How Will The Cardinals Respond To Losing Wacha, Garcia?

Adversity brings a team together, right? But what about when the adversity affects the season-long strength of the team — the starting rotation? That’s what we’re about to find out from the 2014 St. Louis Cardinals as they embark on a 10-game road trip to face the Rockies, Dodgers and Giants minus Michael Wacha and Jaime Garcia.

collageThe Cardinals currently are tied with the Dodgers for MLB’s best starter ERA at 3.08, just ahead of the A’s 3.10. Add the relievers in also and the Cards are third overall in MLB with a 3.18 ERA, behind the A’s at 3.02 and Nationals at 3.04. Yes, the Cards’ bullpen has improved much so that its ERA right now is 3.41 (seventh best in the NL, 11th in MLB).

With Carlos Martinez able to stay in the rotation, that’s a benefit. Joe Kelly is going to begin a rehab stint on Friday at Memphis — good news, as he will hopefully be back soon. Until he is, there are options currently at Memphis such as Tyler Lyons, Zach Petrick or Tim Cooney.

But then there’s the other side of the game: the offense. And with that, who knows? Though, with as good as the pitching has been lately, the way the offense goes is the way the game goes. Get hits, score runs? Winner! Fall flat, don’t score? Yeah, we’ve seen that plenty. The team is currently hitting .250/.318/.364, which is eighth/fifth/13th in the NL. Of course they’re still last in homers with just 42 — which is what the Royals have now as well.

A spark and any sense of urgency from this team seems to occasionally appear, leading us all to think “OK, now they’re playing like they should.” Then the Cards lose back-to-back games to the Phillies and have A.J. Burnett and his 13.50 Busch Stadium ERA throw a complete game against them.

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Cards Post-Game Shocker: Garcia, Wacha Going On DL

Carlos Martinez had his longest outing as Cardinal today — and that’s good. He’s going to be staying in the starting rotation.

nurse-e1397756375763After the game, and after Mike Matheny’s post-game comments on FOX Sports Midwest, John Mozeliak addressed the media with some rather shocking news: both Jaime Garcia and Michael Wacha are going on the disabled list with shoulder injuries.

Garcia’s injury is reaggravation of the shoulder injury that kept him on the DL to start the season, after having surgery on the same shoulder in May 2013.

Wacha has what was described by Mozeliak as a “stress reaction” in his shoulder and Wacha described as a tightness on the back of his shoulder during comments aired on FOX Sports Midwest. More details are available from Viva El Birdos and from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

No roster moves will be announced until tomorrow.

Prior to 40 percent of the rotation going onto the DL, the Cardinals did win today’s game 5-3 to split the series with Phillies. Martinez allowed the three runs in five innings to earn his first win as a starter. The Cards scored four runs in the fourth to take the lead, with the lower part of the lineup getting the job done: Jon Jay and Jhonny Peralta each had RBI singles that inning, while Mark Ellis drove in Jay on a safety squeeze. Ellis also had an RBI single in the sixth.

Martinez To Start, Grichuk Down, Greenwood Up

It’s been a newsworthy Father’s Day morning for the St. Louis Cardinals, as it was announced that Carlos Martinez will start on Monday for the team, filling the start that Adam Wainwright is skipping due to tendinitis in his elbow.

St_Louis_Cardinals_1998-present_logoIn addition, left-handed pitcher Nick Greenwood was promoted to the Cardinals while outfielder Randal Grichuk was sent back to Memphis.

Here’s the news release from the Cards on that move.

The St. Louis Cardinals announced prior to today’s series finale with the Washington Nationals, that they have purchased the contract of left-handed pitcher Nick Greenwood from Memphis (AAA) and optioned outfielderRandal Grichuk to the triple-A affiliate.

The 6-1, 180-pound Greenwood was 3-3 with a 2.61 ERA in 22 games (three starts) for Memphis this season, limiting the opposition to a .221 BA in his 41.1 innings pitched.  Greenwood, a native of Farmington, Connecticut, was 1-0 with a 0.82 ERA in his three games started, the most recent on June 1 at Oklahoma City.

The 26-year-old Greenwood will be making his Major League debut with his first appearance, becoming the fifth player to debut with the Cardinals this season, joining Grichuk, Greg Garcia, Eric Fornataro and Oscar Taveras.

A veteran of 218 career minor league games (47 starts), Greenwood was acquired by the Cardinals from San Diego on July 31, 2010 in a three-way trade with the Padres and Cleveland Indians that also sent pitcher Jake Westbrook to St. Louis.

Greenwood has been assigned uniform no. 62.

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The Cardinals go for the sweep of the Nationals in about an hour, with Jaime Garcia facing Doug Fister.

