In a baseball season, there can be a long stretch of somewhat uninteresting games, especially if you’re mediocre or worse. Sometimes, you find yourself forcing yourself to watch the game out of habit. But you’ve stuck with it. And you’re rewarded with a game like today. Today was so fun to watch, even with the nerve-wracking blown save by Norris. I mean the early innings weren’t the best, but that gets forgotten when the ending is so thrilling. Baseball’s the best. (I imagine Nationals fans do not share this sentiment at the moment.)
The early innings were very irritating. It can best be defined as the Nationals getting few chances to score, but scoring when they did have chances. The Cardinals meanwhile constantly had chances to score, but rarely came through. In the 1st, Miles Mikolas did not let the Nationals have a chance to score, getting a 1-2-3 inning which included a strikeout of Bryce Harper.
The Cardinals meanwhile were a well-timed homer away from blowing the game up. Alas it was not to be. Matt Carpenter bunted for a base hit and Yadier Molina hit a swinging bunt to put runners on first and second. After a Jose Martinez strikeout, Marcell Ozuna drove home Carpenter for the first run. Paul DeJong flew out and Jedd Gyorko got hit by a pitch, setting the stage for Bader versus a lefty with the bases loaded and two outs. After a line drive that just went foul, he flew out to right field unfortunately.
The Nationals immediately pounced on their first scoring opportunity. Anthony Rendon hit a leadoff single and was driven in by a Ryan Zimmerman double. Mikolas was able to get out of the inning without allowing Zimmerman to score, despite Zimmerman hitting the double with just one out. In the bottom of the 2nd, Mikolas helped himself out with a one-out double. Carpenter worked a walk, but then Yadier Molina hit into a double play to defuse that threat.
After MIkolas had another 1-2-3 inning in the 3rd inning, the Cardinals stranded another runner in scoring position in the bottom. Jose Martinez hit a bullet to Daniel Murphy who couldn’t handle it. He got credited with an infield single. He advanced to second and third on two straight flyouts - the all-important “productive outs” - but Gyorko grounded out to end the inning with a man on third base.
In the 4th, Mikolas gave up a leadoff home run to Harper to give the Nationals a 2-1 lead. He got the next three guys out otherwise. The Cardinals tied it back up in the bottom of the 4th. Bader led off with a double, which was basically a single for any other player. It was a slow roller that found a hole and he just kept running to make it to 2nd before Harper could throw him out. Kolten Wong hit a soft liner to center that did not score Bader because he wasn’t sure if it would be caught or not. Wong though, perhaps thinking they’d try to throw out Bader, ran to 2nd on the throw and made it safely to 2nd base. With men on 2nd and 3rd, Mikolas helped himself for a second time and hit a sacrifice fly. Wong did not advance to 3rd on the play unfortunately, two outs later, the Cards only scored one with men on 2nd and 3rd with nobody out.
Another 1-2-3 inning in the 5th for Mikolas followed by another inning by the Cards that could have produced runs but didn’t. Back-to-back singles by Martinez and Ozuna and another single with one out by Gyorko made the bases loaded with one out. With Bader up, the Nats took out Tommy Milone in favor of a right-handed pitcher. The Nationals must have some serious turnover in their bullpen because I’ve never heard of Wander Suero. Well tonight he might as well have been Trevor Hoffman. Bader grounded it back to Suero, who threw it to home and then to first for another inning-ending double play ball.
Mikolas pitched the 6th and you guessed it, it was another 1-2-3 inning. Wong led off the 6th with a walk and then curiously Mike Shildt decided to not be aggressive with his bullpen management and kept Mikolas in the game. I don’t think it’s a cut-and-dry obvious pinch-hitting situation to be honest so I will inject no personal opinion into the move, but just that it was curious. It kind of backfired. Mikolas bunted and popped out and then Carpenter lined out, which was unfortunate because Wong was stealing on the play. Another inning-ending double play ball.
The Mikolas move backfired even more in the top of the 7th when he walked Anthony Rendon and then gave up a homer to Juan Soto that really didn’t seem like it would be a homer until it suddenly was. He kept Mikolas in the game and Mikolas rewarded him with getting the next three batters out with no issues. It was a weird start for Mikolas. He either had a 1-2-3 inning or gave up runs.
