The First Inning
What struck me as interesting in this sea of games at this point of the season, where the beginning seems distant, but the end seems rather far flung, in this little island of an inning... was that Kolten Wong is really really damn good at defense. I know that people told me this that followed his minor league career, but wow, he really is, good at defense.
Mark Reynolds has so much power that I'd liken it to an aquifer. There is an underground reserve of potential awesomeness, but it is just not always accessible, as it is not obvious. Then there's Randal Grichuk, who does have a more obvious amount of power, who just hits the shit out of the ball when he can, and when that actually happens, good things occur.
But there are other offensive players like Peter Bourjos, who is more pesky and even more speedy than a Randal Grichuk. Bourjos showed a flash of his old offensive self, which is not as exemplary as what he has done this year. The problem being that his rhythm of playing often gets interrupted when it appears he is doing well, perhaps conflicting his internal confidence meters. At that point in the order however, Pete Kozma was up at the plate. I'd argue this is because of the DH, but whatever.
What really was important is that Jason Heyward hit an absolute rope, like a spell cast out of a Spider-Man wrist-based web-slinging contraption, to drive in the Cardinals only run batted in.
Carlos Martinez hits 95mph with ease. His breaking stuff is nearly without parallel. When he hits, say, 98, he gets a little wild at times. Carlos is still a raw pitching talent, but he has clearly reigned it in more this season. This is very encouraging since he's been a starter all year. When Tsunami goes up and in on hitters, they clearly get rather philosophical after the pitch. CarMart is about as close to a video game pitcher you can find, as he is extremely animated, usually falling off the mound, and his pitches possess unreal movement. The escape artist gets out of this situation again.
At times, Carlos was pounding the zone with wicked fastballs. But he was a little wild too. Then he'd have to lock down and groove the ball at times. That's when they were able to connect. Also, during this inning the Cardinals staff seemed to think that he was hurt somehow, but he ended up ok apparently. This being on a pickoff throw, which ended up costing the game due to Reynolds not being able to catch the catchable but weird throw.
Heyward confounded expectations with his reverse-split hitting, which was not a normal skill of his prior to his Cardinaldom. I was not real impressed by the efforts thereafter, but at least Pete Kozma put up a fight going to a full count. Carlos Martinez relied on the power of the strikeout as well as effective randomness. As usual, tailing movement and subatomic weirdness with Martinez's pitching.
The Cardinals offense just did not really show up tonight. Sure, they were pretty good at the beginning of the game, but they were not able to figure out the puzzle in Minnesota. Matt Carpenter had a rather deflated looking at bat, so I wanted to check his June output. He is doing terrible. A 199 to 131 to 58 wRC+ per month as a trajectory for a player's season seems rather odd to say the least. Carpenter is experiencing a bad BABIP too, but perhaps not so bad that it could portend such poor results.
Meanwhile, Carlos Martinez was a groundout inducing machine and made short order of the Twins' Plouffe, Hunter, and Rosario.
The 7th Inning
Mark Reynolds flailed away to one of his strikeouts, one of many during his seasons throughout his career. He can sure destroy a ball but can surely be just as frustrating by not making any contact. However, after Yadi made contact, but got a bug in his eye or delusions of grandeur and tried to take his slow legs to second base, but was made a fool by the efficient fielding and throwing of Minnesota.
Carlos Martinez began the 7th with a ball. He then threw 2 more in a row. Then a strike. And another. But at 3-2 he couldn't get it across the plate. The Tsunami spiraled out of control, and had to be taken out of the game after painfully hitting a batter, there being visibly detectable facial expressions of intense ouchness. The Choate was brought in, and he did his Randy Choate routine, effectively enough to exit scene even with the bases loaded.
Peter Bourjos created a spark with a nice double to right field. He sliced it sharply the other way down the first base line. Jon Jay was brought in as a pinch hitter. Mr. J was not able to pull through. Jay is having the season many sabermetricians predicted all these years: a deflated BABIP, not much power to speak of, and overall subpar offense. His random ball spraying just is not working out for him this year. Also, the last time his LD% was this low was a year when his BABIP was .355. There's really not much understanding this player, he has three seasons of 115 wRC+ with an absurdly high BABIP. That said, he has rather positive ARM and UZR ratings, far better than in previous seasons. I'm not sure what is going on with the Chief, but it doesn't make much sense.
From the bullpen, Matt Belisle continued to make Mozeliak seem very smart. He has a 2.62 FIP despite a .341 BABIP against. He did good tonight. He has been an important part of an elite bullpen. Trevor Rosenthal has been king of the bullpen this year, but Maness, Siegrist and Belisle have aptly stepped up to be high leverage dampening agents. The Cardinals have the best bullpen in MLB by ERA and FIP, and the sixth best by xFIP.
The Cardinals threatened to come back, but even with two men on base, the limitations of having Reynolds and Grichuk back to back in the order reared their ugly hydra heads. Like a screaming bunch of strikeout beasties. It was oh so predictable and why the hell would anyone put back to back strikeout prone hitters in a lineup is beyond me. Then our venerable hero over the years, Yadier Molina was up, and it seemed like that could've been something. But he wasn't able to pull through today.