael Wacha‘s discomfort that he ran into during the start Josh described seems to be related to his oblique injury. Which would seem to indicate that things aren’t as healed and ready to go as we would hope and the likelihood of a Wacha return has been diminished. Given what the Cardinals have in that department, shutting him down for the season should be an option that’s seriously discussed.
If the Cards are going to run their series winning streak out to 10, John Gant is going to have to have a great outing and he’s going to have to get some support tonight. We’ll see if both of those things happen and the Redbirds can bring home another victory.