The day has finally arrived. We now have a new manager. This instantly makes game recaps much more interesting to write about from a selfish perspective, because there’s no data on how Mike Shildt manages a major league club. Every game will be an insight into how he manages. Wins and losses ultimately aren’t important in looking at managers. A manager’s impact more or less is simply to put players in a position to succeed. It’s hard for a manager to actually cause a win. It’s pretty easy to cause a loss. Such is the life of a manager.
Well we now have one game in the books with Shildt as manager and the first result is a huge plus sign. I don’t want to read too much into today. It’s not like he had hard decisions to make. As a result of Mike Matheny’s bullpen usage the last two nights, specifically last night when he used nearly everyone, it would be necessary to have John Gant throw multiple innings once Miles Mikolas was out of the game. Still, he did things that are encouraging.
Well that’s enough of that. A game happened that I should probably talk about. Mikolas was not at his best today. One can hardly fault him for having trouble with this Reds lineup, but his control in the 1st was reflected not in walks, but an inability to put pitches where he wanted them once he got to two strikes. He got to 0-2 on Jose Peraza, but hit him on the fifth pitch. He needed 9 pitches before Scooter Gennett, apparently elite hitter now, flied out to center. Mikolas needed 24 pitches to get through the first, including 5 two-strike foul balls.
The Cardinals had no issues hitting Anthony Desclafani today. Matt Carpenter got a fat meatball on the first pitch, a low 90s fastball right in the heart of the plate. Carpenter doesn’t automatically look at the first pitch anymore and you can see why with the results. He hit the ball 400+ feet for a leadoff HR, putting him one behind Lou Brock for the team lead in homers to start games.
In the 2nd, he got two quick groundouts, but then walked Adam Duvall on four straight pitches. Duvall against right-handed pitchers isn’t a particularly patient hitter, with a career 5.7 BB% against them, so that’s not a great sign for his control. Desclafani was up next though and he lined out.
The Cardinals added to their lead in the bottom of the 2nd from another solo HR, this one from a slightly more unlikely choice. On 3-0, Dexter Fowler swung at a pitch below the strike zone to extend his PA, which did not sit well with me, but Fowler got a fat meatball similar to Carpenter’s on 3-2 and homered to put the Cards up 2-0. Harrison Bader hit a ball that would have been a double but he stepped on his foot weird, stayed on first, and left the game with a mild left knee hyperextension. Bader pleaded to stay in, but Shildt was not having it. Taking players out who might be injured just to be safe? He passed the first test.
In the 3rd, Mikolas looked better, striking out Billy Hamilton, but then allowed a one-out single to the red hot Peraza. Gennett again worked a long PA, making Mikolas throw seven pitches, but he hit it back to Mikolas, who smoothly started a 1-6-3 double play ball to end the inning.
Mikolas ran into trouble in the 4th. He allowed a leadoff double to Votto, which no shame in that. He started Eugenio Suarez 0-2, but then walked him on the seventh pitch to put runners at 1st and 2nd. Jesse Winker loaded the bases with a single up the middle. With nobody out, he made a big pitch, striking Tucker Barnhart out. Only in a need of a groundball, Mikolas got it against Duvall, but unfortunately it found a hole. It scored two to tie the game. With the opposing pitcher up, he bunted and Mikolas hesitated to go for it, presumably thinking Jedd Gyorko might get it, but Mikolas had the only play and the hesitation cost him, allowing the pitcher to reach safely. He made another big pitch against Hamilton, who popped out with two outs. With two outs and the bases loaded, Peraza hit the ball back up the middle to Mikolas, who botched the play. Ignore what it says on ESPN and Gameday, that’s an error. It wasn’t called one though. He got out of the inning with a slow groundout by Gennett.
The Cardinals thankfully responded immediately. Marcell Ozuna hit a ball down the left field line that I thought maybe should have been a double, but I guess Ozuna isn’t as fast as I thought he was. It was a single. Gyorko worked a seven-pitch walk. Kolten Wong got behind 0-2 right away but he did that thing he’s good at and got hit by a pitch. With the bases loaded, Fowler struck out this time and didn’t look particularly good doing it. Tommy Pham, who came into the game for Bader, singled up the middle, scoring two runs. Both Pham and Wong got to 2nd and 3rd on an errant throw by Hamilton. With Mikolas spot in the order up, Shildt pinch-hit Jose Martinez. Passed the second test. Martinez grounded out, but it scored a 5th run. After the Reds IBB’d Carpenter, Yadier Molina hit a slow chopper that somehow found a hole and scored the 6th run.
In the 5th, in what I’m sure was the plan before the game, Shildt brought in Gant for a multi-inning appearance. This was a pivotal part of the game, with the Reds 3-4-5 hitters up. I don’t really believe in shutdown innings as an important stat, but getting through this inning without allowing a run would be huge. Gant not only didn’t allow a run, he threw only 11 pitches in a 1-2-3 inning, including a strikeout. Gant pitched the 6th as well, starting it off weakly with a walk to Barnhart, but he finished it strong, striking out both pinch-hitter Dilson Herrera and Hamilton to end the inning.
In the 7th, Gant’s only blemish was a walk to Votto, but again, I don’t really blame pitchers for pitching poorly against Votto. He’s kind of good at this hitting thing. He also atoned for his walk with a strikeout of Suarez to end the inning. He also finished his outing strong, with a 1-2-3 inning, this time with no strikeouts, but two groundouts.
Meanwhile, the Reds bullpen kept the Cards in check for the rest of the game. Pham reached on an infield single in the 6th, but that was otherwise the only baserunner the Cards had for the rest of the game after the 4th inning. That’s ok. I know it’s popular to complain about an offense that “stops hitting” if they score a bunch of runs in the first few innings but all I care about is the final run count and six runs should be plenty for most games.
Jordan Hicks replaced Gant with Bud Norris apparently unavailable - he pitched yesterday when the score was already a blowout of course. He looked decent, but allowed another run for the fourth straight game. He got two groundouts from Alex Blandino and Hamilton, but then Peraza struck again and lined a single to right. He advanced to second on fielder’s indifference, and scored on a line drive single by Gennett. Votto was up of course as the tying run, but he swung at a pitch under the strike zone and grounded out to end the game. Cards win.
- Mikolas line: 4 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 2 BBs, 2 Ks - He threw 85 pitches and his spot in the order came up with men on 2nd and 3rd, one out, so it wasn’t a hard decision to take him out, but I’m glad all the same that Mikolas wasn’t brought back out for the 5th to get the win. For what it’s worth, under those circumstances, I believe Matheny would have done the same.
- Since he had a better line than the starter, Gant line: 4 IP, 2 BBs, 4 Ks - Usually when you have one member of the bullpen outpitch the starter, that’s not a very good thing, but today it was not a bad thing.
- Matt Carpenter, folks. He raised his wRC+ today to 143 and his WAR to 3.2. He also made two rather slick defensive plays with good, accurate throws to the pitcher to complete the good play. I don’t want to trade him, guys.
- The Cardinals scored 6 runs with just 10 baserunners, so the run sequencing today was exceptional and appreciated by this guy.
Tomorrow, the Cardinals do not play because it is the All-Star break. The nearest baseball you get is the All-Star game on Tuesday, which will not feature Mikolas and may feature Molina. Your interest may vary based off that information. The nearest Cards game is Thursday where the Cards begin a five-game series over four days against the first place team in the Central. That will probably decide how the Cards behave during the deadline.