Ordinarily I'd have some blurb about tonight's starting pitchers up here, along with some random numbers from FanGraphs. You don't care about that. You can look that up yourself.
Ordinarily Carlos Martinez would have started this game and probably pitched brilliantly. But that didn't happen. Carlos was skipped this time around due to an ouchie back and already pitching far more innings than he ever has in a professional baseball season.
Ordinarily Tyler Lyons would have taken this start, but he was shuttled back to Memphis recently and it's too soon to call him back up.
Ordinarily Carlos Villanueva doesn't get 3 plate appearances in a game. Yes, that happened. Let me expand on that for a moment. Villa LED OFF the 3rd AND 4th innings for Cardinals batsmen tonight. Then, he sac bunted in the 6th and was replaced by Pete Kozma to pinch run. So Villa took a plate appearance and did not throw a single pitch afterwards.
Ordinarily Brandon Moss doesn't hit hugely dramatic centerfield bombs to end the game in a delirious walk off celebration. At least not ordinarily for the Cardinals thus far. But that is, in fact, exactly what happened tonight.
Friends, this game. I just... Wow.
It was, instead, Marco Gonzales tabbed to toe the rubber for this September 1st contest. Marco was among the September reinforcements called up on this September 1st for the September stretch run.
And things went okay for Marco the first time through the order. Mostly inducing a spate of ground balls and generally staying out of trouble. The second time through was something of a disaster.
Marco's third inning was the stuff of nightmares for a pitcher. I mean they probably have nightmares about other stuff too, like showing up at school in their underwear or being forced to watch reality television. But this was a doozy.
Nationals pitcher Joe Ross started things off with a single. Bad juju to let the pitcher reach leading off. Jayson Werth also singled and Anthony Rendon doubled them both home for a 2-0 Nationals lead. Rendon took 3rd on the throw home, setting the stage for a run scoring sac fly from Bryce Harper. Ryan Zimmerman ripped a middle-middle 88 mph nothing pitch into center for a home run and a 4-0 Nats lead. The badness continued with Yunel Escobar and Wilson Ramos both reaching on stung singles.
That would end Marco's night. His line: 2.2 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 66 pitches.
And here's where things went from bad to weird.
At this point Matheny has a decision. The pitcher's spot is due to lead off the bottom of the frame. 4-0 is a big hill to climb, but it's far too early to throw in the towel. He can maybe double-switch things around but it's only the 3rd inning. He can call on Mitch Harris or another generally-used-as-a-one-inning-reliever to get out of the inning then pinch hit. Or he can just put in the long man and let it ride. And that's what he did.
Carlos Villanueva pitched 3.1 innings of shutout ball, allowing only 1 hit and striking out 6. He restored order and gave the Cardinals a chance to come back. He also, as noted above, batted. A lot.
Thankfully, despite his single that got things started for the Nationals in the top of the 3rd, Joe Ross was bad. Like, can't find the plate at all bad. After Mighty CarlosV struck out to start the bottom of the 3rd, Ross walked 4 batters and gave up a single to Jhonny Peralta to give up 2 runs which immediately put the Cards back in the game. The last run plated on a bases loaded walk to Kolten Wong, who wisely kept his bat on his shoulder (mostly).
And that was it for Ross. Not even through 3 full innings and both starters were out. Doug Fister was brought in to try to close out the inning. Fister plunked his first batter, Mark Reynolds, on his right hand/wrist (kinda the meaty part of hand it looked like to me). Reynolds went to first which pushed home the Cards third run of the inning. Brandon Moss struck out but the score is now a manageable 4-3 deficit.
For whatever reason, Matt Williams returned the favor of Villanueva leading off the 3rd and let Fister lead off the 4th by striking out for himself.
Things settled down for a bit after that. Tommy Pham pinch hit for Reynolds in the 5th, Mark lifted due to the HBP earlier. Pham stayed in the game at center field, Moss to first base.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">INJURY REPORT: Mark Reynolds left the game with a right wrist contusion. X-rays were taken and were negative. Status is day-to-day.</p>— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) <a href="https://twitter.com/Cardinals/status/638899990685876224">September 2, 2015</a></blockquote>
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In the 6th, Moss juuuuust missed a home run off the CF wall for a double. Villa allowed to bat for himself... again. He gets a bunt down and the throw goes to third. Escobar can't handle the short hop throw from Wilson Ramos and runners end up at first and third. Kozma to run for Villa. Rendon makes a nice play on a soft liner by Matt Carpenter to keep a run from scoring. Piscotty hit a little tapper back to the pitcher, and is able to beats it out and reach first to load the bases. But Peralta ground into a double play to kill the scoring chance and the inning. Consider this inning an appetizer.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">(Though, it should be noted that Pete Kozma is pinch-running for a reliever, meaning <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Cardinals?src=hash">#Cardinals</a> had Villanueva hit INSTEAD of Kozma.)</p>— Derrick Goold (@dgoold) <a href="https://twitter.com/dgoold/status/638901960578625540">September 2, 2015</a></blockquote>
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In the top of the 7th, Seth Maness was brought in. After Villa batted for himself. Villa batted for himself and did not throw a pitch afterwards. Just so we're clear on that. Maness induced the sort of groundbally weak infield contact he's World Famous for, but this time the defense had trouble converting those grounders into outs. Werth singled on a grounder up the middle. Rendon grounded into a fielder's choice. Harper singled on soft grounder as Peralta couldn't get ball out of glove. And Zim loaded the bases on error by Matt Carp. Escobar grounded to Peralta, but it wasn't hit hard enough to turn two. A run scored making it 5-3 Nationals. Desmond grounded out to end it. Maness was yelling as he came off the mound and FIRED his glove into the dugout. Don't see that kind of emotion from Seth too often.
Top of the 8th, Harris in. Alrighty.
Bottom of the 8th, Drew Storen in. Pham singled up the middle, then Moss HBP on his left knee. That's two Cardinals first basemen plunked if you're scoring at home. Greg Garcia, double switched for Wong when Harris was brought in, gets down a sac bunt. Storen tried to go to third, but Escobar couldn't handle the throw and it sailed into foul territory, scoring Pham, cutting the lead to 5-4. MCarp IBB to load the bases. Piscotty GIDP but a run scores and ties the game 5-5. Peralta ended the inning on a pop foul that Harper makes sliding catch on.
Harris stays in for the 9th. They want no part of Harper at all and UIBB him with 1 out. Zim hits little clunker that Moss can't handle cleanly. He feeds Harris at first and is called safe. But the play is challenged and overturned.
And then this. The bottom of the 9th. The bottom of the 9th, as a concept, is magic. Under the right circumstances it can hold the promise of memorable, even legendary, events. With the score tied, the tantalizing prospect of a walk-off loomed. The Nationals brought Casey Janssen in. Heyward grounded out. Yadi popped out to foul territory. Some bottom of the 9th this was shaping up to be. Two outs, nothing shaking. Cody Stanley, fresh from Memphis, pinch hit for Harris. He drove a double into the left field corner to keep the inning alive. Pham drew a walk. Two on, two out. And then Brandon Moss lit up Busch Stadium with a WALK OFF HOME RUN TO CENTER FIELD. ARE YOU KIDDING ME.
I just.. wow.
- PIRATES LOSE 7-4
- The Cardinals Magic Number is 26!
Tomorrow it's Scherzer and Wacha. Don't miss it. 7:15