Zack Greinke is a good pitcher. Zack Greinke with the strike zone he had today? It’s a miracle the Cards scored any runs against him. I won’t say that the ump favored the Diamondbacks today, but I will say that Greinke received what my dad used to call “the Maddux strike zone.” Jack Flaherty did not receive the Maddux strike zone. Far from it in fact.
The first inning was honestly one of the most one-sided strike zones I’ve seen in recent memory. It completely changed the game. Matt Carpenter began the game with a leadoff single. Then Tommy Pham came to the plate and got utterly screwed. Greinke fell behind 2-0 and then threw a pitch below the strike zone. Strike one. Greinke throws another ball and then threw a pitch low and outside. Clear ball called strike two. Greinke threw a curve for strike three that WAS a strike, but he should have been on base already. After Jose Martinez flew out to center, Marcell Ozuna also struck out looking on a pitch outside the strike zone.
In the bottom half of the inning, well it was Jack Flaherty’s turn to get screwed. After getting two quick outs, including a strikeout to Paul Goldschmidt, Flaherty struggled to put away Jake Lamb. Jake Lamb eventually got the best of him, hitting a single after 8 pitches. With a man on first and a 3-2 count, Flaherty threw strike three to A.J. Pollock. Except it was called a ball. Frustrated, Flaherty fell behind David Peralta 2-0 and gave up a bloop single that scored the Diamondbacks first run.
The Cardinals retaliated quickly by taking the matter out of the umpire’s hands. Yadier Molina swung at a few 2-strike balls that may or may not have been called strikes given the previous inning and fouled them off. On the fifth pitch, he took a high and outside pitch and lined it to right for a leadoff single. Jedd Gyorko swung at the first pitch he saw and doubled. Yairo Munoz swung at the second pitch he saw and singled home Molina. Kolten Wong hit a rocket to center, but Pollock was able to catch it and the Cards scored their second run from a sacrifice fly. With Munoz on first, the Cardinals made a questionable hit-and-run, but Flaherty was able to hit a line drive. Problem was that it was right to Jon Jay in right field and Munoz was doubled off easily. Basically, nearly every ball was hit hard this inning, but the Cards only got two runs because two found gloves.
Flaherty settled down in the 2nd, taking care of the bottom of the order 1-2-3 with two strikeouts, with opposing pitcher Greinke being the only one not to strike out. Meanwhile the Cardinals were making good contact off Greinke, but nothing was falling. Carpenter hit a deep fly out to right in the 3rd. In the 4th, Ozuna hit a deep one to left field. I suspect these may have found the seats without the humidor.
Meanwhile, Flaherty was rolling. He got two groundouts and a strikeout to Goldschmidt in the 3rd. He got a 1-2-3 inning in the 4th, including another strikeout. If there was one moment I could point to where Flaherty’s start went wrong, it’s against Nick Ahmed. Ahmed has an 84 wRC+ and has actually been a much worse hitter over his career. He got to 0-2 on Ahmed and Ahmed fouled off a couple tough pitches. After he threw a ball, he threw a pitch that was a little to hittable and Amhed doubled. The next two batters got out and then Flaherty hit Jay with a pitch, putting runners at the corner. He had struck out Goldschmidt the previous two times, but it’s still Paul Goldschmidt. Goldschmidt homered to put the Diamondbacks up 4-2.
I know I sound like the biggest homer and I try to prevent that in these recaps, but I honestly thought that Flaherty outpitched Greinke. The fact that Greinke did not give up a homer and that Flaherty did - and that the homer was with two men on - is why the lines are unequal, but I don’t necessarily think earned runs are necessarily the true measure of who pitched better. Most cases? Yes. But not all the time.
In the 6th inning, the Cardinals threatened against Greinke. That did that annoying thing where they started a rally with two outs, which means it usually fails and this one did too. But after a two-out single by Wong, Greg Garcia pinch-hit and bunted for a hit. The Dbacks brought in a lefty to face Carpenter and Carpenter just stood there and let him walk the bases loaded. Yoshihisa Hirano came in to face Pham and he didn’t have to do much. He threw a pitch in the strike zone and Pham grounded out with the bases loaded to end the inning.
Sam Tuivailaila came into the game and pitched pretty good. He got two groundouts and a strikeout in his first inning of work. He came back out for the 9th and got a lineout and gave up a single to Goldschmidt. He got taken out in favor of one of Mike’s trusted guys Austin Gomber. Gomber gave up a near homer to Jake Lamb. It was called a homer, but a fan reached over the wall and it hit off his glove. It was changed to a ground rule double and the fan was kicked out. After an intentional walk so Gomber could face a lefty - and by the way Gomber was not better against lefties in the minors so there’s no reason to think he’s a LOOGY - and he got a groundball double play ball to end the inning.
In the bottom of the ninth, Brad Boxberger came into the game. Jedd Gyorko began the inning with of course a lineout. This game sucked, ya’ll. Munoz struck out. Wong worked a nice plate appearance, which included an awful strike one call, to walk to keep hope alive. Tyler O’Neill pinch-hit for the pitcher. He struck out. Frustrating game.
- Flaherty line: 6 IP, 7 Ks, BB, 4 Hs, HR - Five baserunners, four runs. Spectacular 43.5 LOB% for today’s game. He deserved better.
- This ump was really, really bad. I honestly think we get a completely different game if he didn’t call so many balls out of the strike zone strikes. Granted, the Diamondbacks surely figured this out eventually, but it’s really hard to get many runs when the strike zone is that large. It was also inconsistent, which makes it worse. The umpire also kicked out the Dbacks translator for... some reason? I’ve never seen that before.
- The Cardinals lost, in large part, because the 2-4 hitters combined to go 1-12 today. The lone hit went to Martinez. Both Pham and Ozuna went 0-4.
- Matheny: Gomber is not a LOOGY. He’s also worse than a few of our pitchers. Please use in more appropriate spots than a LOOGY in late innings please.
Tomorrow, the Cardinals try to win the series and even the season series and it’s going to be a good one. Patrick Corbin faces Miles Mikolas and that game could go either way.