Cardinals @ Nationals Recap 4.20: Cardinals lose a game they deserved to lose

Denard Span hits walk-off sac fly in 3-2 win over the Cardinals - Greg Fiume

Miller's command, Cardinals offense, Cardinals defense all shaky in a loss to the Washington Nationals. They settle for a series split.

St. Louis Cardinals @ Washington Nationals

Shelby Miller (1-2, 4.67 ERA) vs. Stephen Strasburg (1-2, 6.00 ERA)

11:35 p.m. CT
Nationals Park- Washington, D.C.

Some News-

Against the opponent (before this game)-

(Including the Expos)

all-time record (303-286)
2013 (6-0)
2014 (2-1)

Today's game was the 591st regular season bout between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Washington Nationals.  By defeating the Cardinals, the Nationals cut into their deficit in the lifetime series, which now stands at 303-287 in the Cardinals favor.

The last time these two clubs met on April 20 was in 2011. A rainout on April 19 necessitated a twin bill on April 20. The clubs split the double header, Westbrook and the Cards losing 8-6 on the front half and Garcia leading them to a 5-3 win on the back half.

Things we were looking for-

In a fink's series preview, he noted some of the injury problems that have plagued the Nationals. He also talked about the hot starts of Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche, and gave props to Anthony Rendon. The Cards have been able to hold Werth in check, but LaRoche and Rendon have been positive contributors in the series.

He also profiled Zach Walters, whom I had never heard of, but am intrigued by. Going into this game, he was 0-1 with a walk in two pinch hit appearances. I'm interested to see his impact as the season rolls along. Also, I just noticed he was born in Cheyenne, Wyoming. That's neat.

This has been an ugly series defensively. In the first game on Thursday, the Nationals committed four errors. On Friday, the Cards returned the favor with three in the E column. Yesterday, they cleaned up their act, with Rendon committing the only error of the game. The miscues have had a major impact in the series so far. Only 12 of the 19 runs scored in this series have been earned. As it turns out, defensive bloopers were integral in this game, as well.

Things that happened-

Matt Holliday and Kolten Wong got a day off. Jay started in RF and Craig in LF. Harper returned to the Nats' lineup. So did Jose Lobaton behind the plate.

Top Halves-

Stephen Strasburg was very good. In the first, he dispatched the Cards in 1-2-3 fashion with two srikeouts.

The Cardinals were able to get a run across in the second, though. Matt Adams lined a double to left. Yadier flared a single to right, extending his hitting streak to 11 games. Jhonny Peralta grounded into a double play, scoring Adams. After Mark Ellis beat out an infield hit, Strasburg struck out struggling Peter Bourjos to end the inning.

The Cards were able to plate another in the fifth. Strasburg issued his first walk of the day to Peter Bourjos, who scored on a rocket of a double off the bat of Shelby Miller.

Strasburg was stingy most of the game. He struck out nine, including four in a row at one point. He was very effective. Adams was the only Cardinal that seemed to be able to figure out Strasburg, notching two doubles.

Strasburg's final line: 6.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 9 K, 90 pitches thrown.

Craig Stammen, Jerry Blevins, and Rafael Soriano pitched three shutout innings in relief of Strasburg. The Cardinals' offense wasn't impressive.

Bottom Halves-

Shelby Miller again had a positive result, even if he took a windy road to get there.

Especially early on, his stuff looked good. It took him just 6 pitches to retire the Nats' first three batters. He snapped off a couple nasty-looking curveballs that looked great.

His command became a huge issue, though. In the third, he walked the bases loaded (Strasburg, Harper, and Werth), and was going deep into counts with the batters he did get out. He got out of it with no damage done with a strikeout of Adam LaRoche.

He continued to fight his command and a tight strike zone and exited after 5 1/3 IP. He only gave up four hits, and he struck out seven, but I think it's safe to say that it was a scary outing that could have gone much worse for Shelby.

His release point and mechanics were not consistent. Compare the release point plot from his last start (April 15):

Release_php_medium

via www.brooksbaseball.net

to the one from this game:

Release_php_medium

via www.brooksbaseball.net

I'm not sure how his last game compares to his norm, and I'm not super-adept at analyzing these trends, but it seems to me that there's a big difference between last game and today in terms of variable release points.

Miller's final line: 5 1/3 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 5 BB, 7 K, 99 pitches thrown.

The sixth inning was scary. Miller gave up a walk and a single, and then was done for the day. Randy Choate came in to relieve him. Matt Carpenter botched what would have been an inning-ending double play, loading the bases. Choate was able to induce groundouts from Denard Span and Bryce Harper to end the threat. It was a great performance from the not-so-LOOGY.

