Tim Cooney, owner of a career 4.64 AAA fielding independent pitching (FIP) before this game, faced off against Tyson Ross, owner of a 3.24 FIP last year a 2.94 FIP so far this year. The Cardinals lost. This should not be a surprise. And yet it is because baseball finds ways to disappoint and frustrate you in games that you clearly have no business winning, if the numbers had their way. I'm well aware the Cardinals have the best record in the MLB and the Padres have a losing record. But usually when such a disparity exists between opposing starters, it doesn't matter who has the better record.
Naturally, Tim Cooney outpitched Tyson Ross tonight. (This is a debatable point, which I'll discuss later). Melvin Upton Jr started the game with an infield hit to Cooney, who threw it wide of the bag. He however made up for his mistake when he froze Upton in a successful pickoff move and got out his next two hitters with no problem.
In the bottom half of the inning, it was clear what Tyson Ross' strategy was and what the Cardinals needed to do in order to beat him. Ross' style today heavily relied upon the hitters chasing balls and for the most part the Cardinals were able to hold back. Carpenter walked without having to take the bat off his shoulders after Wong struck out on a pitch that fooled him. Peralta, on 2-0, swung at a ball that fooled him but managed to muscle the ball into a bloop single. Heyward then walked without ever swinging the bat to make the bases loaded and nobody out. Despite Ross having thrown 10 balls in his last 14 pitches, Molina swung at the first pitch and made such weak contact towards the pitcher, that everybody was able to advance, giving the Cardinals a 1-0 lead. With men on second and third, Grichuk grounded out to end the threat.
In the top of the second, Cooney struggled. He allowed a solo home run to Yangervis Solarte to quickly get the score back even. Jedd Gyorko crushed a ball at the warning track that Grichuk inexplicably dropped (and earned an error on that play.) Austin Hedges advanced Gyorko over to third on a groundout to the right side. And then, in what I assume had to be a damage to Cooney's confidence and ability as a pitcher, he intentionally walked career 72 wRC+ hitter Clint Barmes (unless you believe in that .392 BABIP, then he's a 116 wRC+ hitter!). Ross swung at the first pitch and flew out.
In the third, Cooney forced three straight groundouts to make it an easy inning. He ran into more trouble in the 4th though when Justin Upton led off with a hard ground ball that Carpenter whiffed on (he got an error on the play.) Solarte, who apparently had Cooney's number, lined out to Peralta, who made a nice jumping grab and was almost able to cause a double play. After striking out Gyorko, Austin Hedges hit a line drive single that scored Upton, but the Cardinals promptly 9-2-6'd him out of the game on nice throws from both Heyward and Molina. (If unfamiliar with keeping score, Molina threw out Hedges at second when he attempted to advance to second on Heyward's throw)
In the 5th inning, Cooney struck out the side. Unfortunately, in between he allowed a home run. To Tyson Ross. The opposing pitcher. Yeah this game sucked. The Cardinals managed to take away that two-run lead in the bottom half of the inning. Cooney, our pitcher, led off with a double. (Obligatory who needs the DH here). With one out, Carpenter hit a bloop single to drive him home. After Peralta struck out, Heyward hit a line drive double towards left field that allowed Carpenter to score from first. Molina ended the inning with a groundout.
Cooney's last inning of work was mixed as he walked Kemp to lead off the inning. Kemp got thrown out by Molina ("FROM HIS KNEES" always conjures memories of Nick Stavinoha for me), Justin Upton struck out and Solarte struck out. Solarte struck out in an entertaining way, assuming you aren't a fan of the team he plays for, by complaining about a called second strike and then check swinging at a pitch in the dirt. I can't remember if it was actually a strike or a ball or if he actually went on his check swing, but he slammed his helmet down and presumably said some not so kind things about the home umpire, who to be fair to Solarte was terrible.
In the end, Cooney's start is much more encouraging than his first. He had trouble locating his curveball, especially early on when it would just not do anything and go way outside. Of the 22 non-intentionally walked batters he faced, he was at some point behind in the count to 10 of them. Whether that's good or bad (my first guess is average), he probably needs to be better than that with his stuff. He allowed a lot of hard contact as well. On the other hand, he had six strikeouts to one UIBB and while he didn't get a lot of groundballs (33.3%), his two home runs caused his HR/FB% to be an unseemly 25% (average is around 10.5-11%). Overall, it wasn't a great start, but it wasn't a bad start either. It certainly should have been enough to beat Ross, who walked five hitters and struck out six.
