Greetings to all in the warm humid sweat shop zip code of St. Louis, Missouri. To all my readers outside the state, I can only hope the weather is more kind in that region. Hope all of you had a relaxing, worthy and fun filled Independence Day break. Now, let’s talk baseball.
The Cards are heading into a crucial 7 game stretch before the All Star Break begins and the breathers are taken. Is this trip going to determine the season? No. The regular season is much more than 7 games and there are two more months of action after the break. I will admit seven games inside your division and three of them against a team you are chasing does heighten the urgency quite a bit. With that being said, let’s look at five things about the Cards that are rattling around my head.
1.) The lineup is posted and here are my thoughts. I don’t mind Oscar Taveras sitting down for the occasional game but why do it against a struggling righthander in Charlie Morton. Taveras has faced a string of decent starting pitching and needs a few bad pitchers to smack around and find his swing and grab a little confidence at the plate. Sometimes its as simple as seeing a few of your well hit balls drop in for hits. Taveras sitting isn’t playing and while I am perplexed by it, it pales in comparison to the sight of Allen Craig in the cleanup spot. WHY? How many times does Allen have to fail there for Matheny to get it? One of Matheny’s biggest setbacks as a manager in his young career is failing to learn from things that simply don’t work. Such as..don’t throw your closer the day after he throws 31 pitches in an outing. Or, play a previously successful cleanup hitter in a role he has flunked in all season. You want a slugger in your cleanup spot and that’s not Craig. Craig is slugging .323 when hitting cleanup this season. Ouch. Stop the bleeding Matheny. Craig had a home run and a pair of hits Saturday in the 3rd spot. While that isn’t ideal, Craig hitting anywhere outside of fourth will work. If I had to take Matheny’s starting nine and make a lineup card, here is my set.
Carpenter, Wong, Adams, Peralta, Molina, Holliday, Craig, Jay, Wainwright.
*Peralta leads your team in slugging percentage and has been your most versatile producer this year. Adams slots right in front of him with his ability to get on base(4 hits Sunday) and power stroke. Holliday and Craig get some pressure taken off and hit lower. Carpenter gets on base and Wong can be creative with his speed. From 1 to 9 the lineup is relentless. There’s my four cents.
2.) Waino is out there tonight to stop another losing streak. It has become part of his DNA. With no disrespect to Clayton Kershaw or Johnny “Kicking Impossible” Cueto, Waino deserves to start the All Star Game and is the first half Cy Young lead candidate. He’s 11-4 with a 1.89 earned run average, a ridiculous strikeouts total(106 in 124 innings pitched) and hitters can’t touch him. He has constantly stopped streaks and had a fantastic June(1.16 ERA in 4 starts). With a better offense, Waino would have 14 wins to please the baseball card mafia and still hold the best pitcher in baseball mantle. It can’t be written enough how important he is to this team.
3.) The MRI on Michael Wacha today is crucial. If he is close to returning to the mound, the need for a pitcher at the deadline lessens. Mozeliak has to decide either to go hard for a bat or an arm and if Wacha is coming back, the need for a rotation bump drops off. Check this out.
If Wacha comes back in July(or early August, the equivalent to a trade)
Waino, Wacha, Lynn, Miller, Martinez, Kelly.
Without Wacha until September or worse-
Waino, Lynn, Miller, Kelly, Martinez.
With Wacha, the Cards have a deadly 1-2 punch and reliable backups to finish out a five man group for the stretch run. Without him, they will probably break the bullpen in half.
Cross your fingers, Cards fans.
UPDATE-Wacha’s MRI showed healing in the shoulder region yet not enough to allow the righthander to start throwing. He will continue rest and rehab and be re-evaluated in two weeks. July 21 looks pretty huge right now, but it looks like Wacha won’t be able to make a start until early August and it won’t come in St. Louis. Mixed news on the Wacha front keeps Mozeliak engaged in looks for a starting pitcher. It may not be David Price but the Wacha MRI news leaves the avenue open.
4.) In my mind, Waino and Yadi were given selections for the All Star Game and Carpenter was a nice surprise. The best pick for me was Pat Neshek. An offseason signing that was more of a grab inside the hat pick has paid off huge for the Cards. Neshek and I share something in common and that’s the fact that both our kids suffered early medical setbacks and hardship. His season has been a tough one mentally and the job on the mound just shines brighter. I will be writing more about Pat this week.
5.)Trevor Rosenthal will be fine. He blew a save on Saturday, but in my reasoning, part of the blame goes to Matheny for putting him into a game that wasn’t requiring his services. I am old school about closers but I am also practical about first half workloads for young relievers. I am not sure if Matheny has a Tommy John coupon he is ready to use because he is pushing Rosenthal into the surgery hornets nest. Saturday was a prime example. Neshek throws 9 pitches in the 8th inning and can easily take the 9th and rest Rosenthal after a 31 pitch outing Friday(less than 24 hours beforehand). Instead, Matheny runs out Rosenthal and the game is blown and series momentum is lost.
The blown save is on Rosenthal for blowing the game but you have coaches and managers to monitor players and keep their workloads in check. If not, why have managers? Just let the players walk into the game free and easy. Rosenthal is still learning to be a closer and doing a lot better job than Mitchell Boggs did in 2013 when he switched from setup man to closer. Granted, Boggs had to learn on the fly but Rosenthal was saddled into the role right before the playoffs in 2013.
He is a good closer and doesn’t need to be moved. It’s okay for him to feel like a king out there(as Matheny said) but until this king learn to cut his pitch count down per save, he will and should be rested as the stretch run begins.
When Kevin Siegrist comes back, I would expect him to get the occasional save opportunity since Jason Motte is still finding his sharpness fleeting.
The Cards must take advantage of these final 7 games before the break. While they aren’t make or break, the importance to pick up ground is crucial. The Pirates are closing in on the Cards and the Brewers lie just ahead. Forget the Marlins series and think about finishing strong. Every player is on watch right now. It’s July, the weather is warm and the seats are white hot.
The best way to appreciate baseball and remain sane is to take one game at a time. Watch now and analyze later.
Thanks for reading.