My Favorite Cardinals Game of 2016

my-favorite-game

Photo is credited to Getty Images North America.

It was dramatic, climatic, and beyond erratic. It shouldn’t have happened, but it couldn’t have happened much better.

It was September 6, the middle game of a three-game, early-September series at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, between the hometown Pirates and visiting Cardinals that was as exciting as a Tuesday evening ballgame betwixt two clubs fighting for second place in an all but over division race could be.

St. Louis leaped to an early, yet commanding 4-0 advantage with a Yadier Molina grand slam in the top of the first inning, a lead that St. Louis rookie starter Luke Weaver maintained well through his four innings of two-run ball.

Leading by three, 5-2, entering the bottom of the fifth, the Cardinals called upon reliever Matt Bowman to help bridge the game to the later innings. Bowman, the Cardinals’ rookie Rule 5 draft pick, entered his outing with a 3.92 ERA in 57 1/3 innings of work — and with a fair amount of trouble against the Pirates. Bowman had allowed four runs across as many appearances against the Bucs entering Tuesday, and the right-handed hurler failed to snap that trend.

Bowman was smacked around for four hits, and mixed in with the hits were two errors, including a throwing error committed by Bowman and a fielding error by first baseman Brandon Moss. The knocks and blunders brought significant traffic to the base paths for the Pirates, who pushed around four runs in the frame. Pittsburgh shortstop Jordy Mercer delivered the knockout blow to Bowman, as Mercer’s two-run double plated the third and fourth tallies of the inning and prompted Cardinals manager Mike Matheny to make a pitching change.

Now trailing by one, 6-5, Cardinals relievers Zach Duke, Kevin Siegrist, and Mike Mayers matched up with Pirates relievers Antonio Bastardo and Felipe Rivero to keep the scoreboard quiet across the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings. With their one-run lead still in tact, Pittsburgh warmed up and inserted nasty left-handed closer Tony Watson into the ballgame to face the top of the Cardinals’ batting order in a do-or-die ninth inning.

Watson took the mound in the top of the ninth with noteworthy control over the Cardinals in recent years. Since that start of the 2014 season up until that September night, Watson had held the Cardinals to just five runs on two extra-base hits and a meager .165 batting mark across 91 at-bats.

Those facts make what the Cardinals did in the upcoming minutes even more mind boggling, more wonderful.

Watson quickly recorded the first two outs of the inning before Matt Carpenter stepped to plate, serving as a pinch-hitter. Watson took charge over Carpenter, working the count to 0-2 almost instantly. Within a strike of a win, the lefty drew back and fired a sinker — his third in a row — to Carpenter, who promptly exerted a strong, forceful hack on the high delivery that sent the ball flying, soaring beyond right-center field and out of PNC Park for his eighteenth long ball of year, stunning the crowd and Watson and, more importantly, tying the game at six runs apiece.

Yadier Molina followed Carpenter’s blast with a double, setting the stage for Randal Grichuk, who entered the ballgame 4-for-16 with two home runs and with one hit in four at-bats entering his ninth-inning plate appearance. On a first-pitch sinker that zoomed to the heart of the plate, Grichuk smashed the ball to deep left field, leaving no doubt that he had just hit his 22nd home run of 2016 and given the Cardinals an 8-6 lead.

With his sinker lacking the necessary bite, Watson threw two changeups to the next batter, Jhonny Peralta, who took the pitches for balls. Now down by two runs and still seeking that coveted 27th out, Watson went back to his sinker, and Peralta didn’t miss it. Peralta ripped the pitch out to center field to give the Cardinals a three-run lead.

That was four runs off a pitcher who the club had scored only five off since 2014. That was four extra-base hits — three home runs — for the Cardinals, who managed just two doubles in 91 at-bats off Watson over the last three seasons.

Seung Hwan Oh entered the game for St. Louis and, despite allowing a run, sealed the deal on an improbable comeback win for the Cardinals, a victory inspired by a ten-minute period where the team gelled to produce one of the most dramatic, climatic, and erratic innings of year.

No, it shouldn’t have happened.

But it couldn’t have happened much better.

Q&A with Cardinals General Manager John Mozeliak

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Source: Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images North America

For the third consecutive year, Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak has kindly answered questions of UCB members. The man they call Mo was gracious enough to answer six of my questions, so, for your enjoyment on what will be another boring, baseball-less day, here’s a transcript, featuring my questions (in bold) and John’s answers.

Obviously, your acquisition of Seung Hwan Oh panned out exceptionally well, and it really stood up with the injuries of Trevor Rosenthal, Kevin Siegrist, and Seth Maness. With that in mind, are the Cardinals keeping an open mind as far as signing out of the KBO and Japanese League goes?

Yes, we’ve committed a lot of resources to the Asian leagues and are keeping tabs on it moving forward and when you do have success of someone like a Mr. Oh, that give you confidence. We’ve continued to look at and invest there.

Yadier Molina had his first injury-free season in 2016 since 2012 and did so when many expected him to decline, given the multiple DL stints and surgeries since 2013. As Molina’s career (as an everyday backstop, anyway) presumably draws to a close over the next few years, is there a possibility that Carson Kelly will serve as the Cardinals’ backup catcher in 2017 to learn and work with the man whose role he’ll eventually inherit?

