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Cards offense shut down by Berrios in 4-1 loss

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Jack Flaherty started his third game of the year and was alright, but his night ended earlier than preferred.

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Minnesota Twins Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

My perception of this game was a little different than most of you I imagine. I had not looked at Jose Berrios stats before this game. I was under the impression that he was having a dominant season and didn’t expect a win. This impression was not changed by how he pitched today. I was not altogether bothered by the lack of offense because I wouldn’t be bothered by the lack of offense against Clayton Kershaw for instance. It turns out Jose Berrios has been fine this year, but not dominant.

Well sort of anyway. He’s had a weird season. He’s alternated between being terrible and being amazing. He’s had four starts, including today, with a Game Score of 80 or higher. His other 5 starts have had a Game Score of 41 or lower. To my untrained eye, he actually looked dominant, not just “the Cards suck at offense now.”

Berrios got through the first six hitters rather easily. Three batters grounded out, two struck out, and one flew out. In the 3rd, the Cardinals got a bit of BABIP luck. Harrison Bader singled to center to lead off the inning. Kolten Wong hit it softly back to the pitcher, and it functioned as a sacrifice bunt of sorts as Bader was able to get to 2nd base. Then Carson Kelly hit a slow roller that made its way up the middle. Bader easily scored and the Cards led 1-0 after three innings.

Then Berrios continued his dominance. He struck out two batters in a 1-2-3 4th inning. He walked Paul DeJong to lead off the 5th, but then Bader struck out, Wong fouled out, and Carson Kelly hit a 390 foot flyout. Berrios struck out two more batters in a 1-2-3 6th inning. You’ll never guess what he did in the 7th? Yep another 1-2-3 inning, this time with only one strikeout. In the 8th, he struck out Bader for the second time, then hit Wong and that was enough to take Berrios out. Look at that - a manager being proactive instead of reactive to his pitcher struggling.

Speaking of which, Jack Flaherty looked pretty good. He’s a young pitcher so I’m not concerned, but he seems to have a bit of a pitch count problem. He can quickly get his pitch count run way up there by falling into deep counts a lot. In the 1st, he threw at least 5 pitches to three of the four batters he faced. He walked Brian Dozier and struck out Eddie Rosario in the 21 pitch 1st inning.

He was helped in the 2nd by a quick inning. He only threw 10 pitches, though it did involve two lineouts so they were seeing the ball well against him. They did not see the ball as well in the 3rd. Ehire Adrianza hit a line drive single on a 2-0 count to lead off, but got picked off at first by Flaherty right away to remove that advantage. He then struck out both Bobby Wilson and Joe Mauer to end the inning.

He had another quick inning in the 5th. The Twins only made him throw 5 pitches for a 1-2-3 inning. He began the 6th inning with 70 pitches. He faced five batters. He left the game with 98 pitches. Every batter made him throw at least 5 pitches. It caught up with him. He got a pop out and a ground out to begin the inning, but then allowed an infield single to Dozier and another single to Rosario.

There is some debate, with runners at the corners and Flaherty struggling to put any hitter away, that he should have been taken out at this point. I don’t feel that strongly one way or the other. You could use the next hitter as an argument in either direction if you wanted. He got to 0-2 to Eduardo Escobar but couldn’t put him away. On a 2-2 pitch, he threw a pitch below the strike zone that Escobar kind of stuck his bat out for and hit a soft liner into center for the Twins’ first run. If you wanted him to stay in, the hitter hit a good pitch and you tip your cap. If you wanted him out, he allowed a single. Brett Cecil replaced him and got a popout to end the inning.

Things went downhill in the 7th. Cecil allowed a leadoff double and then was taken out for Luke Gregerson. Byron Buxton tried to bunt the man over, but Gregerson threw it wild and allowed Logan Morrison to score and Buxton to advance to 2nd. They are calling it an infield bunt hit, but that, uh, seems generous to Buxton. Then Bobby freaking Wilson hit a 2-run homer to give the Twins a 4-1 lead. I’m honestly more pissed that it was Bobby Wilson and not I don’t know, Brian Dozier or Joe Mauer or somebody actually good?? Really baseball? Couldn’t have had literally anybody else in their lineup not named Adrianza hit a 3-run homer tonight?

Anyway, the Twins bullpen faced 5 guys and all 5 guys got out after Berrios left. Sam Tuivailala pitched a scoreless 8th inning, with a strikeout. Cards lose.

Notes

  • Flaherty line: 5.2 IP, 3 Ks, BB, ER, 5 Hs - he allowed 3 of the hits to the last three batters he faced so he seemed more impressive than this line, though I am surprised he only struck out 3 guys. I think he’ll be better than Adam Wainwright, but I’m less certain of him instantly being good like I did after his first start this year.
  • Carson Kelly really only had the truly good game today and he went 1-2 with zero strikeouts (no small feat tonight apparently) and was pinch-hit for by Greg Garcia in the 8th inning. Bader got a single and a run, but also struck out for both his outs.
  • So technically, Berrios’ game score today was 79 and not 80, but that just goes to show just how good his other three starts were. Before today, he had an average game score of 53 despite 5 being bad starts. Out of 8 starts. Three starts were propping his stats to above average.

Tomorrow the Cardinals try to spit the away series with the Twins. It kills me to say this but they have a good chance. Lance Lynn has not had a good year and he faces Miles Mikolas, who has had a good year.