A strong start in Milwaukee is exactly what the Cardinals needed, and 10 runs to back a stellar Luke Weaver rolled out a carpet for productive results. Multi-hit games for Tommy Pham, Paul DeJong, Luke Voit, and Carson Kelly, combined with big RBI numbers from Voit (4) and DeJong (3), helped to lessen the odor that lingered from dropping two straight series at home against the Padres and Rays.
Breaking down this game from an offensive standpoint for the Cards comes down to some great at bats, a plethora of walks... and probably too much Matt Garza.
The Brewers’ starter tossed 71 pitches through three innings, making a painful outing somehow more unbearable after his 30+ second breaks became routine. Garza’s pace - per Fangraphs’ - is a grotesque 28 seconds, which would put him a full second above Yu Darvish for longest across the big leagues if he was a qualified pitcher (~130 IP). I wrote about the need for slow acceptance of a pitch clock at the major league level a while ago, and this start is great evidence why.
Compared to the Garza of old, 2017 brought the righty more slider usage than any other point in his career, veering away from the 25%+ sinker rates he sandwiched his career with. While his first inning notched a pair of strikeouts onto the tome of Garza, foreshadowing was obvious after Pham’s double and DeJong’s walk left the inning without a crooked number.
When the third inning rolled around, the Brewers’ defense decided to fail them as it has for the majority of the season (bottom seven in baseball in Fangraph’s DEF metric). Wong chopped a ball back to Garza, which he played hot potato with, allowing the first run of the game to score. After Voit grounded into a fielder’s choice, Dexter Fowler read the play unbelievably well, barely sneaking by the arm of Manny Pina for the third run of the inning. I’d say one of the most underrated plays in the game, and as calculated and aggressive baserunning like this can legitimately put runs on the board.
DeJong then knocked Garza out of the game in the fourth, after a two-run single on a low, inner third fastball; a location the breakout shortstop has thrived on this season. Carlos Torres tried to stop the bleeding with his sieve, as two more walks gave Voit opportunity to match DeJong’s two-run single and he obliged to push the score to 7-1.
Matt Carpenter added insurance on a no-doubt bomb into right an inning later (see the notes below for it’s Houston-centric significance), and DeJong felt he needed one more mention, so he tallied another RBI-knock in the seventh.
Now on to Mr. Weaver, an arm I was very excited to watch as he successfully backed up a double digit strikeout game with a near duplicate this time around, minus the innings coverage he had against the Padres.
Weaver’s fastball command was solid through the majority of this game, carving through the Brewers’ lineup on the first pass, relying almost exclusively on his fastball and change.
His only “mistake” through four innings - if you even want to call it a mistake - was a 2-0 fastball down in the zone, that Eric Thames mashed to left-center field. I would chalk this up to a great approach and power display from Thames, as he stayed inside on what we all certainly knew was 2-0 fastball. Weaver didn’t miss Kelly’s glove either, Thames just beat him. Fastball command was once again the key, and it’s something Weaver has displayed gracefully in his minor league career. It set up his change well, and allowed him to develop his curve in the outing at leisure.
The 24-year-old started to really settle in during the fourth inning, as he tore through Travis Shaw, Domingo Santana, and Stephen Vogt - all victims of the K. Changeup and curveball still taking the reigns, Weaver only fluttered in the sixth inning as he gave up four straight singles before being pulled.
A third look at an young arm in a game often spells doom, but I appreciated Matheny’s willingness to let Weaver have a long leash in the sixth inning, especially with a pitch count above the 100 mark. Was it aggressive? No doubt, and while I understand the concern with taking care of young arms, Weaver was stretched out in college and has eclipsed 100 innings each of the last two seasons. 111 pitches is a lot, but the self discovery of working through a lineup as your “stuff” fades can be invaluable. Weaver was ever so close to passing the test Matheny drew up for him as well. All-in-all, a very positive start.
Weaver’s spot in the rotation has to be solidified, and he’ll have a shot to further the praise in a possible start this Sunday in San Francisco.
- When the game transcends the dirt and grass we’re all so used to, I always find myself amazed at the generosity of players, and fans alike. We all know about the devastation Houston and the state of Texas have experienced over the last few days, and Matt Carpenter took action. He has pledged $10k for every home run he hits over the next five weeks; Adam Wainwright is joining in, as well as the Cardinals’ organization. Carpenter, of course, was born in Galveston, TX, and attended TCU. Native to the area, it’s only fitting for one of the Cardinals best players to lend a hand to those in need. You can read more about the pledge here, and if you’re interested in donating to relief efforts, jump over to this post, pinned to most of the sub-sites in the SBNation universe for more info. Oh, and that dinger Carpenter hit tonight counts towards the donation pool!
- Yadier Molina was scratched with an abdominal issue, which slotted in Carson Kelly for the outing. I was initially excited to see Yadi work once again with Weaver, and after being irrationally nervous to hear that Kelly was stepping in, I realized how much they have worked together in AAA and my anxiety was quickly eased, rightfully so. It doesn’t seem like Molina’s injury is serious. Two days of rest may be exactly what the veteran needs to tie the bow on a strong 2017.
- The Cardinals bullpen worked 3.1 innings scoreless with only one hit and three strikeouts. There was enough to talk about in this one where I decided not to highlight this in the body of the post, but felt it was necessary to break out here. Zach Duke, Seung Hwan Oh, Brett Cecil, and Ryan Sherriff were the arms to get work in the blowout.
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