If most of us could drawn it up (while still being realistic about it), Adam Wainwright would have come out last night and thrown six scoreless innings, leading the Cardinals to an win in the home opener. We would have seen flashes of the old Waino mixed in with a crafty veteran. We would have seen that curve buckle some knees and a fastball fast enough to keep hitters honest.
(I say most of us because there was a contingent on Twitter last night that seemed to revel in Wainwright’s less-than-storybook outing. I’m not saying that everyone should be wearing the red-colored glasses but not being able to root for Wainwright is a sad state of affairs. Then again, given our ever-widening gap in society, where nothing is allowed to unify us without being torn down or mocked, I guess that’s not a real surprise.)
It didn’t quite happen that way, of course. Wainwright didn’t get completely shelled or anything–his Game Score was better than Michael Wacha‘s outing against the Mets and a little below Carlos Martinez‘s Opening Day start–but it wasn’t as effective as anyone would have liked. As Zach Gifford pointed out, Wainwright was having to live on the edges because anything in the heart of the zone was getting hit hard. Wainwright didn’t get all the calls out there, which is what happens when you live on the edges, and that ran up some pitch counts. That’s the thing that’s been a bad sign for Wainwright over the past few years, taking 100 pitches to get through five or fewer frames.
Wainwright was running in the low 90s to start the game, when he put up a scoreless first, but the velocity declined as the game went along. Whether that was planned as Wainwright insists, a method to try to get more command, or the early heat was due to the adrenaline of it being the home opener and being back on the mound, I don’t know. With only one data point (depending on how you feel about his spring outings), it’s difficult to draw many conclusions. Well, backed conclusions. I know plenty of people have already figured out what they think the issues are and what should be done about them.
Which really does lead us to the big question, now what? Right now, Wainwright should be on schedule to pitch Wednesday against the Brewers at the end of the homestand. It’s pretty clear that he makes that start, since Jack Flaherty isn’t eligible to return until a week from Saturday. After that, I don’t know. I’m one of the biggest Wainwright fans out there, but even I know he will need to show some improvement next time out. You can’t keep running him out there for four innings and putting yourself in a dangerous situation with both the bullpen and where you might be winning the game. I don’t know how this winds up, but the more starts he has like this, the harder it is to argue he should have a place over Flaherty, assuming Flaherty is pitching well in Memphis.
I’m not going to give Wainwright the Goat because, even with the four walks and leaving in the fourth, that really wasn’t the reason the Cardinals lost. After all, if I told you that the Diamondbacks were only going to score three runs in a Wainwright start, you’d feel pretty good about that, right? It becomes less good when the offense puts up a total of two hits. They did draw five walks because Robbie Ray had his own control issues, but the difference between Ray and Wainwright right now is that Ray can rear back and get the strikeout where Wainwright can’t do that as much (though he did have three K).
There were plenty of hitters that I could choose for the Goat, but I’m going to go with Paul DeJong. DeJong’s had a great start to the season but last night wasn’t his night, striking out all four times for the Golden Sombrero. Not only that, he left four men on base, matched only by Yairo Munoz who was hitting behind him. Given how hot DeJong had been–I believe this is the first game he didn’t have a hit in–a night like this was going to come. Much rather it come a week into the season than on Opening Day where we could all freak out about whether that contract was a mistake and if DeJong was going to be Aledmys Diaz.
We talked yesterday about the fact that 40% of Matt Carpenter‘s plate appearances are ending in a walk or a strikeout. That percentage increased last night as he took two walks and struck out once. We’re getting close to half here (47%) and while I still don’t know if it means anything, it’s worth noting. I wish I could find how many of those strikeouts have been looking. He has been in a full count five times out of those 29 plate appearances, which seems about right for Carpenter, doesn’t it?
The two hits came from Marcell Ozuna, who wasn’t able to come through in the eighth with a runner on unfortunately, and Yadier Molina, who doubled in the only Cardinal run. It’s funny, I remember someone writing that the Cardinals would be better against lefties this year with the way this lineup is made up. While that’s probably true, so far they are hitting .159 against left-handers, the worst in the National League. The more things change, the more they stay the same, right?
