Aledmys Diaz (Billy Hurst/USA Today Sports Images)

A recap of St. Louis Cardinals-related news from the period of April 18-24, 2016

The Cardinals avoided being swept by Chicago at home before taking two of three in San Diego. Aledmys Diaz is swinging a hot bat, but has struggled defensively.

Game recaps

Monday, April 18---Cardinals 0, Cubs 5

The much-anticipated 2015 NLDS rematch with the Cardinals’ chief rival did not go well.  Facing former teammate John Lackey, the Cardinals were shut down and mowed down by the Cubs’ veteran pitcher.  The Cardinals managed only four hits against Lackey and struck out a whopping 11 times.   Only Alednys Diaz was able to thump Lackey for an extra base hit, a double to left field in the fifth inning.  However, subsequent strikeouts by Mike Leake and Matt Carpenter left Diaz stranded on second and teammate Kolten Wong on third, ending the only scoring opportunity for the Cardinals against Lackey.  Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina each had singles against Lackey but were left on the bases.

On the mound for the Redbirds was Leake, who went seven innings and took the loss. The right-hander gave up six hits and four runs, three earned, while fanning six and walking one.  Leake did manage to keep the Cubs off the board for five innings, but a solo home run from Dexter Fowler in the sixth put the Cubs ahead and a throwing error by Diaz on a sure double play ball resulted in a three-run seventh.  Tyler Lyons surrendered an additional run in his final two innings of work.

Tuesday, April 19----Cardinals 1, Cubs 2

Another day, another loss to the Cubs, although this game was closer and the Cardinals did manage to score a run.   Yadier Molina continued his post thumb surgery offensive surge by going 2-for-4, with his first hit an RBI triple off of Cubs Jason Hammel that plated Randal Grichuk from first base after Matt Adams was caught attempting to steal third base on what looked like a double steal attempt.  That would be the only Cardinal run of the night.

Adams was involved in another scoring opportunity in the fourth, doubling to right field and moving Matt Holliday, who had singled, to third.  Alas, Grichuk followed with a pop out and Molina hit a fly ball to former Cardinals right fielder Jason Heyward, who caught the ball and promptly nailed Adams at home plate with his throw to end the threat.

Jaime Garcia started in his next outing following his amazing complete-game gem against the Brewers the preceding week.  This time, the lefty was less amazing, as Garcia was out after five innings, having thrown 98 pitches and surrendering two runs on four hits.  Garcia struck out seven, but issued four free passes.  The Cardinals bullpen was dominant, however, and the succession of Seung-Hwan Oh, Kevin Siegrist, Jonathan Broxton, and Matt Bowman kept the Cubs from crossing the plate again.

Wednesday, April 20----Cardinals 5, Cubs 3

The Cardinals were able avoid being swept, thanks to the pitching efforts of Carlos Martinez and some offense from the Cardinals hitters.  Martinez hurled a strong seven innings, allowing only one run on a meager three Cubs hits.  Martinez did give up the long ball, an Anthony Rizzo solo special in the fourth inning.  Martinez also walked three, but struck out five. It was a mixed pitching bag altogether, but it was effective. 

http://www.scout.com/player/144067-carlos-martinez?s=321

Seung-Hwan Oh followed Martinez in the eighth, and didn’t display his usual dominance, as he gave up two additional Cubs runs.  Singles by Fowler and Rizzo and a walk to Jason Heyward resulted in the second Cubs run.  Kris Bryant plated another on a force play, scoring Heyward from third base.  Trevor Rosenthal closed out the ninth, striking out the side for his fourth save of the season.  Martinez earned his third win of 2016.

At the dish, the Cardinals scores came primarily in the first two innings against Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks.  In the first, after Matt Carpenter struck out, Stephen Piscotty doubled on an infield ground ball that was deflected by Cubs third sacker Tommy La Stella before being nabbed by shortstop Javier Baez, who couldn’t make a play on Piscotty.  Matt Holliday followed by walloping a ball into the left field stands, putting the Cardinals up by two. 

