Who are these St. Louis Cardinals that showed up in Wrigley this week and shit the bed? After a commanding start and offensive performance from Adam Wainwright on Monday, the Cards fell flat and lost the final two games of the season against the Chicago Cubs. It was pitiful, pathetic and only increases the stress levels and blood pressures of the St. Louis residents. One can only hope the team is putting on a fine rendition of “Good Old 2006” or making a sincere attempt to drive everybody in The Lou crazy, or at least the ones that aren’t driven there by the Rams mediocre play.
Here’s why the Wrigley Blues were badly timed for the Cards. After sweeping the Pirates in early September, the Cards had a 5 game lead on the Bucs. The National League Central Division has heated up since then. That’s how fast things can change for a team that doesn’t take care of business against bad teams. Now for the scary part. The division lead is separated by a single game after Pittsburgh’s win Thursday night in Atlanta. That is all. It has officially gotten extra tense.
The offense didn’t do their part in Wrigley. Sure, Shelby Miller wasn’t at his best Tuesday night but the bullpen was sharp over 4 plus innings and John Lackey delivered a quality start on Wednesday. The bats couldn’t generate more than 2 runs on Tuesday and the bats couldn’t solve Jake Arrieta after 22.1 innings pitched this season. Arrieta is good and all but it doesn’t matter. I don’t care if its Greg Maddux in his prime or Mark Prior out there. The Cards didn’t get the job done at the plate. 3 runs in the last two games is rotten. They were exactly who we thought they were heading in these final weeks. A group that can’t be trusted to be consistent.The entire 2014 season has been a toss up. Which offense shows up? The tired and dull attack that swings early and ground outs or the resurgent second half group that is patient and will take walks before piling driving a pitcher with 2 outs? Nobody knows.
Thursday was the final off day of the season. The last chance to catch your breath before the 72 hour painful march begins tonight in Arizona. A fitting place for a rogue group of ballplayers. On Monday, the results will be determined. Until then, let’s investigate a little.
Here are a few notes-
*John Lackey proved his mettle on Wednesday in Chicago. Facing a HR happy team in a hitter’s park, he only allowed a 2 out triple to the pitcher and provided 6.2 innings. He struck out 8, walked 4 and scattered 4 hits. Lackey was brought here for an innings boost and for the simple fact that when September and October comes around, he is money on a mound. Forget the Joe Kelly and Allen Craig heartache, the Lackey acquisition was made to trigger a shakeup in the clubhouse but in the long run to supply a young rotation with innings on the back end. He was brought here for October. Hopefully he is called upon again in 2014. A good stout only gets better as the weather gets colder.
There’s always that sweet 500,000 dollar salary in 2015 though.
*Small quibble about Lackey’s work Wednesday. He should not shake off Yadier Molina. I don’t care how long he has pitched. I don’t care if apes were roaming the jungle on horseback when he started pitching. Yadi knows best and shaking him off results in bad things. Lackey made Jake Arrieta look like stupid on a curveball. He had two strikes on the opposing pitcher and Yadi called for a curve to bury the Cubs starter, just like they did in the previous at bat. Lackey didn’t want to do the same sequence. That is the right call…if you are pitching to a premier slugger. If it’s the pitcher, strike him out with the curve. Lackey threw the fastball and that was that. There isn’t one Cardinal pitcher who should shake off John Lackey. Not one.
*Where has Matt Adams‘ power and production gone? I have never seen a more odd hitter. Adams can be power productive for a couple of weeks and then go into singles/strikeouts/foul out mode for a month. He’s hitting .212 this month and slugging .348 in the month of September, yet he hits cleanup a lot. That doesn’t make sense. If Adams is going to generally hit singles and the occasional double or home run, he doesn’t need to be cleaning up. At this point, Matt Holliday would be a more suitable 4th spot slugger.
*I don’t want to press on Matt Carpenter‘s style here, but I kind of shout a bit when he lets premium pitches fly right down the middle. He does lead the NL in walks with 95 and has a high on base percentage, but there is something about letting the juicy ones go past that makes me wonder where those balls could end up. A small quibble.
*While Trevor Rosenthal and Pat Neshek get the recognition(and scrutiny) for their work this year, it can’t be said enough how vital Seth Maness and Nick Greenwood have been to the pen. Whether it’s putting out fires in the middle innings, taking over for struggling closers or picking up for a rehabbing starter, the two have done a fine job in 2014. Their stats may not be perfect but their work must be appreciated.
*Michael Wacha starts tonight in Arizona. The last time he started against Arizona was on May 21st and he went 6 innings, allowed zero runs and struck out 4 on 88 pitches. While I am still tentative about the whole “Get Wacha Well” mission, he is taking that mound and all Cards fans just need to roll with it and hope for the best.
Mike Matheny should say something. Anything. Fire up the bunch. Maybe he does before games. He is so fiercely loyal to his players that I wonder if he would close the doors and tell them to play some good baseball or straighten up. Every manager has their way of doing things but right now, this team needs a push. 159 games have been played and I am guessing the wear and tear of a long season is showing its true colors. That’s where Matheny can fly in and give a quick boost. Read a speech. Toss a few tables. Scream. Do something. It may not be his style but right now, things need to change. The Cards could wreck the house and be forced into a wildcard game with San Francisco. That is not ideal. What if the offense doesn’t show up for that ONE game? Too scary.
Just win the division. I only ask for sweeps from the Cards when it’s September 26th and your division lead is a single game. As Donnie Brasco would say, “Sweep the D-Backs, don’t look in your rear view mirror and simply fugadaboutit”. The other option is watch the bats wilt, the pitching suffer and the division flip. The last 5 1/2 months matter little now. It’s all about now. Make it happen.
What will happen this weekend? It’s appropriate that the series is taking place in the desert. Will the Cards take a dirt nap or rise and take control?
I’d answer you right now but I am out of BP meds and need to go restock.
Thanks for stopping by,