Cardinals option Grichuk to minors, activate Martinez

The St. Louis Cardinals optioned outfielder Randal Grichuk to Single-A Palm Beach in a corresponding move to activating Jose Martinez off the disabled list. Martinez played three games in a rehab stint in Palm Beach, hitting .333 with a home run and 4 RBI.

Martinez was hitting .313/.353/.458 with a home run and 4 RBI over 20 games for the Cardinals before the groin injury sent him to the disabled list.

Grichuk has been mired in a slump, batting .205/.244/.356 with just one home run over the team’s past 20 games, so perhaps a change was coming, especially with Martinez back and Tommy Pham hitting well.

The move is notable because the club isn’t just demoting Grichuk a level to Memphis like they did last summer, but all the way down to Class A Palm Beach. Cardinals’ GM John Mozeliak mentioned it was to let him work with another hitting coach, get him into a lower stress environment and that they have already seen him hit in Memphis so they wanted to try something new.

Which is great, but the trip to Memphis worked for him last year.

After the June demotion, Grichuk returned in July to hit .269/.300/.544 with 16 home runs over the team’s final 80 games.

But with this demotion, I can’t help but wonder where his head is at right now. In the past six months he went from starting center fielder to the team signing his replacement and moving him to left field. Then giving the other outfielder a six year extension on a team with a glut of quality outfield talent on it’s way. And then he found himself in an early season time share in left field with a career first baseman. If he wasn’t already spinning, now he’ll be playing in A ball, a level he hasn’t seen since 2012.

The move is particularly frustrating as Stephen Piscotty is away from the team for personal reasons and rather than make a roster move to play with a full 25 man roster, the team is willingly playing short, while already playing with a short squad of position players. They could have promoted Martinez, moved Piscotty to the Inactive list and waited until Piscotty was ready to return to send Grichuk out.

Five things about the Rockies Series

The Cardinals dropped two out of three to the Rockies as they fall to 24-23 and 1.5 games back in the NL Central. They head home to face the Dodgers who took two out of three in LA last week. The Cardinals generally have felt listless this season with a losing record at home.

Pham continues to ride hot streak

Tommy Pham continues to ride his hot streak. He entered the Rockies series batting .309/.385/.545 with 3 home runs in 16 games for the Cardinals. He exits it hitting .333/.410/.621 with 5 home runs in 19 games since his May 5th call up.

Those numbers are so good that he is currently ranked in the top-26 in baseball in batting average, on base percentage, slugging percentage, and wRC+ since his arrival in the Majors this season.

Here’s hoping that he can continue to see and continue his strong hitting performance. The team needs it as he has clearly been by far the Cardinals’ best hitter in May.

Fowler starting to turn the corner?

In the three game series with the Rockies, Dexter Fowler went 6-for-12 in the series and even led off two games with hits, getting a single on Friday night and a double on Sunday to open up the game. That brings his batting average leading off a game up to .216.

The .500 series brought his season average up to .228, but he is still pretty push to where he began the month. He hit .234/.305/.415 in April and is hitting .219/.338/.453 in May. A little more power, a little better on base, but still struggling to find any consistency at the plate.

Hopefully this series is a sign of things to come. The team could use him to start putting it together.

Rocky Mountain high?

On Saturday Mike Matheny gave Matt Carpenter a day off and decided to stick Yadier Molina in the third spot because, what’s the worst that could happen?

I get changing up the system a bit, by Molina is by no means anything close to a #3 hitter anymore. I get that you don’t have a ton of options when Carpenter isn’t going to play and it makes for an incredibly thin lineup, but really?

The best worst part might be that the team won. On an RBI single by Molina. Which is pretty much how Matheny’s craziest ideas work out. Twitter gets lathered up and it works. Unfortunately, that typically empowers Matheny to keep doing it even when it fails the next 9 times.

“DeJong ball”… get it, like “the long ball?”

