GAME 120: The Return Of Clutch
The return of Yadier Molina proved inspirational, as his two-run double in the fifth rescued the Cardinals from an imploding performance by Lance Lynn. With today’s 5-3 win, the Cardinals (65-55) gain ground in the wild card race.
ABORTED START: Although Lance Lynn struck out eight in 4.1 innings, he also gave up four hits, three runs, and three walks in that same span. Oh, and did I mention that he only pitched 4.1 innings?? Lynn wasn’t good today, despite the promise shown with a scoreless first inning. Lynn has definitely looked significantly different since the All Star break, and performances like today make me wonder how much he has left for the pennant race push.
BREAKING THE CURSE: After failing to score in the first inning of the season’s first 119 games (I kid … I kid …), the Cardinals broke the spell quickly in the first. Rafael Furcal led off with a double, and Matt Carpenter followed immediately with an RBI single. It was like some sort of miracle to see a number in the first inning column of the box score.
PAIR OF DEUCES: Four of the Cards’ five runs came courtesy of huge, clutch doubles from Sugar Shane Robinson and Yadier Molina. Yadi tacked on another double as part of a 3-4 afternoon. The double by Molina was the definition of clutch, coming with two outs after Lynn and Barret Browning blew an earlier lead. After the previous two days of offensive incompetence, these kinds of hits were a definite blast of fresh air.
THE LITTLE ENGINE COULD: After battling injuries and a protracted slump, it looks like Rafael Furcal is back to his old self – and thank goodness! His recent extra-base pop earned him a return to his leadoff position, and he made the most of it with a 2-4 day and two runs scored. In the last week Raffy is batting .316 and slugging a preposterous .632, with four of his six hits going for extra bases. It makes a big difference when our little engine is running hot!
NINTH INNING TERROR: After blowing a save a couple of games ago, Jason Motte stomped to the mound today to save a 5-3 game. Things didn’t go smoothly; in fact, Motte nearly blew it again. A hit, an error by David Freese, and a hit batter loaded the bases for Andrew McCutchen (otherwise known as the hottest hitter in the National League). Yeah, that’s a recipe for disaster. Motte managed to get McCutchen to ground into a fielder’s choice to score the Pirates’ fourth run. He then almost walked Garrett Jones before striking him out, and then finishing the game with a ground out. Here’s a question: MUST IT REALLY BE THAT DIFFICULT???
PLAYER OF THE GAME: YADI! YADI! YADI!
GOAT OF THE GAME: Lynn, who really needs to get back on track.
CONCLUSION: We won, which is great, but there were several aspects of this game that are troubling to consider. Can Lynn recover his early season form? Is Barret Browning really the answer? Can Motte get the job done on a consistent, drama-free basis? Still, the lineup felt more muscular and focused today, and the return of Molina cannot be underestimated. We’ll need it tomorrow when Jaime Garcia returns to the mound.