With the Cardinals officially out of playoff contention and merely playing games as a showcase for some of their young Memphis talent, this week’s series against the Padres continu—I’m sorry, what? They are not out of contention? Just 3 games back in the Wild Card and 4 games back in the division at the start of the game? Okay, then someone has some explaining to do:
I don’t even know what to say here; I’m actually kind of impressed. Yadier Molina leads this motley crew of Memphis stalwarts into battle against Travis Wood and the Padres. And as one would expect from this backdoor pilot for Yadi and the Kidz, hijinks were immediately afoot.
The Cardinals immediately jumped on the board in the first with a home run by Jose Martinez. Fun fact: did you know that Jose Martinez entered today ranked in the top 15% of hitters in OPS and wRC+ (minimum 200 PAs)? Totally normal and expected! THIS IS A COMPLETELY NOT UNUSUAL TEAM AND EVERYTHING IS PREDICTABLE.
With Michael Wacha on the mound, the Padres immediately tied the game back up in the bottom of the first. With runners on 1st and 3rd, Wil Myers singled to center field. Harrison Bader made a bad, though not terribly egregious throw in to “third base”. Why is third base in quotation marks, you ask? Well, I say “third base” because I can’t be totally sure since there wasn’t actually a damn third baseman AT THE BASE. Nor was there anyone at home. When the dust settled, somehow first baseman Jose Martinez was covering third and 2 runs had scored. Tie game, 2-2.
The Cardinals would answer back in the second. Stephen Piscotty walked to lead things off and advance to third on a single by Alex Mejia. He then would run himself into an out at home plate during the next at-bat, just so you don’t forget that you are watching the 2017 St Louis Cardinals. Luckily, Harrison Bader has been around this club just long enough to know that you can’t stamp out the glimmer of hope in fans’ eyes until at LEAST the seventh inning, so he responds by smashing a three run home run. Cards up 5-2.
Unfortunately, Travis Wood decides to take things in his own hands in the bottom of the second absolutely mashes a 2 run shot. Padres narrow the Cardinals lead to 5-4.
Third inning: Paul DeJong starts things off with a single, followed by a Martinez double. Yadi would reach on a FC on which the umpire initially called Martinez out at third. It’s not terribly often where I am dead certain about the result of a challenge, but this was one - Martinez was very clearly safe by a pretty wide margin. Call overturned. An additional run would score off a Piscotty single. Cards widen the gap to 7-4. This turn of events would mark the end of the evening for Travis Wood, replaced in favor of Miguel Diaz. Diaz would record three quick outs to end the Cardinal threat (okay, those outs were Breyvic Valera, Alex Mejia, and Michael Wacha, but an out’s an out).
This Cardinals season in some ways has seemed to be crafted to answer questions that no one really wanted answered. Can Matt Adams play left field? How many errors can you make in a game and still win? In the fourth inning, Randal Grichuk adds to that list of questions with “Can I somehow get picked off third base on a walk?” For those of you that have not been tuning into this season of Yadi and the Boyz and aren’t familiar with the established plotlines, the answer is yes. Of course, to add insult to injury, this was after Grichuk had successfully advanced two bases on a steal and a throwing error.
Fifth inning (oh my god it’s only the fifth inning): Stephen Piscotty begins to feel unmoored by standing on the bases too long and is caught stealing. I begin to seriously contemplate whether he may be able to make an out at every base this game. But in the bottom of the fifth, Piscotty makes things right(ish) with the universe by throwing out Carlos Asuaje at third with an rocket from right field.
Determined to not let an inning pass without something eyebrow-raising, Wacha would take a walk in the 6th inning (his first of the year, pushing his OBP to a white-hot .073). However, Wacha would be the only baserunner that inning, and no more oddities were afoot.
In the 7th inning, Jose Martinez just exits the conventional narrative entirely and decides to put about 107 mph worth of exit velocity onto pitcher Buddy Baumann’s fastball. The solo shot (and his second home run of the evening) extends the Cardinal lead to 8-4, and catapults him into the top 20 in wRC+ in baseball (minimum 200 PAs).
Hey, it’s Luke Voit! Hey, Luke Voit made great contact! Oh...Luke Voit gets robbed on an amazing catch by Jose Pirela.
The eighth inning was notable for a pair of great defensive plays by Alex Mejia - the first a sharply hit ball down the third base line that he grabbed and made an exceptionally strong throw on, and the second a liner that he turned into a double play by throwing out the runner at second.
Tyler Lyons came in to finish off the game handsomely, both in performance and in appearance. Final score 8-4 Cardinals.
On a scale of 1 to 10, I would rank this game a solid “shrug, followed by a weak chuckle”. Eventful, confusing, but eventually satisfying.
Cardinals look to keep it rolling against the Padres tomorrow.