The next inning, Yadier Molina whacked a line drive double into center field, and Kolten Wong followed with a line drive single to left.  With Molina on third, a wild pitch by Hendricks sent Molina home.  Wong stole third base with Aledmys Diaz at the plate, who unfortunately struck out.  However, Martinez helped himself by hitting a floater over the head of first baseman Rizzo to score Wong.

The Cardinals added an insurance run in the eighth, when Randal Grichuk walked, and headed to second on an errant pickoff throw by Cubs reliever Adam Warren.  Molina singled Grichuk home on a base hit to left field.

Thursday, April 21----off day

Friday, April 22---Cardinals 1 at Padres 4

Against San Diego, in his fourth start of the season, Adam Wainwright continued to struggle.   While there were some forward strides, Wainwright surrendered three runs on seven hits over six innings.  Wainwright was the victim of his second long ball, a solo shot from Wil Myers in the first inning.  Seth Maness relieved, still struggling himself, and allowed an additional run on two doubles in the seventh.

The Cardinals’ offense was lackluster, the only run coming off a solo home run by Randal Grichuk in the fourth inning.  Ruben Tejada had the only other extra base hit, a double in the seventh. 

All in all, it was a poor showing by the Cardinals in all facets of the game, both pitching and offense as well as a defensive miscue from Matt Carpenter at third base.  This having come against a team projected to be a cellar dweller in the NL West.

Saturday, April 23----Cardinals 11 at Padres 2

Though it started out similarly to Friday’s game, Saturday’s contest ended in a much different fashion.  Facing an unknown pitcher from the Friars, Cesar Vargas, who was making his MLB debut and had not pitched much above the AA level, the Cardinals didn’t make much headway until the sixth inning. 

There was a scoring opportunity in the second inning, when former Padre Jedd Gyorko singled for the first Cardinals hit, followed by a single from Aledmys Diaz which put Gyorko at third.  However, starter Michael Wacha struck out to end the threat.  A single by Stephen Piscotty in the third led nowhere, as he was eliminated in a failed stolen base attempt.  Diaz singled again in the fifth but was out on a bunt double play by Wacha.  In the sixth, the Cardinals finally broke through, as Piscotty led off with a solo home run that tied the game and Matt Holliday drew a walk.  Vargas was pulled at that time for a reliever, Kevin Quackenbush, who appeared to quickly stop any further threat by retiring Brandon Moss and Randal Grichuk.

Quackenbush returned for the seventh, and walked leadoff hitter Yadier Molina.  After Gyorko lined out, Diaz beat out a ground ball to third for an infield single, advancing Molina to third.  When Matt Carpenter, who had been given the day off, was brought in to pinch hit, the Padres traded Quackenbush for Brad Hand, who gave up an RBI single to Carpenter.  Hand then left for former Cardinal Carlos Villanueva.  Pinch hitter Ruben Tejada was then called back and traded for Jeremy Hazelbaker, who promptly nailed Villanueva for a three-run home run, putting the Redbirds ahead 5-2.

http://www.scout.com/player/144526-jedd-gyorko?s=321

When Villanueva was inexplicably returned to the mound for the eighth, the floodgates opened and the water rushed in.  What followed was a Brandon Moss single, Grichuk struck out, Molina singled, and Jedd Gyroko proceeded to quiet the boos from the fans of his former team by murdering a baseball high into the second deck stands for three runs.  Diaz walloped his fourth consecutive hit of the night, a double into left field.  Carpenter flied out and Hazelaker grounded out, to leave Diaz stranded.

Rule 5 draftee from the Cardinals minor league system, Luis Perdomo, came to the mound in the ninth.  Piscotty tagged him with a lead off ground rule double.  After an Eric Fryer grounded out, Moss walked, and Grichuk singled to right field, plating Piscotty for run number nine.  Matt Adams lined out, Gyorko singled, and Diaz doubled Moss and Grichuk home for his fifth consecutive hit.

Amidst all the offense, there was pitching.  Wacha was the starter, giving up the two Padres run in his six innings, walking four and striking out none.  Seung-Hwan Oh, Jonathan Broxton and Matt Bowman pitched the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings without incident.  Wacha earned his second win.

