The Cardinals' offense was listless again, buoyed by Matt Carpenter, Carlos Beltran and a remarkable triple from Rob Johnson. They still found a way to win and give Joe Kelly his first victory of the season.
Pete Kozma: 0-4, 1 K
Kozma is now hitless in his last 25 at-bats, with the last one coming on June 25, and has hit the floor as the worst everyday starter in MLB. His wOBA is a measly .248. His .564 OPS is a tick below BJ Upton's in Atlanta.
Kozma did make a great play on defense yesterday, which probably buys him some more time, but the Cardinals are gasping for offense and it's not getting any better. David Freese, Jon Jay and Kozma are combining to make the bottom half of the lineup as punchless as anything we've seen in St. Louis since the heady days of Pedro Feliz, Brendan Ryan and Skip Schumaker in 2010.
Bernie Miklasz, who I am a big fan of, went hard in the tank for Kozma this spring. He was back at it in his Bernie Bytes on Saturday, offering that plenty of teams were able to win pennants or World Series with lousy offense at shortstop. He starts with Dal Maxville, who had just a .258 wOBA for the 1967 World Champion St. Louis Cardinals. Maxville was the fourth worst hitter in baseball by wOBA that season.
Could the Cardinals win by giving Pete Kozma 500 plate appearances of a mid-500s OPS? Only if the big bats in the lineup continue mashing, but this comes with the caveats I laid out yesterday. Matt Carpenter, Yadier Molina, Carlos Beltran, Allen Craig and Matt Adams are all having career seasons, or in Beltran's case, a season that confounds Father Time. There's still 2.5 months of baseball left to play, and to compensate for the dregs that is Freese, Jay and Kozma, the Cardinals need MVP-type seasons from the rest of the lineup.
Any slippage tightens the team's margin for error.
Joe Kelly: 5.1 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 SO
Joe Kelly came into spring training 2013 as the team's likely fifth starter. Shelby Miller proceeded to outperform him, so Kelly was relegated to long relief. He struggled there, but the Cardinals turned to him in successful spot starts against Arizona (5.2 IP, 1 ER) and Miami (6 IP, 4 ER).
Kelly struggled in the first inning, then struggled to find his control until eventually sitting down seven straight. He was lifted for Randy Choate in the sixth inning.
Where the Cardinals go with Kelly is going to be an interesting development. He clearly has the ability to be a back-end starter. His 3.91 xFIP is more than acceptable. He's striking out a few more batters, walking a few less batters and holding down the fort well enough when he takes the ball. For a team in need of a fifth starter, they could do a lot worse (John Gast) than Kelly.
Siegrist (H, 2): 1 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 SO, 1 HR
Rosenthal (H, 21): 0.2 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 SO
Mujica (S, 26): 1 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 SO
This was supremely efficient work by the Cardinals' three best relievers. I touched on Siegrist the other day, noting his absurd 41 percent strikeout rate.
Matheny went to Siegrist in the eighth inning against Starlin Castro, with Anthony Rizzo on deck. Castro lofted a fly ball into the basket. That was the first run Siegrist had given up in his short career. No worries, because he blew away Rizzo. His strikeout percentage is now perched at 44 percent. Impressive, young sorcerer.
It took Rosenthal and Mujica 12 pitches and 11 strikes to get the last five outs. The only thing to really offer here is that the Cardinals needed this victory and quick, tidy work by those two is always welcome.