Everyone was all nice and cozy on the Cardinal bandwagon, with brooms a-wavin’ and ready to see the ace close out the series.
Then the bandwagon lost a wheel, courtesy of the Wagon Maker.
There were a lot of ways last night could have unfolded, but I guarantee nobody saw the Reds putting up four runs before getting their first out. Nobody saw a two-inning start out of the Cardinal hurler. Nobody saw any of this happening, including Adam Wainwright.
There are so many stories of pitchers having nothing in their pregame warmups and then going out and throwing a gem. There are stories, like last night with Wainwright, of pitchers feeling outstanding in the pen only to get shelled in the game. (Are there ever any stories about pregame throws that match with game results? You never hear them if so.) If only the Reds could have stood in while Waino was throwing out in the pen. Maybe he’d gotten more outs that way.
Of course, given that Wainwright threw 128 pitches in his last start, there was a focus on him being too tired. I know, from my Twitter exchange, that our fellow writer J.D. Norton was one of those most adamant (no pun intended) about that being a major cause of last night’s debacle. While that may have factored in somewhat, I downplay that for a few reasons.
1) As was also pointed out by a couple of folks on Twitter, Wainwright went 122 pitches on August 13 against the Cubs. He turned around and had seven innings of one-run ball his next start. He also threw 119 on July 26 and followed it up with a four run, seven-inning start the next time out–not necessarily classic Wainwright, but not necessarily one that would scream fatigue.
2) If it was due to fatigue from throwing so many pitches, you wouldn’t expect it to show up from Batter 1. He might have a little less command, walk a few more guys, start to wear down in the fifth, things like that. To be blasted from the get-go? It shouldn’t matter how many pitches you threw last time out. If you are strong enough to make the start, you should be able to get out of the first without a major incident no matter how tired you might be later in the game.
3) Yesterday in Seattle, a pitcher’s ballpark: Three innings, nine runs (eight earned) from Felix Hernandez, who hasn’t thrown 110 pitches since May. Baseball happens, folks.
(Of course, if this post is short and ugly, we’ll blame it on my word count. After all, I went around 1300 words yesterday. I felt OK putting this draft together, but once it goes public there’s no telling how hard it’ll be beat around the yard.)
Now, to be fair, Wainwright has had a fairly heavy workload recently, but remember he got three days extra off before his last start in Atlanta. I don’t think that the pitch count is getting to him. I think he said it best in the game story:
I’m a big, strong man. This is what we train for all offseason and all season long. I felt fine. I pitched terrible. And that’s why we lost the game. I’ll be ready five days from now.
Before we leave this, was anyone at all surprised that Wainwright didn’t take advantage of his early removal to get cleaned up and gone before the press came around? I don’t figure anyone was. If there was a player that was going to be willing to talk about his missteps and atrocious outing, you knew it’d be Waino. I’m sure it wasn’t fun to discuss but he did it at length. You have to appreciate that.
So obviously Wainwright is our Goat. The problem is, there weren’t a whole lot of Heroes to go around.
The entire Cardinal offense had five hits. Five lousy hits. (Hey, you can’t say lousy in this blog! It’s OK, nobody’s reading anyway.) Nobody had more than one. They didn’t get a runner to third until two outs in the ninth. Even with that few baserunners, they were able to hit into two double plays. You have to figure the life was taken out of them even before they came to bat, seeing Wainwright give up six runs. That said, even though the Cards have gotten to Homer Bailey before, we’ve seen him shut them down as well. It was probably a fairly strong combination of the two things.
I’m going to give the Hero to Michael Wacha. Wacha never expected to be pitching in the third inning or going as long as he did, but he was quite effective in the role. Seven strikeouts and no runs allowed is a pretty good night’s work, especially when crammed into four innings. Tuesday’s start is still up in the air, but it seems unlikely they’ll use Wacha between now and then so it’s possible he just put himself in position to have a chance for it. Also, it was nice to see Michael Blazek have an effective outing as well.
Unfortunately, St. Louis has to stew a bit on that loss as they have an off-day today so they can travel to Pittsburgh. The Pirates won last night, so they sit just 1/2 game out of first with another game against Milwaukee today. If they win that one–it’s Yovani Gallardo coming off the DL against rookie Gerritt Cole, who has been pretty solid since his callup in June, so odds are in their favor–the weekend series will start out with both teams tied. Winner gets first place, at least for a short while.
When they do take the field at PNC Park, they’ll be facing Francisco Liriano. Liriano has been very effective against the Cards this year, throwing a complete-game four-hitter in the series at Busch a couple of weeks ago. However, he’s coming off a game where he allowed four runs in four innings to the Giants at AT&T Park.
Not a lot of optimism there, huh? At least Matt Holliday is showing no ill effects from that constant beating he took on Tuesday night, since he’s probably had the most success in the limited exposure the club has had to the left-hander.
Which means Shelby Miller is going to have to bring his A game, if not his A+ game. Miller went seven innings against the Braves last time out, one of his best outings of the year. (Obviously not THE best, of course, but up there.) He was more efficient with his pitches, only throwing his regular 100 or so, so that shouldn’t be a problem for him.
The Pirates might be, though. He allowed five runs (though only three were earned) in his last outing against them, which was up against Liriano’s strong start. Hopefully the rematch goes the youngster’s way.
On paper, this one looks like a Pittsburgh victory. Of course, on paper last night’s game looked like a pitcher’s duel. Paper can be as wonky as a funhouse mirror sometimes.
By the way, if you’ve not seen the UCB is doing some interviews of its members as its August project. You’ll see some around these parts, but for the whole list and links to all of them, keep checking out this post in the next couple of days. It’s been a lot of fun reading them!