Michael Wacha struck out 10 batters in four innings last night, including the first nine outs he recorded. It’s pretty indicative of how this season has gone when that is a footnote to how the game wound up.
It was a performance we’ve not seen out of Wacha in a long time for many reasons. First, the nine in a row bit doesn’t happen often for any one or any team, so that was the positive rarity. However, he then walked five batters, three of them in the fourth inning and two of them with the bases loaded, which meant he gave up as many walks in that inning as he had in his first four starts combined.
All the walks and the strikeouts meant that, for the first time in his career, he didn’t get into the fifth inning in a start. His ERA is still a nice low 2.10, but unfortunately right now, those two walked-in runs were killer.
It seemed almost certain that the Cards would do something in the ninth. That seems to be their MO, get started when their backs against the wall. It also helped that Kyle Farnsworth came out to try to close things down. Ever since he was a Cub, I’ve always been excited when Farnsworth came in against the Redbirds (or, to be fair, most any team) because the odds were strong a rally was coming. Sure enough, the Cardinals tied it up against him.
Well, almost. From many angles, it looked like Matt Carpenter–our Hero with four hits including a big one in the ninth–had gotten around Travis d’Arnaud‘s tag. The umpire called him out, though, and Mike Matheny completed the “Major League Managers That Have Used Challenges” set to no avail. I will say the last replay I saw was much more conclusive that Carpenter was out, but it was debatable up until then.
When you look at the linescore, you think that maybe the offense started to stir yesterday. After all, the Cardinals got 11 hits, which is a pretty nice outing. Then you notice that seven of them are tied to Carpenter and Yadier Molina, they only drew two walks, and there were a lot of 0-4 in the middle of the order. So Jon Niese and others might have pitched from the stretch a lot, but they didn’t have to worry much about a sustained rally.
As much as it’s frustrating to give the Mets two runs via the walk, it’s more frustrating to know that, right now, being down any amount is a tough hill to climb, getting down two runs after Seth Maness allowed a home run to Lucas Duda seemed like 10. They were almost able to do it, but it took a lot of things that hadn’t happened in the rest of the game. You wonder if Jose Oquendo would have sent Carpenter had the offense as a whole been clicking and there was a solid chance someone would drive him in. Most likely he would have–Oquendo is aggressive like that and it sure looked like a hit Carpenter would score on–but you have to figure they are going to be taking more chances in those situations given the dearth of offense.
That dearth is getting larger. Look at where the Cards stand in relation to the rest of the National League.
Runs: 12th, averaging 3.6 a game. Tied with Atlanta (who has played one less game) and now three behind the Mets and just two ahead of the Cubs.
Doubles: 5th, which surprised me a bit. Four behind Arizona, one ahead of Washington.
Home runs: 15th, dead last. 12 homers, which works out to 0.6 a game. One behind the Padres and the Mets, who broke their tie with the Cards on Duda’s shot last night.
OPS: 11th. Eleven points behind Pittsburgh, just three ahead of the Cubs.
What’s fairly noticeable about all the teams mentioned save for Atlanta? They aren’t good, at least not right now. Almost all of them are under .500 (the Mets are a game over) and not going anywhere. This is not the company you want your offense to be keeping.
What do you do, though? You can’t sit Jhonny Peralta, even though he’s 0 for his last 21. Even if you had a replacement, which you don’t, Peralta has 1/3 of the team’s homers. Mark Ellis isn’t lighting it up when he’s in there for Kolten Wong because Wong is struggling. (By the way, we’re giving Ellis the Goat for his 0-4 last night, since just about every time he came up, Carpenter was on base and he couldn’t do anything about it.) It was nice to see Daniel Descalso get that big pinch-hit double last night, but it was also shocking giving his sub-.100 average going into the at-bat. Allen Craig is still under .200 but you have to keep running him out there as well.
There will come a time when the law of averages kicks in and the offense will just destroy folks for a few days. I’m sincerely hoping that day is soon. Otherwise, I think John Mozeliak might need to do something, even a small shakeup, to see if that helps the situation out. If you are wondering, Joey Butler went 2-3 with a double and two runs scored last night, boosting his average to .426. You know, just if you were idly curious.
Adam Wainwright looks good to go for his next start, which is a bundle of good news. With the offense sputtering the way it is, losing Waino would add a lot of pressure for them to come up with some runs. It’s a very good thing that Wainwright’s knee issue looked worse than it actually was.
Afternoon game at CitiField as the ageless wonder Bartolo Colon tries to drop his ERA while facing the Cards as most of his counterparts have done. Colon, who signed that big free agent contract with the Mets, looks like he hasn’t been what they expected, going 1-3 with a 5.40 ERA. However, that ERA is extremely skewed by him allowing nine runs in five innings to the Angels two starts back. Last time, it was three runs in seven to the Braves, a much more reasonable start.
Most of the Cardinals haven’t seen much of him and given the late resurgence of Colon’s career, I’m not sure how relevant some at-bats from a few years ago might have been anyway. At least Matt Holliday has had a little success against him in the past; we’ll have to see if that continues. If nothing else, it’s the NL, which means we might get another treat today in the form of a Colon at-bat.
Lance Lynn goes today and it makes for an interesting decision for Matheny. Lynn has been solid with Tony Cruz behind the plate the last two outings, but Molina is one of the few Cardinals that’s been hitting recently. If Matt Adams wasn’t also one of those guys that is doing well at the plate, I might suggest letting Molina play first today and getting the best of both worlds, but especially since Adams sat yesterday, I’m not sure that’s really an option.
As you’d expect, not a lot of exposure to Lynn by the Mets, though what little there has been has been almost universally positive for the Cardinal righthander, save when Daniel Murphy is at the plate. There’s going to be a lot of focus on Lynn, wondering if these last couple of games are really indicative of what we can expect from him. He’s going to have to be pretty good to have a chance, most likely.
If you are 1) a long-time reader of this blog and 2) have a head for trivia about really useless things about it, you may remember that about this time every year I have a church BBQ fundraiser. That’s tomorrow, and given that it requires me getting up at 3:15 or so, I don’t think you’ll be seeing a post from me about today’s game tomorrow. Hope you can get by without your daily fix!