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.

Five things about the Reds Series

The Cardinals scored their first road series win since June and their first against a divisional opponent since April by taking two out of three from the Reds over the weekend. The Cardinals end the series 55-56 and 3.5 games out of the NL Central lead in third place. They’ve been 3.5 games back before, but haven’t been closer since June 13th when they finished the day 2.5 games behind.

Heading into the series against the Royals, the Cardinals have lost in their last five attempts to reach .500. So they’ll have to shake that bogeyman.

Wainwright just wins

Adam Wainwright struggled on Sunday as he allowed 4 hits and 5 walks over 3 innings of work as he earned the quick hook. But that didn’t stop the Cardinals who piled on some offense including a 9 run 4th innings.

The short outing left Wainwright’s season long ERA at 5.00, but the team is 13-9 in games started by him this season. That’s a .591 winning percentage, or in other terms, a 96 win pace.

The crazy part is that this is that Wainwright has just one season with a worse record. Over his career with the Cardinals, the team is 177-99 in games he starts, that’s a .641 win percentage, or in other terms, a 104 win pace. The team went 16-16 in his first season back from Tommy John surgery in 2012, but every other season except his first in the rotation has seen the team post a greater than .600 winning percentage in games he starts.

He has the best team record among Cardinals’ starting pitchers, and with the Cards winning behind Lance Lynn on Saturday, he joined Wainwright as the only Cardinals pitchers with a winning team record in games they start.

The hottest hitter on this team is…

Jose Martinez. Since the All Star Break, Martinez is hitting .318/.500/.773 with 3 home runs in 12 games, six of them starts. His latest feat coming with a grand slam while batting cleanup against the Reds on Sunday afternoon. But if there’s a player swinging a hot bat and pushing for more playing time right now, it’s Martinez.

Another player pushing for time is…

Greg Garcia. Since the All Star Break, Garcia is hitting .320/.433/.480 in 17 games, six of them starts. His emergence has come at a welcome time as Cardinals’ third baseman Jedd Gyorko has struggled since the calendar turned to July. Since the break Gyorko is hitting just .176/.241/.243 for the Cardinals.

It’s amazing what happens when you don’t abuse relievers

Before Sunday’s game, Mike Matheny spoke to the media about Trevor Rosenthal and how not pushing him and watching how they use him has really helped. It’s amazing what happens when you don’t run your relievers ragged. I wrote a couple years ago about the difference in the Cardinals’ relievers when they pitch with no rest versus a day or more of rest. Most relievers become no better than the rest of your bullpen on back-to-back days.

And it’s not like Matheny hasn’t had a deep bullpen to give these guys proper rest either.

Brett Cecil: Long Reliever

The last two times that Matheny chose to quick hook his starter, he has turned to Brett Cecil to bridge the gap. Most recently on Sunday, he came in in the fourth inning and pitched three shutout innings for the Cardinals. After a rough start, Cecil has rebounded quite nicely, posting a 2.23 ERA and 1.08 WHIP since May 19th, allowing the opponent to score in just four of his 32 appearances.

Five things about the Marlins Series

The Cardinals’ four game series against the Marlins started out well, with them winning the opener 14-2, but quickly fell off the rails as they were able to come away with only a split of the series. They find themselves 41-44 with three games remaining before the All Star break and 5.5 games behind the Milwaukee Brewers.

They will welcome the Mets to town in the hopes of completing a three game sweep to head into the break with a .500 record.

Voit mashes

Luke Voit continued the hot start to his big league career as he had two hits in each of the Cardinals’ wins in the series. Those two hits in each were a home run and a double. He had 7 RBI total in the series and is hitting well enough that it should create a difficult decision for the Cardinals when it comes to the return of Kolten Wong which is expected later this month. There would seem to be no room at the inn for one of Voit, Wong, Matt Carpenter, Paul DeJong, and Jedd Gyorko.

Gyorko continues to have traction

I keep waiting for the clock to strike midnight on Jedd Gyorko’s season. By all accounts, I expected it months ago. In fact, when the organization elected to release Jhonny Peralta, I was convinced that it had already started. And then he rebounded. He started just two of the four games against the Marlins after having problems with leg cramps but went 4-for-6 with 2 walks.

In fact, in the 28 games since Peralta was released, Gyorko has played in 27 of them and hit .310/.404/.560 with 5 home runs.

Garcia coming out of his slump?

Greg Garcia got three starts in this series due to Gyorko’s cramping issues, and went 3-for-10 with a home run in Tuesday’s game. Over the past 10 games he is slashing .308/.419/.423. He had been hitting .167 in May and June and saw his batting average on the season dip below .200 as recently as June 28th.

Cecil turns it around

When Brett Cecil signed a 4 year, $30 million deal in free agency and then got off to a bad start this season, it was easy to panic. He looked lost on the mound, whether that was over use or struggling mechanics or both, the numbers weren’t pretty. But he allowed three hits over 1.2 scoreless innings in Thursday’s game and it was the first time he had allowed a hit in 7 appearances.

That means that since his appearance on May 19th, Cecil has a 1.77 ERA and 0.69 WHIP in 21 appearances.

2012 was a good year

This series saw four of the Cardinals’ draft picks from the 2012 draft make appearances. Michael Wacha was taken with the Cardinals’ first pick of that draft and allowed 2 runs over 5.2 innings and picked up his sixth win of the season in the series finale. Fellow first rounder Stephen Piscotty went 3-for-14. Fourth round pick Alex Mejia appeared as a sub in all four games, going 1-for-4.

And seventh round pick Kyle Barraclough pitched two scoreless appearances in relief for the Marlins, and has easily been one of their best relief pitchers. Barraclough was traded to Miami for Steve Cishek in 2015 and made his MLB debut later that season. In three years in the big leagues, he has a 2.84 ERA over 139 appearances.

Second round pick Carson Kelly could be on his way to the big league club at some point in the second half after John Mozeliak indicated that his time is coming. And we’ve all seen what third round pick Tim Cooney did before getting injured last year and claimed off waivers by the Indians last winter.

Not a bad haul at all.

Shortstop situation shouldn’t worry Cards

After the 2015 season saw five of the St. Louis Cardinals’ nine Opening Day starters spend significant time on the disabled list, the team got bad news again. Jhonny Peralta, injured over the weekend, is expected to miss two to three months with a torn tendon in his left thumb. And so begins the team’s 2016 disabled list adventures.

Cardinals’ GM John Mozeliak discussed that the Cardinals want to evaluate their internal options before making a decision whether to pursue players outside of the organization. Of course, the media still loves a good trade rumor story, so they have already begun discussing all of the potential options available or potentially available. I doubt that will happen though.

Losing Peralta hurts. Lets not lie. Peralta was one of the players that carried the offense in the first half of 2015 while Matt Holliday was on the disabled list and Matt Carpenter was slumping.

In Peralta’s stead, Jedd Gyorko will likely get the first crack at this year’s starting shortstop job. Gyorko, 27, hit .262 with 14 home runs in 82 games last season for the Padres after he spent a three week stint in the minors in June. While he’s only played 220 professional innings at shortstop, having played mostly second and third bases, he did play shortstop in college. Mike Matheny even spoke today about how much they like Gyorko’s glove and arm, which leads one ot believe that range will be the issue.

There is also Greg Garcia, who was already expected to be Peralta’s primary backup during the season. The 26-year-old Garcia has never been a top prospect or viewed as capable of sticking at shortstop at the Major League level. However, through the minors, he has been one of those players who has flown under the radar and yet still produced at every level. Can I use the term “sneaky good?”

He hit .240 with 2 home runs for the big league club and did that with a 97 OPS+. That’s good for just shy of league average offensively. Defensively, he may not be the right guy, but he should be good enough to spell your starter.

