The Cardinals had a deceivingly difficult task over the past 6 games. With the number of contending teams the Cardinals will face over the rest of the season, they needed to handle business against two of the worst teams in the majors, the Miami Marlins and Kansas City Royals. I say it is deceiving because simply winning both series feels like a missed opportunity. They needed to make up some ground while everyone else faced good teams, or at least better teams than the Royals and Marlins. I would have preferred two straight sweeps, but I can’t really complain about winning 5 out of 6 ever.
The Cardinals had a bit of hiccup to begin this game as previously announced starter Luke Weaver was not going to be able to make his start due to a cut in his hand. That’s unfortunate. Not so much because the Cardinals couldn’t win without Weaver, but I would have liked to see him get a chance to improve his season numbers against what isn’t a very good offense. In his place was Tyson Ross, the pitcher the Cardinals claimed off waivers about a week ago.
Ross hasn’t been very good this year, largely due to recent performance as he began the season as a potential Comeback Player of the Year winner. The Cardinals claimed him not for starting, but for the fact that he seems to wear down at the end of games, becoming a dreadful pitcher after pitch #75. That Ross’ first game came as a starter was probably not a part of the plan, but the fact that he might have to start was a factor in claiming him.
It appeared like it would become a disaster at first. In the 1st inning, Ross couldn’t find the plate. He showed good defensive chops when leadoff batter Whit Merrifield hit a comebacker to him on the 7th pitch he threw for the first out. He got strike one on Alex Gordon and then proceeded to throw the next four balls nowhere close to the strike zone. Salvador Perez is no threat to walk, but he did line a single to put runners at 1st and 2nd. Lucas Duda didn’t have to do much to get his walk on five pitches.
With the bases loaded, some guy named Rossell Herrera hit a slow roller to first base. Patrick Wisdom, playing in his first major league game ever, bobbled it. I cannot speak to the likelihood of a double play ball, but let’s be optimistic and say he would have only gotten one out on that play. Jorge Bonafacio got into an inning-ending double play ball, so let’s be even more optimistic and say that the error by Wisdom didn’t end up mattering in the end.
Jakob Junis was very good today. Sometimes, it’s difficult to tell if a starter is good or if the hitters are bad (usually it’s a combination of both I imagine) but considering what the Cardinals did to the Royals bullpen, I think it’s safe to say Junis was legitimately great.
He struck out both Matt Carpenter and Yadier Molina to begin his day and Jose Martinez lined out for an easy 1-2-3 inning. The 2nd inning wasn’t much harder for him than the first. He struck out Marcell Ozuna and Jedd Gyorko. His lone blimp was that he hit Paul DeJong, but he also hit DeJong on the ELEVENTH pitch of that plate appearance, so I’ll give him some slack. Greg Garcia grounded out to end the inning.
Ross quickly recovered from his tough 1st inning. In the 2nd, he had an 11-pitch inning which included two strikeouts and a groundout. The Cards tied up the game in the 3rd inning. After a strikeout by Harrison Bader, Wisdom got his first major league hit, a slow roller that was hit just perfectly between the first baseman and second baseman to allow Wisdom to reach safely. After another strikeout by Carpenter, Molina got hit by a pitch this time. With two outs, Martinez hurt his old organization by singling home Wisdom for the Cards’ first run.
Unfortunately, Ross gave it back up in the bottom of the inning. After two quick outs, Perez hit a ground rule double that is probably caught by every other outfielder on the Cardinals roster, but Martinez was playing RF so he juuust missed it on an attempted sliding catch. Lucas Duda hit a single up the middle and Perez, with Molina-like speed, was sent home. The throw was good, but Perez was able to accomplish Matrix-like movement - or as close as you get to that when you’re 250 pounds - to narrowly avoid the tag. Duda went to 2nd on the throw and when Herrera also hit the ball up the middle, the Royals 3B coach got greedy and sent Duda too. He was much more easily thrown out by Bader’s throw.
Junis and Ross would be able to throw scoreless frames for the remainder of their days. Both pitchers threw 1-2-3 innings in the 4th inning. In the 5th, Carpenter continued his on-base streak with a two-out single, but Molina grounded out to end the inning. Ross had another 1-2-3 inning in the 5th, though this one involved two lineouts so there was some luck involved. In the 6th, again, both pitchers traded 1-2-3 innings.
