are riding a four game winning streak and will try to make it five tonight at Busch
when they take on the San Francisco Giants
in the second game of a four game set.
Last night the Cards blew the Giants out despite the presence of Matt Cain on the mound, holding it close early and then opening the game up in the later innings to the tune of an eight run outburst overall. Early on it looked like the game could be a real nail-biter, with the most notable play coming when Belt ran on Beltran (I'm really proud of that stupid line, just in case you were wondering), and was thrown out at second base.
Carlos Beltran served as pretty much a one-man wrecking crew between the outfield assist that took Brandon Belt off the bases and a solo home run to tie the score at one, Jon Jay did his best Tony Gwynn impression, singling the Giants to death, and Matt Carpenter was awesome. Just like Matt Carpenter always is.
It all added up to an 8-2 win, and thanks to Milwaukee taking down the Reds at Miller Park, the Cards crept to within 6.0 games of the division leaders. It's still a pretty tall hill to climb, but certainly not insurmountable. Particularly in light of how the Cardinals are playing right now.
Tonight Lance Lynn
takes the mound against Barry Zito
, the man who still serves as one of the great cautionary tales of all time about handing out enormous contracts. (Though it doesn't seem like teams have necessarily taken the lesson to heart..)
Zito has not been particularly good against the Cards in his career; in eight starts against the Redbirds he is 1-6 with a 5.23 ERA. The Cardinals have battered him around to the tune of an .831 OPS against and a rather shocking 1.814 WHIP. (Yes, that's 1.8 baserunners per inning, kids.) Oddly enough, considering the fact they seem to have his number in such a big way, Zito has managed to strike out nearly a hitter per inning against the Redbirds in his career, with an 8.4 K/9. He's also given up just 3 home runs in 43 innings. So, if things hold true to form tonight -- and we should all cross our fingers and hope they do -- the Cardinals will not hit a home run, and Zito will strike out 6 in 6.0 innings, but they will collect 7 hits, 4 walks, and 4 runs off him. Roughly speaking, of course.
Zito did get knocked around in his last start against the Mets, but pitched decently in the month of July, and has actually looked more like his old self this season than he has in a while. Through the first month and a half of 2012 he was brilliant, but has significantly tailed off since.
The Redbird offense has been on a roll lately anyway; they've scored six or more runs in five of their last seven games, since the beginning of the Colorado series. Overall in that time they have plated 48 runs, an average of not quite 6.5 per game. The pitching has gotten most of the attention the past couple weeks for a run of very solid work, but the offense has gone above and beyond supporting the hurlers of late.
Lance Lynn, All-Star (I think that should be permanently affixed to his name), has been borderline brilliant for most of the season, with the lone real exception being a run in late June when he gave up 17 runs in 15.1 innings. His last two starts haven't been great, but in the three outings before those he had a 0.47 ERA.
Lynn has made only one start against the Giants in his career, and...it did not go particularly well. Lance actually made his major league debut against San Francisco last year, a start that saw him go 5.1 innings and give up 5 runs, all earned, most of which came in a semi-disastrous sixth inning that ended Lynn's day. Despite the loss and ugly ERA, Lynn struck out five, didn't walk a batter, and only allowed four hits. It isn't often you see a component line like that accompanying an 8.82 ERA, but it was kind of an odd game.
The Reds and Brewers go again in Milwaukee tonight; Cincinnati has Johnny Cueto on the mound, while the Brew Crew counters with Mike Fiers. Fiers has been brilliant in his first major league season, with a 1.88 ERA entering play tonight, but I keep thinking he's due for some heavy regression; the guy just looks like a very mediocre pitcher to me. Cueto, on the other hand, has been outstanding this season, and just flat-out is an outstanding pitcher, despite his rather cowardly back-kicking proclivities. I'm really hoping Fiers holds off on that whole regressing thing for at least one more night; the Cardinals could use another Cincy loss in the worst way.
It's a very winnable game tonight for the Redbirds, with a favorable pitching matchup and an offense that has been very hot of late. The Reds are a good team but have to come back to earth a little eventually, and the Pittsburgh Pirates have looked vulnerable lately. Beating up on Barry Zito and continuing to push up the standings should be very possible. Fingers crossed, anyway.