Cards versus Cubs, and here's my take:
Too many hits for Junior Lake
Wacha good until five
Then the Cubs came alive
This series has made my heart ache
Michael Wacha faced Jake Arrieta, who made his first start of the season today. The Cardinals lost. Again. And although there were many factors involved, I think it all boils down to this: Rick Renteria knew when to pull his starter and Mike Matheny did not.
The first few innings seemed promising. The Cards got some baserunners on, and even though they didn't score, it seemed like it was only a matter of time. In the first inning, Arrieta walked Matt Holliday and Matt Adams hit a little flare to left center to give the Redbirds two on with two out. But Yadi struck out swinging. As good of a season as he is having, Yadi is actually on pace for 62 strikeouts this year. That would be a career high for him.
Again in the second, Peralta had a lead off single and Jon Jay drew a walk. But, Garcia couldn't get on, and Wacha's bunt was so awful it was almost a double play. And it did not advance the runners. Peralta was thrown out at third. As Preston Wilson pointed out during the broadcast, if Valbuena had better footwork to catch the throw from third toward the front of first base, rather than the back, they very well may have gotten Wacha out. With two on and two out again, Matt Carpenter came to bat. He had a little poke into shallow left that looked like it was going to drop, which it did - right into Starlin Castro's glove. It was actually a fantastic over-the-shoulder play by Castro. He seems to have turned it around this year. Kudos to Renteria for figuring out how to get through to him.
Wacha's troubles started in the bottom of the 4th. Castro hit a screaming line drive that would probably rival a Holliday hit in terms of speed off the bat. If you happened to blink as the pitch was thrown, by the time you opened your eyes, the ball was being thrown back into second base. I thought it was gone, but it hit off the ivy. Wacha managed to end the inning without allowing a run.
The 5th inning felt like déjà vu when Junior Lake hit a rocket off the ivy. Wacha walka-ed the next batter in Mike Olt. At that point, I wanted Matheny to get someone warming in the bullpen. Wacha came back to strike out Arrieta and Bonafacio to end the inning. I did not expect Wacha to start the 6th. Indeed, after Matt Adams got his third hit of the day in the top of the inning, Renteria pulled Arrieta.
Despite my silent pleas to Matheny, Wacha started the 6th. He gave up a two-run home run to Lake on his 102nd pitch of the afternoon.
Yadi and Peralta got back-to-back singles to start the 9th inning. The Cardinals were down 3-0 at that point - not an insurmountable lead, especially against the Cubs' bullpen. Just as I started to have hope, Jay grounded into a double play to squelch it. Mark Ellis shockingly struck out swinging to end the game.
The Cardinals have had a rough go of it lately. Here's hoping we turn things around, starting tomorrow.
1. Carlos Martinez pitched the 7th inning. He looked great, getting three ground balls in a row. I was hopeful that Matheny would keep him in for another inning. In fact, had it been me, Car Mart would have started the 6th and pitched at least two innings. Alas, Choate pitched the 8th and gave up a home run. I was annoyed, but with two left-handed batters due up in the inning, I decided to check Martinez's splits to see if perhaps THIS time, Matheny actually had a method to the madness. I was surprised to see that Martinez actually has a pretty large career split between lefties and righties, albeit in a small sample size - 16.2 IP vs. LHB, 27 IP vs. RHB. He has a 3.31 FIP and 4.29 xFIP against lefties in his career, vs. a 2.78 FIP and 3.58 xFIP against righties. He also has a much higher walk rate (10.8% to 6.2%) and much lower K rate (13.5% to 23.9%) against left-handed hitters. I hope this isn't going to be a trend.
2. Matt Adams went 3-for-4 today, including a hit to the left side and a hit up the middle when the Cubs decided not to employ the shift. I know I keep beating this drum, but I think Adams is the real deal. I never expected him to hit for average, but here we are. He just seems really good at placing the ball, in addition to having a ton of power.
4. I watched the Fox Sports 1 broadcast, and got Eric Collins and Preston Wilson as announcers. I was pleasantly surprised by Wilson. He made quite a few interesting points during the game, was not boring, and does not seem to be an idiot. Also, he lead the league in RBIs in 2003? Really?? Huh.
5. Michael Wacha grew up a Cubs fan. Vomit.
Tomorrow's game starts at 7:05 CT and will be featured on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball. Let's get the win, boys.