This game was a delight.
Adam Wainwright pitched up to his usual standards, throwing eight strong innings and allowing just one run, and the Cardinals broke out for 13 hits in a collective yawp of offensive production--but forget all that, because this night was about Peter Bourjos.
Finally given a chance by Mike Matheny to start a game two days ago, Bourjos proved that not only is he an elite centerfielder and a terrific baserunner; he also got two hits, and no matter how weakly those balls were struck, they will forever go down as major-league singles. His performance (and let's face it, really just the hits) were convincing enough that Matheny deigned to give Bourjos the start against Braves lefthander Mike Minor tonight.
And I'm sad to say that Bourjos failed to get four hits. He also failed to hit a grand slam and indeed also failed to score from first on a wild pitch.
What he did do was go 3-4 with a single, a double, and a home run. So what we have here now is a centerfielder with elite skills, incredible speed, sufficient hitting ability, and surprising power. John Mozeliak says, caustically: "Yeah. I know."
The pitch Bourjos hit out of Turner Field for his first homer as a Cardinal was a 91-mph fastball just begging to be hit out of Turner Field for his first homer as a Cardinal:
As exciting as Bourjos's hits were, the most thrilling thing for me was seeing him run from first to third on Wainwright's single in the fourth. Watching Peter Bourjos run at full speed and trying to describe it in words is really a wonderful opportunity to realize your limitations as a writer. It's just--he's incredibly fast and equally elegant, and I keep thinking of the phrase "greased lightning," or of this one line from Gerard Manley Hopkins:
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil
Something like that. Mainly I'm happy that Bourjos's great offensive performance tonight should ensure that we get to watch him play more in the near future.
The Wagonmaker won his NL-leading sixth game tonight. He wasn't transcendentally great like he was against the Mets earlier this season, but he was very good. Here is his line: 8.0 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K. Five of the six hits he gave up were doubles, so he did allow some hard contact.
But he also provided some hard contact, as Waino went 2-4 with a double of his own, scoring twice. Maybe his desire to win the Silver Slugger isn't crazy--after tonight's game he's hitting for a 165 wRC+ in 24 PAs, which leads all pitchers in all of baseball. The Cardinals pitchers, in fact, lead the National League with their 45 wRC+, good for 0.4 WAR!
Here's a quick (and reductive, of course) illustration of Wainwright's success this year versus Shelby Miller's lack of same.
First, here are the locations of every pitch Shelby has thrown this year, with blue meaning least frequent and red most:
via Brooks Baseball
Right down Main Street? Not good, Shelby.
Now, all of Wainwright's 2014 pitches:
via Brooks Baseball
Down and away to righthanded batters, down and in to lefties. Well done, Wagonmaker.
Some final notes:
- Matt Carpenter had a great game, going 3-4 with a double and a walk. His one out was on a hard line drive right at Atlanta's second baseman. He also made a terrific play on a slow roller up the third-base chalk in the bottom of the second.
Randal Grichuk went 0-4 with two strikeouts.
- Seth Maness pitched a scoreless ninth inning: groundout, strikeout (of B.J. Upton, but still), single, and lineout.
The Cardinals have the day off tomorrow but begin a three-game set at Pittsburgh on Friday at 6:05 central, Michael Wacha facing Francisco Liriano.