The surging (sort of? they came in four games over .500 for the first time) Cardinals played the skidding (definitely) Pirates in the first game of a three-game series at PNC Park tonight. They played at length: 12 innings! And yet the game ended in a Cardinals blowout. Your hero was Adam Wainwright, who was not the starting pitcher, and also did not pitch at all. Intrigue! Read on.
A bit of a getaway-day feel for game one of a series, with Jeremy Hazelbaker getting the nod over Randal Grichuk in CF, and Stephen Piscotty and Yadier Molina both sitting. Then again, days off for Yadi are always good, Brandon Moss has been smashing his way into the everyday lineup lately, and Grichuk might not be much better than Hazelbaker anyway. (Also, lefties are hitting over .300 against Pirates starter Gerrit Cole this year, which probably isn't an important fact but probably is the kind of thing Mike Matheny notices and factors into his lineup card.)
Michael Wacha started opposite Cole. Wacha's badly underperformed his peripherals this year -- 3.54/4.08/4.33 FIP/xFIP/SIERA vs. 5.16 ERA -- due primarily to (depending on one's analytical inclinations) bad luck on balls in play, a tendency to give up hard-hit balls, or a mix of the two. Your recapper is firmly in the "he's fine" camp, but tonight didn't answer many questions.
Wacha got BABIPed in the 2nd and gave up a run: a bloop single was followed by a classic hit-and-run single (you know the one: the grounder hit right at the spot the 2B vacated to field the throw on the stolen base attempt), and the runner scored on a fielder's choice. And the Pirates scratched out another run in the 5th, kicked off by Wacha walking the 8th place hitter to start the inning. Wacha finished with 7 IP, 5 K, 3 BB, and 3 H, which tonight added up to two runs allowed.
Overall it was a neither good nor a bad start; five strikeouts vs. three walks doesn't look great, and Wacha fought wildness (and maybe his mechanics) at times. Then again, he didn't give up all the hard contact he's been allowing lately, as evidenced by the scant three hits allowed. Maybe that's just noise (IT'S NOISE) and maybe not, but it's certainly less painful to watch than the alternative.
Cole came out of the game with an injury after one batter in the 3rd, and was replaced by A.J. Schugel. Schugel is [checks media guide] right-handed and was waived by two teams this past winter before finally landing with the Bucs. Maybe they'll score a bunch off this guy! we all thought. But hahaha, no, this is the Cardinals at PNC Park, and Ray Searage is a literal sorcerer, so Schugel pitched great: four (four!) innings of shutout baseball, with four strikeouts and nary a walk. Nice job, random bullpen guy, but damn, man. Damn.
So okay, an A.J. Schugel shuts you down for four innings... then Tony Watson's good and puts up another clean inning... then oh damn, it's the 8th already and you're down two and Mark Melancon is looming in the 9th.
But the 2016 Cardinals have an answer (occasionally) to this dilemma, and that answer is DINGERS RAINING FROM THE SKY. After an Eric Fryer leadoff single and a nine-pitch walk by Greg OBP Monster Garcia -- let's all be the BFIB for a quick minute and appreciate how excellent and crucial this plate appearance was -- Matt Carpenter lined a three-run homer just inside the RF foul pole to give the Cards a 3-2 lead. If you missed it live, it felt like this to us:
And like this to them:
Haaaaaa in your face, that guy, wherever you are. In your face.
Unfortunately, our glee and Angry Pirates Guy mockery was short-lived, as Trevor Rosenthal came in and blew the save. It was a classic Rosie blown save: some bad luck on batted balls (Piscotty made an ill-advised diving attempt that created a Starling Marte triple to start the inning, and the tying hit was a ducksnort juuuust out of Carpenter's reach), but also walked a couple of guys. His shaky 2016 continues.
So it was on to extra innings! Seung Hwan Oh and Rosie had already pitched, so that meant
Kevin Siegrist nope, Broxton, he went with Jonathan Broxton. Okay. Broxton handled the 10th and 11th. And he didn't screw it up.
The top of the 12th was just beautiful. With two outs, the Galveston Grinder ground out a classic Marp walk (ball, strike, foul, ball, foul, ball, foul, foul, ball four). Matheny was all out of bench players and had done the Matt Holliday defensive sub thing in the 8th, so Broxton was on deck, with Aledmys Diaz up. Clint Hurdle opted to walk Diaz intentionally and force the go-ahead run into scoring position, in order to pitch to the Cards' best (I guess?) pinch-hitting option: Adam Wainwright.
Adam Wainwright laced a two-run double into the LF gap. It looked like this:
HAAAAAAAAA IN YOUR FACE AGAIN, THIS GUY.
At which point the Cardinals, stuffed with glee and embracing the hate, shoveled salt into the Bucs' open wound and scored a bunch more runs with two outs, thereby ensuring that the game ended with a humiliatingly not-close score of 9-3.
- DID YOU KNOW: if the home team scores even one run in a tie game in extras, the game just... ends? Might want to go with your best available reliever to prevent that!
- Fryer got another hit, his 11th in 28 PAs this year. He's hitting .414 and in that tiny number of PAs, he's accrued about half a WAR. Go on then, Eric.
- In last Friday's recap, yours truly questioned whether Rosenthal is about to lose his job. In the intervening games he had a couple of good outings, but: is Rosie going to lose his job? He might.
- Speaking of losing jobs: Randal Grichuk?
- So much for Yadi's off day. He came in to catch Rosie in the 9th, and ended up catching four innings
- Brandon Moss hit a home run during the 12th-inning pile-on, and now has 14. Rob Kaminsky did not homer.
- GRRR I'M TOUGH AND MAD AND I SPENT A LOT FOR THESE SEATS DAMMIT: