The Cards lost an ugly one in Milwaukee, so here I am right after laying out the deck. These aren’t warning bells yet a simple reminder of things to consider as we approach the final month of the season. The Cardinals are a dangerous team but one with inconsistencies and weak spots. We are the approaching hitchhiker to the playoffs that can be picked off by the right sniper. They always make a fan nervous because it’s a 162 game season and day to day mood swings are normal for an authentic baseball fan. Here are some things to think about, admire and remember.
1. Starting Rotation notes. Lance Lynn and Jake Westbrook are trouble seekers. Depending tomorrow on Westbrook to win the series is like calling up your most depressed and anti-social friend to be your wingman for a potential double date. I don’t care if Lynn has 13 wins because his record and overall stat sheet is bloated and misleading. He strikes guys out but also likes to walk guys at horrible times and blows leads like its going out of style. Westbrook is a declining veteran who might have one more contract with a team left before he becomes that painful to watch back of the rotation guy. Wait a minute…he already is that. Oops. Westbrook is the tired broken down horse that needs a bullet in September. Lynn is more troubling because there are wrinkles of greatness in his facade yet he lets his mental setup crack very easily. Crash Davis may be needed to deal with Lynn’s 2 cent head. He looks lost every time something doesn’t go his way. Lynn is flashy but inconsistent and gets worse in the second half. He can lose another 20 pounds and he will still be the same pitcher. He’s kept the weight off yet this is a mental problem. In his last 7 starts he has ran into one BAD inning every game. That’s not good at all and probably won’t change. I’ll always attach Lynn to Game 6 of the 2012 NLCS when he had that horrible inning that let the Giants get a huge lead. He is a big inning meltdown artist. So is Westbrook. In my book, Joe Kelly is a more effective if less flashy starter than Lance Lynn. Give Kelly Lynn’s run support and see their records change. Without Kelly, the Cards would be further out of this race. Waino and Kelly have been solid. Shelby Miller has been a typical fireballing rookie but his head and mental makeup is a lot better than Lynn’s. Miller is just in love with dictatorship on the mound, trying to blow away every hitter. That will improve with years. Lynn will not improve. He will give you that fast start and shiny record but when the games start to really count, Lynn will come up short and limp. He is offseason trade bait. The rotation isn’t set for a playoff run. Changes need to be made. Michael Wacha needs to be considered for a spot if Lynn/Westbrook continue to trend down. The crazy theory is looking into Kyle Lohse(winner tonight and a victim of horrid run support himself) for a waiver claim. It’s not pretty but Lohse is pitching great and is comfortable in the division and in Busch. He has 2 more years but seems to have figured something out the past 2 seasons. His ERA is solid and with a better team would have over 10 wins. The Brewers may not do it but they aren’t going to contend inside this suddenly strong division in 2014 or 2015. Its not even a decent possibility but if Mozelaik can look into it, he should. The Cards are treading water, getting no heavy innings from their starters and seeing the bullpen start to crack. What happens in 2 weeks of consistent 5-6 inning starts with the usual Waino 7 inning performance? Where are the options? Carlos Martinez is out there but the team seems to think of him as a bullpen arm. Wacha is here but needs to be re-routed. Keep an eye on this bunch. Hoping the Cards rotation will figure things out if like hoping you can make it through a run without shitting your pants. Don’t bet on it.
2. Kolten Wong, everyone. After going hitless in his first two games, Wong has 5 hits and 3 stolen bases in his last two games. The young gun can fly on the basepaths and is getting the green light to steal and that adds a whole other dimension to this team. David Freese went 0-4 tonight and isn’t doing himself any favors. The better Wong performs the more Freese will sit down. Wong could have easily had a 4 hit night if the 9th inning line drive doesn’t strike the pitcher’s hand. He is quick, fresh, and spreads the ball around. He is exactly what this streaky offense needed. A kick in the ass. Wong will be benched tomorrow because Mike Matheny thinks Freese can hit Tony Gorzelanny but he needs to seriously push David for starts. It’s nothing personal to the Freese faithful but unless he goes on a terror, the bench will be his friend.
3. I don’t find the time or need most nights to trash Mike Matheny. It’s important to remember he is a 2nd year manager. He had no minor league experience and spent the years before 2012 wearing a suit, talking to Pat Parris and being Mo’s wingman. Keep that in mind. This isn’t a direct defense. Just expect the guy to make some boneheaded decisions that mirror Tony La Russa and a young raw leader. He bunts way too much, makes lots of pitching changes, extends a fierce loyalty to all his players and leaves it all on the table. He is blunt, candid and John Wayne tough. I respect the hell out of the guy and will admit he has a lot to learn at this level but for any sane sports soul in St. Louis calling for his dismissal, I have nothing but contempt for you. He is a young skipper. Give him time. He didn’t get a rebuilding team to lead. He got an annual World Series contender to drive. It’s not an easy gig and most nights I cut him more slack than the players. Matheny time over.
4. I did like the Cardinals lineup and our depth was on display again. Without our two best offensive players in Matt Carpenter(leader in hits, runs scored, doubles triples, finely trimmed facial hair) and Allen Craig(RBI machine), our lineup was formidable. Wong in the #2 hole is great and Holliday, Beltran and Molina is a nice wrecking ball of producers. If you have to rest 2 All Star’s, this lineup makes it feasible. However, let’s not do it again. Matt Adams has been a much better pinch hitter this year than starter and Jon Jay doesn’t need to be back in that leadoff spot when he has been killing pitching in the 6th hole.
5. Pete Kozma has 3 hits in August. That is why he will sit a lot of games. I don’t care about his better defense over Descalso at short. He has to get more hits or it’s like having 2 pitchers at the bottom of the lineup. He hasn’t produced anything lately except for the go ahead hit on getaway Sunday against the Cubs at Busch Stadium on August 11th. One of his 3 hits.
6. Matt Holliday has simply cooled off. In his last 5 games, he is 1-19. The average is back down to .283. Stop making comments about him hitting in the 3rd or 4th hole. He was good in the 4th spot with Albert in 2010 and 2011. He was good last year in the #3 spot. He came off the DL on July 27th and was hitting good. He isn’t hitting horribly. Getting bad luck line drives caught and getting out in front of pitches. He can hit in either spot and produce. He is a streaky hitter who recovered his season with a 3 week hot stretch. Hopefully he catches fire again soon.
That’s all I got. This Dose of Buffa on the Cardinals has reached it’s conclusion. Nice to see Yadi Molina collect 4 hits last night and a pair tonight to get back to .336. His bat is required to make the lineup run. Come back tomorrow for more thoughts that hopefully involve talking about a series win.
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-Listen in at redwolfrollcall.com tomorrow at 4pm for my hit on the Cards