Clearly the success Carson has had in the short term is something we are excited about. How do we balance that and Yadi’s playing time with Carson’s? I don’t want to put Carson in a place where he can’t develop. The question is ‘what can we map out for him?’ Do you allow him to play every day at Memphis and then join the team? We don’t have the answer yet, but it’s something we are thinking about.

Darren Seferina, Eliezer Alvarez, and Magneuris Sierra are among the handful of speedsters in the farm system of a Major League team that collectively failed to commit 40 thefts this past season. Though they’re occurring at the Minor League level, how do their high stolen base rates change your outlook on the Cardinals from a base-running perspective moving forward?

I do think there’s a correlation between base running and athleticism and it’s something we are focused on both domestically and internationally. We are looking at ways to interject athleticism in our farm system. You mentioned three people in Seferina, Alvarez and Sierra that all have above average speed and we want their base running skills to grow. We did have Willie McGee focus on that with them this past year, but also look at ways we can maximize that as well moving forward. This sort of dovetails into what we are talking about at the Major League level.  We feel good about where these athletes are moving.

After acquiring Jedd Gyorko to be a utility infielder with a little power here and there, how impressed were you with his team-leading 30 long balls in 2016 and how does his breakout year at the plate sculpt what may be in store for him playing time wise as we enter 2017?

When we made the trade for Gyorko, we were excited about his offensive upside and aware that he was a versatile player. It’s a challenge for Mike to not put him in the Cardinals lineup. Jedd has multiple gloves that he can bring to camp, which is very helpful for next season.

With the recurring injury in his shoulder prohibiting him from a full year of starting regularly, do you envision Michael Wacha working primarily as a reliever next season?

It’s an interesting question in regards to an age old debate, what’s more stressful – starting or being a reliever? One thing most people fail to realize is how many times you get up in the bullpen, how many times in a game are you warming up, are you going (pitching) on back-to-back days? So that’s a fine line – usage in the bullpen. When I think about Wacha, I still think he has a chance to be a middle to top of the rotation starter. Health is going to drive that.

I took up scorekeeping this season, and, I must say, it was pretty enjoyable, as I ended up scoring over 60 Cardinals games and close to 100 total. So, I have to ask: Do you keep score of games? If so, do you have a specific brand of scorecard/scorebook you use and how meticulous are you when it comes to tracking the smaller aspects of games, such as pitch type, defensive alignment, and challenged plays?

My scorecard is created and provided by our Communications department. I tend to keep score, but not on a consistent basis. When I do, it lacks detail you may find in a robust version. Throughout the days and games, my computer is on and I may occasionally catch up with other activities.

Big thanks to Mr. Mozeliak for taking time to answer my questions and those of others!

Cardinals News & Notes: Matheny Extended, Garcia’s Option Exercised

mike-matheny

Photo is credited to Getty Images.

On the heels of the Cubs snapping a 108-year World Series title drought, the Cardinals made a few transactions on the inaugural day of baseball’s offseason market on Thursday.

With one year remaining on his formal contract, the Cardinals announced their agreement with manager Mike Matheny on a three-year extension that will keep him at St. Louis’s helm through the 2020 season. Matheny has managed the Cardinals since Hall of Fame skipper Tony La Russa stepped down following the 2011 season.

Matheny has guided the Cardinals to three National League Central division titles in his time as the Cardinals’ manager, and his teams own an overall record of 461-349 since the start of 2012. Matheny’s ballclubs made the postseason in the first four years of his managerial career, with the first season of no playoff action during Matheny’s tenure in St. Louis occurring just this year.

In more of an on-field move, the Cardinals announced that they are picking up their option on left-handed starting pitcher Jaime Garcia. Garcia, who turned 30 in July, had his first season free of medical setbacks in quite some time, as Garcia started 30 games and logged 171 2/3 frames this year to reach personal feats that the lefty hadn’t since 2011. Across his 30 starts, Garcia walked 57 batters, posted a WHIP of 1.37, and was tagged for a 4.67 ERA.

The addition of Garcia back into the Cardinals’ raw 2017 outlook provides the team with a bit of flexibility as the offseason progresses. The move gives the club additional depth from a starting-pitching perspective, and, in theory, the organization has enough pitching in stock to absorb a subtraction if it means addressing a separate task, such as acquiring a center fielder.

Formerly perceived and now factual news pieces of the day involve outfielder Matt Holliday and reliever Jordan Walden, who will both be bought out of their respective scenarios and hit the free agent market this winter. Holliday saw his career over a span of eight years in St. Louis break, literally, when he suffered a broken thumb in August that held him out of play until late September, prompting the Cardinals to refrain from paying the aging (and now ailing) corner outfielder to be a member of the 2017 squad.

Walden, the other Cardinals acquisition in the Shelby Miller-Jason Heyward deal back in 2014, appeared in twelve games for the Cardinals early in the 2015 season before various arm and back issues ended that campaign and ultimately robbed him of a chance at the major-league level in 2016.

Holliday and Walden are owed $1 million and $250,000 by the team, respectively, to officially hit the market.

 

 

 

 

 

 

UCB Roundtable – Day 4

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Photo is credited to Getty Images.

With the Cardinals’ 2016 season in the books, a handful of United Cardinal Bloggers members are participating in the annual roundtable.  I proposed a question to the group on Thursday, and it drew several intriguing responses and sparked plenty of conversation.

