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Michael Wacha leads St. Louis Cardinals to 4-1 win

Michael Wacha managed to pitch better than a former Cy Young award winner in Max Scherzer and thus has started the year 3-0.

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The St. Louis Cardinals 23-year-old Michael Wacha outpitched a Cy Young winner in Max Scherzer in the Cardinals 4-1 win over the Washington Nationals.  Originally the game appeared to be a classic pitcher’s duel where the first team to score two runs would win the game, but the Nationals bullpen and fielders had other ideas in a rough eight inning.

Michael Wacha started slowly with a four-pitch leadoff walk to Denard Span to begin the game.  Nonetheless, the first was an efficient inning where he then struck out Ian Desmond on three pitches and allowed a single to Bryce Harper on the first pitch.  He got out of the inning with a flyout and lineout to center.

His next three innings didn’t come completely cleanly as he allowed a single in the 2nd and a single and a walk in the 4th inning.  Even in his 1-2-3 inning, Span lined it right at Wacha, who had a nice reaction time to catch the ball.  However, these runners were spread out enough to prevent any runs from scoring.

That changed in the 5th inning.  Unlike the previous four innings were he was perhaps fortunate to come away unscathed from a run, the fifth reversed that fortune.  A leadoff double by Danny Espinosa created problems.  When Scherzer grounded out to Jhonny Perlta, Matt Adams stepped off the bag in an attempt to prevent Espinosa from getting to third.  It was fruitless however as Espinosa got a good jump on a Peralta who didn’t even check to see if Espinosa would stay.  After a Span single (he really seemed to have Wacha’s number), it was first and third with nobody out.  At this point, Wacha really earned the win he would eventually get when he forced a pop-out, struck out Harper, and got Ryan Zimmerman to ground out.  So at one point in the game, it was first and third with nobody out for the Nationals and they came away with zero runs.  Wacha’s next two innings were smooth sailing as he didn’t allow a batter to reach base.

The Cardinals bats, on the other hand, understandably struggled against Scherzer.  Matt Carpenter, god among men, led off with a leadoff double and later scored on a wild pitch by Scherzer.  (Note: I was not able to see the top half of this inning so Scherzer could have pitched terrible.  Judging by the two strikeouts, he was not.)  After they scored their first run however, it wasn’t until Jason Heyward singled in the 6th with two outs that they even managed to get another batter to reach base.  Thankfully, they took advantage of that opportunity when Holliday got hit by a pitch and Adams redeemed his earlier error by singling home Heyward.

The top half of the eight is where things got weird.  After retiring the first two batters of the inning, Matt Holliday singled.  The Nationals took out Matt Thornton when the Cardinals announced Mark Reynolds as a pinch-hitter.  Mark Reynolds hit a line drive double scoring Matt Holliday.  Thanks to a terrible throw, Holliday was safe at home.  Reynolds rounded past second on the play, at which point Jose Lobaton threw it at second, but the throw was wildly inaccurate going well over the second baseman’s head.  The ball passed the outfielders and Mark Reynolds had just gotten himself a Little League homer.  (It was a double technically)

WPA Graph

Source: FanGraphs Notes

- Wacha's final line: 7 IP, 1 ER, 6 Ks, 2 BBs, 5 hits allowed; I will take that every time out and twice on Thursdays.  Not the expression I know, but it is Thursday.

- Walden allowed a double and a walk to create some tension in the bottom half of the eighth, but a double play quickly cleared that up.  Trevor Rosenthal had a 1-2-3 inning with only one strikeout.  What a slacker.

- Matt Carpenter is to baseball what Babe Ruth is to baseball.  He went 2-4 with a double.

- Matt Adams needs to work on mental defensive issues because this one today was baaad.