No matter how this game went, I had a fairly easy narrative for this game. Carlos Martinez is pitching in his second game back from the disabled list. He didn’t look that great in his first game, so this start could go several ways, all of which make for an easy theme for a recap. Not always the case in a long baseball season. But then Gerry Davis, the home plate umpire for the game, complicated things.
I don’t like blaming the umpire. I really don’t. But thanks to Davis, I can’t really tell you if Martinez pitched good or bad. The results were bad. Martinez was certainly teetering on the edge of control throughout the game. A pitcher with full control of his pitches has no problem with an umpire calling the way Davis did. But Carlos had at least two 3-2 counts with questionable ball calls and right there, his line changes from 5 BBs and 7 Ks to 7 BBs and 5 Ks. Still not great, but it approaches competency and that’s far from the only questionable calls he had.
The Cardinals had to deal with Anthony DeSclafani, a man not seen by the Cardinals since September of 2016. That wouldn’t be particularly notable except he’s been on the Reds the entire time since then. He just hasn’t been able to pitch in an MLB game due to injuries. He had kind of a weird start. It didn’t start that weird. Matt Carpenter struck out to lead off the game. Tommy Pham hit a line drive that hit off DeSclafani and since Pham was kind of slow out of the gate, he was able to reach the ball and throw him out. Martinez hit a hard hit ball to left center and since Billy Hamilton was manning center, he was able to reach the ball and throw Jose out at 2nd for a 6-pitch first inning.
Complaints about the umpire aside, Martinez’s 1st inning issues were not the umpire’s fault. After getting leadoff batter Scott Schebler to ground out back to him, he walked Tucker Barnhart and Joey Votto, each on five pitches. Scooter Gennett swung at the first pitch he saw, a perplexing move given he started 3-0 on the previous two hitters, and he was not awarded for his guts, flying out. Eugenio Suarez made Carlos work, fouling off a couple 2-2 pitches before striking out to end the inning.
The Cardinals threatened in the 2nd, with singles by both Marcell Ozuna and Harrison Bader, but Kolten Wong struck out with two outs to end the inning. It should be noted that the strike one call on Wong was horrendous. Unfortunately though, it’s not all that unusual of a call against a lefty, with it being well outside. Martinez recovered nicely from his first inning struggles, striking out the side, which admittedly included a pitcher and Jose Peraza, who is not all that better than some pitchers.
The 3rd inning is where the weirdness came into play. With one out, Carpenter singled, and DeSclafani walked Pham and Martinez back-to-back. On the first pitch, Ozuna swung at a meatball or at least a pitch that he was waiting for, and crushed it to the left field wall. Now here’s what I thought happened on the play. Off the bat, HOMER! Oh no it’s a sacrifice fly. Wait, they’re saying it’s a double play ball because somebody didn’t tag up? Oh wait, he trapped the ball? Okay so somehow it ended up being a bases loaded single. Molina then hit a sacrifice fly on the first pitch he saw and Greg Garcia flew out to end the inning.
The Reds came back though. Hamilton hit a leadoff triple that would have been a double with any other baserunner. Schebler grounded out to drive him in to score. Then Martinez walked Barnhart on 6 pitches, with 3 balls legitimately being in the strike zone, including ball four. He struck out Gennett and then hit Eugenio Suarez on the first pitch. Winker grounded into a forceout to end the bases loaded threat.
In the 4th, the Cardinals got two quick outs, but Carlos singled with two outs to extend the inning. Carpenter then doubled and Jose Oquendo made a ill-fated decision to send Carlos. It was an inexplicable send. If Chris Maloney were still the 3B coach, the fanbase would have raked him over the coals for it.
In the bottom of the 4th, everything could have been avoided if only Carlos didn’t walk Billy f****ng Hamilton, one of the worst hitters in the league who isn’t a pitcher. There were close pitches, but this looks like a legitimate walk too. Here’s where it gets confusing because ESPN does not have what happened correct. It has Schebler walking and nary a mention that it was a wild pitch on 3-2 that allowed Hamilton to get to third base. It just says Hamilton to 2nd base. Except that it sort of, kind of actually hit Schebler, which would mean Hamilton couldn’t advance to 3rd because it was a dead ball. It was a close play at third, which made things more confusing, because they apparently reviewed the play at 3rd and not that, you know, the BALL HIT SCHEBLER IN THE TOE.
All of this was probably, maybe irrelevant when Barnhart singled home Hamilton. Hamilton would scored from 2nd on that single, because Billy Hamilton is fast. It’s possible that Jose holding the runner on at 1st led to the single. If Hamilton is in front of the runner at 2nd, Jose isn’t holding the runner and is able to make the play. Buuut it’s Jose Martinez and I’m not going to entertain the possibility that he would have made the play since I have witnessed him play defense before. He walked Votto with a questionable 3-2 call, but it’s also Joey Votto and I’d probably instinctively call a ball there too. On a 1-2 call, Gennett took a pitch that was a strike and then singled. Suarez singled after him and then Carlos got taken out of the game. Mike Mayers replaced him and got a flyout.
