I won't repeat how bad the Cardinals have been this month. But man, they've been bad. Not as bad as their record, which is to say maybe this isn't a true-talent 100-loss team, but at this point 94-95 seems attainable. Whoops, there I go again.
Tonight, we get Nick Pivetta in the bandbox that is Citizens Bank Park, in always-sunny Philadelphia PA. Speaking of things that have been bad, Pivetta fits that mold pretty squarely, as he enters the game with negative fWAR on the season and a FIP just south of 7. Now, a lot of that is riding on a 27% HR/FB rate, but I say let's get while the getting's good. Wainwright, who has exceeded every expectation (mostly by attrition), toes the rubber for the Redbirds.
Zooming out, the Phillies are doing pretty well this year. They sit atop a competitive NL East, powered by a stacked lineup (Bryce Harper is behind 5 other Phillies in raw offensive production according to FanGraphs) and a rotation that's not to be slighted. We get Aaron Nola tomorrow and Jerad Eickhoff Thursday, so I'll call tonight our best shot at winning and Thursday what would be a toss-up if we weren't hexed right now. Let's not talk about tomorrow.
After a short rain delay (what the heck, Danny DeVito?), we're off to the races.
I wasn't kidding about being off to the races. After a weak flyout by Fowler to open festivities, Paul Goldschmidt hit a full-count dinger, leaving us all pondering why we can't have a leadoff hitter that gets on base and why we aren't sort of blase about Goldschmidt dingers yet. Pivetta plunked DeJong, and noted ursine slugger Marcell Ozuna retaliated in the best way I know, hitting a no-doubter to hang a crooked number on the struggling Pivetta in his first inning of work. Maybe we'll pull out of this? *3-0 Cardinals.*
Fool, I tell myself. This is the new normal. Get used to it. And boy, was pessimistic me ever right.
In the remaining 8 innings, the Cardinals mustered only two singles. There was good contact, sure. 4 times, by my count, with the last and best one being Jose Martinez's scorched lineout to center in the 9th. We also received a pair of walks in the 4th, one a nice full-count effort by Yadi of all people and the other an ump-assisted 4-pitch affair to Wong. (Bader struck out to end the threat, which will surely see him benched for three weeks.) But aside from that, we didn't reach 2nd base for the rest of the game. The Cardinals would've done as well to send a bunch of self-inflating whoopee cushions to the plate after the 1st. Maybe better.
But hey, sometimes teams win with 3 runs, right? Right? .... RIGHT?!
Wrong. Not with Waino on the mound, not against the 2019 Phillies, not in Citizens Bank Park. Waino turned in a valiant effort--10 strikeouts and no walks in 6 innings--but he struggled through the 3rd and 4th, and paid the ultimate price, a Pitching Loss(c). For posterity, here's how that went:
In the 3rd, Pivetta claimed his complimentary Opposing Pitcher's Hit by smacking an 86 mph sinker from above the zone to center field. McCutchen singled on an 89 mph sinker well in on his hands to left. A first-pitch wild pitch (blame it on the rain) put the runners on 2nd and 3rd with 1 out and red-hot Jean Segura batting. Wainwright dug in and struck Segura out with the next 3 pitches, the last a cutter that ended a foot outside the zone and made Segura look downright foolish. Bryce Harper stepped in, and for a minute Waino looked like he was going to unintentionally intentionally walk him. But Harper reached a bit outside to smoke a 76 mph curveball that just sort of floated--AKA batting practice--to right field. Fowler gave it his best effort, but both runners scored and Harper ended on 2nd base. Probably because Fowler's best effort isn't that great. After 3, *Cardinals still lead, 3-2.*
The bottom of the 4th started innocuously enough, with a soft liner that dropped in center for JT Realmuto. 3 pitches later, Cesar Hernandez, 2016 NL triples leader (11), launched one over the too-close right field wall to take the lead. Wainwright struck out the bottom of the Phils order in sequence--indeed, ignoring Realmuto, Hernandez, and the first pitch to #7 hitter Kingery, it was an immaculate inning--but you don't get to ignore 2-run homers just because you want to. *Phillies lead 4-3.*
That's all Philadelphia got, but it's all they needed. Harper doubled in the bottom of the 5th, and Hoskins did all he could to drive him in. But Harrison Bader nailed Harper at the plate with an absolutely perfect throw to end the inning. Gallegos handled the 7th and 8th with aplomb, striking out 3 and facing the minimum from #8 through #4 in the order, with a detour through Maikel Franco who took the #9 slot in a double switch.
I don't really have any. We are officially under .500, and yet somehow only 4 games back in the division. But that doesn't matter, because We Are Bad, and when we're okay it's not good enough.
Waino's game score was 51, which is fantastic by 2019 Cardinals standards. Anybody know where we put the keys to the offense? I haven't seen them in a few days, did you check in the fridge? You never know with all those kids milling around...
Tomorrow (actually, tonight now), we will get Genesis Cabrera in his MLB debut against Aaron Nola. Nola had a rough start to the season, but he's rattled off 6 starts that suggest he's returned to his Cy Young candidate form. Cabrera is taking Wacha's start, and Wacha has presumably been sent either to the glue factory or the knee-and-shoulder-replacement superstore. Cabrera was the centerpiece of the Tommy Pham trade (RIP) and brings a 98 mph heater, terrible results in AAA this year, and a troubling lack of reliable secondary pitches to the table. Still, he's a talented kid (22 years old) by all accounts, and heaven knows it would be hard to downgrade from what Wacha was doing. (Wacha, we appreciate what you did in the old days, but those days are over. From now on, you're on your own. Listen, Mike. Maybe we could relocate you, you know, for old times' sake.)
First pitch is at 6:05 CDT. I wouldn't blame you if you opted to watch Stanley Cup Finals Game 2 instead, which conveniently (mostly) overlaps this game to spare us this particular misery. I know I will be!