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Behind seven shutout innings by Michael Wacha, Cardinals win 69th game

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The Cardinals offense wasn't exactly great today, but they took advantage of a pitcher with poor control and it was more than enough with Michael Wacha pitching.

Sign Jason Heyward
Sign Jason Heyward
David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

In a game that seemed perpetually on the verge of a rain delay, the Cardinals won the same way they've won nearly every game: outstanding pitching supported by a middling offense.  The recent and sudden power surge was not present, but it was also not needed.

The Cardinals and Reds traded zeroes to begin the game, but the Cardinals had Michael Wacha and the Reds had some rookie named Michael Lorenzen.  Lorenzen came into the game with 59 strikeouts and 47 walks in 84.1 IP so needless to say he's not very good.  Nonetheless, through three innings, he had a no-hitter.  Granted, he showed his poor control by walking two hitters, the recently acquired Brandon Moss and predictably Matt Carpenter.  Wacha matched him though by allowing two baserunners of his own through three.  Those two just happened to be hits.

In the fourth, Jason Heyward decided to end the charade that Lorenzen is anything but a bad pitcher and lined a single over a jumping Brandon Phillips.  Randal Grichuk worked his way to a 3-1 count, but swung at the next two pitches and struck out.  On the third strike pitch, Jason Heyward got a good jump and more importantly a good slide to steal his first base of the afternoon.  In a reverse of Grichuk's plate appearance, Kolten Wong quickly got into an 0-2 hole, but ended up walking to put runners on first and second.  After Moss struck out, Tony Cruz had the Tony Cruz-iest of hits, a bloop flyball of sorts that fell just before Marlon Byrd could reach it.  Heyward slide into home somewhat safely as the catcher's momentum to reach the ball led to him possibly stepping on Heyward's hand.  Heyward didn't seem to react to it and he stayed in the game so I guess it just looked painful more than causing any damage.

The Cardinals got more runs on the board in the very next inning when Carpenter led off with a bloop hit.  Carpenter hit the ball and immediately sprinted out of the box upon sensing where the ball would land.  Jay Bruce dived to catch it, but it hit his glove and Carpenter had plenty of time to reach second base for a leadoff double.  Lorenzen then hit Stephen Piscotty when he was attempting to bunt so let that be a lesson to always bunt.  Heyward then hit a chopper towards Phillips, who tried to tag Piscotty at first and missed and then flipped it to second for the force out.  A replay revealed that Piscotty was clearly safe when Eugenio Suarez took his foot off the bag before he even caught the ball.  Nevertheless, whether out of umpire loyalty or an inability to see basic objects, the review team called him out anyway.  It was a mockery of the review process.  (What isn't though, really?)

With men on first and third, Heyward stole second again through a swinging and missing Grichuk first pitch strike.  Again, the count then moved to 3-1 and again Grichuk ended up striking out.  This one was particularly egregious as he swung at a ball when it was 3-1 and then swung at a pitch in the dirt to end his plate appearance.  He did not have a great day.  Wong picked him up as he singled up the middle.  I swear when he hit it, it looked like an easy out for Phillips, but the ball seemed to have a life of its own and ended up past him.  Both Carpenter and Heyward scored to make it 3-0.

It was around this time when it became bewildering why the game wasn't delayed as it was visibly raining, the players' jerseys were soaked and the ground looked awful.  Wacha, who has been in a rain delay or two or 50, didn't let it bother him.  The story for the Reds was probably feeling repetitive and annoying.  Wacha allowed six baserunners to reach base, but none of them were in the same inning.  Three of them were Joey Votto.  He was able to get away with it because Todd Frazier currently looks like a marginally better hitter than Tony Cruz.

The bullpen was uncharacteristically shaky tonight.  Jonathan Broxton just didn't have it.  He walked two batters, including Votto for his third time, but thankfully didn't allow any more hits.  Randy Choate came into the game with two men on and two outs and made Jay Bruce look like a helpless child trying to make it in the big leagues.  Trevor Rosenthal came in to save the game despite a three-run lead and Mike's knowledge that the save statistic is arbitrary and didn't have his best stuff either.  He allowed a lucky single when he tried to grab at a chopper that went back at him.  The ball hit his hand and at that point no fielder would have had a chance to get him out.    He walked Tucker Barnhart with one out and almost walked Brayan Pena.  His changeup was filthy though and Pena chased it on a 3-2 count.  Perfectly, the game ended when Phillips made an out, thus completely the series win.

WPA Graph


Source: FanGraphs

Notes

- Sign Jason Heyward

- Michael Wacha's final line: 7 IP, 6 Ks, 2 BBs, 4 HA, 0 ER

- Brandon Moss didn't look good at all.  He walked almost in spite of himself in the 2nd and swung at too many balls for a pitcher with poor control in his strikeout.  Nonetheless, let us all remind ourselves that Grichuk looked pretty much the same and batters who have high strikeout totals tend to look like they don't belong on a major league roster some days.

- Tony Cruz got a hit today.  Here's a fun fact though.  Zack Greinke has a higher career wRC+ than Tony Cruz.  After today, the difference is probably considerably larger since Greinke went 3-3 with a HR and Cruz went 1-4.

- Who did things I didn't mention: Piscotty also doubled in addition to his HBP and Greg Garcia went hitless but got intentionally walked when the Reds trusted their pitcher so much they needed to face the pitcher.  Bourjos came in on a double switch removing Grichuk from the game and struck out on a borderline call that is probably a strike most of the time.