Five things about the Rays Series

The Cardinals lost yet another series as they dropped two out of three to the Tampa Bay Rays. The loss today put the Cardinals at 4-9 since they ended their 8 game winning streak two weeks ago. They continue to be 4.5 games behind the division leading Chicago Cubs who refuse to run away with the division, which is part of what makes this season so infuriating.

The Cardinals will have a day off on Monday before a two game set in Milwaukee against the second-place Milwaukee Brewers.

The Sherriff locks it down

One of the great stories of the weekend was Ryan Sherriff making his Major League debut for the Cardinals. On Friday night he came up big, throwing three scoreless innings of relief that helped bridge the gap after a short outing by Michael Wacha. After walking his first batter, he settled in, retiring his next six batters. When he came into the game, the Rays were leading 5-3. He kept the margin the same, but the offense failed to come through.

After the game, Sherriff talked about how he kept thinking about his Dad on the mound. His father passed away in 2012 and Sherriff was ready to give up baseball. Convinced by his mother to return, here he was five years later making his debut, becoming the first Cardinals reliever to throw three scoreless innings of relief in his debut since 1998.

Thanks to Player’s Weekend, we also got to see a great matchup. Sherriff, who didn’t get to pick a nickname, faced off against Kevin Kiermaier who was wearing “Outlaw” on the back of his jersey. He got the Outlaw to ground into a fielder’s choice.

DeJong continues to hit

Count me among those who are surprised that Paul DeJong is still managing to be a productive hitter in the Major Leagues. He’s had a few small cold spells, but he seems to be making the necessary adjustments to continue to hit. Zach Gifford wrote about the small adjustments DeJong has made over at The Intrepid STL this week. Through Sunday afternoon’s game, DeJong has a five game hitting streak going and has hit in 19 of his last 22 games, hitting .347/.386/.611 with 6 home runs over that span.

Brebbia and Lyons stepping into Rosenthal’s shoes

With Trevor Rosenthal down for the count, there was some question who would fill his shoes in the late innings and so far there are two obvious choices: John Brebbia and Tyler Lyons.

Brebbia pitched two scoreless innings in the Rays series, the second escaping two walks to do it after pitching a perfect inning the night before. Since the beginning of July, Brebbia has a 1.85 ERA and a 0.86 WHIP.

Lyons on the other hand has now gone 16.2 consecutive scoreless innings and since the beginning of July has a 0.95 ERA and 0.47 WHIP. Since the beginning of July he has been one of the top-5 relief pitchers in baseball.

Garcia wants a job

If there is a plus to Jedd Gyorko‘s absence with his hamstring injury, it may be that Greg Garcia will get to play a little more. While Gyorko’s performance had waned over the past two months, Garcia has been strong. He has hit .319/.430/.431 in 40 games since July 1st. He went 3-for-4 on Sunday afternoon too to give him a .400 batting average over the past 10 games.

There has been talk that they may move Matt Carpenter to third base to give some playing time to Luke Voit at first base. I think Voit can be a valuable part of this team going forward with the opportunity to play, but it is good to see Garcia hitting well and taking advantage of this opportunity.

Offense can’t back Lynn

Lance Lynn went 7 innings and allowed 2 earned runs, being barely outpitched by his Rays counterpart Chris Archer on Sunday afternoon, but it wasn’t enough as the Cardinals’ offense came up short. All five runs of the game scored on solo home runs. It’s not the first time the Cardinals’ offense has failed to back Lynn up.

Since his start on June 29th, Lynn has a 2.32 ERA over 12 starts and the team has gone just 7-5. In 10 of those 12 starts, Lynn notched a quality start.

News: Cardinals place Jedd Gyorko on DL

What happened. The St. Louis Cardinals have placed third baseman Jedd Gyorko on the 10 day disabled list with a right hamstring strain. In a corresponding move, they have recalled first baseman Luke Voit from Triple-A Memphis.

The story. In the 8th inning last night, Kolten Wong poked a base hit into right field that scored Yadier Molina to tie the game with Jedd Gyorko rounding third behind him when Gyorko pulled up with an apparent hamstring injury. After hobbling back to third base safely and time was called, Gyorko didn’t even wait for the trainer to reach him before heading to the dugout.

The numbers. Gyorko was in the middle of a career year in St. Louis, batting .272/.341/.469 with 18 home runs through 114 games. However, most of that damage had been in the first half as he has hit just .221/.298/.376 with 6 home runs in 44 games since July 1st. Recently though, he had been showing signs of turning it around at the plate, hitting .282 with 3 home runs in the last 10 games.

Luke Voit returns to the big league club for the second time. Voit had been optioned on Monday after the LIttle League Classic when the club elected to keep Stephen Piscotty instead. Voit had struggled to find playing time, making just two starts in August, but had hit .304/.333/.435 over 15 games this month. In four games since his return to Memphis, Voit had hit .429 with a home run.

The impact. 7/10. If Gyorko was really on the verge of putting together another strong streak, this is a big loss for the Cardinals. For much of the first half, it was Gyorko who drove the offense with his career best start to a season. He is one of the starters on this team and defensive metrics suggest he is one of the strongest third basemen this season defensively.

With third base playing time up for grabs, there are some options available for the Cardinals. Greg Garcia, who will get the start today, has hit .289/.426/.368 in 20 games this month. I argued last winter that, should they insist on keeping Matt Carpenter at first base, Garcia and Gyorko should have started this season in a platoon at third base.

They could also do what they probably should have done to start the year, put Carpenter at third base so that they could play a career first baseman at first. This time that would be Luke Voit. Otherwise, things won’t go much better for Voit this time around. If Voit can come up and hit like I believe he can if he gets consistent at bats, this could turn out to be a plus for the Cardinals.

Column: The STLFCO scratches back

Pot, meet kettle.

That’s my basic opinion of the now public spat between the St. Louis Cardinals and the St. Louis Feral Cat Outreach in the days following the #RallyCat adventures. Or rather, misadventures as they may now be.

In an article today at the RiverFront Times, the STLFCO’s lawyer Albert Watkins spoke about their problems with the Cardinals who have tried to adopt the Rally Cat as an organization. In between speaking of the cat, who they’ve named Rally, in the third person as if he’d talked to the Rally Cat personally about his future and taking shots the Cardinals, Watkins suggested that the Cardinals’ desire to commercially capitalize on the cat had to be balanced with the cat’s best interests.

I think we can all agree that the Cardinals’ interests and the cat’s interests have to be balanced because what happens next year when #RallyCat fever breaks and all is forgotten? There needs to be a plan to care for Rally in place. The ultimately irony of it all is that the STLFCO has done nothing but attempt to commercially capitalize on him.

They pursued capture of the Rally Cat after it was determined lost in the Citygarden area. After catching it, they sought to publicly identify him as the Rally Cat. They did a media blitz after catching him. They promoted that they’d caught him. They promoted a “Rally Cat” t-shirt by 108stitches and numerous additional merchandise from others that they benefit monetarily from.

But now that the Cardinals have an interest in bringing in the cat, caring for it as an organization, and, yes, profiting off the popularity of Rally and now that the STLFCO has done their profiting off the situation wants to draw the line on commercialization.

Let’s be clear here, if the STLFCO cared about preventing the commercialization of Rally, they could have very easily done what they always do and told no one. They are a “TNR” organization, which stands for trap, neuter, and release. And in a few weeks when Rally was ready to be released the fever would have died down, nobody would be looking for him, and nobody would be any of the wiser.

After the Cardinals said that they expected to have the cat given to them, the STLFCO replied with a Facebook post that heavily criticized the Cardinals and their Vice President of Public Relations Ron Watermon’s “old school PR tactics,” calling him a liar and accused the Cardinals of using “bullying tactics.”And then Watkins in the RiverFront Times referred to these comments as a “perceived slight” as if the Cardinals misconstrued what they meant by calling Watermon a liar and a bully.

In that same statement, they told us that they don’t have the resources to fight this out in the media, but instead of “rally”ing (you liked that, didn’t you) around a good cause that could benefit all involved in some fashion, the STLFCO elected to pick that public fight with the biggest brand in the St. Louis area that they just told us they didn’t have the resources to fight.

The STLFCO claims this isn’t about getting a big check from the Cardinals, and to an extent I buy that because I have real concerns about what an organization adopting a pet looks like too and I’m sure people who donate their time to that organization would as well. But they should have led with that and kept the focus on that.

Instead, they elected to paint the Cardinals as the big bad corporation who is trying to do nothing except commercialize the kitten when they’ve been doing the same exact thing from the moment they thought they’d caught him.

