Whew. That’s the emotion that comes to mind after the Cardinals’ first victory since Saturday in the midst of a 3-10 stretch. This was a close game - the type of game that the Cardinals have been losing recently - which to be fair, they’ve also been losing games of the blowout variety too. The Cardinals were also in danger of screwing Carlos Martinez out of a win for the second time in three games. (He’s already had two games with 7 innings or more with no earned runs and no win to show for it this year) I’m no fan of the win statistic, but complete game shutout and eight innings of one run ball are pretty much indisputably deserving of wins.
It was a frustrating game because it felt like Carlos Martinez pitched a lot better than opposing starter Hyun-Jin Ryu. Both allowed only one run and a few hits, but Martinez was DOMINANT and Ryu was good, but not especially unhittable. I’m not trying to knock on Ryu’s start, which was very good, but you know it just wasn’t as good.
The game’s start did not suggest a 2-1 finish. Martinez walked Logan Forsythe on four straight pitches and gave up a single to Corey Seager to make it first and second and nobody out. But Martinez quickly got it figured out and struck out Yasmani Grandal (perhaps the most underrated catcher in baseball?) and got a double play ball from Adrian Gonzalez.
In the bottom of the inning, Dexter Fowler and Matt Carpenter do what they do and both worked the count to 3-2. Fowler hit one that needed a sliding play from Gonzalez and Carpenter hit a hard ball into the shift. Ryu had 13 pitches from those two outs, which was promising until Yadier Molina swung at the first pitch on a flyout. Why yes, I do have beef with Matheny for batting 78 wRC+ Molina 3rd, why do you ask?
In the 2nd, Tommy Pham hit a one hit out single and advanced to second on a flyout that was very nearly a collision. It was smart baserunning. Neither Kike Hernandez (or is it Enrique) nor Chris Taylor are natural OFers and Taylor ended up catching it and needing to turn in the opposite direction to try and get Pham. Pham was safe which was important because he scored on a Paul Dejong double. He may have scored from first on the double, but it’s not a sure thing. As someone who watches the Cardinals on a regular basis, I have to shout out genuinely good baserunning because it can be rare at times.
At this point the scoring was done for quite a while. Martinez gave up another hit in the 2nd, but didn’t allow another one after that until the 6th. His string of seven straight outs after that hit was interrupted by a leadoff walk from rookie Cody Bellinger, but he struck out two of the next three batters and got out of the inning without having paid for that sometimes deadly leadoff walk. Similarly, the Cardinals were nearly as lifeless with the exception of a two-out double by Stephen Piscotty in the 4th.
In the 6th, Martinez walked Seager on five pitches and allow a single to the opposite field. Good baserunning from Seager put the runners at 1st and 3rd with one out. Gonzalez got a good piece of the ball and hit it just before the warning track for a sacrifice fly and a tie game. In the 7th, Martinez allowed a two-out double to Hernandez, but that actually turned into a positive as Ryu was taken out of the game when Austin Barnes pinch-hit and struck out looking.
Ross Stripling replaced Ryu and he continued Ryu’s scoreless ways. He allowed a line drive opposite field single to Piscotty (where Hernandez, as Ricky said in a moment of good announcing, stabbed at the ball like an infielder and kept it in front of him). He was removed from a double play ball by Dejong. Martinez finished his outing extremely strong, throwing 100 mph to the last batter. He struck out two of the Dodgers’ best hitters, Seager and Grandal, back-to-back to put the cherry on top of a fantastic outing.
The Cardinals quickly got two outs in the bottom of the 8th - really everything about this game was quickly - and that put Fowler up with the threat that Martinez would now have three games of 7 IP or more ball with 1 or less ER and no wins to show for it. Fowler crushed a ball to right field - he more or less knew it was gone immediately after it left his bat and so did everyone else watching. 2-1 Cardinals. In the 9th, Seung Hwan Oh looked about as good as he’s looked all year. Gonzalez led off with a single to deep left, but Pham was somehow playing deeper and didn’t catch it. But then he got apparent Cardinal killer Utley to strike out, Bellinger to pop out, and “also kind of killed us this year” Chris Taylor to strike out. A win is a win is a win, but this was a really great win!
- Martinez final line: 8 IP, ER, 4 hits, 9 Ks, 3 BBs - Martinez is a weird pitcher in that he seems to strike out and walk too many to theoretically go deep into games, but he consistently has a low pitch count throughout the games despite that. I don’t know how he does that.
- You know you’re having a good year when a 8 IP, 9 K, ER performance is arguably your fourth best start of the year.
- Diaz walk alert! Diaz walked for the tenth time this year, bringing his walk rate to a still terrible 4.9%.
- You probably aren’t going to win too many games where your 2-3-4 hitters go 0-10 with none of them even getting on base and yet here we are.
- Piscotty had a good day. His single was crushed and his double was also hit hard.
- I’m not saying I should do all the recaps, but the Cardinals are now 6-2 in games I’ve recapped. I’m also 3-0 in games where I attend. This seems like a large enough sample for you guys to give me free tickets for the good of the team.
Tomorrow, the Cardinals will try to salvage this series and split it - which considering how it started, would be really, really great. Brandon McCarthy faces Adam Wainwright and I don’t know who will pitch better, but I know both of them will be tall. #scoops