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Cardinals vs Rockies Recap: Holliday injured, Cards routed in 11-3 loss

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Matt Holliday exited the game with a right quad injury and will be examined further tomorrow. The rest of the game was terrible, too.

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

What may have been the most unpleasant game of St. Louis Cardinals baseball all year was played tonight in Denver. The Rockies scored five runs in one inning--twice--and neither of those was the ugliest thing to happen in this game.

Gird yourself.

Matt Holliday

Here are the number of games Matt Holliday has played in in each season of his Cardinals career thus far:

  • 2010: 158
  • 2011: 127
  • 2012: 157
  • 2013: 141
  • 2014: 156
  • 2015: 52 (of 58 games)
In those seasons, he has never put up a season wRC+ lower than 132. He's as consistent as they come these days--so much so, in fact, that last month Ben Lindbergh of Grantland wrote an encomium to the left fielder he called the "Leaderboard Lifer" while Tony Blengino of Fangraphs wrote a similar article just this past offseason: "Matt Holliday: The Game's Most Underrated Star."

Matt Holliday is a cornerstone of the Cardinals' recent success. And unfortunately, this was him in the bottom of the second inning tonight:

That ball in the photo was a pop fly that Colorado's Carlos Gonzalez hit to left field; it seemed like a can of corn off the bat but required Holliday to run at full speed. As he neared where the ball would land, he suddenly tripped and toppled to the ground. It seemed to me that he had either tripped over some unseen clod or hole in the otherwise pristine outfield grass or--even more humorously, as I thought in those first moments--gotten tangled up just by dint of his own lumbering physicality.

But then Holliday grabbed his right leg while the ball fell in for a double; and then he kept grabbing at his leg while Matt Carpenter threw the ball back into the infield; and then, horror of horrors, Holliday actually writhed on the ground in agony and masked his face in pain while Carpenter looked on helplessly.

This is what we get for writing over and over: "Matt Holliday is a lock in left field."

Mike Matheny and the St. Louis trainer came out to assess the situation, and after a time, Holliday was able to walk off the field sort of unassisted. Later came this:

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Matt Holliday suffered a right quad strain in the 2nd inning. He will undergo further studies tomorrow</p>&mdash; St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) <a href="https://twitter.com/Cardinals/status/608086598157135873">June 9, 2015</a></blockquote>

<script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

Which, two things--no wait, three things:

  1. "undergo further studies" sounds absurd;
  2. I initially just assumed it was an ACL tear, going by the sudden plunging nature of Holliday's fall;
  3. as we know already from Tommy Pham's and Matt Adams's quad injuries, a "strain" is just a cruel euphemism for "tear" (rhymes with "bear") and can cost a player his season. No matter how tough a damn so-and-so he is.
So much for Holliday. The rest of the game was just as bad.

John Lackey

As if Holliday's injury weren't gruesome enough, the other baseball that took place tonight was basically some Grand Guignol play about flat sliders and shitty defense. John Lackey bore the brunt of all of it, and man alive you will not guess how well he handled it!

...

He handled it poorly. At one point he decided to stop backing up on plays, instead spending his time still on the mound, doubled over in unbearable frustration that, say, Grichuk didn't get to a fly ball or Wong or Carpenter booted a grounder or Peralta couldn't quite reach a seeing-eye grounder or whatever. All those things happened; Lackey was right to be frustrated; I find his frustration almost deliciously absurd.

At any rate, who knows what this game would've been like if Wong had made the first out of the game instead of committing an error, or if Lackey's slider hadn't been as flat as Kansas when he threw it to Troy Tulowitzki for a three-run homer. The reality is that the game was basically decided before Lackey recorded a second out in the first inning. It was definitely decided (even considering Coors Field's wackiness) by the fourth inning, when the Rockies scored another five runs on Lackey.

As an exercise in casuistry, here are some things that caused John Lackey to give up ten runs (only eight earned!) Monday night, in no particular order:

  • poorly located pitches
  • aggressive swinging by the Rockies
  • poor defense
  • Coors Field wackiness
  • Troy Tulowitzki
  • time and chance
For posterity, here's Lackey's line (note how many strikes he threw):

4.0 IP (26 batters faced), 12 H, 8 ER, 0 BB, 5 K;
82 pitches (60 strikes), 7 GB, 9 FB, 5 LD, 4 IFFB, 4 IFH

Get 'em next time, John.

CPL Descalso Deployed in Eastern Theatre

Notes:

  • Ed Easley took two PAs in this game, and one of them ended in a hard line drive directly to the right fielder. He hit the ball really hard, is all. Oh and Yadier scored from third on the play, just avoiding the catcher's tag.
  • Kolten Wong hit his seventh home run of the season.
  • Jon Jay also went yard. With the homer and a (hilariously deliberate) hit-by-pitch, Jay's ISO went from .016 to .040, his wRC+ from 56 to 66.
  • I guess I'll just note here (and here'd be the place for it) that the Cardinals arrived in Denver Monday morning at 2am or so after a late flight from Los Angeles. Obviously there's no way to know if that contributed to the shambles that was this game, but it wouldn't surprise me: errors, injury, general lack of sharpness--if you combine all these things with the let's call them peculiarities of Coors field, well brother that's a bad combination.
  • One more gloss on the game's ugliness: chance is always operational in baseball games, which is why it's important to decrease its ambit as much as possible. One way to do that would be to put your best defensive center fielder in center field, because defense is important, and especially so in a huge outfield like Colorado's. There's obviously great disagreement about Grichuk and Jay and Bourjos. But can we agree that Grichuk should be playing center field over Jay whenever they're both in the game? And can we also agree--just picking at the scab here, don't mind me--that Bourjos would've caught one or two balls that neither Jay nor Grichuk got to?
  • During the writing of this recap I googled "picture of woe" and while it did yield some results germane to this post's content, most of the hits were photos for some band called "Woe Is Me."
Fangraphs win-expectancy thingamajig:

<iframe src="http://www.fangraphs.com/graphframe.aspx?config=0&static=0&type=livewins&num=0&h=450&w=450&date=2015-06-08&team=Rockies&dh=0" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" height="450" width = "450" style="border:1px solid black;"></iframe><br /><span style="font-size:9pt;">Source: <a href="http://www.fangraphs.com/livewins.aspx?date=2015-06-08&team=Rockies&dh=0&season=2015">FanGraphs</a></span>

The second game of the series features Michael Wacha vs Jorge de la Rosa and takes place Tuesday night at 7:40 PM central.