After 11 hits on Opening Night, the Cardinals mustered only four knocks off starter Jake Arrieta in their 2-1 loss on Tuesday night. The series draws even after the Cubs’ bullpen rebounded from an uninspiring debut Sunday. Although the Cardinals’ bullpen matched their rival with zeros in the run department, our bats couldn’t find the elusive tying run in a failed push for our first extra-inning game of the year.
Even with Adam Wainwright’s record falling to a young (0-1) after his first start of the season, encouraged is a fantastic word to sum up the consensus mindset on our 35 year old hurler.
Last year it took until May 18th for Wainwright to post an outing with two earned runs or less. It also took the righty until June 3rd to strikeout six or more batters in an outing.
Both those bridges have already been crossed for 2017, in impressive fashion. Generating weak contact all game, Waino conceded his only runs on a Jayson Heyward RBI single and a Javier Baez sacrifice bunt in the fourth inning. Right after the minor damage, Waino proceeded to strikeout four consecutive batters into the fifth inning, completing the process after storming back from a 3-0 count on Kris Bryant, to catch him sleeping on a well placed sinker.
While we often look at velocity readings for pitchers post-game and compare them to the end of last season for any blatant outliers, I was cautious to do that after reading a Fangraphs article from early Tuesday. Dave Cameron details how the majority of pitchers we have seen this season are throwing harder than they were clocked at on average last year. From Cameron’s readings of the first 14 games - prior to Tuesday’s slate - fastballs and other secondary pitches have all seen about a one mile per hour jump. A possible culprit is the completed switch from Pitch F/X to Statcast tracking of pitches in-game.
With all this in mind, I focused more on Wainwright’s command and sequencing of pitches for this start. But I’ll admit, it was tough to gloss that he sat between 92-93MPH the whole night. This would suggest about a 2-3MPH increase from his ~90.5MPH average sinker velocity last season. 1MPH could be this pitch F/X to Statcast issue. The other 1MPH? Hopefully improved velocity.
Aside from a crazy wild pitch in the fourth (see below) that Waino literally spiked into the ground, I really can’t complain about much from Wainwright’s outing. He carved through Javier Baez in a nice at bat in the second, and worked quickly out of the third inning on only six total pitches.
Adam Wainwright taking pitching lessons from 50 Cent. pic.twitter.com/gmpJlJHY8p— Baseball is Fun (@flippingbats) April 5, 2017
At only 82 pitches total over five innings, I was blindly hoping for Waino to trot out for the start of the sixth, even with Matt Bowman warming up in the bullpen. That hope was nixed after what transpired in one of the most unlucky sequences I have ever seen on a baseball field.
Whether this was bad luck or a hidden clause in Piscotty’s new contract, it’s hard not to be a little dumbfounded when you watch the highlight detailing the three separate plays, in which Piscotty doesn’t particularly get along with the baseball. All in a matter of five minutes. 1 - HBP on right elbow. 2 - Errant throw on passed ball pings his left elbow. 3 - Throw home hits Piscotty just above the ear flap, sending him to the showers early with a contusion.
Stephen Piscotty will undergo concussion testing tonight and tomorrow. Per Matheny, #STLCards optimistic that those will come back clean.— Jenifer Langosch (@LangoschMLB) April 5, 2017
If everything comes back clean Wednesday morning and the Cardinals’ right fielder of the future is all smiles, I hope we can laugh about this like the Brewers did years ago when Ryan Braun wiped out rounding third base.
Picotty’s unlucky streak was genuinely one of the weirder things I have seen in such a short span of time. For now, I think we’d all prefer our newly christened investments to breed a bit less anxiety in their first game since signing a deal like this. The whole debacle resulted in Piscotty recording the only run of the game, with no credit going to anybody for the RBI, as an error was charged to Baez.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t much else of note on the offensive side of the ball. Dexter Fowler earned one of the four team hits, but also managed to strikeout three times. Bench bats Jose Martinez and Greg Garcia were the only players to draw walks, and Randal Grichuk couldn’t carry over his magic from Sunday, as he stranded a total of five runners. The same amount stranded by the Cardinals’ one through four hitters.
Lance Lynn will take the hill Wednesday for the Cardinals first matinee of the season, as he squares off against the veteran, and former Cardinal himself, John Lackey. Rumors of a contract extension for Lynn were brought up on the FSMW broadcast, and Lynn was paraphrased as wanting to stay a Cardinal for the rest of his career, but in order to do so, he mentioned you have to perform on the field. Wednesday will be Lynn’s first major league start since Tommy John surgery sidelined Lynn for all of 2016.
- Matheny’s only lineup change from Sunday was Kolten Wong replacing Jedd Gyorko in the 8th hole (seems to be a lefty/righty platoon at the moment). I will note that all of last year, Stephen Piscotty only batted between second and fifth in the order (61 times batting fourth, most on the team). In these first two games, we have seen Piscotty bat sixth twice, with Aledmys Diaz and Jhonny Peralta nabbing the slots we’ve grown to love Piscotty in. It remains to be seen if this affects any of the three performance-wise and I will be keeping a passive eye on their production as this experiment proceeds.
- For the second game in a row, a ball was hit to the left of the second basemen (this time Kolten Wong), that awkwardly got through the infield for a base hit. On Sunday Baez blamed an MLB sign that had a white background. The booth speculated that Wong may have run into the same problem. To me, it looked like he was just shading up the middle, but I will keep my eyes and ears open.
- Matt Adams made three plays in left field after subbing in for the injured Piscotty. While he made all three plays, I can’t say we should have the most confidence in Adams patrolling the grass, as the third play looked especially awkward as the natural first basemen tracked a ball near the wall in foul territory.
- Wade Davis made his Cubs debut tonight, earning his first save of the season (posted a 19.64 ERA in Spring). If Davis can return to form, or even 90% of his 2014-2015 form, he may be even more of an enigma to solve than former divisional arm Aroldis Chapman.
- Bret Cecil made his debut tonight as well. Matheny actually doubled up on southpaws in innings seven and eight (Kevin Siegrist followed). Cecil struck out Baez on a changeup and surrendered a hit to Albert Almora Jr. on another change below the strike zone. These two lefties will be big assets moving forward for the Cardinals and will hopefully make us feel comfortable about small leads late in games. Fingers crossed!
- I’m excited to join the game recap crew for ‘17! You’ll be seeing me on Tuesday nights. Feel free to follow me on Twitter and I’ll extend a follow back. I’m always tweeting about the game we love.