Cross-State Rivals

The Cards have won four of five. Can they keep the good vibes going in the land of jazz and blues?

On the one hand, it was the Pirates.

The Pirates are on pace to win 58 total games this season and that might be an overstatement since some of those wins they banked were before they dealt some of their more talented players at the trade deadline. They’ve won three games since the deadline passed but two of those were July 30 and 31. They are 1-10 in August. It’s safe to say Pittsburgh isn’t good.

On the other hand, it’s still a sweep.

Sweeps aren’t the easiest things to come by, especially with this club. We know that they’ve not been able to pull the trick against teams like Minnesota and Kansas City recently, so you take what you can get. It didn’t do them any good in the division race, though they crept a little closer to the wild card.

Even if things aren’t going to pan out for an October return, winning games is much better than losing games. If you are like me, a winning day makes you feel better than a losing one and the more winning days you have, the better.

The Cardinals get to face Kansas City and old friend Mike Matheny just a week after taking the first two in the series before losing on Sunday. After all, sweeps are hard. They are a lot of fun, however.

The Last Time We Met….

If you can’t remember back to last weekend, you might want to get an appointment with a doctor. The Cards took Game 1 with Adam Wainwright being Adam Wainwright and Paul Goldschmidt and Tyler O’Neill took Mike Minor deep. Game 2 was a similar affair, with Kwang Hyun Kim only going four innings with an elbow issue that put him on the injured list but the bullpen bailed him out and Yadier Molina’s sun-aided double gave the club and early lead. Sunday saw Jon Lester get roughed up again, giving up five runs after getting through three scoreless. The Cardinals rallied in the eighth to tie things up on Nolan Arenado’s single, but Alex Reyes, on both sides of a two hour rain delay, gave up an unearned run to give the Royals the win.

The Opponent

The Royals sit at 49-64, currently a percentage point behind the Twins for last place in the division. Kansas City wasn’t really active at the deadline and they’ve been, well, about the same since the deadline, winning four of 10 in August.

Over the last 30 days, the Royals’ pitching staff has been similar to the Cardinals’. They are 11th and 12th in ERA over that span, tied for seventh in batting average against, and the Cardinals have given up 26 homers while the Royals have allowed 22. It’s the offense that is separating the two teams. St. Louis has been hitting a little better, with a .764 OPS (good for 10th) while Kansas City is 27th at .675.

Probably not surprisingly, Salvador Perez has been one of their best hitters over the last month, with an OPS of .918 and eight home runs. Of course, we well know how good Jorge Solar has been, what with his OPS of 1.066 over that same span. Scott Barlow has been good out of the pen (11 games, two saves, 1.54 ERA) and Carlos Hernandez has limited opposing batters to a .194 batting average over the past 30 days.

The Mound Men

Friday: Jack Flaherty (8-1, 2.90 ERA, 3.74 FIP, 4.78 xERA) vs. Mike Minor (8-10, 5.39 ERA, 4.30 FIP, 4.37 xERA)

Saturday: Jon Lester (3-6, 5.57 ERA, 5.50 FIP, 5.07 xERA) vs. Brad Keller (7-11, 5.79 ERA, 4.85 FIP, 6.62 xERA)

Sunday: J.A. Happ (6-6, 6.34 ERA, 5.35 FIP, 5.53 xERA) vs. Kris Bubic (3-5, 4.43 ERA, 5.73 FIP, 5.64 xERA)

xERA courtesy of FanGraphs

When was the last time you saw a series against an opponent with the exact same pitchers in the exact same order? Last Friday, the Royals ran out Minor, who gave up four runs in five innings. He’s given up four or more runs in four of his last six starts, though he usually goes at least six innings.

Saturday, Keller started in St. Louis. He did Minor one better, allowing five runs in five innings. That sort of start would have fit in with his June, but he’d been doing better of late. In the five starts before that he’d posted a 2.93 ERA with just about a strikeout an inning.

Then Sunday it was Bubic’s turn. Bubic didn’t get the win, in fact didn’t even qualify for it even if it hadn’t been for the late rally that tied things up, but he did allow just one run in 4.2 innings. He walked four but was able to work around the trouble he got into. Counting that start, he’s racked up a 2.51 ERA over his last five, so he might be figuring some things out.

The Hot Seat

Probably whomever bats fifth, unless it’s one of those days where things shift down and Tyler O’Neill can hit there. We’ve seen a run of head scratching decisions about who will hit in that spot and it always seems to be someone that is struggling. Mike Shildt’s approach to lineup construction is always interesting.

Assorted Crudités

After an 0-18 stretch, Paul DeJong is starting to heat up against some weaker teams. In the last six games against the Royals and the Pirates, DeJong has gone 7 for 23 (.304) and has two doubles and two homers, pushing his season average to .204, which is actually one of his higher marks of the season. Did you know DeJong’s average hasn’t been higher than .209 since after the third game of the season? We’ll see if seeing Pittsburgh and Kansas City a lot this month can at least get him back over say .215, but if the power is there that’s more important.

Remember when some people worried that we’d see Matt Carpenter so much he might trigger his option for 2022? After Thursday’s game he’s had a total of 12 plate appearances in August. He’s 3-7 with four walks.

I’m still somewhat concerned with Giovanny Gallegos and Alex Reyes. Both were a little shaky on Thursday, with Gallegos giving up four hits in an inning and a third but also striking out three and letting none of them score, while Reyes gave up a two-run bomb to Bryan Reynolds, but Reynolds might not have even batted had Tommy Edman not botched the first ball of the inning. I hope that this is just a little rough patch but my fear is the wear is getting to them.

Random Links

Currently listening to: I just finished listening to Kyle Reis visit Ben Cerutti, so now I’m listening to…..Kyle Reis visit Ben Godar and Ben Humphries. (An aside: Kyle must be the hardest working man in Cardinal podcasting, because I think he’s been on every show recently except Best Podcast in Baseball, and wouldn’t THAT be awesome.) There’s a Chirps I need to get to as well. There are times when I have no shows, then all of the sudden I can’t keep up.

To add to all the abundance of riches, Allen and I will be recording a new Meet Me at Musial this morning, about the time this email goes out. So be looking for that where you get your podcasts about 10 or 10:30.

I watched the beginning of the Field of Dreams game and thought it was very well done. I do hope the Cardinals get their chance at it next year and if it’s true that the Cubs are going to be in it, I bet they do. Which means we’ll probably see some 1927 jerseys, which would also be cool.

Hebrews 7:11-28, which is also the basis for today’s Star Wars devotional (dropping at 10 AM).