What a difference a week can make. Last Sunday, the Cardinals took the rubber match from the rival Cubs, their 9th win in 11 games, to give them control of first place in the NL Central. All that’s happened since then has been a series of soul-crushing losses to the Red Sox and Giants, and a disheartening loss of bonafide Cuban stud Luis Robert to the White Sox.
The Cardinals’ 4-game losing streak was their longest of this young season, 1 short of their longest of 2016. They turned to Adam Wainwright, who was coming off his best start of the season, by far. In that start against the Cubs, he threw 7 innings of 4-hit ball. Though his K/BB was just 3/4, he continued to generate ground balls at an elevated rate, which I think is the key to his success.
Fans arriving on time were treated to a diving catch in left by Tommy Pham. Wainwright then got Panik to ground out to second, and Arroyo to strike out.
The Cardinals went quietly in the bottom of the 1st, with Greg Garcia managing to walk, but Fowler, Carpenter, and Molina all flying out to the outfield.
Wainwright got himself in a little trouble in the 2nd. Brandon Belt led off with a single through the right side that would have been an out if the Cardinals had employed the shift, and then Crawford walked. But Wainwright then struck out Nuñez, Hundley, and Williamson to escape. He was suddenly at 41 pitches.
In the bottom half, Jhonny Peralta, Tommy Pham, and Aledmys Diaz promptly loaded the bases with nobody out on a pair of singles and a walk (!!!), and Randal Grichuk graciously unloaded them with a double down the left field line. Wainwright and Fowler then small-balled him home with a sac bunt and sac fly. Cain’s pitch count ballooned to 40. 4-0 Cardinals.
Cain and Span were quietly retired to start the 3rd. But Panik singled and Christian Arroyo smacked a double just out of the reach of Grichuk to put the Giants on the board. Wainwright was at 61 pitches. 4-1 Cardinals.
After Carpenter flew out, Molina singled to left and Peralta singled to right. But Pham and Aledmys stranded them.
Wainwright quickly retired Crawford and Nuñez, before Nick Hundley cranked a double off the wall in right-center. Wainwright walked Williamson to face Cain, who popped out to right. He was now at 80 pitches.
The Giants flashed the leather in the bottom half. Arroyo robbed Grichuk of extra bases by snaring a line drive over his head, and then Nuñez made a sliding grab in the no-man’s-land between left, center, and shortstop. Hundley then retired Fowler after his nubber out in front of the plate. Cain was at 72 pitches.
Wainwright managed his first clean inning in the 5th, against the top of the lineup, requiring just 7 pitches. Span grounded out on 4 pitches, Panik grounded out on 2 pitches, and Arroyo flined out on the 1st pitch he saw. Wainwright was at 87 pitches.
The Cardinals got some insurance runs in the 5th. Garcia knocked a leadoff single and Carpenter crushed a grooved 88mph fastball into the Cardinals bullpen. 6-1 Cardinals.
Wainwright cruised through the 6th, as well. He got Belt to pop out to third, Crawford to ground out to first, and Nuñez to pop out in foul territory on the right side. He had retired 7 straight and thrown 99 pitches.
Aledmys Diaz led off with a bloop “double” to center that bounced past a lethargic Span. After Diaz advanced to third on Grichuk’s line out to center, Wainwright, batting for himself for some reason, smacked a double off the wall in left, which ended Cain’s day. Steven Okert relieved and retired Fowler and Garcia. 7-1 Cardinals.
Wainwright came back out with Cecil warming in the bullpen. Hundley promptly singled, and Williamson walked. Wainwright managed to strike out Morse with the help of a generous strike call, and ended his day. Brett Cecil came in and got Span to flare out to left-center, and Panik on a come-backer.
George Kontos relieved and retired Carpenter, Molina, and Peralta in order.
Miguel Socolovich succeeded Cecil. He got Arroyo and Belt to strike out, but then served up a pair of home runs to Brandon Crawford and Eduardo Nuñez. He then struck out Hundley to end the inning. 7-3 Cardinals.
The Cardinals answered in the bottom half. Facing Cory Gearrin, Aledmys cranked a line drive double that hit the wall on the fly. Randal Grichuk then smacked a high fly ball to the track in left-center, but Span lost it in the sun and it bounced for a ground-rule double. 8-3 Cardinals.
Sam Tuivailala closed it out. He got Williamson to pop out to short right before striking out Ruggiano and Span. Cardinals win 8-3.
Wainwright kept the ball on the ground and put up solid peripherals. The offense chewed up the shell of Matt Cain. Everybody made the defensive plays they were supposed to and nobody got thrown out like a nincompoop. Cardinals win.
Adam Wainwright: 6.1IP, 1ER, 5H, 6K, 3BB. Game Score: 65
Matt Cain: 5.1IP, 7ER, 9H, 1K, 3BB. Game Score: 22
- Wainwright once again kept the ball on the ground, getting 6 ground balls versus 4 line drives and just 2 fly balls.
- Yadier Molina’s single in the 3rd inning extended his hitting streak to 11 games.
- Tom Hallion’s strike zone was heavily skewed to the catcher’s left side at the start of the game, then later shifted to squeezing both sides of the plate, before expanding on both sides in the late innings. It was consistent in this regard for both teams, so you’re not supposed to complain about it, but I’m going to anyway.
- The Giants haven’t swept the Cardinals in St. Louis since 1998.
- The Cardinals make their first west coast roadtrip this week, everyone’s favorite time of year.