The Cardinals promoted infielder Paul DeJong to the Majors on Sunday and Mike Matheny wasted no time in getting him into the action as he would pinch hit in the 9th inning. He would go deep for his first Major League home run in his first Major League at bat. Welcome to the Show.

DeJong is in an interesting position. I think that if he can hit and prove he belongs in the big leagues, he’ll make a play to stay after Kolten Wong returns which most likely means the exit of Jhonny Peralta. Over the offseason, I figured that if Peralta failed to hit this year that DeJong was the guy who dictated his future this season.

They were adding positional flexibility late last season for him so that he could find more at bats in the big leagues when he finally made it. Now we’re getting the opportunity to see that.

Cardinals put Wong on DL, call up DeJong

The St. Louis Cardinals announced before today’s game that they have placed second baseman Kolten Wong on the 10-day disabled list with a left elbow strain, retroactive to May 27th. In his place, the team has called up infielder Paul DeJong from Memphis. He will be assigned #11.

Wong, who had been lifted from the game against the Giants on May 20th with the injury, had been limited by it over the past games before it flared up again before the game yesterday. Wong is hitting .278/.378/.414 this season, including .299/.392/.373 in May.  With Jedd Gyorko solidifying his hold on the third base job, Wong has been left to control second base and has responded.

DeJong, 23, was drafted in the 4th round by the Cardinals in the 2015 draft out of Illinois State University. He hit .260/.324/.460 with 22 home runs in a full season last year in Springfield and has hit .294/.331/.541 with 11 home runs over 46 games so far this season in Memphis.

Drafted as a third baseman, he has played primarily shortstop this season at Memphis while also getting limited reps at second base.

Their desire to add positional flexibility for him around the infield clearly indicated to me that the organization was looking for a way to get him onto the Major League roster at some point this season if Jhonny Peralta was not able to carve out a role with the club.

This might not be the exact scenario envisioned, but if DeJong can establish that he belongs, he could give the club a difficult decision to make when Wong is ready to come back.

 

Cardinals DFA Socolovich, call up Brebbia

The St. Louis Cardinals announced today that they have purchased the contract of RHP John Brebbia and have added him to the active roster. To make room, the organization has designed Miguel Socolovich for assignment.

Socolovich, 30, joined the Cardinals’ organization in 2015 as a minor league free agent. He would pitch well enough to earn a call up in May. He would spend three cups of coffee with the big league club that year, posting a 1.82 ERA over 28 appearances. He started 2016 in the minors, but was called up in July and then back up again in August posting a 2.00 ERA over appearances.

With no options, Socolovich made the Cardinals’ bullpen this season on Opening Day and has struggled this season. He has an 8.68 ERA over 18.2 innings of work this season, capped off by allowing 4 earned runs over a third of an inning last night in Denver.

In his place the Cardinals add Brebbia to the roster.

Brebbia is the main figure in one of my favorite baseball transaction stories. In 2015 he pitched in the independent American Association and posted a 0.98 ERA with 19 saves in 51 appearances. He was considered to be the #2 independent leagues free agent at that point and signed a minor league deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks in September. Less than two months later, the Cardinals selected him in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft.

His first season in St. Louis, a 5.03 ERA in 43 appearances between Springfield and Memphis, was forgettable, but so far this season he has posted a 1.69 ERA in 26.2 innings over 15 appearances. He’s had a 0.79 WHIP.

The scouting report on him says he’s got a mid-90s fastball and used a slider for his outpitch. He has a good changeup and recently added a sinker into the mix.

Socolovich’s future is a little less certain. The DFA gives them a roster spot immediately while they decide what to do with him. They could trade him, put him on waivers, or outright him. I expect that they will place him on waivers and, if he clears, he’ll be optioned to Memphis and retain his spot on the 40 man roster.

In other news, Jonathan Broxton is still here.

