Competing On the Same Level

The Cardinals faced the division leading Brewers last week.  They won one, should have won another, and held their own in a shutout loss in the third.  When you watched that series, you understood that Milwaukee was the better team but that the Cardinals were better than a team that was double-digits behind them.

The Cardinals faced the division trailing Pirates after that.  They won one, should have won another, and had a shutout loss in the third.  When you watched that series, you understood that the Cardinals were the better team but you couldn’t prove it by what you were seeing.

It feels so often that the Cards wind up bringing their A game to the better teams and their B or C game for teams that they should roll over.  Not always–we saw them run through Pittsburgh and Kansas City recently, so they can dominate, and on the flip side we saw them bring….something else to that soft June schedule.  However it’s still common to see them play really well at spots, then struggle when it seems like there shouldn’t be one.

There’s no doubt that it’s frustrating to see a team that had put themselves back in the wild card hunt fritter away all that momentum by being beaten in a series (at home, no less) by a team with a .360 winning percentage.  The Cardinals still are in the wild card mix, just 4 1/2 out with games against the current wild card and the team between left, but it’s harder to take that run seriously when they lose a series to the Pirates.

The Cardinals have two with Detroit starting today then the last four of the season with the Pirates over the weekend before the competition level jumps up a couple of notches.  Hopefully they can figure out how to play their A game against B teams and we can have a much less stressful few days!


Thursday (8-4 win vs. Milwaukee)

Hero: Tyler O’Neill.  Two for three with a three-run homer in the fifth that gave the Cardinals the lead.

Goat: Jon Lester.  Four runs in 4.1 innings against Milwaukee should have been a death sentence.  Lester also walked three and struck out nobody.  You have to figure the next time out, against the Tigers tomorrow, might be an important start for his continued rotation status.

Notes: It was good to see them rally from down three against a top pitcher like Brandon Woodruff.  Woodruff wound up having his worst start of the season when the Cards scored five in the fifth….Lars Nootbaar continued to be intriguing, following up O’Neill’s homer with one of his own….the top four went 8-18 with five runs and six RBI….both of Tommy Edman‘s hits were doubles and Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado chipped in one as well….rough day for Paul DeJong, who went 0-3 but did draw a walk….Harrison Bader also went 0-3 with a walk, but at least he drove in a run….solid work by the bullpen, who wound up going 4.2 innings and didn’t allow a single baserunner.

Friday (4-0 loss vs. Pittsburgh)

Hero: Lars Nootbaar.  Three hits on the night for the young man.

Goat: Nolan Arenado.  0-5 with three strikeouts and five left on base.  That’s a rough night for the third baseman. Arenado’s gone 3-26 with 11 strikeouts on this homestand so far, which is not great to see.

Notes: Miles Mikolas returned from the injured list and lasted longer than he did the last time he made a major league start.  Five innings, two runs (though they both were earned).  He looked awkward in the first but got out of the jam and his mechanics looked a little better after that.  We’ll see how he does against the Pirates in Pittsburgh…..six of the 10 hits came from 5-6-7 in the lineup and still no runs could be put on the board….Austin Dean with a pinch-hit single, his first major league hit since April 27.  Also likely his last for a while as he’ll probably be demoted when Dylan Carlson returns, possibly today….Daniel Ponce de Leon finally got to pitch, about 10 days after being activated, and allowed a home run as his only blemish on two innings.

Saturday (5-4 loss vs. Pittsburgh)

Hero: Tyler O’Neill.  Two hits, a run, an RBI, and a stolen base.  Much like Nolan Arenado is not hitting on the homestand, TON is, slashing .318/.385/.455 in the six games.

Goat: Lars Nootbaar.  It was a toss-up between him and Genesis Cabrera and if he’d had anything offensively, I’d have gone with Cabrera because as damaging as that overthrow was in the seventh, it didn’t lose the game.  However, Noot was also 0-4 with a strikeout, left five runners on base, and the run he scored came after he’d reached on a fielder’s choice.

Notes: Nootbaar didn’t help, but Cabrera wasn’t on his game.  He also was stalking around the mound, just standing out there, like he was mad about something even before he gave up three hits and an intentional walk with one on and two out.  Never did hear any more about that….two hits for Tommy Edman and Paul Goldschmidt, which amounted to two runs scored by Edman….another solid outing by J.A. Happ.  Two runs in six innings and a Cardinal ERA of 1.99….two hits also by Edmundo Sosa, who drove in a run.

Sunday (3-0 win vs. Pittsburgh)

Hero: Adam Wainwright.  Wainwright just keeps being awesome.  Eight scoreless innings with nine strikeouts and just two hits.  Against the Pirates this year: three wins in three starts, 23 innings pitched, 10 hits, one run (0.39 ERA), 24 strikeouts, one walk.  He’s faced 79 batters and struck out 30% of them, which is amazing.  Either Pittsburgh is due or they are really dreading seeing him this weekend.

Goat: Tommy Edman.  0-5 with six left on base is not what you want to see from the leadoff hitter.

Notes: Mike Shildt tinkered with the lineup, breaking up Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado for the first time by sliding Tyler O’Neill in between.  Goldschmidt had two hits and an RBI, O’Neill got a hit and a walk, and Arenado, well, that didn’t really work for him either (0-4)….Alex Reyes got the first two outs of the ninth without incident, then gave up two base hits and a long fly ball.  Thankfully Lars Nootbaar ran it down because it would have been terrible for Reyes to ruin Wainwright’s day….two hits and the first RBI of the day for Yadier Molina, who is always going to be brining his A game to Wainwright starts.

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