Baseball is never fun when you make it about the umpires, but you can’t talk about this game without talking about the constant frustrations with an inconsistent strike zone. Pitches on the black called balls, pitches off the plate called strikes, and worse was observed by all. Michael Wacha struggled today, to be sure, but when I think about how much was his own doing, I’m left with incomplete answers.
I can’t imagine my fury with home plate ump Mike Winters had the Cardinals (4-4) lost this game. Fortunately, they won 5-3, bringing them back to .500 and poising them to take a second series in a row. The lineup that was constructed around Marcell Ozuna has morphed into a Jose Martinez-centric unit and I, for one, am extremely here for it.
The bullpen was asked to carry another load today, and rose to the occasion wonderfully. Leone, Bowman, and Norris mowed down the Diamondback lineup, and Hicks picked up his defense and showed an ability to pitch out of trouble.
All told, it was an enjoyable win. It just had that obnoxious strike zone.
Michael Wacha did not step out with his best foot forward. Aided by a stingy Mike Winters strike zone, Michael fell behind early and often, walking David Peralta & Paul Goldschmidt around a Ketel Marte flyout to CF. A.J. Pollock put the Diamondbacks on the board with an RBI grounder up the middle, and Daniel Descalso worked a walk on Wacha’s 22nd pitch to load the bases and bring Mike Maddux out to visit. One might infer he advocated ditching the curveball, as Wacha then bore down and struck out Chris Owings with a flurry of fastballs, before getting Jarrod Dyson to ground out to 1B. Wacha was at 30 pitches. 1-0 Diamondbacks.
Facing the venerable Zack Greinke, the Cardinal offense picked him up. Though Fowler flew out to CF on 3 pitches and Pham popped out 2B on 2 pitches, Matt Carpenter & Marcell Ozuna popped a pair of singles into LCF, and Jose Martinez guided an equalizing RBI single up the middle. Yadi grounded out to end the inning. Greinke was at 21 pitches. 1-1 Tie.
Still battling his command and home plate umpire Mike Winters, Wacha managed to strike out Jeff Mathis, but committed a Cardinal sin by walking Greinke. After a balk, Wacha struck out Peralta, and Marte grounded out to 1B. He was at 46 pitches.
Greinke set the bottom of the Cardinals’ order with no trouble. He struck out a struggling DeJong on 4 pitches, got Wong to pop out to short LF on 1 pitch, and struck out Wacha on 4 pitches, bringing his total to 30.
Wacha took a noticeable step forward with his command in the 3rd, but still got burned. After he struck out the hapless Goldschmidt, he thought he caught Pollock staring at a pitch that caught the low/inside corner, but was deemed a ball. Pollock doubled the next pitch down the LF line, and Owings singled him him. Wacha struck out Dyson to end the frustrating frame at 63 pitches. 2-1 Diamondbacks.
The Cardinals finally broke through for a crooked number in the 3rd. Dexter Fowler worked a full count and ripped a double into RCF, Tommy Pham moved him up a spot with a single to LF, and Carpenter crushed a line drive sacrifice fly to tie the game. Ozuna then lined a single to LF, and Jose Martinez followed with a towering 3-run HR. After Molina singled to CF, DeJong struck out and Wong grounded out to 2B. Greinke’s pitch count ballooned to 63. 5-2 Cardinals.
Granted a 3-run lead, Wacha started pitching his best. After a lead-off walk, he accepted a sacrifice bunt from Greinke, and coaxed a pair of ground outs to 1B out of Peralta & Marte. After looking destined for another early exit, Wacha was through 4 at 80 pitches.
Greinke bounced back as well. He got Wacha to pop out to RF on the 1st pitch, Fowler to ground out into the jaws of the infield shift, and Pham to strike out on a 68mph curveball. He was at 72 pitches.
