RECORDS: Cardinals 26-25 Cubs 25-27
GAMETIMES: Friday and Saturday at 1:20, Sunday at 6:35
TV: CSN Friday, WGN Saturday, ESPN Sunday
BARF: Viva El Birdos
Hey, the first four pitchers in this series are an alliteration! Has that ever happened before? Let’s think about it for a minute because it’s a lot more fun than thinking about actual baseball at the moment.
The Cubs, and especially their fans, were probably very thankful for the day off yesterday. It’s a new month, time to recharge after a disaster of a road trip, which we can only hope is the nadir of this season. But as the Cardinals will show you this weekend, hopefully, the silver lining is that even with the Cubs unable to stop stubbing their toe, the rest of the division is in no position to pull away from them.
The Cards roll in after losing two of three to the Rockies in Colorado and then splitting a four-gamer with the Dodgers at home, taking yesterday’s finale 2-0 off a Carlos Martinez gem and a Dexter Fowler homer (sniff). And squeaking by has been something of the story for the Cardinals this year, as the offense has not been good. They only managed seven runs in three games in Denver, and nine runs in the four games against the Dodgers.
The only plus-hitter so far this season has been Jedd Gyorko, which is not where you want to be at all. Matt Carpenter has not been his usual All-Star self, and his hitting only .222 but making it somewhat work with a walk-rate over 16%. Dexter, as much as we love him, has been terrible and I’m just going to pretend he’s going all sleeper-agent for us because he loves us that much. Oh yeah, and Yadier Molina sounds like a jalopy when running to first, at which point he’s been turning right a lot this season. Grichuk is striking out nearly a third of the time and has four homers. Piscotty has been ouchy. They basically need Tommy Pham in the lineup right now, which tells you a lot.
It hasn’t killed the Cardinals though, because their pitching has been really good. While Martinez can still still turn into anarchy from time to time, he also can put a foot in the Dodgers’ ass for eight innings like he did yesterday. Leake hasn’t walked anyone as is his way, Wacha seems to have rediscovered something, and Wainwright is getting it done with mirrors and probably snot. Lynn has rode his luck a bit with a .212 BABIP-against, but as long as that keeps up he’ll be effective.
The pen still has some holes, but when the starters can carry it directly to Rosenthal and Oh, the Cards will probably win. Rosenthal has been utterly unconscious all season, and it wouldn’t be a bad bet to see him take back the closer role if Oh slips up in any way. Oh has had some walk-problems but has gotten away with it mostly for now. But other than those two they are definitely ticklish in the middle innings, which is where the Cubs can strike if they can knock out their starters early enough and are trailing.
As for whether the Cardinals can spring to better like the Cubs can, that’s hard to say. The rotation is maxing out now. While Carpenter is better than this, and so is Fowler, the rest of the lineup is iffy. And Gyorko is not this. They will probably score more than this, but by how much?
There would be no better way to rebound and kick-start the middle third of the season than by rubbing the Cards’ ass in the moonshine for three days. If things continue to go backward against this outfit, you know it’s going to be a real mess around these parts. And no one wants to see that.