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Hanging on for Dear Life, Cardinals Squeak Out Win

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Matheny & Co. managed, once again, to make a big lead small, but held on enough to toss glimmers of hope for October.

MLB: Chicago Cubs at St. Louis Cardinals Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Two years ago this matchup came with a completely different narrative. Jake Arrieta was one start away from posting a 1.77 ERA with impeccable control and gaudy peripherals. Carlos Martinez was innings away from doubling his career high in innings; enamoring minds that wandered in hope of what the Cardinals next full-blown ace could achieve. The rivalry continued a week later after the Chicago Cubs outplayed the Pittsburgh Pirates en route to a National League Division Series matchup with the Redbirds.

This year, those narratives are different. Arrieta’s ability to miss bats has steadily dwindled; Martinez has repeatedly fell victim to the home run; the Cubs don’t grace the cover of please-don’t-make-us-play-you-in-the-first-round magazine; the Cardinals are struggling to stay alive. Oh what magic two years can bring.

If you ever wanted to call a win discouraging, now is your chance.

Take a 5-1 lead, turn it into a 8-3 lead and then slowly tug the heartstrings of every St. Louis native that has dealt with pendulum-esque confidence in their ballclub through 2017. This one ended with an 8-7 Cardinal W.

To start with some positives, the Cardinals were able to jump on Arrieta early. Lasting only three innings, the righty gave up two home runs and five runs (three earned), moving to 14-10 on the season. Arrieta wasn’t wild at all, in fact, I’d say he possessed good control in his trio of innings. The issues were the pitches he left in and around the zone and how hittable they were for Cardinal hitters. Matt Carpenter led off the game with a shot on a middle-of-the-plate sinker, while Pham was able to turn on his sinker inside in the second inning. I would be remiss not to point out a huge error on a routine grounder to shortstop Mike Freeman that both allowed Dexter Fowler to score the game’s second, and Randal Grichuk to double home Paul Dejong. The breakout shortstop went on to double home Jedd Gyorko in the fifth, and the Cardinals extended their lead to 8-3 in the seventh inning after a pair of home runs from Grichuk and Gyorko - both fastballs at the belt.

Although both starters didn’t possess the stuff that carried each through wildly successful 2015s - that much was obvious - but the way they failed to each get through five innings stemmed from different issues. Arrieta’s problem, as discussed was a combination of location and simply not posing too much of a threat, while Carlos Martinez lingered on the side of wild. Four walks and 92 pitches to get only 19 outs is what happens when control lapses. There were signs that Martinez would right the ship and push out six-plus innings, but that day obviously never came. With a gem on September 4th and a shellacking on the 15th, Martinez may have tied a bow on the shoulder-shrugging season that so many hoped for him to avoid.

Four runs in the eighth inning came after Matheny made the move for John Brebbia after Tyler Lyons allowed two runners to reach. Jason Heyward then deposited three-run homer to right-center on a get-me-over sinker (Brebbia’s first pitch). Matheny then went to Juan Nicasio in the eighth inning for two outs, and allowed him come back out for the ninth after a double switch. I can’t say I’ve ever been extremely confident that the Cardinals will close games out when Nicasio enters, but his usage across multiple innings and for high pitch counts over the last few weeks have given me a bit of confidence in his ability, even if it’s predominantly in the form of a mid-90s fastball

This one was a nail bitter to the end, and the Cardinals barely hung on. If they dropped this game, it would have likely spelled the end of the season. Instead, they sit 2 12 games back of the Rockies for the right to head to Chase Field and play the Diamondbacks.

Notes

  • Tommy Pham was diagnosed with a left-side contusion after being hit by a Felix Pena fastball. It can with a scornful staredown as well as an eventual exit from the game. Thankfully, the Cardinals leader in basically everything is just day-to-day. His services will be needed if the Cardinals want to stay alive (source: broadcast).
  • As this will be my last recap unless the Cardinals both make and win the NL Wild Card game, I wanted to say grateful I am to have written the majority of this season’s tuesday recaps. The community on Viva El Birdos beats that of the other sites I’ve written for by miles - no offense to them. If you like my work to consider venturing out from just my game recaps. I will be managing my site and writing baseball content through the offseason (BigThreeSports.com), covering fantasy baseball at Razzball, and helping a startup called the Collegiate Baseball Scouting Network grow its written content as their Editor In Chief (they’re also hiring!). It’s not goodbye, it’s until next time.