Goldschmidt led off the the 5th by chopping a single past Martinez, but was erased when Pollock grounded into an aesthetically displeasing 5-4-3 double play. Carpenter fielded the ball on a backpedal, threw softly to Wong, drawing him across the bag and causing him to throw off his front foot, leading to a bounced throw that had to be corralled by the fundamentally awkward Martinez at 1B. Oh well. Descalso flew out to the wall in RF to end the frame on Wacha’s 89th and final pitch.
Greinke set down the middle of the Cardinals’ order with little trouble. He struck out Carpenter on 5 pitches, got Ozuna to line out to CF on the first pitch, and got Martinez to ground out on 3 pitches, bringing his total to 81. He had set down 8 in a row after the Cardinals did all their damage in the 3rd.
Dominic Leone relieved Wacha. Firing a bevy of 92-93mph fastballs, he struck out Owings & Mathis looking, and got Dyson to line out to CF. His inning required just 14 pitches. It was the Cardinals’ first 1-2-3 inning of not just the game, but the series.
Greinke returned for the 6th, gave up a lead-off single up the middle to Yadier Molina, and was promptly removed. Well Mathenaged, Torey Lovullo.
Righty Matt Koch relieved Greinke. He got DeJong to fly out to RF, Wong to line out to deep CF, and pinch-hitter Harrison Bader to stare at a wide, called strike three.
Matt Bowman made his 5th appearance of the season in relief of Leone. Flashing 92mph fastballs, a couple of 82mph sliders, and even some 75mph curveballs, he struck out Nick Ahmed swinging, got Peralta to fly out to CF, and struck out Marte looking. His inning also required just 14 pitches.
Koch returned for a second inning of work. He got Fowler to fly out to deep CF, then caught Pham & Carpenter staring at a pair of fastballs on the first base side of the plate.
Jordan Hicks relieved Bowman, and got his first taste of major league adversity. Goldschmidt reached on a fielding error by Carpenter, and Pollock drew a walk. After a visit from Maddux, he got Descalso to line out to deep RF, and Owings to ground out to SS, on which Goldschmidt scored. A disappearing zone cost him some strikes as he walked Avila, but he ultimately got Mathis to ground out to 2B to end the frame. 5-3 Cardinals.
A bearded Fernando Salas relieved Koch, but was rudely greeted by Ozuna’s line drive single over his head. Martinez & Molina advanced him to third with a pair of ground outs to SS, but DeJong struck out to strand him.
Bud Norris entered to close it out. Mixing 4-seam fastballs and cutters, he got Ahmed to strike out on questionable check swing, and caught Peralta staring at a 95mph fastball painted low and away. After Marte doubled to RCF, he felled Goldschmidt with another 95mph fastball away. Cardinals win 5-3.
Michael Wacha: 5.0 IP, 2 ER, 4 H, 5 K, 5 BB, 51 GSc
Zack Greinke: 5.0+ IP, 5 ER, 9 H, 5 K, 0 BB, 36 GSc
- Something caught Jose Martinez’s eye in the top of the 1st, causing him to call time out and request the umpires address it. Apparently a cameraman’s laminated credential was reflecting sunlight right in his eye.
- “Pitchers love the cold. I don’t. I’d rather play in 110 degree heat. I’ll layer up, then I’ll suck it up.” -Tommy Pham
- Home plate umpire Mike Winters called the below pitch a ball. Wacha missed his spot by a foot, but it was right down the middle.
- After Yadier Molina golfed a single off the end of his bat in the 3rd, he motioned to the bat boy that he left his hands/thumbs back at home plate. The poor bat boy went running back to home plate to look for them, and Yadi had to call him back to clarify he was joking.
- Paul DeJong’s strike out streak was snuffed at 6 PAs when he flew out to RF in the 6th. But he struck out again in the 8th.
- Is Bud Norris... good?
- The Diamondbacks optioned Matt Koch to AAA after he pitched 2 innings, gave up 0 hits, and struck out 3 today.