Tonight's game got interesting for Carlos Martinez almost immediately. At times, he flummoxed batters, them visibly confused by his pitching repertoire, which included 99 mph fastballs and devastating offspeed pitches... that seemed on the verge of being out of control at times. Martinez fought through the first inning and persevered, allowing no runs despite a strong threat from the Dodgers offense. They stranded three baserunners in just the first inning.
El Gallo continued with the fight of the first inning in the second. With 2 runners on and 1 out, Martinez faced Dee Gordon. He attacked with his arsenal, ranging from upper 90s to upper 80s, with varying amounts of control*. In this instance, Dee Gordon persevered with some BABIP luck, chopping the ball towards surprisingly good defender Matt Adams, who was not able to field the ball this time.
*Carlos' pitch control is his primary concern this season. His walk rate at gametime was 3.92 BB/9, which is a blatant illustration of his main weakness thus far.
Vs. Puig, El Gallo locked in and retired the tough hitter, showing more perseverance. Even though he let on plenty of baserunners, he allowed just 1 run over the first 2 innings. During the third time around for CarMart, he became slightly more efficient, but needed a fantastic defensive play by Allen Craig (perhaps the best play we'll see Craig ever make) to bail him out (which also occurred in the 2nd inning, thanks to a solid play by Peralta).
It was not until the 4th inning that there was any kind of story for the Cardinals offense. Yadier Molina crushed a Ryu offering, tattooing the foul pole in left field to tie the game at 1 apiece. But that was all the Cardinals* could muster.
*The offense this year must be paying back some of last year's good fortune, as the Cardinals are in the middle of the pack by sabermetric stats, but in the top 10 worst teams in RBI... and for runs, the Cardinals had been outscored by 96 runs by the Rockies at the time of this writing, one of the worst team totals in MLB.
Allen Craig made another eyepopping play in the 4th inning, which made me think of his defense in a whole new light. Earlier in the week I discovered that career-wise by UZR he is actually an average (perhaps a tick below) defender in right field. He is underwhelming at best most of the time, but not a liability out there, if he hits more. Maybe he actually is an average defender with a decent arm?
The Cardinals offense finally broke through to take the lead in the fifth inning on a Jhonny Peralta dhouble, which drove in two Matts, of the Carpenter and Holliday variety. Moving right along....
Dee Gordon had Martinez's number again, and got a hit. And upon letting Puig on base as well, Carlos was done for the night, too many pitches thrown and too many threats by the Dodgers offense. Not to worry though, ground into double play specialist Seth Maness did his magic trick, and got the team out of another tight bind.
At this point, I kind of was amazed that the Cardinals were indeed up 3 to 1. It just seemed that the game should have been tied still, at best. But the revealing factor was that the Cardinals blatantly showed off one of their team strengths with El Gallo on the mound: defense*.
*As a fun note, the Cardinals defense is the 2nd most valuable in the major leagues due to their range and ability to execute plays. Not sure if they are actually that good, due to the mercurial nature of defensive range stats, but they are certainly well above average.
...And then, Jon Jay made one of the best plays I've ever seen him make, diving back towards the fence to follow the trajectory of the ball, and completing the play in grand fashion. This was a very eventful game, with Molina throwing out would be basestealers like Kemp, lots of chances for big defensive plays, and a close score.
Maness was out on the mound again to pitch the beginning of the 7th inning, while Sam Freeman also got some work in. Another notable defensive aspect of this night's game was that Peralta was challenged with a number of tough plays, and made every one of them.
Brandon League replaced Hyun-Jin Ryu by the eighth inning. The Cards did not score, beleaguered by Brandon League. Then, Dee Gordon did it again, pouring the hits on the Cardinals like salt in a wound. Dee Gordon! Stop it! You can't hit that good! He does steal a ton of bases, but, cmon.
Neshek was quite capable of performing 8th inning duties, leaving Dee Gordon on base... thanks again, to a wonderful defensive play, this time by Matt Carpenter. The Cardinals finished out the night with Trevor Rosenthal on the mound and a well executed ground into double play.
A game like tonight's game makes one wonder if defense could be a big part of win probability? Or how it could be incorporated more into the graph? Seems like these types of plays are illustrative of the trajectory of the game. Just a tangent to talk about... I know it says that certain players grounded out in high leverage situations, but perhaps big defensive plays could be part of the leverage? Or have a separate graph for defense?
Seth Maness (well, other than superstar hitter Dee Gordon) was the main deciding factor tonight. He just threw a blanket on any fire the Dodgers were able to start. Neshek was also quite good and effective again tonight. Carlos Martinez did what he could to help the team win, with only a very slightly negative WPA for the night. Or if you include his 2 hits, he was just fine as a starting pitcher for the night.
Martinez gave up 6 hits and 3 walks, which is nothing to be proud about. He did show poise though, and the ability to keep his team in the game. The bullpen was just fine though, looking as good as it has looked all season. And the defense may be a thing to watch and see how big of a part it is to this squad's overall value, as it was an area of concern in the offseason for Mozeliak, obviously.
These guys don't make it look easy, but they get it done. Same with Peralta and Adams. Not obviously effective, but effective. And if that's your baseline, then having players like Bourjos and Wong, etc. can really make a team a defensive force to be reckoned with.
Next game is Saturday night on FOX, beginning at 6:15 pm central. Lance Lynn will face Zack Greinke who is well outperforming his career stats (ERA, FIP, xFIP) this year, and is at 2.90 SIERA. Lance Lynn is more on par with his career norms, a rather steady pitcher. However, by SIERA he is no match for Greinke. Hopefully the Cardinals offense will wake up again tomorrow night because 3 runs may not cut it next time around.
Music To Check Out
Ever wonder what a composer could do with the mendbending sound studios available today through technology and years of audio research? All the many instruments and approaches to sonic material? Well if you haven't heard of Tim Hecker, I'd definitely at least check him out. Some of the more interesting new music coming out today.