Unless you are measuring an entire season, any sort of sample from the baseball year really involved arbitrary endpoints. We say someone hit .270 in June, but maybe that was .300 for a couple of weeks and .250 later. Or maybe we could have just as easily measured from May 15 to June 15. We all know that how you take your sample can change what your conclusions are. A few weeks ago, I complained on Twitter how Bernie Miklasz took the last inning from a Carlos Martinez start (ignoring the six hitless innings before) and added it to the next start, which was a disaster, to use as supporting evidence. Sample selection is always up to the person making the selection to find relevance.
So, in the small sample size of three games, the Cardinals are one of the hottest teams in baseball! (Not the hottest team, as the Red Sox, Dodgers, and Brewers have won all their games in that span, but still, it’s something!)
After last night’s victory–as the Beatles sang, sometimes we get by with a little help from our friends or the fact that Arizona didn’t really have bullpen options–the Cardinals have taken two of their last three. That doesn’t sound like much, of course, but they haven’t won two of three since sweeping the Marlins two weeks ago. Without that, they wouldn’t have claimed that minor feat all month long. So winning two games in this close of proximity is something to cheer about.
However, it has to be tempered by the fact that one of those was against Pittsburgh, the loss was as well, and Arizona is working on being historically bad and it took until the seventh inning against an obviously tired pitcher to get anything at all going. Torey Lovullo said after the game that Alex Young was really the only option he had, that he could probably get three innings out of other pitchers. So when Young came up with two outs and the bases loaded in the sixth, Lovullo felt he couldn’t pinch-hit, even though they might get the lead, because then he would have had to try to cover four innings (if they kept the lead) with an overworked bullpen.
Obviously, that worked to the good of the Cardinals, because as much trouble as Genesis Cabrera can have finding the strike zone at times, he can focus enough to strike out an opposing pitcher who isn’t even going to swing. On the other side of that, as Young’s pitch count climbed, it became easier and easier for the Cardinal hitters to actually have success.
Look at Alex Young’s game log for basically the past month, most importantly his pitch count:
Up until the last few games, he was more of a one inning guy. However, the punishing injuries and lack of other options have forced Arizona to use him as a long man and, as you can see, it’s not really working. He had a pretty good outing against Oakland but even counting that, in games where he’s thrown more than 40 pitches he’s got over a 10 ERA. Perhaps they could have stemmed the bleeding somewhere in that six-run inning, but honestly, as much trouble as Arizona has hitting, once they were down 3-1 they likely were done for the night. The other four runs were just more dirt on the grave.
Obviously, it’s great to see this, but it’s also fair to say words of caution. One, it was against a team that is on pace to win 45 games this season, which puts them in the conversation of worst teams all time. 117 losses would tie them for third all-time in that category with the 1916 Philadelphia A’s. So it’s less exciting that they won and more concerning that, had the Diamondbacks had probably even one more option in the bullpen, things might have gone much differently.
The second is that we’ve seen this before over the past couple of weeks. They put up nine against Atlanta, then get shut out in the second game and don’t win again for a week. They have a hard-fought win over the Pirates (which is an issue in itself) and then drop the next game. While the Cardinals should win all three games in this series, I don’t think anyone has a lot of confidence that a winning streak is coming.
Before the game last night, the front office did a lot of shuffling and a little bit of talking. First off, Jake Woodford goes to the minors with the idea of being stretched out as a starter. The last time Woodford was a regular starter was 2019, so it’s not a stretch, and he posted a 4.15 ERA in a year where the Triple-A ball actually left the yard if you looked at it just right. That said, his strikeout rate and walk rate weren’t much different than what we see now. It’s a testament to how badly the Cardinals rotation has been that the idea of using Woodford as insurance or a replacement is actually a viable one.
I believe it’s also to give John Mozeliak a little bit of leverage in his trade talks. Everyone can see the spewing of smoke and oil from the rotation and there’s no doubt that they’d love to help at an exorbitant price and on their terms. I don’t know that Woodford as a starter really balances the equation at all, but it does give Mo at least one more card to play and a little more force behind the “well, we CAN stand pat if we have to” negotiating ploy he might be using. Not a lot–I can’t imagine any front office thinks Mo really wants to go that route–but maybe a little.
Seth Elledge went with Woodford while two relievers came to the bigs. You’ll remember Roel Ramirez as 1) the third part of the Tommy Pham trade and 2) the guy that gave up four consecutive home runs in his one and only appearance last season. Hopefully better things await him and, given that he’s getting another shot. Brandon Waddell was a name I was not familiar with, which given Kyle Reis’s amazing work on the minor league system is a rarity. Waddell isn’t a home grown product though, making his debut for the Pirates last year and playing for the Twins and Orioles already this season. (Which now rings a bell, actually.) Reading the press release, his assigned uniform number stood out.
