Tag: St. Louis Cardinals

Kris Bryant

And That Happened: Monday’s Scores and Highlights


Cubs 2, Indians 1: Jon Lester was close to a complete game shutout but Carlos Santana had different ideas when he hit an RBI double in the ninth. No worries, though, because the Cubs are covered in pixie dust this year and Kris Bryant used it to hit a walkoff homer to give the Cubs their 20th win in their last 24 games. The Cubs would lead four of the six divisions in baseball this year. They’re in third place in the NL Central.

Yankees 1, Astros 0: Another walkoff, though a tad lest dramatic given that it was a sac fly. Not that this wasn’t an exciting game given that you had two pitchers — Nate Eovaldi and Scott Feldman — tossing eight shutout innings against each other. This could easily be an ALDS matchup. If so, and something like this happened in October, such a game would be an instant classic.

Mets 16, Phillies 7: Welcome back David Wright! Wright homered in his return from over four months on the disabled list. Not that he was alone here: Mets batters had 15 extra-base hits including eight home runs. Lost in this is Jacob deGrom giving up seven runs on eight hits and failing to escape the third inning, but I feel like that’s OK on a night like this.

Braves 5, Rockies 3: Yesterday, after I wrote that thing about team chemistry, I made some jokes on Twitter about how if chemistry matters so much why isn’t Team Leader and Super Chemistry Guy Jonny Gomes leading the Braves to victory after victory. Overall he isn’t, of course, but in this one he did, driving in three including a three-run homer. The Braves snap a seven-game losing streak. Maybe Gomes was the spark for that here, but I suppose playing the team that now has the worst record in baseball will do that for you too.

Reds 12, Tigers 5: This was a makeup game from an earlier rainout. The Tigers probably wish it had rained again. At least heading into the bottom of the sixth. At that time they had a 5-0 lead and things were just dandy. That’s when Buck Farmer ran out of gas and allowed three runs and was followed up by a bullpen which allowed seven more before the inning was over. Brandon Phillips drove in four runs with a home run and a triple in that inning as the Reds snap their nine-game losing streak. Joey Votto hit a two-run homer in the eighth to cap things off, but I assume his many critics in Cincinnati will say that was just garbage time, stat-padding work, not actually good baseball.

Pirates 5, Marlins 2: A couple of plunkings and a high inside from Marlins relievers which seemed more a function of incompetence than intent, though it did lead to one ejection. Both the plunkees ended up scoring too. Meanwhile J.A. Happ threw six scoreless innings as one of the best teams in baseball beat one of the worst.

Red Sox 5, White Sox 4: Sox win. Rusney Castillo was 3-for-4, homered and drove in all five of the Red Sox’ runs.

Royals 8, Orioles 3: Kris Medlen made his first start in almost two years and got the win, thanks to the Royals putting up a seven-spot after he left the game but while he was still the pitcher of record. Omar Infante tripled in two runs in that inning and scored on the same play thanks to a throwing error. The day before he was out trying to stretch a triple into an inside-the-park homer. In one day he has learned jiu-jitsu and the art of making your opponent beat himself.

Cardinals 5, Diamondbacks 3: Lance Lynn pitched in trouble all night but his defense bailed him out with four double plays, including one with Paul Goldschmidt at the plate with one out and the bases loaded. Overall Arizona stranded 11 runners.

Athletics 11, Mariners 5: Another club with a big inning, this time the A’s with a seven-run fifth. Oakland was down 5-0 at the time but a Danny Valencia homer and two Stephen Vogt doubles helped them claw back.

Matt Adams could rejoin the Cardinals around September 1

St. Louis Cardinals' Matt Adams, center, walks off the field after being checked on by Cardinals trainer Chris Conroy, left, and manager Mike Matheny after an injury during the fifth inning of a baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks Tuesday, May 26, 2015, in St. Louis. Adams left the game after injuring his right leg while running out a double. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Good news here for the Cardinals, who began Monday’s action with a 3 1/2 game lead over the Pirates in the National League Central.

Adams has been out since May 26 with a full tear of his right quad. The injury required surgery and was originally expected to end his season, but he began ramping up baseball activities earlier this month. He could begin a minor league rehab assignment as soon as Tuesday.