Thanks largely due to DeJong’s earlier 11 pitch PA, Junis had thrown 96 pitches and needed to be taken out. Jason Hammel, former starter, replaced him. You could call it a downgrade. Gyorko lined a single to left field to begin the inning. On 1-0, Gyorko was stealing, so Garcia just stuck his bat on the ball and the slow chopper was hit slow enough to allow both runners to reach base safely. Bader made motions to bunt, but Hammel wouldn’t let him, walking him on five pitches. With the bases loaded and nobody out, Wisdom was at the plate. On 1-0, he saw a pitch he liked and lined a single up the middle to score one.
The Royals brought in left-handed specialist Tim Hill to get out Carpenter and it worked, with Carpenter hitting a grounder to Duda, who threw it to home for the force out. Bases remained loaded for Molina, so the Royals brought in Kevin McCarthy. Molina hit a soft liner up the middle to score two runs and give the Cards a 4-2 lead. Martinez got into an inning-ending double play ball to end the threat. The Cardinals added a 5th run in the 8th against McCarthy when Garcia hit a two-out double to drive in Ozuna.
Mike Mayers pitched a flawless bottom of the 7th inning in relief of Ross, which included a strikeout. Jordan Hicks replaced Mayers in the 8th and he allowed a slow roller that found a hole, but that hit was his only blemish. (I don’t really even consider it a blemish. That’s going to happen.)
For the top of the 9th, the Royals brought in one of the Cardinals favorite punching bags from when he was a Brewer, Wily Peralta. They sure punched him today. Carpenter led off and for the fourth time today, a Cardinals player was hit by a pitch. That will be inconceivably important later. Molina hit a deep fly ball to right, deep enough that Carpenter tagged up on first, on a smart baserunning play. After a strikeout by Adolis Garcia, who replaced Martinez defensively, Ozuna doubled home Carpenter and then DeJong took a hanging curveball deep to left field for a 2-run shot. Just like that 5-2 turned to 8-2.
So sat down Bud Norris in favor of Tyler Webb. Webb was sharp. He struck out Duda, taking advantage of the fact that Duda did not happen to think the high strike call was in fact a strike. He struck out Herrera too, this one swinging. Then on 1-2, he hit Bonafacio with a pitch. Then he was thrown out of the game. Okay let me take you through the facts here to tell you how absurd it was that he was thrown out.
First off, the Cardinals somehow got punished because the ROYALS hit four batters. They weren’t on purpose and I’m not claiming they were, but if the Royals hit zero batters, Webb stays in the game. So basically, the Cards got in trouble because the Royals pitchers had no control. Explain how that makes any sense at all.
But Gabe, did Webb throw it at him on purpose, you may be asking. WELL, I would bet a lot of money he didn’t. The Cards sure played the long game if it was. Webb struck out the first two batters of the inning and yes with two outs, hitting a guy then might make more sense than earlier. But why go through the trouble of getting yourself into a 1-2 count then? The Cards were ONE pitch away from winning the game. THAT’S the moment they decide to hit a guy in retialation? What a bunch of bullshit and the textbook definition of an ump show. Bud Norris had to pitch annoyingly and he struck out the only guy he faced. Probably won’t make a difference, but maybe the Cards have 1-run leads the next two days and Norris is now unavailable on the 2nd day because an umpire decided to make himself a part of the game.
- Ross line: 6 IP, 2 ER, 4 Ks, 2 BBs, 4 Hs - great recovery from a poor first inning from Ross - In fact, that start is better than you think. 70 percent groundball rate meant a 2.82 FIP and a 3.37 xFIP on the day.
- Bullpen pitched excellent too. Their collective line: 3 IP, 5 Ks, H, HBP
- Wisdom, after 747 career minor leagues game played, played in his first ever start and had a pretty good day. He went 2-4 with two singles and an RBI. He had an ugly looking strikeout but then again so did most of the team against Junis.
- Literally everybody in the lineup got on base twice, except for Jose Martinez, and his replacement Garcia. As far as I can tell, 8 members of the lineup got on base twice and not one time more or one time less. That’s... unusual I think?
- I am more annoyed than mad that the ump put a damper on what was otherwise a fun game.
Tomorrow, the real work begins. The Cards face a confusing team, a team with lots of talent, but whose record doesn’t reflect said talent. It’s the beginning of a 4-game series and I have to say, tomorrow is kind of a must win given the pitchers going. Tommy Milone, a not very good pitcher, is making his 4th start for the Washington Nationals, and he’ll be facing Miles Mikolas, a pretty good pitcher. Let’s win that one please.