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Cardinals Sport ‘67 Unis, Drop Battle with Sox

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Three more errors, lack of late life down Redbirds as they fall 6-3 in history-laden matchup with Red Sox.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at St. Louis Cardinals Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Wacky start to an abbreviated, two game series with the Boston Red Sox, Lance Lynn hurled six innings for the fourth time in five starts en route to a 6-3 loss. Two early home runs put the Sox ahead, while the Cardinals mustered all their magic in one, three-run inning, only to see their only lead vanish two innings later.

The last time Boston ventured to Busch Stadium for a regular season game was in 2014, and as I’m sure we all know too well, the recent memories of the World Series losses from 2013 and 2004 never fade. Matheny’s club was 8-1 in their last nine games before this defeat, but the Red Sox historically steady cadence in interleague bouts won out once more. Important note: we’re even with the Sox in all time World Series Matchups!

This game also featured jerseys akin to the 1967 World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals (on Boston’s side as well, whom St. Louis bested in ‘67), as the 50th anniversary of that historic team will continue to be recognized in Wednesday’s matchup.

After tomorrow’s showdown, Cardinal nation will venture to Fenway in the middle of August (15-16th) for another two game set. For the weekend, they’ll stay home to face the Bumgarner-less San Francisco Giants.

Turning Point

One of the bigger pivots in this game came in the top of the eighth inning, as the Cardinals trailed by only one run (4-3).

It seems as though my Tuesday recaps perpetually coincide with a Brett Cecil outing, and mediocre is the most common word in my writing because of such events. The southpaw has allowed multiple runners to reach base in each of his last six outings, leaving him with a grotesque 5+ ERA and 4.5+ FIP as he struggles to find his footing in his first season with the Cardinals.

Possessing one of the league’s best curveballs over the last few years, Cecil has opted to throw the hook less than 31% of the time this season, lower than any of his repertoire breakdowns since 2012. Opting for more reliance on his changeup this year (+14% usage from 2016), Cecil hasn’t found his groove with the new makeup. While the whiff rate on his curve is still healthy, the philosophical change in approach has not been encouraging. I still have my fingers crossed that he’ll figure it out, but at this point, I cringe every time Matheny brings in Cecil only down by a run or two, fearful it will become a three or more run deficit as it did tonight - albeit, not entirely Cecil’s fault.

Matheny went Sam Tuivailala - Brett Cecil - Miguel Socolovich in the eighth, with Cecil walking Andrew Benintendi and Mitch Moreland on a combined nine pitches. A sac fly off Socolovich allowed one run to score, the next scoring on an odd Tommy Pham error, which he recovered from making, and in the process netting himself an unnecessary assist on a play at the plate.

It may seem insignificant, but with the bounces and plays we saw in this game, 4-3 with six outs to play with would have been substantially different from the 6-3 score the game finished, especially with 2 innings off Red Sox relievers not named Craig Kimbrel to face (who earned his 12th save of the season on eight pitches).

Offense

Three runs all scored in the third inning, started by a Dexter Fowler RBI double. Fowler had zero hits in his last nine trips to the plate before today’s game, and even if the OBP isn’t up to par with what is expected, we’re only halfway through May and I have some hope the Gold Glove Outfielder will come around with his bat for some high-level reasons (hard hit rate up, fly balls up, BABIP low, etc).

The Cardinals’ second and third runs both came on sacrifice flies, by Tommy Pham and Matt Carpenter. Pham now has hits in all but two of his ten starts this season, while Carpenter is slugging near .700, as his season rounds into form. With Stephen Piscotty due back Friday and Jhonny Peralta nearing a return as well, it will be interesting to see how the roster and playing time allotments shake out over the next few weeks.

Aside from this inning, the Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez, nicknamed “E-Rod”, pitched relatively well, continuing on a Lance Lynn-esque path of consistent, six inning starts with enough efficiency to set their respective teams up for a win if they choose to capitalize on the opportunity.

Notes

  • Lynn was hit by a pitch in the third inning attempting to bunt. Rodriguez threw a fastball in on Lynn’s hands as he squared around, brushing him back and sending Lynn to the dirt. Understandably irked, Lynn eventually walked it off to first base, but he was visibly upset, likely somewhat at Rodriguez for throwing inside as Lynn was giving himself up to move the runner. This is always a situation I’m torn on. The player in me says you do what Rodriguez does every time. I never understand the excuse broadcasters use of, “Let him give himself up!” because by giving himself up as a bad hitter, the bunt pushes the runner into scoring position and increases the likelihood said runner scores for that inning. Yet, the good Samaritan in me feels like there is an unwritten rule saying you simply let the pitcher get the bunt down in that spot, moving the runner over. I’m interested to hear if anybody has a strong opinion on this, but I’m siding with the starter on the mound more often than not for being aggressive and wanting the out without the movement of the runner.
  • Mookie Betts is really good. Lead off home run and a great play to gun down Matt Carpenter on a would-be double down the line as he played a bounce off the short wall on the first base side like he’d played that exact hop every day in batting practice. Let’s just hope Betts doesn’t make Busch his 2016 version of Camden Yards (Orioles Park where Betts hit eight home runs over 37 ABs).
  • Petition to rename this game the biceps game because of the ‘67 jerseys? I saw tattoos I never thought Yadier Molina had!
  • I’ll be jumping into conversations below to provide some color on the game and what’s to come! Feel free to leave your thoughts and follow me on Twitter.