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Me:

I think it’s safe to say that the season rookie shortstop Aledmys Diaz pieced together in 2016 was one of the best we’ve seen in recent Cardinals history. I mean, for starters, he didn’t even break camp with the team. It took an injury on Opening Day to grant Diaz a spot on the big-league roster, and, once he was given the opportunity (and more importantly, a chance to start at shortstop over Jedd Gyorko and Greg Garcia), he didn’t look back.

Diaz drove in runs and hit for average and power well enough to dazzle many; however, his superb offense was what refrained us from becoming frustrated with his subpar defense, which had sent him to the minors after the Cardinals wrapped up spring training, although he never got a chance to work on it since he was promoted prior to the beginning of the minor league season, and such was evident.

Diaz committed sixteen errors in his 910 innings of fieldwork, but the majority of those miscues were made in the earlier months of the season, as we saw Diaz really mature at the position as the season rolled along. And as this team plans to improve from a defensive standpoint over the winter, allowing Diaz to play short daily is essential to allow him to continue growing at the position and contribute to the team on both sides of the ball. With the current roster, however, Diaz playing at short every game is a scenario that may be tough to execute.

The shortstop position since 2014 has had Jhonny Peralta’s name attached to it, and for good reason. As we approach the fourth and final year of Peralta’s deal with the Cardinals, it can probably be stated without much thought that he will go down as one of John Mozeliak’s top free-agent acquisitions. After he returned from the first thumb injury, we saw Peralta get some work at third base to accommodate Diaz, a move that shifted Matt Carpenter over to second base and Kolten Wong to the bench. Overall, midseason positional changes didn’t defensively help the team, and this team needs all the help it can get as it enters 2017.

With all of that said, do you believe there is any chance the Cardinals would trade Peralta this winter?

Tom Knuppel:

Trading Peralta opens up many new ideas. Carp at third, Diaz at short, Wong at second, and the chance to look for a new first baseman. Gyorko is our everyday sub in three positions. Peralta has been a very decent acquisition, but it’s time to move on.

Bill Ivie:

I think Peralta and Adams are the two position players most likely to be dealt this offseason. Maybe that should be phrased that they are most likely to be shopped.

Peralta has shown worth and comes at a decent price. He should be attractive to a team that is looking for a stopgap in 2017 at short or third. Adams has a fair amount of team control and may be attractive to an American League team that could see him on the field or as a DH.

One of these two are likely to not be Cardinals in 2017. Whichever one that is will ultimately decide the others fate.

But wait, there’s more…

I could see the Cards moving both of them one way or the other (trade, non-tender). Which would allow the team to play Carpenter at his natural position of third base, Diaz at short, Wong at second and bring in a fresh face for first (or just resign Holliday for the feel good moment of the winter).

I don’t honestly foresee both leaving, but I’d be shocked if they are both here on Opening Day.

Michael Miles:

I agree that Peralta and Adams are likely departures this off-season. Peralta definitely carries the most value but Adams could go in a package to the AL for an outfielder (think something like Adam Jones, etc.).  If Adams is gone, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a QO issued to Moss who might accept it.  I guess, then, in this type of scenario the real question is who is worth more on a roster: Adams or Moss? To me, despite not being stellar, Moss carries more value thanks to his ability to play 1B/OF.

Jon Doble: 

Diaz should definitely continue to improve at short. We saw that as he continued to settle in and become more comfortable, he became better. He now just needs to continue to improve his footwork so he can make better throws. That said, the Cardinals seem committed to him being shortstop, with or without Jhonny Peralta on the roster.

In my opinion, Mo’s biggest priority this winter has to be uncluttering the roster and Peralta is clutter right now. Question mark offensively and not a great glove anymore. I’m pretty much calling up teams to see who is willing to take him and I’m even willing to eat a chunk of his salary to move him.

The general assumption seems to be that Mozeliak designed the front loaded contract specifically to make him easier to trade later in the deal. And I do believe that he will get shopped.

I think Gyorko’s best role is power off the bench, and I believe they should make an effort to keep him there and keep him from being an everyday player. He may have hit 23 home runs in the second half this year, but that’s about all he brought to the table.

As far as Brandon Moss goes, if you can unload Jhonny Peralta and don’t bring back Matt Adams, I would definitely be interested in bringing him back next season. I too have thought that he’d warrant a qualifying offer, but his September really hurt his ability to ride a good year into being overpaid. But even looking at last winter, there isn’t much of a precedent to think that he can get even close to the nearly $17 million that this year’s qualifying offer is expected to be. Maybe you can work out something like a $20M/2 with an option for him.

Kevin Reynolds:

First, to address this directly, Diaz owns the shortstop position in St. Louis, now. It’s his to lose via catastrophe in spring training, but it’s his regardless. Peralta’s days at shortstop are over, and should have been over prior to last season too. He just doesn’t have the range anymore. Defensive positioning – and Oquendo – were his best friends. In fact, the only Diaz at SS questions still in play for me revolve around Wong’s future at second base and the young prospect Perez’s future (or Cordoba’s?) as either a trade chip or future core player.

That said, Peralta is going to get shopped. His contract was structured for it this season, and the arrival of Diaz this year was at least anticipated if not flat-out predicted. It would be foolish not to at least see what Mo could acquire in trade after setting things in motion nearly four years ago. The problem is finding a willing partner.

