Tagged: A.J. Burnett

Lackey Leads Cards To 4th Straight Win

Kolten Wong celebrates with teammates after scoring to put them ahead by a pair of runs.

Kolten Wong celebrates with teammates after scoring to put them ahead by a pair of runs.

The St. Louis Cardinals were 3-1 winners over the Arizona Diamondbacks last night, running their winning streak up to 4 games.

John Lackey improved to 11-8, throwing a steady 7 innings of work, allowing 1 run on 7 hits and a walk. Lackey served up a solo homer to slugger Paul Goldschmidt in the 1st and then tossed 6.1 shutout innings to finish off his day.

Kolten Wong‘s RBI double in the 7th inning broke a 1-1 tie and Matt Carpenter‘s RBI single plated Wong to pad the lead.  Since taking three games off to get his head straight, Wong has three hits in the last two nights.

Trevor Rosenthal picked up his 40th save of the season, joining Pirates closer Mark Melancon in that club. Rosenthal is out this weekend on paternity leave with his wife scheduled to be induced into labor tomorrow.

The Redbirds got more solid defense, turning 3 double plays.

Highlights

* * * * * * * * *

The Pittsburgh Pirates scored 6 in the 2nd inning en route to an easy 7-2 win over the Miami Marlins, winning for the 11th time in their last 14 games.

Andrew McCutchen had a pair of extra-base hits – his 20th homer and 32nd double – driving in 4 runs.

Jeff Locke (W 7-8) went 7 innings, allowing a pair of runs on 5 hits and a walk.  It snapped a 6-game streak in which Locke had failed to escape the 6th inning.  He had gone 1-2 with a 6.39 ERA in that stretch.

The Bucs remain 4.5 games back of the Cardinals in the NL Central.  September should provide plenty of drama with those two teams battling for the division title.

Highlights

* * * * * * * * *

The Chicago Cubs fell back to even in their series with the San Francisco Giants, falling 4-2 and snapping a 6-game winning streak.

Buster Posey hit an RBI double over the head of Chris Coghlan in right field to break a 2-2 tie in the 6th.

Kyle Schwarber and Kris Bryant each had a double and single, with Bryant driving in a pair of runs to give the Cubs a 2-0 lead in the 1st.

Even with the loss, the Cubs are still 21-5 in their last 26 games.

Highlights

* * * * * * * * *

Pirates starting pitcher A.J. Burnett is feeling well after throwing a two inning simulated game and is hopeful to be back soon. He’s scheduled to throw another simulated game – this time three innings – on Sunday as he tries to work his way back into the rotation for the postseason run.

The often entertaining Adam Bittner of the Post-Gazette had a nice write-up on the use of Pirates “first baseman” Pedro Alvarez. Check it out over there.

Jeff Sullivan at Fangraphs.com wrote up 23-year-old Pirates outfielder Gregory Polanco, focusing on his improved handling of southpaws. Last year, Polanco had a slash line of .171/.222/.244 against left-handed pitchers. This year? .214/.275/.321. Still not great, but improving. FYI: His numbers against RHP are pretty similar between last year and this. By the way, both Polanco and Alvarez sat last night against the left-handed Chris Narveson. Read it.

Anthony Castrovince takes a look at 2015’s Most Impactful MLB Managers and, wouldn’t you know it, 3 of the top 6 are from the NL Central. The Bucs’ Clint Hurdle comes in at #6, the Cards’ Mike Matheny at #4 and the Cubs’ Joe Maddon is #1. Read it at Sports On Earth.

* * * * * * * * *

Joey Votto continues to have a monster season, upping his on-base percentage yet another 10 points this past week to hit .446 at the top of the NL Central Leader Board.

In 14 games played since August 12th, Votto has a .571 OBP to go along with a .372 AVG, .837 SLG, 1.409 OPS, 5 HR and 5 2B. That’s spanning 63 plate appearances. Unreal.

