After stymying the Nationals Thursday night en route to an 8-0 victory, Adam Wainwright has now pitched 17 complete games in the majors. The Cardinal righty is one of the best pitchers in baseball, and he showed it again last night.
But he’s one of the game’s best-hitting pitchers, too, as he also demonstrated against the Nationals. He reached base three times in five plate appearances (the five plate appearances is an accomplishment for a pitcher in itself, being the first time a pitcher came to the dish that many times since Francisco Liriano last year on July 5). Waino rapped two base hits, including a double, and drew a walk, totaling 2.3 Runs Created by the original Bill James formula. On the pitching side, Wainwright held the Nationals to only two hits, both singles — in 32 plate appearances — and three walks. So he literally singlehandedly outproduced the Nationals.
Of the 16 complete games in which Wainwright batted for himself (he pitched a complete game at Oakland last year with the designated hitter), he has himself out run-created his opponent an incredible four times:
Players of the Game
- Allen Craig: Homered and drew a walk in four plate appearances, for a game-high .696 wOBA.
- Aramis Ramirez: Slashed three hits in four plate appearances for a team-best .666 wOBA (among starters).
- Joe Kelly: Turned in a nifty 2.13 FIP over 15 batters and four innings before leaving the game with leg injury.
Plays of the Game by WPA
- Jonathan Lucroy singled, scoring Wily Peralta scored and Carlos Gomez (-.159 WPA): Lucroy capitalized on the Cardinals’ shoddy fielding in the inning after Jhonny Peralta whiffed on a line drive and third baseman Daniel Descalso didn’t range far enough to record an infield out.
- Carlos Gomez doubled, scoring Logan Schafer scored (-.115 WPA): Gomez knocked in the Brewers’ first run the third inning, a lead they never relinquished.
- Shane Robinson grounded into a double play (-.111): With runners on first and second in the seventh inning with one out, the Cardinals’ run expectation for the inning was 1.2. Sugar Shane’s GIDP made it zero, ending the team’s best chance of coming back.
- Well, at least Allen Craig is regressing to his mean.
- Pat Neshek‘s ERA (2.45) looks good. Unfortunately, it’s the ERA of the guy he relieved (Keith Butler) that he elevated Wednesday. Not that Butler can complain: He has a team-low 25% Left-On Base rate.
- Neshek walked in the Brewers’ ultimate run. In 2013, Cardinal pitchers walked in nine runs. Of the six pitchers who did, two — Jake Westbrook and Mitchell Boggs — are no longer with the team.
- Mike Matheny summarized by saying that “”We didn’t get that big hit, but we had a couple of big opportunities offensively.” That’s true in the opposite: They did get a big hit in Craig’s round-tripper, but they didn’t exactly rattle the lumber, ending up with a meager .275 wOBA for the game. Last year, the had a .322 wOBA.
- Yasiel Puig has nothing on Carlos Gomez.
- Matt Adams had another opposite-field hit. We — and his OBA — like it.
- Jon Jay is hitting the ball well — here’s hoping for more playing time, at least against righties.
- Fielding undid the Cardinals as much as anything. First was the Adams error, then Peralta whiffed on Peralta’s liner right at him. Later in the same inning, third baseman Daniel Descalso couldn’t reach a grounder in the hole, extending the Brewers’ rally. You can’t give a major-league team four outs in an inning. Or five.
- Three of the most recent Cardinals to walk in a run pitched earlier in the game, Joe Kelly (4/5/14), Randy Choate (9/2/13) and Keith Butler (6/6/13). As some fans will sadly recall, Butler did it on consecutive batters.
- We’re not quite sure why Jay is stealing second base down four runs in the ninth inning. He made it, but the ends don’t justify the means.
- Afterward, Jonathan Lucroy said that the Cardinals have “had some momentum against us the past few years.” What we think he means is that the Cardinals have been the better team the last few years.
Players of the Game
- Michael Wacha: Yielded his first home run of the season, but his 2.88 expected FIP was better than his previous outing, when he allowed fewer runs, and his eight Ks is most in three starts so far.
- Matt Holliday: Reached base four of five plate appearances, though he effectively made it three after pointlessly trying (and failing) to steal.
- Anthony Rizzo: His lone hit was the most impactful scoring off Wacha this season, a two-run home run in the first inning.
Plays of the Game (by Win Expectancy)
- Matt Carpenter singled, scoring Allen Craig and Jhonny Peralta (+.187): The team’s most reliable hitter — Carpenter leads with a .411 OBP — came through to
- Anthony Rizzo homered, scoring Justin Ruggiano (-.182): The first-inning home run staked the Cubs to a 2-0 lead and gave them a short-lived 68% win expectancy.
- Welington Castillo singled, scoring Junior Lake (-.134): Castillo continued to frustrate Cardinal pitching at the least opportune times, two games after his game-high .462-WE-adding home run Friday.
- We suppose giving Trevor Rosenthal a few Robb Nen save chances is one way to ensure that he converts.
- Kevin Siegrist doesn’t get as many pixels as Trevor Rosenthal or Carlos Martinez, but he’s somewhat quietly the team’s most reliable reliever.
- We were skeptical of Mike Matheny using Kolten Wong in the number-two spot in the lineup, since we assumed it was primarily based on his speed and body type — the conventional legacy view of the #2 batter. But Wong’s on-base skills — his .354 OBP is all the Cardinals can ask of anyone in that role. (League average for #2 hitters last year was .318, fifth-highest of any lineup spot, which says more about today’s managers than anything).
- Matt Holliday has a 17% walk rate. We expect that Matt Adams, who has batted behind the team’s left fielder the last four games, doesn’t mind this.
- We suspect that Adams would rather take his chances hitting into a double play with Holliday on first, than possibly bat with the bases empty as a result of Holliday taking his chances trying to steal.
- Through 12 games, Matheny has used only Carpenter, Holliday and Yadier Molina in the #1, #3 and #5 spots, respectively, in the lineup.
The Cardinals enter the weekend tilt with the Cubs not quite themselves, having begun the season only 5-4 (and a 4-5 Pythagorean record). Led by their three Matts — Carpenter, Holliday and Adams — they’ve flashed some of the balanced offense and strong starting pitching that carried them to the NL pennant last year, but key players like Allen Craig, Jhonny Peralta and Shelby Miller have yet to find their form.
The Cubs will have their work cut out for them on Saturday and Sunday when they face the top of the rotation in Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha, so their best chance to take down the reigning NL champs is in the series opener as fifth starter Joe Kelly takes the mound. Kelly’s 1.69 ERA in his first start belies a 4.55 FIP and 4.79 xFIP, so if Cub hitters are patient, they can coax some walks (he had a 3.2 career BB/9). He has a knack for slipping out of trouble, though, by inducing grounders — he had a 16% GIDP rate last year (league average was 11%).
Cub hurler Jeff Samardzija will want to watch out for Yadier Molina, who not only is off to a hot start with three home runs and a .390 wOBA but also hits the Cub righty well (.579 OBP/.588 SLG in 19 PAs). Cardinal left-handed-hitting center fielder Jon Jay, whom newcomer Peter Bourjos has displaced as the team’s default center fielder mainly for defensive reasons, may see more action this weekend with Samardzija and fellow righties Carlos Villanueva and Edwin Jackson due to start. Cardinal manager Mike Matheny has been reluctant to start Jay even when he has a platoon advantage, having opted for the right-handed Bourjos against right-handed starters three of five opportunities.