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9.16.17 Cards @ Cubs Recap: Another Day, Another Loss

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With today's loss, the Cardinals fall to five back in the division, four back of the second wild card spot.

Tough loss for Wacha today.
Tough loss for Wacha today.
Jon Durr/Getty Images

Michael Wacha took the hill for the Cardinals today, facing off against Kyle Hendricks.  This pretty much sums up my feelings on him:

Wacha started the game off strong, allowing just one base runner in the first three innings, while throwing less than 30 pitches.  Meanwhile, the Cardinals' offense was promising, as well.  In the third inning, Stephen Piscotty led off with a base hit and Greg Garcia followed in turn.  With runners on first and third and no one out, Wacha bunted Garcia to second.  Matt Carpenter walked to load the bases for Tommy Pham.  Pham is my number one choice of who on the current club I want to see hitting in that spot.  Unfortunately, he grounded out into a double play to end the inning.

The Cardinals got two runners on in the fourth inning, as well.  Jose Martinez singled, but was promptly picked off at first base.  (Cue lengthy discussion about how bad or not-so-bad the Cardinals' base running has been this season.)  Dexter Fowler also singled, but Yadier Molina couldn't drive him in.  The score remained 0-0 after 3.5 innings.

Although the Cardinals hadn't managed to get any runs across, they seemed to be hitting Hendricks well and it felt like it was only a matter of time before the sequencing straightened out.  Because remember: Kyle Hendricks isn't a very good pitcher.  Someone really ought to tell the Cardinals that.

Wacha faltered in the bottom of the inning, giving up base hits to Anthony Rizzo, Albert Almora, Jr., and Ian Happ, plus a walk to Willson Contreras sprinkled in there somewhere.  Each of the Cubs' hits was on the first pitch of the at bat.  When the inning mercifully ended, the score was 2-0 Cubs and Wacha had more than doubled his pitch count on the day.

The fifth inning was particularly brutal.  Not in the amount of bloodshed (just a little), but in the painstakingly long at bats that continued to drive up Wacha's pitch count, tire him out, and not result in outs.  With two out, Rizzo worked a 9-pitch at bat that culminated in a walk.  Contreras followed with an 11-pitch at bat that also ended in a walk.  Visibly frustrated, Wacha gave up a double to the next hitter on - again - the first pitch.  3-0 Cubs.

The Cardinals' offense disappeared after the fourth inning, save for a solo home run by Carpenter in the top of the 8th inning.  It was an impressive home run, even if it counted for basically nothing.  Carpenter hit it to the opposite field, down the left field line.  It seemed like it would be a lazy fly ball, but it just kept carrying.  Carpenter is playing hurt, but somehow can still do that.  It was just his second opposite field home run of the season.

The Cubs came back in the bottom of the inning with a solo shot of their own, off the bat of Addison Russell, playing in his first big league game in 45 days.  That brought the score to 4-1 Cubs, where it remained.  What a crap game, you guys.

Notes

1. Regarding Wacha's bunt in the third inning, I'm really not sure this was the best play to call.  If you assume the out, it is better to have one out and two runners in scoring position, I suppose.  Wacha isn't exactly known for his contact skills, either.  Still, something about it seemed bad to me.  Maybe it could have been improved if Piscotty put some pressure on the infielders by breaking down the line or something.  But he clearly had no intention of ever running.  I don't know, maybe I am just conditioned to hate the bunt whenever I see it.  Curious to hear what others' thoughts are on this.

2. Tommy Pham looked really bad at the plate today, after looking pretty good yesterday.  He struck out twice - both times looking, both times on perfect strikes.  It made me wonder if he's having trouble with his vision again.  He did make a nice diving catch in the outfield, however, which alleviated my concerns somewhat.  He's got to continue on his season-long tear if we have any chance of making the post season.

3. At the end of the day, Wacha didn't pitch that poorly.  5.2 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 7 K, 5 BB.  The walks were bad, and that fifth inning absolutely killed him.  He had thrown 25 pitches through three innings, then threw 76 more over the next 2.2.  Yikes.

4. With today's loss, the Cardinals are 1-6 at Wrigley this season and now 5 games back of the first place Cubs.  This makes tomorrow's game, as Dan McLaughlin put it, "about as must-win as it gets" in the regular season.  At the time of publishing, Milwaukee is up one run on the Marlins in the first inning.  Colorado is playing San Diego later this evening.  Let's collectively root for the the Fish and the Fathers to bail us out today.  The season is starting to look bleak, I know, but there is a lot of (well, some anyway) baseball left to play, which includes three each against the Pirates and Reds, and four-game set against the Cubs in St. Louis.  It starts by winning tomorrow. Lance Lynn takes the mound against Jose Quintana at 1:20 pm CT.