Killer B’s: This Time It’s Backe

In the warm Texas night, the St. Louis Cardinals overheated, losing 2-1 to the cool and collected Astros. Even when the Cardinals’ win probability was 52.8%, after a Larry Walker single put men on first and third with no outs in the ninth inning, the Astros never doubted their world-class pitching, and Brad Lidge got three outs to finish the game.

Though it was Lidge who put those two runners on, he was the Astros’ pitching hero, putting up a .173 WPA, second on the team behind Jason Lane, whose fourth inning home run tied the game at one.

Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa was thrown out by home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi in the seventh inning, and Jim Edmonds was tossed in the middle of his at-bat in the eighth after the two argued with Cuzzi about his liberal strike zone. They had a legitimate gripe—Astros pitchers threw 73% of their pitches for strikes while only 57% of the Cardinals’ pitches were called to be in the strike zone. Edmonds was replaced by John Rodriguez, who promptly contributed a -.058 WPA.

The Cardinals took an early 1-0 lead on a sacrifice fly by Albert Pujols in the top of the fourth, and had a win probability of 63.5% at the time. However, Lane’s home run tied it up in the bottom of the fourth and Jason Marquis gave away Jeff Suppan‘s brilliant effort (.135 WPA) in the seventh inning, first walking Orlando Palmeiro, then making an error on a sacrifice bunt by Craig Biggio (-.079 WPA), and then walking Lance Berkman to load the bases. Morgan Ensberg, who posted a .075 WPA, then hit a sacrifice fly to drive in Palmeiro. Had Marquis not made that error, the sac fly would have been the third out of the inning.

That would be all the scoring. Brandon Backe pitched 5.2 strong innings, striking out seven, and Houston’s bullpen was perfect in another 3.1 innings, earning .427 WPA.

A strong effort by the middle of the Cardinals order (the 2-4 hitters combined for a WPA of .319) was overshadowed and undermined by the black hole at the five and six slots, where Reggie Sanders and John Mabry combined for a -.715 WPA. They made the last three outs of the game; Sanders with a ground ball that resulted in Pujols being thrown out at home, and Mabry with a game-ending double play, which combined resulted in a -.528 WPA.

Despite his stellar performance, this was only Lidge’s twelfth appearance of the season without a strikeout.

Player    Offense   Pitching    WPA     Avg. P
Walker       0.205     0.000    0.205   .1141
Suppan      -0.027     0.163    0.135   .0446
Pujols       0.093     0.000    0.093   .1070
Grudzielanek 0.038     0.000    0.038   .0644
Edmonds      0.021     0.000    0.021   .0828
Eckstein    -0.034     0.000   -0.034   .0796
Rodriguez   -0.058     0.000   -0.058   .0635
Molina      -0.078     0.000   -0.078   .0476
Marquis     -0.076    -0.031   -0.107   .1013
Sanders     -0.261     0.000   -0.261   .1932
Mabry       -0.454     0.000   -0.454   .1252

Cardinals   -0.632     0.132   -0.500   .0782

Player   Offense   Pitching    WPA     Avg. P
Lane        0.196     0.000    0.196   .0534
Lidge       0.000     0.173    0.173   .3500
Backe      -0.056     0.205    0.149   .0587
Wheeler     0.000     0.126    0.126   .1357
Qualls      0.000     0.092    0.092   .0547
Ensberg     0.075     0.000    0.075   .1049
Berkman     0.067     0.000    0.067   .0567
Palmeiro    0.051     0.000    0.051   .0870
Biggio      0.040     0.000    0.040   .0601
Gallo       0.000     0.036    0.036   .0391
Taveras     0.013     0.000    0.013   .0154
Everett    -0.115     0.000   -0.115   .0349
Burke      -0.119     0.000   -0.119   .0881
Ausmus     -0.136     0.000   -0.136   .0716
Lamb       -0.148     0.000   -0.148   .0832

Astros     -0.132     0.632   0.500   .0898

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