A side effect of having two teams face off in September as MLB teams featuring a lineup and pitching that could easily pass for a AAA team is that it produces odd games apparently. Yesterday’s game was much stranger than this one, but for a pitcher’s duel, this seemed like an unusual one. Neither pitcher seemed to posses much control, at least in the not walking people sense. Both pitchers got by with less than stellar control however. Dinelson Lamet was able to make hitters miss on the pitches that WERE in the zone and even make hitters chase on pitches out of the zone. When Padres hitters made contact off Cardinal rookie Jack Flaherty, it was usually on the ground.
Harrison Bader likes to swing at the first pitch. And I encourage him to keep doing that, because it seems like he destroys the ball every time he does. With one out in the 1st inning, he hit an opposite field line drive just over the second baseman’s glove. That was all the damage the Cardinals could muster in the 1st and honestly for most of the game.
Flaherty looked shaky as hell. He fell behind leadoff hitter Carlos Asuaje 2-0 before he was able to get him to weakly pop out. After a weak groundout by Wil Myers - that’s a theme for his night - he walked Jose Pirela for his first walk of the night. This was a “can’t get the hitter to chase” walk. He got to 2-2, but Pirela wouldn’t budge so he took first base. A weak groundout ended the inning.
In the 2nd, Stephen Piscotty worked a good plate appearance, except on 3-2, he bungled it. He swung at a ball in the dirt instead of taking the walk. Greg Garcia and Carson Kelly got decent contact, but both went down on five pitches combined for a 1-2-3 inning for Lamet. In the bottom half of the inning, Flaherty had his best inning of the night. Three straight weak groundouts for a 1-2-3 inning.
In the 3rd, Dexter Fowler worked a two-out walk, but Bader grounded out to end “threat.” (That’s what passed for a threat against Lamet tonight.) . In the bottom of the inning, Flaherty ran into some trouble. With one out, Lamet swung at the first pitch he saw and pop it up between right and second but Piscotty got a terrible read on it. He ran backwards before he ran forward and it dropped in front of him. Asuaje hit a line drive towards left center on the first pitch he saw. Bader made a smooth as hell slide to cut the ball off and prevent it from being an extra base hit. He then walked Myers to load the bases. I’ll give credit to Myers for this walk. He fell behind 1-2 and hit two foul balls to stay alive before he got the free pass. With the bases loaded Pirela hit the ball towards Alex Mejia, playing down the third base line, who tagged the base and threw him out at first for the double play ball.
In the 4th, the Cardinals almost had something going. Jose Martinez worked an 8-pitch walk with one out and with two outs, Garcia found himself in a 3-2 count. He received a high ball, but inexplicably and for the only time of the night, the umpire called it a strike to end the inning. In the bottom of the inning, Yangervis Solarte absolutely crushed a ball into the right field bleachers to give the Padres the lead. With one out, he walked Jabari Blash after falling behind 3-0. He finally struck out his first batter of the night when he got Erick Aybar to strike out looking.
In the 5th, Kelly looked at four straight balls only for Mejia to swing at the first pitch he saw and ground into an easy double play ball. Mike Matheny had John Gant warming up, but after that, he decided to let Flaherty go another inning. At this point, his pitch count was not an issue, but Matheny had obviously noticed the 3 BBs. He got to face the pitcher to lead off the 5th, who he struck out on five pitches. He got to 0-2 on Asuaje, but couldn’t put him away and gave him a free base. Then he struck out Myers on three pitches. Pirela worked a seven pitch PA, but kind of got unlucky when Flaherty hung a curve on the upper right hand part of the strike zone. For a night where he just didn’t seem to be able to put hitters away, he still ended up with four strikeouts in 5 innings.
Lamet continued pitching strong into the 6th. He struck out two in a 1-2-3 inning. Ryan Sherriff pitched the bottom of the inning and he pitched oddly similar to Flaherty. He walked the first batter on four pitches, but then got an easy double play ball on a softly hit grounder. (Catcher Hector Sanchez was running so no threat of him beating it out) . He then struck out Blash on three pitches.
