The I-70 Challenge! Four Games-Two Cities-To Quote Little Orphan Annie, “It’s a Hard Knock Life!”

By:  Jim Tsapelas

Jim McIssac/Getty Images North America

In a split four game Inter-League series, two games in Kansas City and two games in St. Louis, the Kansas City Royals and St. Louis Cardinals faced off in what could have proved to be a costly series to both Missouri franchises.

The series featured two of the better catchers in MLB, today; Salvador Perez and Yadier Molina.  Perez has gone on record of speaking of his admiration and respect for Molina. Molina and Perez have appeared to foster a bonding, a friendship, that transcends the game of baseball and values all that which is good in the human spirit.

In Kansas City, the Royals and the Redbirds split the short two game home stand; with Kansas City taking the first game of the two game set.

Monday’s contest was highlighted for Royals’ fans with a six to two Kansas City win. Tuesday produced an eight to four win for the Birds on the Bat.  Royals right-fielder Lorenzo Cain sustained an injury as he attempted to leg out a ground ball in the seventh inning of Tuesday’s contest.  This was horrific news for the Royals, with Mike Moustakas, out for the season, and with Alex Gordon just completing a stint on the DL, the uncertainty of Cain’s injury loomed rather large.

Another by-product of the Cain injury was the reality that Kendrys Morales would start Wednesday for Cain as the series moved east to St. Louis; and the reality of no Designated Hitter in the National League park; Busch Stadium.

On Wednesday a MRI confirmed Cain with a strained left hamstring; and he was placed on the MLB Fifteen Day Disabled List.

Now playing right-field, Kendrys Morales“.  Morales had experience playing right-field, but that was quite some time and a broken leg ago.  In fact, Morales had played the right-field position a total of seventy-six times at the MLB level; the last being in 2008!

One of the hallmarks of the Royals this season has been their success in putting on the field a defensive oriented line up. You may remember Morales broke his left-lower leg on March 29, 2010-when as a member of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, he engaged in a celebratory jump into home plate to punctuate his Grand Slam Home Run to give the Angeles a five to one win over the Seattle Mariners.  Since that time, Morales arguably one of the slower base runners in MLB, today, had only served as a Designated Hitter and a first-baseman.  To say Morales was an unknown defensive risk prior to Wednesday’s contest would be quite an understatement!  Defensively on Wednesday, Morales was brilliant in right-field and went three for four at the plate.

Wednesday’s contest in St. Louis was a twelve inning win for the visiting Kansas City Royals. The Royals featured a one to nothing lead in the eighth inning.  In the bottom of the ninth, Cardinals third-baseman, Jhonny Peralta, singled scoring Greg Garcia, knotting the game at one.  In the tenth, the Royals’ Whit Merrifield reached base on a fielding error; scoring Cheslor Cuthbert.  In the bottom of the tenth, the Redbirds’ Stephen Piscotty went yard with his ninth home run of the 2016 season.  In the top of the twelfth, Alcides Escobar doubled in the go ahead and winning run in the person of Merrifield.  St. Louis was unable to win in walk-off fashion in the bottom of the inning as the Royals’ Chien-Ming Wang enjoyed a one, two, three, inning striking out Tommy Pham and retiring Piscotty and Matt Adams.

Of possible concern for St. Louis on Wednesday, was an injury to Cardinal right-fielder Piscotty on a play where he made a long run ending in an attempted sliding catch.  Piscotty failed in what would had been a highlight reel catch; the ball bounced off his glove and wound up in foul territory.

Piscotty reported swelling in his knee and pain in his ankle.  Unlike the injury to Cain on Tuesday, Piscotty will most probably not spend time on the DL.  An injury to Piscotty would have been as costly to the Cardinals as the injury to Cain is to the Royals.  Piscotty was not in the Cardinals’ line-up on Thursday, as a precautionary measure.  Baseball is a hard knock life!

Thursday’s contest was another hard fought battle for the Baseball Bragging Rights of Missouri in this edition of the I-70 Series.  The Royals took the series with a four to two win.

The Royals have a stellar bullpen.  The Cardinals appear to collectively be a bullpen struggling, as of late, to affirm their identity.  Of concern to Cardinals’ fans is the reality the Birds committed ten errors in the four game set, to the Royals one error.

It doesn’t take a baseball genius to understand that errors contribute directly to a loss, as well as extending an inning; thus forcing a pitcher to throw extra pitches.

To be honest, the Cardinals for what ever reasons are simply not playing their best baseball in 2016, at home. For the 2016 season the Cardinals are 15-23 at home.

The Royals began their hosting duties against the visiting St. Louis Cardinals enjoying the best home record in the American League.  The Cardinals went to “The K” with the best road record in the National League.

To be competitive in the Wild Card Race the Cardinals need to find the magic formula to begin a winning record at home.

With the loss on Thursday, the Redbirds have lost seven consecutive games at home.  This has been the longest Cardinal home losing streak since 1983.

In a post game interview following the loss on Thursday, manager Mike Matheny said it was a game of, “Missed opportunities.”  It is my opinion this series as well as this season has been one, thus far, of missed opportunities.  I continue to believe the Cardinals have a good team.  An issue I identified is the Cardinals, at times, fail to win as a whole unit.  The offense has at times, put up good to monster numbers, only to have another aspect of the game fail the team.  The pitching has been outstanding at times, only to not get support from the bullpen, defensive plays, etc. One departmentalized aspect of the team cannot sustain a winning reality.  It takes all parts of the team, starting pitching, the bullpen, the offense, and the defense to all be in tune with one another to grind out a victory.

Of Note:  Kendrys Morales banged out twelve hits in the four game set, including a home run.  Going yard for the Cards in the series were Matt Holliday, Matt Carpenter, Stephen Piscotty, Jhonny Peralta, and Brandon Moss.  The Moss home run was measured at four hundred and seventy-three feet and is the longest home run ever hit at Busch Stadium III!

Thanks for reading!

Jim Tsapelas is a featured author at A View From the Bench, an official affiliate of MLB.com. A View from the Bench is recognized in the Top 100 of MLB.com/blogs.

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