Many were worried that the Cardinals’ formula going into tonight’s game would be Michael Wacha + Coors Field = disaster. Although Wacha actually pitched very well in his most recent start on regular rest against the Reds on August 31st, he did allow 2 home runs. Over his last 6 starts before tonight, Wacha has been unlucky with a 24% HR/FB rate, which explains why his 4.31 xFIP is better than his 5.38 FIP over that span. While Wacha did give up another home run tonight that was responsible for the only 2 runs the Rockies scored, he still pitched well enough for the Cards to win.
The Cards had one of their worst ever offensive games in Coors Field tonight, scratching together only 5 total hits, and only one that was hit for extra bases. Rockies starter Chi Chi Gonzalez came into tonight’s game with an 0-6 record in 10 games and 9 starts in the majors, with a walk rate higher than his strikeout rate, a HR/9 rate of 1.93, and a FIP and xFIP over 6.00. But Cardinal batters made Gonzalez look like a star, and were kept off balance all night by his cutter and changeup. The Cards did not work a single walk off of Gonzalez in his 6 innings pitched, and pounded ball after ball into the ground.
In the end, the game was defined by the Cards’ inability to score in 2 critical opportunities, stranding the bases loaded with 1 out in the top of the 5th, and 2 Cardinal hitters striking out back-to-back with runners at the corners and 1 out in the top of the 7th. Hopefully, we can chalk it up to a weird game, as both pitching staffs combined for 22 groundouts against only 6 flyouts.
Dexter Fowler led off the game by working the count to 3-2. He then sliced a liner towards the left-field line, but LF Raimel Tapia made a good running catch. Kolten Wong chopped a ball to 2nd that 2B Ryan McMahon charged and made a quick throw to 1st for the second out. Rockies’ starter Chi Chi Gonzalez struck Paul Goldschmidt out swinging at a cutter to end the inning. Michael Wacha struck Trevor Story out on a good 0-2 changeup. Charlie Blackmon sliced a middle-in 2-2 fastball to left-center for a base hit. Wacha hung a 2-1 changeup to Nolen Arenado, who crushed it inside the left field line and out onto the concourse in left field near the ice cream stand for a 482-foot monster 2-run HR to put the Rockies on the board 2-0.
GONE FOREVER!— Colorado Rockies (@Rockies) September 11, 2019
4️⃣8️⃣2️⃣ feet❗️ pic.twitter.com/cAP9JC5SCD
Daniel Murphy grounded out to short, and McMahon chased a 3-2 changeup in the dirt to strike out and end the inning.
Marcell Ozuna sliced a low-and-in 2-2 cutter for a bloop base hit to right-center. Originally ahead in the count 3-0, Paul DeJong ended up popping a 3-2 fastball to 1st base in foul territory. Yadier Molina swung and missed at a hanging 3-2 cutter. Ozuna was running with the pitch. Catcher Tony Wolters threw the ball flat-footed to 2nd base. Ozuna was initially ruled safe, but the Rockies challenged the call. On replay, it was clear that McMahon tagged Ozuna’s left hand before it touched the base, and Ozuna was ruled out for an inning-ending strike-em out, throw-em out double play. Wacha retired the Rockies in order in the bottom of the 2nd, including his 3rd strikeout of the night.
AtRockies happens to know a few things and one of the things AtRockies knows is, you Don't. Dash. On. The. 'Stache ♂️ pic.twitter.com/TxZhMfCtcJ— Colorado Rockies (@Rockies) September 11, 2019
After Tommy Edman softly lined out to left to lead off the top of the 3rd, Harrison Bader sharply grounded a hanging changeup down the line at 3rd base. Arenado dove for it and made a one-bounce throw from his knees to Daniel Murphy at 1st base. Murphy had to come off the bag closer to home plate, but made the catch, turned to his left and tagged Bader out in an great overall play.
Wacha struck out to end the inning. After Wacha induced 2 groundouts to start the bottom of the 3rd, Blackmon lined a low-and-away fastball to left for a base hit. Arenado grounded an outside fastball up the middle to move Blackmon to 2nd, but Murphy stranded both runners by grounding a changeup to 2nd base to end the inning.
Fowler lined a 1-1 changeup to the right-center field gap for a base hit to lead off the top of the 4th. Blackmon jogged over to get it and Fowler decided to try for 2nd base. Blackmon’s throw to 2nd beat Fowler, but Fowler slid under McMahon’s tag for a double. Wong softly grounded out to Murphy at 1st, who flipped to Rodriguez covering 1st base. Wong moved to 3rd on the play. Goldschmidt grounded a ball towards the hole that was fielded by Arenado, and he threw Goldschmidt out at 1st. Fowler scored on the play to cut the Rockies’ lead to 2-1. Ozuna flied out to center to end the inning.
RBI number 8⃣1⃣ for Goldy! pic.twitter.com/1ptEddOM8Z— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) September 11, 2019
With 1 out in the bottom of the 4th, Tapia sharply grounded an inside changeup up the middle for a base hit. Sam Hilliard squibbed a low-and-away changeup to the right side of the infield into the shift for DeJong, who flipped to Edman covering the bag for a rare 6-5 force at 2nd base. The ball was hit too softly to get Hilliard, who reached 1st base on the fielder’s choice. Wolters walked on 4 pitches, with ball 4 high-and-outside, but very close to, if not on the corner. The pitcher Gonzalez worked the count to 3-2 before hitting a high fastball to right field. Fowler was playing in and had to race back and catch it on the run to end the inning.