The Padres brought Lamet back out for the 7th and they paid dearly for it. Martinez got fooled by a 1-2 pitch, but it caught a lot of the strike zone and he was able to somehow line it into center for a single. I don’t get Martinez y’all. Then Piscotty homered on the first pitch he saw to give the Cards the lead. After Garcia walked on a similar pitch to the one he got called out on (on a 3-2 count as well), they took him out. Lamet had not recorded an out. Craig Stammen replaced him and shut the Cards down. Kelly struck out and Mejia struck out on a clear ball four, possibly because Garcia was running on the play (because it was in the opposite batter’s box.) Garcia got thrown out.
Sheriff pitched a second inning of work, where he walked a guy and struck out a guy in a scoreless inning. You don’t usually get seven innings pitched of one-run ball when the strikeout to walk ratio is 6:6. A worse team than the Padres probably would have made the Cards pay.
In the 8th, the Cards got some insurance. Kirby Yates came in for the Padres and didn’t have much in the way of control. Breyvic Valera got thrown five pitches. The first three were balls. After a strike right down the middle, he threw another ball. Absolutely none of the called balls were anywhere near the strike zone. Fowler similarly got to a 3-1 count, but he got a pitch he could hit. He hit a line drive towards Myers, who looked towards second before catching the ball and dropped it. Runners at 1st and 2nd. Bader flew out for an RBI sacrifice fly to bring the lead to 3-1.
John Brebbia replaced Sherriff and looked much better. He faced three batters and got all of them out, including a strikeout. Cards threatened in the top of the 9th after back-to-back singles, but a misguided bunt attempt by Kelly resulted in pop up to the catcher. Then Mejia grounded into an easy double play. Lest you think the bunt attempt would have mattered, the ball was hit towards third and I assure you there is no way Piscotty scores on that play - if he tries to go for home, he’s thrown out.
Tyler Lyons, newly appointed closer though not officially - got off to a rough start. He kept the ball up and back-to-back singles started the Padres potential rally. Both were hit pretty hard too. Then he seemingly got it together against Erick Aybar. Aybar fell behind 0-2 and then swung at a pitch over his head for the first out. Former Cub prospect Matt Szczur struck out on three pitches. Lyons had figured it out. Corey Spangenberg fell behind 0-2 but hit a shallow flyout to Fowler to end the game. Cards win!
- Flaherty line: 5 IP, 4 Ks, 4 BBs, 3 hits, ER, HR - Dan made an astute point on the broadcast. Flaherty reminds me of Weaver last year, where you can see the outline of what he could become, but it’s just not there yet. He’s had mixed results so far, but he is 21 so these are growing pains.
- The Rockies and Brewers both lost tonight, putting the Cardinals two games back of the Rockies and 0.5 games ahead of the Brewers. Unfortunately the Cubs lost. I still want the division!
- In things of note, Valera’s walk was his first ever time getting on base in the big leagues. Not that it carries the same connotation as someone’s first hit, but still cool.
- I also forgot to mention that Tommy Pham replaced Valera on the basepaths and easily stole second to set up the 1st and 3rd that led to a run.
- Piscotty had a weird game. He struck out badly on a pitch that would have given him a walk. He badly misplayed a ball that should have been caught and ended up a single. He almost got himself thrown out at 2nd when he took too wide of a turn towards 3rd. But he also homered and singled. Technically none of those miscues ended up costing the Cards either.
- Martinez had a “quiet” game today, going 1-3 with a single and a BB. I was expecting a homer Jose. It’s now been over 24 hours since you last hit a HR, I mean don’t go slacking on me.
- Playing the Padres does wonders for your bullpen apparently. Yet another strong outing tonight.
Tomorrow, the Cardinals go for the rare 4-game sweep! It’s Lance Lynn against Clayton Richard. Richard isn’t very good, but I really don’t like facing him. The game starts slightly earlier than these past two games with an 8:10 PM start.