Baseball is sometimes so wild and untidy that it defies a person's ability to understand it. The more you look at it, the more puzzling it is.
For example, look at this shot of Matt Carpenter from Monday night's game:
Now what the heck, right? How did his body achieve such a shape? Is he sliding...into a base? If so, why is he wearing his glove? And regardless, why is the ball lying forgotten behind him--surely someone (maybe Carp) needs it to make a play.
And if we expand our scope from just this one instant to the game as a whole, I can't say baseball makes a whole lot more sense.
The Cards lost 12-7 in a game they had an 86% chance of winning. Here are some facts.
Jaime is having a great season so far, and if you squint at his outing today you can probably convince yourself that it was more of the same dominance. After all, the first run that scored on him was the result of a passed ball strikeout on a pitch with such vertiginous movement that even Yadier Molina couldn't corral it in, and in fact Yadi allowed another passed ball an inning later. About which:
This is the third time in Yadier Molina's career that he has two passed balls in a game. Previously: 6/30/05 (vs. COL) and 5/11/12 (vs. ATL)— Jenifer Langosch (@LangoschMLB) April 26, 2016
Jaime's pitches had all their usual movement. He allowed a BABIP of .444 even though nearly three-quarters of those balls-in-play were ground balls. He had ten swinging strikes! He was unlucky!
And yet he wasn't sharp. Those swinging strikes resulted in only three strikeouts, which, balanced against his three walks, weren't enough to counter all of the hard contact he allowed. Here's his final line:
- 5.0 IP, 8 H, 4 R (3 ER), 3 BB, 3 K;
- 12 GB, 2 FB, 4 LD, 92 pitches (58 strikes);
- 10 swinging strikes (5 change-up, 4 slider, 1 fastball, 0 sinker)
My favorite thing to come out of this game is that our Aledmys is now a Qualified Hitter. And as such, baseball pundits and casual fans alike will start seeing him up at the top of lots of leaderboards starting tomorrow and will give him a lot more attention.
Which leaderboards? Well, ones like these:
Diaz went 2-4 with two singles in Monday's game, eschewing as usual both walks and strikeouts--both his BB% and K% sit at 5.7% now. His BABIP will fall, and soon, but given the quality of his very frequent contact, I guess I just don't mind: his single up the middle in the fifth was measured at 109 mph.
Also of note: after the unpleasantness of the sixth inning, Diaz ended up playing second base for a couple of innings, his first time there in the big leagues.
I'll also take the opportunity here to say that Diaz placed a good tag on Paul Goldschmidt in the bottom of the first when he tried to steal second with two outs--but of course my real agenda here is to praise Yadier Molina, who threw Goldy out from his damn knees. Look at where he started and imagine how much (or how little) force you yourself could generate kneeling like he is:
and then look at how much he threw Goldschmidt out by, on how perfect a throw:
The Sixth Inning, Its Ugliness
There's no more putting it off, so I'll be plain: The bottom half of the sixth inning was about as ugly an example of baseball as you'll see the Cardinals play this year, God willing and the creek don't rise.
How did it happen? As you read above, the scoring started after David Peralta rocketed a Hot-me slider for an RBI triple. It continued from there, with good hitters and bad hitters alike alternately pummeling St. Louis's pitching and enjoying crazy batted-ball luck and unforgivable defensive mistakes.
Actually, "Unforgivable" is too strong a word--the sixth inning reached such levels of hallucinatory grand-guignol grotesqueness that at a certain point I felt like the players on both sides were taking part in a farce that was bigger than all of them. And from that point of view I just can't blame Kolten Wong (who has the flu anyway) for his errors or Kevin Siegrist for his homer (the first he's allowed this year) or Seth Maness...oh, Seth.
[BRIEF INTERPOLATION so I can talk to Seth for a second: Seth, I love you, and I think you're a now-very-underrated pitcher who will always have a place at the back of a bullpen--but your repertoire without command or control amounts to a GARBAGE PITCHER. You cannot throw your change-up up in the zone, over the plate, over and over again, where Yadier did not ask for it! Bad luck, good hitting, and your suddenly terrible change-up are the reasons why the Diamondbacks scored nine runs in the sixth on Monday. Do better, please.]
[Eh, same to you, Matthew Bowman!]
As I was saying, it was a terrible inning. As with all terrible innings, it could've ended much earlier. With no outs and the Cards clinging to a 5-4 lead, Zack Greinke came up and attempted to bunt until he had two strikes. He then showed bunt but pulled back and swung away, at which point the Cardinals' infield looked like this:
Carpenter had been playing aggressively in against the possibility of a bunt. When Greinke swung away, he was out of position--but only barely!
So close to having at least one out in the inning!
As it happened, Bowman got Nick Ahmed to strike out, and then Matheny brought in Siegrist to face Jean Segura. And with one swing on a misplaced change-up (sound familiar?), Jean Segura gave Arizona a lead they wouldn't relinquish:
Arizona would go on to score four more runs in the inning, and it was all over but the crying.
- Does Randal Grichuk swing through LHP fastballs a lot? I haven't checked, but these past few games he's missed at least five meatballs (I'm thinking of two at-bats in particular) that you'd think he would destroy.
- Poor Kolten. He looked very very physically miserable out there. Let's hope he gets over the flu soon.
- Matt Holliday experienced cramping in his hamstring and was replaced in the field by Jeremy Hazelbaker, who hit what you would think would've been the game-winning three-run homer in the fifth. Instead it was just a go-ahead three-run homer.
- Carpenter hit a solo home run in the top of the seventh off Greinke, followed by a Piscotty single and a triple from Hazelbaker. After a walk from Brandon Moss, the score was 11-7 with a runner on third and Grichuk at the plate. Hope bloomed!
- Hope died. Randal flied out to right. Get em next time, Dread Jaguar God.
Win expectancy graph: