This is the wrong story.

Not exactly the breakout offense that I thought we were looking for. The offense looked pretty good just before the all-star break, when they were scoring in bunches for most of those games. Give them 4 days off, and it’s looking like the offense is back to the anemic start to the season.

Even if Lynn could have been perfect last night, it still wouldn’t have been a W. The Cardinals sent 30 hitters to the plate. 15 of those struck out, including 5 of the least 6 to come to the plate. It was likely the worst showing that I’ve seen from the hitters all year.

That kinda makes it easy to pick out the zero of the game: Matt Holliday. 0-4 with 3 Ks. Only a sacrifice bunt by Wong kept him from it as he also had 3 Ks. Jay went 0-3 with 2 Ks, but one of those was after getting 4 balls. Which was really weird.

There were only three guys that didn’t strike out on the night. Matt Carpenter, Tony Cruz, and the interesting one: Oscar Taveras. With how much that Mike was talking about how much Taveras needs development, and they’re not in the development business, not striking out while getting a hit was the best performance at the plate last night, and that puts him into the hunt for the hero tag.

But I’ll give that to Lance Lynn. He wasn’t the Lance Lynn we’ve seen recently. He’s back to the old Lance Lynn, who would get in front of people, but then nibble on the corners and try to get them to swing at stuff out of the zone in order to get the K. The Lance Lynn that we had just gotten to see was one that pitched to weak contact instead. It didn’t mean much on the night other than just a side note to a decent night.

He was doing fine, giving up just the one run (to the pitcher, who got the first hit of his career), until Mike left him out there too long. He was already up over 100 pitches in 6 innings, but Matheny felt he could go a little longer, and he got an out, but gave up a hit, and an error behind him by Wong (although it was tough one for him to even get to), was all that would happen before he was pulled with 118 pitches in the game. This is at least the second time that Mike’s left a guy out there too long. He’s been showing that he’d wait until something goes wrong to pull them rather than take them out when everything’s going just fine. Even if they’ve already thrown plenty of pitches, and the bullpen is rested and ready.

Thanks to the Reds turning into the crappiest team on the planet, and the Pirates doing well against the Dodgers, the Cardinals and Pirates are tied for second at 2.5 games back. The Brewers start a 4-game series against the Mets today, so expect more of the same from them. Hopefully the Cardinals can take care of the Cubs and get closer to the top of the central again, maybe.

That wasn’t the plan.

Last night’s game was not how the plan was supposed to go. Wainwright was supposed to be on his game. He was supposed to go 8 innings and give up 1 run or less. That was supposed to be on the way to keeping his MLB-leading ERA and his 13th win of the year. But nothing really ever goes according to plan does it?

Wainwright ended up being on the other end of the game, not the hero, but the zero. He gave up 6 runs, although only 4 of them were earned due to his own error in the field, while only going through 4.2 innings. Not exactly what you want from the ace.

And when the Cardinals give up that many runs, then I don’t expect this team to get it back, but I especially don’t expect this lineup to do much anyway. I’ve lost the rest of my faith in Matheny the last couple of months, but it’s the quote that he made pre-game that really made me scratch my head.

Matheny was commenting on the Taveras/Craig debate. and he said: “We’re not here for development. There are times we like to give guys exposure but the overriding factor is that we need to do what we can to win.” That makes it sound like a reasonable argument to starting Craig over Taveras, but only if Craig is playing much better than Taveras, and he’s not. It just so happens that in my opinion, in the opinion of most of the fans, and probably on the upper management that the best chance for development is to play Taveras every day, and the best chance to win is to play Taveras every day.

Allen Craig has been worth 0.0 WAR (wins above replacement) which means that in the eyes of that stat, a replacement level player (read: below the league average) would have done just as well as Craig has this year. Well, if you look down the roster, the Cardinals have a replacement level player on the bench that can play right field: Oscar Taveras.

On top of starting Craig over Taveras (who went 0-3 with 2 Ks and a walk) and Taveras pinch-hit in the 9th (and got a hit), it certainly looks like it’s clear who should have started.

On the other hand, Mike Matheny has been ignoring the splits of Jay and Bourjos and apparently decided that the best way to platoon them is to give them each half a game to play. Not exactly the ideal situation. Even then, I’ve talked about how Bourjos is better vs. righties and Jay’s better vs. lefties, and Matheny still went the traditional route, even if that goes against the numbers. And neither guy got a hit tonight.

As for the very small bright spots on the night, Holliday hit a solo shot in the 6th, but the hero on the night was Matt Carpenter, who hit a solo shot to lead off the Cardinals batters on the night. He was able to get another hit in the 3rd and a walk in the 9th and so his was the best night.

