The Cardinals enter Game 3 of the NLDS against the Nationals today in a 1-1 series tie. As the Cards prepare to do battle in Washington, here is a report card grading the entire Cardinals team so far this postseason, both in general and specific terms.
Six runs off of the seemingly untouchable Kris Medlen in the do-or-die wildcard game plus a 12 spot on Monday against Jordan Zimmermann and company make the lineup the Cards’ strength thus far in the playoffs. The only reason this isn’t an A+ is a measly two-run output against Gio Gonzalez in the Game 1 loss, but not many have had success against the Cy Young Award candidate this season.
Hitting .333 with three runs, three RBIs, and two bombs, both of which came in Game 2 and travelled an average of 415 feet. Seems to always step up in the postseason ever since his legendary 2004 postseason performance with the Astros.
Jon Jay: B+
Was riding an 0-for-7 before breaking out in Game 2 with two hits and three RBIs. Has also stolen two bases thus far against the Nats.
Allen Craig: A-
Hitting .385 with three runs scored and two RBIs — the guy can just rake. The only slight negative is a .250 average with RISP, which was a strength of his during the regular season and is something he must improve on if the Cards hope to sustain this offensive momentum.
Starting Rotation: A-
Kyle Lohse and Adam Wainwright both went 5 2/3 innings while allowing a combined three runs on 12 hits and four walks while striking out a total of 16 — very solid performances by both to give the Cards a great chance to win. Ideally, you would like a bit more length but their innings were more likely the result of a short leash from Mike Matheny than fatigue — Lohse and Wainwright averaged only 90 pitches. Jaime Garcia’s injury was unfortunate, but shouldn’t take away from a reliable performance from the rotation thus far.
The ‘pen has surrendered six runs (four earned) in 13 2/3 innings pitched. That workload is monstrous for a bullpen over a span of just three games, which is mostly the result of Garcia lasting only two innings in Game 2. Considering how heavily it has been relied on and the job it did to prevent an all-out crisis in Game 2 after Garcia’s injury, the bullpen gets a pass even with its relatively high ERA in the postseason so far.
Lance Lynn: B+
Has appeared in every playoff game thus far, hurling 3 2/3 innings and allowing two runs on three hits and two walks while striking out six over that span. Most of his work came in relief of Garcia in the third-fifth innings in Game 2. Even though he did give up a couple runs, his ability to hold the fort and keep the lead in an emergency situation until the sixth inning should not be overlooked. Will he take Garcia’s spot in the rotation if the Cardinals get that far, or does Matheny keep him in the ‘pen as a hybrid long reliever/6th inning guy?
Jason Motte: A
A four-out save at chaotic Turner Field where it seemed like the fans were about to storm the field was the definition of clutch. How he was able to keep his focus and composure as fans were throwing things on the field is beyond understanding. Also pitched a spotless inning in Game 1, but wasn’t needed in Game 2.
Managing: A –
Sometimes a manager’s best moves are the ones he simply does not make. Mike Matheny’s faith in Beltran to keep him in the two-hole has certainly paid off thus far, and stubbornly sticking with Daniel Descalso (2-for-4, two runs, two RBIs in Game 2) has also provided dividends. Bringing Motte in during the 8th inning in a high-pressure situation in the wildcard game was the right call, as the game was in the balance at that moment. Exhibited a bit of a short leash with his starters so far, as Lohse only tossed 81 pitches in the wildcard game and Wainwright only 100 in Game 1. Will need to trust his starters more in order to salvage an overworked and exhausted bullpen.