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Game 79 Recap: Leake, Bats Squash Nationals 8-1

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The Cardinals can’t beat good teams, except when they keep beating them

Washington Nationals v St Louis Cardinals
why veb hates him, we’ll never know

BASEBALL! I will die for my belief that it is the sport of summer. Welcome to another baseball game.

After an ugly June swoon, the St. Louis Cardinals have stabilized things somewhat lately. The Nationals are in town for a weekend series. Here’s who the Cards started in support of SP Mike Leake:

Cardinals twitter

The Nationals are down one unit each of Adam Eaton and Trea Turner right now, and they’re still reeeeeal good, thanks in large part to resurgences from Ryan Zimmerman and Anthony Rendon. They started some group of guys, mostly real good, behind pitcher Tanner Roark. The Nats only significant weakness at this point is their very terrible bullpen; get to the ‘pen and you’ve got a shot.

The Game

Long-time VEB favorite Tommy Pham started things out with a defensive bang for the Birdos, robbing Brian Goodwin of a homer* with a leaping catch at the wall. Look!

*or maybe a wall-scraping double, but that’s less fun so cram it

That helped Mike Leake put up a scoreless first inning, punctuated by that play and a weird injury scare for uberbaseballer Bryce Harper. Harper caught an errant Paul DeJong throw off his toe, and hobbled around for a while in a way that no doubt terrified Nationals fans and handsome fantasy baseball owners everywhere. But he was fine, and stayed in.

Leake followed that inning with two more shutout innings, which has pretty much been his jam the first time through the lineup in 2017.

For the Cardinals’ part, they had their chances in each of the first three innings. In the first, they got runners to second and third with one out, but scored zero runs after two consecutive lineouts. In the second, they had two runners on with two outs and Matt Carpenter knocked one to the warning track, but speedy CF Michael Taylor tracked it down. The BABIP gods giveth and taketh away. Sometimes the giveth seems a little disproportionate to the taketh; there seemed in the first couple innings to be lot more takething going on, but there it is. Still, Roark’s pitch count in both of the first two innings reached the twenties, and... get to the ‘pen, and you’ve got a chance.

In the third, the Cards decided to raise the degree of difficulty on not scoring: they loaded the bases with nobody out. My pocket protector says you can expect an average of like two and a quarter runs there. The Cards ended up with three, thanks to singles from Yadier Molina and Greg Garcia. And Roark was at 80 pitches after the inning.

The Nats scratched out a run against Leake in the top of the 4th, to pull back to 3-1. In the bottom of the inning, St. Louis native Jacob Turner came in to relieve Roark. Got to the ‘pen, and got there early... sure enough, Carpenter greeted Turner with a double, I went off to make some waffles, and when I looked up next it was 8-1 (!) Cardinals. Featured events included, I would later learn, a Jedd Gyorko ground rule double and a DeJong homer.

That would be it for quite a while. The Cards loaded the bases in the bottom of the 7th with two outs and couldn’t push anybody across, but eh... 8-1 game.

With the luxury of the big lead, Mike Matheny could leave Leake in longer than would otherwise be optimal (not that he wouldn’t do that anyway, but the big lead meant he could do it without it looking like a mistake). Matheny actually went to Sam Tuivailala for the 9th, but really, it wouldn’t have been that bad to leave in Leake, who was at 93 pitches. Leake’s final line: 8 IP, 4 K, 3 BB, 5 H, 1 R. Pretty good, especially considering the quality of the opposition. Mike Leake’s gradual winning over of Cardinals fans continues, along with his fine 2017.

Tui gave up a double and a walk, but struck out Adam Lind to get out of the 9th without allowing a run. And thus the Nationals were destroyed, 8-1.

Bullets

  • FOX baseball-talkin’ person Eric Karros joined Dan in the booth for some reason in the 3rd. I have never much cared for him as a baseball-talker, and was unmoved by this evening’s random guest spot, but it got Al a break, so... more Karros?
  • Only ended up with one hit for it, but Leake stung the ball at the plate tonight. Guy’s an athlete.
  • Alex Mejia got into the game, as a defensive sub at 3B. He went 0-1. This has been your nightly Alex Mejia highlight.
  • GREG GARCIA OBP MONSTER: Greg Garcia (who is an OBP monster) had four plate appearances, and reached base precisely thrice.
  • Tommy Pham, y’all.