There’s No Place Like Home

After a grueling season starting schedule of 26 games on the road out of 38, the Cardinals are finally getting an extended stay of home cooking.  Of the next 22 games, 19 will be at Busch Stadium.  That has to be a welcome relief for our Road Warriors.

The team struggled to end this long road schedule at .500.  As bad as many of the games were, and as disappointed as most of Cardinal Nation has been in the team’s performance thus far, that they managed not to slip significantly below .500 is miraculous.  Given the struggling offense, some below expectations performances of a couple of the stalwarts of the bullpen in Trevor Rosenthal and Carlos Martinez and inconsistent starts from Lance Lynn and Shelby Miller, it’s a wonder the Cardinals are still only looking up at the Brewers in the NL Central Division.

There have been signs that the offense is coming out of it’s slumber.  Allen Craig has been on a roller coaster ride with his hitting, stringing together a 5 game, .429 hitting streak at the end of April, only to sink into a 5 game, .100 hitting slump in the first week of May.  Craig hit .226 on this recent road trip, not great, but he does have his average up to a season high of .221.  Let’s hope this stretch of home cooking will fatten that average up.

Jhonny Peralta has been on a tear with the bat on this road trip, hitting .371 with a 1.079 OPS, adding two more HRs to bring his total up to 8.  The Cardinals have not seen this much production from the shortstop position since, well, I don’t remember when.  His defense has been okay too, better than I expected given his lack of range.

Both Yadier Molina and Matt Adams, the two Cardinals who have been hitting the ball during this extended slump, took something of a turn for the worse during the road trip.  Perhaps that is to be expected considering they were shouldering much of the burden of keeping the team in the game offensively.  Molina hit only .171 on the road trip; Adams hit a respectable. 273, but his OPS was down to .649, quite a drop from his .816 OPS in the month of April.

Much to my delight, as I am an unabashed Peter Bourjos fan (anyone who hasn’t figured that out has been living under a rock), Peter hit .389 with an OPS of 1.088 during the road trip.  He also made several out of this world catches in center field that had the faithful oohing and aahing.  See what consistent playing time will reward you with, Mike Matheny?  Are we going to see more of this, Mike Matheny?  I hope so.  Jon Jay is a nice guy and all, but he is what he is, a fourth outfielder.

The results are mixed but there is hope.  An extended time at home, and an offense that is tentatively showing signs of recovery.

As for the pitching, which has kept the team afloat, there are some chinks in the armor.  The starting rotation is holding its own, despite some inconsistent performances from Lance Lynn and Shelby Miller.  Miller has been under performing all season, having inconsistent command of his fastball, to practically no command of his secondary pitches.  What has caused this is unclear.  Perhaps an undisclosed nagging injury, perhaps something else entirely.

The bullpen has been a mixed bag.  Seth Maness, who struggled during Spring Training and the month of April, seems to be leveling out a bit.  Pat Neshek has been a pleasant surprise, I didn’t hold out much hope for him when he was signed, but he has performed well for the most part.  He does have an issue with inherited runners scoring, however, which needs to be watched.  Randy Choate has been Randy Choate, a few hiccups along the way, but for the most part solid.  Newcomer Eric Fornataro has done a credible job, but he will likely be on his way back to Memphis soon, with the return of Jason Motte to the roster.

Then there are The Big Three:  Kevin Siegrist, Carlos Martinez, and Trevor Rosenthal.  Siegrist has had a few cringeworthy moments, but his peripherals look very good, so I am not worried about him.  Carlos Martinez doesn’t look quite right, his strikeout rate is down, his walk rate is up, and his fastball looks flat.  Trevor Rosenthal worries me.  In addition to his velocity being down, his command is erratic.  He is walking more than 5 batters per 9, an alarming increase from the past two seasons.  He insists he feels fine, and I have no reason to believe he is fibbing, but something is amiss.

What will this extended home schedule bring?  Hopefully some life to the offense, and some improvement in the more worrisome signs from the pitching staff.  If the team can begin a run of winning games, and catch up to or pass the Brewers, that would go a long way into calming the fears of Cardinals fans that 2014 is not going to be the season they hoped it would be.

 

Thank you for reading.

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