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9.20.14 Cardinals vs. Reds Recap: Cards Cruz to 8-4 Victory

The Cardinals hit three home runs tonight to bury the Reds and expand their division lead over the Pirates to three-and-a-half games.

Cruz gets a curtain call for his first home run of the season
Cruz gets a curtain call for his first home run of the season
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Turn around, every now and then I get a little bit angry 'cause you're never going long

Turn around, every now and then I get a little bit tired of flying out to deep left or right

Turn around, every now and then I get a little bit nervous

That the best of all the years have gone by

Turn around, every now and then I get a little bit terrified

And then I see the look in his eyes

Turn around Mike Leake, every now and then you fall apart

Turn around Dennick, every now and then you get lit up

And we need home runs tonight

And we need them more than ever

And if you only swing just right

The ball will go and go forever

And we'll only be making it right

'Cause we'll never deal with Trevor

We can take it to the end of the ninth

The hits that reach the bleachers lead to runs all the time

I love to watch this team when the baseballs leave the park

St. Louis is a powder keg, we're giving off sparks

Home runs for all tonight

Offense's gonna start tonight

Offense's gonna start tonight

The Game aka Dinger Camp

I think the above basically says it all, but I will give a brief summary of the game anyway.  First, we were low on Matts today, which never gives me a good feeling.  Apparently both Matt Adams and Matt Carpenter were "under the weather," which means they went out last night and drank a LOT of Fireball together.  Either that, or they just both happened to catch the same stomach virus.  It seems like it takes a lot to keep Carpenter out of the lineup, so it probably was pretty serious.  Luckily, the Cardinals managed to get by without them.

The scoring started in the second inning when Yadier Molina doubled with two outs, Daniel Descalso drew a walk, and with the award-winning Least Likely Home Run of the Year, Tony Cruz hit a three-run shot to the bleachers in left field.  3-0 Cardinals.

In the bottom of the third, Jon Jay (who was hitting lead off in place of Matt Carpenter - good choice, Matheny, and I mean that seriously) got on base with yet another hit-by-pitch.  Wong followed up with a two-run no-doubter to right field.  And when I say no-doubter, I mean he SMOKED that pitch and hit it on a rope.  Watch the video if you haven't seen it; I was impressed.  Wong now has 12 home runs on the season.  5-0 Cardinals.

Michael Wacha pitched pretty well tonight - more on that in a minute - giving up his first run in the top of the fourth.  Early in the game, the FSN-1 announcers discussed the fact that Brandon Phillips was 0-12 against Wacha, so of course, he was 2-for-2 against him tonight.  Phillips' single in the fourth drove in Todd Fraizer.  5-1 Cardinals.  The Reds scored again the next inning when Kristopher Negron doubled in Zack Cozart.  5-2 Cardinals.

After giving up two runs, and with two outs in the 5th, Matheny removed Wacha in favor of Jason Motte, who miraculously got Frazier to fly out and end the inning. Wacha struck out one, walked no one, and allowed six hits and two runs.

The Cardinals scored again the fifth inning - when Holliday doubled in Wong, and in the sixth inning - when Randal Grichuk murdered a poor, innocent baseball and drove it 438 feet to left-center field.  DINGERZ 4 EVERYONE!  According to the FSN-1 graphic, the Cardinals had four home runs in their previous nine games, but have five already in this series.  7-3 Cardinals.

The Reds scored again in the top of the 7th on a Cozart home run.  Even though the Reds kept chipping away, this game never felt out of the Cardinals' control.  Indeed, the Cardinals scored again in the bottom of the 7th.  8-4 Cardinals.  Carlos Martinez came in to pitch dominate the ninth inning, hitting 99 and 100 mph on the fastball, getting Yorman Rodriguez to ground out, and striking out Cozart and Chris Heisey to end the game.

Additional Notes

1. Wacha looked decent tonight.  Certainly his fastball was working and his velocity was there.  But it was kind of a weird outing for him.  He threw several curve balls - more curves than change ups, according to Brooks Baseball - but at least he finally started throwing his change up again (12 times tonight, versus 2 and 5 his last two starts, respectively).  That's the good news.  The bad news is that he really struggled to throw his change up for a strike (only 4 strikes out of 12) - and many of them landed in the dirt about a foot in front of the plate. I don't think we've seen enough from Wacha yet to feel confident about putting him in the post-season rotation.

2. Jon Jay's HBP in the third inning gave him 20 on the year.  That is the first time a Cardinal has had 20 HBP on a season since Fernando Vina did it in 2001.

3. Wong had a fantastic game tonight, going 3-for-3 with a walk, a home run, and two singles. His OPS is up to .699 on the season, and he has been worth 1.7 fWAR in 407 plate appearances - which is roughly 2.5 fWAR/600 PAs.  Wong has had a weird rookie year, but he's hanging in there.  I think he will be a 3-WAR second baseman going forward.

4. The Pirates finally lost!!!  The Cardinals have a 3.5-game lead on the division, and their magic number is down to 5. The Cards go for the sweep tomorrow, as Lance Lynn faces off against Alfredo Simon at 7:05 pm CT.