I’m going to fast forward to the 6th, because this recap is ridiculously long already and nothing of note happened, except that a leadoff walk by Mayers to Jose Peraza was removed from the basepath when Molina threw him out by a mile with one out. Mayers also struck out the next two guys to atone for the walk. Anyway, the Cardinals began the inning with a double by Garcia and a single by Bader. Yairo Munoz pinch-hit for Wong against Amir Garrett (instead of Jedd Gyorko for some reason) and hit a sacrifice fly. Because this is the game where nothing is normal, something weird happened here. Garcia was safe and the throw by Schebler was wild. It bounced past Barnhart’s reach. He got a glove on it, which caused it go above the 6’5 Garrett and into the dugout which allowed Bader to reach third. Unfortunately the Cardinals have a dumbass “go on contact no matter what” rule when on third with less than two outs, so when the ball was hit back at Garrett, Bader got into a rundown. Luke Voit was able to reach 2nd base, but it’s clearly a big difference between speedy Bader at 3rd and slow Voit at 2nd base. Garrett is a tall lefty who throws 95 and well that led to Carpenter striking out.
Brett Cecil replaced Mayers and he looked kind of terrible. Everything he threw seemed to be higher than he wanted it to be. He did manage to strike out Schebler to start his outing. He also walked Votto. His first inning of work was normal, even though he looked much worse than a 1 IP, BB, K performance would tell you. Naturally, he came out for a second inning of work and he looked much worse there. Back-to-back walks started his inning and not only did he stay in the game, nobody was warming. Reds baserunning buffoonery helped him out of the inning though. Peraza probably would have walked if only he didn’t swing, and it led to a flyout. Then Duvall pinch-hit. Duvall isn’t very good, but he does one thing very well and that’s destroys lefties. Nonetheless, Cecil stayed in the game. On 0-1, he threw a pitch behind Duvall that bounced off the wall and made it past Molina, towards Cecil. Winker ran to 2nd immediately and Suarez just sort of stayed in no-mans land between 2nd and 3rd. Cecil grabbed the ball and threw it to 3rd and since Winker ran to 2nd, he dejectedly ran towards 2nd and the second out of the inning. Then Duvall singled home Winker for the Reds 6th run of the day. With Hamilton up, Duvall got picked off at first by Cecil. So thanks Reds.
The rest of the game unfortunately went without much incident. In the top of the 7th, Michael Lorenzon allowed a one-out single to Jose Martinez that hit the top of the wall. No doubt due to getting thrown out in the 1st on what would normally be a double, he hit a very long single instead. Jared Hughes came in for what ended up being a 2-inning save. Probably had something to do with 13-pitch inning that included two strikeouts. John Brebbia came in to replace Cecil and struck out two in a scoreless inning. Jedd Gyorko walked on four straight pitches to begin the 9th, but after Hamilton made a jumping grab to rob a double from Carpenter - again a near homer here from the Cards - the Cards went easily after that. The Reds beat the Cards for the first time this year.
- Martinez line - 3.2 IP, 7 BBs, 5 Ks, 4 H, 5 ER - Like I said, clearly bad results, but if a few ball fours become strike threes instead, his line looks way different and he lasts past the 4th inning. Still, given his FIP is 3.64 and his xFIP is 4.54, he was due to give up some runs.
- Due mostly to Carlos and Cecil, the Cardinals walked 11 batters today. Four of them were given to Votto, who did not end up recording an at-bat of record. So he went 0-0 with four walks.
- Pretty much everybody but Molina, who went 0-3 with a sac fly, and the Wong/Munoz combo, who combined to go 0-4, had a good day today. And no, I do not consider a sac fly when you go hitless/on-base less to be a good day just because you got an RBI.
- As ugly as the bullpen sometimes looked - mostly because of Cecil - they ended up pitching 4.1 IP with one earned run, which I will take every time. Ideally they pitch less innings than that of course. And this was an outing where Norris and Hicks didn’t pitch.
- Here’s your depressing thought of the game: the Cardinals lost because of Billy Hamilton essentially. He got the first run, through the power of his speed, with his leadoff triple. He then walked to begin the crazy 4th inning where Martinez ended up giving up four runs. He robbed a few doubles later in the game.
- It is difficult to describe how weird this game was without having watched it, but I hope I did a decent job at it.
Tomorrow, the Cards play a 3-game series at home against the Padres. This is a series that will only feel like a win if the Cards sweep them, which probably won’t happen because baseball doesn’t usually work that way. It’s Jack Flaherty versus Jordan Lyles. Lyles is essentially a replacement level pitcher and I hope the Cards treat him accordingly.