The Reds couldn’t help us out again, and have lost all 5 of their games since the all-star break. That, with a Pirates win and a Cardinals loss puts them a game and a half out of first and a game from 3rd. Let’s hope game 2 tonight follows the plan.

Not always a perfect ending

Sometimes, people get perfect endings. Most of the time that’s in stories, though. This series would not have a perfect ending.

Before we get to that, though, let’s finish up talking about Saturday’s game. Since we did the Progressive Game Blog, I’m gonna let you read that instead of recapping the game, only to say that the hero was Joe Kelly and zero was Sam Freeman. Not easy choices for either, but that’s just for the sake of keeping up with both of them.

As for the series finale, it got off to a bad start when Martinez gave up the first run, mainly because Allen Craig couldn’t go back on a ball well, nor could be come up on a ball well, and that caused a run to score. Now, Allen Craig settled the score when he doubled home Peralta in the bottom of the same inning (2nd to be exact), so guess that was even.

Martinez gave up 2 more runs in the third inning, and that was all that he would give up. Mainly because he was pulled after the 4th. He hasn’t been very consistent in his starts, and I would really like to see more from him. It was noted that maybe things would be different had he started the year in the rotation, but I don’t know. It might have been, but it might not have been at the same time. The problem is that he’s got very little command.

I don’t know if he’s trying to take the bullpen mentality to starts and is trying to throw hard and not caring about where they go. That can work for an inning or even a couple, but it looks like he’s throwing pitches up there without any kind of idea of where it’s going. He was consistently missing all over the place. Cruz would set up low and outside, it would go high and inside. Eventually, you’re going to leave something somewhere you don’t want it to be.

In any case, leaving Kershaw with a two run lead is like giving anyone else a 10 run lead, but thanks to last night’s hero, that wouldn’t be the case on this night. In Peter Bourjos’ second AB of the night, I noted that Kershaw got him to swing through 2 sliders in the zone and caused the strikeout.  I think Bourjos knew that coming up the next time, and when Kershaw got to 2 strikes, he knew what was coming. Kershaw threw a slider, Bourjos barreled it up, and launched it out to left-center to tie the game up. Easily the hero of the game. This was the 20th day in July, and only his second start. You think that maybe he should get some more playing time after that? We’ll just have to stick around to find out.

Unfortunately, the zero of the game came into the tie game in the 9th, and gave up the winning run: Trevor Rosenthal. I know that the conventional wisdom is to bring in your closer if you’re at home, you bring your closer in the 9th. I understand it, but I didn’t like it at the time because it was his third night in a row of work. I didn’t think that was the wise choice by Matheny, but he wasn’t making great choices most of the night anyway. Hate to give it to him because of the mismanagement, but he did give up the winning run to the other team.

The most interesting thing on the night, at least to me, was the fact that after the loss, all three NL divisions had a tie for first place. I wonder if that has ever happened this late in the season (especially when it’s been 3 divisions, which hasn’t been very long). The Brewers and Reds have a 3 game series that starts tonight, and so the best thing that can happen for the Cards is that the Reds take 2 out of 3, and that would give the Cards all the cushion. I would kinda like the Reds to sweep and the Pirates to sweep because if the Cards can beat the Rays, then the Brewers will be in 4th place, and I would throughly enjoy that.

UCB Progressive Game Blog: 6th Inning

Each month, the United Cardinal Bloggers put together a project that we get to work on, and this month, we’re doing a progressive game blog. Each inning is given out to a blogger, who writes up the specifics, and then they get posted to the site together. For more info, the preview and the other blogs that are doing the other innings, click this link.

As it is, we decided on Saturday’s Cardinals-Dodgers game, and I was assigned the 6th inning. Most likely, you’re coming here from the 5th inning at Fungoes. Watching the Dodgers has become very interesting to me because it is the one other team that I really have ties to. The first is that A.J. Ellis is one of the only players that has gotten to the big leagues from my Alma Mater, Austin Peay State University. They generally have a decent baseball team, and usually have a chance to go to regionals or super regionals in the College World series, but they haven’t had many success stories. I got to meet with a relief pitcher on the Braves AA team earlier this year, but we’ll have to see how his career ends up.

Secondly, I have been lucky enough to work with the Chattanooga Lookouts, writing some of their game stories this year, but the last couple of years, I have been going to games as a fan, and enjoying the team. One of the guys that I paid a lot of attention to when he was in Chattanooga was the first player to come to bat in the 6th: Yasiel Puig.

Last year, he grabbed the media’s attention out of spring training, and there was national media reporting that the Dodgers almost scrapped their plans to send him to the minors and just put him in the majors anyway. They thought twice about it and sent him to Chattanooga. Since I caught wind of that, I thought that if he was that good, it might be worth trying to see him, especially if he was going to move up quickly, and he certainly did. 40 games was all he would play in the minors before going to LA.

