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Game 66 Recap: Hamels Outduels Wacha, Sort Of

Both pitchers were good, Rougned Odor hit a homer, and he plays for Texas so Texas won

where is joe west off to, here?
where is joe west off to, here?
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Michael Wacha threw one bad pitch tonight, and the Cardinals lost the game 1-0. This was it, and this is Rougned Odor hitting a home run:

Okay, I'm going to immediately backtrack: he threw a whole bunch of bad pitches. Look at this:

So more accurately, Wacha threw I don't know, 10 or 15 middle-middle pitches (which is bad) and one of those bad pitches was thrown to a guy who was looking for it, and that guy did his job. It's a bit misleading, and more than a bit fatalistic, to say "well that was a meatball; of course Odor hit it out." Guys who are tasked with throwing 100 pitches in a game throw bad pitches in the zone that they get away with all the time. See:

That's Cole Hamels tonight -- lots of meatballs there, right? But as anybody who watched the game would tell you, Hamels pitched terrifically. Wacha also pitched great, and also threw some fat ones.

That's because (obviously) pitching a great game and leaving a good dozen pitches middle-middle aren't mutually exclusive things. Sometimes guys are looking for something else, or happen to be up there taking a pitch, or they get their pitch but just miss crushing it because hitting is terribly difficult, or they do crush it but end up with something other than a home run (a lot of the time, an out). As long as a pitcher doesn't throw too many of these pitches, he's mostly fine. And Wacha didn't throw too many tonight. But he did throw one to Odor, and Odor was looking for it, didn't take it, didn't miss it, and hit it so far that they had to suspend play to allow him to casually circle all four bases.

Odor did that to one of Wacha's mistake pitches, and the Cards did it to zero of Hamels' mistakes, and that's why this particular pitchers' duel ended the way it did. As the astute reader has by now gathered, the fact that this game ended 1-0 one way instead of 1-0 the other had very little to do with what the pitchers did, and everything to do with what the hitters did. And even THAT is subject to the standard randomness of baseball: Jhonny Peralta hit a ball 102 mph straight at Adrian Beltre's glove; with a little luck Jhonny catches the ball a fraction higher on the bat and it's a home run.* And in just the same way, Odor's blast could have been hit at a lower angle and caught in center field by Randal Grichuk. But as luck had it, that's not what happened.

And that's as good an explanation as any of why pitcher "wins" and "losses" should not be paid attention to or even tracked.

So, anyway: this was a pitchers' duel and the Rangers won it 1-0. Wacha was excellent (7.2 IP, 7 K, 2 BB, 1 HR, 1 R, 6H) and Hamels looked really good, too (7.2 IP, 6 K, 3 BB, 0 R, 3 H). Fun to watch if you're a pitching geek, but shucks. Also, if you are curious, the most salient detail about Wacha was probably the fact that his changeup looked as good as it has all year: he buried a few nicely, and got more whiffs in general on it than we've seen recently. Very encouraging game against a good offense.

The Part Of The Game That Wasn't Pitching

Rougned Odor has a funny Venezuelan name (I swear I'm not being culturally insensitive -- surely this is also funny in Venezuela) and hit a home run. Matt Carpenter has a boring regular Anglo name and was basically the only Cardinal to do damage: he was 2-2 with a couple of walks. Jedd Gyorko also did this, which his PR team claims is covered by his lefty-mashing certificate but I am not so sure. Randal Grichuk had a great diving catch in center. And that was literally it, other than some Rangers doing stuff that I don't care about and neither do you.

Mike Matheny Lineup Weirdness Of The Night

Jedd Gyorko, first baseman! Queue up your tell 'em, Wash jokes (seriously, the shelf life on that is like negative one more week, so get them in now), because -- and I am not making this up -- Jedd Gyorko had previously played one inning at first base in his entire life, apparently including as a little kid when everybody haphazardly rotates through the positions. I don't know why putting him there was the thing to do, either! Matt Carpenter began the year as a third baseman and Jedd Gyorko began the year as (nominally) a shortstop, but now Carpenter's getting the nod at second and pushing Gyorko to first? Yes. The answer is yes.

Stray Notes

  • I've always loved watching Hamels pitch, though it's unfortunate when he's on point and your team is on the other side.
  • Rangers manager Brian Banister pulled Hamels with fewer than 100 pitches and no runs allowed, but given what we know about the times through the order penalty, this was actually the right call. I'd make a "take notes, Mike" crack but this wasn't another manager sending out a wacky defensive alignment to "shake up" an offense or some crap like that, so let's not even pretend Mike's taking notes on it.
  • The Cardinals needed a solo home run to tie this game and Brandon Moss never batted. Brandon Moss should always bat.
  • It was Hawaiian print Kolten Wong jersey night at Busch. Must have been a real thrill for Kolten.

*it would have hooked foul before clearing the fence, but shut up

WE% graph:

Source: FanGraphs