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Cardinals fall 5-2 in desert; Central race lasts another day

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Lance Lynn pitched well after allowing back-to-back homers in the first, but the Diamondbacks pulled away with a three-run shot in the seventh. The Cardinals' magic number remains at one heading into the final day of the regular season.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

After 161 games, the NL Central race remains undecided. When the Reds beat the Pirates in extra-innings this afternoon, the Cardinals were given an opportunity to secure their second straight division crown this evening by beating the Diamondbacks, who started LHP Wade Miley. They were unable to do so, and will need a Pirates loss tomorrow OR a win against Arizona to avoid a tie-breaker game with the Bucs on Monday.

Tonight's game had an uninspiring opening frame. A Matt Carpenter single was erased with a Randal Grichuk double-play, and Matt Holliday struck out swinging over a big Wade Miley slider that dove toward his feet. He was the first of several right-handed hitters to strike out that way against Miley.

Lance Lynn then allowed a lead-off double down the RF line to Ender Inciarte, but the wonderfully named outfielder was thrown out on perfect throws from Grichuk and Mark Ellis as he attempted to make it a triple. After AJ Pollock struck out looking, David Peralta, who was once a Cardinals pitching prospect, drove a first pitch fastball (it looked like the sinker to me) into the RF bullpen. Two pitches later, Mark Trumbo took a high in the zone fourseamer into the left field stands.

Here are his first inning pitches:

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via www.brooksbaseball.net

The pitch to Peralta, the blue square closest to the middle, could have been lower, but it's not a terrible first pitch, and Trumbo's, the blue square at the top of the zone above it, certainly wasn't grooved.

Neither team's second inning was particularly eventful. The bottom of the Arizona order didn't challenge Lynn, though he appeared to be missing his spots, and he threw a couple of awful curves. However, he looked better in the third, and mostly cruised through six, but he wasn't terribly efficient, needing 113 pitches.

The Cardinals' third inning was beautiful. After a Lance Lynn strikeout was followed by Carpenter and Grichuk singles and a Matt Holliday walk, Jhonny Peralta hit a sacrifice fly to center, bringing the Cardinals within a run. I had little hope that the Cardinals would tie it up just then because Matt Adams, bless him, is atrocious against left handed pitchers, and Wade Miley is a left handed pitcher. Coming into the game, Adams was batting .193/.228/.303 on the season against lefties. Someone ought to tell Mike Matheny. I was right in my thinking that Matt Adams would not get a hit. He struck out on a curveball in the dirt, as he is prone to do against lefties, but the ball bounced by Miguel Montero, allowing Adams to reach base, and Randall Grichuk scored. From second base. Glorious. Here, look: Link to video.

In the Birds' fifth inning, a very good defensive play of Ender Inciarte, still with that wonderful name, robbed Holliday of one of his patented laser doubles off the wall. It felt especially unfortunate when Peralta singled after that and Adams walked.  The Cardinals had several baserunners after this point, but never really threatened as Randall Delgado pitched three strong innings of relief for Miley.

I should note that in the Diamondback's fifth, Lance Lynn struck out David Peralta on the same pitch that Yadier Molina threw out AJ Pollock trying to steal second base. They struck them out and they threw them out because they are Lance Lynn and Yadier Molina and those are the things that they do.

Matt Holliday left in the sixth with flu-like symptoms. Mike Matheny said after the game that The Matt of Matts has been dealing with this for a couple of days.

The bottom of the seventh saw the undoing of the Birds. Randy Choate relieved Lance Lynn, but his night was through after one pitch as Inciarte bunted it in the air. Matt Adams made a nifty sliding catch you can see here. Seth Maness came in for Choate, AJ Pollock shuffled a not terribly hard grounder into a fortuitous spot, David Peralta threw his bat into a little flare, and Mark Trumbo hit a homerun on a pitch down and in. There's your ballgame.

There were some complaints about Matheny using Maness here, and I would have been inclined to go with Martinez myself, but Maness is a fine reliever, and he pitched fine tonight. The pitch that Trumbo hit out is the light blue square at the bottom of the zone and inside here. Not a strike.

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via www.brooksbaseball.net

Mark Trumbo does hit for power inside, but in the inner-portion of the zone, not inside of it. It could have been a bit lower, but Maness put it pretty much where Yadi wanted it. Like in the first inning, Mark Trumbo hits homeruns sometimes. I don't think there's a lot to get worked up about here.

The point of interest in the otherwise uneventful final two innings is that Jason Motte came in for what could be his final appearance as a Cardinals and showed off some encouraging heat. He faced AJ Pollock and threw him 4 cutters and 3 fourseamers, the last of which was grounded back to the Sauce himself. The good news is that the fourseamers averaged 96.9 mph per Brooks, his second-best number on the year.

I think it's easy to look at this game as a missed opportunity, and it certainly was that, but reading any more into it than "it's baseball, and sometimes a bad team with an ok pitcher beats a good team with a good pitcher" would be a mistake. Wade Miley pitched pretty well, and he's capable of doing that. Randall Delgado is a very good pitcher on the rare occasions he has good command, and he appeared to have it tonight. Mark Trumbo hit two homers, one of them after a couple of guys got on base with hits that were not hit at all hard. It happens.

I'll quote Lance Lynn on the post game presser here. "We have Adam Wainwright on the mound tomorrow, so we're in a good spot."

Tomorrow Johnny Cueto will pitch against Gerrit Cole (probably) in Cincinnati at 12:10 central. Adam Wainwright will pitch against Josh Collmenter at 3:10. Go cards.

★★★

I want to take a minute to thank all of the Viva El Birdos recapping crew here. WyoCardsFan, Santiagofish, The Continental, mysterui, Dr. Howl, IHeartboog, lil_scooter93, and stlcardsfan4 have done a marvelous job this year. There have been 161 games played, and I think we've had 159 recaps posted on viva el birdos, all by volunteers, and despite many late night games, last-minute scheduling crises, and unexpectedly potent or numerous libations, nearly all of the recaps have been very good. The existence of this site feature was something that was contentious last spring, and now I hope that many of you readers have found the recaps to be not only worthwhile, but essential to the site. They're one of the first things I read when I miss a game, and I look forward to them even when I haven't. With any luck, we'll have several more recaps to write this season, but here on game 161 it seems a good time to thank all of the above. You all have been great. Thanks.


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