He’s a bit of a polarizing figure nationally, as many hate his bat flip and his exuberance, but I saw him first-hand excite a team and his energy was infectious. Those 40 games that he was with the Lookouts were the only reasonably-sustained success that I’ve seen from them in the 2 and a half years that I’ve been following them.

In any case, Puig had a rather uneventful at-bat, popping up to the foul side of first base. It was a bit of a run for Adams, but he ended up securing the ball after a small bobble. The other two batters both struck out, something that you don’t really see very often when Kelly is the pitcher.

When it came to the home side of the 6th, it was a bit interesting. It started out with a Kottaras single, in his first start as a part of the Cardinals, and it was his only hit of the day.

What was interesting was that Jay also made his first hit of the day right after. Jay has been interesting to say the least this year at the plate. What I find most interesting is that he has hit lefties better than righties so far this season. He’s hitting lefties at a .396 clip (19-for-48) on the season. on the other hand, he’s hitting righties at a .269 clip (50-for-186). That’s a difference of 127 points. There is a bit of a small sample to compare one to the other, but maybe Jay should be starting vs. lefties and not righties.

That made me curious about Bourjos’ splits, and surprisingly enough, he’s hitting righties at .250 (25-for-100) and lefties at .189 (14-for-74). So he’s doing better against righties at nearly an even sample. Maybe they should reverse the platoon and let Bourjos hit righties and Jay hit lefties. If the right-handed sample holds (which is the larger sample), then Bourjos would hit just 19 points worse against right-handers. That’s just less than 1 less hit every 50 ABs. If you think that Bourjos’ defense can take away one more hit than Jay’s defense every 3 weeks or so, then it would even out (which I guarantee it would or be even better). I doubt it ever happens, but again, if the numbers hold, it would be better for the team.

The inning was for all purposes killed when Kelly tried to sac bunt and failed. Kelly popped it up, but it only went about 5 feet in the air. Greinke caught it, and fired to second to double off Kattaras. Nothing he could really do there, but that was basically the end. It was only 2 outs, and Greinke did get pulled right after that with Matt Carpenter up to bat.

Greinke settled in well after the first inning, and ended up without giving up any runs after that long first. He threw 110 pitches, and between that and a lefty coming up, Mattingly went to Paco Rodriguez, who ended up striking out Carpenter to end the inning.

I think that maybe Carpenter is taking too many pitches. He is a good 2-strike hitter generally, but he’s been striking out a lot this year. He needs to look for a pitch that he can hit and take care of it no matter when it comes in the count. Many times, he doesn’t even swing before two strikes, and after that, it might be too late for him to get a pitch that is in his wheelhouse. I’m no professional hitting coach, but that’s what I feel like I’m seeing from him.

Well, that’s it for the 6th inning. Might have been a little long for the fact that only 7 batters came to the plate, and nobody scored, but I dug into a little more detail than I usually do, so there’s that. Make sure to check out the other innings as well, I hope they’re not all 1000 word essays, but that’s what you get when you read my stuff, apparently. Looking for the next inning? Check out Baseball Geek in Galveston.

The Boys Are Back!

Normally, I don’t post much on the weekend, but I’ll be honest, I’m just so darn excited that baseball is back that I don’t care. Even if my wife says that I’ve been watching baseball all week, I don’t count the HR derby as baseball, and let’s just forget about the terrible All-Star game. At least the AAA All-Star game was nice.

In any case, back to the real baseball, where the guys were wearing the birds on the bat that I love so much. Lance Lynn got the first start out of the break. I felt like his start was going to be big because the Dodgers are sending out Greinke and Kershaw in the other two games. Lance pitched a fairly good game, except for the 3rd and the 7th.

In the third, he let runners on 1st and 3rd with only one out, eventually loaded them with 2 outs, but he got out of that jam. When the 7th rolled around, I can’t blame Matheny for leaving him in too much. Going into the inning, he was sitting just under 100 pitches (96, I think, but not sure). He had only allowed 2 hits and 4 walks before then, and the last hit was in the 3rd inning. Ok. I understand it, but hindsight is 20/20, and he would allow 2 doubles without getting an out and be pulled from the game. The second runner came around to score on a groundout and a wild pitch after he left the game, and so Lynn was charged with 2 runs even though he did pitch well up to the 7th.

As for the Cardinals bats, the obvious hero is Matt Holliday. Wong was a nice help, too. In the first, the Cardinals jumped out to the early lead on a Wong double and then Matt Holliday doubling him home. Then, in the 5th, Wong singled, and was trying to steal second when Matt Holliday smashed a deep, deep homer into the center field grass. I think that Wong has solidified himself in the 2nd spot in the order, and I think his average will continue to climb after its drastic drop when his shoulder was hurt. He’s been a .300 hitter in the minors, and while that means little in the majors, I think he’s not hitting his potential when he’s at .247 right now.

