What ended up a close game was for the most part a demonstration of Giancarlo Stanton's greatness (and Matt Holliday's, too).
Shelby Miller and Giancarlo Stanton
This very morning Craig wrote about Shelby Miller's struggle to become--or become again--the front-line starter he was in the first half of 2013. His poor pitching this past calendar year seems to be a snarled result of mechanical and developmental issues, with maybe a soupcon of injuries involved, too. He struggled and we despaired. We blamed Matheny, we blamed the gods, we blamed Shelby.
And always we're looking for glimmers of his previous excellence--and Shelby's last three starts offered some signs that some of his problems were being worked out: his walks were down, he seemed to be repeating his delivery, and the psychologists among us posited that his best friend Joe Kelly's abrupt trade away from the team had finally plunged Shelby into the cold and bracing waters of professional baseball--the dispassion of which I guess he was supposedly unaware.
So how did Shelby Miller pitch tonight, Official Cardinals Twitter Account?
Shelby Miller - 5.0 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 5 K (92 pitches/58 strikes). Daniel Descalso to pinch hit.— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) August 12, 2014
He pitched okay. Two of the strikeouts were of the Marlins' starting pitcher Tom Koehler, and three of them came on Shelby's first run through the Marlins' lineup. BrooksBaseball says he got nine swings-and-misses on the night, or about 10% of his pitches. If batters were swinging through ten percent of Shelby's pitches this year, he'd be having a fantastic season (unfortunately, his SwStr% on the season is just 6.8%, down from 9.0% last year).
So...I dunno. He was a little bit good, but he als--
That gif's from Miami's SBN site Fish Stripes, rightfully gleeful about Giancarlo Stanton's night: he hit two home runs off Shelby and then took a four-pitch walk, while in the meantime making a fantastic diving catch to rob Kolten Wong of a leadoff hit in the fifth.
How did Shelby give up the two dingers? He got there in two different ways. The first PA was simply two 96-mph fastballs:
As good as Shelby's fastball is, look at the location of that first pitch--a good one, up
and away, and Stanton swung through it--and then look at the second one and realize that sequencing is a thing, and that if you wanted Giancarlo Stanton to hit a home run on your fastball, this would be a pretty good way to do it: Throw the exact same pitch, only where HE'd want it.
The second PA went fastball for a strike, cutter for a foul ball, fastball just for a ball, curveball in the dirt, curveball in the left-field concourse 470 feet away:
Sam Freeman pitched the sixth and seventh innings, striking out four and allowing just one run--on a wild pitch and a throwing error to third by AJ Pierzynski, stupidhead.
The Cardinals mounted a rally in the ninth inning that came just short, as Matt Adams struck out swinging with the tying run on first base.
Lots of notes:
- Matt Holliday had a great game: 4 for 4 with two doubles and a walk. His 129 wRC+ now leads the team, as his and Adams's hitting have gone in opposite directions in the past month: Adams for a 63 wRC+, Holliday for a 125.
- Jon Jay hit a home run tonight, probably because he saw me talking so much about how great Peter Bourjos's ISO was. He also hit a hard liner on the nose with one on in the eighth, only for the Marlins' second baseman to turn it into an inning-ending double play.
- Peter Bourjos pinch hit and walked versus Miami closer Steve Cishek in the ninth, coming back from an 0-2 count.
- Christian Yelich, who looks legit fifteen years old, made a great sliding play in the third to catch Matt Carpenter's flyball foul to left. Adeiny Hechavarria made a fantastic inning-ending double play in the fifth.
- Oscar Taveras hit two hard ground balls in his first two PAs, one for a hit; then with two on base in the sixth he tapped out to the pitcher on a 2-1 pitch in the dirt. He was, I would say, highly desirous of swinging in that situation, and he really looked like a rookie then. He was primed for an offspeed pitch, and Koehler gave it to him. On the night he went 1-4 with a GB% of 100, and it's much to my dismay to report that the batting lines for him and Descalso (who tapped out to third to end the sixth inning) share some discomfiting similarities.
- Help us, Yadier Molina, you're our only hope.
- Help us, Michael Wacha, you're our only hope.
WPA graph, in which you can see the game's brief trough of hope:
The series continues tomorrow at 6:10 central, Adam Wainwright versus Jarred Cosart.