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Cards bullpen gives up 5 runs in 7-2 loss to the Cubs

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The bullpen has been comically bad against the Cubs this series.

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Chicago Cubs Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Well, this series and the next were season-defining series. Barring a sweep of the Cubs next weekend, it probably won’t define it in a good way. Ultimately, a series loss of 3-2 to the Cubs at Wrigley is actually not a bad outcome, but the Cards needed to win this series, because they need to make up a lot of ground.

The game started off so well. Matt Carpenter had an absurd shift on him, with four outfielders and no fielders on the left side of the infield. They were daring him to bunt. He did and was safe for a bunt single. Yadier Molina then hit a ground rule double to put runners at 2nd and 3rd. Given the 3-4-5 was now up, the end result was disappointing, but not surprising. Paul DeJong hit a sacrifice fly to score the first run. Marcell Ozuna did apparently the only thing he knows how to do now and grounded out. Jose Martinez struck out looking. Miles Mikolas pitched a 10-pitch inning with a strikeout by both Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant.

In the 2nd, the Cardinals again probably should have scored more runs than they did, though this time they scored zero runs. Tommy Pham led off with a walk. Dexter Fowler, now a Carpenter salsa enthusiast, singled. But Yairo Munoz flew out and Mikolas bunted the runners over, which gave Joe Maddon permission to intentionally walk Carpenter. Molina struck out looking with the bases loaded.

In the bottom of the inning, Javier Baez led off with a single. Ian Happ worked the count to 3-2, but Mikolas got him swinging. Baez was stealing on the play and got caught stealing, defusing a potential rally. Baez must have gotten a bad jump, because Molina didn’t get the throw off right away. It bobbled in his hand for a second, but he got a grip on the ball quickly enough to throw him out. Kyle Schwarber struck out swinging to end the inning. The Cardinals went down 1-2-3 in the 3rd.

The Cubs got something going, to no avail, in the 3rd. Addison Russell hit a one-out single, and advanced to second on a bunt by Jose Quintana. The Cardinals intentionally walked Anthony Rizzo, which is certainly a curious decision with Kris Bryant on deck. It worked, as Bryant grounded out weakly to third base.

The Cardinals added a run in the 4th. With one out, Fowler walked on four straight pitches. Munoz found himself in a 1-2 hole, but worked his way to a 3-2 count, eventually fouling three pitches with two strikes, and on the 9th pitch, he doubled. Fowler was stealing on the play so he scored from first. Mikolas struck out and then Quintana pitched Carpenter perfectly, striking him out.

Unfortunately, Mikolas gave the lead up in the 4th. He walked Jason Heyward on six pitches, and leadoff walks are not usually the way to having a good inning. Heyward advanced to second on comebacker to Mikolas by Baez, who didn’t field it cleanly enough to throw to second. Happ doubled home Heyward, and then with two outs, Willson Contreras singled home Happ. The ball by Contreras looked foul, but I can’t say with any degree of certainty since the best angle the replay provided was awful. It was close though.

In the 5th, Molina hit a leadoff single, but with one out, Ozuna did the only thing he knows how to do anymore, and that’s ground out. Unfortunately, it was a double play ball so it ended the inning. Mikolas looked to be in trouble in the bottom of the inning with two straight one-out singles by Rizzo and Bryant, but Heyward got into an inning ending double play ball.

In the 6th, the Cardinals started a rally with two outs, with Fowler hitting a double. Maddon elected to intentionally walk Munoz to bring up Mikolas and force Mike Shildt to punt the inning and keep Mikolas in the game or take him out and go for offense. He went for offense. This is objectively the correct move, even though it didn’t work out. Plus, Mikolas didn’t exactly look great in either the 4th or 5th, which I’m sure made the decision easier. Jedd Gyorko pinch-hit and grounded out.

Mike Mayers came into the game as one of the few decent bullpen arms. He pitched yesterday and threw 2 innings, so he probably wasn’t at his best. It’s a mixed bag overall, because Mikolas could have thrown more innings, but then you guarantee no runs in the 5th. And honestly, with how few innings the starters as a whole threw yesterday, someone was going to have to be the guy whose arm was tested. Mayers is as good a choice as any. He looked pretty good for his first inning, except for one pitch that Schwarber deposited in the stands. He looked less good for his second inning of work, and I don’t think Shildt should have pushed him a second inning. He walked Russell to begin the inning and then hit Rizzo with one out. Fair enough on the Rizzo HBP, dude stands on the plate, that’s going to happen. But Bryant hit a single to left to score the Cubs’ 4th run of the game.

Meanwhile, Maddon took the opposite approach. Baseball can be cruel. He kept pushing Quintana as far as he could go and it turns out he could go far today. With 111 pitches, he kept Quintana in for a 7th inning, no doubt partially because Carpenter was leading off and Quintana looked good against him in the previous AB. Carpenter grounded out to second on a slightly different shift than the first, with Baez manning the 3B position in case of a bunt. He got the next two batters out as well and finished with 121 pitches.

New Cub Jesse Chavez made the Cards look foolish in the 8th, getting a 1-2-3 inning, including strikeouts to pinch-hitter Greg Garcia and Pham. Brett Cecil came into the game and looked foolish. It’s just kind of depressing at this point. He had the right approach but he just doesn’t seem to have “it” anymore. He got to 0-2 on Happ, but couldn’t put him away, walking him on the 7th pitch. He did strike out Schwarber looking for the first out. But then single, error by Gyorko (which was called a single + error for some reason), single, and then single. After the damage had been done, the Cubs led 7-2. John Brebbia came into the game to put out the fire and he did a fine job. He walked Heyward to load the bases in between two groundouts. The groundout by Baez was back to the pitcher and Brebbia threw it over Carpenter’s head. Carpenter was able to catch it and then step on the base, because Baez wasn’t running hard out of the box.

Randy Rosario pitched the 9th for the Cubs, and he kept the Cards in check, only allowing two infield hits in his scoreless inning.

Notes

  • Mikolas line: 5 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 2 BBs, 6 Ks - Mikolas looked mighty pissed to be taken out of the game, and I don’t blame him. But he was also very shaky in his last two innings and we needed runs. The offense didn’t score another run, so maybe taking Mikolas out saved him from getting the loss?
  • Matt Carpenter’s home run streak ended at 6 games. Honestly, I don’t want to read too much into his thought process, but Carpenter looked just a tad overeager to swing, and that’s just not Carpenter’s style, so it might not be a bad thing for that to be off his mind.
  • Stupid Chicago weather cost Paul DeJong a homer so that kind of sucked.
  • Dexter Fowler is slowly getting better. If he can just cut out going 0-4 every other game, his numbers might improve faster. He tried Carpenter’s salsa, which apparently worked, as he went 2-3 with a 2B and a BB. His lone out was a hard hit ball in the hole between the SS and 3B and a worse defender than Russell might not make that play. Seeing as Russell is a +8.4 UZR/150 defender over his career, that’s quite a few shortstops. Also this.
  • Also, I realize Fowler has been worse, but a way to make sure Fowler still gets some sort of playing time while still playing Harrison Bader would be to sit Ozuna more. He has been pretty bad this year.

The Cardinals begin a brand new series against the Cincinnati Reds tomorrow and it’s going to be interesting. There are quite a few calls to see what the young guns have and in this series, you’ll get that. Tomorrow, Daniel Poncedeleon - who really needs to be successful because that name belongs in the big leagues - makes his major league debut against Luis Castillo. Castillo is a hotshot prospect who has been a huge disappointment, but sometimes those guys figure it out for a game. Tomorrow could go any number of ways.