I’m giving the zero for the game to Matt Carpenter. I was talking about this in last night’s game, but I think he may be taking too many pitches right now. During a couple of the ABs last night, Carpenter didn’t swing until 2 strikes. That’s sometimes ok for him, but my personal opinion is that if he gets a pitch that’s in his wheelhouse, then he needs to swing at it, even if it’s early in the count.

Matt Adams was also 0-4 on the night, and he absolutely crushed a ball that was right in his wheelhouse, but somehow if hung up just enough to not go all the way out of the park. Seeing as he’s the only guy on the team that’s hitting over .300, and 2nd in the NL in average at .325, I’d love to see him keep that up as long as possible. I’ve been huge on him since last year, and I think he’s firmly planted himself at first, and his hitting is making Craig obsolete. Not only because Craig is slumping, but other than the RBI total, Adams’ year this year is likely better than either of Craig’s best two years (2012 & 2013).

Scoreboard watching will note that the Pirates, Brewers and Cardinals all won, but the Reds lost last night. That means the Cardinals are still a game behind the Brewers, but gives the Cards a cushion on the Reds that means the Cardinals can’t drop into third place until after the game Sunday night at the earliest. I certainly hope that the Cardinals never drop into third, but I’m just putting the possibility out there.

Final note real quick: the UCBers put together a series preview before each series begins to give you an idea of what the pitching and hitting matchups will be like, as well as other quick notes. We call it the Bird’s Eye View. You can sign up to receive the e-mails by going to this link. I write some of them, and also receive them all. It’s a great primer for each series.

Hello, old friend!

It was a brief stint at the top, but I’m certainly glad that they got the opportunity to get the get a taste of first place. I would have liked it better if they could have had sole possession of first in the break, but I don’t think that the Brewers will stay up there long.  The Brewers come out of the break against the Nationals and Reds, so with the way that the Brewers have been skidding, I would think that’s all that’s needed to get them a few more Ls and if the Cards can handle the Dodgers and Rays, then it’ll be a nice time to be a Cards fan. Enough about that, though. Let’s look back at the last few games I’ve missed.

Thursday (9-1 L)

Hero: Kolten Wong. He got a hit (nobody had more than 1), stole a base, was hit by pitch, and scored the only run of the game. That was the best performance in this game.

Zero: Shelby Miller. It wasn’t his greatest start, and let’s be honest, he hasn’t had a ton of good ones this year. He only went 5 innings, gave up 5 hits, but the thing that killed him was the walks, again, with 4 of them. Giving up 4 runs is fine if you do that in 7, but 5, not particularly.

Notes: This might have been a precursor to what would happen in the weekend, as “not finishing off a sweep” could have been the theme of the week. I’m not too upset about it. Yes, sweeps are nice, but I preach winning each series, and they did that, so I’m not too mad. The two games they lost are the two that I couldn’t watch because I was driving either to or from my in-laws’ house, and so maybe I should be banned from doing that.

Friday (7-6 W)

Hero: Matt Holliday. Holliday got two doubles and a walk in his first three plate appearances, but he made his last time at bat count by absolutely smoking one into the left field stands to break the tie in the top of the 9th inning. It was lined so hard that I think it got out of the park in under a second. That’s definitely hero-worthy.

Zero: Joe Kelly. It’s certainly understandable that he’d be rusty. I was hoping for him to not be, but it is what it is. He took the start from Marco Gonzales, who was having trouble of his own trying to get through games. It wasn’t pretty, though, as Kelly gave up 6 runs in 3 innings. I was calling for Kelly to get this start for the last couple times that Gonzales has gone out there. I got want I wanted, but I guess I have to be careful what I wish for.

Notes: Jhonny Peralta didn’t have a bad game of his own, going 3-4 himself, but it was the night of the comeback and the night of the home run. Down 6-0, Adams got a 2-run bomb in the 4th. Then, Wong got one to lead off the 6th, a solo shot. Peralta tacked on 2 more with his dinger, also in the 6th. The last one was the one I mentioned earlier, the Holliday one in the 9th. I don’t think I can remember the last time the Cardinals hit 4 homers in the same game. It seems like an eternity ago, that’s for sure.

Saturday (10-2 W)

Hero: Tony Cruz. When Molina went out with his injury, there was a lot of uncertainty with Cruz taking most of the playing time. It’s nice to see that he’s been performing pretty well. Cruz got 3 RBIs on 2 hits, and doing it early in the game to stake the team to an early lead.