Yes, folks, we have a new Patron Pitcher of the Blog. Patron Pitcher TNG, if you will. Waddell looked pretty good last night–when he missed the zone it wasn’t by much and he got two strikeouts after his leadoff walk. I don’t imagine he’ll be able to unseat Tyler Lyons as the Best Player To Ever Wear #70 For The Cardinals but maybe he can at least help out some. Also, to get him on the 40-man, John Nogowski was designated for assignment. The spring phenom didn’t quite translate to the regular season, though that wasn’t entirely his fault. I imagine he’ll slide through waivers and spend more time at Memphis, but if not, our best to him in the next organization.
The deck chairs have been shuffled. It still remains to be seen if this is a pleasure cruise or the Titanic. Actually winning this series would be a nice small sample of positivity, though.
Saturday (3-1 win vs. Pittsburgh)
Hero: Adam Wainwright. Still the only starter to pick up a win over the past 30-plus days, Waino gave up one run in six innings and struck out eight. With the offense not necessarily lighting the world on fire, holding the line was huge.
Goat: Tommy Edman. 0-4 and left five men on base. I think Edman’s usage is going to be interesting to watch, especially since Nolan Gorman just got promoted to Memphis. If they start getting away from Edman being the starter every day (he didn’t start Monday for only the second non-injury miss of the season) and Gorman does well, we might see the prospect at second before the end of August.
Notes: Paul DeJong hit a home run, which after his late hit on Friday night was good to see….Paul Goldschmidt added the insurance with a blast that hit beyond Freese’s Lawn in center field, one of the longest ever in Busch Stadium….Yadier Molina had two hits and drove in the first run. Yadi’s offense may be declining since that first month but it’s not completely gone….JT Brubaker put up a quality start, something we don’t see often on this side of the ledger.
Sunday (7-2 loss vs. Pittsburgh)
Hero: Can we say the rain for perhaps keeping the Cards from being perfectoed by a guy making his major league debut? I guess we’ll go with Paul DeJong, who had a hit and an RBI, driving in Yadier Molina for the second run. Unfortunately, they were down 7-1 at the time.
Goat: Johan Oviedo. Oviedo settled some after the first, but the damage was already done. The Pirates had two runs in the bases loaded before Oviedo got his first out and he wound up walking in another run later in the inning. On the day, four innings, six hits, four walks, four runs. Five strikeouts, which shows his potential, but Oviedo really needs to be in Memphis continuing to develop. He’s got a future but learning at the big league level probably isn’t helping it.
Notes: Jake Woodford allowed two home runs, including one to Gregory Polanco who had such an obvious down and in hole that I could see it (and most Cardinal hurlers this weekend exploited), in one inning. That makes you excited about his return as a starter, doesn’t it?…..Dylan Carlson broke up the combined perfect game with a leadoff double in the seventh and scored the first run on a Nolan Arenado sacrifice fly….Junior Fernandez allowed a few hits but put up two scoreless innings. It would be nice if he could be relied upon in some low level situations not to make things worse….the Cardinals scored 11 total runs in this four game series.
Monday (7-1 win vs. Arizona)
Hero: Dylan Carlson. Two hits, including a triple, scored a run, and drove in two. A nice all around night for the rookie.
Goat: Lars Nootbaar. An 0-3 (the only starter not to get a hit, but he was gone before the big seventh inning) and he left five men on base.
Notes: You wonder what would have happened had David Peralta batted against Genesis Cabrera with the bases loaded and two outs in the sixth in a 1-1 game. Of course, that might have been a pyrrhic victory given that it would have possibly ruined their bullpen, but when you are losing as much as Arizona is, it has to be hard not to take the chances when they come. Now watch Arizona win the next two with rested relievers playing a big role….Paul DeJong with another home run. In these games against Detroit, Pittsburgh, and now Arizona, he’s hit .263 with two bombs with four walks and five strikeouts. Could be he’s starting to get his feet under him. Could be the level of competition. Either way, it’s nice to see…..Edmundo Sosa had two hits, including starting off that decisive seventh with a double. Would like for him to return to being a real offensive option…..Matt Carpenter pinch-hit and struck out for the second straight day. He’s played in 12 games, only six starts, since the beginning of the Cubs series 2 1/2 weeks ago and is hitting .136/.269/.136 with six strikeouts in 26 plate appearances. The Carpenter resurgence seems to have stalled…..Wade LeBlanc got his first Cardinal start and did something most other starters apparently can’t do–throw strikes. As a result, he went 4.1 innings and only allowed a solo homer to his last batter. With some run support, Mike Shildt might have let him finish the fifth and go for the win….the bullpen, save Genesis Cabrera walking the first batter he faced to load the bases and a double to the leadoff batter in the seventh, meaning he only retired the pitcher in the three batters he faced, did a fine job. Got easier with the big cushion, but it was a solid effort nonetheless.