I had this plan. I was going to take notes and be extremely attentive towards the game, plot all the little intricacies I might not notice otherwise, and be generally as prepared as possible to write this recap. That went out the door when the first pitch was thrown. Because playoff baseball is impossible to watch like that when you're heavily invested in the outcome of the game.
This wasn't a fun game, because no loss is fun. However, anybody who can say with a straight face that the Cardinals didn't show up this series or this game doesn't understand baseball or didn't watch the games. The Cardinals came close today, but the pitching - so strong the entire season - let them down. That happens. It especially happens when you lose your ace in April, and the guy who ends up becoming the ace gets hurt before the playoffs even begin. That's just cruel. (You could argue John Lackey is the ace of course; Martinez at worst isn't far behind him though.)
On to the game, Matt Carpenter led off with a line drive single to right and Stephen Piscotty hit a first pitch home run to dead center. 4 pitches in, 2 runs. Unfortunately, the Cardinals didn't score again until Jason Hammel was taken out of the game. Yes, I blamed the pitching above, but it feels like the Cardinals probably should have scored more runs against the recently ineffective Jason Hammel. It was a team loss is what I'm saying, like all losses usually are.
In the bottom half of the inning, Lackey pitched so well he made it seem like the Cardinals would win. He struck out two Cubs in a perfect inning. He legitimately looked like the short rest had no effect on him whatsoever. That changed in the second inning. Anthony Rizzo singled, followed by a single by Kyle Schwarber - who I am not looking forward to facing for the next six years - to put runners on at first and second with one out. Lackey struck out Montero and it felt like the threat had been removed with Hammel coming up. But of course if there's any better and more 2015 Cardinal way to lose than to give up a hit to a pitcher, I'd like to see it. (People who don't watch the Cardinals might be confused about this, but I am pretty sure they give up an abnormal number of hits to pitchers and pitchers get an abnormal number of RBIs against the Cards. See: Jon Lester) Anyway, Javier Baez of all people hit a three run homer to put the Cubs up 4-2.
The Cardinals had their next opportunity to score in the bottom of the 4th when Jhonny Peralta singled and Randal Grichuk reached base on an error. But Wong struck out, Cruz struck out, and Pham - pinch-hitting for Lackey and removing him from the game after three innings - also struck out. They got into an eerily similar situation two innings later when Heyward and Peralta hit back-to-back singles to start the 6th. This time Grichuk struck out, Wong struck out on basically the same pitch (in the dirt - he did not have a good game) and Cruz was up to the plate. The count got to two strikes and it seemed pretty likely Cruz would strike out. But he did an unexpected thing, one that briefly made the game more enjoyable. He hit a groundball to the right side that got past Anthony Rizzo giving him a double and scoring the third run of the game. Brandon Moss pinch-hit and he also did something surprising. Less so than Cruz - he's actually most likely a good hitter - and lined a single. Cruz, being slow and lumbering as a baserunner, got thrown out at home and it was mostly due to a poor slide. I personally was fine with sending Cruz. Watching the replay, you realize it took a perfect throw to get him out. You always need to take that chance because it baseball, the best hitters still get out 6 out of 10 times (the common saying is 7 out of 10, but on-base percentage is a thing) I think Cruz had a better than 50 percent chance of being safe there.
Kevin Siegrist started the next inning replacing Adam Wainwright. Wainwright dominated, sadly giving fuel to the fire for those who wanted him to start today. He induced five groundouts and struck out the other - who to be fair was the pitcher hitting for himself for some reason. Siegrist didn't fare as well. He bizarrely continued his trend of allowing home runs to left-handed batters. I'm firmly of the belief that reverse splits mostly don't exist, but... I don't know what to make of Siegrist. He allowed a home run to Rizzo in the 6th and, after pitching the 7th for reasons that Mike can only explain but probably won't because the media might not have even asked him the question, allowed a BOMB to Kyle Schwarber. The reported distance was 418 feet and it was later confirmed, but you'd have to see it with your own eyes to know how much he crushed it.
The Cardinals went down easy against Pedro Strop, including striking out looking twice. Oh yeah and Greg Garcia pinch-hit for Grichuk for some reason. He did what Grichuk probably would have done, but it was still weird because Grichuk can hit a home run and Garcia can only some of the time. Trevor Rosenthal, full well knowing it was last inning, went to recapture the magic of his regular season. He allowed a leadoff triple to Kris Bryant that was inexplicably a triple somehow when it looked like a normal double. A runner never scored. He struck out Rizzo, and intentionally walked Starlin Castro... again for some reason unclear to myself. After Austin Jackson tried to bunt the runner from third home unsuccessfully thanks to good defense by Rosenthal that would have been appreciated in Game 2, he walked Montero to load the bases. Chris Denorfia, who according to the announcers was the last hitter Rosenthal wanted to face, grounded out to end the threat.
In the 9th, besides a first pitch Carpenter single, the Cardinals went down easy. There was a brief period where the impossible looked possible with Piscotty up as the tying run, but he struck out to end the game
(I am not posting the WPA Graph because who the hell wants to see that? I haven't even looked at it)
- Peralta is probably going to get a lot of flak for this series, and he already has, but Kolten Wong was TERRIBLE today. He had one mode: swing. And it didn't really matter where the ball was going, he was going to swing at it. He usually missed. He went 0-4 with two strikeouts.
- Heyward had a good game, but he did get picked off to end the 3rd. Nothing probably would have happened from that inning because there were two outs, but it was a really stupid mistake nonetheless.
- Tyler Lyons did not pitch in this series. Because we were saving him...for Game 5. Or whatever.
- The umpire wasn't great, but he was inconsistent for both teams. There are, however, rarely two examples as clear of an umpire's inconsistency as the fact that two Cardinal hitters looked at essentially the same pitch during the same at-bat and receiving different calls for each pitch. One was called a ball, one a strike. It was very frustrating.
Well it's been fun. Not today granted, but most of the time I've had the pleasure of writing recaps. I probably missed something, but in my defense, I was just as emotionally into this game as the rest of you and emotions tend to get in the way of seeing things as they are. I'm impressed if you read this far, because I don't know who wants to read the misery that was this game. Except Cubs fans. Hello Cubs fans. Yes, I see you. Yes, we're miserable. Yes, I know you're happy. Now go get drunk and never talk to me again.
Tomorrow, oh.... there is no tomorrow. Well, this sucks. Tomorrow, enjoy the ALDS playoffs. Baseball is still fun so that should bring you some joy.