The St. Louis Cardinals head into the All-Star Break 6 games over the .500 mark after taking 3 of 4 from the Colorado Rockies and 2 of 3 from the Miami Marlins this week. It was a week that was colored with many positives, with a few blemishes that deserve noting as well. Read on to see my take on the week past.
Monday July 2, 2012 St. Louis Cardinals 9 Colorado Rockies 3
Kyle Lohse matched up with Josh Outman in the first of 4 games, and pitched into the 8th inning, going 7 1/3 for his eighth win of the season. Outman was only able to make it through 3 innings on 70 pitches, just 34 of those for strikes. The Cardinals made the most of their 10 hits, scoring 9 times off those hits. It was a great game because the Redbirds were patient at the plate. No Rockies reliever pitched fewer than 26 pitches (63 for Tyler Chatwood in 2 1/3, 37 in just 1 1/3 for Adam Ottavino, and 26 for Matt Reynolds in 1 1/3), and none went more than 2 1/3 innings.
How It Came To Be: The scoring began early for the St. Louis Cardinals, as Carlos Beltran had a sacrifice fly in the 1st to score Jon Jay. The Redbirds added another tally in the 2nd on a solo shot for Matt Holliday‘s 13th of the season. Tyler Colvin tied it with a 2-run homer off Lohse in the 4th, but the Cardinals picked up 3 runs in the 5th, the highlight being Allen Craig‘s 12th homer, to make it 5-2, and they never looked back. The Cardinals added 1 in the 6th, 2 in the 7th, and a solo shot in the 8th by Craig for his 13th homer of the year. The Rockies only managed 1 more run, a solo shot by Willin Rosario off Maikel Cleto in the 9th.
The Positives: Allen Craig continued his torrid pace, hitting his 12th and 13th homers, piling up 3 RBI to bring his total to 42 on the year. Matt Holliday also homered and drove in 2 on 2 hits. Carlos Beltran joined Holliday and Craig, also driving in 2 runs on the night. Rafael Furcal had an RBI groundout for the Redbirds. Kyle Lohse was on his game! He moved to 8-2 on a steamy night in St. Louis, which saw him throw 70 strikes in his 105 pitches.
The Negatives: Though the St. Louis Cardinals pounded out 10 hits and scored 9 times, they stranded 14 men, continuing a trend that needs to improve. The St. Louis Cardinal pitching allowed 2 homers, one off Lohse, and one in relief, as Maikel Cleto’s ERA rose to 5.14 on the season. I’d like to have seen the walks hurt the Rockies a bit more, but I guess I can’t complain with the results, especially the brilliant start by Lohse.
Player of the Game: It absolutely has to be Allen Craig. In just 40 games, Allen Craig has put up a monster line of 13 homers and 42 RBI. The 8th round gem for the Cardinals has been nothing short of amazing, more than making up for the lost production that the Cardinals hoped they’d get from Lance Berkman.
Tuesday July 3, 2012 St. Louis Cardinals 2 Colorado Rockies 3
The second of a 4 game set ended in an upsetting St. Louis Cardinal loss. Matt Holliday hit a 2-run 1st inning homer, and the Cardinals didn’t manage another tally for the rest of the night. They wasted a solid Joe Kelly start (minus the 4 walks), and couldn’t let him off the hook for his lone mistake – a 3-run homer hit by Tyler Colvin. The Redbirds outhit the Rockies 9 to 5, but left another 9 stranded. Of those 9, 5 were left in scoring position. Colorado’s bullpen stymied the Cardinals, and it was frustrating to watch the Cardinals lose a game they easily could have had with a few more timely hits.
How It Came To Be: The story on this one is pretty short, as all the scoring came with 2 swings of the bat, and in the first 3 innings. Holliday’s homer in the 1st was all the St. Louis Cardinals managed, and Tyler Colvin’s homer in the 3rd was all the Rockies scored.
The Positives: It was nice to see Kelly pitch 6 innings, and he was strong other than his walks. Barret Browning and Fernando Salas kept the Rockies off the board and gave the Redbirds a chance, even though they did not capitalize.
The Negatives: The Cardinals outhit the Rockies, but only managed 2 runs. It was very disappointing to see the men stranded with two outs (0-5 with RISP in the game), and the fact that the Cardinals couldn’t score off of any of the 4 relievers that the Rockies used. It’s always tough to see the Cardinals lose a game that they should have had, especially when the Pirates and Reds seem to be winning more games thus far than anyone really expected.
Player of the Game: It’s a toss-up here. Tyler Colvin’s 3-run homer was just as important as the pitching staff holding the Cardinals scoreless after the first, and they wouldn’t have had the win without both sides playing so well. I’ve gotta give it to Colvin though. He has seemingly figured out the St. Louis Cardinals pitching staff, with 2 homers in the first 2 games of the series, this one providing the difference.
