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Cards homer three times in wild game in 7-6 win over Phillies

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Phillies lead. Game tied. Phillies lead. Cards lead lead. Game tied. Cards win.

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Philadelphia Phillies Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

So that game was crazy huh? Not as crazy as yesterday’s game - and let’s be honest not as stupid either. It was a genuinely fun game that would probably have been more fun if the last two weeks hadn’t happened. Nonetheless, games like these are important if the Cardinals have any shot at the playoffs.

When I picture a Vince Velasquez game, this is pretty much the exact game I have in mind. He struck out a lot of guys, he walked one too many, and he gave up homers. It’s not a completely unfair impression either. He has a 9+ K/9, 3.41 BB/9, and 1.38 HR/9 over his career. He’s a three true outcome pitcher, but that would be a better designation if he walked more. There is one thing I do not imagine and that’s him lasting into the 7th inning, which he did tonight.

He was able to pitch into the 7th inning, not because he was able to be more efficient overall, but basically just because he had a really quick first inning. He threw 8 pitches to get out the Cardinals 1-2-3, including a strikeout of Jose Martinez. In the 2nd, he cruised through the first two hitters, but then walked Dexter Fowler and Yairo Munoz, before Kolten Wong grounded out to end the inning.

Luke Weaver meanwhile didn’t look very good. I’m a little worried about him. I don’t remember the last time we got a Luke Weaver start that felt like a Luke Weaver start. He struggled immediately. He walked leadoff batter Cesar Hernandez, because he couldn’t get him to chase after starting the at-bat 1-2. He couldn’t get Rhys Hoskins out either after starting the at-bat with two straight strikes. Hoskins singled to put runners on first and second. Odubel Herrera perplexingly bunted the two over - it was an attempt at a hit I believe but still, it gave the struggling Weaver a free out. Carlos Santana grounded to second, scoring Hernandez, but Hoskins stayed at second base for some reason. Weaver walked Aaron Altherr on five pitches and then struck Scott Kingery out looking.

He had an easy 2nd inning, though he walked J.P. Crawford with two outs to extend it into a longer inning than it should have been. He had a technically better 3rd except for one tiny little thing. He struck out Hoskins looking on a 3-2 count. He got Santana to pop out and then struck out Altherr looking. It’s important to note that the strike zone heavily favored the pitcher so I can’t be sure how deserved these strikeouts were. Anyway the one small thing was a line drive homer given up to Herrera.

The Phillies second run put the Phillies back in the lead, because in the top of the inning, the Cardinals tied it up. Velasquez had the most Velasquez inning possible in the 3rd. He struck out Weaver, Matt Carpenter looking, and Marcell Ozuna looking. Like I said, the strike zone was pretty heavily in the pitcher’s favor so if you notice a lot of looking strikeouts, that’s why. Fortunately, there were other batters who didn’t strike out. Tommy Pham hit his second homer in as many days to briefly tie the game at 1. Jose Martinez also walked, but got left on base with the backwards K to Ozuna.

The 4th inning from the Cards produced a single by Munoz, but he ultimately and foolishly tried to steal with Wong at the plate, and he got thrown out. The Cardinals are not good at stealing bases so they should really stop trying. Weaver struggled some more in the 4th inning. He gave up back-to-back singles and then a sacrifice bunt to Velasquez put runners at 2nd and 3rd. He then hit Crawford and walked Hernandez with the bases loaded to make it 3-1 Phillies. An overaggressive Hoskins wanted a grand slam and got a popout instead and then he... struck out Herrera looking.

In the 5th, the Cardinals responded with a home run from Wong, his fifth of the season. Velasquez had no problem with the other three batters he faced in the 5th. Unfortunately, the Phillies also immediately responded by homering themselves. Santana hit a solo shot to lead off the 5th to give the Phillies a 4-2 lead. Weaver allowed a hit and then Munoz committed his 9th error of the year to put runners at 1st and 2nd with nobody out. Despite the elevated pitch count - because the bullpen has been heavily taxed - Weaver stayed in the game. Jorge Alfaro fouled out and then Velasquez swung the bat himself and got into a double play ball to end the inning.

Velasquez had an easy 6th inning, getting all three hitters out. The Cardinals responded with John Brebbia, who gave up a leadoff infield single and then three straight flyouts. That led to easily the most entertaining inning of the game for many reasons, but let’s start with the hitting side of the equation.

