The best medicine for a sputtering, struggling offense? Make sure that only the minimum output is needed. That lately seems to be Adam Wainwright‘s mantra.
Wainwright threw another gem last night before leaving with a possible knee injury. That whole “knee injury” thing would take a little higher priority if the man himself hadn’t said that any or all things in his knee were perfectly fine. Which means we can focus more on what he’s done rather than worrying about what’s to come. Granted, the day or two after could bring more worries to the situation, but for right now I think it should be treated as the minor issue it seems to be.
(Perhaps it says something about how we jump to conclusions, perhaps it says something about the moves Mike Matheny makes, but as I’m watching my son’s Little League game and following the game on MLB At Bat, I see that Wainwright is coming out after only 79 pitches and I mentally start wondering about his sanity, only to find out there was the injury concern. I should have known Matheny wouldn’t remove his ace in that kind of game without a reason, but you just never know sometimes.)
So what has Wainwright done this year? Three times he’s taken the mound and left without allowing any runs. He’s thrown 37 innings and been scored on in just five of them. Two of his six runs allowed on the season came after the Cardinals had a 9-2 lead on the Nationals, allowing for more experimentation. He’s seventh in ERA, first in wins, second in WAR, sixth in WHIP, and fifth in strikeouts. It’s still very, very early but he’s working on his best season ever and that’s saying something, given two Cy Young runner ups.
And yet, even though he threw seven scoreless and allowed just four hits, I don’t think Wainwright gets the Hero tag. Mainly because without this, those innings wouldn’t have been scoreless.
Along with that stellar and important catch, Matt Holliday also went three for four, drove in a key insurance run (especially when Trevor Rosenthal forgot how to throw strikes in the ninth) and scored a run in the two-run fourth. If he could just learn that he’s allowed to stop at first–Holliday was twice thrown out at second trying to stretch out a double.
The offense was able to put up 10 hits, which was a nice sign, but still had trouble getting them across the plate. As mentioned, Holliday had two hits but made two outs, which given both were the last out of an inning, might not have mattered that much. Matt Adams was caught stealing on a failed hit and run.
Then there was the fourth. Yes, the Cardinals got two runs, which is better than some nights, but it’s indicative of how things are going that they had the bases loaded with nobody out and two runs in and couldn’t put it away. Both Kolten Wong–who has to be the Goat with no hits and six left on–and Wainwright grounded out, with a runner being forced at home. A hit there by either of them–and since Wainwright is actually one of the team’s leading hitters, it might have been more likely to be him than Wong–might have blown the game wide open. Instead, the Mets hung around and had a chance until the final out, which didn’t let Cardinal fans rest easy.
Jon Jay got another start and went 2-4, most likely keeping Peter Bourjos on the bench until the Cards face another lefty. (Oh, I see that’s tonight. Never mind.) It seems to be an issue that there’s a lot of passion about and it’s definitely been a point of discussion. As I’ve said before, Jay seems to play his best when he’s trying to unseat a starter. Will Bourjos get on a roll and get some starts? I think it’s possible, but he’s got to find his swing. Whether he can do that bouncing in and out of the lineup is surely a debatable point, but until the offense can generate runs on a regular basis, you have to play the best hitters and worry about the defense a little later, I think.
Before we move on to looking at tonight’s game, we have to take a moment to mention the history that was made last night. Albert Pujols took two balls and crushed them over the wall, marking the 500th time he’s done that in his career, all of them while wearing red. While it would have been a much bigger deal had he still been in St. Louis–not only because of the history and hoopla that 500 in one uniform would bring, but also because he’d been in a time zone more conducive to a majority of baseball fans–it’s still an important achievement. It was also kinda neat to see Pujols give David Freese a hug in the dugout, since Freese was the one player there that had a real perspective on Pujols’s entire career.
It’s no secret that I was a huge Pujols fan while he was a Cardinal. There were few Redbird fans that weren’t, of course, which made the whole leaving-for-Anaheim thing so tough to take for a while. Yet I’ve never wished him ill–though I will say his struggles the first couple of years out west did make me glad the Cards had been outbid–and it’s kinda nice, now that there’s some remove, to see him raking again. He’ll never be what we took for granted during that decade he was here, but he’s still an outstanding player that’s going to be in the Hall of Fame. I think that we can appreciate him and cheer for him more now. If nothing else, appreciate that his departure meant the Cards could pick Michael Wacha in the 2012 draft. (You’ve heard about that, right? Somewhere?)
So congratulations to Albert on #500. Here’s to 100, 150, 200 more!
As noted, St. Louis will face a lefthander tonight when they take on Jon Niese and the Mets. Niese has been solid so far this season, with a 2.84 ERA after three starts. He’s striking out three times as many as he’s walked, so all of that put together (and that lefty thing) could make for a long night for the club.
Interestingly, though, the Cardinal players have done pretty well against him in the past. Given the struggles in the last few years, it’s hard to find a lefty that they’ve been able to hit at a clip like that. Good to see Bourjos is 2-2 against him as well; perhaps he’ll be able to get jump-started with his start tonight. I expect we’ll see Mark Ellis as well, given those numbers and Wong’s struggles.
Speaking of Mr. Wacha, he’ll be Niese’s opposite number tonight. Coming off a tough loss to Washington and putting up Wainwright-like numbers (he’s only walked three batters this season, incredibly), Wacha may have to keep up his strong start for the Cards to guarantee a series split.
Wacha’s first major league win came against the Mets last season, when he gave up two runs in six innings and then was sent back to Memphis. He’s been pretty outstanding since then and there’s no particular reason to think that’ll change tonight.
Another fun night in Gotham and most likely a pitcher’s duel to boot. Should be fun!