Shelby Miller pitched five good innings, the bullpen pitched just well enough, and Peter Bourjos went 2-4 in his first start in a geological age.
"How's the horizontal movement look on Shelbster's fastball?" is a question my girlfriend asked me in my mind just now, and since you all are probably curious, too, here's a graph of it:
Shelby threw his fastball 69 times out of 86 pitches, or about 80% of the time, and Brooks Baseball says the average horizontal break was -3.74. You'll recall that Aaron pointed out that Miller's fastball has been breaking less so far this season--two or three inches less than in his (Shelby's) near-perfect game last year.
It's unclear just how important a fastball's break is in getting batter's out, and while it's probably safe to say that more is better, speed and location are crucial, too. "So what was Shelbster's fastball velocity?" a girlfriend might ask. It averaged 94.5 and topped out at 97, according to PITCH f/x, and that's great. His command of his fastball was less great, but he was able to pitch up in the zone to get lots of fouls and swinging strikes, which is what you should do against the Braves. His curveball and cutter were inconsistent, so let's just call those works in progress for a little bit longer.
Miller's final line was 5.0 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, with 5 groundouts and 2 flyouts.
Before yesterday's game, there were many of us who loved Peter Bourjos for the gazelle-like beauty of his outfield defense and advocated for him and his non-terrible (but controversially so!) bat to be the default center fielder for Mike Matheny. There were others who believed in Peter even more strongly but who had seen Matheny's reliance on Jon Jay and on matchup histories and had despaired that he (Bourjos) would ever start again. These are the Knights of Infinite Resignation that Kierkegaard described.
And what of the Knights of Faith? Those breathtaking true believers who both desponded and yet knew that young Peter would receive another chance and would shine therein? None smile broader than they do, for this is a thing that happened last night:
PLAYER OF THE GAME. How was this accomplished? Bourjos went 2-4, scoring one and scoring once, as you can see up there. And it was awesome to see, but the surest sign that the gods were watching and laughing last night was this, in the crucial fifth inning:
1. Peter Bourjos singles on a line drive to center fielder B. J. Upton.
when in fact Bourjos had merely check-swung a floater up the middle on the first pitch of the at-bat. I honestly think Bourjos could have run to B.J. Upton faster than that line drive got there. But the skid was officially ended, and even the near-misplay of Freddie Freeman's liner in the first would be forgotten in the heroics to come.
Fifth and Sixth Innings
If you want to see an example of the "hidden" but real effects of having a very fast ballplayer on your team, look to these innings. A quick rundown:
- Leading off the fifth, Bourjos "singles on a line drive to center"! Still funny.
- Mark Ellis then hits a double-play ball at Andrelton Simmons, who rushes to get the ball to second and misplays it, both runners safe. Simmons knows how fast Bourjos is, and he certainly would not have made that transfer error if Bourjos hadn't been ghosting toward second.
- Shelby sacrifice bunts to the pitcher. One week ago, Matt Holliday was thrown out at third in this exact same scenario. No one could've thrown Bourjos out.
- Matt Carpenter doubles to center, scoring Bourjos and Ellis.
- In the sixth, Bourjos swatted an RBI single to right field, scoring Allen Craig.
- After Carpenter walked the bases loaded, Yadier Molina hit a ball back up the middle that ricocheted off Aaron Harang and right to third baseman Chris Johnson, who picked it up and stepped on the bag for the third out of the inning. And yet even here Bourjos almost produced a run out of thin air, as he nearly beat Johnson to third (though a replay did not overturn the call).
None of the above is a criticism of Jon Jay, mind you. It's just a reminder that the Cardinals have fantastic depth at the outfield position, and that Peter Bourjos is a major part of that depth, even if the way in which he's valuable is easy to overlook. Even if your job is to not overlook such things.
Concluding Unscientific Postscript:
- Jhonny Peralta had two hits, including a double. His isolated slugging is now .250, which is fifteenth in all of baseball.
- Matt Adams, disappointingly, had a poor showing on Cinco de Mayo, going 0-4 with 3 K. He was also the target of two sharp grounders in the sixth inning, the second of which scored the Braves' first run.
- Pat Neshek pitched the sixth inning after replacing Miller; Neshek allowed a sac fly, then produced a fly out and a strikeout to end the inning.
- Kevin Siegrist pitched the seventh, giving up a home run. Rosie pitched a scoreless but not undramatic ninth. And inbetween was Carlos Martinez, who pitched a perfect eighth inning. In that inning B.J. Upton hit a long fly ball to right field, where Allen Craig, who after tonight I believe is still unrecovered (or unrecoverable) from his lisfranc injury, caught the ball like this:
Possibly I included this photo as proof that Allen Craig should be played less and less in right field--but possibly also I included it for the beautiful yellow-on-red Carlos Martinez stats.
A WPA chart that the Cards will forever be victorious on:
<iframe src="http://www.fangraphs.com/graphframe.aspx?config=0&static=0&type=livewins&num=0&h=450&w=450&date=2014-05-05&team=Braves&dh=0" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" height="450" width = "450" style="border:1px solid black;"></iframe><br /><span style="font-size:9pt;">Source: <a href="http://www.fangraphs.com/livewins.aspx?date=2014-05-05&team=Braves&dh=0&season=2014">FanGraphs</a></span>
The second game of the series takes place tomorrow at 6:10 central, Tyler Lyons facing Gavin Floyd