Why mess with a good thing?
That was the approach for St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny on Wednesday night when he employed the same lineup as Tuesday when his team ripped Cincinnati 12-5. It was just the fifth time this season the Cardinals used the same lineup in consecutive games.
“It looked pretty good to me,” said Matheny, referencing the Cardinals’ home runs hit by Matt Carpenter, Aledmys Diaz (grand slam), Jhonny Peralta, Matt Adams and Randal Grichuk. “That’s what we’ve been doing. Whoever looks right, get them in there and keep them going. Quite a few guys took really good at-bats. The guys are swinging it right now.”
Instead, the Cardinals had just seven hits and suffered a crushing 2-1 loss to the Reds. St. Louis had runners at second and third with one out in the eighth, but did not score. In the ninth, Kolten Wong led off with a pinch-hit triple, but he was stranded when Aledmys Diaz grounded out to third, Greg Garcia popped out to short left and pinch-hitter Jedd Gyorko grounded out to third.
The Cardinals need everything they can get from their offense, pitching and defense as they attempt to nail down a spot in the National League playoffs. After losing Wednesday, they trailed the New York Mets by 2 1/2 games and the San Francisco Giants by 1 1/2 game in the wild-card hunt. The Giants were playing a late game against Colorado.
New York has three games left; the Giants and Cardinals have four remaining.
Right fielder Stephen Piscotty expressed confidence that the Cardinals will still be standing when the playoffs begin.
“I like our chances,” Piscotty said. “We’ve fought all year. We’re right in a spot where we can make things happen. We’ve just got to take care of business and control what we can control. We’re all excited. This is the best time of the year.
“In the middle of the season, June, July, August, those are kind of dog days. You get to September, you get kind of a second wave of energy and excitement. I think this team is really going to feed off that.”
Last season, there never was any doubt the Cardinals would qualify for the postseason. They rolled to 100 victories and won the NL Central, then fell to the Chicago Cubs in the best-of-five NL Division Series after the Cubs defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates in the wild-card game.
This year, the Cardinals hope to secure a spot, then win the wild-card game and earn a rematch with the Cubs, who clinched the NL Central championship Sept. 16.
“It’s definitely different,” Piscotty said. “It’s one of those things that I don’t think a lot of us really try to think about too much. We’ve just got to go out and focus on playing the game (Wednesday) night and win. There’s no time to think about those things. You’ve just got to execute and hope things happen in the other games that we need.
“All we can control is our effort.”
Cincinnati reliever Ross Ohlendorf uses what is often described as an “old-school windup.”
Ohlendorf, a 34-year-old right-hander, leans forward and swings his arms behind him, then reaches high over his head before making his pitch.
The ball, however, remains in Ohlendorf’s glove, rather than in his hand, until he elevates his arms. At that point, he reaches into his glove and gets the proper grip, whether it be for his fastball, slider or changeup.
“Joe Kerrigan was the pitching coach I had with the (Pittsburgh) Pirates,” Ohlendorf said. “In 2009, he encouraged me to just go over my head, and I started pitching much better when I did that. And then playing catch, just to loosen up, he had me swing my arms.”
But swinging his arms didn’t become a part of Ohlendorf’s delivery until four years later when he was with the Washington Nationals.
“In 2011 and 2012, I had really rough seasons,” Ohlendorf said. “So in 2013, I tried swinging my arms off the mound, and I felt like the ball came out better because my rhythm was good. “
Because the grips on a fastball, slider and changeup aren’t drastically different, Ohlendorf said it’s “never been an issue” reaching into the glove for the ball.
“The grips are real simple,” Ohlendorf said. “I’ll set the ball before I go, but two of my grips are set the same way (fastball and slider). It’s just a slight turn. Just because getting a grip has never been an issue for me, I’ve been surprised how many pitchers have asked me about it.”
Ohlendorf said fans have told him they like his windup.
“When I first got called up with the Nationals (and was) pitching that way, I got some fan mail from people who said it reminded them of when they were young and they really liked watching it, so that was neat,” Ohlendorf said.
Second baseman/outfielder Wong (sore left shoulder) was slightly improved Wednesday and was available for some level of participation. He wound up pinch-hitting, but did not play in the field.
Left fielder Matt Holliday (broken right thumb) appeared no closer to being activated than he was Tuesday. Another live batting-practice session had not been scheduled for Holliday, something the Cardinals have said he needs before being made available.