Tonight, the Cardinals host the Cincinnati Reds for their final match of this, and the season, series. By now you’re familiar with the Cardinals’ drunken, shambling chase for a Wild Card berth. You may feel frustrated by this middling Birdos squad, but imagine being a Cincinnati fan: the Reds are objectively terrible. They comfortably hold last place in the NL Central with a 67-91 record, and were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention back on... [checks] May 3. Imagine a team so bad that you don’t bother getting frustrated. That is how a Redleg do.
With this knowledge, you might be surprised to learn the next thing: While the Cardinals have won many more games than the Reds, they have not done so against the Reds, as it were. The teams enter tonight’s contest tied in the season series, with 9 wins apiece. That’s sort of mystifying, especially given the Cardinals’ Biff Tannen impersonation against bad teams, but there it is. So while the Cardinals are seeking a series split tonight, it’s really the rubber match for the season. Sort of a metaphor for the season, too. If we win, it probably won’t be how you expected, even if you’d already adjusted your expectations.
Several interesting subplots backdrop tonight’s contest. Alex Reyes is starting, and if you’d told me in July that that would seem like the least interesting thing happening on September 29, I’d have called you a liar. Matheny is erratic, and recently received the dreaded vote of confidence from Bill DeWitt yesterday. Apropos of nothing, Tim Tebow hit a home run in his first professional at-bat for the Mets’ instructional league affiliate. The Cardinals are trying hard to catch the Giants, who graciously lost last night to keep us within a game. And all that obviously pales in comparison to real-world goings on in the baseball world. But my job is to recap this game, and by golly, that’s what I’ll do.
1st inning: Reyes mowed down the Reds. 3 up, 3 down. Randal Grichuk got a hit and reached third on an "infield hit" by Piscotty (it was an error) in the bottom of the frame, but the Cards couldn’t capitalize.
2nd inning: Adam Duvall annoyingly doubled and then reached third on a passed ball, then Tucker Barnhart annoyingly drove him in. Jedd Gyorko, trying hard to make up for his poor behavior last night, blasted a towering moonshot something like 450 feet into kingdom come to tie it back up.
3rd inning: Reyes faced the minimum despite giving up a hit to Jose Peraza. This was thanks to Yadier Molina’s howitzer-like assault on would-be base thieves. Birdos went quietly other than a Stephen Piscotty HBP.
4th inning: The Reds got a couple hits but no runs, praise be. Aledmys Diaz doubled to open the bottom of the inning. Jose Martinez moved him to third with a flyout to right, and Alex Reyes got his first big-league ribbie by grounding out. (Peraza had a play at the plate but bobbled the ball. It would’ve been close.) Cardinals lead, 2-1.
5th inning: Reyes kept cruising, walking something called a Renda but then striking out Dan Straily and inducing a double play from Peraza. Yadi got an insurance run with another long fly. In the words of Brother Bengie, adios, pelota! Cardinals lead, 3-1.
6th inning: Reyes got in some hot water, loading the bases with two outs. He worked his magic against Barnhart though, inducing a groundout to end the threat. Reyes ended his night with 6 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 2 BB, and 6 Ks. He’s shown an ability to be markedly more efficient than I think anybody could have hoped, and he’s nothing if not a very good MLB starter already. I’m really, really excited to watch this kid pitch for my team.
7th inning: Matt Bowman, you magnificent bastard. You struck out the side. I love you, too.
8th inning: Zach Duke came in to pitch, and he looks like he might be wearing down from overuse or something. He gave up a leadoff double to Joey Votto, who hurt his chin sliding into second. His pinch runner scored on an Adam Duvall single. Eugenio Suarez flied out, but Duvall advanced to second on a wild pitch. Duke walked De Jesus and he got the hook in favor of Kevin Siegrist. Siggy induced a couple of flyouts. When the dust cleared, the good guys found their lead smaller, but still holding strong – 3-2 Cardinals.
9th inning: Seung Hwan Oh came in to do his Final Boss thing. Grichuk misplayed a fliner off the bat of Miguel Cabrera's distant cousin, giving the man second base as part of a charity he runs for underprivileged Reds batsmen. Inspiring. Oh buckled down and struck out Peraza, then got Iribarren to ground out, moving Cabrera over to third. The unfortunately-named Scott Schebler stood in for Holt. Oh worked him to 1-2, then as Mike Shannon complained about how deep Gyorko was playing at third, Schebler hit a little squib down the third baseline. I call it a functional bunt, or a "funt" for short. Anyhow, Schebler funted, scoring Cabrera, tying the game, and causing Shannon to say "I hate to say I told you so, but I told you so." Oh struck out the next guy. Game Unnecessarily Tied, 3-3.
Hazelbaker grounded out. Marp walked. Grichuk K'd. Yadi drove one to deep left. Marp scored. The umpires milled around, then eventually walked away. Bryan Price finally (correctly) decided that Yadi's hit should have been a ground rule double, and followed the umps into the ump room, presumably to challenge the call on the field. The Cardinals began leaving the field. We won 4-3, I think.
- Cardinals stay alive to fight another day.
- Bryan Price's approach to challenge usage reminds me of Matheny's reliever usage from the 2014 NLCS.
- Giants are losing 2-0 at press time.
- I'd rather get an undeserved win than a well-deserved extra innings slog any day of the week.
- As my grandpa used to say, never pass up a cheap shot. I told you that you wouldn't expect the manner of the win!
- HAHAHAHAHAHA WE WON
Pirates come to town tomorrow to begin the Last Series of the 2016 Regular Season. Be there.