GAME 148: Bottom Feeding
After a disastrous 2-5 West Coast road trip, the Cardinals returned to Busch Stadium to face the lowly Houston Astros. Despite having 99 losses at game time, the Astros would not be easy, having just taken two of three from the Phillies and playing better. But the Cardinals combined timely hitting in support of another excellent start from Kyle Lohse, celebrating their homecoming with a 4-1 win that extends their wild card lead with 14 games remaining.
SOLE PATCH: How great has Lohse been this year? His 19th quality start in 21 appearances was another masterpiece against a failed Houston lineup. Hell, Lohse even ripped a double to drive in the Cards’ third run – he was doing it all tonight! You know, it’s so frustrating to think about the kind of numbers Lohse should have, namely a 20 win season and possibly a Cy Young award. Still, Lohse matched his career high with his 15th win, and reinforced what will probably be a huge contract in the offseason. The simple truth, though, is that the Cardinals wouldn’t even be in the postseason conversation without Lohse this season.
TAKE A PITCH: I don’t think any team in baseball swings at the first pitch more than the 2012 Cardinals. There’s nothing more frustrating than watching professional hitters corkscrewing into the ground while flailing at the first pitch in every at bat. Tonight, the Cardinals had a five pitch third inning against a terrible pitcher. Matt Holliday, on his fourth hitless at bat of the night, grounded out on a first-pitch ball. It’s preposterous. If I was the opposition, I would never throw the Cardinals a first-pitch strike. I’d really like to see these guys work a count for once and see what happens.
LINEUP ENGINE: There have been several slumps throughout the lineup that have caused the Cardinals’ recent struggles, but none as costly as Jon Jay‘s awful September. In the last week Jay has a line of .136/.174/.182, which are approximately the same statistics as the Rally Squirrel. However, almost all of Jay’s hits have been in the last two days, and they’ve been big ones. His game-winner on Sunday, combined with his two run-scoring hits tonight, possibly indicates that Jay is thawing a bit. We need it. Jay is the only leadoff guy we have, and when he goes, the team goes.
BIG D: After a lengthy rut, it seems like Daniel Descalso is finally swinging better and with a bit more authority. He roped a beautiful line drive single into center to score Yadier Molina, who had doubled and moved to third on an error. Even more significant, D-Money’s hit came with two outs, which have been as rare as a Tony La Russa compliment.
ALL THE RIGHT MOVES: When Lohse got into a bit of trouble in the eighth, Matheny went to a combination of Mitchell Boggs and Marc Rzepczynski (not seen recently for whatever reason) to hold the Astros to just one run in the inning. Matheny’s best move was employing Zeppo, which neutralized Jed Lowrie‘s power by turning him around to the right side. Is Matheny learning? Possibly.
Cardinals (78-70) —-
Dodgers (76-71) 1.5 games back
Brewers (75-72) 2 games back
Phillies (74-74) 3.5 games back
Pirates (74-73) 4 games back
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Jay, who feels like he’s coming around.
CONCLUSION: The Cardinals really need to capitalize on this upcoming nine game stretch against teams like the Astros and Cubs. Tonight’s game was a definite step in the right direction. Let’s see if they can build on this for once.