The Cardinals enter play with 30 wins and the best win percentage in Major League Baseball. Their starter is their ace this year, Lance Lynn. On the other hand, Arizona is three games under .500. Josh Collmenter is what I would call a fifth starter on many teams, while Lance Lynn has sabermetric rate stats averaging out to around 3, which is quite good. His ERA is also good and like 2 points better than Collmenter's so it would seem a lopsided battle. Especially since Lance Lynn is arguably the sixth best starting pitcher in the NL this year. Seriously.
The Diamondbacks are essentially a star-based team with Goldschmidt's exceptional hitting, but with not a whole lot else going on for them. The Cardinals meanwhile lack the real flashy player but more than make up for it with a lot of really good ones. Kolten Wong and Matt Carpenter have a ton of hits and are atop the order; Matt Holliday is in his golden age; and they have even more exciting young players in the outfield; all with quietly one of the best catchers and shortstops in the game.
One last thing to note: Mark Reynolds is your new first baseman for at least a little while, since Matt Adams is injured with a pretty bad (i.e. "significant") quad tear.
1st: POW! KABLAM! ZONK! Right when the game started, Kolten Wong jolted one just over the right field wall, and it bounced back onto the field off a tv screen. It confused the outfielder, but it was definitely out of the park officially.
2nd: Mark Reynolds picked up an RBI with a single to center field, knocking in Yadi.
3rd: Two lineouts and a strikeout for both pitchers. Lance Lynn walked a guy and Cards went 1-2-3.
4th: Lance Lynn got Trumbo'd. His name always makes me think of Dumbo, but anyway. Arizona got a run on the board since he was the leadoff guy that inning. The Cardinals acted like they were going to answer the challenge with a leadoff Peralta hit. Then Randal Grichuk taunted his more conflicted fans with another double and an ISO well over .300. But alas, Yadi grounded out. Then Mark Reynolds actually walked. But Heyward didn't produce, and Lance Lynn didn't either.
5th: The Cards lineup was reset to the top of the order. Kolten Wong didn't do the leadoff hitter thing (get on base, leadoff guy!). But Matt Carpenter did. This was his 21st walk of the season, which at first impressed me, until I realized Holliday had a lot more, and Bryce Harper with 40!
The important part of this inning, at least in the historic milestone dept, is that Matt Holliday broke a team record! That's 43 consecutive games to start a season getting on base safely. After all the hullabaloo things got anticlimatic and the inning ended with a Peralta line out to third and a predictable Grichuk strikeout (he was due, but not do).
6th: To further take the air out of the balloon, Lynn didn't have a very good fifth inning. The Diamondbacks struck back with a strikeout, single, ground out, walk, single, with a little help from the Cardinals. David Peralta knocked in Pennington, but the guy who walked Nick Ahmed also scored due to a Jason Heyward bobble which was officially an Error. Heyward looked pretty bad in the field this game, and many in the gamethread were just kind of giving up on the guy.
Heyward answered with a single in the sixth, but the rest of the offense included Yadier, Reynolds, and Cruz who all failed at getting on base that inning.
7th: Bullpen stalwart Mitch Harris was brought out, and I must say I was not very confident in his stats or watching him pitch, but he somehow got out of it unscathed. His ERA is scary, but his sabermetric rate stats are horrific. Perhaps he could develop into a cromulent low leverage bullpen guy, but I'm still very nervous watching him pitch. That said, his projections are pointing towards the latter half of that sentence, so that's comforting.
Wong, Carpenter, and Holliday could not muster any offense.
8th: Mitch Harris was much more efficient in his second inning of work. First off, Peralta flied out to left field. Grichuk decided to go 2-4 with only one strikeout by singling and running out a grounder with his speed. However, Molina and Reynolds did nothing. Lots of LOBsters this game.
9th: A combination of Choate and Maness were able to take care of the D-Backs, including Maness inducing a groundout from Goldschmidt. Then another leadoff home run from a Cardinal, this time more dramatic: Heyward destroyed a pitch from sidearmer Brad Ziegler, who had an ERA well under 1.00! It was fun to see Jason make up for his defensive lack of focus by not only getting a hit, but getting another one which was a homer!
Then, Peter Bourjos singled and continued his much improved hitting. This was important as you'll find out later. Kolten Wong grounded out to second, then Matt Carpenter was intentionally walked. The walking was not done yet because massive OBP Matt Holliday got on base, which loaded the bases. This ended up being a really fun win because the Diamondbacks got bit by an intentional walk and the pure speed of Peter Bourjos, who basically took out the catcher when he tried to throw a ball to first. The ball sailed over the first baseman's head so the run counted and everyone was happy.
Heyward ended up being the hero of this game, even though he created the situation to some extent. His .383 WPA lead all players. Cardinals pitchers did not have much of a positive effect, even though the bullpen did nothing wrong. Harris ate some innings and Maness continues his magic. His FIP and xFIP are really good, he continues to get a lot of groundouts, and he hardly walks anybody. Lynn drained all the WPA from the pitching, having a poor outing. His five strikeouts were still more than his four walks though.
Besides Heyward's fantastic night at the plate, Holliday's monumental hit was actually pretty clutch by WPA, a high leverage liner. Grichuk was next best with his 2 for 4 night, and Wong's solo shot didn't register much by win probability.
The Cardinals brought out the brooms in this series and swept a team they should've swept at home. That's a mark of a great team and their record is now at 31-16, 5.5 games ahead of the Cubs. The Cardinals being 15 games over .500 well before June was not what I was expecting, to say the least.
Next game is Friday night, so take a breather tomorrow because there's no Cardinals baseball *sigh*. This next series is vs the Dodgers and their starter, Mike Bolsinger, is undefeated and has a .71 ERA. Our guy John Lackey has a low ERA too and has been quite effective lately. My prediction is a high-scoring regression fest.