Tonight's pitching matchup was a big old mismatch on paper. The Cardinals started Carlos Martinez, a floppy-eared Labrador Retriever puppy with three plus pitches and a career 3.19 FIP. The Reds sent out Tim Melville, who research suggests is a right-handed human man and native of the St. Louis metro area (he's from Wentzville) who is filling in for the injured Anthony DeSclafani. He... well, there's no shame in not being as good as Carlos Martinez, and he's not.
The Cards set sail in a hurry, scoring four times in a whale of a first inning. The Reds hurler threw nine straight balls to open the inning, meaning when he finally got his compass fixed, there were two guys on. Then Matt Holliday tattooed one over the CF wall and onto the grass: 3-0 Cardinals. Adding insult to injury, Randal Grichuk lashed a liner right at Reds 3B Eugenio Suarez, and when he couldn't fish it out (E5) Grichuk ended up at second. Then Yadier Molina pegged a single to center to make it 4-0. With Martinez on the mound, it looked like the Reds were all but sunk.
But baseball's baseball. The Reds got a couple of bloop singles off El Gallo in the 3rd, then Joey Votto -- who hadn't had an extra-base hit yet in 2016 -- got an emphatic extra-base hit, for maximum extra baseness. His opposite-field homer made it 4-3, and we had a ballgame again.
If the recapper may be subjective for a moment, this was very annoying. The Cardinals' offense in the last couple years has been (although not as anemic as some would make it out to be) pretty middling. It's hard to avoid taking the first-inning outburst and going good, we got four, let's hope Carlos can make it hold up -- we are (or at least I am) just used to feeling that way. So when a couple of chip shots into right turn into a three-run dinger and it's close again, an undeserved sense of tension creeps into the game.
But that's not the story of the 2016 Cardinals -- not so far. They answered right back in the bottom of the 3rd, with a Yadi double, a Kolten Wong single, and an Aledmys Diaz jonrón (his second of the year) into the LF bleachers. Just like that, the lead was back to a cushy four runs, and the Cardinals had broken into the Reds' (bad) bullpen. Holliday added a HUGE second homer in the 6th, Grichuk creamed a solo shot over the visitors' bullpen in the 7th, and some number of Reds-can't-get-guys-outs later, Brandon Moss came off the bench and cranked yet another three-run home run. Oh and Matt Adams hit a two-run homer later, why not.
The Cardinals are scoring a ton lately. And yeah, sure, it's mostly come against bad pitching. But (setting aside that ugly Pirates series) the 2016 Cardinals have had the feel of a team that's just going to pile it the hell on sometimes. As it turned out, the Cardinals pitchers locked it down after Votto's home run, holding the Reds to just four baserunners and no runs the rest of the game. But, in a change from a lot of 2015 games, the pitchers didn't need to be that perfect tonight. Not even close.
It's been fun to watch this offense, and to feel that way, so far. Let's hope they keep it up.
Friday Night Comment of the Game(thread)
Player of the Game
Holliday. The dingers overshadowed a pretty nice game from Martinez, but I can't give it to Martinez, because the dingers! Holliday finished
2-4 with a walk 2-2 with a walk, a HBP, and two of those dingers.
Play of the Game
Wow! Able to be fully enjoyed because (a) it didn't matter, and (b) it was promptly followed by the Eldest Matt going all "LOL catch this one" a couple batters later.
- Great to see Molina spraying liners around the field in the early season. He finished 2-4 with another 2B, and is batting .341/.372/.439 on the young season.
- Gotta feel a little bad for Melville, who probably had a bunch of friends and family in the stands. But also, I don't like the Reds, so... too bad, guy.
- Martinez was very good (7 IP, 3 R, 1 BB, 6 K, 5 H, and 1 HR on 89 pitches) but continued a trend where his mechanics looked all out of whack in the early innings -- much more stiff and upright than we're used to, without that big cool Gibson-esque leg whip on his follow-through. Maybe nothing, maybe something to watch.
- Jeremy Hazelbaker finished 0-4 with a walk, breaking an eight-game hit streak. Not the worst thing in the world; he'll stay in the mix, but there are other guys who need playing time, too, so maybe an 0-fer will prompt Matheny to give him a night off.
- MATT COUNT: Runs Matted In: 2; Matts Batted In: 0; Matts Matted In: 4. I think, anyway. I might have lost count.
Win Probability Graph:
It hit 100% before the game was over. Sure did.