Column: Carpenter doubles down on mistakes

On last Saturday night the Cardinals and the Giants played a tight game. Carlos Martinez dominated, throwing 9 shutout innings and posting an 87 game score. When the Cardinals would go on to lose the game in extra innings, they became the first team since June of 2015 to lose a game where their starting pitcher had at least an 86 game score. In that span, teams who got at least an 86 game score from their starting pitcher had gone 85-0.

That streak would end, but it may not have had to if not for a base running blunder in the 9th inning. The Cardinals were given a golden opportunity score a run in the bottom of the 9th, and then Matt Carpenter squandered it.

Leading off the bottom of the ninth for St. Louis was Carpenter. He ripped a ball to the wall that was initially misplayed by Giants left fielder Eduardo Nunez. The ball caromed off the wall back towards the infield. Carpenter saw it and decided he would try to stretch a double into a triple and was thrown out for his troubles. The problem here was that, because of how the ball game off the wall, Nunez had plenty of momentum towards the infield for his throw.

But rather than admitting his mistake, Carpenter decided to double down on the decision offering a number of things that he says factored into his decision to try to take the extra base.

“I wouldn’t have gone if I didn’t think I couldn’t make it, first and foremost,” said Carpenter to the Post-Dispatch. “Secondly, we’re talking about a game where offense was at a premium and getting to third the percentage of scoring that run goes up way higher than if I was just at second. We’re not going to bunt Jedd (Gyorko) behind me. We’re going to have to require a base hit. If I can get to third base then a sac fly wins the game, a wild pitch wins the game, a base hit wins the game, a groundball, an error — a lot of different things. My whole thought when I saw the ball hit the wall was I’m getting to third. It just didn’t work.”

First and foremost, I hope that Carpenter wouldn’t try to go to third if he didn’t think he could make it. I’m actually more than a little concerned that he felt like he had to make this point.

Secondly, offense is at a premium and you ran into an out. It’s one of the oldest baseball adages. Don’t make the first out of an inning at third base. Apparently Carpenter doesn’t believe in that.

“The old golden rule is that you don’t want to make the first or last out at third base, but you cannot win the game from third if you’re not on third. That’s my mindset,” he said.

And it is literally true what Carpenter says there, you can’t win the game from third base if you aren’t on third base. But you can’t win the game from third base if you’re sitting in the dugout either. And you can win games from second base.

Now, getting to third base does give the team a better opportunity score, so I understand the desire to get there. But like Carpenter said, offense was hard to come by in that game, so the answer in that situation is to not give away outs.

If only there were some statistic or metric to get a grasp on what the scoring opportunities would be if he had just held up at second so we could objectively judge this.

Oh wait, this is baseball, so of course there is. Run Expectations.

Simply put if you haven’t heard of it before, Run Expectations is simply a measure of how many runs a team scores on average after finding themselves in a particular situation, given the position of men on base and how many outs you have.

And when we look at the Run Expectation table for 2017 to date we find that if a team has a runner on third base with none out that they score an average of 1.36 runs. So the odds are really good that the Cardinals would have been able to drive home at least one run in that situation.

But that’s not the only thing we need to consider. We need to be weighing the risk versus the reward.

For example, if Carpenter had stopped at second base with none out, teams in that situation have gone on to score an average of 1.09 runs in that inning. That’s still a very good opportunity and on average is going to net you, that go-ahead run.

But neither of that is what happened. What happens to the Run Expectation when Carpenter tries for third and gets thrown out? A team with no one on and one out goes on to score 0.28 runs in that inning.

So in an effort to advance those extra 90 feet and gain 0.27 runs in Run Expectation, Carpenter ended up getting out and costing his team 0.81 runs of Run Expectation compared to if he’d just stayed on second base. That risk versus reward doesn’t work.

Not with Jedd Gyorko, Yadier Molina and Greg Garcia coming to the plate and were a combined 4-for-8 in the game at that point. Not to mention that Gyorko is hitting a team leading .357 with runners in scoring position this season.

