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Bullpen Lets Floodgates Open, Cardinals Routed Late

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Despite three home runs, Cardinals’ relievers allowed eight runs, sinking chances of any comeback

MLB: San Diego Padres at St. Louis Cardinals Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

What if I told you the Padres weren’t one of the five worst teams in baseball this season? Would it make this 12-4 loss more tolerable? As you meander over to the NL Central standings to observe the 5 games back the Cardinals sit of the first-place Cubs , no loss is tolerable. Especially one that was decided by eight runs between the seventh and eighth innings, on the back of three relievers whose ERAs now inflate to numbers I can’t muster the energy to type out.

The worst part is Clayton Richard’s reputation as a manageable opponent this season. Posting a 16.4% strikeout rate that places him in the doldrums of the whiffs leaderboard, around the 16th percentile. While his prior outing was a complete game gem against a team that is one of the five worst in baseball - the Philadelphia Phillies - reversion to the Clayton Richard we all know and probably don’t love was inevitable. And guess what? That reversion happened, as the Cardinals popped three home runs off the southpaw, with two coming back-to-back in the fourth to tie the game at three per side. But that reversion wasn’t enough to net a victory.

Jedd Gyorko took an eye-level fastball into the seats for a two-run shot in the fourth, while Stephen Piscotty followed three pitches later with a dinger on a slider out over the plate, his first since returning from a stint with Memphis.

When the Padres pushed ahead in the top of the fifth with Yangervis Solarte’s fourth of six (yes, six) RBIs in the game, the double was matched with Yadier Molina’s 15th home run of the season on a low-and-in slider that the Cardinals’ backstop parked into the Padres’ bullpen in left. Four to four heading into the seventh isn’t a phrase you’d expect to see after first digesting the final score.

It was a back-and-forth game, which I thought would remain that way even after Jose Pirela singled in the game’s ninth run and the Padres’ fifth, knocking Matt Bowman out in favor of the 34-year-old Zach Duke. It was all downhill after Duke recorded the first out of the inning, hurling a couple wild pitches to advance runners, and emulating Clayton Richard’s inability to put hitters away with two strikes, as Matt Szczur singled in two on a low fastball.

The biggest blow came off Austin Hedges’ bat, as he launched his 16th of the season on another fastball. An odd theme in this game was a lot of the run-scoring pitches weren’t left up, or visually stand out as poor pitches when you backtrack through Pitch F/X, but rather were hard, productive contact by both teams on such damaging batted balls. This signals to me the pitchers may have been a bit too predictable in terms of both offerings and location. A pitch doesn’t always need to be up and over the plate to cause damage; hittable pitches can result in home runs and RBIs all the same.

Our theme of hittable pitches on the corners, or off the plate continued in the seventh inning as Josh Lucas let Yangervis Solarte tally his fifth and sixth RBIs of the game on a 1-0 two seamer, the Padres’ second homer of the game. The proverbial dagger in this game could be considered any number of these run scoring at bats from the Padres, and I’m more than happy to let everybody take their pick. I’ll say that Hedges’ bomb was as foreboding as any.

Lance Lynn on the other hand? Well, let’s just say if you search his name on twitter, you may be wondering whether you actually were searching for the word “traded,” as that pairing along with a “should have” somewhere in the mix were high in quantity on our post-eclipse, Tuesday night baseball twitterverse.

Lynn’s outing may have been made less tolerable after observing that Clayton Richard works quick enough for fans to forget he is even giving up runs. Lynn struggled to set a few hitters down early, and that reared its head as the game progressed and the Cardinal lefty wore down. AJ Cassavell’s tweet sums up my claims fairly well.

Lynn earns his keep on being a workhorse, and despite the “should have been traded” buzz on Twitter, it’s undeniably valuable to struggle, allow a few runs, and still get through six innings on 108 pitches. It wasn’t the prettiest of starts, as his seven baserunners and four earned runs forced the Cardinals to get the bats moving (which you can argue they did), but helped Matheny to not use the majority of his bullpen pieces before the first game of the week was finished.

We know if that did happen, the score would’ve paid homage to the 10th anniversary of the Rangers’ 30-3 beating of the Orioles. With the Cardinals playing the part of the Orioles, plus one more run, naturally.

Notes

  • Jedd Gyorko continues to rake against his former team. Last year he batted an unconscious .560 with six home runs, 11 RBIs, and a 1.952 OPS, the most productive he was versus any single team. This was his first game against the Padres in 2017 and he continued his stellar performance. While batter-versus-pitcher data, or batter-versus-team data is often tossed aside for its loose connection to predictability, at some point one has to acknowledge that a higher, baseball god power is at work when he steps to the dish versus San Diego. I’d venture to call Matheny crazy if Gyroko sits in any game this week versus his former club.
  • Luke Weaver draws the start tomorrow against the Padres. It’ll be his first in place of Adam Wainwright’s rotation spot, but his third of the 2017 season. If you remove one swing that resulted in a J.D. Martinez grand slam, his season line as a starter improves to an admirable two runs over 11 13 innings, with 13 strikeouts to four walks.