Adam Wainwright at Chase Field sounds like a recipe for disaster. It’s a rather extreme hitter park, somewhere just below Coors and above just about every other park. Wainwright’s arsenal of pitches is not all that strong and when left over the middle of the plate, which he has done too much this season, it has the tendency to be crushed. A crushed ball in Chase Field has a pretty good shot of being a homer. Hence, why Wainwright at Chase Field is not a good bet.
So of course, he goes out and has a great start. I don’t want to diminish his start, but a large reason he had a great start is that he identified that the umpire was calling outside balls strikes. Then he pounded the ever living shit out of that zone and got his fair share of generous calls. That’s what a smart, veteran pitcher does and Wainwright is a smart, veteran pitcher. Anecdotally, I felt he took much more advantage of the strike zone than Zack Godley did. So if Diamondbacks fans claim they got screwed by the strike zone, well they’re not technically wrong.
This was sort of a weird pitcher’s duel, because there were points in the middle of the game where it didn’t feel like either pitcher was really pitching that good even though their final numbers look pretty fantastic. Wainwright seemed to give up a lot of strong contact when the ball did go into play and Godley had trouble with control, ultimately finishing his outing really strong.
This admittedly feels like a weird thing to say - and it’s not all that backed up by the stats - when both pitchers faced the minimum through two innings. Hell, Godley didn’t allow a hit or walk until the 4th inning. Wainwright first faced trouble in the 3rd. He gave up back-to-back hits to the 7th and 8th place hitters to begin the inning. Godley tried to bunt them over, but failed. Former Cardinal Daniel Descalso worked a seven-pitch walk to load the bases. David Peralta hit a ball about as hard as you can hit it but it was right at Randal Grichuk who was sprinting in and whose momentum from running in helped keep the runner at 3rd. He then unbelievably worked Paul Goldschmidt to a full count and struck him out on a high fastball. That's right. 2017 Adam Wainwright blew away Paul freaking Goldschmidt with his fastball.
The Cardinals had more success when Godley first ran into trouble. He walked Matt Carpenter on five pitches, gave up a single to Tommy Pham, and then hit Stephen Piscotty on the hand. He then walked Jedd Gyorko with the bases loaded. That doesn’t seem like the type of thing that happens during a pitcher’s duel, right? Yadier Molina swung at the first pitch despite that lack of control and guided a single between the third baseman and shortstop. It was very close to being an easy double play and everybody being mad at Molina. Then Grichuk hit a hard grounder right to the shortstop and got into a double play. Baseball!
Apparently, Wainwright has an 8 ERA or so the inning after the Cardinals score a run and this held true tonight too. Jake Lamb hit a leadoff double and Chris Owings followed that with a double of his own. Cardinals score three runs, Diamondbacks respond with one just two batters later. And then.... Wainwright struck out the next three batters. Owings even made it to third with just one out and it didn't matter because Wainwright struck everyone out. Jeff Mathis did not like his strike zone and got thrown out of the game, as did the manager.
Godley’s 5th inning benefited heavily from what I consider a poor decision by Carpenter. Garcia worked a tough walk followed by a failed attempt to get him over by Wainwright. Then on a 2-0 count, Carpenter...tried to bunt for a hit. This worked yesterday thanks to an error but not tonight. He later hit Pham so he clearly had no control and Carpenter gave him a gift. Godley recovered to pitch perfect 6th and 7th innings with three strikeouts between them.
Wainwright meanwhile had little issues in the 5th and 6th innings. His spot came to the order in the bottom of the 7th and... he batted. Alright. Well, he came back out for the 7th and immediately gave up back-to-back-singles to put runners on the corner. After a flyout to keep the runners there, Matheny brought in Tyler Lyons to with three of the next four batters being lefties. Descalso grounded into a double play except that he barely beat it out. The lucky guy didn’t hit it hard enough for the Cardinals to turn two. That scored the DBacks second run. Lyons got the third out on a popup from Peralta.
In the top of the 8th, Carpenter led off with a ground rule double. Pham struck out in part because he tried to bunt at first and kept his bat there for a ball that almost hit him. With Piscotty up, Carpenter advanced to third on a wild pitch, but Piscotty struck out too. Then Gyorko came through and singled home Carpenter, which turned out to be very important
But not because of Brett Cecil’s inning. He faced Goldschmidt, Jake Lamb, and Owings. He struck out two of them and the next grounded out back to Cecil. Folks, we may be seeing the real Brett Cecil come out here. Cards threatened to score more in the 9th, but Carpenter grounded into a double play on a very nice play by Goldschmidt.
The bottom of the 9th was stressful. Trevor Rosenthal came in to close this time and it barely went better than last night. I mean it only went better because he had a bigger lead to hold than Seung Hwan Oh. Leadoff single by Brandon Drury. He moves to second on a wild pitch. After a flyout, he walks Chris Hermann on four pitches. He got Gregor Blanco to ground out but it was hit much too softly and it advanced the runners. Admist all this, Rosenthal was clearly having problems with the mound, which well I’m not entirely sure what exactly what was wrong with the mound, but Rosenthal couldn’t seem to land properly after throwing his pitches. He threw a wild pitch scoring the third run while facing Descalso before walking him. Then Peralta mercifully grounded out to end the game with a win.
- Adam Wainwright final line: 6.1 IP, 8 Ks, BB, 2 ER, 50% GB rate. He also had a .444 BABIP against. I don’t exactly think he pitched quite as good as his line indicates, but of course I’ll take a good Wainwright start no matter what!
- Nobody really stands out for having an exceptional game. Molina and Gyorko both had two RBIs. Each of the top three hitters (Carpenter, Piscotty, Pham) got on base twice with each of them getting a hit and getting on base the other time from other means (walk and two HBPs). Everybody but Wainwright and Grichuk got on base tonight.
- Grichuk did hit a hard ball for his double play ball, but after a “hot” two games back, he’s not making a very good case why he should start over Pham when Fowler returns.
- Cecil legitimately looked dominant tonight so that was cool. He has somehow vaulted into most likely reliever to take over the closer job if Rosenthal bombs (unless Matheny returns to Oh first)
- Paul DeJong may have been tackled by a guy running on the field. FSM did not show this so I’ll have to rely on other people to report this.
Tomorrow the Cardinals go for the series win and annoyingly not the series sweep. Lance Lynn, another pitcher I don’t want to see pitch at Chase Field, faces against Patrick Corbin, who hasn’t really been good since 2015 either, so it will be an interesting matchup.