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Spring Training Game Recap 3/25 - Cardinals 5, Mets... Also 5

David Wright gets Gunricked
David Wright gets Gunricked
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Cardinals made the short trip to Tradition Field in lovely Port St. Lucie this morning, and this afternoon they played the Metropolitans. The Birds started these guys, batting in this order:

Carpenter 3B
Piscotty RF
Holliday LF
Grichuk CF
Adams 1B
Molina C
Gyorko 2B
Tejada SS
Wacha P

March is on the wane, and for a while this spring game looked a lot like a summer game, starting with the St. Louis lineup.  We're probably not going to see Jedd Gyorko taking many regular-season starts from Kolten Wong vs. RHP -- flaxen-haired wunderkind Noah Syndergaard took the mound for the Mets -- but all in all, today we're looking at a starting nine that looks a lot like one might look in July.  (The Mets also started some players, but we're not here for the Mets.  Amazin' Avenue is where they do that.)

But it is still spring training, and the games don't count yet.  On days like today with a guy like Syndergaard pitching for the bad guys, that is a good thing.  Because Noah Syndergaard is awesome. Observe Matt Holliday, a good fastball hitter, being overpowered by a not-particularly-well-located heater:

What do you do with a guy whose mistakes aren't even mistakes? That's the kind of day it was for the Cardinals against Syndergaard. He threw 80-grade fastballs mixed in with hard (90 mph changeups!) and effective secondary stuff; he was hard to hit. But though they did not hit him much, when they did they at least hit him hard: Holliday pulled a double down the third base line in the 4th, and Adams drove a low fastball for a double to the right-center wall to mark a Matt Matted In; later, after a Wacha leadoff single, Matt Carpenter Matt Carpentered a ball into the right-field corner to tally another run. But that would be all they got, as Syndergaard held the Birdos to two runs in six innings, striking out nine men and walking nary a one.

Michael Wacha wasn't as overpowering as Syndergaard (though he did get that hit off him), and frankly wasn't overpowering at all.  He struck out only two in 4 2/3 innings, and walked the same.  He also threw unsettlingly not-hard: his fastball sat mostly at an un-Wacha-like 90-92 mph on the stadium gun (which had Syndergaard at 97-99).

But (we gamely tell ourselves) spring's for building up arm strength and working on stuff, for the pitchers, and both were in evidence for Wacha.  He threw 84 pitches -- likely around the target for his day, as he was removed in the middle of the 5th with just one man on.  And he threw some curves, like this one to punch out David Wright, that looked notably sharper than the sometimes-loopy offering has been for Wacha in the past:

His overall results -- 4 2/3 innings, 8 hits, 2 runs -- weren't good, but outside of a meatball that Kevin Pawlecki ripped over Holliday's head for a double in the 4th, a lot of those hits weren't especially hard ones. We'll hope to see better velocity and more strikeouts when the games count again, but the fickle forces of BABIP made Wacha's day look a bit worse than it really was.

Part-time baseball pitcher and full-time heartthrob Tyler Lyons came in next. Some people (like me!) think he might make an excellent reliever, but today he gave up a couple more runs in 2 1/3 innings, with a negative assist from some shaky defense (Holliday neglected to know where a fly ball was going to land, and Carp neglected to start an easy double play). Who knows.

Overall, pitching was the story today, at least for eight innings.  The Mets did it well and the Cardinals did it less well.  The teams played about 2/3 of the game like it was the regular season, with starting pitchers on more generous pitch counts and the regulars mostly playing. Then the spring training thing happened: Jacob Wilson and Jeremy Hazelbaker came in for Carpenter and Holliday, etc. Somebody named Juan Gonzalez, who is completely new to the author, came in to pitch for the Cardinals in the 8th. The Mets led 4-2 after eight innings, the familiar names were giving way to unfamiliar ones, and the affair appeared to be quietly winding down.

But Then!

Juuuust before the game wound down entirely, things went massively pear-shaped for Mets closer Jeurys Familia in the 9th. Brayan Pena had grounded out obligingly to open the inning, but then local excitement guru and instigator Randal Grichuk -- hitless so far on the game with two Ks, although he threw out David Wright at the plate to end the 1st, which was a cool and very Randal thing to do -- socked a dinger over the left-field wall. 4-3 Mets.

Then Matt Adams singled into right, putting the tying run on. Tommy Pham came in to run. Brandon Moss smoked a single into right, hit so hard that Pham had to hold at second. That turned out to be fine, because Jedd Gyorko roped a double into the left-field corner, tying the game and putting the go-ahead run on third.

Then, for some damn reason, Terry Collins decided to give an IBB to Carlos Peguero, of all people (Terry, buddy, seriously), with Greg Garcia on deck (TERRY I'M SERIOUS DO YOU GUYS NOT SCOUT).

Garcia, of course, of course, drew a walk with the bases loaded. Of course he did. A person might call it a terrible decision to walk a guy who has almost a 50% chance of striking out against your flame-throwing closer in order to load the bases for Greg Garcia, but hey. This is the stuff Manager of the Year candidates are made of.

With the Cards up 5-4, Miguel Socolovich (who figures to be the next man up out of Memphis if and when somebody in the bullpen gets hurt) got the save chance, and he was this close to converting it. He got two quick outs, then gave up a grounder through the hole on the right side for a two-out single. After a Mike Ohlman passed ball put the tying run on second, a guy named Kevin Kaczmarski singled in his very first spring at-bat to tie it. Soco then got a weak lineout to end the 9th with the score tied 5-5.

And as much as this felt like a regular-season game at the start, it was very much a spring game at the end: the managers passed on extra innings, and called it a tie. So that was that.

More Game Notes

  • Yadier Molina didn't get a hit and also struck out twice, but he threw out Curtis Granderson by a goddang foot on a strike-em-out-throw-em-out double play to end the 3rd, which, again, was cool. He also spoke on the ESPN broadcast about playing opening day. Recap of that: he wants to, but it's up to those jerk doctors.
  • I swear Stephen Piscotty played today, but so help me, I can't tell you anything he did.
  • Former Met Ruben Tejada, the presumptive Cardinals' opening day shortstop, had a homecoming of sorts. He didn't look very rangy afield, and had a bad error in the bottom of the 2nd -- if you missed the game, just close your eyes and imagine a professional baseball player trying to win a bet by fielding a high bouncer with his eyes closed based on directions shouted by the crowd -- and it led to the Mets' first run.  But he singled off Syndergaard to open the next frame, which, hey, that's hard to do, and finished 2-3 at the plate.

(Speaking of Tejada, he prompted probably the most interesting (to me) nugget of the game from the Mets' always excellent broadcast crew: Keith Hernandez saw Tejada take a couple of steps to his left at SS prior to a pitch early on, and observed that he'd never seen Tejada do that before; he deduced that this focus on pre-pitch positioning was a Cardinals thing. I don't know if that means anything, but it's interesting! Cue the hopeful speculation that the Cards' epic FIP-ERA split last year was based on real things and they can do it again.)

The Cardinals are back at it tomorrow at 12:05 CST, with Mike Leake starting against the Nationals.