Zero: Matt Holliday. Sometimes, the zero tag is brutal to give out. This time it’s sad because it’s given to a guy who scored two runs in the game. The two times he got on was by a HBP and an error in the field, and so it’s not by anything that he did himself. The same can be said about the two runs that he scored. It just goes to show that just because you have a good game doesn’t mean you can’t have a rough one the next day (if that can be considered rough). (see also: Allen Craig)

Notes: Adam Wainwright probably deserved the hero tag, but seeing him give up 2 runs was a little more than I’m used to. It’s not a bad day’s work by any means, especially in 7 innings. He also was able to get in on the fun by hitting in one of the 10 runs himself. Wainwright enters the all-star break with the best ERA of qualified pitchers in the MLB at 1.83. Next lowest is King Felix, at 2.12, and next lowest in the NL is Cueto at 2.13. He also enters the break tied for the most wins in the MLB at 12. (I don’t like the win stat, but I recognize that most people do look at it, and that’s why I mention it.)

Wong got another home run in the game, his 5th home run last week. That’s the 5th one since coming back from the DL, which would only be since last Sunday. That’s 5 home runs in a week for a guy that even people who saw him in the minors thought he wouldn’t hit more than 15 in a season. He had 1 before, and those 6 ties Matt Holliday with 6 on the season, in half the PAs. I think that the Cardinals have found their second baseman for the near future. His average still needs to come up a little, but bouncing between the minors because Matheny wouldn’t play him and playing for a week on a bad shoulder probably affected that quite a bit. I think it’ll be there in the end, if Matheny would leave him alone and play him consistently. That Matheny will do that has really yet to be seen.

Sunday (11-2 L)

Hero: Kolten Wong. It was slim pickings, but he basically manufactured a run by himself by getting a leadoff hit, stealing second, taking 3rd and home on groundouts. That itself is good enough to get it on this day.

Zero: Carlos Martinez. Giving up 4 runs in 4 innings just isn’t going to get it done. I know he hasn’t started much at the MLB level, and so I am willing to cut him a little slack, but he hasn’t looked spectacular in any of the starts so far. I think that he’ll get there eventually, but right now it’s not pretty. I almost went with Maness, who also gave up 4 in just 1.1 innings. Or Greenwood who gave up 3 in the last 2 innings of the game, but by then the game was already past over.

Notes: George Kottaras got his first RBI for St. Louis in his second PA as a Cardinal (thanks for the catch, Shoptaw!), on what would eventually end up being an error by Scooter Gennett. The person who scored on the error was Peter Bourjos, who worked a walk the hard way, going from an 0-2 count to a 4-2 count. It’s not like Bourjos hasn’t been playing well anyway, but he certainly isn’t getting any starts over Jay.

Jay went 0-4 on the day, including getting out to end the game. Jay is hitting .237/.275/.289 this month. If you push that back into June, for the last 20 days, Jay’s hitting .218/.259/.255. Not exactly great, and Matheny has yet to acknowledge it or bench him for it. I’ve written before that he has to hit well to justify him staying in the lineup, and he’s not hitting well at all. Bourjos, on the other hand, is hitting .455/.500/.727 in July, and for the last 20 days, is hitting .303/.333/.423. Looks like they swapped bats for nearly a month. Don’t tell Matheny, though.

Well, that’s how the Cardinals got to the All-Star Break, and it’ll be slim pickings for a little while. The Cardinals get an extra day after the All-Star game than most, waiting until Friday for their next game, rather than Thursday. Then, the Cardinals get off days Monday and Thursday next week. I wish those off days were much more spread out. I guess I might have to try and find something else to write about or it’ll be slim pickings on here over that time as well.

Is this the team we’ve been looking for?

Maybe it took until the Star Wars night for Obi-Wan Kenobi to quit Jedi mind-tricking us – “This is not the team you are looking for.” Move along. Move along. We’ll find out soon enough.

Lance Lynn started game 3 of 4 against the Pirates, and he did fairly well. He didn’t have his greatest stuff, and I (along with quite a few others) questioned why Matheny would send him out there for the 7th. When he put two on, it seemed sure that he was out of gas, I mean he started the inning with 106 pitches, but a double play saved him (and possibly the game). After that he exited with a line of 6.2 innings, 6 hits, 2 walks, 2 ER, and 4 Ks. Not as good as he has been, but not a shabby night of work by any means.

The offense did fairly well also. Wong hit his 3rd homer in 4 games, furthering my point about sending people to Memphis and them coming back on fire. Seriously, it’s past time to send Craig down there for a bit. He was the zero last night, the guy who leads in that category right now. He went 0-4, and if it wasn’t for a strikeout, they’d all be groundouts. He hasn’t looked right for a while, and possibly all year. He’s had a couple of good games, but a 72 point drop in batting average and a 80 point drop in on base percentage from last year either mean one of two things: he’s washed up or he’s broken. I think he’s probably broken, and I think it’s his swing that needs fixing. A couple weeks off and a trip down to Memphis is the prescription. Let Dr. Mo take care of that.

