In the poster and press release for the current Instagram outing by the Cardinals, #BirdToTheFuture, the pitching ace for the Redbirds is billed as “Sir Adam Wainwright“. While I’ve had a chance to see the full outing and have seen why that’s the case (it’s pretty humorous), the real reason that he should have the title is because, like last night, he’ll do all he can to help a damsel–or, in this case, an offense–in distress.
(BTW, if you missed it, the nominee for Worst Acting By A Blogger In An Official Production was released yesterday as part of the #Nestflix outing.)
There was a serious chance of seeing this team sink to depths we could never even imagine–being no-hit in the middle of a pennant race. Mike Fiers was dealing death to the bats, it seemed. Nothing was really even resembling a hit. By all rights, he should have been cruising along to a win that would get the Brewers that much closer to the Cardinals.
That probably would have happened had Wainwright not stood on the bridge in the mines of Moria, yelling at the Balrog “You shall not pass.” Wave after wave of Milwaukee hitters came to the plate, and even though a few of them would reach base, none of them came around to score. The closest they came was in the fourth, when the Brewers loaded the bases with two outs, but Sir Wainwright would not break, getting Jean Segura to fly out to center field.
Then, seeing that his offense apparently needed an example, he roped a two-out, sixth-inning single to center field. He was only the second batter to reach base and the first, Daniel Descalso with a leadoff walk in the third, was caught stealing. While Matt Carpenter couldn’t bring in Wainwright, the seal was broken and that apparently was good enough.
The seventh saw some aggressive base running by Matt Holliday, scoring from first on a single to center once Carlos Gomez slipped while chasing after the ball. I thought Jose Oquendo was going to get Holliday nailed at the plate by sending him there, but Jonathan Lucroy couldn’t get the tag around to touch the Cardinal outfielder, even though the ball beat him there. Jhonny Peralta followed with the first traditional RBI of this series, giving Wainwright a bit of a cushion.
Not that he really needed it. Until a 10-pitch at bat by Gerardo Parra in the top of the ninth, Wainwright had a chance for an elusive Maddux, a complete game shutout in less than 100 pitches. After the bases-loaded situation in the fourth, the Brewers could only come up with three more hits, and one of them was erased on a double play. Wainwright may not be able to be in Clayton Kershaw‘s class consistently, but he’s there often enough to leave some of his stuff there for when he visits.
We’ve got our obvious Hero, but how do you determine who should be the Goat out of that kinda night for the offense? Only three hits and two walks, with seven strikeouts in there. We’ll have to go with the tiebreaker and give it to Matt Carpenter, who as the leadoff guy was the only one to go 0-4 and wasn’t able to do anything with Waino’s single. That said, he did have a nifty pick over at third base of a hard-hit ball, so the night wasn’t a complete waste for him.
Pittsburgh won again, because the Red Sox will do anything to get the Cardinals apparently. That means the magic number drops to single digits at 9, meaning most would call this the Enos Slaughter number. (Appropriate, given Holliday’s run last night.) However, fans of the Runnin’ Redbirds might remember Terry Pendleton wearing the number for a good while and Joe Torre wore it while he was a player and a manager here. A couple of catchers-turned-broadcasters, Tim McCarver and Bob Uecker, put that digit on as well.
The Cardinals finally decided their rotation for the last home series of the year this weekend against Cincinnati. We knew John Lackey was going to pitch in it, but now we know he’ll go Friday. Saturday will feature the return of Michael Wacha, which has a number of Cardinal fans concerned or unsure if this is the right move to make.
Wacha says his body is ready for this and, barring evidence to the contrary, I think we have to believe him. I know it’s fashionable to beat on the Cardinal medical staff–and often with good reason–but this isn’t an arm injury. Could the stress reaction be re-aggravated? Sure, it’s a possibility. However, it doesn’t seem like it’s a very strong one. We look at Brandon McCarthy for how these things go, since he’s about the only one that’s had it, and he’s been able to come back and pitch good stretches between flare ups. It seems likely Wacha will have this again, but not that he’ll have it between now and the end of the year.
Does Wacha have the stuff to be competitive? That’s what we’ll find out. Wacha feels like he knows what went wrong with his pitches from an approach and technical standpoint, so if he can make those adjustments and be effective, this could be a very good thing for the Cards.
I think it’s good that Matheny doesn’t necessarily have a pitch count for him either. You can’t treat this game as a rehab game, not with the Pirates just 2.5 behind right now. Hopefully they are much farther back by Saturday night, but I don’t think you can count on it. If Wacha struggles early, hopefully Matheny will not be hesitant to go to Marco Gonzales or whomever in the pen, instead of focusing on him getting his pitches in. Because, honestly, if Wacha struggles Saturday, that’s likely the last time we see him in 2014.
Shelby Miller looks to keep the good times rolling tonight. He’s actually not faced the Brewers since April, when he faced them twice and allowed a total of four runs in 12 innings. The Miller we’ve seen the last four-five starts is not the same Miller that we saw the rest of the year, however, and hopefully we’ll see a continuation of the pitcher that has a 1.00 ERA over his last four starts with few walks.
As every Cardinal pitcher does, Miller struggles with Aramis Ramirez and Scooter Gennett has been a problem, but Miller’s had success in the past against most of the rest of the Brewers. (It also wouldn’t bother me if Miller got the same strike zone that Wainwright did on Ryan Braun last night–that last pitch that was called a strike was a gift no Redbird fan was going to return!)
Old friend Kyle Lohse goes for the Brewers, who have an elimination number of 6 for the division. It’s really a must-win, since it’s their last direct shot at the Cardinals and they have a tough weekend series with the Pirates looming. Lohse has struggled in the second half, like most Milwaukee starters, putting up a 5.07 ERA in his last ten starts. He righted the ship a little last time (two earned in 6.2 innings against the Reds) but we’ll have to see if that’s a course correction or a momentary shift in a downward spiral.
Overall, St. Louis has typically hit Lohse well. It’s strange to see Carpenter with an .071 and you wonder, given the way Mike Matheny likes to use small sample sizes and the fact Carpenter is only hitting .228 with two extra-base hits in September (though he does have eight walks so his OBP is around .320), if someone like Jon Jay will get the start at leadoff tonight. Just something to look toward this afternoon.
If the Cardinals can win this one, it just about knocks the Brewers into a cold winter. Brandon Workman is going for the Red Sox against Gerrit Cole for the Pirates, so it’s not likely St. Louis is going to get a lot of help there. Just gotta keep winning!