There was a point in this game where Shelby Miller looked to have figured it out. That's what we're all waiting for really. He was a wildly overrated pitcher going into the season, but he's obviously vastly superior to this current incarnation. In the 3rd inning, he struck out the side, looking pretty dominant in the process. One of them was the pitcher, and another was the 27% K rate of Jeremy Hazelbaker, but that's what good pitchers do. They strike out hitters they're supposed to strike out. Those were his first three strikeouts of the game and his only walk was to Matt Carpenter, who even Phil Hughes would walk.
That was about the only time Miller looked dominant though. He started the game shaky. Then again so did Carlos Martinez. After the first inning, I actually thought this game would be a high scoring affair like yesterday. Both pitchers appeared off their game. All three Cardinals made good contact against Miller, two of them requiring excellent defensive plays from Nick Ahmed, and the fourth Cardinal, Carpenter, walked on four straight pitches. Similarly, Martinez hit Jake Lamb on a 1-2 count and walked Paul Goldschmidt. But I mean if you're gonna walk a guy, Goldschmidt is a mighty fine choice.
The shakiness continued into the 2nd inning. Martinez allowed two hard hit deep fly balls to the first two batters of the 2nd inning. In the aforementioned 3rd, things appeared to turn around for both pitchers. In addition to Miller striking out the side, Martinez induced three straight weak groundballs, all of which became outs. The difference in this game was that, while Martinez turned a corner and continued pitching well, Miller didn't.
In the 4th inning, Miller allowed a leadoff single to Carpenter and walked Yadier Molina, but was able to get out of it by striking out both Brandon Moss and Jedd Gyorko. Sometimes I wonder how Moss is a good hitter, because ocassionally he looks like the worst hitter in baseball when he strikes out. That was one such plate appearance. To this point, Miller had been able to strand baserunners, but that changed in the 5th inning. Aledmys Diaz continued his torrid start, leading off with a line drive single. After Martinez bunted him over, he walked Hazelbaker on four straight pitches, none of which were particularly close. I doubt he was purposefully pitching around him due to who was coming up, but managers have certainly done far dumber things before.
With a man on first and second, Piscotty drove home the first run of the game on a play where - let's say I think it is generous to Piscotty that he was given a hit. Chris Owings played it - well he played it like he has played infield his whole career and is playing center for the first time. (I don't really understand why an infielder who hasn't played OF since he was 12 is more qualified to play center than an actual outfielder, like say David Peralta) Matt Carpenter was then intentionally walked, because naturally you want to load the bases when you have a pitcher struggling with control. Randal Grichuk drove home Hazelbaker with a sacrifice fly and Moss followed it with a three-run homer. Sometimes Moss looks like the worst hitter in the league, other times he hits bombs. There is no in between.
That was about it for the game. When you give Carlos Martinez a 5-0 run lead and he's in a groove, you don't come back. Grichuk made an incredibly difficult and impressive play in the bottom half of the 5th that will probably not get any best play recognition because he didn't dive or fall or hit a wall. In general, the defense was strong tonight. In the 4th, Moss bungled a ball, but Martinez quickly got to the base and made an athletic play in order to grab the ball and jet his foot towards the base. Moss later made up for it with a smooth 3-6-3 double play in the 6th.
Despite the fact that he didn't allow any runs, I think this was a tale of two games for Martinez. In the first two innings, he was in my opinion extremely lucky not to have allowed any runs. He allowed hard contact, deep fly balls, a free pass, and a hit batsmen, but came away unscathed on the scoreboard. After that, he mostly got a lot of groundballs. He ended up with four strikeouts, three of which came in the 7th and 8th innings. He didn't walk a batter after the 1st.
The Cardinals added to the lead in the 7th when Piscotty hit a home run to dead center where he almost overran Hazelbaker, who apparently thought he could tag up on the play. Later in the inning, Moss crushed a double. During that at-bat, he fouled off a pitch off his shin. He looked like he probably should have been taken out, but he stayed in and hit a double. Molina drove him in, and Moss looked real slow, but somehow scored from 2nd after they sent him. Apparently Moss is alright because he got another hit in the 9th.
Tyler Lyons came in to finish the job and had mixed results. He allowed two home runs off meatball pitches, but he also threw some nasty curves to get two strikeouts and a slow roller. He can be a confusing pitcher, but he will probably not have a 20% HR/FB ratio for the rest of the season.
- Carlos Martinez final line: 8 IP, 4 Ks, BB, 3 hits allowed, 68.2 GB% (!), zero earned runs
- Shelby Miller up-to-the minute season so far: 19.2 IP, 19 ER, 16 Ks, BBs, 6 HRs (he allowed 14 all year last year), 7.70 FIP, 6.00 xFIP
- Matt Carpenter walked 3 times to bring his season BB% to 16.5% and his OBP to .400. Also related, he now has 15 walks in 91 PAs. Just because I had to check, Salvador Perez walked 13 times all last season.
- This was the first win I have been able to watch all year. I was previously 0-5. So I'm glad I got that win off my back.
- Not much managing was needed tonight, but the only possible quibble you can have with Matheny's managing is that I probably would have taken Martinez out after the 7th on account of it being 8-0 and Martinez having 93 pitches. But pretty much every manager would have brought him back out for the 8th sooo it's a pretty small quibble. Oh yeah and Matt Carpenter would not have been batting 3rd in my lineup, but lineup order doesn't matter, so it's hard to care after an 8-2 win.
Tomorrow, Adam Wainwright tries to be good again. Against the Diamondbacks offense. At Chase Field. Yeah I'm sure that will turn out fine. A point in favor of the Cards is that Patrick Corbin has not been particularly sharp with a 5.96 K/9 and 6 home runs allowed already. He's managed to keep his ERA at 3.51 so obviously, he's been better than Adam, but he's certainly not untouchable.