I’m not as sold on Peralta’s value as others seem to be. His days at shortstop are likely over, and that means he’s either going to play third base or second base. Second base is a position that only opens up for players with Peralta’s profile (size, reduced range, age, etc.) if they are elite hitters, especially power hitters. Peralta, injured hand/wrist area and all, is no longer expected to be that hitter. And if he is a viable third base option, why aren’t the Cardinals – who could use a good 3B/1B type – more interested in keeping him? In other words, if the Cardinals don’t value him enough to keep him, why should other teams/contenders drool over him?

That said, he does have value, but I won’t be surprised if he nets very little in return. Think of it as a roster-clearing, payroll loosening move for a bigger plan to follow (imagine what they could get if they add Holliday’s $17 million to Peralta’s salary).

Now, the best answer here is that the Cardinals should determine Peralta’s future in STL based on their own winter acquisitions and moves. If they acquire an outfielder and move Adams to do it, then Peralta has value right where he is for another season, especially with Gyorko giving him days off to stay fresh-ish. If, however, the Birds get a first baseman or a third baseman that qualifies as an impact player (Wil Myers?), then I would consider swapping Peralta for a bag of balls just to clear his payroll.

Ultimately, he’s a pretty fluid asset right now. His contract isn’t restrictive, and his production still warrants a roster spot in multiple capacities as long as his body is managed correctly. The Cardinals can afford to wait and see how other moves play out before deciding how to deploy Peralta…even if that means to the airport.

Mark Tomasik:

I think the Cardinals would trade Jhonny Peralta if they could find a team willing to offer a deal that provided a return that fit a need either at the major-league or prospect level. I don’t think they would give him away just to create a roster spot or salary savings.

Doug V.:

Here’s a devil’s advocate question: How likely is Diaz to match his production on offense?

Even superstars like Bryce Harper (assuming he isn’t playing injured) can regress. Plus, there’s the curious case of Yasiel Puig, who rocked his first two seasons before disappearing.

Diaz isn’t them, but considering he came out of nowhere, shouldn’t regression at least be considered a possibility, and if so, wouldn’t having Peralta around be a good idea? If Diaz regresses, who do we have? (Gyorko and his 30 homers also might be due for a regression, too, considering they came out of nowhere.) Moving Peralta puts more pressure on Diaz as well, and some people respond well to pressure, whereas some don’t.

Better safe than sorry.

STL CardGals:

Specifically, in regards to Peralta, and without exploring any hyper-specific stats, I still have to wonder if he’s not quite as much of an old-timer as people have lately been suggesting. Of course he’s a year older and spent a large chunk of the season on the DL, and his production will naturally slip after his prime, but I think sometimes baseball tends to move on too quickly from an “older” injured player before giving him a chance to make a decent splash again the following season.

This year, Jhonny essentially played about half as many games as he did last year. And the numbers pretty accurately reflect that: for example, 17 HRs in ’15, 8 in ’16; 26 2Bs in ’15, 17 in ’16, 50 BBs in ’15, 20 in ’16, etc. Anyway, yes, the infield is crowded and it wouldn’t surprise me if Mo did some snooping around the market to see if there is any interest in him (although I am ignorant as to the potential of a “no-trade clause” in his current contract).

But again, I think depending on how the payroll could shift with the final verdict over Holliday and Moss, there may be more wiggle room to handle Peralta’s salary. Now, whether that’s beneficial long-term for either party, is debatable. Johnny may need a fresh start possibly in the AL in order to nab a decent contract past the age of 35.

Tara Wellman:

I’ve been on the “Trade Peralta” bandwagon for a while now – not necessarily because I don’t think he holds any value for the Cardinals, but because I, too, think the roster needs more clarity and less clutter. Peralta’s tendency for injury, his lack of range defensively, and the simple fact that there are, in my mind, better ways to fill the infield positions make him a good candidate to shop around.

As several others have said, I see this is a multi-layer process – what is done with Moss directly impacts what is done with Adams, which likely influences what is done with Peralta (although, not necessarily in that order). Matt Carpenter can play at 1B or 3B just fine, Aledmys Diaz has done everything necessary to claim the job at SS, and Kolten Wong (as already discussed) needs to spend 2017 as the starting second baseman. Jedd Gyorko will be a terrific fill-in at any of those positions, so the choice really comes down to which guy(s) — Moss, Adams, or Peralta — adds the most to the mix? Moss has flexibility, Adams has cost control and age, and Peralta has a track record.

(Full disclosure…I’ve never really been particularly high on Peralta, anyway, so that certainly influences my choice in the matter.)

Considering the recent injury and lack of playing time in 2016, Peralta’s value may not be at an all-time high. But, Mo isn’t a big “trade a guy at his peak” type, anyway! Some reinforcements for the pitching staff, or as a package deal for a center fielder…I’m good with anything that simplifies and clarifies the jobs and expectations of the players who give the Birds the best chance on the infield. For me, that means Peralta is the odd man out.

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Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed sifting through our thoughts!

Series Summary 9/30-10/2: Pirates vs. Cardinals

 

Matt Holliday (6).jpgPhoto is credited to Getty Images.

This weekend, the Pirates and Cardinals each played their final regular season series at Busch Stadium to wrap up the 2016 season. With three consecutive losses, the Pirates finished the season 78-83; the Cardinals were able to reach ten games over .500 and wrap up the year at 86-76.