In the bottom of the 7th, Martinez knocked Suero out of the game in favor of Justin Miller, but Miller handled the next to batters easily to keep the score 4-2. Tyler Webb came into the game and immediately walked Wilmer Difo to start things. After a sacrifice bunt which by Adam freaking Eaton - you guys are up by two why are you playing for one run, he gave up a single to Trea Turner to put runners at 1st and 3rd with Harper up. Harper hit a bullet up the middle, but DeJong made a diving stop, touched 2nd base and threw to first for an inning-ending double play ball. That turned out to be rather huge.
In the 8th, the Cards fired back. Gyorko saw a pitch he liked against Miller and hit a leadoff homer. After Bader struck out, Kolten Wong roped a single to center, which knocked Miller out of the game in favor of Sammy Solis. Now, Shildt had a bit of an off night managing-wise, but he did manage to outmaneuver Dave Martinez here. A pinch-hitter was never announced so when Solis came in, Patrick Wisdom stepped to the plate. Wisdom singled, setting the stage for Matt Carpenter.
The crowd all stood up before a pitch had even been thrown, anticipating the moment. Solis threw a wild pitch. 2nd and 3rd with one out and Carpenter up with a two-run deficit is about all you ask for. Best of all, neither Solis or Greg Holland, who was warming, have any control, so there was little chance of an intentional walk. After he fouled off the 2nd pitch, Solis threw a pitch below the strike zone. Carpenter swung at it anyway and somehow hit to left center field for a three-run homer. 6-4 Cardinals.
Greg Holland came into the game and the Cards hit the ball hard three straight times against him, but only one found a hole, so they got out of the inning with no more damage. Bud Norris came in to save the game and he did not have it. Leadoff single by Rendon followed a walk to Soto. With men on first and second, former Cardinal Matt Adams stepped up to the plate, but he popped out to keep the runners in place. Daniel Murphy fouled off a couple tough 2-strike pitches and hit a soft liner to shorten the lead to 6-5 and put runners at 1st and 3rd. It could be argued Shildt should have taken Norris out at this point for sure. He didn’t and Norris gave up the lead to Matt Wieters. Wieters hit a groundball to right field and defensive replacement Adolis Garcia threw it wild, trying to throw out the guy at 3rd. It was a dumb throw, because it allowed Wieters to reach 2nd.
With men on 2nd and 3rd and one out, Dakota Hudson was brought in to somehow get out of this mess. He has not shown a particular talent at striking out hitters, but at getting groundballs, so I was a little worried. Well, Hudson got a slow chopper to DeJong which kept pinch-runner Michael Taylor at 3rd base for the first out. Then he struck out Eaton. Game remained tied.
Koda Glover came in to send the game to extras, but DeJong had a better idea. On 3-1, Glover didn’t want to walk DeJong so he threw a fastball RIGHT DOWN THE MIDDLE. It turned out poorly for Glover. DEJONG WALKED IT OFF. Cards win 7-6.
- Mikolas line: 7 IP, 4 Ks, BB, 4 ER, 4 H, 2 HRs - He had a 25 GB% so I can’t really say he was unlucky to give up the homers, but the homers are largely why he had four earned runs.
- I am so glad the Cardinals did not lose the Milone/Mikolas game, which I expected to go very, very differently than it did.
- Carpenter went 2-4 with 2 runs scored, 3 RBIs, a HR, and a BB. This is the kind of game that might get him more national attention for the MVP race. CAMPAIGN PEOPLE!
- Martinez went 4-5 with four singles. He didn’t get an RBI or a run scored in a game where the Cards scored 7 runs. How is that possible?
- Also, Kolten Wong had a really good day, going 2-3 with a BB. I believe in this guy.
Tomorrow, the Cardinals play Game #2 against the Nationals in a four-game series. A split is necessary so this win was important, but a series win would be cool. It’s John Gant versus Gio Gonzalez, so that would be really cool if we can somehow win that one.