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Cardinals lose 6-5 in extras in frustrating loss to Pirates

The Cardinals played good enough to win, but Mike Matheny managed bad enough to lose.

Say hello to the player of the game
Say hello to the player of the game
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

There are three certainties in life: Death, taxes, and the Cardinals facing two opponents when trying to win a game: the other team and their own manager.  "Maybe it will be different this year," all of us have probably asked to ourselves at one point over the past offseason.  This second game provides the answer: NOPE.  This is the same thing we've seen before right down to Matt Holliday being taken out of an extra inning game with the pitcher batting 3rd in his place.  (How does that happen EVERY TIME?)

Michael Wacha started tonight's game (not Carlos Martinez or Jaime Garcia, who both are pitching 4th and 5th in the rotation order for some reason despite being clearly the 2nd and 3rd best starters) and he never really looked good.  Tonight's game was an illustrative example of why not walking guys doesn't necessarily mean you have control.  (He did ended up walking one guy)  The Pirates got 10 hits off Wacha and it wasn't because he had an unlucky day.  I couldn't count the number of times he left pitches over the middle of the plate it happened so seemingly often.

The Pirates struck first in the 2nd inning when Francisco Cervelli led off with a single and Gregory Polanco hit a triple off the right field scoreboard.  It was rather severely misplayed by Stephen Piscotty and it led directly to a run.  While it's impossible to say how the inning would have progressed if he played it correctly and Polanco only got a double, if the events occurred the same, the Pirates would have only scored one run.

Ever the gentlemen, the Pirates returned the favor in the very next half inning.  With Matt Carpenter on first and Aledmys Diaz on second (after he got his first career major league hit!), Piscotty hit a line drive single to Starling Marte.  Marte, usually an elite level fielder at left, let the ball go slightly under his glove, allowing Diaz to score and the runners to move to 2nd and 3rd.  Matt Holliday got his first RBI of the season with a groundout to second to tie the game.

That's how the game went, with both teams trading leads, until the 5th inning.  Andrew McCutchen doubled home a leadoff single by new Pirates 1B John Jaso in the 3rd.  But that's where the scoring ended as the next batter, former Cardinal David Freese, hit a single to Piscotty who threw McCutchen out at home.  Cue Al saying Andrew McCutchen is one of the fastest runners in the league.  Al is very wrong.  It was still a nice play.  The Cardinals took their first lead of the game in the 4th when Jedd Gyorko hit a two run home run.  They padded that lead when Piscotty hit a triple of his own followed by a Holliday, uh, single.  It was inconceivably ruled a single, but it was a slow roller to Jordy Mercer, who began his throw intending to go home, but midthrow changed his mind and what resulted was a weird lob that missed first base.  Shockingly inexperienced first baseman Jaso (I know he was in the AL, but he had 5 career innings at 1B before this year)  stayed on the bag when he probably should have given up on the play so Holliday went to second base on the throw.

At this point, Wacha had looked extremely shaky.  There was a serious case he should have been taken out after four innings.  He had given up at least two hits in each of the previous three innings.  He had allowed three runs.  The only doubt is that it's the regular season so you don't really take guys out that early if they can pitch longer and they have the lead.  In a playoff game for instance, there is no doubt he should have been taken out.  All of this is a way of saying that he should have had a short leash in the 5th.

But he did not.  After a single by McCutchen and another single by Freese, he remained in the game.  When he walked Marte on four straight pitches, he remained in the game.  Now here's why I say that the important part is the process, not the results.  Keeping Wacha in the game was poor process.  Nonetheless, his next two subsequent runs were not his fault.  A probably nerve-addled Diaz couldn't pick up the ball on what would have been an easy double play ball, allowing everyone to advance one base.  FInally, Mike Matheny took Wacha out.  Tyler Lyons came in and didn't look great.  He allowed two hard hit fly balls, but both were caught to end the inning.  (One of the outs was a sacrifice fly)

The game went from the teams trading runs to the two teams trading zeroes quickly.  The Cardinals relievers, starting with Lyons' two outs to end the 5th inning, retired 18 straight batters, which extended into the 11th inning.  Seung Hwan Oh, Kevin Siegrist, Jonathan Broxton, and Trevor Rosenthal combined for eight strikeouts in four innings pitched with no baserunners allowed (Oh struck out all three of his batters in a particularly dominating inning.)  The Pirates relievers were not quite as dominant, but more importantly, they matched them on the scoreboard.

I know we complain about Rosenthal being overused, but he looked unhittable and only threw 11 pitches in his one inning of work.  The pitcher's spot did not come up in the top of the 10th.  Rosenthal should have pitched a second inning.  Not that it mattered.  Seth Maness pitched a perfect 10th continuing the streak.  Kyle Lobstein pitched the extra innings for the Pirates and he looked about as bad as a pitcher can look who ends up with this line: 2 IP, H, BB, 3 Ks.  He was seemingly behind in the count on everyone.  Luckily for him, he's a left-hander and he got to face three lefthanders in his second inning of work, all of whom struck out.

Maness uncharacteristically walked Polanco on five pitches in the deciding inning.  It's worth noting that it was 3-1 and he threw a strike, but time had been called late.  The next two hitters singled, and the Cardinals are still searching for their first win.

WPA Graph


Source: FanGraphs

Notes

- Both Brandon Moss and Gyorko made a good case to start against lefties going forward.  Moss went 1-4 with an HBP and a double.  Moss is a frustrating hitter because he swings at some baaad pitches, but if his power is anything like it used to be, you almost need to start him.  Gyorko went 2-5 with a two-run home run.  We know Gyorko can hit lefties, that's why the Cards got him.  Did you know Moss has a career 100 wRC+ against lefties in his career?

- Cardinals struck out 13 times today, but at least it took them 11 innings.  You probably should take a long hard look in the mirror when Jon Niese strikes you out 7 times though.

- Grichuk went 0-5 with two strikeouts.  Worried yet? (No, being worried now would be absurd.  If you were already worried, well then carry on)

- I almost forgot to mention that Matt Carpenter bunted in this game.  You know the Cardinals best hitter.  They didn't score that inning.  Wong also bunted.  Cards didn't score then either.

- Diaz got his first career major league hit and his first career run scored.  He also got his first career error.  Yay?  Jeremy Hazelbaker also got his first career hit, and if you noticed he hit a double, don't get too excited as it was a loop along the left-field line that was hit pretty weakly.  But still cool though.  Matt Bowman still hasn't pitched.

- Broxton - I feel the need to point out - struck out a guy and allowed two long fly balls.  Neither were at the warning track, but he didn't pitch as good as his scoreless line might suggest as he allowed hard contact.

- This game sucked.

Tomorrow, the Cardinals play a game the day after another game for the first time.  It's actually happening!  Oh right this game.  Temper those expectations, self.  Mike Leake makes his Cardinal debut against Juan Nicasio, who will be making his Pirate debut.  May the best pitcher win, unless Nicasio is the best pitcher and in that case, may the best pitcher allow more runs.  (It makes sense.  Think about it.)