My Jay Theory

There has been a lot of talk, mainly from my own musings on here, but of the fact that Jay’s hitting near .250 vs. righties and .415 against lefties this year. I have my own theories on why. I may be right, I may be way off-base, but here’s my thoughts. Bear with me a little as there are many, many figures to go with this and explain it.

Let’s first look at where Jay’s hitting. He generally has hit more balls to left, and that hold for this year. Here’s where Jay has hit every ball in play off his bat this year.

plot_hc_spray

 

If he hits in on the ground, it’s generally rolled over to the right side and an out. If he hits the ball in the air more to left and center. Why is that? Mainly because he goes with the pitch and everyone pitches him outside. These are where he’s gotten pitched at (from the catcher’s point of view) by both righties and lefties.

lefty righty

There is a bit of a difference, and that is that right-handers tend to pitch him low, and pitch him away, but lefties pitch him low and away. Also lefties stay in the zone more often than righties. But let’s look at how often Jay swings at those pitches.

lefty swing righty swing

You can pretty much assume that if it’s from a righty and in the zone, he’s swinging. If it’s from a lefty, he’s much more patient, and Jay lays off the inside pitch better against them. I think that patience against lefties has paid off, mainly in the fact that he’s hitting the pitches he wants to hit more often. The final thing to look at is the average based on where the pitch is that he hits.

lefty avg righty avg

The thing that should be noted more than anything is Jay’s average against the pitches out of the zone and away. Against lefties, he’s connecting on that pitch, taking it to left, and getting hits. Against righties, he’s not connecting as well by any means. I would say that most of that is probably due to a right-handed cutter. It starts out looking like it’s going to go in the zone and then runs off the plate and out of the zone. I’ve seen him strike out on quite a few pitches like that. If a righty can start any ball in the zone and then have it run off the plate, especially away, then it’s likely he’ll swing and miss.

That’s why I think he’s doing so well against lefties, and not as good against righties. That’s my theory at least. I may or may not be right about it, but that’s what I think.

Well, um…

That was bad. I mean very, very bad. I’ve been sitting here trying to think of things that I can say that are good about it, and here’s what I’ve got: It’s not Matheny’s fault for once.

Joe Kelly didn’t have his best stuff, and giving up 4 in 5 innings is never good, but it wasn’t the worst pitching performance. No. That came in the 7th, when the Cards gave up 8 runs in the inning, 2 were charged to Martinez, 2 were charged to Choate, but it was really Seth Maness’ zero because he gave up the bases-clearing double that was just barely out of the reach of a diving Bourjos and a 3-run home run later in the inning.

Quickly saying something about that Bourjos play. He gave it all he had, and if he doesn’t try to dive for it and catch it, then it probably rolls to the wall anyway, where Holliday was ready to throw it back in anyway. If he catches it, it saves 2 runs for the moment, and if he misses it (like he did) then it changes nothing. At least he made it close, which is more than anyone else playing center could say.

Bourjos also got the only RBI of the game. It was on a fielder’s choice, but it was really his speed that gave him the RBI, because he was probably the only guy on the team that could have been safe on that double play attempt. At the time, that brought the game to within 4-1, but he was picked off of first base to end the inning anyway. In his other two plate appearances, he grounded out and walked. Only Jhonnly Peralta got on base twice (walk and a hit), so Bourjos had a relatively decent night at the plate, but knowing Matheny’s logic, Bourjos will have another 10 days off before he starts again anyway. Maybe if he had more starts, he wouldn’t be as rusty. I know it’s only 24 plate appearances, but he’s 8-21 with 3 runs, 3 RBIs, and 2 walks this month, for a .381/.435/.667/1.101 (again, OPS is 4th). VERY small sample, but doesn’t that mean you’d want to see more? I guess not if you’re Matheny.

Taveras also went 0-4, which brings him to 5-for-his-last-17, but then again, Craig only has 5 hits in his last 50 plate appearances, so I’ll still take my chances on Taveras starting.

I’m going to give the hero of the game to Matt Adams. He only went 1-4, but had the only double and scored the only run. Nobody was tearing the cover off the ball, so it’s his. With the game today, the Cards can bring themselves to within 2 games of Milwaukee. That means that a series win brings them within 1 and a sweep brings them to the top, so let’s just ignore that the loss was 12-1 and just put it in the L column and move on.

Mathenaging

This crap with Matheny is getting so bad lately that there’s a new word that’s going around the Twittersphere: Mathenaging. Definition: Managing like Matheny, badly. And last night, Matheny’s moves or lack of them directly affected the loss last night.

First, let’s talk about the lineup. The fact that Matheny keeps using Craig over Taveras in right is a travesty. Since Taveras has come back up, he’s started in 13 games, getting 13 hits and 2 walks in 57 plate appearances, averaging .236. In the same time, Craig has also started 13 games, getting 6 hits in 53 PAs with 5 walks, averaging .125. Oscar isn’t exactly tearing the cover off the ball, but he’s certainly hitting better than Craig, and he’ll likely get better the more he sees major league pitching.