The Cardinals, who entered play Friday a game out of the second National League Wild Card spot held by the Giants, ended play Sunday in the same situation, as the Cardinals and Giants both swept their series this weekend, and the Giants clinched the second Wild Card spot. The Giants will take on the Mets at Citi Field on Wednesday, October 5, in the Wild Card game, and the winner will advance to the NLDS against the Cubs.

Before Friday’s game, the Cardinals announced that they would not be picking up outfielder Matt Holliday’s $17 million club option for the 2017 season. Instead, the team will opt to buy out the rest of Holliday’s deal for $1 million and allow the 36-year-old Holliday to reach free agency. In a somewhat corresponding move, the Cardinals activated Holliday off the disabled list for the first time since he suffered a broken thumb in early August.

Game One: Cardinals 7, Pirates 0 — WP: Carlos Martinez (16-9) LP: Tyler Glasnow (0-2)

Backed by one of Carlos Martinez’s best starts of the year and three home runs, the Cardinals took Friday’s series opener at Busch Stadium against the Pirates, 7-0.

Martinez, who picked up his sixteenth win of the season, logged seven scoreless innings, during which the 25-year-old punched out nine batters and lowered his team-best ERA to 3.04. Jedd Gyorko and Brandon Moss both homered, but the biggest shot of the night came in the seventh inning.

Appearing in his first game since August 13, Matt Holliday, with tears in his eyes, belted an opposite-field, pinch-hit home run before a frantic Busch Stadium crowd. The home run accounted for the first-pinch hit RBI of Holliday’s career.

Game Two: Cardinals 4, Pirates 3– WP: Kevin Siegrist (6-3) LP: Felipe Rivero (1-6) SV: Seung Hwan Oh (19)

Jung Ho Kang’s three-run home run in the first inning was enough to end Cardinals starter Michael Wacha’s day, but it served as the only run-scoring hit the Pirates recorded on Saturday, as St. Louis scored four unanswered runs to take the middle game of the series, 4-3.

Kang smashed his 21st home run of the season, but his team went 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position the rest of the way off the Cardinals’ bullpen that was spectacular on Saturday. Miguel Socolovich pitched a scoreless second inning before Trevor Rosenthal logged three frames and Matt Bowman, Jonathan Broxton, Kevin Siegrist, and Seung Hwan Oh each pitched an inning to round out the day.

The Cardinals tied the game with three runs in the sixth, including two of Pirates starter Chad Kuhl. The game remained tied until the bottom of the eighth inning, when, with two outs, Jedd Gyorko homered for the 30th time this year off Felipe Rivero to give the Cardinals a 4-3 lead that they went on to win the ballgame by.

Game Three: Cardinals 10, Pirates 4 — WP: Jonathan Broxton (4-2) LP: Juan Nicasio (10-7)

The Cardinals were able to reach ten games over .500 for the first time this season with their 10-4 win on Sunday, but the victory proved to lack much meaning beyond that, as the Giants, who were victorious over the Dodgers, clinched the National League’s second and final Wild Card spot.

Adam Wainwright, though denied a chance at his fourteenth win of the year, turned in a quality start of six innings to raise his innings count to 198.2 to close out the season. Wainwright has logged at least 198.2 innings in seven of the last nine seasons.

St. Louis scored nine times across the sixth and seventh innings after trailing, 2-1, following the fifth. Matt Carpenter accounted for three of those runs with his 21st home run of the season. Carpenter was credited for four of the Cardinals’ ten runs, while Randal Grichuk plated a pair and Yadier Molina, Stephen Piscotty, Jedd Gyorko, and Matt Adams each batted in a run.

It was a magical moment in the ninth inning when tenured Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday took the field one final time as a member of the home team at Busch Stadium. Holliday took his native position in left and soaked up the love that flowed out of the sold-out crowd. Holliday was removed from the game after a minute or two and received one final ovation from the crowd he’s played before for seven years.

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As I continue to grow as a writer, I’d like to thank everyone who has taken the time to offer words of encouragement and support this season. I’m proud to say I previewed and summarized each series the Cardinals played in, and I am hopeful someone out there benefited from my work. After a little break, I plan to begin a series of offseason posts at one point or another. Feel free to check back soon!

