The Cardinals had no business winning this game. The fact that they did is a credit to both Tommy Pham and Tyler Lyons, whose contributions together provided the reason the Cardinals won the game. Pham hit two HRs, including the game-tying homer and also threw two runners out at the plate, including a potential game-winning run that would have been a walkoff if he were safe. The Cardinals also hit two other homers and were the beneficiaries of some truly poor Phillies play in the late innings. But Lyons deserves the W and Pham the MVP of the game.
In a game where the Cardinals were down 5-0 before scoring even a single run, it probably would not surprise you to know that the Cardinals starter was not particularly effective and the Phillies starter was pretty good. The first inning is a good example. Nick Pivetta threw just 10 pitches, getting a strikeout in the process. Wacha wasn’t necessarily bad and certainly not bad enough to warrant allowing three runs in the inning. He got unlucky when, with men on first and second, a tailor-made double play ball was buffed by Greg Garcia, causing everyone to be safe. Obviously, all three runs scored and all three were unearned.
The problem wasn’t just the first inning with Wacha. In the 2nd, he got the 8th and 9th batters out, but two straight singles and he threatened to give up more runs. He got Aaron Altherr to fly out to deep center. In the 4th, he walked Andrew Knapp on four straight pitches to begin the inning. He then allowed a single to Pivetta, which was a little unlucky because he showed bunt at first and I can’t really blame a pitcher for throwing a meatball to a pitcher showing bunt. Then Howie Kendrick singled and it was bases loaded and nobody out. Another potential double play, another error by Garcia. I’m not sure if the double play would have been made, but he threw it wild, allowing a fifth run to score.
That brought up Tommy Joseph, who singled towards left with a man on 2nd and two outs. Pham was ready and threw a strike towards home plate, nailing the runner at the plate. It would not be the last time the Phillies foolishly tested Pham’s arm. Pham decided to not only take away runs, but give the Cardinals some in the very next half inning.
It is with only a little hyperbole that I can say that Pham basically ruined Pivetta’s start. Pivetta had a reasonable 63 pitches through four innings when Pham led off in the 5th. He worked a 12 pitch - yes 12 pitch - PA before homering to deep center to get the Cardinals on the board. While he did strike out the side after the homer, his pitch count had raised significantly to 88 pitches after just five innings, in large part due to Pham’s long plate appearance. (The 13 collective pitches the next three batters saw before walking back to the dugout certainly did not do much)
Poor Nick Pivetta. I mean this truly. And I’m not talking about the fact that he didn’t get the win. This year he has absolutely dominated AAA with 37 Ks and 2 BBs and a 1.41 ERA. The 24-year-old has struggled so far, but he had continued to put up impressive strikeout numbers. It’s just that he was walking too many hitters. Something must have clicked in Boston cause he pitched 7 innings with nine strikeouts and two walks with no earned runs. So ignore the high ERA. He’s probably a good pitcher.
Anyway, all of that is to say that he had made it through 5 2⁄3 IP with nobody on and two outs, one out away from having an excellent 10 K, 0 BB performance with one earned run in 6 innings. So close Nick. SO CLOSE. Stephen Piscotty worked a solid walk though - his first walk of the game - to bring his pitch count to even 100 pitches. Then Jedd Gyorko took a ball the other way hitting a line drive homer over the short right field wall at Citizens Bank Park. I can't be certain, but I don’t think that’s a homer at most places, certainly not Busch Stadium. Despite the fantastic start, Pivetta left the game with a mediocre 6 IP, 3 ER.
Having proved ineffective with no help from his defense, Wacha’s spot came to the plate in the 5th so Matheny pinch-hit for him with Chad Huffman (who struck out). Needing to the bullpen to pitch at least four innings, ideally five, he needed someone to throw multiple innings and he turned to Tyler Lyons. Lyons was not perfect and had runners on in each inning he pitched.
In the 5th, he gave up a two-out double and got out of it by striking out Pivetta after the Cards gave the IBB to the 8th place hitter. In the 6th, Kendrick - who got on from a walk - ran towards second and Lyons had him fooled. But he threw it too high towards first and Kendrick took third as well. But with one out, he struck out Altherr and got Joseph to slowly ground out. And in the 7th, two straight singles put runners on the corner with only out. Again, Lyons came through with a key strikeout, this time to Knapp. To put the finishing touch on his outing, he struck out pinch-hitter Ty Kelly. In five days, it is possible Lyons, who threw 57 pitches, will take Wacha’s spot in the rotation.