Ultimately it was a bad decision and you can objectively demonstrate that the thought process behind it was bad. This wasn’t just a bad outcome as Carpenter argued.

It’s a radically different approach to Kolten Wong making a critical error and costing the team and taking ownership of his defensive misplays and publicly taking blame for the loss. And that was in the middle of a stretch where Wong was pretty much the guy on the offense driving the team to wins.

As Kevin Reynolds and I discussed on the UCB Podcast last night. This is where the manager needs to step in and say something. That is, unless he feels getting thrown out by three feet at third base in the bottom of the 9th of a tie ballgame is acceptable.

Matheny says he doesn’t need to address it with Carpenter because he knows. But sometimes after a string of mistakes, which Carpenter has on the base paths this season, the employee needs to be told by his boss that you are aware he made a mistake.

I’ve often talked about how I feel there is a severe lack of communication from the manager’s office in the Cardinals’ clubhouse. He hinted at Winter Warm Up in January that he has struggled to get guys to buy into his philosophy and there are generally two reasons for a lack of buy in. Players don’t understand the plan because you haven’t adequately communicated it or they think you or the plan is stupid.

I do not see much evidence of the latter, but I definitely have seen many instances of the former that lead me to believe there are communication problems.

Matheny needs to make the point to Carpenter that aggressive is good, but you have to be smart and you can’t be giving away outs. This was a bad decision and he needs to trust his teammates to do their job. It sends a message, not just to Carpenter, but to the rest of the club when you start defining the line between what is aggressive and what is stupid.

And we’ve seen a lot more stupid base running than than aggressive base running.

The worst thing any team can do in baseball is to give away outs. It doesn’t matter if it’s on defense with errors or on offense by running into outs, the Cardinals have have done far too much of it the past two seasons. And it’s the absolute worst in the 9th inning of a tie ballgame where offense is at a premium.

Instead of doubling down on his decision to try for third, Carpenter should have acknowledged the mistake. But not just that, learned from it and adjusted his mental equation that he runs in his head when he’s running the bases so he doesn’t make it again. And until he does that, nothing will change.

Column: Cardinals miss on Luis Robert

Saturday was the first day that 19-year-old Cuban phenom Luis Robert was officially cleared to sign a deal with a Major League club and the action moved quickly. Several clubs made bids on the young player who one anonymous American League executive hyperbolized as “the best player on the planet.” The last couple weeks it had been reported that it was going to come down to the Cardinals or the White Sox. And then on Saturday it became apparent that the White Sox were the chosen team.

Reporting over the weekend initially indicated that the Cardinals had the best offer on the table, but that the White Sox wowed Robert with their presentation that included a Spanish-speaking manager and fellow Cuban stars (both of which the Cardinals have as well). But later reporting by MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosh indicated that they may not have even been on par with the White Sox’s offer.

So once again it appears that the Cardinals stuck to a proven broken model and missed out on the player they wanted.

“What I know is that we didn’t sign him. All negotiations have different nuances. All negotiations have different risks. All negotiations have different upside. This was certainly a unique opportunity for us because historically we are not playing or trying to sign these types of players. I don’t second-guess our strategy or second-guess our approach,” said Cardinals’ GM John Mozeliak to the Post Dispatch on Sunday after the team had been informed that their bid was not the winning one.

It’s okay, Mo, I’ll take it from here and do some second-guessing on the strategy and approach.

Under the tenure of Mozeliak, the Cardinals have routinely come up short when it comes time to sign players on the open market. Overall, those decisions have worked out for them, though I’m not sure how much credit you can give the Cardinals simply because another team got more aggressive than they did.

The Cardinals have been missing a franchise altering talent in their lineup since the departure of Albert Pujols following the 2011 season. Oscar Taveras was supposed to be the next one and Mozeliak responded to his potential by paving his road to the Majors. As we all know, Taveras never got the opportunity to realize that potential and the organization is still lacking a player of his caliber.