* * * * * * * * *

Division Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 81 45 W4
Pittsburgh Pirates 76 49 4.5 W1
Chicago Cubs 73 52 7.5 L1
Milwaukee Brewers 53 74 28.5 L4
Cincinnati Reds 52 73 28.5 L2

Wild Card Standings

W L GB
Pittsburgh Pirates 76 49 +3.0
Chicago Cubs 73 52
San Francisco Giants 67 59 6.5
Washington Nationals 63 62 10.0

* * * * * * * * *

Schedule

69-56 Dodgers Greinke (13-3, 1.67)
52-73 REDS DeSclafani (7-9, 3.97)
11:35 AM CT
73-52 CUBS Haren (8-8, 3.76)
67-59 Giants Bumgarner (15-6, 3.02)
2:45 PM CT
76-49 PIRATES Cole (14-7, 2.49)
51-76 Marlins Nicolino (2-1, 3.77)
6:10 PM CT
81-45 CARDINALS Martinez (12-6, 2.85)
62-64 Diamondbacks De La Rosa (11-5, 4.32)
8:40 PM CT

* * * * * * * * *

NL Central Leaders

On-Base Percentage
Joey Votto (CIN) .446
Andrew McCutchen (PIT) .400
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) .396
Kris Bryant (CHC) .368
Jung Ho Kang (PIT) .364
WHIP
Johnny Cueto (CIN) 0.93
Jake Arrieta (CHC) 0.98
Jason Hammel (CHC) 1.09
Michael Wacha (STL) 1.12
Gerrit Cole (PIT) 1.13
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Top Three Winners Again

Kris Bryant hit another walk-off for the Cubs in a 2-1 win yesterday.

Kris Bryant hit another walk-off for the Cubs in a 2-1 win yesterday.

Well, this is starting to become quite routine, isn’t it?

I guess it shouldn’t surprise us, given that the top 3 in the division make up 3 of the top 4 teams in all of Major League Baseball, but still. Sometimes it seems ridiculous, but yet again we have The Big Three all coming out winners yesterday.

You start to wonder if the only time these teams lose is when they play each other.

Tell you what, let’s just throw the St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cubs into the playoffs by themselves.

They can each play a 3-game home series against each other, making up a 12-game schedule. Whoever finishes with the best record advances to the World Series. We cool with that?

Sorry, I realize there’s no definite way any of these three teams even makes the National League Championship Series, let alone wins it.

The playoffs are such a crap-shoot. This is why you’ll hear folks who are a bit longer in the tooth complain about the de-valuing of the 162-game regular season that comes about by introducing more teams into the postseason.

Also, the fact that I just used the phrase “long in the tooth” should tell you something about my own age and feelings on the matter.

But I digress.

What I’m really trying to say is that it would be immeasurably fun to watch these three teams go at it, head-to-head, in the playoffs.

What we may very well end up with instead is one of them being eliminated immediately in a best-of-1 Wild Card game. And then the two survivors could get swept in a best-of-5 National League Divisional Series because, hey, it’s three games. That’s a small sample size. Even the 1927 New York Yankees had a pair of 3-game losing streaks. It happens.

I just don’t want this season to end, that’s all.

RESULTS!

* * * * * * * * *

The Cardinals scored 3 in the 7th to snap a 2-2 tie, ending the Arizona Diamondbacks winning streak with a 5-3 victory.

Tommy Pham inside-outed a single through the right side with men on the corners to put the Cards ahead. Yadier Molina brought two more home with a base hit into right and the Cards didn’t look back.

Trevor Rosenthal picked up his 39th save while Lance Lynn improved to 10-8 on the season.

Lynn got some help on defense, turning 4 double plays to help limit the damage that could have been done by Arizona.

Injured first baseman Matt Adams (remember him?) is possible to return from the disabled list next week. He wasn’t exactly tearing it up when he was healthy (.243/.281/.375), so it will be interesting to see how the Cardinals handle his return, particularly when rosters are going to be expanding to 40-man soon anyhow. Then there’s still Matt Holiday, Randal Grichuk, Jordan Walden, Jon Jay

Highlights

* * * * * * * * *

Jon Lester pitched brilliantly for 8.2 innings, only to be undone by his inability to field a ground ball as the Cleveland Indians tied up the Cubs 1-1 in the top of the 9th.