It was the top of the lineup that produced the most, though, as Matheny actually constructed it pretty well, and it worked out. He moved Taveras into the 2-hole, something I think would have been better the night before, but he put Jay in there instead. Taveras had his second 2-hit night in a row, and his batting average has been climbing steadily the last couple of nights. The beauty of his small sample is that a few more 2-hit nights before the All-Star break and he’ll be knocking on .300 before we know it.

Carpenter got 2 hits of his own, but the hero came down to Matt Holliday and Matt Adams. Adams had 3 hits in 5 appearances, driving in 2 on a 1st inning double where he got thrown out (barely) trying to stretch it into a triple. Matt Holliday only had 3 official ABs because of 2 walks, but also got 2 hits, scored two runs, and had an RBI to boot. I think because of the walks, and the fact that he took good ABs (fouled quite a few off to get those hits and walks), I’ll give it to Holliday.

One last note: Peter Bourjos made a great leaping grab at the wall to end the game. I saw it a few times on MLB Network between now and then, and it looked like he thought he was closer to the wall than he was, but that doesn’t matter at all when the ball sticks in the glove. Some people thought he might have robbed a homer, but I think it was going to stay in. It still took away an RBI double, and that’s nothing to scoff at either. He also got a triple when he pinch-hit in the 7th inning. That means that he’s on a 3-for-3 streak in his last 3 appearances, and if they were in the same game, he’d be a homer away from the cycle. going back to his last start, he’s 4-7, and for the month, he’s 4-8. Yes, it is the 10th of the month, and the guy has played essentially 2 games. Add that hot streak hitting and the leaping grab together, and he’s earned a start. I hope that he gets out there tonight. If Matheny was serious about riding the hot hand before, then Bourjos is on fire (Not like Jay is, either, hitting .205 since June 23rd).

The Brewers lost again, and the Reds won again, with the Cards, Reds, and Phillies all going for sweeps today (the Reds would be a 5-game sweep, impressive if it wasn’t against the Cubs). It puts the Cards just 2 back of the Brewers, with the Reds 2.5 back. There are a couple different ways that the Cardinals can end up with a tie for the division lead now. If the Cards and Phillies both finish the sweep, and then the Cards take 2 of 3 from the Brewers, then that would give them a tie for 1st at the All-Star break. If the Cards lose and the Brewers win, then a sweep would have the same effect. This is not withstanding what the Reds do, though, as if they sweep the rest of their games and either of those scenarios play out, they’d have a half-game lead on the division. Confused yet? No worries. Give it a few days and it’ll end up happening one way or another.

Side note: I’m leaving tonight to head to the in-laws for their 25th anniversary, so I likely won’t be as active on Twitter or this blog as much as I’d like to be. I probably won’t have a blog until the all-star break, and I’ll be catching the games late, but I’ll make my quick notes when I can. Thanks.

It feels so right, it must be Wong.

There’s some good and some bad to come out of the game, but it again had an ending that you could not miss.

First, let’s look at the starter of the night: Carlos Martinez. He ha his deepest game of the year so far. He went 6 innings. Now, that’s not a ton when you’re looking at the guy who went the night before, but that’s actually an accomplishment for Martinez. I’m glad he was able to get through 6, but he still missed out on his first quality start because of giving up 4 earned runs. 2 came off a homer by the Cardinal Killer, Pedro Alvarez, and the other 2 came off a homer by the NL MVP of last year, Andrew McCutchen.

So, it’s not like he was allowing a ton of baserunners (outside of Polanco) it’s that a couple guys got a couple good swings on him with a couple guys on. That’s a little step forward and a little step back. I hope he continues to make steps forward, though. We’ll just have to see what happens with him.

As for the lineup, there were a couple guys who did great, and a couple who didn’t do so great. Molina, the zero of the game, leads the way of the guys who didn’t do so good. He hit into a double play on one of those, and was the only starting position player without a hit. Rough night for someone who has been hitting well recently.

As for the good, the Cardinals actually scored first in this game, with Wong sending a 2-run double into the gap in the second inning. The Pirates got their runs before the 5th, but Matt Holliday got a 2-run double of his own in the 5th to tie the game at 4. That was where it stood for a while.

Matt Carpenter, Jhonny Peralta, and Oscar Taveras each got 2 hits quietly, but it was the bottom of the ninth inning that gave us our hero.

For the second night in a row, a long ball gave us the walk-off win, or should I say Wong ball in this case. Kolten Wong took a full count pitch over the wall in right, and it made for back-to-back walk off homers for the Cardinals.

It’s interesting to note that’s the second home run for Wong since returning to Memphis, in only his third game. Since Matt Adams got back from Memphis, Adams has had 7 home runs in 22 starts. Those are the last two guys to come back from there. I guess we all should expect Joe Kelly to hit a couple out when he’s back on Friday.