If I could give a Hero to a group, I’d give it to the bullpen. (Wait, you are saying, isn’t this your conceit and you can do whatever you want? Fair, I guess, but the rules have been in place for 10 seasons and I’m not changing them now.) Five pitchers combined to pitch 5.1 innings, allowing no runs, five hits, one walk, and striking out six. I’ll go ahead and give the Hero to Matthew Bowman, who came into a situation with runners on the corners and Paul Goldschmidt (who, in fairness, has struggled to start the season) at the plate and got the out plus pitched another scoreless frame. Ever since Opening Day, when he had nothing and we worried that he was injured, Bowman has thrown 3.2 innings and given up two hits. If he is hurt, he’s doing a good job of playing through the pain.
I wanted to give the Hero to Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons for striking out the side in the eighth, but Bowman’s work trumped my personal favoritism. It did ease my mind at least that his outing against the Brewers was just one of those nights rather than a symptom of a larger problem. Which is a very good thing, because I want to see #70 keep trotting out there.
Dominic Leone got the last out of the sixth and then pitched the seventh. At first, I was a little surprised to see him pitching so early in a game, but I think we are starting to see what things are going to look like when Greg Holland is activated, probably on Monday. Holland pitched last night for Palm Beach, throwing seven pitches in a scoreless inning. He’s supposed to go again Saturday and, if last night is any indication, should be available for the Brewers series coming up. Which probably means that Mike Mayers goes to Memphis, given that he’s not pitched but once this season. Ben Fredrickson is right, we thought the coming of Mike Maddux would get rid of the “gathering dust” pitcher but while Bowman and Jordan Hicks pitch every other day, Mayers is digging splinters out of his backside.
Fredrickson asks who the unused pitcher is after Holland returns will be, but that’s pretty obviously Sam Tuivailala. It sounds like Luke Gregerson is still some distance away, so that decision won’t have to be made yet, but it’s unlikely Tui gets too many chances to really make an impact on this team and be able to keep his job when Gregerson returns. That said, all reports are Tuivailala is throwing in the low 90s instead of the high 90s, which combined with his command issues, doesn’t make him a very appealing option out of a bullpen of flamethrowers.
Hicks got the ninth and, even though we continue to worry about him being overused, it had to be a thrill for the guy to get a chance to pitch in the home opener, even if it was after all the pageantry was over and most of the excitement and momentum and buzz was as well. I’m glad that Hicks is doing well, but somebody has to make sure Mike Matheny isn’t overusing his new toy like he overused his old one in Bowman. So far, it’s hard to make the case that Maddux is doing that.
I do think it’s funny that, unless something changes this weekend, Holland is going to get the first save of the year for the Cardinals after not even being on their Opening Day roster. Maybe the Cardinals will win a close one Saturday or Sunday and let someone else notch a save before the big gun comes striding into town.
For the second straight Friday, a quirk in the schedule based on getting more off days in while still finishing in September, the Redbirds don’t play. This time, at least, they get to hang out with their families and have a relaxing day off rather than dealing with New York. When they get back at it on Saturday, Michael Wacha will finally take the mound after being bumped from his regular start, meaning he’ll have an extra couple of days of rest. Whether that will matter or not, we’ll have to wait and see.
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For the Arizona squad, Zack Greinke takes the hill. We know how tough Greinke can be and he’s not one you want to face when you need to win both games to take the series. Greinke had some groin issues in the spring that got him pushed back and out of the Opening Day slot, but in his first outing he limited the Rockies to one run in 5.2 innings. I’d say he’s pretty much at his normal top-tier level, which is bad news for us that root for St. Louis.
Off days aren’t much fun when you have to stew over a loss and look forward to one of the best pitchers going against your team the next day. But at least it’s Friday? Hopefully that counts for something. Allen and I will record a new Meet Me At Musial (the 70th one!) tonight with special guest Kyle Reis, so expect some minors talk as well. Enjoy the weekend!