Fowler struck out swinging, but then Munoz singled and Wong got hit directly in the buttocks to put runners and first and second and end Velasquez’s day. You know I haven’t paid attention to Gabe Kapler since he became known as the guy who always takes his starters out early in April but that has very much not been the case in this series, as he’s arguably left his starters in too long, which ultimately allowed the Cards to come back.

Now to be fair, it takes two to tango, and the other side is that the Phillies bullpen seems not very good. Tommy Hunter replaced Velasquez and amidst Tim McCarver’s seeming inability to figure out that Hunter was right-handed and that it didn’t matter if Garcia was announced or not, Garcia worked Hunter for 8 pitches before flying out. Carpenter then doubled both Munoz and Wong to tie the game at 4. The Cards weren’t done. Pham hit an infield single, that very nearly took the lead if not for a diving play to keep it in the infield. Then Jose Martinez doubled and scored both Pham and Carpenter. Ozuna struck out... looking. This ump wasn’t great. I’m not saying all the looking strikeouts were bad calls, but there were a few and I do not remember the specific bad ones, just that they existed.

In the bottom of the 7th, Greg Holland came into the game. We learned on the broadcast that Holland was warming up when the score was 4-2 Phillies and apparently, Mike Matheny did not adjust his strategy when lead flipped hands. No matter, Greg Holland looked, without hyperbole, the best he’s looked all year. Not a high bar granted, but he struck out two and only threw two balls. He gave up a loooong foul, but it was a foul and it wasn’t a terrible pitch.

After the Cards went easily in the top of the 8th, the Cards made this game interesting again. Austin Gomber, inexplicably one of Mike’s trusted guy after 10 not very good major league innings, started the bottom of the 8th. Seriously Mike Mayers rots in the bench for two weeks and Brebbia takes about two months before getting high leverage innings, but Gomber can throw 9 relatively unimpressive innings with a 1:1 K/BB ratio and now he’s good enough for close games in the 8th. Sure. I realize this was because Bud Norris was unavailable but still.

Let it also be known that Mike also made a dumb double switch to bring Holland in the game, which was dumb because, I truly don’t understand the point if Holland was never going to pitch a second inning. He wasn’t because he couldn’t have looked better so there was no scenario where he pitched the 8th too. Anyway, Gomber walked a guy and gave up a hit and was taken out with two outs and two on. Jordan Hicks replaced him and allowed a double to score both. 6-6.

Seranthony Dominguez pitched the 9th and things looked gloom. Dominguez has been incredible so far this year. He had a 1.27 ERA, 1.26 FIP, and 2.41 xFIP. He was 23 and had never given up a major league homer. He struck out Wong. He struck out Jedd Gyorko. He got to 0-2 on Carpenter. Then he made a mistake. He threw a way too hittable pitch on 0-2 and Carpenter took advantage and homered to take a 7-6 lead.

Jordan Hicks had a surprisingly uneventful and quick 9th. I don’t say that as a knock on Hicks,but the way this series has gone, I was expecting a bases loaded, 2 outs situation before the Cards could win (or lose). Hicks struck out two in this inning and got the win.

Notes

  • Luke Weaver line: 5 IP, 6 Hs, 4 ER, 4 Ks, 4 BBs, 2 HRs
  • Yes, I do realize the double switch was to take Jose Martinez out of the game for defensive reasons, but as I’ve said in the past, just put Gyorko in the 3 spot instead of putting the pitcher’s spot in the 3 spot. If you have no intention of using the pitcher for more than one inning, there is no reason to double switch. Hicks coming into the game necessitated another double switch because you can’t have the pitchers’ spot 3rd in a potential extra innings game.
  • McCarver needs to seriously stop saying that a player getting hit by a pitch can’t be faked that quickly. Yes it can. Someone please show him the clip of Derek Jeter faking the hell out of getting hit back in the day. He argues this literally every time, as if nobody is capable of immediately acting like you got hit when you didn’t. Ugh.
  • So it’s cool to be back in the zone where most Cards fans are cool with Carpenter again. Dude’s a great hitter and always has been. Probably not a problem for people reading VEB, but please for the love of god ignore batting average already.
  • Wong’s day, which included a HR, raised his wRC+ from 64 to 70. Considering he’s hit this poorly and his WAR stands at 0.5 thanks to a high UZR figure, I’m gonna guess his WAR goes up tomorrow.

Tomorrow, the Cardinals go for the series win (and the season series win, since the two teams split a 4 game series earlier this year). This has been a nuts series so far and I would expect nothing less tomorrow with Michael Wacha facing Jake Arrieta.