When this offense regresses in August 2015 it is going to feel all kinds of awesome.
Gonzales--making the second start of his career, remember--and Yadier Molina seemed to come into the game with a plan: Throw fastballs the first time through the Giants' order and introduce the changeup and curveball the second time through, keeping the ball down to induce grounders. This was a solid plan.
Gonzales threw nothing but fastballs in the first inning, getting three outs on not especially hard-hit balls. His first changeup of the game came in the second, to Michael Morse, and it was perfect, inducing a double-play grounder. And for those worried about how terrible Marco's curveball was in his first start, at Coors Field--and it was truly wretched--it looked good last night, and sometimes better than good. That's very encouraging.
In the third inning, Gonzales's first strikeout of the night came against Juan Perez on this fantastic sequence: 90mph fastball, 81mph changeup, 90mph fastball, 79mph changeup:
Great mix, great location, down in the zone. Pitching is downright easy when the ball goes where you want it to...
...but pitching is hard. And it turns out that Gonzales was not able to command his pitches all night. He couldn't consistently keep them down in the zone. He started giving up hard contact and he started walking folks. And thus he fell into ruin.
Pablo Sandoval hit a two-run homer in the fourth that gave the Giants a 3-0 lead, and it's a good example of why command is so important at the big-league level. Here's a heat map of which pitch locations Sandoval does the most damage with:
Keep the ball down, then, and if Yadi's set up inside--as he was--don't miss over the plate, okay?
But pitching is hard.
Marco's final line: 4.1 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 4 BB (1 IBB), 2 K (84 pitches, 50 strikes).
The Way in Which the Cardinals Didn't Score
By far the most important moment of the game for the Cardinals offense was in the top of the fourth, when, after a Jhonny Peralta double, a Matt Adams single, and a Yadier Molina hit-by-pitch, Allen Craig came to the plate, with Jon Jay and Daniel Descalso behind him.
The standard run expectancy for a bases-loaded no-outs situation is 2.22 runs (according to Fangraphs). But of course that doesn't take into account things like the ballpark (AT&T Park suppresses runs), the pitcher (Lincecum's splitter was nasty all night), or the existence of curses (in retrospect it was strange when that old crone at the DMV spat into her hand and pointed at Craig).
At any rate, Lincecum threw some really great pitches when he had to, striking out Craig and Jay on splitters (Jay's bounced in front of the plate) and getting Descalso to ground out to second. Zero runs scored, end of inning.
That was the only time the Cardinals had a runner on third all night. I guess hitting is hard, too.
I had such high hopes for this section before the game. All kinds of savior iconography ready to go. Alas, even Oscar couldn't help the Cards' offense last night:
- 1st inning: struck out swinging
- 3rd inning: first-pitch groundout to second
- 5th inning: groundout to first
- 8th inning: WALK
No sweat, Oscar--you'll singlehandedly save this sputtering offense next time.
Worldly Attachments the Cardinals' Offense
When anything, from the meanest thing upwards, is attractive or serviceable or an object of affection, remember always to say to yourself, 'What is its nature?' If you are fond of a jug, say you are fond of a jug; then you will not be disturbed if it be broken. If you kiss your child or your wife, say to yourself that you are kissing a human being, for then if death strikes it you will not be disturbed. [Enchiridion, Chapter 3]
- It was a windy night. In the third inning, Brandon Hicks hit a popup that was clearly headed for the first-base foul area, with Adams rumbling that way to make the catch, only for the ball to completely reverse direction and wind up on the other side of the second baseman, Descalso, who himself couldn't make the catch. Dirty Dan settled for throwing to second for a fielder's choice forceout.
- In case you missed it, Kolten Wong started a rehab assignment in Memphis, going 2-3 with a walk, a double and a home run. Daniel Descalso started second for the big-league club, going 0-4. He leads the team in negative WAR. Delenda est Descalso.
- Also in Memphis, Joe Kelly's line was 4.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 0 K, 49 pitches, 31 strikes.
WPA graph, which shows just how important that bases-loaded none-out situation was: