There’s an old bit of baseball wisdom that says, “If you are going to get to a good pitcher, get to them early before they settle in.” By that standard, Michael Wacha must be a good pitcher given last night’s results. (Adam Wainwright and Shelby Miller might counter by saying, “Hey, if you are a really good pitcher, you never let them get to you.”)
Wacha picked up his first major league win and it might have been just in time, given the fact that Jake Westbrook is returning on Friday. We’ll get to that in a bit, but after Wacha allowed two hits (including a home run) and three walks in the first inning, it looked like it was going to be a short night and perhaps, given his struggles last time, he wasn’t quite ready for prime time.
Instead, he adjusted what he was doing and cruised for the next five innings. After throwing 37 pitches in the first frame, he threw only 65 the rest of the game. Again, this is the Mets they are facing, a team that’s not exactly on a roll right now, but seeing a young pitcher make those kind of adjustments during a game is very encouraging.
As good as the pitching was yesterday–gotta toss some recognition to Keith Butler, who bounced back from his atrocious last outing to throw two scoreless innings last night–the Hero comes from the offensive side. While Matt Holliday had three hits, I’m giving it to Allen Craig. Craig had two hits, including the big three-run home run that gave the Cards a comfortable cushion and capped a five-run fifth.
David Freese kept his hitting streak going, reaching 20 games, with his 2-4 night. However, we’ll give the Goat (in another tough decision, given how well everyone played) to Matt Carpenter, whose 0-4 snapped his hitting streak. Carp did walk and score a run, so it’s a bit unfair to tag him this way, but everyone else did as well or better.
The Cards are a remarkable 20 games above .500 before the middle of June with a soft portion of the schedule coming up. The team is starting to get some national attention as well, what with the cover of Sports Illustrated a few weeks back, some nice columns and finding them at the top of a lot of power rankings. It’s nice to know that the club could reach 90 games even playing sub-.500 ball from here on out, something that seems a bit unlikely. I wasn’t blogging then, but this has the feel of 2004 at times, when the Cards won and won and won their way to 105 games. I don’t know that this squad will be that successful, given how much they are relying on young pitching, but then again, it’s impressive how strong they’ve been so far, so why not?
As we talked about above, Westbrook will make his start Friday against the Marlins. (Insert joke about this being a continuation of Westbrook’s minor league rehab here.) That means someone is going to be the odd man out when he returns, but the Cardinals aren’t sure yet who that is going to be. There are a few scenarios.
Wacha to the minors: This one has a lot of potential. As good as Wacha was last night, he still has a lot of learning to do. He only struck out four in six innings, meaning a better team might have hit him harder. He hadn’t gotten a lot of time in Memphis, so it’s not an unreasonable thing to consider.
Tyler Lyons to the pen: As for Lyons, that’d give the club another lefty down in the bullpen, something that doesn’t seem to be as necessary with Kevin Siegrist out there now. Still, Lyons has done a good job in the bigs and might be a way to make sure Randy Choate stops throwing full innings, which wasn’t really what he was signed for.
Wacha to the pen: I’m not nearly as fond of this one and I don’t expect it to happen. I know we’ve seen plenty of starters move to the bullpen this year and in the past, but I don’t think the club wants to go that route with Wacha, especially with his strikeout numbers not being overwhelming. That said, it would let him keep working with the major league staff of coaches plus guys like Chris Carpenter and Wainwright, so perhaps that’s a plus.
Lyons to the minors: Just like Wacha, he’s not spent a lot of time in the minor leagues and, if the Cards want to keep him developed as a starter, this might be the route they go. Then again, they have Carlos Martinez going in Memphis and he’d likely be the next one up if there was a hole in the rotation even over Lyons, so maybe shifting him off of a starter routine isn’t a huge deal for the club.
Lyons (or Wacha) to the pen, Butler or Siegrist to the minors: This doesn’t seem to be one that’s under that much consideration, but it’s a possibility. Butler redeemed himself last night, but given how dominant Siegrist has been lately, I’d guess Butler would be the one to go get a little more experience.
Cardinals have been signing some of their draft picks and they look close to locking up their number one selection. With the new CBA and the earlier deadline on players signing (one of the few improvements the new CBA made in the realm of the draft), there’s not as much reason for many of these players to hold out. If Marco Gonzales moves as fast as they are saying, it’s a situation where he could be at two levels even this year, similar to what Wacha did last season.
You have to almost feel for the Mets. They get Wacha in game one, then they turn around and have to face Shelby Miller. It’s to the point that, given their successes against him, they’ll almost be relieved to face Wainwright Thursday afternoon.
The Mets haven’t seen a lot of Miller and they’ve done OK in that small sample. While they were able to hit against him in his outing against New York earlier in the year, he still threw 5.2 scoreless innings. Bend but not break.
St. Louis will face off against Dillon Gee. Gee pitched against them earlier in the season and didn’t have a lot of luck, giving up five earned runs in four innings, a fact that heavily informs the numbers below.
It’s lined up for the Cardinals to win yet another series tonight. They might want to take advantage, because Matt Harvey is lurking in the wings for Thursday’s game. We’ll see if they can avoid that showdown having meaning!