The Cardinals played the Braves at Turner Field tonight. They won 7-4, powered by fun new guys who started the game on the bench. Here's how it happened:
Meet The Teams
Craig previewed this three-game series today, but in case you missed it, here's a highly abbreviated version:
The 2016 Braves are, outside of Freddie Freeman and Julio Teheran, the definition of "ragtag." They’re rebuilding, and probably have just about bottomed out. Good future, bad team. What I'm saying is that they're bad and easy to beat. No pressure though.
The 2016 Cardinals are ????????????. They hadn't won yet coming in.
A Word About The Lineup
Matt Wisler started for the Braves. He was only 22 last year, but over 108 innings he was one of the worst SP in baseball (4.93 FIP and 5.10 xFIP). That's because he performed disastrously vs. lefties: he walked more of them than he struck out, and the rest crushed him. Seriously, just look how extreme his '15 splits were. He turned the average lefty into Paul Goldschmidt and righties into Freddy Galvis. 108 innings isn't many, but as farm system maven ebo reports, this wasn't a new issue in the majors.
The Cardinals, happily, have six lefty hitters on the roster! But I guess Mike Matheny threw out the stat pack again, because he only started three of them, plus Jaime Garcia. Here's the lineup:
J Garcia P
It occurs to your lowly recapper that this was unwise; were the recapper attempting to build a Cardinals lineup with the desire to quietly do Matt Wisler a favor without being too obvious about it, this lineup would be a strong attempt. But anyway.
This game felt like one of those faux "must-wins" that you know isn't really, but... there's a losing streak, and the Braves are bad, and Jaime's good, and surely we can win this one, right? So it didn't feel good when the game started poorly. The Cards threatened right away in the first, after a Holliday double and Adams HBP. But Randal Grichuk -- back in the lineup after a game off to "work on some issues with his swing" per the TV crew -- struck out to end the threat. Jedd Gyorko kicked the bottom of the first off with two errors a row, including booting a tailor-made GIDP. Fortunately Jaime got out of the inning unscathed with a 5-4-3 double play (i.e. the kind he didn't need Gyorko for). But damn, this had a familiar STOP LOSING feel already.
It got worse before it got better. Garcia gave up a couple singles and got into some trouble in the 3rd, and couldn't quite get out of it. With two outs, a run in, and a man on third, Matheny (clearly playing the percentages) called for an intentional walk to 30-year-old journeyman Adonis Garcia to get a lefty-on-lefty matchup. But Nick Markakis singled in a second run, then Hector Olivera hit a pop fly into center that Grichuk got to but didn't catch (it's a play a plus CF probably makes, and he almost made it, so, ?) and a third run scored.
After yet another hit -- which scored the IBB'd Garcia -- it was 4-0 Braves and we were all drinking bourbon in the dark.
But the Cards struck back right away with three runs of their own in the next half inning. The rally was started by a leadoff Holliday double, and capped off by an infield single by FIERY SPEED DEMON Jaime Garcia. In between there were some cheap hits, but those count, so hey. When we complain about bad-BABIP games, let's remember these innings, too.
The teams then traded boring zeroes until the 7th inning. That's when Jeremy Hazelbaker -- who piled up over 3000 minor-league PAs before finally making the majors with his third organization, at age 28 -- came left-handedly off the bench to face Wisler. He hit a laser home run, his second of the season, out to right-center to tie it.
An inning later, Cuban import Aledmys Diaz, called up when Tommy Pham went on the DL after game #1, came off the bench and did this. Look at that happy guy! So great. 5-4 Cards.
The Cards bullpen was nails. Jaime settled in after the 3rd (final line: 6 IP, 5 H, 2 BB, 1 IBB, 6 K, 4 runs), and then Oh
(who got the win), Siegrist (who got the win), and Rosenthal put up a clean final three innings. This might be a pretty good back end of the bullpen, gang. Greg Garcia (really!) and Piscotty added insurance dingers in the top of the 9th, but Rosie didn't need it. Three guys tried to hit him in the 9th. One of them managed to put it in play, but that dude grounded out.
Cards win 7-4.
Player Of The Game
Jeredmys Diazelbaker. Tall, exotic, plays all the positions, switch hits, runs like wind, doesn't duck the Martinez home run shower like a coward (you know what you did Stephen), very comfortable hitting against the marginal big-leaguers Atlanta's fielding these days, and probably in line for more playing time. Go be a hero, Jeredmys.
The Inaugural Friday Night Comment Of The Game(thread)
Solid burn. Randal was 0-4 with 2 Ks.
Things I Couldn't Fit In Otherwise
- Yadier Molina set the all-time Cardinals record tonight for games played at catcher, with 1,440. Very cool, and congrats Yadi. Will he take a day off to celebrate? (No. Never.)
- Matt Holliday: doubles machine. 2-5, 2 2B. 38 to go this year.
- Wong had one of his jump throws in the 5th. Danny Mac picked out something cool: Wong did a little stutter-step to set himself up to take the ball in stride. The alternative on that ball is get there as quickly as possible, plant, and throw -- but I guess he likes the jump throw! See:
- Matheny was aggressive with challenges. This is a good thing; he's underused them in the past. There's no penalty for being wrong, and you can always ask for more, so might as well use 'em up.
- After Carpenter followed Hazelbaker's homer in the 7th with a scorched single, the Braves VERY CONFUSINGLY pulled Wisler out for somebody named Dan Winkler. The audience eventually caught on and corrected their careful notes. Wisler went 6 2/3 and gave up 4 runs. Wisler vs. RHH tonight: 3-15, 0 bb, 4 k. Wisler vs. LHH: 4-11, 1 bb, 1 HBP, 1k, 1 HR. Just sayin'.
- The Cardinals became the first team in history to record three pinch-hit homers in the same game, apparently. Neat!