The Cardinals headed into Miller Park today following a disappointing series vs the A's at home. Miller Park should be just the place to right the ship - the Cards have had huge success there since 2012 (29-12 record).
Kolten Wong gets his first start since August 19th, and Matt Carpenter shifts to 1B.
A very good case can be made that baby-faced Zach Davies (who has an intermittent case of Luke Weaver Ill-Advised Facial Hair Syndrome) is the best current starter on the Brewers. Coming into tonight, he sported an ERA/FIP/SIERA of 4.03/3.92/4.20 and a respectable 2.3 BB/9, despite a weak August.
The Cardinals weak underbelly this season has been its defense (okay, one of its weak underbellies), so Carlos Martinez decided to circumvent this issue tonight by dealing nearly exclusively in strikeouts. Over his six innings pitches, he gave up only 4 hits (two of which were very weak contact - an infield dribbler by Ryan Braun and a swinging bunt against the shift by Kirk Nieuwenhuis), allowed one earned run, and recorded an incredible 13 Ks. His strikeout total tonight set a career record for him, edging out his previous high of 11 Ks (which he accomplished in his last start against the Brewers). Not one ball would even make it in the air against Martinez tonight. Other than back to back walks in the second inning, Martinez looked in sharp control of his arsenal all night and mixed his offerings well (see the pitch speed graph below).
Davies also put up some respectable K numbers - he went 6.1 innings and fanned 9 Cardinal batters. However, he did give up 7 hits and 3 earned runs. The first run was nearly erased - after back to back singles by Stephen Piscotty and Yadier Molina, Jhonny Peralta hit a grounder that trapped Piscotty in a rundown between 3rd and home. However, catcher Martin Maldonado hesitated just a moment too long in chasing Piscotty, who was able to dive back into third safely.
The other two runs off Davies would come via the 2016 Cardinals bread and butter: the dinger. In the 5th inning, Gyorko took one deep, ho-hum, what else is new, for his 23rd home run of the season (and his 8th over his last 15 games). More surprisingly, Kolten Wong also homered off Davies with a long shot to right field in the 7th inning, for his third home run of the season.
Matt Bowman would replace Martinez in the seventh inning and promptly started the downward spiral with a home run to Orlando Arcia (he of the .284 SLG), a walk to Martin Maldonado (whose batting average hovers right around .2000, and a single by Domingo Santana (and his 96 wRC+). Kevin Siegrist, whose struggles have flown somewhat under the radar this year with all the other bullpen issues, came in to relieve Bowman and promptly gave up the lead with a double to Jonathan Villar and an infield single by Scooter Gennett. Braun would walk to load the bases and the Hernan Perez would walk, bringing in another run. Miguel Socolovich mercifully came in and got the final two outs, marking another instance of Soco looking strong in contrast to the beleaguered pitcher before him.
Most perplexing of the entire catastrophic implosion of the 7th inning: Matheny made a double switch when taking out Bowman, bringing in Tommy Pham to play left field. However, this meant switching out his number 3 hitter in a situation where the pitcher's spot was due up the next inning. I know we joke about this, but I'm beginning to feel more comfortable saying that Mike Matheny does not actually understand what a double switch is or why one would use one.
In the bottom of the 7th, the whimsical hand of fate dealt Matheny a reprieve: a base hit by Peralta was followed by a massive line drive of a home run by Randal Grichuk on a 95 mph fastball right down the middle of the plate. You may ask why pitchers keep throwing fastballs to a hitter who has shown the pitch discernment skills of Pedro Cerrano, but I guess you can't help everybody LOL GOD BLESS
After a Kolten Wong single, steal of 2nd, and advancement on a throwing error, the Brewers made the interesting choice to intentionally walk Matt Carpenter to get to red hot Jedd Gyorko, but the gamble paid off as Gyorko struck out to end the inning.
After Socolovich struck out the side in the 8th, pinch hitter Greg Garcia would lead things off in the 9th with a double to left. Garcia has been stellar as a pinch hitter this year, going 6 for 18. Piscotty would then walk to put runners on 1st and 2nd. Molina was then called on to bunt (ostensibly to prevent the double play). Molina would lay the bunt down to Villar, who would get Garcia out at third but then dramatically overthrow first, leading to a two base error that would score Piscotty. Cardinals take the lead 6-5 under improbable circumstances (although I guess with this being Villar's 25th error, not THAT improbable).
Seung-Hwan Oh closed things out with a quick 9th. Soco gets the win.
Player of the Game: Kolten Wong. Just a day after a damning article by Rob Rains on his treatment by the Cardinals this year appeared, Wong came through twice for the Cardinals offensively and made several strong defensive plays. Show off your moves, Kolten:
Cardinals and Brewers do it again tomorrow night.