How about that, we’re already 4/27th of the way through the season. The Cardinals just won their last six games – they have the best record in baseball going in to today’s games (they are tied with the Houston Astros for wins but have one fewer loss). Remember six days ago when I was panicking about the loss of Adam Wainwright? Well I’m not exactly panicking anymore but I’m wary of getting too bullish on the rest of the season. A six game winning streak matches the longest they had last year – which occurred in Aug/Sep last year and also included a sweep of the Pirates. (Only one walk-off win though). But on the other hand, they just played 35 innings against the Pirates and scored a total of 7 runs. That’s not going to get the job done especially considering the absence of Wainwright – and the one game that he’s missed so far was an exceptionally poor start by Tim Cooney but turned into a win by the offense. Michael Wacha was great in his last start but lacking for run support, as was Lance Lynn who all of a sudden misses what seemed like leading the league in run support although he was far from it. And suddenly – in Chicago a (new) (old) rival has emerged for the Central Division. Milwaukee fired their manager yesterday and are counting themselves out of the race this year – the Cubs are the only other team in the division currently with a winning record. This 3 game series against the Cubs at Busch will answer some more questions – chiefly how do the two teams match up and who’s pitching every fifth day for the Cardinals.
Cards WIN Cardinals 2, Pirates 1 10 Innings
Cards WIN Cardinals 2, Pirates 1 11 Innings
Cards WIN Cardinals 3, Pirates 2 14 Innings
I’m trying something new – a series wrap-up instead of an individual game wrap-up. And could there be a better series to start with? The Cardinals swept the Pirates at home by slim margins every time requiring extra innings to do it. They played 8 extra innings over the course of the series. Despite Mike Matheny‘s sometimes questionable use of the bullpen (ok, it’s more often than not questionable) and Randy Choate getting his Christmas gift early on a called 3rd strike, they walked off each game. The only fireworks came with Kolten Wong‘s walk-off HR on Sunday, ending a marathon 14 inning game.
The Cardinals secured a win in the first start filled because of the loss of Adam Wainwright. The starter was Tim Cooney, making his major league debut and it wasn’t pretty. His first inning was ok, he worked around 2 singles. In the second inning he walked the leadoff man and he scored after two more singles. In the third inning he only got one out and gave up a HR, double and single. Then Mike Matheny took him out of the game which was probably for the best – as long as they give him another start, except the Cardinals still needed their pitchers to get 22 more outs. None of the runs he allowed were that troubling as the Cardinals had scored 3 times in the bottom of the 1st when the first four hitters of the game got hits. After the Phillies tied it in the 3rd, the Cardinals got 2 more in the bottom of the inning and 2 more in the both the 5th and 8th as well. Pitching wise, Carlos Villanueva saved the Cards by pitching 3 2/3 perfect innings and the Phillies didn’t get another hit for the rest of the game actually until Kevin Siegrist allowed one in the 9th. So alls well that ends well, but the Cardinals bullpen can’t be expected to do this every 5 days. I’d give Cooney another start with Villanueva as backup again and hope that Marco Gonzales is healthy soon, he seems to be the long term solution. On the bright side, while Cooney gave up a lot of hits, he only walked one batter – he only threw 28 of 52 pitches for strikes but at least he could throw something over the plate and avoid a walk, it just happened to get hit hard most of the time for him yesterday. Offensively, Matt Adams hit his 3rd HR of the season and his average is now above .300. Can he sustain this and be a hitter again? I’m not too bullish but I’d sure like to be proven wrong.
And, aside from the problem of their Ace still being injured, the Cardinals have bounced back so far and took 3 out of 4 from the Phillies. The Phillies are a pretty bad team though – the Cardinals are on a 3 game winning streak and the other two times they’ve done that so far this year, they’ve gone on to win at least one more game. They have a tougher opponent tonight and this weekend with the Pirates. They’re also done with April baseball – It’s May!
Cardinals Debut: Tim Cooney (MLB Debut)
After Michael Wacha struggled last night I was afraid Carlos Martinez might have some problems of his own, but he pitched an all around solid 6 innings, other than allowing 3 walks and is now 3-0 on the season. Peter Bourjos got a start and had 2 hits including a triple and an RBI – I have no idea when Peter Bourjos last had 2 hits in a game but it was a long time ago probably. Finally, Trevor Rosenthal picked up his 8th save of the year and had a few rest days since the last one so good news both ways – he did allow the tying run to get to the plate however.
Apparently the Cardinals finally heeded my calls for a 10 run game. A lot of those runs were needed as well, since Michael Wacha wasn’t terribly sharp. Everybody hit aside from Jhonny Peralta, although nobody hit any home runs. And we had a huge change in the lineup with Jon Jay leading off and Matt Carpenter hitting second. It didn’t phase Carpenter and he led off with a triple. Apparently he’s sick of doubles. I’m going to chalk Wacha’s mediocre start up to the fact that he was feeling the pressure without Adam Wainwright. And hope that Carlos Martinez doesn’t feel that same pressure tonight when he pitches.
That was the most runs the Cardinals scored this year and according to Dan McLaughlin during the broadcast they only scored double digit runs 3 times last year. So there’s something they can surpass in just 3 more games.
Believe it or not, we’re 1/9th of the way through the season already.
Last 6 games
4-2 ADAM WAINWRIGHT
Lineups Used last 6 games
5 who cares?
