How good pitching stymied the NL wild-card teams on Friday

To borrow a term that Joe Lunardi and others in the college basketball world regularly use, the five NL wild-card race bubble teams all lost on Friday night.

What the heck happened? The common thread was that none of them could score. Good pitching of all different types shut them down. Here’s a quick recap.

Giants (lost to Cubs, lead NL wild card)

The Giants couldn’t hit Cubs starter Jon Lester, who carried a no-hit bid through 6 2/3 innings. As this story notes, Lester pounded the strike zone. His 57 percent zone rate (percentage of pitches in the zone) was his highest since July 28, 2013 (58 percent against the Orioles).

Giants hitters went 1-for-18 in at-bats ending with a Lester fastball in the zone.

— Marty Callinan

Cardinals (lost to Reds, second NL wild card)

Reds starter Anthony DeSclafani has given the Cardinals a lot of trouble in the the past, and Friday was no different, as he held them to two runs in seven innings. He has a 2.25 ERA in 32 career innings against them.

Yadier Molina and Randal Grichuk each homered, but that was it for the Cardinals’ offense.

The Grichuk home run came on a slider, but DeSclafani allowed no other damage with his offspeed pitches, getting nine outs with them.

— Mark Simon

Mets (lost to Nationals, trail Cardinals by 2 games)

Rookie A.J. Cole held the Mets to one run in six innings to earn his first win in his fourth career major league start. Cole threw 67 percent strikes, his best rate in those four starts.

His 37 percent called-strike rate (also his best) was aided by a few strike calls on close pitches. A look at the strike probabilities of each pitch he threw indicated he got 3.7 called strikes above what an average pitcher would have gotten, the seventh-highest rate for a Nationals starter this season.

Cole had good offspeed stuff. The Mets were 0-for-7 (with two walks) against his slider and changeup.

— Mark Simon

Pirates (lost to Brewers, trail Cardinals by 2 1/2 games)

The Brewers used seven pitchers in a 1-0 win, something previously unheard of in major league history, but which has now happened three times in the last three seasons, per the Elias Sports Bureau. The Brewers have done it twice (the other instance against the Pirates in 2014). The Mets have done it once (in 2015 against the Nationals).

The Brewers got their fifth shutout of the season, their first since July 4. The common thread between the seven pitchers was that they finished hitters off. Pirates hitters were 1-for-14 with five strikeouts in two-strike situations.

–Meghan O’Donnell

Marlins (lost to Indians, trail Cardinals by 3 games)

Indians starter Carlos Carrasco threw 7 1/3 scoreless innings in a 6-2 win. Carrasco struck out 11, including a career-high five with his fastball. Three of those strikeouts came when Carrasco “doubled up,” throwing a fastball after a fastball.

Carrasco’s nine swinging strikeouts were his second most in a game this season. He yielded 12 ground balls. His 71 percent ground ball rate was a season high.

— Sarah Langs

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