Well that was a weird one.
Remember last year? Remember how innocent we were, and how so many things that seem starkly real now seemed like pure fantasy?
I'm talking, of course, about the Cardinals having elite run prevention that carried a so-so offense to the top of the National League in 2015. But this is 2016 and it's opposite world. The Cards lead the NL in home runs and are second in non-pitcher wRC+, but sit a middling 7th in team ERA, with a defensive squad that has been below average to downright bad depending on which source you consult.
But tonight looked like last year -- just a few runs, but fewer on the other side -- and the star of the night was young Luke Weaver. The rail-thin 2014 draftee (who just turned 23 on Sunday) turned in the best game of his short career: 6 IP, 7 K, 2 BB, 4 H, and but a single run allowed. It was one of those pitching performances that was so thoroughly good that it makes writing an interesting recap hard: Weaver shot the A's offense with a stun gun, the Cards scored a few runs (including via the obligatory dinger), the back of the bullpen did its job, and they won 3-1. There you go.
The A's started Ross Detwiler, who is left-handed, from St. Louis, and not good. Given Detwiler's handedness, not much to see here in the lineup tonight. Underhanded editorial comments about Weaver's grooming choices will be omitted from this point forward, as a reward for how good he was. Looking good, Luke!
The Game, i.e. Luke Weaver's Game
Like I said: the story of the game was Luke Weaver being just excellent. Oakland's only run of the night came when Weaver left a pitch up to Yonder Alonso that he popped over the wall. The rest of the night, Weaver spotted the ball low in the zone, mixing sinking fastballs with changeups and cutters, and the occasional show-me curve. Crucially, he threw the latter pitch for strikes; it's hard enough to keep up with well-placed fastballs, changeups and cutters all coming from the same release point when every once in a while the guy also dumps an 80-mph curve over for a strike.
The worst you might say about Weaver's night was that he was more nibbly than he needed to be: he did run a few deep counts after getting ahead, and hence only lasted 18 outs instead three or nine more. But that's a very small complaint for a guy's third MLB start. To me, what was most impressive about Weaver's night was the way he got those 18 outs: 15 of them were either strikeouts or groundouts. Setting aside questions of sustainability (if he can keep that ratio up every time, he's a Cy Young candidate), that's a hell of a good start. You simply can't get hurt that much if they aren't putting the ball in play in the air.
tl;dr: the kid made his pitches all night and looks like a fine pitcher.
Also, These Other Things Helped
Jedd Gyorko: the stoutly constituted West Virginian lad continues to pay dividends well beyond what we expected in return for Jon Jay. He hit his 22nd (twenty-second) home run of the year, which is pretty astounding considering the man only has 316 PAs so far. It came in the Cards' second PA of the game, and followed a bloop Matt Carpenter single, so it turns out that salted the game away right there.
Randal Grichuk: the one and only RANDAL bailed Weaver out with a true defensive gem in the 5th. Weaver was in his only real jam of the game, with men on the corners and two outs. An unnamed Oakland batsman lined what I was sure would be a RBI single into center, but Randal charged hard and did this:
Had it gotten past him it would have been two or maybe even three runs. Risky play? Yes. Awesome? Also yes.
Yadier Molina: Yadi made about the most heads-up play to run into an out that you'll ever see to help the Cards get their third and final run. Brandon Moss was on 3rd with Yadi on 1st, and one out. Jhonny Peralta hit a fly to fairly shallow CF, and while Coco Crisp does have a bad arm, it was going to be bang-bang at the plate. Yadi took off from 1st, which prompted the A's to cut the throw, give up on the runner at home, and nail Yadi easily at 2nd. Fine: the insurance run came across with no risk, and it was 3-1 Cards.
The Bullpen: Matt Bowman kept on keepin' on with a clean 7th. Kevin Siegrist has been quietly bad this year -- or at least not very good. His FIP/xFIP/SIERA sat at 4.57/4.47/3.82 coming into this appearance, but all my sad-sacking about him is for nothing: he pitched a 1-2-3 8th inning. That meant the game was going to Seung Hwan Oh with a lead in the 9th, which meant the Cardinals won the game because that dude is the living truth.
- There is no pleasing some people when the Cardinals face a bad pitcher and don't score six off him, but: Ross Detwiler's ERA this game was 5.06. The Cards did exactly what they should have against a guy like him. Three runs in five and change is good!
- It's a Dan n' Rick tidbit so take it for what it's worth, but they noted during the game that Alex Reyes was sitting in the dugout (not the bullpen) and has been taking BP with the starting pitchers (bullpenners don't take BP, obviously) for the last few nights. LET'S SPECULATE! UPDATE: it's not even speculation. Mike Leake's been sick this week, and Reyes is taking his start tomorrow. Well well well well well, etc.
- John Axford's still around! I always liked him. Apparently he's only 33. Hi John!
Nice, dull win expectancy graph:
Tune in tomorrow to see the Cards take on Oakland again at 6:15 CST (NOTE EARLY START TIME). Seriously, do, because IT'S GONNA BE REYES.