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Cardinals score early, extend division lead to five games in 6-3 win over Brewers

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Like yesterday, Tommy Pham and Matt Carpenter continued destroying the ball.

I'm not too impressed with the signs back there.
I'm not too impressed with the signs back there.
Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

If it's possible to have a game where the Cardinals felt like they would win from this first pitch to the last, this was it.  There was little doubt they could handle business once they showed they had the ability to score runs off Jimmy Nelson and when the Cardinals play like a good offense, they will probably win.

The scouting report must have said to jump on Jimmy Nelson early on in the count, because they did not give him much room to make pitches.  On the second pitch of the game, Matt Carpenter hit a single.  Three pitches later, Tommy Pham hit an opposite field triple down the right field line to score Carpenter.  Three pitches later, after a one-pitch groundout to the pitcher by Jason Heyward, Jhonny Peralta drove in Pham with a sacrifice fly to deep right field.  After all the damage had been done, Nelson only had 10 pitches, but had already allowed two runs by the end of the first inning.

Meanwhile Lackey was practicing his magic act of making runners appear as if they aren't actually on the basepaths by inducing two straight inning-ending double plays for the first two innings.  The third inning began as the first inning did with a line drive single by Carpenter.  Only it wasn't a single because it was horribly misplayed.  Carpenter was hustling from the get-go as former Cardinal Shane Peterson bobbled it, gave up on the ball for a second in frustration, and then threw it in.  By then Carpenter had made it to third.

Then, the scariest moment of the game happened.  Tommy Pham hit a rope right at Jimmy Nelson's head.  The ball went from his head to well over the third baseman.  It went far enough for Pham to stop and freak out what he had done and still make it to second on the play.  Pham seemed visibly shaken, but Nelson appears to be as ok as one could be after getting hit in the head by a 108 mph line drive.

David Goforth replaced Nelson and immediately gave up a single to Jason Heyward to make the score 4-0.  Peralta followed with a double.  Peterson made another fielding blunder on this play, which allowed Heyward to score from first.  Needless to say, the Cardinals probably aren't regretting trading him as part of a package for Matt Holliday after this game (and well, everything else that has happened in both player's careers)

Lackey, who didn't look dominate but was keeping the Brewers from scoring in the early innings, seemed to find his groove in the 5th.  After having struck out only two batters in the first four innings, he struck out the side on 12 pitches in the 5th.  In the 6th Carpenter hit a bomb to right field for his 23rd home run of the year.  I will never get used to power hungry Matt Carpenter, but I always accept power hungry Matt Carpenter.  In the bottom of the inning, Lackey gave up a leadoff single and followed that up with his second walk of the game.  Despite Ryan Braun and Adam Lind coming up next, Lackey didn't allow any runs to score, getting them out on flyouts and striking out Khris Davis.  Lackey finished his outing strongly, striking out two in the 7th.  Lackey could have pitched into the 8th with only 88 pitches, but with a 6-0 lead and a deep bullpen, Matheny decided to give him an early rest.

Steve Cishek pitched a perfect 8th inning and got the first out of the 9th before ceding to Randy Choate, who was set to face Adam Lind.  The Brewers countered by pinch-hitting Jason Rogers, who struck out anyway.  Matheny then decided to take him out and put in Mitch Harris.  Because it's necessary in a 6 run lead to do this.  Mitch Harris did not do well.  He gave up a hard hit that Kolten Wong couldn't quite handle followed by another single to put runners on the corner.  He then allowed a three-run home run to Jean Segura.  So the Brewers scored all of their runs with two outs in the 9th inning.  Matheny started warming up Rosenthal, but Harris was able to get the last out on a deep fly ball by Martin Maldanado.

WPA Graph


Source: FanGraphs

Notes

- Matt Holliday pinch-hit in the 7th inning for the first time since July 29.  He struck out, but not before hitting a line drive into the stands that I believe hit a fan.  It was an unfortunate game in that regard.

- Randal Grichuk also pinch-hit and hit a single.  I think he still can't throw a ball, which seems like one of the most important things in baseball, but at least he can hit!

- Brandon Moss finally got out of his slump with a 2-4 day.  His two hits were singles and his two outs were strikeouts but you take what you can get.

- John Lackey final line: 7 IP, 5 hits, 2 BBs, 8 Ks - It was a weirdly sort of lucky start at the beginning, because of the double plays, that turned into a fantastic start by the end.

- Tony Cruz went 0-4 so he's probably not stealing Yadier Molina's job anytime soon.

- Goforth is an awesome name.  I have nothing else to add here.

- Pham went 3-5 with a double and a triple.  So a home run short of the cycle.  Carpenter went 3-5 with a home run, a double and a single.  So a triple short of the cycle.  This is his second straight game not striking out, which is the first time he's done that in my quick research since August 13.  Matt Carpenter is a weird player.

- As shown to me by former VEB writer tom s on twitter, Matt Carpenter's sudden surge of power is reminiscent of Kevin Youkilis.  He knew to make the comparison because VEB founder Larry Borowsky mentioned to him that Carpenter's potential was Youkilis way back when Carpenter was in Springfield.  This is an amazing comparison that I felt compelled to share.

Tomorrow the Cardinals start an important series against the Cubs at Wrigley.  It's less important than it seemed back at the beginning of the week, but winning the series would be very nice.  Also it's the Cubs.  Tomorrow is a day game - yes a Friday day game - at 1:20 central time.  So maybe some of you can catch the end when you get home from work tomorrow.  Lance Lynn faces Dan Haren.  We have the pitching advantage, but baseball and who knows if Lynn is truly 100 percent?