No matter.

Kris Bryant stepped up and hit the walk-off to right with two out in the bottom of the 9th. It was the highly-touted rookie’s 20th long ball of the season.

Also, props to Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo who seems to make a highlight-reel fielding play every week. Yesterday afternoon, with a man on 1st, he sprinted in on a bunt in front of the plate down the first base line. Seeing the ball was going to roll foul, he slid along the line, stopping it from rolling foul so that he could scoop it up in fair territory and start a 3-6-4 double play. Amazing.

At the plate, Rizzo also had an RBI triple.

The Cubs also got some pretty slick fielding up the middle on other double plays, with Starlin Castro getting a start at short.

Chicago put right fielder Jorge Soler on the DL.  He’s expected back before the playoffs start, should the Cubs get there.  Soler has hit .265 with 7 HR and 42 RBI, striking out 111 times in 378 plate appearances.  It’s been a disappointing season, though he’s shown signs at times of snapping out of it.

It’s go time for the Cubs now, with a chance to really put some distance between themselves and the San Francisco Giants – they start a 3-game series in ‘Frisco this evening.

Highlights

* * * * * * * * *

The Pirates beat the Miami Marlins 5-2 with J.A. Happ putting up another strong outing since coming over at the trade deadline.

Happ (W 6-7) went 6 shutout innings, allowing 4 hits and a walk while striking out 6.

Gregory Polanco had a four-hit game, including a pair of doubles.

Mark Melancon notched his 40th save with a perfect 9th.

Things got a bit tense with Miami pitchers coming up and in on Pirate batters no fewer than 6 times. An ejection was eventually made with no apparent retaliation on the part of Pittsburgh’s pitchers. Just win, I guess.

It’s hard to know where to start when looking at the Pirates recent trends. They’ve won 6 of 7, 10 of 12, 14 of 18… Anyway you look at it over the past month or so, they’ve been hot.

Injured starting pitcher A.J. Burnett was scheduled to throw off a mound in a bullpen session yesterday in hopes of returning to the rotation.

Highlights

* * * * * * * * *

The Cincinnati Reds snapped a 9-game losing streak and are back in a virtual tie with the idle Milwaukee Brewers for last place in the division.

* * * * * * * * *

Some Leaderboard trends for you today.

Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli is up there now for the division batting title. Not so much that he’s been suddenly hitting the tar out of the ball. More that he’s playing so regularly that he now qualifies for the batting title. He has 382 plate appearances, exactly one more than he currently needs to qualify.

Pirates outfielder Starling Marte is on a 9-game hitting streak during which he’s hitting .375 with 6 extra-base hits.

And in his last 7 games, Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen has had five 2-hit games. He’s batting .357 over that time frame with 3 extra-base hits.

Those guys have been hot enough to push Rizzo, Cardinals outfielder Jason Heyward and Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips down in the leader board, but all three have actually hit well over the past week.

In his last two starts (small sample size alert!), Cardinals starting pitcher Carlos Martinez has a 5.56 ERA, allowing 14 hits in 11.1 innings of work. Martinez is at 148.2 innings this season, quite a bit more than last year’s mark of 112. Could he be starting to fray at the edges a bit? Something to keep an eye on during this stretch run, for sure.

* * * * * * * * *

Division Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 79 45 W2
Pittsburgh Pirates 75 48 3.5 W3
Chicago Cubs 72 51 6.5 W5
Milwaukee Brewers 53 72 26.5 L2
Cincinnati Reds 52 71 26.5 W1

Wild Card Standings

W L GB
Pittsburgh Pirates 75 48 +3.0
Chicago Cubs 72 51
San Francisco Giants 66 58 6.5
Washington Nationals 62 61 10.0
Arizona Diamondbacks 62 62 10.5