The Cardinals had another chance in the bottom half of the sixth when Ross walked both Grichuk (!!!) and pinch-hitter Greg Garcia. Despite having 110 pitches at the time, he was left in to face the left-handed hitting Wong. He of course got out of it, which wouldn't be the last time the Padres manager would be rewarded for making a less than ideal decision in this game.
Miguel Socolovich relieved Cooney and had the most shaky multiple inning scoreless appearance one can have. He walked two batters to one strikeout and also allowed a hit. Randy Choate replaced him with a man on second and two outs in his second inning of work and was able to coerce a groundout out of Alexi Amarista, who came in after Solarte was thrown out of the game.
The Cardinals threatened again in the bottom of the eighth, but unfortunately it started with two outs. Bourjos worked a nine-pitch walk that was annoyingly viewed from behind home plate and behind the screen. (Note to Fox Sports Midwest: Please stop doing that. Please.) Pinch-hitter Xavier Scruggs singled to left, making it first and third. Wong struck out looking to end the threat.
Trevor Rosenthal came in for the ninth and quickly allowed a leadoff double. Needing one run, Dave Roberts made the correct decision and bunted him over to third. Barmes hit a bloop that probably falls if the infield isn't playing in, but they were and Wong caught it and nearly threw out the runner at third (but didn't actually throw the ball for some reason). After intentionally walking pinch-hitter Yonder Alonso, Rosenthal made Melvin Upton look absolutely foolish, just blowing him away with three straight fastballs. (Admittedly this is not a hard thing to do)
Carlos Villanueva pitched an easy 10th followed by Shawn Kelley striking out all three Cardinals on 10 pitches (which included Villanueva). In the top of the 11th, Villanueva got two quick outs before allowing a ground rule double to Clint Barmes. Will Venable pinch-hit and hit a home run on the first pitch. The Cardinals got a leadoff single from Wong against Craig Kimbrel, but other than that went down quietly to end the game.
- Yadier Molina was a game of contrasts tonight. Offensively, he barely could have hurt the team more. He came up with the bases loaded, two men on twice, and one man on twice. He weakly grounded out with the bases loaded, ended the inning three times with his groundouts, and the other time he advanced men to second and third on groundouts. Weirdly, no double play balls. Defensively, he threw out a guy trying to steal and had the aforementioned part in the 9-2-6 play which was in no small part helped by Molina's strong arm.
- I feel like I'm saying this every game now, but I am so done with Mark Reynolds. Bring on Adam Lind. Or for the time being start Xavier Scruggs every game. Scruggs is probably not a lot worse than Reynolds if he is because Reynolds is really bad and it'd be nice to help figure out how exactly good Scruggs is. Not advocating for Scruggs as a major league starter, but context is important. The other options aren't good either. Anyway Reynolds looked like he was picked up off the streets and told to play because he went 0-5 with four strikeouts.
- Look I love Carpenter, but he had the most unimpressive game I've ever seen for a guy who got on base four times. Both singles were of the bloop variety. But hell I will take a four on base game from Carpenter when I can get it these days. He also committed a costly error.
- Inspiring stat: The top four hitters got seven hits and got on base 10 times from three walks. Uninspiring stat: the next four hitters got zero hits and got on base twice from walks. The 9th spot in the order, on the other hand, got hits from Cooney and Scruggs and a walk from Garcia. So they went 2-4 with a BB and that's including Villanueva striking out.
- Didn't get into this in the recap, but it's frustrating watching a manager get rewarded for keeping his closer out of the game because of saves. Kimbrel didn't pitch until the 11th but he should have been there in the 9th because saves are a stupid stat.
Tomorrow, Michael Wacha and Andrew Cashner face off on Friday night. Both pitchers have nearly identical xFIPs (3.57 for Wacha, 3.60 for Cashner), but because wins and losses are stupid, Wacha is 10-3 while Cashner is 3-9. So don't be fooled by that record. Cashner is pretty good.