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By Jon Weisman
On Saturday in St. Louis, Michael Wacha carried a shutout (OK, a no-hitter) into the seventh (OK, the sixth) inning, then gave up a couple of hits and a huge home run. Sound familiar, anyone?
Sure, the stakes were different in the Dodgers’ 5-1 victory than Game 4 of the National League Division Series, but otherwise it was something of a mirror image of Clayton Kershaw’s final October downfall.
Judging by what he told Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny left Wacha in the game mainly to try to get him the “W” next to his name in the boxscore.
“You’ve got that situation there with an opportunity to pitch (Gonzalez) tough, fouled off a lot of pitches and that did, no question, wear him down pretty good,” Matheny said. “At that point we’ve got to try and keep him in that game. Try and get our offense back out there and get him a win. The ball jumped for Grandal and that was the big game-changer.
“If it’s a 1-1 game, it’s Michael’s game.”
Said Yasmani Grandal, who blasted the three-run shot off Wacha, to David Cobb of MLB.com: “It just so happened that [Wacha] made a mistake, probably the only mistake he made all night, and I was able to capitalize on it.”
MLB’s Statcast took a look at Grandal’s tiebreaking homer Saturday and noted that Grandal “has an average exit velocity of 94.5 mph on balls Statcast™ has tracked, which leads all catchers.”
Grandal’s .492 on-base percentage in May is the second-best mark in the National League this month behind Bryce Harper, according to the Dodgers’ PR department, and he is third in slugging percentage (.698), behind Harper (.905) and Paul Goldschmidt (.720).
Grandal also provided benefits behind the plate for the Dodgers on Saturday. Grandal told Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles that starting pitcher Carlos Frias was trying to do too much too soon in his fruitless start a week ago against San Diego.
… “He wanted to use all four of his pitches from the beginning for some reason and I thought we could go with one or two pitches for the first three or four innings and all of a sudden mix in those other two,” Grandal said.
Frias talked about his trust with Grandal, saying he never shook him off Saturday. He was perfectly happy to cede the game plan to his catcher.
“If he’s thinking, he’s probably not doing his job right,” Grandal said. …
Despite an error by Howie Kendrick on his first batter and loading the bases before getting an out, Frias went seven innings and allowed only one run, unearned.
“Last time he was all over the place,” Don Mattingly told Cobb. “Tonight, he seemed to be hitting his spots. He used his slider some. As the game went on, he started using his curveball. That’s the key.”
Here are some more notes from the weekend …