* * * * * * * * *

Schedule

67-56 Dodgers Wood (8-8, 3.79)
52-71 REDS Lamb (0-1, 6.35)
6:10 PM CT
53-72 BREWERS Peralta (4-7, 4.48)
58-66 Indians Tomlin (1-1, 2.03)
6:10 PM CT
75-48 PIRATES Morton (8-4, 4.06)
50-75 Marlins Hand (3-3, 4.46)
6:10 PM CT
79-45 CARDINALS Garcia (5-4, 1.79)
62-62 Diamondbacks Ray (3-9, 3.38)
9:10 PM CT
72-51 CUBS Arrieta (15-6, 2.30)
66-58 Giants Cain (2-3, 5.66)
9:15 PM CT

* * * * * * * * *

NL Central Leaders

AVG
Joey Votto (CIN) .309
Francisco Cervelli (PIT) .303
Andrew McCutchen (PIT) .297
Starling Marte (PIT) .292
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) .291
ERA
Jake Arrieta (CHC) 2.30
Gerrit Cole (PIT) 2.49
Johnny Cueto (CIN) 2.62
Michael Wacha (STL) 2.80
Carlos Martinez (STL) 2.85

Cards Lose Grichuk, Win Game

Brandons : Crawford of the Giants makes a bad decision as Moss slides into second

Brandons : Crawford of the Giants makes a bad decision as Moss slides into second

As first reported yesterday, the St. Louis Cardinals did end up placing rookie center fielder Randal Grichuk on the 15-day disabled list.

Grichuk, leading the team with a 141 OPS+ while batting .284 with 43 extra-base hits in 85 games, was diagnosed with a “low-grade sprained ligament in the (throwing) elbow” as well as a “low-grade muscle strain”.

Jason Heyward was moved from right to center field with Brandon Moss and Stephen Piscotty getting the starts at the corner outfield positions last evening.

But Heyward, too, was injured, leaving the game with a hamstring injury in the 3rd inning.

If he’s out for considerable time, that could mean Peter Bourjos and Tommy Pham splitting time in center.

It’s a patchwork situation for now, though Grichuk, LF Matt Holliday, 1B Matt Adams and OF Jon Jay are all possibilities to return from the DL by mid-September.

So don’t panic yet, Cardinals fans.

Oh, also, you just gained a game on the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Baseball Prospectus has the Red Birds at 99.7% locks to make the playoffs with an 80.4% chance to win the Central. Those are good odds.

* * * * * * * * *

Piscotty tripled and scored in the 8th inning last night, breaking a tie to give the Cardinals a 2-1 win over the San Francisco Giants.

With one out and Piscotty on 3rd base, the Giants elected to give Moss a free pass, setting up the inning-ending double play.

They appeared to have gotten just that when the slow-footed Mark Reynolds hit a grounder to shortstop Brandon Crawford.

Though the second baseman was there waiting for the flip to start a 6-4-3 DP, Crawford instead motioned as though he would flip the ball, pulled his arm back, ran to second for the force, pirouetted around to throw to first, and had his throw go wide of first and allowing Piscotty to score.

Trevor Rosenthal notched his 37th save of the year, ending the game by retiring pinch-hitter Buster Posey on a long fly out to Bourjos at the wall in right-center.

Michael Wacha took the ND, but went 7 innings and allowed just 1 run on 6 hits and a walk, striking out 6.

Heyward, by the way, is hitting .333 in his last 29 games.

Highlights

* * * * * * * * *

The Pirates were 4-1 losers at home to the Arizona Diamondbacks as Gerrit Cole continued to struggle in the second half, ending Pittsburgh’s 4-game winning streak.

Cole went 6.2 innings, allowing 4 runs on 9 hits and a walk, striking out 5. He fell to 14-7 with the loss.

He has yet to post a Game Score above 54 in his 4 August starts, posting a 4.70 ERA while allowing 27 hits in 23 innings.

Cole threw 160.1 innings last season between AAA and the Majors. He’s at 155.1 this season and keeps appearing as though he could really use a breather.

With the Bucs in the midst of a playoff race and with A.J. Burnett currently unavailable, it’s hard to see how they can squeeze that in, but Cole certainly seems off right now.

Highlights

* * * * * * * * *

Jake Arrieta of the Chicago Cubs has pitched 11 straight games with a Game Score north of 50, going at least 6 innings in each start.

