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Bader, Pena lead offense to 6-1 victory over Brewers

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Wacha pitched today and he pitched good enough to win, as the old folks say.

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Milwaukee Brewers Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Michael Wacha didn’t have his best stuff tonight - or best control - or whatever you want to call it when a pitcher isn’t at the top of his game. He got more groundballs than he usually gets and virtually every ball the Brewers hit in play found a glove so it wasn’t exactly noticeable. But he was only ok tonight. But even if the results had matched his pitching, it still would have been good enough to win.

Zach Davies pitched in his second game since returning from the disabled list and if the first game back gave Brewers fans some hope he returns to form, I’m sure this game dissipated that hope at least a little. Davies is a pitcher who needs to throw first-pitch strikes in order to be successful, but even if you do that - and he did it to 18 out of 25 hitters - it doesn’t guarantee success. He threw a first-pitch ball to Matt Carpenter and ended up walking him to begin his game, as he was trying to catch up and hit the corners at the same time. But he threw first-pitch strikes to the next three hitters, getting to 0-2 on all three, and striking out two for his troubles with a scoreless inning.

Wacha’s first inning is a good example of his night. Lorenzo Cain grounded out, followed by a walk to Christian Yelich on five pitches. But then Jesus Aguilar - ideally a hitter best utilized against left-handed pitchers - grounded into an inning ending double play ball. Walks negated by double play balls are not a particularly reliable form of pitching, but it does remove the penalty of walking someone in a way not seen in FIP.

The Cardinals bats broke the game open in the 2nd inning. Davies threw a first-pitch strike to Harrison Bader, but then threw two straight balls. I believe studies have shown that the 1-1 pitch is more important than the first pitch. Obviously though it’s easier to get into a 1-2 count if you throw a first-pitch strike though. Bader hit what looked like a pop up, but it just kept traveling and ended up over the left field fence. 1-0 Cards. They weren’t done.

Yairo Munoz kept his hot steak going, hitting a single to start a new rally. Kolten Wong did his best Anthony Rizzo impression - the getting hit by a pitch part of Rizzo’s game, not the dirty slide part. With men on first and second, Francisco Pena singled to load the bases. He hit a bloop pop up that Cain just missed. It got past Cain, and if Munoz read the ball better, he would have scored. Probably better to be safe with nobody out in that situation though. After Wacha struck out swinging, Carpenter stepped to the plate and waited for a pitch he liked. He never got one. He walked on five pitches to give the Cards a 2-0 lead. Jedd Gyorko hit a sloooow roller that found the exact right spot in the infield. The seeing eye single drove in two runners and put runners at the corner. Tommy Pham hit a hard hit ground ball right at the third baseman so double play and the end of the inning. 4-0 Cards.

Wacha briefly flirted with being elite in the bottom of the inning, striking out two batters in a 1-2-3 inning. The Cardinals threatened in the 3rd again, though not through any fault of Davies himself. Marcell Ozuna got on base thanks to catcher’s interference. Bader got on base from an infield single, thanks to it not being hit hard and Bader’s speed. Wong got IBB’d after Munoz moved both runners to 2nd and 3rd with a deep flyout. But Pena struck out and Wacha grounded out to end the inning with no additional runs.

Much like the 1st, Wacha didn’t have a particularly great inning in the 3rd, but you can’t go wrong with groundballs. A leadoff groundout preceded a 1-out walk to Manny Pina. Pina was sacrfiiced to second base by Davies, and then Wacha got out of the inning from another groundout by Cain.

Davies apparently had good reason to walk Carpenter the first two times he faced him, because on his third time, Carpenter homered to lead off the 4th. After Gyorko singled, Pham grounded into another double play ball, and again it was because he hit it hard. This used to happen to Pujols except Pham isn’t as slow as Pujols. It’s frustrating but when you hit it hard, it’s going to happen. Ozuna grounded out - again - to end the inning.

