GAME 131: Dead In The Water
A mumbling, wild Jaime Garcia looked more like a Mexican Rick Ankiel, throwing head-high curveballs and home run pitches almost worthy of Ankiel’s 2000 playoff disaster. However, none of it mattered as the Cardinals’ offense went silent again, as the Cardinals lost 8-1 to the Nationals. The Cardinals are in a death spiral.
SET A TONE: Garcia looked awful tonight. From the beginning, Garcia was all over the place. And whenever Garcia managed to put the ball over the plate, the Nationals didn’t miss it. Garcia gave up two home runs to Nats phenom Bryce Harper and overpaid outfielder Jayson Werth. It could’ve been worse, though, as Garcia nearly surrendered a second homer to Harper and a grand slam to LaRoche. In between awful pitches, Garcia clawed at the mound and mumbled aggressively into his glove – WHO THE HELL ARE YOU TALKING TO? Saint Francis of Assisi? This is not the kind of starting pitching we need down the stretch, and this is not the time for Garcia to work on his problems.
1,500: Congrats to Matt Holliday, who got the 1,500th hit of his career in the first. It wasn’t indicative of most Holliday hits, though, as Holliday grounded to second and legged it out for an infield single. For someone who swings rabidly with his eyes shut, getting to 1,500 is amazing.
BLANKS: With another eight innings of shutout baseball, the Cardinals racked up 29 straight scoreless innings. Given that the Cardinals lead the league in hitting, this seems as likely as the Dodgers trading for Nick Punto. Oh wait … that happened. So I guess anything can happen. However, the Cards didn’t help themselves by swinging at some of Edwin Jackson‘s low changeups. Their only run (in the eighth) came courtesy of a gift error by the Nationals. I must say, the entire team looks lost and defeated. I think that hit on Yadi hurt more than we realized at the time.
INJURIES REALIZED: Going into the season, the biggest question facing the Cardinals involved the possibility of injuries to some of their older key veterans. Those fears are now being realized, and at the worst possible time. Lance Berkman and Chris Carpenter have already been lost this season, and Carlos Beltran hasn’t been the same in the second half since a hand injury. Tonight, Rafael Furcal was forced from the game in the sixth inning with what is described as an “elbow strain.” That sounds encouraging, doesn’t it? At this point, the phrase “season-ending elbow surgery” isn’t something we need to hear.
BATTERED WARRIOR: Two days after being on the receiving end of the nastiest hit in years, Yadier Molina forced himself back into the lineup. There are Sherman tanks softer than Yadi. Unfortunately, a Fernando Salas pitch in the dirt bounced up and caught Yadi on the inside of his right knee, hobbling him. At this point, Yadi’s bruised body probably looks like a world atlas. Still, you must admire the toughness and conviction of our tireless emotional leader.
NO CASE: Lance Lynn has been pouting since his demotion to the bullpen, whining to nearly everyone who will listen (B.J. Rains is always good for that). But has Lynn really pitched well enough out of the bullpen to justify the complaints?? He was hit hard in his last outing, and he gave up two more runs tonight in relief of Garcia and Salas. Since moving back to the bullpen, his velocity is back up, but his control is off now. Perhaps the best thing for Lynn would be for him to stop whining and start focusing on the next pitch.
TLR IS PISSED: When Molina went down in the sixth, out popped TLR punching bag Bryan Anderson. Two years ago, TLR would’ve played a bean bag behind the plate rather than organizational prospect Anderson; perhaps TLR didn’t like Anderson’s flowing locks of blonde hair. Anyway, Anderson’s first at-bat in forever resulted in a double into the right field corner, the Cardinals’ first extra base hit in two days (gulp). He eventually scored the Cards’ first run in 29 innings. Welcome back to the bigs, Bryan!
BRIGHT SPOT: I remember Cardinal Nation yawning when John Mozeliak dealt Zack Cox for Edward Mujica. But Mujica has been amazing. Tonight, Mujica made his 13th straight scoreless appearance. He’s been everything we could’ve hoped for.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Holliday for his milestone.
GOAT OF THE GAME: Garcia. We really needed a not-crazy performance from our enigmatic left-hander. Instead, he punched a hole in the Cardinals’ enthusiasm early on and never relieved it.
CONCLUSION: Let me be honest - the miracle of 2011 was LAST YEAR. This team is flatlining. They are beaten up, they are being shown up, and they seem to have no answer to any of it. The 2011 team was relatively healthy at the time of their big push, and they still had some fight. Watch Beltran, head down, running to first after a groundout – does that look like someone who is prepared to turn a corner?? Or Furcal, who left the game with an “elbow strain” after hitting .200 in the second half – is that really going to suddenly change course?? This 2012 is lifeless, and they’re fading fast.