I'm your last minute addition recapper for tonight, folks! Yes, the Continental is under the weather, well, hopefully under a roof in this weather, but you get the idea. I was nice enough to sub in, but as with any time I try to help out, it blows up in my face. Buy someone gifts, get the cold shoulder. Loan someone your car, get the door dented in and the key remote lost. Sub on a recap, get a real crappy game to cap. Stuff like that.
Well since it isn't my usual night, I'm gonna do things different. Like I tend to do...
Know your enemy
The Cubs are not your baby animals that they used to be. No, they are one of the best teams in baseball, chasing down two of the other best teams in baseball. They, at this point in the season, are probably rolling out a better lineup than the Cardinals. But let's make sure:
- 1B Anthony Rizzo vs Brandon Moss: Advantage Cubs by a LOT
- 2B Starlin Castro vs Matt Carpenter: Advantage Cards by even more than a lot
- SS Addison Russell vs Greg Garcia: Advantage Cubs
- 3B Javier Baez vs Mark Reynolds: Advantage Cubs
- C Miguel Montero vs Yadier Molina: Advantage Cubs
- RF Kris Bryant vs Jason Heyward: Advantage Cubs
- CF Austin Jackson vs Jon Jay: Advantage Cubs
- LF Chris Coghlan vs Stephen Piscotty: Advantage Cardinals
Well, at least that went out on a high note! This of course ignores defense, but if you cannot score any runs, then defense is a moot point. Which was the case vs the Cubs last night, and what is starting to look like, probably the case for tonight (more on that later). How about the starters? Hammel vs Wacha, Wacha is better, right?
Well, not on 9/8/15. Hammel was far better than Wacha tonight. How about this season: while Wacha has a wonderful shiny ERA, it regressed tonight. And his SIERA in 2015 is 3.80 (3.70 xFIP). Meanwhile, Hammel is actually having a super good season at 3.39 SIERA and 3.46 xFIP. It just seems like Wacha is having the better season because of ERA, but Hammel's is solid and about the same as his sabermetric stats.
So all that was worrisome to think about. And tonight continued a real bad homestand for the Cardinal crew. Silver lining is that Mike Matheny obviously can roll out a better lineup than that. But maybe all the injuries have come home to roost. And with Jon Jay back, and not producing, while CF had been QUITE productive most of the season, we have a bit of a problem. Even when Grichuk all the sudden was injured like the shooting star he was imitating, Matheny was able to wing it and plug in any of Pham, Piscotty, Heyward (and theoretically Bourjos, but we all know how that goes) and not lose much production.
Instead we are relying, based on loyalty, on a player who is aging and probably still nursing a wrist problem, which would make his hitting style quite ineffective. That is sure what it seems like to me, at least, and many Viva El Birdo'ers. That and 3 key players have not been performing for quite some time: Kolten Wong, Lance Lynn, and Jhonny Peralta, according to the gamethread.
I was aware of the first two, but Jhonny always flies under the radar a bit, and I hadn't noticed what he was up to lately. Peralta has actually been on the decline for most of the season, doing very well at first but over the last few months, he has been increasingly worse and has nearly grinded to a halt. He will need to pick up the pace along with the other guys, with so many injuries.
But hey, at least Grichuk, becoming a bit of a memory of a dream (remember the rookie of the year talk? Jinx!)... got to bat tonight! I doubt if he is able to throw yet, since he's not starting, but..... he hit home run #16 tonight. So yeah, welcome back Randal you superstar! Grichuk update: 144 wRC+
Hey, did I mention I was not able to even watch this game because of work and MLB blackout restrictions? Yeah, there's that! So I heard about the Grichuk home run from Mike Shannon while I was writing baseball coverage, and now I feel a lot better somehow.
Somehow, Jon Jay remained in the game, and was hit by a pitch. So we have several specialized center fielders then. (home runs, hbp, defense, etc). Then my Cubs fan roommate walked into the room, so I interviewed him (he was talking about art at first then I changed the subject to our sports nemesis fandom relations).
I guess what I missed was Matt Carpenter just missing some RBI because of a good defensive play and not hitting it to the right spot. Then Piscotty stepped up and was able to knock in some runs. It is quite surprising and fun how great Piscotty and Grichuk have been, which has been my most memorable narrative of this season.
Then the bases were loaded again because of a walk, and Tony Cruz was up, and most surprisingly, got a hit! Cardinals down by 3! Then wunderkind Randal Grichuk was up to the plate, bases loaded AGAIN.
Well, Grichuk is also prone to another outcome, strikeouts instead of home runs, and that's exactly what he did this time. 3 left on base, floating on the pond, never to return home (at least, in that particular inning). So that was anticlimactic.
At least the Cards were showing life. Someone had said when the Cards were down by 6 that hey, if this ends up being an 8-6 loss, I'll feel a lot better about it. Well, almost there at least since the game was at 8-5.
The Cardinals were set down by Fernando Rodney, but were at least hanging in there for the 9th inning. The Cubs produced a Denorfia triple off of Siegrist, possibly because of Jon Jay's defense. Ok, probably. Then Kevin buckled down and struck out Kris Bryant. He was able to avoid a run scoring, despite the triple.
So, the Cardinals tried to put something together during the last moments of the game. And that was that, they were not able to complete the comeback; the Cubs bullpen was able to hold it down and take the series. Still one more game to avoid the sweep, come on!
Tomorrow's game is a day game at 12:45pm so I won't be recapping tomorrow night. Somehow all the fans will be able to get a haircut at the game tomorrow with proceeds going to Cardinals Care.
Stephen Piscotty quietly went and had himself a 2 for 4 night with a base on balls. However, the Cardinals struck out 12 times as a team vs Cubs pitching. But at least the Grich returned and did this to Cubs pitching.
That WPA graph thing:
Cubs fan interview by Cards Fan in Chitown
(my other alias, hey, I'm in Chicago, might as well interview my roommmate):
CFIC: How closely have you actually paid attention to baseball this year, after the Cubs lulling you into not caring?
Roommate (a more sabermetrically inclined than usual but not totally sabr nerd fan): I've watched about 1/3 of the games, and about another 10% of games on the radio... didn't pay much attention in the middle of the season after the novelty wore off, but I've been watching more lately. Have never been an every-game watching fan.
CFIC: (next 3 questions from gamethread questions) Should Arrieta or Lester start the Wild Card game (assuming they don't get first place, and also assuming they make the postseason)
CFIC: Which Cardinal do you hate the most?
Roommate: I actually like the current Cards team, a mix of interesting characters. I especially like Jaime Garcia. I kind of hated Chris Carpenter but he is long gone... Funny thing is that I hated Jason Motte's attitude but now that he's a Cub, whatever... he's also not as good as he used to be, in my opinion.
CFIC: What is the Cubs main weakness?
Roommate: Middle relief and defensive depth. The bench can hit but their fielding is bad enough to mention.
CFIC: When the Cubs lose, is there any one reason to pin it on?
Roommate: Stupid fielding mistakes! Mostly because they are pretty young I think.
CFIC: How do you feel about the Cubs acquisitions?
Roommate: I feel that Austin Jackson has been a balancing force in the outfield, helping Kris Bryant by being a veteran presence. And Dan Haren has brought a lot of experience to the starting rotation in one way or another. I don't see Fernando Rodney being much of a factor either way but was probably an overpay.