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Cardinals Almost Win - Recap 8/4/2017

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Birdos threaten thrice, but can’t seal the deal as Skyline Chili tops Imo’s Pizza once again

St. Louis Cardinals v Cincinnati Reds
Missed it by thaaaat much
Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Pregame

I’ll level with you. I’ve been about as interested in Cardinals baseball over the last week or so as the Cardinals seem in getting to .500. It’s not fair; this is not a bad squad. It’s just that I’ve grown accustomed to a certain standard of baseball, so now I feel jilted by watching a .500 team for the first time since... well, let’s just say I’ve gotten two degrees, moved eight times, and fathered six children since the last time we finished a season below .500. So, it’s been awhile, even by my standards.

What I’m really getting at is that I’m spoiled, much like you. Losing more than you win is no fun for anybody, but when you’re SO USED TO WINNING just year in and year out, it feels worse I think.

Now how entitled do I sound? Oh well, it’s still just the truth. I hope they turn this season around. The Cubs lost today, so there’s that. We remain mathematically within striking distance, but that’s less exciting when everybody is fighting to reach 86 rather than, say, 100.

Fresh off a lost series in Milwaukee, the Cardinals look to bounce back against the hapless Reds. Speaking of the Reds, they are Very Bad again this year, starting the night a nice, round 20 games below .500. That’s not to say the reds are bad. There are some very exciting reds on the Reds. But for reasons that elude me (something something Bronson Arroyo Walt Jocketty), the Reds are imperturbably bad still. Or whatever modifier you want to put on bad.

Gyorko and Yadi are getting rest tonight, looks like. FYI: we are carrying nine relievers right now. Rosie Oh Siegrist Lyons Brebbia Duke Cecil Bowman Tuivailala. Most MLB teams carry 7. The reason for that is pretty straightforward: you have to carry 5 starters and 8 position players, as well as a backup catcher and bench players. With 7 relievers that gets you 4 bench bats/gloves. With 8, you get 3, and you can burn through 3 pinch hitters/runners pretty quickly when you’re playing 3D bullpen chess or trying to eke out a run, or say screwing up a double switch. We only have 4 starters up right now, so we still have those 3 bench bats. But if 8 mediocre bullpen arms isn’t enough to get you through the day, one more ain’t gonna move the needle as much as an additional bench bat.

Anyway, on to the game! Let’s go, Cardinals.

Game

Leake got a quick out on his first pitch to Billy Hamilton (get it? quick out?) to start the bottom of the first, but then gave up a single to Jesse Winker and a double on the next pitch to Joey Votto, scoring Duvall. Let’s analyze the pitches to see if Leake could have done better to avoid this. Here’s Winker’s at bat:

Now look at Votto’s:

See the pattern? When Leake gets over the plate, it’s not nearly as effective as when he works away from the zone. Small sample size caveat and all, you simply can’t ignore a 200% higher chance of allowing a hit and a 300% increase in SLG between the two pitch types. Let’s get a little more data from the next batter, Adam Duvall:

Woof. Sometimes you just can’t win. Pitch 6 was a single on a 2-2 count

Another thing I noticed was that with four pitches, Leake got an out and allowed two runs. One thing about being a contact artist - whatever happens usually does it fast. Reds lead, 1-0.

The Cardinals hit back in the top of the 3rd, after OBP MONSTER Greg Garcia hit a triple, and professional athlete Mike Leake drove him in with a timely single. Tie game, 1-1.

Randal Grichuk walked in the top of the 5th.

In the bottom of the 5th, the Reds got to Mike Leake pretty badly, possibly because he’s not taking my excellent advice to stay completely away from the strike zone. Single for Jose Peraza:

Second changeup in a row, and it’s just an absolute meatwad. Next pitch, to Tucker Barnhart:

Almost the same business. Ok, I’ll stop. Arismendy Alcantara moved both fellas over with a sac bunt, then Billy Hamilton set up some fireworks with a single to right, scoring Jose Peraza and Tucker Barnhart OR DID HE?....:

The Reds challenged the call on the field, and they might have been right, but the boys in New York didn’t agree. Either way, it was a good throw and a great tag.

Joey Votto got another RBI, leaving the score at 3-1 Reds after 5.

