Tonight the Cardinals face off against the Pirates to open a three-game series in Pittsburgh. With just 10 games left in the season the stakes could not be higher for the Redbirds: we sit just half a game behind the Milwaukee Brewers for second place in the division and one and a half games behind the Colorado Rockies for the second wild-card berth. Fresh off our sweep of the Cincinnati Reds our outlook on the postseason is a far cry from what it was following last weekend's devastating sweep by the Cubs. I am trying something new tonight because I am driving home right now — I cannot type so I'm dictating the recap. Hoo whee buddy let me tell you that was a ride.
Tonight's matchup is Michael Wacha (he of the surprisingly good season and the shockingly solid health) facing off against 2017 Searage improvement project Ivan Nova. Lineups are as follows:
the game (unless otherwise indicated, Wacha pitched really well)
first inning: build hope
Matt Carpenter did not waste any time getting the festivities started. After taking his customary look at the first pitch of the game, Carpenter picked one he liked and sent it 375 feet to ring off of the right-center wall. Carp hustled in for a double. Tommy Pham was up next, and he surprised everyone by squaring up and bunting down the third-base line. While Pham was unfortunately thrown out by a slick David Freese play, Carpenter advanced to third base on the play. Dexter Fowler stepped into the batter's box and hit a base hit driving Carpenter in Cardinals lead one to nothing. Jose Martinez continued the train with a full count walk, but Yadier Molina grounded into a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning. Cardinals lead, 1-0.
second inning: build confidence
Paul DeJong and Kolten Wong smacked back-to-back singles to open the frame. There was some consternation among Cardinals Nation’s faithful over DeJong’s failure to take third on Wong’s single, but as they say back home, it would all come out in the warsh. Wacha bunted and Nova fielded it, then threw DeJong out at third only he sailed it into left field instead. DeJong scored (yaaay), Wong tried to take third and got gunned down by Starling Marte (boooo), and Wacha stood on first base feeling pretty satisfied with how that all went. Carpenter walked continuing his torrid September, but Pham struck out on three pitches.
fourth inning: build dread
Wacha hit a spot of bother in the bottom of the fourth, and it sounded somethin’ like this:
- Starling Marte full count walk
- Andrew McCutchen flyout
- Josh Bell single, Marte to third (were you watching that, Pauly D?)
- Lovable traitor and eternal hero of my heart David Freese double, Marte scores, Bell to third
- Gregory Polanco hit the ball to Jose Martinez, who tried to step on the bag but missed and tried to throw out Bell at the plate but missed
The Buccaroos threatened to take more, but a timely double play ball saved Waka from further damage. Game tied, 2-2.
Interlude: the one where nothing important happens
Wacha returned with a chip on his bionic shoulder for the fifth, ringing up Christopher Bostick and Adam Frazier on strikes and getting Jordy Mercer with a little help from an above-average defensive play by Matt Carpenter at third. Wacha was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the top of the 6th, but despite Greg Garcia’s substitutionary single, the birds couldn’t push a run across. Wacha’s final line: 5.0 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 4 K. Good line, and credit where it’s due: Mike did a good thing pulling Wacha for the shot at an insurance run. Good job, Mike. John Brebbia pitched a quiet sixth inning, and preserved the tie.
seventh inning: build despair
the seventh was not so placid. Ryan Sheriff (who is somehow the go-to guy for high-leverage situations despite being a LOOGY) struck out Gregory Polanco, but then gave up a double to Elias Diaz and a single to Jordy Mercer. Matheny went back to the bullpen and brought out his designated Seth Maness Memorial Double-Play Ball Getter, Matt Bowman. Because, you know, this was a Certified Double Play Ball Situation. Bowman made a valiant effort at getting a double-play ball out of dreaded scalawag John Jaso, inducing a grounder to the left side. Pauly D fielded the ball cleanly, but could not seem to decide between flipping the ball underhanded or throwing it overhanded to brother Kolten. Pauly ultimately split the baby and tossed the ball into right field. This error erased any hope of preventing Diaz from scoring the go-ahead run. And the Pirates took the lead, three to two.
