Carlos Martinez vs Scott Kazmir in the 2nd game of a three game set.
This game had nearly every 2016 Cardinal trope so far: subpar defense, a pinch-hit home run, an unimpressive outing against a good team, squandered opportunities...
The Cardinals defensive issues reared their head early tonight - and by early, I mean on the very first batter of the game. Brandon Moss made an error on a routine grounder to lead off the game. Luckily, Martinez was able to erase the error by inducing a 4-6-3 double play on the next batter. Then in the second, Martinez failed to cleanly field a trickler down the first base line and overthrew Moss at first. That was also erased by a double play.
The Cardinals had a great chance to get something going in the 3rd - Jedd Gyorko led off the inning with a single. After Aledmys Diaz hit into a force out at second, Martinez was up next and was showing bunt, but swung away to tap a grounder to Corey Seager, who couldn't hold onto it. With 2 on and one out, Matt Carpenter inexplicably bunted, giving the Dodgers a free out. (You'll notice in the WPA graph below that it was one of the highest leverage PAs of the game.) Stephen Piscotty was then retired on a check swing that dribbled the ball into the infield.
In the 4th inning, Baseball Wario (Adrian Gonzalez) hit a solo shot for the first score of the game. However, the next inning, the Cardinals were able to get the run right back with a Carlos Martinez sac fly to score Gyorko, who reached on the 2nd error of the night by Seager and later advanced on a wild pitch.
And then the bottom of the 5th happened. Carl Crawford led off the inning by drawing a walk (he of the 4.2% BB%). Kazmir then placed a sharp bunt into the luckiest of possible positions, getting past Martinez for a hit. Chase Utley then walked to load the bases with no outs. Corey Seager singled to score Crawford - the Dodgers chose not to test Piscotty's arm and held up Kazmir. It made no difference, as Justin Turner then hit a sacrifice fly to RF to score Kazmir. Next, Adrian Gonzalez hit a grounder straight up the first base line that Moss could have chosen to go home with or attempt a 3-6-3 double play, but he somewhat perplexingly chose to just take the ball back to first himself and allow Utley to score. Mercifully, Yasmani Grandal then grounded out to Diaz to end Martinez's 40 pitch inning.
On a brighter note, Martinez was absolutely torching the ball, touching 101(!!) at one point and consistently hitting the high 90s. His average velocity on the 30 four seam fastballs he threw tonight was an incredible 97.7 mph.
Martinez would not return to pitch the 6th, as Dean Kiekhefer came in to make his major league debut. Kiekhefer struck out 4 of his first 5 batters faced, but was pulled in the 7th after giving up a solo shot to Seager. Seung-Hwan Oh relieved him and pitched an uneventful 1.1 innings. Kiekhefer became the first Cardinal reliever to strikeout 4 or more in his debut since Kevin Siegrist. Kiekhefer's strikezone plot:
The Cardinals attempted to make it interesting with 2 outs in the 9th, denying Kazmir the opportunity to get a complete game. Randal Grichuk got his second hit of the evening on a ball that was inches from being fielded by Kazmir, and he was followed by a pinch-hit homer by Jeremy Hazelbaker. Kenley Jansen then came in to strike out Diaz to close the game out.
Other notes: Yasiel Puig took a hit away from Yadier Molina with a fantastic diving catch in the 2nd.