As much as I wish my days always revolved around watching and covering the best team in baseball (I just love being able to say that legitimately!), some times it doesn’t.
Last night was one of those nights. I couldn’t rearrange my schedule for Wacha night 3.0, and it turns out, I missed a good one. So, if you’re like me and didn’t have a chance to catch the Cardinals beating up on the Mets live, here are the things you’ll want to know.
Finally! (We all said collectively.)
It was only a matter of time before the hot new thing got his first Big League “W,” but it’s been more of a struggle than most thought it would be. Twice before, the Cardinals came close to winning on Wacha night in St. Louis. Instead, though, it was a road game that earned Mr. Wacha a win.
Yes, he struggled in the first inning, giving up two runs, three walks, and throwing a third of his total pitch count before finally inducing a inning-ending ground out from Kirk Nieuwenhuis. But, the kid recovered and stymied the Mets offense after that.
The first inning, though, was so strange that it had his teammates reeling — and dissecting video in-game.
The Mets weren’t offering at his changeup. Matheny has called Wacha’s offspeed pitch the best in the organization and one of the most deceiving in the rotation. The Mets all but yawned as it passed, indifferent to its nature.
That had some in the dugout wondering if Wacha was tipping pitches. The righty has done that before with his offspeed stuff, and Wainwright went to the video to find out.
Said Matheny: “They were watching all sorts of different things. But he figured it out himself. He just needed to control counts better. He needed to get to the bottom of the strike zone. Once he started commanding the (strike) zone, all of sudden you see the weird swings.”
The “weird swings” returned, and the panic subsided.
I know it’s the struggling Mets, but the win counts all the same. Congrats, Michael!
2. Allen Craig. And … Allen Craig
The Amazing Whacker Guy is obviously known for his innate ability to do big things with the bat. However, he’s made a big catch or two in his day and he added to that highlight reel last night with THIS. Okay, not the most graceful “diving” catch, (I’ll admit, I laughed a little on the replay!) but it got the job done. Wacha sure appreciated the effort, style points or not.
But, as usual, he made a little more noise from the plate. It was a classic case of a Whacker Guy doing what a Whacker Guy does. He makes it look so easy. Again, if you missed it the first time, do yourself a favor and go look at it now.
3. More Streaking
The battle between Matt Carpenter and David Freese may have ended with Carpenter’s 0-4 night, but the hot David Freese pushed his own hitting streak to a career-high 20 games. (That’s also the longest active streak in baseball, if you’re keeping track.) He was 2-for-4 on the night and bumped his average for the last 30 days to .349 (his June average — albeit only 10 games in — is a team-leading .415).
Boy, is it nice to have this Freese back!
4. Big plays at big moments for big innings
This year’s team has done a much better job than teams in recent years at capitalizing on opportunities and turning them in to big, game-changing innings.
In just the last week, they’ve reiterated that point. Against Cincinnati on Friday, they platted three in the fourth inning (with two outs) and four in the sixth inning on three doubles, a walk, and a trademark two-out Carpenter single. On Sunday, they waited until extra innings to break out the fireworks — a walk, a single and a Daniel Descalso double started the fun, but it continued with a pair of singles and a grand slam by Matt Holliday. And yesterday, it was another combination of anything and everything with seven different guys getting involved.
A Daniel Murphy error started the ball rolling. Then, it was Pete Kozma, Wacha, Carpenter, Yadier Molina, Holliday, and Craig who made the error count, and then some. Walks. Hits. Sacrifices. Home runs. Doubles. Errors.
This lineup is doing it all and finding ways to pile it on when they need it most. It’s a beautiful thing, isn’t it?
5. Still the best
With the 9-2 win, the Cardinals move to 42-22 on the season. That’s 20 games over .500. On June 11. Best record in baseball plus a 3.5 game lead on the Reds? Can’t complain there!