Picking Up Where They Left Off

When last we saw the Phillies, Aaron Nola was completing a two-hit shutout in 109 pitches.  Last night, the Cardinals had the chance to host the team from Philadelphia.  Except for the change in venue, though, you’d have thought it was a continuation, not a new game.

I’ll admit, I didn’t get to see any of the game and it sounds like it’s a shame that I didn’t.  Adam Wainwright was masterful, going the distance and allowing just two Rhys Hoskins solo home runs in the seventh and ninth, the second of which was almost caught by Dylan Carlson.  I happed to be watching Saturday’s Phillies/Rockies game and saw Hoskins hit two homers there as well, so Wainwright got burned by a hot hitter.  Unfortunately, it happens and you just hope that the offense can support you.

Unfortunately, Zack Wheeler was on his game as well.  If you read the series preview, you know that the Cardinals have been able to score regularly against Wheeler in the limited exposure he has to them.  Not last night.  My Musial co-host Allen Medlock sent me a message in the mid-innings saying he didn’t like where this was going.  Indeed, without Paul DeJong in the fifth, the ninth inning has even more drama as Wheeler chases the no-hitter.

I was checking GameDay for the final inning and when I saw that Nolan Arenado had made the last out, I shut down the app.  I didn’t realize until checking Twitter later just how close Arenado had come to making another indelible Cardinal moment.  The advanced metrics–and we know how much grief these things have given to us this year–say that the expected batting average on that ball was .500.  Watching the highlight, the ball just seemed to die at the warning track.  The thoughts about the new ball altering the flight path might be gathering more data.

You also wonder if, at some point, the ownership is going to consider bringing the fences in a little bit.  This park, with Ballpark Village changing wind patterns and the like, plays much differently than it did when it was constructed in 2006.  According to Baseball Reference, from 2006 to 2015 (Ballpark Village opened in 2014), Busch Stadium was pretty neutral.  It was between 98-100 in six of those 10 years.  Since then, though, it hasn’t reached higher than 97.  In fact, since 2017 it’s been a steady decline from 97 to what it currently stands at, 93.  While that’s great for the pitchers, it doesn’t help out the hitters much.  I don’t think any of us want to see slugfests on a daily schedule, but even an adjustment that gets the park back to a more neutral setting could be helpful.  The pitchers will probably be just as good and it might help the hitters out a little bit.  I imagine it won’t happen, but when you go get guys like Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt and they struggle in your park, it might spark some conversations.  Then again, Busch couldn’t hold Hoskins.

Speaking of, Wainwright fell victim to one of the classic blunders of baseball, though it had nothing to do with a land war in Asia or going up against a Sicilian when death is on the line.  After the game, he said “Really hurting on that second run. We’re still playing right now if I don’t give up that second run.”  Of course, we know that baseball doesn’t work that way.  The game plays out differently if one thing happens or doesn’t happen.  While that second run did look to be the difference, the first run might have been enough had the second not come.

Let’s look a little at the bottom of the ninth, the only time that the Cardinals showed much life in the game and where they scored their only run.  If it was 1-0, does Matt Carpenter pinch-hit?  Perhaps he does, because it was clear the idea was for Carpenter to draw a walk.  However, when you only need one run to tie, perhaps Mike Shildt goes with Austin Dean and his home run potential.  Say he sticks with Carpenter, though.  Wheeler probably approaches him a little differently in a one run game.  With a two run game, he doesn’t want to walk Carpenter but it’s not the end of the world if he does.

Also, with a one run lead, it’s possible that Wheeler isn’t even out there for the ninth.  Wheeler was at 107 pitches ending the eighth and while obviously the Cardinals weren’t handling him well, 9-1-2 were coming up and in a one run game, a tired pitcher making a mistake can mean the game is tied, where the same mistake in a two run game just cuts the lead in half.  Without that second run, it’s possible Hector Neris starts the frame instead of coming in with a runner on, which changes the whole series of events as well.

Anyway, Wainwright the Hero and take your pick on the Goat, given the lack of offense.  I’ll go with Paul Goldschmidt, who went 0-4 and his popout in the ninth was a tough pill to swallow.

Here’s hoping that we can see something different tonight!

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