By all accounts, Robert is a potential franchise altering talent. Even if you don’t buy all the hype, the odds that he becomes a consistent contributor are still very good.

He was the best player available in this international signing period. He was routinely the best player in international tournaments playing against players older than him. Most scouts even consider him to be better than any player available in this summer’s draft, where the Cardinals’ first pick will be #94.

Simply put, of all the talent he has ever faced or been stacked up against to this point in his career, he has been the best.

If the Cardinals believed that Luis Robert was a potential franchise altering talent, and it would appear that the answer to that question was yes, then there is only one question to be asked. If not Robert, then who?

If not Luis Robert, who is going to be the franchise altering talent for the Cardinals?

The Cardinals’ minor league system has plenty of quality talent that projects to contribute at the Major League level, but it has no singular position player that has the potential that Robert has.

In a little over a month, the Cardinals will be locked out of making a play for a player like Robert in the next two international signing periods, but there doesn’t appear to be another one coming that soon anyway.

The odds that that player will be selected in this year’s draft are slim as well thanks to the signing of Dexter Fowler and the penalties for Chris Correa’s hacking of the Astros. Furthermore, they aren’t a franchise that is generally bad enough to earn high picks in future drafts and hoping a Delvin Perez caliber talent drops to you in the late first round or that you stumble upon the next Albert Pujols in the 13th is not a sound franchise building strategy.

For those reasons, there was no better time for the Cardinals to put the model aside, step beyond their comfort level and do what it took to ensure that Robert would one day be playing in St. Louis.

Because of the salary structure in baseball and how players in the first six years of their career are generally underpaid, even if they went beyond their comfort zone, the odds are still very good that Robert will give you a return on your investment unlike any veteran free agent would.

Instead, the Cardinals played it cheap, stuck to the model and once again came up short. And for the Cardinals, that question still remains.

If not Robert, then who?

And I don’t see an answer to that question.

The Cardinals could act by trade, but the prospect cost to acquire a franchise altering talent is incredibly high and rightly so. But that kind of trade would require far too much talent leaving the franchise to make sense.

That leaves free agency where we will see a number of potential franchise altering hitters available over the next couple years at much greater costs and similar, if in different ways, levels of risk. And given the Cardinals’ track record in free agency, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Mozeliak said on Sunday that they will redeploy the money not spent on Robert elsewhere, but that’s what they have always said after coming up short. For two years now we’ve heard about how the organization has cash and is willing to spend it, but we have yet to see it make a difference in their approach to free agency.

This team is a player short. Robert was a golden opportunity to get a potential franchise centerpiece player. The stars were aligned, but when it came time to score, the Cardinals’ choked.

It’s a familiar story. But at some point, actions speak louder than words.

The May Sports Crate

I’ve been aware of Loot Crate for awhile now and never purchased one, mainly because my tastes in the gaming and “nerd” world are pretty narrowly defined, so I was concerned about getting things that I would have no interest in. With the announcement of Sports Crate this spring, I noticed that one of the teams was the Cardinals, and I’m generally a fan of all things Cardinals, so I decided it was time to give it a try.

Let me start out by saying that this is not an advertisement, I paid my own money for the “crate,” much to my wife’s disapproving looks as I opened it up and checked it out. But I was curious about it and decided to check it out for the first month and see if it was worth the subscription price. I decided to review it here because I figure there would be people like myself who would be reluctant to subscribe without some knowledge of what to expect.

The basics of Sports Crate are that you pay $39.99 each month for a five month subscription (or $179.99 for all five crates). Each “crate” includes five to seven team specific items. They also promote that you can win some VIP experiences with your team for subscribing to it, but I obviously didn’t win. And at least this month you received a free month of MLBtv, which for a premium subscriber like myself has little value.

