Last night, Michael Wacha and Tony Cingrani showed why they are two of the top young pitchers in the game. After a two-hour-plus rain delay, they kept the bats quiet, working out of their few jams with aplomb. The few chances the Cardinals had, they weren’t able to capitalize.
Mike Matheny was quoted as saying, “It all comes down to the big hit. When you’re having trouble getting many of them, you just need the right one at the right time.” Last year, that wasn’t an issue, as the timely hitting was a hallmark of that club. So far this year, they seem to be proving one of the basic facts of baseball.
Baseball finds a balance.
To be fair, it’s just two games and it’s two games against two very good pitchers. It’s not terribly surprising that the offense has been muted, especially last night in what was probably some heavy air. A few balls seemed to be well-struck by the Cards, only to find gloves as the ball wouldn’t carry. Still, if this was last year’s team, you figure that the ball Matt Carpenter hit over the infield with two outs and Kolten Wong on second would have dropped and Wong would have scored. Instead, Zack Cozart laid out and made a sensational catch, ending the inning and giving the Redbirds a little bit of notice.
This isn’t 2013.
Michael Wacha has to be our Hero of the night. Six and two-thirds scoreless innings, seven strikeouts and only three hits. Indicative of what kind of player he is, Wacha said afterwards he wasn’t entirely pleased with the results, saying he wasn’t able to command his fastball like he wanted.
There weren’t many other names to be considered for the award. St. Louis only mustered three hits and three walks, and no player got one of both. The only other player that could toss his hat in the vicinity of the ring was Wong, whose double was the only extra base hit.
As easy as the Hero was to tag, I think the Goat is as well. Carlos Martinez had a solid eighth inning, with the only blemish a walk to Joey Votto, who had a very good night all the way around. He got out of that, but the ninth was a much different story.
During the rain delay, I happened to hear part of a question and answer session with Matheny and the question dealt with the thought process behind having Pat Neshek come in on Friday before Kevin Siegrist and Carlos Martinez. Matheny said you wanted to shorten innings when you could for some guys and you can’t run out the same guys every night. Other guys are going to have to get big outs.
So who were the relievers Wednesday night? Kevin Siegrist and Carlos Martinez. Those were the best ones for the situation, no doubt, but it just felt a bit ironic to see those guys again after hearing Matheny’s comments.
Anyway, Martinez gives up two hits in the ninth, both between short and third, gets the sacrifice bunt out, intentionally walks a guy to set up the double play, then allows a base hit to pinch-hitter Chris Heisey that goes in about the same spot. All three guys that were swinging away in the ninth inning got solid base hits. It shouldn’t be a stamina thing, given Martinez spent all spring as a starter. Is it getting used to being used on back-to-back nights again? Was it just a bad series of pitches? I guess we’ll see the next time this happens.
The Reds have played 13 1-0 games in the entire history of Great American Ballpark. Two of them have come this season. Odds aren’t good that today’s game will join them. Then again, the odds aren’t in favor of them actually playing either.
Assuming the rain holds off–one of the reasons there was such a determination to play last night was that today’s forecast didn’t look any better and that’s still true, with the Queen City under a flood watch until Friday and the hourly forecast showing 70% or greater chances of storms from now until the early evening–Lance Lynn will take the hill for the Redbirds. It’d be a quick turnaround time if they got the game in when scheduled, but that just doesn’t seem likely.
As with many teams he’s faced, Lynn’s had good games and bad games against the Reds. Overall, though, the numbers aren’t exciting.
Four home runs in just over 100 plate appearances and a BAA of over .320 doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. Last year in his first outing against the Reds, he struck out 10 in six innings. He also had a game where he gave up just two runs in eight innings while striking out 11. On the flip side, the last time he saw Cincinnati, he gave up four runs in five innings, including three home runs. In other words, there’s not really any telling what you are going to see out of Lynn today if the rain holds. (In case you were wondering, Lynn does seem to have better numbers against the Pirates. A rainout, assuming it bumped everyone along, would mean Adam Wainwright would start the home opener instead of Wacha, which is a tolerable consolation prize.)
Homer Bailey hasn’t always been that dominant against the Redbirds, though he’s had more shutdown games against them of late as he’s developed into a top starter. The last two times he faced the Cardinals last season, combined he gave up no runs, struck out 15, and allowed seven hits. We also remember the last game of 2012, where the Cards beat him, but it took Shelby Miller flirting with a no-hitter to do it. Yet the first two times he saw St. Louis in 2013, it was a different story, a combined line of 10.1 innings, 11 earned runs, four walks, five strikeouts. Perhaps we’ll see that Homer Bailey today, if we see any at all.
Some good numbers against Bailey, though again some of that is from earlier in his career when he really struggled. Again, though, with that forecast it becomes difficult to do much analysis because it all likely will be washed away. It’s already raining in Cincy and even if they find a window, that’s going to be a wet and yucky field, I expect. I know drainage is a wonder in stadiums these days, but it still could be pretty slippery and given what happened to Mark Ellis this spring, it’s not something we necessarily want to risk again. Then again, they made it through last night’s game without incident, so perhaps if there is a window, it’ll be OK. Just not sure that window is going to open.
Hopefully I’m wrong and we’ll have some afternoon baseball. If not, well, perhaps you can get a nap after staying up so late last night!