Matthew Pouliot

Carlos Martinez

Cardinals miss Martinez even more than Molina

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After taking Game 1 of the NLDS in an outstanding performance from John Lackey, the Cardinals dropped three straight to the Cubs by scores of 6-3, 8-6 and 6-4. It’s not difficult at all to imagine a healthy Carlos Martinez swinging one of those games.

Martinez wasn’t the Cardinals’ best starter this year, but he was the one who could shut a team down by himself, with little help from the defense needed. Martinez struck out 184 batters in 179 2/3 innings while going 14-7 with a 3.01 ERA. He left his next-to-last regular season start with a shoulder strain that was going to cost him the entirety of the postseason no matter how far the Cardinals advanced. It was a killer blow for a team whose offense had already been slowed by injuries.

October just came at the wrong time for the Cardinals, what with Martinez down, Yadier Molina nursing a significant thumb injury, Matt Holliday and Randal Grichuk far from 100 percent and Adam Wainwright still weeks short of potentially pulling off a Marcus Stroman-like return to the rotation.

It’s Molina absence Thursday and lack of effectiveness otherwise that serve as a popular explanation/excuse for the Cardinals’ loss. And the downgrade from him to Tony Cruz behind the plate was huge, even if Molina is no longer the hitter he was a couple of years back.

Martinez, though, had the potential to even up the NLDS just by doing what he did in the regular season. And had Martinez been in the rotation, the Cardinals wouldn’t have moved up Lackey to start Game 4 on three days’ rest. They’d have been the clear favorites in a Game 5 Jon Lester-Lackey rematch back in St. Louis, though we’ll never know how that might have worked out.

Jake Arrieta beatable, but still unbeaten

Jake Arrieta
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Jake Arrieta gave up as many earned runs Monday against the Cardinals as he had in his previous 13 starts combined, yet the Cubs still won 8-6.

It’s the 15th straight time the Cubs have won a game started by Arrieta, who is set to finish first or second in the Cy Young balloting announced next month. Their last loss in an Arrieta-pitched game was when the Phillies’ Cole Hamels no-hit them on July 25. They won the previous four before that, too, so make it 19 of 20.

The outing could go down as Arrieta’s last of the season, though that would require the Cardinals beating the Cubs in back-to-back games to finish the NLDS. The more likely scenario at this point is that Arrieta starts Game 1 of the NLCS against the Dodgers or Mets.

Arrieta, though, was vulnerable in this one, turning in his shortest start since June. Even in the shutout of Pittsburgh in the wild card game, the Pirates had chances in the middle innings (most notably before Starling Marte‘s well-hit grounder with the bases loaded turned into a double play in the sixth).

Tonight, he walked two in a row at one point, after not walking a single batter in his previous three starts. He gave up his first homer in six starts. The wind was a factor in tonight’s eight-homer barrage, but Jason Heyward‘s two-run shot off Arrieta went against the grain in left-center.

So, if nothing else, the illusion of impenetrability is now gone. Arrieta can be gotten to, if primarily in short bursts. That’s not going to do anything for the Cardinals — at least not unless Arrieta is called on to pitch an inning or two in Game 5 — but it’ll probably come into play later in the postseason.

Thanks to Chase Utley, we’ve finally reached the tipping point

utley
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Through the first four days of LDS play, we’ve seen:

This comes a few weeks after Pirates infielder Jung Ho Kang, who never had to worry about such slides while playing in Korea, suffered a broken leg of his own when the Cubs’ Chris Coghlan took him out.

If you follow me on twitter, well, then I probably owe you an apology. But you know getting rid of the takeout slide is a running theme of mine. Heck, here’s a blog entry on the subject from six years ago. I’m glad MLB addressed collisions at home plate when they did, but eliminating the takeout slide on double plays really should have been more of a priority.

Now, because of Chase Utley, it’s really going to happen.

It was only a matter of time anyway. Teams invest too much in players to want to see them get hurt, and takeout slides aren’t just dangerous for the infielder, but for the player doing the sliding as well. The players themselves can’t take the step to get rid of them; it’s a peer-pressure thing. The umpires won’t do anything about it, even though slides designed to take out fielders are already illegal in the eyes of the rulebook. It’s up to MLB to take the stand. They actually already did in the Arizona Fall League, which is where they like to try their experimental rules before implementing them elsewhere.

So, yeah, this was going to happen with or without Chase Utley. But now it has a realistic chance of happening next year, which is something I wouldn’t have thought possible a few days ago. So, thank you, Chase. It’s just too bad it took a broken leg to build the sentiment.