News: Cardinals call up Ryan Sherriff; end Trevor Rosenthal’s season

What happened. Today the Cardinals optioned RHP Josh Lucas to Memphis and purchased the contract of LHP Ryan Sherriff. To make room for Sherriff on the 40 man roster, RHP Trevor Rosenthal was moved to the 60 day disabled list.

The story. The Cardinals make yet another bullpen move, this time calling up Ryan Sherriff for the carousel of the last bullpen spot. The biggest news might be that the move to the 60 day DL means that the season is over for Trevor Rosenthal.

The numbers. Josh Lucas, who was called up on Saturday, made two appearances for the Cardinals and posted a 6.75 ERA over 4 innings of work. He pitched the 8th and 9th innings last night and allowed a two run home run to Yangervis Solarte in the 8th before pitching a 1-2-3 ninth. He will return to Memphis where he has a 3.34 ERA over 56.2 innings and has worked recently as their closer.

Ryan Sherriff, 27, was a 28th round pick of the Cardinals in 2011. He gained some attention to fans this spring when Adam Wainwright got a rental car for him after seeing him walking to the ballpark every day. This season in Memphis he has a 3.19 ERA in 53.2 innings pitched along with a dominant 0.99 WHIP. Left handed batters have hit .198/.225/.302 against him while right handed batters haven’t fared much better with a .215/.286/.271 line.

The impact. 10/10. The move alone is a 1/10 because I don’t think who the 8th guy in Mike Matheny‘s bullpen matters at all. However, the knowledge that the Cardinals have lost Trevor Rosenthal for the remainder of the season is big news.

After struggling a bit this summer, Rosenthal had gotten back on the horse in July and since July 4th (and not including the appearance where he got injured) he had a 0.52 ERA and 0.75 WHIP in 15 appearances. He had been 7-for-7 in save situations and had reclaimed his hold on the closer’s role.

But now Rosenthal is done for the year and likely out for the entirety of 2018 after it was confirmed that he will undergo UCL replacement surgery. With his absence for 2018 expected, that also means that the odds are good that he will be a prime non-tender candidate for the Cardinals in November.

Rosenthal is making $6.2 million this year and has one more season of arbitration eligibility before he can elect for free agency after the 2018 season, however, the current CBA restricts how much a team can reduce the salary of a player under team control. For Rosenthal, it means the minimum he could earn next season without being non-tendered is roughly $5 million.

Last year with Seth Maness in a similar situation, he made just $1.4 million and was expected to be back early in the season after UCL reconstruction. However, they still non-tendered him.

That isn’t to mean that the two sides couldn’t get creative on a two year deal that would pay Rosenthal in 2018 and give him a reduced rate in 2019 on an incentive laden deal, but I would imagine that the target would be something similar to what Greg Holland got from the Rockies last winter. After missing a year, Holland got a 1 year, $7 million deal with incentives and an option. Those incentives have already been worth an additional $6 million this year and the option has vested into a $15 million player option.

I expect that Rosenthal and his agent, Scott Boras, would prefer free agency and hope to find a team willing to go further than the Cardinals.

News: Cardinals option Luke Voit

What happened. The St. Louis Cardinals optioned first baseman Luke Voit to Memphis to return their MLB roster to 25 players after keeping outfielder Stephen Piscotty.

The story. On Sunday, the Cardinals played in the Little League Classic in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, and due to the extra travel, Major League Baseball allowed them to use a 26th man. That man was Stephen Piscotty. However today they need to return the roster to 25, which meant optioning someone and the club elected to keep Piscotty.

The numbers. Luke Voit was called up on June 25th and he hit .316/.366/.684 from his call up until the All Star Break while starting 9 of the team’s 15 games. With the return of Kolten Wong after the break, Voit’s playing time suffered and he made just 5 starts over the next 16 games and hit just .155.

However, Voit’s numbers were turning around in August. He has hit .304 in August including .375 in the two games he’s started. But he has started just 2 of 19 games in August.

Stephen Piscotty went 2-for-4 with a walk in his return to the big leagues yesterday.

The impact. 6/10. The biggest issue with the return of Piscotty, as I pointed out yesterday, is that it is into a crowded and productive big league outfield.

Voit had been hitting and Gyorko had not been and yet Carpenter was not moved across the diamond to accomodate that. That move would have been the most logical way to find Voit more playing time, but much like was the case for Matt Adams, there is no room for him in St. Louis as long as Carpenter is considered this team’s first baseman.

News: Stephen Piscotty added as 26th man

What happened. The St. Louis Cardinals designated outfielder Stephen Piscotty as their 26th man for today’s Little League Classic.

