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Familiar Mistakes Cost Cards Series Opener

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Martinez’s first homer, Fowler’s flair were both enough for extras, but a late inning blunder came back to haunt the club in a 6-5, 11 inning loss

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at St. Louis Cardinals Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Here’s a visual representation of Tuesday night’s game for the Cardinals...

So close, multiple times, but just over their heads. Coghlan’s acrobatics accounted for the prettiest of the Blue Jays’ six runs, resembling a certain tumble from last season that Matt Carpenter and the Redbirds remember so very well.

A third comeback wasn’t on the agenda as Matheny’s club dropped their fourth consecutive interleague assignment of this young season in 11 innings. This one after clawing back twice from the grave. Michael Wacha and Matt Bowman each allowed a pair of runs, but the bigger slip-ups came on a Jose Bautista go-ahead single in the ninth and an wild throw in the 11th, the latter allowing the game’s deciding run to score.

While it’s tough to stomach a loss to baseball’s worst team on a night when Wacha throws six strong, there were some signs of life hidden among the issues that will surely bubble to the surface.

Two Comebacks

The first came in the seventh inning after Bowman’s first hiccup of the season. Down by two runs with nine outs to spare, Jose Martinez took Joe Biagini deep for his first career home run. Perfectly timed, the ‘oppo taco’ was a shot into the right field bullpen on a 2-1 cutter middle-away. Martinez went with the pitch beautifully, coming up clutch in a big spot.

The second comeback was in the bottom of the ninth after Brett Cecil threw wide on a pickoff attempt, allowing Kevin Pillar to advance to third base with nobody out. A big strikeout of Steve Pearce led to an attempt to pitch around Jose Bautista in hopes of setting up a double play. After running Bautista to 0-2 on changeups away, Cecil got greedy and left a weak curveball on Bautista’s hands. Even the struggling righty knew what to do with it.

When the Cardinals came up in the bottom of the ninth, Randal Grichuck singled to right and advanced to third on a sac bunt and sharp groundout. This brought Dexter Fowler to the plate, who willed a ball past the third basemen Barney’s outstretched glove and into no man’s land to tie the game at 5-5.

Our final episode, which we already know ends in defeat, brought forward Martinez in the bottom of the 11th inning, with the game’s tying run on second in the form of Grichuk. Although Martinez got jammed on a good fastball, he managed to get enough of the barrel on the ball to poke it out to Kevin Pillar, who made a nice play to cap off the extra inning battle.

Final score 6-5. Round one goes to the ‘Donaldson and Tulo-less’ Toronto Blue Jays.

Mistakes

Two stand out most when looking at the 4 total errors the Cardinals committed:

  1. Brett Cecil’s failed pickoff attempt in the top of the ninth inning - While I understand the want to place the blame on the unexperienced first basemen Jose Martinez, this is a throw that I don’t think Matt Carpenter or almost any first basemen would’ve stopped from running wild.
  2. Aledmys Diaz’s errant throw in the top of the 11th - This one the blame can be placed on Martinez, even though the error is charged to the shortstop. Diaz’s throw was wild, but the correct play is to get off the bag and do everything in your power to block the ball, knowing the runner was only advancing to third on the play (as it was a pitcher running in Marcus Stroman - more on him in the ‘Notes’). Instead, it snuck by Martinez and the runner came in to score the game’s deciding run.

Wacha Strong

Hurling six innings of two run ball, Wacha’s start was a decent mixture of command, rebound, and confidence. Each of his four starts this season have resulted in at least six innings of work. Tuesday night’s performance was no different, this one best resembling his first start of the season against the Reds, both with identical 6/1 strikeout to walk ratios.

The most impressive aspect of this start was the rebound for the fifth and sixth innings, after Wacha labored in the fourth. Facing eight batters and allowing his two runs on four singles isn’t necessarily getting beaten up, but it’s sometimes enough to rattle the psyche of pitcher as he faces a lineup a second time in a given game. All four of his pitches working on the night allowed him to ease through the fifth and have just enough in the tank to get through the sixth, leaving the tied at 2-2

Notes

  • The most crushing part of this loss is that starting pitcher Marcus Stroman doubled off Miguel Socolovich in the 11th inning. It was the first hit of his career, as he laid his bat head in the zone on a poorly thrown slider. Stroman then came around to score on the errant throw by Aledmys Diaz, which ties him with Chris Owings and Tim Anderson among shortstops for the league lead in throwing errors.
  • Interleague play seems to be a perpetual curse for the National League, as they’ve dropped the ‘season series’ versus the American League each of the last 13 seasons. Last season the AL had a winning percentage of .557 versus the NL, the second highest since 2008.
  • The ‘reunion’ series here for the Cardinals, as they faced Pirates’ ex-closer Jason Grilli in extras, got an extended look at former Cubs utility-man Darwin Barney, and square off against the once intimidating arm of Mat Latos on Wednesday night.
  • According to Fangraph’s WPA model, Fowler’s single in the ninth was unsurprisingly the biggest play of the game with a +.403 WPA added. Kolten Wong grounding into a double play in the fourth inning of a tie game, was the biggest blunder (-.175 WPA).