Series Preview 9/30-10/2: Pirates vs. Cardinals

St Louis Cardinals v Chicago Cubs

Photo is credited to Getty Images.
This weekend, the Pirates and Cardinals will play a three-game series at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, one that will be pivotal in determining the final National League Wild Card standings.
As play commences on Friday, the Cardinals are one game behind the Giants for the National League’s second seed and two games behind the first-place Mets. The Giants are hosting the Dodgers for three games this weekend, and the Mets are in Philly for a three-game date with the Phillies.
In the first game of the series, Carlos Martinez will take the ball for the Cardinals. Martinez is 4-2 with a 2.86 ERA over his last seven games, during which he has whiffed 46 batters in 48 innings. Martinez will be looking to polish off his second full season as a starting pitcher on a high note. In 30 starts entering Friday, the 25-year-old is 15-9 with a 165:69 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 188.1 frames.
Taking the mound for the Pirates will be top-rated rookie Tyler Glasnow. Glasnow has appeared in six games — three starts — during his Major League career that began back in July. In those six games since July, Glasnow has lost his only decision and has punched out 20 batters in under nineteen innings.
The Cardinals have not yet announced who will start Saturday’s middle game, but it will likely come down to three: Jaime Garcia, Michael Wacha, and Luke Weaver, who all pitched in Monday’s 15-2 loss to the Reds. Although Garcia started the contest, he was pulled after allowing two home runs in the first inning in favor of Wacha and Weaver, who were lit up for seven and five runs, respectively.
On the other hand, the recently durable Chad Kuhl will toe the rubber for Pittsburgh. In Kuhl’s last nine starts dating back to August 9, six have been quality, and Kuhl has struck out 35 batters in the span. Kuhl, like Friday’s starter Glasnow, is in the first year of Major League career and seems to be all but a lock for the Bucs’ starting rotation next season.
In the series finale on Sunday, St. Louis will turn to Adam Wainwright. Wainwright has failed to escape the sixth inning in each of his last three starts, during which he has allowed thirteen earned runs on 26 hits and seven walks. Shall the Cardinals grasp a Wild Card spot, he and Martinez seem to be the two most logical starting hurlers for that do-or-die contest, although Martinez — given he starts Friday and would be on full rest — may have the upper hand.
Ryan Vogelsong will take the ball in what is guaranteed to be the Pirates’ final game of the 2016 season. Vogelsong, though owner of a sore 7.88 ERA over his last seven games and starts, has had a pretty respectable season, being that he overcame facial fractures suffered by a hit by pitch back in late May.

Series Summary 9/26-29: Reds vs. Cardinals

Cincinnati Reds v St Louis Cardinals

Photo is credited to Getty Images.

This week, the Reds and Cardinals played a four-game series at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, accounting for the teams’ final meeting until the 2017 season.

Depending on the outcome of the Giants game on Thursday night, the Cardinals will enter play on Friday no more than a game removed from the second National League Wild Card that is currently occupied by San Francisco.

Game One: Reds 15, Cardinals 2 — WP: Tim Adleman LP: Jaime Garcia

A season-high fifteen runs drove the Reds to a 15-2 win over the Cardinals at Busch Stadium in the first game of the teams’ four-game set in St. Louis.

Virtually all Reds batters contributed on the offensive front in some shape or form, but the most notable contributors of the evening were Adam Duvall and Steve Selsky. Duvall, an All-Star this season, went 4-for-5 on Monday with two home runs, four runs scored, and a career-high five RBIs, while the rookie Selsky collected hits in all five at-bats and drove in four.

The Reds only did a portion of their damage against Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia, who was pulled from the game after allowing two solo home runs in the first inning. Michael Wacha was charged for seven runs, Luke Weaver for five, and Mike Mayers for one.

Lost in Cincinnati’s offensive outburst is the fine start had by Tim Adleman. Adleman, who picked up the win to up his recorded to 3-4, turned in seven innings of two-run ball. Before Monday, the right-handed Adleman had failed to go seven innings in his first eleven Major League starts. Including his performance in the series opener, Adleman has notched five quality starts in twelve tries.

Game Two: Cardinals 12, Reds 5 — WP: Adam Wainwright (13-9) LP: Robert Stephenson (2-3)

After being lit up for fifteen runs a day before, the Cardinals manufactured a dozen of their own in the second game of the four-game series against the Reds on Tuesday night to pick up a 12-5 victory.

Cardinals third baseman Jhonny Peralta had a big game, as he collected three hits in four at-bats, including a three-run homer, but it was shortstop Aledmys Diaz that stole the show. After missing Monday’s game to be with the family of late childhood friend Jose Fernandez, Diaz, in his second plate appearance since the death of his friend, crushed a dramatic, go-ahead grand slam, the first of his career.

The Reds got to Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright for five runs in just under six innings, but the right-hander was able to pick up his thirteenth win of the season with the help of plenty of run support. In fact, Wainwright has been unable to escape the sixth inning in his last two outings, both, of which, ended with him as a winner.

Game Three: Reds 2, Cardinals 1 — WP: Anthony DeSclafani (9-5) LP: Mike Leake (9-13) SV: Raisel Iglesias (5)

With squandered chances by the Cardinals and the Reds’ timely hitting, Cincinnati came away with a 2-1 win on Wednesday in the third game of the four-game series.

The Cardinals left both the potential tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position in the sixth and eighth innings and failed to take advantage of a leadoff triple in the bottom of the ninth inning.

The Reds’ two-run third inning proved to be enough for starter Anthony DeSclafani, who picked up his ninth win by allowing just one run in his six solid innings. Reds left-fielder Adam Duvall drove in the two runs of the evening for Cincy with a two-out single of Mike Leake.

Game Four: Cardinals 4, Reds 3 — WP: Seung Hwan Oh (6-3) LP: Blake Wood (6-5)

After a one-run lead withered to a tie in the top of the ninth, it was Yadier Molina’s RBI double off Blake Wood in the bottom of the very frame that sealed the deal on a 4-3 win for St. Louis in the series finale on Thursday.

The Reds tied the game at three runs apiece in the top of the ninth on Scott Schebler’s two-out RBI dribbler up the third-base line, but the Cardinals rebounded in their portion of the inning, as Molina lined a double off the left-field, allowing Matt Carpenter — who had been walked by Wood — to score the game-winning run.

