St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Michael Wacha just can't seem to get a break this season.
It seems like every time it's his turn to pitch rain either delays the game or makes the mound sloppy. So, when the weather was taken out of the picture Wednesday by the fact that the Redbirds game was played in a dome, fate found another way to punish the promising, young pitcher.
Wacha was tossing a no-hitter one out into the fourth inning when he fooled Tampa Bay first baseman James Loney with a pitch. Loney tried to check his swing but couldn't. The result was a weak grounder to third base.
Unfortunately, the Cardinals were employing yet another ridiculous defensive shift, so third baseman Matt Carpenter wasn't there to pick up the slow roller and toss it over to first base for the second out of the inning.
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Ben Zobrist blooped a ball over shortstop Jhonny Peralta. But Wacha retired the next hitter on a lazy fly ball to left field and the inning should have been over with St. Louis' 3-0 preserved.
Instead, the inning continued with two outs and an over-extended Wacha gave up a pair of hits and a walk that, along with a Peter Bourjos error, allowed four runs to score and the Birds were suddenly behind 4-3.
The error was Bourjos' third in limited playing time so far this season.
Wacha was lifted after the fifth inning and what seemed like such a promising start turned into a clunker in which he gave up four runs in five frames.
The Cardinals offense was unable to answer the Rays big inning and Tampa added some insurance later to secure a 6-3 win, the clubs second in its last 10 games.
I'm not a big fan of shifts in the first place. But its just dumb to use them when you have a two or three-run lead because it gives the other team a free shot to get what it needs the most -- runners on base. In this case it was an accident. But a well-placed bunt or opposite field chop could be all it takes to put the pitcher in a mess not of his own doing.
Wacha has pitched too well this season to be 4-5. The Cardinals management needs to stop making things tougher for him than they need to be.