Williams Struggles While Wainwright Takes Him to School

As soon as the lineup was announced today, I had questions, and believe it or not why is Tucker in Right Field wasn’t one of them. I mainly questioned benching Jose Osuna after a nice two hit game last night from the DH spot.

Sure, you want to see other players get in there and get their feet wet early on but perhaps Heredia would be a better price to pay than Osuna as it would be really nice to see him get a stretch of games. He’ll never answer questions if he isn’t afforded the opportunity to show it.

Trevor Williams got the call today against crafty veteran Adam Wainwright both pitchers won’t blow away a batter but instead rely on control and deception. One has been doing it successfully for the best part of a decade, the other a half season of such success.  

Wainwright showed from the jump what he has become, his top end on a fastball is low 90’s at this point but he can drop a curveball on a postage stamp. He doesn’t try to nibble once he gets ahead because he knows he isn’t striking out 10, he wants the swing and goes after it. 1, 2, 3 go the Bucs in the first. You get the same ‘get ‘em next time’ feeling Adam leaves you with more often than not because Reynolds lined one to the track, but that too is by design.

Williams in turn returned to his roots a bit to open the game, pounding the zone and fishing for contact down in the zone resulting in 2 groundballs on only 6 pitches, but he couldn’t avoid the fastball just not high enough to Goldschmidt who made no mistake, crushing it to the second deck in Left Field.

It’s one inning, but it serves as a microcosm, a mistake from someone with stuff like Williams or Wainwright gravitates to the seats.

Josh Bell led off the second looking determined to not let Wainwright build his given 0-2 start and hacked from the beginning, a lesson they could have learned quicker last night but I digress. Put a pretty swing on a breaking pitch and drove it to right for the Bucs first hit. Moran continued to look like the best hitter in the lineup and almost mirrored what Bell did, starting the rally, then Wainwright hit Phillip Evans in the shoulder and head to load the bases. My first thought was man it’d be nice if this was Osuna, but it was Heredia, the plan was very much to make him reach but he didn’t take the bait working the count to 3-1 then missing on a hung curve down the pipe and took a sure fire strike for out number 1. Gotta swing there and we just saw this movie last night.

Next up was John Ryan Murphy and the plan didn’t change for the Cards, leading to the same result a 3-1 start, but this time he couldn’t escape, walking in the tying run and leaving the bases loaded with one out for Cole Tucker.

Tucker swung at the first pitch for a pop out, because everyone should swing at the first pitch against a guy who just walked in a run. Newman was taking balls and then the ump gave a ball roughly 4 inches off the plate to Wainwright making the next pitch a little closer something Newman couldn’t afford to take, ground out to end the inning.

Continuing the theme, I’ve been documenting since games started back up, The Bucs have loaded the bases 3 times with less than 2 outs and have scored twice on walks. Not good enough.

Williams took an opposite turn to Wainwright’s second innng, putting the Cards down in order with a couple K’s.

The Third inning Wainwright returned to form taking advantage of Bryan Reynolds who has started the season 0 for 6 and getting more than a few calls against Bell. Nothing to be alarmed with here for Reynolds, but he isn’t the type to take solace in fly outs to the track.

Williams decided to see if he liked having traffic on the base paths since it worked so well for Wainwright and walked the lead off hitter O’neil and hit Harrison Bader. Perennial Pirate killer Kolten Wong stepped up and gifted a strike trying to bunt, eventually inducing a pop up. A well-placed groundball by Edman moved the runners for Goldschmidt who lined out to Evans.

The fourth inning the Cardinals did what the Cardinals do. Nice hit by DeJong to the gap, pop up by Yadi Molina with a nice read by DeJong allowing him to scoot up to third and a patient at bat by Fowler leading to a sharp single giving the cards the lead 2-1. Then O’neil followed with a single off the end of the bat putting runners at 1st and 3rd and another run on the board 3-1. A wild pitch moved the runner to second and Williams capped off a nibbling and long at bat with Bader by finally getting the out before being yanked for Chris Stratton who promptly shut the door.

