It’s amazing how fast things can go dark at a baseball game. Less than 24 hours after winning their 5th series in a row, the Cards get blasted for 6 runs in the first inning and everybody steps onto the ledge at Busch and tries to jump off. So many bandwagon fans get their name because they can’t understand the effect of one game. The 10-0 loss tonight is one game and its over with. The Cards are 22 games over .500 and still in first place. Anyone expecting the Reds to roll over, play dead and cough up a sweep doesn’t know that team. They came out tonight, dominated and did so against our best pitcher. They made a statement, got back into the race and redefined why baseball is the toughest sport to follow. Every night, things can change and momentum can be turned over to a different team. Celebrations last less than 24 hours and one player’s actions can turn a team’s tempo and mood around.
I am talking about Brandon Phillips. Sure, his pregame antics had the look of a spoiled child firing back venom at a harmless reporter doing his job. After the first 2 innings, you saw how maybe his words set a fire under the Reds and had them winning this game handily before the Cards took an at bat. I could be wrong but Phillips is well known for getting under the skin of Cardinals fans and acting as a true nemesis to our team. Honestly, I like Phillips, think he is a helluva 2B and likes to stir the pot for the love of the game. His attack on the scribe was uncalled for, but a week from now may be seen in Cincinnati as the breaking point the Reds needed to get out of that ghost mode they seemed to fall into for two days. Making errors like the Cubs and sleepwalking through important games wasn’t on the agenda for the fiery defending NL Central champs. They have a chip on their shoulder and want to contend. Walt Jocketty had to leave St. Louis with a little pep in his step. Beat our ace in vicious style, get the last word and hop on the bus out of town on a higher note than you were last night. It’s one game in the standings but for the Reds may have been a jump start.
Adam Wainwright got shelled. So what? It happens. Felix Hernandez gave up 8 runs today. Waino gave up 9. He hit the mound and never looked comfortable until he struck out his only two batters of the night with the bases empty and down 9-0. He lasted 2 innings, didn’t throw 60 pitches and offered no excuses. He is an ace and knows the drill. He lost the game before it ever started. Opposing pitcher Homer Bailey was sharp and took the cushion and turned it into a win. What I don’t need to see is fans jumping on Waino’s last start as reasoning behind his bad outing. It is so easy to say, “well, he threw 128 pitches on Friday, so maybe he is just tired and out of energy tonight”. That’s not a crazy statement but a typical defense. A more logical approach is noting his command was off, the Reds put together some hits, and jumped on the Ace early. If the Padres jump you for 9 runs, be a little worried. If the Reds do it, just accept defeat. Waino got shelled at home in the first inning by the Cubs in July, giving up 4 in route to a loss. Tonight was worse by far but teams know the time to get Waino is early if his command is off. It wasn’t a result of Friday’s performance. He routinely throws 110-115 pitches per start. Tonight, his stuff wasn’t good enough and a good hitting team pounced. Figuring out the mechanisms and recovery of pitchers even in this day and age is a tired task and shouldn’t get much attention. Take it as it is and roll on.
Michael Wacha made a statement tonight for a start next week by pitching 4 innings and striking out 7, including 2 of Phillips. Wacha was the fireman tonight, coming in and cooling off the red hot bats of Cincy and telling Cardinal nation how bright the future is with him in it. Tyler Lyons was solid on Monday but Mike Matheny must take a hard look at Tuesday’s start. Reds hitters hadn’t seen Wacha yet this year but sure looked fooled by his heat propelled fastball and decent dishes of breaking balls. In my opinion, if Mo doesn’t want to hit the waiver wire for another starter, Wacha could provide you with impact starts down the stretch or at the very least, give you some action on Tuesday. Lyons and Carlos Martinez will be here anyway but Wacha deserves a start. He has looked very good in short and long duty in the bullpen.
The bats were silent. Regulars were out of the game before the mid point. Pete Kozma played left field. Yadi Molina probably got into street clothes after the 7th inning. David Freese ordered IMOS in the 8th inning. Pete Kozma played left field. Matt Holliday was chalking his hands for a workout in the 9th inning. All of this is comedic speculation(it’s okay to laugh Cardinal nation) but it’s safe to say this was a weird chaotic night at Busch Stadium. Rough for fans in attendance and easy for the ones sitting at home to turn off or mute. Sure we were capable of a comeback but it became apparent that wasn’t in the cards(on a roll now). Baseball gods don’t care what you did last night. Every game is a challenge, even for the esteemed Cardinal franchise that has dominated at home during the second half.
Cardinals fans think we have to win every night. Any blowout is just wrong and can’t be handled by 3/4 of the fanbase. This is what happens when your organization is built on the expectation of excellence. A night after proclaiming victory of the United Nations on August 27th, get on twitter tonight and you will hear from a heavy majority of the Best Fans in Baseball(not really) that this team in a freefall. That is not true. The Cards are fine. They got beat up and dropped for a knockout. They will get back up, get on a plane and head to Pittsburgh for another big series. With a half game separating the division lead, every series is big. Every game matters. If you face a fellow contender, the challenge will be stiff. If you face a bad team, all you have is a spoiler wrecking ball in your path. Every night will bring no guarantee of a happy ending. If you want a happy ending, watch An Officer and A Gentleman. Watch When Harry Met Sally. Don’t watch baseball too closely because it, and sports as a whole, will break your heart. That’s part of the experience.
This is why I admire people like my dad who can watch and easily let a bad loss go by doing something else for the rest of the night. I don’t have to explain in detail that tonight’s game made me grumpy and a slight bore. My wife made a great homemade pulled pork pizza and I said it was good without further feedback. She was in a good mood and I was in a flat one. She talked proudly about our son, who played like a silent heroic ninja 23 month old with his train set for 2 hours, and I felt like going to the basement to do laundry and lose a staring contest with the wall. When the Cards lose, I let it get personal but I don’t lose sight of logic.
Tonight’s loss was rough but only counts as one. Adam Wainwright will take the hill again in Cincinnati next week for revenge and this team will let the big dog eat at the plate soon enough. Mike Matheny will smile in a few days and September will take us into the final painful stretch of games.
I can tell you Fernando Salas doesn’t have to pitch another game in a Cardinals uniform but Matheny has a bond with him like he did with Boggs and will find a way to get him into games. Remember that piece of corn stuck in your teeth for hours. That’s Salas. He threw 2 innings tonight and allowed a home run because what is a Salas appearance without an earned run allowed. He has no business on this team(words of my fine Cards friend Carlin) but keeps coming back. When I think of Fernando Salas, I think of the Cards in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series. He. Just. Won’t. Go. Away.
What else? The light will shine tomorrow morning. Skies will be blue by noon. The game of baseball will leave one black and blue for it shall always know what is best for you. Now you see what lopsided losses do to me.
Keep in mind the Pirates play tomorrow and if they win, the series starting on Friday will begin with a tie for first place. What other way could we have it? All I can say is the Cards owe the Pirates a beatdown in their own park so Pittsburgh better go pick up its shoe shine box.
This was more of an old fashioned rant than a thoroughly thought out game wrap up. Exactly what a BLOG is for. Thanks for reading and enjoy the day free of Cardinals baseball fueled pain tomorrow because it is one of the last idle days of the summer for the Rogues in Red.
Your United Cardinal Bloggers correspondent,
“They never said it was going to be easy.”-Mike Shannon
Read my interview with fellow U.C.B. writer Bill Ivie and other Q & A sessions right here for different representations of Cardinal love.