This was probably not the blueprint for how the Cardinals expected to win this game. Jaime Garcia didn't last two innings, which required that the bullpen fill the remaining 7+ innings. I don't know if you've seen the Cardinals bullpen lately or seen the Cubs' offense this year, but that doesn't seem like a good recipe for a win. Luckily, the Cardinals had saved Alex Reyes specifically for this game. That's my theory anyway. And Jason Hammel was pitching for the Cubs and he's not really that great.
Things started poorly for Garcia. Dexter Fowler let Garcia pitch himself into a 3-1 count and then launched a home run when he saw a pitch go right down the middle. That's what good leadoff hitters do. He actually looked pretty good the rest of the inning: groundout from Kris Bryant, a lineout by Anthony Rizzo on a pitch below the strike zone, and a strikeout by Jorge Soler. So there was reason for optimism.
This optimism was quickly dashed in the 2nd inning. He quickly fell behind 3-1 on Ben Zobrist to begin the inning, but this time, he only walked him. Addison Russell lined a double down the left-field line that scored Zobrist and the Cubs had two runs already. Raise your hand if you thought that was the last run the Cubs would score this game. None of your hands should be raised. Garcia got the next two guys out and then Hammel got on base on an error from Diaz. It was a difficult play but should have been made. He then walked Fowler on four straight pitches to load the bases. Then Mike took him out.
So clearly there was a plan before the game for something like this. Look at the above and tell me that isn't a REALLY quick hook. There were some hard hit balls and he walked two guys, buuuut he's only taken out because of how he's pitched the last month. Obviously. So there was always a plan to take him out in favor of Reyes once something like this happened. That's probably why Reyes hasn't been used in a week. Anyway, Reyes struck out Bryant with the bases loaded, because apparently Bryant has been bad in "clutch" situations. (This is actually true)
Thus far, as VEB's own Joe Schwarz noted on Twitter, Hammel hadn't looked great. He was leaving pitches over the middle of the plate. But the Cardinals weren't taking advantage. Until the 3rd inning. With two outs and nobody on, Brandon Moss hit a line drive over the second baseman who was standing in short right field. Then Hammel missed location badly and begged Aledmys Diaz to crush the ball. Diaz obliged. In his first start back from the DL, Diaz hit a two-run home run. All of a sudden, the Cardinals had a fresh Alex Reyes and a tie game. I like my odds in that game.
However, Reyes didn't actually pitch very good. Obviously, he didn't allow any runs because well you saw the score. But he walked six guys and struck out four. This is the downside of Reyes in the rotation. He couldn't find the strike zone most of the night and didn't seem to know where his pitches would go. Luckily, the Cubs didn't know where his pitches were going either. He walked two guys in the 4th, and walked the bases loaded in the 5th. He struck nobody out in either of those innings. So he was pretty fortunate to not allow any runs.
The Cardinals had another opportunity to score in the 4th when Hammel momentarily lost control. With two outs, he walked Moss and Diaz back-to-back to bring up the pitcher's spot. Reyes was up. I personally take him out there because he hadn't looked good to that point and because that was a prime scoring opportunity. However, if you look at this game as a de facto start, it makes more sense that he stayed in. So I'm not criticizing. If he remains in the bullpen, then yeah that makes less sense to me.
So he stayed in and then he actually started pitching good. He sandwiched a walk in the 5th with two strikeouts. He pitched a clean 6th with a strikeout and no walks (and gave up his first hit of the game to Bryant.) At this point he had a whopping 85 pitches. 85! He had only completed 4.1 IP. I'm not too worried about him lasting long going forward because it's a larger bullpen and we really only need 4 good innings out of him or so. But still. That's a lot of pitches!
In the bottom half of the 6th, Yadier Molina hit a 1-out single. With two outs, Moss was up to the plate again. He saw a pitch he liked and hit his first home-run since August 25th. 4-2 Cards. Matt Bowman came into the game and pitched two scoreless innings that only required 24 pitches to complete. He came out for the second because the first only lasted 9 pitches and because Sueng-Hwan Oh was evidently unavailable again.
In the bottom half of the 7th, the Cardinals threatened again. Randal Grichuk walked and Piscotty hit a rope up the middle. But then Piscotty did a thing that afflicts many Cardinals baserunners. He forgot how to baseball. On a 1-1 pitch that ended up being a strike, Piscotty was for some reason halfway betweet 1st and 2nd. At least, that's my presumption. Willson Contreras threw it over to first and Piscotty was still about 5 feet from touching 1st base. This was a strike. I have no idea what Piscotty was doing. Contreras made a nice throw, but pretty much any defensive catcher worth his salt would have EASILY thrown him out. It was that bad. Adams proceeded to stare at a pitch right down the middle to end the inning.
Kevin Siegrist came in to get the save against the top of the Cubs' order and there were no theatrics. He got a groundout to the pitcher, a strikeout, and a pop-up to the catcher. As Al Hrabosky has probably told me 17,000 times tonight, the Cubs cannot clinch in St. Louis.
- Jaime Garcia line: 1.2 IP, 2 ER, 3 hits, 2 BBs, K, HR; Also Reyes' line: 4.1 IP, 4 Ks, 6 BBs, 1 hit
- Brandon Moss looked like the Brandon Moss we've seen most of this year and not the Brandon Moss who strikes out in half of his PAs. He went 2-3 with a BB and a HR.
- Aledmys Diaz got on base every time he came to the plate. He went 2-2 with a BB and a HR. The other hit was an infield hit. You, random reader, are probably not surprised by that.
- Most of this is due to Reyes, but the Cardinals walked 8 Cubs tonight. Let's not do that tomorrow, or better yet, for the rest of the year preferably. Usually, you lose games where you walk eight players.
Tomorrow, the Cardinals go for the series win over the Cubs. It won't be easy. Jon Lester takes the mound for the Cubs. Carlos Martinez opposes him. It should be a lot of fun.