 Before we get back to the game, the pitch count on Williams was up there in the 60’s and it wouldn’t have been a guarantee he comes back for the fifth anyway. He’s just got to get quicker outs. When he seeks the contact, he gets outs, when he hides from the bat, he drives his pitch count up and makes mistakes. Double edged sword for Trevor and this is more of the same recently.

All the talk lately about the definition of a Piggyback starter is we’ve been having, that is the definition of a pitcher who needs 70 pitches to get through four innings. Welcome to the club Trevor.

Ok, back to the game at hand as troubling as all that happens to be.

We head to the fifth and Stratton jumps back on the mound following another painless inning for Wainwright, and promptly mowed down the heart of the order needing 14 pitches for his four outs thus far.

Adam Frazier, who’s been just as quiet at the now 0 for 7 Bryan Reynolds, leads off the 6th for the Bucs and Lazarus Wainwright who rose from the dead after the second  and somehow was only throwing his 73rd pitch was still in there, and another pedestrian grounder to second followed. A strikeout of Bell and a Moran groundout finished the story of this half of the inning and on to the bottom.

The Pirates hand the ball to Lefty Nik Turley, who is pitching his first MLB game in 2 years. Really nice inning here for a Pirates reliever, yeah, I said it. Set the side down in order and has a nice looking mid 90’s fastball from the left side, interesting weapon here if he continues looking like that.

Finally, folks, the Cardinals bullpen, I really thought we’d meet earlier. They summon Jon Gant as I’m sure Wainwright was simply tired of playing with these particular toys. The Bucs go down in order, but I was honestly too distracted by Kyle Crick warming up.

This is an important outing for Crick. He needs to show the team and possibly more importantly himself that he can throw the way he does in bullpen sessions. Every coach to a man will tell you they love what he’s doing but it isn’t translating to the mound that matters.

I’d love to ask Derek Shelton if he intentionally brought Crick in the 7th not as a pecking order decision but to have him face the bottom of the Cardinals order to try and help build his confidence, because it was a good idea. One that Crick would almost squander, a weak hit, stolen base and walk put runners at 1st and 2nd with only one out and he now faced the top of the lineup. Edman struck out and Godschmidt lined one right back at Crick who failed to get an out on his second chance of the inning. Bases loaded for Paul Dejong with two outs Crick gives up a liner to left scoring two and he beat himself. 5-1 Cards and on to Erlin who gives up the big hit to Carpenter. Could argue Tucker should have made the catch but it certainly wasn’t routine. As nice as that catch in Center was early in the week, this one he looked every bit a first-time starter in Right.

Disappointing outing again from Crick but it’s becoming less of a spell and more of a trajectory at this point. 4 earned runs on 2/3 of an inning is not going to make many fantasy owners happy.

7-1 is the score as we head to the 8th and flashes of last season are ringing in my head. This exact formula played out countless times.

Erlin stayed out there and gave up a couple more to make it 9-1. The gory details won’t add to the story much.

Final 9-1 Cardinals.

And it could have been worse. Crick could have pitched the last third of his inning.

News & Notes:

  • Tucker looks lost at the plate. Throw him something high and tight or down and away and he’ll never make meaningful contact. The new swing at this juncture has a noticeable hole or two, maybe even three
  • Reynolds has started this season 0 for 7 with a walk. It’s not worry time, but if Reynolds isn’t what we saw last year the lineup folds like an accordion.
  • Kyle Crick was again brutal, just doesn’t have what he needs and it’s something different every game.
  • Nik Turley had a nice outing, there’s your bright spot folks
  • Williams was exactly what he’s been, at some point we’ll have to admit that’s what he is.
  • One more Tucker, reading the ball off the bat is an issue, he’ll make up for much of it with athleticism most of the time, but it won’t look pretty.
  • 0-2 and unfortunately, it’s not April.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

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