If you were wondering, Pablo Sandoval has played better with the Giants this year than he did with the Red Sox. That part is true. What this series has probably led you to believe, and incorrectly, is that Sandoval returned to playing just like he use to play once he returned to the Giants. It’s an understandable misconception. For one, that’s certainly the narrative being pushed. But more importantly and more annoyingly, he’s played like his old self against the Cards this weekend.
There was a time during this game when it looked like the Cards would win. The Cards scored first for instance. After an uneventful first inning where the most damage inflicted upon the Giants was a Tommy Pham walk and what looked like a homer by Jose Martinez (and I suspect it would be at most parks, but was a harmless long flyout), the Cards looked like they’d go down easily in the 2nd. But on a 3-2 count with two outs, Yairo Munoz hit a ball that is a home run in every park, delivering a long home run, about 10 rows deep into the stands.
Jack Flaherty meanwhile had little trouble, with no indication for how his day would end present in either of the first two innings. He looked like he lacked control, but it was lacking control not in the ball department, but throwing what looked like a lot of pitches in the middle of the strike zone. Still, the Giants did nothing with it, with only Andrew McCutchen hitting a single in the first.
After the Cards went down 1-2-3 against Bumgarner in the 3rd, Flaherty’s day unraveled. Gorkys Hernández led off with a double on the seventh pitch of his at-bat to get things started. He then walked Bumgarner on five pitches. It looked like he was pitching around him, but I’m sure he just didn’t have as much control as he normally does. Bumgarner is a good hitter for a pitcher, but he’s still not that good of a hitter. Steven Duggar struck out looking.
Now, here’s where I mention that I missed Paul DeJong when he was out, not only for his hitting, but for his defense. Munoz has come as reasonably close to his offense as we could possibly expect, but his defense was a huge downgrade. Well, I’m sorry to say that DeJong was pretty dreadful defensively today. With men on first and second, Buster Posey hit a hard hit ball that bounced in front of DeJong. It was a difficult play, but one an MLB SS should make. It hit the top of his glove and went into the outfield. A probable double play ball turned into a run and men on first and second. Then the wheels came off for Flaherty. McCutchen singled, Belt hit a bloop single and then Brandon Crawford walked. Flaherty had faced 14 batters and thrown 70 pitches when he was taken out in favor of Mike Mayers.
Whatever luck Flaherty didn’t get in the 3rd went to Mayers. Sandoval flew out to Ozuna and it was reasonably deep, but McCutchen did not tag up on the play for some reason. On 3-1, Alen Hanson swung at a clear ball and popped out. Mayers pitched a much better 4th inning, which included a strikeout and the lone hit by Bumgarner.
The Cards came back in the 4th though. Jose Martinez led off with a single and was removed from the basepaths from a fielder’s choice groundout by Ozuna. It was a diving stop by Sandoval and frankly, I don’t know how Martinez was easily thrown out. Jedd Gyorko and DeJong both singled to load the bases. Munoz had Bumgarner’s number today because he laced a single up the middle to score two runs. Unfortunately, Yadier Molina’s absence was felt today because Francisco Pena grounded into an inning ending double play ball. 3-3.
The Cards took the lead in the 5th. Bader got on base from a hit by pitch and stole second. With two outs, Martinez drove him in to score the fourth run of the game. Ozuna singled to keep the rally going, but Gyorko struck out to end the threat.
In the bottom half of the inning, things went downhill. John Brebbia has been a pleasant surprise, but he’s not a particularly good pitcher against left-handed hitters. 7 of the 10 career homers he’s allowed have been to left-handed hitters and he’s faced more righties. His numbers got worse today. After the right-handed McCutchen grounded out, the left-handed Brandon Belt hit a line drive double off the right-field wall and the left-handed Crawford singled to put runners at first and third. On a 1-2 count, the left-handed Sandoval homered to put the Giants up 6-4. To keep this up, the left-handed Hanson singled and he got the next two hitters out, who were both right-handed. Needless to say, his handedness split numbers will look more lopsided tomorrow.
The Cardinals knocked Bumgarner out of the game in the middle of the 6th inning. Or more accurately Munoz. With one out, he walked Munoz and the Giants put in Reyes Moronta in, who promptly struck out both Pena and pinch-hitter Greg Garcia. Putting Garcia in with a man on second and two outs instead of Carpenter was certainly a curious move. It didn’t end up mattering though because Greg Holland was terrible.