Reds starter Dan Straily turned in his 20th quality start by allowing three runs over six innings, although he did not factor into the game’s final decision. Similar can be said about Cardinals hurler Alex Reyes, who, despite logging his third quality start in five tries, was denied a chance at his fifth win by his team’s late-inning faults.

What’s next?

Reds: The Reds will return to Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati for a three-game date with the Cubs, the World Series favorite as we approach the start of the postseason.

Cardinals: The Cardinals will welcome the Pirates on Friday for what may be the final series of the year at Busch Stadium, if the Cardinals are unable to secure a Wild Card spot this weekend.

 

Series Preview 9/26-29: Reds vs. Cardinals

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Photo is credited to Getty Images.

On Monday night, the Reds and Cardinals will begin a four-game series at Busch Stadium in St. Louis that figures to play wonders in the National League Wild Card race.

As play commences on the final Monday of the regular season, the Cardinals are a half-game removed from the second Wild Card spot and a full game behind the Mets, who hold the first. The Giants are off on Monday, and with a win, the Cardinals could tie San Francisco for that coveted second spot.

The Cardinals will be without shortstop Aledmys Diaz for at least a fraction of this series, as he has traveled to Miami to be with the family of the late Jose Fernandez. At 24 years old, Fernandez, a right-handed starting pitcher for the Marlins, was killed in a boat accident on Sunday morning. Diaz, 26, grew up with Fernandez in the Cuban neighborhood of Santa Clara, where the future All-Stars began their studded baseball careers.

In the first game of the series, Jaime Garcia will pitch for the Cardinals. Garcia has served as a long reliever out of the bullpen since lasting under two innings in his September 13 start. Over his last seven games, including two relief appearances, Garcia has a 6.99 ERA and pitched to just a 1.55 WHIP in the span. Luke Weaver started in place of Garcia twice since Garcia was flipped to a reliever’s role, and now the right-handed rookie will have to find his work out of the ‘pen, as Garcia’s return to the rotation prompts a reliever’s role for Weaver.

To counter Garcia, the Reds will roll with right-handed pitcher Tim Adleman. Two of the 28-year-old rookie Adleman’s three most recent starts have been quality. Since being promoted on August 16, Adleman is 2-4 with a 4.06 ERA in 57.2 innings, all of which have come in a starting pitcher’s role.

In the second game of the four-game series, Adam Wainwright will get the nod for the Cardinals. Wainwright has allowed eight runs over his last eleven innings, during which the right-handed hurler has allowed sixteen hits and walked four batters.

Taking the mound for the Reds opposite of Wainwright is slated to be Robert Stephenson. Stephenson has allowed eighteen earned runs across six big-league starts, during which he has allowed seven doubles and as many home runs. Stephenson has made four starts since returning to the majors on September 2; Stephenson has been a member of the Triple-A Louisville Bats since late April.

In the third game of the series, former Cincinnati Red Mike Leake will make the start for the Cardinals. Leake was lit up for five runs in his start against the Cubs on September 23, although five of Leake’s last eight starts have been quality.

Taking the mound for Cincy will be Anthony DeSclafani, who is 2-4 with a 3.80 ERA over his last seven games and starts. Overall this year, DeSclafani is 8-5 with a solid 3.38 ERA, given his home ballpark. DeSclafani has whiffed 102 batters in 117.1 innings across nineteen starts for the Reds this season.

Alex Reyes will toe the rubber in the series finale on Thursday evening at Busch Stadium. Reyes, who allowed three runs in his five-inning outing against the Cubs on September 24, saw his ERA actually jump to 1.58; that’s not too shabby for a 22-year-old in his first 40 big-league innings.

Dan Straily is expected to get the start for the Reds in the fourth and final game of the series. Straily is having a very respectable season for Cincy this year, as the 27-year-old right-handed hurler is 14-8 with a 3.74 ERA in 185.1 innings in 33 games, including 30 starts.

Series Summary 9/23-25: Cardinals @ Cubs

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Photo is credited to Getty Images.

On the north side of Chicago this weekend, Wrigley Field served as the venue for a three-game series between the Cardinals and Cubs, the teams’ final meeting of the regular season.

With two losses over the weekend to the Cubs, the Cardinals find themselves a half-game out of the second National League Wild Card spot, held by the Giants, and a game out of the first spot that’s captained by the Mets. The Cardinals have seven games remaining on their slate, while the Mets and Giants both have six lined up.

Game One: Cubs 5, Cardinals 0 — WP: Jake Arrieta (18-7) LP: Mike Leake (9-11)

Four first-inning runs and one of Jake Arrieta’s best starts of the second half ignited the Cubs’ engine for a 5-0 win over the Cardinals on Friday to kick off the clubs’ three-game series at Wrigley Field.

The Cubs got to Cardinals starter Mike Leake for four tallies in the game’s opening frame, which featured a walk, two wild pitches, and four hits. Arrieta, in contrast, seemingly suffered no control or command issues like his counterpart, as Arrieta logged seven shutout innings and punched out ten Cardinals.

After throwing 99 pitches, Arrieta was removed from the game to begin the eighth inning in favor of Pedro Strop, who was making his first appearance since suffering a left meniscus tear in early August. Strop issued a walk and struck out a batter in what was his first inning in over a month.

Game Two: Cardinals 10, Cubs 4 — WP: Alex Reyes (4-1) LP: Jason Hammel (15-10)

A day after being shut down by Jake Arrieta and the Cubs’ bullpen, the Cardinals erupted for ten runs in the series’ second game, evening the series at a game apiece with a 10-4 victory on Saturday at Wrigley Field.