Leake found his stride again in the 6th, facing the minimum. He had only spent 74 bullets, but his night was over. Leake gave up 8 hits and 3 runs against 3 Ks and no walks or homers. Not a bad start at all, but not a great one either.

Eugenio Suarez made a nifty play to keep Carson Kelly off base to start the 7th, but Kolten Wong came right back and singled up the middle. RANDAL flied out to left after lifting one, then Matheny got serious and dug into his stash of (3, remember) bench bats. Despite Garcia’s earlier triple, Mike pulled him for known sparkplug Jose Martinez, who parlayed a very good at-bat into a walk. Mike studied the chessboard, with the bishop Wandy Peralta on the mound, his queen Mike Leake sitting in a pretty exposed position, and the wily knight Jedd Gyorko sitting in his home position, ready to come put Bryan Price in check.

Matheny smiled devilishly as he pushed all of his chips into the center of the table. “Checkmake, Bry-Guy,” he taunted.

Note: I very much think that pinch hitting for Garcia was defensible, and that doing so for Leake was absolutely the right thing to do. My beef right now, to the extent that I have beef, is with the 8-man bullpen.

Gyorko struck out. Because of course he did.

* * * * *

I always like to see trolls get trolled, and Billy Hamilton is troll king supreme of the basepaths. He singled, and was ready to cause his special brand of speedy havoc. Zach Duke was having none of it, friends:

Gotta find the joy along the journey, wherever you find it. Even if we can’t win the division, we can still take pleasure in the good plays, like a wily lefty reliever who knows exactly what Billy Hamilton is going to do, and exactly what to do about it. We can still take pleasure watching troll king supreme Billy Hamilton make a sad face.

In the 8th, the Cardinals scored a run on a Carson Kelly single, and loaded the bases on a Kolten Wong full count walk. This brought Strikeout Artist Randal Grichuk up to bat, down 3-2 with two outs.

Grichuk, a changed man from his sojourns from Florida to Memphis searching for the legendary Fountain of Plate Discipline, took the bat off of his shoulder precisely twice in the whole plate appearance, to foul off 0-2 and 2-2 pitches in the zone, then saw the count miraculously get full.

He watched strike 3. Cardinals still trail, 2-3.

* * * * * *

I’ve got to give this to the Cards: They never gave up tonight. The Reds could not feel comfortable in the back third of the game, because every time they let up on the throttle, the Birdo Bus would surge up in the rear view mirror. The pitcher’s spot led off the 9th, and Mike opted for Molina over Luke Voit. If you’re keeping score, that means we have precisely one unit of Luke Voit left on the bench.

Molina grounded out, but Gyorko saw a middle-middle 97 mph sinker and put it into right for a single. Now, Mike wanted somebody a little speedier than Gyorko, which was a good thought. But Voit was apparently not a suitable candidate, and because we’ve been carrying a 3 man bench plus backup catcher, and because we deployed them aggressively, we’re out of bench guys in a game where one of the better case scenarios is extra innings.

Enter professional athlete Carlos Martinez.

One part of me loves this stuff. Pitchers have become so specialized at the one thing they do that some heretics are actually agitating for them to be banned from hitting. (Publicly! How dare they, just think of the children.) To see a real, pure athlete like Carlos take to the basepaths and run wild and free, scoring the tying run with reckless abandon, is capital-F Fun.

The other part of me thinks about Adam Wainwright’s achilles ligament popping like a dry rubber band as he hustled out of a batter’s box in early 2015, and the team being out its ace for the rest of the year. I think of 2008, when the very good Brewers’ very good 22-year-old Yovani Gallardo tore his ACL in a freak collision 24 innings into the season. I think of Martinez as not only an athlete, but as an investment, and I think, Mike, this is a bad idea.

Anyway, Martinez ran. Matt Carpenter collected a walk. Tommy Pham flied out, and Carlos tagged and advanced to third. So again, we had the tying run at third base, with 2 outs, and another Strikeout Artist (July 2017 NL Rookie of the Month Paul DeJong) stepped in.

I know I said I wouldn’t, but I don’t want to type the words.

Reds win, 3-2.

Postgame

Tune in tomorrow... IF YOU DARE! Trusty retainer Lance Lynn, never again to worry about being traded, will take on Luis Castillo, another Reds rookie with great stuff who will probably get a stupid contract from Jocketty before falling apart. 6:10 Central.