On a sunny day in September
I reveled in warmth from the embers
The kind that arrive
With a walk-off high five
And a game that I'll always remember
I will be the first to admit, I sure was not expecting to see a pitchers' duel from a Shelby Miller-Edinson Volquez matchup. Neither pitcher really has no-hitter stuff (though Volquez had that great year with the Reds in 2008, and Miller had that glorious 1-hitter last May), and both teams have, at times, potent offenses (Pittsburgh at more times that St. Louis, to be sure). However, Miller was outstanding today. He threw several curveballs - most of which looked pretty darn good and many of which landed for strikes, he had nice movement and velocity on his fastball - still throwing it at 95 after nearly 100 pitches, and he was hitting his spots like it was his damn JOB...wait.
Miller's final line today: 7 IP, 3 H, 5 Ks, 3 BB (one was intentional). It has been suggested that Shelbs pitches better when I am writing his recaps. After today's game, I don't see how anyone could possibly disagree with that premise.
On the other end of Miller's well-pitched game was the Cardinals' inability to generate any offense at all - except, of course, when it really mattered. The Redbirds were hitless through the first four innings, with Jon Jay and Peter Bourjos finally connecting for back-to-back singles in the fifth. Something, something, foreshadowing. After Miller bunted, the Cardinals had runners and second and third with only one out, but neither the Great Matt Carpenter nor the Pretty Good Kolten Wong could drive them home.
Onto the 6th inning, when things started to get interesting. I failed to mention that Matt Holliday and Matt Adams were consecutively hit by pitches in the bottom of the 4th inning - a lot of parallelism going on in this game, it seems. In the top of the 6th, Shelbs threw a pitch behind McCutchen, which I believe was meant to hit him. The umpire got pissed and yelled at both benches, then both benches yelled back, and somehow it ended with Mike Matheny talking to Russell Martin, which is apparently never okay.
Mike Matheny has no business talking to Russell Martin. None.— Dejan Kovacevic (@Dejan_Kovacevic) September 3, 2014
But the good news, I suppose, is that Miller missed McCutchen, who stayed in the batter's box and ended up hitting a fly ball out to end the inning. Hooray!
The 7th inning was its own special disaster that went a little something like this: Jay walks. Bourjos bunts him over. WITH THE PITCHER'S SPOT UP NEXT. Taveras comes in to pinch-hit, but oh no, not so fast. Clint Hurdle is on to you, Matheny! Hurdle replaces Volquez with LHP Tony Watson, Taveras is removed in favor of Randal Grichuk. Matheny inexplicably calls for the hit-and-run with a guy who strikes out a lot. Then, in a shocking turn of events, Grichuk swings and misses, leaving Jay hung out to dry at third base. Then Grichuk swings and misses AGAIN to strike out swinging and end the inning.
But fear not, my friends, for this was but a tiny frown in an afternoon of ear-to-ear grins. Rosie pitched the top of the 9th, and although he gave up a bloop single to the leadoff hitter, he actually looked great. Further proof that maybe a day off every once in awhile might not be such a bad thing. In the bottom of the inning, Matt Adams led off with a swinging K, immediately followed by Peralta and another swinging K. With two outs, Yadier Molina worked an 8-pitch at bat for a walk. Jon Jay did that thing he is doing a lot of lately, and singled through the left side for a base hit. Two on, two out for Mr. Peter Bourjos. Ha! Can't call for the bunt now, Matheny! And, indeed, no bunt was called. PB hit a single up the middle, and Yadi came chugging around third base on a MISSION. The throw to the plate was right on, but about a second too late (incidentally, the catcher also dropped the ball, and incidentiallyier, Molina had a nice slide to sneak his hand in). Yadi scored! The Cards won! The Cards swept! And Molina looked cute as a button when he jumped up to celebrate.
1. Carlos Martinez pitched the 8th beautifully, aided by an outstanding play from Kolten Wong. I think we can all agree that Descalso wouldnt've. El Gallo also struck out McCutchen in pure El Gallo fashion. At that moment, I knew we were going to win this game.
2. What in in the actual what happened in the 7th inning? Why is Bourjos bunting with the pitcher's spot up next? What does Peter Bourjos have to do to not get the bat taken out of his hands? Did you know that PB is OPSing nearly .700 since the All-Star Break? Did you know that PB's OBP is nearly .300 on the year? Did you know that these numbers are not outstanding but are at least average? Did you know that he is still better than Daniel Descalso, Oscar Taveras, Randal Grichuk, and Tony Cruz? I have no answers, only rhetorical questions.
3. The thing in the 6th inning with the attempted hitting of McCutchen irked me. Neither Holliday nor Adams was hit intentionally. The ball to Holliday just got away, and the one to Adams was a breaking ball in the dirt that hit off his toe. There is no need to retaliate just for the sake of retaliation and even less of a need to do so in the 6th inning of a 0-0 game in a tight division race with the middle of the Pirates' order coming to bat. It's tacky and I hate it.
5. The Cardinals head to Milwaukee tonight for a four-game series with the Brewers, beginning tomorrow at 7:10 CT. We are guaranteed to enter the series with a two-game lead in the division, and possibly a three-game lead. We could do some major damage in this series, though I will just quietly hope for a split. The Cardinals have seven more games with the Brew Crew. These are crucial games, where every pitch and every play matters. I love September baseball!
[EDIT] 6. This was the Cardinals' 19th shut out of the year. And Shelby Miller's fifth!