A Whole Lotta Blah

There are a lot of nights when something goes wrong.  Not every night has the offense click, the pitching sparkle, and the defense take care of anything hit.  Some nights you win 10-9, for instance, or 2-0.  Some nights a misplay is the difference between a win and a loss.  It’s tough to have every facet of the game going at the same time.  On the flip side, at least for the Cardinals this year, at least something has been working every night.

Until last night.

Whether it was the natural letdown of already having taken the series, the result of their seventh game in a row on the road, or some other factors, St. Louis looked less than sharp last night.  If it wasn’t for Nolan Arenado, you’d have thought the entire offense left after Tuesday’s game.  His home run on Wednesday was the only scoring and he had three of the five Cardinal hits last night.  We’ll give him the Hero for that, in part because that’s great, in part because there aren’t many other options.

We talk about how good this offense is, but it has slowed down a lot since running into better pitching against the Brewers and Marlins.  Here’s a few lines from the last seven days:

Paul Goldschmidt .107/.167/.179
Harrison Bader .217/.308/.261
Tyler O’Neill .231/.333/.269
Dylan Carlson .071/.103/.071
Yadier Molina .231/.231/.231

If it wasn’t for Arenado (.385/.467/.692) and Tommy Edman (.320/.346/.640), things might have been a whole lot worse than 4-3 over this span.  The entire team has slashed .215/.288/.326 over that span, numbers that would be very rough without the couple of guys keeping things afloat.

Arenado spared the Cards from their first shutout with his homer Wednesday but he just delayed the inevitable as the club could do nothing against Pablo Lopez.  Granted, Lopez is having a fine start to the season (last night was his third start and he has a 0.52 ERA on the season after his seven scoreless innings) but a team that has done a great job putting the ball in play struck out 13 times last night.  It’s only the second time they’ve struck out in double-digits, the first being Sunday against a slew of Brewer pitchers.  You know it’s rough when Albert Pujols, who only had one K this season, went down three times.

So the offense didn’t show up to support Jordan Hicks.  How about the defense?

Not as much as you would like.  The one run that Hicks allowed was from multiple paper cuts.  Hicks did walk Jesus Sanchez to start the inning, but then allowed a base hit that beat the shift.  After striking out Avisail Garcia, he got a ground ball to short that Paul DeJong couldn’t come up with.  It was a very tough play and even if DeJong fields it cleanly he might not have gotten the runner, but he didn’t grab it cleanly so we’ll never know.  Hicks then gets a ground ball up the middle that Edman spears, but his flip goes over DeJong’s head.  The replay showed that DeJong expected it chest-high and when it sailed he was slow to react.  He took the error on that, which probably could have gone either way, but that’s a play that gets made nine times out of 10.

The fourth inning also had its fielding issues as Bader threw to the wrong base, allowing a runner to advance, and Molina missed a Drew VerHagen pitch that allowed a runner to score from third.  It was not at all the kind of defensive game we’ve come to expect from the Cardinals.

So the defense didn’t support Hicks either.  How about his relievers?

Not so much.  We’ve already noted that VerHagen allowed a run, in part from the defense but in part because he allowed the first two batters he saw to single.  He also wound up walking a batter with two outs, but that didn’t wind up mattering.  Then we have Aaron Brooks and, folks, this is a game that Brooks won’t forget, even if he tries to.

His first inning was pretty sharp–three groundouts in a row.  Sanchez then homered to start his second frame, making it 3-0.  Brooks got the next three batters, though, to bounce back.  Oli Marmol sent him back out there for a third inning and that’s where things took a turn.

He walked Brian Anderson on a 3-2 pitch that wasn’t particularly close and then Anderson stole second, besting Molina.  After an out, Jazz Chisholm, who always seems to be in the mix when the Cards and Marlins play, stepped in.  The first two pitches were called strikes but Chisholm took exception, standing out of the box and complaining about the pitches so long that the umpire indicated that the game should continue.  Molina hurriedly tried to get Brooks to throw a pitch while Chisholm remained outside of the box, but Brooks either didn’t understand what was going on or misunderstood Molina’s frantic gesturing, but he took long enough that Chisholm returned to the box and Molina had to call time.  The next pitch, Chisholm crushed out of the yard for a two-run homer, effectively ending the game.  Brooks gets the Goat and the last time a pitcher upset Molina that much, it was their last time on the field in a Cardinal uniform.  I doubt that happens with Brooks, but rosters do have to be cut down soon.  Another rough outing or so might be a problem for him.

All of this ruined what was a really nice first start for Jordan Hicks.  He walked two, but that was more because his pitches were moving so far they had to file a change of address with the post office.  He allowed only the two hits we referenced above and really didn’t give up much solid contact.  He went three innings with his limited pitch count and overall I’m excited to see what he’ll do next time out against the Mets.

Hopefully going to Cincinnati, with its friendly hitting confines and its very struggling team, will help the Cardinals break out of things.  On the other hand, they’ll face both of the Reds’ young pitching prospects in this series and when a team has lost nine in a row, they are about due for a win or two.  We’ll see how it all works out–or won’t tonight, I guess, unless you have Apple+ or want to download the app.

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