TOP PLAY (WPA)
Tyler Cravy successfully navigated the first four innings of Friday night’s game, holding the Cardinals’ offense scoreless. Things unraveled in the fifth. After Brandon Moss’s leadoff double, Stephen Piscotty hit an awkward soft liner to left field, which Khris Davis misjudged. The ball squirted past the Brewers’ outfielder. Moss scored and Piscotty strode into second base for the second double of the inning (+.131 WPA).
The inning would’ve been drastically different had Davis broke forward on the ball immediately; however, Piscotty didn’t make solid contact, and the baseball undoubtedly appeared much harder hit than it ended up being. Davis looked as if he did his best Carlos Lee impression in left field. It’s just important to recognize that it was a more difficult play than it appeared, and Davis doesn’t have the top-end speed to recover for a misplaced first step.
Still, the fifth inning represented the potential issues that Cravy will encounter in the majors. Moss and Piscotty took advantage of the right-hander doubling up on his approach the second time through the order. Cravy sequenced his at-bats in the same way he did in the second inning. Having four usable pitches, that shouldn’t happen. I’m unsure if this sequencing issue is more a criticism of Lucroy or Cravy — as it seems unlikely that Cravy is calling his own game as a rookie — but major-league hitters will take advantage of a pitcher without overpowering stuff if it’s not sequenced well.
BOTTOM PLAY (WPA)
With the game scoreless in the third inning, Lucroy drew a leadoff walk from Cardinals’ starter Lance Lynn. Braun followed up with a brutal double play that eliminated the threat, which ended up being the Brewers’ best chance to take a lead (-.082 WPA).
Lynn didn’t mess around with Braun. His sinker has a 67 percent ground-ball rate this season, and the right-hander threw five-straight sinkers to the Brewers’ best hitter. Braun grounded to the shortstop, starting the double play. Lynn has historically been tremendous against the Brewers. That continued on Friday evening.
The awkward double to left field by Piscotty in the fifth inning may have been the key moment, but the nail in the coffin came later in the frame. Randal Grichuk, who St. Louis acquired in the David Freese trade in 2013, continued his fine run of form with a three-run homer that put the Cardinals up by six runs and put the game out of reach.
Grichuk is hitting .287/.335/.579 with 14 homers in 2015, effectively solving the Cardinals’ issues in center field. He clobbered a 91-mph fastball that split the plate in two to right-center field. Hitters started to be able to key in on Cravy’s fastball, as he had trouble throwing his offspeed offerings for strikes. In fact, the four extra-base hits in the fifth inning came against fastballs.
In a single inning, the game transitioned from a pitcher’s duel to a blowout. Unfortunately, the Brewers were on the wrong end of it.
TREND TO WATCH
Over the last two years, Lance Lynn has posted a 2.75 ERA in 331.0 innings. He’s struck out nearly a batter per inning and has only allowed 21 home runs. In essence, he’s been one of the best pitchers in the National League since the beginning of 2014. It has come with an increased usage of his fastball, too, as he’s now throwing his sinker or four-seamer 85.3 percent of the time.
I’ve mentioned several times this season that Lance Lynn against the Milwaukee Brewers is as close to a sure thing as exists in baseball. The right-hander has a career 2.36 ERA against Milwaukee over 91.1 innings. Milwaukee hast historically struggled against hard-throwing fastball/slider pitchers, and that’s proven true against Lynn.
Amongst teams Lynn has faced at least five times, he only has a better career record against the Houston Astros (2.18 ERA) and Colorado Rockies (2.30 ERA). As such, it shouldn’t be surprising that Lance Lynn handled the Brewers yet again. He feels comfortable against the Crew.
COMING UP NEXT
Jaime Garcia has struggled with injuries over the past couple years, but he’ll get the nod on Saturday evening for the Cardinals. He has a 1.98 ERA and will face a Brewers club that has uncharacteristically struggled against lefties this year. Their 74 wRC+ is far below the league’s average.
Milwaukee will send Wily Peralta to the mound, who looks to rebound from a poor effort earlier in the week. The first pitch will be at 6:10 pm CT.