With the injuries to Adams and Matt Holliday, the Cardinals acquired Brandon Moss from the Indians before the trade deadline. The 31-year-old has batted just .170 with zero homers and a .491 OPS over 54 plate appearances while splitting time between first base and left field. Adams disappointed to the tune of a .243/.281/.375 batting line over 43 games prior to the injury, but his return could give Matheny an appealing alternative.

Let’s all argue about team chemistry again

Giants Celebration

Team chemistry arguments are pretty played out. Yet people still try to turn team chemistry discussions into zero sum arguments and employ caricatures and straw men of their perceived opponents in the debate to make their case. It’s almost always baseball writer driven, of course, and the latest example comes from Bob Nightengale of USA Today.

It’s the usual fare. A story of people talking about chemistry after the fact rather than before the fact (please find me an example, anywhere, where “good chemistry” stories appeared in newspapers before the winning, not vice-versa, and no, standard spring training optimism stories don’t count). A story in which the writer has a preconceived notion about team chemistry and finds several players who give him quotes which fit into those preconceived notions. Quotes like this one from John Lackey:

“It’s really undervalued,’’ St. Louis Cardinals veteran starter John Lackey told USA TODAY Sports, “especially in today’s world with all of the numbers guys.”

We can put all kinds of numbers on players’ talent, from RBI to WAR, to ERA to FIP, but when it comes to the heart and soul of a clubhouse, there remains no measuring stick.

“The numbers guys can’t quantify that one,’’ Lackey said, “so they don’t want to believe in it.’’

John Lackey, by the way, was a big part of the “Chicken and Beer” Red Sox of 2011. Back then he said this in response to all of the media people who claimed that team’s collapse was all about bad chemistry:

“Guys having a beer after their start has been going on for the last 100 years,’’ Lackey said. “This is retarded. It’s not like we were sitting up there doing it every night. It’s not even close to what people think.’’

What about reports of players drinking in the dugout? “They [media] just see how far they can go,’’ he said. “That’s just a flat-out lie.’’

Is he willing to acknowledge that mistakes were made? “I guess. Sure. They’re being made in every clubhouse in the big leagues, then. If we’d have made the playoffs, we’d have been a bunch of fun guys.’’

Which is absolutely true. A few better pitching performances a few more wins and the Sox would’ve been in the playoff lottery, the Chicken and Beer Brigade being just as famous as the 2004 Idiots.

Giants pitcher Jake Peavy had this to say:

“We’re in a game today where everybody wants to think they can formulate, or come up with some kind of number,’’ says Giants starter Jake Peavy, who like Lackey, has won World Series titles with two organizations. “You turn on some of these baseball shows, and nobody wants to talk about the San Francisco Giants, because numbers can’t explain how we won last year.

“They don’t want to talk about clubhouse chemistry.”

You can place some numbers on that, Jake. Numbers like 2-0, 1 save, 0.43 ERA, 21 IP, K/BB ratio of 17/1, 9 hits allowed. That’s Madison Bumgarner’s World Series line. Or how about 2.17? That’s your own ERA after coming over to the Giants in a trade, significantly improving a battered pitching staff down the stretch. Or 8? That’s the number of position player starters the Giants had with an OPS+ over 100. Or 1: the number of managers they have who are considered the best in the game today. Or “many” being the number of people who have come to believe that Brian Sabean is among the best at filling holes on seemingly flawed teams and turning them into winners when it matters. Chemistry may be nice, but talent, in all of its forms, matters more.

And the distribution of talent across the season matters. Baseball is not a 25-man vs. 25-man contest in real time. Matchups matter and Bruce Bochy is really good at making sure he matches up better than you most of the time. Timing matters too. People like to talk about how, say, the Dodgers have more talent than the Giants. Maybe so over the course of 162 games last season or this season. But in world where ten teams make the playoffs, the overall talent discussion is irrelevant. Who, among those ten teams, plays better in October is what determines which team wins the World Series and the Giants performance in October has been a function of applied talent over a short period of time in three of the past five seasons, not chemistry. Unless, that is, you think Madison Bumgarner’s heroics last year, Pablo Sandoval’s .500/.529/1.125 line in the 2012 World Series or Edgar Renteria hitting .412 with two homers in 2010 was all a function of good vibes. Good players — of whom have a track record for high-level performance and an extraordinary amount of talent — are why the Giants have a fist full of World Series rings.

