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Cardinals offense continues boycott, Cubs win 3-2

Bad games are bad

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Chicago Cubs David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Things started off smoothly for the St. Louis Cardinals in their first game of a three game series at Wrigley Field this afternoon. Shortly after receiving the World Series ring he earned with the Chicago Cubs last season, Cardinals center fielder Dexter Fowler belted a 3-2 pitch from #salty Cubs starter (and fellow participant on both sides of the I-55 rivalry) John Lackey into the right field bleachers. That’s a fantastic start, right?

In fact, you know what, that can also be a fantastic close. If you did not watch nor learn any additional info about the game, you can go ahead and stop right here. In your mind, the Cardinals will have won the game. It’s not too late.

Still isn’t too late.

Anyway, here’s how things started off for the Cardinals even before Fowler reached the plate. Here was today’s lineup.

  1. Dexter Fowler, CF
  2. Matt Carpenter, 1B
  3. Stephen Piscotty, RF
  4. Yadier Molina, C
  5. Jhonny Peralta, 3B
  6. Aledmys Diaz, SS
  7. Paul DeJong, 2B
  8. Magneuris Sierra, LF
  9. Lance Lynn, P

All other factors aside, this is an interesting lineup. Aside from the obvious storyline of Fowler’s return to Wrigley, coupled with applause from Cubs fans and Extremely Serious Analysis of fan reaction psychology, there was Yadier Molina batting cleanup. There was Matt Carpenter continuing to bat second, prompting questions of whether Mike Matheny has turned a corner on sabermetrically optimized lineup construction (note: Yadier Molina batted cleanup). There was shiny new toy Paul DeJong continuing to start, and recent second time call-up Magneuris Sierra getting the start in left field.

Here was the Cubs lineup.

  1. Ian Happ, CF
  2. Kris Bryant, 3B
  3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
  4. Ben Zobrist, 2B
  5. Jason Heyward, RF
  6. Miguel Montero, C
  7. Kyle Schwarber, LF
  8. Addison Russell, SS
  9. John Lackey, P

This is close-ish to the personnel one might expect from a Cubs lineup, save Happ and Montero, but it sure does look weird, doesn’t it? Starting Happ, #7 among today’s starters in on-base percentage, in the leadoff spot seems a bit goofy, but Joe Maddon is a higher level thinker than you or me or anybody else. The bottom two position players also stand out—shortstop Addison Russell (MORE LIKE BADDISON RUSSELL, FOLKS,,,) has struggled in 2017 while Kyle Schwarber has been a bit of a strikeout machine without the other numbers to justify it. Also, defense-first center fielder Albert Almora came in to pinch-hit for Schwarber in the sixth inning; Almora was pulled for Jon Jay immediately. I know, platoon splits, but baseball is weird.

Anyway, following the Fowler home run in the first, Aledmys Diaz hit a single to lead off the second. He then advanced on a Lackey wild pitch and then Magneuris Sierra hit an RBI single. Sierra became the first player in Cardinals history to get a hit in the first eight games of his career. As we all saw coming.

In the bottom of the third, Kris Bryant homered off Lance Lynn. It happens. On the whole, Lynn’s game was a bit like much of his season—decent at run prevention, allowing just two runs in 5 13 innings, but a bit less prominent looking at the underlying stats. The six strikeouts were rather good, but the four strikeouts were less than ideal.

It should be noted, however, that the score was 2-1 Cardinals when Lynn was pulled in favor of lefty Tyler Lyons, brought in to face Jason Heyward with runners on first and second. Heyward hit a double into right field, scoring Rizzo and putting Ben Zobrist on third base. Following an intentional walk to Willson Contreras, Jon Jay grounded into a double play with Matthew Bowman on the mound (see: the aforementioned three Cubs outfielder pinch hitting switcharoo).

Bowman pitched a scoreless bottom of the seventh and Trevor Rosenthal took the mound for the eighth. The first batter, Anthony Rizzo, doubled into left field on a ball that Magneuris Sierra, um, maybe should have gotten? According to Mike Petriello of MLB.com, the catch probability on Statcast was 91%. It’s hard to know what a 91% catch probability looks like, as this is a relatively new measurement, but it seemed a little harder than that. But still, it’s the kind of play that somebody more nuanced in left field, rather than a lifelong center fielder like Sierra, should be able to catch, or at least corral and hold Rizzo to a single.

Ben Zobrist promptly grounded to third base and, somehow, Rizzo advanced to third on the play. Peralta had a rough game, going 0-for-4, and Rizzo’s advancement didn’t make it look any better statistically. The next batter, Jason Heyward, drove it deep enough into center field to bring home Rizzo. Wade Davis pitched a 1-2-3 top of the ninth and that was all.

JOHN’S CARDINALS PLAYER OF THE GAME: Stephen Piscotty reached base three times, once via a single and twice via a walk, but I’m going to go with Dexter Fowler. Honorable mention to his wife Aliya.

Anyway, the Cardinals play again tomorrow and hopefully will actually score some runs. Well, more runs. Ideally a whole bunch of them.