GAME 13: Arroyo To The Heart
Cincinnati starter Bronson Arroyo kept the potent Cardinal offense off-balance all afternoon, limiting them to just one big hit. Meanwhile, Adam Wainwright continued his early and concerning struggles as the Cardinals (9-4) missed a sweep by losing to Cincinnati (5-8) 6-3 on a gorgeous day in St. Louis.
YO-YO: I’ve always hated seeing Bronson Arroyo’s name in the opposition’s lineup. His five year record against the Cardinals is marginally-impressive (9-8 since 2008), but he almost always factors in the decision and, when he’s one, gives the Cardinals fits. Like today, for instance. Arroyo throws almost every conceivable pitch from every possible arm angle, an annoying ability that keeps Cardinal hitters back on their heels. The bottom six batters in the Cards lineup combined to go 1-21, creating a dead zone in the Cardinals’ attack.
NIBBLER: Adam Wainwright looked good for the first three innings, giving up just one hit while striking out three. However, the Reds’ inability to attack Wainwright may have had something to do with Waino’s tendency today to nibble around the corners rather than pound the zone. Eventually, the Reds caught on and began waiting for strikes, which forced Wainwright to bring the ball closer to the middle of the plate. From there – BOOM! – the Reds ripped two home runs while tacking four runs onto Waino’s ERA. His fastball isn’t fast enough, and his curve had little break. It’s time to get nervous about his progress.
BLAST FROM THE PAST: It’s really no surprise that Matt Holliday stroked a three-run blast off of Arroyo in the sixth. Holliday has traditionally hit Arroyo well, with a career line of .289/.357/.526 against him. The homer pulled the Cardinals back to within one run at the time. Sadly, the bullpen couldn’t come through.
LETDOWN: The air just comes out of the tires when relievers cannot hold the opposition once the offense gets going. After Holliday brought the score to 4-3 in the sixth, the bullpen in relief of Wainwright needed to hold the Reds down and give the Cardinals’ hitters the chance to take the lead. Unfortunately, Victor Marte coughed up a homer in the top of the seventh to defuse any Cardinal momentum, and Fernando Salas followed that up with a run in the ninth. A three-run summit isn’t too much for this team to overcome, but it unnecessarily increases the pressure. A frustrating performance from the bullpen today.
WALKING DEAD: Add Jon Jay to the list of injured Cardinals. He jammed his shoulder running into the outfield wall and is listed as “day to day” for the moment. The 2012 Cardinals are a deep team, but their depth is getting severely tested by the injury bug. Jay’s bat is one we cannot afford to lose for long.
ANOMALY: This was one of those rare days when the top of the lineup produced hits without many runs. Rafael Furcal and Jon Jay combined for three hits in seven at bats, but couldn’t disrupt Arroyo enough to generate significant offense.
MISSING LINK: The biggest key to the Cardinals’ failure against Arroyo involved a player who wasn’t even playing – Lance Berkman. Among the Cardinals, Berk holds the best career stats against Arroyo: 5 homers, 15 RBI, and 8 walks in 59 at bats. Having him out of the lineup really hurt us today.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Welcome back, Matt Holliday!
CONCLUSION: Sometimes Arroyo is just this good, and it’s really frustrating. The bigger problem is Wainwright – will he get his devastating fastball/curve combination back? It’s still early, but the initial results haven’t been positive. Still, if a pitcher has the mentality to gut his way to dominance, it’s Waino. I expect some great starts ahead for our future Cy Young award winner!