Maybe the strategy should be to put everyone on the 15-day DL, give them some rehab starts in Memphis, and then they’ll come back and be great. Just start doing it one at a time. Craig, then Holliday, then Peralta, and maybe even Bourjos. They’ll all come back and be hitting machines. That’s as good a strategy as I’ve heard recently.

Well, the Reds got a walk-off of their own to demolish a 5-run lead of the Cubs in the night game of a double-header that they swept, which puts them just a half-game back of the Cardinals. The good news is that the Brewers have lost again, putting the Cards just 3 games back of the Brew crew. If the Cardinals can stay within 3, then there’s a chance they can sweep and tie for the division lead at the all-star break. Even a series win would put them a game closer to the Brewers. As long as they don’t lose ground between now and then, and at least win the weekend series, they’ll be in pretty good position when the All-Star break starts.

What a night!

That was one heck of a game. If you missed it, you missed out. Now it wasn’t the prettiest. It wasn’t the easiest, but the ending wiped away most of the crud in the middle.

The Cardinals had Wainwright on the mound, and he’s been pretty bueno most of the season. He’s had 8 scoreless starts to his season coming into this game, and he added another to that tally. The great thing about Waino’s scoreless games is that he’s gone at least 7 innings in each of them. 7 innings was a bit of a stretch this time, as he started the 7th with 102 pitches and ended it with 112. That’s no terrible, though, and so it’s another in the good starts category.

It wasn’t a great start, and here’s why: he kept giving up too many baserunners. 7 hits, 3 walks, and a hit by pitch. That’s pretty high. Luckily, the Pirates were in a leaving-people-on kind of mood, and didn’t bring anybody around to score, even then the bases were loaded in the 8th on Freeman. In the game, the Pirates left 12 people on base.

It’s not like the Cardinals were doing much, either. The numbers coming into the game said that the Cardinals can beat Charlie Morton. Plenty of guys had good numbers against him, but that doesn’t even matter when it comes to this year’s team. They made him look like a god for the 7 innings that he worked in, giving up 1 hit and 2 walks in his time on the mound. Luckily, the Pirates pulled him for Polanco in the 8th to hit with the bases loaded, or this game might have gone differently.

It looked like the Cardinals might get something going in the 8th, when Jay led off with a single, and then Wong bunted him over to second, but Taveras smashed a liner to right, that Harrison caught and threw out Jay who was too far off the bag. Taveras hit that ball harder than any of the other balls in the entire game from both sides, but couldn’t buy a hit with it. That’s just a small sample of what his short year in the MLB has been like. It begs the question of why he wasn’t in the starting lineup, considering Craig did absolutely nothing.

I get that Craig was 11-21 off Morton coming into the game, but like I said, that doesn’t matter with this team. Taveras doesn’t have the average to show for it, but he’ll get there with how hard he’s hitting the ball. Even given that, Craig still wasn’t the zero. There were plenty to look at, as there were plenty of 0′s on the box score, but the one that stood out is Matt Holliday. If he’s batting second, he’s gotta produce something, and he didn’t. 0-4 with a GIDP which erased one of the only baserunners the Cardinals would get on the night.

It didn’t really end up mattering, as the hero of the night would show. Adams got a double to left early in the game, and if it wasn’t for Waino’s good night, that would have given him the hero by itself with how bad the offense was. No, what gave Adams the hero was hitting a walk-off bomb to right field with Carpenter on base. It was the first walk-off home run in the regular season for the Cardinals since Skip Schumaker on June 19, 2011 against the Royals. There was a nice postseason one between now and then, though I doubt I have to remind Cardinals fans of that one.

Interestingly, Marco Gonzales has been sent down. I thought he should have been before yesterday’s start, but that’s a whole other story. He just looked overmatched, and he needs more time in the minors. That’s not a knock on his potential, as I think that’s there, but it’s clear he’s not ready yet. Tyler Lyons comes up in his place, and most people were thinking that he’d get the Friday start, but we’ve been told he’s going into the bullpen. Joe Kelly is expected to come up and make Friday’s start instead. I’ve been thinking for a bit that he’s needed to, and he is. Based on the fact that he threw 72 on Sunday, I’m expecting that he’ll be limited to about 90 pitches, but if he can go 5-6 with those, it’d be a good day. It was said he looked very sharp in his last outing, and that made the decision easier. I hope that he can keep his ERA near a half still, even though he only got a few innings before getting hurt, so that’s a very small sample size.

The Brewers lose, and the Reds win. That means the Cardinals are now in second (because they beat the Pirates), and 4 games back, while Pirates are 4.5 back, and the Reds are now 5 back. It’s certainly becoming an interesting race in the Central and I’m interested to see where it stands by the all-star break.  It’s Carlos Martinez’s turn in the rotation tonight, and I just hope he continues whatever momentum they got from that walk-off.

