For my last post I did some research on what pitchers had the longest consecutive scoreless innings streaks against the Cardinals. During that research I found the Carl Hubbell game from 2 July 1933, where he shut out the Cardinals for 18 innings (the Giants won 1-0). As near as I could tell, that was the longest the Cardinals had ever been held scoreless in a single game.
Little did I know 2 days later they’d break that record, but they did – 18 2/3 innings of futility, ended only by Yadier Molina’s single to tie the game. That game was as epic as it was unbelievable. Double switching out Matt Holliday? Really? Playing hit and run with Ludwick on base, he of the 16 career stolen bases in 29 attempts, with Albert Pujols at the plate?
All that said, since every pitcher in both bullpens had been used, once the game was over I rushed to see who was pitching Sunday. Adam Wainwright for the Cardinals, John Maine for the Mets. If I could have bet money at that moment on a Cardinal victory I would have. Maine hadn’t pitched past the fifth inning in either of his starts this season. He made it out of the sixth only five times in his previous 40 starts going back through the 2008 season. The odds of him going deep into Sunday’s game were long.
In contrast, Adam Wainwright routinely goes seven innings – 21 of his 34 starts last season, both of his starts this year.
The Met bullpen was going to be used again tonight. The Cardinals could raise their odds of winning if they took good at-bats, and made Maine work. Which is exactly what they did, as Maine needed 115 pitches to get 15 outs. Advantage St Louis.
Of course, Maine worked a high-wire act during those 5 innings, and only a Colby Rasmus 3-run homer prevented Maine from turning the game over to his bullpen with a three-run lead. The Met bullpen, to their credit, bent but didn’t break until the eighth, when Ryota Igarashi, who had worked 1 1/3 innings Saturday, grooved a fastball to Ryan Ludwick, who promptly hit it out to left-center for the game-winner.
Wainwright gave up a 2-run single to Angel Pagan (one of the great names in all of baseball) in the second, which turned into a 3 run-scoring play due to Adam’s throwing error, then allowed only one more hit, and three more baserunners, the rest of the way.
If you have to play a 20-inning game, use the entire bullpen plus Felipe Lopez and Joe Mather, it really, really helps to have your ace starting the next night. And make no mistake, Adam Wainwright is the Cardinal Ace. I like Chris Carpenter as much as the next guy, but Adam is just as good as Chris, is more durable (when comparing injury histories the last 3 years), and is younger. Today, if my life depended on the outcome of a Cardinal baseball game, I want Adam Wainwright starting.
St Louis is tied for the best record in the NL with Philadelphia and San Francisco. They are flying tonight to play three in the Arizona Desert. Be encouraged: Arizona just got swept by the Padres. You think the Cardinal bullpen is giving you fits? Wait until you see the Diamondback pen. Arizona blew leads in two of their three weekend games against San Diego.