Taking on Justin Verlander is a tough assignment for anyone. For Lance Lynn, so was the Tigers’ lineup.
Last night, whether it was the pressure from the hype surrounding the pitching matchup, or simply an off night, our flame-throwing Wolf Pup looked unusually over-matched. It took 50 pitches to get through two innings, and things didn’t get much better from there — for Lynn, or the offense facing a mostly-sharp Verlander.
Here’s how Jenifer Langosch described it:
Lynn threw first-pitch strikes to just 14 of 25 batters he faced, largely the result of untamed fastball movement. The Tigers were aggressive early, when Lynn was too often over the plate. Detroit then found success in being patient late, driving Lynn’s pitch count up as he labored.
The Tigers scored more runs off Lynn on Tuesday than opponents had combined for in Lynn’s other three June starts.
Verlander, on the other hand, was mostly what he usually is, though with a few more walks than is the norm. With a four-pitch mix, he limited the Cardinals to two hits through the first six innings. St. Louis finally scratched across one in the sixth, when Matt Holliday drove Daniel Descalso home with a groundout. Descalso and Carlos Beltran had knocked singles earlier in the inning.
The Cards had their chance in the seventh inning, where they scored two runs on an error by Detroit’s left fielder Quintin Berry. Then, with the bases loaded and the tying run at first base, Verlander got Craig to strike out swinging (albeit on a nasty slider that Verlander called his best ever), leaving the bases loaded yet again. For you keeping track, the Cardinals are now 10-for-52 on the year with the bases loaded.
Just a base hit would have kept the inning alive and the rally in tact. But alas …
So what’s the deal? There are only so many ways for Mike Shannon and John Rooney to tell KMOX listeners that the Cardinals are just not playing very good ball right now. (And there are only so many ways for us to write the same thing afterwards!)
We all keep hoping the club will just snap out of it and play like they did in April, but it’s not happening. We’re to the point where some people are pulling out the most insignificant stats possible (like, for example, what the Cardinals’ record is in games where Albert Pujols and Colby Rasmus homer for their respective new teams!) in an attempt to say, “See? I told you they weren’t going to be any good this year.”
Thanks for that. No, really, the flawless rationale makes it so much easier to logically accept defeat.
… or not.
But the truth is, we’re all searching for answers. Something to make sense of it all, something tangible that can be tweaked or manipulated to get the ball rolling for the guys who are struggling. But in order to find a solution, there must first be an identifiable problem.
So what is it? Twitter is a great place to find emotional, harsh, and often irrational diagnoses, but there have to be some that are workable, right?
So, put your thinking cap on for me. I want you to come up with the solution you’d send over to Mike Matheny if you had the chance. Or to David Freese. Or Marc Rzepczynski. Or John Mozeliak. That means determining where the problem stems from, and then what you’d offer as a suggestion to fix it.
For example, Matt Holliday. Watching him last week, he was fighting everything. Seriously, a strike one call nearly had him throwing things. I told my friend who was watching the game with me that he really just needed to calm down, not make every little thing so end-of-the-world dramatic. It seems to be when he gets all worked up that he struggles most. (A much calmer Matt Holliday had a beautiful game on Saturday!)
The same could be said for David Freese. In fact, he even said it the other day. He gets caught up thinking he has to be super man every time he steps to the plate. Saturday, he struck out twice with the bases loaded. He was swinging for the fences, trying to be the hero in a big way, when really, all he needed was a simple base hit. A fly ball, even, in one instance. I’d tell Freesey to stop trying to do too much.
What about Matheny? How much is his inexperience showing? I get the feeling he’s a little bit in over his head with this slumping business. Every manager has to work through it, but I’m not sure he quite knows how. He’s trying to play by the book — make changes when he’s supposed to, play the shift when the intel is there, play the percentages despite the “hot bat.” But maybe sometimes he just needs to go with his gut. Baseball doesn’t always go “by the book.”
Maybe morale is the problem. There’s certainly a lot of head hanging going on these days. Maybe Chris Carpenter or Lance Berkman needs to show up and give a pep talk. One of those, “Stay in the moment, play for each other, forget everything that happened yesterday, trust your teammates, win it one at-bat at a time” kind of speeches might help.
Perhaps Dave Duncan could swing a special trip to St. Louis …
Maybe Scrabble just needs a hug.
So have at it. Follow Miranda’s lead from yesterday’s post on the bullpen woes, and give it your best shot. What is your solution to get the team back to early season form?
Tara is a St. Louis Cardinals reporter for Aaron Miles’ Fastball and a contributor to Around the Horn. Follow her on Twitter @tarawellman.