I hate to start a fun win on a down note, but Michael Wacha, huh? He doesn't look good. At all. Whereas Lance Lynn's start yesterday soothed your fears if not outright squashing them, Wacha ignited them. To some people only paying attention to Lynn's sudden drop in performance, tonight came as a shock. But Wacha has been nearly as bad as Lynn had been in his previous starts, but his starts had gone largely unnoticed. That isn't the case anymore.
If it makes you feel any better, most of his troubles were in the first inning. Scooter Gennett began the game with a soft liner over Carpenter's head, ending up at second base on an error by Randal Grichuk. He then worked harder than he usually needs to against a 55 wRC+ hitter in Logan Schafer, before finally striking him out on eight pitches. (I know the Brewers have given up, but he was their #2 hitter!) He walked Adam Lind on four pitches. A base hit by Jason Rogers put the Brewers on the board, but luckily Wacha was bailed out when Lind tried to get to third on the play and did not succeed. Unfortunately, he did not take advantage of the free out, walking Domingo Santana on four pitches and then allowing a double to Hernan Perez to make it 3-0 Brewers.
What probably doesn't make you feel better is his line if you remove the first inning: 4 IP, BB, 3 hits. Wacha, a pitcher with a career 8.03 K/9, didn't strike anybody out after the first inning. That's not good. Among his outs, he got six groundouts, one flyout, three lineouts, and two free outs from Taylor Jungmann, who bunted about as good as your typical Cardinals pitcher. (The runner didn't advance either time on his bunts.) That's more than enough words on the downside of tonight's game.
The Cardinals at first didn't appear to know how to hit Jungmann. However, they put together some good plate appearances that led to him having 38 pitches after two innings despite facing just seven batters. The first five hitters all made him throw at least five pitches, including Carpenter's leadoff 9-pitch strikeout, and while it led to three strikeouts and two groundouts, I think it was instrumental in wearing him down and making him less effective later in the game.
Jungmann seemed like a different pitcher in the 4th inning. Due to seeing so many pitches the first time around, the Cardinals had gotten a good look at what Jungmann brought to the game. When people talk about how pitchers are less effective each successive time throughout the order, this game is what they're talking about. Tommy Pham worked a seven-pitch walk to begin the inning. (Anybody else impressed with Pham's patience?). Heyward jumped on a 2-1 fastball, hitting a line drive to the right side bringing runners on the corners for Jhonny Peralta. Peralta, who hadn't hit a home run since August 1 (!!), finally broke the drought. It wasn't a cheap home run either. Busch Stadium is known for suppressing homers and this was hit to the left-center part of the outfield wall. Not to be outdone, Stephen Piscotty destroyed a ball to give the Cardinals back-to-back home runs. Just like that, a 3-0 deficit became a 4-3 lead.
The Cardinals added on in the very next inning, in part to the questionable decision by Brewers manager Craig Counsell to leave in Jungmann. I understand you want to see if your young pitcher can get out of it and these games are meaningless for them, at least in the sense that it doesn't matter if they win (it probably helps more if they lose actually), but Jungmann was toast by the end of that inning. He walked Carpenter for Carpenter's team leading 79th walk of the year. Pham followed that up with a line drive single. After Heyward grounded out to second, moving runners to 2nd and 3rd, Peralta came to the plate again. Peralta patiently waited for his pitch, but on 2-2, he was hit by a pitch. Piscotty came to the plate, and Jungmann threw three pitches not particularly close to the strike zone. Piscotty, noticing the lack of control, gave him two free strikes letting him throw both down the middle without swinging. But on the sixth pitch, he lined a single up on the middle. Inexplicably, Peralta tried to make it to third on the play and was predictably thrown out, bailing out the Brewers from what could have been a worse inning.
The rest of the game was uneventful. Cishek pitched a spotless 6th inning, including a ridiculous slider that completely froze Martin Maldanado. Siegrist pitched a perfect 7th inning, including a strikeout and super casually fielding a groundball hit right back at him. (He basically fielded it as if he was playing catch with a friend). Piscotty got another RBI driving in Heyward for the seventh run. Randy Choate made an appearance and once again, the Brewers pinch-hit for Lind. This time, Jonathan Lucroy hit a single off him and back Choate went into the same nowhere land that holds Peter Bourjos. Jonathan Broxton gave up a leadoff hit and then proceeded to strike out the side, possibly frustrating Brewers fans mad at him for his first half. ("Of course, he's doing good with the Cardinals!" is a made up quote that I'm sure some of them have said). Matt Belisle finished the game with a scoreless ninth.
- Michael Wacha final line: 5 IP, 3 ER, K, 3 BBs, 6 hits - Yeesh that's not pretty.
- On the bright side, the Cardinals bullpen, which featured nothing but players who will make the playoff roster or are borderline candidates: 4 IP, 5 Ks, 3 hits. No walks and no runs is always good.
- Peralta went 2-3 with a HR, 3 RBIs and a HBP. If he can get his power stroke back in time for the playoffs, this is a whole different lineup. He has been pretty bad in the 2nd half and yet he's got the cleanup spot locked down.
- Piscotty went 3-4 with a HR and the other 4 RBIs in the game.
- This is completely unrelated to the Cardinals or the game, but I have "Take My Breath Away" playing in my head for no reason at all - I don't think I have even heard that song in months. So now you have that song in your head. You're welcome or I'm sorry depending on how you feel about that song.
- 97 wins. Magic number: 6 games.
Tomorrow, Carlos Martinez faces off against Ariel Pena, who apparently faced the Cardinals earlier this month. I'm pretty sure I watched that game. I have no idea who Ariel Pena is. Anyway, Martinez is good so hopefully that turns into a win.