Your division leader in ERA has posted a 9-2, 1.35 mark across that time span, allowing just 46 hits in 80 innings of work.

* * * * * * * * *

Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds has a modest 6-game hitting streak and is batting .403 across his last 24 games.

* * * * * * * * *

Division Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 76 42 W1
Pittsburgh Pirates 69 47 6.0 L1
Chicago Cubs 67 49 8.0 L1
Cincinnati Reds 51 65 24.0 L3
Milwaukee Brewers 51 69 26.0 L1

Wild Card Standings

W L GB
Pittsburgh Pirates 69 47 +2.0
Chicago Cubs 67 49
San Francisco Giants 64 54 4.0

* * * * * * * * *

Schedule

58-59 Diamondbacks Anderson (5-5, 4.31)
69-47 PIRATES Liriano (8-6, 3.19)
6:05 PM CT
71-46 Royals Volquez (11-7, 3.27)
51-65 REDS Iglesias (3-4, 4.70)
6:10 PM CT
56-61 Tigers Sanchez (10-10, 4.95)
67-49 CUBS Hammel (6-5, 3.10)
7:05 PM CT
48-70 Marlins Conley (1-0, 5.00)
51-69 BREWERS Cravy (0-4, 5.92)
7:10 PM CT
64-54 Giants Vogelsong (8-8, 4.15)
76-42 CARDINALS Lynn (9-7, 2.95)
7:15 PM CT

* * * * * * * * *

NL Central Leaders

AVG
Joey Votto (CIN) .310
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) .296
Andrew McCutchen (PIT) .292
Jason Heyward (STL) .287
Brandon Phillips (CIN) .285
ERA
Jake Arrieta (CHC) 2.39
Carlos Martinez (STL) 2.59
Gerrit Cole (PIT) 2.61
Michael Wacha (STL) 2.85
John Lackey (STL) 2.87

Weekend Recap

The Pittsburgh Pirates closed within 5 games of the division lead again, sweeping the New York Mets over the weekend.

It puts them right back where they were exactly one week ago. They haven’t been closer than 5 back since after the games of July 29th, when they pulled within 4.5 games.

The St. Louis Cardinals won 2 out of 3 against the Miami Marlins and the Chicago Cubs had a 9-game winning streak upended although they still defeated the cross-town Chicago White Sox 2 out of 3 as well.

In the Wild Card chase, everybody’s pre-season pick to win the whole she-bang, the Washington Nationals, are now below .500 as they have dropped 6 straight games. Sweeping them over the weekend was the San Francisco Giants, who are now just 3.5 games behind the Cubs for the 2nd Wild Card spot.

* * * * * * * * *

The Cardinals now take on the Giants at home for a 3-game set starting this evening. Puts the Pirates and Cubs in an interesting situation, for sure. Trying to win the division still? Gotta’ root for the Giants. Want to just make sure you make the playoffs? Root for the Cards.

The Red Birds then head West for a 10-game trip on the Pacific coast, finishing this week against the San Diego Padres.

The Bucs are in the midst of a stretch in which they must play every day for 20 straight days. This week they have a 7-game home-stand against the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Giants.

The Cubs are also at home for their next 7 games. They take today off, then play two against the Detroit Tigers, four against the Atlanta Braves and one make-up game against the Cleveland Indians.

* * * * * * * * *

Cardinals center fielder Randal Grichuk is expected to undergo an MRI today, checking out some problems with his right (throwing) elbow that forced him out of yesterday afternoon’s game.

A popular name in the NL Rookie of the Year race, the 23-year old Grichuk is hitting .284 with 21 doubles, 7 triples and 15 homers in 85 games. He leads the team with an OPS+ of 140, 9 points higher than Matt Carpenter.

* * * * * * * * *

The Post-Gazette reports that starting pitcher A.J. Burnett (8-5, 3.06) is close to pitching off of a mound again as he recovers from a flexor strain in his right elbow.

Also close to returning from the DL for Pittsburgh is the left side of their infield, with both Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer expected back soon after making recent rehab starts at AAA.