You could tell things were bad immediately. He threw a nice swinging strike to Duggar for his first pitch and then threw the next three pitches in or near the dirt. On 3-1, he didn’t want to walk Duggar - making his major league debut - so he threw a meatball. Duggar responded appropriately and doubled. He had the same control issues against Posey, but Posey walked. He looked a lot better against McCutchen who hit a swinging bunt for the first out. Then Mike Matheny made the curious move of intentionally walking Belt to load the bases. Sure let’s load the bases for the guy with very little control. I’m sure that will work.
Well to my surprise, it didn’t work, but not because Holland walked in a run. He struck out Crawford. He didn’t really throw more strikes, but Crawford chased pitches. With two outs and a 1-2 count, Sandoval swung at a pitch near the dirt and hit a single to left field. Two runs score. Hanson and Hernandez hit back-to-back singles to score three more runs with Hanson scoring from first on the latter’s hit because he was stealing on the play. Holland was mercifully took out and Brett Cecil got a first pitch flyout to end the inning. 11-4 Giants just like that.
The Cards offense actually wasn’t the problem because they responded. Bader and Martinez hit two singles to put runners at the corner with one out. Ozuna hit a sacrifice fly that was more like a popup. Bader though used his speed to get to third on the single and then to score the fifth run. Cecil pitched a scoreless, but unimpressive 7th, which included a walk, a hit, and no strikeouts.
Ray Black came in to make his major league debut and it could have gone better. He’s a 28-year-old reliever who was drafted in 2011, but didn’t pitch in his first professional game until 2014. He has never thrown more than 35 innings in any season of baseball he has played. This year, he struck out 52.6% of the batters he faced in AA and 46.3% of the hitters he faced in AAA. He’s a good story. Well, when the day he dreamed of finally arrived, things went as poorly as possible.
He fell behind DeJong 3-0 and walked him on five pitches. He fell behind on Munoz 2-0, and while Munoz had to work for his walk, fouling off a 2-2 slider, he walked on seven pitches. He then was graced with the presence of Pena, who popped out. Unfortunately for him, Matt Carpenter pinch-hit and he’s no Francisco Pena. Carpenter correctly assumed that Black wanted to throw a get-me over fastball so he wouldn’t fall behind on his third batter. To be fair, his get-me-over fastball is 100 mph. But Carpenter was ready for it and hit a long homer that went past the stands in right and into McCovey’s Cove. It was apparently the first ball hit there by a Cardinal since Larry Walker.
When it looked like a comeback was happening, the pitching and defense made sure to remove that possibility. Sandoval singled and Hanson doubled off Sam Tuivailala. After a flyout that kept the runners from moving forward, Tui looked like he might get out of it. Hunter Pence hit a slow roller to DeJong, who just missed it for his second impactful error of the night, allowing both runners to score. Ty Blach came into the game with the score 13-8. Gyorko hit a two-out single, but the Cards went down easy otherwise.
- Flaherty line: 2.1 IP, 4 H, 3 R (2 ER), 2 Ks, 2 BBs - Ultimately, you can trace the pitching struggles to Flaherty only pitching 2.1 IP. It would simply be hard to give up as many runs as the bullpen did if they threw, say, 3 IP.
- Speaking of which, bullpen line: 5.2 IP, 13 H, 10 R (9 ER), 3 BBs, 4 Ks, HR - That is one ugly line!
- The Cardinals could have gotten more errors. DeJong had another play that could have been an error and Pham made a sliding play where the ball hit off his glove. I’m guessing he didn’t get an error because he was sliding. Anyway, good argument the Cards pitchers deserve way more than two unearned runs.
- Pham left the game with a left ankle contusion after hitting himself there with a foul ball.
- Munoz with the Cards player of the game: 2-2 with a HR, 3 RBIs, and 2 BBs. So he got on base all four times. I don’t think he wants to get sent down.
- I really should have known better than to expect the Cards to take 3 out of 4 at AT&T Park, otherwise known as the place where the Cards can’t win. At least in my mind.
Tomorrow, the Cardinals have an off-day. It comes at a good time. Then they play a two-game series against the 30-60 Chicago White Sox. It’s Dylan Covey against Miles Mikolas and I have to say if we lose that game, I will break things. Because I will also be recapping that game.