Our long national nightmare is over. Mike Leake finally has a win. More importantly, since pitchers wins are a poor statistic, Mike Leake finally has a genuinely good start. Thus far, before last night's start, he had allowed at least three earned runs in every start this season. (If you include unearned runs, he's allowed at least four runs in every start) So it's a relief that, on occassion, Mike Leake can produce a good start.
The first batter of the game was a pretty good omen of how things would go for the rest of the game. On a 3-1 pitch, Matt Carpenter hit a line drive home run that may not have been a home run in most parks. It was near the foul pole and it didn't make it that far above the low right field wall. Things didn't go much better for Hector Santiago for the rest of the night either. He managed to escape the first inning with only that one run allowed, but it took him 27 pitches after he walked what ended up being his only two walks of the night.
In the second, Jedd Gyorko hit a leadoff single, and Aledmys Diaz drove him home with a double. Diaz got thrown out trying to stretch it to third because the Angels 1B C.J. Cron cut off the throw. It's worth pointing out that Gyorko may have been thrown out at home if he doesn't cut off the throw, but it's hard to tell. Diaz's baserunning blunder would not be the last the Cardinals made that night. In the 3rd, Matt Holliday led off with a double, but was thrown out when trying to advance to 3rd on a ball hit to the pitcher. For fairness, Holliday managed to evade a tag and make it to third, but the umpire said he was out of the basepaths. He was not. But I'm pretty sure you can't review that so when the next batter Yadier Molina hit a single, another possible run was lost. Not that the Cardinals ultimately needed that.
After an easy 4th inning, Santiago's day ended in the middle of the 4th. Back-to-back doubles by Stephen Piscotty and Matt Holliday convinced Mike Scioscia to yank Santiago after just 83 pitches. And as the broadcast so often reminded us, the Angels have nine pitchers in the bullpen. Javy Guerra relieved him and he was greeted by a first pitch home run to dead center by Randal Grichuk to bring the score to 5-0. Mike Trout was THIS CLOSE to robbing the home run as it narrowly missed his glove. A double by Molina, a walk by Brandon Moss, and an opposite field single by Gyorko and Guerra was done without recording an out.
In the 6th, Carpenter got his second home run, and this one wasn't cheap. It went 439 feet and was hit at 108 mph. (Hat tip to VEB's own Joe Schwarz on twitter for this; I would never have looked this up on my own) Matt Holliday hit a home run of his own later in the inning and that was it for the Cardinals' scoring for the night as Mike started cycling in the backups to finish the game.
Mike Leake had what you imagine is a good Mike Leake start. Few strikeouts, no walks, a few scattered hits, and a long outing. He never looked THAT impressive as the Angels made plenty of hard contact through the night, but he followed the equivalent of the bend, don't break philosophy if such a philosophy existed in baseball. Well he did look really impressive in one instance at least. In the 8th, he allowed a leadoff double and a line drive that Kolten Wong couldn't handle (it was a tough play and he didn't receive an error for it) After a sacrifice fly by Kole Calhoun, Trout came to the plate. I said on twitter that it felt like a two-run home run waiting to happen. Both hits were hit pretty hard and Leake's pitch count was at 102. Needless to say, I would have taken him out. But it's like a switch flipped, because he had impeccable control, spotting his pitches with two strikes that were borderline at best. But that's kind of the goal as a pitcher. He finished him off with a slider that was also perfectly placed, striking him out. It's the best I've ever seen Leake look this season.
In the 9th, we got to see old friends in Shane Robinson and the recently acquired Brendan Ryan (to "replace" Andrelton Simmons wow the Angels are screwed.) Ryan made two defensive plays, one of which was quite nifty so I'm glad we got to see him. In the bottom half of the inning, Lyons followed up his 7 K relief appearance with a scoreless inning, which included two strikeouts to end the game. I, for one, welcome Lyons being our new strikeout machine.
- Leake's final line: 8 IP, 5 Ks, BB, ER, 6 hits allowed, 53.8% GB rate; His season ERA drops nearly a full run, going from 6.03 to 5.10 and his FIP from 5.11 to 4.56. So he probably won't be at negative WAR tomorrow.
- Carpenter hits his 5th and 6th home runs of the season, and his season line now sits at .264/.384/.512 for a 138 wRC+. Interestingly enough, despite having both a better OBP (by about 20 points) and higher slugging percentage (by not that much), it is still a lower wRC+ than last season's 139.
- Holliday went 3-5 with two doubles and a home run. He must get his power in bunches, because his season isolated power (ISO) is now .234 and it feels like he hasn't got an extra base hit in forever.
- Other encouraging things: Grichuk got both a walk and a home run tonight. His wRC+ is now at 82, but it comes with a .214 BABIP. He will also probably not be at negative WAR tomorrow.
- The only players on the team who can remotely qualify for having an off-day are Jeremy Hazelbaker, who went 0-4 with a walk and made a pretty good catch while slamming into the wall (due to a poor route - maybe he thinks we miss Jon Jay) and Stephen Piscotty, who went 1-5. Everyone else except Diaz, who came to the plate only three times, got on base at least twice.
- So the Angels are pretty bad now, huh?
Tomorrow, Jaime Garcia takes the mound against a struggling Matt Shoemaker. You thought Wainwright was struggling? Shoemaker has five starts and a 9.15 ERA in those starts. So I'm kind of hoping we can win that game.