Tonight’s game was hard to stomach. The Cards produced some early runs with more clutch hitting, a nice 2-out stroke in the first inning by Ryan Ludwick hopefully to get him back on track (he finished two for three, with two RBI). Luddy again struck with a sac fly in the 3rd.
Adam Wainwright was cruising. Six innings of shutout ball, lots of first pitch strikes, all of his pitches seemingly working in perfect tune for another start.
Once the sixth inning was over, though, it seemed as if the Cards felt they had it in the bag. They didn’t place another runner on base until the top of the eighth. This was the least of their problems. Waino ran into trouble in the top of seven, allowing a big ground-rule double by Jason Bay and then walking Xavier Nady. Then a flyout – then another walk (after a rare passed ball by Molina) – and it just had the feeling of “one of those innings” that we have grown accustomed to watching this team. Jason Michaels delivered the dagger, and it seemed clear the Cards wouldn’t come away with the win, despite the grand slam only tying the game.
Wainwright had only thrown something like 74 pitches going into that top of the seventh. It’s easy to see why he would’ve been expected to keep cruising. But after the Pirates hadn’t touched him all night, and Bay smoked one into the left-center gap, regardless of pitch count, shouldn’t that be enough to get the bullpen cranked up? When he struggled with his command even while getting outs, shouldn’t that be enough to get the bullpen up? When he walked a couple batters in the inning – where are the stall tactics to get your flame-throwing guys like Chris Perez in there to shut down the inning?
If you’re not going to use CP63 to close (yes, I’m glaring at you, TLR), you might as well use him in similar situations like this. Instead, Wainwright was allowed to pitch to Michaels – and of course – Michaels hits his first home run of the season into the seats for a grand slam.
Then, naturally, Wainwright comes back out for the eighth inning! Smoking hot Nate McLouth – a left-handed hitter – led off the inning, while Randy Flores continued popping away out in the bullpen. What??? Again, naturally, the Pirates went on to score, blah blah blah.
Anyway, I’m getting myself all worked up just rehashing these details.
What I intend to say is this. The Cardinals need to keep their bats in these games, rather than shutting it down once they have what they determine is a “sufficient” lead. They should know better, just ask Jason Isringhausen. Second, can we just skip the rest of the games against the Pirates this season?
And finally, Tony LaRussa has taken to repeating his kitchy little catch-phrase for this team over and over again – “Play a hard nine.” While I agree with the sentiment, and certainly the Cards didn’t get that mantra accomplished tonight, I challenge their manager to follow the same credo.
Stop with the pitch counts analysis and wanting your starters to “battle” and whatever other excuses you’re giving in your post-game interview right now. Waino was struggling, and you had multiple chances to save him and this game. I challenge you:
Tony, manage a hard nine.