The most interesting situation of all might be that of Aledmys Diaz. Diaz was signed out of Cuba before the 2014 season when he hadn’t played pro baseball for almost two years. His first season in the U.S. was marred by injury as he struggled to stay on the field. But his 2015 season ended up showing the reason the Cardinals were interested. And he could have been had by any team in baseball too.

In July, the Cardinals needed a 40 man roster spot, so they designated Diaz for assignment. The move took him off the 40 man roster, but it also placed him on waivers. The Cardinals took a chance that with $5 million remaining on his deal, that nobody would assume the risk. They were right. He passed through waivers and stayed with the Cardinals.

Since July 1, 2015, Diaz hit .322/.387/.570 with 12 home runs over 69 games between Double-A Springfield, Triple-A Memphis, and the Arizona Fall League. Add to that some glowing reviews of his defensive abilities, and I think you have the guy that the Cardinals would like to have playing shortstop in Peralta’s stead.

Diaz is the most immediate to benefit from Peralta’s absense in spring training. While he was positioned to be an early cut from Major League camp with Peralta there, all of those at bats open up with Peralta gone. Given his salary and option situation, Diaz may get a legitimate opportunity to take this job.

It’s the option sitation that changed my mind too. When the injury first happened, I didn’t expect that Diaz would see substantial playing time. Maybe he’d get an opportunity to make the team out of camp, but he wouldn’t see regular starting time unless he truly forced the organization’s hand with his performance.

Having been on the club’s 40 man roster since he signed his contract, the Cardinals have already exercised two option years to keep him in the minors. If they were to send him down to the minors this year, it would be his third and then he would have to make the big league club next year.

So as I see it stacking up, I don’t think there will be a better opportunity for the Cardinals to see what Aledmys Diaz has then right now. So why not see what he has?

I also believe that the Cardinals are very capable of navigating a few months without Jhonny Peralta without negatively impacting the team’s playoff chances. But I wish they didn’t have to.

Cardinals promote Garcia and Scruggs

Just a day after talking about how any offensive reinforcements we can call up from Memphis probably won’t create that much of effect, John Mozeliak indicates he had to try something anyway and added first baseman Xavier Scruggs and infielder Greg Garcia to the Major League roster. Headed back to Memphis are catcher Ed Easley and relief pitcher Mitch Harris.

In theory, this will help solidify the Cardinals’ bench and give Mike Matheny more options while he constructs lineups on a nightly basis.

Since Matt Adams went on the disabled list, Pete Kozma has been the Cardinals’ only bench infielder. So basically he’s been acting as the backup at second base, shortstop, and third base. He’s also seen a little time at first base and in left field. While Kozma is retained by the team simply because he’s the only one that can play a defensively plus shortstop in the organization, were anything to happen to Jhonny Peralta, he is hitting just .098/.164/.098 so far this season.

While Greg Garcia may not be able to handle shortstop on an everyday basis for the Cardinals, he won’t be asked to do that and can fill in at third and second. He’s been having a stellar season in Memphis too, hitting .313/.405/.369 over 61 games so far, and .347 over the last month.

Garcia made a couple trips to St. Louis last season. Combined he went 2-for-14 and was hit by more pitches (3), including a walk off HBP against the Cubs, than he had hits (2).

Xavier Scruggs is the other guy and I discussed him at length yesterday. Scruggs is hitting .251/.363/.488 with 11 home runs over 60 games this season. He is also hitting .339 so far in June. Hopefully some of that heat will carry over to the Majors, but unless he hits the ground running, it’s going to be awfully difficult to say that he deserves to take playing time away from Reynolds. Reynolds, while he has lacked his overall thump, is about the only Cardinals’ regular doing anything positive with the bat in June.

The move itself is good to see if for no other reason than it will hopefully quell the frustration I read every night on Twitter. The success or failure of it will depend on Matheny actually giving these guys opportunities to play.

Easley is the position player going back to Memphis, but he only had three plate appearances in the three weeks or so he was with the big league club. For Scruggs and Garcia, that won’t do it. They will need to play more often. If only to keep the infield fresh.