Well, That was Disappointing.

That was disappointing to say the least. I have not many more words for the last stretch of games other than that. The Cardinals have been infuriating and it isn’t looking to get any better any time soon. As my boss at the Lookouts reminds me nearly every time I complain about the Cards, it could be worse (he’s a lifelong Mets fan).

I have to apologize to my reader (yes, the one that I have) for being a bit late with this post. 4th of July weekend was a bit longer than I expected, so here’s a fast look at the last few games:

Wednesday (2-0 W)

Hero: Adam Wainwright. He’s ben fantastic recently, and when the team only gives you 2 runs of support, and you go 7.2 scoreless to get that W, you’re the man. He somehow did it while only striking out 1 hitter, but it doesn’t matter to me if he strikes out nobody at all. 23 outs without a run is impressive no matter how you do it.

Zero: Matt Adams. Adams and Craig both went 0-4 with 4 left on. By far the worst guys at the plate. It’s only the fact that Adams struck out twice that makes him the zero of this game. With how bad Craig has been hitting recently, I want to give it to him, though.

Thursday (7-2 W)

Hero: There were plenty of guys that were in the running here. But I’m going to give it to Jhonny Peralta. A home run was one of his two hits, and he was the only guy with multiple hits, multiple RBIs, and that home run just put it over the top.

Zero: Matt Holliday. 0-4 was bad enough, as Ellis also had the same problem getting hits, but he left the most on, and was the only guy not to either score a run or get an RBI, and that includes the pitcher.

Notes: Speaking of pitcher, Martinez had a pretty good day, and would have gotten the hero had he gotten past 5. Only giving up 1 run is better than what I’ve been used to recently from guys. I think that the bullpen would (as well as I would) appreciate a few more innings, though.

Friday (3-2 W)

Hero: Yadier Molina. He batted 1.000 (2-for-2) with an RBI and a run scored. Only guy with more than one hit helps solidify the tag, too.

Zero: Jhonny Peralta. Only 0-4 on the day and he left the most on as well.

Notes: Trevor Rosenthal tried to give this game away. He almost received the zero for this game anyways. Had a 3 run lead going into the ninth, and it was only a bases-loaded double play that gave the Cardinals the win. It was brutal to watch, but they squeaked away with the win. turns out it would be the only one they get this weekend.

Saturday (6-5 L)

Hero: Matt Holliday. A little unconventional choice here. He went 1-2 with a walk, HBP, 2 runs scored and an RBI. He only got 1 hit, but got on more than anyone and scored more than anyone.

Zero: Trevor Rosenthal. It might be more of a zero from Friday and Saturday added together, but he was ineffective on Friday and then actually blew the save on Saturday. I’m looking at the manager for using him again the next day, but I gotta give it to a guy on the field, and so it’s Rosie.

Notes: It was noted that the game was really lost when Seth Maness gave up a 3-run shot earlier in the game, when the Cardinals had a solid 4-run lead. It’s true that hurt more than most. It even hurt Miller’s line, who pitched pretty well, but left 2 of those guys on who scored on the homer.

Sunday (8-4 L)

Hero: Matt Adams. The kid had his first 4-hit game of his career, going 4-5, with that out being in the 9th. A run scored, an RBI, and heck, the team only had 10 hits, and 4 of them were his.

Zero: Jason Motte. It was nearly Greenwood, who gave up 3 runs in his two innings, but instead, it’s Motte, who gave up 4 runs in his inning of work. Without that, the Cardinals would have at least had a better chance. I won’t say they would have tied it, as the same moves may not have been made later, but it would have been an easier loss to swallow if nothing else.

Notes: I really wanted to give the zero to Craig, as he’s been absolutely horrendous lately, but it’s just been that in most of the games, there’s someone that does just a little bit worse. He really needs to go down and hit in Memphis for a bit, but I don’t see it happening. People think he’s hurt from last year or his swing is just not there or any number of things, but the fact is that he isn’t producing. He’s hitting ground balls about 55% of the time, and that’s just not going to get it done. It’s the 13th worst percentage in the MLB, and to make it worse, he has the 3rd worst BABIP of all the guys with higher GB%, which means he isn’t getting any kind of luck at all.

The Cardinals slid their way into 3rd place by half a game, with the Reds in 4th place just a half game behind them. The newly 2nd place Pirates come into town for 4 starting tonight, and the Cardinals have the top of the rotation starting with Wainwright to face them. Hopefully the Cards will be in second by the time they head to Milwaukee for the weekend series so that they can have a shot at getting close to them before the all-star break. It would certainly be nice to have that to look at for the unofficial end to the first half of baseball.

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