But, as is often the case, the pro-chemistry people will likely respond to me with some variation on “you never played the game so you don’t know.” Well, they’re right. So let me defer to my cosmic associate. His name is Jim Leyland, and he knows a thing or two about baseball. Here’s what he said to the Washington Post’s Adam Kilgore 2010 when asked about how Pudge Rodriguez was aiding the Washington Nationals’ team chemistry:

“Take all that clubhouse [stuff] and all that, throw it out the window. Every writer in the country has been writing about that [nonsense] for years. Chemistry don’t mean [anything]. He’s up here because he’s good. That don’t mean [a hill of beans]. They got good chemistry because their team is improved, they got a real good team, they got guys knocking in runs, they got a catcher hitting .336, they got a phenom pitcher they just brought up. That’s why they’re happy.”

Those brackets hide a lot of references to horse excrement in case you’re not familiar with Mr. Leyland’s patois.

I’ve said this 100 times before and I’ll say it 100 times again. Working with people you like is way better than working with people you don’t like. Having guys in the clubhouse who make your life and job better is always preferable to having guys who make it work. I’ll even grant, based on the testimony of players I have spoken to, that there is at least some intangible yet real benefit if everyone is happy an gelling. I’d always try to get rid of bad seeds if I ran a team, at least as long as their bad seeding was not outweighed by seriously outstanding on-the-field play.

But good chemistry doesn’t make teams win. Good chemistry is a product of winning. And bad chemistry is, very, very often, a product of guys reacting poorly to losing (just ask Cole Hamels about that). To suggest that the “numbers guys” are mistaken when they say that talent trumps that stuff is just bunk.

And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

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Blue Jays 12, Angels 5: The Angels are skidding out of it, losing four in a row and falling into third place behind the Rangers. Here the Jays do what the Jays do best: bash the hell out of the opposition. They even spotted the Angels a four-run lead after an inning. I guess you need a handicap sometimes. Edwin Encarnacion went 4-for-4 with a homer and four RBI and the Blue Jays are now back in first place in the AL East. The Jays scored 36 runs in the three-game series.

Indians 4, Yankees 3: Francisco Lindor had three hits including the go-ahead homer in the eighth off of Dellin Betances of all people. He homered and had three hits on Saturday too. Bad news for the Yankees, apart from the fact that they lost this game, was that CC Sabathia was forced to exit in the third inning with right knee pain. That’s the knee he had surgery on last year, ending his 2014 season. He’s going to have an MRI, but he’s almost certain to hit the disabled list. That’ll leave the Yankees with a rotation of Tanaka, Eovaldi, Nova, Severino and Pineda. Which, um, not to be rude or anything, consists of five starters, all of whom have been better than Sabathia this year. Though the big man has had a couple of decent starts this year, maybe this is a blessing in disguise. Or, at the very least, a sink-or-swim moment for the Bombers’ rotation.

Rangers 4, Tigers 2: The Rangers take three of four from a Tigers team which, for half a second, thought it might be righting the ship. Nah. Cole Hamels allowed two runs on eight hits over six innings and Mike Napoli and Chris Gimenez homered. Funny sequence here as Adrian Beltre got ejected for arguing balls and strikes from the dugout. Except Beltre claimed it wasn’t him barking, it was Prince Fielder. Who, quite conveniently, had the day off yesterday. Even Fielder, quite conveniently, claimed it was him barking. Beltre:

“My teammate over there (Fielder) was the one who said something — he even said, ‘It was me, 84,’ but I guess I was the ugly one and got thrown out,” Beltre said. “I don’t know if he confused 84 with 29, we’re always wrong, the players. Umpires are always right.”

Then manager Jeff Banister was ejected for arguing and for not sending Beltre out of the dugout following his ejection. All kinds of lulz here, made all the funnier when you’re winning the game.

Diamondbacks 4, Reds 0: The Reds get swept, losing their ninth straight game. Chase Anderson threw shutout ball into the seventh inning. Not bad for a guy who was optioned to the minors on Tuesday and only was in this one because Jeremy Hellickson got hurt. But then again, it may be harder to face a Triple-A team than the Reds right now. At least the Triple-A team hasn’t given up.