The plus side of the monthly subscription option is that you can cancel at any time, so if you wanted just a single box, you could order just that month’s box. I decided that was low-risk enough for me to check it out for a month before deciding whether I wanted to get into more. If I’m reading their site correctly too, there is still time to order May’s box if you’re interested.

And when I arrived home from work yesterday, my May crate was sitting on the front porch waiting for me. So when I got the opportunity, I opened it up to check it out. Here’s what I found.

It seems like each month is going to have a theme. This month the theme was “Bringing the Heat.”

Here is the figure next to a baseball for size reference.

The first item I pulled out was the BALLERS collectible figure. This month the figure is Adam Wainwright. Given the advertising I’d seen for Sports Crate, it seems that these figures are intended to be the center piece of the boxes. But I was overall pretty disappointed with the figure.

My first thought was that they couldn’t decide what size to make the torso, so they came to a compromise and went with half and half. There is a pivot point between the upper and lower torso, but I’m not sure that an additional pivot point was needed there when you have the waist.

The idea was that you could pose the figure in a number of different ways, and I had the bright idea of trying to pose it in a pitching motion for the picture, but it was more difficult that it appeared and so we got a standard pose. I also question just how much “posing” the action figure can endure before it would break. It’s certainly not something I would let my three and a half year old handle.

Having seen pictures of it before I ordered, I was expecting something a little larger or at least more substantial than this. The figure is beside a baseball in my picture above for size reference. I think that the action figure concept has potential, but I think I would have preferred to have a bobblehead or something like that. Who doesn’t like bobbleheads?

Yadier Molina corn hole game

It also included a miniature corn hole game that has some Yadier Molina artwork on the front of it. You too can practice tossing pitches to Molina as the hole is his glove. Though Molina should really put his mask down as you never really know whether you’re going to get the 2016 or 2017 Trevor Rosenthal.

The bean bags were a little cheap and it is good that they came in a zip lock bag as they were leaking their filler a little bit and left some on my desk just from me pulling them out for the picture.

When I pulled it out, I was originally unsure of what I was going to do with it, but it does seem like a cool item. I figure my three year old and I can enjoy playing with it inside and it’s likely to be a little more his pace than the full size outdoor version. Also, I’m sure it’ll work great for a “cube crawl” at work.

“Bringing the heat” pin

There is also an exclusive “Bringing the Heat” pin that features the Cardinals’ logo and a baseball with a flame design around it. I’m not a big pin guy, but as far as pins it seems pretty nice.

Also included is an Adam Wainwright baseball card that’s made exclusively for Sports Crate. It is number one in a team series of five, so it stands to reason that each crate this season will include another one in the set. It’s been awhile since I’ve been into trading cards, so I’m sure it will end up with some that the kid has.

There is also a Sports Crate branded lunch bag. Apparently I wasn’t the only person whose first thought was that it was a fanny pack when I pulled it out. It would have been better if it had been team branded (after all, I’m paying for a Cardinals Sports Crate), even if it was still just the plain black, but it should be big enough to fit a six pack of your favorite beverage to help keep it cold. I recommend some good small market cream soda.

Finally, the item in the crate that really pushed me over the edge to actually subscribing for it, the apparel item. Sports Crate advertises that each crate will include a “wearable” item. That could be a shirt like we got this month, socks or a hat (both items that I’ve seen in promo images for Sports Crate). I’m a big fan of usable items like this and I like wearing Cardinals gear.

A quick photo of me sporting the shirt from this month.

The shirt this month is a three-quarter sleeve moisture-wicking t-shirt that has the St. Louis Cardinals’ script logo on the front. Red sleeves and gray front and back panels. The gray area on the front panel has a graphic on it that took me far too long to realize that it was supposed to be a large glove.

Based on the images I’ve seen on Twitter of other team’s shirts, Cardinals fans got lucky with the color arrangement. Other teams have not been so lucky in my opinion.

