The runs – when they came against Michael Wacha – came in the third (4) and fourth (1) innings. But the game may have turned with the first batter to face Wacha in the second inning. Wacha allowed a single and a walk in the first – so he wasn’t dialed in even from the beginning of the game. But he got out of that inning making just 17 pitches – not so bad. When St Louis scored in the bottom of the first, Wacha took a 1-0 lead to the mound in the second.
There to meet him was Corey Dickerson with his .286 batting average and 24 home runs. Not a hitter to be taken lightly. Through the 11-pitch battle that ensued, Wacha threw everything but the kitchen sink at Dickerson. Corey fouled off six of the eleven pitches, finally drilling the last one into right field for a single. A subsequent single by Adeiny Hechavarria turned it into an early scoring chance. Wacha escaped without damage, but the inning cost him 25 pitches, and, perhaps, softened him up for the four-run third inning that would follow.
The last five batters he would face last night – the last 3 of the third and the first two of the fourth – would extend their at bats to 6,5,6,7 and 10 pitches respectively. For the game, 10 of the 21 batters to face Wacha lasted at least 5 pitches, with 8 of them making it to 6 pitches and 4 of those lasting 7 or more. By the time Wacha’s night ended, the Tampa Bay hitters had fouled off 25 of his 94 pitches.
After falling behind early, the Cards made faint attempts at a comeback. These all fell short as the Cardinals lost again, 7-3 (box score), their eighth loss in 11 games since their 8-game winning streak.
The 7-run, 16-hit battering at the hands of the Rays pushes the reeling Cardinal pitching staff’s ERA to a disastrous 6.08 over their last 15 games (6.03 from the starters and 6.17 from the bullpen), and the team batting average against to .313 (.330 against the starters). For the 23 games in August, the team ERA sits at a disheartening 5.02.
After being an inspirational figure for much of the season, Wacha has hit the skids recently. He has totaled 7.1 innings over his last 2 starts, and has managed just 12.1 innings while serving up 14 runs (and 4 home runs) over his last three starts. Wacha is 0-3 with a 10.22 ERA, a .414 batting average against, and a .690 slugging average against in those games. His ERA for the month has soared to 7.25.
Throughout his last three starts, Wacha has been hanging pitches early in the at bat. The batters last night who jumped on his first or second pitch went 3 for 5 including Steven Souza’s moon-shot home run, and Hechavarria’s two-run double. Over the three starts, batters hitting the first or second pitch are 11 for 19 (.579) with 2 doubles and 3 home runs (a 1.158 slugging percentage) against Michael.
The bottom of the ninth inning was robbed of much of its potential drama when Tampa Bay punched across two runs against Brett Cecil in the top of that inning. To this point, what has been a frustrating season for Cecil just keeps getting worse.
Brett has now pitched in 9 of the last 15 games, serving up 9 runs in his last 7 innings. His ERA for the month of August sits at 7.50, and since the All-Star Break, Brett has pitched 18 innings in 19 games with a 6.50 ERA.
As the Cardinal offense went quietly away for one of the few nights this month, Yadier Molina’s 7-game hitting streak went with it. Before his 0-for-3 last night, Molina had hit .393 (11 for 28) with a .643 slugging percentage (4 doubles and a home run) during his streak.
Jedd Gyorko finished the evening 0 for 4. His average falls to .217 for the month and .202 for the second half. In fairness, Jedd has been hitting better of late – he had hit safely in the four previous games – as his knee improves. A strong finish from Gyorko is not out of the question.