In the 8th, the Cardinals continued their comeback with an opposite-field rocket by Jose Martinez on the first pitch. This homer would have been a homer in probably every park. 5-4 Phillies. After Brebbia relieved Lyons (and Martinez got double switched in, replacing Piscotty - more on that in the notes), Hector Neris came into close the game for the Phillies. He was enthusiastically greeted with a dead center home run by Pham to tie the game.
In the 9th, Brebbia got the first out, but after he allowed a single to Maikel Franco, got removed in favor of Brett Cecil. I’m not sure if Cecil is back fully yet, but he’s pitching much better. Herrera hit into a potential double play ball that was not a double play ball because Herrera is very fast. Then Freddy Gavlis hit a groundball down the third base line and well, remember when I said Herrera was very fast? Well he’s not The Flash. Pham played the ball well and when he grabbed the ball Herrera was just rounding around the Phillies third base coach’s stop sign. Like he JUST touched third base. Pham fired an accurate throw towards the plate and Herrera just kind of walked into the out at that point. It was a truly terrible, game-changing decision by Herrera.
And then Herrera got taken out of the game for that. Edubray Ramos, who is 0-5 on the year and picked up the loss last night after walking his only two batters before the Cardinals exploded, gave up a leadoff double to Martinez. Ramos then balked Martinez over to 3rd somewhat amazingly. Matt Carpenter did not have the best game and that continued here as he looked at strike three with no argument, which means you know it was a strike. With the pitcher’s spot on deck due to the double switch, Fowler got the IBB to bring up pinch-hitter Aledmys Diaz. Again, amazingly Ramos then somewhat inexplicably tried to pick off Fowler, but threw it wild and the Cardinals had the lead because of a balk and a throwing error basically. A single by Yadier Molina gave the Cards a two-run cushion.
That proved important when Seung Hwan Oh allowed a ball that was about as close to a homer as you can get. Martinez played it off the well perfectly and kept him to a single it was hit so hard. Rookie Cameron Perkins hit a pop up that fell between the infield and outfield to score the 6th run. Oh ultimately got it together and got a slow roller from Kendrick and a strikeout to Altherr for the 7-6 win.
- Wacha final line: 4 IP, 5 runs (2 ER), 3 Ks, BB, 9 hits allowed. This is basically Wacha’s sixth straight bad start. The only exception was against, oddly enough, the Phillies, where he went 6 innings and allowed only two runs, but he had 2 Ks and 2 BBs so that wasn’t really a good start either. This may possibly be the very last time we see Wacha starting a game for the Cardinals, as weird as that sounds.
- Matheny does not know the purpose of the double switch, and hilariously, it worked out perfectly for him somehow. After Martinez pinch-hit, he took out Piscotty and kept Martinez in the game. Piscotty was in the 3 hole. We were potentially going into extra innings. Why the hell would you surround all your good hitters with a pitcher’s spot, where - with a short bench - there’s the danger that an actual pitcher will have to bat in an important spot. The other reason for a double switch is so a pitcher can go two innings, but I don’t want Brebbia pitching in the 9th inning of a tie game anyway when Rosenthal was apparently available. Martinez later scored the winning run so baseball does not care if the moves you make are smart or not.
- He also double-switched out Fowler and put Diaz in LF, but I think Fowler may have injured himself so I’m going to hold off blaming him for this.
- Pham actually had a weird night: he hit two homers and struck out three times. You don’t see that everyday.
- Paul Dejong went 0-4 with 4 Ks today. His plate discipline numbers have been pretty awful so far.
- I was a little unfair to Jedd Gyorko above, in the sense that I didn’t really give him a lot of credit for his great game. He went 3-4 with a BB, including A TWO-RUN HOME RUN. Yes, Gyorko can hit more than just solo shots sometimes.
- Can we play the Phillies every game? Oh, we have just one more game against them this year? Bummer.
Tomorrow, the Cardinals go for the sweep and a 6-0 record against the Phillies and they have a pretty shot because Carlos Martinez is pitching. He’s facing Aaron Nola, who’s also pretty good. We have an early day game tomorrow at 12 PM CT and most of us will probably miss a lot of the game, if not all of it.