Sunday, April 24---Cardinals 8 at Padres 5

This was a tough game, one in which the score was tied several times, and the lead changed several times as well.

The Cardinals got on the board right away, in the first inning.  Matt Carpenter walked, but was eliminated in a force play that left Brandon Moss on first.  A passed ball sent Moss to second.  Randal Grichuk hit a single to left field that scored Moss for the first Cardinals run of the game.  Grichuk stole second base and then crossed the plate for a second run on a base hit to left by Yadier Molina.

Gyorko lead off the fourth inning with a triple to right field.  After Diaz flied out to right and Gyorko did not come home, Leake’s a base hit to center plated Gyorko. 

Gyorko led off the sixth with a solo home run.  Diaz followed immediately with one of his own to tie the game at 5.

In the eighth, pinch hitter Matt Adams singled to right field.  Matt Carpenter tripled to right, scoring Adams to take the lead.   Brandon Moss was intentionally walked.  Randal Grichuk hit a double to center plating Carpenter and Moss.

http://www.scout.com/player/142090-randal-grichuk?s=321

As for pitching, starter Mike Leake gave up a run in the second inning and another run in the third to tie the game.  After the Cardinals got the lead back in the fourth, Leake surrendered a solo home run to tie the game back up.  He gave up the lead with two additional runs allowed in the fifth, both of which were unearned. Seung-Hwan Oh pitched a scoreless sixth inning and Kevin Siegrist followed with the same in the seventh.

In the eighth, Jonathan Broxton walked the first batter.  Another reached on a fielding error by Moss, who inexplicably took his time getting to the first base bag, and the runner beat him there.  Broxton overcame the error by striking out the next two batters to end the inning. 

Trevor Rosenthal pitched the ninth, and it was not easy.  After a long at bat to Jon Jay that ended in a fly out, Rosenthal gave up two consecutive singles.  He struck out the next batter, again on many pitches, and got the last batter to ground out to second to finally end the inning and the game.  Siegrist was the winning pitcher. Rosenthal added the save.

NL Central Standings

  W L % GB
Chic. Cubs 14 5 0.737 ---
St. Louis 10 8 0.556 3.5
Pittsburgh 10 9 0.526 4
Cincinnati 9 10 0.474 5
Milwaukee 8 11 0.421 6

Hot/Cold Players of the Week

Hot: Aledmys Diaz, 11-for-18; Yadier Molina, 8-for-20; Jedd Gyorko, 6-for-13; Carlos Martinez, 3-0 2.70 ERA 1.00 WHIP

http://www.scout.com/player/67461-yadier-molina?s=321

Cold:  Brandon Moss, 1-for-14; Jeremy Hazelbaker 1-for-17; Adam Wainwright, 0-3 7.25 ERA 1.75 WHIP

Trade and Acquisition Rumors

There are no trade or acquisition rumors to report.

Transactions

The Cardinals activated SS Ruben Tejada from the 15-day disabled list on April 18.

The Cardinals optioned 2B Greg Garcia to Memphis Redbirds to make room for Tejada on the active roster.

Injury Report

Tommy Pham (left oblique strain) continues to rehab from his Opening Day injury.  There is no word on a schedule for a minor league rehab or a return to the active roster as of yet.

Other Cardinals on the DL include catcher Brayan Pena and shortstop Jhonny Peralta. Pitchers sidelined include Lance Lynn (out for the season), Jordan Walden and Mitch Harris.

Looking Ahead

The Cardinals begin a four-game series on Monday in Arizona against the Diamondbacks.  Jaime Garcia is set to pitch on Monday, with Carlos Martinez to follow on Tuesday.  The final two starters in the series will be Wainwright and Wacha.

The Cardinals travel home on Thursday night to prepare for a three-game series against the Nationals on Friday.  The home stand will continue with a four-game set versus the Phillies, followed by a weekend series against the Pirates.  After a day off, the Cardinals travel out west again to face the Los Angeles Angels in interleague play.

Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation: Cardinals Minors Weekend News – April 23-24

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