The Cards streak of winning 6 series in a row is over, but there’s no need to worry. Jaime Garcia and Adam Wainwright both pitched well enough to get the win in the first 2 games against the Cubs, but the bullpen failed to hold late leads. The latest Cardinal killer to join the Astros Bud Norris is Bryan LaHair, a 29 year old rookie. These games are going to happen over the course of a 162 game schedule, so let’s look at some of the negatives and positives from this series.
Jason Motte blew his first save of the season the game 1 against the Cubs, walking two batters in the 9th that would score to give the Cubs the 3-2 win. LaHair had a 14 pitch at bat before eventually being walked, and then Motte tried to nibble. Motte normally takes a while for his velocity to hit the upper 90′s, but he did so in this game consistently in the cold weather. The winning hit came off the bat of Joe Mather, as Motte threw a cutter that didn’t cut. My take on the blown save is that it’s going to happen to Motte here and there, as he’s still a work in progress. I’d much rather run someone out there with his kind of stuff rather than Ryan Franklin though. Motte’s a work in progress because he still is learning to command his secondary pitches, or pitch that is. Motte will probably blow 4-6 games, but that should still keep him in the upper echelon of closers.
It was nice to see Garcia go deep into a game on the road. I was a little confused as to why Mike Matheny brought him out of the game after only 85 pitches in 7 and 2/3 innings, as he seemed to be cruising, but I can understand why. One, Mitchell Boggs is 5 for 5 in holds, and two, Motte has looked great up to that point. It probably had to do with getting Jaime out with the lead to build some confidence as well. His home/road splits haven’t been real good in his career so far.
Game 2 was a nightmare as well, especially because of the big 2-run blast from Matt Holliday that was wasted off Cubs closer Carlos Marmol. Down 1-0 in the 8th, Holliday put the Cards up 2-1. The announcers were talking about Matheny being anxious to go back to Motte right away, but he stayed with Scrabble instead. Once again, it was LaHair who bit the Cards. He tied the game 2-2 with a solo HR in the bottom of the 9th. The Cards would eventually lose the game in the 10th, but the good news was the start from Wainwright. In 6 innings and 93 pitches, Wainwright gave up 6 hits, 1 ER, 1 BB and struck out 7. It’s hard to say if Wainwright is back as some of his pitches were still mistakes that he got away with, but at least this had to help his confidence. The bad news is that the Cards have yet to score a run while Wainwright is in the game.
This game featured 2 bad calls that both went against the Cards. The Cubs first run was scored when the runner clearly missed home plate, but was called safe anyway. The Cubs final run was scored after the runner was clearly, and I mean clearly out, but was called safe at second base. I don’t bitch about the umpires too much, as calls tend to even out over the year, but these calls, especially the one at 2B, were that bad. Matheny got his first ejection as manager, and he was hot. He picked a good time to raise hell, and I’m sure he wondered if the umps had bet money on the game. Yes, the calls were that bad.
As much as you hate to label any game this early in the year a must win game, game 3 sure felt like it. It’s not just because the Cards lost the first 2, it’s because the Cards lost the first 2 to a team that is going to lose at least 90 games, and the way in which they lost them. Once again, Lance Lynn stepped up, and right now should be the leader for ROY. LaHair again hit a HR against the Cards, but it didn’t matter this time. The bats woke up late, and gave Lynn 5 runs of support. Lynn pitched a very solid 8 innings, giving up 6 hits, 1 ER, 2 BB and struck out 7. Lynn is now 4-0 with a 1.33 ERA. Of course he isn’t going to keep up those numbers, but watching him pitch, it’s hard to imagine he’s going to struggle that often. He has incredible command with both his 2 and 4 seam fastball, and has a nice slider and curveball to go with it. Lynn challenges hitters, and isn’t afraid to throw any pitch in any count.
Carlos Beltran just missed his 6th HR of the year and settled for a double, and David Freese drove him in with a 2-run HR in the 6th. Beltran also stole 2 more bases, bringing his team leading total to 5. Shane Robinson had 3 hits and stole a base, and Matt Carpenter temporarily broke out of his slump in the 3rd to give the Cards the 1-0 lead at the time.
All in all, I wouldn’t call this series a failure. The starting pitching was there, and the Cards finished the road trip 3-3. They bounced back from two heartbreakers to salvage the series against the Cubs. They’re still without the services of Lance Berkman and Allen Craig, most notably. Lynn is making Cards fans forget about the absence of Chris Carpenter. Sitting at 12-7 now, they have an early lead over the Reds and Brewers by 2.5 and 3 games. The Cards continue with NL Central opponents with a 3 game series against the Brewers starting tomorrow night.