Tonight’s Pirate starting pitcher, Gerrit Cole, is an interesting watch to me. In three August starts, he’s 0-2 with a 4.41 ERA, failing to go more than 6 innings in any start.

In his 5 prior starts, he had gone at least 6.2 innings each time out.

Cole threw 160.1 innings of pro ball last year and is up to 148.2 right now, so he’s closing in on his previous high. Is he fatigued?

I’m interested to see if he can rebound against Arizona.

* * * * * * * * *

Division Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 75 42 L1
Pittsburgh Pirates 69 46 5.0 W4
Chicago Cubs 67 49 7.5 L1
Cincinnati Reds 51 65 23.5 L3
Milwaukee Brewers 51 68 25.0 W3

Wild Card Standings

W L GB
Pittsburgh Pirates 69 46 +2.5
Chicago Cubs 67 49
San Francisco Giants 64 53 3.5

* * * * * * * * *

Schedule

57-59 Diamondbacks Hellickson (8-8, 4.73)
69-46 PIRATES Cole (14-6, 2.48)
6:05 PM CT
64-53 Giants Heston (11-7, 3.38)
75-42 CARDINALS Wacha (14-4, 2.93)
7:09 PM CT
47-70 Marlins Nicolino (1-1, 4.86)
51-68 BREWERS Garza (6-12, 4.82)
7:10 PM CT

* * * * * * * * *

National League Ranks

Batting Pitching
St. Louis 8th 1st
Pittsburgh 4th 3rd
Chicago 7th 5th
Cincinnati 10th 10th
Milwaukee 11th 11th

Bucs Run Winning Streak To 7

Jung Ho Kang crushed a 3-run homer in the 1st inning of the Pittsburgh Pirates win last night.

Jung Ho Kang crushed a 3-run homer in the 1st inning of the Pittsburgh Pirates win last night.

The Pittsburgh Pirates have 2nd place in their sights now, moving a half game back of the Chicago Cubs after a 15-hit, 11-5 win over the San Diego Padres.

Starling Marte reached base three times and poked his 10th homer of the season, Andrew McCutchen had three hits with a pair of doubles, and Jung Ho Kang did this, crushing a three-run homer on a slider that didn’t slide and hung in the middle of the plate. Yow.

A.J. Burnett didn’t have his A game, allowing 5 runs (4 earned) and 10 base runners over just 5.2 innings of work, but he still improved to 5-1 on the year.

Ron Cook has a great profile on Pirates’ pitching coach Ray Searage over at the Post-Gazette. Read it over there.

* * *

Speaking of pitcher wins, if you haven’t been following Joe Posnanski‘s recent missives on that statistic, you should. It’s been good stuff. Here’s part 1, 2 and 3. I assume he’s reached his end, but Joe loves words, so I wouldn’t be surprised if more are coming today.

You’ll find Burnett atop the leader board for pitcher’s WAR down below. I had been doing RBI and Wins leaders on Fridays, but I just can’t excuse myself for doing that anymore. I’ll still give you some old school leaders (AVG and ERA) during the week, but I gotta’ mix some things in here a little. WAR isn’t a perfect statistic, of course, and sabermetricians will admit to that, but it’s still an interesting talking point and much more illuminating than RBI or W.

* * *

With the way Matt Adams was struggling, part of me can’t help but feel that his injury might actually lead to the St. Louis Cardinals improving, rather than scrambling to keep things together. You never root for a guy to get hurt, of course, but the team was likely going to commit to using him as their starting first baseman no matter how much he struggled this season. (Sure, there’s a point, like hitting .100 with no extra-base hits for two straight months.) This kind of forces their hand. Now the team has carte blanche for improving the position. Ideally the replacement comes from within the system, but I just don’t see any prospects who are going to do any better than a replacement level player. Let’s see what GM John Mozeliak has up his sleeve.

There are no indications that Matt Holliday would move from left fielder to first base.