With 1 out in the top of the 5th, Molina grounded a low-and-away fastball that was headed for the hole through the right side. Murphy made a good play to field it and had plenty of time to throw Molina out with Gonzalez covering 1st base. But Murphy’s throw was behind Gonzalez, who had to stretch for it, and the throw bounced off of his glove. The scorer initially charged Gonzalez with the error instead of Murphy, but later changed it to a throwing error on Murphy. Molina reached first base on the play. Edman lined a hanging cutter to center for a base hit to move Molina to 2nd. Bader sharply grounded a low cutter through the hole to left to load the bases. Shildt decided to go for some runs and had Matt Carpenter pinch hit for Wacha. Carpenter broke his bat on a 2-1 inside fastball and softly lined out to shortstop towards the middle of the infield. Fowler grounded a low 3-1 cutter to 1st to strand the bases loaded. Wacha was now done after 68 pitches and Ryan Helsley came in to pitch the bottom of the 5th on 5 days of rest. Story softly lined a base hit to left that dropped in front of Ozuna. Blackmon flied out to center. Arenado grounded into a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning. Gonzalez retired the Cards in order in the top of the 6th, including a strikeout of Goldschmidt. Murphy lined a center-cut 97-mph fastball up the middle for a base hit to center to lead off the bottom of the 6th. McMahon struck out swinging at an 0-2 curveball in the dirt. Tapia sliced an up-and-in 100 mph fastball for a lineout to left. Hilliard bounced out to 1st to end the inning.
With Gonzalez at 100 pitches, righty Bryan Shaw came out to pitch the top of the 7th, and maybe now the Cards have a chance. DeJong worked a 3-2 walk to lead off the frame, the Cards’ first walk of the night. Shaw then hit Molina on the side of the left shoulder with a cutter. Molina made no effort to get out of the way, but that rule is never enforced. With runners at 1st and 2nd, Edman chopped a high fastball to short for the 6-4 force. McMahon had to throw across his body to 1st after receiving the flip from short, and Edman beat out the throw. With runners at the corners and 1 out, the Rockies made a double switch. Righty Carlos Estevez came in to pitch in the #7 spot and Yonathan Daza came in to play CF in the #9 spot. Bader struck out swinging at a 3-2 center-cut 98-mph fastball after looking at 2 fastballs in the zone for strikes earlier in the at-bat. Jose Martinez pinch hit for Helsley. He looked at 2 straight fastballs in the zone for strikes. Then he must have been guessing off-speed, because he was way behind in swinging at a 100-mph fastball. Giovanny Gallegos came in to pitch the bottom of the 7th on 5 days of rest and retired the Rockies in order.
For the top of the 8th, the Rockies made another double switch to bring in righty Jairo Diaz to pitch in the #9 spot and Garrett Hampson to play CF in the #7 spot. Fowler smoked a liner right to Murphy at 1st for the first out. Wong grounded out to 2nd. Goldschmidt grounded a slider towards the 3rd base line. Arenado raced over to field it with his momentum taking him into foul territory. He made a running off-balance throw to 1st that was short and took Murphy off the bag. When Murphy got ready to tag Goldschmidt, Goldschmidt slid under the tag to make it safely to 1st base.
Ozuna, however, struck out swinging at a changeup in the dirt to end the inning. Gallegos came back out and retired the Rockies in order with 1 strikeout.
Diaz came back out for the top of the 9th. DeJong struck out swinging at a changeup in the dirt. Molina lined an inside changeup to left for a base hit, and Randy Arozarena ran for him. Edman grounded a center-cut fastball to 2nd for a 4-6-3 double play. The Cards challenged the call to try to keep the game alive, arguing that Edman beat the throw to 1st, but the replay showed he was out by a step, and the game was over.
Odds and Ends
As of this writing, the Padres are beating the Cubs 8-5 in San Diego in the bottom of the 7th. The Padres scored 5 runs in the bottom of the 2nd inning. With the bases loaded and 1 out, and the Cubs ahead 2-1 at that point, Padres starting pitcher Ronald Bolanos grounded to Ben Zobrist at 2nd base for what should have been an inning-ending double play. Instead, Zobrist threw the ball wide of SS Nico Hoerner, and the ball went all the way to the sidewall down the left field line. The bases cleared to give the Padres a 4-2 lead. After Manuel Margot singled to put runners at the corners, former Cardinal farmhand Nick Martini hit a Sac Fly for the Padres’ 5th run. Since that time, the Cubs cut the lead to 6-5 on a Sac Fly by Ian Happ and a 2-run HR by Kris Bryant, but the Padres scored 2 more runs in the bottom of the 7th on a Greg Garcia single, Manuel Margot triple and Nick Martini single...The Brewers beat the Marlins 4-3 with a run in the top of the 9th, but that was little consolation to the Brewers, because they lost OF Christian Yelich for the season with a broken right kneecap. In the top of the first inning, Yelich fouled an inside slider off of his own right knee. You can see a video of the injury here. The Brewers will turn to a combination of Ryan Braun, Ben Gamel and Trent Grisham to flank Lorenzo Cain in the outfield.