I attended the Cardinals-Phillies game last night and, thanks to getting home late, slow Internet, and a storm-based power outage, am finally commenting my random thoughts on it. It was an entertaining game — three convincing home runs with only one out separating them is great fun any time — but a few thoughts about the bad pitching are in order.
1) Kyle Kendrick’s pitching was the clearest evidence of the pitfalls of low-strikeout pitching. Albert Pujols hadn’t done much against Kendrick historically (2-8 with a walk), but there seemed to be nothing Kendrick could do that would have gotten him out. Although Kendrick did okay on his two-strike counts (a run-scoring fielder’s choice to Pujols and a strikeout of Allen Craig in the first, a double to Pujols in the third and a fly out from Colby Rasmus in the third, and a strikeout of Blake Hawksworth in the fourth), I didn’t recall him faring that way, such was the low command and general weakness of his pitches. I suspect that’s the basic problem of those who pitch to contact; how large an advantage is a strike or two when you and the batter know that you probably won’t be getting to strike three? For some Kendrickite pitchers, each strike seems like it’s just a blank in the chamber as you’re playing Russian roulette with the batter. That can work, but not when Albert Pujols brings a flamethrower.
2) None of this is to take away from the thoroughly pedestrian performance of Blake Hawksworth. Hawksworth seemed to be pitching relatively quickly in the early goings, but as the Phillies were cracking singles through gaps in the first inning, Hawksworth got nervous, throwing to first a bit more than the situation seemed to deserve. Yes, the Phillies have some decent runners (as best I remember, Hawksworth was concerned primarily with Jimmy Rollins, Jayson Werth, and Shane Victorino), but…if I’m having problems settling into a groove pitching and Yadier Molina’s my catcher, I’m going to let him worry about the runners while I figure out how to get the most out of my stuff on the night.
3) Of Hawksworth’s three walks, two were to Kyle Kendrick. As it turns out, pitchers walk twice somewhat frequently; it’s happened 278 times in the DH era. Only 68 of those walkers have done so in eventual losses, as those who can’t get the pitcher out usually don’t have enough stuff to get anyone out. Hawksworth was flat-out bad when Kendrick was up, throwing only one strike between the two plate appearances. But he escaped injury in both innings, and Kendrick was much, much worse.
With both teams hurting in key positions and the mediocre pitching, the whole game reeked of B-squad. The difference between the Phillies and Cardinals, of course, is that Tony LaRussa thrives on B-squad, while the Phillies have traded the bulk of theirs. In a injury-filled year for both teams, the Cardinals look a lot better off.