What could have been labeled an excellent road trip instead became just a decent one yesterday with the Cardinals blowing a late lead to the Washington Nationals en route to a 3-2. To be euphemistic, I'll say that I think that game could have gone better.
While it may seem like the lineup is struggling to score runs at times this season-they've scored two runs or less three times during the seven game road trip-the offense really has done its job. Some will look at the fact that only two players have multiple home runs, or that only two regulars are hitting .300 and start to panic, but the bats are doing better work than you may think.
Matt Carpenter is only hitting .254, which isn't what you'd expect from your leadoff man, but the guy has gotten on base at a .372 clip and has provided as much sabermetric value as Matt Adams, who is hitting .357 and Adam Wainwright who has three wins and a 1.80 ERA.
Jhonny Peralta's OPS isn't quite where you'd like to see it, but he is showing signs of life with seven hits, including two more home runs over the course of the last week. None of us know how hard it is to make the transition to a new team and more importantly, a new league, so just because Peralta's not setting the world on fire his first month doesn't mean a whole lot yet. The important thing is that he is still generating power and making contact so you would hope the second and third time he sees his new NL Central opponents he will settle in and hit with a little bit more consistentcy. For what it's worth, Peralta also has a lower batting average (.235) in April than any other month over the course of his career, so he may just be a slow starter. The same can be said about Matt Holliday, who is having a power-outage (.373 slugging pct.) to go with his lower-than-normal batting average over the first month of the season.
While the birds went just 7-33 at the dish yesterday (and struck out 12 times), much of the blame lies on the infield defense for Sunday's loss.
Matt Carpenter has looked abysmal at third base for a good chunk of the first 19 games this season. It's almost like the year of learning to play second base has made him forget how to play the hot corner. Carpenter made nine errors over 1,108 games last season. He's made four, all fielding errors, in 157 innings this year, which would put him on pace for about 28 errors throughout the course of the year. His Ultimate Zone Rating suggests that Carpenter would cost his team 11 runs over the course of a full season based on his defense alone. For a guy that is just a month in to a six-year contract, it is slightly worrisome to see Carpenter struggle the way he is after his breakout campaign last season. Carpenter's 9th inning error yesterday directly led to the Nats' game winning run in the 9th, and although Ian Desmond was given a hit on the RBI single that plated the National's first run, Daniel Descalso really should have caught Ian Desmond's hard-hit groundball. If those two balls are fielded cleanly, you're probably looking at a different outcome yesterday.
-Tyler Lyons will see big-league action for the first time since last September when he toes the rubber against the Mets in Joe Kelly's absence today. Lyons has been solid in Memphis so far this season, posting a 2-0 record with 18 K's against just five walks in 19 innings. Lyons doesn't have the highest, but he's a guy you like having for these sorts of situations. He can make spot starts and as long as the league doesn't see him to often and can also pitch situationally out of the bullpen. If he doesn't have it together against a pretty cushy lineup today, Carlos Martinez might make his much-anticipated first start of the season in Lyons' place this weekend.
-Seth Maness' sinker is not sinking. He has now allowed 8 base runners 4 earned runs over his last two appearances, which saw him record just five outs and take a loss. Considering Maness has pretty much succeeded at every level he has played at in his career, I don't think there's a ton of cause for concern. Groundball/finesse types like Maness take more time than the heavy-fastball and strikeout types to work out their stuff and get it moving the right way. If Maness is still faltering in late May, then maybe you start to look for other options, but I still fully expect Maness to successfully fill the same role he did during his 2013 rookie season.
-Any chance Mike Matheny pulls a Tony LaRussa and bats the pitcher 8th and Kolten Wong 9th to try to get guys on for Carpenter? Not the craziest thing I've ever heard.
-Brewers centerfielder Carlos Gomez is about to be on my Mount Rushmore of guys that I wouldn't mind never seeing again, right between Ryan Braun and Barry Bonds. I would have fully expected Gerrit Cole, or anyone else for that matter, to speak his mind to Gomez after the bat-flip and slow-trot he did after bombing one off of the centerfield fence at PNC park yesterday, thinking it was out of the park. That being said, I think baseball needs to take steps to keep players from taking such personal offense to situations like this. When Gomez rips one that he thinks is gone and pimps his "home run" a little bit out of the box, it's not because he's personally trying to show up Cole or any other pitcher for that matter. It's because Gomez is a showboat, and he's arrogant. If you need further proof of this, do a Google search for his home run in Atlanta last year that cleared the benches, or watch any swing that he takes with less than two strikes. It's just how he plays the game. And guess what else, that's how Gomez wants teams to react. He wants to be under your skin. He wants to take you out of your game plan because of what he's doing and saying. It's time that ballplayers grow up a little bit and stop taking such offense to these minor acts of "disrespect". If you're going to let Chris Carpenter fist pump, scream, curse, and point when he's on his game, you have to let all these guys play their game and just hope that your team has the mental fortitude to laugh off a guy who does something as dumb as pimp a triple, as the Cardinals did with Yasiel Puig in the 2013 NLCS.