After a brief tour of Busch Stadium's bullpen facilities, Shelby Miller (7-8, 4.25 ERA, 4.79 FIP, 4.88 xFIP) returned to the rotation this afternoon. The Cubs sent All-Star snub Jake Arrieta (5-2, 2.12 ERA, 2.14 FIP, 2.79 xFIP) out to face a Cardinals lineup that included Oscar Taveras, but not Tony Cruz.
Last night brought us the surprising news that the Birdos were going to sign A.J. Pierzynski and discard George Kottaras like an old, holey catcher's mitt. Additional surprising news followed this morning as Pierzynski was listed in the starting lineup for today, batting 6th. Jon Jay was curiously buried in the 8 slot.
We need to talk about Jake Arrieta. He always had good stuff, but he also always had poor control which lead to a lot of walks and dingers. Now he just has the former. You know that one weird trick the Pirates pulled off with Francisco Liriano before last year? The Cubs did it to Arrieta, and he's not just good; he's been one of the best pitchers in baseball this year.
... and Arrieta was very good today, but maybe not quite to the high standard he's set so far this year.
The Cardinals were able to jump out to a 2-0 lead in the first. Arrieta had a bit of a rocky start, missing his spots early on. After walking Matt Carpenter, Kolten Wong singled to left on a 3-1 pitch that was grooved middle-middle. Matt Holliday advanced the runners on a grounder to 1B. Then Matt Adams watched 3 low ones pass, battled a bit, then ripped a liner down the 1B line past Anthony Rizzo to bring Carpenter and Wong 'round to score. Pierzynski was greeted at Wrigley with a chorus of boos, but alas grounded out to second.
Shelby made quick work of his return to the first inning, retiring the side in order.
In the 2nd, Jon Jay slapped a grounder to Emilio Bonifacio, who seemed to rush a bit trying to flip the ball out of his glove to Rizzo. The flip went well wide and Jay was able to scamper to second on the error. Shelby ground out, moving Jay over to third. Matt Carp worked an 8 pitch PA, only to be struckout on a high 12-6 curve. Cardinals unable to capitalize on the Cubbie miscue.
Going to the top of the 4th, more sweet hate from the Wrigley faithful for Pierzynski, who singled to left for his first Cardinals hit. A wild pitch got away from Welington Castillo, which allowed A.J. to go to second. Oscar Taveras ground out, moving Pierzynski to third. But Jon Jay flew out to left to strand the Birdos' second runner at third on the day.
In the bottom of the 4th, Bonafacio laid down a bunt single to break up the no hitter like a terrible, terrible person with no respect at all for the unwritten rules. Terrible. Then he had the temerity to steal second on a rather noodly throw by Pierzynski. Arismendy Alcantara ground out to send Bonafacio to third. Anthony Rizzo ripped grounder up the middle, but Jhonny Peralta was positioned perfectly to keep it from being a hit. Bonafacio scores, 2-1 Cardinals.
In the 5th, Taveras was robbed of a double on an excellent diving grab by Coghlan. Maybe Matheny will give him half credit for it in whatever formula he uses to dole out playing time to Not-Mike guys.
Bottom 6, pinch hitter Nate Schierholtz launched a game tying home run to right. Bonifacio slapped a little flare in no-man's land between Holliday and Peralta for a double. Alcantara ground into a fielder's choice to get Bonifacio, and that would be the end of the day for Miller. Randy Choate was summoned and got Rizzo to strike out swinging. 2-2 ballgame.
Miller, to me, looked much better. At least as far as location and hitting his spots. He and/or Pierzynski was in love with his fastball today. Of his 87 pitches, Shelby threw 12 curves and just one changeup. 5.2 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 3 K.
James Russell was brought in to replace Arrieta for the 7th inning. Jay singled to left. Mark Ellis, pinch hitting for the pitcher, bunted Jay over to 2nd. Jay steals 3rd, the play challenged as it looked like Jay might have come off the bag during the slide. Justice prevailed and the safe call upheld, Valbuena hilariously distraught by the outcome. Matty Carp grounded to Rizzo. Jay going on Grinder's contact hook slides just past Castillio to score the go-ahead run, Welington tagging nothing but air. Carpenter goes to second on a wild pitch boxed by Castillo. Holliday reaches with a walk and then... SMASH! ATOMS! TRIPLE! scores Carpenter and Holliday! Brian Schlitter brought in for the Cubbies, who whalks Jhonny. Pierzynski comes to bat to less focused booing this time, the crowd taken out of it by the big inning. A.J. hits another single, driving in Adams. Taveras flyout to center to end the inning. 6-2 Cardinals.
Sam Freeman took care of the 7th, allowing just a Coghlan single up the middle.
Top of the 8th with Blake Parker on the mound. Allen Craig pinch hitting flies out to right, followed by grim contemplation in the dugout. Very, very sad to watch.
Pat Neshek in for the 8th, rudely greeted by Ryan Sweeney who takes the first pitch over the left field wall. Junior Lake also swats at the first pitch, Holliday stretching to grab the liner. Bonifacio singles to left, then a nice play by Wong on a hard grounder from Alcantara, Bonifacio to 2nd. Rizzo flies out to right to end the threat. 6-3 Cardinals.
With the 8th inning run creating a save situation, Trevor Rosenthal in (was there any doubt?). Castro singles on Trevor's first pitch. Valbuena grounder to Carpenter, throws to Wong covering second which nearly pulls him off the bag. Wong collects himself quickly and throws out Valbuena at first for an important double play. Important because the next batter, Ruggiano, would hit an otherwise run-scoring double to left. Thankfully, Welington Castillo would watch strike 3 to close the game out.
Post game, Pierzynski talking with Jimmy the Cat seemed very happy with how Shelby threw and pretty happy with the Wrigley reaction.
Keys to the Series
Beware the dangers of moral certainty.
Tomorrow Adam Wainwright faces Kyle Hendricks in the rubber game of the series. First pitch at 1:20.