Before we jump into the recap, breathe. Spring training is over. We are incredibly close to watching Real Baseball once again. After enduring the offseason of our discontent and baseball that you want to matter but just doesn't, we will be watching Real Cardinals Baseball. Enjoy it. You earned it.
Earlier today, the Cardinals faced off against the New York Yankees on the road in Tampa, to close out spring training. The Yankees basically invented baseball dynasties, and it's always very exciting to see two of the most storied franchises in the sport's history face off. A couple weeks ago, Alex briefly contemplated "dynasties." The Cardinals are the second-most successful franchise in MLB history by championships, with eleven. I probably don't need to tell you that the Yankees are in first, but you may not realize they have won a staggering twenty-seven World Series. They have appeared in forty(!!!). Together, the Cardinals and Yankees have appeared in almost half of all World Series, including five head-to-head matchups. They don't meet often. The clubs have faced each other twice since interleague play began, in 2005 and 2014. Before that, their last meeting was in 1964, when my dad, Jon Snowzeliak, III, was just a twinkle in the eye of Jon Snowzeliak, Jr. So -- it's exciting to see the Yankees and the Cardinals face off, even if it doesn't technically count.
Mike Leake, he of the incredibly boring repertoire who is probably becoming Kyle Lohse,
toed the rubber for the Cardinals today. He faced off against Michael Pineda, whom ESPN named (alongside our beloved Carlos Martinez) a "sleeper Cy Young Award candidate." Whatever that means. Leake has looked sharp so far this preseason, and Pineda sported a 3.34 FIP despite struggling with the longball last season, so this figures to be a good matchup.
The Cardinals lineup looked something like this:
Many hands have been wrung about the Cardinals' offensive anemia during spring training, and perhaps with good reason. We will keep an eye on the offense this game then, partly because it is of obvious concern, and partly because Mike Leake is so damn boring. The Bronx Bombers also had players that batted in some particular order, but as you will soon learn, they wouldn't matter much, dear reader.
Both teams sort of whimpered through the first inning. Holliday stung one to the centerfield track, but unfortunately it was right at a set of pinstripes. In the bottom half, Leake gave up a hit to one Aaron Hicks, but he struck out old friend Carlos Beltran and then persuaded Alex Rodriguez to ground into a 4-2 double play.
In the top of the second, Grichuk reached on an obstruction call but was promptly erased by an ill-advised steal attempt. (Note to Mike: Can we please stop trying to resurrect Whiteyball? It only works if your team is fast, and even then probably isn't worth the risk.) After that unpleasantness, there was a Brandon Moss strikeout. But then, Stephen Piscotty stepped up to the plate and hit a dinger.
Good job, Stephen. Skinny Yadi then squibbed one up the line towards third base and legged it out for an infield hit when Chase Headley decided to nap on it. He then stole a base on Pineda, drawing nary a throw from the bewildered pitcher. Ruben Tejada stepped in and grounded out, but not before pulling his left
hamstring quad and landing himself on the disabled list. Bad job, Ruben. But -- Cardinals are up, 1-0.
The bottom of the frame passed pretty uneventfully. Leake gave up another hit, this time to old fogey Brian McCann. But McCann was promptly erased by a 4-6-3 double play, courtesy of Chase Headley.
The third inning resulted in six outs without any base runners. Leake picked up another strikeout.
In the top of the fourth, Matt Holliday (playing first base pretty capably, by the way) stung another one, this time down the line at Chase Headley. Headley made the play, but it's nice to see that the Stillwater Stinger is still making hard contact even in his old age. Gunrick stepped in and made an out. Brandon Moss, bounceback candidate extraordinare, hit a pretty convincing dinger slightly to the right of the batter's eye in centerfield. Then Piscotty stepped in and hit a no-doubter on the very next pitch. Here is a video of both dingers:
Chalk up 2 more for the good guys. Leake garnered another K in the lower half, this time boring Aaron Hicks into swinging at strike 3. At the close of the fourth, the Cardinals were up 3-0. Leake was lifted at this point. His final line: 4 IP, several strikeouts, yawn. Great job, Mike.
At this point, you may be thinking, wow! Three dingers in one game from an offense we previously thought incapable of such a feat! I am satisfied. Well, buckle up, dear reader, because the shit is about to hit the fan.
In the top of the fifth, Brayan Pena came into the game batting for Leake and hit a single. Carpenter produced an out somehow (my boss asked me a question and I missed how it happened), making his day an 0/3 affair and continuing a somewhat troubling trend of not hitting or walking so far this spring for Mr. Marp. Wong laced one past Teixera for a single. Then something called a Hazelbaker did this:
Never mind that it looked like a routine popup and probably only goes out of a park shaped like Yankee stadium with a 314-foot right field wall, and never mind that both announcers I heard call it thought it was foul. It's another dinger! This time from a journeyman who has come from nowhere to make the team! Inspiring! Dingers! I can get into this. Gunrick struck out and we were treated to a 3-up, 3-down performance by Seung-Hwan Oh, aka Stone Buddha, aka third-to-last boss. Cardinals run tally: 6. Cardinals dingers tally: 4.
The sixth inning was unremarkable except to say that Jonathan Broxton pitched well. In the top of the seventh, Anthony Swarzak came in to pitch for the Yankees. Greg Garcia walked, then somebody got out, then Tommy Pham did this:
Take that, keratoconus. If you're interested in joining the official Tommy Phan Club, please contact ebo.
The top of the seventh continued. Jacob Wilson hit a single, Hazelbaker hit another single, and Jedd Gyorko hit a seeing eye grounder for an RBI single.
That was the end of the scoring for the Cardinals. The bottom of the seventh featured Matt Bowman looking solid. Things got a little bumpy for Tyler Lyons in the eighth, but he escaped after giving up just one run, and pitched his own way out of it, getting his daily dose of adversity out of the way. Nothing exciting happened in the ninth. Cardinals win, 9-1.
Just in case you missed any, most of the scoring happened like so:
I don't know about you, dear reader, but to me, that is a satisfying and reassuring fireworks show. Maybe, just maybe, we will be alright this year.
Next up is the season opener in Pittsburgh against the Dread Pirate McCutchen and his scurvy band of bilge rats. Tune in on Sunday, April 3 and celebrate the return of baseball!