* * *

There’s been some talk lately about what the Cubs should do about their prospects. Is it time to deal some of the bigger names in exchange for starting pitching that could really turn the team around? Is it time to call up Javier Baez to shore up problems with their defense up the middle? To the latter, I say perhaps. To the former, I say nay. The plan all along for the Cubs was that 2015 was going to be the year they started to content, but 2016 was kind of the first real push. You had to get a full season of play in the bank for guys like Kris Bryant and Addison Russell. Let them get their feet wet, then strike the free agent market for a big name (or two) this next off-season, and then go full throttle in ’16. Their good start is nice and all, but I think the team should stick to it’s initial vision. Status quo from here on out. Sure, you could net something huge for Dan Vogelbach, who is pretty well blocked from getting called up as long as Anthony Rizzo is putting up MVP numbers at first base. But you could also wait until this upcoming CBA and see whether or not the DH is coming to the National League in the next year or two as most people are predicting. If it is, Theo Epstein comes out clean, Vogelbach is your monster bat at DH, and nobody has to watch Jon Lester bat anymore.

* * *

Todd Rosiak has a nice feature story on Milwaukee Brewers reliever Jeremy Jeffress over at the Journal Sentinel. You Brewers’ fans should check it out over there.

* * *

NL Central Leaders

WAR (fielders)
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) 2.5
Todd Frazier (CIN) 2.3
Kolten Wong (STL) 1.8
Matt Carpenter (STL) 1.8
Jhonny Peralta (STL) 1.6
WAR (pitchers)
A.J. Burnett (PIT) 2.2
Michael Wacha (STL) 1.9
Gerrit Cole (PIT) 1.7
Johnny Cueto (CIN) 1.4
2-way tie 1.2

* * *

Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 31 16 W4
Chicago Cubs 25 21 5.5 L1
Pittsburgh Pirates 25 22 6.0 W7
Cincinnati Reds 19 27 11.5 L1
Milwaukee Brewers 16 32 15.5 L5

* * *

Schedule

28-18 Royals Volquez (4-3, 2.77)
25-21 CUBS Arrieta (4-4, 2.95)
3:05 PM CT
28-19 Nationals Strasburg (3-5, 6.50)
19-27 REDS DeSclafani (2-4, 3.46)
6:10 PM CT
21-25 Diamondbacks De La Rosa, R (4-2, 4.27)
16-32 BREWERS Nelson (2-5, 3.67)
7:10 PM CT
28-18 Dodgers Bolsinger (3-0, 0.71)
31-16 CARDINALS Lackey (2-3, 3.18)
7:15 PM CT
25-22 PIRATES Liriano, F (2-4, 3.86)
23-26 Padres Shields (6-0, 3.75)
9:10 PM CT

Cards Back To Winning

Matt Carpenter returned to the lineup and kicked ass again.

Matt Carpenter returned to the lineup and kicked ass again.

The St. Louis Cardinals had come off of their first day off in a while, having just played on 20 straight days.

Last night they picked up right where they left off, pounding the Cleveland Indians 8-3.

Lance Lynn, who seems to have a nice start with nothing to show for it most times out, went 6 shutout innings, striking out 9 while improving to 2-3 on the season. Oh, and it was his 28th birthday. Not a bad way to celebrate.

Matt Holliday homered (3rd) and drove in 4 runs.

Matt Carpenter returned to the lineup after last week’s bout with dehydration/fatigue/dizziness/lightheadedness/exhaustion/insomnia and did his usual 2015 thing, picking up 2 hits to up his season average to .336 and (of course) doubled again. It was Carp’s 15th double of the season. Earl Webb, look out.

Kolten Wong was granted his wish to bat leadoff and responded by going 0-for-5 with a pair of strikeouts.

There was one other issue to keep an eye on, as Yadier Molina left the game in the 9th with upper back stiffness. Yadi is hitting .276/.325/.343 with 7 doubles, having appeared in 28 of the Cards’ 32 games this season.

* * *

The much anticipated debut of New York Mets wunderkind Noah Syndergaard went well for 5 innings. But the Chicago Cubs got to the kid in the 6th inning, prompting a move to the bullpen and when the dust settled, the Northsiders had sent 10 men to the plate and scored 4 runs.

