12:35 p.m. CT
Records against Opponent (as of before this game)-
2013 (9-10) (12-12 including postseason)
Today's game was the 2383rd regular season bout between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Pirates. By losing, the Cardinals fell further behind in the lifetime series against the Buccos, which now stands at 1160-1223.
On this date five years ago, on Opening Day 2009, rookie reliever Jason Motte was brought into the game in the top of the ninth to hold down a 4-2 lead. He gave up four runs on four hits to a Pirates lineup featuring Freddy Sanchez, Adam LaRoche, and Jack Wilson, whose 3-run double put a cap on the Buccos' 6-4 win. Motte would have to wait until the second half of 2011 to regain the title of "closer", and even then, Manager Tony LaRussa refused to acknowledge his status until after he closed out the World Series that fall.
Other news: Before the game, the Pirates announced that top pitching prospect Jameson Taillon will undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery. Taillon was expected to come up to the big league club and contribute at some point this year.
On to today's game:
Early returns from the at-bats against Edinson Volquez were positive. Matt Carpenter ripped a smart leadoff single. Jon Jay, making his second start of the year, hit a hard out to center. Yadier Molina smashed one to the warning track in centerfield in the second. Volquez quickly fell into a groove, though. He induced weak contact and strikeouts to neutralize the Cardinal offense effectively through five innings. The Pirates defense helped him out by making effective use of the shift.
In the sixth, though,Volquez started showing some chinks in the armor. A Wainwright single snapped a streak of 16-in-a-row that Volquez had retired. Later in the inning, Jay smashed a triple into the gap in right-center, scoring Carpenter and tying the game. Clint Hurdle had Volquez issue an intentional walk to Matt Holliday and then came in to take him out in favor of Tony Watson. The move paid off as Watson quickly struck out Matt Adams to end the inning. Volquez' final line: 5 2/3 innings pitched, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K. He threw 81 pitches. In his series preview, the author formerly known as a fink indicated that Volquez strikes out plenty, but also walks too many. If Volquez is able to reproduce today's line with any sort of consistency, the Pirates will be thrilled.
Tony Watson and Mark Melancon were very good in relief of Volquez, giving the Cards nothing in 2 1/3 innings.
Jason Grilli came in to close out the game. He gave up a lead-off walk to Jay. A double play off the bat of Matt Holliday erased that. Matt Adams didn't increase his FtS+ (adjusted F that Shift percentage, a metric developed by our own santiagofish, introduced in his recap of the series finale of the Reds series) when he grounded into the shift to end the game. Earlier in the game, though, he lined out hard to left.
Adam Wainwright looked very sharp early. He used a sinker to paint the bottom of the zone, often to set up his curve.
Bottom of the 4th: With one out, Andrew McCutchen blasted a monster double to right field. Then, Matt Holliday made a range-y play on a Pedro Alvarez fly out to deep left-center. It was an impressive display for the big lego-man. That play alone resulted in a 4.2% swing in win expectancy towards the good guys. Immediately afterwards, Neil Walker knocked an RBI double into the right field corner, scoring McCutchen.
In the bottom of the sixth, after a slap-bunt-hit by Starling Marte, he got a little over-confident in his speed. A close-but-no-cigar pitchout-pickoff attempt at first preceded a steal attempt. Yadier caught strike three for Jose Tabata and tossed the ball on down to second to easily catch Marte for a strike-'em-out-throw-'em-out double play. Wainwright then quickly struck out McCutchen to end the inning.
In his final inning of work, Wainwright walked Alvarez to lead off. He came in to score on a Tony Sanchez double.
Waino's final line: 7 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 7 K. He threw 100 pitches.
Pat Neshek threw a good inning of relief, giving up a hit and striking out one.
Here's the win probability chart for this game:
Notice that the biggest swings in the Cards' favor were thanks to Jon Jay.
VEB quote of the day (in reference to a strikeout of Starling Marte to end of the bottom of the third):
"Jeebus Waino, That was filth flarin filth right there." - nathan.degraaf
DAN and AL notes:
"A 4-2 road trip is better than a 3-3 road trip"
Adam Wainwright has adapted his batting mechanics. He wants to focus on putting more balls in play
Daniel Descalso is unfazed by his diminished role on the team.
"Sometimes, you almost prefer him (Matt Carpenter) to hit with two strikes because he is hard to get out." - Al (he struck out on the next pitch)
They're worried about Craig not driving the ball. They observed that pitchers are pitching him inside. Hardcore Legend noted: "Allen Craig bats now like he is just hitting soft toss"
As shayer points out, "Al talking up the merits of dishing out walks so that umps will give you more calls."
Not Dan and Al, but it sorta annoys me that Barmes' walkup song is "Don't Stop Believin' " for some reason.