Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Wainwright's curve carries Cards to LCS
By Mark Simon
What were the biggest statistical keys for the St. Louis Cardinals in their NLDS win over the Pittsburgh Pirates?
Adam Wainwright was the best pitcher in the series
The Cardinals ace was awesome in both Game 1 and Game 5. He’s now 5-0 with a 1.25 ERA in his past six home starts, combining regular season and postseason. He's 4-0 for his career in postseason play.
Wainwright became the fourth Cardinals pitcher to throw a complete game while allowing one run or fewer in a winner-take-all postseason game, joining Dizzy Dean (1934, against the Tigers), Danny Cox (1987 NLCS, against the Giants) and Chris Carpenter (2011, against the Phillies).
Wainwright’s curveball wasn’t as good as it was in Game 1, in which he threw 27 of 33 for strikes, and it netted 11 outs and yielded no hits. But it was good enough to record six strikeouts, including the series-ender against Pedro Alvarez. He threw it more often in Game 5 (45 percent of his pitches) than he did in any start in his career.
Complete games in winner-take-alls have been a trend the past four seasons. Five pitchers have them: Wainwright, his teammate Carpenter, CC Sabathia, Justin Verlander and Cliff Lee.
The Cardinals made the plays when they had to
The Cardinals had some defensive blips in Game 2 but made big plays in key spots in this series. Yadier Molina threw out Josh Harrison trying to steal as the tying run in the eighth inning of Game 4 to aid that win.
In Game 5, Pete Kozma made two nifty plays at shortstop and Matt Carpenter made a pair of catches on line drives that resulted in double plays.
Carpenter’s first catch, on a line drive hit by Alvarez in the second inning, snuffed out an early rally.
It also validated the use of a defensive shift by Cardinals manager Mike Matheny. The Cardinals have ranked among the teams that shifted least often over Matheny’s first two seasons.
But since Alvarez had the lowest rate of hitting ground balls to the opposite field among those who qualified for the NL batting title (four percent of balls hit), the Cardinals had Kozma and Carpenter shifted. Thus, Carpenter was in the perfect spot to make the catch.
The Pirates lacked support at the top
The Pirates got some punch from Alvarez and Andrew McCutchen had his share of base hits, but a couple of hitters didn’t perform as they usually did.
The Pirates' 1-2 punch of Starling Marte and Neil Walker were a combined 1-for-38 in the series.
Cardinals pitchers put on a clinic in how to get Marte out, getting him 13 times on pitches on the outer half of the plate or off the outside corner.
Walker set a Pirates postseason record for worst oh-fer in a series with his 0-for-19.