I imagine there’s a contingent of fans who are wanting to discount last night’s game because it was Cincinnati and their pitching staff is less than stellar. Indeed, their team ERA after last night is over 6, the worst in the major leagues. Their reliever ERA is even worse, over seven. Their record is 2-10 and the fans have already started not showing up for games. So yeah, I get that it’s tough to say scoring 13 runs means the offense is finally clicking or this is what a fully armed and operational lineup looks like.
On the flip side, Cincinnati gave the Cardinals so much trouble in the early going it is good to see them get a win and hopefully avoid that pitfall this year. Last April, in the first matchup between the two teams, they were shut out twice in dropping the series. The first time they went to Cincinnati, they were swept in a four game series in June (and the Scooter Gennett game happened) which led to the big (well, size depends on your point of view) shakeup press conference. The Reds were a problem for the Cardinals in the first half last year so a win feels nice. Plus we’ve seen the Cardinals struggle against weak pitching before so even as bad as these guys have been it’s hard not to believe they aren’t going to throw a one-run game at the ‘Birds at some point.
Most of the damage came in a seventh inning unlike anything most of us have seen. I mean really, what are the odds an inning starts like this?
Jose Martinez homers
Yadier Molina homers
Paul DeJong walks
Kolten Wong walks, DeJong to second
Pinch-hitter Greg Garcia walks, DeJong to third, Wong to second
Dexter Fowler walks, DeJong scores, Wong to third, Garcia to second
Tommy Pham walks, Wong scores, Garcia to third, Fowler to second
Because baseball is a remarkably funny game, who stopped the streak of walks? Of course, walker extraordinaire Matt Carpenter, who ran the count full before hitting a sacrifice fly for the first out of the inning. Then, after Marcell Ozuna lined out, Martinez got another chance in the inning and doubled in two runs. Six total bases in a frame isn’t too bad, Mr. Martinez.
In fact, Jose Martinez gets our Hero of the game not entirely for that inning but that had a lot to do with it. Martinez was four for five with six RBI, driving in a run in the top of the first and, yes, walking with the bases loaded in the fifth before doubling in another run in the ninth. This could have been a rout anyway, but Martinez made sure that it was.
Before that big inning, though, it looked like another shaky game. The Cards scored two in the first but Michael Wacha, who I am going to give the Goat to given the offensive exploits (though there were options there we’ll talk about), gave them right back. Ozuna broke the tie in the third, but Wacha then allowed two runs in the bottom of that inning. One of the first inning tallies was considered unearned due to an Ozuna error, but I think the runner would have scored anyway.
Let’s look at Wacha’s lines for this season:
So far, 2018 has been decidedly mediocre for Mr. Wacha. You know, if you gave me these numbers before the season and didn’t let me know whose they were, I’d have guessed Adam Wainwright. There was an expectation–and this was on the positive side–that Waino would be a five inning pitcher and give up three or so runs each time out. (I’d have thought he’d been better than that 5.52 ERA right now but many wouldn’t have.) Wacha was supposed to be better than this, though. While there was a lot of talk about him having that third-time-through penalty and that he might not go overly deep in games, I think many of us thought six innings would be about right. Who’d have guessed Wainwright would throw a quality start before Wacha?
The early frames have been trouble for Wacha. In the first inning against the Mets, two doubles and a walk accounting for two runs. Against the Diamondbacks, three walks and a single, which surprisingly led to just one run. Last night, a walk, a double, and a single, bringing in two. Factor that first inning out and Wacha’s ERA drops to 3.86, so I wonder if he’s having some trouble getting loosened up for games. I mean, exactly half of his walks on the season are in the first. I’m sure that’s something that Joe Schwarz might take a look at, seeing if there are differences between Wacha in the first and Wacha the rest of the game.
I did think about giving the Goat to Wong, because he continues to struggle. 0-3 in this one, though he did draw two walks and, as noted above, scored a run. However, this time last year Wong was hitting .167 and wound up being at .300 by early August. April has been a tough month for him in his career (though not his toughest) and hopefully he’ll have the time to work his way out of it. Jedd Gyorko could begin rehabbing by the end of the week, however, which might not bode well for his continued chances to do so.
Nice to see DeJong get a home run and that walk, but he struck out another couple of times tonight, running his season mark to 21, which leads the league. I know we are all fairly cool with strikeouts in this modern age, but when you are whiffing at around 40% of your plate appearances, you better have a lot of home runs to back that up. I feel like DeJong will turn it around but if he doesn’t, we really need to consider the possibility that the shortstop position for the Cardinals has been cursed. Maybe bringing David Eckstein back this season for a theme night with his wife Ashley will be enough to lift it.
Luke Weaver goes up against Tyler Mahle this evening as the Cards look to continue to feast on the Reds’ misfortunes. Weaver’s been the best pitcher on the Cardinals in the early going while Mahle is coming off a five run, 4.2 inning affair against the Pirates. (To his credit, his first start was six scoreless innings against the Cubbies, so we like him for that.) He shut out the Cardinals over five innings in his last start in 2017, so we’ll see if they can do a little better against him this time around!