Well, I’ll say one thing for Pirates rookie Nick Kingham. You’re not going to get a more MLB ready pitcher in their first career MLB start. He was a top 100 prospect in all of baseball all the way back in 2014 as a 22-year-old. Injuries, including Tommy John surgery in 2015, have derailed his career, to the point where he only got an honorable mention on Fangraphs 2018 top Pirates prospects list. He’s now 26-year-old, which is old for a prospect. But in 22.2 IP in AAA this year, he had 27 strikeouts and 7 walks, which helped contribute to his 1.59 ERA and 2.13 FIP. So he seems legitimately good at the least.
Still though, something stings about a pitcher in their debut dominating the Cards so much that he had a perfect game through 6.2 IP. It’ll probably sting less by the end of the year when we see Kingham’s 2018 MLB line I think. He had the Cardinals fooled today. He had a bit of BABIP luck, but that’s pretty much expected for this type of game. In even the most well-pitched games, there is going to be some hard hit balls that find gloves.
I usually go through each inning in this recaps, but I don’t really see a point in that. The Cardinals struck out in each of the first four innings, including Kingham striking out the side in the 2nd inning. The aforementioned BABIP luck came into play in the 5th, when the Cards hit the ball relatively hard for all three outs. The first two were hit right at Jordy Mercer and on the ground and Gyorko’s was caught because Starling Marte is a pretty good defensive outfielder. Kingham struck out two Cardinals in the 6th to make up for his “poor” inning.
The Cardinals finally broke up the perfect game in the 7th. Matt Carpenter lined out to begin the inning. If it wasn’t for Kingham’s high pitch count, I would have taken that as a sign that it might happen. He had 81 pitches after one out in the 7th, and given his injury problems, the Pirates would have had some tough decisions to make if he made it through the 7th. Tommy Pham struck out for the second time. Paul DeJong was down 1-2, he fouled off a pitch, looked at a ball, and then finally and mercifully singled for the first baserunner of the game. The Cardinals have never been perfect game’d and that streak continues.
Despite the final score, Luke Weaver pitched good. The Pirates were pretty annoying with the bats, running Weaver’s pitch count up by fouling off a bunch of 2 strike pitches. Through five innings, the Pirates hitters - and Kingham himself in a particularly annoying plate appearance - fouled off 10 pitches with two strikes. Of the 19 batters Weaver faced through 5 innings, 10 of them made Weaver throw 5 pitches or more.
Weaver struck out the first two batters of the game, making me confident this was a different Weaver than the past two games. He struggled more in the 2nd. Josh Bell hit a line drive with some serious sink, but Harrison Bader made a fantastic diving play to get the first out. Then he walked Corey Dickerson on five pitches. He allowed a two-out single to Colin Moran, but then struck out Mercer to end the inning. In the 3rd, he allowed a one-out single to Adam Frazier but then got two straight groundouts to squash any potential threat.
Weaver had more of a flyball problem today than he usually does, getting two flyouts to start the 4th before allowing a two-out single to backup catcher Elias Diaz. He struck out Moran to end the inning. He got the 8-9-1 hitters out in a 1-2-3 inning in the 5th, but they made him throw 18 pitches. He had 87 pitches after 5 and his spot in the order came up. The Cardinals bullpen is stretched a little thin, but there are two off-days in the next four days and we did just bring Austin Gomber up so we should probably have pinch-hit for him in the top of the 6th.
While that is certainly a debatable point, what is not as debatable is that Weaver stayed in too long. With one out, he allowed back-to-back singles and then walked Dickerson again. What the hell is it about Dickerson that has the Cardinals so afraid? He had a 4.3 BB% before this weekend and the Cards walked him three times. A guy who walks as little as he does will swing if the pitches are close. Anyway, with the bases loaded, Weaver stayed in - after a walk no less, and allowed a two-RBI single. Mike Matheny finally took him out.
Jordan Hicks replaced him and did not look good. He didn’t even really look fake good like he has most of this year. He allowed a first-pitch single, which fair enough that happens. After a forceout at home, he walked the opposing pitcher on seven pitches. Then with the bases loaded, Frazier got hit by a pitch for the Pirates fourth run of the evening. He got Gregory Polanco to ground out. I don’t usually agree with Ricky Horton on.. well anything - but in the postgame, he said that his line makes it sound like he pitched better than he did. Context is important of course. He walked the pitcher and hit a guy with the bases loaded. To show that ERA in a small sample isn’t really indicative of performance, Hicks left the game with 0.2 IP and zero earned runs.
Luke Gregerson had a strong, quick inning in the 7th. So there’s that. Michael Feliz replaced Kingham and he had to work hard to get his three outs. Yadier Molina fouled out the first two pitches, putting him in an 0-2 hole quickly. He then proceeded to make Feliz throw 13 more pitches - yes 13! - and then singled on the 15th pitch of the PA. To really twist the knife, he swung at a pitch nearly in the dirt and just stuck his bat out and it blooped into left field. Probably the highlight of the game (that’s not depressing at all!). Greg Garcia also made him throw a ton of pitches. This time it was a more pedestrian nine pitches and for his troubles, he was gifted with a double play ball. Garcia hit the ball out to right center, which Marte was able to reach, but Molina realized too late that the ball would be caught and got doubled off.
In the 8th, Greg Holland pitched and he allowed the fifth run. In what apparently passes for good news when it comes to Holland, he didn’t walk anybody. He allowed three singles and got his first and only strikeout with two outs. The Cards threatened to score a single run in the 9th when Kolten Wong pinch-hit and doubled with one out. Pham walked with two outs, but DeJong struck out looking.
- Weaver line: 5.1 IP, 6 Ks, 4 ER, 2 BBs - You can quibble that he should have been able to pitch six innings, but Weaver sure got screwed on the earned run department here. He just shouldn’t have been in as long as he was and every person on base when he left the mound ended up scoring.
- I am the biggest Matt Carpenter fan there is, but maybe, just maybe, we should start Jedd Gyorko over him at this point because his bat might not justify his defense at 3B anymore. Classic Carpenter? Sure. But projected 117 RoS Carpenter? I think Gyorko might be a better player at 3B than that.
- Sorry for the late recap. I did not have access to a computer until about an hour ago.
- That’s it. Not much to talk about when there are three hits total in this game.
Tomorrow, the Cardinals have an off-day. But on Tuesday, they begin a short two-game series against the Chicago White Sox at home. Theoretically, that should help the team, but theoretically a three-game series against the Pirates should have helped the team. Baseball is sometimes weird. The probable pitching matchup is Michael Wacha against James Shield, and dear god please win that game. How is James Shield still in the MLB?