As that one tough Dominican Joaquin Andujar once said, “There’s one word in America that says it all, and that word is ‘you never know’.” Replace “in America” with “about baseball” and you have last night’s outing.
If you hooked up Mike Shildt to truth serum, he might have told you he wasn’t planning on necessarily winning last night. Giovanny Gallegos, Genesis Cabrera, and Alex Reyes were all pretty much on the shelf. He gave Nolan Arenado a rest since he’d had such a busy time during the All-Star Break (and he was one for the weekend and hitting .204 in July). While the Cubs weren’t throwing Kyle Hendricks or anything, the idea that Jake Woodford could keep a good lineup like the Cubs down was not really in anyone’s thoughts.
Woodford became the Hero by allowing nothing until the fifth, when he loaded the bases with nobody out then induced a double play. He struck out five of the first nine he faced and finished with six strikeouts overall while walking nobody. He got two outs in the sixth before exiting for T.J. McFarland, who stranded a runner. All in all, it was an amazing piece of work by Woodford. He stepped up when the moment required it. I don’t think we’re talking about him having a regular rotation spot or anything and the next time out might be as rough as we thought this one would be, but it was a needed outing and he provided it, so a tip of the cap is in order.
And the bats–along with some shoddy Cubs defense–made sure Shildt wasn’t tempted to use those relievers after all.
I wasn’t able to see the game, being at my small men’s group, but the highlights told at least some of the story. There were two Baezes in the house last night and the Cardinals’ second round pick Joshua, who signed his contract and got to take batting practice, definitely had the better one. Javier Baez, that slick-fielding phenom (at least, according to the press clippings) botched two balls in a row with the bases loaded, allowing two of the four runs to score in the fourth. (Baez struck out in the top of that frame, making that a truly terrible inning for him.) The Cubs basically gave those runs to St. Louis, since the inning started with a one-out error by Patrick Wisdom (who did go 3-4 last night but since mid-June is hitting .247 with a .293 OBP and you don’t hear people complaining as much about him spending years in Texas’s and Chicago’s minors since leaving St. Louis) and Alec Mills mixed in a walk to Tommy Edman and a bases-loaded walk (other teams CAN do this!) to Dylan Carlson. St. Louis got four runs on two hits. It’s great when it happens, but you can’t always count on being gifted things.
Thankfully, the offense actually contributed on their own as well, as Carlson and Paul Goldschmidt went back-to-back with the longballs in the sixth, pushing the lead out to 8-1. Carlson went two for four with a walk and four RBI, which was so great to see given his recent struggles. If he can start to click (assuming Shildt isn’t going to mess with the lineup, which seems likely given Matt Carpenter batted third since he was playing third last night), that’ll help a lot in front of the big bats.
Speaking of Matt Carpenter, he’s our Goat for the evening, going 0-4 and striking out three times, bookending the fourth inning surge with strikeouts to start and end it. I didn’t really have a problem with Carpenter playing, but lazily slipping him into the same spot Arenado usually holds down seemed like a real stretch. Carpenter has been better of late but that doesn’t mean he’s been three-hole good. I get that it might be more about letting everyone else be comfortable in their spots but it could have easily cost the club.
Andrew Miller gave up a home run, the first run he’s allowed in almost a month. Granted, that was only seven appearances and five innings. Obviously Miller has gotten out of being used regularly by the manager but since he’s returned from his injury, he’s got a 1.38 ERA in 13 innings. Perhaps part of it is being used in low-leverage situations, but maybe (and I can’t believe I’m saying this) occasionally use him instead of Cabrera in a spot for a lefty late?
John Gant pitched 2.1 innings and allowed a run (but didn’t walk anyone!) so it would seem that he’s not going to be today’s starter. It’s fairly crazy to say that, here about 12 hours before game time, we still don’t know who it will be. We have assumed Johan Oviedo and that makes a lot of sense still, but there is a little bit of a caveat. You have to promote Oviedo, and while you could send someone down like a Junior Fernandez, you are going to need to keep both him and Woodford up until their next turn in the rotation. So any bullpen arm you send down will be lost for a while. The Cards haven’t used Fernandez much so that would seem to be fine and there are a lot of arms out there now, but it’s possible, I guess, that they’d actually go a different direction.
But what would that direction be? Running a bullpen game today might be OK since you have Adam Wainwright going tomorrow and Kwang Hyun Kim going Thursday, but if Kim goes over six innings it would be a season high. Besides, that bullpen game would have to be done without Gant and there’s no one else in the bullpen right now that has that ability to cover a lot of innings. You’d have to have a lot of one inning, one and a third, etc. Which would really wipe things out. You might have to use Fernandez, Luis Garcia, Justin Miller, Andrew Miller, Ryan Helsley, and hope that you have a lead so you can use the big three. That seems really dicey.
It’s strange for the Cardinals to be this evasive but there have been times when it seems like a big deal has been made about what turned out to be obvious. I am sure Johan Oviedo will be pitching today for the Cardinals. I look forward to finding out what the reason is for all the hoops and lack of information.
Whether he does or doesn’t, getting a win today would be really good. You’d guarantee a split and perhaps be able to relax in tomorrow’s game against Hendricks. A split isn’t really enough, of course, but it’s much better than losing the series. So, no matter the starter, hopefully the bats show up and there’s another big red W.
After all, you never know.