Juan Nicasio pitched the eighth inning for the Cardinals and shut the Pirates down, expending a mere 5 pitches on the heart of his erstwhile employer’s order.
ninth inning: quit building stuff and just win the dang game
The ninth was a wild ride. Felipe Rivero took over for the Bucs, which I’d normally tell you is bad for us. Piscotty nailed the first pitch of the inning for a double to right, and when the dust cleared, Harrison Bader was standing there, because he’s just that fast, and Mike wanted a pinch runner. Carson Kelly flied out to right, and Bader advanced to third. Jedd Gyorko singled, driving Bader in and tying the game (YAAAAAAY). RANDAL took over running duties for the Gyorkster. Tommy Pham hit a hot grounder through Josh Bell’s mitt into right field, putting himself on first and Grichuk on third. Sexy Dexy hit the first pitch he saw at Jordy Mercer, but Mercer booted it, scoring Grichuk. Alex Mejia (who had replaced Jose Martinez, who is presumably hurt) flied out, and Mike Matheny let Nicaso bat for himself with 2 on and 2 out. More on this later. Nicasio flied out. The Cardinals lead by the slimmest of margins, 4-3. The bottom of the ninth was remarkably quiet, as Nicasio sat the Bucs down in order.
WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER, BUCCOS.
The Brewers lost and the Rockies are leading, so if that holds we remain 1.5 back for WC2 and pass the Brewers for #2 in both the Central and the WC2 race. We are 5 games behind the Cubs in the Central with 4 left to play against them. WOOOOOOOOOOOO!
Editor’s note: I have been cleaning up the dictation for the most part to this point, but I was pretty exuberant about the win, and I talked a lot, and this is already late. So I’m going to give you the unedited post-game thoughts. Enjoy!
It is somewhat ironic that Juan Nicasio was pitching for the Pirates less than a month ago. but is now passed through two teams two beat them in a must-win contest for their hated Rivals the Cardinals. Post-game thoughts with this win the Cardinals keep Pace with whatever the Brewers and Rockies want to do tonight. If the Brewers win the Cardinals will remain half a game behind them for the central. If the Rockies win the Cardinals remain will game and a half behind them for the second wild-card. If either team loses however the Cardinals will pass the Brewers and pull within half a game of the Rockies. September baseball doesn't get any more climactic than this, folks it's important to remember that the Cardinals largely control their own destiny with regard to the remainder of this season. If we keep winning, there's not much that the Brewers and the Rockies can do to keep us from passing them. This is especially true of the Brewers who we will close our season out against with a three-game series. That Series has the potential to be extremely fun if we stay the course against the Pirates and the Cubs. It is a difficult decision as to who to root for in the current series between the Cubs and the Brewers. It would be nice if both teams could lose simultaneously, but unfortunately that's not how baseball works. If the Brewers win out against the Cubs in this series than the Cardinals will be Cardinals hopes at claiming the central Crown will be revived when a week ago they seemed not just mostly dead but all dead. Well I enjoy the troll capacity of such a devil Magic scenario, the safe bet seems to be to root for the Cubs to beat the Brewers to ease to give us some cushion for a scenario where we fail to sweep the Braves and the Rockies fell to fall apart. Either way however the next two weeks promise much drama. Matheny decision to keep the Casio in to bat in the top of the ninth was a interesting decision that is difficult to accept, but also difficult to criticize. The Cardinals had already gained the lead when he batted, so if he was their best chance at preserving it it's difficult to say that Matheny made the wrong decision by failing to go for more runs. However it's difficult to watch a team that has dropped so many one-run ball games pass at the chance to gain more in exchange for a marginal benefit to the pitching situation. All that we won so even if it was a dumb move, no harm, no foul, and it was debatable anyway. Who do you want in there rather than nicasio? Sam tuivailala? Someone I know? Really guys there were no easy answers for that choice and so I would give Matheny a pass for his strategy and batting the Cascio. When the history of the 2017 World Series champion Cardinals is written the the John mozeliak and my decision to make a ball z trade for one Cascio when they would not be able to use him in the postseason and he was only a rental for the remainder of the 2017 season will be viewed as the turning point in the Cardinals season. Nicasio is addition to the bullpen has provided a stable Presence at the position occupied by the best reliever in the bullpen. Especially in the wake of the loss of Treasure of Trevor Rosenthal to Tommy John surgery, nicasio availability was well worth the price of admission for the Cardinals. I may eat those words when Tyrell Jenkins or whoever is a 10-time All-Star and is going into the Hall of Fame with a Phillies cap on, but for now I can dream on this idea that one nicasio was the Difference Maker for the 17 Cardinals playoff chances. For game 2 of the weekend Series against the Pirates. some Cardinals guy is pitching against some pirate guy I think it's a bullpen game I think tomorrow's John can't cuz Flaherty's been shut down remember so John Gant & Company I'm sure it's going to be a tough matchup but we'll do our best and somehow maybe it'll be enough I love you I love you Matt Carpenter please don't get hurt love you Dexter Fowler I love you Kolten Wong I love you until next time corn cobs