The seventh was downright infuriating. Carlos Martinez came in (along with Daniel Descalso in a double switch). With one out, Martinez gave up singles to LaRoche and Rendon. For the second inning in a row, the Cardinals relief corps induced what should have been a double-play to end the inning. Descalso couldn't come up with a hot grounder off of Ian Desmond's bat that scored LaRoche. It was ruled a hit, but I think Descalso could have been charged an error. It was a dreadful play. Danny Espinosa contributed an RBI single of his own to tie the game.

In the eighth, Kevin Siegrist gave up a hit and a walk, and was replaced by Pat Neshek, who was able to strand the two runners.

Maness came in to pitch the ninth. A couple singles and a walk loaded the bases. We got to see a five-man infield with Allen Craig coming in. Denard Span was able to hit a sac fly to Jon Jay to win the game.


Dan N' Ricky says-

  • Shelby is dependent on fastball command.
  • Cardinals play 26 of the first 39 games on the road. That's good, in Ricky's estimation.
  • They talked a lot about Matt Williams benching Harper.
  • "The strikezone here from Greg Gibson has tightened up" - Dan
  • "With Zimmerman out and you take Harper out, this turns into a lineup you can pitch to." - Ricky
  • "So the moral of the story for Bryce Harper is 'hustle, but don't run into a wall'" - Ricky
  • "Pitching is kindof like an old car- fix one thing, something else falls apart" - Ricky
  • Lynn told Pat Parris about him being comfortable with Cruz as his catcher. We'll see that again, Dan thinks.
  • The Orioles hired a former umpire to consult on the replay stuff.
  • "I was hoping for a triple from big Matt Adams" - Dan
  • Molina to first later in the career. Look at Joe Mauer.
  • Shadows make it harder to hit.

VEB says-

  • "woo mayo" - adam_ala
  • "OK time for another 6 pitches, Shelb- or maybe you can be a little more frugal this time out" - I-Musial-ly-Am
  • "Shelby release point all over the place so far- fastball command looks ok though" - tehzachatak
  • "Yeah- His stuff was nasty today. Any control at all, it'll be a long day for Natitude" - Paul Foeller
  • Some discussion on Harper's benching
  • "Beautiful Easter- day as always. Cards win will top it off." - Tulsa Terry
  • "D'oh- His stuff may be better, but Shelby's control is still somewhat lacking" - DiscoJer
  • "Rooney and Al having an extended discussion of your proper location in relation to their lawns- (talking about Harper getting benched yesterday)" - BTown Birds Fan
  • "EXHALE" - TBender (after LaRoche's strikeout in the third)
  • Would you want Carlos Gomez on your team?
  • "PB!" - seasicksteve
  • "shelby!!!!" - haightst
  • "lord, Bourjos is fast" - tehzachatak
  • Opinion on Lyons starting?
  • Jon Jay doesn't have an arm - everyone
  • "oh boy" - rdub
  • "choate has proven to be pretty effective" - seasicksteve
  • "take back being ok with Dan at 2B- FFS" - BernardGilkeyHasAPosse!
  • "Descalso- glove man" - adam_ala
  • "I don't think they should use Martinez this often" - dr. howl
  • "NESHEK" - multiple
  • "Our offense today consists of- a double play that scored a run and our pitcher hitting a double. another sad day with the bats." - gossard56
  • "tough one to take today" - StaindFlame
  • "LOB numbers: STL 5, WAS 15." - TBender

Final Notes -

  • This game was one that the Cardinals probably didn't deserve to win. Strasburg pitched much better than Miller. Even though Miller wasn't ultimately responsible for the loss, his outing wasn't encouraging.
  • Carpenter had a tough day. Three Ks, an error, and a play that he should have made that led to the ninth inning rally.
  • Cardinals pitchers are batting a league-leading .232 wOBA. They rank in the top 4 in runs, RBIs, BA, OBP, SLG, and wRC+.
  • It was frustrating that Descalso was in the game playing second base with Wong sitting on the bench.
  • Likewise, it's frustrating that the Cards lost a one-run game without an appearance from Matt Holliday.
  • Win Expectancy chart for this game from Fangraphs

Looking ahead-

Tune in tomorrow as the Cardinals head to the Big Apple to take on the Metropolitans. Tyler Lyons will make his season debut against Jenrry Mejia starting at 6:10 CT.

Happy Easter!

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