After two months of the purest turmoil, the Cardinals seem to have turned the corner. Monday night’s victory saw the club reach the .500 mark for the first time since way back on June 2nd, and this 10-3 victory over the Kansas City Royals has helped them eclipse the mark for the first time since June 1st. And they did it in style.
As stats guru Ryan Spader pointed out on twitter, Matheny’s club has strung together three games in a row with 10+ runs, tying a franchise record in the modern era.
#STLCards most recent streaks of at least three straight games with double-digit runs:— Ryan M. Spaeder (@theaceofspaeder) August 9, 2017
Even better? Mike Leake and the rejuvenated offense has a chance to break that record tomorrow night as Busch stadium hosts the second leg of this split-series with the Royals.
With the Cardinals’ bats have been firing on all cylinders, another strong offensive showing wouldn’t be crazy to expect against the new Royals starter, Trevor Cahill. Jose Martinez’s single in the eighth inning meant every starter in the lineup had a hit, with six of the 14 on the night going for extra bases.
Yadier Molina etched the first tally of the game onto the board, knocking an 0-1 two-seamer from southpaw Jason Vargas into the left-center seats. I enjoyed tonight’s broadcast booth a lot, and one of their finer moments of the night was the clairvoyance shown when the crew meditated on Yadi’s tendency to utilize his leg kick a bit more when there aren’t runner on (opting to be a bit more aggressive; swinging for extra bases). Just after detailing the fluid and distinct approach, the platinum glover obliged to prove the duo wholeheartedly correct with his 13th of the year.
After losing the lead in the bottom of the fourth - more on that in a bit - the Cardinals hung a six-spot in the top of the fifth, as Vargas slowly imploded and the bats took advantage.
Randal Grichuk led off with a long home run to left, and Vargas loaded the bases for a second go at Molina. Yadi won yet again, but this time with a bit of luck, as a chopper to third ricocheted off the bag and became impossible for the diving Mike Moustakas to make a play on.
Vargas is a pitcher who relies on his changeup more than most (30%+), but I noticed him turning to it more than usual in this game, especially in the fifth inning as he only threw three fastballs across five-plus batters. While he was passable the first time through the Cardinals’ lineup, a few deflections and fleeting control pushed manager Ned Yost to choose between anxiety or the bullpen.
Unfortunately for Yost, choosing his bullpen in the form of Mike Minor meant getting rid of the anxiety, but adding in devastation, as Minor served up a two-strike, three-run home run to Jedd Gyorko on a poorly located fastball.
Nails were hammered into the coffin during the seventh inning, when the Cardinals got to beat up on old friend Neftali Feliz. Grichuk singled in two, while Matt Carpenter was gifted a double on a hard hit ball to right field that Jorge Bonifacio ruefully misjudged. 10 runs concentrated heavily in these two big innings were enough support for Michael Wacha.
Wacha was on early, even if his end line looks a little bit off from how dominant he has been over his last few starts. Most impressive was his ability to cycle through the majority of his pitches the first time hitters saw him, and still be effective later in the game. Wacha’s repertoire has evolved so much over this year alone that I’ve been ecstatic to keep an eye on each of his most recent starts. Offspeed to start hitters off, a few beautifully placed changeups in fastball counts, and even with all that, he managed to throw over 65% of his pitches for strikes in the game.
The one “event” came in the fourth inning after the Cardinals took the lead on Molina’s home run. Wacha lost Eric Hosmer, as his velocity touched 98+ with movement, and Melky Cabrera lofted a ball to center as Hosmer advanced to third. After poor control of the baserunners, Cabrera was able to waltz to second base with Bonifacio batting. An eight-pitch at bat to the next hitter ended with a walk after a no-call on a checked swing after Wacha left a curveball above the zone. Here is a look at Bonifacio’s bat on the pitch.
Um, so, can we talk about this? pic.twitter.com/VN7bMKXSXu— stlCupofJoe (@stlCupofJoe) August 9, 2017
Call me crazy, but I don’t think it’s as egregious as a call as I’ve seen on a checked swing - although it probably should’ve gone in the Cardinal’s favor. The rule - which apparently isn’t even an actual rule? - says something about the “intent to swing,” the most grey you can ever stuff into a grey area across all of the sport. I couldn’t find an overhead shot of the bat and the plate, as I always find that more useful as a barometer for where the head of the bat was in relation to the front of the plate on the swing. I will admit it’s much easier for me to play devil’s advocate after the game ended in a win, as any other results probably would have left me much more bitter over the call.
The reason it was such a big call is that the free pass led to a three-run double off the bat of Cheslor Cuthbert on the very next pitch. Wacha’s only blemish, as that decision on the appeal backed him into a corner with two outs.
A bitter pill to swallow, but a good win for the Cardinals who now sit at 57-56 with just under 50 games left to play.
- Fox Sports 1’s broadcast mentioned that the Cardinals have gotten more RBI production out of the number nine spot in the lineup than the number three spot in their lineup. I actually had to perform multiple 10 second rewinds on MLB.tv to listen to phrase a few times. Extremely hard to fathom how that is even possible. The good sign? Paul DeJong seems to be flipping the script on such madness.
- Not too much in the way of notes for tonight. Feel free to throw me a follow on Twitter if you’d enjoy an influx of tweets from all around the baseball and fantasy baseball universe. @LanceBrozdow. Also check out my site BigThreeSports.com for some more content and musing from your Tuesday game recapper!