Second, Jay went 1-4 last night vs. all right-handed pitchers. On the year, that bring him to .255/.327/.320/.647 (OPS is the last one) against RHP. Bourjos on the other hand, is hitting .252/.328/.369/.697. Whatever you want to look at (other than average, which is 3 points higher), OPS, wOBA, wRAA, whatever advanced hitting metric you want, this much is true: Bourjos is hitting right-handed pitching better than Jay this year, and he’s been hitting all pitchers better for the last month or so. But Matheny is still playing Jay and letting Bourjos rot on the bench.

Let’s actually get into the game last night. The first thing Matheny did wrong was leave Lynn in too long. Lynn was gassed after the first 5 innings, but he went out the 6th. That’s fine. But when he walked the first two batters on 9 pitches, and only got the first out when the guy popped a bunt foul, and that was after giving Lynn some strikes. A fly ball to center and it looked like he might just get out of it, but then he gave up a hit and let a run score. If I was the manager, I would have pulled him either after the two walks or the first out, but Matheny left him in and he gave up the winning run.

Then, Matheny brought Motte into a close game. Motte was a great pitcher once, but since coming back from Tommy John, he hasn’t been the same. Nobody is, especially not the first year, but without the velocity that he’s been used to, he’s starting to get shelled. Right now he’s giving up a homer every 3 innings, and he’s generally getting knocked around to the tune of a 5.14 ERA. Bringing him into a close game isn’t smart. The current Jason Motte should only be used in the mop-up crew who comes in when the game is out of reach for either team.

Ok. Enough about how I’ve lost my faith in Matheny, and to the hero/zero of the game. Hero is Matt Carpenter, who got on base 3 times. I want the zero to be Craig, but he did get a walk, so I guess it’s Pierzynski’s first zero of the year. Let’s hope that tonight’s game is different, but I’m not holding out hope while Matheny is at the helm right now.

Cubbies Weekend

It was an interesting weekend. It started out bad, but got much better. Let’s take a look.

Friday (7-6 L)

Hero: This was an interesting one. Both Matt Carpenter and Matt Holliday went 3-5 on the day. Both struck out 2 times. Both scored 2 runs. Both got 1 RBI. If I could make co-heroes for any game, it would be this one. But I can’t, and so I’m going to give Carpenter the hero since he only left 2 on to Holliday’s 3.

Zero: Joe Kelly. It’s not a great day when you give up 5 runs in any game. He was off the hook later in the game, but he certainly lent himself to the loss.

Notes: Allen Craig went 0-3 before being pulled, which moved his average down to .240. Jay got 2 hits off a lefty, and he is continuing to get all of his hits off lefties and struggling against righties. Including a hit on Saturday and Sunday’s game, in the last month, Jay is 9-for-20 (.450) against lefties. At the same time, he’s 9-for-50 (.180) against righties. Maybe it should lend more credence to the fact that Jay should play vs. Lefties only.

Saturday (6-3 W)

Hero: Matt Adams. Being a home run away from the cycle is a funny thing for him. He’s a home run hitter (-ish) and the hardest thing should probably be a triple. Well, that’s an interesting thing, as not only the three hits were his, but 2/3 of the RBIs in the game were his as well. That’s one heck of a game.

Zero: There were three guys to go hitless on the day, but the one that stuck out the worst was Oscar Taveras. He’s going to get better, he just needs time playing at this level. It’s not a terrible streak that he’s running through as a rookie, and the thing about him being a rookie is that these number will have little to nothing to say about how good he’ll be for the rest of his career.

Notes: This was A.J. Pierzynski’s first game in a Cardinals uniform, and for all the backlash that people think he’ll have in the clubhouse, and I have some concerns about it, but I will say this: if he produces at the plate and behind the plate, I’ll be a happy guy. We’re really just having him until sometime in september anyway, because that’s when Yadi will likely be back.

This was also Shelby Miller’s first start since being put back in the rotation. I didn’t get to see any of his pitching, but he was on a bit of a short leash. (87 pitches). That might have just been from the rest. 2 runs on 3 hits and one out from a quality start isn’t terrible by any means.

Sunday (1-0 W)

Hero: You can pretty much assume that with the way that the rotation has been looking, the only guy that would get you a shutout would be Adam Wainwright. There has been some good pitching, and they have been keeping the score low all year long, but keeping the goose egg on the board is all Adam Wainwright’s deal. It was only 7 innings (and I say this “only” pretty sarcastically, but he has certainly gone deep a lot this year), and it got a little shaky at the end, but he was certainly on.

Zero: Matt Adams. He was lifting a ball to all fields, and the other out was a strikeout. Not a terrible day for him, but he was the only 0-4 on the day, and so it defaults to him.

Notes: With the only run scoring on a Matt Holliday solo bomb being the only run, you would think that there would be more guys that were hitless, but the Cardinals were able to get 9 hits, but they weren’t able to string them together. As long as they still get the W, that’ll just be a footnote, though.

The Brewers lost Sunday, and so the Cardinals jumped up to 2 games back. Still very much in the hunt for the division, and even more so when you consider the Brewers and Cardinals still have 10 games to play against each other.  The next 3 start this weekend. Before then, the Brewers have 3 against the hottest team in the MLB, who just lost their first game in their last 10: Tampa Bay. The Cardinals, on the other hand go out to San Diego to play against the Padres, who have been selling off their better players to the highest bidder. I like the changes that the Cards come into the weekend series at least tied. There is an outside chance that they come into the weekend with the 1 game lead, but I’m not betting on it. Here’s to a good week.

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.

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