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Wacha pitches gem, Cardinals lose in 1-0 loss to Phillies

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Michael Wacha pitched good enough to win on most nights. Problem was that Aaron Nola pitched better.

There were no photos available from this game so I guess it doesn't count
There were no photos available from this game so I guess it doesn't count
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

During tonight's broadcast, Fox Sports Midwest put up the ERA leaderboard of pitchers who are 24-years-old and younger.  Michael Wacha's 3.07 ERA placed fourth, which was behind Carlos Martinez and the Phillies Vincent Velasquez, and one spot above his opponent tonight, Aaron Nola.  The fact that Wacha placed highly on an ERA leaderboard wasn't shocking, but the fact that he was on one restricted to players 24 and under was shocking.  For me at least.  Did you know Wacha is still two months away from turning 25?  I feel like he's been a Cardinal forever.

I bring this up because the two Phillies players on that list are a large reason the Phillies are 16-11 right now.  Well that and being 9-2 in one-run games.  We got a taste of that tonight.  Aaron Nola was fantastic.  Matt Carpenter got a line drive leadoff double to begin the game and that was about all the offense the Cardinals mustered for the rest of the night.  After the double, Stephen Piscotty struck out swinging on three pitches and looked about as bad as a hitter can.  Matt Holliday grounded out slowly to move Carpenter over.  Matt Adams got a pitch he could hit, but unfortunately it was a line drive right to former Cardinals player' Peter Bourjos.

In the second, Kolten Wong worked a 12-pitch walk where he fouled off three 0-2 pitches and three 1-2 pitches before taking three straight balls.  I assume they were good takes as FSM decided it was a good idea to get a horrible angle behind a net for the last few pitches of the at-bat.  (If someone at FSM is reading this, keep it simple with the shots please.  No view from the cheap seats where a flag sometimes covers the screen or a view from behind home plate.)  In the 4th, Yadier Molina ran out an infield single.  Yadier Molina ran out an infield single.  I just thought I'd repeat that because you probably would have needed to reread it anyway.  Randal Grichuk then hit a sharp line drive that probably would have fell for most right fielders, but Bourjos was in RF so he caught it.  I'm not sure if Molina scores if it drops, because it's Molina, but he did run out an infield single so anything's possible.  And that was every baserunner the Cardinals had against Nola.  He retired the last 10 batters he faced.  He needed 110 pitches to complete seven innings, although that is mostly due to the 12-pitch PA by Wong and the 10-pitch PA by Carpenter in the 6th (which resulted in a slow groundout)

Michael Wacha matched him for most of the game.  He had less dominant of a game as the Phillies averaged a baserunner per inning, but that's pretty good.  (For reference, Wacha's WHIP going into the game was 1.33)  In the 1st, he allowed a double to Maikel Franco and a walk to Ryan Howard, but it came with two outs.  That's also slightly misleading as the double was a chopper that made it over Carpenter's head and there's a good possibility he was pitching around Howard.  The three outs surrounding the two baserunners were all groundouts.

In the 2nd, he continued the Cardinals tradition of giving up hits to pitchers.  Nola doesn't seem like an especially good hitter for a pitcher either as he was 2-33 before that including 23 strikeouts.  Nonetheless, that was also with two outs and he struck out our good friend Bourjos to end the inning.  In the third, Odubel Herrera got a leadoff single, but then he got the silly idea that he could steal off Molina.  Making matters worse for him, the Cardinals saw it coming as they threw him out on a pitchout.

In the 5th, he allowed another double and walked Herrera, but ended the threat by striking out Freddy Galvis.  In the 6th, Ryan Howard got the only run of the night with a solo shot to give the Phillies the only run they needed.  I hadn't noticed during the game, but Wacha sure gave up a lot of extra base hits.  Four of the five hits he allowed were of the extra base variety.  Wacha actually lasted deeper into the game than Nola as he went eight innings.

If the Cardinals were happy about facing a pitcher not named Aaron Nola in the 8th, they had a funny way of showing it.  Hector Neris, who's been incredible thus far with 24 strikeouts in 15.1 IP, promptly struck out the side.  Kolten Wong swung at a ball that looked like it was hitting the dirt the minute it left his hand.  Aledmys Diaz also swung and missed at a pitch that never really looked like a strike.  Brandon Moss struck out on an actual strike on the bright side, I guess.

The Cardinals didn't make it easy on Jeanmar Gomez either.  He's been a perfect 8-8 on save opportunities and I refer you to the 9-2 record on one-run games on why that's actually impressive.  He's not just getting saves by getting one out with a runner on and a 4-run lead.  Carpenter had a 9-pitch at-bat, but it ended on a strikeout.  Piscotty, who otherwise had a pretty bad day at the plate - not that he was alone, got a one-out single.  Holliday swung at the first pitch and probably would have hit into a double play, but second baseman Cesar Hernandez took a while to actually throw the ball towards first.  Matt Adams hit a slow roller to end the game.

WPA Graph


Source: FanGraphs

Notes

- None of you St. Louis people watched this game anyway so is it really a loss?  Yes, yes it is.

- I made a joke that I knew the Phillies were actually bad because the Cardinals beat them yesterday.  So we'll see what the Cardinals do in the next two games.  Win the next two?  Phillies are bad.  Lose the next two?  Phillies are good.  Split?  Well you're somewhere around the Diamondbacks, which means you're probably not that good.  No pressure Phillies.  Only your whole season depends on it.

- Michael Wacha final line: 8 IP, 8 Ks, 3 BBs, 5 hits, 1 home run allowed, 57.9% of balls in play were hit on the ground

- Aledmys Diaz struck out two times tonight, raising his season total to 7 and his K% to a whopping 8.2%.  He really need to cut down on the strikeouts already.

- So Piscotty leads the team in strikeouts.  This is a surprise.  I've certainly noticed him striking out a lot though.  He struck out two more times tonight.  Grichuk still bests him in K% though.

- No reason to get mad at losing to the trio of Nola, Neris, and Gomez, but uh, yeah feel all the shame for Howard being why we lost.  He was batting .185/.244/.383 before that home run.

Tomorrow, the Cardinals try to at least even the series against the Phillies.  Adam Morgan doesn't appear to be very good, but then again neither does Mike Leake so anything can happen!