3 Bright Spots From A Disappointing Cardinals Loss

What a frustrating game. After battling back to take the lead twice — which, given the team’s offensive challenges for much of the season, was impressive — the Cardinals lost to the Pirates 6-4.

Bourjos catch

Photo: Pittsburgh Trib Live

Ugh.

Just when the offense had shown some spark, Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez have off nights. Guess that’s why the Cardinals are back at .500 again with an 18-18 record.

Despite the loss. there were three bright spots in the game — two on offense, one on defense.

1. Peter Bourjos’ awkward but great catch

It wasn’t very pretty (or should I say gorgeous?) but Peter Bourjos lost the ball hit by Starling Marte in the lights, found it, jumped against the wall and managed to make a great catch. Seeing is better than reading the description, for sure — and that picture sure gives you the idea how awkward it looked. But it got the job done. Honorable mention for a bright spot goes to Pete’s triple in the ever-increasing downpour following moment No. 2 below. (Whoever decides what videos to post on MLB’s highlights is obviously not female nor a fan of watching really speedy baserunners — that was a play worth seeing again.)

2. Allen Craig’s three-run homer

Maybe it just took the rain to get Allen Craig going. He came to the plate in the top of the fourth with Jhonny Peralta and Matt Holliday on base — each had singled — and connected for a home run into the Cardinals bullpen. It gave the Cards a 3-2 lead … which only lasted until the bottom of the fifth, but let’s focus on a positive. Craig also singled in the eighth. Continue reading

7 Highlights From A 7-0 Win, Plus 2 Roster Moves

Welcome back, Cardinals offense! You were greatly missed. Yes, it was definitely nice to see runs being scored — more Sunday, 7, as the Cardinals beat the Pirates 7-0, than they had in Wednesday through Saturday’s games combined — and even a home run for the first time in 366 at-bats since Allen Craig last launched one on April 16.

7And while things are starting to get better at the plate, just like Michael wrote they would on Saturday, one game is apparently not enough of a jumpstart, since two roster moves were announced late Sunday night. Promoted to the Cardinals are infielder Greg Garcia and outfielder Randal Grichuk and one of the subsequent demotions, Shane Robinson, is not a surprise. But the other is: Kolten Wong.

Wong was hitting .225 and hadn’t played since going 0 for 4 against the Pirates Friday night. And, courtesy of Rick Hummel in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, here’s a very interesting comment from general manager John Mozeliak:

“This will give him a chance to play every day and if he gets back on track, that would be helpful,” said Mozeliak.

Hmmmmm.

Back to yesterday, in addition to the offense, it’s always good to see Adam Wainwright be Adam Wainwright, isn’t it? Here’s more on him and six other highlights from the series-winning victory.

1. The Cards manufacturing a first-inning run
Matt Carpenter did a very Matt Carpenter-like thing (guys doing what they typically do was a theme of the day) and doubled to lead off the game for the Cardinals. While there was plenty of Twitter outrage when Jon Jay then bunted him over to third base, the move immediately paid dividends: the Cards took a 1-0 lead on a Matt Holliday sacrifice fly. With the way the offense had been struggling, the move was understandable at the moment — regardless of opinions on Mike Matheny and his bunting strategies. Continue reading

Brewers Streak, Meet Lance Lynn

With the exception of Ryan Braun, the Milwaukee Brewers seem far less annoying than they were back in 2011. Different players plus a 2013 season in which they were really awful make it hard to hate them like before. But with all the hype coming into the first 2014 meeting between the Brewers and the St. Louis Cardinals thanks to a nine-game winning streak, halting it was bound to be sweet.

LynnLance Lynn dominating the Brewers to do it? Now that would be even better.

And it was, as the Cardinals beat the Brewers 4-0 to indeed stop that streak. Plus hopefully even Lynn’s most ardent Cards fan detractors appreciated his performance.

It was a shutout — meaning, to be ridiculously obvious, he gave up no runs. He also allowed only three hits, struck out 11 (including Braun twice plus got him to ground into a double play) and walked three. Yes, a couple of those walks led to the possibility of a “Lance Lynn big inning” in the fifth and the sixth, as the Brewers had two on both times — yet also two out in those innings too. And, again, it was a shutout. Crisis averted. Twice.

Lynn now joins Mark Buehrle, Zack Greinke, Felix Hernandez and Chris Sale as the only pitchers in the majors with three wins. Oh, and Luis Avilan of the Braves — who has a 13.50 ERA, meaning Lynn’s now 4.00 is not the highest either. Continue reading

Winning Makes For A Better Night All Around

From the very beginning, things were much improved for the St. Louis Cardinals compared to Friday night. For that matter, things were much improved in facing the Pittsburgh Pirates Francisco Liriano than they had been during the entire 2013 regular season when they only scored two runs off him in three games.

