The Cardinals added an insurance run in the bottom of the fourth inning against Giants starter Jake Peavy, but that wasn’t the most interesting part of the frame. Matt Adams led off with a walk and Jhonny Peralta followed up with a single, which set the strategy in motion.
Decision 1: Cardinals manager Mike Matheny has Yadier Molina drop down a sacrifice bunt.
According to Baseball Prospectus, one’s run expectancy is lowered slightly going from runners on first and second with no outs to runners on second and third with one out. It’s defensible if you have the pitcher batting or an otherwise very weak hitter in front of a much better hitter. In this case, it’s Yadier Molina batting sixth in front of Kolten Wong.
Decision 2: Giants manager Bruce Bochy has starter Jake Peavy intentionally walk Wong to face right-handed hitter Randal Grichuk.
Ostensibly, Bochy called for the intentional walk to set up a force at every base as well as several inning-ending double play opportunities. Furthermore, Peavy has the platoon advantage against the same-handed Grichuk. On the other hand, putting a runner on base for free sets up the possibility of an irredeemably big inning. Fortunately for the Giants, Grichuk only singled to push across one run.
Decision 3: Matheny allowed starter Lance Lynn to hit for himself with runners on second and third with one out.
Yes, Lynn has had a fantastic season. Yes, Lynn was only at 62 pitches through four innings. But sending up a pinch-hitter (perhaps left-handed-hitting top prospect Oscar Taveras) opens up the possibility for the Cardinals to break the game open. Lynn, to his credit, hit a fly ball to right field, but it wasn’t deep enough to bring another run home.
Decision 4: Bochy allowed Jake Peavy to pitch to Matt Carpenter with runners on second and third and two outs with left-handed reliever Javier Lopez warming up in the bullpen.
Both teams have a day off on Monday, so reaching into the bullpen a little early isn’t as detrimental as it might have been in Game 1. Still, Bochy let the struggling Peavy pitch to the left-handed-hitting Carpenter — who slugged a home run against him in the previous inning — in a key moment in the game. Peavy was at 73 pitches and was laboring, and he wouldn’t have the platoon advantage against Carpenter. Fortunately for the Giants, Carpenter flied out to center field to end the game.
It will be interesting to see if these decisions wind up having an effect later on in the game. We’re now in the bottom of the fifth inning with the Cardinals ahead 2-1.