The Cardinals did the impossible. They got shut down by James Shields, a pitcher who has been BELOW replacement level the last two seasons. He was inexplicably and frustratingly good against the Cardinals today. The Cards at least made him throw a lot of pitches I guess, which forced him out of the game after six innings. The White Sox bullpen tonight was truly awful and it was amazing they only allowed two runs.
Unfortunately, Michael Wacha was not that great tonight. There’s no natural excuse like there was for the other games either. The weather was great and the White Sox do not have a good lineup. He should have been better than he was, but this is what he is at this point. If he’s on, he’ll probably dominate at Coors Field, but if he’s off, he’ll struggle through five against a weak offense.
The Cardinals got on the board quickly and then not at all for the next 27 batters. Tommy Pham patiently waited for a good pitch to hit and he evidently got one as he hit a monster home run that went about 454 feet, near the kids strikeout corner beyond the bullpen (I’m not exactly sure what it’s called exactly, but little kids get to put Ks up so that’s what I’m going with).
Shields then got the next 15 batters out. I’m not exaggerating sadly. Matt Carpenter struck out looking twice and I was in the stands so I don’t know how accurate the strike calls were, but I’m going to guess they were not actually strikes. Shields also struck out Pham in that span of batters. If you would have told me Shields would have three strikeouts through five, I would not have picked Carpenter and Pham as the likely culprits. (I’d probably say Wacha for at least one of them)
In the sixth, Kolten Wong hit a groundball the other way on an outside pitch. Third basemen Matt Davidson would have been better off pocketing the ball because his attempt at throwing out Wong was rather hilarious. But then pinch-hitter Greg Garcia struck out and Wong got thrown out trying to steal. I am very much a Greg Garcia fan, but seriously why is he first guy off the bench? He is certainly not the best hitter the Cardinals have on the bench.
Meanwhile, Wacha struggled throughout the game. He fell behind leadoff hitter Yoan Moncada 3-1, which led to a very hittable pitch. Moncada lined it into right field for a single. Tim Anderson lined a pitch just over Carpenter’s head. He needed just a little jump to get it but he managed to catch the ball. With two outs, he walked Davidson on four straight pitches, but then struck out Nick Delmonico on three straight pitches. In the 2nd, he allowed a two-out single, but Shields is an American League pitcher and he struck out accordingly.
In the 3rd, both Moncada and Anderson hit slow rollers to Carpenter. Carpenter managed to throw both of them out despite the weak arm, which was very important because Wacha then allowed two straight singles with two outs. He didn’t strike Delmonico out this time, but he flew out to end the threat.
In the 4th, Wellington Castillo hit a line drive towards Marcell Ozuna, who made a very nice play for the first out. Wacha then lost any semblance off control, walking projected 51 wRC+ hitter Adam Engel and projected 72 wRC+ hitter Trayce Thompson back-to-back. Shields tried to bunt them over, but he struck out instead. Engel was about halfway between first and second and Molina would have thrown him out, but Jose Martinez did not remotely expect it. Thompson advanced to third on the play and Engel was safe at first. Moncada then hit a ball that Ozuna very nearly reached, but he completely whiffed on it and let it get past him. Both runners scored and Moncada made it to second base. Anderson popped up to end the inning.
Now you may think Matheny would have had somebody warming up during that debacle, but the most I saw was some “activity” in the bullpen with people preparing to start throwing. Wacha started the fifth and still nobody warmed up. I would have noticed this if I wasn’t at the game, but definitely a situation where you should have somebody warming, cause if Wacha walks a guy, you take him out, not THEN start warming somebody up. Luckily, he got a 1-2-3 inning from the 3-4-5 hitters, though admittedly the White Sox do not have a particularly strong 3-4-5 group of hitters.
Luke Gregerson replaced Wacha and he pitched very good. He struck out two of the three guys he faced. Jordan Hicks replaced him and he was about the same as he’s been all year. He got the first two guys to get out on weak contact, but then walked Anderson. Jose Abreu lined out to center to end the inning so it was a mixed bag of an inning, performance-wise by Hicks.
Bruce Rondon replaced Shields and the Cards should probably have scored a run this inning. Carpenter led off with a double. Martinez hit the ever living crap out of the ball, but it was his typical lineout right at a fielder, this time in center. Carpenter advanced to third on a wild pitch. Ozuna grounded out to first and Carpenter should have stayed at third, but he tried to score and was thrown out easily. With Ozuna on first, Molina hit a slow roller up the middle. Moncada bobbled it and for some reason, the scorekeepers called it a hit. It was definitely an error. Molina would have been out if Moncada fielded it cleanly and easily because, well, he’s Molina. Dexter Fowler flew out though and ended that threat.
Dominic Leone struck out two batters himself in his lone inning of work in the 8th, only allowing a single to Delmonico. Nate Jones replaced Rondon in the bottom of the inning and was pretty terrible. He walked Paul DeJong and then Wong bunted him over. That was dumb. Let’s give the guy with no control a free out. Jedd Gyorko pinch-hit and then walked himself. Then Pham grounded into a double play. Sure glad we gave that guy a free out.
Bud Norris pitched a 1-2-3- top of the 9th with zero strikeouts. Unusual for him. And here’s where the real fun began. On a 2-1 count against Joakim Soria, Carpenter hit a line drive to center field and tied the game up with a home run. After Martinez struck out, Ozuna hit an opposite field line drive that hit the wall for a 1-out double. That set it up nicely for Molina. With the crowd chanting “Molina,” Molina gave the crowd what they wanted and sent everyone home with a line drive “single.” (It would have been a double had it not ended the game).
- Wacha line: 5 IP, 2 ER, 3 Ks, 3 BBs, 5 Hs - Wacha’s season line is much better than I expected for what it’s worth.
- Carpenter had a game that showcased the best and worst of him - if you’re the type of person who gets mad at him for being too patient, well he struck out looking twice (not sure how justified it was). He also had a baserunning blunder. He actually had a perfect game on defense though. He hit both a double and a homer, and the only thing missing was a walk.
- I’m officially taking DeJong off BB watch. He’s at 6.2% with his walk tonight. It is my opinion that you can have a semi-respectable BB rate if you meet the basic requirement of thinking a walk is good. Both Ozuna and Molina on the other hand, are firmly on BB watch, as neither walked tonight and both have only three walks on the year.
- Great, great work by the bullpen tonight. They’ve been getting a lot of criticism but they were nearly perfect tonight and were very integral to the Cards winning.
- Shoutout to Kolten Wong for continually trying and failing to dump a gallon of water over anyone’s head after walkoffs. Keep trying Kolten. The photo above is his attempt tonight.
- The game-tying homer in the 9th was Carpenter’s 100th career home run. That is much more than anyone could have reasonably expected from him as a little known prospect.
- Seriously though, thank god we won the James Shields game.
Tomorrow the Cards go for the two-game sweep. It is a favorable pitching matchup for the Cardinals with Carlos Martinez facing Lucas Giolito. Giolito is a top pitching prospect who really doesn’t seem ready for the MLB at all. Either that or he sucks.