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Cards Drop Opener in Yankee Stadium

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In a battle of yesteryear’s titans, the Yankees scraped out a win by the slimmest of margins while the Cardinals dropped to .300 on the season.

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at New York Yankees
This turned out to be decisive.
Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Pregame

The Cardinals play the Yankees tonight. There are thousands of reasons why this is awesome.

First, the obvious. Matt Holliday was a Cardinal until last year. He is now a Yankee. He is on a tear to begin the season, while we are inexplicably starting Matt Adams where he used to play in 40% of our games. Matt’s tenure with the Cardinals was Hall of Awesome material. His departure was emotional. We all wish him the best, and wish he was still wearing the Birds on the Bat. But he is our foe tonight, so I personally wish him a 3-game slump. Nothing personal, of course.

Second, the historic. The Cardinals have the second-most championships since MLB was a thing, with 11. I don’t need to tell you that the only club that surpasses them wears pinstripes. Before interleague play began, the only times these juggernauts met, a title was on the line. The last was in 1964:

“The 1964 World Series pitted the National League champion St. Louis Cardinals against the American League champion New York Yankees, with the Cardinals prevailing in seven games. St. Louis won their seventh world championship, while the Yankees, who had appeared in 14 of 16 World Series since 1949, did not play in the Series again until 1976.

“In an unusual twist, the Yankees fired Yogi Berra after the Series ended, replacing him with Johnny Keane, who had resigned from the Cardinals after the Series. His job had been threatened by Cardinals management, and it was unexpectedly saved by the Cardinals' dramatic pennant drive.

“This was also the last World Series that matched the Yankees up against the Cardinals; in the previous four meetings, each team had won twice, with the Yankees winning in 1928 and 1943, and the Cardinals in 1926 and 1942.

“This pennant for the Yankees concluded their remarkable run of 15 World Series appearances over 18 years. Indeed, they had won 29 American League championships in the 44-year span from 1921 through 1964.”

I really can’t top Wikipedia’s summary. The Series was the stuff of legends, as many of you are no doubt aware. It culminated with Bob Gibson’s victory over Mel Stottlemyre (future pitching coach and father of future Cardinal Todd Stottlemyre) in Game 7 by a score of 7-5. The Yankees may have 27 championships to our 11, but we top them 3-2 head to head.

Ha.

Third, there is this.

According to SBNation (long may he reign), the Yankees are the only team more villainous than the Cardinals. If Darth Vader and the Joker fought, you’d pay attention. Fortunately, you have something better! The Cardinals and the Yankees are fighting.

Fourth and finally, there is the personal angle. I have attended games at four MLB parks: Busch II, Busch III, Citizens Bank, and Yankee Stadium II. The first time I went to Yankee Stadium, this happened:

It was a Yankees-Phillies game in 2015 and I heckled the hell out of Cole Hamels (encouraging him to become a Cardinal) and Jonathan Papelbon (encouraging him to do a lot of things I probably can’t repeat here). And lest ye worry that I was wearing a Yankees shirt, it had this guy on the back:

See? Not a traitor. I would only wear a Yankees shirsey if it was secretly a Cardinals legend like Carlos Beltran.

I will leave the Cardinals permanently if Matt Adams accrues 15 starts in LF in 2017.

Ha! Ha! Haha! Enough about me though. The pitcher tonight is TanakaWacha, or Masahiro Tanaka vs. Michael Wacha. Both are awesome pitchers - Wacha has his scapula, Tanaka has his 10% UCL tear and his old age. We shall see who prevails. Lineups:

The Game

First Inning

Tanaka came in throwing meatballs. Well, not all meatballs. His velocity is up this year, but his command appears to be down, and sometimes his breaking balls aren’t breaking. Aledmys Diaz challenged Ronald Torreyes and beat him with an infield single. Then, after thrusting his hips into the air enough to satisfy himself, Matt Carpenter drove Diaz in (along with himself) with a nice dinger. This was Carp’s first dinger of the year, and it was welcome. Good guys lead, 2-0.