The shirt feels like a decent quality. Similar to some of the shirts I’ve designed and had printed up at an old job years ago.

My overall thoughts are that it was about what I expected, even though I was a little disappointed by most of the non-apparel items. Maybe I’m just an atypical fan, but I’m not so much into baseball cards or pins. The lunch bag would have been great if it had a Cardinals logo on it as I’d start using it everyday for my lunches.

The corn hole board has potential, though for many I feel like it would be more of a novelty. The action figure is growing on me, but we’ll see.

I’m split on whether to continue on for the June crate. I likely will in the hopes that my expectations may be exceeded, but I definitely hope they keep it up on the apparel end because that’s what will ultimately keep me subscribing.

If I stick around for the June crate, I will likely post about that one too.

Five things about the Giants Series

The St. Louis Cardinals took the finale of a three game set against the San Francisco Giants over the weekend. They remain second place in the NL Central at 22-19, 1.5 games behind the division leading Milwaukee Brewers and half a game ahead of the defending division champion Chicago Cubs.

The Cardinals now head to Los Angeles for a three game series as they head west for the week. The Dodgers (26-19) are 6-4 over their last ten and coming off a series against the Marlins that saw them win three of four.

A lack of production from the top

It doesn’t seem to matter who the Cardinals plug into the top-3 spots in the lineup this season, they struggle to get consistent production from them. In the Giants series the top-3 spots in the lineup went a combined 6-for-38 (.158) and it’s not unique to this series.

The top-3 spots in the Cardinals lineup are hitting .210 on the season. The only team worse has been Oakland, whose first three hitters are batting .194.

And why I say it doesn’t seem to matter who hits in that top-3? Let’s look at the three guys who have spent the most time in the #2 spot of the lineup. Aledmys Diaz is batting .194 in the #2 spot, .371 elsewhere. Tommy Pham is batting .105 in the #2 spot, .406 elsewhere. Randal Grichuk is batting .105 in the #2 spot, .258 elsewhere. Kolten Wong hit .188 in the leadoff spot while Fowler was out, has hit .315 elsewhere.

A bigger problem for the Cardinals is that this seems to have become a consistent thing. In 2016, the top three in the Cardinals’ lineup hit a combined .258 which ranked 25th. In fact, the Cardinals top-3 hitters haven’t ranked in the top half of the league in batting average since 2013, where they hit .298 and were ranked second. They went to the World Series that year.

The plus so far is that the back two-thirds of the lineup are carrying the team. The Cardinals four through nine hitters are batting a combined .288 on the season, best in baseball.

Martinez dominates

On Saturday, Carlos Martinez allowed just two hits and a walk over 9 innings of work and came away with a no-decision as the game remained tied at 0-0 when he exited the game. Martinez’s game score of 87 was the fourth best scored game this season and the best scored game where the starting pitcher took a loss.

You have to go back to June of 2015 where Chris Sale struck out 14 batters over 8 innings for a score of 92 in a 2-1 loss to find the last time a pitcher with a score of 86 or higher lost a game.

If I’m counting right, teams whose starting pitcher turned in a game score of 86 or higher had won their last 85 games.

And so did the rest of the starters

In addition to Martinez’s nine shutout innings, the Cardinals’ rotation was on it this weekend.

Michael Wacha was returning to the rotation after being skipped the last time through the rotation to give him added rest in the hopes it would help him avoid a recurrence of his stress injury later this season. He showed that he did not miss a beat, throwing 6 shutout innings on 4 hits and 3 walks.

For Adam Wainwright, it was important for him to come out and back up the 7 shutout innings he threw against the Cubs and turn in another quality start. And he did that, allowing 1 earned run over 6.1 innings of work.

Peralta returns

Jhonny Peralta returned to the starting lineup on Sunday night for the first time since rejoining the club on Friday. And since then, he has reached base five times in six plate appearances. Already a large improvement over his first two weeks of the season where he reached base five times in 27 plate appearances. He had pinch hits on Friday and Saturday before going 2-for-3 with a walk on Sunday.

