First off, there is nothing wrong with The Cubs celebrating like little kids after their walkoff win. Several Cards fans on Twitter were detested by the sight of Little Bears having some fun after an extra inning win over their long time rivals. Why? They don’t get to celebrated that often and the only brand of cheer that comes to The North Side of Chicago this time of year is the spoiler action. When the Cards walk off, they jump around, tear off jerseys, and act like wild animals. It’s the way all teams do it. Sorry for the opening lesson in simplicity but twitter takes logic to a lower place on a daily basis. On with the recap of a tough loss.
I will do it this way. First, a Sunny Side Up version of the events. A way of looking at the loss in a positive light. A quick stream of thought.
Sunny Side Up Defense
Matt Holliday continues to stay red hot. He launched a game tying two run home run in the 6th inning, which gave him 9 consecutive seasons of 20 or more home runs. In an era that has seen the long ball gradually die off, that is impressive. Holliday had three hits and put himself on second base to begin the 8th inning. Carlos Martinez was solid in relief, dazzling with his sinker and shutting the Cubs down. If there was a guy in the bullpen to pitch two innings last night, it was Carlos and no one else. Matt Carpenter had two hits. Randal Grichuk and Oscar Taveras each played a little right field(though neither finished) and collected a hit each. Other than that, I can’t think of much really good to say but this. The Cards plan was to win the remaining series through the end of the season. They have done that in September often. If they win tonight, the goal has not been broken. Win the series and stay ahead of the charging Pirates. John Lackey goes tonight and he should be tough enough to shut down the Cubs, right? Right? Say it with me? Please….alright on with the bad.
Doom and Gloom Prosecution
Mike Matheny shouldn’t have left Pat Neshek in for more than an inning. When you have expanded rosters, as a few of my twitter friends(Art Lippo, John Nagel, and Kevin Reynolds pointed out last night), there is no need to push relievers not named Carlos Martinez to two innings of work in the late innings. Keep the arms fresh. I am not sure if Matheny checks with Derek Lilliquist or just grunts and goes with his gut here. Neshek looked vulnerable, and was asked to walk Luis Valbuena before giving up the game winning hit to Wellington Castillo. I didn’t agree with any of it. Use Neshek, Rosenthal, Maness and others for one inning. Use your entire bullpen. Save arms. Now, you lost the game Tuesday and you probably lost Neshek for tonight’s game.
Defense interrupts...but are there any relievers other than Carlos that should go more than one inning? Sure, Nick Greenwood threw one pitch on Sunday and Tyler Lyons can go 3-4. Then again, there shouldn’t be an urgency to do it with expanded rosters.
Prosecution continues. After the Holliday double in the 8th, the meat of the Cardinal lineup couldn’t advance him past that base. BIG FAIL. It can’t be said enough. Matt Adams didn’t move him over but a wild pitch got Holliday to third. Jhonny Peralta swung at a 3-2 pitch that was ball four. Yadi Molina swung at the first pitch and grounded out. Right there, the offense gave away their chance to win the game. So much for momentum. So much for an edge.
You know the rest. The Cubs won it in the 10th, celebrated like drunk monkeys and the Cards didn’t push Pittsburgh back at all. They are playing great overall baseball in September. They truly are but there is a catch. They aren’t playing as their closest competition. Since the Cards swept Pittsburgh to begin the month, the Pirates are 15-3. They are the hottest team in baseball. The Cards simply aren’t hot enough.
The lead, going into tonight is only 1.5 games with 4 to play. Stay on the edge, Cards fans, because this will get interesting, scary and stressful before it gets better. The Atlanta Braves can’t seem to score any runs off Pittsburgh and are doing the Cards no favors while playing at home. The Braves have collapsed and could be quietly scheming for what happened in 2011. The Pirates face the Braves tonight while the Cards throw Lackey at the Cubs. The home run happy Cubs who ripped Lackey apart at Busch earlier this month. The Cubs have Jake Arrieta, a pitcher who has shut down the Cards in 15.1 innings this season. The only upside is, Arrieta has put 21 runners on base in those 15.1 innings. Still, the matchup favors the Cubs. It’s Lackey and Arrieta in Wrigley.
Cards fans may not care about what Lackey does in 2015. All they care about is tonight and for good reason. If The Cards can win tonight and the Pirates lose, Pittsburgh would need a sweep in Cincinnati over the weekend and the Cards would have to get swept in Arizona. Remember that tonight. This game could be the key to whether the Cards secure the division or fall back into wildcard contention.
I rest my case. Thanks for reading.
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