But then, the bottom part of the inning occurred. Wacha walked Brett Gardner, and ex-LOLCub Starlin Castro went oppo over the Yankee Stadium RF porch. Holliday K’d. :’( So did Chase Headley and Aaron Judge. Tied just as quickly, 2-2.

Third Inning

Something called an Austin Romine hit a solo dinger. Tied no longer, 3-2 Yankees. (Holliday K’d again. :’( )

Fifth Inning

Holliday flied out. :’( Jacoby Ellsbury revealed that he still plays baseball by singling, and Chase Headley doubled him in with a little help from a throwing error by Kolten Wong on the relay. (It was sort of borderline - it was a tough play. But the throw was not on target.)

Seventh Inning

The wheels came off for Tanaka in the top of the frame. Matt Adams led off the inning with his first hit, which was of course an infield single. (It was a broken bat job off the tip of the bat, against the shift. But let’s pretend it was because Adams lost 200 pounds in the offseason and is now really fast.) Molina traded places with him with an FC 6-4. Peralta walked, then Randal Grichuk Churchilled a double to score Molina. Good guys pull closer, 4-3.

At this point, Joe Girardi unfortunately had the good sense to pull Tanaka for Tyler Clippard. He induced a weak flyout from Kolten Wong and a Warning Track Blast from Dexter Fowler, who is still sort of struggling. This hit was good! But it’s cold in NYC tonight, and it didn’t carry quite far enough to make itself a 2-run HR.

Matt Bowman relieved Wacha in the bottom of the frame, and worked a 1-2-3 inning. (Holliday K’d again :’( ). Wacha’s final line: 6 IP, 9 H, 4 R, 2 BB, 8 K, 2 HR. A very mixed line, owing at least partly to that short RF porch in Yankee Stadium. If you figure that three of Wacha’s 4 runs allowed were on dingers to right, you can almost squint and see a good start. But we played in Yankee Stadium, so dingers to right come with the territory. Accordingly, Wacha’s 8 K, 2 BB start was... not great.

Eighth Inning

Large human Dellin Betances shut down the Cardinals. Normal human Kevin Siegrist shut down the Yankees (less convincingly - his third out came with runners on second and third.)

Ninth Inning

I’d like to tell you the Cardinals caught the Yankees and punished them brutally for their earlier recalcitrance. I’d like to tell you they came back and won the freaking game. I would LOVE to tell you that human garbage Aroldis Chapman blew the save, that Molina and Peralta and whomever else walked that garbage off.

Instead, Molina struck out and Peralta flied out weakly. Randal Grichuk worked a walk though! And then jilted Spring Training Hero Jose Martinez stepped in to pinch hit. He worked a glorious at-bat against Chapman, ultimately knocking a double and advancing the tying run to third.

Then Fowler grounded out to old friend Starlin Castro. Evil Empire wins, 4-3.

Postgame

— The Cardinals are now 3-7 on the season.

— Matt Holliday was consistently one of the biggest guys on the Cardinals during his tenure here. On the Yankees, he is at best fifth largest. This is because he is on the same team as Chris Carter, Michael Pineda, Dellin Betances, and Aaron Judge. For reference, here is average-sized human Ronald Torreyes beside Aaron Judge:

I did a little bit of research on how Aaron Judge got so freaking big and this is what I learned:

— The Cardinals have now lost one of their obligatory two losses against the team they are playing this series. there is a 50% chance they will win tomorrow, and a 40%ish chance that Matthew Adams will start in left field.

— This game could have gone either way. Unfortunately, this made the Yankees’ fifth win in a row and our seventh loss on the season. I would try harder to make it entertaining, but dang it, I’m human and I’ve got a whole season of Fridays to think about. Sorry.

Please watch tomorrow. It should be Carlos Martinez against somebody on the Yankees who is a) not as cool, b) not as talented, c) possessing less extension than El Gallo.