Wednesday July 4, 2012 St. Louis Cardinals 4 Colorado Rockies 1
Adam Wainwright was very solid in this one, as he moved one step closer to a .500 record on the season. He threw 6 innings, allowing 8 hits, and 1 walk, while striking out 7. Maikel Cleto, Marc Rzepczynski, and Jason Motte each provided an inning of scoreless relief. Jon Jay and Matt Holliday each had an RBI, and David Freese added 2, to push his season total to 50. In the stifling 104+ heat, it was great to see Wainwright and the relievers maintain their composure.
How It Came To Be: Matt Holliday continued his recent hot streak of hitting and producing with those hits. His 1st inning double scored Jon Jay. In the 2nd, Jon Jay was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, scoring Skip Schumaker. No more runs were scored until the Rockies lone tally, an RBI single by pitcher Jeremy Guthrie. The last of the scoring came in the 8th, when David Freese singled home Holliday and Carlos Beltran.
The Positives: The 10 hits that the Rockies managed didn’t hurt the Cardinals, and the 9 that the Redbirds got were timely, giving them the win. Wainwright’s start was a gritty one to say the least. Though it shows up in the box score as just 6 innings on 104 pitches, starting in such extreme heat is tough for anyone, and he was a grinder in this one. Freese’s 2 RBI were huge, as they provided extra cushion and run support for the bullpen (not that they ended up needing it). Holliday’s continued production also was nice to see. It’s impossible to overstate the benefit his leadership and drive have brought to the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Negatives: The frustrating trend of leaving runners on continued, as the Cardinals stranded 13, leaving 6 in scoring position with 2 outs.
Player of the Game: Adam Wainwright takes it. His start was not his career best by any means, but he held the Rockies to just 1 run. Any time a pitcher has a quality start, it is worth noting. I think it especially bears remembering when it’s in stifling heat.
Thursday July 5, 2012 St. Louis Cardinals 6 Colorado Rockies 2
Lynnsanity returned, as Lance Lynn won number 11 on the season. It justified his All-Star selection too in my mind, as he went 6 strong innings, allowing just 4 hits and 2 walks, striking out 7. His start continued a string of great starts by starting pitching, and the bullpen was again solid (minus the 2 runs charged to Victor Marte). The Tyler Colvin show continued, as he struck again, for yet another homer. It didn’t factor into things too much though, as it was the Rockies only scoring for the game, and came when the game was already decided.
How It Came To Be: Matt Holliday had an RBI groundout in the 1st to begin the scoring. The Cardinals enjoyed a 5 run 5th, as Jay, Holliday, Beltran, and Craig all produced. There was nothing doing for either side until Tyler Colvin continued his mastery of Cardinal pitching, hitting a 2 run shot off Victor Marte.
The Positives: If I sound like a broken record here, I apologize. Matt Holliday continued his production, with a hit, run, and 2 RBI. Carlos Beltran also provided 2 RBI, and Jay and Craig each had one. Lance Lynn returning to All-Star form was a huge positive, as his 3 prior were uninspiring to say the least. Lynn was quoted after the game, saying, “I finally got back to where I felt comfortable. The ball was coming out the way it used to. It was a good feeling.” It was certainly good to watch too.
The Negatives: Again the Redbirds left double digit men on base this game, leaving 12 stranded. The lone blemish to the bullpen was Tyler Colvin’s 2 run bomb, but the fact that it could have otherwise been a shutout is just slightly disappointing. That Colvin managed 3 home runs and 7 RBI was unpleasant, especially when considering the loss was thanks to his bat.
Player of the Game: Lance Lynn returning to form was a huge boost to the Cardinals, as the took 3 of 4 from the Rockies. There are times when his fastball looks like one of the best in baseball, and it definitely did tonight. His breaking pitches were on too. His 3.41 ERA at the break is stellar, considering that he has filled in for Chris Carpenter, and will continue to do so now that Carp’s season is done due to Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.
Series Wrap: A 4 game set against the Rockies was a success. The Cardinals took 3 of 4 and had a sweep within reach, if not for Tyler Colvin. The starting pitching was wonderful throughout the series, and the bullpen was solid throughout. Matt Holliday’s production has been a boost, and Allen Craig continues to dazzle when he’s on the field. The fact that his RBI production matches his game total is amazing. Carlos Beltran only had 3 hits in the 4 games, but did produce 4 RBI. All told, the St. Louis Cardinals starters went 25 1/3 innings in the series, no starter allowing more than 3 runs – all quality starts. I’ll take 3 of 4 any day of the week.
Friday July 6, 2012 St. Louis Cardinals 2 Miami Marlins 3
Ricky Nolasco frustrated the Cardinal hitters, allowing only an unearned run over 6 strong innings. Jake Westbrook went 6 2/3, but the Redbirds couldn’t let him off the hook, and their 3 errors didn’t help things. Their 12 hits were twice the 6 that the Marlins produced, but they couldn’t manage to push enough runners across home plate.
How It Came To Be: David Freese led off the scoring with an RBI double to score Allen Craig. Miami matched that run in the 6th with a Freese fielding error that allowed Hanley Ramirez to score. Jose Reyes hit an infield single in the 7th, scoring Greg Dobbs. Logan Morrison hit a solo shot in the 8th, and the scoring was done for the Marlins. In the 9th, the Cardinals made things interesting, as Furcal singled home Skip Schumaker, but that was it for the Redbirds, as they couldn’t complete the comeback.