Last night, the Cardinals scored two runs before they even made two outs in the top of the first and finished that inning with a 3-0 lead. Matt, Matt and Matt all played a role as Carpenter led off with a single, Holliday drove him in following a Jhonny Peralta walk and Adams followed an Allen Craig sacrifice fly and Yadier Molina single with an RBI single of his own.

Allen Craig

Allen Craig driving in a run, always a good thing. (Photo: STLToday.com)

And though Liriano settled in and began throwing like his usual self facing the Cards, retiring 13 straight from the second inning through the sixth, Yadi homered to make the final total on the night four runs allowed.

That kind of game is so much better, as the Cardinals ultimately won 6-1 since Jhonny Peralta has apparently decided the only kind of hits he’s going to get as a Cardinal are home runs — he hit a two-run shot in the ninth with Matt Carpenter on base. (Now, if only Peter Bourjos can get that bat going …)

With just a lone run scored by the Pirates, it’s obvious the pitching was much better too. Yes, Pirates Stopper Joe Kelly retains that title once again. And while it wasn’t necessarily the most efficient of outings for him — the run allowed came on a bases-loaded walk, one of four he gave up for the night along with six hits and four strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings — it was good enough to get the job done. Continue reading

These 1-0 Games Are More Fun To Win Than To Lose

After Mother Nature decided we needed to wait over two-and-a-half hours for Wacha Wednesday to begin, we as St. Louis Cardinals fans were treated to our second consecutive pitchers’ duel to begin the 2014 season.

sad faceOnly this was a little more frustrating.

Because any game that ends with the other team celebrating a walk-off 1-0 win certainly is.

And because even though the Reds pitchers struck out 12 Cardinals (with nine by starter Tony Cingrani) and walked three plus gave up three hits, the Cards couldn’t capitalize and were 0 for six with runners in scoring position when they did have chances. Now, the chances were limited — yet no less frustrating to watch, especially after the two-plus hour delay.

Ah, well. Game two of 162. Too early to be concerned about the offense. Too early to panic over Carlos Martinez allowing three hits in the ninth and the walk-off run. Although of course everyone is panicking anyway, because as fans that’s what we do.

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Yadi + Wainwright + Bullpen = Opening Day Happiness

When there are nine tight, tense and dramatic innings that end with the St. Louis Cardinals on the right side of 1-0 Opening Day victory over the Cincinnati Reds, it’s pretty hard to be unhappy about it.

collageOpeningDayWhen the lone run is courtesy of a Yadier Molina seventh inning homer — after the crowd had already been booing him all day? Great.

When Adam Wainwright throws seven scoreless innings and gives up only three hits while striking out nine to not only pick up his first-ever Opening Day win but also the 100th of his career? Even better.

When we get to see Kevin Siegrist, Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal throw 21 of their combined 28 pitches for strikes to get the final six outs of the game — especially when three of those outs are in a messy eighth inning? Fantastic.

Oh, and for Johnny Cueto to pitch nearly as well as Wainwright by allowing just Yadi’s homer and two other hits while striking out eight Cardinals in seven innings — and be the losing pitcher? What more could you want?

Well, sure, you could want to not see the Cardinals defense commit three errors. Yet each of the three who committed those errors — birthday boy Peter Bourjos, Kolten Wong and Matt Adams — also made good defensive plays. The first inning catch by Bourjos was great (and, sadly, not worthy of being a video highlight from the game according to MLB’s website) and proved right away why his speed will be such an asset. Continue reading

Is It Really A Surprise Joe Kelly Will Be Starting?

Following yesterday’s game, the St. Louis Cardinals announced that Joe Kelly will be the joining the starting rotation and Carlos Martinez will reprise last fall’s role as the eighth inning setup guy.

Joe-Kelly-2Are you really surprised at this announcement? Honestly?

I am not.

It is what I expected all along when a competition for the fifth starter slot was announced this spring, for the second consecutive year.

Because the “results” of this competition certainly seem based more on last year than anything that’s happened this spring. As you likely know, Martinez has been brilliant in March: 1.76 ERA in four starts and 15 1/3 innings pitched, nine strikeouts, eight hits allowed. Kelly has not quite had the same results, allowing 10 earned runs in 14 1/3 innings during his four starts including two yesterday after not allowing a hit for five innings.

Last year, however, was a different story. Kelly was 9-3 in 15 starts with a 2.28 ERA once he joined the rotation, compared to his 1-2 record and 3.68 ERA when he was in the bullpen. And while the overall numbers for Martinez — record of 1-2, ERA of 5.08 — are not necessarily impressive, we all remember just how great he was in September and October.

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