St. Louis Cardinals’ Can’t Get Warm in Cold Late Innings Loss
The St. Louis Cardinals were unable to get on the winning side for the second game in a row. What happened and what can we learn from this game?
Things started off not so great for the St. Louis Cardinals as in the second inning Gregory Polanco hit a line drive off of the right field wall that became a triple due to a misread by Stephen Piscotty to bring in the Pirates’ first run. Polanco was then brought in on a ground ball from Josh Harrison, making it 2-1.
The Cardinals fought back in the next inning scoring two runs off of Jon Niese. They did, however, give the Pirates the lead right back as Andrew McCutchen rocked a Michael Wacha fastball that wasn’t spotted well for an RBI double.
After that, the Cardinals managed to get their lead back thanks to Jedd Gyorko‘s first home run as a Cardinal. Gyorko was able to pull a pitch to left for a two-run homer giving the Cardinals a 4-3 lead.
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The Cardinals did add to that in the next inning on a ground ball from Matt Holliday for his second RBI of the game, making it a 5-3 game. However, this nice two-run lead did not last long. While Michael Wacha was good for parts of this game, he was running on fumes in the fifth inning, and his manager kept him in the game after loading the bases and he had a pitch count in the 90s.
The very next batter Wacha got the ground ball he needed, but Aledmys Diaz (playing in his first major league game) booted the ball and was unable to even record one out. That was it for Wacha as Tyler Lyons came in to relieve him. This was a good move, but Lyons did give up a run as Gregory Polanco struck again with a sacrifice fly driving in McCutchen and tying the game at five.
The two teams’ bullpens would lock the scoring down until the bottom of the 11th inning; with the Cardinals pen did their part striking out nine Pirates’ batters in six innings of work. This is where the Cardinals’ lack of strong defense reared it’s head again, as Gyorko botched a double play of his own on a diving play.
This brought up Jordy Mercer who hit a sharp grounder down the first base line to bring in the man with the sparkling new five-year contract in Gregory Polanco to win the game.
Matheny Fails his Starter
I have been one of Michael Wacha’s staunchest critics this past offseason, and I thought at times Wacha had really good stuff and good command of it. However, there were times where this seemed to escape him and the fifth inning was a prime example of this.
Last season, Mike Matheny routinely let his starters get into trouble in the fifth inning and later to likely get the pitcher in line for the win (the most useless baseball stat). Unfortunately, Matheny had the opportunity to avoid this debacle by bringing Lyons earlier.
Given the concern of Wacha working too much last season and running, Matheny also had the opportunity to do some preventative maintenance by keeping his pitcher under 90 pitches. You may point to the fact that Wacha got the ground ball and you would be right, but the result of the pitch is not the important matter here.
What is important is that this could have been avoided by either going to Lyons after McCutchen reached base or to start the inning.
The offense banged out five runs and Stephen Piscotty looked locked in at the plate tonight. For the most part, the offense looked good, they were working counts and getting on base.
With the bullpen looking like it did tonight, teams will have a hard time scoring on this team once the Cardinals have a lead past the 5th/6th innings.
I know that this team is 0-2, but this team has had issues playing in Pittsburgh the last three seasons, and playing in near freezing weather sure doesn’t help the offense get comfortable. The Cardinals will catch a break in the nine games following this series playing against three of the worst teams in the league in Atlanta, Milwaukee, and Cincinnati.
This may help the team get going ahead of their first three-game series with the media darling Chicago Cubs. It really is too early to start worrying about this team, there is a lot of games to be played and players like Matt Holliday and Randal Grichuk have yet to get going (they will).
Next: Grading the Cardinals' Opening Day
So, Cardinals’ fans take a deep breath and get ready for Mike Leake‘s Cardinal debut tomorrow night. Leake will be facing off against Juan Nicasio, the Cardinals own a .333/.406/.491 slash in 65 plate appearances. So, the offense could have a good night against the career 4.88 ERA pitcher who started just one game for the Los Angeles Dodgers last season.