There once was a team called the Reds
They had speed, power, and hot heads
And though they were talked up
They could not beat Wacha
The Cardinals won this one instead
First, I want everyone to know that last night I created a beautiful limerick in my head about Michael Wacha throwing a no-hitter today. I didn't write it down, for fear of jinxing it, but I suppose I may have jinxed it just by thinking about it in the first place. But never fear, VEBers (that's VEE EE BEE-ers), I've got it locked away in the old noggin, and if he ever does throw a no-no, you can bet I'll be guest limericking for whoever writes that game recap. Onward to....
It was really nice to watch a Saturday day game in the first week of the season - just the fourth game for the Cardinals. Beautiful day in Cincinnati, and they actually got some people to come to the ballpark! Michael Wacha took the mound for the Redbirds, pitching in his first major league game since THE ONE WE DON'T SPEAK OF. And he looked fan-freaking-tastic. More on that in a bit.
The Reds scored first today, on a Todd Frazier home run in the bottom of the first inning. That would be one of only two hard hit balls against Wacha, and the Reds' only run of the day. By the way, that ball landed in the first row of the left field bleachers and probably would have been an out in most other stadiums. The Cardinals got that run back in the top of the second on an error, a Jon Jay HBP (and so it begins... was he hit in the butt? I wasn't watching at the time), an elusive thus far line drive single by Yadier Molina - his first hit of the season - and a sacrifice fly by Kolten Wong. Not the prettiest way to score a run, but I'll take it.
Side note: I listened to the first few innings on MLB At Bat audio on my phone while grocery shopping. (Best. Grocery. Shopping. Experience. Ever. Making a mental note to plan more shopping trips during Cardinals games.) Mike Shannon and John Rooney want you to know that they don't believe that pitcher wins is an "antiquated" stat. According to Shannon, if pitcher wins don't mean anything, then they wouldn't be giving all these huge contracts to 20-game winners. Heh heh heh. Excellent logic there, Mike.
The Cardinals took the lead in the fourth inning on a solo home run by Matt Adams - his first hit and first home run of the season. MAYBE that one was also aided by the short porch in right field. Wacha, meanwhile, was cruising. He was remarkably efficient, throwing only 67 pitches through six inning - aided in part by the Reds' apparent strategy of swinging on all the first-pitch fastballs they could get their bats on. In the bottom of the 7th with one out, Wacha walked Brandon Phillips. Although he'd only thrown 76 pitches at that point, Mike Matheny pulled the plug. Gotta say, I didn't hate that move. The Cardinals have a strong bullpen. Quick hooks are generally a good thing. Wacha's final line: 6.1 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 2 KOs.
Matheny continued to not make horrible decisions when he brought in Seth Maness, ostensibly for the double play ball. Interesting tidbit about Maness: in 2013 and 2014 combined, he induced the most double plays of any pitcher in MLB. Pretty cool, that. Anyway, he couldn't get the DP here, but he did get Zach Cosart to line out to Jay. Next, Kevin Siegrist came in to strike out Bosch in a very 2013-esque Siegrist way.
Walden came in to pitch in the bottom of the 8th and promptly struck out Billy Hamilton. Can we all agree that we should just throw strikes to him? He doesn't hit for power, and he doesn't hit for average. But give him a free pass to first base, and he's likely to end up right back at home in the blink of an eye. Choate came in to face Votto, and gave up a base hit. Classic example of good process, bad result. Votto is just GOOD. Sometimes there's not much you can do about it.
With a runner on and one out, Matheny called in Trevor Rosenthal to get a five-out save. SPOILER ALERT: he did. But not before the Cardinals added two important insurance runs. In the top of the ninth inning, with one out, Matt Adams notched another hit, and Peter Bourjos pinch-ran for him. The broadcasters noted that PB's only real role on this team now is to steal bases and play late-inning defense. It is sad, but true, and at least he seems to be making the most of it. After a pitch out on a ball where Bourjos was NOT running, he stole second base with relative ease. A base hit to left field from Jhonny Peralta scored Bourjos, and consecutive hits by Jay and Molina allowed Peralta to score on a nifty tag-avoiding slide. With first and third, one out, Kolten Wong tried to bunt and popped up the ball on the infield, effectively ending the rally, as Rosenthal got to hit - and strike out - for himself the next at bat. My favorite line from that inning, when the broadcasters discussed why the bunt was not a bad idea there (no, it really was): "you've got the speed of Jon Jay at third." NOPE.
Rosie recorded the save in the bottom of the 9th. The Cardinals are back to .500, we learned that the Reds will, in fact, lose games this year, and all is right with the world again.
1. Dan and Ricky said that the manager should have double-switched Siegrist in the 7th to allow him to pitch another inning. I agree that it was puzzling that he didn't, given how much Matheny loves to double switch, but don't think it was per se WRONG that he didn't. Maybe Matheny only wanted Siegrist for one hitter, for some reason. Siegrist really struggled last season. Maybe it's okay to use kid gloves with him for a while, until he settles in. Especially with a well-rested bullpen. And hey - maybe Matheny had the plan all along to get Walden out there again after last night, but didn't want him to come in with a runner on base, so he could pull him without much damage if things went south again. What say you, VEB? (GOB, it feels weird to defend Matheny - but damn if this wasn't a decently-managed game. What is happening?!)
2. Yadi and Adams both broke their 0-fers to start the season, and each had two hits today. They are going to be okay, you guys, I promise.
3. Speaking of people who will be okay - Michael M.F. Wacha. His fastball looked good, averaging around 93-94 mph, and hitting 95 a couple of times. He didn't really throw his changeup that much though - only 14 of 76 pitches. And six of those were in one at-bat against Jay Bruce, when he threw it six times in a row and struck him out. Still, a solid outing from a guy who finished last season with a giant question-mark hovering over his head. I can't complain.
4. The rubber game starts tomorrow at 12:10 p.m. CT. The one, the only, CARLOS "EL GALLO" MARTINEZ gets his first start of the season against Rasiel Iglesias. It should be a good one, so tune in!