At the end of the day, Jake Arrieta (W 4-3) out-pitched Syndergaard, going 8 innings and allowing 1 run on just 3 hits and 2 walks, fanning 10.

Kris Bryant homered (3rd) for the third time in the last four games, reaching base four times. (He also tripled and walked twice.) So far, that move to the 2nd spot in the lineup has opened up the power game. You can argue that there’s no such thing as protection in the batting lineup, but since he moved ahead of Rizzo in the lineup, he’s been seeing a different assortment of pitches.

Anthony Rizzo drew a trio of walks and also had a hit.

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Yesterday we mentioned Josh Harrison‘s troubles. Most recently, he had just 1 hit in his last 25 at bats. Last night, he helped lead the way in a 7-2 win for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Harrison connected for a 3-run homer and another struggling Pirate, Andrew McCutchen also homered in the Bucs win over the Philadelphia Phillies.

A.J. Burnett, clearly motivated to be named to the 2015 NL Central Hub All-Division Team, improved to 2-1 with a sterling 1.60 ERA, allowing 1 earned run in 7 innings of work.

Perhaps turning a corner on the 2015 season, Cutch is now hitting .385 in his last 7 games.

That’s four straight wins now for the Pirates.

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A walk-off win for the Cincinnati Reds over the Atlanta Braves, as Devin Mesoraco‘s double ended the game.

Mesoraco, who has been unable to resume catching duties came through as a pinch hitter, scoring pitcher Michael Lorenzen, who had replaced Brayan Pena as a pinch runner after a one-out single. Let it be said that using Lorenzen as a pinch-runner paid off in a big way there. It looked like there might be a play at the plate, as Lorenzen was just rounding 3rd as the throw was coming in from left field. But Andrelton Simmons couldn’t get a hold of the throw in, dropping the ball before he could make a relay throw. Game over.

Mesoraco has a hip injury which prevents him from squatting, but he has had no trouble running, legging out a triple and double in the last couple of days.

More troubles for the Cincinnati middle infield, as 2B Brandon Phillips left in the 6th inning with a toe injury. SS Zack Cozart had already missed the last two games with a sore wrist.

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The Milwaukee Brewers‘ 3-game winning streak ended with a 4-2 loss at home against the Chicago White Sox, who are just 3-10 now on the road.

ChiSox starting pitcher Chris Sale returned from his suspension and struck out 11 Brewers over 8 innings of work.

Elian Herrera homered (4th) in his 3rd straight game as he started for the 5th time in as many games at third base, filling in while Aramis Ramirez waits for his back issues to clear up.

Martin Maldonado had a rough night, striking out in all three plate appearances.

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NL Central Leaders

Home Runs
Todd Frazier (CIN) 11
Starling Marte (PIT) 8
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) 7
Joey Votto (CIN) 7
3-way tie 6
Strikeouts
Lance Lynn (STL) 51
Mike Fiers (MIL) 49
Jake Arrieta (CHC) 48
Johnny Cueto (CIN) 47
Gerrit Cole (PIT) 45

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Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 23 9 W1
Chicago Cubs 17 15 6.0 W2
Pittsburgh Pirates 17 16 6.5 W4
Cincinnati Reds 16 17 7.5 W1
Milwaukee Brewers 12 22 12.0 L1

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Schedule

23-9 CARDINALS Lackey (2-1, 3.20)
11-20 Indians Kluber (0-5, 5.04)
5:10 PM CT
17-16 PIRATES Liriano, F (1-2, 2.79)
11-23 Phillies Hamels (2-3, 3.68)
6:05 PM CT
15-18 Braves Stults (1-3, 4.84)
16-17 REDS Iglesias, R (0-0, 5.40)
6:10 PM CT
20-13 Mets Harvey (5-1, 2.72)
17-15 CUBS Hammel (3-1, 3.52)
7:05 PM CT
13-17 White Sox Quintana (1-3, 5.03)
12-22 BREWERS Nelson (1-3, 4.00)
7:10 PM CT