A win is a win. A win in April is worth a win in July is worth a win in September. When your great-great-grandkids look back on the 2017 Cardinals, they will probably not care about the order in which the team acquired its wins. They will only care about the win total, if that. They are foolish.
We, wise, know that the order of the wins does matter. Particularly when you’re flirting with contention, 3 1⁄2 games out of first place, 9 days from the trade deadline and trying to evaluate whether to buy or sell.
This weekend series at Wrigley could answer that question for us definitively, as Craig laid out earlier. I won’t rehash all his analysis — check it out if you haven’t — but suffice it to say this is a really important series for charting the rest of the season.
I should note that there’s been a lot of roster churn since yesterday. There were three changes to the 25-man, as we DFA’d Eric Fryer and sent down Magnueris Sierra and Sam Tuivailala to bring up Carson Kelly, Randal Grichuk, and Zach Duke (reportedly back from the dead). And I haven’t even mentioned the (incredible) trade announced earlier today of Marco Gonzales for Tyler O’Neill.
El Gallo faces off against Jake Arrieta today.
The early going was a tense affair. The home team struck first, in the bottom of the first. Carlos gave up a tough-luck single on a well-located 2-seamer to Ben Zobrist and a 2-run dinger to Willson Contreras on a slider that just hung in the center of the zone. 2-0 Bad Guys.
Paul DeJong and Kolten Wong struck out to open the next half-frame, but Randal Grichuk punished Arrieta for a curveball over the heart of the plate, hitting his obligatory call-up dinger. The top of the third saw the Cardinals scratch out another run on back-to-back doubles by Pham and Fowler. Pham really dug for the double after hitting a sharp liner to ol’ flapjacks in left:
Then came Fowler’s double. 2-2, new ballgame.
The bottom of the 5th was almost really ugly. Arrieta reached on a DeJong error. Jason Heyward singled, Zobrist hit into a 6-5 fielder’s choice, and Anthony Rizzo drove in Heyward. This put runners on the corners with one out and Contreras, responsible for the earlier dinger, at the plate. He grounded into a 4-6-3 double play to extinguish the threat, and I breathed a sigh of relief. But still, 3-2 Small Bears.
The bottom of the 6th was also a nailbiter. Kyle Schwarber and Ian Happ led off the inning with singles on consecutive pitches, but Martinez roared back to strike out Addison Russell and Javier Baez on 7 pitches. Tommy La Stella stood in for Arrieta and walked, bringing up Heyward with the sacks jammed. Heyward grounded out, hacking at an inside 100-mph four-seamer that was mighty low. Thanks, Jason!
Zach Duke relieved El Gallo, making his triumphant and rapid return from offseason Tommy John surgery. He looked really sharp against Zobrist and Rizzo, drawing lineouts from both with minimal effort. Matt Bowman came in to take on Contreras, and then fielded his bunt(??) to get the assist to end the inning.
At this point, the Cardinals threw out the script, scoring 9 runs and chasing Carl Edwards and Hector Rondon before Justin Grimm settled in to finish taking the beating. I won’t narrate the whole thing — but I will reduce it to list form:
- Carp double,
- Pham walk,
- Fowler walk,
- Rondon takes over,
- Gyorko walk (Carp scores),
- DeJong GRD (Pham and Fowler score),
- Wong walk,
- Grichuk single (Gyorko scores, sacks jammed),
- Grimm takes over,
- Carson Kelly cleared the bases with a double, missing a grand slam by thiiiiiiiiiiis much:
- Luke Voit walk,
- Carp (hi again!) single (Grichuk scores),
- Pham single (Kelly and Voit score),
- other stuff but no more scoring.
TL;DR: look at the title. 11-3 Cardinals.
Kevin Siegrist struck out Schwarbs and Happ in a 3-batter bottom of the 8th. Grichuk walked and Leake pinch-hit in the 9th, which was all kind of fun.
Matheny opted to put Oh in, confident that an 8-run cushion was safe. Oh looked much better than his last few outings, facing only six batters and giving up a single run.
Fly the L, Cubbies. Cardinals win, 11-4.
1 down, 2 to go.
And then the rest of the season, I mean. Obviously. And the postseason. But you get it.
Tune in tomorrow as Jon Lester takes on Adam Wainwright at 3:05 Central. It’s nice to see some of the right kind of excitement around here.