I offer as consolation that it will be difficult for the Cardinals to win the first two games of this weekend's series against the Royals and then lose the third one, which threatens of late to ossify from "it's good to win two out of three in every series!" to "we should only win two out of three in every series!" in the Tony La Russa Rulebook. The Cardinals are starting Jeff Suppan against Zack Greinke in game one, and Probably Blake Hawksworth in game two, so that strategy would require an outsized opinion of Dave Duncan's work. That is, a more outsized opinion of Dave Duncan's work.
The Cardinals lost today's game with or without La Russa's game three machinations; Brandon Morrow was pitching like a guy who gets taken ahead of Tim Lincecum ought to pitch, and Adam Wainwright was pitching like a guy who was briefly the third most-famous guy in a deal with Jason Marquis and Ray King ought to pitch. Wainwright had the kind of bad outing Chris Carpenter used to have—lots of strikeouts, an absolutely perfect curveball, but, and I think this is the right amount of reductiveness, just a ton of long home runs. To the Blue Jays' credit, that's what they do; Vernon Wells has settled into a kind of Reggie Sanders-inspired good year-bad year cycle, and he's having the same good year and the same bad year every time. Adam Lind is just having a bad year, but somebody has to keep that average over .200.
At the same time, La Russa's house money games are truly frustrating, but only because he's doing it in a way that maximizes frustration but doesn't maximize the kind of rest and bench-freshening that demands this sort of thing. Skip Schumaker isn't the kind of guy whose bat must be gotten into the lineup at all costs, even when he's sitting; Aaron Miles is absolutely not the kind of backup infielder who needs to be kept fresh with the occasional start at second base. The reasoning for La Russa's rationing of playing time, and of win expectancy, is sound, but the way in which he's doing it is all wrong. Compartmentalize it, because it's neither the most important thing La Russa does nor the reason the Cardinals couldn't put it together last night, and then be mad about it, because Aaron Miles just shouldn't be on the team, and if he's on the team he shouldn't be starting, ever.
So about this next series—
Zack Greinke vs. Jeff Suppan is a tough sell. Having seen only Greinke's worst starts on TV, and vaguely aware of his win-loss record, I was under the impression until yesterday that he was having a worse season than he really is; what 2-8 means, instead, is that rather than having a for-the-ages season, he's having a vintage-Carpenter-with-too-many-home-runs season, and the Royals should be sued for pitcher support. He'll probably be better from today forward; 1.2 home runs per nine innings seems like too many for a guy with his stuff, and that 2-8 record seems almost audaciously bad. So that's good news.
But the Cardinals' next two starts, currently listed as going to TBA and TBA on the mothership's probables page, are better bets than would seem immediately apparent. Blake Hawksworth and Starter B aren't great shakes, and I hear Starter B is a jerk, but the Royals are basically starting replacements already—we just know their names.
Going Saturday against Probably-Hawk is Kyle Davies, ERA 6.15, FIP 4.54. Davies is a former top Braves prospect from after being a former Braves pitching prospect stopped being the kiss of death, proof of Leo Mazzone and John Schuerholz's golden judgment on starters, who has nevertheless struggled anyway. A fastball-curveball cast-off like Wainwright, he's struck out plenty of batters in the majors, but his control hasn't held up and he allows too many fly balls. He's a fair enough fifth starter, with the old pedigree to wish on and the passable results to deal with, but the results are more or less what I imagine we'd get if Kyle McClellan were hurried into the rotation.
On Sunday is, somehow, a former top Braves prospect who helped create the legend of the Self-Destructing Braves Tradebait—Bruce Chen, who I am shocked to learn is still around. Chen is having a nice year, and in 1999 was, per Baseball America, the fourth best prospect in the land. Chen had a few serviceable years bouncing around after being traded for the likes of Andy Ashby, but he's also one of the most incredible powder kegs in recent baseball history—his career HR/9 rate is 1.7. He once allowed 28 home runs in 98 innings.
Chen is a replacement level pitcher, but a fun one—he has a reverse platoon split over 900 innings, he allows a ton of home runs but can still strike batters out with junk, and he was once traded for Turk Wendell. According to Wikipedia "he is perhaps best known for the 'Bruce Chen Joke of the Day', which airs sometimes during Royals home games at Kauffman Stadium", and which I can only hope to hear.
So if the Cardinals come into this series shorthanded, the Royals come into this series as reminders that other teams are also forced, in midseason, to replace their pitchers with the proverbial replacement-level talent.