I had an awesome limerick about Reynolds' home run
The one in the second; written when I thought we had won
I should have known from the past
That some leads come, but don't last
So you get this rhyme instead about how I'm super bummed.
While the Cardinals will head into the All-Star Break guaranteed to have the best record in the Central Division, the National League, and, in fact, all of baseball, there is still an air of importance to a first half-ending series against our division rivals, the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pirates were 4.5 games back of the Cardinals before Saturday's game, but would be leading - or within a 1/2 game of first place - every other division in baseball. The Pirates are playing great baseball right now, and with all of the injuries the Cardinals have endured, that 4.5-game lead doesn't feel all that safe. I personally feel as though the bottom might drop out of our starting pitching at any moment - the Great and Powerful Oz revealed to be nothing more than a small, clever man with a lot of tricks up his sleeve. That is not to say I don't believe in our pitching; I absolutely do. But, being a nearly life-long baseball fan, a little second half regression sure wouldn't surprise me in the least.
That was a rather long-winded way of saying this series is really important, and no matter how big our lead over the Pirates gets, I still want to win every game against them really, really bad. The Cardinals did not oblige.
The scoring, and the controversy, began in the second inning. With two outs and two strikes against him, Mark Reynolds swung at and missed an A.J. Burnett breaking ball low and away. The ball hit the ground and somehow, the umpire called it a foul ball. Replays showed clearly that Reynolds' bat missed the ball, but the play is not reviewable. Clint Hurdle and the catcher Francisco Cervelli jawed a bit about the call, but as it is not reviewable, there was not much for them to say. The umpire did discuss it with the rest of the crew, but apparently no one else really saw the play well enough to overturn the call. Then, as if perfectly scripted, Reynolds parked the very next pitch into the left field bleacher seats. Cervelli absolutely lost it and promptly got himself thrown out of the game; Hurdle was not far behind him. 1-0 Cardinals.
The Redbirds scored again in the third inning. Newly re-minted Professional Leadoff Hitter Matt Carpenter lead off the inning with a base hit, and Kolten Wong followed with the same, pushing Marp over to third. Wong stole second base easily, and later advanced to third when a sacrifice fly from Yadier Molina scored Carpenter. (In the middle of that, Jason Heyward was hit by a pitch and stole second base - easily.) 2-0 Cardinals.
The Cardinals added to their lead in the fifth, after a series of unfortunate events (from the Pirates' perspective, anyway). Carpenter was hit by a pitch, and Wong dutifully followed up with another base hit. Jhonny Peralta flied out to right field, allowing Carpenter to advance to third. With Heyward up, Wong just about got picked off, but then somehow didn't. While Wong was caught in a run down between first and second base, Carpenter broke toward home, drawing the throw back to third base. Carpenter got back safely, and Wong retreated to first, while the Pirates were left scratching their heads and wondering what actually just happened. On the next play, Heyward grounded to Pedro Alvarez, who missed the ball. 3-0 Cardinals.
Meanwhile, John Lackey was cruising, allowing only two hits through four innings - one double by Starling Marte and an infield hit on a slow roller to third by Jordy Mercer. He hit a blip in the fifth inning, when he gave up a solo home run to Burnett. The fans, by the way, cheered as though it was a walk-off. I guess he hasn't hit a home run in 10 years, so fair enough. Wong made an error on a ground ball by Gregory Polanco, and Neil Walker followed with a base hit. Lackey appeared to be in some trouble with runners on the corners and Andrew McCutchen at the plate. But he struck out McCutchen, because he is good and so are the Cardinals. Lackey's final line tonight: 6.2 IP, 1 R, 5 H, 5 Ks, 2 BB. Not too shabby, you salty dog, you.
The Pirates tied the game in the bottom of the 8th inning after a walk, a throwing error from Kevin Siegrist, and consecutive singles from Jung Ho Kang and Alvarez. All that happened, by the way, when I was essentially done with this recap. If I believe in baseball karma, then I guess i believe in baseball jinxes. Sorry, everyone. [Editor's note: I am too tired too change what I've already written, so sorry again for the lopsidedness of this recap.]
The game eventually went into extra innings. In the top of the tenth, Molina led off with a base hit, but was later picked off when Mark Reynolds attempted to bunt......yeah. But then Reynolds in classic Reynolds style, hit a home run to give the Cards back the lead! 4-3 Birdos. But then - the Pirates tied it up AGAIN in the bottom of the inning. UGH.
Then, in the top of the 14th, Matt Carpenter walked, then stole a base, and went to third on a throwing error by Chris Stewart. Peralta got a base hit to score him. Yay! But not so fast. Nick Greenwood came in to pitch, and promptly gave up a single to Walker and a freaking home run to Andrew McCutchen. Pirates win 6-5 in what I will call a devastating loss.
1. A lot of action on the base paths tonight. The Cardinals were running all over the place tonight and it was pretty damn awesome. Recognizing that Burnett has a slow delivery, and, after the second inning, with the Pirates' backup catcher behind the plate, Heyward and Wong each swiped two bags, and Carpenter got one. Only one by Wong resulted in a close play, as he took his foot off the base for a split second. They called him safe, and the Pirates couldn't challenge it - because they had actually used their challenge and lost in the fifth, when they argued that Wong didn't touch second base on his way to third during Alvarez' botched play on the Heyward ground ball. Anyway, the umpires reviewed the call sua sponte, but the safe call stood.
2. Also in the fifth inning, just after the Alvarez error, Burnett threw a pitch that nearly hit Yadier Molina in the head and knocked him to the ground. The fans inexplicably cheered. Stay classy, Pittsburgh.
3. Mark Reynolds ALMOST hit a third home run in the top of the 12th - it may not have gone out anyway, but Sean Rodriguez made an amazing catch to at least save an extra base hit. I thought he had the HR off the bat. SAD EMOJI.
4. Tim Cooney faces Francisco Liriano tomorrow night on ESPN at 7pm CT. The Cardinals have gotten a TON of national broadcasts this year between FOX, MLB Network, and ESPN. It is the best. Please win, Cardinals.