The Cardinals had a chance to step into first place yesterday, but they blew it. There were a number of moments you might consider key. One of them involved Stephen Piscotty trying to bunt with no outs and runners on first and second with a 3-1 lead. If Piscotty had been successful in bunting, the Cardinals win expectancy would have gone down. Bunting is bad unless you are a pitcher or trying to get a hit.
Michael Wacha needed nearly 90 pitches to get through four innings, but a guy the Cardinals have huge reservations about his arm and making it through the season was fine to go out for another inning despite a taxing game. Ron Howard voice: he wasn’t fine. Then, when things got tough for Wacha, Brett Cecil, who has been struggling mightily and should probably be reserved for low-leverage situations and the game was effectively over a short time later. I was pretty upset about the whole thing, but my dog, Henry was surprisingly non-chalant.
My dog is so polite even when I tell him about the Piscotty bunt, leaving a tired Wacha in, and then replacing him with a struggling Cecil. pic.twitter.com/s3gHcU3GEp— Craig Edwards (@craigjedwards) May 26, 2017
Anyway, the Cardinals are about to play the Rockies in Colorado for three games. The Rockies have the best record in the National League, which might take a few seconds to process. Former Cardinals legend Mark Reynolds has actually been the team’s best hitter with his 131 wRC+ narrowly edging out Charlie Blackmon’s 130 this season. Reynolds is striking out in just 23% of plate appearances, a major improvement from his 31% career average.
Nolan Arenado has been good as usual with a solid hitting line and excellent defense. D.J. Lemahieu has not been, with his .388 BABIP from last season dropping to .329 this season. It’s almost as if last year’s BABIP wasn’t sustainable. Lemahieu doesn’t hit for power so he’s been a below-average offensive player this season.
Trevor Story was recently on the disabled list with a strained left shoulder, which might help explain his pretty poor performance this season. He’s struck out in 36% of plate appearances and seven homers aren’t enough to covert hat much swing and miss as he’s put up a 77 wRC+ in his sophomore season, mirroring the troubles of the Cardinals’ own second year shortstop.
Ian Desmond was the Rockies big free agent signing even though they didn’t really have a position for him. He’s played mostly in the outfield, but isn’t hitting at all. Carlos Gonzalez is still on the Rockies after years of trade rumors, but he has hit about as well as Desmond. Tony Wolters is the Rockies catcher, keeping things warm until Tom Murphy returns.
So how have the Rockies exceeded expecations with a set of position players that hasn’t been outstanding? It’s been the pitching. The bullpen, with a rejuvenated Greg Holland and healthy Jake McGee and Adam Ottavino have locked things down in the late innings. On the starting side, the team has made do without their best pitcher, Jon Gray, who has a foot problem.
Tonight, Antonio Senzatela pitches for the Rockies. Senzatela doesn’t get a lot of strikeouts, but a low BABIP has resulted in a mid-three ERA despite a FIP roughly one run higher. He’s struggled the last two times out, striking out a batter an inning over two five-inning starts, but walking seven and giving up three homers. The 22-year-old righty throws a mid-90s fourseamer more than three-quarters of the time, mixing in a slider and the very rare change. Carlos Martinez takes the mound for the Cardinals.
On Saturday, Kyle Freeland will go for Colorado. The 24-year-old Freeland is like a lefty Senzatela in terms of strikeouts, walks and a low BABIP that has led to an ERA about a run lower than his FIP. Freeland is a groundball inducer with 63% of batted balls coming on the ground this year. He uses a twoseamer and a fourseamer in the low-90s around 60% of the time along with a slider and the occasional change. After giving up 0 or 1 runs in six of his first seven starts this season, he’s given up 12 in his last three, though only nine were earned. Adam Wainwright will pitch for St. Louis.
German Marquez takes the mound for Colorado on Sunday. Marquez has made just six starts for the Rockies, but the 22-year-old righty has arguably been the team’s best pitcher. He strikes players out at a league average rate with the same being true for walks, but has thus far done a great job limiting home runs. He might not be able to keep his current pace up, but he posted low numbers in the minors as well. He throws a mid-90s fastball two-thirds of the time with his curve as his clear second pitch followed by a change. Lance Lynn goes for the Cardinals.
Tonight, May 26, 7:40 pm CT, Fox Sports Midwest
Saturday, May 27, 8:10 pm CT, Fox Sports Midwest
Sunday, May 28, 2:10 pm, CT, Fox Sports Midwest