Never Look a Gift Win in the Mouth

After eight innings last night, I was doing some searches to find ways to describe how this team was making most of its fans feel.  I finally settled on the noted philosopher Rachel Green:

Rachel

I mean, we thought that losing a series to the Reds, followed by losing a series to the Braves, had to be rock bottom, right?  That things couldn’t get any worse?  And yet, here the Cardinals were, finding that fifty feet of sub-rock.  Facing a pitcher they had scored five runs in five innings on the week before, including a four-run first, they were completely shut down.  Against a bullpen that used to be the laughingstock of MLB, they could only come up with two hits and a walk.  This was going to be even worse than we had thought.

Fangraphs has, given the name, some wonderful graphs that show you the win expectancy of each team throughout the game.  (Most of you are aware of this, I know.)  This was the one for the Cardinals last night:


Source: FanGraphs

With two outs and one on in the ninth inning, the Cardinals’ win expectancy was 0.4%.  Teams don’t win games like this, down four with one out left to play.  They just don’t.

And yet, the Cardinals did.  Though, to be fair, it might be much more accurate to say the Reds lost it.

Whatever Tony Cingrani had in the tank, it apparently didn’t last long.  Yadier Molina (who gets to be our Hero tonight) singled to start the inning, but then he got Jhonny Peralta and Jedd Gyorko to fly out.  Then, apparently, Cingrani stepped off the cliff.

A four-pitch walk to Tommy Pham.  Kolten Wong hit by pitch.  Suddenly the bases are loaded with just one actual ball put in play, and then you bring up the best hitter on the team in Matt Carpenter.

Carpenter swings at the first pitch and lines one to mid-right field.  The Reds seemed to play a little deeper than necessary in this inning, and both Carpenter’s two-run single and Stephen Piscotty‘s RBI single that followed (also on the first pitch) might have been inning-ending flyouts had they been playing a little shallower.  While you obviously don’t want to get a ball over your head in that situation, which might clear the bases, it almost seemed like the baseball version of the prevent defense, which so often prevents nothing.

After Piscotty singled, you have runners on the corners, two outs, and still down a run.  While it’s been a remarkable comeback, it could be snuffed out at any time.  Except that the Reds don’t do snuffing out comebacks all that well.

Matt Holliday took another four-pitch walk.  See, this wasn’t even that the Cardinals had to battle for baserunners.  Pham and Holliday didn’t see anything at all that they could swing at, Wong was hit on the first pitch, and Carpenter and Piscotty jumped on the first offering.  It wasn’t exactly grinding out at-bats to grittily get back into things.  This was almost as gift-wrapped as possible.

Brandon Moss, however, did have to battle.  Cingrani was finally replaced by Ross Ohlendorf, who was in a tough spot.  Sure, two outs, but bases loaded and no margin for error.  Give a lot of credit to Moss, who got down 1-2 in the count before working the walk that tied the game up.  While he only had to foul off one pitch, he also had to have the discipline not to chase, something that he wasn’t able to do the inning before.  That was the best at-bat of the whole inning.

That brought up Molina again, the guy that led this whole thing off.  Two pitches later, he was plunked in the ribs and amazingly, improbably, that was a winner.  It’s been a while since we saw a comeback like this (though there was that one off of Jeurys Familia in New York, of course) and it was a refreshing drink of water for a parched fan base.

Of course, a lot of people want to talk about this being that kind of win that just spurs you into a solid winning streak.  We’ve seen too often this season, it doesn’t work like that, at least with this team.  This would be the third “signature win” since the All-Star Break.  Starting with the first one, the extra-inning affair against the Dodgers, the Cards are 8-9 through last night’s version.  We’ve said it time and again that momentum doesn’t mean a thing to this squad and given the fact that this was wrapped in nice paper and handed to them on a silver platter, I’m less inclined to think that they’ll just tear off a bunch of wins in a row.  Momentum is tomorrow’s starting pitcher and today’s is Mike Leake.  Temper expectations accordingly.

All those caveats aside, it was a great inning and a great way to finish a game.  There’s no reason Cardinal fans shouldn’t be upbeat and excited today, as long as they realize those feelings could evaporate by this evening.

