Full disclosure: I started watching this game late enough that the Cubs outscored the Cards 4-3 in the innings I watched. I found out the game started at 6:00 while I was working at around 7. But there needs to be a late night thread anyway so I'll try my best to recap the game based mostly off the box score. I mean really all I need to do is write "Cards bad Cubs good" and it probably gets the message of how this game went accurately.
I'm going to try to create a narrative out of the first inning based entirely on looking at the pitch-by-pitch results. Wacha couldn't find the strike zone, falling behind 3-1 with Dexter Fowler at the plate. Presumably not wanting to walk the leadoff batter, he gave Fowler a good pitch to hit, which he did for a leadoff double. He fell behind 2-0 on Jason Heyward, but moderate power Heyward that we knew has since turned into a hitter with less power than David Eckstein so he grounded out. An aggressive Kris Bryant drove in Fowler for the first run. Anthony Rizzo then hit a single of his own and a 4-pitch walk to Ben Zobrist followed. He at least made Jorge Soler work for eight pitches to get his walk, which drove in the second run of the game.
After Addison Russell grounded into a fielder's choice to keep the bases loaded, David Ross hit a deep fly ball that Randal Grichuk should have caught. It hit his glove, but he didn't get an error for it because he was running backwards and needed to extend his arm to catch it. Jason Hammel then hit a single that Grichuk probably should have been able to keep in front of him so it turned into a double. Good CFers make both of those plays. It's unclear (to me at least) if Grichuk is a good CF, though he currently seems average at best.
So while Wacha perhaps should have gotten out of it with only two runs, it's not like Wacha was pitching particularly good when David freaking Ross hit a ball near the warning track. (Don't give me his season-to-date stats. He's projected for a 64 wRC+. 64!! - though it looks like power has never been his issue) It's pretty clear where Wacha went wrong. He threw a first pitch ball to 8 of the 10 batters he faced and guess what? The two first pitch strikes were both swung at by Cubs players. Between that and walking a guy with the bases loaded, Wacha had next to zero control in that inning.
In the second, Rizzo hit a pop fly that Aledmys Diaz ran so far to get to that I actually think a good defensive LF reaches that. Holliday is not that. He made a nice sliding catch while running backwards while sprinting. Bryant, who had singled earlier in the inning, did not think he was going to make the catch so it was an easy double play.
No clearer example points to the importance of a first-pitch strike than the 3rd inning. The first batter, Zobrist, looked at a ball and later lined out. Yes, it was an out, but a line drive is a hit 75% of the time. The next batter, Soler, looked at a ball and later walked for his second time. Russell looked at a first pitch-strike and struck out. Ross looked at a first-pitch ball and walked. He threw a first-pitch ball to Hammel too, but he's also the pitcher so you can get away with that. (Even though he didn't in the 1st)
Wacha came back out for the 5th. It's easy to say this was a bad decision in hindsight. It's also easy to say it's a bad decision period. Wacha had 90 pitches and had allowed six runs. The almighty Zobrist was leading off. Wacha had an off-day, no need to push him to throw 100 pitches just because. Well he didn't make it to 100 pitches because he gave up a double and a home run back-to-back on just four pitches.
Tyler Lyons took over and while he initially struggled, giving up two hits and a walk, he got out of the 5th inning unscathed and ultimately pitched three scoreless innings. Dean Kiekhefer took over for Lyons, and pitched a clean 1-2-3 inning in his first inning of work. That would have been great if it was his only inning of work. For context, Kiekhefer's appearance tonight was his 5th in the last 8 days. He only threw 11 pitches in the 8th and I guess I don't really even quibble with bringing him in for a second inning. Keeping him in for as long as he did was the problem. I don't care if the game was out of reach, there's no need to throw a guy who's pitched as much as he has out there for 44 pitches. This is a minor league reliever too so I'm guessing he's not a guy who has a ton of stamina. He should have the next two days off at the least. His poor, poor ERA.
Hitting-wise, I can only guess, but a 4 K, 3 BB Jason Hammel performance makes me think this would be frustrating as hell if, you know, the game wasn't already 6-0 after the 1st inning. His xFIP for this game was 5.55 so even though he went 7 1/3 innings, it doesn't appear like he pitched that great. Now, whether his .200 BABIP was because of luck or weakly-induced contact, I cannot say. But the man neither struck out guys, induced a lot of groundballs (35%), or kept guys off base via the base on ball. Usually you need to do one of those three things at a minimum.
Clayton Richard tried to finish off the game in the 9th. Jeremy Hazelbaker got on base from an error. Singles by Jedd Gyorko and Matt Adams followed to load the bases. Ruben Tejada hit a sacrifice fly, and Grichuk singled home Gyorko. After hitting Brandon Moss, Joe Maddon had seen enough and he let Trevor Cahill finish the job with a backwards K to Eric Fryer.
- Michael Wacha final line: 4 IP, 8 hits, 8 ER, 4 Ks, 4 BBs - If Grichuk makes that play, his line probably looks more salvageable , but I don't see a scenario where he has a good start.
- Diaz went 0-4. Let it be known that he was not 0-4 because he is batting 2nd. He is not hitting worse because he is batting 2nd. This is simply a completely coincidental side effect of a batter regressing hard. I probably would not have him hitting 2nd though, because I don't honestly think he is one of the Cardinals best hitters going forward. That doesn't mean he needs to bat 8th though. THERE'S AN IN BETWEEN HERE GUYS.
- Adams went 2-3 with a BB, making him that much sweeter of trade bait for the Mets.
- I appreciate that Wong currently has a .336 OBP, because apparently someone told both him and Grichuk walks were a good result. Speaking of Grichuk, he went 2-4. Defensive miscues make it hard to say he had a good game though.
I don't ask for many things in life. But I think it would pretty sweet if the Cardinals beat the Cubs tomorrow by one run. While I'm watching the game, I'll ask for a bigger deficit, but I will laugh and laugh and laugh if the Cubs outscore the Cardinals by seven runs and lose the series. And hey, if the Cardinals win, that will probably happen because Jake Arietta is pitching and I don't know if you heard, but he's pretty stingy about giving up runs. I'd actually prefer to crush Arietta, but winning by one is a close second. He faces off against Carlos Martinez, who has struggled as of late. The game starts at 12:45 so I'm sorry for the people who have jobs. You just can't watch this important, pivotal game between two division rivals. Sorry.