When you think about your team playing in the World Series, the last thing you want to hear is your ace after Game 1 saying things like “I was terrible” and compare his stuff to garbage. Yet that’s what the Cards got out of Adam Wainwright last night. While there were mitigating circumstances, there’s no doubt that this wasn’t what we are used to when The Wagonmaker takes the bump.
Even though we saw him give up a bases-clearing double to Mike Napoli (who is likely going to play like a man possessed this entire series) and have a complete mental lapse on a Stephen Drew popup to start the second, you wonder how much different everything would have been if Pete Kozma catches that ball in the first and, I believe, completes the double play on David Ortiz. Suddenly, you are through the first with no damage. Perhaps Wainwright settles in then instead of having to wait around while the umpires confer and eventually overrule themselves.
Let’s be clear–the umpires made the right call. I don’t fault them for flipping it, even though that’s not something that’s usually done. It was fairly egregious and I honestly can’t believe they made the out call in the first place. I’d lay more blame on Wainwright getting out of rhythm there if it weren’t for the fact that the second inning was a similar mess.
All year long, the Cardinals have been a fairly solid defensive team on balls that are hit to them. They aren’t going to win in range factor and I’m not saying that their defense is a plus, but usually they can do the basics fairly well. That’s why they had a good fielding percentage–we know the limitations of fielding percentage as a stat and what it means, but it does show that when they have the ball, they know what to do with it.
Which is why three errors (I believe Shane Robinson was initially charged with one when David Ortiz scored on Napoli’s double, but that seems to have been reversed if so) is pretty glaring and not at all what you would expect to see. Again, save that play in the first, that’s not necessarily why they lost, but it would have kept things closer on a night where Wainwright had his struggles.
Of course, if the Cardinals had kept the score closer, that would have made their wasted opportunities at bat even more painful. There was no better situation than in the fourth, when the Cards loaded them up with one out and David Freese, Mr. October, up. Not that a grand slam was needed (though it would have been awfully nice given the fact they trailed by five) but a base hit, even a sacrifice fly to break the seal on the scoring. Instead, we got the 1-2-3 double play. If you hadn’t given up on the game by that point, you probably did when you saw that weak chopper to the mound.
Also, the idea before the series was that Kevin Siegrist would be your main man against David Ortiz. That didn’t go over so well and it worries you about what that means for the rest of the series. Is Siegrist running out of gas? He’s allowed three runs (two earned) in three innings over six appearances in the postseason. (Interestingly, the Cards are 1-5 in games that Siegrist has pitched in during October. He’s not been the reason, but every game save Game 1 of the NLCS–the 13-inning one–he’s come in with the team behind. I guess that’s a function of long-lasting good starting pitching in the wins, but still, it’s strange to see.) Ortiz has owned Randy Choate in the past, so the Cards really need Siegrist to be right. He only has one strikeout in those six innings, which might lead you to believe he’s not as overpowering as he was during September.
Thankfully Matt Holliday went yard in the ninth to keep the Cardinals from being shutout. You can read a little more from me recapping this game over at Gammons Daily if you want. It’s the quick-hits version of what I’ve elaborated on here, mainly.
That doesn’t even get into the fact that Carlos Beltran left the game hurt. X-rays were negative and it is still up in the air whether he’ll miss any games, but you still wonder how a significant bruise like that will affect him going forward. There’s no doubt that Beltran will do all he can, but will what he can do be less? And if he can’t go, what does that mean for this offense?
I don’t know about you, but a game like that makes me feel like it’s 2004 all over again. Of course, in ’04 the Cardinals played a wild Game 1 that had them scoring runs but losing when the Sox scored more, so it’s not a perfect comparison, but it feels like that domination that we saw in that series is returning. That needs to change and change quickly.
The old baseball saw is that momentum is tomorrow’s starting pitcher. The Cards have been the victim of that many times, having a nice game buzz dissipated by a dominant performance against them the next night. Now, it’s time for them to turn the tables.
It’s a lot to ask of Michael Wacha, to be frank. Wacha will be making only his 13 major league start tonight and he’s already saved the Cardinals’ season once with his outing against Pittsburgh. The rookie has gone above and beyond the call of duty with his work, but the Cards are going to need him to do it again. There’s the school of thought that the Red Sox’s susceptibility to changeups and his ability to throw strikes makes him outstanding for this assignment. I sincerely hope so, because otherwise this might be a short Series.
There’s no doubt Wacha can have a good game, don’t get me wrong. I mean, he was the NLCS MVP and they don’t just pass those out like gold stars. He’s got the poise and bearing to be able to block out a lot of the distractions. Plus he’s seen Wainwright go and realizes he’s got a low bar to cover to be the best start so far of the Series, so maybe that’ll help keep the nerves down as well.
On the flip side, Boston will send out John Lackey. Lackey had a comeback season this year after missing all of 2012 and having a terrible 2011. He’s had limited exposure to these Cardinal hitters, though that little bit has been all positive for him.
Again, though, that’s about meaningless given how long ago much of that was put up and the limited sample size. You’d expect Lackey to have a solid outing, but he’s not a lefty, which helps, and the Cards will likely be focused from the get-go, trying to clear out the memories of Game 1.
It’s a huge game, there’s no doubt about it. With Joe Kelly and Lance Lynn, pitchers I feel the Sox can do damage against, waiting in the wings, St. Louis really can’t afford to go back home down 2-0. I hate seeing all of this put on the rookie’s shoulders, but if anyone can handle it, I believe it’s Wacha.
Let’s hope for a different outcome in Game 2, with the only people using the “terrible” word being Red Sox fans!