Phillies 2, Marlins 0: Trading away all the guys who made the Phillies great for a few years has really sucked, but Phillies fans have to be at least somewhat optimistic about the future when they see stuff like Aaron Nola pitch eight dominant innings. Three hits, no runs and only one opposing runner advancing beyond first base. That’s the thing about a last place year: there’s always something to latch on to. Something that let’s you say “you know, it’s gonna be better.” And even if it doesn’t get better for a while, I think some of the purest joy of being a major league baseball fan is seeing some young kid come up and figure it out in the bigs. Some days he’s lost, some days he’s not, but when he puts a nice outing together like this, you don’t think about the losses. You don’t think about contracts and possible trades. You just think “look at this kid!” There’s always another kid to give you hope like that.

Twins 4, Orioles 3: Manny Machado was a shortstop prospect, but found his home at third base thanks to a combination of injuries and J.J. Hardy being too good to move off the position. Yesterday, after some substitutions, he played short for the first time in the bigs, taking the position in the twelfth inning and it cost Baltimore when he misplayed an Eduardo Escobar grounder, allowing Escobar to reach second base. Then Jimmy Paredes, playing Machado’s usual position at third base, made an error which allowed the go-ahead and eventual winning run to score. Hardy is hitting the DL now thanks to a groin injury. Miss U already, J.J. The Twins sweep the O’s in the four-game series.

Royals 8, Red Sox 6: The Royals mounted a four-run rally when they were down two in the ninth to win 8-6. Could’ve been more but leadoff hitter Omar Infante was thrown out at home trying to stretch a triple into an inside-the-park homer. Junichi Tazawa probably think he dodged a bullet with that, but three of the next four batters singled and then Eric Hosmer knocked in two of them in with yet another single. Following a walk, Mike Moustakas doubled in two more. Moustakas had four RBI on the day with an earlier RBI double and a homer as well.

Nationals 9, Brewers 5: On Friday Yunel Escobar collided with a fan while tracking down a foul ball and hurt his neck. That caused him to be out of this game, allowing Danny Espinosa to hit a three-run, go-ahead double in the third inning. Anthony Rendon and Wilson Ramos homered. The Nats are still five games back, though, because the Mets . . .

Mets 5, Rockies 1: . . . won their third in a row, sweeping the Rockies. Logan Verrett, making a spot start for Matt Harvey, looked a lot like Matt Harvey, at least in the box score, allowing one run over eight innings, striking out eight. Only five runs for the Mets after scoring 28 in the previous two games, though. Must be slippin’.

Astros 3, Dodgers 2: Jason Castro smacked a walk-off homer in the bottom of the tenth. This was the Astros’ fourth walkoff win in eight games. More importantly, it was the series sweep over the Dodgers, keeping their lead in the West at four over the surging rangers and five and a half over the other Los Angeles team.

Cubs 9, Braves 3: Five homers for the Cubs, two of which came off of Kris Bryant’s bat. Dexter Fowler, Miguel Montero and Kyle Schwarber went yard as well. A scary moment here, however, as a fan was sent to the hospital after being hit by a foul ball. The second such incident in as many days.

Athletics 8, Rays 2: It was a close game until the bottom of the seventh when the A’s put up a seven-spot. Makes me think of a 7 and 7, which I remember my parents making for people at weird parties they held in the 70s but which I’m pretty sure no one drinks anymore. Hell, you can hardly find 7-Up anyplace anymore. What the hell happened to 7-Up? It was the un-cola.

Mariners 8, White Sox 6: Robinson Cano had a two-run homer and Nelson Cruz drove in two with a double. The M’s avoid a three-game sweep. Cano on why it’s nice to avoid a three-game sweep with a Sunday win:

“Like I told the guys in the dugout, it’s good to end it up with a happy Sunday,” Cano said. “You can have a nice evening. You don’t have to go to bed and, `What do we have to do win a game?”

Better yet, you can avoid a case of the Mondays.

Cardinals 10, Padres 3: Four runs in the first inning are all the Cards would need but they added six more anyway. Stephen Piscotty homered twice and drove in five. The Cards avoid a sweep and a case of the Mondays too.

Pirates 5, Giants 3: The Pirates scored three first-run innings off of Ryan Vogelsong and never trailed. Homers from Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez gave them a greater margin for error later. Not that they needed it. The Giants scored two unearned runs and the Pittsburgh bullpen allowed jack squat from the sixth inning on. The Pirates are only three and a half games back of the Cardinals now.