**Recapped over a cheese quesadilla and Erath pinot noir**
Something strange happened in twenty-sixteen
Something unlike any season I've seen
Cardinals hit the baseball
And it scaled the wall
Over and over and over, it seemed
Guys, I am the eternal optimist over here, but even I was sure we were doomed after the second inning. The Giants had a 2-0 lead, but it was the kind of lead that feels like 10-0. Michael Wacha, who started the game, seemed unable to throw a strike that was not a meatball, and you just kind of had the sense that the runs would slowly pile on until sometime four or five innings later, you'd look up and see suddenly the game was completely out of reach.
But I was totally wrong, and sometimes I love it when that happens.
Joe Panik started the scoring for the Giants in the first inning, doubling in Denard Span, who led with a walk. Panik did us a favor by trying to stretch the double into a triple, only to be unceremoniously thrown out by
one Yadier M.F. Molina. (More on his waning superpowers in a bit.) Wacha managed to get out of the inning with only one run scored, but troubles continued into the second. Brandon Crawford hit a double, and with two outs, Wacha intentionally walked eighth place hitter Jarrett Parker. Yes, you read that correctly. Let me say it again for those in the back. WITH TWO OUT, WACHA INTENTIONALLY WALKED THE EIGHTH PLACE, .194 BATTING AVERAGE, 73 wRC+ JARRETT PARKER WHOSE NAME I HAD LITERALLY NEVER HEARD UNTIL THAT MOMENT. If we seriously cannot trust Wacha to get an out there, in the second inning of a 1-0 game, what are we even doing here? But who knows, maybe I wouldn't be so up in arms about this if what happened next didn't happen. Jeff Samardzija lined a base hit to right field to score Crawford. That was actually the moment where, in the darkest timeline, I gave up on the 2016 season.
Crawford tripled in the fourth inning and scored on a sacrifice fly. The Giants were leading 3-0. Panik doubled in Span again in the fifth to make the score 4-0 (but who was even counting at that point?).
I ate my hat in the bottom of the inning. You guys, it was so great. I wasn't even mad at my second inning self for being such a doomer. Okay, so here's how it happened. Samardzija, by the way, had been cruising at this point. It was groundouts galore out there. Terrible. But so anyway, Brandon Moss led off the inning with a solo home run. Pretty cool, right? But barely a dent in the score, so even then it was like "well, this is that thing I can write about when I write about the silver linings of the game." Because Molina flew out and Kolten Wong flew out, and then Jeremy Hazelbaker came in to pinch hit for Wacha. And that is when the tides began to turn. Hazelbaker singled to left. Then Our Hero Matt Carpenter doubled, though Hazelbaker couldn't score from first. With a 3-0 count, Aledmys Diaz had the green light (or maybe took the green light) and absolutely crushed a ball that ricocheted off the left field foul pole for a three-run home run. Cue the curtain call and a tie ball game.
On the first pitch of the bottom of the sixth inning, Stephen Piscotty drove a ball into the right field bleachers. 5-4 Cardinals. Matt Adams hit another solo shot right after that. 6-4 Cardinals. And then, just like that, I knew we were going to win. And win we did. The Giants did not score again. We got one more run in the eighth after Brandon Moss tripled and scored on a Molina ground out. Moss, by the way, was 3-for-4 tonight and only a double short of the cycle. Pretty good night, I'd say!
1. How many recaps have I written this season that are some variation of "Cardinals win on home runs by Players A, B, and C," or "Long Ball Aids Cards' Victory," etc.? The Cardinals have hit 72 home runs this year - tied for fifth in baseball, tied for second in the NL. One of the things I love about baseball is how different every season is. Last year, it was all about the starting pitching. This year, our starters are essentially mediocre and we're hitting home runs like they're going out of style. It's the best. Oh, also? The Cardinals lead the National League in runs scored. Which is cool, but then you look at our record and you kind of scratch your head and go, "uhhhh....what."
2. Pretty worried about Molina. He's obviously pressing, and the national broadcast announcers discussed as much today, as well. I became worried when he grounded out late in the game yesterday and slammed his bat down in frustration. He has played more innings than any other catcher in baseball and its not even close (430.1 to Jonathan Lucroy's 394.1). With the off day Monday, I would really like to see Yadi get the day off tomorrow for some extended rest. By the way, those of you watching the national broadcast probably heard that group of guys yelling "Yadi! Yadi! Yadi!" every time he came up to bat. Then in the fifth inning, when he fouled a ball off his shin, in the distance you could hear an encouraging, "walk it off!!!"
3. Kudos to the Cardinals' bullpen tonight. Wacha was succeeded by Lyons, Oh, Siegrist, and (drum roll, please....) Rosenthal. Each of them threw a perfect or near-perfect inning (Span reached on an error in the eighth). From the sixth through ninth innings, the Giants had no hits, no walks, no runs. Rosenthal absolutely dominated, striking out two and hitting 100 mph on the gun. He threw just 11 pitches, only three of those were balls, and when he missed, he missed low in the zone. He looked like a completely different pitcher than the disaster we saw last night. Could there be something to this idea that Rosenthal simply needs more work?
4. I have so much more to say about this game, but the word count already exceeds 1000 and I am already super late in getting this thing published. I really hope that we take today's momentum into tomorrow's game, and perhaps, even, the rest of the season. Carlos Martinez takes the hill against Jake Peavy at 7:05 pm CT tomorrow night for the ESPN Sunday Night Game.