Different Lineups Used Overall
9 ADAM WAINWRIGHT
Injuries Randal Grichuk, Yadier Molina (he’s back), Jason Heyward (seems minor) and ADAM WAINWRIGHT
Biggest Concern ADAM WAINWRIGHT
Lacking Offense/SP/RP ADAM WAINWRIGHT
In case you haven’t heard – ADAM WAINWRIGHT is hurt. Forever. Ok, for the rest of the year but it feels like forever. I could tell you that the last time Waino was hurt for the season the Cardinals won the World Series but they had Chris Carpenter then and a big hitter called Albert Pujols.
This is bad. Really Bad. It’s not good. It’s bad.
The Cardinals have just lost 2 games in a row for the second time this season. Also just the second time the pitching has allowed 10 runs over two games. Injuries to Molina and Heyward have caused some different lineups to be used. Matt Adams is hitting .232 with 2 HRs. Michael Wacha pitches tonight and the thought that he would be the key to the season is now confirmed. Michael Wacha IS THE KEY. If he can become an ace – and a low pitch count ace – the Cardinals can continue to contend. Matt Carpenter continues to roll and hit doubles and the team added 7 home runs to it’s season total over the last 6 games. The Cardinals are in first today by 1 game over the Cubs, who appear to be pretty consistent at this point. Which way do they go from here?
Facing Cole Hamels, who they would love to have pitching for them but probably can’t afford, the Cardinals managed 5 hits and a meager offensive output while losing to the Phillies. The Cardinals were actually leading 1-0 most of the game until John Lackey gave up 3 runs in the seventh inning. It was against a LH pitcher that they once again were unable to score more than 1 run. The Cardinals could have toyed with making a comeback but Matt Belisle gave up the 4th run in the top of the 9th. A good sign was Yadier Molina returning to the game and seeming to have no problems although he went 0-4. Jason Heyward also pinch hit in the 9th so he must be feeling ok, but I think it was pretty stupid to have him pinch hit in a game when you’re losing by 3 runs in the 9th. Best case – he hits a HR and its a 2 run deficit. It doesn’t take an imagination to visualize the worst case after watching the team the last few games. The Cardinals really are overdue for that offensive explosion where the pitching can take the night off.
Well, the day after Adam Wainwright is lost for quite possibly the remainder of the season, what you don’t really want to see is your No. 2 starter struggle. That’s exactly what did happen on Sunday however as Lance Lynn pitched 5 innings and gave up 10 hits and 6 runs. Despite all of this, the Cardinals could have won too, if they hadn’t LEFT 14 MEN ON BASE! It was not pretty. Mark Reynolds was responsible for 6 LOB and in his only hit of the day he hit his first HR of the season – when there was nobody on base. And as if the injuries to Yadier Molina and Wainwright weren’t enough in the first two games of the series, Jason Heyward was removed after straining his groin in the outfield. He’s day-to-day. It was still a positive series and roadtrip for the Cardinals, taking 2 of 3 in Milwaukee and Washington however. And Peter Bourjos finally got a hit yesterday, while Cody Stanley got one in his first major league at bat.
Tonight the Cardinals take on the Phillies and Cole Hamels – who will hopefully be scratched from his start and pitching for the Cardinals for a PTBNL and the Cardinals paying his huge salary. It won’t happen but it should, he’d be great replacement for Lackey next season as well.
Cardinals Debut: Cody Stanley (MLB Debut)
Please excuse my tardiness in posting today – the Adam Wainwright injury is bumming me out. Last night he pitched 4 good innings and then had one terrible at bat when he did something (probably ruined his Achilles tendon) on the way to first base. The prognosis is negative so far, he’s likely out for the season.
The Cardinals managed to bring in a parade of relievers and we had some more crazy plays en route to a 5-3 win.
Lance Lynn needs to pitch 8 innings today. Wainwright has been put on the DL but strangely the Cardinals chose to call up a backup catcher while Yadi recovers. Why not risk it another two games and bring up some relief for the relievers? Seriously, if your number one starter is now out for the season and you’ve already been overworking your bullpen you need to take IMMEDIATE action and give some guys a rest for the long haul. Also last night Randy Choate made another appearance – 1 batter, 1 hit allowed and 1 run scored. Replacing him with a middle innings right hander would be appropriate. I know he’s got a contract and you’ll have to pay him anyway but I’d rather pay him to sit on the beach than give up hits and walks more than 50% of the time in what are quite often “high leverage” situations. Thanks for listening Mo.
Cardinals Debut: Mitchell Harris (MLB Debut)
It was often a
comedy game of errors. The Cardinals beat a Brewers team last night that has only won three times all season and it’s not too hard to see why. The Cardinals displayed their solo HR power with Heyward and Peralta each getting one. Carlos Martinez had his best and longest start of the season with 7 shutout innings and 8 Ks.
However, two things happened last night that weren’t good and could turn out to be very bad. Yadier Molina caught a foul tip off of his knee and was removed from the game. He’s not in the lineup today. Obviously losing Yadi to the DL again would be a big miss.
Second, Trevor Rosenthal was used to get the save and almost more worryingly Jordan Walden pitched the 8th. Jordan Walden has now pitched 11 times this year and has only had three days off since April 15th. And one of those days was an off day for the Cardinals as well. Mike Matheny has to start feeling comfortable using somebody else occasionally. I’m sure the pitchers are telling him each day that they are ok to pitch but he (and Derek Lilliquist) should realize that so much use is a recipe for disaster. The second best way for the Cardinals to remedy this would be to score 10 runs in the next couple of games which is entirely possible against these Brewers.