Gonzales putting himself back on the map

Not a big league thing, but Marco Gonzales made his third start returning from Tommy John surgery over the weekend. He threw 6.1 scoreless innings of work for Memphis, lowering his ERA to 0.68. He has been dominant, allowing just 7 hits and 2 walks over his 13.1 innings of work in two Triple-A starts for a 0.68 WHIP as well.

For a team whose Major League bullpen is a complete mess, having Gonzales and Tyler Lyons on the horizon could be helpful.

Bonus: Pham story

If you haven’t already, go check out Derrick Goold’s story on Tommy Pham and how he’s dealing with keratoconus. I’ve often seen Pham giving himself his vision test and wondering why he did it and whether it was connected to his eye condition. It’s a good read of some of the struggles he’s had to work through, which makes the talent he’s shown all the more impressive.

Cardinals trade Matt Adams to Braves for prospect

Everyone knew Stephen Piscotty was going to be activated on Saturday in time for the game, after all, he was in the lineup and batting second. What was unknown was what the corresponding roster move was going to be. Would they send out their extra pitcher or make room some other way. Some other way was the answer as the Cardinals announced that they have traded 1B Matt Adams and cash to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for minor league infielder Juan Yepez.

Adams, 28, is hitting .292/.340/.396 with 1 home run this season over 31 games. The former 23rd round pick hit .271/.315/.453 with 56 home runs in 486 career games in Cardinal red.

He will join former teammate Jaime Garcia with the Braves, a team that became interested in adding a first baseman after learning that they would be without Freddie Freeman for three months after he broke his left wrist.

Since the Cardinals committed to Matt Carpenter at first base this winter, it didn’t really make much sense for the organization to bring Adams back for 2017, except in the hopes of trading him. The team even tried him in left field for a bit early in the season, but that didn’t pan out as hoped. There was nowhere in St. Louis for him to carve out an opportunity.

He will get that opportunity in Atlanta, where he will get the chance to play regularly over the next three months until Freeman returns. Freeman is a player I’ve often compared Adams to. Early in his career, Freeman struggled against left handed pitching as well, but the Braves kept playing him and after a couple seasons he adapted and has become one of the league’s best and most consistent hitters.

Adams never got that opportunity to play through those struggles and adapt in St. Louis, though he showed a hint of being able to hit left handed pitching last season, as he hit .283/.300/.522 off them.

The trouble for the Cardinals that I see with this deal is the loss of a power bat off the bench. This is likely a case of an opportunity coming up to trade Adams somewhere where he would get the chance to play that he wouldn’t have had in St. Louis. It’s not the first time that the organization has “done right” by a player in Adams’ shoes. But I can’t shake the feeling that they just chose Jhonny Peralta over Adams. And I don’t think that’s the right decision.

As far as the Cardinals’ return, Yepez, 19, was signed by the Braves out of Venezuela in 2014 for a little over a $1 million signing bonus. In 121 career minor league games, he has hit .281/.355/.407 with 6 home runs in the Braves organization. At 6’1″ and 200 pounds he is still considered a very raw prospect.

In 2015, after hitting .299/.364/.458 as a 17 year old in rookie leagues, Yepez was considered to possibly be one of the highest ceiling bats in the Braves’ organization. The scouting reports cite quick hands and great contact skills. There are questions as to his plate approach, but he is still young. He walked just 7.6% of the time compared to a 23.0% strikeout rate.

His defense is also a question. Originally signed as a third baseman, scouts have hinted at a move to first base, where he has played the majority of his minor league games, since he was signed. The Braves moved him back to third base this season.

In discussing Yepez, Mozeliak termed him as a “lottery ticket” type prospect. He was a young player that was thought highly of and has stalled a bit recently. The Cardinals are expected to assign him to Peoria.