Given that most of the hitters played a role in the ninth (and the two that didn’t, Peralta and Gyorko, combined for three hits elsewhere in the game), we’ll go with Michael Wacha for our Goat.  Another middling outing from Wacha, going just five innings and allowing four runs, walking more than he struck out.  Wacha’s only completed seven innings four times this year and you’d have to go back to June to find the last time.  Four of his last seven starts have seen him depart without getting an out in the sixth.  If you want to say that Wacha is the fifth starter in this rotation, maybe those lines would be acceptable.  However, I don’t think anyone views him in that way and, given his early success, it would be disappointing to have to cast him in that light.  It might be disappointing, but right now it’s looking more and more accurate.

The bullpen did an outstanding job keeping the Reds from adding on.  Matt Bowman threw two scoreless with limited threats, Zach Duke threw a scoreless frame, and Seth Maness was perfect in his outing, picking up the win with the wild comeback.  If the bullpen had been at all the tinderbox we’ve seen at times this season–heck, at times in the last week–this wouldn’t have been possible.  (I don’t think, though there’s no telling when Cincy would have gotten that third out in the ninth!)

As mentioned, it’s Leake going for the Cards today versus Brandon Finnegan.  Leake has continued to struggle against his former team.  As we noted yesterday, in the two starts against them this season, he’s given up 13 runs in 11.1 innings pitched.  That is less than ideal.  Perhaps a little fire from last night will catch hold, but looking at those numbers, it looks like Leake is holding the water pail.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Adam Duvall 9 8 3 0 0 2 4 1 2 .375 .444 1.125 1.569 0 0 0 0 0
Billy Hamilton 6 5 4 0 0 1 1 0 0 .800 .800 1.400 2.200 1 0 0 0 0
Brandon Phillips 6 6 4 2 0 0 1 0 0 .667 .667 1.000 1.667 0 0 0 0 0
Eugenio Suarez 6 5 2 2 0 0 2 0 1 .400 .333 .800 1.133 0 1 0 0 0
Joey Votto 6 6 1 1 0 0 0 0 2 .167 .167 .333 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Ramon Cabrera 5 4 2 1 0 0 3 0 0 .500 .400 .750 1.150 0 1 0 0 1
Zack Cozart 4 4 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 .250 .250 .250 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Scott Schebler 4 3 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .500 .667 1.167 0 0 0 1 0
Ivan De Jesus 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Brandon Finnegan 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 51 46 18 7 0 3 12 1 5 .391 .400 .739 1.139 1 2 0 1 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/9/2016.

They are hitting almost .400 against him.  Ugh.  On the flip side, Finnegan’s wake has been smooth when facing the Redbirds.  He has seen them three times this season, including last week’s six inning, two hits outing (one of those hits was initially charged as an error, changed after the game).  Overall this season, he’s thrown 18 innings against them and given up six runs, only two of which were earned.  Yay.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Matt Carpenter 11 9 3 0 0 2 5 2 3 .333 .455 1.000 1.455 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Holliday 11 11 1 1 0 0 1 0 3 .091 .091 .182 .273 0 0 0 0 0
Brandon Moss 11 11 4 0 0 1 4 0 3 .364 .364 .636 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Stephen Piscotty 11 10 1 0 0 1 3 1 5 .100 .182 .400 .582 0 0 0 0 0
Jedd Gyorko 8 8 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 6 5 2 1 0 0 0 1 1 .400 .500 .600 1.100 0 0 0 0 0
Jhonny Peralta 6 6 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .167 .167 .167 .333 0 0 0 0 0
Tommy Pham 6 6 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Adam Wainwright 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Greg Garcia 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Mike Leake 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Alberto Rosario 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Michael Wacha 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Kolten Wong 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 83 78 14 2 0 4 13 5 23 .179 .229 .359 .588 0 0 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/9/2016.

It’s not a getaway day and there was a nice win last night.  Perhaps there will be some extra excitement, a spring in their step, and they can get to Finnegan early.  Otherwise, we might be revisiting that rock bottom status tomorrow.  Let’s hope not!

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