The story. Originally it was reported that Magneuris Sierra was on his way to Williamsport to be the club’s 26th man, but after changing their mind at the last minute, it was Piscotty who was activated this morning. Both the Cardinals and the Pirates were given approval to use a 26th man for today’s game due to the additional travel.

The numbers. Stephen Piscotty, who has had a rough year, has hit well over the past several days in Memphis. In 8 games, he has hit .313/.421/.781 with 4 home runs. The biggest plus would seem to be the appearance of his power, something that has been down this season.

The impact. 6/10. The outfield is not exactly a position of need for the Cardinals at the moment, and even if Piscotty is back for good or whether it is just a one day trip, he is not an improvement on the available players and might actually muddy up the situation.

Just look at these numbers in the second half. Tommy Pham has hit .321/.419/.489 with a 142 wRC+. Randal Grichuk has hit .305/.336/.581 with a 135 wRC+. Dexter Fowler has hit .308/.443/.487 with a 146 wRC+. And when you throw Jose Martinez into the mix too, four of the Cardinals top-5 hitters of the second half are outfielders.

If Piscotty does stick around, and I think the odds are good that he does, who is sitting to give him playing time when you’ve already got four outfielders who are excelling at the plate?

News: Cardinals purchase Josh Lucas

What happened. The St. Louis Cardinals purchased the contract of RHP Josh Lucas from Memphis and optioned RHP Mike Mayers. The move puts the Cardinals’ 40 man roster at 40 players. Lucas will wear #77.

The story. The I-55 express continues as the Cardinals send Mike Mayers back to Memphis and bring up Memphis’ closer Josh Lucas. Mayers had been called up yesterday to take the roster spot of Adam Wainwright after he went on the DL.

The numbers. Mike Mayers has struggled in his few appearances at the big league level and this time was no different. On Friday night he came in with a 10-3 lead and promptly surrendered five runs. That brief appearance inflated his ERA in the Major Leagues this season to 11.57. In 10 career innings in the Majors, Mayers has allowed 24 earned runs.

Josh Lucas, 26, was a 21st round pick of the Cardinals in the 2010 draft. He has a 3.45 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP over 56.2 innings in Memphis and has 14 saves. He has a 2.83 ERA and 1.06 WHIP over his past 10 appearances.

The impact. 1/10. The addition of Lucas to the bullpen now gives the Cardinals two former Redbirds closers in the mix with Sam Tuivailala also there. However, it doesn’t really matter who is in the bullpen or how well they pitch as long as Mike Matheny always defaults to his main guys in crunch time regardless of how much they’ve struggled.

News: Cardinals place Adam Wainwright on DL

What happened. The St. Louis Cardinals placed RHP Adam Wainwright on the 10 day disabled list with a right elbow impingement and recalled RHP Mike Mayers from Triple-A  memphis.

The story. Adam Wainwright existed last night’s game against the Pittsburgh Pirates early after allowing five runs on 55 pitches in three innings. While speaking with the media after the game, he mentioned that he couldn’t get his arm loose and had a pinching sensation in his elbow when he tried to throw. He compared it to discomfort he had felt and pitched through in 2014 before having surgery to remove bone spurs that winter.

The numbers. Wainwright has made 23 starts this season and has a career highs in ERA (5.12) and FIP (4.27) over his 121 innings. Regardless of the struggle, however, he has managed to win as he leads the team with 12 wins and the Cardinals are 15-8 in games where he takes the mound. That is the best record among Cardinals starting pitchers.

Mike Mayers, 26, will get his third trip to the Majors this season. While he has managed to pitch well in Memphis, he has struggled to find traction in the Majors and has allowed runs in each of his relief appearances. He has pitched four innings and allowed two earned runs on four hits and three walks.

The impact. 7/10. While I want to dismiss the loss of Wainwright for a couple weeks as a benefit to the team given his ERA, the fact that the Cardinals still win when he pitches gives me pause. He has pitched through this his last three starts and has had a noticeable decrease in velocity.

The severity of the injury is not yet known and he will return today to St. Louis for additional medical tests. While it’s pure conjecture at this point, you have to think there is a real possibility that he will be done for the season.

The club likely turns to Luke Weaver to make Wainwright’s next start. Weaver is the guy that is expected to take over Lance Lynn‘s rotation spot next season, so it will be a good cameo opportunity for him.