GAME 34: Disappointed Mothers
In honor of Mother’s Day, the Cardinals gave away a David Freese bobblehead, North Star ice cream, and an entire series against the Atlanta Braves. Lance Lynn‘s first troubled start and some truly awful at-bats with runners in scoring position led to a disappointing 7-4 loss to the Braves in front of a packed and raucous Busch Stadium.
FINAL SALUTE: Before the game, the Cardinals brought Chipper Jones out and presented him with two gifts: a commemorative signed plaque, and a signed Stan Musial jersey. The crowd gave Jones a long and wonderful standing ovation. It’s just another example of why the Cardinals are considered the classiest franchise in baseball.
LYNN AND OUT: Lance Lynn came into today’s game riding a 6-0 record and a Gibson-like 1.40 ERA. The young starter has often looked unhittable so far this season. However, he didn’t intimidate the Braves at all, as they carefully coaxed four hits and three walks from Lynn through six innings, scoring three off of him. It could’ve been much worse. Credit Lynn for correcting his early mechanical problems, crawling into the sixth and managing seven strikeouts. Still, it was the first time that Sasquatch looked human.
TROUBLING: The Cardinals are batting .160 with the bases loaded this season, the worst average in the National League. They once again left the bases loaded in the sixth and the score just 3-1 in favor of Atlanta. We had the bases loaded five times in this series, and didn’t score once … do you think this sweep has anything to do with that?
LEAGUE LEAD: Carlos Beltran led off the sixth with another of his patented “no effort” home runs to give the Cardinals their first run, overtaking Matt Kemp for the home run lead in the NL. That $13 million we’re paying Beltran is the best investment the Cardinals have made since the advent of the bottom-up beer filling machine.
WET FARTE: After gaining some ground on the Braves, Victor Marte was asked to hold the Braves as he has done with opponents all season. Sadly, Marte did the direct opposite, giving up four hits and three runs in two-thirds of an inning. Marte picked a bad day to embarrass his family’s name.
POLAR OPPOSITE: If there’s one glaring difference between Tony La Russa and Mike Matheny, it’s their use of pitching. TLR would pull a pitcher based on random whims like horoscope predictions, wind direction, and cloud shapes. Tony would remove a pitcher throwing a no-hitter with two outs in the ninth. By contrast, Matheny has already shown that he likes to ride pitchers, even when they’re not doing well. Relievers pitch multiple innings under Matheny (under TLR, even starters rarely pitched multiple innings), and pitchers in trouble stay out there and twist in the wind. A pitcher would need to spontaneously combust before Matheny would consider calling to the bullpen. Today, Marte became another example of this Matheny-ism; even five year-olds were screaming for Matheny to remove Marte during his bowel-emptying seventh inning, but Matheny wouldn’t budge. Hopefully Matheny finds TLR’s hook buried in his office closet and starts using it more often.
HACKING: I just want to go back to the irritating sixth inning. The Cardinals are mounting a comeback in the sixth down by two runs. Allen Craig and Lance Berkman lead off the inning with consecutive singles. They’re on first and second with one out when Matt Holliday comes into the game to pinch hit. The crowd is electric, everyone expecting magic. He’s facing Chad Durbin, who has an ERA of 8.03 and nearly as many walks as strikeouts in 12 innings this year. This might be the perfect time for the Cardinals to work the count, take a pitch, and make Durbin earn it. BUT NOOOOO. Holliday proceeds to hack at every pitch like he’s trying to win a lumberjack contest, and strikes out without taking even one offering. After a Tony Cruz single loads the bases, up comes a clenched, terrified Tyler Greene batting .194; the crowd goes silent. It’s so quiet that everyone in the ballpark can hear the sound of Greene’s bat frantically whiffing through the air. He strikes out without taking a pitch. TALK ABOUT DUMB. I totally get aggressiveness at the plate, but show a little discipline in key spots!
TOO LATE: The Cardinals attempted to save face with two outs in the ninth, as Matt Carpenter doubled and Carlos Beltran walked in front of Allen Craig. And Craig, who has been hot, mashed a long three-run homer to pull the Cards back to within three runs (and taking Lynn off the hook). Oh how those seventh-inning Marte runs hurt at that point!
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Craig was all over the place today: 3-5 with 3 RBI and a run scored.
CONCLUSION: This was the first time the Cardinals have faced a team with a record above the .500 mark, and it didn’t go well. They clearly need to step up their game if they plan on making a run this year, because they have better teams than the Astros and the Cubs on their schedule this season.