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Cardinals bullpen strikes out nine, allows no runs in 8-5 win over Astros

On the offensive side, Tommy Pham hit a two-run homer and Jedd Gyorko topped that with a three-run homer.

Bob Levey/Getty Images

The Cardinals got a gift tonight.  They won a game where their starting pitcher did not have it at all.  That's a gift to me: to be able to win a game where your starter does poorly enough to lose most games.  Jaime Garcia gave up five runs - admittedly the fifth run was because Mike Matheny tried to get an extra inning out of him with a four-run lead - and was lucky to have only given up five runs.  That's how bad he looked.

The Cardinals scored first.  Tommy Pham, who led off today because apparently we just can't have Matt Carpenter lead off for some reason, made Dallas Keuchel throw seven pitches and got a double for his efforts.  After Stephen Piscotty struck out looking, Carpenter hit a single to make it 1st and 3rd with one out.  A single by Brandon Moss that advanced Carpenter to third, and a groundout by Yadier Molina, made it 2-0 Cardinals.  A seven-pitch strikeout by Jhonny Peralta and Keuchel had 30 pitches after one.

Garcia though had just about the worst 18 pitches you can have to start an outing.  He hit George Springer on the second pitch, threw a wild pitch on the third one, allowed a two-run home run on the fourth pitch, allowed a single to Jose Altuve, committed a throwing error trying to pick off Altuve, and then walked Carlos Correa on 11 pitches.  However, the Astros were feeling a bit bad about this and wanted to help Garcia out.  Marwin Gonzalez bunted the runners over, because sure why not give a pitcher who can't get anybody out a free out?  Evan Gattis then popped out in foul territory and Teoscar Hernandez lined out to center to end the inning.  Again, thank you for the free out Astros.

Keuchel settled down a bit, but Garcia did not.  He walked two batters and evidently allowed an infield single to Alex Bregman.  Evidently.  It was a clear error by Greg Garcia and was originally called an error, but apparently they overturned it.  With the bases loaded, one out and Altuve up, things looked bleak.  But Altuve popped out on the first pitch and Garcia managed to get Correa to strike out looking after falling behind 3-0.  In the third, Gonzalez bombed a home run to lead off the inning.  You know the guy who bunted in the first.  Thanks again Astros!

After the third straight 1-2-3 inning by Keuchel, Garcia again ran into trouble in the 4th.  Jake Marisnick hit a leadoff double and found himself at 3rd with two outs and Altuve up.  You don't want to generally give Altuve a bunch of chances with baserunners on, because this time he came through and singled home the run.

In the 5th, Randal Grichuk was a bit fed up with the 1-2-3 innings, so he hit a one-out double.  That brought up Pham, who certainly didn't want to get shown up by his competition for CF.  So he hit a home run to right field.  Tie game 4-4.  Garcia had 74 pitches at this point, did not look good, ran into trouble each inning, and leading off was Gonzalez, the guy who homered off him last time.  Naturally Mike Matheny brought him back out.

Because baseball rewards incompetence, it worked out.  He pitched a 1-2-3 inning.  Keuchel, who had similarly been struggling, came back out for the 6th to face the heart of the order.  The Astros paid for their manager's incompetence.  He walked Carpenter and then allowed a single to Moss, to bring runners at the corner.  Former Cardinal Pat Neshek was brought in and he could have done better.  Molina hit a sharp groundball to Gonzalez who fielded the ball, tagged 1st, and tried to throw Carpenter out at home.  He did not succeed.  Peralta singled to bring up Gyorko with runners on the corner.  He hit an absolute bomb to dead center.

With 91 pitches, Garcia came back out for the 6th.  He allowed a home run to the first batter he faced.  So that was it for him.  Garcia allowed three home runs, and allowed so many baserunners that, despite giving up five runs, he had an 88.2% LOB rate.  I don't think I've seen that before.

Alex Reyes replaced him and he was exactly as advertised, shaky control and all.  He struck out Marisnick, with all three strikes being swinging-and-misses.  He walked Springer on four straight pitches.  Then he struck out Bergman looking and got Altuve to fly out.  In his second inning of work, he allowed a leadoff single, but then induced a groundball and struck out the last two batters.  For what it's worth, Reyes didn't quite look as good as his 4 K, BB outing says he did.  He couldn't really find the strike zone for most of his second inning and got a few calls from a large zone (three of his Ks were looking for whatever that's worth.)  But, you know, when you can strike out four when "you're off" you're pretty good at this pitching thing.

Cardinals threatened to add to the lead in the 9th with a one-out triple from Grichuk.  I'll say this: that is not a triple in Busch Stadium and I'm perplexed how it was a triple in Minute Maid.  Grichuk's fast, but the outfielder didn't misplay it or anything.  It was a park-assisted triple.  Seung Oh came to finish the game and he did.  Altuve got his 1,000th career hit in this inning.  Oh struck out the three other batters he faced.

WPA Graph

Source: FanGraphs


- Garcia final line: 5 IP, 5 ER, 7 hits, 3 BBs, 2 Ks, 3 HRs, 36.8 GB%, 12.54 FIP; I have no idea how he lasted five innings

- On the other side of spectrum, Keuchel got screwed.  He went 5 IP, struck out 7, walked one, and allowed one home run.  That comes out to a 3.54 FIP and a better xFIP.  He ended up getting charged with six runs.  That seems like his season in a nutshell.

- The Cardinals bullpen, including Zach Duke's scoreless inning: 4 IP, 9 Ks, BB, 2 hits - So I'm guessing the Astros strike out a lot, which makes Garcia's 2 K performance look even worse.

- Pham's weird season continues.  He hit a double and homered, but also struck out three times.  He sure strikes out a lot, but also seems to get extra-base hits whenever he gets a hit.

- Speaking of extra base hits, Grichuk got two: a double and a triple and Gyorko homered for his only hit of the game.  Surprisingly, Moss singled twice and had no extra base hits.

- Molina was pretty lazy defensively tonight, not even trying on the two wild pitches.  He just kind of half-heartedly stuck out his glove out without any real effort.

- Lots of Cards fans in the seats for whatever reason

Tomorrow the Cardinals go for the two-game sweep.  The Cardinals will send out Carlos Martinez, and the Astros will send out Doug Fister.  Please for all that is good do not get shut down by Fister again, because that is frustrating.