The Positives: Jake Westbrook continued a string of quality starts for the St. Louis Cardinals, but that’s about where the positives ended for them.
The Negatives: One of the 3 Cardinal errors on the day contributed to a run, which proved huge in the outcome of the game. The Cardinals also managed a 9th inning rally that seemed promising, but they couldn’t beat Heath Bell. Carlos Beltran grounded out to end the game, and another horrible night for the Cardinals with runners in scoring position, 2 for 16, with 7 left in scoring position with 2 outs.
Player of the Game: Ricky Nolasco has to get the nod here. He seemed to be on the ropes most of the night, allowing 9 hits, but only allowed 1 unearned run. He got out of every jam he faced and turned in a very strong start that didn’t allow Jake Westbrook to get the win.
Saturday July 7, 2012 St. Louis Cardinals 3 Miami Marlins 2
Kyle Lohse did it again. He won his 3rd straight start, going at least 7 innings in each of his last 6 outings. This day, he did it in 106 degree heat against Carlos Zambrano. I’m sure the Marlins are happy to close the book on Lohse, because it was his 3rd win against the Marlins on the year.
How It Came To Be: Justin Ruggiano homered to deep left in the 2nd, scoring both him and Giancarlo Stanton. Skip Schumaker singled to score Allen Craig in the 4th, and fill-in catcher Tony Cruz tripled to right, scoring Freese and Schumaker to finish up the scoring on the night. It was nice to see Cruz have success, as Yadier Molina was moved to the Bereavement List prior to the game because of a death in the family.
The Positives: The Cardinals didn’t let the Miami Marlins off the hook on this one, as they won a one run game, and gave Kyle Lohse his 9th win of the year. Jason Motte saved his 20th of the year, as he and Mitchell Boggs provided scoreless relief for the Redbirds. Matt Holliday extended his hitting streak to 10 games in this one.
The Negatives: Again, the Cardinals left far too many on base, with 19 men stranded on the day. Though Cruz left 5 on, his triple did drive home the winning run. I guess you take the good with the bad as long as there’s another W in the win column.
Player of the Game: Tony Cruz gets my vote. He filled in admirably for Yadier Molina, and legged out a 2-run scoring triple in the 4th which pushed across what proved to be the winning run.
Sunday July 8, 2012 St. Louis Cardinals
Joe Kelly pitched a solid 6 innings, continuing the quality start trend for the Cardinals starters. He walked 5, but also struck out 5 and held Miami to just 2 runs, allowing the Cardinals to stay in the game. Miakel Cleto and Victor Marte again allowed runs, which made it tough on the Redbirds, but this game was one the St. Louis Cardinals would not be denied. Overused closer, Heath Bell would face the wrath of the Cardinals team who badly wanted to head to the All-Star Break on a high note.
How It Came To Be: Tony Cruz’s fielding error in the 1st allowed Hanley Ramirez to score on a play where Logan Morrison struck out. Skip Schumaker scored Allen Craig in the second, and that was it until the 5th. Rafael Furcal’s single scored Tony Cruz in the 5th, and the Cardinals led 2-1. In the 7th, Austin Kearns hit his 4th homer of the season, a 3-run shot. Anibal Sanchez, Mike Dunn, and Steve Cishek combined to allow just 2 runs, and all hope seemed lost heading into the 9th. Interestingly enough, Heath Bell’s struggles continued, as he allowed a Tony Cruz sacrifice fly. With 2 outs, on a 1-2 count it still seemed as though the Cardinals were on the brink of heading into the break with a loss. That’s when Rafael Furcal singled through the infield to score both Matt Carpenter and David Freese. On the play at the plate, which scored the winning run, catcher John Buck bobbled the ball, allowing Freese to slide in under his tag. That triggered a celebration in which Furcal was mobbed. It was a great moment for the Cardinals, and hopefully a sign of greater things to come
The Positives: Furcal, Furcal, Furcal. He was great in battling against Bell. Tony Cruz’s sac fly was great as well.
The Negatives: The Cardinals left 7 men on, and allowed 3 runs in relief. It didn’t matter though in the end.
Player of the Game: Again, Furcal, Furcal, Furcal! The scene after the walk-off win was one that the St. Louis Cardinals can milk until at Friday, when they face the Reds, with a chance to put pretty significant distance between them and Cincinnati.
Series Wrap: The St. Louis Cardinals took 2 of 3 from the Miami Marlins, once beating Heath Bell in the process, grinding out 2 one-run victories. The Cardinals also held the Miami Marlins top 3 hitters to a 1 for 31 series, with just 1 RBI and 2 runs. It’s nice to see them head into the break on a huge high note, with a walk-off win. No one can doubt the fight that’s in this Cardinal team, and I think that the second half of the season will end with the Cardinals in first. I find it hard to believe that the Pirates will continue to be as hot as they were in the first half, and the Reds have a great starting pitching staff, but I don’t think that their hitters outside of Joey Votto and Jay Bruce can maintain their hot hitting.