GAME 87: Momentum Killer
The Cardinals (46-41) had the Reds under the spell of Adam Wainwright, who was attempting to reach the .500 mark. Unfortunately, some terrible defense and a truly sickening at-bat by Matt Holliday buried Waino and the Cards as they lose the first game of the second half 5-3 to the Reds at Great American Ballpark.
BACK TO WORK: It was a welcome sight to see Yadier Molina back with the team after a week off to grieve a death in his family. It was also El Capitan’s birthday. He celebrated with a vicious double down the left-field line and a run scored. Welcome home, birthday boy!
NO HELP: After a disastrous start to the season, Wainwright has been trying to claw his way back to a respectable record. It should’ve happened tonight, as Waino tossed six strong innings and gave up just two hits (one of them a home run). However, the offense really failed him, especially in a wasted seventh inning rally. This shifted the momentum, and suddenly Wainwright found himself bombarded by the Reds for three fast runs. Waino deserved better. Why can’t we give this guy some support???
UNDESERVED LEADERS: How grotesque is it that the Cardinals – the class of the Central division – trails a clumsy and poorly-constructed team like the Reds in the standings?? The Reds showed their incompetence again tonight, as two misplays (including a throw to second with nobody covering the base) helped the Cardinals score two runs in the second and third innings. I cannot imagine we’ll be seeing the Reds at the top of the division for much longer.
BIG EMPTY: I’ve grown weary of seeing this stacked offense struggle to score runs early. I sure hope the return of Lance Berkman tomorrow re-energizes this lineup.
WRONG DIRECTION: I know that this happens occasionally, but we had Carlos Beltran come up twice as the lead-off in an inning. That isn’t how it’s supposed to work.
TERROR: I’m sure Matheny’s heart jumped into his throat when Allen Craig fell into the stands while chasing a foul ball in the fifth. Everyone in Cardinal Nation probably envisioned yet another knee operation as he crashed into the wall. Can we put bumpers on this guy??
SWING AWAY, MERRILL: Matt Holliday has never seen a pitch that he didn’t swing at with the force of a hurricane. If he was paid on the number of balls he took, he’d be living under a bridge as the most impoverished baseball player in forty years. Holliday stomped to the plate with the bases loaded in the seventh and a huge chance to break the game open. Reds pitcher Alfredo Simon – who had wildly just walked Jon Jay to load the bases – threw Holliday three straight balls, and he hatefully hacked at each one with his eyes closed to end the inning. AWFUL. I appreciate that Holliday has been on a roll of late, but how about a GAME PLAN in those situations?? Swinging like a pissed-off lumberjack probably isn’t the right approach there.
PREDICTABLE: It happens all the time – a team misses a huge chance to score, the momentum shifts to the other team, and they score big runs. After Holliday destroyed a big chance in the top of the seventh, the Reds charged right back with two hits and a walk to put the lead in danger. Then, a slow roller to first was thrown away by Allen Craig, which led to the Reds taking the lead. IT HAPPENS ALL THE TIME. You could almost write it in advance. And that’s why you do not squander big chances to put your opponent down.
LAST GASP: I hope you enjoyed watching the bullpen continue its record of incompetence tonight; some of those guys won’t be around in three weeks. Marc Rzepczynski once again got into trouble in the eighth after the offense managed to pull within a run in the previous half inning. Matheny pulled the plug on Zeppo immediately, bringing in Barret Browning (as of yet unscored upon). Browning also got into trouble, so Matheny tried Fernando Salas, who then gave up a double to score the Reds’ fifth run. Inexcusable. I can’t wait for Mozeliak’s bullpen overhaul.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: I’m tempted to give it to Skip Schumaker, who actually seeemed to have a clue during his at-bats. However, I’ll give it to Wainwright for six splendid innings that should’ve resulted in so much more.
CONCLUSION: The miscues, the mind-melting at-bats, and the awful bullpen continue to bewilder me. This team is so much better than what we see on the field. This is a game that we should’ve won handily, yet it became a quagmire of incompetence and frustration. Not a good start to the second half.