Well…we saw that coming, right?
After being forced to throw Shelby Miller and Adam Wainwright on the same day in that day/night doubleheader on Saturday, the Cardinals were already in a bind. It was either start Waino or Miller on short rest, or start Joe Kelly out of the ‘pen. To make matters worse, the bullpen was forced to cover multiple extra innings the night before after an odd, up and down week of unusual use since the KC rainout.
Throw in a perfect day for Yadi to serve his suspension, and you could feel last night’s loss coming.
So let’s be clear about that when we throw all the blame on Matt Holliday’s error in left field. It seems as if I’m defending Holliday every day lately, but to blame a loss on a botched catch – especially on a hard-hit, slicing fly ball that forced him back to the track – is just silly.
We had no business being in that game from the beginning. When you start play knowing the large majority of innings are going to be thrown by a bullpen guy in his first start of the season and a AAA pitcher just called up hours before, your win probability is not high. Joe Kelly, in his outstanding 5 2/3 innings, was the only reason that game was within reach at all.
How ’bout this list: Daniel Descalso (5), Matt Carpenter (4), Carlos Beltran (2), Yadier Molina (2), Allen Craig (1), David Freese (1), Pete Kozma (1), Victor Marte (1), Shane Robinson (1), and Ty Wigginton (1).
That’s the list of Cardinals players who committed at least one error before Holliday did this season. The list includes two gold glove award winners, one platinum glove award winner, and a gold glove finalist at third base.
I know, I know…Holliday’s not a great fielder, and errors don’t tell the entire story when it comes to fielding mistakes – like Matt’s hesitancy to take charge on shallow fly balls that drop behind the shortstop – but let’s maintain a little perspective and context here. If that game isn’t tied through sheer force of will by Joe Kelly when Holliday misjudges that fly ball (you could clearly see him accelerate late when he realized it was carrying further than expected) – if it happens just a couple innings later when the game gets out of Cleto’s hands – Holliday’s error is a footnote.
‘Cause let’s face it…Rosenthal and Mujica had each been used the day before for two innings each. The Reds series is coming up on Friday, and the Cardinals still have a game to cover Thursday. We called up a AAA pitcher specifically to cover innings in that game yesterday. There is absolutely no way Mike is throwing any bullpen pitcher, with the exception of Choate, other than Cleto. Holliday’s error did not prevent him from making more desirable pitching changes.
And what about Choate? I certainly don’t advocate throwing the loss on him either, but let’s not forget that god-awful pitch he threw to Kubel – a hitter who, until last night, had faced Choate seven times with zero hits and a strikeout. Attempting to throw a low and away pitch, Randy instead left an 87 mph sinker up and over the plate with no sink to it. Kubel drilled it the opposite way, a tough hit to read, and Holliday didn’t make the play. Doesn’t Choate share at least some of the blame there?
Look…no one likes to lose, but last night, after the Reds and Pirates both lost and our pitching/Yadi situation assured us an uphill battle from the start…can’t we just put that one behind us and move on? I mean, the current-MVP of the league drilled a grand slam on a splitter down in the zone thrown by a AAA pitcher. Sometimes, you just have days like this.
Let’s move on…
Pete Kozma finally got a hit last night, but the dude needs a break. The problem is, Descalso is a question mark at shortstop, at best – and this season is certainly not his best defensive year anyway. The Cardinals may need to find a way to bring up Ryan Jackson and give him a few starts at SS just to spell Kozma here and there. I’m not suggesting giving Jackson the starting shortstop job, or even a platoon, but Kozma’s workload must be reduced if he’s going to end up contributing consistently through the entire season. Matheny clearly doesn’t trust Descalso to spell the Kozma-naut – especially against LH pitchers who are holding Pete to a .229 average. It may simply be time to give Jackson a chance to contribute to the club on a semi-regular basis. The problem is…how do you make room?
Jake Westbrook threw a successful rehab start in Springfield on Tuesday. That’s very good news for the Cardinals who currently have two unexpected rookies manning critical turns in the rotation. Michael Wacha was great his first time out but entirely too hittable and limited in his second. He needs time at AAA to fully develop his curveball and log a full season of professional innings in a more development-friendly setting. And Tyler Lyons is now scheduled to throw a big game against the Reds in Cincinnati on Saturday. The lefty has been able to survive three starts against struggling teams, but the Reds explosive lineup is a different animal all together, especially in that sardine can they call a ballpark. Jake Westbrook – and Chris Carpenter, for that matter – can’t return fast enough.
The Reds are showing a few cracks. Earlier in the season, when I made mostly horrible predictions for the upcoming year, I tagged the Cardinals as the eventual NL Central winners over the Reds. A good portion of my logic was based on the fact that the Reds, as good as they are, aren’t quite as good as they looked in 2012…for one simple reason. Cincinnati was crazy-lucky last year when it comes to injuries. There’s no way they get off that easy two years in a row. And sure enough, right away the Reds lost their cleanup hitter in Ryan Ludwick, reshuffling the lineup and moving Brandon Phillips down in the order to cover the loss. One of Ludwick’s replacements – Heisey – hit the DL with a hamstring issue June 5th. Then, ace Johnny Cueto hits the disabled list with a shoulder injury. When he returns, he’s back three starts and then hits it again…with the same injury. Throw in a few games missed by Phillips with a forearm problem and a DL stint by bullpen pitcher Sean Marshall, and the Reds are looking more vulnerable every day.
To look at it another way, through the entire 2012 season, the Reds opening day rotation (original 5 starting pitchers) started 161 of their 162 games. Todd Redmond threw one 3 1/3 start when he was needed to cover Game 2 of a doubleheader. But in 2013, the Reds have already used seven starting pitchers to cover games through June 5th. That’s clearly fewer than the nine used by St. Louis so far, but for a team that relies on starting pitching durability and consistency – like the Reds do – the difference is significant and may get worse before it gets better. And as for the impact on the Reds ‘pen – in their last three losses (all in the last four games) – relievers have allowed four home runs and 10 earned runs total.
That’ll do it for today. Let’s hope the Redbirds can finish with a win against the D-Backs and then win the series in Cincinnati over the weekend.