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Game 29 Recap: Short-handed Cards provide enough to back Leake

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Odd roster management leads to odd player alignments, but what else is new. Mike Leake does his job, and the offense did its.

My notes and recollections from tonight’s game are somewhat scrambled. But now, looking at the big red notebook I carried all through that scene, I see more or less what happened. The book itself is somewhat mangled and bent; some of the pages are torn, others are shriveled and stained by what appears to be whiskey, but taken as a whole, with sporadic memory flashes, the notes seem to tell the story. To wit:

*****************************

a lineup containing several lies
some liar’s twitter account

Those are the Cardinals players tonight, except in the ways that they were not. Still no Dexter Fowler, Yadier Molina got the night off, plus Jedd Gyorko was actually a late scratch so Greg Garcia played 3B and hit 7th. Otherwise the eventual lineup looked like what you’d expect was who has to play because that’s all there was available. The Braves started the extremely awesome Freddie Freeman at 1B and some other players who aren’t awesome everywhere else, backing Julio Teheran, a.k.a. “the Braves’ good pitcher.”

Also, let’s get this out of the way: the St. Louis Cardinals ended up getting 100% of their LF innings tonight from Matt Adams (a first baseman with no professional outfield experience before this year, who to his credit at least had the decency to jack a dinger tonight) and Aledmys Diaz (a shortstop with the same amount of experience, though no dinger this evening). That happened for no good reason. It happened because Fowler is, apparently, still unavailable after hurting his shoulder a couple nights ago, and the team has been playing for a while with a short bench. So when Jose Martinez (the fourth and final outfielder on the roster) hurt his groin trying to beat out a throw in the bottom of the first... there were no more outfielders to be found. That’s a preventable problem — who needs 13 pitchers? nobody! — and it’s perfectly appropriate to write your congresspeople about it.

Anyway.

The good guys got on the board right away off Teheran, when Diaz singled in Kolten Wong in the top of the 1st. They’d mark two more tallies in the 3rd, when — a few pitches after juuuuust missing the foul pole on a would-be home run — Matt Carpenter hit a homer that was emphatically fair.

Later in the 3rd, with runners on first and second and one out, the Cards were on the wrong side of what seemed, intuitively, like a pretty shaky call by the first base ump. Garcia laid down a textbook bunt on a suicide squeeze, the pitcher’s only play was at first, and Teheran hit Garcia squarely in the back with the throw. Well that was a dumb throw, Julio your brain went (and mine). The ump, however, called batter interference — which by rule meant Garcia was out and the runner at third couldn’t advance.

The thing is, unfortunately... it was the right call. Or so I’m told by VEBer Nathan DeGraaf, who has umped quite a bit and is much more of a rules maven than I am. But I mean damn, look at this:

mlb.tv

The white dot on Garcia’s lower back is the ball. The injustice of it! Look at that! But I’m informed the rule is that unless the runner is in foul territory, if he’s hit by a thrown ball that was fielded on the grass, he’s out. And you can’t say Garcia was in foul territory, so... he’s out. And that sucks. Pitchers: just chuck it at his &#*$^@ back, I guess! Nice little exploit.

Anyway.

Adams added the aforementioned home run (solo) in the 4th, Diaz sacrificed in Randal Grichuk in the top of the 7th, and it was 5-0 Cards and who really cares about these gripes. Five to nothing!

Quietly, behind the short-handedness and the call you hated and the pretty good offense, you could argue that the real story tonight was Mike Leake. For six innings, he was really good. Again! Not the fake “good” thing where ehhh the other team just kinda doesn’t ever score their baserunners and the box score looks good. The Braves couldn’t even say they’d had baserunners, plural, to strand until they got their second of the night in the 6th inning (on a throwing error). After a walk and a caught stealing, Leake got Brandon Phillips to pop up, to end the only real scoring threat the Braves would put together through 6.

This was just a finesse pitcher being really good tonight — at least for a while. Through the 6th Leake’s strikeout and walk numbers weren’t overly impressive (just two strikeouts against one walk), but he’d gotten nine grounders against three fly balls, which makes it pretty easy to keep throwing up zeroes.

But in the 7th, the ol’ third time through the order penalty (which is maybe better thought of as a pitch count penalty, but third time through isn’t a bad rule of thumb at all) kicked in. As did the inevitability of somebody hitting a home run off Leake. The Braves got a hit and a walk, and then Adonis Garcia hit the first home run anybody’s hit off Leake since Dexter Fowler hit one in a Cubs uniform last year. 5-3 Cards.

St. Louis threatened in the 8th but didn’t break through, and Trevor Rosenthal came on to protect the lead in the bottom of the inning. He’s been better than ever on the short season: he’d struck out nearly half (half!) of the batters he’d faced coming in. He held the Braves off the board.

Seung Hwan Oh threw an uneventful 9th that I couldn’t better sum up regardless of effort or sobriety, to get his... 7th, I want to say, save of 2017. And the Cardinals moved back over .500, a sneaky one game back of the Cubs (who are losing) as of this writing. Huh!

Other Stuff

  • Leake’s final line: 7 IP, 2 K, 2 BB, 3 H, 1 HR, 3 R. A good start that became a pretty average one given that lousy 7th. He’s now got a 2.52 FIP for the year; some of that is an unsustainably low HR rate, but the value’s already in the bank. It’s May 6 and Mike Leake is already getting close to earning his 2017 salary.
  • Wong got a hit I don’t think I’ve ever seen before to lead off the game... he hit a tapper a few feet to the foul side of the third base line, but it had so much english on it that it spun back into fair territory. Apparently that can happen, and it’s a fair ball.
  • Not as unique as Wong’s, but Diaz got one of those hundred-foot-high choppers off the plate for an infield hit in the 3rd. Love those.
  • It makes sense that they’re keeping Fowler off the DL if they think he’s truly day-to-day; better to go short a couple nights than shut a good player down for 10 full days. But if he’s so thoroughly unavailable in the meantime that Adams is above him on the backup-OF depth chart — i.e., completely unavailable — then the choice to come into tonight with a four-man bench looks awfully shaky to me.
  • To be fair, Ender Inciarte has some moments where I think he’s pretty awesome.
  • Maybe an Atlanta VEBer can help us out; I know a couple of you have been to this park. Those seats in front of the restaurant in right... are those individual (outdoor) AC units, or what the heck am I looking at there?
  • Remember when some people thought Carpenter couldn’t hit outside of the leadoff spot?
  • Still no word on Jose Martinez’s injury. Send him off to Yale, they can cure anything up there.