We have talked in this space how there were some similarities between this season and 2007. One of the most memorable things to me about that season was the optimism heading into the All-Star Break only to be dashed quickly in the first game back. Last night, unfortunately, kept this season on track with that disappointing year.
If this team is going to climb back into contention, they can’t afford to waste an Adam Wainwright start at home. That said, this wasn’t completely a typical Wainwright start, since he gave up four runs in six innings on two homers. The last one was a back-breaker, because it seemed pretty tough for the Cardinals to come back from three runs down in the middle of the game. Not impossible, but it’s not the way you’d like to bet.
In fairness, they were able to put together quite a number of hits–11, which was actually more than the Giants–and while many of them felt like they came with two outs, it wasn’t actually the case. The Cardinals had the leadoff batter reach in the second (stranded at second), the third (stranded at third), the fourth (scored on a two-out single by Tommy Edman), the seventh (that was a homer by Paul Goldschmidt, so it wasn’t quite the same), and the eighth (stranded at first). Runners weren’t really the problem. Stringing together things was.
The fourth was the key part of the game. Tied 1-1 after that flare by Edman, Paul DeJong singled and Harrison Bader walked, loading the bases with two outs. If the bullpen was stronger, you wonder if Mike Shildt would have pinch-hit for Adam Wainwright there, even though he had a fairly low pitch count. As much as Wainwright has had some offensive prowess in the past, he seems to have lost it with the year of the DH last season. The at-bat probably turned on pitch 2, which was called a strike even though it looked to be just outside. If Wainwright gets up 2-0, maybe he gets something to hit. Instead, he waved at two pitches nowhere close after that and the threat was gone.
However, it’s the Cardinal bullpen. Even fully rested, it’s not something you really want to test over five innings if you can. The Cardinals used their two newest arms, Luis Garcia and T.J. McFarland, as the first two out of the gate when Wainwright left. Garcia struck out the first batter he faced, then gave up back-to-back singles. McFarland was then called on and got a grounder to Nolan Arenado, who could get the lead runner but was unable to turn a double play. That wound up being key because then Mike Yastrzemski hit his second homer of the night right after, making it 7-1.
All in all, it was a 2007 kinda game, it seemed. Even with all the pitching issues, we have to give the Goat to Dylan Carlson, who went 0-5 and struck out four times in his leadoff spot. There was hope that the break would give him a chance to recharge and come back out strong. That didn’t seem to be the case last night. It has been 15 games since Carlson hit a home run. In that span, he’s hitting .194/.275/.274. It may be time to revisit him in the leadoff spot. Since Harrison Bader returned (10 games, so take it for what it’s worth) he’s got a line of .297/.366/.514. If that’s not a small-sample issue, putting him in front of Goldschmidt and Arenado could be just what this team needs.
While it didn’t wind up mattering, since he neither drove in a run or scored, I’ll give the Hero to Paul DeJong for his three hit night. In his last 15 games (12 starts over that span) he’s got a .349/.451/.674 line. Is that a function of a little more rest and being lower in the lineup? Is it just a small sample? I don’t know. If he’s going to keep this up, though, maybe a lineup of:
I think I’d give that a whirl for a few games. However, there are many good reasons why I’m not the manager.
Kwang Hyun Kim on the bump tonight. Probably going to be another low-scoring affair so hopefully the Cards get one more than the Giants do!