Similar to the Cubs and opposing hurler Mike Leake on Friday, the Cardinals plated four runs in the top of the first off Cubs starter Jason Hammel, who saw his earned run average balloon to 3.83 by allowing six runs before pulled with one out in the third inning.

Cardinals starter Alex Reyes actually saw his ERA rise, too, as the Cubs managed three runs off the young right-hander through five innings; nevertheless, his 1.58 mark through 40 big-league frames — including four starts — is not a metric that would cause heads to shake in negative response.

The Cardinals received a big four-RBI day from catcher Yadier Molina, who, by going 3-for-4 on Saturday, was batting an even .300 entering Sunday’s rubber game.

Game Three: Cubs 3, Cardinals 1 — WP: Jon Lester (19-4) LP: Carlos Martinez (15-9) SV: Aroldis Chapman (36)

For the second time in less than two weeks, Jon Lester and Carlos Martinez squared off in the rubber game of a three-game series between the Cubs and Cardinals. And for the second time in two weeks, Lester and the Cubs came away winners, as Chicago, offensively supported by catchers David Ross and Wilson Contreras and shortstop Addison Russel, took Sunday night’s matchup at Wrigley Field, 3-1.

Lester, who pitched eight scoreless innings against Martinez and the Cardinals on September 14, was tagged for just a run by the Cardinals in his otherwise blemish-free outing, one that lowered his ERA from 2.36 to 2.28.

In the batter’s box, the Cubs saw Ross delight the Wrigley Field faithful with his tenth home run of the season, a 413-foot blast that broke a scoreless tie in the fifth frame. Ross announced earlier this year that this season is his last, and the 39-year-old backstop is making the most of his limited opportunities, especially so in the power department, as, for the first time since 2007, Ross’ home run count is represented by a double-digit number.

The Cubs went on to score the eventual game-winning run in the sixth inning on Russel’s 94th run batted in of the year and got an insurance tally from Contreras, who picked up his 33rd.

As for Martinez, recipient of his ninth loss in 24 decisions this season, his nineteenth quality start of the year for the Cardinals proved to be too little of an effort, despite dealing with a baserunner in five of his six frames yet only surrendering a couple of runs.

What’s next?

Cardinals: The Cardinals will return to Busch Stadium in St. Louis to begin their final homestand of the regular season with a four-game date against the Reds. The Cardinals currently sit a half-game out of the National League’s second Wild Card spot and have to take advantage of the struggling Reds before the half-game deficit becomes insurmountable.

Cubs: By picking up their 99th win on Sunday, the 100-win plateau is definitely on the Cubs’ radar as the regular season dwindles down, and the team will look to achieve and surpass the feat as they play four games at PNC Park with the Pirates over the week.

Series Preview 9/23-25: Cardinals @ Cubs

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Photo is credited to Getty Images.

The Cardinals and Cubs will play three games at Wrigley Field this weekend in a series that is their last of the regular season.

The Cubs have had the National League Central Division crown to their credit for over a week now; on the other hand, the Cardinals are fighting for one of two National League Wild Card spots. With wins over the Padres and Phillies on Thursday, respectively, the Giants and Mets remain tied atop the Wild Card standings, while the Cardinals find themselves a half-game behind them.

In the first game of the series – the final Friday matinee at Wrigley Field this season – Jake Arrieta will pitch for the Cubs. Arrieta has allowed eight earned runs over his last three starts against the Giants, Astros, and Brewers, which have equaled 17.1 innings. Though he won the National League Cy Young Award last season and is managing numbers worthy of high recognition again this year, Arrieta is statistically not even the best starter in his rotation; in fact, Arrieta’s season ERA of 2.96 and WHIP of 1.06 are third and fourth among the Cubs’ starting pitchers this season.

The Cardinals will send Mike Leake to the mound. Leake will be making his fourth start since recovering from shingles. In the three starts he has made, Leake has managed two quality outings, including three earned runs over six innings against the same Cubs that he’s assigned to deal with on Friday.

In the middle game of the series, Jason Hammel will start for the Cubs. Hammel is 3-4 with a 5.84 ERA over his last seven starts, but he looked pretty sharp in his most recent outing, as he held the Reds to two earned runs over seven innings and whiffed six.

Hammel’s counterpart for the second game of the three-game series at Wrigley Field will be Alex Reyes. Reyes, with seven scoreless innings over the Giants on Sunday, September 18, lowered his ERA to 1.03 in his 35 Major League innings since being promoted in early August. In the Cardinals’ rotation, Reyes is taking the place of Jaime Garcia, who was moved to the bullpen and serves as a long reliever.

Sunday’s series finale will be played at night and feature lefty Jon Lester for the Cubs. Lester was absolutely splendid in his start against the Cardinals on Wednesday, September 14, one where he shut the Cardinals out to three hits over eight innings and whiffed just as many. Over his last seven starters, Lester is 6-0 with a minuscule 0.72 ERA and 0.79 WHIP.

Carlos Martinez will take the mound for the Cardinals in opposition of Lester. Martinez has whiffed fifteen batters over his last eleven innings, including nine Cubs on September 14, although he allowed four earned runs in that game and two in his start against the Rockies that followed.