The Cardinals were hoping to clinch their second consecutive National League pennant last night, but vintage Barry Zito showed up to ruin the party. While they still hold a 3-2 lead in the NLCS, the series will now shift to San Francisco for Game 6 on Sunday night. Let’s take a quick look at the pitching matchup, which is a rematch from the Giants’ 7-1 win in Game 2 on Monday.
Chris Carpenter will make the start for the Cardinals after giving up five runs (two earned) over just four innings back in Game 2. The 37-year-old right-hander served up a leadoff home run to Angel Pagan in the bottom of the first inning and committed a throwing error during a four-run fourth inning. He struck out just one batter while allowing six hits and two walks. Carpenter has a 3.04 ERA and 15/7 K/BB ratio in 26 2/3 innings over five total starts (including two postseason starts) since returning from surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome in September. However, he has yet to throw more than six innings. This will be the fifth time in his career that he will start a game with the chance to clinch a playoff series. He is 3-1 with a 1.93 ERA and 17/5 K/BB ratio in 28 innings in his previous four assignments.
Ryan Vogelsong will get the call for the Giants after tossing seven innings of one-run ball in Game 2. He allowed just four hits on the night while the only run he surrendered was on an RBI double by opposing pitcher Chris Carpenter. Vogelsong has been on a pretty nice roll recently, posting a microscopic 0.93 ERA in his last five starts dating back to the regular season. He had a 2.86 ERA in 15 starts at home this season, which was 10th-best among qualified National League starters. By the way, the National League starter with the best ERA at home this season? Matt Cain (2.03), who lines up to pitch a potential Game 7 against Kyle Lohse on Monday.
MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch reports that Cardinals’ shortstop Aledmys Diaz has been sporting a new look around Busch Stadium with a pair of “strobe glasses,” technology-enhanced specs designed to help athletes focus on the ball. Like a strobe light, the lenses of these glasses affect a player’s vision by rapidly changing opacity, giving its wearers the illusion that the objects they see are moving more slowly than normal. Once a player adjusts to the new speed of play, they gain a greater sense of control and are able to time their actions with more precision.
Diaz isn’t the first MLB player to utilize the technology, just the first Cardinals’ player to do so. It’s been tested by Bryce Harper, Corey Brown, Tommy Joseph, Austin Hedges and Joe Mauer, among others around the league, and has been used for everything from refining a catcher’s reflexes behind the plate to tweaking a hitter’s ability to track a pitch. Per Langosch, Diaz has been using the glasses to hone in on the ball during pregame drills, increasing both his confidence and response time on the field and improving his defense at short.
The shortstop has been the focus of some concern this season after seeing a sizable dip in his production at the plate, and his five fielding errors, 0.6 UZR and 0.6 fWAR haven’t helped matters, either. He sustained a minor thumb injury during an at-bat on Friday night, and was left off of the Cardinals’ starting lineup on Saturday, though manager Mike Matheny didn’t rule out his ability to pinch-hit during the series. While the strobe glasses are a good start, Diaz will need more than a pair of specs to match the spotlight-worthy performance he turned out during his rookie season in 2016.
Red Sox’ left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez may finally get a chance at cracking the rotation again, assuming all goes well in Double-A Portland first. Rodriguez took the field prior to the club’s afternoon session with the Angels, firing 68 pitches in a simulated game as he prepared for an upcoming rehab assignment in Portland on Thursday.
The 24-year-old southpaw suffered a right knee subluxation during pregame warmups on June 1, and it’s been a slow path to recovery ever since. It’s not the first time Rodriguez has had issues with his right knee — he sustained a similar injury during spring training last year — and this time around, the Red Sox weren’t about to gamble with their starter’s health. Ian Browne of MLB.com reports that Rodriguez was put in a knee brace and underwent exercises designed to help him regain some mobility and stability while he worked back up to full strength on the mound.
He’ll still need to prove he can throw a 75- to 80-pitch outing in Double-A, and barring any significant setbacks, will likely rejoin the Red Sox’ pitching staff when they visit the Rangers next month. In the meantime, the club will continue to cycle starters through the No. 5 spot, which has seen no fewer than three different pitchers since Rodriguez hit the disabled list. The lefty is 4-2 in 10 starts this season after logging a 3.54 ERA, 3.1 BB/9 and career-high 9.6 SO/9 through his first 61 innings.