Yelich began the bottom of the 4th with a groundball towards the right side of the infield. Carpenter made a good play followed by a bad play. He dove and stopped the ball, and it with plenty of time, botched the throw. It is arguable he should have let it go past him and let Kolten get it, but I’m not sure he knew Kolten would have gotten it if it got past him. Instincts gonna instinct. Aguilar lined out and Travis Shaw flied out, leading to a groundout by Ryan Braun to end the inning. In the top of the 5th, Bader led off with a single, only to be removed from a double play ball by Munoz. Wong grounded out to end the inning.

Wacha gave up his first hit in the 5th to Hernan Perez, followed by two lineouts to the outfield and a flyout. You can see how he’s not pitching as good as he started, what with the lineouts and flyouts starting to replace groundouts. Boone Logan replaced Davies after 5 innings, and besides a single by Pena, he got through the inning unscathed. Wacha had his longest inning in the 6th. He needed 26 pitches to get through four hitters. He got a strikeout, groundout, 9-pitch walk, and lineout to right. Jacob Barnes threw a 1-2-3 inning in the 7th, including striking out the slumping Pham.

The Brewers finally got on the board in the 7th. Despite throwing a 1-hitter, I thought Wacha should be removed from the game to start the inning. Nonetheless, it’s not necessarily a cut and dry issue since it was a 5-0 game and he had 87 pitches so the leverage was low. But i definitely thought he should have taken him out after walking Braun on five pitches. He then got two straight groundouts. The second included a grounder back to the pitcher. Wacha made the right move, but Al made the rare right point and said that Wacha threw it to third too fast, which allowed Braun to play “NOT IT” and give Pina second base. Eric Sogard lined a single to left field and that was it for Wacha.

Sam Tuivailaila replaced him and gave up a two-out double to Jonathan Villar, who is really getting on my nerves! It only drove in one run though, which set the stage for Cain with runners on 2nd and 3rd. Cain though struck out looking on an inside pitch. The Cardinals added a run with a homer from - anybody want to take any guesses - whatever your guess, you’re wrong. Francisco Pena is not a good hitter, but he did carry a projected .137 ISO into this season so he is not without power. He hit it to dead center and very far.

Jordan Hicks replaced Tuivailaila. Listen, I’ve been kind of down on Hicks in the past because he walks more than he strikes out, but you know that’s when he was walking more than he struck out. He did not do that today. Not even close. He faced six hitters across his two innings and struck out four. Two of them were swinging! His calculated strategy to throw a little less hard and focus more on his slider has paid dividends for the moment at least.

Notes

  • Michael Wacha line: 6.2 IP, ER, 2 Hs, 4 BBs, 3 Ks - Not that great of a line, but .105 BABIP against him tonight so that’ll help.
  • Carpenter continues being molten lava, going 1-3 with 2 BBs with a HR. That raised his season wRC+ to 115. He still only has a .273 BABIP.
  • So I was going to complain about Carson Kelly not starting, but I guess this would be what you would call poor timing. Unless there’s something with Kelly I don’t know about. Anyway, Pena isn’t doing as good as you probably think: 83 wRC+. I mean that’s probably better than Kelly, but there’s no reason to think he’ll continue hitting that well so why not play the guy you have a future planned for (or if you’re a trade Kelly person, kind of important he play for trade value and not be an actual backup catcher to a 30-year-old who came into the season with 60 career PAs)
  • Bader went 3-4 with a HR and his season wRC+ over 95 PAs is 122. O’Neill is going to need to stop striking out, cause it’s going to be hard to play him over Bader. (O’Neill’s wRC+ is 128, but that’s with a 43.2% K rate and 2.7% BB rate, which would make even Randal Grichuk say “Relax and take some pitches dude”)
  • Time to get angry folks - tomorrow Alex Reyes pitches in his 2018 MLB debut, but it’s on at 12:10 and on Facebook. Which means a lot of people aren’t going to get to see it. In this specific situation, the 12:10 start bothers me more, but for scheduling purposes I understand it. I will be missing this start.

As I said, tomorrow it’s Alex Reyes and he faces Junior Guerra. Guerra is a 33-year-old who randomly started pitching well in the MLB a couple years ago, but he’s had some injuries and he doesn’t appear to be good. So win that game Cards.