[The following is a part of the United Cardinal Bloggers’ progressive game blog for May 30, 2015, focusing on the sixth inning of the Cardinals-Dodgers game. For more posts, including the fifth inning and seventh inning, please visit the main entry.]
The Greeks punished hubris in their tragedies, and so it was for Mike Matheny, whose pride in Michael Wacha preceded the Cardinals’ fall in the their Saturday night contest against the Dodgers. Wacha entered the sixth inning with a no-hitter, having struck out seven of the 18 batters he had faced through five. Matheny had reason to be confident in his right-hander, who was shutting down the majors’ top offense.
But Wacha had a chink in his armor that Matheny did not or would not see that the Dodgers exposed in the sixth. Justin Turner and Adrian Gonzalez forced Wacha into extended at-bats, driving up Wacha’s pitch count past 100. Turner’s strategy wasn’t initially apparent, taking his time to return to the plate after a foul ball, the rain continuing to fall on the Dodgers’ 1-0 deficit. But the delay perhaps contributed to Wacha’s wearing down, as Turner cracked the next pitch for a double to break the no-hitter. Wacha’s pitch count stood at 90, which should’ve been a sign to Matheny: Wacha’s performance degrades after the 100-pitch mark — the numbers prior to Grandal’s at-bat:
A wild pitch sent Turner as the tying run to third base. Then Gonzalez engaged Wacha in an epic at-bat, the turning point of the game. With a leverage index of 2.45, more than double the pressure for an average plate appearance, Gonzalez worked a 12-pitch at-bat, including eight foul balls, that culminated in a hit-by-pitch.
Matheny, however, refused this second warning of the oracle and left Wacha in to face Howie Kendrick with runners on first and third, one out and Wacha laboring. Kendrick ripped a single to plate Turner and even the score at 1-1.
Matheny was no more heedful of this third warning than the first two. But whether it was resistance to overreacting or a newfound desire to get Wacha through the inning in an effort to afford his pitcher another chance for the win, Matheny overestimated Wacha’s chances. A quick dispatch of Andre Ethier for the second out of the inning gave Matheny a final chance to submit to the Pythian prophecy. But, perhaps emboldened by Wacha’s success and sensing the nearness of escape, Matheny stood pat in the dugout to watch Wacha fall behind 3-1 on Yasmani Grandal. Then, on Wacha’s 112th pitch of the game, Grandal went deep. The no-hitter and shutout having been lost, the game was now lost, and the crisis action was complete.
In their half of the inning, the Cardinals attempted to shake their fists at the gods, putting two runners on with only one out. But then, as if comprehending his team’s fate, Jhonny Peralta grounded into an inning-ending double play, leaving merely the denouement to play out in front of Matheny and the last remaining fans at Busch.
Continue to the Seventh Inning at Cards Conclave