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Bader Debuts, Cardinals Walk Off

After Rockies tie game late, Bader doubles, scores game’s winning run in 3-2 victory

MLB: Colorado Rockies at St. Louis Cardinals Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Ddebuts are only touted as great when they involve towering home runs, walk-off knocks, or stellar defensive highlights.

Harrison Bader proved that statement wildly inaccurate after doubling on a letter-high fastball, and aggressively tagging up on a sacrifice fly to shallow right field. Following up your first major league hit up with a showcase of 60-grade speed to win a game which teetered back to the NL West’s surprise darlings, is a moment Bader will never forget.

Even crazier? I was equally as impressed with the first at bat of Bader’s career. Taking a 2-2 slider from Jon Gray to short, the camera followed Trevor Story’s throw to first base, only to awe viewers as Bader hustled, nearly beating out a routine ground ball that sets most runners down by a wider margin. Matheny raised a hand in consideration of review while 40,000+ roared in appreciation of Bader’s display of wheels. 1-for-4 with a strikeout and one run doesn’t emphasize how impressive this debut truly was. Topping this will be tough, but I have no reason to doubt the 23-year-old.

One of the more somber notes to this game was the acknowledgement Lance Lynn gave to the crowd as he approached the dugout in the seventh inning, for what many speculate will be his last in a Cardinals’ uniform. The MLB Trade Deadline is next Monday afternoon, and Lynn has been mentioned in rumors far and wide. Even with that top of mind, the ever-focused Lynn was able to power through a strong Rockies’ lineup on his way to a tough-luck no decision on 94 pitches.

Kevin Siegrist allowed one of Lynn’s pair of stranded runners to score, while an inning later Matt Bowman gave up a home run to Story on a low two-seam fastball which tied the game. The Cardinals’ bullpen has been touch-and-go all season as roles seem to flip-flop daily, while consistency takes periodic days off. Although the pen statistically pits itself around league average in terms of FIP and ERA, it’s the 20 losses (4th in MLB) and shelf of blown leads that allow for continual scrutiny. For what it’s worth, the Cardinals were the last team in baseball to eclipse double digit wins out of their pen, accomplished after Trevor Rosenthal’s strong two innings of relief in tonight’s game.

Aside from Bader on the offensive side of things, Paul DeJong continued his torrid July. His two-run home run in the first inning off of Jon Gray was the only production the club managed until the ninth. DeJong was slugging .658 before this game, with a 148 wRC+, sure to increase after two more hits as he settles into the three-spot in the Cardinals’ lineup.

The issue in today’s game wasn’t getting hits, but converting them into runs. The Cardinals stranded seven runners in the game with nearly every player in the lineup credited with stranding two or more. Three consecutive strikeouts in the fifth erased back-to-back singles, while an inning later, Randal Grichuk grounded into a rally-killing double play. In the seventh and eighth innings, the Cardinals started with a runner on first and nobody out, only to see successive goose eggs on the scoreboard.

If it’s any solace for the lack of offense, Jon Gray settled into this game very nicely. I was most impressed by an early mound visit by catcher Ryan Hanigan, who motioned as if to tell Gray in conversation that he wasn’t following through on his pitches enough to locate where Hanigan wanted (Gray continually missed his catcher’s glove in the first few innings, more than average lapses in control). Whatever that conversation enlightened Gray with, it worked, as the Rockies’ ace polished off what looked to be a rocky start (pun intended) with a 6:0 strikeout to walk ratio, and progressively precise off speed location to keep the Cardinals off balance. This could be growing pains from Gray’s time on the DL, or it could be the complacency of a quiet Cardinals’ lineup. Whatever the case, St. Louis has taken the first two from Colorado as they make the long trek back to the .500 mark.

Notes

  • Louis Bader, Harrison Bader’s Dad put together one of my favorite interviews a parent has given all season. He confidently about his son’s talents at the fresh age of five, and remembers intentionally hitting his son as he threw batting practice to toughen him. Bader’s energy was palpable on the diamond, I’m very excited to see more of the outfielder in the coming years... and hear more of his father’s stories.
  • Strong speculation is that Luke Weaver will start tomorrow’s game after news broke today that Adam Wainwright is heading to the 10-DL with back tightness. Weaver was scratched from his start at AAA, where he holds an enviable 2.96 FIP and pristine 5.5% walk rate.
  • The top collegiate summer league held its All-Star Game on the Cape last Saturday (Wareham, Massachusetts), and I was there to do a little scouting and take in the small-town atmosphere. If you’re at all interested in reading a bit more about some of the best D1 college players I saw, jump over to my site to check out takes on a few future draftees (the Cape League has a great track record of producing elite, major league talent).