GAME 101: A Deserved Loss
Joe Kelly produced a typical Kelly Start™: six innings, two runs, six strikeouts, no walks. Unfortunately, Kelly’s efforts went unsupported by a ridiculously-embarrassing offense. By screwing up on two bases-loaded opportunities, the Cardinals (54-47) doomed themselves to a 3-2 loss to the Cubs at Wrigley.JOE JOE DANCER: I adore Joe Kelly. Where would we be without Kelly’s amazing job filling in for an injured Jaime Garcia? Kelly would do anything for a win except stop chewing tobacco (that’s gross, Joe). Given almost no offense, Kelly hunkered down and retired 14 Cubs at one point to hold them to just two runs in the first. Once again, Kelly pitched well enough to deserve the win.
FIRST PITCH FLUNKEES: Cubs “star” pitcher Jeff Samardzija began the game with three straight walks. In fact, the pitches weren’t even close. Walking three consecutive batters is the baseball equivalent of flipping off God, and such insolence deserves retribution. Unfortunately, the Cardinals did not show enough intelligence to make Samardzija pay. Carlos Beltran took a swing at the first pitch and bounced out (which scored one run – yay?). Lance Berkman followed that with a strikeout, and Yadier Molina bounced into a fielder’s choice. Instead of making Samardija work, the Cardinals gave him quick outs with first pitch swinging. AWFUL and AMATEUR.
WASTED: With one out, the Cardinals loaded the bases againt Samardija again in the sixth on two more walks (Samardzija had six walks today, and we couldn’t beat him) and a single by Molina. Daniel Descalso managed a sacrifice fly (almost a grand slam) to score one run and tie the game, but then Kelly struck out to end the inning. A question – wouldn’t it have been better to pinch hit for Kelly at that point (he was over 90 pitches then) and go for the big inning? Who knows, but the strikeout ended a second generous opportunity for a huge inning.
LEARN TO BUNT: Skip Schumaker singled to open the seventh inning. To the surprise of absolutely nobody, Matheny asked Jon Jay to bunt Skippy into scoring position. We could probably discuss the negative aspects of bunting in that situation with a .300 hitter all day and get nowhere with Matheny, who simply doesn’t understand the reasoning. However, Jay isn’t the best bunter on this team of terrible bunters (that might be Kyle Lohse) and he’s failed to bunt properly the last few times he’s been asked to do so. And so Jay popped out AGAIN on a bunt attempt. Bunting is not difficult for a baseball player; in fact, in some ways it’s easier than swinging away. If Jay can’t consistently get a bunt down, then he needs to practice or Matheny needs to stop asking him to do it.
SURPRISE ATTACK: I actually loved seeing the Cubs bunt in a run against Brian Fuentes in relief of Kelly in the seventh. It was aggressive and expertly-done; in other words, the opposite of everything Matheny and the Cardinals can manage with the same play.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Kelly.
CONCLUSION: The Cardinals didn’t deserve to win given the terrible at bats in the first and sixth innings. There simply isn’t any excuse for major league ballplayers to swing away on the first pitch when facing a wild pitcher and the bases loaded. The Cardinals lost the game the moment Beltran swung at the first pitch in the first inning.